I was in Chester for most of last week with my father, but I ensured that I was back in time for the Aberdyfi Food Festival 2018, the fourth anniversary of the event, which takes place in a field, at one time the school playing field, next to the station. It was superb! It was a grey day, with drizzle, but everyone dressed up for the weather and it was packed, with a great atmosphere. There must have been about 30 stalls. Some sold food and drink in packets and bottles to take home, whilst others were providing a wide range of consumables to eat and drink on the hoof, including paella, hog roast, pizza, oysters, Pimms, cider, beer, coffee and much more. Straw bales were scattered around to sit on, and there was a marquee where events were taking place. These included: Welsh lamb at its best / Fizz Masterclass / Something fishy! / Cocktails / Foraging and syrups.
I bought a lot of wonderful food. My two bags were stuffed to capacity.
I went slightly mad at the Mountain Road Bread Collective stall, acquiring various products for the freezer because I love artisanal bread. A seeded loaf, two types of focaccia (one of which was vegan), a pain au raisin, and a Chelsea bun made up my haul. I was lucky to get near the stall because I had passed it twice when it was three deep with customers, and I pounced in a quiet moment. The Mountain Road Bread Collective (Andy’s Bread and Rye and Roses), a member of the Real Bread Campaign.
There was so much to select from the Welsh Mangalitza and Butchery (best of show in 2016) that I was struggling to choose what to buy. In the end I chose Hungarian sausages and some black pudding, but there was so much else that tempted me. Unfortunately my freezer is stuffed to the gunwales or I might have gone mad. Husband and wife team Angela and Stuart are based in Llanddewi Brefi in the Cambrian mountain foothills, and both breed the wonderful Mangalitza pigs. The mangalitza breed is from Hungarian breed of domestic pig, the result of cross-breeding in the 19th century, with woolly coats that are ideal for Welsh winters. The pigs are free-range and all meat is butchered, processed and cured on the premises. They apparently attend Aberystwyth Farmers’ Market on a regular basis, so that’s something to look forward to. Unfortunately they don’t have a website, so there is no online ordering facility, but their Twitter page is @mynyddmawrherd and they have a Facebook page.
With a particularly happy heart I approached the Seabreeze restaurant stand and bought two slabs of hake, a bag of samphire. They have an excellent mobile stall that enables them to sell seafood out of the back of a van which had been cleverly adapted to offer a superbly designed fish counter. There was also dressed crab, glorious looking plaice, huge pieces of haddock, whole fresh mackerel and a range of other wonderful produce. Bliss. If only I had had more room in my freezer! The pop-up kitchen to its side was doing a roaring trade in paella. I have been worried about acquiring fish in the Aberdovey area since the fishmonger closed down years ago, but chatting with the lady running the stall my mind is now at rest – Seabreeze, where I’ve eaten many times, not only sells fish in Tywyn on a Saturday morning, but if you walk into their restaurant during the day you can buy fish directly from them. Happy!
I bought some pure white goats cheese from Caws Teifi Cheese from Ceredigion. It is glorious stuff – delicate but full of flavour. I was tempted to buy more cheeses, but I had come back with quite a bit of Perl Wen and Mrs Bourne’s Cheshire cheeses from my recent trip to Chester. Caws Teifi Cheese was established by Dutch owners who arrived in Wales “with dreams of organic farming . . . . using raw milk and local ingredients to make high quality artisanal cheese.” Happily they sell online.
My final purchase was apple chutney from the Mrs Pooks Kitchen tent. Again, there was a mind-boggling choice of jams, marmalades and chutneys, but I had some cold pork in the fridge that was calling out for an apple chutney, and when I put the two together it was a marriage made in heaven. They are based in Ciliau Aeron, just outside Aberaeron in Ceredigion, but I have been unable to find any online presence for them.
I tried some sparkling wine made by a Welsh vineyard called Llaethliw, and it was gorgeous but at 26 squids a bottle out of my league. In the 1990s I worked on a British wine project, and retain familiarity with a lot of the vineyard names and grape varieties to be found in Britian, and am a great enthusiast for sparkling wines, but this was new to me. They are located in Llaethliw Vineyard at the foothills of the Cambrian Mountains in Neuaddlwyd, Aberaeron in Ceredigion. Their website explains how Richard and Siw Evans bought Llaethliw in 2008 after investigating the new possibilities provided by climate change and 6500 vines were planted in 2009.
I would have loved to have tried one of the spicy Kurdish meat pasties from Kurmang Rashid’s tent, but he had sold out! Good for his bottom line, sad for my taste buds 🙂 He’s based in Blaenau Ffestiniog but as with some others mentioned on this page, no online presence is discoverable.
The leaflet advertising the event, which I actually picked up at the festival itself, has a Village Food Trail, which says that a hut has opened on the wharf to sell seafood caught in the area, which I will go and find during the week. I know most of the other businesses on the list, restaurants, pubs and shops, but seeing them all listed together makes for impressive reading.
I almost never eat breakfast or lunch but today was an exception. The Mountain Road Bread Collective’s seeded loaf was married with leftover cold shoulder pork from the Aberdyfi Butcher and the Mrs Pooks apple chutney, and I have rarely been happier! I lightly fried one of the Seabreeze’s hake fillets in butter and served it with steamed Seabreeze samphire, sautéed potatoes and a caper, lemon and butter sauce. The hake tasted super-fresh and was full of flavour. There were rather too many spuds, but hey ho! What a splendid culinary adventure, thanks to the Aberdyfi Food Festival.