It’s been over three months since I started my mission to put on weight and I’m sad to say that it hasn’t been the most successful of quests. Instead of piling the weight on, it has stayed almost static with the odd few pounds reluctantly clinging on after a few calorie-heavy eating sprees.
Not one to be easily deterred (I think some who know me might refer to this as stubbornness), as April approached, I decided to give it another go. One last binge to see if it was possible for me to bulk out just a bit more. And what was the chosen focus for my final pig out? It had to be the Exeter Festival of South West Food & Drink.
I’ve been to this heavenly foodie event for the past two years and thoroughly enjoyed it both times, so it was no punishment to dedicate myself to my calorie boosting cause for the whole weekend. And when I say the whole weekend, that’s what I mean. Starting with the VIP event on the Thursday evening and going right through to closing time at 5pm on the Sunday, I was there. Except from going home to sleep in between, obviously! Although if they were letting people kip in sleeping bags in the cookery theatre, I would have been tempted…
After having such a great time at the festival last year, there was always a risk that it wouldn’t live up to expectations again, but happily it didn’t disappoint. The producers who come to sell their wares are so passionate about what they do, and they do what they do extremely well. The range of quality food and drink which is made and enjoyed in the South West really gives us a lot to be proud of.
So here is a record of some of the goodies I consumed over the weekend – purely for medicinal purposes, of course:
Thursday 12th April (VIP launch) – Delicious canapés provided by Dartmoor Kitchen, including cheese and spinach quiche bites and spicy king prawns. I’ve been to a lot of networking events where it’s guaranteed that the moment you pop a big fat canapé in your gob, someone starts a conversation with you. You then have the dilemma of appearing rude by not replying, or appearing rude by showering them in said snack whilst talking with your mouthful. The golden rule to avoid this, is to make truly bite sized canapés, which Dartmoor Kitchen did.
Another benefit to us VIP guests was the free bar. Yes that’s right, FREE. As a true believer that one should make the most of the opportunities one gets, I gave the bar a good run for its money, sampling a bottle or two (or was it three?) of Exeter Brewery‘s Avocet Ale, a medium-light organic beer which did a good job of washing down the canapés.
Friday 13th April – Unlucky for some, but this time not for me. I’d taken the day off work to make the most of the festival and after passing through the Castle Courtyard gates, I was quite literally like a kid in a sweet shop. I was surrounded by tempting looking foods and drool-inducing aromas, which made it difficult to decide what to go for. I gave myself a gentle start with a sausage roll from Wessex Pantry, which made an excellent starter. For my Friday main course, the good old hog roast from Kenniford Farm got my vote. The tasty pork was accompanied by stuffing and a generous dollop of apple sauce – a fantastic start to my festival feast.
Saturday 14th April – At the ‘After Dark’ party on Friday night (which introduced me to a few of the real ales on offer in the bar) a friend shared some pollock goujons with me. They were so good that they were top of my eating list on Saturday. Bennetts on the Waterfront were flying the flag for Hugh’s Fish Fight campaign and offering fresh fish, fast food style. You could be sure how good their food was from the constant long queue of customers and it was definitely worth the wait. Cooked to order, the light crispy batter was absolutely delicious and the pollock just melted in the mouth.
Served with a wedge of lime and a pot of tartar sauce, I shared these with my boyfriend and they were gone faster than you could say ‘goujon’. An excellent advert for why we should be eating more of these less popular fish species. The perfect beverage to compliment the fish was The Orchard Pig‘s Reveller, a slightly sweet sparkling cider. Luckily their stand was located right opposite Bennett’s, how convenient!
Sunday 15th April – On the final day of the festival it was only right that I got my fill of food, in every way. I took my time wandering around all the stands, sampling cheese, sausage and chutneys. After these appetisers, I took some time out to watch one of the many demonstrations in the cookery theatre. I’d spotted Nathan Outlaw and Mitch Tonks earlier on (in the bar, naturally) and was keen to see what they were going to rustle up.
For these two seafood experts, fish was always going to be on the menu and it was a real treat to watch them cook up a storm with squid, with a bit of Devon versus Cornwall banter thrown in for good measure.
The demo was enough to give me an appetite and with only a few hours of the festival left, it was time to up my game. The burgers had been tempting me all weekend and when my boyfriend got an Angus burger, I tucked in. With a generous slab of cheese this was a classic tasty burger.
I returned the sharing favour soon after when I found myself gravitating to the Bennett’s stand again, this time for ‘Sole on a roll’. The batter was just as good as the day before and the lemon sole was full of flavour.
The end of the weekend was close at hand, but there was just enough time left to grab some supplies before the festival came to a close. Being a northern lass, there was only one real choice: Pies. With a number of excellent pie producers at the festival, there was quite a decision to be made, but the flavours of Tom’s Pies tempted me to buy (or I should say tempted my other half to buy) one steak and ale and one less traditional spicy lamb with chickpeas and chorizo.
Both were crammed with flavoursome fillings and encased in crisp pastry. By serving as Monday night’s dinner, the steak and ale pie allowed me to carry on my own little festival once the weekend was over. With green beans, peas and buttery mash, this dish provided a most enjoyable end to a fantastic foodie weekend.