twice a year, every year, for the last four or five years, i've been lucky enough to be invited to the taste of london as press. twice a year, every year, for how ever many years in a row i've been, i've had a really great time, discovered some great brands, and had fun cooking in the aeg live kitchen, learning new skills that i've gone on to use in my everyday life. until now. this year, while i was still very grateful to be invited along to do all those things as per normal, i was sort of left.. wanting more.
we were promised a "thirty minute christmas dinner" by dalesford's owner chef steve brown, but what we made was a french bread dessert with caramelised pears and cocao sauce, which by all accounts was pretty horrible. the cocao sauce was bitter and flavourless, and the panettone bread that we used to make the french toast was left a bit soggy from the amount of egg and milk that it was drunk in before frying it off on the induction hob (that kept turning itself off). the peaches were the only redeeming feature, and there weren't enough of them. i'm not sure where the christmas dinner came into it, but i was looking forward to it. that was disappointment number one.
disappointment two came in the form of the restaurants on show. usually, there are loads. usually, there are more layers and layers of restaurants gagging to show off their menus, and get new customers through their doors. this time around, i saw one new restaurant - marco wearing's treadwell, which didn't really interest us, so we decided on a tried and tested mole taco bar, which never fails to deliver on flavour (although i wasn't sold on the fresh roe that were on the fish tacos this year; the short rib empanadas were deeeelish though!). plus: who doesn't love a floral skull to photograph while you're waiting for your food?
we ate, we wandered the food stalls, and we decided to leave after not being blown away by anything. in fact, i was really annoyed by how many "known brands" were showing this year, when traditionally, taste is supposed to be for the underdogs. for new brands, for local traders looking to promote to a new audience, and for the brands who just can't get a foot on the ladder. i was really starting to wonder what the point of the festival had become, when we stumbled across long flint. produced in north london, these are a range of hand-crafted and ready-to-drink cocktails, made from all natural and organic ingredients. packaged in beer bottles. because: awesome. owner james was on had to talk us through the process and how he came to be at taste, and for the first time that night, i was glad to be at the festival that used to be bursting with brands like this. (i have a few samples i'll share another time).
on james' recommendation, we headed over to see the soffle's pitta chip stand. like regular chips, but healthy, soffle's takes all the baddies out of your favourite meal-deal snack, and replaces it with tasty and all natural ingredients, and a touch of love. and also flavoured hummus. like, beetroot and ginger flavoured hummus. that i can't waaaait to eat! we chatted with the soffles team for a bit longer, before deciding to hit up the craft beer trail before heading out. it was there - on vicky's recommendation, that we discovered gipsy hill brewing.
not a new brand per say, but one close to home (literally), and one i really, really like the marketing of. for me, that's half the battle; make your packaging eye catching or interesting, and i will buy it. fact! we chatted with the lads from gipsy hill a little too long, but certainly got the party started as by the time we were asked to leave (kicking out time), a small party had formed around the stall. i'm going to chalk that up to how much fun we were having with mike and the other guys in the stall.
so, i'd say i felt redeemed by the time we left. while it was a slow start, and the "known brands" definitely outweighed the unknown ones, those we did discover were really awesome, and made up for it. i can't wait to share more with you, once i've tried and tested all my samples, so keep your eyes peeled for that!