Friday, 8 July 2011

The Cardiff International Food and Drink Festival 2011

The Cardiff International Food and Drink Festival started today and runs to Sunday (8-10 July 2011) in Roald Dahl Plass, and along to the Norwegian Church, in Cardiff Bay.

A critique of the Festival on the Cardiff Bites blog has highlighted some of its shortcomings. I’ll come to that later, but first I’ll tell you a bit about my enjoyable few hours at the Festival this afternoon.

A key feature is the Live Kitchen Programme in the John Lewis-sponsored Food Theatre. Today I watched Dominic Powell from Cardiff’s Park Plaza Laguna Kitchen and Bar cook a fish risotto, and a dish of Roast Lamb Rump and Soft Polenta with Summer Vegetable Sauce Vierge. I had some of the risotto afterwards and it was really good (must try that final drizzle of curry powder-infused olive oil at home). The activities started in the theatre at midday with Angela Gray on bread and pasta, followed by a Pasta Masterclass from chefs at Jamie’s Italian Restaurant. Angela appears with the other chefs on the programme to ensure the talk is kept informative and entertaining as they go about their cooking. Martin Blunos of the Crown Social will also be appeared over the next two days, as will Norman Musa preparing Malaysian dishes.

Many of the stalls around the Plass serve food. It is a good place to eat and drink outside while listening to live music. The final two acts on the bandstand this afternoon played jazz and soft rock covers. Under the Driftwood Tree are among the six acts playing tomorrow. This all works well when the weather is fine, like this afternoon, but this festival can be an altogether bleaker affair if wind and rain are sweeping in off the channel. The John Lewis Food Theatre and the Wine Bar are the only two large covered areas in the festival.

The Farmers’ Market comprises two rows of stalls on the road to the Norwegian Church. It’s the first Farmers’ Market I have ever been to where there is not a single fresh fruit or vegetable in sight. However, there are at least two stalls selling cupcakes. Enough said.
Among the stalls here though are some familiar faces from Cardiff’s regular Farmers’ Markets. I bought some Beetroot Burgers from The Parsnipship to take home. Among my other purchases: a walnut and maple Wild Fig ice cream, a bottle of Otleys 08 (8.0%) from the Pontypridd breweries stall, a bottle of wine from Cwm Deri vineyard in Pembrokeshire, and a chorizo sausage (Trealy Farm).

The Food Festival is not as big as it initially appears because the row of stalls by the WMC are a 'Craft Fayre' and not really food-related. The overall emphasis is on local food (with stall holders being predominantly from Wales and south-west England), with only a couple of overseas visitors (Poffertjes Dutch pancakes and produce from Stuttgart). There is some locally-produced world cuisine (e.g., samosas, sushi). The word “international” suggests this festival is grander and more cosmopolitan than it actually is. See Nicki’s Cardiff Bites blog (link below), whose summary of why she thinks this festival feels flat preceded this post. It’s hard to disagree with her main points.

However, I think this festival is well worth visiting and has the potential to get better. This year sees the renovated Norwegian Church being bought into play, with wine tasting seminars; while the programme includes demonstrations by top Cardiff chefs. Most importantly, it is free-entry, in a location that attracts visitors, and it provides an opportunity for local producers to meet and sell directly to the public.

What I would like to see is more undercover space (so it can be a success whatever the weather), with at least another marquee hosting an alternative programme of lectures and cookery demonstrations involving, say, local artisan producers, independent cafes and restaurants, and more vegetarian and ethnic cuisine (Tiger Bay was one of the first places that food from Asia and other regions got established in Britain). The Cardiff International Food and Drink Festival may yet evolve into a first-class event that can take its place in the foodie calendar alongside the likes of Abergavenny.

Cardiff Bites blog and discussion about the food festival:

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for the link to me blog. The post was born out of frustration at the festival not reaching what I think could be it's potential. Think a year off will do me good and maybe someone out there will look at the suggestions made and at least take them on board.