Best food festival: Feast of Dorset
Saturday 14 November 2009
I've lost count of the food festivals I've been involved with this year, but the foodie culture is definitely on the up all over the country, which is a great thing.
Probably the most exciting festival of the year was a brand new one in Wimborne Minster, Dorset. It's called Feast of Dorset and was hosted at Deans Court – and what a fantastic venue that proved to be, where the focus wasn't just under one big white marquee or village hall. The grounds of the house were used for producers and events and some of the food festival stalwarts, including Rose Prince, Richard Corrigan and myself, talked and demo'd using local produce.
My Italian food hero, Anna Del Conte, who lives locally, joined in a panel discussion with Prince, Corrigan and myself which was chaired by Julian Fellowes. I do like a panel discussion – you never quite know what it's going to throw up and it's not often that the general public is confronted with a bunch of foodies that they can throw random questions at.
We did a brief fishing stint on the local river and spent an awful lot of time in the trees, as well as catching tiny grayling and minnows. The point of the exercise was to cook our catch in front of foodie customers and we, of course, winged it, deep-frying the minnows like proper little goujons.
We also did a classic truite au bleu, which you never see anymore – it's a trout straight out of the water, cooked in a court bouillon which makes it curl a little and turns it a mouthwatering shade of blue.
New food festivals are fun because you never have last year's to look back on and compare it with – plus, more often than not, they throw up brand new producers that you don't see at all at the other food festivals.
My star find this year was Trealy Farm in Monmouthshire, which makes fantastic cured meats, the best I've tasted from a British producer. They went straight on to the menus in my various restaurants and they have gone down a storm.
Aldeburgh I've supported this festival for the past three years, along with Tom Parker Bowles, Fergus Henderson and Matthew Fort. The early-morning wild- fowling is not to be missed and is also an important part of our subsequent demos.
Food Rocks This was dreamt up by Clive Cobb of Lyme Regis's Town Mill Bakery, the local foodie Annette Smallwood, and myself. Considering we cobbled it together, it was a damn good first festival and, what's more, it was on the beach and the sun shone. Mitch Tonks, Nathan Outlaw and my London mucker, Lee Streeton from Browns, all pitched up along with John Wright, the local author and forager.
Eat Dorset This inspiring food fair is now in its fifth year and continues to go from strength to strength.
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