Adam Rees sips and samples the newest food and drink in town
Trailhead Beef Jerky
With the current trend of slapping ‘High in Protein’ stickers on every other product, the likes of biltong and beef jerky are becoming increasingly popular to satisfy a quick itch. Hailing from Welshpool via the expertise of the US Midwest, Trailhead’s range of jerkys have won acclaim far from the country’s borders, with top of the line Welsh beef at their core. The Original flavour is delicate with an almost creamy afterthought, while we were also keen on the Black Pepper and rugged Hot Smoked Chipotle. The latest edition, the Raging Bull Chilli, unsurprisingly tries to gore the jugular with its tense heat, yet is still ludicrously moreish, making our initial consideration of a resealable pouch a moot point.
Anglesey has the mustard
The family-run Halen Môn from Anglesey specialize in the award-winning sea salt on their doorstep, but also have a range of sauces and condiments including
these latest additions. The BBQ Ketchup’s deep flavour has both a tang and rich tomato base that’s perfect for dolloping on grilled meats, and definitely benefits from a liberal dose of salt. The Smoky Honey Mustard and Smoky Dijon Mustards meanwhile are some of the finest we’ve tried either side of the Channel. The creamy Dijon has the requisite bite with a luxurious, lingering heat, while the Smokey Honey does what it says on the jar, utilising sweet nectar and Halen Môn’s smoked water for a soulful flavour. It’s definitely one of those that you’ll aim to savour yet smear on anything and everything at the first opportunity.
The Bee’s knees
Hilltop honey – Welsh Blossom honey
Scott Davies of Hilltop Honey’s story is a real sweet one, having started to keep bees in his parents’ garden after a work-related injury. Eight years on Hilltop Honey has outgrown the local Powys community, thanks mainly to the moreish flavour delivered by the bees of Newtown. As well as Soft Set and Heather varieties, this light Blossom Honey is simply delicious and worthy of the acclaim Scott’s products have garnered. Though credited to ancient lands and mythical nectar, the secret is the vibrant flowers that give the honey its golden colour and fresh scent. A honey for all occasions that’s particularly punchy on breakfast muffins or dashed into your tea before bed, and was a particularly helpful nurse for this reviewer during a post-Christmas cold.
BUY IT: For £5.99 per jar. Discover Delicious (https://discoverdelicious.wales)
Gin it to win it
Staking a foothold in the increasingly populated craft gin market, most of Eccentric Gin’s roster aren’t quite as barmy as their name suggests, with classic concoctions delivered very well. It’s therefore up to the Pembrokeshire Pinky and Violet Gin to add a bit more of the razzmatazz for the Caerphilly distillery. The latter’s colour makes it immediately stand tall, but its sweet violet flavour is far from overpowering, giving it a splendid well-balanced taste to have on its own or as part of one of the suggested cocktails you can find on the company website. The Pembrokeshire Pinky on the other hand is a vibrant mix of fruity notes and velvety smoothness that’s as good as any other pink gin bustling for position in one of the country’s trendiest tipples.
BUY IT: For £30 per bottle. Eccentric Gin (www.eccentricgin.co.uk)
Coffee beans on toast
Coaltown x Rogue Preserves Espresso Marmalade
This mad collaboration between Ammanford’s nationally recognised coffee producers and the renowned chutney and jam specialists from Rhondda answers the question of what would happen if you dunk your morning marmalade on toast into some high-end coffee. As is the case with all Rogue Preserve products, the marmalade is of the highest quality, rich in flavour with the sweetest orange clout. However, it’s Coaltown’s contribution that needs to succeed in this chaotic tag team, and it does so with aplomb. Lovers
of the strong black stuff will instantly be won over by the gorgeous chocolatey nature, and while we can’t tell if there’s sufficient caffeine kick to fully replace your morning mug, we’re inclined to believe this addition to your breakfast spread ticks all manner of boxes.
BUY IT: For £5.95 per jar. Coaltown Coffee (www.coaltowncoffee.co.uk)
Udderly delicious latte
Daioni Organic Coffee Latte
When you want the best milk products, go to straight to the source. Daioni Organic have gone from supplying fresh organic milk across the world from the Harris family farm in Ffosyficer in West Wales for decades, to expanding to cream and flavoured milk. Now they’ve teamed up with English Kingdom Coffee for this cold caffeinated pick-me-up. It’s as wholesome and refreshing as you’d expect, but while lattes such as this aren’t really for coffee connoisseurs, the fair-trade Arabica blend from Kingdom adds a serious flavour punch despite being of medium strength. There are fruity and smoky hints you can pick up through the velvety Daioni milk. Aside from a nice leaf design on the top, you’d be hard-pressed to find a barista do a better job.
BUY IT: For £17.40 for 12 cartons. Discover Delicious (www.cotswold-fayre.co.uk/)
Soft ‘n’ vinegar
Most of us only tend to drink vinegar when our fish
‘n’ chips are drowning in it come summertime, but these novel additions – London-based but from the same stable as the makers of Wales’ Lurvill’s Delight botanical soft drinks – have apple cider vinegar at their core. With a range of health benefits this ‘Modern Elixir’ makes an impact as soon as you open the bottle, with the Peach & Basil in particular smelling like an intoxicating summer garden. But the combination of sweet and sour flavours with a modicum of fizz is an enjoyable surprise with the aromatic basil lingering on. The Blood Orange & Bitter Lemon flavour is more straightforward, with the strong citrus flavours making any suspicion of the apple cider vinegar’s ferocity null and void, while the Blackcurrant & Juniper flexes its strength as a mightier alternative to Ribena.
BUY IT: For £3.29 per bottle. The Drink Shop (www.thedrinkshop.com)
Ramsey Island Gin
You wouldn’t expect a nature reserve notable for grey seals and choughs to be joining the gin game, but these innovative newcomers are Ramsey Island to the core. Made with plants taken from the island just off St David’s Head in Pembrokeshire, the Welsh Dry Gin and St David’s Seaweed Welsh Dry Gin have been made by RSPB to help fund their vital conservation work there. The botanicals are only collected in small amounts, adding to the exclusivity, while the bird- emblazoned bottles will appeal to collectors. Crucially they soar when it comes to the taste, with the heather and mint coming through in abundance, while the Seaweed Welsh Dry Gin’s more piquant flavour is still sweet enough to ensure it appeals to more than connoisseurs.
BUY IT: For £39.95 to £45 per bottle. St Davids Gin (https://stdavids.wales/)
Tandoori lamb tomahawks
Far from the standard marinated fare that takes up supermarket shelves come BBQ season, these tasty chops come from Martin Player High Class Butcher of Whitchurch, Cardiff. They have earned Best Welsh Lamb Product at the prestigious Smithfield Awards where the butchers also won the Best Welsh Beef category for its Montreal Steak Burger as well as a host of other awards. The Tandoori rub opts for shrewd flavour over heat, delicately adding the warmth of turmeric and cayenne while letting the gorgeous flavour of the meat take centre stage. Given Wales’ renown for quality lamb it’d be remarkable if these tender tomahawks were anything less than exceptional. We are happy to report that they exceed expectations when lightly grilled with some cool yoghurt and mint.
BUY IT: From £2.99 per 50g pouch. (trailheadfinefoods.co.uk)
Cwm Farm Charcuterie
Cwm Farm is another Welsh company using outstanding local produce to put their own stamp on international delicacies, with their Pontardawe farmers’ salami and chorizo being some of the world’s best. While you might expect the multi-award winning Laverbread Salami to be even saltier than the usual cured classic, it’s such a dainty edition that all you’re left with is a stunning tasting salami that justifies the commendations it’s attained. We particularly enjoyed the bite of the skin, with the more nipping Leek Salami overtly bringing in the extra dimension. Cwm Farm’s free range pork is again the key to the silky, softer Italian paste Nduja, which we consumed in no time spread on a piece of crusty bread – a supreme Mediterranean experience.
BUY IT: From £1.50 per 30g pouch. cwmfarm.co.uk
Barti Ddu Rum
While bar-favourite Captain Morgan gets its moniker from a Welsh pirate, that’s where the connection to Cymru ends. Barti Ddu on the other hand not only takes its cues from infamous swashbuckler Bartholomew ‘Black Bart’ Roberts but intriguingly also utilises a Pembrokeshire staple: seaweed. A bellicose 35% dark rum that’s sweet and caramelly on the nose, the seaweed doesn’t dominate proceedings, instead blending with the more prominent orange and surly clove for a balance of sweet and savoury flavour. While it’s natural bedfellows are ginger ale and citrus mixers, we found it so smooth that a simple dash on the rocks was perfect, while a more adventurous chocolate liqueur addition worked surprisingly well with the orange punch.
BUY IT: For £26.99 per 70cl bottle. mumblesfinewines.co.uk
This Snowdonian coffee company may source its beans from the finest coffee producing countries around the world, but they’re roasted with the aid of Welsh spring water and the area’s natural beauty as inspiration. With single varieties from Africa, Asia and South America available – the vanilla tasting Burundi Kirema was a personal favourite – their signature blends clearly show a passion and depth of knowledge learned while its makers were living in Columbia. The Poblado Espresso produces a mellow shot with oodles of sweet character, making for an ideal introduction to stronger coffee tasting.
BUY IT: From £5.95 per 250g pobladocoffi.co.uk/shop
Here’s something to keep an eye out for when you’re coming in or out of Cardiff Airport’s Duty Free. This exclusive is indicative of Penderyn’s growing international renown, with its name taken from the distillery’s still. Finished in a port cask the Faraday is reasonably rich with hints of fresh fruits, oak and jam. On the nose there’s an instant hit of port, followed by vanilla and fruit, while the body is creamy, with a touch of raisins, sultana and a bit of spice to round it off. With a delicious vanilla finish it’s another outstanding addition to the Penderyn arsenal and worth flying home for.
BUY IT: Cardiff Airport
Gower Coffee Co
Not only does the West Welsh peninsular have some of the best beaches in the world, but there are also some fine coffees named after them as well. The coffees are based on the waves at each beach as experienced by surf and caffeine enthusiast Marcus Luporini. The smoother notes in Three Cliffs Bay make for a winning all-rounder next to the more hardened strength of the Rhossili Bay blend. Tor Bay will have the most to offer to aficionados with its intensity held in check by a malty hit and plenty of citrus aroma. Often overlooked, it’s actually the Decaffeinated option that struck a chord, which still gives a wonderful dark cup that’s crackling with jets of peanut.