Archive | Review RSS feed for this section

Ben and Jerry’s Festival 2011 – Free Ice Cream Anyone??

24 Jul
Fancy a day of music, funfairs and free-ice cream? Then the Ben and Jerrys Sundee festival is for you.  Now in its 7th year, this is an event that just keeps getting better and defiantly gives you a double scoop of fun with the addition of a second venue in Heaton Park, Manchester this year.
Fun and games were had by all on the free funfair rides; perfect for the big kids amongst us.  Nothing like eating your body weight in free Ben and Jerry’s ice cream and then getting on a carousel!



Happy Little Lady
(Complete with Essex Girl Sunglasses)



Music plays all day, and this year the line up was brilliant.  Steve Cradock, Fun Loving Criminals, Ash and Ocean Colour Scene kept us entertained all afternoon and really got the crowd going.  Being a smaller festival makes it the perfect place to take children (under 5’s go free) and my little lady loved dancing around to the live music, she’s taking after her mother already!
Seeing James Buckley, who plays Jay in award winning The Inbetweeners, make an appearance on stage with Steve Craddock and then again with Ocean Colour scene was worth the entrance fee all on its own.  Turns out he’s quite the guitar player and is performing on Steve Cradock’s new solo Album Peace City West.
Alongside the music and funfair rides there was much more on offer. City Farm were on location with their cute animals, the lovely people from Dorset Cereal handing out boxes of delicious muesli, toe wrestling competitions, coconut shy, RSPCA stand, Face paining and a Pimms arena.  And as always, the Ben and Jerrys Sundae Festival was climate neutral so we could indulge guilt free in our free Fairtrade ice cream to our heart’s content.
Tickets for Ben and Jerry’s Festival normally go on sale March time – and with all of this for just £17 a ticket this year, I will most certainly be front of the queue to get tickets again for next year!

Chelmsford Beer Festival 2011

18 Jul
I love local produce, I love small producers and I love the personal touch.  Regular readers of my blog will already know I often frequent local festivals of food and drink to seek out the best of what this fine region has to offer.  The CAMRA Chelmsford beer festival is one such event that I look forward to year after year.  With over 350 real ales, 120 ciders and a large selection of local wines this year, all from independent brewery’s many from the Anglian region it fitted the bill for me perfectly.  Although At 6 months pregnant I was going to be unable to test out all the wonderful beverages on offer this year so I took along an army of willing taste testers to do my dirty work for me.



My Taste Testers
Rambo, Me, Mark and Mel

 The weather left a lot to be desired but we didn’t let it dampen out spirits.  My taste testers embraced their roles whole heartedly and were soon trying out all manner of weird and wonderful concoctions.   The bartenders were great, very knowledgeable and extremely helpful to us novices, and all volunteers.

Alongside the alcohol there were food stalls selling an array of food such as hog roast, BBQ, Thai and Italian.  For the children (and the big kids amongst us) there was also face painting and a couple of rides.
Live music was performed throughout the day; I especially enjoyed the Jazz in the beer tent.  Coldplace, a Coldplay tribute act, were the main event of the evening and they did well to get the crowd going right till the end!
All in all, despite the rain, it was a great day – and there were many sore heads the next morning as a testament to that.  I would strongly recommend a visit to a CAMRA beer festival this summer; a top day out and a good way to support small producers and CAMRA’s campaign for Real Ale. For details of up coming CAMRA events in your area visit www.camra.org.uk  

Wifes Night Off – Friendly Fires Gig, London

15 Jul
I’ve always been some what of a floozy when it comes to music, never sticking to one decade or genre to sum up my musical tastes. I have the attitude in life of try anything one (within the confines of what is legal and proper of course!) and when applied to music this mantra has always seen me right.  I’ve discovered over the years music I had beforehand written off as ‘not for me’  was actually not too bad once I’d taken a listen or seen them play live – the latest being my mum getting me into Seth Lakeman after me previously writing off folk music as something I’ll revisit when in my 40’s.
With all of this in mind I jumped at the chance of some new music experiences when the ballot for iTunes festival tickets opened earlier this year.  I applied for tickets for any nights I was free during July with crossed fingers and toes.  After numerous ‘unfortunately you have not been successful’ emails I was delighted to open my laptop up last week to see a big fat ‘congratulations’ waiting for me in my inbox.  I’d won tickets to see Friendly Fires at the Roundhouse in Camden.
At this point I must admit I had heard of Friendly Fires but wasn’t 100% sure if I knew any of their music, I had however been told they put on one hell of a show so I was all fired up for a great gig. 
I was most certainly NOT disappointed! As a venue the Roundhouse was fantastic. It was intimate yet spacious; we never had to wait longer than 5 minutes at any bar and even standing close to the back of the crowd you still felt like you were almost at the front of the stage.
The show itself was brilliant.  I knew most of the songs they played and was singing and dancing the night away.  Lead singer Ed MacFarlane is an awesome showman and turned a good show into a great one, he is worth seeing for his dancing alone, something I have since found out he is famous for. 
Me and @kittykat_j_85 enjoying the gig (sorry about the quaility – taken on phone, while dancing!!)
Thanks to Friendly Fires, iTunes and The Roundhouse Camden for such a top night, I will certainly be looking for tickets for when they return to London on their up and coming tour.
To apply for tickets for remaining date for the iTunes festival 2011 visit www.itunesfestival.com

The Wonder of Essex Food – The Essex Food Festival

13 Jul
If you are looking for the best food the UK has to offer then I’m pretty sure you could fulfil most of your desires within Essex and Suffolk.  I know I may be bias but we have so much to offer;  Tiptree Jam, Maldon Salt, Kelly Bronze Turkeys,  Essex Pigs and Mersea Oysters, Rossi’s Icecream, Adnams Ales, Marriages flour,  Aspalls Cider and Copella fruit Juices to name but a few of the more famous brands on offer.  Then there are all the local stand alone providers selling their wares at all the wonderful farmers markets these fine counties host on a daily basis.  It’s not surprising with all of these culinary delights on the doorstep that we have also given birth to some of the countries top chefs.
So when talk of an Essex Food Festival began I could barely contain my excitement and the day itself did not disappoint.  The weather was great, which is always a bonus, and when we arrived at Cressing Temple Barns the place was buzzing.  As soon we paid our very reasonable £6 entry fee we were immersed into a foodie heaven.  With so much to try, do and buy we really didn’t know where to start.  We got stuck in to sampling many of the wonderful produce on offer and even with my high views of Essex food I wasn’t disappointed.   All the exhibiters were so lovely and helpful, and they clearly all believed in their products which is so refreshing to see.  I can highly recommend The Giggly Pig Company for truly unique sausages, especially their Lemon and Fennel creation which were divine and The Suffolk Pate Company for wonderfully scrumptious pates, their chickpea and coriander was my personal favourite, such a flavoursome dish with a real kick to it.
After sampling many foodie delights my attention was grabbed by a very interesting lady from Food Safari UK, an inspirational company that goes beyond your usual cookery lessons to give you a real food experience.  Whether you’ve always fancied mushroom foraging, butchery lessons, artisan bread making or a boat trip to catch your fish and learn how to cook it these people have the day for you.  I want to take part in every single one of their 10 experiences on offer; I just don’t know where to start.
Finally on our way to grab some lunch and listen to the live music we got chatting to a very informative, and I must say lovely lady, from  Visit Essex.  Her wealth of information on things to do in the Essex area was astounding and I left armed with bundles of leaflets to read when I got home and with many ideas for days out and.  Just once again proving to me how very wonderful this fine county is.
Well done to the whole of the Essex Food Festival team, you put on one hell of a show; I cannot wait till next year.

The Big Feastival

13 Jul
Being pregnant over the summer does limit the traditional festival experience somewhat. Take this weekend for instance, I’m attending a beer festival and have already had to phoned ahead to ask if they will be serving any non-alcoholic beers.  Don’t get me wrong being the only sober one when out has its advantages, I have enough embarrassing photos and stories in my locker now to get my own way within in our group for at least a year, but I have found myself wishing there was a more pregnant friendly festival for me to take part in.
Then I won 2 tickets for The Big Feastival and my wishes were answered.  Upon entering the arena I squealed with delight, all my Christmases has come at once.  A funfair, music stages, Split-Screen VW selling ice-cream, clothes for sale, makeovers, cake making, BBQ competitions, cookery demonstrations not to mention over 15 different top restaurant outlets selling food for £5 per dish.  It was as if Mr Oliver had asked Jules ‘what do all pregnant ladies love?’ I can only assume the answer was FOOD!
The food was great, the queues did get big but it was always worth the wait. We got stuck into trying all the free tasters as well – what is with freebies that make you try things you would never go near if you has to pay?
My highlights of the event were the WI tent in which I found clothes by Lilly Allen’s boutique Lucy in Disguise and free knitting lessons, and the Karaoke stage where you could get up and sing with a live band.  I didn’t join in the singing, but some people were really getting into it and there was some real talent on display.
Unfortunately as I only won these tickets 3 days before the event we already had plans for the evening so left about 5pm and missed The Charlatans headlining, but I’ve heard they were great.
I certainly think Jamie Oliver’s golden touch struck again, he had even arranged glorious weather for the day.  He has a great recipe there for a great annual event, excuse the pun.  I certainly would return next year, and this time my main review would be on the cocktails bars!

Essex Food Festival

13 Jul

If you are looking for the best food the UK has to offer then I’m pretty sure you could fulfil most of your desires within Essex and Suffolk.  I know I may be bias but we have so much to offer;  Tiptree Jam, Maldon Salt, Kelly Bronze Turkeys,  Essex Pigs and Mersea Oysters, Rossi’s Icecream, Adnams Ales, Marriages flour,  Aspalls Cider and Copella fruit Juices to name but a few of the more famous brands on offer.  Then there are all the local stand alone providers selling their wares at all the wonderful farmers markets these fine counties host on a daily basis.  It’s not surprising with all of these culinary delights on the doorstep that we have also given birth to some of the countries top chefs.

So when talk of an Essex Food Festival began I could barely contain my excitement and the day itself did not disappoint.  The weather was great, which is always a bonus, and when we arrived at Cressing Temple Barns the place was buzzing.  As soon we paid our very reasonable £6 entry fee we were immersed into a foodie heaven.  With so much to try, do and buy we really didn’t know where to start.  We got stuck in to sampling many of the wonderful produce on offer and even with my high views of Essex food I wasn’t disappointed.   All the exhibiters were so lovely and helpful, and they clearly all believed in their products which is so refreshing to see.  I can highly recommend The Giggly Pig Company for truly unique sausages, especially their Lemon and Fennel creation which were divine and The Suffolk Pate Company for wonderfully scrumptious pates, their chickpea and coriander was my personal favourite, such a flavoursome dish with a real kick to it.

After sampling many foodie delights my attention was grabbed by a very interesting lady from Food Safari UK, an inspirational company that goes beyond your usual cookery lessons to give you a real food experience.  Whether you’ve always fancied mushroom foraging, butchery lessons, artisan bread making or a boat trip to catch your fish and learn how to cook it these people have the day for you.  I want to take part in every single one of their 10 experiences on offer; I just don’t know where to start.

Finally on our way to grab some lunch and listen to the live music we got chatting to a very informative, and I must say lovely lady, from Visit Essex.  Her wealth of information on things to do in the Essex area was astounding and I left armed with bundles of leaflets to read when I got home and with many ideas for days out and.  Just once again proving to me how very wonderful this fine county is.

Well done to the whole of the Essex Food Festival team, you put on one hell of a show; I cannot wait till next year.

 

http://www.gigglypig.co.uk/markets/

http://www.thesuffolkpatecompany.co.uk/

http://www.foodsafari.co.uk/

Ben and Jerrys Festival, Clapham Common

24 Jun

Now festival season is upon us we have booked our tickets to take the little lady back again to the Ben and Jerrys Festival – had a great time last year….check out our review on Festival kidz (great website!!)

http://www.festivalkidz.com/festivals/review-ben-jerry/

Alice

Hylands Park – A great place to play and eat

15 Jun

For us lunch in the park is always a picnic, my wicker hamper is my pride and joy and I’ve lost count of the amount of must have picnic blankets I have picked up over the years.  I just feel that there is something so quintessentially English about a ‘proper’ picnic, ripping off a piece of bread, covering it in Brie, picking a few cherry tomatoes out the pot, pouring a glass of red wine and chatting for hours under the trees while the children run around needing only mother nature as their enjoyment is for me quite honestly my idea of heaven.   All that could make it better would be travelling there in the vintage split screen VW camper I have had my eye on – maybe next year!

Today however there was no picnic for mini-chef and me – with us going on holiday at the weekend I have been running down the food in my house for a couple weeks, meaning when I went to the kitchen this morning the cupboards were bare!

So off we went with a friend and her little boy to Hylands Park in Chelmsford, Essex to try out their playground and grab a bite to eat in the cafe.  The Adventure Castle Play Area is the best play park we have been to in the local area, catering for toddlers right through to teenagers, with equipment that can be used by all ages at the same time which I think is great for families with multi aged children.  It was nice and quite today (midweek, term-time) so Mini-Chef got lots of time to run around and play on everything – however I have been told weekends can get quite busy so arrive early for a few hours of playing before the masses turn up.

Once the little ones had burn off steam it was time to fill our bellies.  A short walk across the fields led us to Hylands House, an 18th century country house open to the public with a visitor centre, gift/craft shop and Huttons Courtyard Cafe.  The cafe was very busy on arrival and all outside tables were full – we opted for a nice inside table and were pleasantly surprised with how child friendly the place was.  There were many highchairs available along with booster seats for older children.  We found a box of goodies;  toys, colouring books and crayons to keep the children amused which was also a very friendly touch.  The menu was quite standard however I must say that the options for children were very good, quick bites for lunch like toast with toppers and a range of sandwiches right up to main meals such up to scampi and chips or sausage, mash and yorkshire pudding.  The meals were priced from £2.20 – £5 for children; they were served promptly, hot and with child sized cutlery (which I always appreciate) so that was wonderful. Mini-Chef had a Sausage sandwich which was seved with salad and carrot battons, it was eaten with a big smile and the mouthful I had was very tasty.  It was a large size childs meal the would suit toddlers to teenagers, if I were to go back again with two little ones they could share a meal and still be well fed.

We left the cafe with two full, happy and worn out children and headed back the car – I hadn’t even left the car park before Mini-Chef was snoring her head off and she went to bed for a further hour when we got home – so a fresh air bonus for Mummy too as I got half hour of housework done and half hour to catch up with Sky+, well 10 mins housework and 50 mins catching up on Sky+ but lets not tell the man of the house about that one!

I would thoroughly recommend a day out at Hylands Park, there is so much to do and the best bit it most of it is totally free.  I  will be heading back there in a couple of weeks with Mini-Chef and her Daddy, this time packing a picnic as I think my hamper is feeling left out, so watch this space for picnic recipes and outdoor activity ideas.

 

Hylands House and Park, Chelmsford, Essex – http://www.chelmsford.gov.uk/index.cfm?articleid=6155

 

Where does our food come from?

9 Jun

Sitting watching Jamie’s Food Revolution last week I was truly shocked at how little some children knew about the source of their food.  I know from my past life as a PE Teacher that getting their ‘5-a day’ for fruit as veg is not always as high priority as getting their  5 hours a day on the Xbox each day, but on the whole the children I taught could tell you that cheese is a product from cows! As much as I would like Mini-Chef to enjoy healthy food and be able to choose a meal from a menu, not just ask for nuggets everywhere we go, my main goal now is to teach her where her food comes from so she can make informed decisions about what she eats.

We are very fortunate within our family to have an allotment, and I count myself even more fortunate that its my mother who get the dirty fingernails and sore back from tending it and I get the pleasure (and accolade) of being the family member who cooks the food she produces, so this will be a great chance for mini-chef to see what vegetables should really look like – dirty, misshaped and so much more tasty than any mass produced for supermarkets.

A few weeks back I mentioned to Mini-Chef at a BBQ we were hosting for my birthday that the burger she was eating was made from Cows – since this moment she has renamed them ‘Cow Burgers’ and tends to ‘mooo’ each time she eats them – with this fresh in her mind we headed of to Marsh Farm in Essex to continue this theme of ‘where meat comes from’.

Mini-Chef sizing up the cows for our next BBQ

The farm itself is a friendly little place with a range of farm animals on show and plenty of activities for children of all ages to take part in.  Mini-Chef was very interested in all the animals and could identify more animals by name than I thought she would be able to so that was a proud mummy moment for me.  As we saw the cows I asked what food we make from them and she immediately said ‘cow burgers mummy’ so as we proceeded to the pigs I thought I ask the same question, she didn’t know the answer but was very interested to hear that sausages and ham were both from pigs (firm favourites of the little lady) and turned to her friend who had accompanied us to the farm to share her new found knowledge.  This is where it all got a little strange – a mum near by who over heard this exchange take place turned to her friend and said it a rather loud stage whisper ‘who on earth would want to tell their toddler that food comes from animals…..talk about giving them nightmares’ – I am not one to pass judgement on other peoples parenting so was hurt by this comment being directed towards me, however I would not change how I educate my child one bit, knowledge is power after all!!

I would highly recommend a visit to a farm to help open your children’s eyes to what they eat – Marsh Farm was good for this, however it is very much more a petting farm than a working one. Next stop for us is Jimmy’s Farm, Suffolk which I hear is a real working farm where you can buy what they produce, just what we are looking for…..we’ll let you know hoe we get on.

Thanks for stopping by Mummy Alice and Mini-Chef

Marsh Farm – http://www.marshfarmcountrypark.co.uk/

Jimmy’s Farm – www.jimmysfarm.com/