Friday, 20th October saw movers and shakers of the Staffordshire culinary scene attend a glittering ceremony at Lichfield Cathedral to mark the NFU Mutual Taste of Staffordshire Good Food Awards 2017.
All set for a big ‘foodie’ weekend in Stone!
When the gates to Westbridge Park open at 12noon on Friday, 6th October for three days of foodie fun, visitors to the 2017 Stone Food & Drink Festival will be greeted with a new layout. Designed to accommodate the ongoing work on the new supermarket site adjacent to the event, the site will include a host of old favourites alongside some brand-new attractions for food – and drink – lovers to enjoy.
Shop – and learn…
The Gourmet Marquee will offer the chance to browse, sample and shop from over 100 artisan producers who have travelled the length and breadth of the country to showcase their wares, making it the ideal to discover food, drink and kitchen equipment of exceptional quality.
Another long-standing attraction, the Demonstration Kitchen, will feature free, live cookery demos on the hour, every hour from some of the county’s top culinary talent. This year, no less than ten chefs make up the bill – including local freelance chef Richard Cullen, recently returned from 16 months travelling the world as a chef on private yachts (Saturday, 1pm); festival stalwart Matt Davies, Executive Head Chef of The Lewis Partnership (Sunday, 1pm); Raymand-Blanc trained Chef and pork pie entrepreneur Rob Didier (Saturday, 11am & Sunday, 2pm).
Staffordshire veteran Chef Paul Gilmore will take centre stage on Saturday at 2pm, while iCookIndian’s Amarpal Harrar will perfrom twice – on Friday at 4pm and Sunday at 11am. Freelance chef Mike Hughes will draw on his vast experience to create dishes based on ingredients he gathers during a ‘Gourmet Marquee Sweep’ on Friday at 3pm and Saturday at 12 noon. Owner and founder of American craft food eatery, Richard James, will perform on Sunday at 3pm; Allan Jones of Keele Hall’s renowned The Terrace restaurant will showcase his skills on Friday at 2pm; Stafford College will be represented by Catering and Hospitality Lecturer Tom Harrison on Sunday at 12 noon; and crowds will get a flavour of Aston Marina’s new No.26 restaurant when Sous Chef Mark Rawlinson takes the stage on Saturday at 3pm.
Visitors of all ages can hone their skills in cookery masterclasses adult Indian cookery classes and cupcake decorating sessions take place on all three days - great value at £8pp and £5pp respectively. Kids, meanwhile can join in free cookery sessions on Saturday and Sunday with a host of topics to choose from.
In addition to free cookery classes, families will find plenty to keep the kids occupied on festival Saturday and Sunday in the Park Foster Care Little Foodies’ Zone. Professor Panic and his clowns in the Panic Circus Big Top put on a show that’s well worth watching with circus skills workshops between shows. There are also face painting and craft activities on offer for a small charge, and a free foodie treasure trail courtesy of Discovery Trails Staffordshire in the Gourmet Marquee. Those with very young children can take advantage of a new buggy park facility, where they can hire a sling for just £3 and ditch the buggy to make it easier to navigate the crowds.
Eat, Drink – and make merry…
It wouldn’t be a food festival without the chance to taste great food and drink. On all three days the Platt’s Garage Talks & Tastings Tent will play host to a packed programme of presentations from passionate exhibitors. Topics this year include gin, prosecco, wine and beer tastings; butchery and barista skill demonstrations; smoothie making and Indian cookery – most offering ample samples alongside entertainment.
When visitors have worked up an appetite they’ll be spoilt for choice with a host of global street food vendors plying their wares. New for 2017 is the Thyme for Tea Travelling Tearoom, which will offer a lovely spot to enjoy a cup of tea – or coffee – and a cake served on beautiful vintage china.
Drink is in equally good supply, with the traditional festival beer tent replaced this year by a ‘beer garden’ area. Staffordshire’s brilliant brewers will be out in force alongside artisan cider makers, while an elegant cocktail, gin and champagne bar will cater for those looking for something a little more sophisticated. Best of all, the beer garden enjoys a prime view of the Tinsley Garner Live Music Stage.
This year ten great bands will play everything from soul to pop and rock covers via world music. Friday’s acts include The Blarney Stone at 1.30pm and RAMP’D from 4pm. Saturday will see Cornerstone take the stage at 12 noon followed by Bella at 1.30pm; The Lack of Commitments at 3pm and Catalyst at 4pm. On Sunday The Island Boys steel band will kick start proceedings at 11am, followed by Lorraine Lionheart at 12.30pm; Stone Cold Sober(ish) at 2.30pm and The Formula at 4.30pm.
Westbridge Park is open from 12noon – 7pm on Friday 6th October and 10am – 6pm on Saturday 7th and Sunday 8th. Admission is £7pp (discount for advance online purchase) with accompanied under 16s getting in for free. For more details and to buy tickets, head to www.stonefooddrink.org.uk