Friday, 23 September 2011

Food, glorious local food

Have you booked your tasting platter lunch at Exmoor House? They’re every day of the Exmoor Food Festival (30th September to 9th October inclusive) from 12 noon to 2pm. To tie in with the Food Festival, I thought I’d tell you a bit about some of our suppliers. We buy local as much as we can; it makes sense in so many ways, from supporting other local businesses to reducing food miles to knowing where things have come from!

Meat comes from John May Butchers in South Molton. They sell top-class meat, including the great sausages and dry-cure bacon (with the rind on) that we serve at breakfast, very chickeny free-range chicken and well-matured beef. John May deals with carefully-selected farms in Somerset and Devon.

Frank of Star Fish is our man-with-a-van who visits the village. His fish comes from Newlyn and he’s very knowledgeable about its provenance and sustainability. Cornish pollack, mackerel, naturally-smoked haddock and kippers all go down very well with our guests.

Most of our milk, butter and cheese are supplied by Axe Valley Dairies (currently based in Williton). We use Kelway Farm mature cheddar (made near Glastonbury); Exmoor Jersey Blue (from Lydeard St Lawrence) and Somerset brie. Goat’s cheese comes from Diana Piercy, a smallholder based in the Exe Valley. She makes soft and hard cheeses, both delicious. Diana also runs smallholding courses: visit for details.

Vegetables and fruit can be more difficult, as not that much is grown around here – it’s more hill-farming country. However, depending on when you visit, your dinner might include some of my home-grown herbs or salad leaves - you can't get much more local than that! My salad crops weren’t very successful this year, although the herbs are still going strong, and seem particularly vibrant.

It’s been a good year for fruit, and we went to the pick-your-own at Runnington Farm near Wellington: our jam and pickle cupboard is now fully stocked again. We get surplus fruit and veg from neighbours when we can: we’ve had luscious blackcurrants, and champion marrows and red cabbage. Occasionally we manage to get our hands on some Exmoor whortleberries, which just have to be made into a pie, served with lashings of clotted cream. In the asparagus season, a visit to the farm at Withycombe is in order – what a treat. They often sell home-made elderflower cordial too. We’ve also bought various things from a lady over near Tiverton who grows fantastic potatoes and beetroot (to name but two).

A neighbour’s free-range hens provide us with lovely eggs. Exmoor honey has a wonderful deep flavour – you can often taste the heather. We get ours from Exmoor Pure Honey in Allerford, or from The Archer House in Dunster.

When it comes to drinks, there’s a great choice of excellent local producers and suppliers. We use tea, coffee and hot chocolate from D J Miles of Porlock, whose blends are made to suit the water round here. Local vintner Washfield Wines provides most of the wines on our list, apart from those actually made on Exmoor, which come from Dunkery Vineyard in Wootton Courtenay. Their sparkling Exmoor Brut has received rave reviews. The bottled beers on our honesty bar come from Exmoor Ales and Cotleigh breweries, both based in Wiveliscombe. And of course we have Somerset ciders, from Sheppy’s near Taunton. For soft drinks, there’s the Devon-based Luscombe Organic Drinks.

Hungry yet? Hope to see you for lunch during the Exmoor Food Festival. If you can’t make that, though, remember we’re open for dinner most nights throughout the year. Booking is essential for lunch or dinner – just give us a call!

More information about the Exmoor Food Festival:

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