Welcome to my new blog, I’ll be chatting about lots of things, but mainly drink, food, local produce and service. Focusing on Norfolk, but not excluding the rest of the world either.
This weekend has been a bit of a celebration of local food and drink. Starting early Saturday, we took a trip to The Norfolk Diet Farmers Market in Norwich, gathering cakes, pies, bread and oils from the many stalls in attendance. I may be slightly biased here, I used to sell our beer on the market, and worked closely with Sarah of Brays Cottage and Linda of bright blue skies to set the market up, after the existing one in Norwich was slowly dying. Essentially the market is about Norfolk produce, celebrating the varied and often unique food and drink that comes from our region. There are the regular meat, veg, bread and cakes that you would expect, but we also have saffron, excellent local wine, goats milk and refreshing cordials. It was very chilly as you may remember, but all the stallholders were smiling, chatty and generally making the most of the winter sun.
Our haul included a selection of delicacies from Macarons & More – the general consensus was that the praline macalongs are a work of genius; 4 different pies from Brays, including the new lamb and beef pies. My favourite being the beef – tender chunks (not minced, I was glad to see) of local beef, with onion in a crisp pastry; a selection of bread from Pye Baker including the sour dough flute, cheese and onion bread and a rye & caraway loaf, which 2 days on is still doing great as toast; and dressing from Crush who crush rape seeds to produce a vibrant yellow oil, they also make a selection of tangy dressings; and a huge slab of belly pork from Oak Tree Farms I think this one will have it’s own post once cooked.
We then proceeded to hot-foot it up the coast to Wells-next-the-Sea to get our sticking mitts on some charcuterie from The Norfolk Deli Co (formerly known as De-lish). Jules who makes the pate, sausage, rillete, pancetta is not only a great bloke, but very talented. The balance in seasoning, depth of flavour and overall taste of his products don’t come easily. Jules will talk you through the produce, describing the hard work that goes into each small strip of jerky. This stuff is seriously good… and addictive. The jerky barely makes it back home with us.
Heading further round the coast to Brancaster, it’s oyster and mussel season. We stop at The White Horse for a late lunch of steaming bowls of mussels. They’re so sweet, I could dunk bread into the the creamy garlicky juice at the bottom of the bowl all day long. Washed down with a pint of Adnams American style IPA, a lovely aroma, maybe just not as much oomf as I’m used to, but a very drinkable beer none the less. Just over the road is a little fish shop, selling fresh & frozen sea food, fish and game; you can even get hare. The car loaded with food we head home.
To me, there is something very special about being able to talk to the person who has created the pie/beer/wine/sausage that you’re eating. I feel very strongly about supporting local business, be that food and drink or clothing boutique. You see, and this is often the part people forget, it’s not just the person who made that pie you ate that you’re supporting, but the farmer who raised the pig, grew the grain for the flour. The whole network of small businesses supporting each other just got a little boost because you chose to get your porky pie from a lovely lady at the market rather than a generic (and less face it, inferior) one from the super market. Now I know sometimes shopping at a market is a luxury, and that times are tough. I know only too well about that. But if we don’t support these small businesses, they will fail. I shop at the supermarket, I’m not going to make out I’m some kind of locavore saint, I’m not. But I wont buy meat there – I get that from my local butcher – not only cheaper but much tastier. I get fish from the fishmonger, and beer (well I have rather a lot of that at the moment), but I wouldn’t get that from the supermarket either, same goes for wine & spirits.