And with that, the 2023 season comes to an end! And what a year it has been. 2023 was a great year for me personally as I got engaged in May. We celebrated a lot and also witnessed more friends and family tie the knot! Things also got very real for my business, Social etc. as I became a limited company and started to work with bigger clients.
Alas, that has meant that Sophie etc. has taken somewhat of a back seat. I wasn’t as consistent as I wanted to be in terms of writing blog posts and sharing content. Despite this, I hosted three Sophie’s Supper Clubs, was a judge for the Weetabix Northamptonshire Food & Drink Awards and Eat & Explore MK finished the year on 17,000 members. That’s quite impressive isn’t it?
In addition to those achievements, I collaborated with Toybox on Sophie’s Street Feast, raising over £1,600 for Toybox, Girl Pack and St Mark’s Meals. Sophie’s SOUPer Club in aid of YMCA MK also raised over £600 which means that over £2,000 was donated to charity last year.
As always, thank you for sticking around and for supporting the events I run and the online community. I know I’ve been a little quieter, but I’m hoping to get back into the rhythm a bit more this year.
My first blog post of the calendar year is always a round-up of the best things I’ve eaten. We’ve had such a jam-packed year it was honestly so difficult to narrow it down. I hope this provides you with some inspiration for your foodie adventures in 2024. As always, the list is in alphabetical order not in order of preference!
Every effort has been taken to ensure the information in this blog post is correct, however, I advise referring directly to the vendor websites and social media pages for the most up to date information. If you do see an error or something is incorrect, please contact me via email@example.com.
Sophie etc.’s Best Eats of 2023
Bakehouse Deli, Newport Pagnell
When I visited The Bakehouse Deli in Newport Pagnell to capture content for them, we were treated to so much delicious food. But the thing that has been living rent free in my mind since, is the Truffle Honey, Brie, Apricot Jam and Rocket Croissant. I have been trying to recreate a sweet savouiry croissant at home ever since! The creamy brie worked beautifully with the earthy, nutty truffle and the sweetness of the honey and jam brought it all together.
Unfortunately the menu changes weekly, so I’m unlikely to enjoy this again for some time, but I can’t wait to try some of Alessandra’s other creations!
In May, we spent four days in Split and then drove down the coast of Croatia to Dubrovnik. Split was by far our favourite of the two. It is petit but packed with incredible foodie hotspots and some of the best wine bars I’ve been to anywhere in the world (Special shout out to Monika’s!) Bokeria was where we spent our first and final nights. We loved it so much the first time, we went back again. Located on a busy corner with bottles of wine and aeperol adoring the walls, this is a charming yet refined eatery that is well worth a visit if you find yourself in Split. The wine is fantastic too.
The stand out dish for me was the Octpus, served with a cauliflower purée and couscous. The flavours were beautiful, and so fresh. Split does wine and seafood very well!
Tring is about half an hour from Central Milton Keynes and home to one of our favourite restaurants. We’ve been to Crocker’s three times now, twice in 2023! Our most recent visit was on 22nd December for my ‘Christmas Party.’ We enjoyed an absolutely stunning tasting menu. The stand out dishes were the scallop and the dessert.
The scallops were served raw with a beautiful dill oil. Honestly, I can’t even describe how beautiful it was. The flavours were light and so fresh. The dessert featured mandarin ice cream which was just stunning. Once again the flavours were spot on – White chocolate balancing the zestiness of the mandarin.
Get Crocker’s on your hit list for 2024!
Chef Hat Home
You guys know that I am a big fan of Aaron from Chef Hat Home. In fact, we’ve chosen him to cater for our wedding this August! He cooked dinner for my sister-in-law’s family hen do and most of us haven’t been able to stop thinking about this tomato dish. My favourite dishes are often light and fresh, so this ticked all the boxes for me. The perfect summer dish!
Drkdsh, Eat Street MK
Eat Street is one of my favourite street food events. Scratch that, it is my favourite. It has grown from strength to strength over the years and increased the appetite for street food in Milton Keynes. The event attracts vendors from further afield and one of their guest vendors for a Winter Street Food event back in November was Drkdsh. We tried the Oxtail curry and it might be up there with the best things I’ve eaten at an Eat Street. The meat was so tender, it had clearly been cooking for hours and the curry itself was rich and warming. I can’t wait to have this food again!
El Gato Negro, Manchester
Back in January, Dan and I went to Manchester for the weekend to see his Mum. We took her for dinner at El Gato Negro, which is a tapas restaurant. It was really good. The food was Spanish but with a twist. One of the best things we ate were the short ribs which were served in a rich sauce. Dan still talks about them!
Fold Me Close, Eat Street MK
One of the highlights of 2023 was collaborating with Fold Me Close on my very own pizza! So I couldn’t write this post without mentioning the ‘Nduja Goat It. It featured some of my favourite toppings – ‘Nduja and Goat’s Cheese – with some sweet peppers, mozzarella and a drizzle of honey for good measure. Fold Me Close pizzas are legit and some of the best in the area so make sure you give it a go. What should my 2024 collab pizza be?
Good Times Café, Eat Street MK
Good Times Café are one of the OGs of street food in Milton Keynes and the owners, Bob and Aida, are the organisers of Eat Street. I have yet to find a better cheese toastie than Good Times. Earlier in the year, they had a special of Birria Cheese Toasties on their menu which might have just elevated their toastie to the next level! It features delicious slow cooked beef inside the toastie and was served with a spicy broth. 10/10 all round.
Moor Hall, Ormskirk
Our foodie highlight of the entire year was our engagement meal at Moor Hall in Ormskirk. We took a walk in the woods in Knutsford near to where Dan’s mum lived and he asked me to marry him. I was wearing my heatless hair curlers and my dog walking clothes but of course I said yes. He’d planned an amazing evening at Moor Hall and booked a cute Airbnb nearby so we could celebrate.
Now, I dont have any photos of the food that evening because we just wanted to be in the moment, but rest assured we enjoyed some of the great food we have ever had. There were around 14 courses of food, and the one we both remember was a poached oyster. Small but delicious. I do have a photo of my Espresso Martini and me looking a little merry to prove we were there!
Paris House, Woburn
Paris House remains one of our favourite fine dining restaurants in the area. We’ve made a tradition of going at least once a year and it gets better every time. I was lucky enough to host Sophie’s Supper Club there in November which was such a treat. and we enjoyed this incredible fish dish. It was cured salmin with wasabi and rose, confit kohrabi and a buttermilk dressing. Truly balanced and absolutely stunning to look at! Stay tuned, as there may be another supper club coming in 2024…
Rowley’s, Great Brickhill
If you are a member of my Facebok group, Eat & Explore MK, you will definitely be familiar with Rowley’s! Since we first visited in April, so many of you have been to this gem of a breakfast spot! The Brickhill Slider is one of the best breakfasts in Milton Keynes. Sausage patty, Brickhill Black Bacon, Hash Brown, Cheese and a fried egg, all served in an English muffin. It’s heaven! We have been time and time again this year and we absolutely love it. If there’s one local spot you need to visit this year, it’s Rowley’s!
Another foodie highlight from Split was Zoi. This stunning restaurant was located in the Diocletians Palace overlooking the harbour. We had a fantastic tasting menu and beautiful wines which caused us to blow through the holiday budget in one sitijng, but you only live once! One of the best courses was probably the canapés at the start, specifically the tuna belly.
Cooking at home
I couldn’t finish this post without mentioning a few things we’ve made at home that exceed many meals out… 2023 was the year where Dan and I REALLY got into cooking good food at home. We are blessed with a ceramic Kamado BBQ which means we can cook some absolutely incredible food. We have done a few a BBQ classes with Spice Punch at The Shack which has given us so many skills. Dan put them to good use for Christmas where he absolutely smashed a reverse seared beef rib eye joint, which we bought from The Best Butchers (located next to Rowley’s!)
We also did some incredible beef short ribs which were smoled and cooked to perfection. How lucky am I to be marrying this man!?
I hope you enjoyed reliving my favourite foodie experiences and eats from 2023 and that it inspires some of your own culinary adventures.
If you want to discover more amazing places to eat in 2024, join my Facebook Community Group, Eat & Explore MK and share your reviews, recipes and recommendations with fellow foodies.
What was the best thing you ate in 2023?