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Monday, 25 May 2015

Abergavenny Food Festival First glimpse

 This year the Abergavenny Food Festival will be held 18-20th September and excitement is building already.

As usual the first event, on Friday evening, will have a major figure in conversation about their work as a perfect introduction.

TV’s favourite Michelin starred chef, Tom Kerridge, will headline the festival on Friday night (18 ), talking exclusively about his new cookbook, Tom’s Table: My Favourite Everyday Recipes, with food journalist Xanthe Clay.

In Tom’s own words  “This will be my second visit to the food festival in Abergavenny and the first opportunity for people to get my book before its release on 24 September, which is very exciting. I am looking forward to sharing some of my new recipes with the audience and hope it gets the same warm reception I have always received at the festival.” (last time Tom was here the session totally sold out in minutes)

Star bloggers and Vogue columnists  Hemsley + Hemsley sisters, Jasmine and Melissa, are amongst the star attractions too! The food loving siblings take centre stage for two events on Sunday 20, demonstrating  colourful and nutritious recipes from their international best seller, The Art of Eating Well, and also  cooking up recipes for the audience to try with organic vegbox company, Riverford.

Observer Rising Star of 2015, Olia Hercules, a food stylist and recipe writer will join the line-up to demonstrate some cherished Eastern European recipes from her debut cookbook, Mamushka.

Chief Executive of the festival, Heather Myers spoke about this year’s festival and  said: “Every year we get some of the best names in food and this year will not disappoint. There is a lot more to announce but we hope this teaser will whet people’s appetites for what is set to be another amazing weekend of food, drink and entertainment.”

In addition to the well established Cheese and Wine Market, this year  the festival introduces the Meat Market,. Dedicated to the very best meat producers from across the UK, with butchers, demonstrations, speciality knives and accompaniments, it will be The destination for meat lovers.

Last year’s runaway success the Night Market returns transforming the Lower Brewery Yard into a magical place to eat, drink and hangout as a brilliant collection of speciality street food vendors stay open until 10:00pm on Saturday night (19).

You can get hands on with personal attention from an expert in artisan food and drinks production as well as making a product to take away with you at the Artisan Kitchen School.

Children can, as always, also get stuck in at the Food Academy with a weekend of exciting hands on workshops and activities to tempt budding mini-master chefs to get into the kitchen and learn about food, a real skill for life.

Wash all that down with some of the best of Wales’ craft brews and stay for an evening of music, dancing and food in the special atmosphere of Abergavenny’s ancient castle for the Party at the Castle.

Over the next six weeks the Festival will be announcing the full line up, exciting new collaborations for 2015 and exclusive news looking ahead to the 2015 festival.

Wristbands will get you entry into over 200 food and drink exhibitors across five venues, live cookery demonstrations, children’s activities, entertainment, live music and much more still to be announced.

For more information and to get your tickets visit

And there is a special competition for early online purchasers of tickets.

 September may be a while away, but I can't wait!
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Saturday, 23 May 2015

Litfest 15 a great experience

In just its 3rd year Litfest, or the Kerrygold Ballymaloe Literary Festival of Food and Wine is established not just in Ireland but globally.

A three night, two day, sensory experience it just has to be on your Must Do list.

Rory O’Connell, one of the Directors, summed it up by saying, “You have to have written a book to be a guest speaker” but it is not just about speakers. Hell, these are people who write about food, many of them chefs, brewers, winemakers so there are a lot of masterclasses, pop ups and tastings going on.

Some of the big names sell out in minutes and with names like Alice Waters, Claudia Roden, Madhur Jaffrey, Rene Redzepi and Yottam Ottolenghi that’s hardly surprising.

Based on the farm at Ballymaloe House and in the Cookery School a couple of miles down the road a number of venues are available and all are used hard.

There are formal venues, The Grainstore, Carrigaun Room and the Demo Room and kitchens of the Cookery School, but the Farm buildings are converted into venues, The Drinks Theatre, The Big Shed and, it is a Literary Festival after all, The Book Shop.

Displays and talks extend to the gardens with guided tours and this year a very strong Grow It Yourself presence and, for the first time The Garden Tent, a marquee set in a corner of the formal garden.

There’s activity from 9:30 till gone 6 and then a host of dinners and events to fill your evening with some great entertainment and a host of really good local food producers staging popups.





My big formal events this year were the coffee sessions with Tim Wendelboe, learning about cupping and expanding my knowledge of the beautiful liquid far beyond its prior understanding, A Beer tasting with Garrett Oliver of the Brooklyn Brewing Company and a talk about Spices with Arun Kapil of Green Saffron. Janet chose Wine and Soil as her highlights. It’s that kind of event, and we were disappointed to find that the pop up restaurant by OX Belfast sold out in 5 minutes so we didn’t get to taste Northern Ireland’s finest.

Tim Wendelboe talks about influences on Coffee

Mark from Golden Bean pours tasters for cupping
1 of 6 tasted
Oliver Garrett of Brooklyn Brewery took us up the alcohol scale to 13.5%

There’s a very lively Fringe at the Festival, Demos, Blind Tastings and entertainment in the Big Shed and the Garden Tent hosting more informal events such as Caroline Hennesey hosting “Ravenous” the Cookbook Chronicles where anyone can talk about their Favourite/Least Favourite, Oldest/Newest cookbook.


Joe McNamee,  who writes the Menu column for the Irish Examiner, hosted a series of Rants, Raves and Ruaille Buaille. Again anyone could take part and had a chance to win the prestigious Golden Gob Trophy. Children’s Menus, Lack of Food Education in schools, Hipster Food such as Dude Slaw and Small v Big Food Business all got debated and in the end, I have to confess, the title came back to Wales as a result of my rant about Vegetarian Options on menus.


In full flow


The Golden Gob Trophy

Food and Drink wise it is very easy to graze all day with a host of pop-ups available in the Big Shed, We had superb Chicken on Sourdough from Annie’s Roasts and Arbutus Bread respectively, my caffeine habit was fuelled by Badger & Dodo and The Golden Bean throughout the weekend, Iyers CafĂ© had tasty Vegan food from Kerala, Jane Russell’s sausages filled a few gaps and on the sweeter side of life Yum Gelato lived up to their name and we had a Carrigeen Panacotta made with milk from the rare breed Kerry Cow.

Discovery of the year though was Oh My Goodness Minty Limey Keffir made with triple filtered rainwater. Such taste and so refreshing too. Their quirky stand won the Best Dressed award.


But away from both the formal and fringe side of the festival it is a great chance to catch up with old friends and make new ones.

We always have great catch ups and meet new people. One nice touch is that Ballymaloe Relish make badges for anyone who wants one with their name and most importantly their Twitter handle on. Often you bump into someone you follow on twitter, but have never met and the handle leads to lots of “Oh, so you’re” conversations. My own this year was with Peter from Blackwater Gin a new distiller from Waterford. We had been discussing Gin online and were hoping to arrange an impromptu Gin Off between his and our Da Milhe Seaweed Gin from Wales. Sadly the Blackwater had proved so popular that it had sold out entirely so the match might take place at Ginapalooza in London later this year,

Nonetheless a tasting took place and the aforementioned Minty Limey Kefir proved the perfect mixer for the Seaweed infused. Though we didn’t get tickets for the OX pop up, we were introduced to them on the basis that the restaurant has a Gin Bar and they were looking for new and great ones. More friends made, and an increasingly hazy evening.


But that is what Litfest is all about, lots of people with Food in common coming together to learn, talk eat drink and celebrate.

Personally I can’t wait for next May to bring around #Litfest16

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