I’ve never really been a festival goer. The ticket prices, bustling crowds and extremely long queues are not for me, but my love of food, a desire to try something new and find a deliciously tasting dish has opened my mind to exploring the world of food fests.
I went to the Wells Food Fest last year and was amazed at how busy it was. Pushing my way through the crowds in the market square, it was hard to see where the queues ended as each one blended into another. There was a bit more room to move by moat at the Bishop’s Palace and the green area in front of the bandstand, but even there, the queues were long and when my turn had come, I was none the wiser as to what I wanted to purchase and could feel eager eyes behind me wishing I would hurry up. I’m not sure why I was expecting it to be less hectic, perhaps I had convinced myself that there couldn’t be too many foodies in Wells, but then I guess I forgot about the surrounding areas. The experience didn’t put me off, and this year I’ve used many food magazines to plan which festivals I’m hoping to attend, the first one being the Dartington Food Fest.
Famous for serving tasty vegetarian dishes at their Cranks restaurant (which has unfortunately closed), Dartington is a popular destination for mum and I on the way to and from our annual girly holiday. It was perhaps smaller than the Wells Food Fest with less stalls, but they had a variety on offer and a demonstration corner. Entry was free and parking only cost £2 for the whole day – bargain. Once in the complex, as well as their normal shops there was a street food section that included pork sliders, authentic thai food and sweet brownies. A tent had been set up with stalls selling a mix of soft and alcoholic drinks, fresh produce, sweet treats including cupcakes and chocolates, as well as a demonstration corner and on the lower level near the shops and their own cafes, there were a few pop up bars, wildlife stalls with cute owls and a live band.
As this was my second food festival, I knew there were going to be crowds and lone queues, so mum and I perused the stalls, eyeing up the ones we would return to later and sampling their products to confirm our suspicions. By the time we had gone around once, we were ready for lunch. I spied the authentic thai food stall earlier and headed back there for a box of vegetarian yellow noodles and a couple of spring rolls and oh my gosh, I could have eaten a whole tray of those spring rolls. The crispy shell with the slightly spicy veg in the middle was just delicious. Plus at 50p a roll, they were my second bargain of the day.
Following lunch, we headed back to the tent for a demonstration by Peter Alcroft on how to make a chocolate bomb. Unsurprisingly, the seats were all taken so I stood at the back watching and listening with intent. The demonstration lasted just under 45 minutes and inspired me to put a chocolate bomb on my ‘to cook’ list.
After the demonstration we head back round the stalls, purchasing the products we had settled upon which included three bags of fudge made by Suzy Sweet Tooth, cake in a jar by DD’s Cupcakes, chocolate pebbles by Artisan Chocolates and a variety of drinks including Norcotts cider and Luscombe drinks and tonic waters. Stalls were starting to sell out and the rumours of possible traffic on the motorway meant we had to make a quick exit. We headed back to the car with carriers of treats and our trip ended like it began with a stop at the services for a decaf, caramel cappuccino.
I definitely enjoyed this food festival and a smaller event like this one is probably a better one to attend for your food fest initiation and if you’re about to attend your first food fest, here are a few trusty tips;
- Make sure you take some cash in coins and plenty of smaller notes (£5 & £10)
- Have a shopper bag handy – some stalls do provide carriers or branded bags but some don’t, so just be prepared
- Wear light layers – the tents can get quite hot especially as there a lot of people crammed into one space
- Ensure you have plenty of battery on your phone to take pictures for Instagram
- Circulate the stalls, consider your purchases before diving in but don’t take too long to decide as the exhibitors only bring a limited amount of stock with them
- Pick up the cards of the exhibitors you like the most, follow them on social media and keep up to date with what they’re doing – they could be attending another festival near you soon.