Archive for July, 2012

Absolute Treats, St Clears, Are Just That – An Absolute Treat

16 Jul

On Saturday I was travelling back home and decided to go via St Clears, Carmarthenshire and call in on the family run business, Absolute Treats Coffee Shop & Boutique Bakery. I had heard how good this establishment was, but hadn’t got there myself, until now!!!

Ian and I got a lovely welcome, but please don’t think that was a special welcome for us, it wasn’t, as we had to introduce ourselves and people following us in got the same warm welcome we did – what a good start. The food menu was excellent with lots to choose from including: homemade soups, Welsh rarebit, pate, salads, pittas, bagels, baguettes, pancakes, handmade quiche, afternoon tea, children’s tea,  ice-creams and of course cakes. There’s no doubt about it you will literally be spoilt for choice from their menu. All produce is sourced direct from local suppliers, electing for Fair Trade and organic wherever possible. If you have special dietary needs, whether it is gluten free, diabetic, vegan, vegetarian or dairy free, they’ll have something there to tickle your taste buds.

But if like me you have trouble resisting cakes, then be warned, when you enter Absolute Treats, the choice they have to offer is mouth-wateringly moreish. They have so many cakes to choose from including a lovely Welsh cake cream tea. The team were Winners of the UK National Cupcakes Championships in 2011 and helped judge this year’s entrants. Knowing everything there is to know about cupcakes cupcakes, they always have a wonderful selection of cupcakes to tempt you with, the only problem is picking just one, ot two……. Taking a selection home was my  way around it, and I put it down as my weekend treat!

If you have a birthday, anniversary, christening, wedding or another celebration in the offing, then don’t stress about it, just talk to these guys, place your order and cross that job off your list.

Hot Off The Press:

The very latest news is that Absolute Treats are being featured on the BBC’s The One Show, not sure when it will be aired sorry but you’ll just have to keep watching or keep recording it. Matthew Albright is in St Clears this week with the film crew as everyone puts Matthew is being put under pressure to make 12 cupcakes. What  I didn’t realise is that all the 12 cupcakes have to look the same, which is really difficult for those of us that aren’t that skilful, hope that doesn’t include Matthew!!

Virginia and her talented team are busy making an enormous variety of cupcakes, because whilst filming, the viewers will want to see the huge variety that can be made and of course learn all about the art of cupcake making. If you have a weakness for cupcakes, then I have some very exciting news for you. There will be a ‘One Day Only Cup Cake Sale this Thursday. Miss it at your peril, because this sale will NOT be happening again…….

Absolute Treats is really worth a visit if you are in the area. The shop is open Tuesday – Saturday so please drop in if you are in the area and enjoy as we did.


Cardiff International Food Festival Suffers In Poor Weather

13 Jul

Now just where do I start? Shall I just list the usual of lack of signage for the event? One producer said there were no signs until the Exhibitors car park, that there was little or no street entertainment around the Farmers’ Market, no-one doing teas and coffees, oh come on guys, this is simply basic stuff. Or does your ‘work stop’ when the producers have paid their fees. I believe about twelve producers pulled out after listening to the weather forecast which meant the Farmers’ Market was very depleted. High winds, huge downpours, no sandbags available made trading on Friday and Saturday depressing to say the least. If traders are cold and they can’t get a drink then the organisers have failed in their duty. The market stalls, cost around £248 for the three days, hardly cheap and this is just the start for producers to outlay, even if you ignore their time, fuel costs would have been high for many  – what a huge shame.

I’m aware that quite a few of our Best Of Welsh producers were trading there – well at least those that were allowed in this year – but I hope they had a better time on the Sunday when the weather was much better and people at last about and shopping. However you can’t do three days trade in a single day so another bad festival for most traders.

The organisers can’t be blamed for the weather or producers pulling out, but it didn’t seem they helped out as the weather worsened either. What PR & Marketing was done by them? I went onto their website but there was not even a list of food producers. I am sick and tired of festivals getting Wag funding, in Cardiff’s case it was £25,608.85 and the producer’s are getting very little, even basic support from them. If Cardiff are not capable of managing some PR & Marketing, my view would be no funding required…………………….

If Wag don’t believe this is their remit, I suggest they have a re-think rather than throwing away precious public money that is failing to help our producers.



Pembrokeshire County Council Not Consistent With Support Of Local Businesses

13 Jul

Had an interesting telephone call into us which I thought you’d find of interest. On 28th July, Narberth, Pembrokeshire are again holding a Carnival & Civic Week which is organised by the Civic Society. I must confess to having a soft spot for Narbeth and often use it as an example to others of a small town that has made huge efforts to improve its High Street. For some years now Narbeth has been able to boast of a real variety of individual quality shops, some good eating places and coffee shops. One black mark is a recent rush of planning applications for even more coffee shops that the council has allowed. Can’t understand this as Narbeth can’t attract huge masses of visitors because there isn’t massive parking for them – personally I’m not happy that their free car park is now a pay and display – but too many coffee shops dilute the trade for those that are already having to work very hard to make a living. Can’t councils ask themselves, ‘does the town really need this’ or is it more important to the council that we don’t have an empty shops?

Sorry, I got distracted, so back to it. I congratulate Narbeth for their Carnival & Civic Week, what a great idea, local businesses getting together to help promote their town. They are not asking the council for help, just using their own initiative to boost Narbeth. Of course Narbeth has not escaped the recession, there were empty shops on my last visit, but give them credit for doing something to change things. They are trying to promote their town and add to the atmosphere of the town – well done guys.

Traditionally traders, for the few hours of the carnival itself, have spilled out onto the pavement, to show not only their support for the event, but of course to help promote themselves. Running a business myself, I can’t see what’s wrong with that and admire their efforts and enterprise.

Narberth has for a long time been a hive of small independent businesses offering a huge choice of shopping and refreshment and has been held by many as an example to follow. Indeed the chair of the Welsh Sustainability Committee visited earlier this spring and holds Narberth as an example of how a town should work. As you can see by my lead-in to this post, I totally agree.

However, Pembrokeshire County Council (PCC) in their infinite wisdom, has decided that if the traders spill out onto the pavement, they need to have a Street Traders License. Now of course this has a cost implication £15.90 for each business, plus of course the bureaucratic, compulsory form filling, along with the fact that the license has to be applied for 14 days (I assume working days), before the event.

Earlier in the year, Mary Portas was commissioned by the UK Government to report and make her suggestions for improving High Streets. She referred to Street Trading becoming easier for communities and business rates being set at sensible levels to revive the High Streets, yet 8 months on, this does not appear to be the case. It’s not just Pembrokeshire County Council that appears to revel in bureaucracy, reports into me show that most of our 22 councils do just that, but that does make it acceptable in my book.

So my question posed to PCC was:

What is Pembrokeshire County Council’s policy to local events that promote not only the town or village, but also the businesses within it?

This question assumes that the event conforms to the prerequisite notification to both the local authority and police etc and has full consent from all necessary authorities.

Their official response was:

We do not have a fixed approach on this issue. We support events on a case by case basis.

Well Narbeth, I’m not sure what you’ll make of that unhelpful, unsupportive response from people who are assured of their monthly salary in the bank each month. After all these years, it’s the typical response that we get time after time and simply fails to provide a true answer. However, what is does do is confirm what many businesses have already felt, that PCC do not have a consistent support for all businesses across the county.

I’ll not name this person, but I was asked recently – “Kath, why are you always picking on Pembrokeshire?”  Well actually I don’t feel I am ‘picking’ on PCC; I’m simply putting up stories or complaints that have been brought to me by unhappy people. I’ve no idea why I get more on PCC than many other counties. But let’s get back to basics; I wouldn’t have any stories to report on PCC if people were happy with the job you as a council are doing. The reality is that people in Pembrokeshire aren’t. I suggested that PCC put their own comments up, but this suggestion didn’t go down to well as the person didn’t wish to get into an argument. Well that’s their choice, comments are not restricted unless rude or abusive, however I don’t see welshfoodbites as a source of arguments – it’s just points of view. It’s a means of getting issues out into the open, airing them and with a little bit of luck and co-operation – get them solved.

We have contacted PCC and have their response, which doesn’t solve the problem for Narbeth does it? But you still have that opportunity PCC, give them some leeway for a day. Or maybe you’d like Narbeth traders simply to give up trading altogether instead of trying to help themselves.

Maybe PCC is not concerned about losing more business rates. The people and businesses in Narbeth have always been supportive of Welsh Country magazine and welshfoodbites  so don’t expect to accept this Pembrokeshire red tape………


You have nothing to fear by leaving your comments. I and many others too, enjoy reading them, even if you disagree with me – that’s still allowed! You can be certain your details will only be known to me and that’s where they’ll stay – you have my word. You don’t even have to put your name, a pen name or nickname will suffice, we do have a large number of traders signed in – but that’s fine, it’s the content that matters, what you’re happy with, what you are cross about, what in your view needs changing, etc.



Welsh Food Summit

12 Jul

Follows in full is a press release just received from the Welsh Government:

The Welsh Food Summit was opened by The Prince of Wales at the National Botanic Garden of Wales today. Deputy Minister for Agriculture, Food and Fisheries, Alun Davies, hosted the event on behalf of the Welsh Government, which brought together the Welsh food industry to give their views.

Outcomes from the day will inform decisions on priorities for Government actions and support for the food sector in Wales.

Speakers and groups discussed the way forward for the Welsh food sector and covered a variety of issues facing the supply chain at present. These included strengthening the market and widening exports, making the most of food tourism and using innovation and new technology.

The Deputy Minister said: “The Welsh Government is committed to delivering a thriving economy and sustainable employment, and the food and drink industry in Wales plays a vital part in this. I am confident there is a long term viable future but also aware that there are challenges to be faced. Now is the time for us to capture our ambitions and formulate a plan that will clearly identify the way forward for the sector. We are all proud of the food on offer in Wales, it is very much a part of our unique culture and rich heritage and our industry is among the most efficient in Europe. Let’s be ambitious for our industry, let’s encourage Welsh people to eat and enjoy Welsh produce and let’s encourage others to enjoy it too.“

Director at the National Botanic Garden of Wales, Dr Rosie Plummer said: “Growing plants is vital to the food industry. The National Botanic Garden of Wales takes an active role in stimulating and encouraging people’s engagement with this. It also takes a pride in sourcing and serving  local food and frequently provides a showcase for local produce at its events. With its exciting new programme, Growing the Future, it will be developing food growing skills right across Wales.”

Carmarthenshire County Council Leader Cllr Kevin Madge said: “This summit is a very positive development for Carmarthenshire and West Wales which is renowned as a food producing region. It was important to have a chance for the voice of the food
producers and processors to be heard and to discuss what help and support is needed by an industry which is an integral part of the local economy.”

The summit has been developed in partnership with Peter Davies, Commissioner for Sustainable Futures, who chaired the meeting, and the National Botanic Garden of Wales.

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A Weekly Food Market In Aberaeron?

09 Jul

Thank goodness for our Best Of Welsh & Borders producers for keeping me in the loop yesterday, Sunday at the fish festival. I was asked if I was attending the market next week and of course, yet again I had to ask – what market?

Apparently Ceredigion County Council, in its wisdom, is going to start running a market during the tourist season, but seemingly don’t wish to tell the press or the public as there was no publicity that I saw at the festival. Even though a further rumour reached me that a Royal guest would be in attendance.

Well done Ceredigion Council – another own goal?

I know that you have a Press Office, because I get press releases through, but it appears on this occasion no-one wishes to tell the press about this happening. How very unprofessional of you and unfair for those producers, many of them your council taxpayers, who would love lots of people there to sell too and help them make a living!!!!!!!!!


Welsh Food Festival Funding – Follows Are The Losers

09 Jul

Following even more Freedom Of Information questions I was interested to know which festivals had asked Wag, but not been given. Sure this will be of interest to you my reference is 6011.

Food and Drink Festivals who were unsuccessful in securing Welsh Government funding:

Portmeirion Food Festival                       £8,102.00

CarmarthenChristmas Food Fest         £10,000.00

Chapter Festive Fair                                  £3,000.00

Get Welsh in Swansea                               £9,994.00

Llanelli Food Festival                              £14,994.00

Bedwellty Christmas Food Fair            £12,950.00

SwanseaFirst                                        Not Specified

Broneirion Easter  Festival                    £2,000.00

Real Food Fete                                         £3,500.00

The Big Welsh Bite                                 £39,711.20

The Welsh Menu                                  £70,000.00

Haverfordwest,Beer, Cider & LP          £4,764.16

Brecon Beacons Summer Fayre            £4,000.00

Crymych Food Festival                           £5,000.00

Gwyl Fwyd Blas Tywi                              £7,500.00

The Great British Cheese Festival     £20,000.00

Gower Festival of Food                          £4,500.00

Fishguard Autumn Fair                         £5,000.00

International Sheepdog Trials           £20,000.00








Seafood Festival At Aberaeron

09 Jul

Held on Sunday down by the Harbour which is a perfect setting in many respects for a fishy festival but as I said last year the popularity of this event has now beaten the setting. It was busy, busy, busy, and difficult to get close to many stands let alone understand what they were trying to sell. But I know I’m again wasting my time commenting on that because it’s basically run by The Harbourmaster and obviously this shop-window is very convenient  for them and certainly good for their trade.

Anyway the organisers must be congratulating themselves that they were one of the favoured festivals to ask Wag for £9,500 and get just that!!!

The chefs had a busy time and it was lovely for me to be able to catch up with our Chef in Welsh Country, the irascible Mary Ann Gilchrist and the delightful Gareth Johns from The Wynnstay in Machynlleth. You rarely see much of Mary Ann and Gareth on
the food circuit, unlike Steve Terry and Dudley who seem to be everywhere. It is quite a few years ago since I was invited to assist ‘judge’ Steve at the Great British Menu, but I’m pleased with his ongoing success. But Mary Ann and Gareth are superb chefs and two of my favourites, now pleased don’t moan, I’m allowed some favourites…………I was sad to learn this was Mary Ann’s last visit here as she feels it’s time to move out and let a younger chef in, but can understand. I think there were about ten chefs in attendance and they did a wonderful and varied selection of fishy food. It was a superb opportunity for visitors and locals alike to taste food cooked by some ofWales’ top chefs.

I did a rough count of tradestands and got to 42 food stands, 17 of them doing hot food, a couple of mobile vans, and about 7 craft/charity stands. There was a mobile fish van and then the only other was the super Gill’s Plaice from Gwynedd and what great range of fish they had and pleased to report they seemed very busy too. You’ll also ‘catch’ them at Aber. farmer’s market too. Bearing in mind this even always clashes with Cardiff it did well to have some brilliant traders there. A few sold out and were cross
with themselves for thinking they wouldn’t be too busy!!! But not easy with such a poor season so far and of you have fresh produce a real gamble for them and so often they come unstuck. It was also good to see so many of our Best Of Welsh & Borders producers in attendance and hope they came back home after selling well and with plenty of cash in their tills.

On the plus side, many traders said how they enjoy this festival, many like it in the street, there was a good atmosphere and although it was at times chilly, the rain stayed away!! I was surprised to see Mr Miller there, of Miller Research. He appeared to be very busy with his camera, but no-one I spoke to seemed to know what he was doing there.  Do you think he’s got another Wag job???

I am, well it seems as usual really, after visiting so many festivals over the last few years, cross once more, when the first sign I saw was when I approached the council offices, maybe half a mile out of town. I’d gone onto the web to find which traders were attending but couldn’t find a list of traders. That’s pathetic. Surely this is basic stuff. Then, when I’d walked down the entire run of nearly fifty food stands, I found a table with a few leaflets on it and too my amazement that is where I found a programme. I’m not sure how many people did ‘do’ the festival that way around, but I was not impressed with that.

I did hear complaints from visitors, about too many people so they couldn’t see the stands, too many buggies, wheelchairs, dogs and kids, but those streets are narrow and it’s always like this and, as I said at the beginning, I guess it always will be. Actually I didn’t think there were as many people there as normal, for me it wasn’t quite as crowded, but those there seemed to be spending and that is just what was needed. Two hundred people spending is better than two thousand just browsing. One of my regular concerns is that there are few places to sit down and eat the lovely food the chefs had prepared – people had to stand and eat, not an ieal way to do justice to such good food in my view. Ok if you’re fit adults, ut difficult if you have kids or elderly people with you or worst still oth!!!!!

Following on from a recent post about Milford Haven and the Fish Week food festival which had nowhere near the prerequisite 80% of food stands required by Wag in their criteria for obtaining  funding – not so here. Although at Aberaeron it is wonderful that they have so many chefs, hotels and restaurants preparing food which really does make this event –  but these stands are not food producers either primary or secondary. So my question is  whether Aberaeron falls foul of not complying with the minimum number of food stands required by Wag.

It is vital that Wag support food festivals, but I’ve constantly  queried which ones Wag support and by how much, often allowing those favoured with funding to  ignore the basics. Wag’s festival funding playing field is about as level asSnowdon……..

The National Assembly in their Code Of Conduct For Assembly Members say:

(b) to provide the openness and accountability necessary to reinforce public confidence in the way in which Members of the National Assembly perform their Assembly and public duties.

It is now way past the time that this should also apply to The Welsh Governments’ Civil Servants and their departments too.

Well sorry guys, apology, it appears there already is one! To see the full code follow the link below but I extract just
one clause:

the duty to give Parliament or the Assembly and the public as full information as possible about their policies, decisions and actions, and not to deceive or knowingly mislead them;