Yorkshire's Independent Restaurant Guide

York Food Festival 2011

York Food Festival starts this weekend. (16th-25th September). It’s the biggest and arguably the best in the county with dozens of stands, stalls, markets, street food, demonstrations, tastings, workshops, lunches and dinners.

Parliament Street is the hub of the market with dozens of stalls selling everything from fish to fairy cakes. It’s a bit of a scrum at the two weekends of the Festival so if fighting through the crowds is the extent of your experience of the YFF, then think again. There’s so much going on – and some chaff among the wheat – that it’s worth studying the website to pick out something different.

For what it’s worth here are my tips for the week:

Parliament Street:
I do Parliament Street midweek when it’s calmer and quieter. If you are looking for a particular stall, do check the website; not everyone is there every day.

Cookery Demonstrations:
Demos take place every day in the demonstration area in St Sampson’s Square (outside Brown’s). The ones I’ll be watching:

17th September 1pm
I’m keen to see Darren Iddon, the newly appointed chef for the multi-million pound hotel at Raithwaite Hall, near Sandsend. He’ll be demonstrating fish with my man from Whitby Seafish and now  York market, Matthew Asquith.

24th September 1pm & 5pm
Rather aloofly, Betty’s have never left the hallowed portals of their York tearooms to take part in the YFF – until this year. Imagine it, demure Betty’s slumming it among the gas rings of a tented workshop but I do like the staff at Betty’s Cookery School so I’ll be along to support them.

25th September 1pm
Squidbeak readers have recommended the Green Room, Scarborough. I haven’t made it there yet so I’m keen to see chef Rob Porter demonstrating.

25th September 3pm
We like Tea Hee’s so a Cheese Tasting with Sophie Smith is just about unmissable. Annoyingly, it clashes with Sophie Jowett of Little Pretty Things and her chocolate tempering and chocolate truffle workshop that starts at 2.30pm in the Workshop Area.

Slow Food Workshops are held every day at 12.30pm in St Sampson’s Square. Well worth dropping in on.

Wine Tastings:
17th September 7.30pm
Karen Hardwick is a great wine educator: straightforward, engaging, informed and funny. Enjoy sharing platters in the Guildhall with a tutored tasting of Southern Rhone wines or her Sauternes lunch at Melton’s on 18th at 12.30pm.

Peter McKenna is another impressive wine educator. He’s doing sherry and port  tastings at Melton’s Too on 19th and 22nd at 6pm.

24th September 5pm & 7.30pm
A tutored tasting of s Grand Crus St Emilion’s at the Mansion House followed by a visit to the Guildhall Wine Fair hosted by York independent wine merchants Field and Fawcett.

Lunches & Dinners:
The Festival  lunches and dinners are some of the best events on the week’s menu from a convivial curry night to a black tie do. A big hit last year was the Grazing Café, in Parliament Street where you could pick up a plate of local produce for three quid plus a glass of Champagne, and forget going back to the office for the afternoon. I know exactly how popular this was because I was helping out behind the counter.

20th September 7.30pm
New this year is Dine at My Table in which festival goers are invited into homes to dine with a local. And there’s no finer gaff in York than the Lord Mayor’s official residence, the Mansion House. His Worshipfulness won’t actually be cooking; that will be done by chefs from the Feversham Arms at Helmsley so expect seriously good nosh.

20th September 7.30pm  
Alternatively, same time, same night, a more laid back supper in the Guildhall might be more Squidbeak’s style. The three chefs who took part in Great British Menu on BBC2, Tim Bilton, Stephanie Moon and Andrew Pern will be demonstrating their dishes at a supper followed by Q & A’s. With three such outgoing characters, it should be great fun in another stunning setting.

24th September 7.30pm

Having regularly nagged the Festival organisers to lay on something for vegetarians, I’ve spotted this four course vegetarian dinner with wines hosted by Burgundy expert Dr Gareth Morgan.

Prices, venues, booking info etc on the Festival website: www.yorkfoodfestival.com