Sing it, “it’s the most wonderful tiiiiime of the year”! Eat Cambridge, a festival of local food and drink, made a welcome return after skipping 2017. Organised by Heidi White, the Main Event took place at The Guildhall on 19 May 2018 and kicked off two weeks of fantastic fringe events.
There were 40+ stallholders over two halls and 9 talks took place throughout the day in the Council Chamber. It was a full day of foodie fun and there was an excellent turnout despite sharing the date with the royal wedding.
I spent the day helping out so I was only able to briefly visit some of the stalls but I sent Paulo around with a shopping list! The photo below shows some of the products from our impressive haul. Yes, that is a 3-litre box of Pinkster gin!
Paulo also picked up a few things here and there for me to nibble on for lunch. I may have eaten all of the empanadas from La Latina Bustaurante – they were so good!
I offered to help out Alison Lusis of Ali’s Baltic Bakes who made her big comeback at Eat Cambridge, after having to take a break from making her delicious Pīrāgi, Latvian little yeast dough pies.
Romano’s Paella Masterclass, a fringe event for Eat Cambridge, took place on 24 May 2018 at the newly refurbished Black Horse café/pub in Dry Drayton. It was a great paella party! Our fun group learned to make this typical Spanish dish with Paola Davies-Romano, a fantastic teacher with an extensive culinary background. During the interactive class, we all helped out in the cooking of two big Valencian paellas, then enjoyed eating our delicious creation.
The Black Horse, run by Amanda and Colin O’Neill, was the perfect place for the event. The class was set up in the function room and the bar stocked a variety of drinks for participants to purchase, including a white wine from Spain (Torres Viña Sol 2017) just for the occasion. Amanda even made a Spanish orange and almond cake. The cosy pub atmosphere added to the success of the event and the group got to know each other over nibbles (provided by Romano’s) and drinks.
I helped out in the planning and promotion of the event and I assisted on the night. However, Paola had all the equipment and ingredients organised and it was easy to set up the room, with the cooking area at the front and tables for eating at the back. It was a big group so there were two paella stations. It was like being on a cookery show!
Paola, with decades of teaching experience, is a natural speaker and soon put the class at ease. No tedious talks. She gave tips and tricks to making good paella, a recipe handed down by her Spanish mum.
Cambridge’s local food and drink scene was celebrated with another successful Eat Cambridge festival, organised by Heidi White with the help of her team of volunteers. The Main Event kicked off at the Corn Exchange on 7 May 2016, leading the way to a series of fantastic fringe events over a two-week period. Eat Cambridge is a foodie’s dream and I tried to attend as many events as I could.
I started off by volunteering at The Main Event. Heidi put a lot of work into organising Eat Cambridge and I thought the best way I could show my support was to volunteer and help out that day. There were about 40 stallholders, all local independents, showcasing their fabulous food and drink products.
Sunday Best, a fringe event for Eat Cambridge, took place on 22 May, 2016 at Church of St Cyriac and St Julitta, a historic church no longer used for regular worship. When the creative minds of organisers Alex Ruczaj and Vicky Fenton of My Little Festival met with talented chef Jay Scrimshaw of Guerrilla Kitchen, the result was a superbly organised event featuring a sumptuous three-course Sunday Lunch in a stunning, communal setting. Plus, the energetic Taffeta Scrimshaw, a fantastic team of helpers and an impressive selection of drinks from revamped horsebox The Spirited Mare all contributed to making Sunday Best a real feasting extravaganza!
Photo courtesy of Guerrilla Kitchen
While lunch was being prepared for this family friendly event, people were seated on bales of hay or spread out on the lawn outside the church, reading the Sunday papers, playing board games or just chilling out with a drink. The Spirited Mare was on hand with a menu featuring Prosecco on tap (frizzante, to be precise), Gin & Tonic, Bloody Mary (including Kimchi Bloody Mary), Aperol Spritz, Ginger & Lemongrass, Brewdog beers, soft drinks and wine (white, red and rosé).
On 14 May 2016, Cambridge Eat Up! (exclamation mark intended) held its first ever Pot Luck Lunch, a fringe event for Eat Cambridge. The lovely and talented Karen Harvey had the foresight to create the Cambridge Eat Up! group on Facebook (you can read about its origins in her blog post here) and it has grown organically since then. It’s become a great virtual “meeting point” for food enthusiasts of all types (not just bloggers) to share good foodie news and plan get-togethers.
Photo by Karen Harvey
Photo by Lisa Durbin
So when Eat Cambridge organiser Heidi White thought the group would be ideal for a fringe event, Karen and I jumped at the chance to create something. In the spirit of Cambridge Eat Up!, we wanted to hold an event that reflected foodies coming together, sharing and supporting each other. The result was a Pot Luck Lunch where everyone would bring a dish and we would gather around a table in an informal setting to enjoy each other’s company and good food/drink. We planned this back in December and the next thing we knew, the application was submitted, the entry fee paid (courtesy of Paulo at P A Safety Management Limited) and my home was confirmed as the location. Everyone jumped at the chance to be included and the places filled up very quickly, as soon as the Eat Cambridge programme was released. I even increased the numbers from 15 to 20 but there was still a long waiting list. However, this indicated that the pot luck format appealed to a great number of people, so the group is discussing hosting more of them.
Only in its third year, this food and drink festival has already become one of Cambridge’s best foodie events.
The aim of Eat Cambridge is to showcase independents that can produce, source or make their products easily available in Cambridgeshire. It’s a great way to discover our local producers, restaurants, cafes and farms.
Strictly not-for-profit, Eat Cambridge is organised by Heidi White and Sian Townsend, with the invaluable help of their team of volunteers. Heidi and the volunteers all worked really hard to make the day run smoothly. (Sian is expecting a baby any minute now so she wasn’t able to attend). As last year, the Corn Exchange was a fabulous venue to hold all the stalls and there were lots of rooms available for the various talks and pop-ups.
Grub Club Cambridge is run by Vhari Russell (The Food Marketing Expert, providing marketing and retailing support for food and drink businesses) and Kelly Molson (Rubber Cheese, a design agency working with the food, drink and hospitality sectors). It is a networking club based in Cambridge for food and drink professionals and their aim is to put producers, retailers, buyers and businesses together in order to build relationships. And they do it at some mighty fine places. As the Producers’ Dinner was part of Eat Cambridge, it was open to anyone with an interest in good food and drink who wanted to feast on Fitzbillies’ tantalising menu.
Photo courtesy of Vhari Russell
The event was very well attended. Fitzbillies had a full house with three very long tables all occupied by fellow food and drink enthusiasts.
Those of you familiar with the best of the Cambridge street food scene already know Steak & Honour and Jack’s Gelato. They formed a dining collective and named it Over The Tracks, a nod to the location of their Cambridge HQ tucked away in a winding industrial estate, just past the train tracks.
Leo Riethoff and David Underwood of Steak & Honour and Jack van Praag of Jack’s Gelato don’t just flip burgers and scoop ice cream. They are proper chefs who expertly create their menus and have worked in some of the best professional kitchens. Over The Tracks is their opportunity to expand their culinary offerings, and in Jack’s case, show what he can do away from the churn.
“Over The Tracks is quality, seasonal and local cooking in an informal and communal setting. With OTT, the guys are taking their product off the street and placing it in another context.” (Eat Cambridge Official Website)
This well organised fringe event for Eat Cambridge, held on 20 May 2015, was beautifully set up inside and outside the industrial unit. The bar was housed inside, along with several large communal tables and charming mismatched chairs. The minimalist décor and ambience worked well in the overall context. The chilled out sounds of instrumental hip hop music added to the urban atmosphere.
Cambridge is fortunate to have foodPark, a collective of top quality local street food traders. The brainchild of Heidi White, foodPark has a solid presence in Cambridge for its regular lunchtime markets. Occasionally pop-up events are organised, such as the foodPark NIGHT MARKET, where the best of Cambridge street food and drink is the main attraction. Heidi has embraced the street food movement and works to remain true to its ethos of sourcing traders who provide high quality, artisan food and care about provenance. It’s not about flogging mass-produced food with cheap ingredients.
“foodPark is a collective of street food traders, formed and operated as a not-primarily-for-profit organisation which promotes local, independent street food in Cambridge. We select traders based on strict quality criteria. foodPark was founded and is organised by Heidi White – just one local person with a huge passion for street food and experience in business, events, and marketing”. (Official Website)
Therefore, it’s no wonder foodPark NIGHT MARKET has been increasing in popularity. The last one took place on Valentine’s night at Burwash Manor and proved to be massively popular. (I raved all about it here). The much-anticipated second instalment of this pop-up night market was held on 9 May, 2015 at Gravel Hill Farm at the North West Cambridge Development, as part of Eat Cambridge’s fringe events. The venue was spacious and could accommodate a greater number of people.
The event was very well organised. Based on the popularity of the previous night market, this time it was a ticket-only event to ensure everyone could get in. It sold out very quickly so I was glad I got my ticket nice and early! People arrived in droves by foot, bus, taxi, bicycles and cars (we found parking on nearby streets and those cycling in had lots of space to store their bikes on site). The queue started before the opening time of 5pm. The anticipation was building!
Siesta Fiesta, the Spanish-themed festival of food, drink and entertainment, was held on 18 May, 2014 on the beautiful grounds and gardens of Childerley Hall. This official fringe event for Eat Cambridge 2014 was a huge success. In partnership with Cambridge Wine Merchants, the event was extremely well organised and even provided a complimentary shuttle service from Cambridge to ensure everyone could attend (via Airport Lynx).