There are many things I love about living where we do but fairly high up the list are the seasons. Moving out here from London where there seemed only to be summer and winter, you really get to rejoice in four stunning seasons – the cyclical changing of plant and animal life in sync with the weather. It seems that many of us Chilterns dwellers in fact share a love of Autumn. For me, it’s the season of plenty – a celebration of rich harvests of fruit and vegetables grown bountiful over the summer, of deer rutting, warm drinks, comfort food, real fires and nights drawing in. Life seems slower and yet more vivid.
What better way to celebrate this beautiful time of year then, than with a festival of food. Which is of course exactly what the awesome Nadra Shah and Katy Brill from Chilterns Food Magazine decided to do with Feast on the Farm.
Based at Peterley Manor Farm, the festival kicked off on Friday 13th October with a sold out supper club from chef and author Oliver Rowe, star of BBC2s Urban Chef. Following this were two days of foodie workshops, stalls, and demos featuring many of the local foodie greats. We were absolutely delighted to be invited along as official bloggers for the Feast, reporting back on what would be the first year of this celebration of Chilterns food and drink.
If you haven’t been to Peterley Manor Farm yet it really is a lovely place. Tucked away on a long country track between Great Missenden and Prestwood it’s a perfect slice of Chilterns countryside with a fantastic farm shop full of local produce, pick your own goodies and of course the very pretty yurt that it is the Wild Strawberry Café. It’s great to go as a family as not only can we all appreciate the chilled out environment, but its perfect for kids who love the simple pleasures of jumping off the hay bales and running around in the pretty but safe space.
Peterley as it turns out is also the perfect place for a festival this time of year. Whilst we were lucky to experience some beautiful autumnal sunshine, the site holds several huge greenhouses which were home to the majority of the weekend’s activities including all the producer stalls, the producer pairings, and the many workshops. This meant guaranteed dry space to sample your gin/ wine/ cheese/ whatever you fancied with no risk of rain in your G&T. Perfect. The outside space, which is home to the café, was also base to the various food stall holders and an incredible mellow band (91Nights).
As a blogger trying to bring you the very best bits of the event, it was challenging – there was just too much good stuff! We needed to split ourselves in three to try and cover everything we wanted to. We soon formulated a plan and after making a circuit of the local producers – some known to us, some new, we made a beeline for the workshops and pairings.
The workshops were hosted in the one of the greenhouses, laid out with straw bale seating and decorated with seasonal pumpkins and bunting. The perfect mix of autumnal rustic chic and a very comfortable scene for the foodie theatre.
Top of the priority list was watching John Parry from the Mash Inn with his firepit cooking. He cooked to a packed – and due to the fire pit – extremely warm greenhouse. With Ian Churchill assisting, there were top tips on foraging, unusual food storage, dramatic flames and some seriously incredible smells. This was back to basics cooking but presented in the most flamboyant and exciting way.
Other workshops in the main greenhouse included Beverley Glock, the Nags Head, the Three Oaks at Gerrards Cross, the Food Goblin and Charlotte Pike. So much seriously good food and such a perfect way to showcase the local foodie talent.
Producer wise we were spoilt for choice. Campfire Gin, Daws Valley Vineyard, Baker’s Dozen, No 2 Pound Street, Marlow Cheese Company, Jolly Brew, Griffiths Brothers Gin, Auberge du Chocolat, Seedlip, Chiltern Farm Foods, Chiltern Charcuterie, the Adventures of Jules and Jim, Funky Elephant, Kitchen & Soul…really too many to mention, so apologies to any I may have missed. All local and all brilliant. It was great to meet these super talented businesses in person and find out more about their products and of course hear their business stories.
The Producer Pairings were a feature I particularly enjoyed. In a quite corner of one of the main greenhouses you could book in to a small group to see a selection of producers talk about the best ways to enjoy their product. This gave you the chance to really meet the maker in a relaxed and intimate setting and also learn more about some awesome Chilterns products.
We dropped in on the Campfire Gin talk about garnishings (very important when planning your G&T of course!). Later we also caught the Seedlip talk and the amazing story of Ben Branson and how he created the first ever non-alcoholic spirit, starting in his kitchen. Of course this is now a hugely successful brand with pretty much the coolest image, but like a lot of brilliant businesses it started with a spark of genius and quite possibly a small amount of madness. Love that!
The festival itself had an entirely chilled out vibe. I’m going to say we may have lost a few moments hanging out on a hay bale in the sun (reflecting on our findings of course). Isn’t planning everything? Well yes, that and autumn sun on a Sunday, is pretty much the bomb! With the blissful music playing the background it was a great place to hang out and soak up some mellow autumn vibes, and watch the festival going on around us.
Food stall choices included Laffa Streetfood (middle eastern style cooking), Native toasties, roast lamb, Malt the Brewery, Chiltern Ices …and with the café running as normal, pretty much all options covered. So there was plenty of choice to power up before hitting the stalls and sample some more cheese or wine! It’s a hard life.
We are so lucky in the Chilterns to be home to so many local producers and amazing pubs and restaurants. Thanks to Feast on the Farm we were given a brilliant opportunity to celebrate these incredible people and their products. We are all about supporting the small independents, which is exactly what Nadra and Katy have done with the Feast. Well done guys, you’ve absolutely succeeded in creating the perfect showcase for our brilliant local food and drink and we just know you’ll be back next year.