25 September, 2008

Abergavenny Food Festival 2008

Sorry this post is a bit late. I've been stuck indoors with a cross and ill 3 year old - sore throat and the world's worst ulcer on her tongue which has made mealtimes a joy for everyone. Nighttimes aren't much better.


Last Saturday we headed off early on the most perfect warm autumn day to Abergavenny. Home of one of the best UK food festivals.

View of the Blorenge from the car park.

I'd never been before so didn't know what to expect. I had looked at the programme but this year none of the events particularly attracted me and anyway we've been quite busy so getting away from the husband and kids wasn't really an option. This left the town and the stalls to visit.

The whole atmosphere of the town changed. I like Abergavenny but can't pretend not to see the slightly down-at-heel nature of many of the shops and the fact that many are having a pretty hard time making a living. There also aren't that many good food shops; one decent butcher, no good fruit and veg, a newly opened deli, no good bakery and no good wet fish shop. There is a lovely Waitrose but that probably explains the lack of the others. And there's a reasonable market on Tuesdays and Fridays. But nothing really explains why Abergavenny for two days of the year in September becomes a foodie mecca. Not that it is particularly pretentious and the emphasis is on local.

On the main streets there were lots of stalls selling everything from veg to puddings to nuts to sunflowers.

In the market hall (with glorious chickens hanging from the ceiling), local stalls sold ice cream, meat, salamis made from boar and venison.

The Walnut Tree Inn had a stall here serving lunches though at the time we were there everyone was more interested in the gourmet coffee next door.

Salami stall.
Ice cream tasting

Halen Mon Stall. I bought the celery salt.

We particularly enjoyed the cheese and wine section. Lots of lovely welsh cheeses including a fantastic Caerphilly from Trethowan's Family Farm, and an amazing goat's cheese called Rachel's Old which looked like something you find at the back of the fridge, all brown and dried up and thoroughly delicious and pungent.

I'm afraid the wine was less good but then it was local. I'm have had a good white sparkling from Suffolk once but most UK wines I've tried have been a lot less interesting than continental counterparts and a lot more expensive given the taste. This was a rose from the Sugar Loaf Vineyards and lacked length and depth. We did find a fantastic pink sparkling from a French importer in the fish section - Tosti Pinot Grigio Brut Rose. At this point, Nil and I had run off and left the men with the five small girls and were quite tempted by a glass each and not returning for hours.

However, we bought lunch - spicy seafood noodles for four - and headed back to the castle for a picnic.


All in all, it was a lovely day out helped immeasurably by the weather. There were lots of stalls I'd seen before but many I hadn't. Lots to taste. Lots to look at. I bought two books - Good Things by Jane Grigson from a second hand bookshop I didn't know about in Blaenavon, and Honey from a Weed by Patience Gray from the publishers Prospect Books who deserve a post all of their own so more later.

Tom Jaine and his wife from Prospect Books

Pepper and chilli stall

I also bought cheese, wine, salami, venison sausages from the Welsh Venison Centre near us in Bwlch (a visit would be in order I think), pepper and chilli seeds and lunch.

Around the castle.

One thing I really liked which doesn't have much to do with the festival itself, was that we bumped into lots of people we know. Made me feel that we have settled here, made friends and are starting to become part of something if not locals exactly.


Hi! I'm Ruby said...

nice pics :)

Buddhist in Training said...

What a nice day you had. Thanks for the pics, those stalls do look nice. I have a soft spot for Abergavenny, but I really don't know why!!