|A seriously large paella.|
Maybe the people of Edinburgh and the rest of Scotland are much keener “foodies” than I had imagined. Or perhaps it was down to very good marketing. Probably a combination of the two, but by two o’clock last Saturday afternoon, Edinburgh’s Foodies Festival was bursting at the seams.
Whatever the reason for its popularity, it was certainly good to see so many people enjoying the assorted culinary delights that the Foodies Festival had on offer. Being my first time at this particular event, I wasn’t quite sure what to expect. It certainly made for an agreeable few hours, and provided me with an opportunity to meet face to face with some interesting food and drink suppliers, which is always a good thing.
Comparing it the Taste festival which used to visit Edinburgh during the summer months, the Foodies Festival seemed to be less corporately focused. The “market” area, for example, was packed with an alluring array of different producers and suppliers, and it was great to be able to chat with people to learn how their businesses had come about and what they had on offer. I managed to catch up with some folk in the food business who I’ve encountered on Twitter, including the smashing Summer Harvest Oils. This business not only produces excellent cold-pressed rapeseed oil grown on the family’s Perthshire farm, it now also provides a delicious range of dressings, marinades and vinegars. I also enjoyed some good banter with the folks on the Enterprise Foods Truly Local stall – an initiative that supports smaller suppliers throughout Scotland in bringing their products to market, and also backs sustainable food production. I must get hold of a jar of the Bloody Mary chutney, from Trotters Independent Condiments, which I sampled there.
|Fantastic “Goucho” beef being char-grilled.|
Another section of the Foodies Festival that really appealed was the “Street Food Avenue”. The smells from this celebration of mobile cooking from across the globe were one of the first things to assail the senses (in a good way) when walking into the event. There were certainly some of the biggest paellas I have ever encountered, bubbling away on one stall, which I was sorely tempted to sample. However, the spectacle of the barbecued lamb and beef – a staple of South American cuisine – was what finally won me over, resulting in my partaking of possibly the best steak sandwich I have tasted. The meat was coated in a herb and salt rub, then perfectly chargrilled to produce thick slices which were full of flavour and beautifully tender.
Foodies Festival at Edinburgh also provided an opportunity to try products from larger suppliers, which might not be immediately familiar. Discover the Origin – an EU funded initiative – offered some quality food and drink from across Europe. The wonderful Edinburgh Gin company had some of its fantastically refreshing elderflower gin to taste and purchase, and there was also a fine gin, containing African-sourced botanicals – available from Whitley Neil, which is distilled in Birmingham. I had no idea the place of my birth even possessed a distillery! Monkey Shoulder is an excellent blended Scottish whisky that I was aware of, but had previously not tried, so it was a pleasure to be offered a wee dram. And as someone who loves Spanish cuisine, I was delighted to be introduced to Inedit – a new “white” beer from Barcelona’s Estrella brewery, developed by Ferran Adria of El Bulli fame.
I wish I could report back on the chefs’ and drink theatre demonstrations. But the queues to obtain tickets for these were so long, the events I wanted to attend had sold out by the time I got to the box office. I suppose the acid test of what I thought of Edinburgh’s Foodies Festival – as someone attending for the first time – would be to ask if I would return next year. Probably, but I think the event would benefit from a few refinements to seriously tempt me back…
Firstly, by lunchtime on Saturday there were so many people attending the event that it became difficult to move around many areas or get close to some of the stalls. Maybe dividing the event into two sessions a day, each with smaller capacities, might alleviate this issue.
It would also be good to see a greater representation from Scottish-based suppliers and companies – particularly from our wonderful meat and seafood sector. This isn’t to say a wider geographic take on good food and drink isn’t appreciated. Yet lovely as I’m sure the oysters that had been shipped all the way from Cornwall’s Camel estuary were, I’d rather have partaken of some from Loch Fyne.
Surely it must be possible to book places at demonstration sessions online at the same time as booking tickets? I wasn’t the only person at the event disappointed to have spent time queuing to see a chef, to find there were no places left at that particular demonstration, when I got to the box office.
And this might be nit-picking, but speaking as someone who used to run a festival, the event would really benefit from much improved directional signage and a greater number of stewards being on hand. It really shouldn’t be necessary to ask four different punters in turn for directions to the toilets.
All in all, however, it was great to spend a few hours at an event in central Edinburgh, surrounded by people who were passionate about the food and drink they produced, and those who were equally passionate about sampling and purchase these.