Finding Gold: Join Velvet on a culinary tour of Saffron Walden
At £10 per gram, the exact growing location of the world’s most expensive spice is one of Saffron Walden’s best kept foodie secrets. Velvet writer Riadh Falvo takes a culinary tour of the town
For our tour, local food enthusiast and guide Rachel Hewett of Saffron Walden Tourist Information Centre chose nine stops; tours change weekly depending on availability of the chefs, owners, and seasonal food and drink offerings.
Rachel has two main criteria when organising the tours, starting first and foremost with quality, and the special service offered by the venues front of house team.
She explains: “Uniqueness - many of our venues are independent but it’s more than that, it’s about the customer experience that they offer and their uniqueness from one another. You can have coffee at Jolie Patisserie or Goat & Grass but they offer a very different dining experience and have different specialities in terms of products.”
“Company story/credentials - the venue's links to the local area, either through owners or production, and their passion for their products. This covers both those making products in town like Mini Miss Bread or the more regionally based businesses, like Tiptree and Adnams, but also people like Jack who owns Dead Time, the independent bottle shop – he doesn’t make his products, but he is extremely experienced in the industry, has a pretty unique range of products and is happy to share his knowledge with customers.”
The food tours are for residents as well as visitors, and coming in from nearby Cambridge, I thoroughly enjoyed my time with five locals who were enjoying being tourists in their own town.
First on our tour was Goat & Grass, where we were treated to a fresh carrot, orange, apple, and ginger juice, served with a kale, avocado, and sweet potato rosti. Already off to a flavourful start! Then onto Mini Miss Bread, where the brown butter cakes melted in our mouths like warm caramel. Around the corner is Chaters, home to Vault Aperitivo, where we sipped a delicious dandelion and honey Vermouth made in their own distillery.
At Bella Bella, chef Alex offered us a slice of pizza and a sampling of arancini straight out of the oven. At Saffron Fish Co. I had the perfect pairing of chef Matt Gurnett’s own treacle trout layered generously on a cracker with the perfect amount of samphire.
It was important to Rachel that we were all aware that our sixth stop, Sage & Saffron, was known for more than its fresh produce proudly on display out front. After being presented with several boards of rare, regional British cheeses, we all ventured inside for a little shop.
Jolie Patisserie’s chic presentation of pastries and macarons were reminiscent of the Parisian patisseries in France. Directly next door is Dead Time, specialising in independently made craft beers, where I was as amazed by the label art as I was with the array of flavours! A sweet ending was enjoyed at Hill St. Chocolate - with which I am very familiar, as a chocolatier myself and a big fan!
Saffron Walden Food Tours run every Thursday at 11am for a minimum of two people and can be booked directly by visiting visitsaffronwalden.gov.uk or calling 01799 524002. Places are £55 (discount available if booking for four or more people at the same time).
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