EDP Norfolk Food and Drink Awards finalists are revealed

Welcoming and colourful farm shops, mouth-watering pub menus, passionate bakers and ambitious chefs.

Those are just a few of the experiences of the lucky judges who have travelled up and down the county seeking out the many food heroes cooking in our kitchens, busy in our butchers and manning our markets.

And, as the finalists in this year's EDP Norfolk Food and Drink awards are announced today, it looks like they are going to have a tough time picking the winners.

The event, part of the EDP Bidwells Norfolk Food Festival, is once again set to be a glittering celebration of the top-class, yet so-often overlooked, people and places behind this county's food and drink industry.

Following the launch of the 2011 awards earlier this year, judges have spent the past few weeks visiting dozens of butchers, bakers, farms shops and pubs nominated by EDP and EDP Norfolk Magazine readers.

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Peter Waters, EDP editor, said the job of picking the winners for the awards' nine categories was getting more and more difficult.

He said: 'The quality and calibre of entries to these awards gets higher every year, and that's testament to the hard work and enthusiasm of those who work in our food, drink, farming and hospitality industries.

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'Norfolk is blessed with probably the best seasonal produce in the country and it's always impressive to see the innovative and creative ways our finalists are able to present that produce to consumers at farm shops and farmers' markets or in our excellent restaurants and pubs.'

Returning to host the ceremony and gala dinner at the Holiday Inn Norwich-North on September 5 is BBC Look East presenter, EDP Norfolk Magazine columnist and self-confessed foodie Susie Fowler-Watt.

She will take an audience of special guests through nine categories including baker of the year, best farmers' market and Norfolk's best pub menu.

She said: 'I'm really looking forward to hosting the EDP Norfolk Food awards again this year, as it's always a great evening. We are very lucky to have such a thriving food industry in the county, but the people involved tend to be very modest, so it's wonderful to be able to celebrate their achievements.'

In the running for best farm shop are Back to the Garden, in Letheringsett, near Holt; Green Pastures, of Bergh Apton; and last year's winner Knights Hill Farm Shop, in King's Lynn.

During their visits, judges were impressed with the emphasis on 'seasonality and freshness' at Back to the Garden where garden produce is all grown in neighbouring farmland, and a tasty selection of samples to try before you buy at Knights Hill Farm Shop.

They also recognised efforts to tap into key marketing tools.

Archant judge Gary Attfield said Green Pastures had 'made excellent use of social media to engage and continually inform their followers of seasonal produce, imaginative recipes and monthly food events'.

For the finalists in the butcher of the year contest, it was the variety of produce, innovative ideas and fantastic customer service which caught the eyes of the judges.

Tony Perkins, in Attleborough, M and M Rutland, in Melton Constable, and G F White, in Aylsham, were chosen as the final three.

'Beautiful displays', 'impeccably clean' and 'helpful and knowledgeable staff' were just a few of the comments from Archant judge Ian Clarke.

The winners of the EDP Norfolk Food and Drink Awards, in association with Holiday Inn Norwich-North, will be announced in the EDP on Tuesday September 6.

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