Local food festivals here in North Wales do bizarrely seem to happen during he Autumn months when the weather is at its most unpredictable. The first day of the 13th Anglesey Oyster festival coincided with the Ogwen produce market (where I was cooking and selling my jams and chutney). It was a wet miserable day and I wondered if it was as slow over there as it was for us in Bethesda. It didn’t look good for Sunday and I didn’t much feel like a wet trip out, but as the new day dawned, the rain miraculously disappeared. Thankfully it stayed away for most of the day but by heck was it windy!
The Anglesey Oyster festival started as a small yearly social event where island residents gathered to eat lots of oysters, drink lots of bubbly and be entertained by the best of local bands and musicians. Over the past few years though it has become much more of a general local food festival, with less emphasis on the seafood element. This year even more so since oyster stocks have become so depleted. A well documented virus has hit the oyster beds hard (which might explain why the prices were so high!….£7 for one oyster and a glass of bubbly, is it just me or is that just too expensive?)
So I managed to get myself together and popped over for a well needed day of rest and relaxation. Unfortunately with a couple of reluctant kids in tow and my camera running out of battery on arrival, it wasn’t quite the chilled afternoon I’d hoped for. But hey, I was out! I know, I could have left them behind but I knew they’d enjoy it when they got there and having a family day was rather nice. I also wanted to meet up with some of the producers with whom I do regular business to chat about the forthcoming Conwy Feast.
It’s a small festival. More of a glorified two-day produce market really, but worth a visit if you are visiting Anglesey or happen to live in the area. I think it’s just as good for kids to a point; prepare to be fleeced and probably a few quid lighter by the time you leave and don’t expect to linger so you can watch demo’s. All I heard for the first half an hour was
“Mum, can I have this…mum can we get this apple juice, you know I love it…mum I really neeeeed these peppermint creams”
and by the time I’d stated that was IT, nothing else. They became quickly bored and wanted to go to the park. I didn’t get to watch any of the food demos because of their boredom. I should have come alone!
The other problem with food festivals is the cost. They are not for those without disposable income unfortunately. It would be nice to encourage more people to enjoy local produce, but sadly prices seem to be prohibitive. It is the same at Conwy, but at least there are lots of tasting opportunities and plenty of entertainment for the £10 weekend ticket price (£7 Saturday and £6 Sunday if you just come for the day).
I continued to amble slowly, trying and acquiring as I went along. I knew most people there and am very grateful to Cynan at the Mushroom Garden for the bag of wild mushrooms (to try out in my menu for next weeks demo), Ari for the bowl of olives “just to nibble as I walk round” and Carol at Condessa for the free sample of Black Mountain, a delicious heavenly apple and blackcurrant infused brandy. I wasn’t however going to pay £7 for bubbly and one solitary oyster.
The Conwy Feast in contrast is very much a family friendly event. It is now the second largest food festival in Wales and attracts the likes of Michelin star chefs Brain Webb and Hywel Jones plus Bryn Williams and Aled Williams who have flown the flag for Wales on the GReat British Menu along with Hywel. There are kids cookery classes, various events across the town on several stages, demos, live music across three stages and this year the festival coincides with Blinc the first Welsh digital Arts Festival. It really is all going on in Conwy next weekend and I am as excited as a five-year old in a sweet shop, at being asked to cook there! Lets just hope the rain gives us a break.