8 October 2018

Taste Durham Event at The South Causey Inn

After taking some time off, it had been a while since I'd been to a blogging event. So it was lovely to be invited to Taste Durham's event showcasing local producers at the South Causey Inn near Stanley this week. To be honest I'd never heard of the venue, and ended up being surprised as it's such an amazing place. 

So why was the event taking place? It's Taste Durham Month in October, and we're being encouraged to explore the region and embrace new culinary experiences (like we need to be persuaded). We're spoilt for choice for fantastic restaurants, bakeries, distilleries and breweries and culinary experiences in County Durham, and it's about time we start shouting a bit louder about what we have to offer.

Taste Durham Month
Don't let the cold put you off visiting some great local producers! 
I arrived at the South Causey Inn with some other bloggers, and we were greeted with delicious welcome drinks - Rip Rhubarb Gin (made at South Causey) served with Ginger Ale. The gin was delicious and I loved having ginger ale instead of a traditional tonic. It was great to see local produce showcased in the room and meet the makers. First I spoke to Allison from Teesdale Cheesemakers (yes, I made a beeline for the cheese) and found out more about her award-winning artisan cheese. Alongside her husband Jonathan, she started the business in 2016 making cheeses with milk from a farm that's been in the family for five generations. Needless to say, the quality of the milk is second to none. I couldn't believe that they had only been going for two years, as she was surrounded by awards and certificates (too many to mention here, but Gold in the World and Artisan Cheese Awards and North East Business Woman Of The Year give you some idea). I was lucky enough to try five different cheeses, including Teesdale Blue, Teesdale Goat, Barney Brie (a really unusual, delicious Brie named after nearby Barnard Castle), Teesdale White and an Extra Matured Blue which was my personal favourite. I was also a big fan of the dessert curd (which comes in two flavours - lemon and ginger) which I could have just sat and eaten with a spoon. 

Some of the delicious produce showcased - Dalton Moor Farm preserves, Rip Rhubarb Gin, Sweetheart Bakery breads and the incredible egg custard, Allison with her award-winning Teesdale Cheese
I'd already heard the other bloggers talking about Sweethart Bakery's amazing chutney bread and egg custard before I got to their stand, and they weren't wrong. This award-winning family run coffee shop and bakery is based in Blackhill, Consett specialised in homemade breads and desserts. I can't believe that I hadn't heard of it because lots of my friends live over that way. There's also a bistro serving seasonal fayre and a licensed bar to enjoy if you get to visit. Their egg custard is the best I've ever had - just divine!

Next I headed to Weardale Cheese, and was greeted with more inviting artisan cheeses which are handmade in Weardale. The interesting thing about Weardale Cheese is that it's based in a former P.O.W Camp (Harperley) which makes it pretty unique in my book. Simon told us about the variety of hard, soft and semi-soft cheeses on offer, which are made from milk from local farms. Again I was partial to the Brie and enjoyed the creamy, full-flavoured Brie de Weardale and Bonny Moor Hen, which is smoked over apple wood, giving it its smokey flavour. 

As a vegetarian who would love to go vegan but needs a bit of a push, it was nice to meet Jenny from Dalton Moor Farm, a small holding on a wild moor in East Durham. She told me all about her Vegan 'Hunny' aka rowan syrup, a non-bee honey substitute. It has 30% less sugar than bee honey and is produced by hand in Dalton le Dale in Durham. It was delicious and I would definitely consider switching to it. I also tried the jams (the Strawberry jam is delicious) and made from plants grown on site. In 2013 they planted 200 hundred trees which grow a range of eating, cooking, juicing and cider apples.

South Causey Inn Hotel
The South Causey Inn is a unique venue which guaranteed a memorable trip
After talking to the local producers, we were shown around the Inn where I was increasingly blown away by the quality of accommodation on offer. Hell, you can even stay in a 1960s double decker bus which has been decorated in a vintage style and has its own private hot tub. The first thing that struck me were the hot tubs and jacuzzis in the stylishly decorated hot tub and jacuzzi rooms. There are hot tubs everywhere, which can only be a good thing. These spacious, themed luxury rooms are perfect for celebrating a special occasion - I particularly liked the French Boudoir (perfect for a couple's retreat), the Tree House (with tree centrepiece) and the rustic Old Stable. Groups will love staying in the two story Hot Tub Houses (The Causey Bunkhouse and The Causey Den) - with chill out areas and even a therapy room for spa treatment and beds for up to ten quests. I was also very impressed by the Antique shop which had an eclectic range of curios from around the world. 

The South Causey Inn is also a popular wedding venue. If you're thinking about a traditional country wedding in the North East be sure to book in for a viewing. Surrounded by beautiful flower and herb gardens and an ornamental lake, your wedding photographs are guaranteed to be stunning. With forty-one bedrooms for your guests, everyone can stay on site to create a wonderful group experience.

South Causey Inn Wedding Venue
The stunning wedding reception area 
After our tour, we went back to sample the Afternoon Tea menu, which showcased the produce of featured local businesses.  I loved how it was served on a mini picnic bench! Sandwiches included rare-breed pork sausage (from Broom House Farm) accompanied by Wildon Grange Christopher's Cosmic Carrot Relish, served in Claypath Deli sourdough bread (the vegetarian option included Durham Cheese and Carrot Relish). The cheeseboard featured delicious chunks of White Hylton & Teesdale Goat's Cheese from Teesdale Cheese, and Prince Bishop & Bonny Moor Hen cheese from Weardale Cheese.

South Causey Inn Afternoon Tea
Indoor picnic - the delicious afternoon tea served on a mini picnic bench
I didn't have a lot of room left for sweet treats but I tried my best! I just wish I hadn't devoured so much of the Sweethart Bakery's amazing egg custard but I managed half of their lovely fruit scone with Dalton Moor Farm strawberry jam. I also enjoyed the St Cuthbert's Slice (pastry with a fruit and nut mixture baked on top in homage to the famous saint) from the Undercroft Restaurant at Durham Cathedral. I definitely could have eaten more strawberry and cream fudge from Sweet Sally Cinnamon. This was all washed down with tangy Dalton Moor Farm apple juice, Durham Miner's Blend tea from Tealicious and Lonton Coffee. I was blown away by the quality of the afternoon tea and will definitely be going back to have it again. 

I left feeling very full and extremely impressed firstly with the South Causey Inn, and secondly with the quality of produce available in the County Durham area, and with lots of ideas about Christmas presents to support these local businesses. Make sure you don't miss out on finding out more about their delicious products yourself this Taste Durham Month by visiting their website. It's so important to buy local and support the excellent work and commitment of these passionate local producers.

Please remember to use the hashtags #TasteDurham or #TasteDurhamMonth to share your experiences!

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