The food festival season is truly upon us. You could probably spend every weekend from now until the end of the autumn at a different food festival somewhere around the country. And I for one intend to get to as many as I can possibly can.
I spent last Bank Holiday weekend in the Cotswolds, in the beautiful market town of Woodstock, home to the rather magnificent Blenheim Palace, residence of the 12th Duke and Duchess of Marlborough and birthplace of Sir Winston Churchill, which this year played host for the first time to its very own food festival.
We arrived at the festival mid-morning; a little too early to be quite hungry enough for the delights on offer, particularly after our very delicious breakfast at our boutique B&B, the Glove House – their strapazzate (Italian scrambled eggs finished with cream and Parmesan) is to die for by the way. So we took a relaxed stroll around the stunning grounds of Blenheim for a couple of hours first, admiring the elegantly sweeping vistas and charming bluebell woods, to work up an appetite.
By lunchtime we were ravenous. Time to hit the food stalls…
If you’re into food, then festivals like this are always such a fun way to explore new cuisines and food products, but more than anything it’s great to meet the people behind the food, who are always so passionate about what they’re creating and keen to talk about their stories and future plans. The Blenheim Palace Food Festival was perfect for this – there was such a vibrant buzz about the place; a genuine excitement about sharing good food and drink. The British food scene has come a long way.
My personal highlights included the 10-hour slow roasted lamb from Cotswolds-based Ross and Ross Food, the smell of their roasting meat drew us from the opposite end of the festival, and the beautifully spiced braised beef shin from A Taste of Vietnam was a revelation. I’m actually trying to recreate this dish today for Sunday lunch.
As regular readers of this blog will know, we’re big chilli heads in the Bangers & Mash household, so I had to investigate all the chilli offerings. I was immediately drawn to the Chilli Alchemist’s stall, with their mystical Medieval styled chilli potions. These Bristol-based chilli lovers know how to make a good chilli sauce and, after some serious tasting of their full range, I came away with three bottles – Philosopher’s Dew, Smoke Potion and Everlasting Flame. Great names, huh? If you like chilli sauce, do check out the Chilli Alchemist website.
The Blenheim Palace Food Festival would have made a fantastic day out for the whole family. They had an excellent Kids Club with petting zoo, scavenger hunt, giant garden games, and all kinds of arts and crafts. But for once I was out sans enfant, so I could partake in more than a few delicious cocktails.
Two stalls in particular won my seal of approval. There was the funky and, brilliantly quirky Tipple Taxi, a mobile cocktail bar from a black London Hackney cab, serving up elegant and oh so grown up gin and tequila cocktails. And the Mojito Mavericks, mixing up an array of fun and fruity rum-fuelled delights. I could have sipped their spicy mango mojito (featuring chilli syrup) in the sun all day. Although I would’ve probably had to be carted back to the hotel in a wheelbarrow afterwards…
The Blenheim Palace Food Festival was organised by Fantastic British Food Festivals, who are hosting many more events in stunning venues throughout the year. Their next festival takes place at the end of June at Morden Hall Park in South London, while in July they’ll be at Wakehurst Place, the country estate of the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew. To see the full schedule of events, check out fantasticbritishfoodfestivals.com.