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:

And because I am not at all bothered by accusations of favouritism, I will wrap up as I began – with the Banbury Food Festival. Wanna get a taste of what it’s like? Check out:

  • What I Learned at Banbury Food Fair 2016: As always, there were samples galore to try. 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 120 vendors, a day full of cooking demos and foodie’s everywhere – I always learn a lot.
  • Banbury Food Fair 2015 in Photos: Food, people who love food, people who are selling food, talking about food, preparing food. Bliss.
  • Banbury Food Fair 2016 in Photos: Modern Parlance Photos got some behind the scenes time at the demos, snapped the stalls and we got a chance to with the chefs.
  • Dogs of Banbury: Food Fair Edition: because dogs love a day out as well and they really love the smells coming from the various stalls.

 

I don’t know about you but after all this talk of food festivals, I need something to eat. I’m gonna mark all these on my calendar and raid the fridge. Suggest you all do the same.

Food … in the Eye of the Beholder

Not relevant to anything but I was just struck anew at how absolutely beautiful cocoa pods were.

And that got me thinking about the beauty of food in general. Frequently I see my facebook timeline fill up with art as people try to find a balance for the stress, bad news or uncertainty that the news (endlessly reposted and retweeted before our eyes) can bring. I can see the appeal of that but I’m a food person so I went looking for pictures of food that served the same purpose for me. here are some of what I found.

Black forest pavlova: there’s something almost decadently gothic about it.
Pomegranate seeds: like edible rubies
carrots: in the eye of the beholder

There are so many foods – raw, fresh, whole dishes, presentations, etc – that show just how amazing and breathtaking (as well as delicious) food can be. I’ll be hunting up more soon.

Save

Chocolate Covered Anything Day

All bets are off! It’s Chocolate Covered Anything Day! Or as they say in Ghostbusters:

“Forty years of darkness! Earthquakes, volcanoes…  The dead rising from the grave!   … Human sacrifice, dogs and cats living together… mass hysteria!”

Look, don’t get me wrong – I’m all for chocolate. Pretty much any time of the day or night. No one was more thrilled than I that individually sliced chocolate slices have now seen the light of day.  But you can’t just go throwing chocolate on things willy-nilly. I mean, you can but why?

Continue reading “Chocolate Covered Anything Day”

Kitchen Disasters R Us

It occurred to me the other night – as I frantically scoured out one of my favorite saucepans while flapping at the smoke alarm with a tea towel – that things in the kitchen don’t always go to plan.

burningkitchen
Please note – no kitchens were harmed in the making of this stock photo.

What had gone wrong? Well, I had been making mashed potatoes for myself in my new favorite manner, which is to simmer them in a bit of milk, and then use that milk for the mashing liquid. It takes a bit longer for the potatoes to cook but you lose none of the potato flavor to water, and you’ve already got hot potato-rich milk for the mashing.  Add butter, and it’s a great no-draining method for mash just so long as you don’t get distracted by the TV as they’re simmering.

Which, of course, I did.

Continue reading “Kitchen Disasters R Us”

Summer Time Is Sexy Food Time

Summer has well and truly arrived here in London. The temperatures have soared into the 90s (Fahrenheit)  then not backing down much and the humidity levels have been keeping pace. It’s that hot and sweaty time of year when you know who’s wearing deodorant and who isn’t, and when the commute to work can become a battle for breath.

sumemr_coupleBut it’s also PLAY time.  Sex is everywhere in the summer.

It’s right on front of you when couples are canoodling in the park. It reveals itself in the flash of sexy white skin that denotes a hot summer tan line. It confronts you in the stifling, airless night when you desperately need something, something, to completely exhaust and deplete you and bring sleep.

And finally – let me tell you, food is also at its sexiest in summer.

Summer food is lighter, fresher, and much more playful.

summer_grill Three-course dinner parties become informal barbeques; sit-down meals are replaced with street food on the go; and the flavours? Well they’re suddenly all about freshness and smoke, salt and tang and heat. All of which set you up nicely for Summertime Sexy Time.

Now there are a great many summer foods one can might think of as being sexy:

  • There’s ice cream, of which I am not personally a fan (I don’t like claggy creamy things in summer, although there’s certainly something to be said for licking that little puddle of good vanilla ice cream from the hollow at the base of your lover’s throat).
  • Or there are peaches and nectarines in their full juicy yielding tangy sweetness in the height of summer.
  • Or there’s a good steak, flame-grilled for mere moments until it’s as black and blue as I’d hope to be after a good summer night session.

But sexy as they are, none of the above are the foods that really equate- or inspire- summer sex for me. So here, in ascending order, are my favourite Summertime Sexy foods:

Number 5: Asparagus

asparagusIs there a more obvious summer sex food than asparagus? Probably not, but there’s a damn good reason for that. Loaded as it is with iron and other sexy nutrients, asparagus would be damn sexy already. But it’s also blessed with that fabulously phallic form.  And this positively priapic pillar of veg has its glorious season in the British summer.  You can boil it (if you must), but get steamy and steam it instead, or just grill it, with a brushing of olive oil and chilies. Or saute in butter, or have a foaming Hollandaise on hand to take the imagery even further.

Eat it with your hands. Asparagus shouldn’t be surgically attacked with a knife and fork (unless you have issues). It should be picked up, and inserted lovingly-head first-into your mouth. Then nibble or suck as lovingly as you please. One final note? Don’t go for those fiddly little strands of “fine asparagus” that will wilt away to stringy nothingness the minute they hit heat. Go for the full-size meaty heads, and let them cook just long enough to lose crunch but retain a meaty bite. When it comes to asparagus, it’s more than okay to be a size queen.

Number 4: Noodles

You might think there’d be no place for something as carb-heavy as pasta on this sexy list, but you’d be wrong. You’re gonna need some carbs to keep you going for the hot sweaty session that awaits…

Noodles are sexy; anything you slurp into your mouth is sexy. And who says noodles must be hot, or covered in a thick, claggy sauce. Cold Udon or Soba noodles with a chili-sharp sesame dressing, manipulated with a pair of sexily skinny chopsticks? Hot in mood but not temperature – perfect to share on a hot summer night.  Or a simple spaghetti aglio olio et pepperoncino shared in bed – a pleasurable break from more strenuous pleasurable activities. Or  that Italian classic; linguine with crab and chili – oil-slicked , fresh and fiery, slithering down your throat.

Just keep the portions light. Otherwise sleep may come a BIT too soon.

Number 3: Strawberries

You might think strawberries are as innocent as an an Eton Mess. If so, you probably have no idea of what goes on at Eton. The very act of eating a strawberry correctly  -holding it by the stem and caressing its puckered nether end with your lips, is just like that first exploratory kiss that’s about to turn into a full-on snog. Or, better, it’s like starting a pleasingly nasty round of mouth-on-nipple play.

But like those lips – or that nipple- that strawberry must be warm from the sun. Do not, for the love of all that is fruity, allow your strawberries to get anywhere near a refrigerator. Like tomatoes, they are hot weather fruits, and only give out their full treasures under the heat of a summer sun. Think of an afternoon in the park on a blanket with your lover, with cold white wine, and warm strawberries, and a conveniently close thicket for some impromptu entanglements…

Number 2: Shellfish

Ya gotta have some protein, right? And shellfish is the way to go in the hot summer months. Light, fresh with an ocean-side ozone tang, what’s sexier than that?  And the pure animal pleasure of tearing those hard shells off a lobster claw, or a crab leg, or the just ripping of  the entire carapace off a juicily plump shrimp or crayfish? Especially when it’s already been blackened with hot and spicy seasoning, or when there’s a sexy pot of drawn butter near by? Or both?  It’s the smoky salty hit of a night on a summer beach.

And anything you eat with your hands and makes you lick your fingers is damn sexy.

Or better yet, oysters that you hit with a dash of mignonette, or a squeeze of lemon, or a spike of chili ( if you hit them with anything at all- going nude for oysters is more than okay by me), and then just allow to make their briny way down your gullet with a caress from your tongue as they go.

Number 1: Chilies

chilies_summerChilies? Did I say chilies? You bet I did. Because when that big old summer sun is turning your world into a furnace – baby, it’s time to fight fire with fire. Now, I’m not talking “blow your head off” chili heat here. For my money, food should never be, regardless of season, some macho endurance contest. And you certainly don’t want to spend the next morning mournfully humming the tune to “Ring Of Fire.” But spiking your food with just enough chili to tingle your mouth and plump your lips, to wake up your senses and get your blood pumping, is the best dietary path to a summer full of sexy awareness.

Did you ever wonder why the people who live in the hottest climates eat the hottest food? Because it does two great things. First, it actually cools you down. Sure, eating chili-spiced food will initially make your head sweat. It’s a phenomenon called “gustatory facial sweating,” (which is quite a mouthful, especially if your mouth is already full). It means your body is is heating up to match the outside temperature, which will actually make you feel cooler as you sweat.  Second, and best for our topic today, sweating ups pheromone excretion and that’s something – knowingly or unknowingly – we all react to. And  in the heat of summer – we react with blazing abandon.

There are lots of many ways to add a little chili heat to your food and your life.

  • Sprinkle some Tabasco sauce on your morning eggs (which I actually do throughout the year)
  • add a pinch of chili flakes to any bbq marinade
  • eat your dang chocolate with chili!

After all, it’s Summer!  we’re all going to sweat so we might as well have fun while we’re doing it. And we should all be doing it.

Save

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.

cookery_class

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.

Culinary Curation: Food Museums

It’s Museum Week over on Twitter (follow the #MuseumWeek hashtag) and naturally my thoughts flew to food museums. I know there’s a Pasta Museum in Rome (though I have never been) and the SPAM museum is undergoing renovations. I’m compiling a list over the next few days and highlighting a few each day here and on Twitter … Bon Appetit’s list is from 2013 but that was AGES ago.

From Bon Appetit’s List:

  • frietmuseumSPAM® Museum (on Twitter @SPAMbrand)
  • Frietmuseum in Bruges, Belgium
  • Ramen Museum in Yokohama, Japan
  • Kimchi Museum in Seoul, Korea
  • Currywurst Museum in Berlin, Germany
  • Dr. Pepper Museum and Free Enterprise Institute in Waco, TX (on Twitter @drpeppermuseum)
  • International Banana Club Museum – now defunct
  • Mariager Salt Center in Mariager, Denmark
  • The Jell-O Museum/Gallery in LeRoy, NY
  • Burnt Food Museum in Arlington, MA

Obviously an update (and frankly a massive expansion) is needed. And who better than Fabulous Foodie to tackle the job?

Fabulous Foodie #MuseumWeek picks for Monday:

  • Museum of Food & Drink (on Twitter @mofad)
  • Cocktail Museum (on Twitter @tMOTAC)
  • Southern Food & Beverage Museum (on Twitter @SouthernFood)

southernfood

Huzzah for British Pie Week!

People, it’s British Pie Week and we at Fabulous Foodie want to make sure you enjoy as many pies and as many types of pies as possible. And so, a few helpful links to start you out. More Pie-tastic info during the week.