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.

I learned from Anita Chipalkatty (while watching her making jalfrezi – an Indian stir-fry) that while Chinese stir-fry and Indian stir-fry have a lot in common cooking method wise, the chop is very different. Chinese veg is shredded or julienned quite fine for stir fry where as for an Indian dish, the chop is chunkier. It still cooks quickly but retains more individual taste and structural integrity (all the better for scooping, for example with chunks of pepper).

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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.

And sadly while I was not able to get close enough for a clear picture, Restaurant 56 head chef Andrew Scott (Banburian himself) and sous chef Nick Bennett (yes, that was him on Masterchef) did make disassembling a duck look GREAT fun.

We discussed timeframes for smoking beef and pork with Smoke and Spice BBQ – and as a Texas-raised BBQ eater from itty-bitty-hood, let me say the beef brisket with Kansas sauce is spot on! The North Carolina sauce seemed to be going over well too.

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Beef Brisket from Smoke & Spice

The difference, in case you wondered, between BBQ sauce and style comes down to regional traditions in the US. Kansas style is a sweeter, wet baste and sauce whereas North Carolina’s taste profile is more tangy and vinegar based. I didn’t learn that yesterday – that was something drilled into my head growing up in BBQ country. Texas style is more about dry rubs. But that’s a larger discussion for another time. Actually pulled pork seemed to be a theme as it also came up in discussion with Dave of Big Dave’s BBQ Shack. His sits a lot longer than ours – 20+ hours.

I learned that everyone wants their picture taken with Jean-Christophe Novelli and the ladies from Siam House were no exception. And really he was so gracious and charming, who can blame them.

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I learned that when making churros, the key is watching the colour more than the clock. I mean, clearly the guys at Churros Ole know how long the churros needs but as they pointed out, the longer the oil has been heated and used, the hotter it gets so you get more of a sense of “done” by looking at the golden colour of the churro and when it looks right, out it comes.

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These looked ready – and delicious – to me!

The salted caramel ice cream at Just Rachel was so good, I went back twice. The year before, they’d had divine affogato and while they didn’t have it this year, there were plenty of coffee places about if I’d wanted to do a DIY dessert thing. But there was no need – the salted caramel suited my mood, my day and my taste buds down to the ground. You can imagine my JOY when they mentioned that their ice creams are carried by the shop at Wykham Park Farm. Not only is that just a few minutes away, Wykham Farm is also home to Bakergirl!

Finally, I learned that somewhere in the Banbury area is a budding food art artist with a delectable (and ever so slightly twisted) sense of humour. I fell utterly in love with this piece in the Flower & Produce art competition. Even looking at it now makes me smile.

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I cannot even describe the giggling/snorting sound I made when I saw this.

There was lots more to see, do and eat – and my waistline will no doubt reveal evidence that I participated fully. As is often the case when we attend these events, my fave photog was on hand taking pictures and you can see the best of those over on The Banburian’s post: Banbury Food Fair 2016 in Photos.

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