Purple citrus and sweet perfume, chocolate alchemy, molecular gastronomy, and four Welsh stars. Perfectly balanced. Sweet and sour, spicey, provocative and chilled. The 2010 Abergavenny Food Festival (18 & 19 September) is the most magical of culinary experiences, conjuring a feast of plenty amidst the streets of this small Welsh borders market town.
There’s an array of over eighty events to choose from – a galaxy of top talent in a line-up of Masterclasses, Tutored Tastings, Talks and Debates. Here’s a taster. See the full menu at www.abergavennyfoodfestival.com
This year food is at the heart of the opening performance by two of Britain’s most celebrated bards. Poet Laureate Carol Ann Duffy shares the stage with National Poet of Wales, Gillian Clarke on Thursday 16 September at The Angel Hotel.
The festival explores both cerebral and intuitive approaches to the art of taste. In ‘The Science of Taste and Flavour’ Peter Barham, collaborator with Heston Blumenthal, explains how his laboratory techniques evoke extraordinary experiences for the palette.
Bulgarian-born Silvena Rowe introduces the cooking of the old Ottoman world with its subtle fragrances; and Cyrus Todiwala (Café Spice Namaste) teams up with Anand George (Mint & Mustard) to demonstrate the cuisines of the Parsis of Mumbai and the Syrian Christians of Kerala.
Chocolate. Sensual, sublime. You know what they say about the divine stuff. The magus himself, Paul A Young, performs a Tutored Tasting – a little bit of what you fancy, with a deft touch of some innovative flavour combinations too.
There are times when only honest, genuine and gutsy food will do. Leading exponent Bruno Loubet of the much-vaunted Bistrot Bruno Loubet demonstrates why he’s the master of flavoursome bistro cooking; Henry Harris of Racine shows how he excels in ‘properly done French bourgeois cookery’; and Jose Pizarro, co-founder of Brindisa Tapas Kitchens returns to basics with authentic rustic recipes.
Michelin-starred chef Sat Bains features winning products from the 2009 Great Taste Awards in his ‘Great Taste’ demonstration. There’s also an opportunity to hear Bill Granger of the legendary ‘bills breakfast’, in conversation with Henry Dimbleby, co-founder of Leon. Describing himself as an enthusiastic home cook Bill’s quintessentially Australian approach has won him a world-wide fan base.
Sometimes vegetables can be the star turn. Watch Jane Baxter of Riverford Field Kitchen in action and discover why her tasty dishes have brought awards and national recognition. Wild Food is seasonal and there for the picking. See how close attention to nature has inspired Valentine Warner (What to Eat Now) and The Foxhunter’s Matt Tebbutt.
This year organisers are delighted to announce a partnership with Italian food event ‘Divingusto’ – the Puglia Food and Wine Festival. They’ll be here with a stall showcasing products for which the region is famous. There’s also a tutored tasting tie-in. Christine Smallwood, author of Appetite for Puglia celebrates the food and wine of this outstanding gastronomic region. The Abergavenny Food Festival hopes to return the favour, taking the flavour of Wales to Italy in 2011.
The best of Wales is profiled too. Top talents James Sommerin of The Crown at Whitebrook and Bridgend-born Richard Davies of The Manor House Hotel present a ‘Great Welsh Menu’; Beer Writer of the Year, Pete Brown introduces his selection from Wales’ micro-brewers and James Swift showcases Trealy Farm’s charcuterie products – winner of Producer of The Year in the BBC Food and Farming Awards 2009. There are also conversations and a demonstration with the chefs behind all four of Wales’ Michelin-starred restaurants as part of the ‘Great Welsh Restaurant Tasters’ strand.
Everything so far has been a celebration of near-perfection. But what happens when it all goes wrong? Who could resist Observer restaurant critic Jay Rayner revealing the horrific dining experiences that lie behind the Bad Review – he’ll even be asking you to turn the tables and review his performance in turn via twitter!
And the focus on literature continues. Book Clubs are all the rage, and Fire & Knives (the quarterly anthology of food and writing) offers four sessions with leading food writers in discussions about their favourite classic food and cookery books – including Tim Hayward on Anthony Bourdain’s Kitchen Confidential.
Celebrated chefs, passionate producers and fearsome food writers will also be mounting the soapbox with the ‘Rude Health Rants’ at the Castle. Hear a personal take on the latest food issues from those in the know.
The Festival has been likened to ‘a Farmers’ market in Brigadoon’ (The Guardian) and it’s true that over 180 stalls appear as if from nowhere amidst the Borders’ mists of Saturday morning. Everything has materialised by 10.00am when the weekend formally kicks off. The six-venue stroller ticket gives access to all the markets, plus a rolling programme of chef dems on the Robert Price Kitchen Stage in the Market Hall and some fabulous family entertainment at The Castle. Masterclasses, tutored tastings, walks and talks are all individually ticketed.
Children are a central element which is why there’s free entry to all those under the age of 16. There are free family workshops at the Food Academy which this year has been supported by Raglan Garden Centre who are keen to ‘grow’ gardeners of the future.
On the Saturday evening there’s a party at the Castle with wild music, wicked entertainment and an enchanted atmosphere. Four danceable bands, comedy, and an exciting meat-based performance with Bompas and Parr, masters of the surreal. Oh! And a fantastic firework finale.
Box Office is now live and tickets for all events can be purchased online at http://www.abergavennyfoodfestival.com (or through The Borough Theatre on 01873 850805).
The Festival is supported by The Welsh Assembly Government. This year activities in the Market Hall will be highlighting some of the great Welsh products that have achieved recognition in the True Taste / Gwir Flas Food and Drink Awards in recent years. These awards are part of the Welsh Assembly Government’s commitment to developing the sector and to building awareness of the Welsh food brand ‘Wales the True Taste.’
Book online from 15 July or through the Borough Theatre Box Office on 01873 850805