Monday, 26 July 2021

All-new food festival is SO an opportunity to show off!

FOODIES are in for a real treat at the inaugural SO Food Festival over the weekend

FOODIES are in for a real treat at the inaugural SO Food Festival over the weekend of September 17 and 18, writes Paul Clerehugh.

The event will take place by the riverside at Crowmarsh Gifford, just at the campsite as you approach Wallingford Bridge.

The SO Food Festival — standing for South Oxfordshire — has attracted top restaurants, also food and drink producers from the Henley and surrounding South Oxfordshire area.

I am looking forward to my cookery demonstrations on the live stage – an opportunity to show off. I am a skilled show-off and will prepare plenty of our fabulous local produce.

There are a host of other top local chefs and producers also appearing on the cookery demonstration live stage, including The Great British Bake Off quarter-finalist Christine Wallace, superstar farmer Emma Darke, MasterChef: The Professionals finalist Nick Bennet and Michelin-starred chef Andrew Scott.

Joining them will be a glittering line-up of our area’s favourite chefs — the highly talented Nick Galer, chef patron from Goring’s The Miller of Mansfield, and Daniel Popa, chef owner of Sole Luna and their amazing Neapolitan thin-crust wood-oven pizzas.

With its idyllic riverside location, the SO Food Festival is guaranteed to be a wonderful event.

As well as the live stage cookery demonstrations you can visit some of the county’s favourite producers, taste their produce and shop.

Oxfordshire is South East England’s most rural county, with 75 per cent of the land dedicated to agriculture. There has been a recent exciting growth in farm shops, field-to-fork projects and food-from-the-farm-gate schemes.

Already signed up at SO Food Festival are Blue Tin Produce, Britwell Salome Red Lion Farm, Fat Fox Food Co, Orchard Cottage Cider, Kao Soi Northern Thai Foods, and Brightwell Vineyards, totalling more than 50 different food and drink stalls, chefs, brewers, venders and kiosks for you to graze at. From the Wonderful Waffle Co to Flavours of Africa, from Go Spice to Hay Wines, sample Bolitas Brazilian fare to Supreme Sausages. Sample menu favourites from the Highwayman at Checkendon and Sole Luna Pizza.

I am taking the Crooked Billet team and creating a “Pop-Up Crooked Billet”, cooking over the entire weekend and creating a delicious, reasonably priced food festival menu.

We will have dishes that will appeal to all budgets and tastes — seafood, meat, poultry and game, plenty of local produce and delicious desserts.

You can also join us for a drink — sample the region’s favourite real ales, ciders and a decent wine list.

There’s no need to book at the “Pop-Up Crooked Billet” gastropub — there will be plenty of seating, so come and say hello.

I’m cooking from an open-plan kitchen and we’ll be open on Saturday from 11am to 10pm and Sunday from 11am to 4pm.

Nor is it just the grub — you can soak up brilliant live music at the SO Food Festival.

Some of the Crooked Billet’s favourite bands and musicians are performing — including Henley jazz supremo Andy Crowdy and friends, who will be providing gypsy swing over the weekend. There will also be blues and soul from Tom Anderson and his fellow musicians.

On Saturday the fabulous Ding Dong Daddios perform at the Crooked Billet pop-up, bringing you the most toe-tapping tunes from the heydays of the Forties and Fifties — a jumpin’ and jivin’ five-piece swing band suitably booted in Forties style.

Double bass, guitar, percussion and trombone. Uptempo and highly entertaining. Think we’ll have a right old party on Saturday night — join me for a bite, or just a drink, the Ding Dong Daddios’ music is free.

Tickets for the festival are available in advance from

Day tickets are £7 for adults and £5 for OAPs and students, with children under 16 coming in for free. Weekend tickets are £10.

• Paul Clerehugh is chef proprietor of the Crooked Billet, Stoke Row, and the London Street Brasserie, Reading. Catch Paul every week on Food on Friday (2pm, BBC Radio Berkshire).

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