Why I Love The Great Taste Awards

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!

Mr Vikkis Products // GoodEggFoodie

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.

Mr Vikkis

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.

Visit the website.

 

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!

Visit the website.

 

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.

Visit the website.

 

More? The Artisan Bakery

Bread at More? The Artisan Bakery. Image courtesy of the company

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!)

Visit the website.

 

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!

Visit the website.

Port of Lancaster Smokehouse kippers

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

Elsewhere in the region it is worth seeking out winning products from Southport Seafoods (potted shrimps), Galore Foods (marmalade) and Delamere Dairy (goats cheese and goats butter).

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!

 

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Dig The City Manchester 2014

Not a post, more of a quick flick through some pics from this year’s Dig The City.

Dig The City // Bee Garden

The bee garden.
Not only the symbol of Manchester but an important little critter too!

Dig The City Manchester. Remembering the city's cotton industry.

Dig The City Manchester.
Remembering the city’s cotton industry.

Dig The City Manchester.  My favourite! Love the DMs!

Dig The City Manchester.
My favourite! Love the DMs!

Dig The City Manchester.  Nifty bottle planters.

Dig The City Manchester.
Nifty bottle planters.

Dig The City Manchester.  Ooh grapes. We could make our own wine!

Dig The City Manchester.
Ooh grapes. We could make our own wine!

Dig The City Manchester.  Part of the WI Display.

Dig The City Manchester.
Part of the WI Display.

It finished tomorrow- Sunday 10th August- so worth a look if you are near by.

 

Beer & Food Pairing at Solita Manchester

I had been looking forward to this beer and food pairing night at Manchester favourite Solita for a while. And when it fell on the night I was due to finish my post grad it was a sign! Post grad then duly got put back but damn it I was going out and drinking on a school night anyway!

The night was hosted by Cave Direct and their man Will gave us an intro to pairing beer and food and then explained each pairing before each course was served. I would love to share his pearls of wisdom but this was about three weeks ago and I have a terrible memory. But I can tell you that his parings worked really well.

We were met on arrival with nibbles of caper berries (yum) and olives (evil) served with Paulaner Munich larger. I don’t really drink that much larger any more but it was tasty and the salty caper berries delivered a nice punch and made me hungry for what was to come.

GoodEggFoodie // Solita Beer Night //  Big Wave

The first course was my absolute favourite. Calamari in a heavenly light batter was served with Big Manc sauce and a bottle of Big Wave from Hawaii. Not only was the squid delicious (and how have I managed not to have Big Manc sauce on any of my previous visits?) but that beer was so crisp and refreshing! Yep I could taste the passion fruit and pineapple which Will explained were not artificial flavours but simply a result of the hops which are grown in the tropical sunshine. It was very easy drinking- I would have happily quaffed it all night and I have since had it again without food and it is equally good.

The buffalo chicken wings nearly saw me off. Solita’s second hottest wings- I could only manage two, but kudos to the Irish lady sat with us who picked hers clean in no time. The Redhook Long Hammer IPA served alongside was a favourite of my husband Andrew. I sometimes find IPA a bit too bitter but this crisp and maybe a bit citrusy (again, three weeks ago) and was perfect for dousing the fire those darn chicken wings lit in my stomach!

GoodEggFoodie // Solita Beer Night // beer and burger

Then it was burger time. Let’s face it, you go to Solita for the burgers. The longboard burger was a Solita beef/ marrow patty topped with onion rings in Longboard beer batter, BBQ sauce and Monterey Jack cheese. And fries. As well as the beery rings this was served with Lindeman’s Kriek and Paulaner Dunkel lager. I used to like cherry beer when I was younger but blimey it’s seems so sweet now! The Paulaner was a bit malty but much better than your standard lager. The burger was deliciously messily melty!

Pudding didn’t push any buttons for me alas. A lovely vanilla ice cream made in to a float using a stout- called Old Engine Oil. I can’t get onside with stout no matter how I try. I do love the idea of a beer float though…

I was worried that six beers on a school night would see me off, but the generous food portions made sure that wasn’t an issue. It was a fun evening and brilliant value for money (£29pp) considering all of the food and beer we consumed.

I’ll be looking out for more mid-week events like this. They are a great way to try something new – be it food or drink- and is a good price to get the punters in. If you know of anything similar in Manchester / Liverpool let me know!

 

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