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North East food champions flying the region's flag

JOANNE Moran is very proud to champion local produce in the family’s busy farm shop and 80-seat café at Rainton Gate in County Durham.

Joanne Moran and Lucy Wearne (VCD) at Haswells Homer Hill Farm Shop

JOANNE Moran is very proud to champion local produce in the family’s busy farm shop and 80-seat café at Rainton Gate in County Durham.

In fact, the family takes the whole concept of farm-to-fork so seriously they have just won a couple of TasteDurham awards for their efforts.

Visitors to Haswell’s Homer Hill Farm Shop at Rainton Gate are offered a genuine farm-to-fork experience, in part because the beef comes from the land they farm.

And the business is very much a family affair, as Joanne runs the coffee shop and kitchen, her husband farms Home Hill Farm, dad runs the butchery side, Glan Haswell Butchers Ltd, a third generation of family butchers with a shop in Silksworth, Sunderland, and Joanne’s sister looks after the retail side of the farm shop venture.

“Mum floats around. She keeps saying she’s going to retire,” Joanne says with a smile.

Joanne and the family are celebrating after the farm shop was the recipient of TasteDurham Highest Quality Assured and Local Food Champion awards.

The latter is awarded to those businesses which score 60 per cent or more for using local suppliers.

“It’s the first time we have put in for it. We’ve been open for two years. We’re butchers by trade and we bought the farm 25 years ago. We talked about opening a farm shop and decided to go for it a couple of years ago.

“The shop is actually an old cattle shed which we dismantled and rebuilt.

“The beef sold in the shop is reared on the farm. It’s about 100 acres and my husband William farms it. It’s all beef bulls we rear.”

The lamb and pork sold in the shop and used in the café produce is sourced from local farmers in Northumberland and County Durham.

The coffee shop also serves up homemade cakes, scones, biscuits and breads. Breakfasts, lunches and snacks are all on the menu and there is a specials board which is frequently changed. It also offers Sunday lunch.

Joanne adds: “As a relatively new business we wanted to be part of the TasteDurham scheme as the quality of the food we serve is very important to us. We work closely with local suppliers as well as using beef from our own farm.

“Much of our food is homemade on the premises and we get lots of glowing comments from our customers so it’s great to have this backed up by the TasteDurham award.

“We like to support local where we can. We have cheeses from Doddington in Northumberland, jams and chutneys from JR Jams, honey from Chain Bridge at Berwick.

“We are always looking for new suppliers who are local. In fact, we would like to expand on that. The more local to us the better.”

The café’s produce is largely homemade in their on-site kitchen including the steak, pork, and chicken and leek pies, the Scotch eggs and black pudding.

They supply meat from the butchery side of the business to restaurants in the region such as Lumley Castle, Finbarr’s and The Bay Horse.

Homer Hill Farm Shop is just one of the Durham tourism businesses celebrating after receiving their best results in the nationally accredited food quality initiative.

The businesses, which include restaurants, hotels, B&Bs, cafés and bars received their TasteDurham quality awards in the fourth annual awards ceremony.

This year 47 businesses received awards, 25 gaining Quality Assured status and 22 gaining Highest Quality Assured. Nineteen of these businesses were also named Local Produce Champions – with five businesses all achieving 100% in this category for the first time.

These were Café Cenno, Finbarr’s Restaurant, Oldfields Noted Eating House owned by Bill Oldfield, also a food columnist for The Journal, Ramside Rib Room Bar and Grill and the Rose & Crown in Romaldkirk.

Oldfields is a proud champion of local produce. The restaurant’s ethos is simple, a belief in using real British food, simply prepared using the finest, local farm-sourced seasonal produce, at good value. The ingredients in their kitchen come from local suppliers where possible.

Bill Oldfield says: “We have found that our visitors love to know about the origins of not only their food but also the dish that they have chosen from the menu.

“It helps them identify with this area, provides discussion and importantly for us they then help spread the word about our own restaurant but also Durham as a destination, when they talk about the food on their return home.”

THE AWARDS

THE TasteDurham mark and awards was set up in 2008 by tourism agency Visit County Durham to raise the profile of food and drink in the county.

TasteDurham has three levels of award: Quality Assured and Highest Quality Assured as well as a local produce champion accreditation. This year 25 gained quality assured status and 22 highest quality assured. 19 of these were also named Local Produce Champions.

Assessors from Quality in Tourism on behalf of VisitEngland inspected for cleanliness, menu quality, use of local produce and service.

For the list of winners visit www.visitcountydurham.org

KEEPING THE LOCAL ECONOMY GOING

IAN Kennedy of Café Cenno in Durham’s indoor market is also celebrating his awards win.

Ian and his wife Joanne own the business, one of five establishments that achieved 100% in the Local Produce Champion category, and they were a recipient of a Quality Assured award.

Cafe Cenno has undergone refurbishment. The menu includes dishes using locally- sourced fish and meats.

Ian says: "TasteDurham not only celebrates our own ethos of using local produce and suppliers but has also been a valuable business tool, providing us with constructive feedback that has enabled us to develop and improve Café Cenno further." Ian also owns fishmongers IK Fish in the indoor market, which he has had for 26 years.

"I’m from Hartlepool and I’m down the fish quay every morning and I pick up as much local fish as I can, halibut, monkfish, cod etc. I also stock a lot of exotic fish varieties.

"We supply local restaurants, guest houses and the university colleges. We use the fish in the café, local cod and haddock for our fish and chips, we have a local crab and seafood salad.

"Our meats come from Northumberland and County Durham, our lamb is from Haswell’s at Homer Hill and we use a baker at Ferryhill. We use root vegetables from David Mellonby’s farm."

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