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!

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.

Felicity’s Farm Shop

Sunday had arrived, the weekend was over and we were on our way back from Paignton *sob.* It was a long old drive, just over 3 hours, so we needed to stop at some point to refuel and stretch our legs. As we drove along the A35 we both spotted an awesome looking sign for a Farm Shop and decided to stop even though we’d only been driving about 45 minutes. Sometimes you just have to seize these opportunities and we could tell this was going to be a corker of a motorway stop.

We’re actually quite spoiled as we’ve been to the ‘best service station in the UK‘ numerous times, the infamous Tebay Services which is on the way to Ben’s grandparents house in Cumbria. If you haven’t been to this amazing place Google it, it’s a life-changer! We always spend ages in there trying to decide what to get because there’s just so much choice – a hot buffet with soup, roast dinners, casseroles and lasagnas; a sandwich bar with freshly made baguesttes and paninis; deli counters, an olive bar and a cheese counter! Not to mention the huge shop which sells pretty much every type of organic packaged food you could ever want! It is seriously the best place to stop on any motorway EVER, a far cry from a stale Ginsters pasty and a bottle of coke!

Right I need to calm down and focus on the place we actually visited. Felicity’s Farm Shop is located, according to their website, on the A35 between Bridport and Charmouth West Dorset. We parked in the big car park outside and were immediately wowed by the incredible view. They really have got a great spot here!

We walked into what seemed to be a huge barn and I could tell we were going to love it here because they had free samples of crisps on a counter right by the entrance. Free samples = living the dream.

We just wandered around for a while checking out all the cool stuff they had. I swear I prefer looking around food shops more than clothes shops sometimes. It’s very odd.

They had lots of cute little organic and local brands that we hadn’t seen before, alongside some of the bigger, usual brands. There was a section of fresh fruit and vegetables if you wanted to do your weekly shop! Nice place to do it! They also had a garden centre attached to the shop! Seriously covering all the bases here.

There were fridges filled with local cheeses, pate, pies and cuts of meat. I spotted a peanut butter chocolate cheesecake which was pretty much all my Christmasses as once! I refrained from buying it though as few things are more diet unfriendly than peanut butter chocolate cheesecake.

We then got excited because we saw the range of ready-to-eat snacks and it was game on! We’d only had our Travelodge buffet breakfast a few hours before but it was definitely time for lunch. Ben chose a roasted vegetable pasty which was huge and delicious. He loves a good pastry-based snack and this offering was one of the best.

I chose an item from the hot counter at the back of the shop – caramelised tomato and feta tart tatin. This was under 2 pounds which I thought was very reasonable and I really fancied something warm (obviously, being a June afternoon in England, the weather was freezing.)

This surpassed all expectations though! The pastry base was buttery and flaky with just the right amount of grease seeping through the paper bag, yum! The tomatoes were INSANELY sweet, I couldn’t tell how they had been cooked but they were incredible! Maybe a tomato confit type affair? I may have to actually email Felicity herself to find out. The feta had been browned on top through the cooking process and it had taken on that nutty quality that I love in feta. Amazing how two simple flavours had transformed and worked so well together. I really would love to try and recreate this, it’s tragic that I only have my photos to remind me of the flavours!

We sat in the car cradling our goodies and spent a happy 10 minutes stuffing our faces and enjoying the spectacular views, before heading back onto the road to continue our journey home. Felicity’s is an excellent place to grab a bite to eat and a few minutes rest if you happen to be passing through that way and make sure to take in the beautiful views of the surrounding countryside.