News & views | Why Bristol Food Connections isn't just another food festival

News & views

Why Bristol Food Connections isn't just another food festival

The news that Bristol was to stage its own food festival may have struck you as a bit of a yawn. After all every self-respecting city has a food festival these days, peppered with visiting celebrity chefs and food personalities.

There’s a bit of that in Bristol admittedly. After all the main instigator the BBC is understandably keen to showcase talent such as Ken Hom, Stefan Gates and the genial Tom Kerridge but that’s not the main point of the 10 day festival which kicks off on May 1st with the announcement of the BBC Food and Farming Awards. (The Beeb will also be transmitting a number of programmes from the festival including Kitchen Cabinet and the Food Programme.)

The aim of the festival is to focus on how everyone can eat better and more sociably, connecting with shops, restaurants and other food businesses and projects in their communities.

Slow Food Italy, making a rare appearance in the UK, will show the way with an ‘Ark of Taste’ food market and pop-up pizzeria on College Green the first weekend of the festival (May 3rd/4th)

There will be an extensive Bristol food trail featuring restaurants, cafés and food shops who will be offering special festival dishes and deals

The festival also coincides with the already established Eat Drink Bristol Fashion a rolling restaurant which showcases local and visiting chefs.

So what are the other highlights? Well forgive me if I flag up a couple of things I’m involved in.

Cider: a celebration of Apples, Land and Heritage where I will attempt to keep masters of the cider universe Bill Bradshaw and Pete Brown, authors of World's Best Cider, cidermaker Tom Oliver and the Bristol Cider Shop’s Peter Snowman (who is also running the West Country Cider and Sausage Festival in Southville that weekend) in some kind of order. Tickets: £12.50 including ciders selected by the panel, matching pizzas and a voucher for any of the Stable’s draught ciders afterwards at the bar. 16.45, May 2nd. The Stable on the Harbourside Sorry this event has now been cancelled. Too early for most I fear. Shame. But the West Country Cider and Sausage Festival is still on.

How to be a food writer or blogger
Part of a day of professional workshops for those who want to forge a career in food and drink. I’m on the food writing panel at 11am. There are also sessions on how to be a food stylist and photographer, how to run a food business, how to be a chef, how to be a front-of-house star and how to be the perfect bartender. All £5 except for the bar session which is £7.50 for obvious reasons. May 3rd at @Bristol.

Wine: Bristol’s illustrious place in the history of claret, sherry and port
A discussion and tasting based on the history of Bristol’s involvement in the wine trade drawing on the associations with our twinned cities (Bordeaux and Oporto) and the heritage of the sherry and madeira trade. A chance to taste some rare vintages. £27.50 5-7pm May 3rd at Avery’s Cellars

Cheese School
An overdue return of our popular Cheese School which offers cheeselovers the opportunity to meet their cheesemaker heroes, learn about different styles of cheese and how to partner them with wine and beer. As a special festival extra there will be a demo from Laura Hart of Hart's Bakery on how to make your own bread. Featuring everyone who's anyone in the cheese world including Todd Trethowan of Gorwydd Caerphilly, Charlie Westhead of Neal’s Yard Creamery, Tom Calver of Westcombe cheddar and Joe Scheider of Stichelton with Andrew Cooper of the Wild Beer Comapany and Raef Hodgson of 40 Maltby Street to provide the liquid refreshment. Tickets £35, 6pm, May 9 at Hart’s Bakery.

If I were visiting Bristol I would also want to go to:

Pete Brown’s talk on Ale & Sound: How to taste with your ears, 12.30pm Tobacco Factory Theatre Bar. £5 May 2nd

It’s a Bristol Ting community street food festival at Lakota (May 4th). Jerk chicken contest.

David Everitt-Mathias' Foraged Feast
Two Michelin-starred chef David Everitt-Mathias of Le Champignon Sauvage hardly ever comes out of his kitchen so this is a rare chance to catch him, cooking with foraged ingredients. 18.15pm May 4th £50 Long Ashton village hall

Professor Peter Barham’s talk on molecular gastronomy at the Bristol University Auditorium (May 7th). (Barham was the guy who got Heston into molecular cuisine)

Jack Monroe’s Budget Dinners - not entirely sure where - maybe the BBC hub - on the afternoon of the 10th. I’m a big fan of Jack, a blogger who writes a weekly column in the Guardian and has a really excellent cookbook A Girl called Jack.

How to make a Japanese stock with UK ingredients with The Ethicurean and the Cornish Seaweed Company 5-6pm May 10th

Mitch Tonks ‘Pullman’ pop-up at Hart’s Bakery (Saturday 10th)

But there's lots else going on. The easiest way to see what’s happening on any given day is to check out the What’s on page on the Food Connections website. And just keep your eyes peeled - I suspect there will be a loads of community-based events that haven’t made it to the official programme. Let me know if there's one that's grabbed you.

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