- Saturday, 6 June 2015

York Food & Drink Festival

If you are not in York this weekend, I feel for you. My sincerest and deepest and most heart-wrenchingly sympathetic commiserations. Why? The York Food and Drink Festival.

A foodie's paradise, the streets all round the centre of town were brimming with stalls offering the very best local Yorkshire produce both savoury, sweet and liquid (by which I do mean drinks). Having woken up a little late for breakfast, in true student form, we decided to head straight into town to make the most of the freebies we had heard so much about. Let me say from the off - the festival did not disappoint.


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'deliciously delightful' and true to its name

The trip began by wandering through the stalls looking at what was on offer and nabbing tasters of this and that (and this, and that, and this, and some more of that..) whilst sussing out what we would have for lunch. We sampled some delicious (award winning) flavoured oils and mayonnaises (delicious, coming from someone who doesn't even like mayo) from the combined Charlie & Ivy's and Yorkshire Rapeseed Oil stall, namely the chilli ones and a lemon mayo which I could have quite happily snacked on all day. Really though, all the variations I tried were a hit with my tastebuds, and the only reason I didn't test out every single one is simply because there were so many. We are going back for the second day of the festival tomorrow though, so I am very keen to tick a few more off my list.. These would make an excellent gift, ideally for yourself but equally for anyone else. Preferably someone you live with, so you don't have to be parted from the oily glory. They are really nice, okay.


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The Chilli Jam Man's stall featured a vast selection of flavours arranged on a spicy spectrum from mild to mental, so naturally I found myself edging towards the spicy end. Always a firm favourite with me, the lime pickle was a success, as expected. However, never one to shy away from unusual sounding dishes, I also gave the chocolate orange chilli jam a go and was very pleasantly surprised. I'm not sure exactly why I was surprised, as I love chocolate and orange combined, and I love spice, so really it was obvious that I would love the amalgamation of all three. Another stall with too many to try in one go, this stall will most definitely be getting another visit tomorrow.


Wandering further through the market, we encountered various more extremely tempting stands and their extremely tempting wares. There was chorizo from the (somewhat bittersweet-named) Three Little Pigs stand, including a spreadable chorizo which I didn't even know was a thing, but evidently it is. I'm intrigued. The dog belonging to the people near us seemed extremely interested, which I assume is a good thing.

To satisfy my craving for my love, blue cheese, we had some wondrously creamy nibbles from Cryer & Stott before heading onwards to find yet more bits of festival on the side streets.

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This Giovanni Rana stand of Ravioli di Verona was brilliant. As a self-confessed non-lover of Italian food (I'm sorry, pizza addicts, I really am), the only type of pasta I truly enjoy is ravioli (essentially whenever it's less just pasta and more other things), and this absolutely delivered. The samples were a very substantial size, little pots of humongous ravioli pieces stuffed with all sorts of scrummy fillings from ricotta with mascarpone to tomato with olives to gorgonzola with walnut and all sorts of other goodness. We may or may not have tried all the available flavours and then returned later when new options were available. No shame.

Bonus: we also signed up for the Giovanni Rana mailing list and entered their competition to win dinner and luxury hampers. Fingers shall be crossed forever more, the chance for a free meal is not to be scoffed (ha ha) at.

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Round the corner we found ourselves witnessing recklessness in its purest form. Little notices next to each dip on the Chilli Shop table indicated their heat level out of ten. I delved into a solid seven ('Serious Chutney') to start with, which I then followed up with a two (an orange jam) - both very enjoyable. It was then that we noticed some nuts labelled ten, and then a sauce which had been reckoned at twenty. Out of ten. Crackers were not allowed to be dipped in that one in case people took too much - only the very end of a cocktail stick could be dunked and then tasted, presumably so that potential customers didn't run off in terror having completely destroyed the inside of their mouth.


Despite my love for some edible heat, there is no way (I think..) you could get me to try something that spicy. The same could not be said for a family near us. Upon being told about the dipping sauce, a woman went and retrieved her son-in-law who could supposedly eat anything, to put it to the test. He duly tasted the liquid fire (I can only imagine it was too spicy for any other description) and we all waited for a reaction. Much to our surprise, none came. After a minute or so, however, the effect had quite clearly taken hold and more crackers were offered in an attempt to cool the heat. I really hope it worked.

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By this time we were very much in need of some lunch, despite having very effectively filled ourselves up with mini versions of just about everything. With glorious smells wafting every which way, we decided to do a quick circuit to choose somewhere to mange. We followed the amazing smells emanating from the general direction of the Shambles Kitchen stall, but were dismayed to see an unbearably long queue for their mouthwatering menu. One day, Shambles Kitchen, one day. Perhaps tomorrow. We shall see.

On our way, we passed Salt & Spice selling all sorts of fancy salts. This may sound a little unusual, but boy was it good. Please visit this stall. Wow. We were lured in (in the nicest way possible; lured isn't a hugely appealing word) with some bits of tomato sprinkled with himalayan rock salt. This was great and massively improved the tomatoes, and I love raw tomatoes anyway. So it was especially great. We were then presented with cucumber dolloped in Indian raita dip (always an excellent call), little bits of bread with various salts crushed on top with a snazzy little salt mill which was also available to buy, and breadsticks for trying out the various dips. They were all, without fail, fantastic. Thank you also to the charismatic stallholder for your wonderful model poses; they were much appreciated.

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And then came the absolute highlight of the day. Lunch from mobile Mexican catering service El Kantina. While we were sad about the ridiculous wait for the Shambles Kitchen, we were mightily intrigued by the taco shells we had seen being carried around and munched on throughout our day. Upon discovering that these were from the very same bright and flowery stand producing indescribably good smells, we knew instantly that this would be the perfect lunch.

There was a bit of a queue, albeit entirely well-deserved, which didn't take long at all to get to the front of. The day's special of a sweet potato and feta dish was enticing, but ultimately I was tempted by the Ninja Nachos. These were so, so, so good and I would have happily had them several times over (although they were also filling so I may not have actually been able to.. but I would have given it a good shot.) They were the perfect spiciness with loads of pulled pork cooked to perfection, and a whole host of brilliantly flavoured sauces. I loved it. Steph went for the Sombrero Basket which both looked and smelled heavenly. I would argue that we may have actually taken a short detour into heaven for our lunch; it really was that good. I urge you to try anything they have on offer if you can, not only because they were such lovely people ("all made with love, the flavour of that will come through!") but also because it is bloomin' brilliant.

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After this lunchtime extravaganza, we decided to head to local froyo shop Yogi for some refreshment. A froyo each later (for me: coconut froyo with raspberries and mango), and we were ready to go again. First to be investigated on our sweet food adventure was Laura's Fudge, which had a gigantic range of flavours available, all of which were very appealing. York is, after all, renowned for its fudge. The only downside to so much fudge is so much choice, and not being able to pick just one. Or, you know, ten. Thousand. So many flavours, so little time. So, so, so many stalls of fudge.

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It was around this time that we spotted all the various drinks stands - from one selling just toffee vodka to others selling just about any flavour you can imagine, nothing is too far-fetched for York's Food and Drink Festival. The festival's main culprits for wacky flavours were Retro Shots and The Real Cider Co, in case anyone is feeling adventurous.

Wandering back the way we came, this time we were ogling all the sweet foods rather than savoury, having fully satiated our savoury needs with the bowls of joy from El Kantina. (Well.. I am a savoury fan through and through and will not pretend that I didn't really quite fancy a good old curry even after everything else. Even though I know I was full. The smells, man, it all just smells so GOOD.)

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Endless displays of cakes and brownies and yummy looking slices of this and that and the next thing were extremely tempting, from Brazilian Kiss to FP Macaroons, from Brown and Blond to Forever Fudge with their unbelievable range of fudge flavours - seriously: Red Bull, Nutella and peanut butter, death by Baileys, peach schnapps, and trusty old vanilla to name but a few.


Astonishing as it may seem, this was actually not the end of our massive taster consumption of the day. Just as we reached the end of the tents, a demonstration from new local York restaurant Winner Winner was beginning. As we watched the creation of a waffle chicken bacon maple syrup bonanza, we were told all about the eight month old restaurant and the story behind its beginnings. Once the dish was complete, it was divided up into bitesize (for a giant, perhaps, or just someone with a less tiny mouth than me) pieces for general consumption. Having often heard about the combination of maple syrup and bacon, I hadn't actually tried it, but as of this afternoon: I am well and truly converted. This was amazing. We also made sure to enter their competition in the hope of winning a meal, because a full meal-sized version of that taster would not go amiss.


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So. If you have read all this way: congratulations. We can now all breathe a sigh of relief that we reached the end of this billion word essay, because that means three things: you can read; you didn't drool so much over endless pictures of food that your computer broke; you didn't become so bored that you left (thank you muchly). We can also breathe a sigh of relief that I didn't write about every single stall in the festival, otherwise this could have quite possibly turned into an encyclopaedia. If you are in the York area, I highly recommend you visit the festival either for the second (and final) day of this mini event tomorrow, or for the whole ten day experience in September. Thank you very much for reading, and goodbye for now!

*All photos in this post are mine. If you wish to use any, please ask my permission and credit me!*


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