Festival of South West Food and Drink
children's cake competition, judged by Michael Caines
Devon March 28, 2004
If in the not too distant past, Exeter has been known as something of
a culinary and gastronomic desert, the Exeter Festival of South West
Food and Drink has demonstrated that the capital of Devon today is at
the heart of a true renaissance in local and regional food production
of the highest quality. For three days the food marquee set up in Northernhay
Gardens has attracted literally thousands of visitors; the galaxy of
renowned local and celebrity chefs have given entertaining and informative
demonstrations to packed, and usually standing-room-only audiences;
the children’s workshops have been well attended, demonstrating
that appreciation of good food begins at an early age; and the exhibitors
of fine quality produce from the South West have seen an immense interest
in the foods that they are so passionate about. Slow Food, the Italian-born
organisation dedicated to the traditional pleasures of real food, the
safeguarding of artisan quality produce and biodiversity was in attendance
through its newly founded Devon convivium, with representives over from
its headquarters in Italy.
the star attractions were the well-known chefs who gave cookery demonstrations.
Their names read like a roll-call of the very best high profile chefs
in the West Country: Michael Caines (Gidleigh Park and MC @ the Royal
Clarence, Exeter), Lesley Waters (Ready, Steady, Cook), the Tanner brothers
(Tanners, Plymouth), Peter Gorton (Horn of Plenty and Carved Angel),
Tina Bricknell-Web (Percy’s, Virginstow), Paul Da-Costa Greaves
(The Galley, Topsham), Nick Coiley (formerly Carved Angel, now Agaric,
Ashburton), Richard Guest (The Castle, Taunton), Andrew Shortman (Lord
around town, along the Restaurant Trail, Exeter establishments offering
special Festival menus were filled with enthusiastic and appreciative
diners. Beer lovers did not go thirsty either: those in search of real
ale were able to follow the designated Beer Trail, enjoying local and
regional cask-conditioned ales along the way.
South West has the best larder in, well, why not, Europe,” said
chef Michael Caines, speaking at the press launch on Friday morning.
This is not, when you consider it, an idle or far-fetched boast. Organic
South Devon and Red Ruby beef and grass-fed lamb from Exmoor, properly
hung and butchered; humanely raised poultry; truly world class fish
and shellfish landed at Brixham, Padstow, Newlyn, Exmouth; game from
field and moor; homegrown organic produce; some of the greatest farmhouse
cheeses in the world made from rich West Country milk: all demonstrate
that when it comes to raw ingredients, the South West truly is second
to none.“Many of the producers who are here today supply me at
Gidleigh Park and in Exeter,” added Caines, Britain’s youngest
two-star Michelin chef and the inspiration behind the Festival. “I
hope the Festival will serve to introduce them to you because good food,
whether in the home or in the restaurant, must begin with top quality
the food marquee, the quality on show was clearly evident. The common
threads that tied together the exhibitors were at once excellence and
a passion and enthusiasm sometimes bordering on the obsessive. These
were not large companies but committed individuals who, as much as anything,
wanted to talk, to share their passions, to take you by the arm and
look you in the eye, to tell you why they love doing what they do. There
were farmers, cheesemakers, wine growers, cidermakers, enthusiasts of
real ice cream, organic farmers, and producers of chutneys, jams and
pickles. To listen to cheesemakers extoll the quality of the rich Jersey
milk they use, and meat producers wax lyrical about their herds that
graze on the lush pastures of the South Hams is to gain an understanding,
and a bond between producer and consumer. The wonderful flavours of
a roll stuffed with organic, spit-roasted pork, washed down with a flute
of raspingly dry Devon cider made sparkling by the laborious champagne
method, is to taste and understand Devon in a glass.
The Exeter Festival
of South West Food and Drink has been inspirational foremost in bringing
together literally under one canvas roof so many commited and passionate
lovers of quality food and drink: the producers themselves, professional
chefs who value and use their produce and products, and we consumers
who are able to enjoy, at home or in restaurants, the best our region
has to offer. The organisers and sponsors of this event are to be congratulated
above all for their vision in bringing an idea, a dream to reality,
and in recognising and celebrating the hard work and considerable efforts
of those in the South West food and hospitality industries.
The Exeter Festival
of South West Food and Drink is set to become an annual event, with
next year’s Festival to take place in April 2005. Put the date
in your diary now!
Hung Meat Co. Great name, great meat, from passionate beef and lamb
farmers located in the beautiful South Hams. Monthly mail order scheme
Devon Chili Farm Lip-numbing chilli sauces, jellies and jams from
own-grown chillies. In season, fresh chillies can be sent by mail order.
Organic Farmers Market A new distribution network for a range of
organic foods and produce, meticulously West Country sourced and home
delivered by courier.
Country Hotel Quite simply the best lemon tart, made from organic
lemons, I’ve ever tasted. Available by mail order.
can be better than wine and cheese. Sharpham produce both: outstanding
soft cheeses from rich Jersey milk and truly brilliant English wines
from grapes grown on the Dart Valley estate.
Cider, Modbury tel 01548 831131 Raspingly dry Devon cider made sparkling
by the champagne method of secondary fermentation in the bottle. Not
to be missed!
Rocombe Farm ice
cream, Newton Abbot tel 01626 834545 Organic ice cream in a range of
imaginative flavours made from rich Devon milk.
Clyst St Mary tel 01392 875938 Stupendously good organic pork, with
speciality spit roasted pig.
Food Devon www.slowfood.com Spreading the Slow gospel to the West
Country . Contact Phillipa Hughes at Holne Chase Hotel tel 01364 631471
Caines With restaurants in Exeter and Bristol, and from his base
at Gidleigh Park, Michael is a champion of quality produce from the
West Country and an ambassador for the region.