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.

I cannot abide jarred tomato based condiments and pasta sauces, so this stuff made me super happy.

At the Joe Delucci’s stand, I had some truly scrumptious gelato (I tried the coffee, toffee, mango and passion fruit flavours and each was distinct, creamy and balanced) from the happiest, dancing-est ice cream counter girls you would ever want to meet. One of them was heading off the NYC in January – hope she has an awesome time and remembers – John’s pizza and JG Melons.

Staff so upbeat and friendly, the gelato superb (and widely available thank goodness) it was a joy to visit them.

Divine drinking chocolate was on offer at Jaz and Jules and we had a lovely chat about why drinking chocolate – proper drinking chocolate – is often misunderstood and equated with ‘hot cocoa’ when they are very different things. I am not dissing hot cocoa. It has its place and on a chilly day I will not say no. But it is not drinking chocolate and not just because one is made from powder (cocoa) and one is made from bits of chocolate (drinking chocolate). We tasted a few samples (the dark Peru was absolutely spot on) and it was very hard to move on. But move on we did because there was much more to see. Much of it in cake form.

Were there this many bakers, bakeries and bake houses before the onset of Great British Bake Off? It seems every other person is a baker these days. Speaking of bakers – we’re even been recognized now by vendors and one such was amazing bake house ‘When It’s Scone, it’s Gone’ We’ve chatted with them at both Banbury Food Fair and the Warwick food show previously – their stuff is always delectable and gorgeous. At the BBC Good Food show, they took the gorgeous part to a whole new level with their Jackson Pollock tribute cake.

Taking food as art to a whole new level.

The smoked sugar at SmokyBrae was something I could see using in all sorts of things – sweet and savoury. The story behind how the smoked sugar came about (boiled down to ‘I was making BBQ sauce and couldn’t find any type of smoked sugar in the store, so I smoked some’) was both delightful and sounded like something ModParlPhotos would do. And in fact has done – when we couldn’t find any Chinese Five Spice in any store nearby, he made his own.  As for the people behind Smoky Brae, it was pretty clear that despite not being from the Carolinas, Texas or Kansas, these folks knew what BBQ really means. Hint: it does not mean simply using the BBQ grill.

I bought some apple syrup from Grimble’s Vinegar which I used to make an amended Cranky Apple. Of course, the original Cranky Apple required Cran-Apple juice to mix with the lemon seltzer and vodka. Having the apple syrup meant I only needed cranberry juice to mix it all together. Divine!

This apple syrup was the first purchased item in my snazzy new bag.

There were also a few silly things (silly in my view – they may be taken more seriously by others) – things like:

  • those ‘the last pan you’ll ever need!!!!’ and ‘the mop that will change your life!!!!’ Remember Ginsu knives – ‘Now how much would you pay? Well, don’t answer because if you order now you get this pair of paring knives!’ It was like that. Who buys that stuff?
  • something called ‘Taste of America’ which seemed to be defined by Lucky Charms & Twinkies. I scoffed – and perhaps none too softly. Still, I give them points for Pop Tarts & A&W root beer. But still – a sort of bizarre parody of what I would call ‘Taste of America.’ The folks over at Authentic American, with their array of BBQ sauce – THEY understood the taste of America.
Taste of America? Without a box of Kraft Macaroni & Cheese in sight? So much FAIL.

Trends I noticed:

  • The overwhelming array of spice rubs, oils, vinegars, etc.
  • Everything has been infused with toffee or caramel.
  • Rum, as my co-blogger Patrick pointed out on the Jones on Food & Travel show two months ago, is the new gin.
  • Reports of the death of the salted caramel trend were premature. It’s still with us and, I suspect, will some serious killing before it is finally done.

I was sort of expecting to see a physical split between the BIG NAME BRANDS and small artisan or regional producers – something not unlike the way the American Booksellers Association used to be set up (lo these many years ago when I worked in publishing when it was still called the ABA). But in fact, everyone was mixed in nicely – and there was a good balance between the big players and smaller operations. The physical groupings seemed more along the lines of product type – the knives were heavily concentrated in one area, for example and while there were spirits sort of everywhere, displays of those products were denser at one end of the hall.

I didn’t really attend the celebrity cooking demos – we saw bits and pieces as we walked around – but that’s never really been my thing. I adore Food television but in our house, it is sort of a spectator sport – we talk about it while we’re watching it and I suspect in live demos, that sort of thing is frowned upon. I didn’t go to the Big Kitchen events either – where the highest profile celeb chefs do their thing in front of adoring audiences. See earlier note about how we watch food TV in our house – and add in the fact that the Big Kitchen demo was also being broadcast in HD on a GINORMOUS screen you could see from almost anywhere in the top half of the hall. I did think the skills school looked quite cool. If I return (which I very much hope to do – perhaps I’ll sign myself up for a session because everyone seemed to be having a good time.

I’m sure more things will occur to me over the next few days so stay tuned.

Oh and I didn’t attend the show alone, of course. ModParlPhotos came along, camera in hand. So handy to have a photographer who is also a true foodie. 🙂 Click on the images for larger sizes.

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