Escape crowded aisles for friendly specialist food stores in our countryside

SUPERMARKETS are scary places come Christmas.

SUPERMARKETS are scary places come Christmas.

Why not go local this festive season and give your farm shops, butchers and other traders a helping hand?

Not only will it mean fresh produce bursting with taste, but also give you Christmas fare with real originality.

This year the Weardale Soup Company has introduced a new range of Weardale Local Soups with a selection of flavours using vegetables produced within 50 miles of the company’s home, Elm Cottage. Its aim is to cut down on food miles.

Many organically certified vegetables are imported, but by producing the Weardale Local Soups the company is able to support local growers who produce good quality vegetables, grown without pesticides, right on the doorstep. The flavours include Cauliflower Cheese Soup – seen far right – taken from an old Scottish recipe and made using wholegrain honey mustard from Chain Bridge Honey Farm at Horncliffe, near Berwick in Northumberland.

Do you need a festive lifesaver?

Do you want to “go local” without any parking worries or charges?

Go no further than Meldon Park Kitchen Garden over the weekend of December 15 and 16 for its first Christmas Fair.

Here you will be able to stock up on everything from turkeys, puddings and sauces to nibbles, gifts and stocking fillers.

There will be stalls of local producers and artisans showing the very best of North-East food and gifts under one roof.

The weekend will be a feast of delights, with food and wine tastings, refreshments, and roast chestnuts. Attractions include Tom and Emily Sillar, of Comfort @ Meldon Park restaurant, demonstrating what to do with leftover turkey.

For the younger shoppers Santa Claus will be making an appearance in his grotto. All proceeds will go to a local children’s charity.

To end the evening on Saturday, Comfort @ Meldon Park will hold a ceilidh in the restaurant.

Booking is essential – call (01670) 772583.

There is Christmas fare fit for heroes from the award-winning George Payne Butchers, of Brunton Park, Gosforth.

The butchers remain fully committed to putting the taste back into food – and you really can tell the difference.

You wouldn’t expect anything less from one of a dwindling band of independent family butchers, where quality and service are hallmarks of the long established business.

George Payne explained: “In our quest to source only the very best for our customers, the vast majority of our flavoursome meat originates from right here on our doorstep in Northumberland, so ensuring total hands-on control over the whole supply process, coupled with all-important full traceability.”

The business is known to its admirers as “a village shop within a city”.

George Payne Butchers is one of celebrity chef Rick Stein’s “Food Heroes” for the quality of the meat it sells.

Owner George has been a butcher for more than 40 years.

He is a great believer in forging on-the-doorstep field-to-plate supply partnerships with leading local farmers.

The firm was a founder member of the national industry-leading Guild of Q Butchers. This means the shop can count itself among the best butchers in Britain.

The business has won countless local, regional, national and international awards over the years in meat competitions.

George Payne Butchers is a longstanding member of the Rare Breeds Survival Trust, fully committed to securing the future of traditional British rare-breed animals.

The shop was the trust’s Butcher of The Year for 2004/05.

The www.georgepaynebutchers.co.uk website includes an online store.

The business operates a free local delivery service – inquire for details.

With Christmas firmly in mind, the firm has lined up an array of fantastic festive products, including free-range turkeys, geese, ducks and chickens, boneless turkey rolls and the shop’s famous three-bird roast.

New this year is a limited stock of free-range organic turkeys and festive lamb cushion with mint seasoning.

Copies of George Payne’s Christmas 2007 order form will be dropping through letterboxes in Gosforth and Jesmond in the near future and are also freely available from the shop. George Payne Butchers is at 27 Princes Road, Brunton Park, Gosforth, Newcastle upon Tyne NE3 5TT. Tel: (0191) 236-2992. The email address is: george@georgepaynebutchers.co.uk or visit www.georgepaynebutchers.co.uk

Food gifts are always well received.

At the Country Barn at Widdrington Farm, Morpeth, there is a range of traditional hampers filled with mouth-watering treats.

Hugh Annett and his life partner Sarah Oakey opened the doors to the farm shop in August last year and have been overwhelmed at the response.

Customers say they have not seen a better display of fresh meat, including beef and lamb from Widdrington Farm itself.

For more information about the farm and its shop, visit www.thecountrybarn.co.uk

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