Exeter Food Festival is one of the yearly highlights that I look forward to on our foodie calendar. This year I feel it was the best yet, and although we were not able to stay for the whole evening too, it was an unforgettable day that I enjoyed thoroughly.
The gates opened at 10am, but we were there a bit earlier on Saturday. Local culinary legend, food celebrity and owner of Lympstone Manor (one of the world’s best hotels, just to throw that in) Michael Caines MBE stood at the front and welcomed us to the Exeter Festival of South West Food & Drink 2018 and to this, the blogger’s breakfast.
This year a group of local bloggers, Lauren and myself included, were invited to a blogger’s breakfast where we got a tour of the site and the chance to meet a few producers who answered questions and were able to dedicate some quality time to asking questions and talking to us, something that they are not always able to do during the festival in full swing!
The weather was kind to us across the three days with glorious sun beating down on the visitors and the exhibitors alike; lots of visitors chilled on the grass and soaked up the atmosphere, others walked around with a definitive idea where they wanted to go and some languished in the coolness of the Exeter Cookery Theatre watching demonstrations from top chefs and occasionally Michael popping in to help in mastering the ceremonies.
With so much happening, (including free demos; cookery lessons; the chance to talk to experts and sample some glorious produce that our local area and beyond have a hand in producing) it is easy to forget that the EFF is a not-for-profit organisation which survives on ticket sales, pitch fees, sponsorship and the kindness of volunteers and the chefs who appear without charge. It costs £120,000 each year to put on the festival and without that money, there would ultimately be no festival.
Dining Devon has been lucky enough to visit each year and on every visit, something different stands out as my ‘thing I remember the most’.
Armed with our coffee from Lemon Jelli, we were given a chance to talk to producers and sample some of their fantastic offerings. First stop was Spoilt Pig.
Spoilt Pig is one of the only companies in the UK that produce meat with a particular emphasis on low to none antibiotic use.
“We believe that well cared for animals mean better quality and better-tasting food. Knowing where our food comes from is now more important than ever to us all, which is why we only work with British farmers we know and trust.
Our British farmers share our beliefs in farming responsibly and operating to the highest welfare standards. This means all our bacon is produced from outdoor bred pigs, raised in areas with low pig populations, meaning less chance of our pigs getting ill.”
The meat tasted amazing, slapped between a fresh roll, this was one bacon butty I was not going to forget in a flash!
Next, we headed over to Salcombe Gin, undoubtedly a local product success story gaining recognition on a national and international scale.
Salcombe Gin is handcrafted on a 450L copper pot still at their distillery in Salcombe. Using Dartmoor Water to produce their London Dry style gin, their Gin was named ‘Best In The World’ at a prestigious competition in San Francisco last year. This has really fortified their reputation as distillers of fine Gin. Read about their success here
We then visited Cornish Gouda Co. whose lovely Mature Gouda we picked up a slice as it was so utterly delicious! Started in 2012 by Giel Spierings and his family farm in Cornwall (weird that…) they’ve diversified into producing a rich and creamy Gouda-style cheese that is widely available from shops across the country including Fortnum & Mason’s in London!
Then last but not least we visited Vicky’s Bread. Exclusively using sourdough, they supply farm shops around Devon and Cornwall. I love sourdough and I was totally chuffed to be presented with some later in the day.
Beautiful and handcrafted, they have a bakery in Helston and supply local outlets like Dart’s Farm and Exeter’s Barton Place Farm Shop being two that are near me!
Then a visit to Luscombe’s who produce fruity and refreshing drinks made in Devon on the Luscombe Estate, I never realised how much heritage this brand had. There are many places that stock their range of juices, tonics and ciders.
The rest of the day was spent wandering happily around the site including a chance to take the top table for the lunchtime demos!
We swung through to say hello to Yvan and Faye Williams, AKA The Oddfellows, who had their exceptional cocktails including a Gin Slushy that was absolutely mind-blowingly refreshing, and it was the most amazing colour too!
Lauren, Tori and I were both given the chance to watch the demonstrations and taste the fantastic food created for us.
Tori and I had Boringdon Hall Head Chef and Food Magazine’s Reader Awards 2017 Winner Scott Paton and Guy Owen, Chef-Owner of The Idle Rocks in St Mawes cooking up some delectable dishes as we watched with fascination.
Lauren was lucky enough to have Adam Banks from Fifteen Cornwall cooking for her!
Afterward, we were able to have a wander and watch more demos, visit Exeter Cookery School’s teaching tent where wannabe chefs were able to book onto a course with the amazing Jim Fisher at the helm showing off his cheffy tips.
For me, one of the highlights of the afternoon was watching Pete Woodham-Kay and Steve Williams from Good Game demonstrating a ‘Burger As Big As Your Face’ Burger that is available from their Pig & Pallet Restaurant in Topsham.
An Exeter Food Festival first-timer was Rockfish who are opening a new restaurant in Exeter very soon. Mitch Tonks, founder and friend of Dining Devon was on hand for his demonstration that afternoon, Lauren caught a sneaky selfie with him too!
We had a good wander around in the afternoon. As ever there were too many producers to mention, the range and quality of the produce was second to none. How come?
Because our region produces some of the finest and most delicious produce, created by passionate and hard-working folks who inspire me everytime I talk to them.
This year’s festival was also a very non-plastical affair. The festival had banned single-use plastic cups and operated a re-usable cup scheme which fed nicely into one of the strong points of sustainability. Where possible, if the sustainable option could be used, it would.
Disclaimer: Dining Devon was provided with tickets to the festival but this does not influence our opinions or experience of the festival.
Had we not been given tickets, we would have still gone anyway as it is one of the most important dates in Exeter’s foodie calendar, it is also a celebration of the excellence of local producers and the chefs that cook in our region.