A series of virtual events and tasting sessions will take place over the coming weeks to celebrate local food and drink producers.

Taste North East Wales is to be held online this year due to the Coronavirus pandemic, with a second lockdown reinforcing the decision to conduct workshops, sampling and tours via Zoom, the video conferencing platform.

For some events participants will receive products in advance so they can experience the delights of the region’s many award-winning local businesses, and then connect with them live.

There will be six sessions, starting this Friday with a virtual gin tasting at the base of Clwydian Range Distillery on Halkyn Mountain in Flintshire, home of Cariad Gin.

Owner Fiona Lewis will explain and explore the stories behind four of their popular flavours and discuss which to enjoy with tonic, dehydrated fruit and more.

“We simply cannot wait to host our very first virtual event with Taste North East Wales and have been blown away by the positive response both locally and further afield,” said Fiona. 

“Our business has gone through lots of changes and adaptions like so many others during the recent months.

“We are about to launch a new website, have expanded on our home delivery service from Cheshire to the Llyn Peninsula and decided to turn our skills to producing much needed hand sanitiser to help frontline workers and our community to continue to stay safe, for which we won a local Unsung Hero award.

“It’s been a busy time, and sales of sanitiser will continue on a non-profit basis which enables us to donate quantities from each batch produced to front line essential services.”

There will also be a virtual tasting with Richard Cattell from Ruthin-based Owen and Edwards Coffee; a Continental cooking demonstration and Q&A with Beatriz Albo, director of Sabor de Amor, Rhostyllen, and Marina Midolo from Marina’s Italian Cookery in Cyffylliog, near Ruthin.

Those registering can watch a chef academy demonstration with Adam Gaunt-Evans of The Three Eagles bar and grill in Llangollen, a masterclass with chef Grant Mulholland of the The Hand at Llanarmon, and a tasting and tour with Debbie and Phil Handley of Mostyn Kitchen Garden.

Viewers can see how their fruit and vegetables are grown via a pre-recorded journey around the Victorian Walled Kitchen Garden, and later partake in a chutney and cheese tasting with Debbie, and Gemma Williams, owner of The Little Cheesemonger in Rhuddlan.

“We’ll be showcasing three of our chutneys and three of Gemma’s top cheeses, though we will have to do it from two separate sites due to the lockdown,” said Debbie. 

“It’s been a difficult period but the response from customers has been positive, we have continued to supply farm shops and independent outlets as before and sales have been very good.

“The only real difficulty for us was not being able to have volunteers onsite, so we had to harvest absolutely everything ourselves, but we managed it and are now in a strong position having picked and frozen for the autumn and winter months.”

She added: “We are thinking ahead and looking to produce a range of vinegars, so the apples currently growing are going to be important.

“We’ve tried to be pragmatic about the circumstances and, like other local businesses have been so grateful for the backing of our community. We hope to see as many as possible on the night and are really looking forward to it.”

For Adam at the Three Eagles, the event is both about showcasing Welsh seafood and also inspiring future chefs from across the region. 

“I will be working with two Chef Academy recruits, both from north east Wales, introducing them to ways of selecting, preparing and cooking seafood to maximise our regional flavour,” he said.

“And am delighted that our customers at home will be able to join in.” 

The Chef Academy is a partnership between the Three Eagles and Coleg Cambria and will be expanded over coming years to reach up and coming chefs from across the region.

Taste North East Wales organisers Clwydian Range Food and Drink and Llangollen and Dee Valley Food and Drink, with the support of Cadwyn Clwyd, the Clwydian Range and Dee Valley AONB and the local authorities of Flintshire, Wrexham and Denbighshire, decided to host a virtual programme of events to ensure the health and safety of all involved.

The project has received funding through the Welsh Government Rural Communities – Rural Development Programme 2014-2020, which is funded by the European Agricultural Fund for Rural Development and the Welsh Government.

Coordinator Jane Clough said the events have been well-received and tickets are selling well, with people who would usually visit the food and drink festivals keen to show their support.

“This year has been unlike any other, but the way our local businesses have reacted to the pandemic, adapted the way they work and been there for their communities has been truly inspiring,” said Jane. 

“We cannot be together to celebrate the incredible food and drink produced across this region, but doing so online is the next best thing, and the safest way forward at the present time.

“I’m sure these sessions will be a lot of fun, we have some fantastic venues and local companies involved and there has been a real buzz about it so be sure to get in quick and book your place – thanks to everyone who has done so already.”

For more information and to register for the virtual events, visit www.tastenortheastwales.org and follow @taste-blasu on social media or email taste.blas@gmail.com.  

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