Festival review: Crowded culinary capers at the Edinburgh Foodies Festival

A seriously large paella.
A seriously large paella.
Maybe the people of Edinburgh and the rest of Scotland are much keener “foodies” than I had imagined. Or perhaps it was down to very good marketing. Probably a combination of the two, but by two o’clock last Saturday afternoon, Edinburgh’s Foodies Festival was bursting at the seams.

Whatever the reason for its popularity, it was certainly good to see so many people enjoying the assorted culinary delights that the Foodies Festival had on offer. Being my first time at this particular event, I wasn’t quite sure what to expect. It certainly made for an agreeable few hours, and provided me with an opportunity to meet face to face with some interesting food and drink suppliers, which is always a good thing.

Comparing it the Taste festival which used to visit Edinburgh during the summer months, the Foodies Festival seemed to be less corporately focused. The “market” area, for example, was packed with an alluring array of different producers and suppliers, and it was great to be able to chat with people to learn how their businesses had come about and what they had on offer. I managed to catch up with some folk in the food business who I've encountered on Twitter, including the smashing Summer Harvest Oils. This business not only produces excellent cold-pressed rapeseed oil grown on the family’s Perthshire farm, it now also provides a delicious range of dressings, marinades and vinegars. I also enjoyed some good banter with the folks on the Enterprise Foods Truly Local stall – an initiative that supports smaller suppliers throughout Scotland in bringing their products to market, and also backs sustainable food production. I must get hold of a jar of the Bloody Mary chutney, from Trotters Independent Condiments, which I sampled there.

"Goucho" beef being char-grille
Fantastic "Goucho" beef being char-grilled.
Another section of the Foodies Festival that really appealed was the “Street Food Avenue”. The smells from this celebration of mobile cooking from across the globe were one of the first things to assail the senses (in a good way) when walking into the event. There were certainly some of the biggest paellas I have ever encountered, bubbling away on one stall, which I was sorely tempted to sample. However, the spectacle of the barbecued lamb and beef – a staple of South American cuisine – was what finally won me over, resulting in my partaking of possibly the best steak sandwich I have tasted. The meat was coated in a herb and salt rub, then perfectly chargrilled to produce thick slices which were full of flavour and beautifully tender.

Foodies Festival at Edinburgh also provided an opportunity to try products from larger suppliers, which might not be immediately familiar. Discover the Origin – an EU funded initiative – offered some quality food and drink from across Europe. The wonderful Edinburgh Gin company had some of its fantastically refreshing elderflower gin to taste and purchase, and there was also a fine gin, containing African-sourced botanicals – available from Whitley Neil, which is distilled in Birmingham. I had no idea the place of my birth even possessed a distillery! Monkey Shoulder is an excellent blended Scottish whisky that I was aware of, but had previously not tried, so it was a pleasure to be offered a wee dram. And as someone who loves Spanish cuisine, I was delighted to be introduced to Inedit – a new “white” beer from Barcelona’s Estrella brewery, developed by Ferran Adria of El Bulli fame.

I wish I could report back on the chefs’ and drink theatre demonstrations. But the queues to obtain tickets for these were so long, the events I wanted to attend had sold out by the time I got to the box office. I suppose the acid test of what I thought of Edinburgh’s Foodies Festival – as someone attending for the first time – would be to ask if I would return next year. Probably, but I think the event would benefit from a few refinements to seriously tempt me back…

Feature article: Looking forward to Edinburgh’s Foodies Festival

Edinburgh Foodies' Festival.
There is an urban myth that the population of Edinburgh effectively doubles each August. The city is thronged with hundreds of thousands of people participating in the world’s largest arts festival, and associated fringe. Great as all this culture is, it’s also exciting that my home city will once again see a celebration of all things culinary, when the Foodies Festival Edinburgh returns to ‘Auld Reekie’ from 9-11 August.

As someone who loves food and drink – and writing about my passion for these – I’m very much looking forward to attending the Foodies Festival for the first time. The programme for the event certainly appears busy. As might be expected, a number of leading chefs from across Scotland – including Jeff Bland from Edinburgh’s Balmoral Hotel, Mark Greenaway from Restaurant Mark Greenaway, Café St Honore’s Neil Forbes, and Paul Wedgwood of Wedgwood – will be demonstrating their signature dishes and how these can be prepared at home, in the Chefs’ Theatre.

For those with a sweet tooth, the festival also boasts a Cake and Chocolate Theatre, but anyone who prefer things a bit more savoury should fear not, as there will also be a “specially designed” BBQ Arena where visitors can learn how to achieve the perfect chargrill. To complement all this food, the event also boasts both a Wine Village and a Drinks Theatre, with the latter featuring demonstrations from some of the UK’s top sommeliers and drink experts. As someone with a passion for Spanish cuisine, I shall certainly be looking out for the class on matching sherry with food.

Two areas of the event I shall be making a beeline for are the Producers’ Market – where there will be an array of artisan Scottish produce on offer – and the Street Food Avenue. Not only am I a big supporter of locally-produced food and drink, but am also delighted that the UK finally seems to be embracing great quality snacks and meals served by mobile street vendors.

On paper, the Foodies Festival Edinburgh certainly does appear action packed, and I shall be reporting back on any enticing discoveries I make there, in the near future.

Foodies Festival Edinburgh takes place at Inverlieth Park on Friday 9 to Sunday 11 August 2013. For full event details and to obtain tickets, visit www.foodiesfestival.com.