As you already know, my abiding passion is simple; wholesome country living; hearty food, great conversations, idyllic dog walks, the very best staycations and fabulous artisan businesses full of wonderful produce and creations. Lucky to be living in the hills in north Wales for the past 15 years, I am surrounded by places I truly adore, the food I love to eat and the people whose talents and skills I want to shout about!
It is a tough job isn’t it; meeting warm and welcoming people, sampling their expert culinary products… and all in the name of business! But hey, someone has to do it. It was through my ‘research’ to find communities and groups in my local area who work together well (for the benefit of not only of community members but all of us who are lucky enough to sample the delights they support each other to make and promote) that I was delighted to come across a group of passionate food lovers…
Fresh, Homemade and Delicious
Established in 2012, with the simple aim of promoting local food and drink, the Clwydian Range Food and Drink group is now home to around 30 of north Wales’ best food producers, retailers and eateries, meeting monthly and all working together to create new products and cross-promote their goods by attending festivals and organising excellent local events.
Janet Monshin Dallolio, Treasurer of the Group and owner of Afonwen Craft Centre, and Edenshine Restaurant, near Caerwys in Flintshire, was the first group member I met. Janet’s passion for fresh, homemade and delicious cannot be in doubt. During our meeting the cakes (of far-reaching reputation) were divine and the coffee she serves equally delicious, sourced of course locally at group member Owen & Edwards, suppliers of hand-crafted, high quality fairtrade and organic coffees.
The names of fifteen or so of Janet’s suppliers are displayed proudly on her website and in her restaurant; all of her fish, meat, eggs, cheese, vegetables, ice cream, cheese and beer is produced locally. Her famous Tiramisu dessert uses local coffee, and is served with local Chilly Cow coffee ice cream, also made with Owen & Edwards coffee!
In 2014, Chilly Cow, a Ruthin success story, started to sell exceptionally tasty artisan ice cream using fresh milk from the family farm. Anna and David farm a herd of Brown Swiss cows. Not the most common of breeds in Wales, one has to say, but they produce milk that is higher in butter fat content than most cows, delicious for top quality ice cream. There’s no shortage of volunteer tasters at Chilly Cow when developing new recipes and flavours!
The Cow Shed, the obvious name for their new onsite parlour, offers visitors ice cream and drinks and sells, like so many other Clwydian Range Food and Drink group members, other locally produced products. A range of sumptuous homemade jams and chutneys from Mostyn Kitchen Garden and Celtic Honeysmith honey are just a couple of examples.
Dedicated to supporting local communities and local trade, Anna Taylor told me “It was one of the main aims when we started the business to become a member of the food group. We felt it would be a great avenue for promotion and support as a new business in the area. Being a member has brought us several benefits including extended promotion in national publications, the opportunity to meet other small producers and exchange tips and most importantly, it has opened doors to progress my business, mainly through events that we have run such as Meet the Producer. As members we also have an understanding of the difficulties met by small businesses and we offer support and guidance to each other where we are able, and to us that is priceless!”
I next spent several pleasurable hours chatting with Jo Smith, an active member of the group for several years, owner the popular Hope Mountain B&B in Ffynnon-y-Garreg, Cymau, Flintshire and a soon to be nationally famous Cheesemaker, after her new business The Little Welsh Cheese Company was selected to participate in the new Artisan Food TV series Top of the Shop with Tom Kerridge! Jo is currently working on exciting plans to build a brand new dairy at home, meanwhile her cheeses are maturing nicely, some of her finest will be ready for sale in a couple of years.
Jo is a gold mine of useful local food and drink knowledge and who she doesn’t know isn’t worth asking! She sees the Food and Drink Group as a ‘valuable, up and coming group of people, passionate about food and drink and the area in which we live and work’ and she too uses and sells other members’ products.
I had a fabulous time meeting these members of the Clwydian Range Food and Drink group, so much so I am going to continue my meetings and hopefully sample the delights of all thirty! Julie Andrews was right – the hills are alive, especially in the Clwydian Range Area of Oustanding Natural Beauty! They are alive with vibrant communities, creative and skilled food producers with brilliant businesses. Join us at The Hills for conversation with other countryside lovers, and a taste of simple living.