Ed­i­tor’s com­ment

Lancashire Life - - Front Page -

Put any strangers to­gether and I guar­an­tee two things: the ini­tial awk­ward silence will be bro­ken by a com­ment on the weather and within a few min­utes they will be talk­ing about food. These are Lan­cas­trian strangers, ob­vi­ously. I’ve not tried, but I doubt it’d work as well in York­shire or Lon­don.

Food, round here at least, breaks down bar­ri­ers, brings peo­ple to­gether and starts con­ver­sa­tions, as on the occasion years ago when we tweeted about a par­tic­u­larly good pie and al­most broke the in­ter­net. The re­sponse was un­prece­dented; we were bom­barded with mes­sages from pie fans, sug­ges­tions for other great pie shops, recipes for pies and more. Since then, I think you’d be proud of the amount of re­search we have done on the sub­ject.

Of course, food con­ver­sa­tions can go wrong. Ven­ture a neg­a­tive opinion about Bake Off in the wrong com­pany and you will be treated as if you have done some­thing un­speak­able to a beloved grand­mother or fam­ily pet. Or both. At the same time. Trust me, I’ve done it so you don’t have to (the un­kind com­ment, ob­vi­ously. Not the grand­mother/ pet hor­ror show. That wasn’t me.)

But men­tion a favourite meal, a fool­proof recipe or a much-loved res­tau­rant and you’ll be met with misty-eyed rem­i­nis­cences of what I have come to think of as Mile­stone Meals. Those oc­ca­sions which leave an in­deli­ble mem­ory – those flavours you can evoke from years ago, the fam­ily and friends you as­so­ciate with cer­tain dishes, the oc­ca­sions marked by spe­cial meals.

Three stand out for me, and only one of them in­volves a pie. In each, I can re­call the peo­ple around the ta­ble – some of them now long gone – the re­laxed buzz of chat and laugh­ter, the sur­round­ings, the decor and of course, the food on the plate. None of these meals would trou­ble the Miche­lin judges (the Health and Safety Ex­ec­u­tive would prob­a­bly be more in­ter­ested in the shop that sold the pie) but they are spe­cial to me all the same.

And I cre­ated more spe­cial food mem­o­ries this sum­mer while tour­ing the re­gion as one of the judges of our pres­ti­gious Food and Drink Awards, which cel­e­brate the best of the re­gion’s hos­pi­tal­ity in­dus­try. In this is­sue we re­veal the short­list.

And there is some se­ri­ously stiff com­pe­ti­tion.

Not that long ago there was much hi­lar­ity in the na­tional me­dia about the fact that Wi­gan had launched a food fes­ti­val.

They snig­gered about pies and mint balls and north­ern food wrapped in pas­try and drowned in gravy. They’re not laugh­ing any­more.

The kitchens in our restau­rants, ho­tels, cafes and pubs now have fear­some rep­u­ta­tions for qual­ity and we have the res­tau­rant that was judged the UK’S best. And our grow­ers, pro­duc­ers and mak­ers have upped their game dra­mat­i­cally in re­cent years too. Of course, there was al­ways qual­ity here – and we’ve been recog­nis­ing and cel­e­brat­ing it for years – but even a decade ago you would have to hunt it out. Now, we are spoiled for choice and our judges had a phe­nom­e­nal task to agree on the short­list. At least now we have done that, they can all go home again. We be­lieve the 29 venues on our list are the finest places to eat and drink in Lan­cashire and the Lake District. But of course, that’s just the start of the con­ver­sa­tion.

“They snig­gered about north­ern food wrapped in pas­try and drowned in gravy. They’re not laugh­ing any more”

It was spe­cial at the time, but it didn’t make our Food and Drink Awards short­list

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