How I Voted: The Taste Of Kent Awards 2014

Voting is open for the annual Taste of Kent Awards (via their website, here) and this morning I decided to dedicate a little time to getting my votes in so that I wouldn't miss the proverbial boat.

Before I let you in on who or what I voted for in each category, I should just mention that I decided not to vote in the Best Kentish Beer category, simply because I don't really drink beer on a regular basis, certainly not ales, and I wasn't familiar with a majority of the products that have been short-listed. I want to make genuine, considered decisions in each category so I left beer out. 

Here is where my votes landed (and believe me, in several instances I spent a long time trying to decide who to choose!)

Kent Butcher or Meat Producer of the Year

Chandler and Dunn

I visited Chandler and Dunn's farm at Ash earlier this year, and I'm very familiar with their beautiful meat as I often pick some up at local farmer's markets. This was quite an easy one for me to vote on as I'm a keen supporter of C&D as a family business, and I love their attitudes towards sustainability and ethical farming.

If I'd had further votes available these would have gone to Godmersham Game and Stour Valley Game, both of whom always seem to feature in my fridge/freezer.

Best Kentish Wine

English Wine by Harbourne Vineyard

I'm planning to visit the Harbourne Vineyard very soon, but I picked up a bottle of their wine at the recent Broadstairs Food Festival and it was simply wonderful. I rate it much higher than wines I've had from Biddenden and Chapel Down - the two best known and most highly regarded Kentish wine producers.

However, my runner up would have been the Chapel Down Brut; of course.

Best Kentish Cider or Perry

Kentish Pip Ginger Cider

Kentish Pip are probably my favourite Kentish cider producer, so it's no surprise that I voted for them in this category. Their ginger cider is probably my second favourite though (after elderflower - which didn't feature in the short-list). 

If I'd had an extra vote it would, without doubt, have gone to Little Stour Orchard for their 10 Acre Cider - but as I only drink cider as a very rare treat, I haven't had any in ages!

Best Kent Juice Provider

Little Stour Orchard

We all knew they'd feature somewhere in my voting! I love everything about the way that LSO work, their attitude towards fruit farming, the people behind the brand, and the products themselves, so this was a total no brainer. I genuinely don't drink any other local juices so... even if I did have extra votes they wouldn't go anywhere in this category!

Kent Local Food Retailer of the Year

Macknade Fine Foods

I'm in love with Macknade. This shop is the ultimate stop for unusual vegetables and creative cooking ideas. From deep purple heritage carrots to the biggest squashes you've ever clapped eyes on, not to mention a huge range of drinks, cheeses, meats, confectionary, spices - and so on and so on and so on. I can walk around and around Macknade, constantly discovering something I didn't spot on the last lap. It's my favourite foodie outlet by far. 

Others of note in this category though, for me, would be Quex Barn (always particularly good for tomatoes - among everything else! But I have had terrible experiences in the restaurant) and The Goods Shed (more on that later). 

This is an example of where the Taste of Kent Awards website needs some attention though - good old Peter's Produce from Herne Bay are listed in this category four times (this happens elsewhere on the site too) so watch out for this when you're voting, it might cause a bit of a pain when votes are tallied up later in the year!

Kent Fishmonger of the Year

Fruits De Mer, Broadstairs

This was another easy one for me, as I don't generally buy fish from any other fishmonger. However; the reason for this is that Fruits De Mer are superior in terms of produce so - my vote is still valid!

Shame that the Taste of Kent Awards peeps have spelt the name of the business incorrectly on the voting page though - stuff like that doesn't half bug me!

Kent Food Producer of the Year

Anno Distillers

This was one of the categories that I found hardest to vote in. I finally decided on Anno Distillers because their products are just so bloody beautiful. I mentioned their Kentish gin in my recent post rounding up Broadstairs Food Festival, but their Elderflower Vodka also deserves some serious recognition because it is sublime. I can't fault Anno Distillers on their approach to production and ingredients either, so in the end, they got my vote. I'm also a real stickler for presentation and the bottle designs are gorgeous. 

If I could, I'd also have voted for Nip From The Hip, another alcoholic drink producer, but another good one. They could have had my vote just for their rhubarb vodka! Cheesemakers of Canterbury also make an appearance here and they're another of my favourite local food producers. Another goodie in this category would be Rosie Lea Tea, who I've mentioned before on the blog and whose loose leaf Earl Grey is my absolute best friend - however, when a girl has to choose between tea or gin....

Kent Restaurant of the Year

The Goods Shed

OK, this was the absolute hardest category for me to choose in. 

I still feel a bit awful about having to choose only one, and the fact that my vote fell out of the Isle of Thanet also makes me sad.

In the end though, I had to vote with my heart and my experiences of The Goods Shed in Canterbury have never been anything but sublime. I love the setting - the building is beautiful, but also being surrounded by a busy bustling farmer's market whilst you eat is charming. The food is absolutely out of this world (or always has been when I've visited - from breakfast through to dinner) and even the coffee is fantastic. It's also handy that the restaurant has it's own free car park - unlike many others in Canterbury (or Thanet for that matter). Oh, I'm sorry - I just don't have a bad word to say about the place. 

I desperately wanted to vote for Wyatt & Jones in Broadstairs as well, but, I have only one vote, and I had to choose. Wyatt and Jones are also great for locally sourced yummy stuff (especially lobster when they're in season), bake their own bread on site and serve a wonderful Eggs Florentine at breakfast. I don't really have downers on this restaurant at all, I just had to pick one or the other, and The Goods Shed won predominantly on atmosphere and ambience.

The pain didn't end there though, JoJo's in Whitstable, Osteria Posillipos Restaurante in Broadstairs, The Sportsman at Seasalter, and Wheeler's Oyster Bar all featured as well, and I love them all. 

This was simply horrific! 

Kent Dining Pub of the Year

The Sportsman

This perhaps wasn't a very imaginative choice - everyone associates The Sportsman at Seasalter with exception Michelin starred dining. But it is what it is, and it would be a deserved winner in this category. 

Wyatt & Jones were listed here as well and it might have offered me the opportunity to vote for them as well as The Goods Shed in the previous category but... they're not a pub.

Kent Farmer's Market of the Year

Thanet Farmer's Market

This was a tough choice for me, having to choose between Thanet and Cliftonville Farmer's Markets. 
Cliftonville is very local to me (literally, at the end of my road), but looking at both markets objectively, it's apparent that Thanet has the better offering in terms of overall experience. 

Based at The Marlowe Academy, Thanet offers indoor space, so shoppers aren't put off visiting in bad weather, there is a cafe on site, and they also run a kid's kitchen workshop, so you can leave small people cooking for an hour or so whilst you browse, buy and eat. 

Cliftonville, on the otherhand, is outdoors, which kind of feels more like a proper market to me, but does mean, sometimes, you're going to get soaked, there's nowhere to get a coffee onsite, and the stallholders are pretty much comparable to those at Thanet, there isn't a huge difference in those terms (plus, Little Stour Orchard no longer have a stall at Cliftonville and apple cider vinegar is important). 

The only downers for Thanet is that it's setting is so modern, that it doesn't really have much of that farmer's market feel that I enjoy, but ho hum. It also isn't directly on any public transport route, although the walk from the bus stops at Westwood Cross isn't too far. Most people who visit Thanet Farmer's Market do so by car... which is a problem in itself from an environmental perspective but you can't have it all! 

So in the end, Thanet got my vote, but I'd have given a second vote to Cliftonville of course!

If you are Kent based (or familiar with Kent produce) please do take the time to vote in the Taste of Kent Awards. It's a huge achievement to all of those involved to have been so much as short-listed for an award, and a win in any category could make an enormous difference to any of these businesses. Sorry to everyone that I didn't vote for this year; as everyone knows I'm a huge huge champion of local produce and I don't think there's anyone featured in this years awards (apart from maybe in the restaurant category, but I'll stay quiet on that one!) who doesn't deserve to be there, and I wish everyone the very very best in their respective categories. 

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