I’ve never been to a Good Food Show before this summer’s at the NEC and was not sure what to expect: would it be like a commercial trade expo, or a glamourfest awash with screaming foodies getting all excited at spotting the likes of James Martin on a distant stage? After all, that’s what the NEC specialises in: show/business.
What I was quite unprepared for were the crowds. Two friends of mine were at the show at the same time: lunchtime on the Saturday. Maybe we would bump into each other, I thought? As it turned out – not a chance! If you go to one of these things and have definite intentions of meeting up with people, make definite arrangements, that’s all I’ll say!
Armed with my guide, I pushed my way through the crowds and headed for the Slow Food experience. On the way, I passed a few people taking a break with a packed lunch. My own belly was rumbling… it had seemed a bit silly to head to a food show and take food with me, I thought… surely there would be plenty of food at the show? Well, I can understand people might not want to stretch to the Masterchef Experience (2 courses for £24, 3 for 27, cooked by past Masterchef finalists), but for a fine-dining experience that did sound like a bargain. It was however, one I missed out on… instead, I had to content myself with grabbing a few food samples on my way round.
Trying food samples at the Good Food Show must be the closest modern experience to the Stone Age practise of gathering and grazing that I can imagine, although the variety goes way beyond leaves and berries: fabulous cheeses; rare breed meats; ice cream; luxury sweets; curry sauces; vegetables; cereal… not only independent food producers, but commercial big names like Ryvita and Carte d’Or were offering tastes of their new wares. The show is as much an opportunity for businesses to gauge the potential of their new products as it is for consumers to try something new. There were also the kitchen accessory manufacturers demonstrating their products with such a sense of fun and entertainment they really could draw the crowds in. If you’re up for the exercise, I firmly recommend bringing good walking shoes and a big appetite and leaving the packed lunch at home.
In particular, the Slow Food experience and the Food Lover’s section were the areas where there were several societies trying to raise awareness for several issues of concern to foodies, politickos and environmentalists alike. I had a chat with the Tomato Growers’ Association and the Cucumber Growers’ Association, who were sharing a stand. In the wake of recent food scares, they were http://www.eta-i.org/xanax.html finding it particularly important to get the message out that British growers need consumer support. I also picked up some tips on tomato storage: apparently keeping them in a fridge is very bad – you’ve been told!
Over in the commercial section, French goats cheese producers had acquired quite the ambassador with Sophie Wright. She could be found at the Easy Cheesey Chevre stall and was running several cooking demos a day to show people the different kinds of goats cheese they can find in British supermarkets, and how they might be able to put them to use in the kitchen. Sophie made asparagus in a goats cheese and mustard sauce followed by a rich, boozy goats cheese dessert, which I got to try – unsurprisingly delicious! It was great to be able to talk to this amazingly talented woman. I stood with a couple of women who were chatting to her about some of her promotional work with the cheese producers, and I would assume they had no idea they were in the presence of one of the stars of British cuisine – she’s so amiable and down to earth.
Sophie Wright was not the only star chef I got to chat to: Tim Kinnaird had a stall at the show for his shop, Macarons & More. Since getting into the finals of Masterchef last year, ‘Childrens’ Doctor, Tim’ has opened his own business in Norwich producing his delicate and flavoursome macarons as well as one-off art-cakes. His stall was so popular, I would not be surprised if he relished the times when he had run out of bags for selling smaller portions of macarons at £5 for 4, as this gave him an excuse to rest between sales and enquiries about his time on TV.
I managed to grab some of the macarons for myself… pictured here with the rest of my haul. They didn’t last the night, I’m afraid to say. Most expensive biscuits ever… but worth it.
Also in the haul were some wonderful cheeses and some rose veal: that escalope and the sausaged were a bargain at a fiver – and my OH vouches that they were absolutely fantastic.
And of course, I had to spend a bit of time watching the Masterchef daily challenges! John Torode and Greg Wallace were around all day. Here you can see Greg looking admiringly at a lady cooking some fish:
And Celebrity Masterchef winner, Lisa Faulkner, was also there to do a cooking demo with some people who had chosen to take part in the Masterchef Experience:
All in all, a fab day out – but tiring! I’m exhausted just remembering it… though I’m also thinking about food again and wondering what’s for tea. Maybe I’ve got some of that cheese left…