Better late than never

I returneth from a slight hiatus, caused by a day job that actually dared to interfere with my hobby. Most rude.

I’m one of those awful journalist types you see, the ones that cliché suggest say nasty things about lovely people. If only that were true. But my paper, the Western Morning News, has just relaunched itself, and making sure it had no blank spaces took a while. Seriously though, it is worth a look, just £5 a month could help look after a journalist for a year…

So here I am and I thought I’d better weigh straight back in with a belated review of the Exeter Festival of South West Food and Drink.

You’ll have to excuse the fact that it is all a little hazy, the After Dark event was somewhat…fluid. After the stall and food tents had closed down for the day on the Friday and Saturday, the bars and fast food stalls (the foodie equivalent of them anyway, all good stuff) stayed open, bands played and the good people of Exeter and its hinterland drank cider and partied.

But fear not, this isn’t the Women’s Auxilliary Balloon Corps, after the taste of stale cider had left my breath the next day (Colgate thank you) I, along with my collaborator Louise Vennells and my most excellent girlfriend, went back and mooched the stalls.

What we saw was excellent – and packed. Records were broken apparently, though that is standard PR at events like these. But it was heaving, and for good reason, there was some cracking stuff on sale.

At the time I was a little mentally critical, because the types of food you get are all the same – various red meats, cheeses, pickles and other condiments, bread and cider/beer. But then I reasonably chastised myself, for these are the locally-produced greats, if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. These cheese on sale was excellent, the breads great in their variety and quality, the cider good enough not to raise my gag reflex after the night before.

What was also great (or creepy, depending on your point of view) was that I started to recognise people on the stalls. I bumped into Manna From Devon who were selling their moorish brownies, a Somerset bakery whose name I forget but who will feature in a future post, Red Rock Brewery, whose beer I enjoyed at last year’s show.

Then there were the new finds – a man who sold me a home-made pork pie for £2, making me the world’s happiest fat knacker, the bespoke muffin ladies, the Cornish Blue cheese people.

I would love to name more names for your delectational pleasure, but I cannot for the life of me find all the bunf I nicked from their stalls. When I do, it will go up here.

Just a quick mention here for the demonstration tent as well, which featured, amongst others, Ed Chester, the “executive chef” (unsure whether that includes company car) from the Otterton Mill. He’s well-known for cooking anything game – famously squirrel. That wasn’t on the menu but what was was a great display featuring foraged wild greens, something I need to investigate further, if Louise Vennells doesn’t beat me to it.

So there we are, a whistle-stop review. Apologies for those missed out (late shout out to PieMinister for keeping us nutritionalised). Would love to hear what you thought of the festival. Leave your message after the beep.

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