Abergavenny Food FestivalFeeding the Future ...
The ninth Abergavenny Food Festival
Described as "The most democratic of festivals, the most easygoing, the most celebratory" (Matthew Fort, The Guardian, Nov 2006), the ninth Abergavenny Food Festival will take place over the weekend of 20th and 21st September. Box Office is now open. To book tickets call the Borough Theatre on 01873 850 805 (Tues to Sat, 9.30am to 5.00pm). Programmes can be picked up free of charge from Waitrose (Llanfoist), Abergavenny TIC and The Borough Theatre. The full line-up can be seen at www.abergavennyfoodfestival.com
Our first conference ...
The festival continues to grow and diversify, this year dishing up its first conference: ‘The Big Food Debate: Growing Food Festivals/Changing British Food Culture' on Friday 14 September. Sponsored by Miller Research (UK) Ltd and supported by adventa, (Monmouthshire's LEADER+ rural development programme), The Big Food Debate will be chaired by The Food Programme's Sheila Dillon and hosted by writer Joanna Blythman - both tireless investigators of important food-related issues. It will challenge those who run and promote Food Festivals and others concerned with the British food scene to consider whether these events are just fads for affluent foodies, or whether they really impact on the nation's attitude to food. Debate will cover food production, marketing and selling, and how what we eat influences the countryside, rural livelihoods and the health of the nation.
Growing gradually ...
This year the Festival has expanded into another part of town. A new section has been added in Lewis's Lane that will knit together ‘Made in Monmouthshire' crafts and foods, music in ‘The Latin Quarter' and a new venue for tutored tasting in Trinity Hall. There are changes at The Castle too. The performance stage which kicked off last year has been upgraded to a full scale programme of eccentricity in ‘The Dome'. There will also be a new-concept eatery - ‘Bord y Gegin/The Kitchen Table' which will turn great Welsh produce into great tasting street-food. Later on experience the enchanted atmosphere of ‘The Castle by Night' with an evening of mellow food and fabulous music, where Domino Recording Co presents James Yorkston and The Athletes and Eugene McGuiness, plus Domino DJ's. Young's Outdoor Fishmarket comes to The Priory Centre and Vin Sullivan will present ‘Passionate About Fish' - a non-stop road show by fish craftsman Duncan Lucas, demonstrating all you need to know about fresh fish.
In the Run-up ....
The hugely popular Fanfare for the Festival starts festivities on the Thursday - and this time it has an Italian flavour, thanks to Domenico Scarpetta of The Malthouse. On Friday the inimitable Keith Floyd brings his one-man show ‘Floyd Uncorked' to the Borough Theatre. Be warned ... this show contains no good advice whatsoever! Behind the Market Hall last year's inaugural free ‘Taster Market' will run again, alongside Abergavenny Market Traders.
Masterclasses - the experts in action
The programme kicks off with Lebanese-born Annisa Helou serving up mezze - a defining experience of the Eastern Mediterranean, followed by Allegra McEvedy, co-founder of London chain Leon, demonstrating light, fresh, seasonal cooking. Do you seek extreme eating experiences? Then join Tom Parker Bowles for adventurous dishes from home and abroad. Angela Hartnett, protégé of Gordon Ramsey and chef-patron of Michelin-starred The Connaught retraces her roots through three generations of Italian Family Cooking. Watch Guardian Food Editor Matthew Fort and Matt Tebbutt, Chef-patron of The Foxhunter take on the ‘Market Kitchen Challenge' - and help decide the winner. Experience Tuscany by way of Marylebone with Giancarlo and Katie's ‘Cucina Caldesi'; and enjoy ‘Home-cooking from the Spice Islands' with James Oseland, editor-in chief of US food Magazine Saveur.
Tutored Tastings - a sensory delight
Sample foodstuffs from Persepolis, the extraordinary Peckham-based Middle Eastern Food emporium owned by Sally Butcher and husband Jamhid Golshan Ebrahimi; focus on seasonal fruits with Debbie Hearn, founder of the Big Little Fruit Campaign; take part in the ‘Potato Challenge' with local grower Ian Prior and bio-dynamic grower Andy Trim - while broadcaster Charlie Hicks sees fair play. Explore the art of buying, keeping and using spices with James Oseland. What makes Tuscan food special? Giancarlo and Katie Caldesi provide the answers; award-winning drinks writer and Festival Favourite Richard Ehrlich turns his attention to the world's most popular cocktail - ‘The Perfect Margarita'. Fishworks founder Mitch Tonks provides a spectacular Seafood Tasting, and John Swift and Graham Waddington of Monmouthshire-based Trealy Farm Charcuterie demonstrate the fabulous sausage varieties that won them silver at the Wales True Taste Awards.
Lively Talks ...
Wild food forager Yun Hider focuses on foraging and the culinary and medicinal uses of wild plants; visual artist JakeTilson presents A Tale of 12 Kitchens - a true work of art and winner of the World Gourmet Book Award; chef and food writer Ian Walker recounts his remarkable journey up the Mekong River, and Kate Colquhoun and Anissa Helou reveal how Arab and Moorish cooking came to the great mediaeval households of England. Find out ‘Why Bread Matters' with Andrew Whitley, pioneering founder of the Village Baker; join top London QC Ian Glen and local solicitor Hugh Candler as they take an amusing look at great dinners of the past. Oh, and it's a mucky job, but someone has to do it! Pete Brown and Ian Marchant swap tall stories about pub crawling with hot tips and hang-over cures.
... and Debate
The programme of talks in the Borough Theatre is always diverse and challenging and this year is no exception. Will today's artisan food producer become tomorrow's corporate demon? Rufus Carter (The Patchwork Traditional Food Company), William Chase (Tyrrells) and Mitch Tonks (Fishworks) discuss ‘Entrepreneurs and Artisans' with The Guardian's Matthew Fort. Find out ‘Who Killed Healthy Eating? - an historical whodunit, with James Fergusson, author of The Vitamin Murders, Andrew Whitley, artisan baker and real bread campaigner, Jonathan Harrington, crop scientist and investigative food journalist,- hosted by Joanna Blythman.
Share reminiscences with friends Simon Hopkinson (Hilaire & Bibendum) and Franco Taruschio (The Walnut Tree), both trail-blazers of the UK restaurant scene; and hear why foreign correspondent George Alagiah became patron of the Fairtrade Foundation. Explore the domestication of edible plants over 50,000 years of evolution with Denis Murphy, professor of Biotechology at Glamorgan University and crop biologist Jonathan Harrington. Highlight's of Radio 4's Veg Talk provide light relief with co-presenters Charlie Hicks and Gregg Wallace. Don't miss the opportunity of an audience with unique British Foodie Clarissa Dickson Wright as she ‘Spills the Beans'. Conclude with The Foodie Quiz - hosted by Sudi Pigott, quiz-mistress par excellence, together with celebrity guests.
Walks - take time out for rural pursuits
In contrast to all the indoor activities, why not explore the beautiful environment of Monmouthshire and meet some of the county's top food producers. Find out about ‘Border Country Farming' at Court Farm Llanthony; experience ‘Organic Food from The Hills' at Maes-y-beran, an organic beef and sheep farm; visit wild-life friendly Great Bailea Farm; or go for ‘A Dairy Farm with a Difference' - Pant Farm, Llanvetherine - with it pedigree Welsh Blacks and dairy goats. Nearer to home explore ‘Granny's Store Cupboard on the Castle Meadows' around Abergavenny with Fiona Ford. There are also two mushroom forays on offer, led by keen mycologist Sheila Spence, and a field trip with wild food forager Yun Hider.
Cheese and Wine Show Tastings
There's lots to sample at these tastings. Massimo Totoloni takes in the length and breadth of Italy with an introduction to Zonin wines; savour modern Welsh Cheeses with Carwyn Adams - the man behind award-winning Caws Cenarth; Eddie Ludlow - MHUK Ambassador for the UK, hosts a Moet Hennessy Whisky Masterclass; beer writer Peter Brown demonstrates the huge range of tastes and styles now available; Matthew Hemming and Anna Sastin of Avery present an introduction to wine-tasting, and there's a Monmouthshire Perry and Cider tasting hosted by Dave Matthews and Alan Goulding, founders of the Welsh Perry and Cider Society.
Chefs Demos on the Smiths Kitchens Stage
The Smith's Kitchen Stage in the Market Hall is at the heart of the festival, with its rolling programme of chef demos from Abergavenny and District's finest. This year's line-up includes James Sommerin (The Crown at Whitebrook) who returns to the festival having brought The Crown the ultimate accolade, a Michelin Star. Ian Sampson (The Newbridge) and Sean Willis (Croesllan Catering Butchers) take locally produced meat from farm to fork; Cyril Royer (La Brasseria) demonstrates favourite dishes; Stephan Trinci (Gliffaes Country House Hotel) and Gary Nugent (The Crown at Pantygelli) serve up skilfully prepared food with good local ingredients; Trinidadian Ivor de Lloyd (Venue 59) dishes up some favourites; Steve Robbins (Bistro Prego) features modern British with some Italian flourishes; Rumanian-born Valentin Mitriciou (Allt-yr-Ynys) demonstrates dishes from his homeland, and Domenico Scarpetta shows why The Malthouse, Abergavenny is one of the town's most popular eateries.
Children's events continue at The Castle with The Food Academy, offering informative and entertaining activities to engage young people. Cook up healthy recipes with MasterChef finalist Fiona Bird; try your hand at making sausages with Trealy Farm Charcuterie; juice different varieties of apples with Dragon Orchard Cropsharers; watch Monmouth Rugby Club and Monmouth Comprehensive School Rowing Club take up the ‘Food Festival Challenge' - with special guest appearance by new Blue Peter Chef 2007, Jake Sawyers. Outside activities include Butter Making with the Usk Rural Life Museum, fruit kebabs with Food Co-ops, and a foodie Treasure Hunt. Help create food sculptures with ‘Eat Abergavenny' - then help to eat them! Watch Monmouthshire Scouts do camp cooking. And lastly, there's the crowning children's event of the festival - The Finals of the Primary Schools' Cookery Competition sponsored by the Chartered Institute of Environmental Health which takes place on Sunday in the Market Hall.
There's lots on offer for families with a programme of performance, readings, comedy and music in the Castle grounds and in The Dome - where there will also be an opportunity to buy unique festival merchandise, designed and produced in collaboration with Domino Recording Co. Roving street performers will add to the carnival feel throughout the town.
Businesses in and around the town are putting on some really special events in the run up to and over the Festival weekend. On Sunday 9 September there's the ‘Monmouthshire Seafood Fayre' at the Castle, and a ‘Wild Food Foray & Picnic' at Mulberry House/Ty'r Morwydd on the Wednesday; A ‘Wine Australia Evening' at The Bell at Skenfrith, a ‘Guided Tour of Burgand' at St Michael's Centre, and a ‘Celebration Evening with Champagne Moet' at The Horseshoe, Mamhilad are all taking place on the Thursday. Friday sees the opening event of ‘Spread: Kitchen Antics and Appliances' at The Art Shop; The Hill Education & Conference Centre are running a ‘Gala French Wine Evening', and Abergavenny Film Society presents ‘Black Gold' - a documentary exploring the coffee trade - at Melville Theatre.
On Saturday 15 September local author Daniel Mordern will read from ‘So Hungry' at the Library; ‘A Menu of Conversations' and ‘Instructions for Living, Labelling for Life' (both repeated on Sunday) will take place at The Art Shop; there's a ‘Welsh Supper Night' at Mulberry House; and some of flamenco's finest artists appear in ‘Jaleo' at the Borough Theatre. On Sunday 16 September there's ‘Healthy Eating Workshops & Rugby Skills' with Neath Rugby Club at St Michael's Centre; and Tom Parker Bowles talks about his latest book The Year of Eating Dangerously over lunch at The Bell at Skenfrith.
On both the Saturday and Sunday there's an Art Shop exhibition: ‘A Feast for the Eye', and a Culinary Exhibits display at Abergavenny Museum; Greyhound Yard hosts a Greenzone Market; there's a Wild Food Café at Mulberry House, and the annual Flower Festival will take place at Abergavenny Methodist Church
Funding the Festival
The Abergavenny Food Festival is funded by the Welsh Assembly Government, Monmouthshire County Council, adventa, Captial Region Tourism and Abergavenny Town Council. Sponsors for 2007 include Miller Research (UK) Ltd, Chartered Institute of Environmental Health, Young's, Tyrrells, Passionate About Fish, Concha y Toro, Waitrose, South Hereford Garages and Smiths Kitchens.
The Abergavenny Food Festival - when the Welsh Borders come alive with fun and feasting!