Monday, 7 October 2013

Food Fest

The Canterbury Food and Drink Festival has become a bit of an annual tradition for us.  Every year Steve and I make sure we get to the Dane John Gardens that run across the edge of the City to partake in the delights of fantastic street food, shopping, arts, crafts and gifts.  For me the arrival of the Food Festival also symbolises the end of summer and the start of autumn with the first leaves starting to fall but the weather still warm enough not to need a coat or heavy jumpers.
The Fayre has become a bit of a local institution.  It used to be a Euro fayre with stands filled with smoked sausage and French cheeses but recently it has moved away from that and become a celebration of local produce and local artisans.
Each year it has a slightly different set up as the organisers constantly tweak it to make it better and better.

This year had a much stronger food focus, something I was more than happy with!
One of the things I love about the fayre is the tendency to bump into people you know.  Just walking through I ran into members of the Players, old work colleagues and the occasional person I had to duck behind a tree to avoid! 

There is a technique to the Fayre.  Start at one end and work your way to the far end, checking out all the stands as you go.  This is essential as there is no way you could take advantage of all the food on offer, unless you fancy being rolled out of the park as the gates close behind you!

We were starving so quickly made our way through the crowds, taking mental notes of everything that looked promising.  A quick stop at the Green Hop Tent and the Festival Bar for liquid refreshment was allowed though.  This tent is a collaboration of over 40 local brewers brewing locally grown hops within 4 hours of picking.

I had a half pint of the Darkstar Hophead, a light golden ale which claimed to have elderflower overtones which really intrigued me.  It was delicious, light and refreshing and, as someone who doesn't normally enjoy ale, for me it was quite an eye opener!

What you can't see is that this is less than a third of the speciality ales and ciders on offer.  To the left of the picture there was the true Green Hop tent; three tiers of barrels stretching the length of the marquee; there must have been about 30 different varieties in total and a board filled with options to choose from.  This was also where the bar scrummage was occurring though and being short I tend to try to avoid those!
Drinks in hand it was time to hunt down food.  There was a dizzying array of options, Italian from Carluccio's, goat curry, paella, hog roast, tapas from the Seychelles, even fish and chips from Rock Salt in Folkestone, an outstanding seafood restaurant that is on my 'to eat list'.

The second I saw this stand though I was sold.
It also had one of the longest queues I had seen but with a menu like that, I didn't care and neither did the people we were with!  We joined the queue and made our way patiently to the front.  I handed over my £5 and got this handed back to me
A venison, red wine and juniper berry burger with rocket and caramalised onion.  It was so good!  Ellie tucked into venison chilli, RV had the wood pigeon wrap and Claire got her teeth stuck into the pulled boar whilst Steve went looking for a decent pasty.  

Conversation stopped.

Luckily the Buskers stage was there to entertain us as we kept eating.
Feeling refreshed we carried on around the fayre.  I was tempted by the iced spiced cider from the Kent Cider Company but we were going out drinking later that evening so I thought I should try and keep a clear head for the time being!
All over the park were people sat tucking into their snacks from the various food stands.  One thing that the fayre has learnt over the years is that there can never be too many picnic benches!
After finishing our meals we worked our way to the food stalls to see what goodies were on offer to purchase.

I think I have found the next sweet trend - flavoured marshmallows!
They were really, really sweet - probably a bit too sweet for me but I can imagine how nice they would be floating on the top of a mug of really bitter hot chocolate on a cold winters night wrapped in flannel pyjamas and big slipper socks. 
I made my way in a fairly determined manner to one of my favourite stands - the flavoured oil and vinegars.  Every year I gravitate towards them (the pomegranate balsamic vinegar is just out of this world) and this year I finally got myself a bottle of their chilli oil which is hands down the best chilli oil I have ever tried.  The fact that you are given free reign to dip breads into the different samples is an extra bonus.  In fact the amount of free tasters you get at the fayre is pretty fantastic, you could easily fill up without purchasing a single item!
I also discovered a new stand this year.  The flavoured gin stand.  It WOULD be me who found it wouldn't it?!  I tried a sample of the raspberry gin, marched over to Claire and dragged her in for a taste.  RV followed suite and 30 seconds later two bottles had been purchased.
They also did flavoured brandy and vodka.  I made sure I sampled them all - to be sure of consistency of quality you understand.
We continued our meander around the fayre, occasionally distracted by the livestock
And various goodies on offer
As well as the continuous live music from the bandstand in the heart of the gardens.  Music ranged from folk to rock and everything in between, with people dancing in front of the bandstand, drinks in one hand and more often than not a burger in the other.
After listening for a little bit we went in search of something sweet to follow on from the burgers.  Steve stopped for crepes and unable to decide between two went for one with lemon and sugar and one with golden syrup whilst the rest of us shared a bag of freshly cooked doughnuts.
Finally we decided to make our way back out of the fayre and check out the artisan stalls at the far end of the gardens past the fountain
And past Little Lounge, the kids corner run by the same folk who run Lounge on the Farm, the local (huge) summer music festival and who used to run one of my favourite restaurants, The Farmhouse, which has since sadly closed. 
Finally we came to the artisan crafts - leather goods, rattan weaving and fair trade clothing as well as the most amazing wood sculptures, which, given the space (and the money) I would gladly have invested in!
Food Fayre, you are one of the highlights of my year.  Thank you for being awesome again and I will see you next autumn!


  1. Suuuuch beautiful food and photos! Your burger looks absolutely insane.. nothing better than some caramelised onions stuffed in the bun too X

    1. Thanks India! That burger was seriously good, I may need to attempt to recreate it at home!

  2. Claire and I indulged in some of the gin with some tonic last night. It was raaaaather nice!