Surrey’s Premier Lifestyle Magazine

The Artisan General Store

Shirlee Posner introduces readers to an online food boutique offering a collection of expertly selected products, tasting experiences and eco friendly delivery within Surrey. Web based food retailing is big business these days, so when I was approached to write an article about a new business selling artisan food products, I was a little sceptical. The internet is a very congested place so, apart from being Surrey-based and with ‘artisan’ in the title, I wanted to ascertain if The Artisan General Store might be worth a closer look.

Firstly I examined the products listed and was delighted to find a couple of local producers. The use of low emission vehicles for Surrey deliveries also ticked a box, but I then found the black truffle butter. This was enough to make a call to the owner to set up an interview.

After a lifetime in the corporate world, Steve Reice decided to do something completely different. He knew it would focus around his passion for top-end food products, but he spent time checking out the current market. Researching current online food offerings, he came up with a contemporary retail food model for his new food and lifestyle venture. Naming it The Artisan General Store, Steve set about curating a range of products he felt deserved a place in his shop. To be included, the product had to be as good as it could be in its category and one he would buy without hesitation. Sampling everything before a listing is essential and each and every product that makes it onto this online shop has been tasted and rated fit for inclusion. Currently 235 products have made it through the rigorous testing panel. The final goal is to reach one thousand.
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Steve Rice
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Based in Surrey, this is a national online business with anyone outside Surrey receiving orders by post or courier, depending on order size. Surrey residents, however, can expect a more personal service from this new start up as orders are delivered in hybrid vehicles by fully trained staff. Environmental footprint is important to this brand and Steve is proud of his small fleet of Kia Niro hybrids which won the Guinness World Record for lowest consumption of fuel in a test undertaken in the USA recently. Think also of the delivery staff as personal shopkeepers as products on arrival are taken directly to the kitchen (if required) and unpacked by knowledgeable staff who, if necessary, are able to discuss the order. This sounds perfect for gifting, especially as dare I mention Christmas is looming.

The collection of products currently listed is selected from a mixture of producers local to Surrey and others from around Britain. The starter range currently on offer is all ambient, but that, says Steve, may change as the business develops and moves into chilled and frozen. I recognised some of the brands included and most have, as expected, a list of awards and accolades. Some are instantly recognisable, for example, Liberty Fields known for its wonderful aged apple balsamic vinegars and apple syrup (gorgeous over ice-cream or in cocktails), and Wild Island from the Isle of Wight with fabulous dressings, drizzles (chilli and cherry), marinades (Peri Peri) and infused oils. However, Steve has also sourced some less visible products too which makes this collection of food products interesting to browse. Of course, it is possible to buy products directly from the brands, but choosing from The Artisan General Store will save on delivery costs and in Surrey, if spending over £50, free delivery is included.
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Truffle Hunter Black Truffle Butter
One of my favourite local brands listed is Stag Roasters, a new start up featured in this column a few issues back. Single origin, expertly-roasted coffees from Brazil, Peru and Honduras feature giving this business an edge.

There are 21 categories of product on the site, including vegan, gluten free, raw honey (the jar with cinnamon got sent to my basket) plus black truffle butter from the Truffle Hunter range. Try cooking mushrooms in this or put a chunk on a freshly-griddled steak or on a heap of fresh mashed potatoes. Clicking on dips, I loved the sound of Hot Sand: a Dukkah spice mix from the The Dukkah Company, Cornwall, perfect for freshly-peeled quails’ eggs, and fresh thyme and butternut squash dip from A Little Bit. But online shopping is just the start for Surrey residents. When placing an order on The Artisan General Store site, products are ordered and packed together for posting or delivery. Sent in one consignment, this means stock is always fresh and use by dates not compromised.

In addition to the shop, the business will also be offering tasting experiences from its product range. These events can be tailor made to individual needs and could be truffle or spice inspired, or from any group of products offered. In development too is a fresh dessert service, again for delivery in Surrey. Currently there are three desserts in the range, but more are to be added as this element of the business develops. Sticky toffee pudding, chocolate mousse and meringues with cream and berries are the current offerings.

I thoroughly recommend checking out The Artisan General Store for treating yourself, gifting and as a tried and tested gourmet food experience. It’s also important to note that online collections like this give bigger reach to small producers who need help raising the awareness and reach of their products. This is something with which many small businesses struggle, so it is fabulous to see a local company offering an additional retail outlet.
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Earl Grey and lavender panna cotta
I have been thinking about panna cotta with Earl Grey tea ever since I saw it on a menu at the Medicine Garden in Cobham when it first opened. I didn’t try it that day and eventually curiosity got the better of me, so here is my version which includes lavender. Culinary lavender adds an interesting aromatic flavour note with a sophisticated twist.

400ml semi-skimmed milk
600ml double cream
15ml culinary lavender
Three 15ml spoons honey, lavender if possible
Five leaves gelatine
Three Earl Grey teabags
Fresh berries, honey and fresh lavender for garnish

• Place eight ramekins on a tray that will fit in a fridge.
• Pour 400ml semi-skimmed milk and 600ml double cream into a saucepan. Add one 15ml spoon of culinary lavender and bring gently to the boil with three 15ml spoons of honey – use lavender honey if possible. Meanwhile, place five leaves of gelatine in a bowl of water and soak for five minutes.
• Once the cream mixture has come to the boil, remove the pan from the heat. Remove the gelatine from the water, whisk into the hot cream and add three Earl Grey teabags. Allow the teabags to infuse for about ten minutes, then remove them from the cream mixture, squeezing gently to extract the flavour.
• Pour the cream mixture through a fine-mesh sieve into a large pouring jug. Pour the mixture evenly between the ramekins, allow to cool slightly, then cover the tray in cling wrap. Chill overnight or until set in the fridge.
• Serve in the ramekins, but I prefer to turn them out and garnish with some fresh berries, a drizzle of honey and a sprig of fresh lavender.

Shirlee Posner
essence info
The Artisan General Store

Shirlee Posner is a food writer and blogger at and provides social media management, web copywriting and food photography.