A good Supper on the eve of a Food Festival is becoming a must, providing a launch pad and building the buzz about the event.
Last year the Newport Food Festival Supper was held in the Market Hall already bedecked for the main event and was well received (see earlier blog post).
This year it moved to the Riverfront where many of the Demonstrations and Masterclasses would take place and presented the organisers with a challenge. How do you convert a relatively bland area like a theatre foyer into an intimate dining area? Answer with hard work and good will. Starting at 8:30am teams built backdrops, put in tables and dressed them and organised cooking facilities. The other challenge that was faced was returning it to a foyer by the morning to allow the Festival to take place.
There had been a lot of interest as the first ever Supper was a huge success and tickets sold out very quickly leaving some people disappointed but determined to act quickly next year!
The experience started outside the Riverfront as two comedy French Chefs welcomed diners before they moved in for drinks and a mingle with other diners. It was good to see old friendships being renewed and a lot of enthusiasm being built up.
The menu, as last year, was designed and cooked by three local restaurants the Waterloo Hotel, the White Hart Llangibby and Ristorante Vittorio. Vittorio’s provided the desserts whilst the White Hart and Waterloo each had a starter and main course dish on the menu. Menu choices had been made previously so service could start promptly and each diner would receive their choice.
Last year service was provided by a group of unemployed people who had been trained for the event and several used their new skills to gain employment in the hospitality industry as a result. It is this involvement of the community and development of skills that I really like about the Newport Food Festival and which sets it apart from other festivals. This year the waiting staff were all from the Crosskeys campus of Coleg Gwent, youngsters getting valuable experience that could serve them well for the future.
But to the food.
We had both chosen a Wild Mushroom dish served with Melba Toast, Hollandaise and a slow poached egg. It was brilliant, earthy mushrooms offset by crisp toast, rich Hollandaise and a poached egg that oozed a golden yolk when pierced. Near perfection.
At this point the French Chefs reappeared as Italian waiters who toured the room entertaining diners and allowing time for the dishes to be cleared and mains to be served.
The mains were not easy to choose; I could have gone for all three dishes but settled upon Duck with Quinoa. Perfectly pink breast. with a cigar of chopped leg meat in a thin pastry and, a rich cinnamon/peppery thick sauce and a rich jus. Another triumph for the chefs.
Mrs K had opted for the Sewin with a mussel veloute and declared it Yum! I tried a little and would have to agree, herb crusted and with several plump mussels resting in a rich veloute the Sewin was great and the dish hit the mark on all levels.
A return of the chefs, this time as Health and Safety Officers provided a comedic interlude as they demonstrated Kitchen Hazards involving knives and flames whilst again the tables were cleared down.
Wine had been placed on the tables but I snuck away to the bar and bought a bottle of Tiny Rebel beer. I have written before about this Newport micro-brewery and their range of ales but was pleased to find a new brew there. Chocoholic is infused with Belgian Chocolate, but before you think it horribly sweet or alchopoppy, it is not. A great bitter bite is balanced by a chocolate perfume and as a fellow drinker said “We have dessert wines why not a Dessert Beer?” Not one for a long session but a nice crisp beer.
Desserts arrived and we had covered the options. Mrs K choosing the Seasonal Fruits with Mascarpone, served with ice cream and fresh raspberries this was a clean tasting delight. I had opted for Tiramisu which had a good alcohol kick and a smooth creamy texture and finished my meal in style.
As coffee was served the stage was set for the finale of the evening and Bhangra band RSVP tuned up.
This was a highly interactive band and soon diners, including the Mayor, were lining up to learn the moves and dance. Even if you couldn’t get onto the dance floor you could join in at your table and the room was soon a sea of “light bulb changing” and “Frisbee throwing”. Perhaps the most enthusiastic dancer was food blogger Heather Grant (@cookupaparty) who threw herself into the dance with, it must be said, more enthusiasm than actual talent!
RSVP have played major festivals such as Glastonbury and Reading so getting them for the Supper was great. They would also take Bhangra to the streets of Newport during the festival playing in several locations around the festival.If you want to see what you missed go here http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2PcRJhGnDPY
As with last year the Supper was a huge success and set the tone for the Festival brilliantly. Thanks to the chefs and their staff, the Coleg Gwent students and the Festival staff who made it all possible.
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