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Shooting Stars Winners In This Year’s Great Taste Awards

Welcome to our star-laden road-trip of Wales’s big winners in this year’s Great Taste Awards

Where better to start off our whistle-stop tour of the Welsh winners of the Great Taste Awards 2021 than the ‘Môn Mam Cymru’ (mother of Wales) itself: Anglesey. The stars well and truly aligned from east to west, with the eponymous Fish Pie from Dylan’s Restaurant in Menai Bridge and Holyhead’s Anglesey Fine Foods’ Black Label Bone-in Leg of Hogget both being awarded two stars in a stellar showing. The Menai Strait’s status as a ‘special area of conservation with marine components’ is due in part to this area’s rich abundance of fish - and Dylan’s Fish Pie is a culmination of this local lore. Lovingly crafted with haddock, smoked haddock, salmon, and prawns, the pies have been perfected over time in dedicated small batches. Road-tripping all the way across the A55 to Holyhead, the Black Label Bone-in Leg of Hogget is an equally impressive ode to the island’s famed flocks of sheep. The PGI Welsh Bone of lamb is treated with due diligence, Himalayan Salt dry-aged for a total of 14 days to achieve optimal taste.

Over the aforementioned Menai Strait and onto the mainland we arrive next in the home of Snowdonia: Gwynedd. Across the Menai Suspension Bridge, we arrive almost directly at the door of Popty Bakery in Bangor, who were awarded two stars for their Bara Brith Fruit Cake. The 100-year-old authentic family recipe is followed to a tee, lovingly baked using traditional methods in the picturesque foothills of Snowdonia. Down the west coast in Nefyn, Dwyfor Coffee Company too have been recognised with two stars for their Colombian High Roast Espresso Beans. This is a blend of some of the finest Colombian coffee beans, hand-roasted on-site in small batches and with a flavour profile consisting of caramel, cherry and citrus. At the southern foot of the Coed y Brenin Forest Park, The Dyfi Distillery in Corris was awarded two stars for its Hibernation Gin, distilled with classic and foraged botanicals and aged in a 100-year-old White Port Cask. A special mention must go to Abergwyngregyn’s Aber Falls Distillery Inaugural Whisky Release. These initial 2000 bottles of single malt were distilled and bottled entirely in North Wales using Welsh malted barley and water, winning a star for their dark chocolate and golden syrup flavours complementing a creme brulee influence of cream, vanilla, and caramelised sugar.

Also falling under the jurisdiction of Gwynedd (according to Great Taste) was Llanrwst in Conwy. This charming town is the self-proclaimed capital of the historically verdant Vale of Conwy and is also near Gwydyr Forest, the spiritual home of its own ‘Robin Hood’ legend of folklore: Dafydd ap Siencyn. The only thing being stolen around here though is the hearts of the Great Taste adjudicators, with Blas Ar Fwyd Cyf taking home a trio of two star awards for their Raspberry Extra Jam, Rice Pudding, and Traditional Christmas Pudding. The raspberry

jam with extra fruit is prepared by skilled staff in a traditional cooking environment with no additives, leading to a superior quality and taste, while their rice pudding uses sweetened round rice cooked in fresh cow’s milk and cream. As the festive season gets well and truly underway, it’s only right that the Blas Ar Fwyd Traditional Christmas Pudding gets a nod - a

handmade, fully steamed, fruit-filled and stout soaked, fourth generation family recipe!

Annie’s Patisserie in Flint, namesake of Flintshire, had a duo of two stars for its Cherry Bakewell Tart and Milk Chocolate Sea Salted Caramel Tart. The latter is an especially luxurious baked milk chocolate tart, flavoured with: caramel, sea salt and vanilla; and

finished with chocolate glaze, drizzle, milk chocolate curls, and cocoa. Travelling down Flintshire to Mold, Fferm-y-ffrith’s Cajeta and the Hafod Brewing Company’s Fado and Dubbel Bruin were all recipients of two star awards. Cajeta is a caramel sauce that is

made exclusively with Fferm-y-ffrith’s own goat’s milk, as opposed to cow’s milk Dulce de leche. In addition to the goat’s milk, the ingredients are rounded off by sugar, vanilla essence and baking soda. Hafod’s Fado is an Amber Sorachi Ace double IPA, with: coconut, vanilla and dill aromas; a sweet, smooth blend of coconut; and bubble gum flavours with a lemony

finish. The deep amber Dubbel Bruin by contrast has sweet herbal, peppery aromas - leading to rich, malty flavours of caramel and burnt sugar, with a raisin and

stone fruit sweetness.

Wrexham seems to have garnered quite a taste for stars now and seems to be collecting its own veritable constellation - and who can blame them? After only recently being launched into superstardom by the well-publicised purchase of the town’s football club by two of Hollywood’s own stellar names in the form of Ryan Reynolds and Robert McElhenney, that hasn’t stopped Happy Hedgehog Foods’ Strawberry Balsamic Vinegar adding another three stars to Great Taste’s Flintshire catchment area. This unique product prides itself on using fresh strawberries and sugars steeped in 100% Modena Balsamic vinegar over a 13-18 month

period. Further still south and into Denbighshire, we arrive at Llangollen - where Dolwen Welsh Lamb and Beef also received three stars for its PGI Welsh Lamb Shoulder. This lamb is born and organically reared free range on the family farm in North Wales’ Berwyn mountains. This perfect environment of clean air, mineral rich grass and mountain streams, leads to its clean, succulent taste.

Next, we arrive in the heartland of Wales - Powys. By simply following the south-westerly course of the River Severn, one encounters a plethora of award winners in the region. We start at Llandrinio and Argae Cottage, with their two star Leg of Welsh Lamb. Hung and matured for ten days, this lamb’s succulence stems from being 100% grass reared. South we go to Montgomery and Trefaldwyn Cheese, also on the receiving end of two stars for their Welsh Blue Cheese. This is a bold and creamy blue, produced carefully in small batches and using pasteurised Welsh milk over two days to maximise the flavour palette. Taking a more south-westerly course, we arrive at Newtown - the home of another pair of two star winners in Hilltop Honey’s Manuka Honey and Radnor Preserves’ Hand Cut St Clements Marmalade. Hilltop’s effort stands out as a pure and natural Manuka Honey, carefully sourced from the best New Zealand beekeepers and tested (twice!) to certify its authenticity. Next we make a trip due west and onto Caersws, where Pantri Swswen’s three star Welsh Blackcurrant Conserve resides. This is a lightly set, tart, deep dark blackcurrant conserve made with Welsh fruits grown locally by small producers. Pantri Swswen are keeping it simple with blackcurrants, water and sugar for the full fruity taste (and by using a small batch, handmade open pan cooking method).

Lying south-east and right on the border with England is Wegnalls Farm in Presteigne, where their two star Dry Cured Back Bacon is cured and butchered on the farm’s smallholding. Southwards along the Herefordshire border lies Talgarth, where five of Felin Talgarth Mill’s flour and grain offerings were bestowed with two stars each (grinding out ten stars in total!) this year. The Strong Wholemeal Flour is a stone-ground flour perfect for making bread and milled from locally grown wheat, with 17% protein content giving it a high level of elasticity in the finished dough for a lovely 100% wholemeal loaf. The similar but-different Wholemeal Strong Flour comes from organic wheat local to Wales, while its lower protein content of 13% makes it perfect for blending with other flours. Talgarth Mill’s contrasting Wholemeal Spelt Flour is ideal for pastries, scones, and other baked goods - while the Wholemeal Rye Flour is milled from organic rye grain and is perfect for loaves or other bakes such as brownies. Seven Seeds Strong Flour is another stone-ground effort with its seed mix giving a distinctive chew to the baked goodies at the end.

We then trek from the north of the Brecon Beacons to Crickhowell at their southern feet. A quaint town nestling in the serene Usk Valley south of the Black Mountains, people have been settled here from at least the Iron Age! Back then a fort was built on top of Crug Hywel (Table Mountain), so-called because of its flat top. Crickhowell lies south of the Brecon Beacons’ Black Mountains, which gives its name to the town’s Black Mountains Smokery. The two-star Oak Smoked Duck Breast found here uses fresh duck, lightly cured with no additives or preservatives and gently hot smoked the traditional way over smouldering oak. Another product that benefits from small batch production, the Smokery recommends serving in thin slices alongside anything fruity. Across town, one can find the three-star Pickled Cucumber at Ty’r Gobaith’s Pantry. The Pickled Cucumber comprises homegrown cucumbers, layered with sliced onions and sweet pickled in small batches with spices, sugar and vinegar for an entirely vegan treat.

Before we leave Powys, another special mention must go to Trailhead Fine Foods in Welshpool, receiving one star each for their Original and scintillating Teriyaki Beef Jerky. East of Crickhowell we reach Monmouthshire and our first glimpse of Wales’ southern coast. Abergavenny’s Black Welsh Lamb won two stars for its Organic, Pasture-Fed Hogget Leg - while all the way east along the Old Ross Road and past the 12th Century Norman White Castle, Apple County Cider Co in Skenfrith also received two stars for its Perry. Another two stars were given to The Parsons Nose in Dingestow’s Beef Burger to the south, as well as the Ember from the Untapped Brewing Company in Usk to the southwest. The Silver Circle Distillery in Catbrook had a good year, taking home three stars for its Damson Negroni and two stars for its intriguing Black Garlic Vodka (don’t knock it until you’ve tried it)! Travelling due west we arrive at Rhondda Cynon Taf, where Two Dogs Coffee Roasting Company in Treorchy won two stars for its eponymous Colombian Mountain Water Decaf.

South of Treorchy lies Bridgend in Mid Glamorgan, where the Bwich Passage from the Cold Black Label t/a Brecon Brewing won a further two stars. Moving into Glamorgan proper, Cowbridge had a couple of two star winners in Fablas Ice Cream’s Raspberry Dessert Topping Sauce and the Breakwell’s Seedling at Llanblethian Orchards. At Peterson-super-Ely in the east, Peterson Tea won two stars for its Welsh Gold variant, while there was another tea-tastic victory down south on the coast in Penarth - where Rose & Dragon was awarded two stars for its Forest Focus. The Great Taste Awards 2021 seems to have its priorities in order (and a collective sweet tooth to match), honouring the Tiramisu Ice Cream from Daisy & Belle Ice Cream in Cardiff. This naughty-but-nice concoction feels like it should be illegal, but the fine people of Wales are definitely better off with it gracing our plates (and our stomachs).

Across the Bae Caerfyrddin from the aforementioned Cydweli lies Kilgetty, where two stars were awarded to the Still Wild Sweet Vermouth. Westwards and at the mouth of the Milford Haven we arrive at Neyland, where the Fudge Foundry was also on the receiving end of two stars for its Lemon Meringue Fudge. Haverfordwest is not only the county town of Pembrokeshire, but also the epicentre of Wales’ Great Taste Awards 2021 success - with Pembrokeshire Lamb taking home the coveted Golden Fork Award for its three-star Hogget Shoulder (among another constellation of stars)! There were also two-star awards for its Mutton Mince, Mutton Shoulder and Pembrokeshire Lamb Shoulder. Lochmeyler Farm Ice Cream’s Pembrokeshire Salted Caramel Dairy Ice Cream and Blackcurrant Sorbet, and Wickedly Welsh Chocolate’s Dark Chocolate & Sea salt were also winners across town. Following the Pembrokeshire Coast National Park, we arrive at Newport, where The Smoke Shed Smoked Salmon won two stars and Pembrokeshire Sea Salt Co won a star each for its Natural Sea Salt and imaginative Sea Salt with Sichuan Pepper.

Following the coast west, we arrive at Carmarthenshire. Dunbia’s operation in Llanybydder continues to thrive, demonstrated by its Rose County 35 Day Dry Aged Native Breed Cote de Boeuf being awarded three stars. That’s not all though as there were also two stars for its Ridings Reserve 30 Day Aged Flat Iron Steak, Welsh Hill Lamb Rack Cap On, Welsh Hill Lamb Leg Butterfly, West Country Choice PGI 21 Day Aged Beef Short Rib, Welsh Hill Carvery Lamb Shoulder, and Ridings Reserve 30 Day Aged Cote De Boeuf (phew). South and on to the village of Cross Hands, Fecci's Ice Cream t/a Mario's Luxury Dairy Ice Cream got three stars for its Sicilian Pistachio dairy ice cream and two stars for its Lime and Ginger sorbet. Further south in Llangennech, Cilgwenyn Bee Farm won two stars for both its Mêl Cilgwenyn Gower Saltmarsh Wildflower Honey and its Mêl Cilgwenyn Brecon Beacons Uplands Wildflower Honey. At Cydweli to the west, Seidr y Mynydd’s eponymous Keeved Cidre Bouché took home two stars - while right on the border with Pembrokeshire, Hedyn Aur in Lancych won two stars each for its Crispy thins seeded original and Crispy thins with Laverbread crackers.

We round off our tour of the very best that Wales had to offer in this year’s Great Taste Awards 2021 in Ceredigion. There’s no place better to start than in the county’s namesake, Cardigan - where there were wins for the two-star Crwst Welsh Honey Butter and the one-star In the Welsh Wind Distillery’s Signature Style.

East along the border with Carmarthenshire we arrive at Llandysul: the home of Caws Teifi Cheese’s three star Teifi Halloumi, and Dá Mhile Distillery’s one star Dá Mhile Organic Single Malt Welsh Whisky. Northeast into the heartland of the county, the Welsh Homestead Smokery in Tregaron won a star each for its Smoked Chilli & Paprika Bacon and Scotch Bonnet & Mango Smoked Chilli Jam. Slightly further on a northeast course and off the beaten track from Pontrhydfendigaid, one stumbles (in the best possible, three-star way!) upon Lili Mai’s Raspberry and Rose Jam.

So ends our tour of Wales according to the country’s big winners at the Great Taste Awards 2021! It’s been another strange old year but the good food and drink

of the nation is still going strong. To all the winners named here and the many more we wish we could honour - Llongyfarchiadau (Congratulations)!

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