Exeter Food Festival: A quick round-up by Chris Gower

The Exeter Food Festival is a massive part of the culinary calendar for foodies in this wonderful city.  Each year Eating Exeter has written about it and attended dutifully, watched the demos, tweeted and blogged about the experience enjoying the wealth of talented producers and chefs that our region produce.

This year myself and Steve Heath (Chilli Head Chef) had the honour of being part of the action in more ways than one.  Not only was I part of the Question and Answer panel in the BBC Radio Devon Tent, but I was an ‘official’ (ish) photographer and Steve took co-hosted a demo with South Devon Chilli Farm in the Dart’s Farm Teepee.

The festival started off with a photo-call where we were able to snap some newspaper worthy photos in the presence of the great MC himself.

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It was a very informal meeting, where Michael proved that having an Otter Valley ice-cream for breakfast was part of living the dream!

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Neither Lauren or I could make the Saturday, but we definitely had Sunday and Monday covered!  This wasn’t the only thing that was covered, because it was a good thing the majority of the food festival was covered as it rained pretty much solidly on both these days.

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But across the board, this was the only dampener on a fantastic event that constantly draws a large and eclectic array of people from across the region.  The Northernhay Gardens is Britain’s oldest public space having been laid out originally in 1612, the gardens curve around the base of Exeter Castle which makes this the ideal space for holding an event like this, and with the inclusion of the Castle as part of the Festival too, not only can festival-goers experience the best food and drink, they are treated to a walk through history at the same time.

I genuinely love this festival.  The structured program of events, the vast range of activities and goings on, the producers, the after-dark parties and the sheer number of organisations and businesses make me proud to be in a county that takes as much pride in its food & drink as ours does.

Now know that this post is completely bias.  It is also mostly made up of photos so please scroll down for more images of the Sunday that I attended.

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The first stop for us was the Beer Tent.  I had pre-radio nerves and needed some liquid assistance.  As usual I go for Otter Brewery Otter Bright and Tori went for her Dartmoor Ale favourite Jail Ale which was very much needed.

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Being invited to speak on the radio was a great honour.  I was lucky enough to share the stage with my foodie friends Tara (Tara’s Busy Kitchen) and Harry who was standing in for Nick Hook who is Mr Devon Food Hour.

Thirty minutes passed like five, and before you know it, its over.  We had a blast talking about writing a food blog and the fun that it can be, also how easy it is just to start writing.

In no-time at all we were sat waiting for the highlight of the day in the Question Tent, Paul Ainsworth, Michael Caines, Tom Kerridge and Michael Wignall answering questions.


It was fascinating to see into the minds of these great chefs, what a rare opportunity to have four of the UK’s best in one place!

Then it was time to hot-foot it down to the Cookery Theatre to see the mighty Tom Kerridge demo a classic British favourite.

But before that, we were lucky to catch Michael Caines and Adam Little’s demo.  Adam is a fantastic chef and is Head Chef at the Exeter Golf and Country Club that we reviewed a while back; it was great to see Adam taking the stage even though he was going back later for evening service!

After Adam and Michael’s demonstration finished, the crowd swelled in readiness for the main event.  Tom Kerridge, chef-owner of the Hands and Flowers which has two Michelin Stars demonstrated essentially Steak and Chips, a perfect accompaniment to the Otter Ale that was being served at the VIP guest table.

It was quite awe-inspiring to see the master at work, and even more of an honour given the photos that I ended up taking were some of the best (imho) of my dubious photography career.

I was also thrilled see the legendary Paul Ainsworth’s demo towards the end of the day as well, I have never seen a man handle a lime with so much ease and grace!  Joking aside, I really enjoyed his demonstration – he explained everything carefully and really engaged the room.

The come-down from seeing these demos needed food and by the time we had got our fill of chefs doing magical things with meat, we needed food badly.

I had my eye on a couple of vendors but I was particularly taken with The Guildable Manor, a fresh import from Borough Market in London and we met the lovely affable Dan who introduced us to his lovely sausage-kebab creations with his scratch made sauces and fresh baguettes.

By the end of the day we had run out of time, so we didn’t really get to look at the producers this year.  We did enjoy a small glass of Crispy Pig before we left, but our day was tiring and it was definitely time to go home.

Had we made it to Monday as well we would have seen one of my favourite food bloggers, who coincidentally happens to also be the husband of Co-Editor Lauren, the Chilli Head Chef Steve Heath take part in a demo with South Devon Chilli Farm along with another one of my favourite food bloggers, Mr Marcus Bawdon (in the Hawaiian shirt)!

Steve co-hosted with Phil of SDCF and answered questions from the public.  Steve also helped out with the chilli sauce eating competition with James Dart of Dart’s Farm compering, and Marcus cooked some meat in one of SDCF’s newest sauces.

Exeter Food Festival will always be my favourite food festival.  We are lucky enough to live in a county with a reputation for exquisite and epic food producers and culinary creators, and the festival is a gleaming example of how to celebrate this.  Next year the fun repeats with big names and awesome events  – Exeter Festival of South West Food & Drink returns for its 15th year on 5th, 6th and 7th May – the early May Bank Holiday 2018.



Eating Exeter visits Country Wood Smoke HQ

How do you introduce Marcus Bawdon? BBQ blogging master, nationally recognised BBQ personality (he judges at the Grillstock festival) and generally nice chap.  He is also incredibly modest when it comes to what he does when he is not being a father, wife or geologist.  I have a huge amount of respect for his knowledge and his infectious passion for all things BBQ.

The foodie scene in Exeter and Devon is bubbling and boiling hot; full of awesome local producers doing excellent things with ingredients; restaurants opening left right and centre.  In the middle of this, a small army of foodies who share their passion through writing, photography and exuberant cheering on social media – I was lucky enough to share my visit with a few members of this army; food photographer Nick Hook, Exeter GCC Chef Ben Gordon.and  the multi-talented food writer/PR guru Harriet Wild.

We were invited to Marcus’s BBQ HQ, somewhere deep in East Devon to experience BBQ how it should be experienced.  Slowly cooked and smoked.


After arguing with my sat-nav, I eventually landed in a piece of East Devon that I have frequently driven through but not really stepped back to admire, it was beautiful and so quiet, only the faint hum of the motorway could be heard if you really strained to listen.

Waking through a large circular archway CWS HQ was everythuing I imagined it to be.  A large garden and off to the side was a large BBQ area filled with equipment, gizmos and other bits, all designed to create awesome food.

Earlier in the day Marcus had been live on Facebook creating his Mac & Cheese Fatty, so the anticipation was right on the ceiling.  What else were we going to be having?

A beautiful smoked  Mocha Beef Brisket..

Mac & Cheese Chilli Fatty…

and Cherry Smoked Pork along with a big dish of CWS Mac & Cheese.

The part that I had anticipated as much as eating the food was watching Marcus carve the meat.  Clustering around him like bees with cameras, and a particularly large bee with a vast appetite being me, Nick and myself both caught the essence of the meat and its texture.

We sat and chatted for a while, eating the tender meats that Marcus had prepared and sharing laughs.  The rain started to spitter, tapping on the roof of CWS HQ which was shortly followed by a windfall applr banging like a gun as it hit corregrated steel and rolled down.


For dessert with had pecan smoked peaches, cooked briefly in one of Marcus’s smaller machines.  The gentle smokiness really worked and with the creaminess of the double cream, sprinkled with a few pecans, it rounded off a truly BBQ’d dinner.

If you want to catch more of Marcus’s creations follow him on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram

Subscribe to Country Wood Smoke and check out the magazine.

The Half Moon, Clyst St Mary, Exeter

Sunday lunches are quite a British thing, correct me if I am wrong but I don’t know of another culture that will insist on having roast dinners even in the middle of Summer whilst its baking hot outside.  But like many things in the culinary universe, it is very very easy to (excuse the French) f**k up.

For a number of years the legendary Sunday lunch at The Half Moon in Clyst St Mary has been a source of curiosity as more than one person has recommended it to me.  So, given we were invited down for a recent birthday, how could I not give it the Eating Exeter treatment.

Before I go on, I have to say that I am completely biased when writing about The Half Moon simply because I was a resident of Clyst St Mary for about six years, and through the years, the village itself has changed in a lot of ways.  But one constant has been this funny little pub that has sat on the corner in the village for a very long time.

Clyst St Mary is a strange village that suffers from ‘Blink and You Miss It’ Syndrome.  The roundabout is the one feature of this village that most people are familiar with, its not a destination, just a small squirt on an ever encroaching urban landscape.  There is a medieval bridge that crosses the marsh next door which saw a large battle in The Prayer Book Rebellion, and a shop that sells things and and…the Village Hall.  There is also a church but this is conveniently situated a mile away on the other side of the Winslade Park estate.

So where does The Half Moon fit in to all of this? It was here that I tried to out-drink my father when I was newly and managed to fail.  It has been 14 years since I have had a pint of Addlingtons Cider and I won’t be in a rush. Sorry Addlingtons!  As you might imagine, he got in trouble when I returned home and returned the contents of my stomach in a glorious and embarrassing fashion.

It was in this pub I spent a couple of new years and it was in this pub that I gave away a winning meat raffle ticket, only to have found out it would have won a massive joint of pork. So unfortunately this review has turned in to more of a nostalgic ramble…oh well.
One of my best friends worked here for years, and after the demise of The Malster’s Pub which was situated further up the visit, The Half Moon became the only pub.  A sad and inevitable fact of life these days is that pubs are increasingly under threat, but given the popularity of this place and the popularity of the Sunday Lunches here, it would be surprising if The Half Moon faced such a threat.

There are two bars, a drinking bar and the restaurant side.  Both of them are not overly spacious, but I would be happy to say that although it is cosy, the surroundings are definitely not claustrophobic.  The menu at The Half Moon allow large and small portions which makes sense given how much food can end up being wasted by being overly generous with portions.  Specials on the wall, Sunday lunch menu on the table.   I went for the Topside Beef which was £8.95, and a bit cheaper for a smaller portion.  Accompanied by a pint of Hanlon’s Half Moon, which really just had to be done.

Trying to reserve a table for Sunday lunch at The Half Moon is something you really need to do in advance.  The pub was packed and it is easy to see why as I have to fully endorse this as one of the better pub roasts I have had in quite a while.  Crispy Roast potatoes, well cooked Beef (it was so thick I really could have done with a steak knife!) accompanied with home-made horseradish sauce.I have little else to say.  Brilliant roasts, very attentive service and real ales. Village pub atmosphere. What else could you ask for?