Food News from Banbury!

I said ages and ages ago (on both The Banburian and here) that Banbury had the potential to be a real foodie hub. Now look! we’ve got not one but TWO town centre food events and we have some pretty big names coming back for repeat engagements 

April 22 is Taste of Spring, the latest addition to the town’s ever-expanding line up of events and one that sounds like a great (and delicious) way to welcome Spring back to Banbury.

Aug 19 is the annual Banbury Food Fair (and Banbury Floral and Produce show). My best advice? Come to the town centre hungry. The best way I can explain all the things on offer is to direct you to what we said about previous years ( Food Fair 2015 | Food Fair 2016 | Food Fair 2017 ).

Yes, I’ve used this as an excuse to post that picture of me at the 2016 Food Fair grinning like a loon with Jean-Christophe Novelli, who will be the featured chef at the cookery demos at this year’s Food Fair in August.

It’s exciting to see how this aspect of life in Banbury is developing. When we moved here, neither one of us really knew that much about it – myself in particular. Honestly, I’d never even heard of the nursery rhyme. But we looked around and found it a good choice for a lot of other reasons. But what we didn’t know was how much of a food scene was starting to bubble up … We saw the signs once we really settled in – but it’s gotten better and better every year. So glad we got here when we did.

In the Pie of the Beholder

Today is National Pie Day in the US. Now, there are a lot of culinary observances during the year – and I note many of them myself. But this one particularly charms me. Why?

Because it was just some individual deciding to make it so. Not a committee. Not an official industry group. Just a guy named Charlie. See Back in the mid-70s, Charlie Papazian– nuclear engineer, teacher, founder of the Great American Beer Festival, and pie lover – declared to his students that his birthday, January 23, would ever more be known as National Pie Day. He just really loved pie.

Eventually it became THING enough that people noticed in 1986, the American Pie Council (did you even know there was such an entity?) took on sponsorship of Pie Day and that is where we are today.


What is your favorite type of pie? Cherry sits quite happily at the top of my list if it is my mother’s pie. But I am not opposed to a good apple pie (as long as the apples still have some structural integrity). Hmmm … I would appear to be a bit of a pie fussbudget. Never mind – cut me another slice!

Foodie News Peruse: Jan 22 Edition

Yes, it’s that time again – time to scan the news for headlines and stories that will whet appetites, cause giggles and spark ideas.

But first, I must share my excitement of my recent purchase (from Doodledash, in Banbury). They are words that I absolutely live by, so I knew I had to have it.

OK, so on to the news:

  • The Power of Circles in Food and Drink (from Atlas Obscura): We’ve all heard about how central the sense of smell is to the act of and experience of eating – but we ‘eat’ with our eyes as well.
  • Fight over cheesecake portion leads to arrest (from Tuscaloosa News): Cheesecake is SERIOUS business. Also – top tip in the last paragraph.
  • Why Do Fruitcakes Last So Long? (from Mental Floss): For me, that’s not really a question. Or rather, it’s not a difficult question. They last that long because very few people actually like them, so they end up hanging around like a guest that won’t take a hint. What the story actually examines is ‘Why do fruitcakes remain edible for so long?’ and as you might have guessed – it’s the booze. But worth a read just to see how long ‘LONG’ actually is in the life of a fruit cake.
  • Is this the future of food? (from BBC Good Food): I’m interested in food. I am interested in gadgets. But this article – which seems to leave the ACT of cooking out of the future of food all together – makes it all sound very dreary.
  • Inside Amazon Go, a Store of the Future (from New York Times): I know there will be many articles about this – but you know, I’m not convinced this is as massive an innovation as they are making it out to me. It’s just another version of a self-checkout process. Neil and I aren’t far off that when we go to the grocery store and use the ‘smart shop’ options, not from a process and logistics point of view. We go in – either grab a blipper or log in the blipping app on our phone. We pick and ID the good, we do the check out and we go. Unless there is booze requiring a person to acknowledge that we are both of age – we never deal with staff at all. What they end up DOING with the technology that makes it possible – that will be the thing to watch.

And finally, not so much news but definitely giggle-worthy: Who knows what goes on in that cupboard when we aren’t looking. A deliciously funny clip of Michael McIntyre.

Sampling My Way Through the BBC Good Food Show

So – my first visit to the BBC Good Food Show (the Winter edition at the NEC in Birmingham) and I have to say I was not disappointed. I am often disappointed by much hyped HUGE events – but not this time.

As a first-time visitor to the show, I hadn’t realised that double decker shopping trolleys (and all manner of crates on wheels) were de rigueur for this sort of event. I was, to be honest, rather amazed at the size of some of these contraptions – these people hadn’t come to browse at all – they’d come to SHOP! And one had obviously come to get cookbooks autographed by celebrity chefs since she never seemed to leave the book signing area and had quite the stack. Don’t me wrong – I sampled lots of stuff while I was there, made a purchase or two and noted several items to look into at a later time – but there wasn’t stuff leaping out at me saying ‘YOU MUST HAVE ME NOW!!!!’

The day became a bit of a sample-laden blur but the moments that stuck out for me were:

The breakfast sandwich at Little Somboon Kitchen was quite simply one of the best sandwiches I have ever had in my life. And I have had a lot of sandwiches. I could easily have stayed at that booth and eaten there all day.

The chicken-bacon breakfast sandwich. Top quality, fresh and absolutely bursting with flavour. And they make their own hoisin sauce.

Quite detailed chat with the Sauce Guy about the sugar and salt levels in ketchups and jarred sauces being nightmarish – though obviously there is something to be said for cutting down on both on health grounds but frankly, on pure taste grounds as well. Continue reading “Sampling My Way Through the BBC Good Food Show”

Nothing Trendier than Food Trend Lists

You know it’s getting toward the end of the year when the trend predictions for the next year start showing up. You know it’s getting toward the end of the year when the trend predictions for the next year start showing up. As usual, I prefer to create a list of lists and not a list of my own. Why? I don’t predict things – I discover them as I wander, directionless across an unmapped culinary landscape.

And Whole Foods always seems to want to be near the front of the line so not a surprise to see the headline ‘Whole Foods Market reveals top food trends for 2018‘ already. That said – not sure where the Whole Foods team has been since the whole floral infusions, free ranging tacos and other bubbly has been mainstream and upfront for ages.

And on this side of the Atlantic, Continue reading “Nothing Trendier than Food Trend Lists”

At My Table … well, Nigella’s Table

OK, so the new Nigella is in hand and I have been perusing it – haven’t had time to cook or bake from it yet but that will come soon. I’m seeing a lot of warming, comforting things – and though she claims to not have a theme for each book, warming, home cooking IS rather a trait of hers. Nothing fancy or fussy here. Just as well since fancy and fussy are not my style.

I read cookbooks like other people read fiction, so I spend a lot of time (particularly on rainy days) thumbing through them and a well-written, well-produced book gets a lot return visits on days such as that in this household. Happily, this is one of those books.

Continue reading “At My Table … well, Nigella’s Table”

On Berries Straw & Black (Also Currant)

High in the hills of South East London there’s a portal to another time and place. Not a police box or wooded park, nor the back of a wardrobe. It doesn’t announce itself with strobing lights or whooshing noises. It’s almost diffident really … except that it seems kind of impossible. It’s an unpaved lane, pot-holed and dusty, lined with squat little cottages that leads into the briefest of shaded woods and then bursts into a glorious vista of the entire city. It’s invisible from either end – I doubt if many more people than those who dwell on the lane even know of its existence.

Charming though all that is, that’s not what makes this spot the aforementioned portal. What makes this lane an enchanted pathway to the past is that recently it’s been simply covered in blackberry-laden brambles.

In the hills high over South East London … a bramble awaits.

The past I’m speaking of is, of course, my past. My childhood, to be exact.

When I first ventured down this lane a few weeks ago, and my eyes fell on the jet clusters of berries swarming over the lane walls, I was instantly back in a hot English summer of my childhood picking blackberries alongside the train tracks with my siblings and my Granny.

Continue reading “On Berries Straw & Black (Also Currant)”

Foodies on Air: Sept 4

Wearing both my Fabulous Foodie hat and my Banburian hat, I head into the Puritans Radio studio to join Peter Evan Jones for the monthly ‘Jones on Food and Travel’ show. And once again – thrilled that my fellow Fabulous Foodie, Wine Hero Patrick Loomer was there to talk wine, taste some samples and generally chat food. And we welcomed first time tasting panelist, Emma Ives who dove right in with all the enthusiasm you could want in a radio show food taster.

Running order:

0:50—20:50 Dawn Gascoigne of Travel Counsellors tells us what’s up the world of travel.

20:50—44:48 Peter shares his chat with Gemma Povey about The George and Dragon in Chacombe.

44:50—55:05  Deborah, from Banburian and Fabulous Foodie,  looks back at the Banbury Food Fair.

57:44—1:10:55 Peter’s Rosemary Shrager interview.

1:11:20—1:18:00 Peter chats about his movie premiere weekend in Dunkirk then reviews his recent trips to Michel Roux Jr.’s Le Gavroche and Raymond Blanc’s Le Manoir.

1:18:02—1:38:33 An Encore of the Savernake Knives interview.

1:38:35—1:49:18 Deborah is joined by Patrick Loomer, co-contributor to Fabulous Foodie, who is also a Wine Hero (yes, that is his real title) to talk wine.

1:50:29—2:19:43 Panel tasting (with first time panelist Emma Ives joining Deborah and Patrick) try dressings, Turkish delight and jams and flavoured crisps. And a ton of thanks to Emma who found all these awesome links:

2:19:45—2:40:00 The panel answers the question ‘Have You Tried … ?’ – another ‘Foods to Eat Before You Die list.

The ‘Jones on Food and Travel’ is on the first Monday of every month on Puritans Radio. Listen Live or click over the show landing page on The Banburian to catch up on previous installments


Banbury Food Fair 2017 Edition

I generally eat way too much at the Banbury Food Fair and this year was no exception. I never set out to eat my way across the marketplace and across to the bandstand then back down toward town hall. It just sort of happens – one small bite and sample at a time.

I sampled cheese, infused gin, breads, oils, tapas, olives, and fudge all before lunch. And as the day was fine (blue skies right until the last hour) and quite warm even before noon, there was was also iced coffee, a fruity lemonade and a soft drink. I can only barely remember what came after lunch since lunch was a HUGE steak sandwich (from ToroPoco) followed by a luscious affogato (from monkeypuzzle who also produced the excellent iced coffee) and a GIANT donut (from doughnutterie).

But I vaguely recall Saira Hamilton offering me a sample of chilli mojito after her demo and having a bit of risotto courtesy of the amazing Rosemary Shrager. I missed tasting Andrew Scott and Nick Bennett‘s demo creation this year. But if it was as good as last year’s – I have no doubt those who did get up there enjoyed it thoroughly.

It’s a full day’s fun – running from 10:30 to 4:30 every year – and we’re there all day so no doubt I will be forgetting and remember to tell you all sorts of things over the next few days. I’m sure it will come up during the next Jones on Food and Travel show Sept 4th as well. Tune in on Puritans Radio for that. But a few things off the top of my head: Continue reading “Banbury Food Fair 2017 Edition”

Dining Differently on Holiday

Another summer holiday is about the begin – and we’re off to France.  And though this is a self-catering holiday and we tackle the majority of meals ourselves as we do at home, the way we shop and eat during this now annual week in Brittany sets it apart from the rest of the year; not only because it is in a different country entirely. But the pace, times and types of meals we have change as well.

Breakfast is always purchased fresh in the morning – croissants and a loaf of crusty French bread (which gets us through lunch as well) with butter and jam. Now that we’ve been trying to cut down on bread, this means we’re eating more bread in a week than we normally do in a month. But – holidays are holidays and I’m not gonna sweat it. The French are very definitely on to something with this daily bread purchase though. If I am going to blow the bread limit, let it be exceptional bread and fresh to boot.

Continue reading “Dining Differently on Holiday”