Eight scrumptious things about the Kendal Festival of Food

This weekend was the annual Kendal Festival of Food, a programme of talks and demonstrations given by celebrities and local producers across venues in the town. Unfortunately my work commitments prevented me from going to any of the main events this year, however, I did make time to spend a heavenly couple of hours wandering around the 85 or so exhibitors lining the streets of Kendal’s town centre. And I thoroughly enjoyed myself.

The stands contained foods of every savoury description, from pies, cheeses, fish, cooked and smoked meats and shrimps, to chutneys, dressings, breads and spices. There were mountains of fudge, cakes, biscuits and puddings, and an impressive range of speciality beers and locally-produced alcoholic drinks. I couldn’t possibly comment on which were the very best producers and foods, as there were just so many scrumptious things to see and the comparison would be unfair. So, to give you a feel for the sheer variety and quality of what was on offer, here instead are eight of the biggest highlights of my afternoon…

1. The warm atmosphere

One of the nicest things when walking around Kendal’s streets on Saturday was the warmth of the event. I was immediately greeted with offers of taste tests, including one of smoked mackerel straight from the frying pan at the stand of The Port of Lancaster Smokehouse Ltd. The company’s wide variety of products include smoked fish (I’ve never seen smoked eel), meats and cheeses, with the smoked chicken and duck breast in particular tempting me to reach towards my purse.

2. Inventive displays

Exhibiting is hard work, but that didn’t stop some of the producers from going a whole extra mile to make their stands, well, stand out. Two stalls that really caught my eye were those of Grasmere Gingerbread and Fieldside Honey.

3. The smell of cooking

It was difficult to resist the array of cooking smells roaming the streets. There were a lot of local food producers exhibiting, as well as a number of suppliers travelling from further afield. These Polish sausages (just look at the size of the frying pans!) and the nearby stand of traditional Greek food, smelled very good indeed.

4. Tastings and nibbles

It goes without saying that there will be a lot of tastings on offer at a food festival. One distinctive offering was The Wild Boar’s Smoked Porter, a rich dark ale, made using malted barley which has been smoked at the Wild Boar Smokehouse. We had to buy a bottle because it’s something so unusual, and though I’m not a beer drinker, you really can smell and taste the smokiness!

5. Beautiful bottles

To be honest, I don’t drink much at all, plus to get to the food festival I needed to drive. So although I wasn’t able to try any of the many alcoholic tastings on offer in Wainwright’s Yard, I couldn’t help but admire the bottles for their visual elegance – they would make the perfect presents. The display area was quite dark, and showed the bottles off in an almost theatrical light.

The caramel-like aroma of Kin Toffee Vodka is absolutely divine. My companion described its flavour as ‘out of this world’, so it will definitely be a future purchase. Made in small batches at Newby Bridge, it is stocked widely throughout the area. To seal the deal, I even came away with a series of recommended toffee vodka cocktails and recipes – on the cookery side of things, the Kin Toffee cheesecake sounds like a perfect match of ingredients to me.

We bought a small taster bottle of the Kendal Mint Cake Liqueur, which as well as being the most wonderful shade of green, combines refreshing flavour, sweetness and the warmth of liqueur in a way I couldn’t previously imagine – 100% worth a try, and because of its mint properties it’s reportedly good for digestion too.

6. Not just the food…

It wasn’t just the food that caught my attention when walking around. I was particularly intrigued to see these ginger-scented handmade candles on the stand of Grasmere Gingerbread. With a touch of cinnamon, and coloured with paprika, the candles are handmade exclusively for Grasmere Gingerbread by a company in Alston, using the traditional dipping method.

7. Getting close to the animals

On the Westmorland County Agricultural Society stand I met some wonderful creatures, great and small. Mary is a pedigree Ayrshire cow, who is 14 years old and pregnant with her eighth calf. In her lifetime she has given 54,900 litres of milk – no wonder she’s pictured here having a bit of a rest! The appeal of these adorable animals, including the ultra-fluffy chicks in their incubator, speaks for itself. The society hosts both Country Fest, this year to be held on 30 and 31 May, and the Westmorland County Show, which will be on 10 September.

8. Becoming a little ‘pie-eyed’

I know what you thought… no, I’m not talking about alcohol – I meant the pastries and pies. Highly appropriate for British Pie Week, there were so many flavours and combinations of pie filling and topping on offer it could bring tears to a pie-lover’s eyes. Toppings included red onion marmalade and chilli (with pork) and stilton (also with pork), with Sillfield Farm producing a wild boar pie and wild boar scotch eggs.

I had a lovely time absorbing the festival atmosphere on Saturday, and will definitely be putting next year’s date in my diary. I’ll also be looking out for more local foods across outlets in South Lakeland, and at this season’s coming shows.

What were your favourite things about the festival? Did you go to some of the foody demonstrations and talks? Do share your thoughts and comments with others reading this blog, by leaving a comment below.

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6 Responses to Eight scrumptious things about the Kendal Festival of Food

  1. Jane 16/03/2015 at 1:52 pm #

    Janine, thanks for a great review of the Kendal Festive of Food.

    I’ve never been to the Lake District, nor have I been to a food festival; but I feel like I’ve been to both now because your descriptions were so inspiring. You’ve made it sound like an area rich with skilled and knowledgeable traders – they are lucky to have your editorial flair to bring their talents to a wider audience. Good editorial and content writing are key to promoting traders who are launching new products and services.

    Great to have the links within the blog too. How else would one find truly unique and unusual gifts that could be sent to friends and relatives who fall into the “difficult to buy for” category. Great, send them some Kendal Mint Cake Liqueur, the Grasmere Gingerbread, or some of the other yummy products, they won’t be disappointed!

    Well done, and thanks for bringing this to me!

    • Janine John 16/03/2015 at 3:04 pm #

      Thanks so much for your comment Jane, and I’m really pleased to hear you enjoyed the article.

      You’re quite right – local foods and products by small producers do make the most fantastic gifts for the person who has everything, or who is difficult to choose for! The presentation, particularly of some of the bottled goods, was really impressive.

      Thanks for reading, and I hope to feature more about local producers sometime soon.

  2. Joseph Bell 17/03/2015 at 8:41 am #

    Thanks Janine, pleased to hear in your blog that we were doing something right with regards to our presentations. As we travel around the different shows and events we always try hard to lend our presentations to that particular event. This has won us many awards, and besides not getting board ourselves.

    Kind Regards

    Joe

    • Janine John 17/03/2015 at 11:35 am #

      Thanks very much for your comment Joe, and I’m glad to hear you liked the blog post.

      Knowing how much time and effort goes into getting a shop display right, it really must take a lot of energy and organisation to set up a stand each day for an outdoors exhibition – and in all weathers too! Thanks for bringing a smile to the faces of so many in Kendal with the lovely bears, and look forward to seeing you at another event soon.

  3. Gordon Ritter 20/01/2016 at 12:57 pm #

    I loved reading your appealing description of the delicious taste offerings at Kendal Market. I could nearly
    smell those tasty pies, smoking fish and other pastries: they really made my mouth water !

  4. Janine John 31/01/2016 at 4:03 pm #

    Thank you for your lovely comment Gordon. The next Kendal Festival of Food is coming up soon on 12th and 13th March 2016 – good for the tastebuds but bad for the waistline!

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