Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Herbie Awards 2013–Great Real Food Shops near the canal

Are you ready folks?  Welcome to the 2013 awards.  Take a seat round one of the tables and grab a bottle of bubbly.  Sadly, Terry Wogan is once again unable to act as host, but don’t worry, you’ve got me.  Hooray.

Lots to comeover the next month, but just to be contrary and as a warm up, our first Award category this year is nowt to do with canals or boats, well not directly anyway. Hmmphh! I hear you say.  Well, we boaters need to eat too, and we’re always turning up in towns and villages we don’t really know, and we often can’t get to a food shop for days on end, so you can see the need for tips about the really good places to stock up. This year we found some really great produce on our cruises – shops we would dearly like to return to.  So for our first award category for 2013 we thought it would be good to look at the very best of them, so you can benefit too. Remember, this is about places we visited on our travels this year. I’m sure there are other great places, but they’re off limits.

To get our nomination, we were looking for something memorable, where we bought food or ingredients that made our mouths water. To qualify, a shop must be within walking distance of the waterway, sell fresh, exceptional quality local produce, and give good service.  We can think of four such places we visited this year, and by sheer coincidence, we came upon three of them in the same week!  As it happens, all of them were recommended to us in advance by other boaters, so it shows it’s not just us that liked them.  Lets do them in the order we came upon them.

1. Canalside Farm Shop, Great Haywood.

You can find it just few yards north of the junction of the Trent & Mersey and the Staffs & Worcester.  I think they have spent a lot of money expanding this place. They have a smart new building, which inside is crammed with fruit and veg, lots of yummy cheeses, meat, pies and puddings, lovely bread including if I recall correctly, my favourite foccaccias, plus the usual variety of chutneys and pickles and all that.  We went in for a loaf of bread and spent thirty odd quid on a bag of goodies.  Such was the temptation on offer. All that we had was very good indeed.  Quality at a price – not cheap.

2. Russells Butchers – Market Street, Penkridge (Staffs & Worcs canal).  This is a ten minute hike from the canal but we just couldn’t leave it out, because it was brilliant.  The butcher knows the origin of all their meat, all local farms, and some of which is from old fashion breeds e.g the Glos Old Spot bacon, which was like bacon used to taste when I were a lad.  They also make their own pies, ready cooked or in the raw.  The guy behind the counter was extremely enthusiastic and helpful, even rounding down the final bill and giving us a free pork pie!  He will also, on request, vacuum pack your meat, which makes it keep a lot longer in the fridge – useful for us boaters who may not hit the shops too often.  The stuff that we bought and cooked later really did taste much better than yer average supermarket stuff.

then literally just around the corner from Russells Butchers,

3. Jaspers Village Bakery, Penkridge

On no account go in here if you are on a diet!  No matter how strong your will power, when you see the array of cakes on display you will buckle.  The queue went outside the door when we were there. The hot cakes were selling like, er,  hot cakes.  Piles and piles of traditional fare like Bath buns and lardy cake, plus some interesting new varieties.  I’m glad we don’t have a shop like this near home or I would weigh twenty stone.  The bread was nice too.

4. Farm shop near Whilton marina

Sadly I don’t know the name of this little shop, but it’s easy to find. Just cross over the canal bridge by Whilton marina(Grand Union) and go through the farm gate on the left.  This is a tiny little shop, with the livestock grazing contentedly outside.  Nice lady in there, who knows all about the produce, as she should do because she prepares most of it.  Much of the beef is from Dexter cattle , and the pigs an old breed whose name escapes me. Sheep too of course.  They do unusual and interesting cuts as well.  As well as meat and pies they do fresh local veg and home made cakes and jars of this and that.  I think they are due to expand a bit quite soon.  We bought a meat pie to cook on the boat and it is probably fair to say that it had more meat in it than any other pie we have ever  had.  Such a nice change from pies full of gravy and not much else.  Once again the stuff here is not cheap, but easily worth the extra.  We will definitely revisit in future.

Maybe you have tried one or two of these places.  Send us a comment if you have.   Thanks to Sarah for alerting us to the Penkridge ones, and was it Adam who put us on to the Whilton shop? 

I know we all buy most of our stuff in the big supermarkets, but these little places win hands down when it comes to flavour and quality. Try getting Old Spot bacon in Tesco or Morrisons. All of these places deserve a medal and will make a meal on the boat something really special. You can’t eat out every night.  Which one should we give the award to though?  Tune in next time to see if we have made our minds up.

Then we’ll move on to a proper canal type award. I promise.


Sue said...

Near Wilton Locks is called the Canal Turn Farm Shop. I have visited this one and it is good. Even if it is closed you can usually find someone to open up for you.

I have visited all the places you mentioned and my vote would go to Penkridge, Jaspers Bakery!

Yummy, yummy, no where else along our system with a better bakery than that I assure you!

Penkridge is one of the best places on the canals especially on a Wednesday when the market is open.. A visit to the butcher mentioned, the bakery then the market with all the different sort of eggs on offer plus if you fancy a chicken or two on top of the boat to produce eggs, then there is the auction for those too!

Adam said...

Yes it was, and it's Canal Turn Farm Shop.

Haven't been to the Penkridge ones, but of the two farm shops, I'd say the Whilton one is the most authentic. I was amazed at the transformation at Great Haywood, and we had some fantastic sausages from there, but they've got a lot of fairly standard, non local stuff in there too. So I'd have to vote for Canal Turn.

Sarah said...

A great shame that Nightingales no longer have their farm shop in Atherstone - I think it would just have squeaked in distance wise. Their steak pies it was that knocked us off the veggie wagon. Not only fabulous meat and tasty gravy, but the best pastry on any pie I have ever had. Shortcrust of course. All is not lost though, they can be found at farmers markets in the midlands, including Penkridge on the first Saturday of each month.