How are you? Hope the weather isn’t misbehaving too much where you are. Hope you had a lovely long weekend. What did I get up to?
I spent a glorious four days immersed in northern loveliness, where exotic foods were cooked up by a stellar roster of chefs and European beer and artisan wine was a-flowing. Oh, and I hung out with a bunch of really cool bods; Michael Caines, Debbie Halls Evans, Gino D’Acampo, John Torode, James Martin, Sean Wilson and Michelle Gillot are just a few to mention.
Ladies and Gents, Guys and Gals, I can only be talking about the mighty Bolton Food and Drink Festival. Don’t just take my word for it, check out Sean Wilson above, where word weren’t needed, the food took his breath away. With over 130,000 people in attendance from as far afield as Australia, Bahamas and New Zealand, it was most certainly a diverse crowd. With nearly 140 stalls and a mixture of celebrity and local chefs doing demos across the town centre, I didn’t feel too guilty indulging in scrummy yummy food, because there was a hell of a lot of walking involved. Seriously, it was like having a mini workout for those four days, as I trekked around town with gutsy gusto munching on a brunch of chocolaty churros (Churtopia) and dinner of pani puris (Hungry Gecko).
Catching up with the crème de la crème of the cooking industry was one of the highlights of this festival. John Torode was the epitome of incisive wit above; he looked decidedly perky (he couldn’t wait to start his demo on the crowds). Being a Bolton born and bred lass, nothing gives me greater pleasure than to champion my northern home-town that is quaint and charming in equal measure. I sampled culinary delights aplenty and had my first shark fillet kebab, which was really rather delicious, courtesy of Alain Job (aka stall owner of Nkono). The melt in your mouth fillet was tender and flaky, served with roasted sweet potato and (hotter than rocket fuel) chilli relish. I have a hardened spicy palate, but oh my Lord, that relish was hotter than Sean Connery in a spa. (Oh come on, our Sean is one rather devilishly handsome monsieur).
One of my favourite demos was Debbie Halls Evans working her magic with a black pepper and strawberry cheesecake. This lady really knows her stuff, it’s little wonder she was mentored by Nigella Lawson and ultimately crowned winner of The Taste earlier this year. She tells me a cook book is in the pipeline; I for one cannot wait to check it out. It may be some time yet till it’s published, but as that saying goes, the best things come to those who wait.
What I love about this festival is that it’s not just about the food. It’s the people, jazzy vibe and downright awesomeness that spreads like a delicious cloud of happiness (the Mayor of Bolton and Michael Caines can attest to that, judging by their expressions on Friday’s launch). People can also enjoy free live music in various marquees across town, as well as fun and jaunty performances from street performers. I’m a huge fan of the French waiters on bicycles, whilst the stilt-walkers gave the festival a lovely carnival atmosphere. Being Bank Holiday the weather was sucky, but you almost forgot about that when chowing down the hearty fare that was on offer. Besides, steaming hot coffee from Spilt Milk chased away those chills (they’re a delightfully enchanting mobile café who also do moist and creamy carrot cake which I wolfed down in minutes).
I’m always gutted when the fabulous four day foodie festival chock full of good memories ends. I loved watching Aiden’s demo, because his passion for cooking shines through like a laser beam. I cannot wait to check out Manchester House (reviews coming imminently). To those who couldn’t make it down, I plead, beseech and beg you – block out August Bank Holiday for 2015. You won’t be disappointed, trust me.
Ciao for now,
PS I bought a whole tonne of yummy treats, from artisan coffee to gourmet oils to which I’ll dedicate a standalone post.