Foodies Festival – Brighton

One sunny afternoon in May, myself and Ben had the pleasure of attending the 2012 Foodies Festival, on Hove Lawns in Brighton. It was an unseasonably warm day, and strolling around tasting food and drinking wine was pretty much my ideal scenario. We visited the London Foodies Festival last year and had a really lovely day so we were hoping for a repeat experience!

We arrived about 1pm and started exploring all the different stalls and stands. On first glance it seemed to be smaller than the Hampton Court one, but we soon realised it stretched down the Lawns a lot further than we thought and there really was plenty to see.

We immediately saw a stand we wouldn’t be able to bypass. It was probably the loudest stall in the festival, with two Jamaican guys loudly singing and shouting about the product. Which was…rum filled coconuts!! I’m not even joking.

I love Ben’s hair in this photo. Unfortunately it’s not actually this Elvis-esque, it was just fairly windy down on the seafront.

Each coconut cost an eye-wateringly 8 which I was finding quite difficult to come to terms with, until I saw the amount of rum we were given! The guy very cleverly sliced the top off the coconut and twisted the knife so it created a ‘lid.’ He then stuck two straws in it and handed it to us to ‘make room for the rum”! I love this guy! We sipped some of the liquid and it really was the most intense, fresh coconut taste. I wasn’t even sure I wanted to put rum in it because it tasted so amazing! But Ben was having none of that and handed the coconut back to the man who poured a VERY generous slug of rum into it. He asked Ben if that was strong enough and handed it to him, who quick as lighteneing said ‘a bit more wouldn’t hurt!’ Oooh he’s a cheeky boy. So we then got another slug of rum. It was super strong but you could still taste the lovely coconut juice. Great way to kick-off our afternoon of eating and drinking!

We finished our coconut in approximately 30 seconds and began our logical walk around the stalls, planning to see every single one and sample anything we could!

There were a tremendous amount of samples available which was fabulous and we were able to try lots of new and exciting food items we may not have bought or ordered in a restaurant.

One stall we visited no less than 3 times was the lady selling freshly squeezed lemonade. Ben got one first and I scoffed at him because it was non-alcoholic and one of the reasons we went to the Brighton festival rather than the London one was because we could get the train so I could have a drink! However, the sun was beating down on us, it was absolutely boiling and my need for liquid refreshment was becoming a regular thing. So having tried Ben’s lemonade and experiencing the wonder for myself, I doubled back and bought one. And then another one an hour later. The lady had an old-fashioned lemonade press and I chatted to her for a while about where she got it from as I decided I needed one in my life! Unfortunately it seems she had it specially made and shipped over from America so I’m guessing it’s not in our price range. The lemonade was fantastic though, consisting of freshly squeezed lemons, sugar syrup and ice. Amazing!

This stall was selling the most amazing combo salad dressing / marinade / dipping sauces! We dipped some french bread into a couple of the varieties and immediately placed an order for both bottles! I bought the lemon and black pepper and Ben got lime and ginger. I’ve used the lemon and black pepper one as a marinade on barbecued chicken and it was delicious. Good buy!

Now, this next stall was one of the highlights of the day. It was a guy called Pete who specialises in hot chilli sauces. Hence, Chill Pepper Pete. Genius!

Pete was flaunting his wares and offering the crowd samples of the various levels of hot sauce. Ben is a bit of a chilli-head and if there is the option to add spice to an edible item, he will take it. He went for the hottest sauce, ‘Devils Blood.’

This was moments before it all kicked off. I’ve never seen him react so violently, or so quickly! His face immediately went a concerning shade of maroon and his eyes started watering profusely. I was quite alarmed and guided us away from the chilli sauce stall and over to a free spot of grass where he could regain his composure. Trouble was, the chilli sauce was clearly still reacting quite dramatically with his body and he didn’t fully recover until a good half hour later! He kept saying ‘my tongue is still on fire. still, on fire.’ Bless!

He needed something to soothe his burning face and an ice cold sorbet seemed like it would do the trick. He got a scoop of raspberry and I was very impressed as it matched the shade of my nail varnish perfectly! Which warranted a photo, obviously. Girls, eh!?

We finished up our stroll around the stalls, picking up samples here and there, notably this little lovely which was a cheese and spinach empanada! Delicious.

We then decided to make the effort and check out the star of the day, Mr Lloyd Grossman himself, who was doing cooking demonstrations throughout the day in a marquee in the middle of the festival. We tried to book seats for the event when the booth opened at 1pm but the queue was snaking round back through the entrance so we left it. When we walked past just before the demonstration was due to start, there were free seats! Score! I was so excited to see the legend that is Lloyd Grossman that I took a ton of photos just of him, before the cooking had even started. I will share just one, for your viewing pleasure. He was wearing a stunning hat!

The cooking was done by what seemed to be Lloyds right-hand man, a lovely guy who was genuinly passionate about Lloyd’s range of supermarket products. He cooked spinach and ricotto gnocci and mushroom risotto, both of which we got to taste at the end and were declared delicious!

As the cooking demonstration came to an end we made our way out of the marquee and back to the stage to check out what was happening. As we got closer I nearly wet myself as I could see a figure on the stage who had the potential to make this Foodies Festival one of the best days of 2012!

MARILYN MONROE!!

Or, a lady who looked a LOT like her and was an excellent all-round performer. She sang, she danced, she chatted with the crowd and got everyone singing along. She was brilliant! She was also joined on-stage by none other than ELVIS PRESLEY who performed some songs with her and also did his own set. The atmosphere was brilliant and I was absolutely loving life – if you haven’t guessed I absolutely love all things Elvis and Marilyn so it was such a treat to see these two tribute acts…especially when I wasn’t expecting to!

We grabbed some snacks and drinks and settled down to watch the show.

Strawberry and Lime cider! A must-have.

This was Ben’s snack of choice! A delicious grilled halloumi salad from a stall specialising in exciting and unusual salad combos.  The lovely recycled cardboard box was stuffed with a plethora of yummies including edamame, watermelon, cous cous and seeds. He really enjoyed this and it was the perfect antidote to his hot-sauce hangover.

I was absolutely stuffed from all the nibbling and lemonade-downing I’d been doing so opted for a lighter choice – satay chicken skewers. Anything that is essentially marinated in peanut butter is a winner in my book so these went down a treat.

This was our view! It was such a gorgeous day, we were very lucky.

Finally, the cherry on the top of my day…I got to meet Marilyn!!

Perfect summers day – great food, great drink and fabulous entertainment. We will definitely be attending the Foodies Festival again next year!

Quorn Fajitas

I feel like I’ve been posting a lot of restaurant and eating 0ut meals recently, so it’s time for a spot of home cooking!

We both love Mexican food and were big fans of ‘Friday Night Fajita’s’ during our Uni years. Fajita’s in particular are great because they are so versatile! You can stick with the basic version and just have the meat, peppers, onions and salsa, or go crazy and buy extra toppings like sour cream, guacamole and cheese to create deluxe fajitas. If I’m honest, I’ve never had a fajita that doesn’t involve cheese and we also always buy the extra toppings. Any chance to eat guac, I’ll take it. But if you wanted to, you really could just have what comes in the shop-bought fajita kits and they’d still be delicious.

We were particularly excited for our Mexican Night because we had a new type of veggie chicken to try! We actually went to Asda specially to buy their own-brand ‘chicken style pieces.’ I’d seen them online and a memory stirred of the now retired, but never forgotten, Sainsburys own brand ‘chicken style pieces’ which were without a doubt the best fake chicken we’d ever had. They were so convincing, in fact, that I actually stopped eating them the first time we tried them, as I thought there’d been a catastrophic mix-up in the factory! Sainsburys disappointingly stopped selling them a few years ago and we’ve never quite recovered. I like Quorn pieces but they get really boring and they don’t really have any flavour. The Sainsburys ones had a seitan-like texture and a herby taste that almost didn’t need any extra seasoning. Oh, how we miss them.

So, I was thrilled to see after ripping open the bag, that the Asda ones looked and smelt exactly like the Sainsburys ones! Result. I knew at that point, this Mexican Night would go down in history.

Mainly because we had margaritas.

(Although that is vodka, lime and lemonade in the glass because I’m a bit weird and don’t really like tequila. But Ben took one for the team and managed to force down the whole bottle.)

Here are some of the ingredients for our feast. Hello Asda Mexican quad-dip!! Possibly the best £2 you can spend in life.

We also had copious amounts of grated cheese, onions, peppers and of course, the ‘chicken style pieces.’ We were good to go! We started off chopping up our onions and peppers.

Note the amazing hot pink knife! Purchased in TK Maxx for the princely sum of £7.99! Definately going to buy a set of coloured knifes when we move out. They just make chopping so much more enjoyable.

Once we had chopped our veggies and defrosted the ‘chicken,’ we were ready to start cooking. We wanted to use different spices on our fajitas so needed two pans. Ben had chosen a ‘Mojito Lime’ sauce which smelled absolutely amazing when he put it on his chicken and I was kind of wishing I’d gone for that one too. But, I couldn’t resist my favourite “Original Smokey BBQ’ spice mix, which comes in the make-your-own fajita boxes, or you can buy separately for about 80p. Bargain! Sometimes I find the other Old El Paso fajita seasoning packet is too spicy and I just love the smokey flavour of barbecue in general. We sauteed the onions and peppers until they were cooked but still had some bite to them, before adding the chicken pieces which don’t take as long. We sprinkled our respective seasonings on and voila, fajita mix! So easy and they smelled sooooo good!

We then assembled all our items on the coffee table – you pretty much have to eat fajitas on the sofa watching Man Vs Food.

LOOK, a Hidden Mickey! If you don’t know what a hidden mickey is, please leave this blog and never darken my door again. Or, click here and find out everything you need to know! 😀

Quite the spread, no? That bowl of brown mush is Ben’s refried beans. I’m not a huge fan myself but he loves them and always gets them when we have Mexican food. You can also see the quad-dip in all it’s glory from this lofty birdseye position. Clockwise from top right; guacamole, sour cream and chive, nacho cheese and salsa. I like to slather the guac and nacho cheese onto my fajitas before adding the toppings – they act as a kind of glue to stick the tortilla together once folded!

I love the colours of the peppers, onions and chicken together! The peppers were actually perfectly cooked for me, as I hate when peppers are more or less raw in fajitas. Too much crunch – it isn’t a salad, people.

With all our ingredients laid out neatly, it was just a case of assemblage! I am not going to tell you how to assemble a fajita because quite frankly, you either have the skills or you do not. Ben is king of folding and recently put me onto a new technique that involves folding each side up and then rolling it length-ways, like a burrito. I prefer to fold up one end and then roll it up lengthways, so I have one open end, once closed end and a greatly reduced risk of spillage.

Innards shots! Note the beautiful front garden in the background. I was trying to get some photos with natural light in what is a very dark room with only one working lightbulb.

As you can see by the way the cheese and dips are literally busting to get out of the wrap, I consider toppings integral to the fajita process. In fact, I think if I only had cheese, guacamole and nacho cheese dip in a tortilla, I would still have a pretty good time.

Fabulous night, seize the opportunity to make fajitas next time you happen to have the ingredients on hand. You won’t be disappointed!

Mr Miles Tea Rooms – Taunton

We recently went to visit some friends for the weekend in Taunton, Somerset. The friends in question, Victoria and Ian, are equally Disney and Florida obsessed and myself and Toria in fact met on a forum for people planning their Florida holidays…cooo-el. We planned to meet up in Florida last year as we were out there at the same time and wanted to watch an Orlando Magic basketball game together (they also LOVE basketball!) Unfortunately the NBA lock-out happened and the basketball game didn’t but we arranged to meet up for dinner anyway….we got on like an absolute house on fire and the rest, as they say, is history! Fast forward to modern day – I’m a bridesmaid at their wedding next year, Ben is an usher and we’re all going to Florida again after the wedding! What a beautiful story. So, now you know the background and you can feel like you were in the tearooms with us.

They wanted to give us a real ‘taste of Somerset’ and the obvious choice for this was a proper cream tea in a lovely quaint setting. The chosen venue was Mr Miles Tea Rooms on Taunton high street. I was very excited!

(Photo taken from the Mr Miles website, I forgot to take an exterior shot!)

We arrived at the tearooms about 1.30 and there was a queue out the door! Eek! The team at the door was taking peoples names and asking them to wait inside the shop (cunning!) until a table became available. It seemed to be all kicking off a bit and in fact the gentleman in front of us got quite shirty when he was asked to stand aside, declaring he wanted to be ‘next in line actually!’ The lady explained he really was next in line and she wasn’t asking him to leave. Awkward. We gave our name and shuffled into the teeny tiny giftshop adjacent to the tea rooms. It was really lovely inside with lots to look at and keep us amused while we waited.

I pretty much fell in love with everything and made mental notes about a few potential ‘new flat items.’ After about 15 minutes of shop browsing and stomach grumbling a very nice lady came up to us and said she had a table just about to be free if we didn’t mind sitting on comfy chairs. Was this a trick question!? We enthusiastically agreed and were led upstairs and through the tea rooms to our table. On our way through I couldn’t help but notice a man tucking into a huge slab of cheesy, toasted bread that looked pretty incredible. I decided to figure out what this was and order it myself.

We got a great little spot in the corner; a long coffee table with four comfy armchairs overlooking the high street! We were very pleased and it didn’t feel like we waited long at all really.

We were bought menus that I was immediately taken with – tall, thin pamphlets in Tiffany blue with lovely typography and gold embossing, they bought out my inner graphic design geek!

We ordered drinks that included diet cokes, tea and organic cider and perused the menu. I immediately spotted the dish I had seen earlier so was able to make possibly my quickest menu decision to date. The other guys chose their dishes and we sat back and waited for our feast to arrive.

And a feast it was! We were impressed with the portion sizes here for what were very reasonable prices.

I ordered Mrs Miles Rarebit – Doorstep whole-grain bread topped with a blend of Somerset ham, local mature Cheddar cheese, brown ale, mustard and brown sauce, grilled until golden, served with mixed green salad and seasoned roast potatoes. Obviously, you can see why I ordered it. There was also a veggie version minus the ham but I seized the opportunity to meatify it.

The rarebit was really lovely with a rich, cheesy sauce and strong mustard flavour. It was a huge portion with a really quite deceptive amount of bread. I really enjoyed the side salad too which had a sweet honey mustard dressing drizzled over.

Ben ordered Hummus and Vegetables – Lime and coriander houmus topped with a selection of warm roasted vegetables, which came as an open sandwich and looked very impressive.

He loved this and said it was flavourful and well seasoned and made a change from the usual veggie fare he receives in places not really geared up for vegetarians.

Victoria was the only one who actually ordered a cream tea! Shame on the rest of us! She went for the classic Cream Tea – two homemade fruit or plain scones served with local preserves and a pot of clotted cream served with tea or coffee. The scones were generously sized with lots of plump sultanas which went perfectly with the jam and clotted cream. (They weren’t as huge as the ones at my Dad’s tea rooms, Pollys Pantry though I’m afraid 😉 )

Ian chose the Brunch Sandwich – A hearty artisan roll layered with Grilled English smoked bacon, local ‘Proper Job’ sausage and a free range eggs served with seasoned roast potatoes. As is the recurring theme in this post, he really enjoyed his dish too. It certainly looked like an impressive sandwich and I almost wish I’d chosen it myself!

We also ordered two servings of garlic bread to share amongst the table and I’m afraid there isn’t a photograph of these, as they were eaten within about 10 seconds of being placed on the table. We all like our garlic bread. A lot.

By the time we finished our lunch, Mr Miles’ was a lot quieter and more relaxed so evidently their busyness depends on the time of day you go – Saturday lunch time is very busy! Mine and Ben’s share of the bill came to about £20 which we thought was very good for the quality of food served and the pretty surroundings. All the food was home-cooked and fresh and we all liked that the meat etc appeared to be sourced locally, always a nice touch. If you do visit, make sure you check out the gift shop too as they really do sell some lovely bits in there.