The best of Welsh food and drink staked their claim to a little piece of Birmingham for the Food & Drink Expo 2016 at the NEC this April. Apple County Cider Co. exhibited alongside 36 other Welsh food and drink businesses on the Food and Drink Wales stand.
For the 3 days of the show we were kept busy meeting farm shop and deli customers, who were getting ideas, discovering new products and checking out the latest food trends at the show. There was a great feeling of camaraderie in the Welsh Fine Foods showcase. The Fine Foods cluster are now getting familiar with each other’s businesses so we were able to work as a team referring on new contacts to each other.
My travel buddy for the trip was my friend Angharad from The Preservation Society. Just back from a road trip to meet her Jam hero in Alsace, France, Angharad was buzzing with an infectious energy for her preservation passion. You can read more about her trip to meet the Grande Dame of preserves in this article.
BBC food and drink presenter Nigel Barden, helped fly the flag for the great products from Wales throughout the show. To warm up visitors taste buds each morning he hosted ‘Wake up to Wales’ on the live stage and introduced different Welsh food and drink producers with samples of their products. He also spoke at the Food and Drink wales drink reception on the Tuesday evening. Nigel said that it was great to see our different businesses collaborating and that we were stronger together. It certainly felt that way.
Driving into the strangely soulless NEC complex each morning, with its bleak tarmac car park vistas you couldn’t get a greater contrast to the sensory overload of food and drink delights held within. So many fabulous food and drinks laid out in a disorientating labyrinth of stalls. But at least if you did get lost, never to find your way out, you wouldn’t go hungry or thirsty!
With so many fabulous foods on offer, we were able to track down some exceptional products as the perfect match for our ciders. For our Vilberie sparkling cider, we absolutely couldn’t top a food-pairing with Charcutier Ltd’s handmade, air-dried salami. One taste of their fennel salami will put a smile on your face as broad as their perky, porky logo. Our crisp, Vilberie cider is the perfect fruity counterpoint to their full flavoured salami made from their Pedigree Welsh Pork, with fennel seeds, anise, garlic cracked black pepper and red chilli.
Illtud Llyr Dunsford and Liesel Taylor produce their impressive range of charcuterie on a small mixed farm in West Wales where their family have been curing for over 300 years. From fresh sausages, traditional bacon and hams to continental style air dried delicacies; Charcutier Ltd embraces everything delicious that can be made from a pig. Illtud Llyr and Liesel are passionate about the on-farm curing traditions that have been passed down to them through the generations, and also learning authentic charcuterie styles from around the world to bring back home with them.
Since we discovered the joy of Charcutier Ltd Salami with our Vilberie cider at the show, they have just this weekend WON the BBC Food and Farming Awards Best Food Producer Award. Such a fantastic accolade and thoroughly well-deserved. We certainly raised a glass to them when we heard the news!
For our medium Dabinett cider we recommend the fierce butter crunch of CNWC sweet red chilli crackers. These deliciously buttery crackers are speckled with ground chilli building up to a bold heat as you munch them. They are the perfect nibble to accompany the medium sweetness and deep fruity flavours of our Dabinett cider. You can slather the crackers with pate or slices or cheese, but they are so popular just eaten on their own, CNWC now offer snack packs in mini squares. Be warned they are extremely moreish!
Paula and Heather who run CNWC Crackers are foodie friends that ran a deli together. They first made the crackers on Heather’s mum’s Aga to sell in their deli one Christmas, and they proved so popular, the pair now entirely focus on spreading the cracker love. The secret to these handmade Welsh crackers is an uncomplicated recipe featuring award-winning local butter and Halen Mon Anglesey sea salt. The packaging features colourful illustrations of local scenes by artist Helen Elliot, who by happy coincidence is Heather’s neighbour.
Working on the farm in our beautiful, very rural part of Monmouthshire, it’s always good to have the chance to see so many customers face to face. So thank-you to everyone who took the time try our product for the first time or come and say hello if they already stock us. We love the feeling that Apple County Cider Co. is part of a bigger community of Welsh fine foods. So thank-you also to our Food and Drink Wales mentors, and all the fine food cluster friends whose delicious products, never fail to inspire us.