London

Have a Sweet Christmas - Festive Desserts from Around the World

Some of Epicure Digital Marketing's Favourite Christmas Sweets from Around the Globe!

Not everyone likes mince pies. Shocking, but true. I remember looking after a couple of kids in Germany during my brief stint as an Au Pair, and both of them being positively horrified at my beloved Christmas confection. This is what makes Christmas such an important holiday, and its food so emotive – it is tied up with how we grew up. Really clever restaurant marketing – like really clever food - taps into this well of emotion and uses it to connect with people. So, this week we are celebrating London’s multiculturalism by discovering mince pie equivalents around the world.

Christmas Sweets

Argentina, Spain, Peru, Puerto Rico = Turrón

This delicious nougat-esque dessert is a Christmas favourite throughout Spain and Latin America. Made of honey, sugar, egg white and almonds, it can be formed into almost any shape, comes in a number of different consistencies and be filled with any other ingredients – from dried fruit to puffed rice – as long as the core ingredients are always ther. The oldest surviving recipe can be found in a Manual de Mujeres (“Women’s Manual”) from the 16th century, this ancient festive treat takes its name from the Latin word torrere meaning “to toast”.

Turròn is a Christmas Sweet from Spain and Latin America

Denmark = Æbleskiver

 Hipster delight waiting to happen – these are essentially round spheres of pancake-y goodness, normally served with jam and covered in icing sugar. Made from a mix of buttermilk, wheat flour, eggs, sugar, and salt, they are formed in an oiled pan composed of little half-spheres where they are tweaked with a long skewer halfway through to form their distinctive shape. Sort of like a sweet, globe-shaped Yorkshire pudding. Originally served with the apple slices from which they get their name, nowadays they come with gløgg – Scandinavian mulled wine – which I’m sure we’ll all agree is way better.

France, Canada = Bûche de Noël

Based on the pagan tradition of the Yule log, these are delicious sponge cakes, rolled up and iced to look like a log, and you can read all about them Here

Germany = Stollen

This traditional German delicacy is essentially a sweet bread filled with dried fruit, nuts, and spices, slathered in melted butter and rolled in icing sugar as soon as it comes out of the oven, which sometimes has a marzipan rope in the middle. Beloved across the country, it is particularly popular in Dresden which has been holding a “Stollenfest” at their annual Christmas Striezelmarkt (“Striezel” was an old word for Stollen) since the 15th century.

Tasty Stollen for Christmas

India = Allahabadi Cake

It may not be a country-wide tradition, but Christmas is indeed celebrated in some parts of the India subcontinent. One of those is Hindustan in the northwest, where the Christian population prepare Allahbadi Cake for Christmastide. This traditional Indian rum and fruit cake is made with maida, eggs, clarified butter, sugar, petha, marmalade, nuts, ginger, and fennel and gets its name from the north Indian city of Allahabad in Uttar Pradesh.

Jamaica, Trinidad and Tobago = Christmas Black Cake

Looking for Christmas cake with a kick? Then you should head to the Caribbean where rum cake is the traditional holiday dessert. Developed from traditional English favourites – like figgy pudding – in Jamaican black cake, dried fruit is soaked in rum for many months, before being added to a caramelised sugar and water mix. The result is a light but boozy black cake which – if not consumed responsibly – may well get you seasonally sozzled.

 

The Philippines = Puto Bumbong

Sticky purple rice anyone? It may sound a little odd, but this Filipino dessert is a Christmas favourite. Made with a special type of glutinous rice, called pirurutong, this pudding has a distinctive purple hue. The rice is soaked in saltwater, dried overnight, and then poured into a bamboo tube called a bumbong. This is then steamed until the steam rises from the tube before being served with a type of rice cake called bibinka, topped with butter, shredded coconut, and brown sugar. 

Portugal = Bolo Rei

Literally “King Cake” this Portuguese cake is enjoyed during the 12 Days of Christmas, between December 25th and Epiphany. Although the recipe was originally from France (where the Galette des Rois is also a popular dessert celebrating the Three Kings) it found its way to Portugal in the 19th century. With a large hole in the middle, it is designed to resemble a crown and is covered with ‘jewels’ of crystallised and dried fruit. The dough itself is soft, white and filled with raisins, nuts and fruit and has one hidden dried fava bean. Whoever ends up with the bean has to buy the bolo rei the following year.

Scandinavia = Gingerbread

Probably one of the oldest desserts around, gingerbread was first introduced to Sweden by German immigrants in the 13th century. It can now be found all over the world in many different forms – from soft like a cake to crunchy like a biscuit, but it is particularly prevalent in Scandinavia. In essence, gingerbread is any baked good flavoured with ginger, cloves, nutmeg and cinnamon and sweetened with honey, sugar, or molasses. Believed to ease indigestion by Swedish nuns in the 1400s, it now has fewer medicinal uses, except for those of an emotional kind. Scandinavian gingerbread is most popular in its thin, brittle biscuit form, known as pepparkakor (Swedish), pepperkaker (Norwegian), piparkokur (Icelandic), piparkakut (Finnish) and…brunkager (Denmark being a little bit different there).

Tasty Gingerbread for Christmas

Wherever you are from, Christmas desserts seem to have a few things in common – they are sweet, warming, and comforting, just like Christmas should be. So, whatever you eat this Christmas, may it be delicious.

Merry Christmas!

Tips to Avoid a Cliché Christmas

The keys to avoiding clichés in your Christmas marketing are simple: creativity and content.

Aim to capture the imagination and generate content, and always be sure that your marketing links up with what you are doing in the restaurant itself. The cardinal rule? Do not compromise your restaurant’s identity just for the sake of accommodating Christmas. Quite apart from anything else, it looks lazy and lacklustre. Instead, take the basic ingredients of “Christmas-ness” and exercise your creativity to see how you can make them work for you.

Christmas with Epicure Digital Marketing

The Ingredients

Atmosphere

Basics = Joyful, Fun, Vibrant, Comfortable, Family-orientated.

Christmas, and the run-up to Christmas, is all about feeling. Once you have passed the age of Santa and toys, for most of your customers the festive season begins to be about a general sense of warmth and wellbeing. The key to achieving prime seasonal success? Tap into those feelings and try to replicate them in your restaurant. This can be achieved by something as simple as having Christmassy accessories for your staff – to keep the tone light, and silly – or by running special family offers and deals for groups, to emphasise the conviviality of the season. 

Food

Basics = Turkey, Cranberries, Roast vegetables, Spices, Wine

Here is where you can really have some fun. Does your restaurant cook a specific cuisine? Rather than opt for a standard Roast Turkey dinner, why not interpret Christmas through that cuisine? If your cuisine comes from a country which celebrates Christmas, then it can be as simple as highlighting and capitalising on the Christmas foods we do not normally eat in the UK. For example, our client Bel Canto is serving salmon, boeuf en croûte and the traditional French bûche de Noël. All delicious, all authentic French customs, but not what we Brits tend to do!

Last year, our client Chakra took it in the opposite direction, and interpreted Christmas food in their own unique, Indian way. There was Turkey curry with ginger, roasted masala potatoes, and roast butternut squash Galouti.

Take the ingredients of Christmas and make them work for you.

Christmas with Chakra

Extras

Basics = Snow, Christmas Trees, Red and Green, Gifts, Fairy Lights

The other festive trappings can also be used to your advantage. Use them in your visual marketing, in the décor of your restaurants, even in the way you present your food – if you want to get really creative! Just try to think laterally – how can you represent snow, gifts, Christmas trees in a way which is clever but clear?

Christmas with Epicure Digital Marketing

The Marketing

Email Marketing

Why not borrow from other Christmas traditions here and entice your customers by offering them Christmas “gifts”? Try a “12 Days of Christmas Approach” offering a different deal or extra over twelve of your quieter days in the run up to the 25th. This could be anything from a free glass of wine to a one-off chance to try a special Christmassy dish. Whatever approach you take, use Email Marketing to remind people to make the most of the Christmas season by trying out your unique offering.

Social Media

Stick to those Christmas basics and keep it FUN! Christmas is a chance to be jolly, so make the most of this, even if you are traditionally a more serious enterprise. Pose Nativity scenes with your staff for Instagram, Snapchat them singing their favourite Christmas songs, engage your followers on Facebook and Twitter by discussing favourite Christmas traditions, and make everyone’s mouth water by sharing high quality pictures of your food.

Blogs

Blogs are where people can come to find out more information about what it is you are doing, and it is a real opportunity for you to show off the full extent of your restaurant’s creativity. Talk about the inspiration behind your Christmas menu, why you are serving what you are serving, discuss Christmas stories and traditions, and share fun Christmas recipes with your readers.

Epicures love Christmas spaghetti

Christmas Packages

Perhaps a more banal element of Christmas marketing, parties and corporate events could be your bread and butter this season, so make sure they are all perfect and ready to go. The ideal Christmas package will be well thought-out, clear and easy to understand, good value for money, and come at a range of different price points.

Need help marketing your restaurant this Christmas? Get in touch HERE to see how we could help. 

Anyone for Tea? A Stroke of British Marketing Genius.

Invigorate Your Restaurant's Marketing with Tea

It is pre-Christmas season and post-Summer – the time when marketing inspiration could grind to a halt. Are you feeling stuck? Looking for fun new ideas to reinvigorate your restaurant and give your marketing some fuel? Then we think it might be time for tea.

Afternoon Tea with Epicure Digital Marketing

These days you see Afternoon Tea everywhere - from cute cafés to the world’s finest hotels. Thanks to the global popularity of the Great British Bake Off, cake, tea, and all things British have never been more in vogue – except perhaps at Afternoon Tea’s inception in the 1840s. Legend has it that Anna Maria, 7th Duchess of Bedford, would get peckish in the late afternoon (she called it “that sinking feeling”) and call for tea and a snack to enjoy in her bedroom. She began inviting friends, high society got wind of it and voilà! A British tradition was born. 

Afternoon Tea with Epicure Digital Marketing
Afternoon Tea with Epicure Digital Marketing

Over the years it has been somewhat democratised, but Afternoon Tea has still retained that air of luxury – it is an indulgence, a treat, and herein lies some of its power. Who does not enjoy the opportunity to eat and drink well (and often fairly inexpensively) while feeling just a little fancy?

Afternoon Tea with Epicure Digital Marketing

The formula for afternoon tea is simple: finger sandwiches, scones, pastries, and a pot of tea (it must be a pot). This is where the genius comes in – working within such limiting parameters can push your culinary creativity to its limits. Over the last year, I have enjoyed a delectable, magic-forest-inspired tea at The Glade at sketch, a Jungle Book-themed tea at Taj 51 and a tea-based cocktail, bunny-eared tea at the Playboy Club in Mayfair. Each featured the core components of Afternoon Tea, and each took the strict framework of pastries and finger sandwiches and played with it to astounding success.

Afternoon Tea with Epicure Digital Marketing
Afternoon Tea with Epicure Digital Marketing

So, why bother with Afternoon Tea at your restaurant? Well it is relatively cheap to produce, it is hugely popular with guests, and it is a breeding ground for creativity and quirkiness. Got an Italian restaurant? Replace the finger sandwiches with pizzette and bruschetta, feature some regional Italian pastries, perhaps a mini Tiramisu, add a glass of Prosecco and there you go! A quirky, delicious, Italian Afternoon Tea. Run a Japanese restaurant in the UK? The Japanese already have a tea-based culture so let those cultures mingle – where High Tea meets Tea Ceremony, great things will happen.

Afternoon Tea with Epicure Digital Marketing

Want to do a little research? Here are our top Afternoon Teas to Try.

Claridge’s

The ultimate, traditional Afternoon Tea. This classic offering even won “Best Traditional Afternoon Tea” at this year’s Afternoon Tea Awards.

Momo

An Afternoon Tea – with a Moroccan Twist! Featuring the intriguing Zaalouk & Mechouia on toast, pistachio macarons and served with traditional mint tea.

One Aldwych

One that the kids will love as much as the adults, this Charlie and the Chocolate Factory tea includes decadent golden eggs, blueberry brioche and playful flavoured candy floss!

Ametsa with Arzak Instruction

Based in The Halkin hotel, this Michelin-starred restaurant is offering a Basque-inspired Afternoon Tea for something truly unusual.

Afternoon Tea with Epicure Digital Marketing

Are you an Afternoon Tea fan? Get in touch on Facebook or Twitter to let us know your thoughts – what kind of Afternoon Tea would you like to see? Also, tag us in your Afternoon Tea Instagram pictures @epicuredigitalmarketing and we will share them!

Picnic Perks – How al Fresco Feasting is Good for Your Health

Epicure's resident anthropologist discusses the health benefits of picnicking.

Picnics. Synonymous with British summers, picnics are about so much more than food. An escape from the monotony of urban office life, there are few things more relaxing than sitting in a park, on a sunny day, with a picnic basket and a glass of Pimms. Not only that, but research suggests that picnicking can influence what and how we eat, as well as providing a much-needed boost to our health and wellbeing.   

Healthy Picnics

Originally a 14th-century pre-hunt tradition picnics, or “pique niques”, were enjoyed only by the wealthier classes. Picnics in their current form, as informal meals enjoyed by everyone, only date back to the mid-19th century, but they have always been out of doors, and this is where one of the picnic’s key benefits comes in.

There are several positives to spending time outdoors. Firstly, soaking up the few rays of sunlight that Britain receives every year increases your levels of vitamin D. Although we Brits are notoriously deficient in it, Vitamin D is essential for boosting the immune system and maintaining good heart activity, as well as helping to prevent bone diseases, and lowering risks of depression and anxiety. Secondly, during times of stress the body releases a hormone known as cortisol. A study carried out in 2015 showed that being in nature and seeing green spaces can actually lower levels of cortisol and lower blood pressure. Basically, there is scientific proof that picnicking chills you out! Most importantly, it has been shown that sitting at a desk to eat lunch can actually decrease levels of happiness- all the more reason to get out there and soak up the summer sun.

Healthy Picnics

Although picnicking lasts only an afternoon it stimulates a feeling similar to being on holiday, and holidays have been clinically proven to boost your happiness. Experts in the field are unanimous in the idea that holidays are good for you and improve your mood, even if only in the short term. The most restorative holidays are ones where you can relax, exercise, and socialise in a warm climate. Picnicking, while only a short-term activity, seems to imitate many of the features of such a holiday (though describing the British weather as a “warm climate” may be pushing it a bit). Experts have also said that short holidays are just as effective at influencing your mood as long ones, so why would communal outdoor eating not have similar results?

Healthy Picnics

More than just being an excuse to escape the confines of the indoors, al fresco dining has the added benefit of being the perfect excuse to get together with friends and family. More than 20% of British families only sit down for a meal together once or twice a week, and a similar proportion of the population have their family meals in front of the TV. The original picnic was a social gathering where everyone brought their own wine. Essentially, this first manifestation of a picnic was a meal where all attendants got together and contributed something. Just like sunlight, eating with others in this way can increase levels of happiness. Furthermore, although eating with others can increase food intake by 18%, it actually alters your food choices towards foods that are more nutritious- who said peer pressure was always bad?

Healthy Picnics

London, despite having a population of over 8.5 million, can be quite a lonely place, and so it is sometimes necessary to make the effort to socialise. Picnics began as social gatherings, events where friends and family members could get together. Research has shown that such occasions can have substantial benefits for mental health. Those who are more talkative and assertive in social situations are more likely to feel positive emotions, and have a lower risk of developing mental diseases. If that wasn't enough, maintaining strong social connections can improve memory functions and the ability to think clearly. Organising get-togethers, such as picnics, can provide the perfect opportunity to reconnect with people you might otherwise rarely see.

Healthy Picnics

So, does picnicking contribute to feelings of happiness and wellbeing? You betcha! Communal eating increases the quality of food that we eat and the combination of being sociable and enjoying the great outdoors works to prevent a whole array of mental and physical complications. The simple fact of being out in a park, or on the beach, encourages people to exercise more, participating in picnic-typical activities, such as Frisbee or Rounders. The experience alters how we relate to our food in a wholly beneficial way... Just try to avoid doing it in the rain...

Basilico Delivers

Epicure Digital Marketing Reviews London's Gourmet Pizza Brand Basilico

British pizza lovers have become spoilt of late. Whether you are in the mood for a grease-fest or a gourmet feast, delivery options have become so sophisticated that you can get food – even Michelin-starred food - delivered right to your door. But this phenomenon is fairly new – back in the late nineties, takeaway pizza meant a pre-made margarita warmed up in the microwave.

Enter Basilico.

Basilico London's Gourmet Pizza Delivery

When it first opened in 1998, Basilico was the only wood-fired, high-quality pizza delivery around, and the only pizza delivery company at all to get a red star in the Time Out Eating Out guide. Since then restaurants and food delivery services have caught up with Basilico’s original innovation, which makes one wonder whether the unique selling point of delivering delicious, fresh, wood-fired pizza offers Londoners anything truly special? We decided to try for ourselves.

To get fully to grips with Basilico’s offering, we opted for two new additions (one of which looked very quirky indeed), one classic, and one which catered for the strictest of dietary requirements. Before beginning, we set out our criteria for what makes a great pizza – quality of ingredients, how well cooked everything was, flavour combinations, uniqueness, and – this being classic Roman pizza – how crispy the base was.

Basilico's Pizza Nera

The Vegetarian

First up, The Vegetarian, which we got vegan-style with lactose-free cheese and a gluten-free base. This comes with roasted aubergine, courgette, red peppers, red onions, fresh tomatoes and basil and earned an immediate thumbs-up from our resident intolerant eater. Despite being gluten-free, the base was crispy and every individual vegetable was perfectly cooked – no mean feat when you consider this was done in a wood-fired oven at 500 degrees Fahrenheit. Vegetarians normally get the short straw when it comes to toppings, so we were pleasantly surprised with the quality and thoughtfulness of Basilico’s veggie offering.

Crispiness – 8/10

Quality of Ingredients – 10/10

How well cooked – 10/10 (onions had bite, aubergine was perfectly soft and not stringy. Spot on)

Flavour Combinations – 10/10 (Use of herbs was particularly successful)

Uniqueness – 8/10 (As vegetarian pizzas go, fairly original)

The Vegetarian at Basilico

The Capricciosa

Next was our classic choice, The Capricciosa, which came with fresh asparagus, prosciutto crudo, free-range egg, shaved parmesan, and top-quality fior di latte mozzarella. It is said that you cannot go wrong with classic flavour combinations, but that is not always true. If handled inexpertly, what should be classic ends up dull and disappointing. Thankfully, this was not the case here. The asparagus was flavourful and al dente, the ham so thin it was almost melting, and the egg added an excellent richness to the whole thing.

Crispiness – 9/10

Quality of Ingredients – 8/10

How well cooked – 10/10

Flavour Combinations – 9/10 (This would have been a 10 with just a touch more sauce)

Uniqueness – 7/10

The Capricciosa at Basilico

Pizza Zucca

Having recently enjoyed a pretty fabulous dinner at restaurant “La Zucca” in Venice, I was intrigued by one of Basilico’s new additions - Pizza Zucca. Roasted butternut squash, crispy pancetta, crumbled roasted chorizo, smoked chicken, fior di latte mozzarella… it was like all my favourite things in one. It seemed like fate. And it was certainly the right choice, the butternut squash was sweet, the pancetta salty, the chorizo spicy, the whole thing warming and wonderful and indulgent without feeling even remotely greasy or guilt-inducing.

Crispiness – 9/10

Quality of Ingredients – 10/10 (the chorizo gets a particular A+)

How well cooked – 10/10

Flavour Combinations – 10/10 (If I could give this an 11, I would)

Uniqueness – 9/10

Zucca Pizza at Basilico

Pizza Nera

Our final choice was the most unusual, Basilico’s new Pizza Nera. The first thing that will strike you is that it is…black. Topped with fresh buffalo mozzarella, roasted yellow peppers, wild boar salami, punto di coltello, sundried tomatoes and rocket, this black dough pizza is certainly a shock to the eye. That said, the dark base made the colourful ingredients seem even more vibrant, and the first bite reassured me there was nothing untoward about the dramatic-looking base. It was one tasty artwork.

Crispiness – 9/10

Quality of Ingredients – 9/10

How well cooked – 9/10

Flavour Combinations – 8/10

Uniqueness – 10/10 (Black pizza? What will they think of next?)

Pizza Nera at Basilico

So, in a city of gourmet pizza and ever-fancier delivery options, does Basilico hold its own? Absolutely.

They are a London company, their branches stretching from Crouch End to Lavender Hill, meaning that wherever you live in the city you can enjoy their fabulous pizza. Not so with big international companies like Deliveroo. By picking the restaurants, rather than the customer areas, they leave people like poor old me out in the cold when it comes to gourmet pizza – especially with a vegan in the house! Basilico caters to Londoners, however out on the peripheries they are.

Basilico's Vegan Pizza

More importantly – the pizza is amazing. They promise to “make the best pizza, not the cheapest or fastest” and this commitment to quality is felt all the way through. Not the cheapest ingredients, the best ingredients, the best way of cooking them, the best way of combining them. This can be seen in the masterful flavour combinations of the Zucca, the artistic flair of the Nera, and the sensitive handling of the vegan Vegetarian. Even if you live surrounded by gourmet pizza joints, Basilico is without a doubt worth your time, because they have taken the time themselves to craft something excellent.

Sorry Deliveroo, I think you and I are through.