Tetbury Food and Drink Festival
PUBLISHED: 11:02 16 December 2010 | UPDATED: 15:25 20 February 2013
Tracy Spiers explains how this month's Tetbury Food and Drink Festival is set to be a huge draw for food-lovers everywhere, in particular of those who appreciate the fine taste of gloucester Old Spot
"Food, glorious food!" The heart-felt cry from the workhouse boys in Lionel Bart's musical Oliver! dreaming and fantasising about rich, delicious food while collecting their gruel. It was their reverie rather than reality.
However this same statement is a celebratory fact for the Royal Cotswold market town of Tetbury. Cries for "more" following last year's successful premier Food Festival have prompted organisers to come back with a tantalizing response of gastronomic delights, and, to help wash them down, adding drink to the equation.
As a result The Tetbury Food and Drink Festival 2008, which runs from September 24-28 will no doubt act as a meal magnet attracting those passionate about their palate. And when so many award-winning cuisine connoisseurs are taking part - all stars in the Cotswold's artisan food firmament - who can blame them?
The Cotswold Chef, Robert Rees MBE, one of the country's leading chefs and consultants, who is zealous about indulging everyone in the revolution in British food and farming, will help kick off the event with a "Plot to Plate" walk at the Duchy Home Farm, a flagship for organic and sustainable agriculture. Along with up to 35 people (bookings to be made directly to Duchy Home Farm on 01666 503445), Rob will tour the vegetable gardens, where local children can select and pull out the chosen roots for Rob to turn into a tasty dish. Dinner and Jazz will round off the evening at Berkeley House, a glamorous, elegant three-storey Georgian town house which recently featured in the Channel 5 television series "I Own Britain's Best Home."
"Tetbury deserves its own festival. With so much talent and quality it's a real haven for the food fanatic," confesses Rob, who not surprisingly was awarded his MBE in January 2006 for "Services to the Food Industry."
"What better place to celebrate how real food is grown and tastes than by walking the overflowing farmland of the Duchy Estate? Fresh, simple and fun - that's what our evening is all about, just like the whole festival," he adds.
If there's any theme running through the festival, it is pigs, or to be correct the Gloucester Old Spots. Celebrating a pedigree dating back to 1913, they're the oldest pedigree spotted pigs in the world. And to help mark this accolade and keep the breed alive, festival organisers recently announced the formation of The Gloucester Old Spot Sausage Appreciation Society.
Known as the Orchard or Cottage Pig and traditional breed from Gloucestershire's Apple Orchards, the Old Spots - distinguished by their large black spots and soft floppy ears - originally came from the Berkeley Vale region, lived in gardens and smallholdings and were reared largely as domestic animals. Folklore claims their spots are bruises caused by the orchard apples falling on them. For the festival, the new appreciation society is running competitions to see who can prepare and cook the most delicious and tasty sausages using authentic Gloucester Old Spot pork as well as a children's colouring contest. Recipes will be judged in the bustling Market Place on Sunday, September 28.
His Royal Highness the Prince of Wales, a proud and supportive neighbour at nearby Highgrove, which will host garden tours, a lunch and a dinner on Thursday, September 25, enthusiastically endorses the promotion of local produce. Organic Highgrove beef and mutton from his estate is sold in Jesse Smith Butchers in Long Street, where the Big Pan will be out on Saturday, September 27. The Royal beef and mutton is also supplied to local restaurants such as the Snooty Fox, a quintessential English inn and apparently a favorite with the Duchess of Cornwall. In March, Prince Charles opened the Highgrove Shop in Long Street, which sells organic products from his estate, the Duchy Home Farm and other ethical and sustainable sources.
With Royal status, Tetbury hardly needs to raise its profile. Already known as an "architectural gem," with many of its wool houses still looking as they did 300 years ago, the town has a recorded history stemming back to 681 when Tetta's Monastery was mentioned in a charter by King Ethelred of Mercia.
But Kathryn Limoi, chairman of Tetbury Chamber of Commerce, which, along with Tetbury Town Council, is supporting festival organisers - local hoteliers and restaurant representatives - believes it's essential to take every opportunity to promote Tetbury.
"We want to create a higher prominence for Tetbury by providing something interesting. Highgrove has no doubt raised our profile to a degree, but this festival is about giving people a chance to come and see Tetbury. We are looking to bring business to the town and we are looking to become a destination. Last year's festival was our first attempt and so many people wanted it back and this year it's so much bigger and better," explains Kathryn.
Festival participants won't be disappointed. Few towns can boast such a wonderful variety of unique bistros, shops, restaurants and specialist stores. Many have won national food and business awards and are individually-owned, where one receives personal attention from the owner and experiences a level of service sadly now vanished from many of our high streets.
Hobbs House Bakery in Church Street, a sophisticated and traditional shop sells award-winning organic bread including gold medallist organic Spelt Loaf and Spelt Soda Bread. The Hobbs House Bakery chain has also appeared in the Independent's 50 best food shops and websites and is one of Rick Stein's Food Heroes. In the same street, another of Stein's heroes is The House of Cheese, an award-winning online UK mail order cheese shop, now in its 26th trading year, which offers some of the finest British cheeses and European cheeses and bears the Prince of Wales feathers as a sign it holds the Royal Warrant.
Quayle's Deli in Long Street also provides fine cheese, along with charcuterie, delicatessen, gourmet provisions and organic and locally sourced foods and vegetables, whilst housed in a former antiques shop in Long Street, The Chef's Table, owned by Sarah and Michael Bedford, ex-head chef for Gary Rhodes at City Rhodes and latterly of the Trouble House. A delicatessen/food shop/fishmongers with a bistro over two floors, the Chef's Table boasts fine store cupboard produce including foie gras, wild mushroom, Iberico ham and award-winning Jess's Ladies local milk and cream.
Offering French/Provencal regional dishes and lunchtime jazz for the festival, The Blue Zucchini in Church Street, owned by Pernille and Peter Colby, is what's described as a continental style caf bistro emphasizing simple, well-executed stylish cooking, using local produce.
A "Safari Supper," taking in three of the town centre hotels, including The Ormond, this year's winner in Cotswold Life's Food & Drink Awards in the "Most Distinctive Local Menu" category. Cooks are also encouraged to enter the "Tetbury Tart" competition by following a recipe using local ingredients. (Contact Calcot Manor 01666 890391 for more details)
There will also be a "Cider Fest" and barbecue at the Snooty Fox, wine tasting, Dinner and music with The Jazz Badgers (01666 502475) at the Great Tythe Barn, cookery demonstrations and themed food events in the town's hotels, restaurants and retailers which will ensure Tetbury's Food and Drink Festival 2008 goes down a treat.
The festival culminates in a grand food market on the Sunday at the town's Market Hall. More than 20 suppliers will bring an exciting mix of delights including kangaroo and ostrich meat, luxury cupcakes, smoked game and locally-made granola breakfast cereals.
During the afternoon, the Daily Telegraph's main food columnist, Bristol-based Xanthe Clay, will be doing a cookery demonstration and signing her newly-released book, "Recipes to Know by Heart," (which is out in bookshops on September 22nd) at the Yellow Lighted Bookshop in Church Street.
Xanthe, who is encouraging would-be cooks to learn 42 core recipes and promises kitchen life will become immeasurably simpler, says she's thrilled to be part of the programme.
"I'm very excited to be coming to the Tetbury Food and Drink Festival. Tetbury has some of the best suppliers and producers in the country, so I'm looking forward to cooking some "Recipes to Know By Heart" with locally sourced ingredients, as well as finding out which dishes visitors to the festival know how to cook without a book. How many recipes do you know by heart?" she challenges.
Not many we reply. But perhaps with the promise of staff at the Coach House Fitness offering a hand to burn off those extra calories, festival goers will have a go. With so much to tease the taste buds, Tetbury's Food and Drink Festival 2008 is bound to leave participants begging for more.