Let’s face it, I just can’t be trusted when it comes to events involving food. Or gin. The bad idea bears just take over. But then again, a weekend of wine, gin, cheese, cooking demos and then a bit more gin is a heck of a lot of fun. Yes, it was Foodies Festival time once again.
Having encountered 6 litre bottles of Hendrick’s and much more besides when I went last year it was a certainty that I would be getting tickets again this time round. But this year I got one better online with the three-day ticket – not just one day of supreme over indulgence, a whole weekend. Win. Sadly though, I could only use Saturday and Sunday – but for the sake of my wallet and liver, that’s probably not such a bad thing, even if it was moved to Inverleith Park this year and I could walk there.
I made a rash promise at the end of last year’s blog post saying that when I went this year I would focus more on the food – not the wine and gin – and you’ll, of course, be overjoyed that I stuck to my guns and didn’t drink a drop. Who am I kidding, I almost forgot about the food again. That might have something to do with our rum-filled coconut on Saturday afternoon, although I can’t quite recall…
That’s not entirely true, I tried samples from many companies – mainly those relating to cheese – as well as lunch of a kangaroo burger with spicy tomato relish and rocket (Skippy loves a good bit of rocket) and a hog roast roll (not both on the same day, I should add). I even ended up buying some cheese, shock horror.
The foodies festival has now been around for quite a few years, and is growing in size and popularity every year. And it’s really not hard to see why. This year there were over 100 stalls, ranging for tiny little artisan producers right up to recognisable national brands. There were also a few off-the-wall stalls as well, such as the seaweed selling man with three teeth and a woman selling “her precious cultures” who couldn’t understand why we weren’t more interested in making our own version of Yakult…
Interestingly (/upsettingly) I would say that there were fewer gin companies there this year – the lack of a Hendrick’s stand being particularly notable – but they made up for it with more unusual culinary stalls, like those selling ‘homemade’ Thai curry and satay kits (they were delicious, even if their paper cup did rip and give my t-shirt an interesting coloured stain). There were also some of the big name sponsors there too – not quite sure how many cars BMW sold, but I wouldn’t bet on too many – as well as a few ‘pop-up’ restaurants and Lavazza coffee, whose samples I will be drinking for a long time to come.
The less formal eating stalls, all conveniently in a row up the back, ranged from noodles to crepes, via hog roasts, jerk chicken and kangaroo – each of which was equally tempting, making it rather hard to choose which to go for. It also made me feel slightly sorry for the man selling burgers, which seemed a little tame by comparison. I later learnt they were wild boar and venison, and then didn’t feel quite so bad for him.
I’ll gloss over some of the details or I’ll be here forever, but like last year I advise you avoid Cassilero del Diablo at all costs, owing to its disgusting taste, and would recommend that unless you like peaty whisky don’t opt for Black Grouse. We also avoided the stand selling cakes that were ‘free-from’ pretty much every ingredient that makes a proper cake. We did, however, make friends with a couple that owned a farm (she was an ecologist, he a zoologist by degree) and made wonderful sausages, the man that owns the gorgeous Edinburgh Gin (we did taste the elderflower and the raspberry about twice each, and I might have accidentally come home with a bottle of the Elderflower), and the people from the Cheshire Cheese Company (their presence makes their following me on Twitter last week slightly less odd) who have a sticky toffee cheddar – shouldn’t work, but it really does – and a caramelised onion and Rioja ‘gourmet cheddar’ which has found its way into my fridge and lunch for the next couple of days. My favourite stall, however, has to be the company who have – genuinely – named themselves ‘I Heart Sausage’. And if that weren’t amusing enough to my immature sense of humour, they have a variety of sausage called – I kid you not – the ‘Chucklesnort’. Try keeping a straight face when talking to them after a few gin samples…
I commented last year that I thought the theatre events were a bit rubbish, because it seemed impossible to get tickets; well this year we cracked the system. It involved a bit of queueing, pretending that we were two sets of people, not part of the same group, and going back a little later and picking up whatever was there. Through this we went to see Norman Musa (a Malaysian chef), someone from Callander who used the words ‘blanched’ and ‘OK’ far more often than was necessary, Steve from the Ning Chinese restaurant, the founder of the Backyard Jerk Company (who make Jamaican jerk sauces), a bartender/mixologist from Hendrick’s and Stephen K Amos. Not too bad a haul.
The three of those worth mentioning are definitely the last three. The Backyard Jerk Company were the last thing we did on Saturday and – once we got over the initial introduction of the Welsh accent – was great fun. Informative, entertaining and the food tasted fantastic. Sunday started of with Stephen K Amos, billed as ‘chef and comedian’, which rapidly turned out to be more accurately titled as ‘comedian’. I have never laughed so much in a cooking demo in my life. He was hilarious, and I’m pretty sure we’ll be going to see his Fringe show soon. Our last event was a short history of gin and cocktails, from the wonderful Hendrick’s. Plagued a little by technical problems and the guy knocking stuff over, this lighthearted hour about gin was one of my favourite parts of the weekend – informative without facts being rammed down your throat, seamlessly funny, and of course full of gin cocktails.
Sitting on the hill above Inverleith pond, gazing out towards Edinburgh Castle with our plate of churros and dipping chocolate on Sunday evening, the pair of us had a good laugh about the weekend. Yes, we probably drank a little more than necessary, and it’s true that we probably took advantage of the free samples a little too much in some places (especially the ones we didn’t buy anything from); however, that’s what these sorts of festivals are all about – good, honest food and drink without pretentiousness, for those who love them. A fantastic weekend, well worth the food-and-drink-induced stupor that I watched the Olympic Closing Ceremony in and had through most of today at work. When can we get tickets for next year?