Where to eat, drink and be merry
From fresh oysters in Kent to liquorice in Yorkshire, there are festivals to tempt foodies all summer long. David Graham and Fiona Roberts pick the tastiest
Wednesday 28 April 2010
The British Asparagus Festival
From now until 21 June
Vale of Evesham
Having begun on St George's Day, the highlight of this quintessentially English event is the festival day on 31 May. Throughout the month Asparabus Tours give you the chance to explore the area and discover the secrets of this vegetable.
Loch Fyne Food Fair
15-16 May 2010
Inveraray Castle grounds, Argyll
Perfect for a romantic weekend away, this year's fair moves to the beautiful grounds of Inveraray Castle. Taste some of the finest West Coast food, from Loch Fyne's own oysters to Orkney herrings and Inverloch cheese, then dance it all off at the ceilidh on Saturday night.
Free admission to the fair, tickets £10 for the ceilidh
A celebration of watercress and its versatility. Award-winning chefs will give demonstrations at the food market while a cavalcade of jazz musicians, Morris dancers and kids herald the arrival of the Watercress King and Queen. This year the public can vote for the winner of the Eateries Award.
28-31 May, 17-20 June, 16-18 July
Edinburgh, London, Birmingham
Some of the finest restaurants in three UK cities will decamp to city-centre parks to take part in Taste 2010. Although this is typically more expensive than other festivals, last year's events were a sell-out success with this year's expected to follow suit. Chefs Gary Rhodes, Michel Roux Jr, and Anna Hansen will appear in London.
Bristol Eco Veggie Fayre
The Amphitheatre and Waterfront Square, Bristol
Whether you're a seasoned vegetarian, or just want to find out more about living in a veggie and eco-friendly way, you'll find what you're looking for here. Featuring 140 stalls packed with information and cooking tips, juice bars, Fair Trade advice and nutritional guidance. A kids' area and live music complete a well-rounded schedule.
Tickets: adults £6.50; concessions £3.50.
Hampton Court Palace Foodie Festival
Hampton Court Palace
Michelin-Starred chefs will be on hand at this one demonstrating some of their most flavoursome recipes. Lessons will also be available for youngsters aiming to outdo their parents. A Veuve Clicquot champagne bar and tasting sessions delivered by drinks experts provide a much-varied schedule to suit everyone.
Tickets: adults £15; concessions £8.
Cheltenham Food and Drink Festival
18-20 June 2010
Montpellier Gardens, Cheltenham
Featuring champagne and cider gardens and a real ale marquee, this festival is the perfect way to while away a summer's afternoon. Guest of honour Antonio Carluccio will lead a programme of demonstrations, and there will be plenty of opportunity to sample and buy food from more than 150 local producers.
Tickets: £3 for Friday and £4 Saturday and Sunday (pre-booked)
1-31 July 2010
A huge range of foodie events will be held across the county as Hampshire celebrates its 10th annual food festival. You can learn how to write a cook book with Rose Elliot, try a gourmet dinner with James Martin, take one of the many farm tours, or just sit back and let the kids do the work with special children's bakery classes.
The Isle of Man Queenie Festival
Isle of Man
Despite a reduced programme this year, the festivities aim to celebrate the island's world renowned Queen Scallops, or Queenies as they're known locally. Competitions, demonstrations, live music and barbeques ensure this is one to remember.
Pontefract Liquorice Festival
Pontefract Precinct, Yorkshire
The Liquorice Capital of England gears up for its annual festivities in honour of the town's proud culinary heritage. Its cobbled streets and Norman castle give the Pontefract event a unique backdrop. Taster sessions offering food and drink made with liquorice take centre stage to make this a unique experience.
Whitstable Oyster Fair
24-30 July, Whitstable, Kent
How quickly could you eat six oysters and down a half a pint of Whitstable Brewery Pilsner? If you think you can compete with the best, this one's for you. This celebration takes place to mark the new season of oyster harvesting and explores the history, heritage and traditions of Whitstable.
Nantwich International Cheese Show
28 July, Dorfold Park, Nantwich
Held as part of the Nantwich and South Cheshire Show, this year the Cheese Complex has been extended to almost 60,000sq ft. Everyday varieties such as stilton and edam will be in abundance; however, for the adventurous, how about cheddar with marmalade, or chocolate-chip cheese?
Pershore Plum Festival
31 July-30 August
This light-hearted celebration of the humble fruit turns the whole town purple. As well as gorging on plums, you can sample some of the more unusual plum creations dreamt up by local entrepreneurs, including stilton and plum cheese, plum-favoured tea and even plum nail art. Then you can take home the Pershore Plum Cookbook.
West Dean Chilli Fiesta
West Dean Gardens, near Chichester
Fancy trying the hottest chilli in the world? A third day has been added to this year's schedule. This is something of a cult event and draws fans from all over the world to sample 300 varieties of chillis and sweet peppers.
Prices: adults £9; seniors £8.50; children £4.25.
Hundreds of thousands regularly turn out for this event which features the best produce the area has to offer. Learn to dazzle in the kitchen, West Country style, or simply relax and enjoy the fine dining on offer. The Kids Kitchen area means youngsters can also brush up on their culinary skills.
Isle of Wight Garlic Festival
New Church, Isle of Wight
Despite the name, you'll find more than just the traditional vampire repellant here – hundreds of stalls featuring the island's award winning lamb, beef, pork and poultry, along with dairy products, fruit, vegetables and juices. Sheep dog trials and live music make this a wonderfully enjoyable weekend out.
Really Wild Food and Countryside Festival
St Davids, Pembrokeshire
The smallest city in Britain plays host to this festival that has something of a medieval feel. Cooking is done using "wild materials" which were used by our ancestors to prepare food. You can learn about foraging and discover which ingredients and implements nature has to offer as well as enjoying traditional music and storytelling.
Totally Tomato Show
West Dean Gardens, near Chichester
If you have a passion for tomatoes then this one is definitely for you. With more than 150 varieties on display, along with cookery demonstrations, growing tips and a tastiest tomato competition, there's bound to be something for everyone here.
Prices: adults £7.50; seniors £7; children £3.50
Ludlow Marches Food Festival
Now in its 16th year, this event's reputation for offering fantastic food and drink continues to grow. Featuring the very best on offer in the English and Welsh border country, foodies will be treated to hundreds of stalls occupied by small, independent food and drink producers.
Prices: adults £7; seniors £5; children £1.50.
Harvest at Jimmy's
11-12 September 2010
Pack your tent for this hybrid music and food festival in Suffolk. Chefs including Angela Hartnett and Mark Hix will be joined by The Zutons and The Futureheads, and you can forget dodgy burgers – Wahaca and the River Cottage Canteen will be on hand to supply very special festival food instead.
Tickets: day £32.50 (£10 concessions), weekend £60 (£18.50 concessions), more for camping;
Liverpool Food and Drink Festival
Sefton Park (launch)
After a launch at Sefton Park on September 12, Liverpool will turn itself into foodie heaven as the city's bars and restaurants open their doors to show off their culinary skills. Highlights include yet-to-be-announced celebrity chefs on the Saturday, and a "Speed Dining" night where diners can go from restaurant to restaurant and try a tapas-sized portion of their specialities.
York Food Festival
Parliament Street, York Guildhall, Mansion House
Aiming to "educate minds and palates" through taste workshops and demonstrations, approximately 150,000 people attend to be enlightened each year. Nutritional advice for adults and kids will be offered as the organisers attempt to re-establish the dinner table as the primary focal point of family interaction.
Abergavenny Food Festival
18-19 September 2010
One Sunday paper called this event "the Cannes of the food festival world". This year the organisers will be hoping to build on this considerable reputation as they fill the streets of Abergavenny with the rising stars of the artisan food scene. The festival promises masterclasses, tastings and a good dose of Welsh hospitality.
Feast of Dorset
Deans Court, Wimborne
Chosen as our food festival of the year 2009, this celebration of the West Country's finest produce is set in a beautiful secret garden within the grounds of Deans Court. Visitors can pitch a tent and stay for the weekend to watch demonstrations by Rose Prince and Mark Hix, and pick up tips on breadmaking and beekeeping from local artisans.
Tickets: Day pass £7 adults/ £5 concessions.
Aldeburgh Food and Drink Festival
25-26 September 2010
Around 100 food and drink producers from across East Anglia will converge on the beautiful Snape Maltings for the fifth food and drink annual festival. Listen to talks from leading chefs, including Tom Parker Bowles and Thomasina Miers, while enjoying a pint of Adnams beer or Aspall's cyder. And if you can't make the weekend itself, catch one of the fringe events running over the next fortnight.
Tickets £5, free for under 13s;
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