by Molly Fowler
For those of you who didn’t make it down to Durham’s Food Festival this year, I can only offer my condolences. After having paid my meagre £2.50 and slipped on my wristband, I stepped (well, ran) into the marquee fit to bursting with excitement, and the sights, sounds, and, most crucially, smells that I was immediately hit with confirmed it; I was in a food lover’s heaven.
As I looked around me in a semi-daze, I was pleasantly surprised to see how great a variety was provided for Durham foodies – a multitude of stalls selling everything from bison burgers to Chinese street food, as well as homeware and live chef demonstrations, this was certainly an event intended to cater to the masses. Thus, with notebook poised and stomach rumbling, I began my perusal of all Durham’s Food Festival had to offer, and am thrilled to say that I was by no means disappointed.
Having a sweet tooth, I was immediately drawn to any stand selling cakey, sugary, or chocolatey fares, and began to sample things at a rate found somewhat alarming to my companions. I am pleased to report I was spoilt for choice, and with stalls like The Brownie Bar offering a chocolate brownie so rich and decadent it won the Great Taste Gold Award in 2011, as well as Loopy Lisa’s Fudge, whose classic butter fudge was so creamy and delicious it won the same Gold Award in 2009, the promise of gourmet food had been well and truly met. My inner child was also thrilled to see an overabundance of cupcake stalls catering for every occasion, with the elegantly named Glass Slipper Bakery providing Halloween themed cupcakes decorated with bats and skulls, whilst the innovative Popcake Kitchen introduced the elegantly small yet sinfully decadent cake treat on a stick – perfect for munching on whilst inspecting other stalls.
After thoroughly satisfying my sugar cravings, I was drawn to my other great love; cheese. I was thrilled to see the festival more than provided for that particular passion, and after sampling every cheese I could get my hands on from the various cheesemongers, I was drawn, as was a large portion of the crowd, to Derek Priestley Cheesemongers. Offering a staggering and unusual variety, from Maplewood smoked cheddar to white stilton with strawberries and champagne, I couldn’t resist partaking in their outstanding offer of three cheeses for £5, and am ashamed to say the remains of this purchase are hidden in the back of the fridge at home, away from the prying mitts of my housemates.
Unfortunately, there was rather a poor selection of seafood, although I was pleased to see a very smartly dressed gentleman perched next to me on a rickety plastic bench covered in a grimy paper tablecloth casually tucking into a flute of chilled Prosecco and a dozen oysters, even if it did make my humble steak pie look rather shabby in comparison.
Whilst everything I saw, sampled and purchased throughout the day more than exceeded my already exacting standards, I must confess that I received the most pleasure from a certain male friend attempting to assert his masculinity by sampling the aptly named ‘smartarse’ from The One Stop Hot Shop. A chilli sauce reaching over 16 million on the Scoville Heat Scale for chilli peppers, we were informed by a somehwat wicked looking vendor that it was unavailable for general purchase in the UK and came with the warning “can cause breathing difficulties”. After initially insisting that it wasn’t that bad, my previously willing sampler then had to excuse himself with eyes watering and tongue lolling, and only several hours and a glass of milk later was he finally able to whisper that he thought it might hurt forever. Manly…
My gourmet experience is one I will not be forgetting in a hurry, mainly thanks to my multitude of edible purchases stashed away at home, and I urge you all to attend next year – I know it’s a visit I won’t hesitate to make.