This years show at Olympia was a corker, showcasing many great new products. Some companies had just launched that day at the show. There were numerous oil companies, lots of chocolate businesses and an awful lot of Iberica ham being carved for tasting. Thank goodness I hadn’t had lunch as we munched away around the show. We met some great people who had found creative solutions to working the family farm.
The following is a selection of my own private awards:
1. BEST STAND
My award for the best stand was for Corker crisps because of their charming staff and the vintage red mini. With its union jack roof and looking like it had escaped from the set of The Italian Job, this symbol of great British design had been driven all the way to their stand from Willow Farm in Cambridgeshire. Apparently the family has been growing potatoes on the rich Fenland soil since the 1800s and they believe the combination of the rich soil and Naturalo potatoes is what makes their crisps the best.
2. BEST BEER
We were positively drawn to the Hogs Back Brewery stand by a charming silver haired gentleman, complete with twirly silver moustache. Pressing a shot of HOP bottled beer into our hands he beamed as we discovered that we really liked it. Best described as a pale, golden beer it tasted malty with a good balance of hops and touch of sweetness. I would definitely like to drink more of this. The brewery is near Guildford in Surrey and conducts tours of the brewery, which need to be pre-booked. Or you can walk in the lovely countryside around the brewery then pop into their shop and take a few beers away with you to sample at home.
3. BEST CHOCOLATE
We met the lovely lady behind Spice Rack Chocolates who gave us some to try and explained that her chocolates are unique because the chocolates are solid and infused with herbs, spices, coffees and teas, using high quality ingredients. I’m not sure that they have a distributor in the UK yet, but watch out for these products. They are gorgeous.
4. BEST TRADITIONAL PRODUCT
Pride of Place Baking Company for their delicious crunchy porridge oatcakes – described as .
“Nutty and crumbly, with no artificial colours, preservatives or hydrogenated fat” these would be fantastic with cheese or with some smoked trout or smoked mackerel pate spooned on top. These are sold through independent delis and farm shops an are definitely worth seeking out as they have won no less than 5 *Gold Star Awards and 1**Gold Star Awards in the 2011 Great Taste Awards
5. MY OVERALL FAVOURITE
I’m not normally a gin drinker, but the 6 O’Clock Gin I sipped with a splash of their own brand tonic was a cut above normal gin, and tasted balanced with aromatics. Born out of Bramley and Gage who are a small family business making fruit liqueurs to traditional recipes. You can buy the gin at a limited number of retail outlets, and also online through the Bramley & Gage website
Other mentions which we loved are the:
Fine Cheese Company of Bath
for their own brand Fine Cheese Toast selection which are sensationally good
The selection comprises:
Cherries, Almonds & Linseeds
Dates, Hazlenuts & Pumpkin seeds
Apricots, Pistachios & Sunflower seeds
for it’s smooth potato based vodka and in particular the Rhubarb liqueur and the sip of limited edition Horseradish vodka we were lucky enough to try as I think we had the last drop.
Kitchen Garden Preserves
A fabulous array jams, jellies, chutneys and pickles from an award winning business based in Stroud. You can buy these products online and I particularly recommend their red wine jelly to go with roast chicken or meat.