Staffordshires Food and Drink Scene.

Winter Hideaways

The summer heatwaves have faded into memory and the long nights are drawing in. At this time of year the cosy pubs and cafés dotted across our beautiful county take…

The summer heatwaves have faded into memory and the long nights are drawing in.

At this time of year the cosy pubs and cafés dotted across our beautiful county take on a special appeal as havens from the vagaries of the ever changeable weather. It’s only natural to want to sink into a snug chair and share a hot chocolate, or retreat to the local for a pint of ale and some hearty seasonal fare during the long winter months. Whether you want to meet friends, catch up with family you haven’t seen for a while, chat with the neighbours or just enjoy a quiet hour alone, you’re spoilt for choice in Staffordshire.

When the gales are howling and the drifts are piling up, these are a few of our top picks for places to hole up and shelter from the snowball fights.

The George at Alstonefield

Log burner in George at AlstonefieldOn the border of Staffordshire and Derbyshire in the tiny village of Alstonefield sits The George. This family-run pub in the White Peak area of the Peak District National Park is just a stone’s throw from Mill Dale and Dovedale, close to Ashbourne, Bakewell and Buxton. All in all it’s splendidly positioned as a refuge from the biting cold after a good old-fashioned ramble.

The wooden beams, quarry tiles and crackling log fire create the perfect atmosphere to enjoy real ales and carefully selected wines. The snug and dining room have been restored with lime plastered walls and antique farmhouse furniture. While the butcher’s block and exposed stone give a rustic feel, candlelight from the hurricane lanterns adds a touch of elegance. This is matched by the elegance of the food coming out of the kitchen, which has received recognition in The Good Food Guide since 2009, and from Michelin and Sawday’s among others.

Quality local produce is the foundation of the menu, and the owners work with nearby allotment holders, farmers and businesses to keep food miles to a minimum. Across the lunch, dinner, and tasting menus, all dishes are prepared fresh on the premises with ingredients sourced, wherever possible, from within a 15 mile radius.

Alstonefield, Nr Ashbourne, DE6 2FX
www.thegeorgeatalstonefield.com

The White Lion

At this charming country pub on the border of Staffordshire, Shropshire and Cheshire everyone is welcome to relax and enjoy the hospitality of Julian, Helen and their team. The White Lion pride themselves on sourcing only the highest quality seasonal ingredients and cooking them beautifully and simply. As you can read elsewhere in the Autumn/Winter issue, the fish specials are not to be missed. With local ales alongside continental beers and an array of speciality gins on offer, you can while away many a pleasant hour here. The snug is a cosy hideaway with comfortable leather chairs and soft lighting, while the bar’s flagstone floor, armchairs and roaring open fires will welcome you (and your dog) in from even the coldest of days.

London Road, Knighton, Market Drayton, TF9 4HJ
www.thewhitelionatknighton.co.uk

The Horns

Inside The Horns at GnosallIt’s in the picturesque little mid-Staffordshire village of Gnosall that you will find this family and dog-friendly pub. At the heart of the parish, The Horns has undergone renovations recently and prides itself on serving homemade, locally sourced food and cask ales in a wonderful setting with a lively atmosphere. The beamed ceiling, exposed brickwork and log burning stove complement the menu perfectly – it is full of hearty but imaginative food using seasonal ingredients, including produce from Neil and Michelle’s own allotment. Duck in out of the cold to enjoy the daily specials, and check out the multiple vegetarian, vegan and gluten free options on the menu.

High St, Gnosall, Stafford, ST20 0EP
www.thehornsgnosall.co.uk

Whites Coffee Shop

A side shoot of the family-run Whites Sporting and Clothing outlet at Oakedge Park, Whites Coffee Shop will draw you in with its log burning stove, which can be found roaring on a winter afternoon. With trained baristas on hand to prepare the freshly ground, locally blended and roasted Chartley Coffee, this is the perfect spot to enjoy a toasted tea cake or crumpet after a wintry walk at nearby Shugborough Hall or some clay pigeon shooting at Oakedge Shooting Ground. There are also gluten free, soya and skinny options available in the recently expanded coffee shop. The team place an emphasis on low food miles, so the milk comes from Wells Farm Dairies and the apple juice is pressed at Haywood Park Farm less than a mile down the road. What’s more, everything is served on Milton China.

Oakedge Park, Stafford, ST17 0XS
www.facebook.com/whitescoffeeshop

The Jervis Arms

Exterior of The Jervis ArmsSitting on the banks of the River Hamps in the tiny Staffordshire Moorlands village of Onecote near Leek, The Jervis Arms has undergone a significant programme of renovations over the last few years. This whitewashed Peak District pub has everything you could ask for from a winter hideaway, including warm woollen blankets on stove-side pews under a cosily low-beamed ceiling, with brass candlesticks and fairy lights contributing to the welcoming glow. The menu of ‘pub classics with a twist’ features clearly marked vegetarian and gluten free options. Enjoy a pint from nearby Whim Ales at Hartington, or any of a wide selection of gins from the bar.

Onecote, Leek, ST13 7RU
www.jervis-arms.co.uk

The Rambler’s Retreat

A hidden gem in the beautiful surroundings of the Churnet Valley, you can sometimes hear the screams of thrillseekers enjoying Alton Towers, just a mile away in the next valley, at The Rambler’s Retreat. However, between November and March the theme park is closed and you can appreciate the peaceful woodland surroundings in all their glory – perhaps even under a blanket of snow. Discover comfort food and cockle-warming hot drinks in this cosy tearoom, which is housed in a striking 19th Century lodge with the Staffordshire Way running right past the front door. Open all year round, there’s nothing better than settling in with a huge slice of their home-baked cake or lemon meringue pie and a sumptuous hot chocolate after a muddy walk through the woods.

Red Road, Dimmingsdale, Alton, ST10 4BU
www.ramblersretreat.co.uk

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Stone welcomes BEAR

The latest exciting addition to Stone’s thriving food and drink scene is BEAR’s new branch on the High Street. Sauce was invited to one of the pre-launch events to get…

The latest exciting addition to Stone’s thriving food and drink scene is BEAR’s new branch on the High Street.

Sauce was invited to one of the pre-launch events to get a taste of what’s going to be on offer when the store opens to the public on Thursday 1 November.

The first striking feature when you walk through the heavy, draught-fighting curtain, is the beautiful decor. Craig and Michael, the local duo behind BEAR, have kept the original parquet floor while making the most of the old bank’s fantastic high ceiling by installing a mezzanine with comfortable seating. With huge windows making the most of the natural light on even the grimmest of days, it manages to be light and airy but also cosy, with a palette of deep blues, greens and pinks complemented by modern furniture and lots of greenery.

First and foremost, this is a speciality coffee house. You can choose between the chocolatey house coffee from Myanmar, the current guest – a fruity Ethiopian coffee – and there’s also the option of a citrusy Peruvian decaf. If coffee isn’t your bag, there are plenty of teas and soft drinks to choose from too.

Although great coffee is at BEAR’s core, you can’t miss the fact that it’s also a kitchen and bar. As we went along to the brunch event we were able to sample the delicious food, but even on a Friday it was a bit too early for gin, cocktails or craft beer (served from 10am in case you’re interested). In addition, there’s a retail section where you can buy coffee brewing essentials like Chemix and Aeropress or keep cups if you need to take your drink away.

There is no shortage of knowledgable, friendly staff who are able to talk you confidently through the menu. We went for the smashed avocado toast with eggs and the baked eggs with feta, served with flatbread. You can see right into the kitchen, filled with the smiling faces of the team that will prepare you some fresh, super-tasty food – including perfectly poached eggs.

There’s an ‘All Day’ menu that takes over from breakfast, with some brunch items and a small but thoughtfully formed list of sandwiches, salads and mains. In the evening the food offering switches up with a focus on the social. There’s a selection of small plates and pizzas designed for sharing, with a very Mediterranean feel – you’ll find sampadori olives, caprese salad and chorizo on there, to name just a few.

As far as we can see, the team behind BEAR certainly seem to have found their recipe for success with speciality coffee, fuss-free dining and a relaxed atmosphere. Check it out for yourself from next week and let us know what you think.

BEAR Coffee House, Kitchen & Bar
57 High Street, Stone, ST15 8AH
www.bearcoffeecompany.com

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Bean-to-bar chocolate

Bean-to-bar craft chocolate is a relatively new phenomenon in the UK, and an even more recent addition to the Staffordshire food scene. The chocolate most of us are used to…

Bean-to-bar craft chocolate is a relatively new phenomenon in the UK, and an even more recent addition to the Staffordshire food scene.

The chocolate most of us are used to is mass produced and overly sweetened. But James Walter, the face behind Seed Chocolate, is here to tell you that there is a better way – for your tastebuds, for your waistline, for cacao farmers, and for the environment.

A chef for 20 years, James worked in fine dining restaurants across Europe and the UK before a back injury changed the course of his career. It was his partner that came up with the idea of making chocolate when he was told he would never work in a commercial kitchen again, and once he started investigating James became hooked.

“I thought it would be a part-time job to pay the mortgage, but it’s taken over my life,” he says. “The first year I was in rehabilitation and couldn’t walk, so to make use of my time I studied the chemistry of chocolate making, right down to the crystal structures in cocoa butter.

“I thought about chefs buying in these chocolate buttons and never questioning where they come from. We just use them. So I started sourcing my own cacao beans and making chocolate from scratch.”

The year that followed was one of trials and tribulations, negotiating a sharp learning curve and some extreme temperatures. Working from home, James had to make certain adaptations such as fitting an air conditioning unit to allow him to temper the chocolate reliably.

In an ideal world, chocolate would be ‘tree-to-bar’, the term for when chocolate is made on the plantation where the cacao beans are harvested from the tree. Of course in the UK we don’t have the tropical climate needed to grow cacao, so ‘bean-to-bar’ is the journey our chocolate makers embark on.

The cacao tree – Theobroma cacao – is native to the Americas, but can now be found in the same tropical equatorial band as the coffee plant. Sourcing the right beans is perhaps the most important part of the process for a craft chocolate maker. Just as grapes have a different terroir based on their origin, the flavour profiles of cacao beans vary from region to region. Some of the first James got his hands on were very acidic Madagascan beans, which he says made the house smell “like a balsamic chocolate brownie”.

“Then we met Luis, my main supplier, from Peru,” James told Sauce. “His bean is a native blanca, a white bean. It was thought to be lost but was rediscovered in the wild by backpackers in 2007. They now cultivate it and only supply micro-batch beanto- bar chocolate makers like ourselves.

“The bean is quite fruity with hints of apricot and passionfruit. It depends on the percentage as well. Everything starts out at 75% dark, but I’ve added another 10% recently because a few customers have asked for over 80%. It’s made my chocolate, strangely, more malty and less fruity.”

Fermenting is the first stage in developing the flavour of the chocolate, which is partly why the farmer can directly impact the quality of the finished product. The number of times the beans are turned during this part of the process can change the taste of the resulting chocolate dramatically. The beans are then dried before being packed, imported by ship from the farm, and arriving at James’ kitchen in Longton, Stoke-on-Trent. That’s where he takes over.

“I roast, then we winnow, which is a glorified word for removing the husk with a hoover! Then we stone-grind for at least three days nonstop. If it’s 100% dark there are only beans in there. If it’s 75%, 25% sugar is added to the mix. That makes a dull noise that keeps me awake at night.”

Although it’s not universal practice, James ages his chocolate before it is tempered and finished. It’s poured out of the grinder into blocks and placed in airtight containers, where it stays for around a month. Then it goes into the tempering machine before being moulded into the final shape, packaged and sold, mostly at local food markets but also online soon.

At the moment, the range consists of three different bars: white, toasted white, and 75% dark. Both the toasted white and 75% dark received Great Taste Awards from the Guild of Fine Foods in 2018. There are just two international awards in the chocolate world – the International Chocolate Awards, and the Academy of Chocolate Awards. James’ trio were among entrants from more than 1,200 chocolate makers in 45 countries for the 2018 Academy of Chocolate Awards.

“I was scrolling through the Academy’s website – you’re not contacted directly – and I saw Seed Chocolate: Bronze, Seed Chocolate: Bronze, Seed Chocolate: Bronze,” he relates. “All three won. I couldn’t believe it.”

For now, Seed Chocolate is expanding slowly and organically. James is planning a larger range of vegan chocolate made with rice and coconut milk powders, as well as a no-added-sugar bar made with 30% milk powder – the so-called ‘supermilk’. Ideally, he wants to retain the freedom to make a variety of products in small batches and be more experimental.

“There’s a lovely group of ladies on the Solomon Islands who’re sending me some of their cacao,” James goes on. “The climate there is quite wet so they’re not able to sun-dry the beans as is typical elsewhere. Traditionally, they are dried over the embers of a wood fire so you get a naturally smoked chocolate.”

There’s a collaboration with Cheshire Brewhouse in the pipeline on a chocolate stout, and James is also in talks with a top sommelier about blending a range teas to complement the chocolate.

“I’m learning from talking to our chocolate family,” he says. “We’re always helping each other out, whether it’s importing beans or going for a beer and talking chocolate.”

Help, advice and support from pioneers of the craft chocolate movement in the UK – such as Solkiki in Dorset – has been invaluable.

“There’s no snobbery or keeping secrets,” James adds. “Everyone’s just trying to push craft chocolate. We want people to be proud that Stoke-on-Trent and Staffordshire have got award-winning chocolate makers.”

@seedchocolateuk
@seedchocolate
www.seedchocolate.com

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Sunday stroll: National Memorial Arboretum

In the autumn/winter edition of Sauce, our Sunday stroll takes us to the National Memorial Arboretum, the UK’s year-round centre of remembrance at Alrewas. Situated at the heart of the…

In the autumn/winter edition of Sauce, our Sunday stroll takes us to the National Memorial Arboretum, the UK’s year-round centre of remembrance at Alrewas.

Situated at the heart of the UK in the lush Staffordshire countryside, it represents a growing, living and lasting tribute to those who have served and continue to serve their country. Trees seem a fitting means of remembrance, signifying growth and renewal, changing as they do through the seasons and over the years. 2018 is especially significant at the Arboretum as we mark 100 years since the end of the First World War and 100 years since the founding of the Royal Air Force.

Under, between and around the 30,000 maturing native and specimen trees of the Arboretum there are plaques, benches and wreaths in memory of those who have died in conflict, served their country or have another special reason for being remembered. There are more than 350 memorials to take in as you walk the 150 acres of this humbling and peaceful site, as well as a series of wooden huts providing shelter from the elements and information about the groups and individuals remembered here.

The impressive visitor centre houses a gift shop and exhibition spaces as well as a restaurant, while on the opposite side of the beautiful Heroes’ Square you’ll find a café and the Millennium Chapel, where an open service of remembrance is held every day at 11am. For families with children there are plenty of opportunities to learn about the work and sacrifice of those commemorated here, and play areas to expend some energy.

The restaurant area, flooded with light from the glass wall looking out onto the courtyard, has plenty of seating and operates on a self-serve system. Breakfast is available until 11.30am if you need to fuel up before exploring the grounds, while lunch options change daily and start from £6.95.  The deli serves cold meats, quiche and Staffordshire cheeses accompanied by seasonal salads, and sandwiches are also on offer.

On a chilly Sunday afternoon the roast dinner calls out, with a choice of two meats and a vegetarian dish along with roast and boiled potatoes, Yorkshire pudding, seasonal green and root vegetables and gravy for less than £10.  There are plenty of attractive scones and cakes to choose from if you want to bump this up to two courses, like wildflower honey and lavender or rose and pistachio. Using the best local and seasonal produce available, this is a delicious and hearty meal that will set you up for further exploring.

There’s a dedicated route for dogs and their owners which leads around most of the Arboretum perimeter, through the Royal British Legion Poppy Field and all the way to Watersmeet, where the River Trent and the River Tame intersect. While dogs are not permitted in the restaurant, they are allowed in the café where tea and coffee, sandwiches and cakes are served on local Dudson crockery.

There is a £3 charge to park all day and entrance to the site is free, with a suggested donation of £5. All proceeds go to support the work of the Arboretum.

National Memorial Arboretum
Croxall Rd, Alrewas, Burton-on-Trent DE13 7AR
www.thenma.org.uk

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BURR by RAWR: New direction for Trentham café

In the last couple of weeks, BURR Speciality Food + Coffee has been unveiled as the new face of RAWR at its Trentham Shopping Village location. A lick of paint…

In the last couple of weeks, BURR Speciality Food + Coffee has been unveiled as the new face of RAWR at its Trentham Shopping Village location.

A lick of paint has given the café a lighter look, with fresh pink and wood veneer signage that is modern and welcoming. The RAWR spirit of warm hospitality matched by great real food and drink is very much alive in BURR, but the transition to focus on coffee gives director Gemma Bloor a little more flexibility and hopefully will cater more effectively to daytrippers and tourists as well as locals.

Working incredibly hard to operate at two locations, Gemma and her partner Steve have seen the brand evolve in different directions in Hanley and Trentham. The smaller kitchen at the Trentham site means the menu has never been as extensive and experimental as it is at RAWR Hanley. And the health food and coffee industries increasingly appear to be poles apart to Gemma.

“We’re passionate about coffee – we always have been – but we’re limited in how far we can take our exploration of real food and coffee under the RAWR brand, because of how it’s perceived,” she told Sauce.

“A simplified food offering here means we can focus on quality, evolving our coffee offering in a location where we attract quite a different customer base than the Hanley site.”

The menu at BURR has been stripped back to tasty brunch and sandwich staples, with some tactical additions (hello, bacon bun). But many of the dishes you’ll find on there are old favourites like avo toast or eggs Florentine, and you can still get Gemma’s famous grain bowl. The menu remains as inclusive as ever with options for vegetarians and vegans, and there’s a wide choice of milks to take your ‘not coffee’ or hot chocolate to the next level.

BURR is also home to a new giftware section where you can pick up the Bird & Blend Tea and Climpson and Sons coffee that are served in-house, as well as an array of brewing paraphernalia from Aeropresses to V60s, whisks and measuring spoons. While they’ve been serving Climpson and Sons for a good long time, Gemma recently switched tea suppliers to Bird & Blend, with eight different blends currently stocked and Spiced Pumpkin Pie as the current guest tea.

The café recently received its alcohol license, so there will soon be a selection of gins available and craft beer to take away or drink in. The space is also available for private hire, as is RAWR Hanley, where you can now book a Christmas party package from £25pp.

BURR by RAWR
Unit 318, Trentham Shopping Village, Stone Road, ST4 8AX
www.thisisburr.co.uk

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Welcome to comfort food season

As the shorter days and darker nights draw in, we all want to eat that little bit more, writes Gemma Bloor, nutritional therapist and director of RAWR Kitchen and Bar,…

As the shorter days and darker nights draw in, we all want to eat that little bit more, writes Gemma Bloor, nutritional therapist and director of RAWR Kitchen and Bar, BURR Speciality Coffee and Food and The Farmacist

Over and over again I hear that people find it hard to maintain their ideal weight during autumn and winter and I truly believe that is because it is built within us as humans not only to fatten up for the cold but to gain more nutrients to assist in boosting our immunity during the season.

Fat, to many of us in society these days, is seen as such a bad thing. Whilst I agree that excess fat is a strain on the body, fat also means survival. It is our bodies’ way of putting on an internal jumper and so it is no wonder our bodies fight us to retain and gain a little extra layer of fat when the cold starts to bite.

“For me, autumn and winter are the best of all the seasons for food and drink enjoyment. So don’t deprive yourselves, just swap for the better as often as you can and your body and mind will thank you in abundance for it!”

There is also the question about ideal weight and the difference between YOUR ideal weight and the actual ideal weight for your body. We can often be underweight to fit into that perfect bikini for summer and it’s good to know what a healthy weight for your body is instead of what the mirror, scales or your jeans say!

Now I am not suggesting you give in and crack open the tin of Roses, but to know that the decision to put a little weight on goes slightly out of our control past September is mentally liberating, isn’t it?

I find a balanced approach during this season is key. Give in to your human urges to fatten up with food, but choose the right foods and team with good regular exercise. That way you feed your basic human desire to eat, whilst the focus is on fuelling for the season nutritionally and building muscle mass/toning rather than just concentrating on dropping fat.

So what the hell do you eat?

For me, it is about change over deprivation. I’m a big believer in food enjoyment, as part of achieving long-term change is enjoying what you are eating.

If it’s boring or tasteless to you it can become a chore and if that happens you aren’t going to stick to it. Not only that, but autumn for me is about comfort food.

Mental health and food relationships are very closely linked and so eating food that provides that comfort, whilst fuelling the body nutritionally, is a great way of keeping you feeling satisfied mentally and physically and enjoying the indulgence of the season.

Out: White potatoes
In: Sweet potatoes

Having a much lower glycaemic index (GI) than their white cousins, they release their energy slowly and have a higher fibre content, keeping you fuller for longer. Boiled, roasted or mashed these versatile bad boys are full of key immune boosting nutrients such as vitamins A & C that are crucial for the autumn and winter months.

Pimp up your potatoes: Add a touch of melted coconut oil, Himalayan salt and Cayenne pepper to a sweet potato mash to add some spicy flavour density.

Get creative: Make a batch of sweet potato mash and it will keep in the fridge for around three days. This can be added cold to salads, to add a lovely sweet and filling layer to a wrap for work or ready to reheat for a nice breakfast base or evening tea.

Out: Rice
In: Quinoa

Quinoa is an ancient grain that is easier to cook than it seems. Even novice home chefs find it a doddle to perfect cooking quinoa over rice and it is addictive once you find the flavour you love. Quinoa is a complete protein source and higher in fibre than most other grains, therefore filling you up quicker and keeping you fuller for longer. It is a rich source of iron, magnesium and vitamin B2, which is key in helping the body to metabolise food and keep those sluggish winter energy levels at bay.

Pimp up your quinoa: Stir in some lime zest, lime juice and chilli flakes to add a zingy kick. Use tricolour quinoa to add more texture and colour.

Get creative: Quinoa can be used to fill out soups and stews, as a rice alternative or even as a porridge for breakfast. Try stirring lemon zest and blueberries into cooked cooled quinoa and top with almond milk for a lovely sweet protein packed breakfast treat. Quinoa also lasts up to four days in a sealed container in the fridge so it’s a perfect ingredient for last minute meals.

Out: Chocolate
In: Raw cacao

The most addictive food of the season but the easiest to change. Swap your usual Dairy Milk for raw cacao and you’ll never go back. Raw cacao is high in magnesium, iron, calcium, most of the B vitamins and oleic acid which is a monounsaturated fat that tells your brain you are full. Cacao also increases the availability of serotonin, the body’s happy hormone which we all need more of.

Pimp up your cacao: Use raw cacao instead of hot chocolate powder with xylitol or rice syrup to sweeten. Add some chilli flakes for the ultimate under-a-blanket, snuggle-round-a-logfire treat.

Get creative: Make your own raw chocolate bars. Stir raw cacao into melted coconut oil with some coconut sugar to sweeten. Pour into moulds (can be as simple as an ice cube tray) and set in the fridge. Add orange zest for a choc orange treat, or nuts and seeds for a lovely crunch.

Out: Cereal/Toast
In: Oats

In the morning, when you drag yourself out of bed in the cold and dark, slaving over a hot stove can be the last thing on your mind. Organising breakfast should be top of your list so you don’t find yourself grabbing something sugary and empty to start your day. Oats are my go-to for a speedy breakfast. They are high in fibre and slowly release energy, making them perfect for keeping you fuller for longer. Oats contain a huge amount of manganese (which is key in metabolism, particularly that of fats and carbs) and phosphorus whose functions include how your body stores and uses energy.

Pimp up your oats: Warm porridge oats which can be made in advance, cooled and reheated with more milk for speed. The flavour can be made different and interesting each morning.

Get creative: Overnight oats are the perfect swap for speed and nutrition and with the endless amount of flavour options they’re never boring. It’s a one to one ratio, so one part oats to one part liquid (milk choice, milk and yoghurt, water etc) and then your choice of flavour. For example, vanilla and coconut, strawberry and vanilla extract, cacao and peanut butter: the list goes on. Simply mix in a jar, put in the fridge and it’s ready the next morning. It’ll keep well for around three days in the fridge and you can also heat it up if you wish, adding a little more milk in the pan if required.

Pop into RAWR Hanley or BURR Trentham to pick up your copy of Sauce.

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The Bank House Hixon reopens after refurb

During World War II, Hixon was famously a base for RAF Bomber Command. The village, east of Stafford and south west of Uttoxeter, is much quieter these days, but a…

During World War II, Hixon was famously a base for RAF Bomber Command. The village, east of Stafford and south west of Uttoxeter, is much quieter these days, but a little less so this evening as the local pub celebrates its grand reopening.

The Bank House opens its doors to the public once again on Friday 28 September after being partially and then fully closed over an eight week period for refurbishment. The older original part of the building as well as the newer extension have had a makeover and are looking fabulous ready to welcome guests.

If you’re looking for a cosy place to while away your afternoons or evenings now that the weather has turned cooler, this is it. There are no fewer than two huge log burners casting out their warming glow, plenty of sumptuously upholstered seating, and beautiful wooden beams galore. There’s also a gallery wall of fascinating photos illustrating some of the history of the local area. 

The decor is classic and refined, retaining the feel of a true country pub without feeling fussy or cluttered. And the courtyard at the back has been transformed into an outdoor room featuring a custom-built wood fired pizza oven and more wooden beams decked out in fairy lights.

The Lewis Partnership pub has a new main menu alongside the delicious wood fired pizza that’s now on offer, freshly made to order and available to take away. We were big fans of the Three Little Pigs, featuring chorizo, pulled pork, bacon and red onion on a BBQ base, but for vegetarians the Fun-Guy (mushroom, ricotta, pumpkin seeds and chilli flakes on a garlic butter base) is delicious too.

If you’re looking for a cosy, friendly pub in the heart of Staffordshire, be sure to pay The Bank House Hixon a visit this autumn.

The Bank House Hixon
High St, Hixon, Stafford ST18 0QF
www.bankhousehixon.co.uk

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Countdown to Stone Food & Drink Festival

With only one week to go until Stone holds its 13th annual food and drink festival, excitement is starting to build in the town. Every year during the first weekend…

With only one week to go until Stone holds its 13th annual food and drink festival, excitement is starting to build in the town.

Every year during the first weekend in October, the Festival draws thousands of local residents as well as visitors out onto Westbridge Park come rain or shine to enjoy great food and drink, live music, kids’ cookery classes, circus workshops and shows, face painting and craft activities.

The gates will open at 12 noon on Friday 5 October, but there are events and offers on at venues across town from Friday 28 September – check out the Festival programme for details. There will be a park and ride service operating from Aston Marina, with the site open from 10am to 5pm on Saturday and Sunday and the regular monthly farmer’s market taking place on Saturday too. 

If you’re quick you might still be able to join one of the masterclasses that are running: knife skills for fish with Stafford College lecturers Richard and Tom, cupcake decorating with Beth Lauren Cakes, or food for health with RAWR’s Gemma Bloor.

The Demonstration Kitchen will play host to a variety of chefs, from Little Seeds’ Jake Lowndes and No. 26 at Aston Marina’s Mark Rawlinson to Robert Didier, founder of Orchard Pigs, and Zalena Vandrewala of Rose Petals & Rice. Meanwhile there will be plenty of talks and tasting sessions going on, as well as street food, a pop-up tea room, the Staffordshire Beer Garden and champagne and cocktails to enjoy.

If you’re visiting, don’t forget to pop by Sauce’s stand to say hello or pick up your free copy of the magazine.

In it you’ll find our full interview with Richard Stevens, Chairman of the Festival and all-round champion of the Staffordshire food and drink scene, who explained how the event is put together and why it’s so important to the town.

Concentrating on local producers wherever possible, encouraging them and watching them go from strength to strength is one of the great pleasures of being involved as far as Richard is concerned.

“Lymestone Brewery is a great example,” he says. “We’ve been there from the very beginning supporting them and they’ve supported us. Seeing people like Lymestone grow and grow is very pleasing for us. I could name half a dozen others, but Beth Lauren Cakes is another perfect example. She started trading with us having been baking cakes at home, and that gave her the confidence to think she could make a living out of it. Now she’s got a fabulous shop in Radford Street and the café next door.

“Jake Lowndes was sous chef at La Dolce Vita eight or nine years ago when he watched his two bosses perform at the Festival. Now he’s got a restaurant [Little Seeds] of his own in town and will be on stage himself doing a demo in 2018. This is what we love.”

A whole roster of celebrity chefs have graced the cookery stage at the Festival over the years, from Gino d’Acampo to Anthony Worrall-Thompson and Paul Rankin, but there’s one in particular that Richard recalls with pride.

“In years one and two we invited a lady I had never heard of before. I had never read any of her books, never seen her. She loved the festival and we loved her. Her name was Mary Berry. After her second appearance in October 2006, she launched quite a well-known cookery programme…”

Although Mary isn’t likely to be in attendance, there will be plenty to see, do, buy, eat and drink at this year’s Festival – we look forward to seeing you there!

Stone Food & Drink Festival
Westbridge Park, Stafford St, Stone, ST15 8
www.stonefooddrink.org.uk

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Bradbury’s Farm Shop celebrates one year

One year after Bradbury’s Farm Shop opened, owners Peter and Lisa are inviting you to come along and join their anniversary celebrations. On Saturday 6 October 2018 at 10am the…

One year after Bradbury’s Farm Shop opened, owners Peter and Lisa are inviting you to come along and join their anniversary celebrations.

On Saturday 6 October 2018 at 10am the Bradbury family will be celebrating the first anniversary of the opening of their farm shop at Curborough Hall Farm Countryside Centre near Lichfield. To mark this special occasion, they will be joined by the Mayor and Mayoress of Lichfield as well as a number of the producers whose food they stock. And they’re inviting customers old and new to join the fun.

Having grown up on a Staffordshire County Council farm, Peter Bradbury has known farming all his life. When his parents Jean and Raymond retired back in 2000 he wanted to keep their family farming tradition alive.

In 2003 Peter and his wife Lisa secured a Staffordshire County Council dairy farm in Hamstall Ridware and started up from scratch, with the support of their two young sons. Over the years the family have progressed from a 40-acre starter farm to 105 acres in Hopwas, near Lichfield. As for many in their line of work, recent times have been hard.

“Consumers don’t realise how tough everything can be, from wet winters and summer droughts to high feed prices and the price pressures from retailers,” says Peter.

One Christmas around the kitchen table the Bradburys had a family meeting and decided that it was time to get out of dairy farming after over a decade in the business. Then along came the sheep. It wasn’t long before the few orphaned lambs that Lisa offered to take on had turned into a flock of a few hundred. Along with building up the farm’s herd of Hereford cattle they were soon on the right track.

“All our livestock are grown free range and at their own rate, naturally and slowly, the way we believe they should be,” says Lisa.

The initial plan was to sell through the livestock markets, but with increased public awareness around the provenance of meat, it soon became apparent they would be better delivering this aspect of the business themselves.

In May 2017 Lisa noticed an empty unit at Curborough Hall Farm Countryside Centre, just a few miles from the centre of Lichfield. The Centre is home to a garden centre, Mabel’s Tea Room and a range of independent businesses. The farm shop and butchery were the only missing element.

It took the whole family lots of hard work and determination over the summer months to get the unit looking its best for opening day on the 5 October 2017. Not knowing what to expect on their first day of trading, the family was overwhelmed by the support of the local community, who they are now inviting to celebrate with them.

“We are able to bring our own reared beef and lamb into the butchery at an affordable price for customers and at a fair price for us as farmers,” Peter says. “This is what we have always strived to do, to have the farm and shop work together in harmony and by doing this creating a sustainable family business for generations to come.”

Bradbury’s Farm Shop & Butchery
Curborough Hall Farm Countryside Centre, Watery Lane, Lichfield WS13 8ES
www.bradburysfarmshop.co.uk

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Sauce Autumn/Winter 2018 out now

If you haven’t already laid hands on one, make your way to one of our stockists pronto to pick up Sauce Autumn/Winter 2018. Yes, the second edition of Sauce magazine…

If you haven’t already laid hands on one, make your way to one of our stockists pronto to pick up Sauce Autumn/Winter 2018.

Yes, the second edition of Sauce magazine is now out and available at cafés, restaurants, pubs and shops across Staffordshire. This time around, you need to look out for the lobster!

To give you an idea of what to expect, this issue is even bigger and – some might say – better than the first. Of course we have our regular reviews and recipes, along with introductions to some award-winning Staffordshire-based producers, from Seed Chocolate to The Good Life Meat Co.

The spotlight is very much on the Stone Food & Drink Festival (5-7 October) in our interview with chairman Richard Stevens, while our Town Focus takes us up to Leek, a thriving little market town in the northern reaches of the county.

We had the pleasure of speaking to some fantastic foodies for this edition, from MasterChef finalist Louisa Ellis to Andy Watts, executive chef at Weston Hall. We’re whetting appetites with features on the glorious seafood being served up at The White Lion in Knighton, the American-inspired delights on offer at Smoke & Rye in Stone, and the Indian culinary wizardry of the Viceroy at Milford. Plus there’s an exclusive behind the scenes look at The Moat House at Acton Trussell as the venue celebrates its thirtieth anniversary this year.

As ever, we hope you’ll buy a little something when you pick up your copy of the magazine to support our fantastic local food and drink scene. And, once you’ve read the magazine, we heartily encourage you to get out there and try the dishes and destinations for yourself, let them know you saw them in Sauce, and even post a quick photo tagging in @staffordshiresauce.

If you’re interested in stocking Sauce or featuring in the Spring/Summer 2019 edition, contact team@staffordshiresauce.co.uk. We’d love to hear from you.

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