September Munchies: Return of The Devizes Food & Drink Festival

A festival of gluttonous magnitude descends on Devizes, as the market town welcomes the return of The Devizes Food & Drink Festival. As per-usual, with the exception of the write-off year last, no corner has been left unturned in order to burst the box office when tickets go live on in fortnight, Monday 16th August.

Running later this year, Saturday 25th September to Sunday 3rd October, The Devizes Food & Drink Festival has a full schedule and a variety of interesting food and drink related events, of which I will attempt to sum up here, without getting the munchies and having to nip off for a fish finger sandwich… what? Nothing wrong with a fish finger sandwich, staple diet, mate!

The celebrated Street Food & Artisan Market kicks the show off, its’ free, it’s my favourite in years gone by, primarily because of the free F’s; Food, Festival and Free! From 10am to 4pm, on Saturday 25th September, Devizes Market Place will be “cheese toastie oozing deliciously,” with a generous selection of stalls, sampling wonderful dishes and take-home buys from local producers and traders, not forgetting the Wadworth Bar and live music.

Soul food, also on that day, as author of two successful cookery books and currently cooking up a storm on Weekend Best, ITV Saturday mornings with Martin and Roman Kemp, Shivi Ramoutar will be demonstrating pulled pork shoulder tacos with a pineapple salsa and jerk mayo, 10.30 at the Corn Exchange for £3.

Food writer and columnist for the Daily and Sunday Telegraph, Great Taste Award judge and author of several cookery books, Xanthe Clay will help save on the washing up with a demonstration of delicious one-pan dishes at midday, for another £3.

Kitty Tait, the teenager from Oxfordshire who’s setting the baking world alight at The Orange Bakery in Watlington, Oxfordshire, is on from 2pm at Corn Exchange.

And the evening can be spent at Belle Bathrooms on Sidmouth Street where you can dine somewhere different.

On Sunday, forget the Wurzels, you can get some scrumpy ‘round ‘ere; it’s all down to Bromham’s Cider Shed at 11.45, where craft cider maker, Roger Blake conducts you through the cider-making journey from apple blossom to bottle, seeing orchard, press and end product.

Later, for the younger, Hillworth park has a teddy bear’s picnic, for just £2.50, for storytelling, games, and a healthy picnic. There will be a special guest, possibly the largest teddy in all Devizes – the Julia’s House Bear.

Salem Chapel, on New Park Street is where to dine somewhere different on Monday 27th September, lunchtime Loaves & Fishes, and Eve’s Pudding and enjoy a glimpse of days gone by in Devizes courtesy of local historian Dave Buxton.  

Peter Vaughan shows you how to prepare some deliciously fragrant dishes from Goa, at his Cookery School, on Hopton. The cuisine is a unique mix of Mediterranean with a tropical Indian blend.

And Monday evening could be spent at The Literary & Scientific Institute for the Great Foodie Quiz, or stargazing in a pod at Erlestoke for an out-of-this-world five course meal.

Zooming back to earth Tuesday, to have lunch among the flowers of Superior Plants in Market Lavington, and an evening meal at the Bear Hotel. The five-course menu will be created by Wadworth’s Executive Development Chef, Andrew Scott, who has worked in several Michelin starred restaurants as well as appearing on BBC2’s Great British Menu, and the meal will be paired with wines chosen and described by experts from Wadworth’s wine supplier Bibendum.

Gin masterclass, is a wise way to end Wednesday 29th September, at the The Vaults on St John’s Street. Local distillery Scout & Sage invite you to learn all about gin, or Devizes Books presents readings from Kipling, Tagore, a Plain Tale from the Raj and some Spike Milligan, with three courses of the delicious cuisine of the sub-continent, at St John’s Parish Rooms.

Cheese Hall, at Devizes Town Hall has foodie written all over it. An illustrated talk by art historian Clare Ford-Wille on Food in Art from the Romans to Cezanne on Thursday 30th September. Or perhaps a murder mystery dinner might be your thing? Also at Devizes Town Hall, with The All Cannings Players, bringing you a murder story, Rough Justice, involving an amateur dramatics group, and, naturally, a three-course dinner.

Friday 1st October, is foraging day, meeting points will be supplied with tickets, as small group walks search for edible and usable plants within the boundaries of Devizes. Lunch at the studio of Devizes contemporary artist, Bee Thomas, or take an expert tutorial at Wadworth’s Brewery in signwriting with Wadworth’s sign painter, Wayne Ritchings.

Then the firm fixture on the festival calendar, Friday, the Come Dine With Us experience without the cameras and annoying narration!

A new weekend upon them, there’s an invitation to Horton House Farm on Saturday 2nd October, and the grounds of Parkdale House has a steam engine, on the old Devizes Branch Line; you could be dining underneath the arches, barbecue style.

But thus, this sees the end of The Devizes Food & Drink Festival, with one of the most ingenious events the festival has launched. The World Food event, free at the Corn Exchange Sunday 3rd October from 12.30. Explore the globe on a plate. An event for all the family, where local residents with far flung roots invite you to sample a family favourite from their homeland. Basically, you get little taster portions for 50p a pop. Such a novel idea, and wonderful way to end the festival

 I’m hungry mentioning all this, anyone got a biscuit? No, not a garibaldi, I want nothing less than custard cream, thank you! More info, and to book tickets, click here.


The Naan Guru of Old Devizes Town

Not one for needles, but one for Indian street food, thought I’d better treat myself, and the good lady wife too, mind, after being jabbed.

Yep, vaccination accomplished, the excellent service at Devizes Corn Exchange did not advise eating Indian street food was completely necessary, but did advise waiting fifteen minutes before driving. So we took an unsuspecting wander.

Not that I’d have imagined to find such a curiosity along our Brittox. But to our surprise, there stood a colourful graffiti facade where a bakery was once situated. Intrigue drew me inside. The fantastic decor was executed by Glimmertwin Graffiti Murals of Brighton, and had this been the lanes of Brighton, or the markets of Camden, such a delicatessen would have blended right in.

Here in Devizes, it stands out, but unlike a sore thumb and more like the tucker it purveys, it’s darn gorgeous.

A bizarrely wonderful addition to our precinct, Naan Guru opened today, Friday 23rd April, and was already attracting attention. The owner also has a pie shop in Trowvegas, hence some rather splendid looking pies on show, but this new venture is something rather different.

We’re talking sourdough naan kebabs of chicken tikka, lamb, sharmi or vegan shish, or morning visits might be enticed by a full English breakfast naan.

We’re chatting curry of similar meats and vegan options, we’re rapping homemade samosas, and drinks like sweet or salty lassi, chai, and thick kulfi frozen shakes, pistachio or mango, and gulab doughnuts, waffles for pudding. We’re talking some seriously appetising aromas ascending from this new place, twisting my arm.

We went for a sharmi (beef) kebab in naan, and it was fresh, with crunchy salad, exotic sauce and I’m pleased to report back to, Devizions, it tasted blooming gorgeous!

It’s kind of hard to walk past it and not notice it. But I’d judge this book by it’s cover; the tucker is as good as it looks, and finding my spiritual nirvana usually through my stomach, Naan Guru appeases my best karma. They’re six quid a pop, but six quid well spent; I’m smitten.


Getting Cosy with the Gyros; Greek Pop-up Catering Coming to Devizes & Melksham

For the love of Eros, what’s the plan for your Valentine’s weekend in this restricted era? Just a language of love suggestion in view of limitations, because I’ve not tasted a Greek gyro, yet, but boy, the ones at The Cosy Kitchen pop-up takeaway look scrum-diddly-umptious! And word on the street is; they’re heading our way. Find them at the Wiltshire School of Gymnastics on Friday 12th and The Moonraker Pub, Devizes on the 13th February.

I’ve been chatting to these SBS winners, finding out how it works and asking them, why Greek. The foremost is simple, just rock up, order and obviously adhere to social distancing measures. They don’t offer pre-orders or deliveries, it’s collection only, “we find it’s not fair to the people queueing to then stop serving them when they’ve been waiting, for someone who has called up,” they explained.

The Cosy Kitchen started in 2019, on the events circuit, which is probably what jogged my memory of their popularity at Devizes Food & Drink Festival that year. “It has been difficult as we have had every event cancelled and I feel most of this year is going to be the same,” they told me, “so we’ve had to adapt to how things are to ensure we’re adhering to guidelines by putting things in place to keep everyone safe, it’s not been easy but all our customers have been amazing!”

The Cosy Kitchen at 2019 Devizes Food & Drink Festival

I’m reckoning it’s great for towns like Devizes, despite awesome Italian, Chinese and Indian restaurants, the choice is mostly limited to these. But why did the Cosy Kitchen decide upon Greek cuisine? I asked if there was a connection.

“We love Greece,” they added, “it was the first place my partner and I went on holiday and we fell in love with the place, since then we go back a couple times a year, to a little village where we are friends with everyone! We would come home, wanting gyros or Greek food and would drive long distances, and not be 100% happy with it, either not tasting right or the wrong atmosphere. So, we thought, let’s just do it ourselves!”

With a chef in the family, a connection to Greek suppliers, and friends who had restaurants (one called The Cosy Corner, influencing the name) to teach them recipes, The Cosy Kitchen was born and it treks Wiltshire towns and villages, bringing them a taste of Greece; what’s not to like?!

Cyprus is as close to Greece I’ve been, personally. An island which seems to cater for the majority English tourist by offering, I found tiresomely, chips with every meal. Much to my initial delight, at one point we tried an Australian bar where the owner proudly acclaimed in broad Sydney accent, “today we’ve got the Sunday roast.” But to my horror, even this was served with chips!

Due to this, the sustenance experience of my life occurred there, and I’ve been a fan of Greek food since. Yep, we’re talking the meze, a boundless round of courses until you drop. Honest, I’m a big eater, but this broke me. There’s a photo I’m not sharing, of me at this conjunction, reddened in face and blotted beyond compare. The waiter noted my faltering and tapped me reassuringly on the shoulder, “not long to go now!” But it was a big fat fib, as they covered the table in traditional Greek dishes, and I’m not one to excuse myself. They were all so fine, I had to try at least a bit of each!

The Cosy Kitchen found my recollection amusing, “ha-ha! Greeks do not understand portion control!” Which led us nicely onto the details of what a gyro is. Akin to the Turkish kebab, its meat cooked on a vertical rotisserie, typically served wrapped or stuffed in a pita, along with ingredients such as tomato, onion, and tzatziki sauce. “In Cyprus,” those Cosy Kitchen folk informed, “they mostly don’t put chips inside their gyros, whereas in Greece they do.” I zoomed in their photos, story checks out, there be chips in there; fortunately, I’d just had my dinner, still got a tad eager though. But the Cosy Kitchen get only good feedback on their brand of “herby fries,” “people just love them!”

It all sounds good, and in my mind, I’m already queuing at the Moonies! But the proof is in the pudding, as they say, of which, incidentally, you can order cheesecake for £3 a slice, and I think we should report back on how they taste on the day, if you’re not tempted already!


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Rural Wiltshire’s Sensational Soul Food with Sujay’s Jerk Pan Kitchen

When you live in a market town such as Devizes it’s inevitable when driving through any city to become overwhelmed and perhaps a smidgen envious at the variety of cuisine on offer; look, Nepalese dal-bhat-tarkari street food, outside a lacto-vegetarian Mongolian bistro, next door to a vegan Venezuelan arepas snack bar! You name it, a metropolitan milieu will probably have it. Here, while it’s hailed as some of the best; Italian, Chinese and Indian are about our limitations, unless you chance a kebab.

So nice then, that Sujay’s Jerk Pan Kitchen has gifted us an addition, if variety is the spice of life, it’s high time we had a taste of the Caribbean. Sporadically shacked up in the Shambles prior to the lockdown, Pauline and the team has never been busier since introducing a drop box delivery service; perhaps she doesn’t need me to hype it up as word travels fast; this is an authentically tasty treat.

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Through my love of reggae, I’m rivetted by all things Caribbean, the easy-going culture, the colours and sweetness of those exotic islands in the sun, the sounds, linguistics, the art, and of course the food. And that’s before I even went there! The only member of my family lucky enough to have taken the once-in-a-lifetime trip, I wondered if Sujay could return my taste-buds to the West Indies in the same way as a jouvert jam would for my ears, but I was unsure if the family would take to the idea. Surprised then I was when the better-half suggested we ordered, arm twisted, and before I could recite a verse of Three Little Birds our drop box was ordered for Saturday afternoon.

Caribbean food is not customarily a Michelin star a-la-carte affair, rather the traditional roots rest in amazing street food and home cooking, therefore styles and recipes can vary, and this is precisely what you get. You should note I’m no Jay Rayner, I’ll hoof the loot without coming up for air, and if it’s tasty I’m going to tell you, and if it’s not I believe honest criticism is virtuous; it’s all unpretentious evaluation rather than vernacular condemnation. This though, arrived at our door on time with a smile, and was everything it’s been rated as being.

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So good I didn’t contemplate taking a photo for use here, sorry, but I simply didn’t have the will power to resist getting stuck straight in!

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Me, I went for the goat curry as I’ve never tried it. Sticking to custom it is as it should be, a quite humble green paste curry, spices, with chunks of goat. But served with traditional rice and peas (peas being a black bean rather than European green peas) the simpler formula is often the preferred and I loved every bite, as did the wife. I added a side dish of plantains, imagine a fried banana that thinks it’s a potato and you’re somewhere near the mark.

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For the daughter, and of course with portions so generous some of it naturally found its way onto my plate, the classic jerk chicken with a side of chicken wings, and another colossal portion of rice and peas. Perhaps no other dish so popular varies from handed down home recipe as much as this one in Caribbean food, but I’ve tasted a variety. If Levi Roots has marketed a certain blistering style and tailored his own methods, Sujay’s is closer to what I’ve tried in Barbados. Much more subtle with the hotness, but nice on the spice. I also reserve at Caribbean street chicken disguising cheap meat with a high dosage of hot paste but this is not the case here, the untainted wings would’ve revealed, but these too were exceptionally scrumptious and clear that the quality of the ingredients were not skipped on.

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If Sujay’s Jerk Pan Kitchen doesn’t deserve enough kudos with you for providing fifty meals earlier this week for the NHS staff with the organisation of Tailor-Made Events, or serving brown stew chicken and stew pork with rice and peas to the homeless and vulnerable on the streets of Swindon this evening, maybe its time you sampled some of their sensational soul food yourself?

Tams off to Sujay’s then, the perfect meal with a difference for our rurally repressed palate. Irie, as they say in the JA, gurt lush as we might say here! I’m not ganderflanking yer mucker, this is the soul food of Wiltshire and will whisk your taste buds to a tropical paradise faster than Beenie Man can wax lyrical a monostich; pass the rum punch!

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© 2017-2020 Devizine (Darren Worrow)
Please seek permission from the Devizine site and any individual author, artist or photographer before using any content on this website. Unauthorised usage of any images or text is forbidden.

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Street Festival, Yeah!

Images used with the kind permission of

Tanya Jurkiewicz Photography

and Gail Foster

 

Gigantic bouncy slide outside the trusty Pelican, where we usually wait for a bus. Beyond, a superior stage surrounded by pockets of circus acts, charity stands, clothes stalls, and street food heaven wraps the Market Place, where DOCA gave information and a Pimms bar bustled. Happenings snaked down Snuff Street, over St Johns, and across the town centre, the atmosphere buzzing. What’s not to like?

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From fudge and churros, to Tibetan cuisine and crocodile burgers, food and drink was diverse. Stealth Brewery held the most aesthetic bar and seating area, The British Lion occupied the other, functional side, frantically serving the cider which gives this event it’s local auxiliary namesake. Yes, Black Rat Monday, or as the wonderful organisers would favour you call it, The Devizes International Street Festival. Upon us, the customary bubbliest, most multicoloured and all-round brilliant community-fuelled event to bless our spirited market town.

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If many a festival constitutes packing camping gear, blagging petrol money off mates and trekking through town and country to attend, DOCA bring the spirit of festival to your doorstep, and do it with bells on. As the crowd bobbed and gyrated at the main stage, I spotted a musical statue, poised to snap a photo, or ten. Gail turned to me with a smile, “it’s my favourite day of the year,” she uttered. Whatever I write of it will be deficient and incomplete, for there’s so much going on. It’s our Mardi Gras; you wander, you catch what you can, go where you like, impossible for me to document it all, especially half-toasted as I was! Gail summed it in a sentence.

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As the sun shone, I must say yet again, this was the fantastic event it traditionally always has been, and improves annually. Impossible to stage something so vast and varied without slight hip-cups. I’m not rising to grumpy hecklers taken to Facebook to whinge their futile vendetta against DOCA, all over a carnival date change so volunteers can take a well-earned break and schools can be encouraged to participate. Drunkenly calling for the artistic director’s head on a platter, as if they were the manager of Newcastle is pathetic. Did you slip through a wormhole and appear in an alternative reality, because I thought it was awesome? Take your storm in a teacup to Rio, least upon return from Lalaland give yourself the directive to resist the urge to post when sozzled!

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Ha, an opinion piece it be, refraining from writing journalistically as I do, it’s my belief we should praise DOCA, award the highest accolade. This weekend was tremendous. Budget didn’t stretch to quite as many cosplayers, walkers and random street theatre than previous years, something funding will help towards, or hey, the attendees maketh the festival; maybe dress up yourself! No Andy; Spiderman onesie is in the wash, thank you!

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My attention was drawn to an apparent lack of activities at the Northgate end, usually the child-friendly zone. I’ll say Sunday on the Green is more geared towards our younger, still it’s fair feedback. Though, it’s all the criticism I will accept as constructive. Yes, unobtainable was sitting around The Market Cross; it was fenced off due to structural damage and danger of pieces falling; no fault of DOCA. Similarly, a band mistaking their performance time is an unavoidable calamity. This caused a rather vacant period on the main stage, which was a shame, yet well-oiled crowds laughed between themselves, and thus away with the fairies went such trivial issues.

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However, it did mean many flocked past the Town Hall, an area which usually fizzles out back to the reality of everyday Devizes. I’m so happy to say, prompting DOCA to take onboard our local music scene, I suggested something I really couldn’t commit to; had to work in the morning. But it was so, that Pete of Vinyl Realm had similar ideas, and executed a second zone of music in a manner I couldn’t have. My dream to have a little marquee with some acoustic singers was transformed into not only a trailer stage, but acoustic area and vinyl DJ, adding that extra dimension and rounding off the festival site with a definite border.

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It was here where some excellent sets played before an audience larger than we anticipated. Strange Folk were amazing, yet it was Daydream Runaways who really bought the stage to its pinnacle. Sweltering, this upcoming pop-indie amalgamation of Swindon and Devizes, who I’ve been hailing with praise since I discovered, really delivered an energetic and proficient set of favourite covers and their own accomplished originals.

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Often supporting the guys, Ben Borrill acoustically owned the area next, followed by Devizes space-rockers Cracked Machine. Having not managed to catch this headline act live up till now, I pondered if they could recreate the sublime atmospheric ambience they do on record, and I was not disappointed. This Pink Floyd of the vize volleyed it out of park. With trickles of intoxication, the sound apt under the heat of the sun, the crowd were whisked away blissfully.

 

This was, quite honestly, a highlight of the day, the whole idea to have the second stage was. So, a massive respect goes to Pete, Jacki and all at Vinyl Realm for organising and funding this, and to the Lamb who supplied the power, in more ways than one; I saw Sally wander over to band to hand them all some well-deserved hot dogs!

 

If this doesn’t convince DOCA to support our local music scene, nothing will! Pete has already suggested interest in doing it again next year. But, feeling the need to cover as much of the festival as possible, I scarpered back to witness the most gorgeous African fusion band on the main stage. Blinking heck, s’ all going on, so much so, it’s going off.

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Truly fantastic DOCA and everyone who contributed their share, worked the bars, hosted side stalls and attractions and of course, the bonded spirit of you, the revellers; dotted with the special events, leaving next weekend for Confetti Battle and Colour Rush, I call to embrace this change, as this is destined to progress annually, we should be the envy of all of other towns and be proud of what has been achieved this weekend.

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© 2017-2019 Devizine (Darren Worrow)
Please seek permission from the Devizine site and any individual author, artist or photographer before using any content on this website. Unauthorised usage of any images or text is forbidden.


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