It’s time to get your diary out and make a date for this year’s most hotly anticipated gourmet event – The Journal Taste of the County.
May 25 will see The Journal’s buy, use, eat local campaign once again linking up with the Northumberland County Show to introduce the thousands of visitors expected to descend on this always popular event, to the plethora of fine artisanal foods currently being produced in our region.
It was in January 2008 that The Journal launched its Taste campaign to not only give a much-needed boost to those producers, farmers, independent shopkeepers, hoteliers and restaurateurs championing all that’s good about North East food and drink, but to encourage readers to look closer to home too.
The plight of our struggling farmers, food scares and environmental worries about how dependent as a nation we were becoming on everything from meat to fruit and vegetables being imported from often thousands of miles away, were other major factors in the decision to launch Taste.
Since then it has become a valuable platform for the region’s local food heroes to shout loud and proud about the good culinary things happening on our doorstep.
April 2008 marked the first of a long line of Taste food and drink festivals held at some of the North East’s most scenic locations, from the National Trust’s Gibside estate on the fringes of the Tyneside conurbation, to Linden Hall Hotel near Morpeth, Northumberland, and Newcastle’s buzzing Sunday Quayside Market.
Then in 2009 an invite arrived to join forces with the Northumberland County Show.
It was a perfect fit. The County Show champions the countryside and those that live and work in it; Journal Taste seeks to tell the wider world about the fantastic artisanal food and drink being produced – albeit not exclusively - in the region’s rural hotspots.
It’s a relationship that has gone from strength-to-strength. Unbelievably, May 25 will be the seventh outing for Taste of the County.
Chris Chomse, chairman of the Northumberland County Show, is in no doubt as to why the partnership has endured.
“The event is a great showcase for some of the finest food and drink produced and sold here in the North East. Taste of the County reflects the values and ethics of the show by recognising and rewarding quality and exceptional standards in all aspects of livestock management and food production.
“It provides a great opportunity for the general public to see the full journey of their food from field to plate.”
Once again, Taste will not only be showcasing an impressive line-up of the region’s top food and drink producers, but offering the 25,000-plus visitors expected at this year’s County Show at Bywell in the Tyne Valley, unrivalled face-to-face access to the people who grow, rear, harvest and make a range of often unique and regionally-inspired foods.
Among the 50 or so stallholders expected to take part will be Sandy Higson – better known as the Mad Jam Woman.
The occasion wouldn’t be the same without the 70-year-old. Her cheery face has been there to greet visitors at all six previous Taste of the County’s and she’s preparing to lay her stall out for the seventh.
Far from developing a ‘seven year itch,’ she’s effusive in her praise of Taste of the County and is looking forward to hopefully seeing some familiar faces and soaking up the always enjoyable atmosphere in The Journal marquee.
The former dressmaker who originally hails from Rothbury, Northumberland, but who has now moved to Amble where she works with the luxury hamper and gift firm, Pride of Northumbria, knows what keeps bringing her back.
“Because there’s a really good feel about it,” she says with a laugh. “I grew up near the showground and I love doing the event, meeting new people and catching up with the other stallholders.”
Sandy, who specialises in jams, marmalades, relishes, sauces and curds, has been a keen supporter of Journal Taste from the beginning.
As a small artisanal producer her reasons are simple. “The Taste campaign is very important for this area. It introduces people to local food and it’s helping bring attention to what’s on offer in the North East.
“It’s vital that producers support it and help keep it going.”
She will be joined at Taste of the County by a host of other producers selling everything from bread and cakes to award-winning ice cream and fish, locally grown vegetables, meat and chocolates.
With a month to go until the big day, 30 producers have already signed up, with more to follow.
Of course, events like Taste of the County wouldn’t be possible without the generous support of sponsors. This year Arch, the Northumberland Development Company, and the Amble Harbour Village, have both come aboard to help sing the praises of all that’s good about North East food and drink.
Arch has been set-up by Northumberland County Council as an arms-length development company to drive capital economic expansion, physical regeneration, business growth and to attract investment.
Supporting the Taste campaign is a natural progression for the group.
Peter McIntyre, Arch Group managing director, says: “We are proud and delighted to be the main sponsor for Journal Taste of the County. The Arch Group is committed to supporting businesses across Northumberland and The Journal’s Taste of the County fits perfectly with our wider aims.
“We have watched with pleasure as Taste of the County has grown and developed into a major attraction in its own right over its last six outings, attracting visitors from across the North East and introducing them to the plethora of fine artisanal foods and drinks being produced not just in Northumberland but across our beautiful region.
“We are very much looking forward to taking part in what will be Taste of the County’s seventh celebration of fine food and supporting such a positive event held in the wonderfully festive atmosphere that is the County Show.
“The Journal’s commitment to encouraging a local food culture and inspiring people to invest in their local area on a wider scale is to be applauded.”
Stallholders Confirmed to Date:
The Brownie Bar
Charlie’s Country Kitchen
The Cherry Tree (Durham)
Hallsford Farm Produce
Hebridean Liqueurs North East
The Honey Store
Kathryn Brown Cupcakes
Loopy Lisa’s Fudge
Mad Jam Woman
Northumberland Cheese Company
Stateside Treat Emporium
Swallow Fish Ltd
The Tea Shed
Truly Tempting Chocolate
Wheelbirks Ice Cream
TASTE OF THE COUNTY
DATE: Bank Holiday Monday, May 25, 2015
TIMES: Gates open at 9am and the show closes at 6pm
LOCATION: Bywell, Stocksfield, Northumberland
TASTE MARQUEE: Over 50 food and drink stalls
FOR MORE INFORMATION: On the Northumberland County Show website at www.northcountyshow.co.uk
TICKET PRICES: Adults: £12 bought in advance, £15 on the day; Children: £3 in advance, £5 on the day
For information on The Journal’s Taste of the County food and drink marquee please call Lesley Hampson, event manager, on 0191 201 6435, or email: Lesley.firstname.lastname@example.org
Enjoy retail therapy by the sea
Amble Harbour Village is a fantastic new addition to the tourism offer along the Northumberland Coast.
Fifteen retail units are selling an interesting mix of art, crafts, gifts, food, drink and leisure/tourism service. With a strong focus on selling local produce/services, we offer a warm welcome to anyone looking for a bit of retail therapy by the sea.
Many people are unaware of the incredible seafood that is landed in Amble. The new Northumberland Seafood Centre celebrates our local catch and brings it to the plates of hotels and restaurants throughout the region. And if you enjoy seafood, you can take it home through our new fish club.
Ultimately the Northumberland Seafood Centre will support the viability and vitality of fishing as an integral part of the Amble community.
Julia Aston, director, Amble Development Trust, says: “Sponsoring the Taste of the County event at the Northumberland County Show reinforces the values and beliefs that the Harbour Village has been built on – local community supporting local produce and local businesses.”
Amble Harbour Village is a government funded, community led project designed to grow and sustain business and employment in the local area.
The 15 retail units are aimed at start-up businesses selling art, crafts, gifts, food, drink and leisure/tourism services, while the Seafood Centre has been developed to support and enhance the fishing community through sustainability and growth in local and wider markets.
The 15 retail businesses have various offerings but are all focussed on selling local produce/services where possible, and this is an important factor in appealing to the tourism market that the Harbour Village aims to attract.
The Seafood Centre is focussed on locally caught seafood and distribution to both local markets and wider UK markets but under a Northumberland seafood brand.
Fine out more at www.ambleharbourvillage.co.uk; Twitter: @AmbleHV and Facebook: Amble Harbour Village.