Saturday, 31 August 2013

Middle England Foodie Events

Melton Mowbray Food Festival 2013
Pies at Melton Mowbray Food Festival
Food often gets mentioned in my blog posts as I love it.  It’s great to try out new, minimum fuss recipes and experiment with the odd new ingredient which can usually be found at the back of my fridge a year later. 
For ages, I’d been meaning to go to the BBC Good Food Show in Birmingham and last year managed a trip there and found it so disappointing. The exhibition hall was like an aircraft hanger full of people trying to sell olives, cheese and other bits but hardly anything I couldn’t have found in Sainsburys without being charged £20.00 for the privilege of trudging around the NEC - give me a farm shop or farmers market every time!
So this autumn, I've noticed that there are a lot more local outdoor foodie events to go to and I'm definitely going to try one or two of these.  If you do too, leave a comment.

Saturday, September 7, 2013
Weston & Weedon Food Fair, Northants

Due to be opened by Great British Menu’s Matthew Fort and with William Sitwell one of the writer’s for Waitrose Kitchen magazine there too – sounds good.

Saturday 14th September 2013
Rutland Food & Drink Festival
On the edge of beautiful Rutland Water, near Empingham. There’ll be cooking demonstrations from Rutland’s top chefs; a range of local foods to purchase; locally brewed beer to enjoy; live music and children’s activities.

September 21st - and 22nd 2013
The Great Taste Festival of Food and Drink, Clumber Park, Nottinghamshire
Plenty of food and drink stands as well as a live cookery theatre, special guests and bars and pop–up cafés. There will also be appearances by celebrity chefs offering advice, answering questions and signing

Saturday 5th and Sunday 6th October 2013
Melton Mowbray Food Festival 
Held in the heart of pork-pie making land, Melton Mowbray is traditional market town set in the rolling Leicestershire countryside. There’ll be live food demonstrations in the Aga Rangemaster Cookery Theatre and activities going on in the Family Food and Fun Zone and of course lots of food and drink stalls.

Tuesday, 27 August 2013

The Castle Cottage Café, Oakham, Rutland

Castle Cottage Cafe, Oakham

A local's tip led me to this gem of a cafe.  I was in a brilliant clothes shop called the Attic (sadly now a pet shop) with DMAF and we were getting peckish (as is our way).  Luckily, the shop assistant recommended The Castle Cottage Café for lunch, which we'd never have found, being tucked back down a cobbled street near to the church and Oakham Castle.
Castle Cottage Cafe, Oakham, Rutland.

It’s worth a trip to Oakham just to go to this café and I’ve been back a few times since my first visit and this time it was a sunny August day and just right to sit out in the gorgeous, shabby chic style garden.

I know, I know.  There’s only so much shabby chic a middle-aged woman can take, but this is the real deal of genuine vintage put together with thought and love.  It’s all cream painted picket fence; geraniums in buckets: ornately framed mirrors reflecting the garden back,  tables of all shapes and sizes, pretty cushions on slatted chairs, chandeliers, flowers and, of course, lashings of bunting.
Castle Cottage Cafe, Oakham, Rutland
Lashings of bunting 

What to choose for lunch is a dilemma.  The tian of layered smoked salmon, prawns and advocado with a lemon mayo looked beautiful but perhaps something more substantial was needed and both myself and DMAF opted for the Ploughmans Platter which seemed to suit the sunshiney day.

The good: The fabulous shabby-chic garden and imaginative, well-presented lunch-time food.
The not so good: One wasp!
Go again:  Definitely.  Sometimes the café does evening events and wine tastings.  Details on their website.

Saturday, 24 August 2013

Botanic Gardens

Sculpture in the Garden A Change of Heart

DMAF and I arranged to catch up after her weekend away in Europe (far less middle aged than my local trips) and meet at Oadby’s Botanic Gardens.  Although the Botanic Gardens are fronted by the very busy A6, once you’re inside you feel you’re somewhere quite secluded and away from the city and we stroll along the pathways lined with borders of flowers and for those in the know, many of the plants and flowers are rare and specialist. 

Sculpture in the Garden
Outside of term-time the 1920s house becomes a café with tables set out underneath the trees on the lawn and a pretty setting for our cappuccinos, with cakes, lunch and breakfast available depending on time of day.  

It all sounds rather sedate but an antidote to that is that you’ll be walking around the gardens and out of the blue see a pair of legs or an industrial sort of structure in the middle of a lawn as since 2002 the gardens have hosted an annual Sculpture in the Garden exhibition. 

Apparently, this year’s theme for the sculptures is ‘A Change of Heart’.  I researched this fact for you dear blog readers and must go back to the gardens to see if my middle-aged brain can make more of the sculptures with the theme in mind.
Leicester Botanic Gardens

The good: The sculptures add more interest.
The not so good: Café only open for two months of the year (as the rest of the time the house is inhabited by students) so check if you’re planning a visit.
Go again : An easy convenient place to get to, plenty of on-street parking and would definitely go again particularly when the cafe is open.

University of Leicester Botanic Garden, Stoughton Drive South,Oadby, Leics.LE2 2NE

Friday, 16 August 2013

A Midsummer's Night Dream at Leicester's Jewry Walls

Hope over experience, that’s what planning to do any outdoor event in Britain is, I’d thought looking out at the morning's torrential rain.  Tonight the plan was outdoor Shakespeare complete with picnic beforehand and on this occasion hope actually won as by 4 o’clock, it was all glorious sunshine. 

We arrived at The Jewry War Museum, Leicester, and found ourselves a sunny spot to picnic, keeping it simple with M&S deli items.  Bucks Fizz and Bellinis kept the mood buoyant and soon we were facing the outdoor stage in front of Leicester’s Roman walls.  The Festival Players had been performing my favourite Shakespeare play ‘A Midsummer Night’s Dream’ all over Britain, with Leicester the last but one stop, before appropriately enough Stratford.
The Festival Players, Jewry Wall Museum, Leicester
A Festival Player

The Players enthusiasm and energy was brilliant and it was all quite mad featuring an all male cast, with  the actors playing three different roles each.  At one point the crazy costume changes meant that Hermia who was also a hairy-bellied Puck lost her wig, but this just added to the hilarity.  I’ve usually found the scenes with Bottom the funniest but here Helen (like Frankie Howard in drag) and Hermia with their tussling over love-interest Lysander, stole the show for me.

As twilight wrapped itself around us, watching the play here in Leicester's very unromantic city centre became strangely atmospheric with layers of Leicester all around us - St Nicholas Church with it’s Gothic graves silhouetted  in the setting sun,  behind that ‘Holy Bones’ and the Guru Nanak Sikh Temple and directly behind the stage the old, old walls of Roman public baths.
The Festival Players, Jewry Wall Museum, Leicester
Midsummers Night Dream - magical as darkness fell 

The noise of pneumatic bus doors and screeching brakes kept it real while the odd bit of heckling from a passing drunk and revellers exiting the Arriva bus shouting ‘Behind you’, made it as traditional as Shakespeare’s day.  The cast coped well with a mock cross 'adieu' from Helen to the noisy hecklers.

The good : The sunshine, the picnic and The Festival Players were brilliant.
The not so good: We'd bagged seats near the front but others further back may have found it a bit difficult to hear due to passing traffic.
Go again: I’d definitely go to a performance by The Festival Players again and fancy Macbeth which The Players are performing next year.