This was the first year I had visited the Glynde Food Festival and it certainly won’t be the last. We were lucky with the weather. It was St. Swithun’s Day and the only day in months when it has not rained, in fact the sun was positively shining! Set in the beautiful grounds of Glynde Place (yes, next to the opera house) it was a festival which celebrated independent food and drink producers, many of them local to Sussex.
The day did not start well. Within 5 minutes of leaving the house I realised I had forgotten my camera and so went back to get it. Then halfway there I remembered the tickets, which were still safely in the kitchen drawer. So we went back for them too. We finally got there (my 7 year old daughter and I) at excactly 11.47am. Her cookery class with The Kitchen Academy started at 11.45am so we ran like the wind and made it just as they were starting. They generously let her in late and she embarked on making churros with melted dipping chocolate. The children were allocated tables and each table had a helper. There was a demonstration at the start by the chef and then they got stuck in. Once they had got past the startled rabbit stage they were all involved in stirring, mixing and then, of course the eating! Afterwards all the children piled outside to make smoothies. But this was no ordinary method; the smoothie jug was attached to the back of a bicycle and you had to pedal your way to smoothness! Great fun and my daughter assures me it was delicious! She enjoyed herself and was keen to make them again for her brother when we got home. The recipes are all available on the website so no need to panic or fuss whilst we were there!
Next we went for a wander and soaked up the atmosphere and wonderful smells that were emanating from the stalls. Being me, I headed for the wine tent. I never realised there were so many local wine producers! I was drawn to the Breaky Bottom stall and the a lovely gentleman with a big smile and an asparagus shirt! Breaky Bottom is based in Lewes, East Sussex and is around 40 years old. For many years they produced still wine but over the last 10/12 years moved to sparkling which is now their sole produce. Their signature wine was a sparkling Sauvignon Blanc which was really nice – fresh, smooth and very drinkable! They have another which is based on pinot grapes and another which is a mix of the two. The whole ‘champagne’ debate is in the news at the moment. I heard an article on Radio 4 about what name we can give to English sparkling wine that everyone will recognise (like champagne or prosecco). The name being bandied around is Merret after Christopher Merret who recorded a recipe for a Champagne-style drink 20 years before the French Benedictine monk, a certain Dom Pierre Perignon. I remain unconvinced…it doesn’t exactly shout glamour….but then I can’t think of anything better!
After a bit of wine-tasting we headed for the food tents to get some lunch. I was drawn to a stall hosting the most glorious spread of pork pies, sausage rolls and pastries which were courtesy of The Farm @ Friday Street. Based in Eastbourne and winner of ‘The Best British Pub in the South East 2011’ I shall be heading there when we are down in Eastbourne over the summer. Absolutely delicious! My daughter and I were then drawn to Tom’s Fudge – a company set up by two university leavers and selling home-made fudge. I treated myself to ginger and caramel whilst my daughter went for rocky road. It was supposed to be to take home, but we ate it all within the hour. It was absolutely delicious and the guy I spoke to behind the counter (not sure if he WAS Tom or not!) was a lovely chap who chatted about their venture and how as well as going to festivals like Glynde they cater for a lot of corporate events, promotions and wedding favors. Check out their site – you can even suggest a new flavour! *thinks – gin and tonic*
Not sufficed with the fudge my daughter also wangled an ice cream out of me and we trotted off to the Simply Ice Cream van. Now, I am not a big fan of ice-cream but I have to say this was the creamiest-without-being-sickly ice cream I have ever tasted. And it’s from a local Kent company – Hurrah! My ever-adventurous daughter went for…..vanilla. But there were plenty of other flavours for the more adventurous amongst us!
After all this scoffing we headed for the demonstration tent. The first demo was by Tom Whitaker, runner-up in Masterchef 2011 and co-founder of Porklife with the winner Tim Anderson. He was cooking a fish called dab, once thrown away as ‘not good enough to eat’, Tom was keen to promote this little known fish and made a dish where it was garnished with an array of samphire, herbs and cockles. I had contacted the organisers beforehand and a lovely lady called Holly very kindly arranged for me to meet with Tom and ask him a few questions. In our little interview he championed the use of British produce and stressed how important it is to use good, fresh British produce in our cooking. He spoke about how festivals like Glynde introduce people to different foods and ideas and encourages them to try something out and not be scared to diversify. Tom referred to his demo and how cooking something unusual and delicious needn’t be a drawn-out affair. His dish was produced from scratch in just 20 minutes! He was empassioned about visiting local suppliers and discovering what Britain has to offer. On a lighter note I asked him what his must have kitchen gadget is…..a waterbath! And who was/is his inspiration for cooking? His mum (always a good answer!) He told of how his parents were always into food, that their holidays were based around where they ate and this instilled the love of food and cooking in him. Apparently, his mum denies it but Tom was adamant that it was she who he has to thank for becoming a chef. Tom Whitaker – what a lovely bloke!
After Tom was the cooking demo from the Master Chef himself, John Torode and the 2010 winner, Dhruv Baker. John Torodecame over as the sort of bloke you could have a great laugh with (and a bit too much wine) on a night out and who would then make you one hell of a bloody mary in the morning. John cooked lobster french toast and a goats’ cheese pie and challenged Dhruv to make something with a piece of lamb and 2 eggs. It was a witty and inspiring demonstration and you got the feeling they were having just as much fun as the audience were.
I finished the day by buying a walnut and pumpkin loaf from the lovely ladies at Bread a la Mer (which was delicious later with cheese and a large glass of wine) and then visiting the Sipsmith tent and OMG, I have never tasted vodka like it! I am not even a vodka drinker, but Sipsmith vodkas is distilled in copper barrels and apparently they only use the vodka from the middle of the pipe so it is really pure and tastes absolutely divine. I then tasted their gin which was equally gobsmackingly lovely (I have about 5 different types of gin at home, so I’ve tasted a few!). Then we tasted their summer cup which is basically their version of Pimm’s. Now, I am a big Pimm’s fan, but the summer cup knocked it into oblivion. In three sips I was totally converted and bought a bottle of each. Honestly, I cannot say how amazing these products are and how you can taste all the different elements of them, even down to the peppery kick. Wow. GO buy some. Better still, take the tour of their distillery and then buy some. You won’t regret it.
I had the most amazing time at Glynde. The only thing I was HUGELY disappointed about was that I didn’t get to see the lovely Lisa Faulkner *sobs* Seriously, it was really well-organised with an array of things to do and see. In addition to the stalls and the chef demo stage there were tutored wine tastings, cooking masterclasses, the kitchen academy for kids and the ‘how to’ tent where you could learn about everything from butchery to cupcakes. It was also very family friendly with a tent for the kids’ to make munchy seed pictures, get their face painted or a balloon animal. I am definitely going again next year and whole-heartedly encourage you to come along too. If it’s too far, do seek out something similar near you – Foodie Heaven!
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