photo_1 (8)Love food as much as I do? Well you’re in for a treat with this post – this one is all about the amazing little food festival me and boyfriend went along to on Sunday. Not far from my home along the Norfolk coast, the Foodie Fete took place at Titchwell Manor hotel, not far from Brancaster on the North Norfolk coast. It’s a beautiful place andwas my first time at the hotel, despite living only a short distance away, but I was keen to check it out and to have the opportunity to indulge in some amazing food and cookery demonstrations by top local and even award-winning chefs in the sunshine. This year was only the second time the event had been held, but last year’s was such a success that it was back bigger and better than before with highlights including butchery and shellfish demonstrations, lots of food and wine stalls all stocked by local producers and plenty of entertainment throughout the afternoon. There’s plenty of pics for this one so you guys can see for yourself what a lovely afternoon it was.
photo_4 (7)photo_5 (4)One thing I loved about the event was that it felt like you were stepping back in time with all the vintage-inspired stalls where anyone could try apple bobbing or sandcastle building for great prizes including magnums of champagne and meals at the gorgeous hotel. The apple bobbing was brilliant and of course Mark had to have a go, particularly when he had spent five minutes studying the technique of the other competitors. He was hoping to beat one guy who had set the bar at collecting three apples from the bowl in just under five seconds, but as Mark found out, it was harder and soggier than he anticipated. He still did really well and only took a couple more seconds, but later in the afternoon, another guy came along and set a new record of just under three seconds! We insisted on doping checks and reckoned he must be a professional apple bobber. We had to try our hand at sandcastle building – with the beach hut I became quite a pro all those years ago and I was pleased to see my skills hadn’t left me. We were hoping to win some champagne, but sadly it was not meant to be and we didn’t even make second place! Although we did make ours in less than five minutes just before the winners were chosen, while everyone else got closer to 20 minutes!photo_1 (11) photo_3 (9) There was even a lovely little family who were running the cutest and quaintest little lemonade stand with the help of the two young daughters – the stall had returned after selling out last year and after tasting the gorgeous, citrus drink, I could understand why it was so popular. It was delicious and sold out once again! There were also some lovely wine bars, a bar selling amazing Pimms, lots of lovely food stalls and plenty more entertainment for the kids including a whole inventors room where they could take part in craft activities, trade marbles or get their faces painted. In one corner of the garden there was also live music, starting with a harpist as we arrived and later an acoustic duo who were brilliant. But of course, we didn’t come to a food festival for the entertainment, we came for the food and a huge part of that was the demonstrations by some amazing local chefs.photo_2 (11)One of these demonstrations, which might not be for the squeamish but had me fascinated, was the live butchery of a fallow deer from the nearby Houghton estate. The carcass had been head shot two days before and hung, before being brought to the festival to be filleted and carved before our very eyes. Julian Stoyel gave the demonstration, which was fascinating and taught us so much about the different types of deer available in the local area, plus about the different flavours and which might better suit each palate. Being a keen venison eater himself, he could tell us all about the different cuts of meat and how best to cook them and what accompaniments would best work with them. It was a brilliant talk and so interesting to see how the meat is skinned and treated. I’m a very firm believer that if you eat meat, you should know where it comes from and not be afraid of the process it goes through. As he was chopping up the meat, he was passing it to a team of amazing chefs who were whipping up all manner of exquisite delights using fresh, local produce in amazing ways. The venison was used in both a mini pie form and as sliced steaks with different sides that created a real taste sensation.photo_2 (8)Later, we caught a talk by a quail-breeding company who provides both the meat and the eggs locally. They brought along some live quails for people to see, gave a talk on how they started the company and how they rear the birds. The food products were also cooked up into a series of inventive dishes that used the flavours in different ways. While venison I absolutely adore, I love the gamey and rich flavours, and the juicy texture of the meat particularly with creamy potatoes, red wine jus and red cabbage. Quail suited me a lot less, I didn’t really enjoy the texture of the meat, which I found a bit greasy like when I tried pigeon once before. I saw other recipes for Moroccan spiced quail and a Spanish-inspired quail meal that I would definitely try. Timing in with the shellfish demonstration I mention next – as you can see in the picture above – I tried my first oyster! After wanting to try for a long time, all I can say is that my face looked a lot less happy about it after I put the thing in my mouth. Definitely not my cup of tea!

The third demonstration was also brilliant and saw a chap take centre stage with two lobsters for the shellfish session. He talked all about his company and experiences as a lobster, salmon and various other sea creatures, fisherman and about the way his creatures should be prepared and eaten. During his talk, we were all fascinated by the two creatures on the floor in front of us and lots of questions were fired at the chap. The team of chefs cooked up two amazing lobster dishes and another hot smoked salmon plate – all were amazing.The final demonstration was by a rare breeds pig farmer who creates his own black pudding – which was only the second time I have tried the stuff and it’s safe to say I am a convert! Before I have been less than impressed by the stuff (the dried stuff) which can be tasteless and brittle. This stuff was juicy, full of flavour and really robust as a product. I was shocked how much I enjoyed it and it was great to hear more about the company and how the product is created.photo_5 (5)My final picture is a collection of some of the top foods we ate during the day – I’ll admit there were a lot more dishes than this and I couldn’t fit them all in, but these are just a taste of the delicious food on offer. The top two items are the venison dishes, left is the pie with creamy mash, gravy and cress, and on the right is Moroccan spiced venison steak with carrots, a minty yoghurt sauce and leaves – both to die for! The bottom left dish is a home-cured smoked salmon dish with beetroot, while the bottom right is one of the amazing lobster dishes with tomatoes and tomato  curd. Then in the middle is one of the black pudding dishes – this one is a dried black pudding crumble with a buttery onion and caramelised red onion sauce. This one was fabulous! We also tried a mini-burger dish, more smoked salmon, another lobster dish and chocolate brownie. All of the food was amazing and such a varied mix of flavours meant my taste buds were dancing by the end.

It was a fantastic afternoon and such a brilliant event, so relaxed and well organised. I was so impressed and will definitely be going back. It was perfect for all ages and particularly for families with all tastes to suit.  If you get a chance to check out Titchwell Manor – make sure you do. The chefs who were preparing the amazing dishes are seriously talented!

What food festivals/events would you recommend? Are any of these dishes taking your fancy?