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”

Foodie On The Road And On Air

Well, it’s that time of year again. Weekends spent exploring, thinking, eating, and writing about food. I said the other day, foodie festival season is now in full swing here in what the tourist guides call ‘the heart of England.’ And if you are even a semi-regular reader of this or my other blogs, you know how much I love a food fair. Of course, I’ve gone into some detail about my ‘home’ food fair – the Banbury Food Fair – and if you are a food fair aficionado, I recommend you check it out as well.

  • What I Learned at Banbury Food Fair 2016: Food fairs involve a lot of eating but it’s also about exploring, chatting and learning. The vendors at the Banbury foood fair – there are over 120 – are knowledgable and passionate about what they do. I love chatting with them. not all about actually eating.
  • Banbury Food Fair 2016 in Photos: My fave foodie photographer, @modparlphotos got some behind the scenes time at the demos in addition to snapping the stalls and we got a chance to with the chefs.

But of course, the Banbury fair isn’t until August so what is a food festival lover to do? Wait? Not on your life! The weather was beautiful this last weekend so we toddled off to the Warwick Food Fest, a relatively recent edition to the local food fair circuit (this is its third year). We were both impressed with the array of vendors, the set up and the food itself.  Some thoughts and pictures of Warwick Food Fest 2017 can be seen over on the Banburian. But serioulsy, does this not look DIVINE!

 

But a girl cannot live by food fair alone  Continue reading “Foodie On The Road And On Air”

Foodie Festival Season 2017

It’s food fairs and beer festival season and you know what that means? Yes! A food festival round up.  My favourite and one of the largest in the area is the Banbury Food Fair (Sunday Aug 20, 2017). Food to try, food to buy, drinks of all kinds, demonstrations, games, music, competitions, the floral and produce show … something for everyone. It gets bigger and better each year and admission is free. Seriously, how could you not love this sort of stuff:

And if food festivals are your thing, this whole area is where you want to be for the next few months. Other festivals a mere hop, skip and jump from here: Continue reading “Foodie Festival Season 2017”

Fab Foodies in the Studio!

As you may or may not know, I do a regular segment – Deborah Dishes on Food – for the now monthly ‘Jones on Food and Travel’ show on Banbury’s community radio station, Puritans Radio. This past Monday was particularly Fab Foodie relevant since my segment guest was my co-blogger and peanut butter fiend, Patrick! I’d given him the board outline and timings but little did he know he would be subjected to the new Fabulous Foodie Questionnaire! Check out clip below for his answers. (Runs 30 mins).

If you’d like to listen to the whole show, you can find it as well as previous editions at Jones on Food & Travel at The Banburian.

What I Learned at Banbury Food Fair 2016

So, the Banbury Town Fair has once again come and gone. As always, there were samples galore to try. We’ve learned over the years that once we’ve nibbled your way through the first batch of booths, had lunch and then nibbled and snacked our way through the rest – the idea of dinner often never occurs to us. But it’s not all about actually eating. It’s also about chatting with people about the food they have brought, prepped, turned into art or just enjoy. It’s an incredibly social occasion and with over 100 vendors, a day full of cooking demos and foodie’s everywhere – I always learn a lot.

This year I learned that in order to make a fruit gin, you may need to let the fruit infuse anywhere from several months (soft fruits like raspberries) to just over a year (sloe). Now, I am not a gin drinker (I’m a vodka girl with mixers, myself) but I tasted the raspberry gin from Foxdenton Fruit Gins and goodness! It was delicious – I can absolutely see baking a Christmas cake with that.

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Anita explains it all – and I was totally listening and not plotting to elbow my way to the front when the “taste the dish” offer was announced.

I learned from Anita Chipalkatty (while watching her making jalfrezi – an Indian stir-fry) was that while Chinese stir-fry and Indian stir-fry have a lot in common cooking method wise, the chop is very different.  Continue reading “What I Learned at Banbury Food Fair 2016”

Banbury and the Bard

Banbury is, as you may know, forever entwined with Banbury cakes – flat-ish oval pastry filled with spiced currants. They’re not unlike Eccles cakes and they’re still available in Banbury though not in the two shops most associated with them in days or yore. I present to you – the days of yore.

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E. W. Brown’s Original Cake Shop, 12 Parsons street.

There was some dreadful idea being tossed around about turning that A. Betts High Street space (very much present and in use lately as a pop-up shop) into an arcade. Continue reading “Banbury and the Bard”

Banbury’s Culinary Surroundings

Banbury sits at the center of a robust culinary landscape. Now, I know what you’re thinking. You’re thinking, “Sure, it’s home to the largest coffee processing plant in Europe and yes, the traditional home of the famous Banbury cake. But ‘culinary landscape?’ What on earth is she on about?

Well, you know when I said, at the end of my last post – Grabbing a Bite in Banbury – stay tuned and stay hungry? I hope you listened. There’s a lot more foodie fun to cover in Banbury and the surrounding areas. Having covered some of the new and/or worth checking out shops and eateries in Banbury itself, it’s time to talk about the other gastronomic pleasures – cookery schools, food festivals, artisan shops and food tours – found in Banbury itself or within no more than an hour’s travel time.

Cookery Schools: Cookery schools are hot, hot, hot! There’s been a veritable explosion of cookery schools across Britain in the past four or five years. The country enthralled with Great British Bake Off and an unending supply of cookery TV has shown a huge appetite for courses about baking, regional cuisines, vegetarian food, butchery, cooking for kids, on and on and on.

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If you’re in the Banbury area and interested in joining the cooking throng, you are in luck. You’ve got award winning and exceedingly well established array of schools and courses to choose from.

  • I’ve mentioned our local Banbury Cookery School (formerly Pudding Pie Cookery school) in the last post. They do classes from all ages and abilities as well as cooking parties, demonstrations and other cooking events. They’ll even come to you and teach you in your own home. LOVE that!
  • The Cookery School at Daylesford – I’ve gone on a bit elsewhere about Daylesford’s mouth-wateringly beautiful Kingham farmshop. Don’t let the name ‘farmshop’ fool you it to thinking it’s just any farm shop. Yes, there is a farm and a shop but this is a whole complex. There’s a shop, farm, restaurant, garden, spa, holiday cottages, and – as is relevant here, the cookery school. They also host a series of organic farming courses, seasonal festivals and special events.
  • The WI Cookery School – yes, that WI. Whether you are a beginner or rather more experienced, this purpose built cookery school just outside of Abingdon (a mere 40 minute drive) welcomes members and non-members of all ages.
  • Dancing Trousers Cookery School – an awesome name, don’t you agree? Small yes but size isn’t the issue when it comes to food. Quality is what matters and as Dancing Trousers was a finalist in the Best Small Cookery School category of the British Cookery School Awards in 2014 (as was Daylesford), I think that settles that.
  • If you really want to push the boat out, you could check out The Raymond Blanc Cookery School at Le Manoir. It won’t come cheap, by any means but you won’t forget the experience or the food.
  • And in more specialist field – chocolate making.  Barry Callebau is a global manufacturer of chocolate and cocoa. We know this. But they also run a Chocolate Academy in Banbury! Now, to be fair, it’s not really aimed at what be best described as “curious consumers” – it’s not a tour. This is full on course work for people who are quite serious about chocolate, novices interested in getting into the field or more advanced chocolatier. There are consumer focused courses at some of the other locations, just not at Banbury. Still, you never know. Demand might create supply.

Still want more? Well, as the weather is warming, you are in luck because food festival season is fast approaching.

Food Fair LogoFood Fairs and Festivals: Naturally local foodies wouldn’t dream of missing the Banbury Food Fair (Sunday Aug 9) and as it’s getting bigger and better each year, foodies from further and further afield are also making this an annual stop on the foodie event circuit. Other festivals a mere hop, skip and jump from here:

Other Appetizing Links

Thirsty-quenching Tours and Tastings:  You can’t do a “food and drink highlights” round up for Banbury and not include S H Jones Wines, a real star in Banbury’s food and drink firmament.

What makes it so? Well, there’s the fact that it’s been here since 1848 (one of the oldest continually operating businesses in town and in one of the oldest buildings – which I’ve touched on elsewhere) and it’s been run by the same family since 1886. Talk about staying power and commitment 🙂  The other reason you can’t leave it out is the wine tastings. Speaking of which, I hear there might be a cheese and wine tasting there quite soon involving one of my recent fab foodie discoveries, Curds and Whey. That’s where I got the amazing black truffle cheese that led to the most amazing black truffle risotto. More on that another time.

???????????????????Moving further afield, there’s the Hook Norton Brewery tour. The folks at Hook Norton conduct two tours of their dramatic brewery building every day but Sunday and yes, there are samples at the end. If you’re still thirsty, you can check out the Wychwood Brewery Tours in Witney which is open for public tours every weekend. For true brew aficianados, there are another couple of brewery tours on the edge of my 1 hour range that offer the public a chance to have a supervised poke around – the Tring Brewery and the Chiltern Brewery near Wendover (this is the oldest independent brewery in the Chilterns).  Beer not your thing? More of a wine person? Oxford Chelt Wine School run wine tastings and wine courses in Oxford, a quick 20 minute train ride from Banbury.

The Sweet Spot:  Belflair Chocolates is a lovely little shop on Church Lane (next to Sugar Rush where I get my root beer when I am feeling homesick for the US) that produces some top notch treats for chocolate lovers. That would be reason enough to list them but here’s the bonus chocolate lovers! They have an atelier in Brackley and you can book one of the “courses in chocolate appreciation” – an opportunity to watch the resident chocolatier at work, learns about the process and sample some of the goodies.  If you’re looking to focus on the sampling – why not try the Chocolate Tour of Oxford – 2 hours of chocolate? Yes, PLEASE! And it’s a walking tour so you can convince yourself you are balancing it all out with some exercise.

Local Goods and Groovy Gadgets: Looking for a special or seasonal ingredient, something outside the normal reach of your grocers’ shelves? Goodness knows the area is awash in Farmers’ markets – and that’s worth a post on it’s own. But you don’t have to wait for market day. You can peruse the offerings at:

  • The Italian Larder  – chock full of regional specialties from across the continent, some well know and some you won’t find anywhere else.
  • Steve Betts Butchers – what they don’t know about meat isn’t worth knowing and they are happy to chat with you about what you’re cooking and suggest the best options.
  • Banbury Self Pick – which is pretty much what it says on the tin -seasonal self-picking so go grab yourself some strawberries, raspberries, black currants, red currants, apples etc. Or pick up some of the ready picked produce. Self pick is a great thing to do with the kids – so if you’re looking to enthuse the kids about fruit this summer, this is the place to go.
  • There’s nothing like cooking with fresh herbs and they’re so easy to grow! You could pick some up at the grocers or the local garden centre but if you really want choice and variety along with expert input and advice, check out the National Herb Centre. 10 kinds of basil, countless thymes, rosemaries and the like along with nature trails and kids play areas.
  • Planning on breaking bread? Literally? Well, we’ve gone on and on about Bakergirl (and quite likely will again) so definitely check it out if you want real bread, freshly made with local flours and seasonal ingredients.

abraxasShould you need to stock up on tins for day of baking or grab a few new implements for an weekend of culinary activities, you don’t want to miss checking out Abraxas Cookshop. Not only have they got every gadget or tool you could need but the staff really know what they are talking about and can offer first-hand info on much of the store’s stock. We bought a spice grinder there last year, after a very enjoyable helpful discussion with the obviously knowledgeable women at the counter. It’s one the hardest working gadget in our already hardworking kitchen.

Once again, this has gotten much longer than I intended and I haven’t even addressed the vast and varied farmer’s markets and shops in the area. That’ll be another day. But I hope this list and the other posts on Banbury (below) have given you some idea of why the foodies of TransAtlantic Towers feel we definitely landed in the right spot.


Related Links

  • Spring has Sprung in Banbury!  (April 12th, 2015):  According to Tennyson, ‘In the Spring a young man’s fancy lightly turns to thoughts of love’ – and that’s as may be but come Spring, this girl’s fancy turns to long walks, farmer’s markets, the garden and cheese.
  • Festive, Foodie Banbury (December 6th, 2014): It’s holiday time and a whole SLEW of new eateries have opened up in Banbury to keep everyone’s energy levels up for the last push to Christmas
  • Banbury’s Foodie Landscape (Nov 16 2014): One of the things we most love doing here in TransAtlantic Towers (as I always did back in NYC), is a bit of culinary exploring…
  • Grabbing a Bite in Banbury (April 14, 2015): In Banbury, a store front showing signs of activity is quite likely to be – well just about anything food related.
  • Bakergirl Bakehouse in Banbury:  Today’s culinary jaunt was to Bakergirl, an artisan bakehouse just outside Banbury.

Grabbing a Bite in Banbury

In Manhattan, an empty store front showing signs of activity – especially if that store front is on a corner – is quite likely to be a Starbucks or a bank. In one instance, there is even a Starbucks in the bank.  Not so in Banbury.

In Banbury, a store front showing signs of activity is quite likely to be – well just about anything food related. A coffee shop, Mexican food,  a bakery, a Dutch pancake house, an Italian restaurant, a wine bar. I’ve been saying for ages that Banbury is shaping up to be very much a foodie destination – and all these places joining the impressive existing ones are a big reason.

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Sure, there are non-eateries as well because you can’t eat ALL the time. I know this because I’ve tried. So should you want to work up an appetite before diving into the plethora of restaurants and cafes around here, might I suggest checking some of my other Banbury-centric posts from Greater Gotham Goes Global and Fabulous Foodie. I’ve done a handy-dandy Banbury round up of some of them for you over on Personal Parlance.  But when hungry hits – there’s a lot of Fabulous Foodieness happening around here of late.

I’ve already waxed poetic about Bakergirl Bakehouse, the artisan bakehouse at Wykham Park Farm but it is only one of many places on the culinary landscape.

  • I was very sad when Veritas closed (I still miss the poulet Napoleon) but I am glad that space remains a foodie spot. It’s been turned into Little Amsterdam – a cafe, deli and pancake house. We went for lunch a few weeks ago and I made the CLASSIC mistake. In my desire to try as much as possible, I over ordered. Good gads, I was so full at the end, I could barely walk. But I learned something from my mistake – I learned that it was ALL yummy! Pancakes aside (and don’t miss them because you’ll regret it) – the cheese balls? The reason I was so very stuffed by the end of the meal? Oh my! SO good! Lovely space, super friendly and efficient staff – and now that the weather is warmer, I look forward to checking out their patio. Little Amsterdam is also home to the Banbury Cookery School.
  • The Whistling Kettle – WHAT a great spot to take a break and indulge in a bit of cake – and who doesn’t like a bit of cake now and again? It’s especially nice to be able to sit, indulging in cake while also indulging in one of my favourite past times – people watching. Whistling Kettle, located as it is on the Market Place, is ideally positioned for such things. I shall be there frequently.
  • When I saw Lucha Burrito was coming, I must say my inner Texan rejoiced. A good burrito can go a long way toward soothing quell a LOT of ‘Tex-ican’ cravings. Pick and mix topping options means you can get it pretty much any way you like. And come hungry because these burritos are GINORMOUS in addition to be being VERY tasty indeed.
  • Pinto Lounge – the first place we ever ate out in Banbury and we’ve gone back again and again. The burgers? So worth it. The brunch also quite good. I’ve enjoyed the baked good, the jambalaya as well so this is what I was class as a good all rounder. I have yet to try the tapas but I hear good things. Staff always nice and there’s a really good vibe to the place. Every town needs a reliable, go to place and Pinto Lounge fits the bill nicely.
  • Caffe Veneto – I must be perfectly candid. The coffee here is outstanding, the panini is delish and the place is spotless but the service? Can be slow. Not unpleasant or difficult.  They are, in fact, very nice, the atmosphere is warm and welcoming. It’s just that sometimes – not all the time – hot food can be very slow to reach the table if the place is more than half full. If you are in a hurry and having more than cake, give it a miss. But if you’re not rushing and the weather is nice, grab a seat by the window or in the seating outside to enjoy a fine, fine cup o’ joe.
  • Reg’s Cafe -Fancy grabbing breakfast or brunch? Go over the Reg’s but come hungry and come with a true appreciation for a top notch breakfast at a great price because they don’t stint on quality or portion size. This place has only been open since 2013 but they’ve been racking up fans, praise and awards right and left.
  • Puddingface, the pie place – Admittedly if you aren’t in the mood for pie, they can’t offer you much but it IS called the pie place so you go in knowing their focus. Puddingface is another spot where it’s best to pack your appetite (and a spare appetite if you’ve got one). The atmosphere is relaxed, a pub full of comfy nooks and crannies. The pies are delicious, not to mention huge – when they bring them out along with the chops and mixed veg, you may well find yourself wondering how someone can be expected to eat all that. I wonder if every time and yet, somehow I end up with an empty plate. What I really don’t understand is why they offer dessert. I’m sure the desserts are delicious (they are well reviewed on TripAdvisor and other sites) but I’ve never been able to even imagine eating one after the pie and sides.

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Now, confession time. I don’t have a pithy wrap up. I know, I know – this is a shock. After all, am I not the queen of pithy wrap ups? But the thing is this – this post was originally intended to be a quick hit list of where to get a decent bite to eat in the centre of town. It grew both in length and in scope so it’s now a two-parter.

Having covered some of the new and/or worth checking out shops and eateries around here in this part, the next part (coming super soon) will touch upon some of the other places – food festivals, cookery schools, local markets, etc. – that foodies might find of interest both in Banbury and in the surrounding (an hour’s drive or less) area.

So stay tuned – and stay hungry!

Bakergirl Bakehouse in Banbury

Lately, we’ve spent a lot of time exploring the newer spots on the local culinary landscape – a landscape that is rapidly expanding both in scope and size. Banbury is surrounded by quite a variety of easily reached delights – both culinary and otherwise. Today was a culinary jaunt – we went to Bakergirl, a relatively new artisan bakehouse open just outside Banbury.  Check out my Bakergirl review and ModParlPhotos’ pictures over on The Banburian, where you can read all things Banbury and the surrounding area.

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