Wednesday, 21 March 2012

Wales the True Taste

Wales the True Taste (Cymru Y Gwir Flas) is a brand founded by the Welsh Government to promote food and drink products. A key part of this initiative is the annual Food and Drink Awards. At the 2011-12 awards, held last October in Llandudno, over 1,000 entrants competed in numerous categories. Winning an award allows a producer to use the Wales the True Taste logo (gold, silver or bronze), which has become a mark of excellence within the Welsh food and drink industries. Award winners also take part in a range of promotional activities, such as the showcase held last night (20 March) at ffresh restaurant and bar in the Wales Millennium Centre (WMC), Cardiff Bay.

ffresh is the first restaurant to become a Wales the True Taste partner. They have a commitment to sourcing Welsh products, with around 30% of ingredients coming from Wales the True Taste partners. For their annual spring showcase, ffresh invited some of their Wales the True Taste suppliers to exhibit and served a range of taster dishes from the restaurant menu that feature award-winning Wales the True Taste ingredients.

To start the event, there were short speeches from Janet Davies, from the Board of the WMC, and the Welsh Government’s Deputy Minister for Agriculture Alun Davies AM. Shaun Hill, the Michelin-starred consulting chef at ffresh further extolled the importance of Wales’ world-class food and drink products to the country’s economy and culture. Shaun thinks there is room for expansion in the high-end restaurant sector in Wales, and would like to see more chefs in Wales “getting the credit” for serving Welsh products.

My first taster was Wye Valley asparagus risotto with Hafod cheese. This was a creamy and very satisfying dish. Peli Pabo goats’ cheese and beetroot salad was next, with small balls of the fresh soft cheese nestling on attractive salad leaves. Hafod cheese is made by Sam and Rachel Holden on Wales’ oldest certified organic dairy farm, Bwlchwernen Fawr, near Lampeter (Gold winner in the cheese small producer category). Peli Pabo Garlic and Herb Goat’s Cheese is produced by Y Cwt Caws on Anglesey (Bronze winner in the same category).

My next dish was Welsh Venison Centre faggots, mash and peas. The faggots had a meaty density and a rich liver flavour; just how I like them. The Welsh Venison Centre in the Brecon Beacons was a multiple award-winner in the 2011-12 awards, for its Venison haunch steak, Welsh rack of lamb, and Welsh belly of pork.

The fish course was fillet of Welsh seabass, Puffin potato cake and salsa verdi. This is wild Welsh line-caught seabass (from Pembrokeshire-based South & West Wales Fishing Communities Ltd.). The nature of the product and the skillful cooking (crispy skin and perfect timing) ensured this was a treat; seabass with a full-on fishy taste (and totally unlike a farmed seabass I had recently).

Puffin Produce Ltd grow potatoes and other vegetables (e.g., leeks, cabbage) in Pembrokeshire. Their red-skinned Rudolph Potato won gold in the Vegetables category of the recent awards. They are bred to be so tasty that you don’t need to add butter or salt. As well as being on the menu, Puffin had an attractive display of their vegetables on show, which included Rudolph potatoes, small Maris Pipers and gigantic baking potatoes.

The final dish was bread and butter pudding with Baravelli’s lemon and Brecon gin marmalade. This was my first chance to taste the marmalade that won the Wales the True Taste Product of the Year in the 2011-12 awards for Mark and Emma Baravelli (The Little Deli, Llandudno). A small blob was sitting by the side of the pudding on some crème fraiche, so its intense sweet-tangy flavour could be savoured alone.  

Among the exhibitors, The Carmarthenshire Cheese Company were promoting their Boksburg cheeses. The Bronze-winning Boksburg Blue was a very creamy, relatively mild though very tasty, soft blue cheese. I particularly liked the Boksburg Smoked Cheese, which had a striking depth and complexity of smoky flavours.

Gorno’s gourmet Italian sausages had some fine-looking examples on display and cooked up some samples. My favourite was the Piccante Calabrese. The Black Mountain Smokery displayed some classy smoked food gift hampers, which included their Bronze-winning traditional smoked salmon. Capital Pâtés & Terrines of Caerphilly had some interesting pâté flavours (and colour combinations).

Subzero° Ice Cream (with chief ice cream maker Kevin Jenkins) displayed a range of their ice cream desserts, made in the Rhondda mainly for the catering industry. I finished my highly enjoyable evening’s browsing with a small cone of their rich Gold-winning Luxury Vanilla Dairy Ice Cream.

The ffresh showcase highlighted some of the great food products of Wales. Many more companies, large and small, that supply high-quality artisan foods can be found via the Wales the True Taste website. In conjunction with retailers and restaurants that source locally, these products are becoming more accessible and more widely known. Now is a good time to be exploring the food of Wales.

ffresh restaurant and bar:
Holden Farm Dairy:
Y Cwt Caws:
The Welsh Venison Centre:
South & West Wales Fishing Communities Ltd:
Puffin Potatoes Ltd:
Carmarthenshire Cheese Company:
Black Mountain Smokery Ltd:
Capital Pâtés:
Subzero Ice Cream:
Wales the True Taste Food and Drink Awards:

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