Exeter Food Festival 2015: An epic write-up

Its the time of year that the whole of Exeter descends on Northernhay Gardens to experience a celebration of South West food and drink, and Eating Exeter (i.e me) was there to experience it in its spectacular tasty glory.  This is a long post so scroll down for photos, more writing and an Eating Exeter first…a photo slideshow.

There were producers showing off their amazing food, chefs demonstrating their highly tuned culinary skills and musicians playing to crowds of people swilling local ales & ciders until late into the night. This is not really a festival, more of a party and this year I was lucky enough to get a press pass for the Friday, so with my new-found VIP status I headed to Northernhay Gardens after work to see what was happening.

Ask any Exeter Food Festival veteran and they will tell you that there are good and bad times to go. Friday is a good day as its quiet and relatively fresh.  Sunday is also a good time to go as its..well…Sunday.  Should you go on Saturday? Hell yes…naturally it is the day people tend to drift in to Exeter so its going to be a bit busy. But don’t let that put you off.  There are performance stages in the Castle and in the Gardens, two demonstration areas and a plethora of stands to get food.  You could easily spend the entire day here.

As I was destined to go on the Friday, I wasn’t too fussed about crowds. But by the time I got to the festival many of the producers were packing up or had packed up (there was only half an hour to go) so I decided a Saturday revisit was needed.

If you do go on a Saturday, here is a handy tip. Get there early. I was half an hour early as I had convinced myself that the gates opened at 9:30am. They didn’t (so I consoled myself with a Bacon Bap and Tea from Oggy Oggy for £1.25 which was amazing value and kept me company).  I had a couple of hours where the crowds were at a nice level and it was enjoyable to be able to just amble around and take in the gardens too.  I left just as the crowds started to pick up, but also as the rain started to look more threatening. Unfortunately the festival organisers don’t have control over the weather!

As this is the Exeter Festival of South West Food & Drink, there were producers that were local and not so local.  I couldn’t possibly cover every single producer that I met or took leaflets from, but I will mention a few that stuck with me.  There were some new names and some classic favorites too.

Eat The Smoke –Eat The Smoke and their products
http://www.eatthesmoke.co.uk/ (Twitter https://twitter.com/EatTheSmokeBBQ)

I am quite biased with these guys because I love BBQs, red meat and beer. To taste a BBQ sauce that had a smokyness made from genuine American liquid smoke and really good local ingredients was refreshing and exciting.  It had a deep rich colour and a scent that reminded me of Deep South cook-outs and red-necks.  Not that I have ever been to the Deep South or met a genuine red-neck, but I imagine they’d be eating this stuff if they could get their hands on it.

They are based in Exmouth and occasionally run Pop-up restaurants so its worth hooking up with them on social media for more goings on. They have a nice little blog too which I hope they’ll add to.

This brings me handily on to the subject of BBQ’s and meat. I can safely say that this year’s Festival was definitely meat friendly.  The highlight of the Saturday was watching the Piper’s Farm team take it in turn to man their open air mega-BBQ.

Pipers Farm –
(Twitter: https://twitter.com/pipersfarm)

Pipers Farm is a success story for Devon produce.  Have a look at the raft of awards that they have managed to pick up and you’ll see why they are one of my favourite meat producers/retailers. Pipers Farm itself is based near Cullompton, and they have shop in Exeter at 57 Magdalen Road .

As I’ve always been a bit of a Piper’s Farm fanboy at heart, I just had to pick up some Unsmoked Back Bacon for breakfast.  I am endeavoring to start doing product reviews on Eating Exeter, so prepare for a product review of Piper’s Farm Bacon in the immediate future!

Pipers Farm are also very aware of the importance of social media, they use it actively and effectively across many different platforms including Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and a few others. Follow them and see what they’re doing as its really quite impressive.

Cherry Tree Preserves –

When we were last at the Exeter Food Festival we picked up a jar of Spiced Red Onion Marmalade, but unfortunately we just hadn’t been anywhere that had sold it.  This meant Tori-wife-unit had gone without it for nearly a year and could we remember the name? Nope. Not a chance. I was under orders to track down and purchase a jar of this stuff, so imagine my happiness when I Spicey Onion Marmaladefound that they were at the festival this year as well.  Some delicious Marmalade and extra browny points!

Cherry Tree have won themselves a Taste Of The West Silver award which is well deserved.  I loved the sheer range of products that they are able to come up with and the fact that they have a Cherry Tree Club that lets you register to get a whole heap of benefits such as a Free Jar with your first order, newsletters and discount on new products.

They are not local-local, the website gives you information about becoming a Franchisee but I like the stuff and it appears that Michael Caines and the Festival Committee like them too, so thats good enough for me.

Well Hung Meat Company –
(Twitter: https://twitter.com/wellhungtweet)

I had a lot of conversations with various producers this morning, and I really felt the chap I spoke to on the Well Hung Meat company had a passion for what he was doing.

From their own herd, their animals are butchered by Artisan Butchers (…they’re better than non-Artisan butchers because they have videos made about them) and delivered to your door via their online meat box service.

Had I the resources and the patience I would be signing up right away as their meat is completely traceable and guaranteed to have had a good life in nice big fields next to the sea.  Completely guilt-free meat eating.

Stapleton Yogurts – http://www.stapletonfarm.co.uk/

Produced in North Devon, Stapleton makes yogurt from the milk of a herd of Jersey cows.

There is nothing artificial in their products and they are the perfect remedy for having too much Bhut Sauce…lucky for me they were right next to the Dartmoor Chilli Farm stand.

There are lots of flavours and they are available from Tescos and a few other large supermarkets too.

Dartmoor Chilli Farm –
(Twitter: https://twitter.com/DartmoorChilli)

Each time we come to the Exeter Food Festival it is now a tradition that I go up to the stall and decide that the Bhut Jolokia sauce is perfect to try with a large dollop on their tasting crackers. Each year the heat takes me by surprise and each year I think about the fact that I did it last year…

Dartmoor Chilli Farm is a low-carbon footprint business, producing organic and natural products with no use of pesticides.  They produce chocolates, sauces, relishes and sell chilli seeds and even plants themselves.  I bought a plant at the last EFF that I attended and it managed to struggle on for a year until I killed it accidentally (was more manslaughter than murder).  They have won various awards and their products are available online.

Hunter’s Brewery –

“Hunter’s Brewery is a family-run microbrewery crafting top quality, uniquely tasty cask and bottled ales in Devon using only the finest ingredients” and yes I might have pulled that from their website.

I have liked Hunter’s Brewery for a while and been a massive fan of Crispy Pig, a session ale that was sold by Wetherspoons (which is how I discovered it).  It has been a bit of a hit, and with Hunter’s Brewery appearing on The Fixer (some sort of televised program-mabob?) which I haven’t seen, they appear to be going from strength to strength.

Unfortunately my interaction with the chap on the stall today was rather awkward as I think I must have interrupted him as he was talking to someone else; so I had a sample of Crispy Pig and ran off.  But that won’t stop me from buying some next time I see it for sale.

Kenniford Farm Hog Roast –

On the Friday night we needed food and the After Dark party was lucky enough to have a fantastic selection of street food stalls.  One of them was Kenniford Farm’s Hog Roast company who provided us with some tasty pork and even tastier crackling.

Whilst sipping on Otter Brewery’s finest ale (which is imho Otter Bright) we were treated to a demonstration by Tom Cull of Tom’s Pies.  It put me in the mood for pork belly and that need hasn’t quite shifted.

“Tom Cull is creator and director of Dartmoor Kitchen; a bespoke outside catering company recently awarded the impressive title of National Caterer of the Year following 4 years running of being the ‘West Country Wedding Caterer of the year’, and Tom’s Pies; producers of a range of delicious multi award-winning artisan pies made using only the best free range and farm assured ingredients, locally sourced where possible”

I can’t quite remember what Tom was making but it seemed something like this, which is described by A Fanatical Foodie which Tom demonstrated a few years ago. I might be wrong? It was an interesting demonstration and despite wearing my VIP badge I was quite happy sitting somewhere in the middle.

The South West food scene is vibrant, well promoted and exceptional in quality and the passion that goes along with it.  I’m proud to be able to write about it and was even more proud to talk to some of the most enthusiastic and passionate food people that you are likely to find.

There were quite a few producers who didn’t make it in to the post: this blog post is already over 1600 words!

Portlebay Popcorn – http://www.portlebaypopcorn.com/

Fussels Fine Foods – https://www.fusselsfinefoods.co.uk/

Chunk Pies – http://www.takeachunk.com/

Mr Filbert’s Inventive Snack Company – http://www.mrfilberts.com/

Topsham Chorizo – http://www.good-game.co.uk/our-story/

Big Pot Kitchen – http://www.bigpotkitchen.co.uk/

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