Many of Devon's leading producers, hospitality venues and retailers came together on Monday 8 October to celebrate the very best Devon has to offer at the annual Food and Drink Devon Awards 2012.
Held at The Best Western Tiverton Hotel, Tiverton, the awards ceremony was the culmination of an extensive judging process which saw 74 companies enter and 192 products blind tested in the quest to find Devon's best.
The evening's awards, which were compered by David Fitzgerald, began with the Devon Producer Awards, sponsored by The Venus Company. As part of the judging process, 13 companies were named as Gold Award winners in the Devon Producer Awards including Luscombe Drinks, Riverford Farm Foods and West Country Kitchen.
After a thorough testing process, the title of Best Producer went to Eversfield Organic, who also achieved two Gold Awards for their Organic Dry-Cure Back Bacon and Organic Rib-Eye Steak and were eventually crowned Winner of Winners.
Eversfield Organic is a family-run business that has been delivering the finest organic meat to households throughout the UK for 10 years and has become a trusted name for the highest quality organic meat. Overlooking the Dartmoor National Park in North Devon, Eversfield Organic credits the Devon countryside for being the ideal location to rear its organic livestock.
Their pedigree herd of organic Aberdeen Angus cattle is made up of some of the last remaining 'native' cows left in the world. Their breeding program, with the support of the Rare Breeds Society, allows them to deliver the best marbled organic beef with the finest taste and texture. Their organic pork is derived from their rare breed Large Black sows and Large White boar, producing the finest organic bacon, roasting joints and cuts.
The judges found their dry-cure bacon to be 'sweet, with a strong pork flavour' and that they 'couldn't help but eat it all'. Eversfield's rib-eye steak was described as 'an excellent steak, with fantastic flavour and a sweet and slightly smoked aroma'.
During the judging process a new award category was created to recognise some of the fantastic examples of packaging used by Devon producers, with Figgy's Pudding winning the Best Packaging Award for its Christmas pudding.
Based in Exeter, husband and wife Richie and Jo Evans started making Christmas puddings at home, giving extras away to friends as presents. Then, after such glowing feedback, extensive research and a lot of pudding tasting, the duo opened for business in 2007. All of their puddings are made by hand in their small bakery near Exeter.
Following the Producer Awards, the evening's accolades moved onto the Taste of Devon Awards sponsored by Luscombe Drinks. Entered by 23 companies, the awards set out to find Devon's best café; best restaurant, pub or bistro and the best fine dining restaurant.
The first winner in this category was Bel Green, a little café / bistro located on Madgalen Street in Exeter which won the Best Café title after judges described it as 'a great experience with food quality far in excess of the sector norm, with home-made, locally-sourced, wonderful food'.
Next up was Noel Corston @ EX34, Woolacombe who took the title of Best Restaurant, Bistro or Pub with judges describing its food as excellent with special praise reserved for their herb coated fish, which was considered to be perfect in balance and taste.
The Horn of Plenty, a country house hotel and restaurant based in Gulworthy near Tavistock, took home the title of Best Fine Dining Restaurant. With a business spanning over forty years, the restaurant has achieved an excellent reputation for its fine dining. The judges said that the food was 'fantastic and the service welcoming and attentive'.
The third category of the evening was the Devon's Retailers Awards, sponsored by Stephens Scown, which named Hallwood Farm Shop as Best Retailer. Based in Okehampton, the farm shop is run by husband and wife team Richard and Ruth whose philosophy of 'a mini farmers' market every day' secured the award.
The evening's Outstanding Contribution accolade was awarded to Angela @ Angela's Restaurant whose 'outstanding service' set her apart from others. Located in the heart of Exeter, the restaurant is passionate about their food and how it should be experienced. The judges found the service to be 'fabulous' and credited the restaurant for its very good use of Devon products.
Michael Smith, Chairman of Food and Drink Devon, said: "We're delighted to host our first ever independent Food and Drink Devon Awards to celebrate Devon's wonderful produce and have been truly overwhelmed by the standard of entries. Over the course of the past few months, a team of almost 35 judges have blind tasted 192 products and visited 23 hospitality establishments and 13 retailers."
"We wanted there to be real value in our awards for members, regardless of whether they win. Whilst rigorous, our judging had been very honest – both in terms of what is great about our members, and where things can be improved. "
"Devon is blessed with such amazing produce and is renowned for it across the country. Yet as a county, we often fail to appreciate the abundance of great produce available on our doorstep. We hope that these awards, and the work of Food and Drink Devon as a whole, will help to promote all that's great about our local food and drink."
This year's awards were the first time that Food and Drink Devon, a member organisation of around 260 companies, have run their own independent awards. Recognised as a badge of prestige amongst Devon's food industry, Food and Drink Devon has established the annual awards as part of the annual food and drink sector's award season.
Food and Drink Devon represents members of like-minded businesses who are dedicated to providing and supporting locally produced food and drink. Dating back to the 1990s, Food and Drink Devon was created after the merging of the South Hams Food and Drink Association and the South Devon and Dartmoor Food Group in January 2008.
For a full list of this year's winners and more information about Food and Drink Devon, visit www.lovetheflavour.co.uk.