Hotter than July – Foodies Festival in Bristol
It all started with a tweet from Phil “We’re at the Foodies Festival this weekend in Bristol if you’re in the area.” So three days later and two decades after I worked for Lloyds Bank in Bristol at the ‘doughnut’ building I was standing outside it, in brilliant summer sunshine, cramming a bun laden with roast pork, stuffing, apple sauce and crackling into my mouth. It was surprising I felt hungry at all because there were tasting opportunities galore and, having been there from the minute it opened, I’d been taking full advantage. From cheese to fudge, chutneys to hot sauce, fruit cordials to cakes, there was a fantastic array of foodstuffs from over 60 stalls and pop-ups. As I wandered round talking to the stall holders, certain phrases kept cropping up – ‘produce sourced locally’ ‘made by hand’ ‘organic’ – so many food stories, people selling products they made and cared about – it was music to my ears.
And who is Phil? I’d heard about Pelagonia Foods ever since they started to supply Spinneys supermarket in Dubai (via Twitter of course) but hadn’t actually got round to trying anything. Phil and his partner settled in Macedonia as they were so impressed by the local food and fresh ingredients. They work in partnership with a cooperative of 650 families to produce a range of traditional Macedonian mezze and are keen to reach a wider audience. As Phil says “There was a time when no one had heard of hummus”! Could the next big thing be Aivar made of roasted sweet red peppers and aubergine which can be used as a dip or partnered with cheeses? Or Luteniza, a spicier blend of roasted peppers (my favourite). It’s completely mad that I had to taste these in Bristol to realise how good they are, but that’s the thing about meeting food producers. You get an understanding of why things are special. Then Phil mentioned food and wine tours (Googling flights to Macedonia was the first thing I did when I got home).
There were at least three demonstrations going on at any one time at the Foodies Festival which were free on registration. I went to a sherry tasting with Charles Metcalfe, Beaujolais tasting with Susy Atkins, I caught some of Masterchef finalist Bini Ludlow‘s cooking session and booked for Xanthe Clay but I was too busy talking with Phil so I missed her.
Some of my favourites of the day were (in no particular order):
Ginger Bakers – I can’t remember when I’ve seen such fantastic looking cakes and they tasted equally good. The chocolate brownies with damsons were darkly gooey and the pecan and caramel shortbread should be rechristened Gazillionaires shortbread. A-ma-zing. I took home a beautiful ginger and lemongrass cake.
The Bath Soft Cheese Co makes four cheeses on their organic dairy farm with milk from their 300 cows. Bath Blue has the sharpness of Stilton with a softer creamier texture – deservedly award winning. Also love the simple packaging.
A & J Confectionery is crumbly all butter fudge handmade in Bristol.
The ladies on the Bath Food Company stall were super friendly and described the mango and fruit chutney as “an Indian meal in a jar”; which it was – bursting with spicy, fruity flavours. Who knows how I resisted one of their scotch eggs. Returning to the stall to buy some aforementioned chutney I discovered that it was inspired by the owner Lisa-Marie Smith’s time living in Dubai. Spooky.
Dig in a local greengrocer with the prettiest display at the festival, lots of local produce and this card:
The Pieminister stall made me think of Tudor times; their pies make you want to grab them in both hands and sink your teeth into the pastry. Moo pie is their most popular with British beef steak, cracked black pepper and real ale.
Two not very slender men talked me through the Fat Man Chilli range of chilli sauces assuring me that only one would seriously rip my head off as they go for layers of flavour not just heat. Hot Lemon was my fave but I bought a bottle of Scorchio (the head-ripper) for KP.
Only fruit and sugar go into Blossoms Syrups which are equally good diluted as a drink or poured over a pavlova. Aude Dupont Dudley and friend were the best dressed at the festival in chic black and pearls ….in 23C heat.
Cotswold Gold is the best rapeseed oil I have tasted and is made from the rapeseed harvested in their own fields around the farm in Broadway. The herb infused oils had a purity of flavour I have never come across before, the rosemary variety and the basil were exceptional.
I didn’t get to taste any Sciolti Botanical Chocolates as they had been replaced by ice cream due to the heat but I did meet Mr Sciolti who has amazing facial hair!
Why don’t we have Bonne Maman cherry compote in Dubai? I don’t think I can live without it.
Thinking I couldn’t manage another morsel after my pork-fest I then found The Glorious Oyster.
The clever Ginger Grouse people supplied samples as we queued to register and gave out free hats when you bought some.
The nice man at Bordeaux Undiscovered gave me some 2007 Chateau Teyssier and met the Strawberry Hill Vineyard people who grow Cabernet Sauvignon just outside Gloucester! ‘How?’ I hear you ask. In greenhouses. Must visit.
Don’t be put off by the awful website. The Foodies Festival is a great showcase of British artisan food producers and street food. Don’t be lured by the handful of ‘sleb’ chefs – the real stars are the makers and growers. How the Bristol food scene has changed in twenty years.
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