It seems like every town or city has some sort of food festival. In fact there are festivals for nearly everything, Gin, Chocolate, Gin, Cheese, Beer. These are great, but for me the most important festival is Exeter’s very own Festival of South West Food & Drink.
Colloquially known as Exeter Food Festival, it is like the start of summer for foodies in the region. It marks the beginning of the food festival season, longer nights and good weather. We were guests of Exeter Food Festival and invited along to stroll around, mingle and munch our way through Northernhay Gardens as part of the Bloggers’ Breakfast.
It might seem like ages ago, but the Exeter Food Festival is hard to forget, especially when so many fantastic producers are clustered together, granola-ed (just made that up) into Northernhay Gardens, one of the oldest public parks in the country. Snaking up through the Castle, the event takes place on the beating heart of Exeter, giving a voice to producers who you might rarely get to meet in the flesh.
Each year there is something different going on as well as firm classics. The Darts Farm Teepee (Tipi, TeePi….Tiipii) had their own mini-program of events happening throughout the weekend, including demonstrations and tutorials given by some of their foodmeisters. The Exeter Live Better tent had a healthy focus with demonstrations from chefs throughout the weekend including the Exeter Cookery School’s Jim Fisher.
Then there was the Cookery Theatre with a steady stream of well-known local chefs and guests. This year, each day had their own theme. As we visited on Saturday, we got to see Seafood Saturday and some of the remarkable creations that chefs throughout the day created.
Some highlights for me was catching up with Dan from The Guildable Manor, meeting Two Drifter’s Brewery and Butter Bike Co. – the AHDB Tent, where chef Dez Turland and Karl Pendlebury (QSM Manager), along with Chris Wheeler and Hari Ghotra, met visitors and let them sample some of the fantastic delights that South West beef and lamb hold – I am definitely a fan of the work that Karl and his team do to promote beef and lamb in the South West.
We finished the afternoon off with a little tipple of Exeter Brewery Avocet and Fraid Not from their tent. A fab final memory of another excellent visit.
We didn’t get to visit the Castle and the street food/beer/cocktails within as there was so many other things happening, but next year I hope we will reach it again.
Exeter Food Festival relies completely on the support of visitors, sponsors and those who give their time to help out. It is not-for-profit. There are costs that go beyond just the running of the festival which wouldn’t be covered by just sponsors or the stall holders. It is a massive undertaking, and not just financially but in the time spent by those who organise it.
As a foodie in Exeter, I am proud that we have such a strong community of producers, chefs and restaurants who are united in promoting the excellent things that we, as a region, do with food. I can’t wait until next year!