Wednesday, 18 April 2012

Exeter Food Festival 2012 Part One: The Sights

Well, this post took a few more days to write than I'd planned! I had a bit of a mental block about it because there is so much from Sunday that I want to share! So I've decided to split it up into two posts - today I will write about what we saw and ate at the food festival, and then next time I will show you all the products I brought home with me!

When you first arrive at Exeter Food Festival, you buy your tickets and then walk through the courtyard bit at the castle, where the cookery theatre for demos is, plus lots of food stalls to eat lunch. We arrived a bit before 11am and wanted to see a demo at 12pm, so we decided to first head straight down to the gardens to look around some of the marquee stalls. We also wanted to see if there were any food stalls down there that took our fancy for lunch more. The first stall we came across was run by a catering company called Posh Nosh...

They had a range of savoury tarts which looked fantastic...

I took a photo to remind us in case we wanted to come back for lunch, but in the end we found a couple of stalls that I liked the look of even more, as you shall see in a bit!

The first sample we tried was a really interesting banana ketchup by the Smokey Joe Sauce Company...

This had a great spicy flavour which I thought Liam especially would love. Mum and I have a "technique" to tackle the food festival that we go around everything once, trying things and taking note of what we want to buy, and then we go back round again quickly at the end to make the bulk of our purchases. These sauces didn't make the final cut in the end. I love the food festival, but there are so many stalls that you just can't buy everything. We noticed that we especially tended not to buy all the bottles/jars we saw as by the end our shoulders and arms were just too tired to think about carrying them all! Kind of a shame, but my purse is probably thanking me!!

I really liked the idea of the Blueberry Brothers...

They grow their own blueberries and then work with local producers to make blueberry products - beers, cheeses, muffins etc. They had an amazing looking blueberry tart, but unfortunately we only got to sample the blueberry cheese which neither of us were particularly keen on, but then we don't particularly like cheese with fruit added to it. I wish I'd gone back to buy some of the tart though - it looked so fresh & juicy!

This year the show had one more marquee than last year - a smaller one at the far end - which is where we started (above). We then managed to get time to look at about half of the first (of two) big marquee.

Chilli chocolate from South Devon Chilli Farm...

Ella's Granola...

We chatted to Ella for a little while. She is only 15, and started her company in 2011 when she was only 14! When she first started out she was making the granola at home, but now her school lets her use their kitchens to make bigger quantities at the weekend. At the moment she's only selling the granola in her local post office and at food events like this one, but still...pretty impressive for someone so young! She was really enthusiastic about her product as well which was great, and she was manning the stall all by herself at a really busy festival...tasty granola too!

We just had time to look at a couple more stalls before we went to the cookery theatre - one for goats cheese which I have to be honest and say I don't even know what their name was - I was more interested in the cute trays they were using to display their products, oops!

And finally Truly Treats. Last year I bought a chocolate whoopie pie from them, that you can see in the background, but this year is was the Neapolitan cake that caught my eye...such a fun idea!

Next it was time to grab a mango lassi and settle ourselves down in the cookery theatre...

After looking at the timetable of what was on, we decided to see the demonstration featuring Mat Follas (Masterchef 2009 winner) as Mum had been to his restaurant, The Wild Garlic, before. It turned out to be a head-to-head between him and Russell Brown (Sienna Restaurant) which was quite fun.

After Michael Caines introduced the demonstration and thanked the sponsors, said a little bit about the festival etc... was time for the chefs to get to work! They both created a dish using turbot and asparagus, but with very different outcomes. Last year I spent most of the demonstration taking notes on the recipes and then later found that they were on the website anyway. So this year I didn't take notes and have now discovered that these recipes aren't up. Haha, typical. This is what I remember anyway...

Mat Follas created a ceviche with his turbot and served it with pickled asparagus and some other leafy greens (samphire and micro herbs were mentioned I think) You can see his dish part way through plating up on the screen...

Russell Brown, on the other hand, griddled his asparagus, pan-fried his turbot and served it with little clams (? I think!) - as seen after taste-testing...

It was really interesting to hear about both the chefs' different approaches to cooking and food sourcing. Mat Follaseg French butter and clams in this dish) if they offered better quality, and seemed to have a more "fine-dining" style of cooking.

Michael Caines came back to taste-test the dishes...

and then the audience voted on the winner. Russell Brown won this 'contest' which I thought was the right decision on this occasion. I actually preferred Mat Follas' approach to food, and would prefer to visit his restaurant, but not if it meant eating raw fish!! Haha, no, I think the pan-fried turbot dish just had more going for it and seemed a bit more approachable if that makes sense.

After seeing the food being cooked in front of us, Mum and I were hungry! There were so many stalls to choose from and Mum, bless her, offered to eat vegetarian for the day so that we could share two dishes rather than only having one each. Lunch #1 came from The Hungry Gecko. I've actually just discovered, from reading the link I've just put in, that The Hungry Gecko is owned by Jackie Kearney, who is mainly interested in vegetarian cooking and got into the top 4 of MasterChef 2011, but for this food festival she also teamed up with the 2008 winner of MasterChef, James Nathan, who is currently working at Rick Stein's seafood restaurant in Padstow. We wondered why the man serving us was wearing a Seafood Restaurant apron!

I couldn't decide between the Indonesian curry with tempeh or the veg shashlik skewer in cauliflower flatbread, but as it turned out they had run out of the latter option anyway...

We both loved this! It was our first time trying tempeh and we really enjoyed it. I imagine that, like tofu, tempeh probably doesn't have a lot of flavour on its own (?) but in this spicy Indonesian sauce it was wonderful, and had a lovely firm texture. I also loved the fried onions on top, delish!

Washed down with some pear juice as it really was quite spicy!!

Lunch #2 was from Cafe Om...

I'd actually identified both The Hungry Gecko and Cafe Om beforehand as places I'd like to get lunch from, but I hadn't realised that neither of them had a permanent premises - both cater at festivals etc and Cafe Om will also come to you to host dinner parties.

From Cafe Om we shared the vegetable/cauliflower curry which came with brown rice and a choice of salads. We had the quinoa salad and the less spicy of the two sprouted salads, plus some soya yoghurt raita...

This was delicious, I adore cauliflower curry and it went really well with all the salads too.

Despite being quite full, we couldn't resist also getting dessert from Cafe Om...

Amazing chocolate torte using pecans, dates and coconut oil for the base and avocado, dates and cacao for the so good! I actually bought a 2nd torte to take home with me which is currently in my Mum's freezer until our new fridge/freezer arrives on Friday, yum, can't wait to have this again!! I did think whilst eating it that I could make this myself. The base is effectively a version of fudge babies, and I've made chocolate avocado pudding in the past, I've just never put them together before. This was so delicious that I think I will have to make it at some point. I'm not sure Liam would like it as he doesn't like nuts so wouldn't like the base, but Mum loved it and you certainly couldn't tell that the topping was made with avocado. Probably one of my favourite things of the day, although there were plenty to choose from!

After lunch, we mainly went around buying things, so I will write about those, and the stalls they came from, in the next post. Here are a few more things that we didn't buy though. Not surprisingly, I seem to have mainly taken photos of cake!

Delicious cupcakes and chocolate lollies from The Cherry on Top...

I'd have loved to have bought some of these as they looked great, but I just couldn't buy everything! As it was I already bought things from 4 different cake stalls, 2 of which I had some kind of personal connection to, so unfortunately these got left behind. Hopefully they will be there again next year!

This last stall - Get Cupcaked - I did buy some really cute cupcakes from which I will show in the next post, but looking at this photo I wish I'd bought some carrot cake as well!

How fantastic does that look?!! In fact, I've just emailed the above photo to my Mum as she has agreed to make me a carrot cake for my birthday (less than 4 weeks away, yey!) so I've called this her inspiration! Haha, I do love a carrot cake with lots of cream cheese icing...delicious!

Whew, I am glad to get this post written. It was actually relatively easy (albeit time consuming) to write once I started as I was so enthusiastic about what I was was just the idea of such a long post that was a bit daunting! Hope you managed to read it ok anyway!

Have you ever been to a food festival before? What did you think?? This was my third time going to Exeter Food Festival, and I just love it. I'm already looking forward to going again next year! Back in October, I also went to a Love Food Fest Festival in Bath which was quite nice, but nowhere near as big as the Exeter one. I just love the range of stalls at the Exeter Food Festival. I still feel there were more things I could have looked at which makes it interesting to go back again year after year. Plus it's nice to have a day out with just my Mum - I definitely get my interest in food from her! :)


  1. All of that looks amazing! I love food festivals like that although I think I would have eaten everything in site! I when to a great event a couple of years back that was an invite only food party it was one of the best things I've ever been too!

  2. I have never been to a food festival, but I love farmers markets and also the food sections at Christmas markets, so I am sure I would love it! :)

  3. It looks like you had a lovely day! All the food you tried looked delicious!

  4. I love the Exeter Food Festival, it's a shame i couldn't make it this year. I have been once before and really enjoyed walking around all the stalls and watching the food demonstrations. The smells and sights are so delightful!

    Was it the Belgian chocolate lollies that you wish you had bought? Because they used to sell them in Boston Tea Party in Honiton - i'm sure they still do!

    Great review of the festival, i feel like i haven't missed out too much this year now!

  5. I love going to food festivals, although there is never usually very much vegan fare on it is more exciting when I discover vegan food! I went to the abergavenny food festival a few years back which was cool, and I went to Bristol vegfest, a vegan food festival last year. That choc torte looks great, my favourite raw dessert is choc torte, so easy to make, and nobody ever guesses that its avocado!

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