There are few things in life which make me go into total geek out mode, but the annual results of the Great Taste Awards is one of them!
I started this blog because I was very passionate about the food being produced around me. Over the years, my focus has widened to include all aspects of food, but I want to refocus for a moment on the best this region has to offer, so the GTAs (as they shall be known from here on in!) are a great way to do that.
For those who don’t know, the GTAs are a national award scheme for artisan and fine food producers. Anyone can enter (you pay to enter but there is no guarantee of an award), there is blind tasting by panels of experts and your product can win 0, 1, 2 or three stars.
To have a GTA sticker on your product gives it great shelf presence and some brilliant PR opportunities so it’s no wonder that you see both new and established producers in the running.
The awards are announced in stages. This week, the stars were announced. In September, to coincide with many producers being in London for the Speciality Food Fair, the big awards are announced. That’s when the supreme champion is crowned. I was lucky to go one year to the event in Fortum and Mason as part of my job, and it was bloody brilliant!
So this week, the stars were announced and many regional companies who’s products I know and love got starred so I thought it would be a great opportunity to showcase some of them and what I love about them.
Winning products: this year the company got an amazing three two-star awards and twelve one-star ones too many to list so see them here.
Any regular reader may be forgiven for thinking that I have shares in Mr Vikkis- they are by far my favourite spicy condiment maker. All my favourites are in there – tamarind chipotle, tomato and nigella, chilli jam and chipotle sauce. There was also a Bangkok sriracha which I’ve never seen before so will be looking for or ordering online.
Based in Penrith, Mr V is actually a chilli-head called Adam who makes the most amazing mixes of flavour. They sell online, in stores like Harvey Nichols and at markets and festivals. I beseech you to seek them out.
Kenyon Hall Farm
Winning product: Seville Orange Marmalade (2 stars), Courgette Pickle (1 star)
This is the most local winner to me- just five minutes drive up the road! Kenyon Hall Farm has been going for years- all local kids know it as the strawberry picking farm and as I have grown up it is now more my thing for it’s annual asparagus crop and chichi farm shop.. Not too shabby for a small batch product made on the farm! I can personally attest for the whisky marmalade – it was a winner in a chocolate orange cake I made!
Fiddler’s Lancashire Crisps
Winning products: Lancashire Cheese and Onion (2 stars), Simply Spuds (2 stars), Sea Salt (1 star).
I could eat Fiddler’s Lancashire Sauce flavour until I’m sick. Seriously, they are ridiculous- where were they in the winning list eh? The salt and pepper and salt and vinegar (made with Elsey’s vinegar from this ‘ere Wigan) are also of note. Available in the cafe where I work which is a danger, and many, many outlets across the north west.
More? The Artisan Bakery
Winning products: Eight two and one stars- see here for the list.
If I lived nearer to Kendal where More is based, I swear I would eat nothing but Patrick Moore’s amazing bread and brownies. This is the bread that all other bread aspires to be. More is a past supreme champion with their amazing muddees- an out of this world brownie. This year I Am very interested in the winning sourdough croissant- I need to get my hands on one! If you do see them, I strongly recommend the brownies, the treacle bread, sourdough miche and the rye. Stock up, put it in your freezer and discover what great real bread tastes like.
(Oh and if you’re reading this Patrick, I am still waiting on your cook book!)
Port of Lancaster Smokehouse (POLSCO)
Winning products: smoked yellowfin tuna (2 stars), Beetroot gravalax (1 star)
You can’t fail to notice POLSCO at a farmers market or food festival, as they will often have kippers hung in a smoker for all to see. I personally love the smoked haddock and the smoked duck breast which is perfect for a filling salad. If you love kippers, breakfast is sorted!
Other north west winners of note
Cumbria always produces a swathe of winners:
- Hawkshead Relish were awarded for two boozy themed products – bloody mary chutney and daiquiri jam
- Country Puddings make delicious hand made puds and custard (I love the custard) and this year won for summer pudding and tangy lemon pud
- Thoroughly nice chap Geoff at Friendly Food and Drink won two awards for chocolate orange curd and Cumberland pork
- Pie-masters Burbush’s of Penrith won with a spiced pork pie and some cured ox tongue
- Cake makers Country Fare and Ginger Bakers but had their excellent products recognised as well
This is by no means an exhaustive list of the region’s winners- but it is those I know and I have enjoyed so am happy to share with you. Check out the full list of winner on the GTA website and get discovering some great producers from your neck of the woods. Even better, let me know which producers on the list you know and love and share your recommendations!