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Exeter Food Festival


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Hi Richard,

Thanks for bringing this topic to the fore. I've been to the Exeter Festival of South West England Food and Drink (gosh, that's a mouthful of a title, isn't it?) and reported on the first year here. I'm definitely looking forward to it again as this event has already established itself as an outstanding regional food and drink festival highlighting the best artisan produce and products; the region's top chefs, who gather in the cookery theatre for some highly entertaining demos (I wonder if I saw you last year?), an area devoted to children and food, and an excellent beer tent. It all takes place in Exeter's central Rougemont Gardens, and if the sun shines it is really worth visiting - there is a great deal to taste, see and do.

This year, an important addition to the festival is a conference on food, farming and tourism, South West Excellence. This will look at a number of important issues and the relationship between food producers, the hospitality industry and tourism (one of the South West's most important industries). In these days when traceability is a buzzword and when food and drink have become important motives for travelling to an area or region, it's a timely topic. I hope to attend part of this (it takes place on Thur 30 March, the day before the Festival itself begins) and there are some interesting keynote speakers, including Clarissa Dickson Wright, chef Michael Caines, and representatives from farming and tourism who will present case studies.

Marc

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  • 3 weeks later...

Just thought I'd post about this - great day, great weather and a great festival. Managed to catch a couple of demo's, tasted a couple of beers and cider and (as usual) bought bags of loot and ate far too much - all in all a good day!

Will definitely be going again next year - I'd recommend it to anyone. It just goes to show how many quality suppliers there are down in the southwest and they're really making an effort to show everyone.

Marc - did you make it?

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Marc - did you make it?

Hi Richard,

I went on Friday, the first day. It was incredibly crowded from the moment it opened to the public, much larger crowds then the previous years. The chef demos seemed all to be well supported and there was a good line up. There were some 80 mainly small, artisan producers in the Food Pavilion. Favourites include Well Hung Meat (outstanding organic South Devon beef, traditional breed lamb and pork); South Devon Chilli Farm (the chilli chocolate is seriously addictive); Ashridge Vintage sparkling cider (scrumpy with a difference, made by the laborious traditional method of secondary fermentation in the bottle - a new addition is the Devon Blush, flavoured with blackberry liqueur); Bramley & Gage sloe gin; hot smoked salmon from Mike's Smokehouse; Burt's chips (new favourite flavour: lobster and chilli!); Suzanne's fruit vinegars (sweet, syrupy, made from fresh fruits, colourful and delicious). I missed the press breakfast (supplied by Effings) but ate a duck burger (which could have been a pork burger, not very ducky at all); a hunk of delicious organic pork from Kenniford's hog roast (my favourite pork butcher, farm shop just a few miles from where I live); a good, hefty doorstop chicken sandwich with lowfat lime mayo on thick hand-cut granary from the Westcountry Café, plus numerous tastes of this and that. I had a pint of Branoc in the beer tent, tastes of English wine from Manstree and Down St Mary, a flute of Ashridge sparkling cider, a passable cappuccino. I did not have a gin and tonic from the Plymouth Gin Palace, though it was inviting enough - but I'm not a gin drinker.

I've lived in Exeter for over 25 years and frankly for most of this time, the city (and indeed the region) has been something of a blackhole food wise. In the past, whenever we'd go up to London, we'd have to return laden with goodies from Soho - Camisa and from the Chinese supermarkets on Lisle Street - that simply weren't available here. That has all changed now. Devon, as this show demonstrated, has become a serious food area, the source of really outstanding produce and food products. Michael Caines has stated that "The South West has the best larder in Europe." There are now a number of good restaurants in Exeter and surrounds; we can eat as well here as virtually anywhere. We can source great food - local as well as international - from any number of good places, such as Effings, Bon Gout, Darts Farm, cheeses from Country Cheeses, as well as direct from good farm shops such as Kenniford. Our organic vegetables are delivered weekly from nearby Riverford. Good food is accessible and all around us!

The many thousands who supported the Exeter Festival of South West England Food and Drink are certainly indication that people here are more interested in food than ever before - no, not just rich foodies but ordinary Devon people. The stallholders were selling heaps of good food to take home and prepare, so, in spite of assertions elsewhere, people are cooking, ordinary people do care about real food, food made with passion, food that is not mass produced, food that is better and more tasty and more enjoyable to eat. And food that is better for us.

The Festival was a huge success (again) and hopefully it has now established itself as a permanent annual event at the end of March. So put the date in your 2007 diary now and don't miss it!

Marc

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  • 11 months later...

Sadly with year end I won't make it. Interesting that in the South West, where many many folk are self-employed that a key food festival should be held on these dates.

It's also of course our 4th Birthday on April 1st! So I wouldn't be able to drive anyway. :wacko:

slacker,

Padstow, Cornwall

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  • 1 year later...

This year's Exeter Festival of South West England Food and Drink 2008 was definitely the best ever. The Festival Conference this year saw the launch of an important new initiative to link the South West with Tuscany as food regions and the Festival itself was really brilliant. The Castle Courtyard where the chef demos took place was expanded and became a much more central feature, and on the Friday night a 'Festival After Dark' event was staged, with live music, cookery demos (with Michael Caines and James Nathan, MasterChef 2008). The 3 days of the Festival itself were great, the usual array of really outstanding local and regional producers, good things to taste and eat, plus a glittering array of celebrity chefs all strutting their stuff in the Cookery Theatre. I was involved with the Slow Food Devon tent, and this was incredibly popular, with Peter Greig of Piper's Farm cooking his own outstanding Red Ruby beef alongside Tuscan friends Simone and Michela, who made some amazing focaccia.

Here's my report and pictures.

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