photo_2This weekend, I had a rare treat of getting to spend an entire day by myself indulging in two of my favourite pastimes, food and shopping. The boyfriend and I headed to Norwich, where he had an Open Day booked in at the university and I was looking forward to spending a day roaming around the city by myself. It was actually, amazingly, the first time I had headed into the city by myself, simply because I am always with friends, family or with Mark. It’s quite funny really, when you consider what an independent person I am, how little time I actually get to spend alone because I am constantly working or busy with various groups of people. So when I do actually get the chance, I relish every second and really make the most of it.

I had a fantastic day on Saturday, there are a few things that happened that I can’t reveal just yet, but some exciting news is on the way. But there is plenty I can tell you about! Lucky me, as a big food-lover and festival-girl, there is nothing much better than combining two of my great loves at a food festival, and it just so happened that the Norfolk Food and Drink Festival is ongoing at the moment. As part of the celebrations, there have been lots of fantastic events organised across the county and Norwich shopping centre, Chapelfield, just had to get in on the action. The venue was hosting The Great Taste Event on both Saturday and Sunday, with a host of entertainment, cookery demonstrations, freebies and much more taking place throughout the mall. This weekend of foodie fun saw masses of people heading to the shopping centre to enjoy free tastings and samples, cookery challenges, fun workshops, live entertainment and lots of great offers over the weekend.photo_1I spent a brilliant few hours working my way around each station, catching live cooking demonstrations from the head chefs at Wagamamas and Yo Sushi, and getting to taste their creations, while picking up a free recipe book, cards and a wooden spoon. I also took part in a mocktail making workshop where I whisked up a “Norfolk Muddle” a delightful blend of tonic water, strawberries, lime and lavender sugar. I picked up free tasters from Cafe Nero, Wagamamas, Yo Sushi, Hotel Chocolat, KFC, Thorntons, Carluccios, ASK Italian, Ed’s Easy Diner and many more. I also caught a very funny cooking skit called Liver Cottage, which saw two rather entertaining characters cooking up a pie and setting their kitchen on fire. It was amazing to see so much going on around the centre and there were loads of people getting involved and enjoying the demonstrations.photo_2I was also lucky enough to pop over to The Forum and find the regular Farmers’ Market ongoing with lots of fabulous local produce on sale and available to try. I love these markets because you really get a chance to enjoy local produce, and with such great stuff on our doorsteps, I don’t understand why people would feel the need to look elsewhere. They had a fantastic cured meats stall, a stall piled high with cakes and fresh loaves, local creamy cheeses with hints of lavender and apricot, a fantastic collection of jerk seasoning, sauces and marinades created by a guy from London, and a stall with lots of tasty chutneys including a lovely samphire one and a spicy parsnip one. For someone, like myself, who considers themselves a bit of a foodie, it was a perfect weekend full of tips and tricks from top chefs, great foodspiration for future meals and, of course, lots of lovely free tasters.photo_4It’s great to have such fantastic foodie events taking place right on your doorstep, and after missing the main event for the Norfolk Food and Drink Festival at Holkham Hall back in August, I was glad to have the chance to check out a smaller version. I’m a big lover of food festivals, not just for the freebies, but more for the chance to try lots of different and often unusual flavour combinations, while learning from the very best. It really helps with inspiration for cooking dishes of my own and I think it is great the way they encourage people to try different foods and flavours that they might not usually be exposed to.

Are you a big food festival lover – what is it that makes food festivals great? Did you go to the Norfolk Food and Drink Festival – what did you think?

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