Looking out at a the mauve-grey sky, as a chilly breeze whips up the first browning leaves, it seems Autumn has officially arrived.
I’m all for it. It’s the season of cosy knits, woodland walks and cradling hot cups of tea to warm cold hands, but today I’m reminiscing about a summer of street food with my summer food festival round up.
I didn’t make it to everything, of course, but here are the best bits from the ones I did.
Foodies Festival at Cannon Hill Park kicked off proceedings back in June. This huge touring food festival always brings a raft of street food, stalls and big brands sampling their wares.
There were plenty of trendy things to try, from freakshakes to bubble waffles, burgers with black buns served from campervans and a double decker bus giving out free cans of Southern Comfort and Lemonade.
This year also saw the launch of Tequila Town with Jose Cuervo.
With Mexibros serving up tacos, a dancing Candy skeleton and Jose Cuervo providing the cocktails, it was a fun new addition to Foodies Festival. I stopped by to sample their Paloma cocktail, made from silver tequila, pink grapefruit and soda. It was dry, bitter and fruity, and I really enjoyed it, despite not being a big tequila drinker.
I felt like the market area was smaller at this year’s festival, but I still picked up some great finds, including Bajan hot sauce, a gorgeous coffee flavour rum cake and a refill of pork scratchings from Snaffling Pig.
It was great to see lots of top Birmingham chefs on the stage too, with Brad Carter, Nathan Eades and Richard Turner all showing off signature dishes.
If you missed the Birmingham event, it will be back next year. If you can’t wait until then, there are two Foodies Festival Christmas specials happening at Tatton Park in Cheshire and also Edinburgh which you can book tickets to online.
Brew ‘n’ Q at National Brewery Centre
As well as getting free reign of the brewery centre and museum, the event saw the outdoor space completely taken over from teams all over the world competing for the barbecue crown.
The teams prepared a variety of meaty morsels to try, from ribs to beef brisket to smoked chicken before the main judging began.
For the main competition, all teams had to prepare their signature pulled pork and hand out samples to us punters to decide whose we liked the best. The styles went from sweet and saucy, smoky, spicy and tangy depending on whether the team was from the US, Netherlands, South Africa or the UK. I leaned towards the spicy, tangy Dutch styles.
It was awesome to meet some UK representatives too. The guys from All Smoke No Knickers (above) are from Manchester, their pork was deliciously meaty with a smoky sauce and just a hint of sweetness. They’ve promised me a feast when I go to visit!
Of course I also had to sample some of the beer. This was a Burton Town IPA which had a sturdy, traditional IPA flavour but with a bitter, hoppy punch. Great to cut through all the rich flavours from the barbecue.
There was also a great selection of rubs and sauces to buy from BBQ Gourmet, as well as professional gear for the big boys. The lovely man from BBQ Gourmet recommended some brilliant products for us, despite not having much experience in proper barbecue ourselves.
He listened to what flavours we like, got us to try and bunch of rubs, spice mixes and sauces before we settled on a selection to take home. We picked up Dizzy Pig Cow Lick rub for beef and Dizzy Pig Pineapple Head rub for grilled pineapple, because it sounded like so much fun to try! We also got Big Poppa Smokers Jallelujah bacon jalapeno rub, which was absolutely delicious when we tried it. It literally goes on everything in our house now, especially potatoes.
We also grabbed some Chicken Dust from Stokes BBQ, which is an amazing sweet, spicy seasoning mix which takes fried chicken to the next level!
The Brewery Centre itself is really interesting too, with a muesum on the history of brewing in Burton, a collection of vintage vehicles and even some lovely shire horses.
There are great events all year round at the brewery centre, the next one I’ve got my eye on is Oktoberfest on the 13th & 14th of October which you can book tickets for online.
Summer Market at The Bond
I’ve been going to Birmingham Seasonal Markets at The Bond since they started. I love these events, especially as there’s such a focus on great local street food and independent stallholders.
This year’s event fell on National Gin Day, so I spent a large proportion of my time ordering Gin & Tonics from The Little Gin Company out of their converted horse box bar!
I loved shopping for vintage bargains in the Off The Scale vintage bus, and my nephew had great fun mastering the Surf machine, where he got the top score! The best part for me is always the food though.
I started off with halloumi fries, smothered in garlic mayo and sriracha. The outside was crisp with gooey, squidgy cheese on the inside and a good kick from the sriracha.
Of course, when Andy Low ‘n’ Slow is around, his food is a must have. I went for two dishes, all to myself, starting with his legendary pigs cheek tacos.
With meltingly tender and rich pigs cheek, blue corn tortillas, homemade barbecue sauce and fresh salsa, these were a stonking mouthful of deliciousness.
Next up I had the chilli brisket bun, which was loaded with smoky, spicy, slow cooked beef brisket chilli, crispy bacon, cheese and cool sour cream.
This was so delicious, with pull apart brisket, smoke and heat in perfect balance.
It was also the first time I’ve tried Vietnamese street food. These rice paper rolls with fresh salad, crispy onions and sour dipping sauce were really refreshing.
Even a spot of rain didn’t spoil the event, and I left with a lovely gin fuelled glow, a full belly and bags full of vintage clothes and artisan bread.
Blyth Farm Feast
I also ended up going to Seasonal Markets Blyth Farm Feast near Coleshill. This event was a little smaller than the Digbeth event, but had another brilliant selection of street food, live music and a lovely, summery location out in a field!
We started off the day here with Becky’s Bhajis. I tried these at the first ever Seasonal Market event I went to and was instantly hooked. We picked The Mighty Swoosh selection with a bit of everything.
Our food was freshly prepared and battered in front of us, which was great to see!
The mirchi chilli was thinly battered, crisp and really hot! The onion bhajis were crunchy and delicious, and went particularly well with the tamarind sauce, while the butties were really filling with a mildly spicy, samosa inspired filling.
Spotting Andy Low ‘n’ Slow again, I went for the veggie option this time of BBQ corn.
I love corn anyway, but giving it the Low ‘n’ Slow treatment really made it epic. It had a delicious charred flavour from the grill, a peppery herb seasoning and spicy barbecue sauce drizzled over the top. Veggies often get left out when it comes to barbecue, but Andy really knows how to make anything work on the grill.
The Kebab Cartel had been on my “must try” list for a while, so when I spotted them at Blyth Farm I knew I had to get myself a kebab!
I chose The Mule, with chicken shawarma, freshly cut halloumi, all three cartel house sauces served on a Lebanese flatbread and a topped with fresh herbs and pomegranate seeds.
I was so impressed with this kebab, it had so many interesting dynamics. The mild but aromatic spice of the shawarma was complimented by salty halloumi, earthy coriander, sweet pomegranate and fresh lemon dressing. The texture was great too, with some crunchy charring on the chicken, squidgy cheese and lovely, soft bread.
We finished off with a mint choc chip ice cream before heading for a walk around nearby Kingsbury Water Park.
Seasonal Markets run regular events in and around Birmingham. The next one is the upcoming Independent Birmingham Festival at Aston Hall, in partnership with IB.
Lichfield Food Festival
Over the August Bank Holiday, Lichfield was taken over by a whole host of street food traders, brewers, bakers and more for the Lichfield Food Festival.
Every street was buzzing, and every space was full of things to eat, drink and buy, including a gin and ale trail and cookery demos.
There was so much choice it was hard to decide where to start, but this adorable Corndogs van caught my eye, and when I saw they had baconnaise on the menu, I knew I had to start there.
The corndog was great too, it had a sweetness to the corn batter, a good quality sausage with a good crisp skin to bite through, and that smoky baconnaise was the perfect condiment.
Next up was a falafel wrap, which was nutty, earthy and really filling.
After our starters we stopped off to try some of the fruit ciders from Gillow Cider. I had their rhubarb cider, which was tart and really rhubarby, while Ste had a sweet strawberry cider.
We grabbed a spot to sit on the wall with a gorgeous view of the Cathedral while we ate our next treat from Deli Vita pizza.
We went for a simple Margherita, but with freshly torn mozzarella and basil leaves, rich tomato sauce and the kind of crisp base that only comes from being cooked in a wood fire, this was a lovely pizza.
Last up, we just had to get something from West Midlands Jerk Centre. I first tried their food at Foodies Festival and it was some of the best jerk pork I’ve ever tasted. This time we had jerk chicken and pork with hot pepper sauce, and although it wasn’t quite as meltingly tender as last time, it was delicious, and a huge portion size!
We took plenty home as well, picking up some of these delicious chocolate cherry porters from Lakehouse Brewery in the Malvern Hills.
Some really interesting cheeses, including a Guinness cheese and a cheddar infused with cumin seeds from Ryan Jepson Cheeses.
And the most beautiful raspberry and basil cake from Scratch Bakery, that had a subtle but delicious favour from infusing fresh raspberry coulis with basil before sandwiching into a homemades sponge cake with buttercream icing.
There was so much choice, I couldn’t get through all of it, but it was wonderful to see so many local foodies all in one place. The atmosphere was buzzing, and I can’t wait for next year’s event.
Even though summer seems to be over, there’s still plenty to look forward to. For now, we march on through piles of crispy leaves, towards roaring fires, country pubs, mulled cider and Sunday roasts. Maybe autumn isn’t so bad after all…