October is Taste Durham Month when fresh local produce from this lovely county is celebrated and shared with friends and visitors alike. I was lucky enough to be invited to a blogger’s event at the lovely South Causey Hotel in Derwentside run by Susan and Philip Moiser. This four star hotel is full of surprises, and we were greeted by gin cocktails made with RIP gin actually distilled on the premises!
At the event we got to sample a whole range of delicious food and then enjoyed a substantial afternoon tea especially created by the chefs at the hotel from the produce showcased there. The afternoon tea was amazing and everyone was suitably impressed by quality of comestibles featured there. The meal tea is served on delightful mini wooden picnic tables, but most people had to take some of it home as it was very substantial. We had Taste Durham sandwiches featuring Broom House Farm rare-breed pork sausages and Wildon Grange Cosmic Carrot Relish. A Taste Durham Cheese Platter was included, fruit and cheese scones from Sweethart Bakery, Dalton Moor Strawberry jam, Fudge from Sweet Sally Cinnamon and a rather special St Cuthbert’s slice from the Undercroft Restaurant at Durham Cathedral.
It was all washed own with Durham Miner’s blend tea from Tealicious and Dalton Farm Apple Juice.
We met Jenny from Dalton Moor Farm who is growing delicious Cooking and Cider apples and the making the most divine fresh apple juice from them. She also makes cider vinegar and Heritage Hedgerow Preserves such as Rowan jams and jellies, Elderberry jam, Haw jelly and a whole range of syrups and cordials. Things like nettles, mint and pine needles are made into concentrate which can be diluted into refreshing summer drinks – the last time I had something like this was up a mountain in rural Translyvania! She even makes makes a type of vegan ‘HUNNY,’ which is a non bee honey substitute made from the Rowan berry. Dandelions can make a similar sweet syrup substitute too. Jenny’s strawberry jam went a treat on the cream scones in the cream tea I can tell you.
Simon from Weardale cheese is an artisan cheese maker based in a converted hut which used to be a prisoner of World War II war camp up in Harperley County Durham. It’s a lovely spot at the gateway to Weardale and the edge of the North Pennines. He makes a range of hard, soft and semi-soft artisan cheeses with milk from local farms. Highlights include Brie de Weardale – a firmer local version of the French classic and my particular favourite, the Prince Bishop, a full flavoured blue cheese which is extremely tasty.Two local bakers were showcasing their delicious breads and pastries. Sweethart bakery with their fresh preservative free loaves and tasty scones. The black charcoal bread was particularly interesting, it looked exotic and amazing – but actually just tastes like an ordinary loaf.
Claypath Delicatessen is proving very popular in central Durham with its fantastic sourdough bread and fresh baguettes and Sweet Sally Cinnamon are making mouth watering sweets like strawberries and cream fudge, brittle, hot chocolate spoons and my particular favourite, cinder toffee – yum! Claire Megginson the Director, described to me how all the fudge is made daily, boiled and stirred in large copper pans – I imagine it smells incredible.
We also had a tour of our hosts home, the South Causey hotel. This fab venue has been transformed from a hotel and riding school to a very unusual wedding and events venue. The stables have become cool themed bedrooms and the indoor riding school is now a bar, conference chapel and wedding venue! There’s even a Double Decker bus which has been turned into a rather lovely bedroom suite!
I remember the hotel when it was a riding school as I actually used to ride there, but I did approve of the converted stables which are now rather cool luxurious themed rooms, which reminded me of some of the accommodation on ranches I stayed on in the US.
Taste Durham Month takes place in October every year, during harvest time when there is an abundance of great local produce. Businesses are invited to take part by creating or promoting a dish that clearly sources local ingredients or has a strong Durham story to tell, by providing a special offer or running a foodie event.
The month-long celebration of food and drink is designed to raise the profile of local businesses whilst getting local residents and visitors alike excited about discovering Durham’s fantastic foodie offer.
Visitors to Durham spend at least half of their money on food and drink when they are here, and there is a real appetite to try fresh local food produced in the area. If you get the chance to sample things at a Taste Durham Event, I guarantee you will enjoy it! Check out Taste Durham Events coming up here