Valentina’s view from The Aldeburgh Food & Drink Festival

If you have never been to the Aldeburgh Food & Drink Festival, now in its 13th magnificent year (and it has only rained twice during the Festival in all that time!) then let me tell you that this is one of the most picturesque settings for one of Britains’s most respected and well-attended food festivals. The location is Snape Maltings, a collection of redeveloped Victorian industrial buildings set against a stunning expanse of reeds, water, and sky. This magical place is considered to be one of the world’s leading centres for music, founded by Suffolk-born composer Benjamin Britten.

Valentina’s view from The Aldeburgh Food & Drink Festival

The Aldeburgh Food & Drink Festival is a very special event, which celebrates all that is best about Suffolk’s thriving food and drink producers, with over 100 stall holders selling everything imaginable from ice cream to sourdough bread, cheese and award-winning beer and several food demonstration areas. 

Amazingly, given its remote location, it attracts visitors from literally all over the country and beyond, as well as many well-known personalities from the world of food and drink – so many cookery writers, chefs, producers and restaurateurs all seem perfectly happy to travel to this remote corner of East Anglia to participate in this vibrant, eclectic and very friendly food festival.

 

Friends and foodies

The fact that there were so many of their colleagues and friends attending made it quite difficult to keep my three valiant judges concentrating on our 22 East of England entries, as there were constant interruptions from those passing who joined us on the purpose built very smart Fisher & Paykel trailer, wanting to say hello and have a catch up chat.

But, we did eventually end up with an impressive shortlist, who will now join the national shortlist to go through to the finals with Prue Leith at Borough Market in just over a week’s time on the 9th and 10th of October.

Added to the interruptions from colleagues and friends, there were a great many people who wanted to know more about the gorgeous Fisher & Paykel appliances, or who wanted to tell us all about their existing ‘F&P’ appliance and just how much they loved it, never mind all the other passers-by who wanted to know what we were up to.  All this made for a busy day on the trailer!

And the judges were…

Our three judges this time were:  Polly Robinson, food PR consultant extraordinaire who was once on the board of the Aldeburgh Food & Drink Festival, curating the aspects of workshops and demonstrations and is a local resident.  Chef Galton Blakiston, owner and chef patron of the famous Michelin starred Morston Hall country house hotel and restaurant, near Blakeney on the North Norfolk Coast. William Kendall, a committed and campaigning Organic farmer, one of the founder members of The Aldeburgh Food & Drink Festival, and a man who is about as close to the Suffolk food scene as you can get.

 

It’s all about the deliberating

Together they tasted and deliberated over the various entries, taking care to take into account the strict criteria of Passion, Provenance, Quality and Appearance and of course, and perhaps most important of all: Taste, and voted according to their findings.

...it attracts visitors from literally all over the country and beyond, as well as many well-known personalities from the world of food and drink...

 It was very sad for me to finally pack up and leave Suffolk, as this was the last of the nine rounds of regional judging for the Awards, the end of a long summer or traveling around the whole country, visiting nine different regions and being a part of nine different food and drink festivals, from the Dales to Co.Antrim, Dorset to Perth.

All the thank yous

I want to say a big personal thank you to all the festival organisers who hosted our beautiful judging trailer, built for us by the amazing and tireless crew from Love Food; to the wonderful judges who gave up their time to take part in the process; to all the producers who gave us the chance to see and taste their produce and to read all about their philosophy and their dreams and ambitions; to Fisher & Paykel for being our sponsor and for letting me use their fantastic appliances; and to delicious.  for giving me this incredible and very special opportunity.

I have learned a lot, laughed a lot and eaten and drunk some truly amazing food!

I have learned a lot, laughed a lot and eaten and drunk some truly amazing food!

Now it is full speed ahead for the Grand Final at Borough Market, where our panel of judges will be chaired by Pru Leith. The judges are Lucas Hollweg, Gizzi Erskine, Andi Oliver, Xanthe Clay and Susy Atkins and our host will be delicious. editor Karen Barnes.

The two-day event will be busy and promises to be lively, but we will end with one outstanding winner in each category. (And I must confess I have got one or two favourites!) Good luck to all the finalists, and to all of those who did not make it through this time – please do try again next year!

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