May is food fair month, so much so that for research purposes (honestly), we are visiting three in three weeks. The fairs are billed as a chance for local food providers to show off their produce, and so we trotted along to see what was on offer.
First stop was at the Plough Inn pub in Kingham. It seems a theme at some of these markets, and many farmers markets that you can only have one of a certain producer; so one baker, one meat farmer, one cake stall, one jam/chutney stall, one salami maker… This makes sense if you have a small area, and want to give the aura of as wide a range of products as possible, but it also means we end up with stalls selling plates, tea towels, and other things I care nothing about (although Maria loved the tea sets).
One of the joys of an Italian or French food market is the number of stalls selling the same thing. As a buyer I know that each stall has to be good otherwise it will be shown up by its competitors. I cant wait for the day when markets will have 4 or 5 charcuterie stalls in a row. Anyway, enough of my soapbox speech (for now).
What struck me about Kingham was that the stall holders came from Warwichshire or Oxfordshire, not Gloucestershire. It is not surprising that people want to identify themselves with a county. We want to align ourselves with Gloucestershire, although this includes the far reaches of the Forest of Dean (more than an hour away) and would ignore Kingham (20 minutes away).
The stalls that took my fancy included:
Upton Smokery Farm – near Burford – www.uptonsmokery.co.uk
They smoke a huge range of stuff, not just meat and fish, t and is looks like if they don’t smoke what you want, they will try it for you.
Nell’s Dairy – www.nellsdairy.co.uk
A local dairy with a great idea, a milk vending machine where we can go and get milk using our own containers 24/7. The waste created by plastic milk containers has always been one of my bugbears, anything to avoid this is to be encouraged.
The Cotswold Curer – www.thecotswoldcurer.co.uk
Supplies very nice Salami and Chorizo – so why am I promoting what appears to be a rival to our fledgeling operation? Good question. Actually I don’t think Peter, and other local suppliers of salami, air dried ham or pate are our competitors. I believe we are jointly competing with supermarkets at one end of the market and the VERY expensive imported stuff at the other. I think if English charcuterie is going to stand a chance of getting recognised as just as good as Italian or Spanish, then there needs to be lots of us, all producing to a great standard. (Told you the soapbox wasn’t done yet).
And so we move on to the second food fare, held at the Cotswold Farm Park. Adam Henson undoubtedly has the marketing edge, and the layout and feel of this fair was much nicer.
What I love though about all fairs is how easy it is to chat to stall-holders about what they do. All are very happy to share their experience, knowledge and obvious passion for what they are producing.
Ace baker Toby Collett from Lower Lodge Bakery was displaying an awesome array of loaves, you can find Toby at Bourton farmers market.
Crudges cheese (image above) had a lovely selection of their award winning cheeses made at their Kingham base. We tasted and had to buy the Camembert with attitude. Worth looking out for.
Finally we had the pie taste-off.
Lovett Pies – (image above) – a range of interesting pie fillings, we could not take our eyes off one described as “venison, red wine and chocolate”. We bought it.
The Pie’s The Limit – based in Tewkesbury. We bought one described as “pork and chorizo”.
Back home we carefully sampled both pies. The Pastry on the Lovett pie was superb, the filling was good, but not as good as the filling from “the pie’s the limit”. In a very un-scientifc method we voted the latter as our winner, but would be very happy with the runner-up.
Next week we go to Daylesford Organics to see what they think a food fair should look like.