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.