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.
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.
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.
Cooking might be the last thing you want to do while on holiday, but there’s a lot to be said for self-catering holidays.
You get more room for your money on self-catering holidays than you do from all-inclusive.
You set the schedule – with young kids, this makes keeping to routine a lot easier.
You’re more in control of the menu on self-catering holidays.
You eat what you want when you want on self-catering holidays.
Makes managing dietary restrictions easier.
But I know the idea of having to cook (and wash up) makes it sound less holiday-like and more like just moving the housekeeping to a new location. But cooking doesn’t mean it must be done in the same way as you always do. Take a holiday approach to cooking: take some shortcuts, mix things up, relax your rules.
Sadly, like most people, I can’t always travel when I want (must try harder to win that lottery) and so I end up doing a lot of ‘armchair travel’ when not banking actual travel miles.
Luckily, there are a lot of other food and travel lovers with a passion and skill for writing who have shared their culinary wisdom. So there’s lots of material (travel guides, essays and memoirs, great cookbooks with a heavy helping of travel included, tv tie-ins, even inspirational fiction) to get us on our way – both in reality and virtually.
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.
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!
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:
You kick off the holidays any way you like – send cards, put up the tree, start hanging light. Me, I’ll start with this festive cup of hot chocolate laced with Bailey’s. It was the perfect drink for our romp through the Banbury Festive Market and Christmas Light switch-on. Warming and wonderful.
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.
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.
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 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.
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.