We had a great day out at Abergavenny Food Festival at the weekend. The sun was shining and there was a fantastic atmosphere with huge crowds at this increasingly popular foodie festival. The event has been running since 1999 and having not visited for quite a few years, we were surprised at just how big it has become. Set in the spectacular scenery of Abergavenny, the festival showcases some of the best producers in the UK and is a must for anyone interested in good food.
We each paid £12 for a day ticket and although I had reservations about paying that much, on reflection I really think it was worth it. The festival was split over several sites and there was just so much to see (and taste) that it would definitely be a real treat to get a weekend ticket in future. We didn’t know if we could attend until the night before so if we visit again next year I would like to plan the day a bit better and make sure that I saw everything that we wanted. There are also lots of special events and demonstrations throughout the weekend but these are at additional cost. It looks wise to book as soon as possible as so many were sold out, especially if it is a ‘big name’.
Great to meet Juliet from Monmouthshire Turkeys. We purchased one of their organic, free range Bronze turkeys for the first time last Christmas. After much research and a ton of questions to various different producers regarding the welfare of their birds, we happily settled on Monmouthshire Turkeys. Founder Caroline explained exactly how the birds are kept and fed and was clearly passionate about her product. We were not disappointed to say the least. My Mum thought it was the best turkey she had tasted and she is 85. We shall definitely be putting another order in this year and as always, it is a pleasure to meet and chat with the people that raise our food.
Some very exciting charcuterie producers were at the festival, including the excellent Trealy Farm. We bought some fantastic Fennel Salami, Spicy Chorizo Salami and Wild Boar and Pork Salami. Their cooking Chorizo sausages are just gorgeous. Also The Forest Pig had a lovely stall. I tasted some of their produce at the Green Café in Ludlow a while back and it was very good. (The Green Cafe was such a great find and well worth a visit if you are in the area; using lots of locally sourced, seasonal ingredients to produce delicious meals – but be sure to book though). There was also Charcutier Ltd, another artisan producer selling across South Wales with a great blog that I have just discovered and look forward to reading more about. Founder Illtud Llyr Dunsford is so clearly passionate about charcuterie and pigs. I did not get to taste any products but will definitely be looking out for these in the future.
We tasted some really lovely biltong from Big Horn Biltong – no sugar or any nasty stuff and terrific value for money compared to some of the other biltong we have seen around. It is interestingly the first UK product to be certified via the Paleo Foundation. Great ‘ranting session’ from founder Simon Kennedy (see more on these below) .
There were lovely displays of fruit and vegetables from Paul’s Organic Veg from Mitchel Troy near Monmouth and also from Riverford Organics. I was surprised not to see more organic vegetable producers though.
Great to see The Garlic Farm there. We bought some seed garlic to plant out; a mixture of Red Czech, Mikulov, Siberian Wight and Solent White.
There were so many stalls with cakes and pastries and also jams and marmalades. They really were everywhere and must have been the most represented food genres at the festival. However, more fermented products such as sauerkraut and kimchi would have been great, as well as some good sugar free pickles (of course we may have missed them!).
We did not eat at the festival apart from snacking on some Trealy Farm goodies. Richard bought some very nice nuts although these were quite sweet as well as spicy. We found it hard to locate protein meals that were not burgers or sausages, that did not use gluten or that were not wrapped in buns or served on bread. Some of the fish stalls looked good (although with lots of ‘extras’ that we would not eat) but the queues were horrendous by the time we got there. We will definitely try them next year though (I really liked the look of the Welshman’s Caviar from the Pembrokeshire Seafood Company). Overall, not really any suitable hot meals for us which was a bit of a disappointment. A stall selling Paleo/Primal-friendly meals using only meat, fish, eggs, vegetables, good fats, nuts and spices would be fantastic (if we missed them let me know!).
Be sure to visit the Rude Health ranting sessions if you visit next year. As I mentioned we did not plan our day but thanks to a tip-off from Simon at Big Horn Biltong we were able to catch a few.
A great rant on the benefits of ghee from Nick Barnard of Rude Health (complete with some lovely samples of ghee). Good to see the flag being flown for healthy fats.
Rosie Sage of Hurdlebrook Dairy talked about additives and why we should avoid any ingredients that our grandmother would not recognise. She stressed the importance of avoiding ‘low-fat’ products that have had all the good fat removed and replaced with carbs (sugar).
Bill King of Local and Great gave a very entertaining rant on why there should be no vegetarian options on menus. He explained that this is often an excuse for lazy and uninventive cooking, when really there should just be well thought out, exciting meat-free dishes without having to make a point of labelling them vegetarian. Real food for thought here.
Jacques Cop from Coco Caravan talked eloquently about his raw cacao products, something that he is clearly so proud of and which he enjoys immensely – a really thoughtful and impassioned rant. Apparently 75% of antioxidants are destroyed when cacao is roasted and roasting also affects the quantity of ‘happy hormones’ as well as destroying Vitamin C (see here for more). I had no idea about this. Jacques also explained that Coco Caravan uses coconut blossom nectar (a natural sugar that I saw used in products at Paleo Fx last year), which has a glycemic index score of 35 – relatively low compared to other sweeteners.
Arin Kapil of Green Saffron gave a superb talk on spices. We really loved this enthusiastic rant – what a speaker! Arin explained about the importance of using the best quality, freshest spices to get the maximum flavour. Spices are imported whole from their native lands (aiming for a maximum of 8 weeks from partner farms in India to Green Saffron where they are blended or sold whole). As Arin said, we would not grate a lemon, put it in a jar and then use it six months or a year later so why do we do the same with spices?
Simon Kennedy from Big Horn Biltong gave a great rant on the importance of sourcing quality ingredients to ensure quality products. A big-up for Paleo too! Snacks like this need to be in pubs across the land.
I wished we could have stayed for more rants but we had to leave. We also missed the earlier session of the day with a rant by James Swift of Trealy Farm but look forward to seeing them next year!
The Festival also needs some coffee stalls that provide a good whack of fat to go with your coffee such as cream, butter, ghee or coconut oil. What’s all this semi-skimmed nonsense about?
All in all a fantastic day! Thoroughly enjoyed it and realised how lucky we are to have such wonderful and passionate food producers here in the UK. We definitely won’t leave it this long again before visiting the festival and looking forward to next year already …