Easingwold makes a name for itself as a popular foodie hub
PUBLISHED: 00:00 13 January 2015 | UPDATED: 21:05 19 April 2016
© Mike Kipling Photography / Alamy
No self-respecting market town is complete without a decent caff; somewhere to sit back with a strong cup of Yorkshire Tea and a scone to nibble while contemplating life, the universe and everything. And Easingwold is no exception - except it doesn't just have the one caff.
When it was separated from what some might cheekily call civilisation by a bypass linking York and Thirsk, this traditional Georgian market town could have been forgiven for letting itself go a little, for loosening its metaphorical corsets and resting on increasingly cobwebby laurels.
But that’s not Easingwold’s style. Instead, it decided to up its game and has since won far-reaching approval as something of a foodie haven.
In recent years, The Independent has deemed the town ‘an essential foodie pit-stop’ and ranked Fine Foods of Yorkshire as one of the top three delicatessens in Britain; TeaHee! cheesemonger and espresso bar has been listed by The Times as one of the best tearooms in England; and the number of food-related businesses has grown exponentially.
A quick stroll round the attractive town square and along what used to be the main road to York and Thirsk, Long Street, paints a vivid picture of success. Empty shops are few and far between and the breadth of what’s on offer is quite startling. There are fashion boutiques, interiors showrooms, toy shops, newsagents and a fair smattering of very appealing pubs.
But it’s when you start clocking up the food outlets – every single one a corker in its own right – that you realise just how well the town is doing. There’s Sugar Mouse, Dooleys, Clarks, Fine Foods of Yorkshire, Jake’s Plaice, Curious Table and TeaHee! (the exclamation mark is unavoidable with a name as joyous as that).
One of the newest foodie kids on the block is Colin Poma-Young, who opened Dough on Long Street with his wife Heidi in May 2013. After successful but ultimately dissatisfying careers in both media marketing and ecological economics, he decided to make the most of his passion for baking.
‘I enjoy the precision of baking and, to be honest, I like showing off my skills,’ he said. ‘In my previous jobs, I’d always taken cakes and buns into work for birthdays or celebrations or just because it was Wednesday. My boss liked my stuff and when he was made redundant and bought a café in Sheffield, he asked me to bake for him. It was then that I realised my passion could also make me money.’
Colin and Heidi started looking for their own premises near their home in York, but couldn’t find what they were looking for. Then one day, out of the blue, they stumbled upon Easingwold – somewhere they’d never visited before – and saw a sign in a shop window saying it was available.
After a swift refit, they opened for business and haven’t looked back since. In fact, they recently opened a second shop in Bootham, York, and are looking for further premises in the county to expand their burgeoning empire.
Dough is a Yorkshire bakery with an Italian twist (Heidi’s family run the successful restaurant Rolando’s of Beverley and make their own brand of gelato). The food on offer includes pizza, pasta, calzone, seriously large cookies, bread and gelato (Poma Gelato, of course), all made from top quality ingredients and handmade on-site.
The Long Street shop fits seamlessly into the already abundant offering in Easingwold, complementing its fellow food outlets instead of offering unnecessary competition.
But what sort of welcome did the Poma-Youngs receive as outsiders entering the retail world of a tightknit town?
‘Everyone was really nice to us from day one,’ said Colin. ‘I think people were won over by our combination of self-confidence and complete naivety.
‘To be honest, it wasn’t until I arrived here that I realised what an interesting foodie destination Easingwold is. You just don’t expect it in such a small, out of the way place.
‘You’d maybe expect one or two little shops, but not the breadth that’s actually on offer. And there are no repeats – we all add something different to the mix.’
Rebecca Rowan is certainly adding something different to the town’s foodie menu with her Edible Easingwold project. Run as part of Kurt’s Club, a small mental health support group that meets twice a week at the Galtres Centre, she’s bringing the community together to grow, cook and eat their own produce.
A few simple posters put up around town attracted 30 people ready to sign up as helpers, with further support coming from Chevin Housing Association, which provided funding for small planters, tools and troughs; Hambleton Foodshare, which provided basic foodstuffs for cooking lessons; The Boot Shop, which offered the use of its greenhouse; and Richard Fenwick, horticultural manager at Autism Plus, who already sells crops to Ampleforth College and agreed to work in partnership with the Easingwold growers.
‘I’ve been quite overwhelmed by the response,’ said Rebecca. ‘It seems people were just waiting for someone to put the wheels in motion on a project like this.
‘Edible Easingwold is partly about food education, but it’s mainly about breaking down barriers and getting rid of the stigma attached to mental health issues. One in four of us will experience mental health issues at some point in our lives, so this isn’t about us and them, it’s just about us. I believe working together as a community is good for everyone.’
It’s still very early days with just a few basic crops sewn in troughs behind the Galtres Centre, but it’s already paying dividends for the members.
‘Some people live in flats or have downsized away from their gardens,’ said Rebecca. ‘Watching them put their hands back in the soil for the first time is a real joy. You can see the pure happiness it gives them.’
If you have any spare seeds, tools or time to share with Edible Easingwold, visit the website at kurtsclub.weebly.com to pledge your support.