9 Suffolk foodies on why they love Christmas in the county
PUBLISHED: 12:22 06 December 2019 | UPDATED: 11:13 07 January 2020
What makes the perfect Christmas? For most of us it's good food, good drink and good company, wherever we call home. And in Suffolk we're lucky to have some great people in the food and drink industry who ensure we always have a great time | Words: Jayne Lindill
1) Chris and Hayley Lee at The Bildeston Crown
"We live adjacent to The Bildeston Crown, so 'home' is The Bildeston Crown. Christmas lunch is the biggest event of the year, so we're working. The hotel is closed, however, as we feel it's important that our local staff get to spend at least the evening with their friends and family. Those living away from families will join us in the evening for drinks and what's left from lunch.
"The style for our Christmas guests is very much 'home from home'. We have one sitting only, so once you're at your table, it's yours for the afternoon. As our guests are choosing to spend the most celebrated day of the year with us, we want to make sure it's one they remember. The log fires will be burning and Christmas music will be playing softly in the background. As well as traditional turkey, this year we're serving mains of lobster thermidor, roast sirloin of beef and, for those who don't eat meat, a luxurious dish of potato gnocchi, truffle king oyster mushrooms and parsnips.
"Starters are equally celebratory and include smoked salmon, caviar and blinis, and our very own twist on a prawn (king, of course) cocktail. There's Christmas pudding and festive stilton with quince jelly to finish, but this year we also have a delicious whisky and chocolate cremeux with whisky ice cream, coffee and caramel. After lunch, we like to see everyone relax, as they would at home, with mince pies and petit fours."
2) Paul Hubbard, Rolfe's of Walsham Butchers - Best Independent Retailer 2018 Suffolk Food & Drink Awards
"Since owning Rolfe's of Walsham, Christmas Day has always been a long time coming throughout December, so we make sure the 25th is full of celebrations, our favourite foods and some unplanned daytime naps by the fire. Christmas breakfast is always my favourite festive meal, enjoying our own smoked salmon with scrambled eggs, before a joint effort of cooking Christmas dinner.
"From December 1, when Christmas arrives at Rolfe's, we literally do not stop until doors close on Christmas Eve. The best part is the atmosphere which our customers bring into the shop with them, the contentment of Christmas memories, their plans with family and loved ones, and the Christmas spirit in each and every one of them. It truly makes it all worth it.
"Our specialities are poultry ballontines during festive periods - a three-bird roast which can include a range of different birds. People are not always choosing turkey, and foreribs of beef often steal the Christmas show. Our traditional home cured and smoked hams are extremely popular, along with pigs in blankets, free range bronze turkeys and homemade Christmas puddings. We hold our Christmas tasting evening on December 5 and 6 for customers to try everything festive we have to offer. My choice is goose. It's something a little more special and not so readily available all year round. The flavour is unbeatable."
3) Lynn and Steve Tricker, Truly Traceable Handmade Venison & Game Pies - Winner Field to Fork 2018 Suffolk Food & Drink Awards
"We manage to squeeze a Christmas in somehow, once the last Christmas Market is done and dusted for the year. My two daughters always come home from Bristol, and my parents, who live nearby, always come to our house. Steve and I share the cooking. We always go for something different - last year was Muntjac Wellington, the year before a fore rib of Kenton Hall Longhorn Beef. There's been Sutton Hoo cockerel and if it's turkey it's from Chris Mobbs at Cratfield, all served with the traditional roast trimmings.
"There's always a choice of two desserts, Christmas Pudding or something which involves chocolate. Our favourite pud is made just over the border by Norfolk based Kate Lyons of Pudd'eng, stocked at Earsham Street Deli, in Bungay.
"As much of our Christmas food and drink as possible is locally sourced, so the drinks are a selection of Adnams beers and their gin. We love gooseberry vodka from the Tiny Tipple Company, and make our own sloe or blackberry gin too. The thing that excites my daughters most about coming home for Christmas is the cheeseboard, always totally over the top, but we all agree you can never have too much cheese. On Boxing Day it's a lovely morning walk with the dog on Dunwich Heath, then back home where everybody helps themselves to food and drink during the day, followed by the annual tradition of a Boxing Day curry in the evening."
4) Katy Goode, Newbourne Fox (Deben Inns) - Best Pub 2018 Suffolk Food & Drink Awards
"December, as you can imagine, is a pretty hectic season for anyone who works in this industry. We don't serve food on Christmas Day, just drinks for a couple of hours for Newbourne residents, and then we have our Christmas staff do in January.
"My favourite festive meal is Christmas pudding, especially as you don't get it all other times of the year so it's a real treat. This year my sister is cooking, so I get a full day of doing nothing. Every year my husband and I host cheese and biscuits with port in the evening of Christmas Day for all our friends, which has become quite a tradition.
"As well as offering our 'party menu' throughout the whole of December, alongside our core menu, The Fox will also be holding our annual Christmas Eve Extravaganza, which sees our gardens turned into a winter wonderland complete with snow machines, children's games, face painting, barbecue and hog roast with mulled wine, carols from The Ipswich Hospital Band, and live music in the bar, later in the evening. It really gets us in a festive mood."
5) Lee Bye, chef patron at Tuddenham Mill
"I'll be at the stove bright and early on the day preparing Tuddenham Mill's Christmas lunch. We're laying on an epic banquet. It really is our most ambitious Christmas menu so far, with Halesworth turkey, wild red deer and duck eggs for the main course, and all sorts of treats before and after.
"It's our signature mix of local produce prepared using modern styles. Opulence is the keyword, and our guests are going to feel merry, well fed, and welcome.
"Once dinner is done at the Mill, and I've celebrated with the team, I'm off to be with my family, and I'm happy to say I'll be cooked for. I can't wait." Lee's Christmas tip is all about the roasties. "Ten minutes before you take them out of the oven, spread a big spoonful of salted butter over them. It's the perfect finish, trust me."
6) Liz Browne, Urban Jungle Café - Best Newcomer, 2018 Suffolk Food & Drink Awards
"What we love about our cafés over Christmas is the abundance of tropical foliage. On a cold, grey day, when the trees outside are leafless, walking in to the cafés is like being transported to another country and climate.
"Our customers get to enjoy a choice of brunch, lighter lunches or delicious hearty food, with great coffee and wine, and a big side order of plant therapy - nourishment for body and soul! This year our menu will consist of winter warming favourites - lots of slow cooked casseroles and aromatic puddings, as well as old favourites.
"We'll be open at our nurseries and cafés every day from 10am over the festive season, except Christmas Day and Boxing Day, including Friday and Saturday evenings from November 31. We'll finish a little earlier than usual on Christmas Eve so that our team can make a start on their festive break."
7) Beth Cook and Hannah Huntley, Applaud Coffee - Best Coffee/Tea Shop 2018 Suffolk Food & Drink Awards
"We love Christmas and start the countdown early! Christmas is the best time for getting the family altogether and as we all enjoy cooking we pitch in together to get the Christmas dinner on the table, but Mum always takes care of the turkey.
"Our Christmas Eve tradition is to make dates stuffed with marzipan while Mum makes mince pies. We love going on winter walks and relaxing by the open fire.
"Over the month of December here at Applaud Coffee we will be offering our festive afternoon tea, a selection of sweet and savoury sweets for £15 per head. We've got the Teapigs Gluhwein tea in for the winter which goes with it perfectly!"
8) Justin Kett, head chef The Swan at Lavenham Hotel and Spa - Chef of the Year 2018 Suffolk Food and Drink Awards
"Christmas is a very strange time of year for me, working long, hard days at The Swan, with the rest of the hotel's team. We're making sure everyone else is having a great festive period, so you kind of miss the whole event yourself.
"By the end of December, I've seen enough turkey and pigs-in-blankets to last a life time! So on Christmas Day evening, with my wife and daughter, I spend the evening relaxing with a good cheese board, a selection of cured meats, some beautiful sour dough and settle down to a Christmas movie, Home Alone, of course."
Justin and his team are offering festive menus with seasonal Suffolk produce in both the private dining rooms and AA two rosette Gallery restaurant November 27-December 23. For the big day itself there's space for gatherings of 10 to 20 in a private dining room. Parties can book their own room for Christmas Eve dinner and Boxing Day lunch.
9) The Stokes Sauces team - Winner Pride of Suffolk 2018 Suffolk Food and Drink Awards
"Love, family and eating good honest food - that's our Christmas! We're lucky to have such good sauces to hand that raise the foodie bar in moments. For example, our Cranberry & Orange sauce cooked in ruby port - that with the turkey is just 'wow'.
"A great trick with your gravy is to add a couple of spoonfuls of our Cranberry Sauce and, perhaps, a dollop of our Brown Sauce, stir it in and you will have the best turkey gravy ever. To create a delicious assortment of roasted roots - into a large bowl add 50 ml of olive oil with two tablespoons of our Cider and Horseradish Mustard and one or two teaspoons of our Chilli Jam.
"Add your Christmas roots and mix to cover them well with the oil, mustard and chilli infusion. Arrange them on a roasting tray with a drizzle of runny honey and magic happens in the oven. To end our hearty feast, we like to close the day with cheese and biscuits accompanied by either our Chilli Jam, Fig Relish and Red Onion Marmalade. Best wishes for a lovely Christmas from everyone at Stokes!"