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Sunday, 17 July 2011

Local and Great!

Just 20 minutes up the road Abergavenny Food Festival certainly meets the criteria of being Local, and in its 10th year it certainly is Great.

Over a weekend in September the finest producers in the UK will gather for a two day celebration of all that is good about food. With five venues a huge range of products will be on view, top chefs will be demonstrating their skills and serious debates around food will also be held in a number of venues.

In many ways there is just too much to take in but careful use of the festival programme will enable you to have a truly wonderful foodie weekend.

The festival is not just concentrated on the main venues, a vibrant street market adds to the fun and over recent years a bustling fringe has been established with local restaurants offering special meals and deals, walking tours take in tutored foraging, fishing the local rivers for trout, events at the local vineyards and a children’s festival all contribute to the experience.

One of the highlights is the decoration of the Market Hall (main venue) with huge hanging sculptures. Over recent years these have included sheep, hens and celebrity chef angels. All done by a local art group who must start in about April, so good are these creations.

Most of the free demo sessions take place here though the ticketed ones use a wide range of venues from the theatre through hotels, church halls and business centres. The exhibitors are in themed areas cheese, fish, wine etc. so you can plan your walkabout to see whatever tickles your fancy.

The ticketed events range from talks via demos to guided tastings and involve some of the major food related figures. In the past I have really enjoyed John Dickie talking about Delizia his history of Italian food,

Matthew Fort interviewing Antonio Carlucci and the mayhem caused by the Market Kitchen team overheating chilli powder whlstt toasting it!

Seconds later a thick chilli infused cloud rolled through the room nearly ending the demo

Some of the highlights have been the food critics holding forth – Jay Rayner and Michael Winner, though sadly not at the same time.
Inevitably there are a lot of new books released to coincide with the food event of the year and many signing sessions are held:

Of course you will find our local chefs there, Shaun Hill, Matt Tebbut, Stephen Terry and James Summerin, but casual visitors from the UK’s panoply of Michelin starred chefs and those about to reach that accolade are often found wandering and browsing. The streets often have impromptu demos and tastings, some of which are recorded for later use on television.

Local produce is high on the menu and most has won Taste Awards – Black Mountain Smokery, Trealy Farm Charcuterie, Blaenafon Cheddar, Ty Mawr Organics to name but a few and the best in their field are all in Abergavenny that weekend.

Sadly I missed last year as I was at Ballymaloe so this year is extra special for me, not the least because some of my absolute food heroes, Richard Berthinet, James Swift ofTrealy Farm and Arun Kapil from Green Saffron are appearing.

Two days of great fun, get there or miss out on the best food experience in the UK.

To find out more and book your tickets, go here

See you in September!!

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