The historic estate Tatton Park in Cheshire recently played host to the annual Foodies Festival. Large marquee theatres held hourly presentations through out the day, where bakers and chefs, sommeliers, mixologists, and chocolatiers shared their expertise with their audience of gourmands. Junior epicures even had their own “around the world” themed programme of classes to stir their imagination and appetite for cooking.
Pop up restaurants and bars brought a taste of their dining and drinking experiences, hinting at what kind of music, decor and atmosphere you might expect to find should you decide to go and pay them a visit. With stripped down versions of their menus and prices to match, these are ideal for diners who would like to try something new without committing their evenings off, and their wallets to an unknown entity.
Exhibitors provided endless opportunities for grazers to indulge in smaller bites. Pig in the Middle’s range of gourmet sausage rolls served up the antidote to the kind of pastries that make me wince at the mere mention of a sausage roll. Laura’s Fudge had a lovely maple syrup and walnut fudge, a flavour I don’t recall having seen before in spite of it working so well.
All manner of specialist equipment from kipper smokers to oil drum jerk barbecues created the kind of visual spectacle that drew in a crowd eager to feast their eyes as much as their appetites. I was no exception, I was pulled towards the the Fred Flintstone ribs of Gaucho’s like a moth to a lightbulb. Once more I was not alone – the queue snaked round past an imaginary 20 minute marker, as people voted with their feet for locally sourced barbecued beef and chimichurri sauce (oil, parsley, garlic, tomato and lemon whizzed up a little like pesto). Unfortunately there had been a down pour earlier in the day which had affected their fires, so the ribs wouldn’t be available for some time yet. This was not the end of the world since the joints of beef looked, and tasted fantastic. I was a tad bemused though that they would go to such trouble to source the best meat, cook it to perfection, give it a sauce that could not have been a better match, only to sit it in a white tea cake, which disintegrated as soon as the lovely juices and sauce met it.
Of course there came a point in the day where even my appetite had to admit defeat, but this didn’t mean it had to be ‘game over’. There was ample scope for culinary retail therapy, so you could take home some of the foodie vibe home with you. I wanted some bits and pieces to make a low effort picnic for the following day, as well as a few ingredients that I wouldn’t have to worry about consuming urgently, that could embellish something I would cook at a later date.
Granny Marmalade’s stall had just what I needed – I was given a spoonful of orange, lemon and ginger marmalade, which instantly made me want to smother pork chops or gammon joints with it, or swirl it through soft vanilla ice cream. When winter arrives it will most certainly find it’s self beneath a steamed sponge pudding.
I couldn’t leave without a selection box from Continental Cottage – purveyors of authentic German salamis. These could liven up all kinds of dishes with the spice scented juices that leak out during cooking. There was a salami that was studded with hazelnuts, which once sliced thinly would be a great addition to the picnic I had in mind. For this I would also need at least a truckle of Red Storm, from the Snowdonia Cheese Company (who knew red cheese could be exciting?) and a pot of Duck and Hunter’s Gin parfait. These, with some crusty bread and fresh salad were perfect for a lazy on the lawn lunch. Our dessert would be an assortment of hand made macaroons, each turned a pretty hue by their flavouring. They were light as air, delicate, and mostly still intact after the journey home. It was a great conclusion to the weekend – decadent enough to feel indulgent, homely enough not to feel guilty about it.