Wednesday, 11 December 2013

The Kitchen Cabinet comes to Cardiff

The Kitchen Cabinet is a Radio 4 panel show about food presented by Jay Rayner. Each week, the programme travels round the country. Last night it was being recorded in Cardiff, at The Gate Arts & Community Centre. I went along to find out more about this popular radio show, which completes its fifth season with the Cardiff episode.

The four panel members for this programme were local representative Angela Gray, from the Cookery School at Llanerch vineyard in the Vale of Glamorgan; the Cambridge-based food writer Tim Hayward; the chef and cookery teacher Angela Malik; and Peter Barham, a food scientist from the University of Bristol.

The panel lined up on a stage set up for The Gate’s annual Christmas production of Aladdin, and this was very much the programme’s Christmas episode. Therefore, it was a bit of a missed opportunity to focus on Welsh food, although bara brith and the Welsh-Italian connection featured as key parts of the discussion.

On arriving, all audience members were asked to answer questions (e.g.,'What is your culinary Christmas wish?’) and write down a question for the panel. Recently, we ate Haggis Pizza at a St Andrew’s Night event at the Murchfield Community Hall in Dinas Powys. This inspired my question to the panel: ‘Is there a limit to what can be put on a pizza base?’ Among the other audience members who put questions to the panel was Cardiff’s Ed Gilbert (aka @gourmetgorro). Alternative Christmas meals, cocktails, and cooking with coca cola were among the topics raised.

The recording was efficient and audience involvement was central to the show. The contribution by Angela Gray and an Italian restaurant owner on Italian food in Wales was particularly interesting; Angela Malik proposed some intriguing Asian twists to traditional Christmas classics; Tim Hayward’s had useful tips on baking and the use of rhubarb in drinks; and Peter Barham provided scientific context and had to field the trickiest questions like ‘is there a cooking gene?’. No, is the resounding answer to that question, by the way.

To find out more, I recommend you tune in next Tuesday 17 December (3pm) or over the following week on the BBC website:

Jay Rayner is a genial host, who gets the panel to explain culinary terms so no audience member is left behind. It’s the inverse of the recent food panel show with experts displaying their erudite knowledge of obscure food items. I believe that ran for one series, whereas The Kitchen Panel could potentially have the longevity of a show it liberally borrows from – Gardeners’ Question Time.

I thank Dan Allsobrook (aka @eggynewydd) for taking this photo of me and Jay Rayner:

Monday, 2 December 2013

Morgan Arcade, Cardiff

Morgan Arcade was opened in 1896. It was originally known as the New Central Arcade. Today, it is owned by Helical Bar, who also own the Royal Arcade. This is one of Cardiff’s beautiful series of Victorian arcades, which are home to many independent local businesses.

Walking up The Hayes, from our previous walking tour destination the Royal Arcade, enter the first entrance to Morgan Arcade, between Moss Brothers and Moulton & Brown. On the left is a plaque with some history about David Morgan, after whom the arcade is named:

Further along on the left is Tabernacle Lane, which links the Royal and Morgan Arcades (collectively, the Morgan Quarter). By Capital second-hand bookstore, the three sections of Morgan Arcade join, with one pushing through to St Mary Street. At this junction:

The Plan
28-29 Morgan Arcade, Cardiff CF10 1AF (2039 8764)
The Plan Café Bar has been running in this prime Morgan Arcade location since 2002. The owner is David Nottingham (no relation). There are tables downstairs and upstairs and they serve breakfast and lunch, locally-made cakes, and the café is fully licensed. The Plan is particularly noted for its specialist coffees and, to a slightly lesser extent, teas. It has been listed among the ‘Top 50 Coffee shops in the UK’ in The Independent and in a similar Top 50 list in The Guardian. Head Barista Trevor Hyam, who started working at The Plan in 2007, writes a specialist blog on coffee called ‘The Bean Vagrant’; he came fourth in the 2010 UK Barista Championships; he experiments with brew methods using his Mahlkonig Tanzania grinder; and he sources craft-roasted traceable coffee beans. In other words, he knows his stuff. You can explore a range of single estate coffees on the specialist menu, with recent coffees on the menu coming from estates in Kenya, Rwanda, Ethiopia, Guatemala, Bolivia, Columbia and Costa Rica.

The stretch of the arcade along to St Mary Street has no food outlets, but there are many interesting shops, including Bang & Olufsen, (quality Danish sound systems – no MP3 players), Fountain Fine Arts (where you can buy affordable art by Welsh artists), an Oxfam clothes shop, the Camera Centre, and Neal’s Yard Remedies.

Entering the second arm of the Morgan Arcade that connects back to The Hayes, on the other side of The Plan, is Spillers Records (31 Morgan Arcade). Spillers Records was established in 1894 by Henry Spiller. The shop moved to its current location in 2010, from its previous location by the The Hayes entrance to Morgan Arcade.

Jam, Marmalade, Bread, Hot Chocolate, Cream, The Sweet, Meatloaf, Tangerine Dream. Now those were the days - when bands named themselves after food!

Next to Spillers:

33 Morgan Arcade CF10 1AF (2039 5007)
Crumbs is Cardiff’s oldest vegetarian restaurant. It was opened on 3 Dec 1970 by Judi Ashley, at a time when most people had not heard of brown rice.  Crumbs came under new ownership earlier this year. I believe the new owner is called Paul. It has been spruced up, with new tables and décor, and rebranded as Crumbs Vegetarian Kitchen and Coffee Shop, but the original ethos has been preserved. Large bowls of salad are still a main feature and servings are still generous, though possibly not as huge as in the olden days and prices have gone up. I had the large mixed standard salad bowl last week, which as before, comprised layers of different salads (six on this occasion) in a wooden bowl, with grated carrot, shredding cabbage, apple and brown rice. There was plenty of cheese on top, though the amount of brown rice was less than I remember. Crumbs also do breakfast, soups, jacket potatoes and other lunches, and have good bread. It is essentially the same healthy food as served since 1970: it was reassuring to know that Crumbs is still Crumbs. They do take-away. There are two small rooms upstairs, so Crumbs is bigger than it looks from the outside.

Wednesday, 20 November 2013

Royal Arcade, Cardiff

Royal Arcade opened in 1858 and is the oldest surviving arcade in Cardiff. It was designed and built by James & Price, for the Cardiff Arcade Company, and connects The Hayes to St Mary Street.

We enter the Royal Arcade from The Hayes, with Dr Martens (boots) and Scribbler (greeting cards of dubious taste) on your left-hand side and Rossiters (Bath-based designer department store) to your right. Second on the left, though you’ll have to walk a few units to find the door:

Wally's Delicatessen and Wally's Kaffeehaus
38-46 Royal Arcade CF10 1AE (2022 9265)
This family-run delicatessen, currently owned by Steven Salamon, has been a feature of the Royal Arcade since 1981. The deli has expanded considerably since it first opened and stocks around 1,600 products from around the world. It’s great for those unusual ingredients and foods imported from continental Europe.  In 2011, Wally’s Kaffeehaus opened upstairs. This Viennese-style coffee house specializes in Open Sandwiches, such as the Tyrol (roast chicken breast, chorizo, shaved manchego cheese, Piquillo peppers, garlic mayonnaise, rocket, black olives and toasted sourdough) and the Baden (German smoked black ham, Hereford Hop cheese, chutney, balsamic onions and sliced pear, on wholegrain seeded bread). Vegetarian options include the Rohrbach (Grilled aubergine and Caerphilly cheese). The Aufschnitt comprise sharing platters of cold meats or cheeses. The menu draws on the deli produce downstairs, so if you particularly like something chances are you can buy it on the way out.

32 Royal Arcade CF10 1AE (2022 3158)
Fresh Baguette opened in 2000 and has established itself as one of the most popular independent sandwich shops in Cardiff. Gareth Lawton and his partner Samantha make good use of Twitter to promote the business, with daily specials often posted in the morning (@freshbaguette1). Yesterday’s was Falafel and Humous Baguette with salad and toasted cumin seeds. My most recent involved chicken, bacon, mayo, rocket, red onion and salami cracking. Easily the most creative sandwich-makers in the city; they are not afraid to be experimental, with novel ingredient combinations and spicy sauces. Regulars can also work through the 100-plus regular fillings for baguette and paninis on the menu. Service is friendly and efficient. Expect to see a queue outside at lunchtimes.

The alley across the way, Tabernacle Lane, links Royal Arcade with Morgan Arcade.

Vom Fass
28-30 Royal Arcade CF10 1AE (2022 9497)
Vom Fass Cardiff sells oils, vinegars and spirits from barrels.

The cupcake shop Velvet Ice (formerly 20 Royal Arcade), which opened in 2011, has closed. Has the inexplicable (to me) fashion for cupcakes peaked?

Further along this southern side of the arcade, there is a Health with Herbs (24 Royal Arcade).

I intended to take lunch in Harleys Coffee Shop (8 Royal Arcade) when my walking tour made it to the Royal Arcade. But, alas, this long-established coffee shop closed earlier this year after 13 years of trading in the arcade.

This side of the arcade also has a new Oxfam book shop, with vinyl records upstairs. At the entrance from St Mary Street, there’s a sign of the times: an electronic cigarette shop.

Cross to the other side of the arcade, which currently starts with a seasonal Christmas shop.

Royal Sweet Shop
7 Royal Arcade CF10 1AE (2038 7438)
Traditional newsagent with rows of those tall jars of old-fashioned sweets.

There are no further food-related units in Royal Arcade. However, of note along this side of the arcade is the very wonderful stationary and art supply shop Pen and Paper (where our eldest daughter has a Saturday job).

Further along, by the entrance to Tabernacle Lane, is the Ian Allen bookstore and model shop (31 Royal Arcade), specializing in books on transport.

Wednesday, 13 November 2013

Cardiff Marriott and River Cottage in partnership

The display featuring muddy carrots is not something you usually see in a hotel restaurant. Another clue as to what’s occurring are the shelves of Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall books. We are in Zest, the restaurant at Cardiff Marriott, to sample the new menu created in partnership with River Cottage.

People increasingly like to know where their food comes from and how it is produced. In responding to diners’ interest in the provenance of their food, Zest has teamed up with Fearnley-Whittingstall’s River Cottage: an organization built around locally-sourced, ethically and sustainably produced, seasonal food.

Cardiff is one of only two Marriott Hotels to trial the partnership. If successful, it will be rolled out to more of Marriott’s other 50 UK hotels. The goals the partnership has set are ambitious ones.

For the menu, Marriott is committing to increase the use of local food, produced within a 60 mile radius of the hotel, to 80%. In Cardiff, Marriott is lucky. There is a wealth of Welsh food producers to choose from. The produce sourced for the menu so far includes meat from Graig Farm and Slade Farm, fish and shellfish from Gower Coast Seafood and E. Ashton, eggs from Farmhouse Freedom Eggs, cheese and dairy products from Calon Wen and Abergavenny Fine Foods, and vegetables from the Welsh Box Scheme and Ty Mawr Organic.

Because the menu is seasonal, the menu will change frequently. Daily changes are expected, so even regulars will find something different to order.

The amount of food wastage in the catering industry generally can be pretty shocking. Marriott’s are here committing to further reducing food wastage from their current low level of 5%.

By improving sustainability practices, Marriott’s hopes to improve its Sustainable Restaurant Association (SRA) rating in the two hotels trialling the partnership with River Cottage.

All the meat and vegetables on the menu will be organic, with the chicken also being free-range, and the fish and shellfish sustainably-sourced.

The partnership has involved staff from Marriott Cardiff taking part in training courses at River Cottage’s recently launched Chefs’ School, to acquire new skills relating to sustainable food procurement and other areas that complement their catering industry expertise.

On the table, the rosemary bread was very fresh, and there was a sprig of rosemary on the table (impossible not to pinch and smell). We started with ‘Parsley Salad’ and ‘Squash & Goat Cheese Salad’. Parsley was a feature of my salad, but the main interest was the crab meat, accompanying soft-boiled egg, and the intense anchovies hidden underneath. Crisp thin-sliced beetroot was the unannounced star of the other colourful salad.

For Mains, I opted for ‘Slow Cooked Organic Graig Farm Brisket’, served with anchovy and rosemary potato gratin and red wine sauce; the meat melted in the mouth. My partner had the ‘Slade Farm Lamb’, with mashed celeriac, chilli and thyme. The lamb had a subtle barbeque flavour.

The other vegetables, ordered as sides, were ‘Honey Glazed Carrots’ and ‘Kale, Chilli and Fennel Seeds’. The carrots had a wonderful intense flavour and looked great – orange, white and purple. The fennel on the kale produced a sensational effect, though the chilli was a little heavy for our taste in this context.

With sides this was not ‘small plate’, but rather ‘three good things on a plate’ (the title of one of Hugh’s books).

I’m afraid that for the ample puddings we opted for exotic options, with some ingredients what were probably not grown around Cardiff. My ‘Sticky Date Pudding’ came with homemade vanilla ice cream, and my partner’s ‘Almond and Orange Pudding’ came with a slice of pear cooked in red wine as well as the ice cream. However, a warm beetroot brownie, and apple and cherry crumble with custard, were also on the menu.

Local wine and beers are available, although they were not listed on the main wine and drinks menu. We had a bottle of Glyndwr 2012, a medium dry white wine produced on a vineyard established in 1982 by the Norris family in Llanbleddian, near Cowbridge, in the heart of the Vale of Glamorgan.

Generally, the local and seasonal approach can help produce a coherent menu, where fresh food items are used in different ways throughout to create a satisfying dining experience that also celebrates and supports local growers and artisan producers.

Zest actively encourages locals to join hotel guests in their dining room.

Marriott Cardiff:

River Cottage:

All food and drink consumed was kindly provided by Marriott Cardiff.

Tuesday, 15 October 2013

Drinking Azsú in the Tokaji region, Hungary

I was on a journalism assignment recently in Hungary, writing about an EU LIFE-funded soil monitoring project. As part of the trip, I went to the Tokaji wine-growing area in the north-east of the country, which has been a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 2002. As well as looking at the soil monitoring system in operation, I was also fortunate enough to have a private tour and tasting in the historic Konyves cellar.

The tour takes you through the labyrinth of cellar tunnels cut into the soft volcanic rock of the hillside. There are over 700 m of cellar at Konyves, filled with around 800 oak barrels. The walls are covered with a mould (Cladosporium cellare), which is white when young but grows into a thick black layer. The mould feeds off the alcohol vapours from the barrels. It is important, because it regulates the humidity (88-95%) and temperature (a constant 12°C) in the cellar.

Three wines of increasing sweetness are usually tasted on these tours. The first is Furmint, a very dry and unremarkable white wine made from the Furmint grape variety. The second is a Muscadet, from the French grape of that name (the only one of the half-dozen Tokaji grape varieties that does not originate in Hungary), which is here really to give a taste of a standard sweet wine. The star is saved to last – the distinctive Azsú (bottle pictured). This is the sweetest naturally-made wine, with 70% sugar. The sweetness is complex, however, with honey, tropical fruit (citrus/apricot) and nutty flavour notes. It’s nectar.

The grapes that give Azsú its character come from the Furmint vines, but they are infected with the fungal mould Botrytis cinerea. This concentrates the grape’s sugar content and flavour. I was in the vineyard in early October and the grapes (photograph) are still growing – the shrivelled brown Azsú grapes are hand-picked in early November from the Furmint bunches. It’s like making wine with juicy raisins. The bottle is labelled ‘5 puttonyes’, which traditionally referred to the number of buckets of Azsú grapes added to 130 litres of must in a barrel (the range is from 3 up to a very sweet 6); now it refers to the sugar level. The wine is aged for 3-6 years in the barrel.

Out in the vineyard, we saw some curious pipes in the ground. The nearest one in this picture is 12 metres above the wine tasting area in the corner of the cellar, which is carved out of the hillside below the vineyard.

The conditions are not right to make the Azsú every year, just one in every two or three years; in those years they make a lot of Furmint. They have kept samples from all the Azsú years back to 1895 in the Konyves cellar. It’s a stroll back in time.


I would like to thank Miklós Dombos, of the Institute for Soil Sciences and Agricultural Chemistry in Budapest, and György Zsigrai, of the Research Institute for Viticulture and Oenology in Tokaj, for arranging the visit to the cellar.

LIFE website - funding environmental and nature conservation projects in the European Union:

Sunday, 15 September 2013

Creating a Community Garden 10

In a series of posts I have outlined the process by which Nightingale Community Garden in Dinas Powys was created (links below). In June, I described how the garden was flourishing during its first summer. Among the verdant greenery, it was hard to believe that gardening had only started a couple of months previously. Some of the crops were entered in this year’s Dinas Powys Village Show (31 August); Giles Metcalf’s beetroot, for instance, won First Prize.

On Saturday 14 September, the official opening of the Nightingale Community Garden was held. Cllr. Keith Hatton and Elizabeth Millard, of the Dinas Powys Residents’ Group, welcomed everyone, outlined the history of the garden, introduced the special guests, and thanked those who had made important contributions along the way.

Keith had the original idea of doing something with the derelict piece of land, on the footpath that connects Sir Ivor Place and Nightingale Place, which was becoming a focus for anti-social behaviour in the area. With Elizabeth, they put together the first plan for turning it into a Community Garden. At an early stage they gained the support of Mike Ingram, one of the special guests at the event, who is the Operational Manager of Public Housing Services at the Vale of Glamorgan Council. Mike facilitated the smooth transition of the site, from unwanted public housing land to Community Garden.

The Finance Minister of the Welsh Assembly Government Jane Hutt AM placed the garden within the larger context of The Rural Development Plan, which is a joint Welsh Government and European Union strategy. In her short speech, she stressed the importance of finance from the European Agricultural Fund for Rural Development, which along with Welsh Government funding enables projects such as this to happen. Jane also stressed the importance of supporting community-led initiatives.

The Welsh Government funds community projects through Councils. Cllr. Liz Burnett, another of the special guests at the event, is Vale of Glamorgan Cabinet Member for Regeneration, Innovation, Planning and Transportation. The money that comes to the Council for rural regeneration is in her portfolio. The Vale of Glamorgan Council funds its own rural development initiative: Creative Rural Communities.

Rob McGhee of the Community Foodie section of Creative Rural Communities, established to help communities grow their own food, has been involved with the Nightingale Community Garden project from a very early stage. He has been key in obtaining funding and helping to manage the project, including overseeing the contractors who have worked to transform the site. He praised the enthusiasm of the local communities he works with, both in Dinas Powys and in other places were similar projects have been successful such as Treoes. Rob is the one talking in the picture above, with Mike Ingram next to him.

BBC Wales’ weatherman Derek Brockway (above, with Keith) certainly bought the sun with him, which shone throughout proceedings. With a cheery “hello and shw’mae” he gave us an up-to-date weather forecast. Unfortunately, this involved windy autumn weather just around the corner. He noted how the warmest and driest summer for seven years had helped the garden be so productive in its first year. Below is a picture of Derek cutting the ribbon, with Keith looking on. Derek took time out from filming his current series of 'Weatherman Walking' for BBC Wales to open the Community Garden. You can find details on the BBC website, where you can also print out Weatherman Walking maps that enable you to follow in Derek's footsteps. He was right about the weather today (Sunday); though I am in the warm writing this, and he is walking and filmed up in the bleak Brecon Beacons!

Here’s a photo of Cllr. Keith Hatton, Derek Brockway, Elizabeth Millard and Jane Hutt AM.

During the speeches Keith and Elizabeth thanked several people whose energy and enthusiasm have contributed enormously to the garden’s success. We owe a big debt of gratitude to Stuart Hockley for, among other things, orchestrating the laying out of the plots and for erecting two large greenhouses and a shed in the garden. Merry Metcalf was thanked for organizing all the paperwork during the crucial stage when the plots were being allocated, and Lynne Squires was thanking for carrying on in this role.

Angela Peterken is the lead gardener of a Family Growing Group within the garden. This arose from her work as a Learning Support Assistant at Dinas Powys Infants School, following enquiries by parents keen to start growing vegetables with their children. Five families have been working alongside each other on the largest plot in the garden, including families with no previous experience of growing their own food. 24 different types of vegetables have been grown on their plot, including these pumpkins (a credible Third Prize in the Village Show), which are being lined up for Halloween.

An impressive array of food was on offer, all contributed by plot-holders, including a cake made by Angela. David Southall, who was thanked by Keith during the speeches for donating the large greenhouse to the garden, is seen here cutting the cake, with Mike Ingram and Elizabeth Millard looking on.

Below is a picture of Robin Harrison at the plant stall, selling seeds and seedlings. Robin is a fount of gardening knowledge and he teaches an Organic Gardening course at Murchfield Community Centre on Wednesday mornings (10am-12 noon) during term-time; part of Penarth Community Learning Centre’s adult education programme.

Below are some photos taken during July and August, since my last dispatch on the Community Garden, including one of the small wooden seats Giles made from felled timber and one of my own plot. Like many plot-holders, I had good crops of runner beans, potatoes and courgettes; along with rhubarb, peas and chard. As Elizabeth said, at the conclusion of the speeches, this is the fulfilment of a dream to turn an ugly derelict area into an attractive productive garden, which has really bought together the community in this part of Dinas Powys.


Previous posts on creating a Community Garden in Dinas Powys:

June 2013

April 2013

March 2013

Feb 2013

Jan 2013

Oct 2012

Aug 2012

Feb 2012

Jan 2012

Thursday, 12 September 2013

YAKITORI#1, Cardiff

Amidst all the chain restaurants in Mermaid Quay, down in Cardiff Bay, it is good to see a local independent starting up. Last month, in a unit underneath The Glee Club, Yakatori#1 started serving modern Japanese cuisine - with the focus on sushi, grills and noodles. This is Japanese food that reflects the owners’ travels around the world seeing how it has evolved in contact with other cultures, such as California.

We were fortunate enough this week to be invited along to Yakatori#1, as guests of owners Meng and Cheryl Yap. Meng founded Ethnic Cuisine in Swansea in 1994; the company grew to employ around 400 people and supplied ready-meals for J. Sainbury’s. He sold that business five years ago, and is now embarking on this restaurant venture.

The Malaysian-born couple have assembled a highly-skilled team of chefs, who can be seen in the open kitchen preparing beautiful-looking food. Meng explains that, just as he told his former workers to always imagine Sainsbury’s looking over their shoulders, he likes his chefs to be aware of the customers whose food they are preparing.

The range of sushi - maki rolls, hosomaki and nigri sushi – look great and, as Meng says, are designed to produce taste sensations. Therefore, the amount of rice is kept relatively small, to allow the other ingredients to shine. Bowls of avocados are prominently displayed in the kitchen, and thin slivers of avocado contribute a distinctive cool and creamy dimension to Yakitori#1’s maki rolls. Salmon, prawns, crab, tuna, and chicken are among the other favoured ingredients. Rainbow maki is a colourful flavour sensation, while avocado and mango maki provided an unexpectedly sweet and delicious taste experience. 

‘Yakitori’ means ‘grilled chicken on a skewer’. Yakatori, a term that can be also used to describe skewered and grilled food generally, is served in small informal restaurants and from food stalls in Japan.  The chicken yakitori here is therefore something of a signature dish, and consists of succulent flattened chicken breast pieces, coated with teriyaki sauce, and spring onion on small wooden skewers. Lightly battered king prawns and gyozu (a type of dumpling) with a sweet chilli sauce were other highlights.

The freshness of the ingredients is very important to Meng and Cheryl (and there’s certainly no MSG). The fish is sourced from Brixham-based Channel Fisheries, while vegetable ingredients are obtained locally. The nori (seaweed) is imported from Japan (where it is farmed, toasted and packaged as rolled sheets on a large scale) and there’s a choice of Japanese beers.

Yakatori#1 is family-friendly, not something you usually associate with Japanese restaurants in the UK. The children’s menu has ‘mini mains’ of ramen, wok-fried noodle and rice dishes, and a mild curry (and ice cream, of course). The menu also offers lunch and dinner specials, bento lunches and take-away options.

The name suggests that there could be at least a Yakatori#2 to come. On the evidence of the food we tasted, that would not be too surprising.

Yakatori#1, Unit 10 Mermaid Quay, Cardiff Bay, Cardiff CF10 5BZ (Tel: 2049 5050)

All food kindly provided free by Yakatori#1
Photos in this post courtesy of the restaurant.

Tuesday, 20 August 2013

Green Man Festival 2013

This year was one of the best-ever Green Man Festivals. Held in a beautiful location every August near Crickhowell in the Brecon Beacons, it’s about far more than just the music (though the music is great), with the good food being one of the attractions.

This year, four new stalls joined the regulars. One of the newcomers was London-based Anna Mae’s Southern Street Food. Founded in 2011, they offered their signature mac n cheese.

A new discovery for us was French and Grace, who are based in Brixton Village Market. I really enjoyed my F&G chargrilled halloumi Lebanese flatbread wrap, which included fresh mint leaves, a pickled chilli, ‘slaw and tahini dressing. The company is run by Rosie French and Ellie Grace, and their first cookbook ‘Kitchen and Co’ was published last year. I had a flip-through at the stall and it looked good.

We were camped near another newcomer, The Hurley Burley. This campsite Theatre Café proved very useful for morning teas and coffees. Alongside a range of breakfasts and appealing vegetarian food options they had live music, with the staff taking time out to do a few song-and-dance and circus routines. It’s one to watch out for in future years. Other breakfast (and late night hot drinks) needs were met by Cwmdu Community Stall, as they are every year.

The first essential artist at Green Man 2013 was Patti Smith on Thursday night. She ate at the Rotisserie Chicken (Walled Garden) before her set and pronounced it very good from the stage. What higher recommendation could this Green Man regular want?

During their set, before singing their song ‘Kingfisher Pies’, the singer of Midlake said he was making for the Pieminister van afterwards. I don’t have the info on what was ordered. However, this year, my festival Pieminister pie was the Matador (beef, chorizo, olives).

I enjoyed a coconut chicken curry from Roots Caribbean catering, while listening to some soul in Chai Wallahs (the stage with global, jazz and urban music). The curry was very good (dark rum, spring onions etc). Other options included jerk chicken, braised mutton and Shropshire beef, served with sides of rice, plantain, dumplings or coleslaw.

A vegetarian falafel hit the spot one lunchtime - falafels deep-fried in filo pastry served with lemon, hummus and salad - from the Café Moor, who specialize in North African and Arabic Souk Food. We didn't get around to the Goan Fish Curry outlet this year, so that will be high on the list next time!

On the last night, having set up the youngest (a vegetarian) with a vegetable chow mein from the Oriental food stall, I found room for a vension burger (with onions) from the Welsh Venison Centre. I also helped the kids finish a fine vegetarian pizza from Green Pepper Red Tomato in the Mountain’s Foot area; some tasty Mexican food from Bristol-based Poco Loco; and some tomato and basil pasta from the Pizza and Pasta outlet in Chai Wallahs.

The family vote for best chips at the festival went to The Hippy Chippy in the Walled Garden ('Frozen Chips? No Thanks').

The ice cream of choice was Shepherds, who are based in Hay-on-Wye (est. 1978). The youngest always goes for Chocolate, but I decided to explore the more adventurous end of the menu with a Mango Chilli ice cream. This was an enjoyable, albeit one-off, experience: creamy mango with a delayed chilli kick. The two Coffee and Cake stalls (Walled Garden and Courtyard) kept us in coffee and doughnuts.

I mainly drank the excellent Growler, the Wye Valley Brewery ale brewed especially for the Green Man Festival. There were 100 artisan ciders and beers, largely from Welsh breweries in the festivals beer festival tent. The queues at this bar were the largest, with so many barrels for the staff to negotiate and people asking for samples before buying the unusual perrys; so although I would have liked to work through the list, I tended to seek out the Growler in the quieter bars.

The best meal I had at Green Man 2013 was [drumroll] a Seafood Paella from Jamon Jamon. This Green Man regular on the hill looking down on the Mountain Stage consistently delivers.

Not surprisingly, I managed to put on weight during Green Man 2013!

My favourite music acts included Stornoway, Patti Smith, Lau, Midlake, Band of Horses, Rozi Plain, Johnny Flynn, Kings of Convenience, Jon Hopkins and British Sea Power.


Green Man 2012

Green Man 2011