Abergavenny Food Festival | 21st-22nd September 2019
This year Abergavenny Food Festival, yet again, proved why it has earned its stellar reputation.
‘Wild Beaver Pie’ boasts the board as we arrive, fighting to grab our attention. It won’t be the last thing which stops us in our tracks. This is a very democratic event, an unpretentious low-key congregation of like-minded food obsessives, where you can just as easily bump into familiar faces from your TV screens as they too amble around, as you can chat to some of the UK’s most lauded Chefs about their food and their plans. From meeting producers and eating (far too many) samples to filling up on treats to bring home, there’s nothing else quite like it in Wales. It’s easy to lose a whole day wandering around, but we think that’s the festival at its most seductive.
Some highlights, though- Christian ‘DJ BBQ’ Stevenson is hugely respected among live-cooking afficionados (frankly scary trousers, a spray-on neon-yellow tiger print, notwithstanding) and is a familiar face at Meatopia London. Many keen amateurs tell us his recent book is the ultimate guide to building the perfect burger, but in the meantime The Beefy Boys were doing what they have been doing for a few years now from their Hereford base: reminding you just how brilliant seared beef, melting cheese and bread can be together if you give them a little love. The Castle also played host to Imran Nathoo (Kitchen Clonc) and the peerless Hang Fire Smokehouse (also Meatopia veterans, and always one of the very best dishes among international competition). Other highlights included Cardiff’s Carly Karran bringing her perennially popular (this is why you should pay attention in school, kids) nitrogen-based Science Cream to the Castle.
But wandering is where AFF comes into its own. Stalls from all over the country will tempt you with everything from their cheese to wild boar salami, from Welsh cakes to souvlaki. It’s Wales on a plate, a country looking outward and incorporating flavours from all corners, from Peruvian street food arepas (Queen Pepiada) and Welsh seafood chowder (Neath’s own WSFA 2019 champions The Pink Peppercorn): in the Market Hall the Velindre Cookbook was proving popular with visitors. (A lovely idea, this, to raise funds for their specialist cancer care centre- a collection of cook-at-home recipes from some familiar names, with the most admirable of goals. Find out more at their website.)
Where else could you bump into talents like Ynyshir’s meat magician Gareth Ward, there with his newborn son, chatting to people who had enjoyed his chilli crab demo on the Chefs’ Stage in the Market Hall?
And that was just the Sunday…
Whether you’re stocking up on the cider from Gwynt-y-Draig (Black Crow is our current favourite) or Yarlington Mill from Herefordshire expert Denys Gwatkin, or small-batch coffees and even kombucha- Abergavenny has you covered.
It was a privilege to see Tommy Heaney (Heaney’s Cardiff) and Tom Watts-Jones (The Heathcock, The Hare and Hounds) take the audience through their dishes. Yet there’s food for thought too, with talks on the most important issues facing the food industry, from #MeToo to sustainability and all points in between, with an all-female industry panel debating the former, and Asma Khan’s impassioned address the talk of the town.
Talks from Fergus Henderson, the Godfather of British nose-to-tail cooking, to vegan street food. Dishes from Cyrus Todiwalla, and chances to elevate your back garden barbecues with a Kodi firebowl (that’s gone on our Christmas, Eid, Diwali and Hannukah lists sharpish); there truly is something for everyone.
Add to those a great range of street food stalls, from the regulars including Meat and Greek and Dusty Knuckle to vibrant newcomers The Pink Peppercorn; and with live-fire cooking demos at the Castle: Abergavenny becomes a busy hub of everything that’s best in Welsh food.
There is, after all, nothing else quite like it.
For further information on next year’s event, please visit the Abergavenny Food Festival website.