Abergavenny Food Festival 2014 (Saturday)

cross street, abergavenny

cross street, abergavenny

September 20, 2014

Abergavenny (Y Fenni) is a beautiful Welsh market town about 7 miles from the English border (as the crow flies). There are remains of a Roman fort west of Abergavenny Castle and it’s thought that the town predates the Roman occupation of Britain.

The Abergavenny Food Festival takes place annually in September and was founded in 1999 by two farmers, Chris Wardle and Martin Orbach to promote local food after the BSE crisis. The event has grown to become a highlight on the British food calendar and this year had over 200 food and drink exhibitors. As usual celebrity guests, such as  Hugh Fearnley-WhittingstallThomasina Miers, Jay Rayner, Tony Singh and Cyrus Todiwala took part in culinary demonstrations, debates and radio broadcasts.

angel hotel

angel hotel

Tim and I entered the festival in Cross Street, by the Angel Hotel, where we’d had drinks the day before. The town had been transformed in 24 hours, from quiet to buzzing – it reminded me of St. Ives on a sunny August Bank Holiday.

welsh cakes

welsh cakes

The hotel had it’s own food stall on the street selling traditional Welsh Cakes, which, fittingly, was the first stall we saw.

market crowd

market crowd

We met up with Tim’s best friend (also named Tim Davies, confusingly) at the King’s Arms to discuss where to go first. Tim (the best friend) works for Vin Sullivan (a local food wholesaler) and he suggested we avoid the indoor Market House today (as it would be very busy) and concentrate on the food stalls outside. You can see from the above picture that even the outdoor sections were lively.

trethowan's dairy

trethowan’s dairy

We started with cheese, at Trethowan’s Dairy, who produce

gorwydd caephilly

gorwydd caephilly

a sharp and lemony raw milk Caerphilly called Gorwydd, described by Nigel Slater as: One of the great cheeses of the world.”

hafod cheese

hafod cheese

Holden Farm Dairy make Haford Cheddar, an unpasteurised organic cheese from the milk of Ayrshire cows.

haford cheddar

haford cheddar

This has a rich, buttery, nutty flavour which gives my favourite cheddar (Montgomery) a very good run for it’s money.

neal's yard creamery

neal’s yard creamery

Neal’s Yard Creamery (not to be confused with London’s Neal’s Yard Dairy) make a number of goat and cow’s milk cheeses.

finn

finn

Their Finn is a creamy, young, raw, cow’s milk cheese with a hint of walnut and mushroom flavours. I’d definitely buy this in preference to a Brie or Camembert.

dorstone

dorstone

The Dorstone is a raw ashed goat’s cheese with a sharp, creamy, taste. I know this well and have bought it a few times from Neal’s Yard Dairy.

godminster cheese

godminster cheese

Godminster cheese is made in Somerset from organic raw milk.

godminster organic vintage cheddar

godminster organic vintage cheddar

The vintage cheddar has a creamy, rich, full flavour and is wrapped in wax. Note the patriotic packaging.

white lake cheese

white lake cheese

White Lake Cheeses produce a range of cheese, the majority using goat’s milk.

white lake cheeses

white lake cheeses

Rachel (above left) is a washed rind goat’s milk cheese which is sweet and slightly nutty. This cheese won a Gold Award in the British Cheese Awards (2007). Two of the above cheeses, Farleigh Wallop and Goddess are made for Alex James.

caws teifi

caws teifi

Caws Teifi Cheese produce a range of cheeses from raw milk. The company was established by Dutch Cheese makers John and Patricia Savage-Onstwedder and Paula van Werkhoven in 1982, when they relocated from the Netherlands to Glynhynod Farm near Llandysul. 

teifi

teifi

Their Teifi range are Gouda style, multi award winning cheeses, some flavoured with laver (seaweed), nettle, cumin, garlic and onion, etc.

teifi blue

teifi blue

The Teifi Blue is described  as a continental creamy blue cheese, but I’d liken it very favourably to Stilton.

tracklements

tracklements

I tried unsuccessfully to get a closeup of Tracklements accompaniments stall, but at that point it time it was mobbed, so they must be good! Since I’m not a big fan of chutneys I moved on…

frome valley vineyard

frome valley vineyard

After years spent building up vineyards, British wine is now winning big awards and gaining international respect. Frome Valley Vineyard showcased their wines here

british cassis

british cassis

along with English Brandy and British Cassis. I can’t say I’m hopeful, but it would be nice if the government considered lovering the duty on these home produced gems, to give them a better chance of competing with international brands in UK shops.

butford organics

butford organics

Butford Organics moved to Hereforshire in 1999 to produce

organic cider and perry

organic cider and perry

natural and sustainable cider, perry and preserves. I tasted all their bottled cider and had to have a pint of draft to keep myself hydrated.

the real boar company

the real boar company

The Real Boar Company farms their boar on 20 acres of mixed woodland in the Cotswolds.

wild boar salami

wild boar salami

The wild boar salami and boar cigars are excellent and every bit as good as the best continental charcuterie.

wild plum tasting

wild plum tasting

The Wessex Wild Plum Company make a range of plum infusions.

the wessex wild plum company

the wessex wild plum company

I particularly like to try other peoples’ sloe gin, since I often make it myself. I was surprised by how strong this one tasted, since it’s only 23% vol. It was sharp, but not too sweet, so I’d quite happily drink it, sitting by an open fire on a cold winter evening. Tasters noted that some of the infusions seemed stronger than others and I concur. I’d have to suppose that it relates to the sharpness of the plum variety, since they all have the same ABV.

welsh mountain cider

welsh mountain cider

As I’d climbed a mountain this morning, Welsh Mountain Cider sounded like just the job for me.

welsh mountain vintage cider

welsh mountain vintage cider

I was intrigued to hear one of the ciders described as a breakfast cider. I wonder if that’s because it’s a good hangover cure, or if it’s because it has a light clean taste?

the parsnipship

the parsnipship

I didn’t spend much time at the Parsnipship vegetarian stall, but it’s worth noting that it was busy and they’d sold out of several products.

joe & seph's popcorn

joe & seph’s popcorn

I thought Joe & Seph’s Gourmet Popcorn would be too sweet for my taste buds,

popcorn

popcorn

but the Gin and Tonic flavour tasted just right and I see they do some other unusual varieties, such as Blue Cheese with Walnut & Celery, Cheddar & Smoked Paprika, Goats Cheese & Black Pepper and Madras Curry with Black Onion Seed & Lime, alongside the traditional Caramel!

bellota

bellota

Bellota are an Essex based company specialising in the finest gourmet foods from Spain.

spanish cheese

spanish cheese

In their cheese selection I noticed the Tetilla (teat) cheese (right) from Galicia, which is fairly unusual to find in this country.

spanish charcuterie

spanish charcuterie

The charcuterie selection was all delicious – I particularly liked the cured Morcilla.

upton cheyney chilli company

upton cheyney chilli company

The Upton Cheyney Chilli Company grow all their chillis on their chilli farm in the Cotswolds, fertilised by Gloucester Old Spot Pigs.

chilli sauce

chilli sauce

They produce a range of chilli chocolates, jams, oils and sauces. I tasted the above, moving from the centre to the right – medium to hot. Even the hottest was only a moderate hot, but it did allow me to appreciate the flavour of the chilli as opposed to a numb throat and endorphin rush.

pierogi not pasties

pierogi not pasties

Pierogi not Pasties surprised me somewhat. I’ve often thought that Cornish Pasties and Spanish Empanadas might have some connection, since the tip of Cornwall faces Galicia across the Bay of Biscay, but I hadn’t previously thought of a Polish connection.

pierogis

pierogis

I’ve eaten quite a few pierogis in my time, but only small ones cooked more like dumplings – filled, folded, boiled and then fried, not large filled and baked ones. I suspect there may be some poetic licence involved here, since my ex wife is half Cornish half Polish and she’s never mentioned it. Regardless, they have a unique selling point and I find it interesting that pierogi ends with ogi – ogi or oggy (from hoggan) is Cornish for pasty! There’s also a possible Welsh pasty connection here.

sam's rare breeds

sam’s rare breeds

Leaving the ticketed market area, in need of a sit down and liquid refreshment in the Kings Arms, we walked through the town, where more stall holders were selling food.

rare breed burgers

rare breed burgers

Sam’s Rare Breeds were cooking a mountain of venison and wild boar burgers.

oignons rosés de roscoff

oignons rosés de roscoff

Onion sellers from Roscoff had come from France to sell onions, shallots and garlic.

french onions

french onions

By the look of things they might have cycled…

abergavenny castle

abergavenny castle

After a few beers, we went back to Tim’s house (Tim of Vin Sullivan), for a few hours before the party later at Abergavenny Castle, promising an evening of music and food.

fireworks

fireworks

Fireworks provided a high point to the party and festival,

baila la cumbia

baila la cumbia

along with excellent music, firstly from The Brass Funkeys, a New Orleans style marching band, complete with sousaphone and based in London. Secondly we saw Baila la Cumbia (picture above), a Cumbia and Latin band from Bristol. Baila la Cumbia really endeared themselves to the audience during a 10 minute power cut – they continued playing throughout, getting down off the stage and dancing through the crowd.

chicken and peppers

chicken and peppers

The castle party ended at about 11pm and around midnight we were back at best friend Tim’s house for some more drinks and wholesome food, along with about 8 other guests. I was in my element when asked to help with the cooking (above).

Somehow the talking eating and drinking went on until 5am. We did make several attempts to call cabs, but ended up walking a mile or two back to the Mardy (Y Maerdy) before dawn. It was quite an adventure in itself, going up tiny overgrown footpaths where I could barely see my hand in front of my face and across fields fresh with dew. The very large glass of Zubrowka, in my hand, helped – I can’t imagine where that came from…

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About Mad Dog

https://maddogtvdinners.wordpress.com/
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27 Responses to Abergavenny Food Festival 2014 (Saturday)

  1. Michelle says:

    Oh, what a nice recap! And thanks so much for reminding me of our visit there last fall. The things I remember most from our visit are the “Bad Ass (Venison) Bacon Butty” and the ever-so-delicious roast pork sandwich with crackling and sage applesauce. Oh, yes, and the cider. And the Shepherds sheep’s milk ice cream. I could go on…

  2. Eha says:

    Had read about this foodie heaven festival – thank you so much for so many wonderfully appetizing photos from your trip. I surely would have enjoyed it . . all the new cheeses to me and the boar salami especially. And I would have stopped at the vegetarian stall 🙂 ! Talking about pierogi: Oh Mad you really have to go east in Europe – to where all the nations call this piroshki and pirukad and many other names: hmmm, pasties may not look all that great after you have sampled their fabulous Eastern brothers and sisters !!!!!

  3. Amanda says:

    Awesome post. what a great day! Yes please for the cheese and the wild boar burger or salami. Interesting about the pierogies. I definitely need to try a welsh cake too. Clearly I turn crazed in markets with all this wonderful fresh stuff. It’s amazing. Thanks for sharing.

  4. Great day out. I don’t think I’ve ever been to a food festival on account of the fact that I’d get stuck at the first bar and never get out of it on my feet:)

  5. cecilia says:

    LOVE the cheeses most of all , such a variety and the meats Wonderful.. I am deeply envious, thank you most of all for keeping my determination to get back to london alive! c

  6. andreamynard says:

    Sounds like a great time, I love Abergavenny and there are such great foodie treats in that area. I’m a big fan of lots of the food you mention, incl Neal’s Yard cheeses and that lovely cider from Butford Organics. Great comprehensive review as usual & your late night/early am feasting/partying sounds brilliant.

  7. Oh wow – what an amazing time you had. So much that you packed in (and how long did it take to put all those links in?!). I’d have been hard pushed to move away from the cheese… and did you really have a large lass in your hand on the way home or was it a glass?! Made me giggle 😉

  8. I do love a (good) food festival – great post MD. Many years since I was last in Abergavenny too!

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