Food Festivals are great fun and, quite rightly, big and very good news. Especially in this fabulous area in which we live, stuffed full as it is with great produce, makers and eateries. So don’t miss The Monmouthshire Food Festival on 20th to 21st May 2017 at Caldicot Castle. Monmouthshire has some outstanding producers and makers (many of which have featured in this magazine) and so The Monmouthshire Food Festival is definitely an unmissable food event. There’s a full programme of demonstrations, talks, tastings and lots of food and drink to try and buy.
The Chef’s Theatre always features many of the finest chefs from across Monmouthshire. They will showcase the finest food the county has to offer in dishes that show both flair and imagination, a positive treat for the taste buds. The Look and Learn Theatre features master classes, tutored tastings and demonstrations on a wide range of food and drinks. Meet the people who really know about the food on offer, the producers.
Bring the kids too. The Children’s Quarter will have lots of activities for our young foodies to enjoy with one or two surprises! Browse the Producers Market which will have stalls with many different products to try and buy. Come and taste beer brewed just a mile from the festival or take home locally made preserves made from foraged fruit.
This year the supported charity Guides Dogs for the Blind. Staff and dogs from the charity will be on hand offering visitors a chance to get up close to a guide dog or puppy and find out more about their vital work – and of course help out with a small donation. So don’t miss this event. A food event packed with great tasting food, top tips and help with “how to” sessions it’s going to be fab! All set in the glorious surroundings of Caldicot Castle and grounds.
How about a family picnic in the glorious Caldicot Castle Country Park with delicious food and drink from the food festival? So why not take an empty picnic basket with you and buy your picnic at the show, find yourself a great spot in the castel grounds and dine like Lords and Ladies?
We talk sourdough and all things bakery with the innovative bakery team at The Angel Bakery in Abergavenny. Unbelievably good!
Exactly one week ago I was sitting in the middle of the A40 roundabout in my stricken Landrover, holding up the juggernauts of the morning rush hour on the A40 roundabout just outside Abergavenny. Sitting helplessly waiting for a recovery vehicle when I should have been talking sourdough with the staff at The Angel Bakery, Abergavenny.
No panic though, my meeting With Jo at The Angel Hotel to see their new bakery has been temporarily put on hold and I’m thinking that today could have gone better – good coffee, the smell of fresh bread and pastries enchanting my sense of smell. Sadly, that will now have to wait for another day. So with time on my hands until the breakdown gets here it occurred to me just how well some of our local DeanWye towns and villages are doing. We’ve written before (The Pantry) about the effect that home working may be having on our previously “dormitory” villages and towns. In fact, a little like Brexit, our towns and villages seem to be bucking the UK trend of the last 30 years against all the predictions of the naysayers.
Abergavenny is a case in point. Vibrant, lively and with a significant proportion of independent shops (new rates assessments permitting) as well as well-known high street brands – the town is faring better than some of its neighbours. The Angel Hotel on the towns Cross Street is a particular beacon of this new found hope for our high streets. Stylish and trendy with well trained staff to ensure attention to detail and a top quality service, the hotel is working hard to offer visitors a quality experience in this great Welsh market town. All in all there are good reasons for confidence to be up! And so in this optimistic mood, The Angel has furthered its already impressive and ambitious plans and gone and opened a bakery across the street!
And now one week to the day since my breakdown (car), I’m standing in the bakery early morning amidst all of the buzzing, but focussed activity of the 5 staff. Baguettes and sourdoughs are already out, croissant (breakfast with an espresso) and pain au chocolat are on the counter together with, a very sexy looking, rhubarb Danish. In the clean spacious bakery engine room behind the tall plate glass which fronts onto the narrow street, dough is emerging after its 36 hour incubation to fulfil its destiny and be turned into flavourful, bread and buns with taste and great texture. My baguette (eaten at lunchtime back in the office) was crisp and strong with beautiful real bread flavour. A long bake made for a nice crispy crust, perhaps not one for the denture wearers, and the result of having had a decent amount of time to prove properly was a light open texture inside. These little cavities now swallowed more mayonnaise than is probably good for me, lashed to my cheese and tomato filling – wow, fantastic.
In the old days of the Tour de France cyclists used to slice a baguette and hollow out the centre so that it could hold even more nutritious carb fillings for the long cycle ahead. At the Angel Bakery that light airy centre is fantastic so you’ll want to keep it in and just stuff everything else in as best you can.
The bakery opened officially on 23rd December and so now, a couple of months in, and the principal bakers Sophie and Polly, have the place running like a sewing machine. It’s well equipped with the latest bakery apparatus but the work is still all about traditional hand crafting. The two ladies met whilst working at the well-known London artisan bakery, The Little Bread Pedlar. This Bermondsey based bakery tucked into several railway arches has developed an enviable reputation and you can see the DNA of the Pedlar here in the work of the two ladies at the heart of The Angel bakery. Traditional methods and proper proving, deep bakes that are all about flavour, texture and crumb all done with style and innovation.
The results are all good. And the sourdoughs are amazingly so. A good bake really brings out their natural nutty flavour and again the texture is fab, nice crusty outside and soft, firm inside with an open texture to capture a good spreading of butter or mayo. Sourdoughs are great family loaves. They taste great, obviously, but they also keep well and make the most amazing toasted soldiers for soft boiled eggs. We also tried the fig and walnut sourdough – triumph! Nutty sourdough flavour again combined with crunchy walnuts pieces and figgy goodness throughout with every now and again a little motherlode pocket of sweet hit of fig. Really, really tasty.
The steampunk coffee machine with its enormous lever handles makes great stealth espresso using home roasted coffee without uttering a sound, unless the steam jet is activated. There are a few seats in the modest customer area which, really nicely, has a view into the bakery too, so you can see the magic unfold.
The Angel Bakery with Sophie and Polly at the helm will go from strength to strength. They have a great base to work from and the quality of what’s on offer is impressive. Even if you don’t live in Abergavenny, it’s worth going to the bakery for the croissants alone!