Last Summer, for my birthday, my lovely husband whisked me off to Birmingham to visit the BBC Good Food Show , and we had a fabulous time. As a subscriber to BBC Good Food magazine, I am clearly a fan of cooking and I love creating something delicious for people I love, so when I heard about a brand new show, BBC Good Food Show Spring, in Harrogate, I really wanted to go.
With a bit of negotiating, we managed to wrangle a weekend babysitter, and took the chance for some grown up time in Leeds on Saturday, before heading to Harrogate on Sunday morning, to catch the final day of the show. I wasn’t entirely sure what to expect from the show (my parents had visited the Scottish show last Autumn, and were a bit disappointed as it seemed considerably smaller than my description of the NEC, but that could be down to my over-enthusiasm rather than any downfall on Scotland’s part). I realised the Harrogate venue would be considerably smaller than the NEC, having visited for a baby show as part of my old business, but my overall impression was very positive. I thought the atmosphere was great – every stall holder was so friendly, sharing knowledge and seeming genuinely interested in the customers, without being pushy or overbearing.
The show came across as being more intimate than the larger show, and the Yorkshire producers village had a greater variety of foodie products in my opinion. When we arrived, Mr and I headed to the far end of the show halls, planning to work our way back up, marking down favourite stands to return to later. The first stand that caught my eye was Mason’s Yorkshire Gin who, having seen on the exhibitor list, I already knew I was keen to visit. I enjoy a nice gin, and it’s great how different they taste. I am a bit of a gin tart, I admit, proclaiming each current bottle as my favourite, and also having been known to profess to them all (even cheap supermarket gins) being as good as each other. That’s until I taste a good gin, then it becomes clear how different they are, each having their own distinct merits. A sample of Mason’s didn’t disappoint, and it would have been rude not to buy a bottle to bring home. Next to catch our attention (well, Mr’s attention, at least) was Great Yorkshire Brewery, with their fine Yorkshire ales, swiftly followed by York Brewery, both of whom supplied us with some refreshments to be brought home and enjoyed next weekend. We chose the Centurion’s Ghost and the Elysian Spirit (distilled from the Ghost) as thank you presents for my dad for babysitting duties. He guzzled it last night, and described it as “complex, weird, strange but absolutely bloody gorgeous”. I think that means he liked it.
Further up the hall, we stumbled across Gourmet Food Boards, a selection of beautiful serving platters/chopping boards/fruit bowls/cheeseboards made from French oak wine barrels. Each one is different, and they really are stunning – handcrafted works of art, which I am promised will make my food look more enticing and appetising. We procrastinated on this one, and by the time we went back to make our purchase, the bowl we’d decided on was sold out, so we will have to wait until our order arrives in the post. Patience is a virtue, so I am told, and I am looking forward to showing off my culinary attempts in style in a few weeks time.
As it was heading towards 11am, Mr and I decided to gather our thoughts of the show so far, and head to the Interview Stage, where James Martin was appearing before a throng of adoring devotees. I can only say, from what I heard, and how he conducted himself during book signings when he was inundated with fans of a certain age and gender, he seems like a thoroughly nice chap. He really does seem to be just a normal bloke, doing what he loves, and genuinely grateful that he is successful enough to be able to afford to indulge in his cherished hobby of all things petrol-related. It was lovely to see that he wasn’t at all pretentious or self-important, and he really is just living his dream. He kindly signed my newly bought book, and was friendly despite clearly being under pressure to meet and greet as many visitors as possible.
After this short interlude, we headed off to peruse the rest of the show. There were some companies we recognised, as well as some less well-known artisan producers. I had been keeping a lookout for Tuckers Exotic Meat, but was a little disappointed to find them in the food court, selling hot food, and sadly without any packs to bring home. I’d been perusing their website and had realy fancied trying some blesbok or alpaca, but as we’d had a cooked breakfast that morning, neither Mr or I really wanted a filling lunch, so we had to pass on the unusual meats they were offering, despite the enticing aroma wafting from their corner of the hall. More demonstrations and samples of delicious cheeses, chutneys, sausages and gins followed throughout the afternoon, and we spent far too much money, although it was well worth it.
Particular favourites were Saddleworth Smelly Ha’peth blue cheese (delicious, creamy, salty and just the right amount of pungency); Yorkshire Baker mediterranean vegetable roll, red pepper and sweet chilli sausage roll and sundried tomato and feta quiche (the first for lunch, and the quiche we planned to have for tea); most of the Lancashire Smokehouse stand – we some bought kippers, a smoked fish selection (made a fabulous tea) and some interesting smoked brie, which is utterly divine!
Before a final walk around the show, it was time to visit the Supertheatre (the name of which really didn’t do the rather grandiose hall justice at all) to see James Martin in action. I love his recipes, and I’ve made quite a few from his Fast Cooking book (a present from my parents visit to Good Food Show Scotland) and love the comforting feel and more relaxed attitude he seems to have whenit comes to cooking – I just have to get over my fear of the sheer volume of cream and butter he uses to do his recipes justice! In the space of forty-five minutes in the Supertheatre, he whipped up a stuffed crown of lamb, pan-fried red mullet with teryaki risotto (both cooked in real time) and an amazingly delicious and indulgent “monkey bread” with snickers ice cream – the smell from the each dish was fantastic, even reaching up to us in the cheap seats. I absolutely have to try making the monkey bread for my boys, and I am tempted to play with different flavours too – I just hope that James won’t be offended by my messing with his recipe. I think a few raspberries in there would be divine (but then I am somewhat addicted to raspberries) maybe with some chocolate for good measure. Just a shame I don’t have the super-duper ice cream machine that he used… I’ll have to serve it up with a dollop of shop-bought vanilla, or maybe my one ingredient, oustandingly easy banana ice cream.
After the demo, we had a last look around the stands, and chatted to a few more of the, by now exhausted, stallholders, buying some sublime looking meringues for the children and a chocolate tart for my mum from The Little Round Cake Company and Merangz. Then it was time to drag our heavy bags and aching feet back to the car for the journey northwards, munching on a sausage roll in the car as we chugged up the A1.
Overall I have to say I was very impressed with the first BBC Good Food Show Spring. The stallholders, in particular the local businesses, were incredibly friendly, and were probably the main highlight. The range of produce was great, with a good amount of variety. The prices of goods was very reasonable, and although there didn’t seem as many show offers as we’d seen at the NEC, I think the prices offered were fair. The only downside, according to Mr, was a lack of whisky (which he made up for by buying beer instead).