Norwich Food Festival
Get your knife and fork ready and sample of some the best produce in the world! That's the message from the organisers of the first Bidwells Norwich Food Festival, runnings from October 14 to 27, which they hope will become an annual event and develop into something very tasty indeed.
Get your knife and fork ready and sample of some the best produce in the world! That's the message from the organisers of the first Bidwells Norwich Food Festival, which they hope will become an annual event and develop into something very tasty indeed.
The festival, which runs from October 14 to 27, brings together local farmers, food and drink producers, retailers, restaurants, pubs and cafes under the umbrella of Norwich's new tourism organisation, VisitNorwich.
Michael Nutt, destination development director at VisitNorwich, explains: “We want to raise the profile of Norwich as a first class place for food and eating out - to put the city on the UK food map.”
The idea for the two-week festival only came into life at the start of the year so plans have had to be formulated quickly. “Yes, it's been a challenge,” he says, “but we've had a look at other festivals - Ludlow is perhaps one of the best known, and has quite a following. There is a huge interest in food these days and from our point of view at VisitNorwich, it's a great way of attracting more people to an area - they'd come here for short breaks and sample some of the great restaurants.”
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He says that Norwich has particularly close links to all aspects of the food industry, explaining: “We have the Hotel School at City College which is generally regarded as one of the best in the country, great restaurants, food development and research at the Institute of Food Research at Colney and lots of local food and plenty of actual food production.”
The main thrust of the festival is to encourage people to eat healthily, which is helped by selecting local produce.
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“We have lots of events planned, including cookery demonstrations and tasting sessions with much being held at the Forum which is a great venue for these sorts of occasions. Restaurants and bars are also organising their own events so, when it all comes together, it's going to be a very busy two weeks.”
Celebrity chef Delia Smith, who runs her own Canary Catering business from Norwich City's Carrow Road stadium, has given her backing to the festival, saying: “A festival to celebrate Norwich's heritage of good food is long overdue. At Canary Catering we know first hand the quality of local produce and the dedication that goes into it. The more people can be made aware of it the better and the Bidwells Norwich Food Festival is a great start.”
Keynote events include a farmers' market at the Forum on both Sundays, food tastings at the Forum on both Saturdays and the Moveable Feast - a mystery tour of the city's restaurants that has proved very popular in the past.
The festival has won the support of many of the area's leading restaurants such as Delia's at Carrow Road and the Unthank Arms in Norwich's Golden Triangle which are offering special dinners while other eateries are producing special cakes or home-made soups for people to sample.
Well-known Norfolk chefs such as Mary Kemp, Richard Hughes (the Lavender House, Brundall), and Chris Busby (Brasteds, Framingham Pigot, near Norwich) are staging demonstrations while local boy made good Tom Aikens is returning to the city to share some of his secrets in a day-long course at City College's Hotel School.
The celebrity count is further boosted by Anton Edelmann, the former executive chef at London's Savoy Hotel, who is also holding a cookery school for keen gourmets, again at the Hotel School.
Mary Kemp, who runs a cookery school from her family's farm near Attleborough, is a well known champion of local ingredients and is looking forward to demonstrating quick and easy dishes at the Forum.
“We want to remind people how good food is here in Norfolk and quite how much diversity we have,” she says. “The festival is a brilliant idea. It will show how great Norwich is as an eating out destination and also how good our farmers' markets are and some of the small, specialist shops, too.”
Mick Cooper, head of the Hotel School at City College, says: “We are proud to be part of the festival and the students are really looking forward to it. Several are helping the chefs when they visit us which will be great experience and if the cookery schools are successful, we'd look to bring more leading chefs to the area to perform master classes.”
He adds that the Hotel School is also staging a two-day schools' cooking contest between 10 local secondary schools. “The competition is hotting up and again, the event is creating lots of interest which is more good news.”
Michael Nutt drew particular attention to that most British of traditions - the Sunday roast. Many restaurants are offering special Norfolk roast lunches (Morston Hall in north Norfolk and the Ivory Restaurant at the Assembly House among them) while Stephen Wright from Sycamore Farm at Hempnall, near Long Stratton, is on hand to offer tips for producing the perfect roast at home.
Meanwhile, one of the wackiest events planned is on National Apple Day, Friday, October 21. In a bid to underline the healthy eating message, 5000 apples, all courtesy of the Apple and Pear People of Hoveton, are being given away around the city.
Those seeking more information about the festival should check out the website at www.visitnorwich.co.uk or call the Tourist Information hotline on 01603 727927.
With something to suit all tastes in festival programme, Sarah Hardy makes her selection...
t The Moveable Feast: This popular event on Tuesday October 18 sees people buying a ticket to enjoy a three course meal at three separate restaurants in the city. The catch being that you don't know which restaurant you will be allocated until the actual night! There are 24 restaurants taking part, ranging from Delia's Brasserie to the new Elm Hill Brasserie to Tatlers, the Hong Kong restaurant and the Unthank Arms. Those taking part meet for a drink at one of 10 city centre bars before enjoying their mystery tour which ends with a party at St Andrew's Hall at 10pm. Tickets are £28 per head.
t Beer and bangers: Norfolk's oldest established brewery, Woodforde's, is offering special prices on its real ales - many of which have a Nelson name - and has worked with champion sausage maker Bryan Pickering to produce the Trafalgar banger, made with Admiral Ale.
t Master class: Leading chef Anton Edelmann comes to the Norwich Hotel School on Saturday October 15, from 10-4pm. His cookery school includes a three hour demonstration; 45 places are available at £65 each. Call 01603 773227.
t Cooking up a treat: Head to the Forum on Saturday October 15 and Sunday October 16 for two days of food demos and tasting. On Saturday, four leading figures in the area's cookery world are hosting several demonstrations throughout the day. They include Richard Hughes of the Lavender House at Brundall, Chris Busby of Brasteds near Norwich and Caroline Seaman of the Five A Day organisation which encourages people to eat more fruit and veg every day On Sunday October 16 and also on Sunday October 23, a farmers' market will also be held where some of the best local produce in the region will be on sale.
t On the grapevine: Tas Valley Vineyard, based in the beautiful Tas Valley just south of Norwich, is staging a wine tasting on Friday October 14 and Saturday October 15 at the Forum. It's the chance to try some Norfolk wines and you'll be pleasantly surprised at their quality. The event runs from 10am to 5pm and is free.
t Home-produced: The Assembly House in Norwich is staging a daily (except Saturdays) food festival in the grand hall, with displays from local producers. Produced in Norfolk is a not-for-profit producers' cooperative founded this year and made possible by funding from Defra.
t From Farm to Table: Discover more about the wide range of careers available in the food industry at this Forum event. The two-day event, which starts on Wednesday October 19, has experts on hand to offer plenty of practical advice. Drop in and find out more.
t Simply deli-cious!: From October 15 for a week, you can taste local goodies in the basement deli at Jarrold's city centre department store. Traditional Norfolk dishes will also be served in the third floor restaurant while food and cookery demonstrations are also planned in the basement.
t Catch of the day: Here in Norfolk we love seafood and a cookery demonstration is being held at the Forum on Friday, October 14 using fish from the popular Norwich fishmonger, Snellings. The event runs from 10am to 5pm and is free.
t Michelin star pupil: Tom Aikens, a two Michelin Star chef, is returning to his roots by hosting his own cookery school at the Hotel School on Saturday, October 22. Tom now runs his own signature restaurant in Chelsea. The event, which runs from 10am to 4pm, costs £65 and includes a three-hour workshop. There are 45 places available. Call 01603 773227.
t Toast to the fish finger: On Friday, October 14, 50 years of the fish finger - a most British of dishes - is celebrated with a gourmet seven-course meal in the new Norwich boutique hotel. St Giles House on St Giles' Street. Tickets are £35, call 01953 423045.
t Salutes to Nelson: To mark the 200th anniversary of the Battle of Trafalgar, several leading venues are staging Trafalgar Dinners on Friday, October 21. These include the Belgian Monk on Pottergate, the Fur and Feather at Woodbastwick and the Nelson Hotel in Norwich.
t Mussel power: Throughout the festival, the Belgian Monk in Pottergate is serving up delicious mussels, with complimentary tastings of Tio Pepe, too.