Norfolk’s month-long feast of fun and food

With the EDP Bidwells Norfolk Food Festival over for another year, Victoria Leggett looks back on some of events which once again showed why the county's food story is worth celebrating.

It may have been the first time the edp bidwells norfolk food festival lasted a full month but the passion and dedication of the county's producers, growers, chefs, researchers and general lovers of good grub were more than enough to fill the time.

From grand dinners with celebrity chefs and glittering awards ceremonies to giant jellies and towering beanstalk competitions, the past four weeks have been jam-packed with fun, entertaining, eye-opening and mouth-watering events.

Following the star-studded launch at Carrow Road on September 3, which saw patron Delia Smith declare Norfolk 'the county that gives us good ingredients', people in Thetford and north Norfolk threw themselves into the festival spirit with two events celebrating their area's best growers and producers.

At the same time, Produced in Norfolk began its Taste the View campaign which ran right through the month of celebrations.

From ice cream makers and dairy farmers to cider producers and butchers, 30 members of the co-operative offered free tasters alongside added extras like tours of their brewery or safaris to meet their herd of deer.

Many more Norfolk businesses joined in staging special events including the Blakeney Hotel's series of menus celebrating everything from pork to puddings, Northrepp's Cottage's luncheons and Bakers and Larners' many food tastings, demonstrations and meals.

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And as the Moveable Feast in aid of Parkinson's UK and the Saracen's Head at Wolterton encouraged us to enjoy good Norfolk food at some of our top eateries, the Institute of Food Research and the NHS's Joy of Food urged us to think about what we eat with talks, debates and consultations focusing on the health and sustainability of our diets.

By the festival's third week, hundreds of events had already taken place and those next seven days demonstrated perfectly the variety that ensured there really was something for everyone.

Beginning with Jungle PR's Giant Beanstalk Competition, which brought together schoolchildren, pantomime cows and celebrity chefs, the fun event ensured many Norfolk youngsters now know how to get a good yield from their plants.

By Wednesday the tone had shifted to a serious celebration of the county's food heroes at the EDP Norfolk Food Awards where EDP editor Peter Waters left beaming having watched dozens of the area's rival businesses joining together to celebrate each other's success.

The following evening Kiwi chef Chris Coubrough and butcher Arthur Howell delighted diners at Gresham's School with their guide to the science of steak.

And the weekend saw the competitive spirit of Norfolk food lovers come out to play as first Norfolk butchers fought to win over shoppers in Norwich in the annual Battle of the Bangers before novice bakers provided judges at Wroxham Barns with enough scones to last them until next year's festival.

Since starting in 2005, the Norfolk Food Festival has grown from a weekend of celebrations to a month-long, county-wide spectacular.

And, as the 2010 event came to an end this weekend with the Aylsham Food Festival, organisers will no doubt be getting ready to come up with even more ideas to make 2011's even better.