Summer Festivals 2014: The best festivals for food and drink lovers
Featuring the Loch Fyne Food Fair, Crail Food Festival, Foodies Festival and Savour
Us Scots will use any excuse for a wee rammy, and with eating and drinking playing such a crucial part in a good knees-up, it’s little wonder some bright spark thought to combine the two. Keith Smith takes a look at five food and drink festivals to watch out for this summer.
Having championed local food and drink since 1990, the lineup again includes a number of Food from Argyll producers, like Winston Churchill Venison and Fyne Ales, plus, of course, those famed oysters. New for this year is the Whisky Connections tent, with demonstrations and talks examining the relationship between whisky and what we eat, while come the evening, Ondine’s Roy Brett oversees a Celtic Cook-off, with chefs from six competing territories vying for top prize.
Fields next to the Loch Fyne Oyster Bar, Cairndow, Sat 17 & Sun 18 May.
A weekend dedicated to the best produce Fife has to offer, with the added bonus of exploring some of the East Neuk’s crannies via the Crail Food Trail, with events taking place at various venues across the village. Activities include food art, cooking demos and a dedicated sampling area, along with a Confectionery Hall for sweetie fiends. Sunday sees the action extend to the harbour, a fitting spot to tuck into some of the crab, lobster and smoked fish from the stalls.
Various venues, Crail, Sat 14 & Sun 15 Jun.
The latest in a string of attention-grabbing events at Summerhall is this imaginative afternoon of food discovery, featuring some of Edinburgh’s foodie favourites including Edinburgh Larder, Union of Genius and the Hanging Bat. Visitors will have the opportunity to explore a ‘virtual menu’, attend a pudding banquet, and delve into the delights of Queen Margaret University’s Beer Lab, which promises an interesting journey into the world behind the beverage, all interspersed with some social history – plus a taste or two, naturally.
Summerhall, Edinburgh, Sun 15 Jun.
Back at Inverleith Park for the third year in a row, 2014’s Foodies Festival will be the biggest ever, with an abundance of additions – a real ale and cider ‘farm’, vintage tea and kitchen tent and a spicy food market complete with a daily chilli-eating contest – alongside established activities such as restaurant pop-ups, a dedicated drinks theatre and hourly cooking demos from local luminaries Craig Sandle and Mark Greenaway, plus Masterchef: The Professionals contestants Adam Handling and Scott Davies.
‘It’s about a third larger this year,’ says founder Sue Hitchen. ‘One reason is that our Street Food Avenue has more than doubled in size, from fifteen vendors to over thirty. There’s been a surge of Scots starting up street food businesses, selling everything from Vietnamese steamed buns to Argentinian steak. What’s great is that they’re using local produce to recreate the exotic dishes that they’ve discovered either on their own travels, or had passed down through the generations via the adventures of other family members.’
Another basis for the expansion is the new Ibiza chill-out area. With a driftwood beach and cocktail bar, visitors can relax Café Mambo-style, with DJs spinning tunes all day long to help create the Balearic Isles feel.
The theme of internationalism carries over to the Children’s Theatre too, with wee ones able to learn more about what people eat in Mexico, Thailand and Italy. ‘The aim’s not just to introduce them to cooking, but to get them tasting and experimenting with cuisines new to them, to try and show the variety and versatility of foods from around the world.’
All in all, it’s a fitting focus given that it was the diversity of the Edinburgh Festival that was the inspiration behind the first Foodies Festival, nine years ago. ‘With all those international flavours coming together in the capital for a month,’ explains Hitchen, ‘I felt there was a place for an outdoor food festival that reflected that, with some international flavours of its own.’
Inverleith Park, Edinburgh, Fri 8–Sun 10 Aug.
Less a festival but rather a whole series of different food and drink-related activities across Scotland aimed at showcasing both the country’s natural larder and the talents of its producers, chefs and suppliers. Last year’s effort boasted more than 300 different events, with even more planned for 2014. Expect the programme to range from the familiar – such as in-store tastings, farmers’ markets and pop-up restaurants – to the weird and wonderful, including food-themed exhibitions, forest fungi foraging days and sourdough culture exchanges.
Various venues across Scotland, Sat 6–Sun 21 Sep.