Categories
Drink

New cocktail launched in honour of Ladies of Llangollen who inspired TV’s Gentleman Jack

A new cocktail is being launched in honour of two aristocratic women who scandalised 18th century society when they eloped together from Ireland and settled in Llangollen.

The concoction called Ladies’ Dee-light that’s being unveiled at the town’s popular food festival will celebrate the lives of the Ladies of Llangollen, Lady Eleanor Butler and Sarah Ponsonby.

The new drink is the brainchild of two brothers whose micro bar business is taking North Wales by storm.

Trained mixologists Gruff and Ieuan Jones have enjoyed rapid success since launching their mobile cocktail bar, Booze Brothers, just 12 months ago. 

They have just toasted the launch of their own product range and will be raising a glass to Llangollen Food Festival  later this year with the cocktail that’s people will be able try for the first time at the festival that being held on Saturday and Sunday, October 19 and 20.

The event has now established itself as one of the highlights in the culinary calendar and has been named as one of the Top 10 food festivals in the UK.

It’s being held at the Llangollen Pavilion, less than a mile from the house, Plas Newydd, where Lady Eleanor Butler and Sarah Ponsonby lived.

They were regarded as eccentric characters and the exact nature of their close relationship remains a talking point to this day.

As well as working on their house and garden, the ladies spent their time in reading, studying foreign languages and corresponding with a wide variety of people.

Many of these were well-known figures of the day and they often came to visit the ladies.

Among them were the likes Wordsworth, the Duke of Wellington, Lord Byron, Sir Walter Scott and Anne Lister who was inspired to go home and informally marry her own lover as a result.

Lister’s life was recently immortalised in the hit television series starring Suranne Jones in the title role.

The series was based on Lister’s collected diaries which contain over four million words and are written largely in secret code, documenting a lifetime of lesbian relationships.
Former personal trainer Gruff, 26, from Wrexham, said: “When we started out, the Llangollen Food Festival was one of those events in the calendar we really wanted to attend and we just kept our fingers crossed that everything would go well and we’d get there.

“We’ve been there plenty of times as visitors but this is completely different. We’re really excited to show off our skills and bring along our bespoke cocktail bar.

“To help mark our first anniversary and our first visit to Llangollen Food Festival as a business we wanted to do something really special, and the Ladies’ Dee-light will celebrate the legendary Ladies of Llangollen and another local icon, the River Dee and the town centre Dee Bridge which is one of the Seven Wonders of Wales.

“Although nobody knows for certain whether their relationship was a sexual one, the Ladies of Llangollen are revered today as icons for the LGBT+ community.

“We will be keeping the recipe secret until the new cocktail is launched at the food festival but we  are keeping our fingers crossed it will be a hit.”

Gruff and former bartender Ieuan, 21, who run the Bargain Booze Plus Rhosddu store in Wrexham, had no intention of launching their own business a year ago.

Last summer, they were asked if they could share their gin knowledge and expertise at the Garden Village Fete in Wrexham. They bought a gazebo from Argos and set up a makeshift bar with a range of specialist gins – and it went down a treat.

“Obviously gin is very popular at the moment. We bought a little gazebo from Argos and put together a variety of gins and it was extremely busy!” said Gruff, a former Ysgol Morgan Llwyd pupil.

“From there, we started receiving emails from festival organisers and local people in the area asking us whether we could set up the same stand at their event or in their back garden.”

Such was the demand they established Booze Brothers, a name which communicates their shared love of good drink, and invested everything they made in the first year into a brand new triple horsebox which they professionally converted into a bespoke cocktail bar.

They also took themselves off to London and completed a course in Mixology at the London European Bartender School to learn more about the art of cocktail making.

“We absolutely never expected this success. We never even intended it to become a fully-fledged business,” explained Gruff, who grew up in Rhosllanerchrugog, near  Wrexham.

“It’s really a case of word-of-mouth momentum. We’ve really tried to nail down the quality of what we do and work hard perfecting the cocktails.

“A lot of bars provide a great offering when it comes to gin and also cask ales. When it comes to cocktail bars, often they’re stuck in the mould of what’s available already. What makes us different and professional is the fact we’ve moved towards customised cocktails.”

Although cocktails are the mainstay of their business, the bar carries a wide gin offering as well as plenty of other spirits including rums, whiskey and vodkas. However, the duo’s own Angel Delight Margarita and Raspberry Ripple Daiquiri cocktails have been so popular, they’ve now branched into product development with the launch of six tinned cocktails which will be available at events and local bars, restaurants, hotels and pubs in the near future.

“We’ve worked very hard to formulate these into bar standard cocktails,” said Gruff.

“We’ve not skipped on the alcohol content. When you’re buying from a supermarket, ready-made cocktails are all around 5% alcohol volume. Ours are around 14%.

“We’re now looking to push them out further in bars, hotels, restaurants and hotel chains locally and develop the branding.

“It’s all about the quality.”

Categories
Meat, Game & Poultry

Trout farm with “007” fame unveils tasty new treat at Llangollen

A trout farm and smokehouse whose delicacies once tickled the taste buds of James Bond has lined up a legendary new treat for visitors to a top food festival.

Chirk Trout Farm Shop and Smokery, which has supplied smoked trout to the Orient Express among other prestigious establishments, will be unveiling its luxurious new smoked pancetta at the 2019 Llangollen FoodFestival.

It will be the latest in a growing list of delicacies to have won the hearts of food lovers near and far – including iconic silver screen star Sir Roger Moore.

The late Bond actor, who became an international star after playing the secret agent a record-breaking seven times, once described Chirk Farm’s smoked trout as “the best he’d ever tasted” while tucking into lunch at a local restaurant.

Now the family-run farm is planning on inspiring a new legion of foodies at one of UK’s best-loved culinary extravaganzas.

The event, which has been named as one of the Top 10 food festivals in the UK, will be held at the international pavilion at Llangollen on Saturday and Sunday, October 19 and 20.

“It’s great to be returning to one of the loveliest food events in the country with a new product,” said former veterinary nurse Rachael  Simpson, 40, who joined the firm run by the Simpson family after marrying her husband Richard, 44, who manages the smokery and trout farm. 

“The smoked pancetta came about after an enquiry at a farmer’s market. The customer produced game pies and her supplier had stopped selling it. It’s not something we’ve done before but there was no reason why we couldn’t so we thought we’d give it a try.

“We probably started experimenting at the end of last year. Obviously, it takes a while to cure and turn the meat into smoked pancetta. It has to hang for six weeks in muslin cloth and we smoke it lightly to give it that extra flavour.

“Since the food testing results came back we’ve trialled it at some of our establishments and it really seems to have taken off. We’re looking forward to bringing it to Llangollen.”

One of the longest-established trout farms in Wales, if not the whole of the UK, Chirk Trout Farm supplies a growing list of high-end restaurants, hotels and delicatessens. One of the restaurants it supplied, the award-winning Sebastians in Oswestry, has provided catering for the Orient Express and Chirk Farm’s smoked trout featured on the menu.

The firm uses traditional methods to smoke a variety of fish including trout, cod, eel and mackerel as well as poultry and game, garlic and even quail’s eggs. Smoked camembert cheese is another new product in the pipeline.

Unlike artificial methods using smoked flavouring, Chirk Trout Farm carefully prepares its meat and fish with seasoning before placing it in a smokebox over a fire fed by mainly oak chips from the valley in Glyn Ceiriog.

The warm, smoky air gently dries and preserves the food during a 24-48 hour process, with the exact time and results dependent on wind, temperature and sunshine.  

One of its most successful contracts is with the Shropshire Cheese Company smoking its award-winning, creamy Abermwg cheese.

Its reputation for quality has grown rapidly and the farm now counts Gales of Llangollen, The Three Eagles in Llangollen, The Swan Inn at Pontfadog, The West Arms at Llanarmon and The Hand hotel in Llanarmon among its customers.

It was in 2003, while on tour and dining in The Hand hotel at Llanarmon, Sir Roger Moore discovered the region’s best-kept secret – Chirk’s smoked trout.

Such was his delight that he told staff it was the “best he had ever tasted”.

“There are not many people who don’t know who Sir Roger Moore is,” said Rachael, who has two daughters aged 12 and 14.

“The fact that 007 has actually tasted our food – and loved it – is really nice. It’s something we can always be proud of.”

The farm was bought by the Simpson family in 2000, originally for the purpose of trout farming. Two years later, a farm shop was built followed by the smokery the following year, which enabled the firm to develop a range of smoked products including trout, for sale in the shop and beyond.

“Fish farming is seasonal and trout farming in particular runs from March through until October,” said Rachael.

“We needed something to sustain us through the winter so we started the smokery and farm shop and started going along to all the food festivals and farmers’ markets.

“We’ve been coming to Llangollen for at least 12 to 13 years, if not longer. It’s an important part of the calendar and always helps to promote the farm shop. It’s a really good food festival.

“Business is always growing. We’ve picked up quite a few contracts from Llangollen. It’s all word of mouth.”

Over the years, the firm’s repertoire has expanded to include homemade meals including smoked salmon lasagne, fish pie, smoked salmon and trout quiche and the famous Chirk Trout Farm smoked trout sausages, which stock the shelves of the farm shop as well as being sold at food outlets across North Wales.

The farm has chosen Hamper Llangollen as a springboard for its new smoked pancetta and is eager to see the response.

“At the moment, because it’s a new product, we’re not sure how much to do, it’s still in its infancy,” said Rachael.

“The restaurants love it so it’s just gauging how much we actually need but it is a great product.

“Like all our products, it is freshly produced. There are no chemicals, it’s naturally made and you know exactly where it came from.

“The good thing about our pancetta, and all our products, is that they can be frozen. This is particularly helpful at Llangollen where lots of people are buying for Christmas.”

Llangollen Food Festival committee member Phil Davies is looking forward to tasting the new pancetta for the first time.

He said: “The festival is a great launchpad for new products because it is jam-packed with food lovers with discerning palates.

“Our aim is to provide a shop window for our growing army of artisan producers who are becoming an increasingly important part of the local economy.”

Categories
Jams, Chutneys and Preserves

Sicilan cook Marian ditches plastic packaging for new range of meals

A Sicilian cook from is ditching plastic packaging to launch a new range of classic Italian meals contained in reusable pottery dishes.

Marina Midolo, 51, will be unveiling her authentic lasagne made with homemade pasta at Llangollen Food Festival on Saturday and Sunday, October 19 and 20.

She set up her kitchen at her home in Cyffylliog, near Ruthin, with the help of a development grand from Denbighshire County Council.

Initially, Marina concentrated on producing Italian sweets, cakes and savouries which are on sale at delicatessens, community shops and hotels across the region.

Now Marina is looking to expand her product range but wants to ensure there is no plastic packaging or anything else about her products that could harm the environment.

So she and her partner Peter Lamb have come up with the idea of a new reusable pottery dish that can be refilled with new meals or returned and the deposit paid at the time of purchase returned to the customer.

The idea is very much in the development stage but Marina, who grew up watching her mum and grandmother cook in Catania, Sicily, says she will be ready to launch her first pottery dish lasagne meal at this year’s Llangollen Food Festival.    

It will be her second visit to the popular event which has been named as one of the Top 10 food festivals in the UK.

Marina said: “Last year’s festival was fantastic and a real springboard that helped me get my Italian sweets, cakes and food business better known.

“My idea is to launch a new lasagne meal at this year’s festival. The meal will be prepared by me and will be sold uncooked.

“Customers can buy a pot which they then put in an oven at home for around 30 minutes and then eat the lasagne straight from the earthenware pot.

“The dish can then be returned to the point of purchase for the deposit to be refunded or the customer can keep the pot. But the main thing is there is simply no plastic packaging involved.

“We want to take it things back 50 years or more before we began blighting the environment with plastic waste.”

She added: “The biggest problem I face is how to seal the pots as I don’t want to have to cover the pots with a plastic film. However, we have found a food friendly sealant that we can use to seal the lids in place and keep the uncooked food fresh.

“The lasagne will be oven ready and made with my own homemade pasta. It will be a true lasagne made using only the finest herbs and in the traditional Italian way. Let’s just say it won’t be an Anglicised version of an Italian classic!

“Once I’ve tried and tested the lasagne then I’ll look at other dishes, traditional Italian stews and casseroles. Each will be prepared and will just need popping in the oven for 30 minutes.”

And Marina says after several experiments she has now agreed on the shape and design of her pots which will be produced by Anvil Pottery which is based in Llanrhaeadr, near Denbigh.

She said: “It’s even possible the pots could be made from clay from our own farm. We have been digging a new wildlife pond and we are testing the clay to see if it’s suitable.

“The main thing is to ensure we add absolutely no plastic waste into the environment.  The idea will be customer led, if people like the idea and are happy to use and return the pots then it will be fantastic. Of course some may want to keep the pots and use them in their own kitchens.

“Currently, my Italian cakes and sweets are on sale in delicatessens and community shops in Llangollen, Ruthin, Mold, Rhuddlan and Chester.

“I’m sure once I’ve launched the idea at the Llangollen Food Festival then community shops and deli’s will sell the lasagnes around the region. My butcher Stan Jones of Ruthin has agreed to sell my dishes from his shop.

“And we are even thinking of beginning to make our own cheese. We are contemplating having a goat herd and use goat milk to make our own Italian style cheese.

“That could be my next project but I want to launch the non-plastic earthenware pots first at the Llangollen Food Festival and I’m sure the idea will prove popular.

“I’m just so looking forward to exhibiting at the Llangollen Food Festival again. I have been attending a few food festivals but Llangollen is a favourite.

“It’s got a great atmosphere and a fantastic range of products on display. I loved it last year and I’m excited about this year’s event.”

Llangollen Food Festival committee member Phill Davies says the event is the perfect launchpad for Marina’s classic Italian lasagne served in an environmentally friendly pottery dish.

He said: “It’s a brilliant idea and I’m sure visitors to this year’s food festival will support Marina’s plastic free initiative.

“It’s such a simple idea but one that should be taken seriously. We all need to think more about plastic waste and the damage we are doing to the environment and this idea perfectly addresses the waste plastic issue.

“And of course Marina’s customers also get to taste the authentic taste of classic Italy too.”

He added: “This is what the Llangollen Food Festival is all about, new innovative ideas and products and the opportunity to try some amazing dishes and products that our exhibitors bring to Llangollen.”      

For more information about the Llangollen International Food Festival please visit www.llangollenfoodfestival.com