- Sunday, 28 August 2016

Edinburgh Foodies Festival

If ever there was a festival that has my name written all over it, it's Foodies. (Okay if we're talking actual festival-type festivals, it's something like Wilderness or Innocent Unplugged or Stagecoach, but that's not the point.) Foodies is a UK-wide celebration of everything food, with festivals in a whole host of different cities, the latest of which was - you guessed it (because you read the title, well done) - Edinburgh.




As a regular dog-walker in the park where Foodies has (thus far) always been held, I do enjoy seeing everything being set up in the run-up to the weekend itself, from a safe distance with my equally food-obsessed hound. This time, however, Mum and I were walking the dog together in the afternoon of the first day of Foodies Edinburgh, so I wandered over to peer in.

"Oh I don't have a ticket, I'm just having a look! I'm here with my dog, he's over there."

"Well here you go - enjoy."

And just like that, the three of us (me, Mum and Dog - all the best festivals are canine-friendly) were granted entry! The gates closed at seven each evening, and at this point it was around five with a stack of unsold on-the-door tickets still remaining, so we were allowed in.




After having a bit of a poke about, some tasters of this and that, a gorgeous (and complimentary!) pastel de nata from Casa Amiga, and a couple of jars of chocolate spice mixes from the incredibly generous Cœur de Xocolat, we decided to head on home because Dearest Dog was getting peckish, too.


And so it was that a stroke of luck brought over to us the stallholders of a barbecued meat stand, asking the wondrous (to doggy ears) words: "Would your dog like any overcooked meat?" Um, yeah. He would. Very much. He'd absolutely love some. "We can't sell it, it'll just be chucked out otherwise." Well in that case... so once Mac had scoffed what can only be described as a small feast, we finally did head home.


But not before I got chatting to the organisers on the way out, and found myself being given a ticket for the Saturday so that I could come back with my big camera and take some proper photos for this very blog post. Exciting stuff, eh?




Then, on Saturday morning, after a breakfast delicious-ised with a drizzle made from the Cœur de Xocolat ras-el-hanout spice, a driving theory test (which I passed, hallelujah) and some celebratory Söderberg cardamom buns, I armed myself with my camera and set off, dogless this time, to the park.


Frustratingly, there wasn't any sort of stall map available, which meant I couldn't tactically plan my route (from savoury to sweet, of course). Alas, I would just have to wander aimlessly and see what took my fancy. It's a food festival. Everything took my fancy.













After checking in with the stands who I had spoken to on Friday, I stopped by one that was very close to home - in the most literal sense. My wee pocket of Edinburgh had its very own stall, complete with cupcakes and bits and pieces from local brands, (I believe Liggy's Cake Company were behind the cakeage), and were basically just promoting Stockbridge in all its endless glory. No complaints, I can happily endorse the fabulosity of good old Stocky B.


From there, I turned a corner to Summer Harvest's oils, dressings and drizzles, and set about taking a photo for the thumbnail of the post (scroll alllll the way back up to the top if you have already forgotten what it was) that would provide some continuity with my review of York Food & Drink Festival... Don't say I don't think these things through, eh? The stallholder was lovely and very kindly gave me a bottle of the chilli & red pepper dressing, which I can confirm is as scrumptious as it sounds. Chilli and red pepper are two very great components individually, so really it was destined for success.















A few steps on was a sign sure to attract even the most discerning of morning-time festival-goers: sangria. Next to it, a massive haul of champagne. These people clearly have a well-established target market (and a LOT of healthy competition in all the millions and squillions of ~alcoholic beverage~ vendors with considerable stalls boasting even more considerable queues).


I scootled on, being neither a big drinker nor a big meat eater, and found myself being presented with some coconut oil popcorn from Vita Coco. Deliberately close by, perhaps, so that people who feel the need after their sangria/champagne/chorizo can make themselves feel healthier/more wholesome/exotic/coconutty/extremely well moisturised. As it happens, I am extremely well-equipped on the coconut oil front, thanks to Vita Coco themselves who sent me gallons of coconut oil (okay a few jars but they are MASSIVE) after a giveaway several months ago which are still going strong. The photos for a blog post have been edited for a ridiculously long time now, expect that at some point in the middle-distant future...




And lo! Bonne Maman, my current jam people of choice almost exclusively because of their branding. Those jars. Love 'em. My love for them was then solidified when I was presented with a bag of treats (most of which have been devoured by Mum, because I am generous and great (and not at all because I wasn't convinced by the texture of the chocolate dipped madeleines)). I remember the first time I had a madeleine cake (à la maison de mes grands-parents) and I remember subsequently being quite obsessed with the boat-shaped sponges that seemed to be in limitless supply every time we visited. So this bag (very substantial, I might add, and has already proved its worth as a food-shop bag) of goodies was a delight indeed.

Speaking of jams (seamless, I know), my next stop was Colstoun Cookery School. Not only do they have a wondrous selection of the stuff (and marmalades and all the usual culprits, all of which are gluten free and vegan-friendly), but they also (as their name may suggest, to the quick-witted among you) have a cookery school. Which I have just returned from. Ski chalets and regular people alike: look out, for I now have proof of my ability to cook food that other people will (hopefully) actually want to eat.


I didn't try any of their offerings at the stall, but I did recently polish off a kindly gifted jar of raspberry & sweet cicely jam which was equally gorgeous as part of a PB & J, in the middle of a cake, and by the spoon. (Mum confirmed that one; I find jam a bit sweet for by-the-spoon consumption.)


And after my week there on the Foundation Course (which was absolutely brilliant, can totally recommend) I am now the proud owner of four new jams. I just really like local, seasonal produce, okay?



And what goes better with jams and spreads than oatcakes and cheese? Yes, if you're being picky then it's probably a carefully selected wine to reflect the cheesy notes, but that's not the point. I was drawn to oatcakes and cheese. Shhh.

The highlight for me here was either the Crynoch blue, or the very super duper oatcakes with cheese actually in them. Inside them. Baked into the oatcakes. As one. In oaty matrimony. (moatrimony?)


I was also disproportionately happy to hear that the Devenick Dairy were also at the Aboyne Highland Games that very same day - one of my most favourite (and probably my most visited) Games, and the only one where I have ever seen anybody successfully toss the caber. (Granny and I also had a borderline disastrous go on the (unexpectedly ferocious) spinning teacups several years ago, and neither of us have been near one since..)













Onwards, for more coconut malarky. I love me some coconut. Fun (probably not fun) fact: I believe Go Coco to be the tastiest for plain coconut water. They don't do other flavours, so they focus all their efforts on the pure, unadulterated stuff. (When it comes to flavoured iterations, I haven't yet come across one that beats the Vita Coco chocolate coconut water.. just try it and see, okay?)


Now, Nudie (the coconut chips) were sharing a stand with Go Coco (the coconut milkshakes) which would suggest they are linked, but as far as I can see they are different companies... The world may never know. Either way, the lovely lot gave me some bits and pieces to try and I can vouch for the goodness of all of them. I'm less keen on the sweet chilli coconut chips, purely because I'm less keen on sweet chilli generally (who decided to mix sweet and savoury? main course and pudding are separate courses for a reason, dude), but the salt and vinegar ones are great. It is quite weird, and did take a bit of coming round to, but I am now a convert and also think they'd be great in salads/wraps/curries/savoury porridge. The plain ones (which I didn't try) will go on (or in) anything - granola, porridge, cakes, traybakes, yoghurt.. the list goes on. Just garnish whatever you like.




This one was a familiar face (/stall), as they go to my local market every week. And every week, I walk past them. They sell scotch eggs. But wait! After heaps of requests (a couple of which were probably me), they do veggie scotch eggs now! Sadly, said scotch veggs have been sold out every time I have been on the hunt for one, but I take this as a positive sign which can only mean they're popular and won't be disappearing from the menu any time soon. By the sound of the ingredients (lots of spices and I think they had chickpeas?), they're sure to be pretty darn delicious.












Next stop: Whipsmiths. These guys will make, right there in front of your VERY EYES, any flavour of ice cream your ice-cream-hungry little heart desires (within reason). I had a taster of a strawberry one, and I don't even really like strawberry ice cream very much, but it was enough to assure me that all the other flavours would be truly wonderful. Level of customisability: wow.




Wandering past a decidedly nautical stand, I was intrigued by what looked like a piping bag. Essentially, it was. But savoury. After some Sherlock-level sleuthing (really not), it became clear (was really obvious) that this was a crab joint, which I was then told had been visited (at other festivals) by various big foodie names. (They also proudly told me they had effectively been shunned on social media by one of said big foodie names, but remained delighted that "He got his lunch from us, and he ate it all!") Silver linings, and all that.




By this point, I was starting to get a little peckish myself. As luck would have it, the next stand I visited was right up my street - again, in the most literal sense. As in, their restaurant is so close to me that it wouldn't be beyond the realms of possibility to dash along in my pyjamas to collect food. (At the time of writing this hasn't happened, but I wouldn't rule it out.)

The smells wafting from Street Box were probably the main cause of the sizeable crowd of people (wisely) opting for a Thai lunch, but on chatting to the chefs I was deeply heartbroken (yes, I was) to find that there was no veggie option on the go. Not to fear, though, as when I explained how local they were to me, I was warmly encouraged to pop along for a dish. Which I did, a few days later, and it absolutely blew my mind. Pad num prig prow with tofu and vegetables, with a side of sticky rice (and some surprise Thai prawn crackers, which were disposed of (eaten) by Mum). Really, honestly, so delicious. The food is lovely. The people are lovely. The cosy little takeaway/snug sit-in is lovely. I love Street Box.





Anyway, with Thai off the menu, there was still the small matter of some lunch. Enter: the Indian Street Food Company. Astounding me once again with sheer generosity, they gave me a giant portion of the most scrummy combo of paneer/peas/peppers/onions/other delicious things. Peas, the best vegetable. Undisputable. The best.

This was really, really good - the bread was warm and freshly baked, the paneer topping was so well-flavoured, and the garnishes really topped the whole thing off. The only comment I have is that it's one you probably need to sit down for - two hands and something for debris to land on are all an absolute must. I learned this the inelegant way. (Worth it though.)




As I chewed some intelligently-brought-along gum to rid myself of garlic & onion breath, I (ironically) stumbled upon a table of ceramic garlic graters. And moved swiftly past, although they were suuuuuper duper lovely (v Greek!).

I also wandered past a spiralising stall, but didn't hang about as I am the proud owner of my very own spiraliser already. Although mine can't chop kiwis into fancy shapes, so I remain intrigued...


The marshmallows pictured above were yet another thing I didn't particularly hang about for, as they weren't veggie, but as I snapped some photos I was cheerily informed that they had been featured in a video (and a blog post? I think) of Zoe Sugg's. So they are probably world-famous marshmallows by now.




Whippets nearby? I'm there. No surprise. (These ones were two years old and gorgeous, and the owner told me that his last whippet had lived to the mighty fine age of eighteen (!!!) so I have high hopes for the lifespan of my own 'whiprador' and his seemingly endless reserves of puppy-like energy.)












Lo! Sugardaddy's! Edinburgh's entirely gluten-free cake sundae bar that I have driven past many a time and never actually been in (woe is me). Although not massively sweet-toothed, the concept of a cake sundae bar pleases me greatly and clearly pleases everyone else greatly too, if the queue was anything to go by.




My next stop was to drool (metaphorically, don't worry) over this mammoth selection of brownies. I don't think I have ever seen such a wide selection in all my many (not very many) years, but topped off with cookies the size of my whole head with a brownie INSIDE? Mind blown. And probably not too tricky to recreate, either... there's a baking project brewing here.



OH LOOK, BAKLAVA, MY LOVE. The only times I have ever had baklava have been when it was brought to EYP sessions from the very countries that do it best, so I now have (accidentally) extremely high baklava standards. This is the exact reason why I have never had baklava in the UK, delicious as I know it is. The stallholder here told me that his mum had made the whole lot to her very own treasured recipe, so I'm fairly convinced it would have been great, but I opted to leave it for the sake of saving my camera from oily baklava hands. One day, I shall make my own.

(P.S. How sweet are the baskets at the next-door stall?! That's one I (almost) certainly won't one day make my own.)




Ah, back to the joy of non-bitter dark chocolate. Yep, that's right. Dark chocolate (even 100% cocoa chocolate) should never actually be bitter. Rich, absolutely, but if it's good quality then it is most certainly still palatable without making you wince. Plus, Pacari are world champ chocolatiers, so you can bet their stuff is pretty delishy. I can recommend the chocolate coated coffee beans, and I'm not even a coffee drinker (although it always smells GREAT).












And here, just to hammer home the fact that I am basically Really, Really Not Very Good at macarons, are some completely perfect macarons. They gave me one of their 'seconds' (ones that went wrong) which I thought was very much a first. If I had made anything remotely resembling this poor, sub-par macaron, I would have been overjoyed. Not to mention gobsmacked. Anyway, it was chocolate and passionfruit and it was delicious.






Back onto the territory of things I'm slightly more okay at replicating: cakey things. Then again, every single thing on All About Patisserie's table was completely spectacular... I take back what I said. Better, I think, to admire these things created by someone else than to declare that you could maybe, slightly, possibly do a sort-of-okay job of making something similar.













Oh look... MORE CAKEY THINGS. Where York's Food Festival had a million and one fudge stands (a million too many), Edinburgh had an abundance of sweet baked delights, many taking the form of brownies. Ooey gooey and deliciously chocolatey squidginess.

First up is Woods Brownie Co who, as the name would suggest, do brownies, only brownies, and nothing but brownies. And I can testify to the scrumptiousness of all of them, as they are always more than happy to offer tasters of all their different flavours (of which there are many).



Three Sisters Bake have a slightly expanded repertoire, although they do only do one flavour of brownie, not that that's a bad thing in the slightest. In fact, it is more than made up for by the sheer size of the enormous meringues, as well as the rocky road so substantial that it could quite justifiably be used as actual paving slabs. Although they would probably all be eaten before they could even be laid, but still, it's hypothetical. And really yummy.














Read the signs, people. NO TOUCHING THE FUDGE. I'm not entirely sure why fudge seems so much more not-allowed-to-be-touched than anything else, but when it comes to the art of such things I just won't question it. Or the jenga-style fudge block construction work. Engineering at its finest.


Back onto savoury things for a moment as I made my meandering way back to the entrance, and I couldn't help but notice the planet-sized gaggle of people waiting for food from The Sweet Beet.


Unfortunately, the queue was so expansive that I couldn't actually get a look at (or a photo of) the food, but really a photo isn't necessary - sweet beet nachos and fried avocado tacos are always going to be brilliant.



And here we have a savoury thing that I think we'll just neatly avoid. I can't say I'll ever feel like I'm particularly missing out, when it comes to oysters...

Strategically positioned right next to the oyster stall was a nice little palate cleanser, in the form of Colgate's ice-cream-making extravaganza. This one had, by a gazillion miles, the longest queue of the whole festival, so I didn't manage to try any (*cry*) but judging by the looks on people's faces when they did, it was pretty great. As far as I could see, the idea was to use their sensitivity toothpaste and then have some ice cream and see how much it helped? Or something? Quite cool (ha ha haaaa).












If toothpaste gelato isn't your bag, then there is always the (practically) world-renowned S. Luca ice cream in an extremely adorable van (not that that makes any difference to the flavour, but really it doesn't need to). Luca's is comparable, for those who know of it, to Jannettas gelato of St Andrews, a love of which has been passed down to me through generations of family going to school in tantalisingly close proximity to said gelateria. Moral of the paragraph? If you're in Edinburgh on a warm-ish day, go to Luca's; if you're in (or near) St Andrews on a warm-ish day, get your butt to Jannettas.

And that tasty note brings the run-down of the festival to a close. I spoke to masses of really interesting and lovely people, sampled a whole stack of scrummy foods, and took about three times as many photos as actually made it into this post. If you're near anywhere that has a food festival, particularly one run by Foodies, then I fully recommend going. Bon appetit!

*All photos in this post are mine. If you wish to use any, please ask my permission and credit me!*
*Disclaimer: I was given free entry to the festival and kindly gifted food and produce from a number of businesses, for which I am incredibly grateful; as always all content, views and opinions are my own and entirely un-swayed.
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