Lancashire Life and Lake District Life Food and Wine Awards 2009
A night of champagne and celebrations was enjoyed as the winners of the Lancashire Life and Lake District Life Food and Wine Awards were announced. Emma Mayoh reports
Bob Kitching has dedication by the bucket load. His 30-year commitment to the Lancashire cheeses he produces at Leagram Organic Dairy in Chipping is just the tip of the iceberg.The cheese champion travels around the country, wearing his trademark cheese motif tie, promoting the tasty, crumbly and creamy as well as the mountain of mouthwatering food from the red rose county. He also makes cheese for the region's top chefs, including Northcote Manor's Nigel Haworth.So it was a prize well deserved when the Lancashire Cheese Makers' Association member was named Lancashire Life Food Hero at this year's prestigious Lancashire Life and Lake District Food and Wine Awards.Bob said: 'It is just such a surprise and a great testament to the staff that I have. We're one of the smallest cheese producers in Lancashire so it's brilliant that we've won this.'Lancashire is the best place for food, not just cheese. Everyone should know about all the fantastic food we have from all these brilliant producers in Lancashire and I'm trying to make as many people as possible aware of it. It's not a job, it's my passion.'It was totally fitting, therefore, that the major prize of the evening went to another man with a passion for Lancashire produce. Edwin Booth, who as chairman of Booth's supermarkets has supported so many people like Bob, was awarded the Life Magazines' Outstanding Achievement Award for 2009 in recognition of Booths' focus on local sourcing, innovation and excellent customer service.Edwin is the fifth generation of the family to take the helm of Britain's oldest family-owned and run grocery business and the Outstanding Achievement Award was a fitting accolade for his hard work and commitment to being a leading retailer.The awards have become a staple of the culinary calendar in the north west with restaurants, local producers and hotels lining up for the chance to be nominated for the region's top awards.This year's winners were found by our panel of judges including Trevor Stone, the former executive responsible for catering at Astra Zeneca's headquarters near Alderley Edge, highly regarded independent consultant caterer Rosemary Watts, food and wine writer Ray King, Lancashire Life editor Roger Borrell and Cheshire Life editor Louise Taylor.In the Lake District, the world famous Sarah Nelson's Gingerbread, made in a building where William Wordsworth once taught, took the Lake District Food Hero Award. Jo Fielding, owner of Red Bar & Restaurant in Westhougton, took home the Lancashire Life Restaurant of the Year. She won the award just 15 months after turning a derelict bank into a restaurant with a deserved reputation.Further north, Lake District heavyweight Lindeth Howe, once owned by Beatrix Potter, took the prize for Lake District Life Hotel of the Year.Stephen Broughton, managing director, said: 'It is just incredible. We have also been awarded four stars this year too so it's been an amazing year for us and this is a fantastic way to round it off.'For Jan Hampton, owner of Egerton House in Bolton, a Hotel of the Year award was reward for six years of hard work. After being made redundant from a job in the hotel industry she decided to set up on her own.She said: 'It's not just about me, it's about the team and to have won something like this is brilliant.'We've entered so many awards over the past few years and not won. This year I decided not to enter any but we've won this amazing award. I can't believe it. It's been a tough but terrific few years and this is the icing on the cake. I'm so proud of everyone.'Other winners included French restaurant at the Midland Hotel which has one of the most iconic dining rooms in the north of England with a menu of modern classics. It was awarded the Life Magazines' City Restaurant of the Year.All of the winners were presented with a commemorative Villeroy & Boch plate, a magnum of champagne courtesy of sponsors Matthew Clark and a commemorative wall plaque.Some may have buckled under the pressure of creating a meal for the region's culinary kings. But Abode's executive chef, Ian Matfin, did not flinch. The skills he learned under the tutelage of chefs like Raymond Blanc and Michael Caines and also recently showed off with flair on the Great British Menu, served him well.The melt-in-the-mouth lobster tortellini, complimented by toasty-vanilla hues of a Sauvignon-Blanc Semillion from Matthew Clark, who supplied all the wine for the evening and sponsored the awards, set the pace.A saddle of Lythe Valley venison with braised red cabbage, crisp belly pork, braised fennel and a jasmine raisin sauce won particular praise from the diners as did the taste of Veramonte Primus from Chile's Casablanca Valley.The evening was rounded off well with a trio of apple and rosemary mousse, apple tart clotted cream and green apple sorbet which were all were heartily enjoyed by the evening's diners.