A Girls Day out at the BBC Good Food Show London
Comfy shoes: check. Roomy bag for lots of samples: check. Lots of layers to peel off during the day: check. All was in order and we were excited and ready for action. At Earls Court station we caught up with the swathes of like-minded foodies headed for Olympia – and it was clear it was going to be a jam-packed day. We poured out of the train at Kensington and swarmed towards the Great Hall to grab a programme and plan our attack.
The sensory overload was immediate: the bustle, colours and smells, so we pushed through the producers’ village to start our expedition from the back of hall. We were momentarily bowled over by the tables of cheeses which had previously been judged and now lay silent, boasting their medals, gold, silver or bronze. Picture a huge Gouda, speciality Cheddars, goat and sheep varieties of all shapes and sizes. I had no idea there could be so many. But no samples here, so it was off to the adjacent aisles in search of the busier stands at which to taste and try. The passion with which the exhibitors spoke of their products was so evident we stopped to chat to many of them. The Cashel Blue producers, the Gruyere, and my favourite: the Dorset Cheddar Maker who has created the world’s first vodka (Black Cow), made entirely from the by-products from the same milk of grass-grazed cows that produce their cheese – smooth!
The World of Wines experience – conveniently positioned nearby to wash down the cheese tasting – was calling. The producers were poised, bottles at the ready to pour us everything from the driest dry white to the sweetest syrupy dessert wines, flavoured with figs and toffee. I loved the hand-made McGuigan red and the Australian producers of the ‘Lovers Wines’ charming picnic-sized bottles in brightly coloured packages. We sipped exclusive Champagne from boutique producers Hoffman and Rathbone, poured from beautifully crafted black and gold designed bottles, and chatted to the Three Choirs of Gloucestershire vineyard about the rise and rise of British wines and the success of their new weddings business venture.
Moving on, we zig-zagged through the producers’ village, stopping whenever a stand caught our eye. Good Hemp Food from Barnstaple for example, where all products including the milk and cooking oil are made from environmentally friendly hemp – rich in Omega 3 and low in saturated fat. We tried Little Jack Horners handmade sausage rolls and had some native oysters from Jersey from the Rossmore Oyster – and these guys supply many high-end restaurants all over London and the South of England. We stopped to chat with the new Opal apples growers from Lincolnshire, who are distributing a new golden variety which retains its crunch. Then there was the South American Hasslachers hot chocolate jungle-decorated stand with a large vat of steaming cocoa for us to try.
A quick wander through the bakes and cakes village had us admiring the Christmas cakes, macaroons and meringues on offer, and glancing at the practical demonstrations in icing and cake decorating. We couldn’t resist entering the competition: win a day at one of the leading Cordon Bleu cookery schools, yes please! The we skipped off to the Super Theatre for the unmissable Paul Hollywood and Mary Berry experience. I thought for a moment I must have stumbled into a gig. Waiting in linefelt every inch like waiting for your favourite boy band, the crowd (predominantly women it must be said) were cheering and whistling near hysterically as soon as the duo came made their appearance. We watched in admiration as Mr Hollywood created a lamb hotpot pie, references a-plenty to soggy bottoms as he and Mary Berry joked through their act to rapturous reception from we onlookers. Mary then answered questions from the audience: “If you don’t want to use double cream in your syllabub, you’ll just have to eat fruit salad”. I sat there watching, wishing my grandma was half as cool as Mary.
Wearily but still women with a mission, we mooched through more wine sampling, olives and petits fours, not wanting to miss a single thing. We were finally halted by a sample of the new Xante liquer, pears from Belgium blended with Cognac. We were nearly at saturation point so I raised my glass to toast a fine day out with the girls. 2015 was the 25th Anniversary of BBC Good Food, a vintage year, for sure.