Posts Tagged ‘local food’

Usk Farmers Market

06 Jun

I’ve heard too many tales of markets that are still struggling despite the huge amount of funding that has gone into farmers markets, farm shops and box schemes. The main complaints from traders are that the markets are not promoted well enough, occasionally poor stands are allowed in and then the people are not spending as much. Well in all fairness, market organisers cannot be blamed for people not spending but it’s down to traders to tempt them with samples and background about their product, and special offers and recipe ideas often stir more interest. Maybe if customers were able to forward order from traders so their order was ready for them to collect on market day, would be an incentive too. 

Anyway I’m digressing – so back to Usk market, which is one I had never been to, but I thought I would check out what Steve Shearman was doing with his markets under Farmers Markets in Wales’s banner. It was rather late when I got there with only one hours trading still to go, but it was encouraging to see both inside and outside stands and plenty of people about. There was a wonderful array of stands including: coffee, meat, olives, cheese, jams, chutneys, cakes, veg, sauces, beer, apple juice, Welsh cakes, with plenty of samples to get those taste buds flowing. There was a lovely friendly feel around the market which made it really worth the long drive from Ceredigion. I was delighted too to see a fish stall there too, fish is quite a rarity at markets these days and the fisherman was so helpful in giving ways to cook the various fish he had for sale. What I didn’t expect to find, but was an added bonus, was a lovely café area at the side of the Memorial Hall, a ideal place to catch up with friends and have a gossip.

I did struggle to find where the market was, only seeing one sign as I came into Usk, but apparently the guy charged with doing that job wasn’t able to do it that day!!! The other slight niggle was a couple of stands that left early. I don’t accept that if they have sold up they can up sticks and leave, I think they should still stay there and explain to people who they are and what they do and remember next time to take more stock…………

Congratulations to Steve and all the traders at Usk for a super market which hopefully others can learn from!


West Wales Food Festival

16 May

National Botanical Gardens, NBG, was the venue and as I opted out last year, I made a point of visiting yesterday. My first stop was for a welcome cup of coffee at the café by the entrance. Not a good start as it took 20 minutes to get served and the lady in charge of the coffee machine couldn’t supply a mocha coffee as it wasn’t on her list. The fact that she was so slow producing coffees didn’t help either. She was obviously feeling under pressure, but that was no excuse for her sharpness with customers – many of them elderly – it’s hardly a great welcome to the NBG. But what really upset me, was seeing one of those elderly lady’s purchase a piece of pottery for £10.00, she paid at the counter and neither of the two assistants could be bothered to offer her a bag, let alone wrap her purchase in tissue paper. Thankfully someone stepped in before I had to and she was then offered a bag. Let’s just leave that scenario with further training needed and memo to all staff, that without customers you will not have a job unless ‘someone’ finds further funding to keep you going!!! 

I’d picked up a programme in the entrance hall and listened to people muttering about having to pay £8.50 each to visit the food fair. I too couldn’t believe it, as last year I was told it entrance was free. Why was this changed and why weren’t the traders told of this before NBG took their money? £17.00 for a couple to come in to a food festival is not on! I don’t accept that people can also view the gardens; the fact is if they just wish to attend and support the food festival then entrance should be free. My suggestion is that NBG make entrance free and use the opportunity to recruit members or they let traders attend for free. I talked to a few traders who had no idea people were being charged and horrified when told how much. They were understandably upset about the poor attendance and blamed NBG for a lack of marketing & advertising and unfairness in not telling them that visitors this year were being charged – it’s quite simply not fair.

I talked to a trader who was outside the main food marquee and doing hot food, he’d asked how many outside caterers there were going to be and was told the same as last year. Fair enough if that was true but it wasn’t and the entrance fee also hit sales. Traders understand in this climate that sales will be down but looking at 10-15% but this company was down 70% on last year and NBG must take on board a lot of that responsibility. The hot food people also felt out of things as they were sited at the back and there were just not enough tables and chairs for the public to use and eat their produce or just have a coffee from Preseli coffee – which was superb, entrance café please take notes!!! You must also bear in mind that as well as the entrance café, there’s also NBG food in the Glass House as well as the NBG’s restaurant – the restaurant had a full page advert in the free programme, but the food traders only warranted a half page note in the programme as did the craft people. There wasn’t a list of which food producers were attending either so I think that appears to show how much value NBG seem to put on the food producers, which is really not a lot. From an outsider’s point of view the focus seemed to be on the activity/cookery demo programme which took up three pages of the programme and was certainly very busy with lots for the children too.

My timing was good enough to catch Steve Terry in action and I’ve not seen him working since I was invited to judge on Great British Menu TV programme and had to visit his restaurant The Hardwicke, Abergavenny. Well I do get some tough jobs, dear reader, but they have to be done!!! Steve continues to be one of Wales’ most talented chefs. He had a great way with the audience and really got them involved. My only gripe would be that I’d have loved to see him and all chefs at demos – use the food from the producers that are attending. In fairness Steve did mention quite a few local companies he used and why he used them – but there are still lots more to do on this side. Steve was followed by chef Gareth Johns another star in the Welsh Culinary Crown. I’d love to have seen in the programme a brief CV on the chefs as well.

The craft people who were positioned in the Glass House were playing the tradestanders game of ‘spot-the-punter’. There was hardly anyone there when I went around, but having said that, and I know it’s not easy to do, it does help if traders try not to give the impression they are bored and at least acknowledged the visitors that were there, and a smile and hello is always a good start.

We’d emailed through to NBG on Thursday asking for a list of food producers attending but sad to say our email was deleted and of course we didn’t get our list – so that’s not a helpful attitude, seems to sum up a lot of what is happening at NBG.

End Of Event Report:

Must try harder & must do better. Communicate with your tradestanders and tell them the truth.


WAG Supported Food Festivals

03 May

We are now into May, but still without a list from WAG. Welds Assembly Government, of festivals they are supporting this year. I’m getting thoroughly fed-up of telling people, whether they are producers, foodies or our readers that we still have no news and the reason why we haven’t this information. This scenario is out of our control. If WAG has any other sensible reason, apart from the excuse of the election, why they have not published this list, they are keeping it to themselves. I don’t think anyone would disagree that this situation is, to say the least, unhelpful.

Maybe by 6th May WAG will send me this list through…………………………………

The July/ August issue of Welsh Country magazine is already planned, so it’s more likely that we’ll run the WAG food festival list on our welshcountry website, or on www.welshfoodbites.


Glorious Gorseinon Festival

18 Apr

Saturday 16th April saw Gorseinon celebrate its second food festival in great style. The organiser’s wishes for sunny weather were granted and the festival was very busy when I arrive mid-morning.

Last year they had about 25 food stalls and around 4,000 visitors through the gate. This year, word had spread about this great event and some traders sadly had to be turned away as there was no way they could fit any more stands in.

With plenty of True Taste Winners there, it meant that the Welsh Assembly Government, WAG, did support this event with some much-needed funding. I still believe that WAG should let the organsiers know much earlier about funding, they simply don’t need the extra financial pressure when they have so much to plan and sort out.  

Regular readers of welshfoodbites and Welsh Country magazine will know how much I like to see tables and chairs available for visitors to sit down have a drink, food and ice-creams in comfort. Well Gorseinon did a great job on this one, making good use of the centre of their large marquee. Plenty of families took advantage of the sunshine to move outside and picnic on the grass. Maybe some table and chairs out there too might be an idea for next year, but appreciate that often there’s no money left to hire these in. 

Although the cost of hiring the True Taste mobile kitchen was not acceptable, it did not deter the organising team who sorted out their own kitchen and got local cooks and chefs to show off their skills. There was also plenty of entertainment to keep the children happy – which is always a huge bonus.

We had lots of our Best Of Welsh & Borders, BOW producers there and I’m safest not giving any name checks in case I leave anyone out! I find it really useful being able to have a quick word with our BOW as I do get a true impression of what the event is like from their side. It’s so important that organisers get feed-back from these guys and really listen to it, because without them we’d have no festivals. So the general feeling was a real positive for busy, one day festivals, rather than a two-day one when Sunday is often too quiet to keep treaders smiling!  This makes sense and again it’s something organisers need to address if they’re planning a two-day festival. The other concern I pondered on, was as 2010 was so busy and successful, it was understandable that the Gorseinon organisational team wanted this year to be even bigger and better, well they certainly seemed to achieve that. I’m still waiting to hear news from the traders after they have cashed up and compared to last year, bearing in mind that visitors don’t bring any extra money with them because the festival is larger, so it’s vital that if stand numbers are increased visitor numbers must increase considerably too – let’s hope that happened. 

So my congratulations to the friendly and enthusiastic organisers, who put in an enormous amount of work. They were all volunteers and put on a really good event. The variety and quality of food and craft stands was impressive.

I didn’t see anyone from WAG in attendance to see how their funding was spent, but I approved and my verdict is keep up the good work and I look forward to seeing you again next year. WAG owes your team a big thank-you too for showcasing so well the best of Welsh food.


The Shed & The Stackpole Inn – Super Food And Super Service

04 Apr

What a pleasure it was over last two weeks to visit The Shed at Porthgain and The Stackpole Inn, nr Pembroke, both  in the delightful county of Pembrokeshire.

We called on both places without booking, just wanting a lunch-time snack. The Shed impressed us with fantastic, well-presented crab sandwiches, the flavour of which was amazing. Then at  The Stackpole Inn we were tempted with  Gravalax, something we’d not had for years and what a good choice we made. We were lucky with the weather too and could take advantage of sitting in their gorgeous garden to eat and relax.

The quality of food, with a great selection of local food too, was impressive in both eateries. But it is never just the food for me, it has to be service too and the friendliness and helpfulness of the staff in both establishments was brilliant. Both venues served us lunches that were delicious and the experiences couldn’t be faulted , which is just what you want, isn’t it? 

These two places are most certainly on my list to visit again and also to recommend, something which I don’t do lightly!!! I look forward to adding other venues to welshfoodbites under ‘places with super food and super service’.


Where Is WAG’s Food Festival Listing?

29 Mar

The Welsh Assembly Government, (WAG) Food Press Office promised me a listing of the festivals they were supporting this year around the end of March. On 28th March I’d not received the listing, so I asked again. To then be informed that:

‘food festivals, organisers will be told direct and WAG will not be making any announcements because we will be in the pre-election period. Further information about the process is available on the True Taste website’.

I understood that the pre-election period doesn’t start until 1st April, but on checking with Cardiff I was told offical closure date is Wednesday 30th March. The Press Office had already promised me this information when we all knew the date of the election, so why can’t they release this promised information to me? I went back to the Press Office with these questions, but was informed I wouldn’t get any further answers because:

‘The press office is not prepared to get involved in a lengthy discussion which you will inevitably then blog’.

Well that wasn’t helpful was it? 

Food festivals and what is happening with them this year, has been the most talked-about topic. From phone calls into our office, emails and face-to-face chats when we are at a food event, it has been constant. You can see for yourself how much discussion the posts about food festivals have generated on welshfoodbites.  

I’m still getting Press Releases from various departments in the Welsh Assembly Government, (WAG), so it appears to me that WAG Food either have the luxury of making their own decisions, or simply don’t want our producers and readers to know what is happening with food festivals this year. What do you think?


Festivals Still In A State Of Flux

22 Mar

I’ve been told by WAG Food that I’ll receive a list of the festivals they’re supporting this year ‘around the end of March’. So I’ve assumed this means, not only will I get their list shortly, but it will be for the food festivals that they are giving funding to.

Well, I’ve just been chatting to a food festival organiser who is intending to run year, but has been told by WAG that their application doesn’t have to get to them until April. This is puzzling isn’t it? When I do get WAG’s festival list, but I’m not holding my breath here, it can’t be a list of WAG funded festivals can it? Or will WAG be producing their list, even though they haven’t seen any paperwork from the organisers? So is this massive amount of paperwork the organisers have to complete a total irrelevance? Or will WAG be plucking festival names out of the air that they wish to support? Or does it mean that WAG will support any festival this year that they’ve supported in the past? 

I’m sorry to pose questions, questions and yet more questions,but if anyone hasn’t read past postings and thinks the simple solution is to ‘talk’ to WAG’s Press Office, well sorry I can’t do that as the Press Office will not answer questions for welshfoodbites!!     

I wonder if the larger festivals, which stand a better chance of getting sponsorship are going to receive lower amounts this year, as WAG ideally wants festivals to be self-funding, or will they still continue to get the largest slices of the WAG cake? I’m struggling to understand how the food festival funding system is going to work this year, but as we are only Welsh media with a passion for Welsh food, wouldn’t it have been brilliant if WAG could keep us in the loop? Communication is really the key.          

I’ve also heard that Pembrokeshire Potato Festival, which was always a small, but jolly event, is not going ahead this year due to lack of funding. Instead they’ll be running an extended farmers market.

Please email any festival news or queries through to me, or if you just wish to add your comments, I’ll be interested in knowing your views.


Cowbridge Food and Drink Festival

10 Mar

This is one of the festivals I really enjoy going to and this year it will be held on 29th & 30th October. Now in its eighth year, this festival has literally gone from strength to strength and it certainly one of the success stories of the food circuit.
Based in the Vale of Glamorgan, last year Cowbridge deservedly won the National Tourism Award 2010 for the Best Event (Community).
Cowbridge take around 80 stands and that includes a designated cooking area and a designated Cheese and Wine Marquee. There are also cooking demonstrations, tutored drink tastings, children’s activities, workshops as well as street entertainers. Literally there is something for everyone and the whole town make a huge effort to get into the carnival atmosphere that this festival creates. Such has been the success at Cowbridge that they are now in a position where already they are inundated with requests for stands. So they have decided that their objectives are still to offer the best produce from as locally as possible to enable them to reduce their carbon footprint and provide a platform for what Wales has to offer. They are not going to exclude exhibitors from further afield, where this enables them to broaden the spectrum of products and exhibitors from outside Wales will still be welcomed.
So those of you interested in applying for stands are asked to complete an ‘Expressions of Interest’ form which must be completed and returned by 15th April. A priority list will be compiled and selected exhibitors will then be contacted. Invoices for the fee, which is payable in two parts which are due May and August. In May, a non refundable deposit of £50, secures your space and then the balance of £110 must be paid in August.
I’m pleased Cowbridge have not altered their objectives and still wish to offer the best produce from as locally as possible, no-one can disagree with reducing their carbon footprint, whilst providing an important platform to sell and display our wonderful Welsh produce. I have been assured that exhibitors from further afield will not be excluded if this enables a broader spectrum of products.

It will be interesting to see how this new system works, I think it seems fair, but then I’m not applying for a space!!! My suggestion would be to make a clear and concise application and ‘sell yourself’ to Cowbridge and make sure you tell them your USP. As always please let me know how you get on with your application. I’m sure that if you’re lucky enough to be selected that you will have an excellent festival.


Our Rankings Continue To Rise – Thanks To You!

08 Mar

I am totally amazed at the figures we are achieving – see below. I must say a huge thank-you for all your support, interest and of course your feedback. The site is what you asked for and it seems by these rising figures, you were totally right.

I shall forgive the cheeky producer on Saturday in Saundersfoot, who shall remain nameless, but who said our figures were rising only because Wag has got me under permanent surveillance! Well if that’s true, Wag must have an awful lot of staff who are actually doing very little other work. Perhaps their time would be better spent by attending to their own two sites instead.  

Ranking @ 8/3/11: welshfoodbites was 458,237 as compared to at 1,993,253 and walesthetruetaste at 1,724,516 

(Source Alexa taken over a 3 month period)


Swansea Food Festival Feedback

07 Mar

I had a chat with a producer who gave me some feedback on the Swansea festival which took place on Saturday 26th February. It was held in the centre of town but only attracted 20 food stands which I thought was very low until I learn that the stand price was nearly £200.00 for one day. I have no idea how we get organisers to understand that to pay up front such a huge fee for a single day is too big a gamble for many traders and only the start their overheads.  They’ve to make and organise their produce, sort out life at home, load up their transport, drive there, set-up, try to sell, break down, load up, drive home, unload, cash-up, do paper work ……….the list goes on and on.   

Organisers really do have to have a re-think. It’s will only be the popular ones like Abergavenny, Ludlow and Conwy that will have the luxury of cherry-picking traders, whilst others I fear will struggle to attract stands and simply disappear from our Welsh food scene.