Foodies Festival 2013

The UK's largest food & drink festival returns to South Park, August 24-26th
Bangkok House at the Foodie Festival 2013

August 23, 2013

You might be forgiven for thinking at first glance that the Foodies festival is a Drinkies festival - miles of tents filled with exciting kinds of booze, from Ginger Ninja cocktails to Veuve Clicquot, local ales to pink lemonade, ruby port and seville orange gin... 

March virtuously past the marquees full of free tasters of exotic alcohol... Yeah, right - When you emerge from the marquees full of free tasters of exotic alcohol, there is an entire world of weird, wonderful and downright delicious foodstuffs to stagger round, sample and buy.

Try a sliver off a huge wheel of parmesan and then a morsel of parma ham from a pig fed on the whey left over from the parmesan-making process. Have a piece of popcorn flavoured with blue cheese or with gin and tonic (seriously), or a papaya salad, with nuts and seasonings crushed while-u-wait in a mortar, or some violet-scented chocolate. Or have a hot sarnie of free range porchetta or lamb (one stall sells fennel-marinated pork and lamb in ciabatta rolls at £5.50 / £6.50. These are very good, but for less interesting bread and a smaller portion of really divine lamb, try the stall towards the centre which does wonderful meat with wasabi and mint or garlic and lemon for £7).

I would also thoroughly recommend the chocolate con churros from a little stall near the entrance (it's an elegant Spanish version of Dunkin' Donuts and a very special treat).

Companies represented include artisanal nationals, regulars from Oxford's farmers' markets, local restauranteurs such as Bangkok House and the Turl Street Kitchen, and some soon-to-be locals: liquid deli Demijohn is about to open on Little Clarendon Street and are going the right way about making friends here by handing out samples of their gorgeous wares. Their gooseberry gin is fabulous: rich and fruity and sweet, no mixer required.

The waste systems leave a little to be desired: while the stalls are doing their bit, for the most part, with wooden cutlery and paper cups, most of the bins are marked "general waste", and, disappointingly, when you do find a paper recycling bin, it can't take the paper plates and cups etc, only clean wrappings. This is a bit of a let down in this day and age, but at least it's better than tons of polystyrene going to landfill. 

There are plenty of ice cream and soft-drink stalls and activities for children, and lots of cocktail-making and cheffing demos and "theatre" in the afternoons (places limited, see what you like the look of and sign up at the gate). 

If you're a market junkie like me you'll find it impossible to resist the offers on multiple purchases and will come out laden with olives and chocolate and cheese (there are porta-cashpoints on site, which I call a brilliant idea). It's not a cheap place to stock up for the week but it is a great place to find something extraordinary and delicious as a special gift or a private indulgence. It is also possible, if you have more sales resistance than I do, to saunter through the fair lunching royally on free samples and picking up discount cards, and have a pleasant and rewarding day out for no more than the £12 entry fee. Wake up and smell the artisanal coffee beans (hand roasted by Exotic Coffee Roasters). 

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