Last weekend, on 27 and 28 October, the Durham Food Festival filled the streets of Durham with the vibrancy of the Continental Market and the buzz of hundreds of local producers and celebrity chefs appearing on Palace Green.
The Continental Market was home to stalls offering food fans a variety from Malaysian culinary delights to our very own British cuisine. Some of the best market stalls included Italian chocolate and all things sweet stall Tentazioni, Yusef Zebair which boasted some beautiful French crêpes and the smells of marinating Spanish tapas from Solsolet, enticing in the crowds of Durham.
Inside the Palace Green Marquee it was every food lover’s heaven! Picture hundreds of local producers (many giving free samples!) and chef demonstrations ranging from Paul Young’s chocolate demonstration to Scandinavian chef Signe Johansen. There were so many different stalls to visit, so I’ll pick my favourite Durham based producers from the weekend;
For any livers out I was really surprised about Oldfield’s Pantry, who now offer a great range of their meals that you can find in the restaurant, but frozen! You can order these ready meal treats to your door or buy from Oldfields. The meals are exactly like the menu you get in the restaurant and when I sampled them, they tasted lovely. This is certainly a ready meal you won’t feel guilty about!
The Durham Brewery prides itself on using traditional English techniques to make natural, full-flavoured beers. They are even stocked in Durham Cathedral. If you’re looking for an ideal Christmas gift, the Durham Brewery offer some great gift packs and deals that would suit even the most difficult to buy for.
Sweet Sally Cinnamon
This lovely company sells all things sweet, which are also handmade! Think hot chocolate spoons (also synonymous with bliss), cinder toffee and if you want a little helping hand in the kitchen, baking mix recipe jars. Perfect for treating someone special or indeed yourself!
Truly Tempting Chocolate
For all chocolate lovers out there (of which there will be many I’m sure!) this Durham based company is a must. It’s a family enterprise, using locally sourced ingredients. Look out for their white chocolate with raspberry bars, which taste as beautiful as they sound. On the whole, they offer a very sophisticated chocolate experience.
M & J Dryden
M & J Dryden specialise in free range turkeys and geese and I felt I had to include this for the sentiment. If you’re planning on cooking a Christmas meal with you and your housemates or friends this year, then definitely look up M & J Dryden. They recommend the size of the turkey in keeping with how many you’re cooking for – so you won’t be left with that excess of turkey that leaves you having to use it up on sandwiches until next autumn.
I got the chance to talk to Judith Dryden who works closely with the turkeys on the farm. Judith told me that the farm put on regular guided tours, where guests have actually been greeted by a stampede of the excited turkeys (this she assured me is sweet, rather than plain scary) and can explore the rest of the farm. So for a more ethical Christmas dinner, this is where it’s at.
On the whole, the weekend was one of huge success. With chef appearances from the university, local chefs and an abundance of local producers, the Durham Food Festival was better than ever.