Durham Food Festival

A review of this year’s Food Festival

Tuning into the nation’s love affair with food and the middle class fetish for that farmers market just around the corner, the billowing marquee on Palace Green last weekend played host once again to Durham Food Festival.

The sight and smell of food stalls assaulted each and every visitor as they entered.

A turn to the right brought you rocky road, Christmas fudge and nutty nougat and a turn to the left brought fresh artisan breads, rosemary and roast tomato focaccia, several sourdoughs and a pumpernickel rye.

The two-day festival boasted more stalls than ever before, as it spilled out onto the road surrounding the green with food from as close as Gilesgate and as far as Malaysia.

The cornucopia of delights included meats, fish, antipasti, oils, sweets, savouries and many, many pies. Myriad pies. Mountains of pies, even. As far as the pie could see …….

As well as food there were a few tipples on offer. Now I do like ginger, and I do like wine, but I’m just not so sure they are a marriage made in heaven. Mulled wine did however go down a treat and the gin from The Edinburgh Gin Company really did deserve their Taste Gold award, received last year.

The Festival also included a number of talks and cookery demonstrations. I plumped for an hour with John Christophe Novelli, an hour, which I will never get back. It seemed as though a randomer had been chosen to compere the demonstration.

After introducing the chef he then insisted on butting in every few seconds with gobbits of useless information.  When JCN finally got round to cooking the cameras didn’t work, so we saw very little of what was going on. A stunning own goal and unimpressive.

Tasters from a Swedish lady and her Smorgasbord were delicious, although I was bit bemused as to how it takes five years of culinary training to prepare smoked salmon on rye.

As we walked, nay, waddled out we discussed the most stand-out food and produce stalls of the event.

Thumbs up to the Northumberland Cheese Company for a mature cheddar to rival all mature cheddars (!) and also to a Castle Fresher working at Brown and Blonde of North Yorkshire, who provided stellar brownies across a range of disparate flavours – from nutella to raspberry to Oreo.

Special mentions also go to Swallow Fishmongers of Seahouses, along the Northumberland Coast, offering a mean kipper paté, cracking oysters a go-go and smashing smoked salmon.

Finally, very capable butchery and well hung meat was on offer, my particular favourite being the pork and black pudding blend from Hallsford Butchers, based in Cumbria.

We were fortunate to have been given guest passes by the event organisers but there was a noticeable chorus of mumbles and grumbles about the standard entrance charge of £4.50. The team running the event would have done well to charge £5, but include a £2 voucher to be spent inside the tent, thus increasing revenue on both sides.]

In summary the event was great; and a real positive for Durham. It is always pleasant to see Palace Green, and more broadly Durham, a-buzz with activity during the frozen winter months.

If they were to mix it up a bit next year with by decreasing the pies , upping the variety, the quality of demonstrations, banishing that compere, and fixing the cameras and they’re on to an even bigger winner.

A few useful websites: