It is the holiday season and the perfect opportunity to sample the best of local food. You have the ready-made excuse of it being the festive time of year, the time when belts widen a notch and novelty jumpers hide a multitude of sins.
So make the most of it before the New Year guilt kicks in (along with the annual gym membership) and dive in, taste buds first, to the Isle of Wight’s food scene.
A true winter warmer …
The Island is a foodie’s paradise with Pinterest and Instagram-worthy dishes wherever you turn. It might be cold outside but it’s still hot in the kitchen and pubs offer the perfect winter warmer, many going all out to showcase the best of our seasonal produce.
Take a bracing walk by the coast or through the countryside, add in a stop at a traditional pub with a roaring fire, a leisurely meal and you have got a recipe for the perfect winter day. Pubs such as The New Inn at Shalfleet serve up the best of local produce, with a whole section dedicated to Island fare on its specials board and is located a short family walk away from the stunning Newton National Nature Reserve. Kids will love spotting the wildlife from egrets wading to red squirrels scurrying and be sure to take your crabbing line – Shalfleet Quay is a well-known spot to catch a few of the little creatures. Breathe in the sea air over at The Buddle Inn, located on the Island’s most southerly point. Couple this with a walk along the Undercliff to St Catherine’s Lighthouse and finish off with a hot toddy next to the fire – bliss.
Farm shops galore …
The Isle of Wight is known for its beautiful countryside and as well as looking lovely the fertile soils grow some of the best fruit and veg that you will taste. Winter is the time for comfort food – think hearty stews, piping hot casseroles and Sunday (or make that any day) roasts. When it comes to vegetables; carrots, leeks, various cabbages and of course, Brussels sprouts are at their best at this time of year. The Island’s farm shops are chockablock and the perfect place to visit to stock up for your self-catering break. Many of our farm shops are run either right on or just next to where the produce is farmed. The staff are knowledgable and can easily tell you how to cook things, what combinations taste good together or even suggest a recipe for you to try. Many have in-house butchers and offer a huge range of winter meats. Local birds such as goose and pheasant sit next to free-range Isle of Wight chickens and turkeys. Succulent sausages come in many flavours, with some of the farm shops, like Briddlesford Lodge Farm and Farmer Jacks, even winning awards for theirs.
Our bountiful seas …
As we are surrounded by the sea (you really can’t miss it), the Isle of Wight does have a soft spot for seafood. Often thought of as a summer dish, the months during autumn and winter are actually a bountiful time when the local fishermen’s catch can include cod, bass, whiting, flounder and dab. Ventnor Haven Fishery is the place to go – phone ahead and ask them to fillet it for you to take home and cook, or even just go to try their legendary crab on chips, sit on the sea wall and watch the waves crash.
The perfect tipple …
It wouldn’t really be the festive season without the mention of booze. As the saying goes, eat, drink and be merry. The Isle of Wight is home to three breweries, two vineyards, two orchards (one apple and one cherry/apricot) and one distillery. Perfect for the winter season, a Rosemary Vineyard mulled wine or a local Sharon Orchard mulled cider go down a treat.
A hot toddy is the drink of choice for many, especially on Boxing Day. This may be due to the locals’ penchant for jumping into the freezing cold sea in the name of charity. An annual event in Ventnor and Gurnard, it is worth a visit, even if just to sit smugly all wrapped up nursing your Irish coffee.
Both vineyards, Rosemary Vineyard and Adgestone Vineyard offer a wide range of wines including the all-important fizz – perfect for parties. Take a tour around and try before you buy. The Isle of Wight Distillery offers some of the finest craft spirits. Well-known for their Wight Mermaids Gin which makes a fine G&T, they are currently in the process of distilling their own single malt whiskey.
With three local breweries on the Island each creating their own version of a festive ale, real ale appreciators are spoilt for choice. Be it Solent Night from Goddards, Wight Christmas from Island Ales or Dark Side of the Wight from Yates Brewery, you are sure to find your perfect match here, or at least have fun trying. So make the most of the food and drink that is on offer on the Island. Eat seasonably, eat local and most definitely, eat lots.
Thanks for reading! I hope you'll try some of the Isle of Wight's amazing local food on offer this winter before that New Year guilt kicks in!
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