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.
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:
SPAM® 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)
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.
I don’t know about you but this time of year, I start building whole weekends around food – oh who am I kidding, I do that most weekends. But June is the perfect time to immerse oneself in the foodiness of it all. Days are longer (so grilling pineapple on the grill doesn’t require a flashlight) and warmer (so all those no bake ice box cakes can come out to play) and there are so many food-related days out to enjoy!
Observances-wise June is:
Candy Month – which in all honesty might be more appropriate somewhere in the holiday-heavy latter half of the year but no matter – candy is candy is candy.
Dairy Month – which makes a lot of sense if what you really want to say is MORE ICE CREAM PLEASE but you want to sound healthier.
Fresh Fruit and Vegetables Month – which makes TOTAL sense scheduling wise – far more than candy. And seriously, what is better on a hot summer day than a really juicy, “tart-sweet-and all tastes in between” fruit salad. And so many “pick you own” options that you could fill every June weekend with them.
Frozen Yogurt Month – as I said this time last year, it’s been ages since I had a first class frozen yogurt. And now it;s been even longer. Still searching.
Papaya Month – I would have thought this was covered under Fresh Fruit and Vegetables Month but possibly the papaya has a stronger lobby than I thought.
Maybe you’re looking to be hands-on with the culinary creativeness but also want to get out of the house and enjoy the summer weather – well, the season of food faires and food festivals is upon us and those are the events for you!
This weekend, for example, if you find yourself in NYC (as I sometimes do) and you’re feeling pecking (or starving) – head over to the Big Apple Barbecue Block Party (June 7 & 8 in Madison Square Park).
BBQ not your thing? The Egg Rolls & Egg Creams Festival is June 8 this year as well. One of the key events in the Museum at Eldridge Street Synagogue calendar, this really is a delicious result of everything that makes the Lower East Side/Chinatown such a weird and wonderful place to go. Egg rolls and egg creams? Come on, where else will those two things come together? With acrobats? Exactly.
The Food Truck Festival of New England is back again this year – apparently food trucks as a trend are here to stay so presumably they will stop being a ‘trend’ and will now be a ‘given.’ There are 6 festivals planned between June and October – so if you are in Somerville or Worcester, MA this month, keep an eye out.
South of the Mason-Dixon Line, there’s the 25th Annual Texas Blueberry Festival on June 14. Yes, it’s in Nacogdoches but no you don’t have to know how to pronounce Nacogdoches to attend. I couldn’t pronounce it as a child either and ended up calling it Nack-a-nowhere because not only could I not pronounce it, I could never find it on a map. The fact that I continued to call it that into adulthood is more habit than I desire to needle to good people of Nacogdoches. All 10 of them. No, no – I kid, I kid. Go, enjoy some blueberries and the rest of the awesome food that can be found at food fairs and festivals across the Great State.
If Texas in June sounds a bit too warm for your tastes (and having grown up there I can attest to the warmth’s WARMNESS), head up to Colorado and some cooler Rocky Mountain Air. Not chilly but more comfy. And no need to forgo foodie fun either because they’ve got the 26th Annual Pine Grove Rhubarb Festival on June 8th. Frankly rhubarb isn’t ACTUALLY my thing, the ‘all you can eat Pancake Breakfast’ and the achingly beautiful surroundings are enough to make me want to go.
Also on June 7 but more East Coast time than Rocky Mountain time, is the Ashland Strawberry Faire is held in – you guessed it – Ashland, Virginia.
As usual, there are way too many food fairs and festivals for me to list here – but luckily for all of us, the folks at Food Reference have a) more time and b) actually do this sort of thing professionally so they are awfully good at staying on top of these things. Therefore – get yourself over to their June Food Festival round up to find food fun near you this month.
But what if you, potential food festival attendee (like the vast majority of people in the world), are not in the USA? What do you do? No worries. Food festivals, as I have said before, speak the international language of YUM! In the UK? Check out:
BBQ isn’t just found in the Carolinas, Kansas and all points South and West in the US. BBQ – pulled pork in particular I find these days – has crossed the Atlantic and entrenched itself as firmly as any carbonated beverage or cookie cutter coffee chain. One sure sign of this is Grillstock (or as they say, meat.music.mayhem) – in Bristol, June 7- 8 and in Manchester on June 28–29
Apparently June 16-22 is National Picnic Week here in Britain and while the weather doesn’t always say “picnic” to me, I’m more than willing to grab a basket and wade in – so to speak.
Maybe you are not so much hungry as thirsty? Have a free day June 29? Head off to Spain’s Festival of Wine Drenching in Haro, capital of northern Spain’s Rioja-producing region. Yes, you read right – wine drenching. Just you, a white shirt, water pistol full of cheap red wine and 5000 other people with the same. Hijinks – as they say – will ensue. Lonely Planet covers this and many other festivals around the world for June. Not all food-related but food isn’t EVERYTHING. … I can’t believe I just said that.
All this and I haven’t even touched on the daily June food observances – that’s another posts (or several) for another day. Some, of course, we have already touched upon. But for those who like to plan ahead – keep in mind that soon, the following days will be upon us: