Sunday, 4 July 2010

Festival of Delights - Bath Food & Drink Festival

You may know Bath for it's beautiful architecture or the healing steamy waters of it's spa. This weekend, Bath's historic Royal Crescent was awash with colour, the promising sound of sizzling and a cocktail of mouth-watering smells. Producers, purveyors, chefs and performers (sometimes the same thing, it seems) happily rubbed shoulders and vied for the attention of the ticket-holding foodies.

The city’s picturesque country-side surroundings were reflected in the mix of stalls that were neatly squeezed into the park. Amongst the real ales on offer, the increasingly trendy ciders were well represented (though I wasn’t impressed by the Gaymers stall) and the Pimms tent was predictably popular as the hot and balmy Saturday wore on.

The Cosmic Sausages

The festival atmosphere was fed by the live music performed on and around the music stage; the musical highlight of our afternoon was the quirky (and rather aptly named) Cosmic Sausages. Jarvis of St James had picked a prime spot to set up shop as their cute teak be-parasoled tables and chairs had a great view of the stage - great for sipping a glass of bubbly and enjoying the chaos unfolding before you.

The main food tent was a feast of interesting chutneys, crusty bread and sweet things. We were disappointed by Med Food UK; despite their fantastic selection of olives and antipasti, everything we tried tasted as if it was from a jar, overly salted and was all incredibly expensive. Still, everything else looked so wonderful that it was hard to know where to start. We'd arrived at lunchtime and eventually started with a chicken wrap from Natural Game. We were very glad that we did - food festivals can be wallet emptyingly expensive (stall holders know they have a captive and enthuastic audience) but for £5 we had lunch for two in just one wrap.

Antonio Carluccio

Once we were suitably fed, we headed to the Chef's tent to see Antonio Carluccio do his thing. Now, Antonio might be 73 but he certainly doesn't act it. He's very much full of the joys of spring and in rather rude health. Half an hour in his company was filled with giggles (he tells the most wildly outrageous jokes!) and smiles as he whipped up some simple, hearty food. He told us that he has just returned from filming a food documentary for BBC 2 out in Italy which will be out sometime next year so keep your eye out for that.

Me and another unsuspecting audience member with Richard Bertinet

Later, we had the pleasure of Richard Bertinet's company. Richard is probably best known for his baking skills and we were treated to a live demonstration of how to knead dough in the traditional French way. It's mesmerising to watch but certainly not easy as proven by an innocent audience member who was tugged out of his seat to help with the proceedings. It just so happened that I put my hand up to the wrong question (or should that be right question?) and ended up on stage cooking a smoked fish chowder with the man himself. I've got to say that the recipe was surprisingly simple and, with some freshly baked bread to dunk, absolutely heavenly.

We ended our day with a cookie sandwich from Mendip Moments - a generous scoop of honeycombe icecream crammed between two freshly baked chocolate cookies! Bath Food & Drink Festival was a fantastic day out and comes highly recommended when planning your trips for next year.

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