My passion for food is well known, and as a result, many leaflets for the Real Food Festival made their way to my desk in the last few weeks. It seemed anyone that knows me thought of me when they saw this festival advertised, and, came bearing leaflets or emailed the details.
I am not generally a fan of big exhibition-type events, but the Real Food Festival intrigued me with it’s promised offerings of products from small and artisan producers. It promised:
The very best line-up of produce and ingredients, incredible wines and drinks from small, unique producers, restaurants serving carefully sourced dishes and a comprehensive programme of entertaining and educational workshops where visitors will discover some of the best food and drink in the world…
Regular readers will know that I am extremely passionate about produce from small producers, particularly local producers, and this seemed like an opportunity to see a generous selection of what the UK & Ireland had to offer, a chance to sample and purchase this produce, with the bonus of having an oppurtunity to meet and chat with the producers.
I had to go check it out.
I didn’t have much time, which was a real shame. I would have loved to have a whole day to interview producers and spread the word, but, my week has been packed with activity, work and otherwise, in advance of a long weekend in Ireland. I haven’t even had a chance to indulge in London Restaurant Week, but, I had to go to this, so I squeezed in a trip between work and packing for my trip home.
Earl’s Court, for those of you that don’t know it, is an enormous exhibition hall in West London. Enormous. Lots of things go on there including gigs, my other passion. When I first moved to London 6 or so years ago, I was given tickets to a trade food fair there by friends, that had planned to go but couldn’t make it. I had really been looking forward to it, but, found the experience a little underwhelming so was not sure what to expect this time.
On approach from the station it started to hail, nightmare, so I ran and rushed indoors. On entrance to the hall, I saw an enormous Whole Foods Market stall, and, while I like Whole Foods Market, my heart sank a little, I was worried that this might be a corporate affair. Within a few minutes it was clear that this wasn’t the case, as, while there were heavy hitters there like Wholefoods, the majority of stalls were small producers, farmers, fish & meat smokers, wineries, food importers with delights like Spanish meats and Italian cheeses, and much more. I was excited and proceeded to dash around to take in as much as I could.
What can I say? I was impressed and delighted. The food that I sampled was wonderful and the selection vast, why isn’t all of this stocked somewhere I can buy it every week? Beautiful sausages and hams, beef, mutton, game, exotic meats, wonderful smoked salmon (including Kinvara which I blogged about recently), wines, juices, real cornish pasties (gorgeous), pastries and on, all dished up with pride and enthusiasm. The restaurants serving included a favourite of mine – the Duke of Cambridge organic pub from Islington, and one I’ve yet to try – Konstam in King’s Cross although I used to frequent Konstam Café before it was closed so that they could focus on Konstam at the Prince Albert.
I was very sorry to have to leave and would urge all of you to go. Support and encourage these fantastic producers and farmer’s, we need more of them. Had I chance to go back, and I very much regret that I can’t, I would spend hours, so get there early, you might want to too.
Lots more details on their website: http://www.realfoodfestival.co.uk
Tickets cost £15 in advance or £18 on the door. The ticket price was used to subsidise the costs for the small producers, so your ticket will directly sustain small producers.
Earl’s Court, London, 24 – 27 April 2008.