Published: 16/07/2017 06:00 - Updated: 16/07/2017 07:25

Ross-shire toasts finalists in Highlands food and drinks awards

Judges for Highlands and Islands Food and Drink Awards in the Kingsmills Hotel. Picture: Gary Anthony. Image No. 038095.
Judges for Highlands and Islands Food and Drink Awards in the Kingsmills Hotel. Picture: Gary Anthony. Image No. 038095.
BUSINESSES and dedicated individuals within Ross-shire’s booming food and drinks sector have again made their mark as finalists in the region’s premier awards showcase.
Breakthrough bakers, hospitable eateries, rising stars and established fish producers are amongst those in line for accolades at the Highlands and Islands Food and Drink Awards 2017.
Thirty-four businesses from across the region have been named finalists in the Highlands and Islands Food and Drink Awards 2017. 
Amongst the local interest for Ross-shire is Muir of Ord’s Bad Girl Bakery, included in the New Business category. It was a regional winner in the Scottish Baker of the Year competition where Jeni Hardie’s chocolate raspberry cupcake hit the spot with judges.
It will be up against Elgin-based gin producer, El-gin; Loch Ness Spirits, Dores; Salar Smokehouse; Stacks Coffee House and Bistro in John o’Groats and The Station Hotel, Rothes.
Nicole Fraser of The Storehouse, near Evanton, is a finalist in the Rising Star section. She faces competition from Sean Hannah, The Lovat Loch Ness, Fort Augustus; Donald Maclachlan, Salar Smokehouse and Rosie Ann Strachan, Frankie & Lola’s, Inverness.
The Scottish Salmon Company and Wester Ross Fisheries are both hoping to net the Innovation Award, sponsored by Highlands and Islands Enterprise.
The Applecross Inn makes it to another award list with its inclusion in the Best Eatery section. It’s up against Frankie & Lola’s; the Mountain Cafe, Aviemore and The Pier, Lairg.
Food critic, journalist and broadcaster, Jay Rayner, will announce the winners at an awards ceremony on Friday, October 20.
Celebrating quality, innovation and growth in one of Scotland’s most prosperous industries, the awards offered 13 categories for entry – from Restaurant of the Year, sponsored by MacGregor Industrial Supplies, to Young Shining Star, sponsored by Brook Street, to Innovation Award, sponsored by Highlands & Islands Enterprise – which showcases the diversity of the sector.
The coveted Highlands and Islands Ambassador of the Year title, a nomination only category, will be awarded on the evening to the person recognised for their outstanding contribution and commitment to the region’s food and drink industry.  
The awards, now in their 13th year, are delivered with support from HIE. Elaine Jamieson, head of food and drink at HIE said: “Our judging panel had both an enjoyable and challenging day selecting the finalist in some very closely contested categories.
"The food and drink sector in the Highlands and Islands is not only characterised by traditional and innovative high quality products, but also by businesses with an outstanding commitment to customers, staff, the region and the environment.   
“It is a sector we can all take great pride in being involved in, and we look forward to an evening of showcasing, celebrating and meeting friends old and new at the awards on October 20.”
Judging for the awards took place last week at the Kingsmill Hotel. Entries were reviewed and tasted by an expert panel of key industry figures including Katie Sillars from Bidfood Scotland, Jean Louis Turpin from Scotland Food and Drink, Shirley Firth from Booker and Willie Cameron the reigning Ambassador of the Year 2016, from Cobbs Group. 
Jay Rayner, host of the awards said: “The Highlands and Islands are one of Scotland’s greatest larders, producing some of the best meat, seafood and vegetables, alongside a world-beating distilling tradition. I am therefore delighted and honoured to have been invited to help celebrate the very best of that by presenting the prestigious Highlands and Islands Food and Drink Awards.”
The Awards Dinner and Ceremony will take place at the four-star Kingsmill Hotel, Inverness on October 20. Tickets cost £75 (+VAT) and can be booked through http://www.hifoodanddrinkawards.com/book-tickets/ 
Full details of all the awards and finalists can be found at www.hifoodanddrinkawards.com.
The official shortlist is: 
Best Drink Award (sponsored by Booker Wholesale) 
Gordon Castle Walled Garden, Fochabers – Botanical Gin, Plum Gin Liqueur, Raspberry Gin Liqueur 
Isle of Harris Distillers – Isle of Harris Gin 
Orkney Distilling – Kirkjuvagr Orkney Gin 
Shetland Distillery Company – Shetland Reel Ocean Scent gin 
The Tomatin Distillery Co – Tomatin 14 Year Old 
Windswept Brewing Co, Lossiemouth – The Wolf of Glen Moray, The Wolf of Glen Moray Port Cask Finish, Bear beers 
Environment Award 
Loch Fyne Oysters 
Macleod Organics, Ardersier 
The Tomatin Distillery Co 
Export Award (sponsored by XPO Logistics) 
Keith Brewery 
Loch Duart Salmon 
Scottish Salmon Company 
Food & Drink Business Growth Award (sponsored by Johnston Carmichael) 
Dunnet Bay Distillers 
Cairngorm Brewery 
Spey Valley Brewery 
Healthier Food & Drink Award (NHS Health Scotland) 
Fishbox, Inverness – Fishbox subscription box 
Macleod Organics – organic juicing box 
Salar Smokehouse, South Uist – flaky smoked salmon 
Independent Retailer Of The Year 
All The Goodness, Ardelve, Kyle 
Brodie Countryfare 
Corner on the Square, Beauly 
Logie Whisky, Logie Steading 
Macleod Organics 
Tobermory Fish Company 
Innovation Award (sponsored by Highlands & Islands Enterprise) 
Scottish Salmon Company 
Wester Ross Fisheries 
New Business Award 
 Bad Girl Bakery, Muir of Ord 
El-gin, Elgin 
Loch Ness Spirits, Dores 
Salar Smokehouse 
Stacks Coffee House and Bistro, John O’Groats 
The Station Hotel, Rothes 
New Product Award (sponsored by Scotland Food & Drink) 
Isle of Harris Distillers – Isle of Harris Gin 
Loch Ness Spirits – Loch Ness Gin 
Macleans Highland Bakery, Fochabers – boxed oatcakes 
NessGro Limited, Dalcross – speciality and organic root vegetables 
Scottish Salmon Company – native Hebridean salmon 
The Tomatin Distillery Co – Five Virtues series: Wood, Fire and Earth 
Young Shining Star (sponsored by Brook Street) 
Nicole Fraser, The Storehouse, Foulis Ferry, Evanton 
Sean Hannah, The Lovat Loch Ness, Fort Augustus 
Donald Maclachlan, Salar Smokehouse 
Rosie Ann Strachan, Frankie & Lola’s, Inverness 
Best Eatery (sponsored by Bidfood) 
Applecross Inn 
Frankie & Lola’s 
Mountain Cafe, Aviemore 
The Pier, Lairg 
Restaurant of the Year (sponsored by MacGregor Industrial Supplies) 
Loch Fyne Oysters 
Ninth Wave Restaurant, Mull 
The Station Hotel, Rothes 
The Whitehouse Restaurant, Lochaline 
Ambassador of the Year (sponsored by Caledonian Sleeper) – Announced on the night. 
Excellence Award (sponsored by Gordon & MacPhail) – Announced on the night. 
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