Foodies Festival 2013

Another year, another wonderful day out at the Foodies Festival!

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This is the third year in a row we’ve been to a Foodies Festival! Last year we went to Brighton and in 2011 we went to Hampton Court Palace for the first time and absolutely loved it.

This years second May Bank Holiday (seriously, what was all that about?) loomed quickly and without warning and I completely ran out of time to arrange any fun activities for us. We’re a bit skint at the moment as 90% of our disposable income is whisked away into our Florida savings account every month, so we aren’t left with very much. Obviously I’m not complaining about this as a Floriday is the number 1 thing to save for, in my humble opinion, but it does leave us with very little leeway for doing anything else the rest of the year. (In case you’re wondering, the other 10% of mine goes on ribeye steak and Ben’s probably goes on Strongbow.) So the Bank Holiday was stretching out ahead of me, three looooong days of sunshine, with the slightly depressing knowledge that we had absolutely nothing planned. We managed to scrounge together some friends on the Saturday and had a very enjoyable day but Sunday dawned with nothing planned and I was still keen for some proper Bank Holiday fun. Straight onto Twitter and Facebook it was then and by 10am I’d found what I thought was the perfect solution – Foodie’s Festival was tweeting a link to their ticket website! However, 10am was a smidge late to be getting up, getting ready and driving to London for the day with enough time to make the most of the tickets. Sunday was promising the better weather but Monday was looking a lot more feasible for us so we plumped for that. Two tickets were purchased at a 2 for 1 rate thanks to my extraordinary ability to find cheap tickets for events online and we were all set!

We had a really lovely day at the festival and I was so glad we’d got cheap tickets. The weather was gorgeous, the crowds were at an acceptable level and most importantly, there was an absolute ton of free food. Winner!

I took my new SLR like a real food blogger to document the day. Here are some highlights!

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Car slash bar. Can’t go wrong. Unfortunately I was driving so couldn’t partake in any alcoholic beverages but Benj, bless his soul, took one for the team and forced a few down.

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He looooooved this Dorset Cider. I loved the rudimentary signs!

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One of the many, many cheese tasting stalls. You could tell which ones were most generous with the samples by the amount of people swarming around in the front like milk-starved puppies.

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Raclette! Always wanted to try it but never have! It looked delicious but I just wasn’t feeling the price tag. Anything that involves meat, potato and melted cheese is a sure winner though, no?

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This was the tagine stall. There was a mixture of stalls selling products and offering free samples, versus the actual food vendors who were just selling ready-to-eat food. I loved them both equally, in different ways. We chuckled at this one as it was painfully obvious which of the massive pans of tagine were vegetarian! Bless them for trying 😦 I told Benj to get some because I felt bad for the guys cooking it but he wasn’t feeling it.

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One of the many, many, MANY oil stalls. These were my absolute favourite genre of stall; I could quite happily just eat bread and oil/balsamic vinegar for the rest of my life so I was a happy bunny whenever we stumbled upon one of these. Ben, on the other hand, was pretty much over oil by about 3/4 of the way through the festival and said he might be physically sick if he had any more. Oil fatigue. It happens.

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This was the English Provender Company stall and we got really excited when we realised we actually had some of these chutneys in our fridge! We’ve tried the caramelised onion one and the fig and pear one at Christmas and we loved both, so delicious! Chutney was probably second after oil in terms of market saturation at the festival but again, I’m a big chutney fan so I was all over it.

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We were passing the Baking Theatre at about 12pm and I dragged Benj to a couple of seats after realising the next demonstration involved savoury baked goods! We aren’t really sweet people so I wasn’t expecting to get involved with the Baking Theatre but I could not pass up the chance to get involved with savoury food. Excitement levels were quite high as we waited for it to start and I excitedly whispered to Ben, ‘it’s like Food Network right in front of me!’

Our demonstration was run by a really lovely lady called Christine Videl who owns Made In Provence, a company that sells jams, chutneys and other traditional produce, handmade by local artisans in a small area of Provence near where she grew up. Christine cooked cheesy twists, strawberry and rosemary pavlova and rosemary biscuits in the short time she was in the theatre. I loved listening to her stories and seeing her prepare the food and the smell of the cheesy twists baking was just incredible! I thought the demonstration was really well set up too, with TV screens behind Christine showing her work surface so we didn’t miss anything. I was impressed by how quickly she whipped up the three items and we will probably recreate the cheesy twists at some point; shop-bought puff pastry, gruyere cheese and olive tapenade were all united in about 4 minutes to create a really rather majestic savoury nibble. We were invited to try the recipes Christine created and it was a bit of a bunfight but I managed to snag the last piece. Result!

We ended our day with a little sit down on the lawn near the front entrance of the festival, where they had bands and singers performing on the stage.

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Although I wasn’t technically meant to be spending any money, I really am powerless in the face of posh food and money seems to be no object when it comes to trying new and exciting culinary treats. Here are the goodies we purchased throughout the day, lovingly arranged on our kitchen counter when we got home.

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From left: Chan Cham hot sauce (Ben’s contribution) BLACK TRUFFLE OIL, garlic oil, Joe and Sephs Feta and Italian Herb popcorn (!) and our evening snack, the oils arranged on a plate with olives and pita.

Can you tell from my description which item I was most excited for? Tough, isn’t it!

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I’d never tried truffle oil before but I’d aaaaalways wanted to and I was so excited to see it on one of the oil stalls. I dipped a cube of bread into the little dish and pretty much died and went to heaven. I’d never tried anything like it, what an incredible taste! I bought a tiny bottle of it for £5 which I thought was quite reasonable as it will last a long time. I chatted to the guy for a while about the different uses for the oil and he recommended a few drops in mashed potato which sounds fantastic! I do need to buy a potato ricer before I try that though, lumpy mash with truffle oil!? Sacrilege!

We had a fantastic day at the Foodie’s Festival and will no doubt be returning to one of the locations next year. We’re actually off to London tomorrow for the V Delicious Vegetarian exhibition (exciting!) and the FF is on Clapham Common! Tempting to pop in for a few samples but hopefully the V Delicious exhibition will keep us busy 🙂

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InSpiral Vegan Cafe, Gloucester Arms and general London eating

We were in London recently for the weekend to see an amazing folk band called Show of Hands at the Royal Albert Hall (for a fabulous review of our evening check out my boyfriend Ben’s post on his music blog, BamRambling!) I booked tickets as a surprise for Ben (what a good girlfriend!) and arranged for us to stay with our good friend Sam on the Saturday night. We had National Express tickets early on Saturday and late on Sunday so we had lots of time to kill which was mostly spent eating.

My favourite place we ate at was a vegan cafe in Camden called InSpiral. It’s a small, busy place with a big counter brimming with vegan and raw treats and a few tables with lovely views of Camden Lock.

It wasn’t too busy when we got there and I was able to spend a few minutes agonising over the array of choices – they all looked so good!

In the end neither of us could resist the amazing looking vegan lasagna which came with a choice of three sides. I got an apple juice and Ben got an orange juice and we got a little table for 2 over by the window.

The portions here are HUGE! Our food came on very smart black rectangular plates which had plenty of room for the delicious side dishes that were generously spooned on next to our lasanga. I chose to have the channa masala, root vegetables and curly kale, all of which were really good. The root veggies were roasted and covered in a sweet nut and herb mixture which was incredible! I chose the channa masala in a moment of panic as I felt I couldn’t get potato wedges as I already had root vegetables (schoolboy error) but they turned out to be my favourite part!

The lasagna itself though. Oh my goodness. It was roasted vegetables in a rich tomato sauce with the most amazing cashew nut ‘cheesy’ bechemal sauce. I could have drunk a glass of it, it was that good. We also opted to have vegan pesto on the top of the lasagna which just took it above and beyond! I felt so virtuous eating this lunch knowing that everything was meat and dairy free and so fresh and wholesome. I managed to eat all the lasagna but was very upset that I had to leave some of the side dishes. Tears were nearly shed.

The juices we ordered were made fresh and I was slightly alarmed when my apple juice came out all frothy and bitty…but it was delicious! I will never again judge a juice by it’s frothyness.

Tragically we were too full for dessert and although I had plans to sample some of the raw chocolate truffles and vegan ice-cream, I never got the chance. We will be back though! InSpiral is not a cheap lunch option (especially compared to the rows and rows of Chinese, Indian, Mexican etc food stalls in Camden Market) and our lunch came to £30ish but we couldn’t pass up the chance to try some authentic vegan food and are really glad we visited.

While we were in Camden we also visited Whole Foods – one of the UK branches of the huge American health food store. We tried to visit the one in Orlando while we were in Florida last year but it was a lot further away than we thought so we couldn’t which was very upsetting. I was excited to visit the Camden one but I had lowered my expectations considerably because lets face it, it’s Britain, not America. It was a nice shop, loads of awesome hard-to-find products and a fabulous hot and cold salad and soup bar. Although we didn’t need a meal (or even really a snack…) we couldn’t resist buying a couple of goodies and ended up with some items from the fridge.

I had a vegan spinach and tofu pancake.

The brand was ‘Lauras Idea’ and there were lots of similar items in the shop. The pancake was delicious – light and fluffy with a slightly toasted flavour. The filling was rich and indulgent with an intense creaminess from the silken tofu and a satisfying bite in the spinach from a sprinkle of nutmeg. I really wouldn’t have guessed this was vegan as the tofu confidently takes the place of what would normally be ricotta.

Ben chose a vegetable calzone. We were pretty sure it was meant to be heated up but he really fancied it so threw caution to the wind and ate it straight out of the fridge.

It was filled with a mixture of roasted vegetables in a rich tomato sauce. No complaints from Ben and it was gone pretty quickly!

The other eating experience from our London trip was a visit to the Gloucester Arms pub, about 10 minutes walk from the RAH. I was looking for somewhere to eat before the show that wasn’t eye-wateringly expensive (nigh-on impossible in that area!) and the Gloucester Arms seemed to have pretty bargainous food and drink prices.

The menu is very extensive and it seriously took us about 15 minutes to decide what to order as everything sounded amazing! Eventually though I selected the very item that had first piqued my interest when viewing the menu online – Vegetarian Fish and Chips! And the best part about it? The ‘vegetarian fish’ was IN FACT battered halloumi! Can you blame me for ordering!? I also couldn’t resist ordering a side of onion rings and for reasons known only to myself at the time, a pot of curry sauce. And the meal came with bread and butter anyway. So basically, I looked like a huge greedy beast with 5 plates of food around me. In my defence I was hideously hungover and after coming back from a near-death state in the early hours of the morning when I first woke up and enduring 2 hours on a coach then 5 hours walking round London, I think I deserved it.

The halloumi was perfectly amazing in the way only battered cheese products can be. The batter was extremely thick though and unfortunately (although not surprisingly given my side dishes) I was unable to finish it and had to make the tough decision to just eat the halloumi. The onion rings were also delicious and obviously you can’t go wrong with bread and real butter!

Ben got the same as me but Sam went for the burger and very kindly paused to let me take a photo.

Overall we all loved our meals at the Gloucester Arms and if I’m ever in that area again I will definitely be going back! The food in London was brilliant as ever and I never cease to be amazed by the huge range of choices everywhere you go. I love it!

Southbank Centre Real Food Market

We were in London the weekend just gone for a friends birthday and stumbled on this amazing little food market while wandering around Waterloo station before catching our train home.

The market is just outside the station on the way to South Bank and we were so surprised to see it! It was really busy when we visited (about 12.30pm on Saturday) and we immediately jumped in to start exploring the stalls. It needs to be mentioned that we were both pretty hungover after taking full advantage of London’s generous drinking opportunities and the discovery of a food market was perhaps more enthusiastically received than it would usually have been.

Grow your own mushrooms! Amazing!

After sampling some rich, aged balsamic vinegar and various types of cheese and bread, we stumbled on this wondrous sight – Arancini Brothers. I have seen arancini on so many food blogs recently but I’d never had the chance to try them so I was beyond excited to see this stall! For those that don’t know, arancini = fried risotto balls. Yum!

You can see the arancini waiting to be fried to dizzyingly crisp heights on the right here –

Ben was overjoyed by the prospects of this stall and immediately gave the guy (an Arancini brother?) his order – two arancini in a salad wrap. The guy set about making his wrap and we watched in stomach-growling fascination.

For an extremely reasonable £3.50 Ben got a deliciously fresh wrap crammed with two arancini and accompaniments of cucumber, tomato, sliced apple, crispy onions, chilli tomato chutney and homemade garlic mayonnaise. Upon receiving the wrap he clutched it to his bosom, visably drooling as I dithered about what to order for myself. I decided to just go for the two arancini on their own, which came with the tomato chutney and garlic mayo for an even more reasonable £1.50. They came very thoughtfully presented in a little bamboo dish with generous lobs of the sauces and a wooden fork for easy eating, always a bonus in my eyes. We thanked the Brother profusely and scampered over to a nearby table to stifle our hungover stomach lurches with our snacks.

Arancini Brothers arancini are seriously good. They were hot throughout; crispy on the outside and sticky and soft in the middle. Each ball had a generous amount of breadcrumbs on the outside, providing a perfect contrast to the gooey cheese in the centre which was flavoured with flecks of spring onion, garlic and chilli. Both the chilli chutney and garlic mayo were delicious too and to be honest toward the end I was using the arancini more as a vessel to get the sauces into my mouth. Mmmm. Ben’s wrap was gone in a matter of minutes and he announced in a sorrowful voice that he wished he’d got the large, which came with 4 arancini. We have learnt from our mistakes and will be ordering much higher quantities next time.

We seriously debated going back and buying additional fried items but we had a train to catch and wanted to see what wonders the rest of the market held.

This focaccia looked and smelled incredible. We were offered a lot of samples from the various stalls as we wandered round, the atmosphere was really friendly and jovial and you could tell all the stall owners were really passionate about their food. Always great to see!

This garlic that made up this paste was roasted for a full 5 hours! I tried a sample and the flavour was so intense, I felt like I needed a sit-down! I really love garlic and I wish I’d bought a jar, we’ll have to go back so I can.

Once I’d eaten my sample of slow roasted garlic it was unfortunately time to head back to the hustle and bustle of Waterloo Station. I felt like we had travelled miles away when we were wandering around the market; the enticing smells, relaxed atmosphere and sounds of laughter and music made me forget I was in Central London and for once, the wait for a train was a pleasure rather than a chore 🙂

Foodies Festival

On May Bank Holiday Monday this year, my boyfriend and I were kindly gifted with free tickets for the Foodies Festival at Hampton Court in London. We decided to go in spite of the predictably awful Bank Holiday weather forecast and were so glad we did as it turned out to be a surprisingly glorious hot and sunny day!

We  were hoping there was going to be a lot of free tasting opportunities and we really were not disappointed. We ate an obscene amount of food this day and I am almost ashamed to post about it! Almost.

So, our day started by a browse through the Harvey Nichols tent which held lots of stalls all offering different kinds of foods. First stop was the cupcake stall where I went a little snap-happy due to the extreme cuteness of the sweets!

Mmmm, delicious right? I wasn’t feeling the sweet at that moment though and fancied something savoury to start with so I said I’d go back and buy one later…but I never did! Hate when that happens.

We’d already tried quite a few samples in the Harvey Nicks tent including some shots of flavoured alcoholic espresso drinks which were lovely but I needed something more substantial! So, we went in search of a tasty savoury treat for me to kickstart my eating. There was a chinese stall selling snack items for a bargainous £1.00 each so I got one chicken satay stick with extra satay sauce on the side, and one BBQ pork skewer.

These were both really lovely but the chicken had the edge as the added satay sauce was amazing! The pork could have used a sauce of its own as it was a bit dry…but I forced it down!

Pretty much straight after this we passed another Chinese stall and I just couldn’t resist getting another snack! This time we got four vegetarian spring rolls to share.

These were really good too with a crispy, flaky outside and a hot, mild filling of crunchy vegetables and beansprouts. We could choose two dipping sauces and I chose the satay sauce again while Ben chose sweet chilli. We paused for a second on the grass to eat our little snack, taking in the sights and sounds of what was turning out to be a fabulous day!

We continued around the stalls, trying each and every free sample we could get our hands on. Some were a lot more generous than others and we found a few stalls that we repeated due to their portion sizes and yumminess! We were particularly keen on the stalls that were selling different kinds of chutneys and pickles as they were generous with their samples and it was so fun to pile all these flavours of chutneys onto crackers and bread, not really knowing how it was going to taste! I had a couple of bad experiences with mega spicy stuff but on the whole it was tasty!

By this time I was ready for some proper lunch so we headed over to some of the stalls on the far end of the field that had caught our interest earlier.

To start with I got a large battered shrimp (£1) and some crispy Chinese style chicken (£3) from the Chinese stall. The shrimp was AMAZING, hot and fresh with a drizzle of sweet and sour sauce on, delish! The chicken however…not so much. I think it had been cooked a while earlier because it was so dry and tasteless…ergh. I was really disappointed and only ate a couple pieces. So, I had to cheer myself up with something else!

 

To cheer myself up, I headed over to the sushi stall we had passed earlier and got a serving of Avocado Rolls which were really good and definately helped improve my mood after the dry chicken!

 

While I was messing about with a 3 course meal, Ben was busy ordering a falafal platter from one of the stalls that we’d noticed had a lot of activity around it. And, he was very pleased with his purchase! He ended up getting a huge plate of falafal with loads of crunchy veggies, thick, flavourful tomato sauce and a few pieces of flatbreads on top. I think this was all for £3.50, such a bargain!

Throughout the day, Ben was also sampling the various alcoholic delights that were abound in the festival. He took a shine to the awesome Mojito stand that was run by two guys in a converted truck/stall with reggae music blaring out – easily the coolest stall that day!

The mojitos weren’t cheap, but hey, you get what you pay for and he got a lot of bang for his buck in terms of alcohol – the mojito was mega strong!

After making sure we’d checked and double checked (and triple checked!) all the stands, we began to make our way out of the festival (getting briefly annoyed as I walked past the sushi stall to the sounds of “half price sushi!” grrr) and back to the car, just as the heavens opened on what had been a perfect summers day. A lovely way to spend a sunny Bank Holiday, we will definitely be attending the next Foodies Festival!