Ok, I need to get this bit out of the way first so that the rest of the day is put into perspective. I woke up at 5am and couldn't get back to sleep. At 10am two burly men arrived at my house with a new gas cooker all packaged up in protective wrapping. I signed for the new cooker and then I was free to go out and do what I had planned -visit the food festival at Nottinghamshire's beautiful Clumber Park. I don't drive so I got a bus into Nottingham - walked through the city to the Victoria bus station and, as timing would have it, waited only ten minutes for the Ollerton bus to take me on a two hour journey to North Notts and to the venue at Clumber Park. The day looked like it was going to be sunny. I was dressed for the winter but, hey ho. The bus took its mainly elderly passengers on a rather circuitous route through Sherwood and further on, through some pretty villages and a lot of countryside. Brown tourist signs for Clumber Park frustratingly came and went out of sight to taunt me. It seemed like we would never get there.
A sweet grey haired old lady passenger got off part way and promised to ask the driver to tell me when we had reached the stop for Clumber Park. I yawned a lot on the journey through tiredness. The bus eventually arrived at a stop in the middle of no-where (well, the middle of the outskirts of Clumber Park actually). I was confused and getting grumpy. It didn't help that the driver then told me that busses were every two hours. A few other people were behind me as I crossed the road to witness a never ending road going through the park and no sign of a Food Festival in sight.
I walked and walked and walked and walked getting more tetchy with each heavy step. God damn it! I just wanted a nice day out in order to blog about the Food and Drink Festival. I stopped and let the three others get closer so I didn't feel quite so alone in the walking miles
punishment experience. At this point I introduced myself to a young woman who turned out to be a masters student at Nottingham University and hadn't been in the UK for more than a few days. She was very nice and I became less and less grumpy as we both laughed and moaned about the endless walk together. Her name was Kathy. It gets much better from this point and you will get to read about food, I promise. Thanks for being with me so far. Incidentally, we had walked down this road for at least forty-five minutes. In a car, the medium in which most sensible people arrived, it would have taken five minutes. We did see a lot of trees, no litter and tarmac. Eventually other people came into view which was somewhat encouraging.
Finally the festival ground itself came into sight and we got ourselves into the Food and Drink Festival. It was pretty busy and while I was talking to one of the organisers about my intention of blogging about the event I lost Kathy in the crowds but I was sure that we would bump into each other along the way. She had spoken about getting something to eat. I guess you are thinking by now, "So how was it? The food! The food! Tell us about the food!" It was excellent actually and with the pleasant weather and great food and drink stalls all my tiredness vanished and I became my normal friendly and enthusiastic self.
It was past midday so the event was pretty busy with families enjoying the convivial atmosphere and of course, the food and drink. I made a bee line to the award winning butcher, Johnny Pusztai http://www.jtbeedham.com/(we follow each other on Twitter and I work with meat too) and I introduced myself. He was very down to earth and agreed to have a photo taken with one of his customers and even offered to give me and the missing Kathy a lift back to Nottingham if we were stuck. Genuinely nice guy. I want to chat with him another time about the charcuterie aspect of his business. At the event Johnny was manning his own butcher's tent and also hosting two events in the Cookery Theatre. And my, his meat products did look good. Very good. Later on I had a sausage cob with a couple of Johnny Putzai's award winning pork sausages. They were very meaty and they tasted just fabulous. I may well pop into Beedham's shop in Sherwood next week to get some more!
This friendly pair are called Suzzane and Matthew and their company - Riverford Organic Farms - www.riverford.co.uk produce a variety of organic veg boxes full of seasonal products as well as fruit bags and salad boxes to top up the veg order and if you want to sort out the week's veg and meat in one fell swoop they do mixed boxes for one to two people, two to three people and three to four people. They spoke enthusiastically about their work and the provenance of the food and food miles saved. They also do eggs, milk, butter, yoghurt, cheddar cheese and crème fraiche. Through the seasons they offer some seasonal treats such as romanesco, venison, chard and muscat grapes in September to cavolo nero and swede in November. Their delivery is free and comes with a friendly smile.
I spoke with this charming and eloquent couple from Liza Bakes based near to Chesterfield and they spoke passionately about their business and the ingredients that go into their cakes and the fact that they promote a local Stilton like cheese alongside the cakes. They always use butter in the cakes and whenever possible, fresh locally sourced ingredients like fruit and free range eggs supplied by Ayres on Chesterfield Market, wheat flours from Cauldwell's Mill at Rowsley, Derbyshire. Their dried fruits, nuts and spices and specialist sugars they source from Lembas near Sheffield. They avoid using artificial flavours or colourings. I sampled the Lemon Drizzle cake and the Brampton fruit and Ale cake with some of the cheese. Yummy.
On the way round the Food Exhibitors' marquee I was intrigued by these colourful jars and on enquiry discovered that they were jars of cookie mix produced by Crazymoosejars. They have a facebook presence at THIS LINK. Love the aprons guys!
I bought a fantastic pork pie (tasty pork, slightly peppery, good jelly and succulent pastry) from the Redhill Farm stand who produce free range pork products all to be drooled over at their website and business three miles north of Gainsborough between Morton and Laughton. This company have recently won the Lincolnshire Co-operative People's Choice Award 2013 and at the presentation dinner their free range pork did them proud! You can view all about their successful business at www.redhillfarm.com or follow them on Twitter @RedhillFarmPork.
Redhill Farm pork pie.
I suppose I would naturaly gravitate towards the meat based stands but there was plenty of other food and drink products to choose from and to buy. I was amazed to bump into an actress friend of mine working on her musician boyfriend's parents wine English wine stand. Natalia was very busy so I only had a few minutes to say hello.
Natalia working on the English wines stand
Outside the Food Exhibitors marquee was getting busier as the afternoon went by with people attracted by such by the look and smell of the food on stands such as Crepe Lucette, Ostriche Direct, Romano Coffee, Malong Lai Thai Cuisine, Las Paelleras with their huge paella dishes cooking and steaming away, Bofs Hoggs and the popular Red Bus bar serving beers, lagers and Pimms. Among over twenty outside stalls was one whose company name really made me smile - The Floppy Chicken Company.
This guy was a very amusing ex butcher selling a brand of knife sharpeners
A family from Ollerton out enjoying the food and the day.
All the time I had been happily wandering around in foodie heaven I had been thinking about my new American friend Kathy and just as I passed the music tent she appeared. We spent the rest of the afternoon together at the event and she was, and continued to be, wonderful intelligent female company for the remainder of the event and on the long forty five minute back walk out of the park. Our chat continued on the unexpected (going the wrong way but at least on a bus) bus trip to Worksop and a coffee break at Costa Cofee and then the two hour bus journey back to Nottingham that, to be honest, flew by, so convivial was her company and conversation.
To finish off I must mention that the festival was a great hit for me. Despite my initial (and unusual) grumpiness at the start of the journey through tiredness, the company; the foodie atmosphere; the chance to watch John Burton-Race demonstrating in the cookery theatre, the sight of young children being taught some pizza making cookery skills by The School of Artisan Food and the very fact that all the producers were so alive within their arts and keen to promote themselves with a big smile makes me even keener to go to the Food Festival at Donnington Park in early December.
Many thanks to The National Trust, Delicious Magazine, Great Taste Festivals and The Guild of Fine Food and to the organisers at Clumber Park for a fab day with food and drink.
John Burton-Race demonstrating.