I went to Chocolate Unwrapped last week. Still debating whether or not to write about it. You see, although most of the wares were a delight, a few of the vendors were less so.
This isn't just the case with chocolatiers - there seems to be a strange type of snobbery (or maybe complacency) prevalent in certain producers and restaurants where they think customer service is irrelevant if their goods are renowned for being the best (regardless of whether they actually are or not).
This attitude is unwarranted and also rather short-sighted. I couldn't care less if they're selling me rainbows - if people are dismissive, or they act like I should be lucky to taste their food, they can take a running jump - they won't be getting repeat custom from me.
And then, there are those who make up for everyone else. Bray's Cottage of North Norfolk is one of them.
Now, Bray's Cottage are known in food circles as being one of the best pork pie purveyors in Britain.
Their pies have scored Gold Stars at the Great Taste Awards, and have been ranked first in Pork Pie Taste Tests by Market Kitchen, Olive Magazine, and Food and Travel magazine. They've also been featured in both the Times (at least twice) and the Telegraph.
Other notable fans include Giles Coren who was particularly taken by the pies ("quite the most extraordinary pie I had ever known ... the perfect pork pie") and ... David Tennant *swoon*.
So yes, Bray's Cottage have an amazing reputation for their pork pies, but despite countless accolades, they do not rest on their laurels and, instead, they've built an equally stellar reputation as being one of the friendliest producers around.
The lady behind Bray's Cottage is Sarah Pettegree - every morning, she makes the pies herself with an assistant or two, and she goes out in a tiny van dubbed the Pie-aggio to supply pies to stockists and to sell them herself at various farmers' markets, events and fairs in Norfolk (she's at Real Halloween run by the Fairyland Trust* at Holt Hall this weekend), as well as further afield (she's at the BBC Good Food Show in Birmingham next month).
But Sarah also takes the time to interact with people both online and offline - as I said at the start, she's well-known as one of the nicest folk around, answering queries and giving advice to customers, as well as providing support to others in the food community, be they fellow producers, chefs or simply food lovers.
This is the point of my mini-rant at the beginning - "nice" is sorely underrated. Rather than relying on the strength of her wares as many others do, Sarah gets out there and gives back.
I mean, she's made me want to visit Norfolk, see her in action, and even become one of her pop-up pie assistants (PUPS), and I'm (a) incredibly lazy, (b) still not entirely convinced that Norfolk exists.
The pies - oh the pies.
The first thing you need to know about Bray's Cottage Pork Pies is that just a visual representation is enough to send grown men into raptures.
(See further Will Carling and Chris Evans).
When you bite into the gorgeous, biscuity, perfectly short pastry, it gives way to luscious, juicy, meaty pork, with just the right amount of delicate spice, and a golden vein of irresistible, caramelly onion marmalade.
I'm drooling as I write this with only an inadequate packet of cheese and onion crisps to keep me company.
The third thing you need to know about Bray's Cottage Pork Pies is that they make wedding pies. WEDDING PIES. It's the first time I've ever considered renewing my vows.
So there you have it - Bray's Cottage.
Bray's Cottage Pork Pies
(online orders available)
*The Fairyland Trust aims to engage children, families and others in conservation, by appreciating the magic of nature. It uses myths, legends, folklore and magical traditions to introduce ecology and natural history. It's also responsible for the rocking "I'm Cooking for Trolls" apron I'm wearing here.
And about Sarah who is lovely, generous, warm AND the purveyor of bloody fine pies.
Sarah, thank you so much for bringing pie party bags for my birthday bash - so very very lovely!
MiMi/Kavey: Care to spill the (chocolate) beans on the offending vendors?
PS - still dreaming of living at BBR's
@Kavey - High Five!
@Nordic Nibbler - Unicorns!
Nope, not naming any names.
@Brayscottage - But you're nice to everyone :) xxx
Agree with you about certain vendors. I went to Chocolate Unwrapped too. Seemed to me that if you didn't have a press pass dangling around your neck, you couldn't get a look in. The public matter, after all they're the ones most likely to be spending their hard earned money – like me.
Pickled onion topping sounds fab - did you vote in my Pickle Poll? :)
@Nora - What better reason to get married? Yes, pie pilgrimage is a must!
At the time though I had no idea about her pies and pork pies had never been particularly high on my good food list, although I had heard such good things which did make me curious.
Finally getting to try one at Kavey's birthday was a revelation. If all pork pies tasted that good I would be in real trouble. Who knew that the pies would be as lovely as the producer?
A lovely post about a lovely person and her lovely pies from another equally lovely person. How lovely ^_^
I'll take a pork pie over any amount of chocolate in the world any day!
Where is the pork pie when you want one?
@Lady SG - Me too - pie over chocolate any day!
But yes, I agree with you on the haughtyness of some producers. The mighty can fall, if they don't keep up with, and look after, the people who made them mighty in the first place.