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Hants Food Fest

Fasten your napkins: it's July's bacchanal to all things edible.

Vanilla catering at The Port House

So July’s Hampshire Food Festival (or for all ye’ on-trend, social savvy bods #HantsFoodfest17).

Forget your tame, weekend-then-it’s-done affair, we’re talking a month-long bacchanal: from sausage and mash pop-ups courtesy of Brit Charcuterie pioneers, Parsonage Farm and Muddy favourites The Crown Inn, to The Vineyards of Hampshire Festival; from tractor rides and cheese suppers on Lyburn Farm to a very special event from Masterchef winner and Hampshire resident, Jane Devonshire, at The Myer’s Touch near Winchester.


Now it is a truth universally acknowledged, that us Muddies love nothing more than wine and food so when the mother lode of all things foodie and local, Hampshire Fare, asked me to chats and a liquid lunch about this year’s festival, I trotted off — in the name of research of course.

After minor hiccoughs: google map fails, ten-point-turns in your standard pushchair-friendly estate; I found myself in the green fields of Hildon Water HQ, a Hampshire company done very good indeed.

If you had no idea that the brand came from good ol’ Hants, then you’re not the only one but yes, the mineral water is drawn from a bore-hole sunk deep into the Test Valley’s chalky underbelly and yes, Hildon certainly does its ‘bit’ locally, even supporting the nearby secondary school.

A very welcome flat-white from Mozzo coffee, another Southampton-based company going stratospheric but keeping its feet firmly on the ground with the community fund for coffee producers in Central Africa, loving the latte art as well.

A zoom around Hildon Water’s Plant, stick to the yellow tramlines please, then back to our tent, removing the fetching high-vis top (can I say how well it went with my burgundy leather jacket? A *strong* look me-thinks) and we took to our benches for the real job in hand: munching our way through a Queenly feast of Hampshire goodies.

Now I get that, unless you’re a certain ex-NYC property developer, nepotism is a dirty word but can’t a gal be biased towards the county of her birth?

This is Wessex after all, breadbasket of England: vines have flourished here, on our chalk-seam, since Bouddica played put-em-up with the Romans and our waterways teem with fishy delights.

Yeah, Sussex, Dorset, Cotswolds et al. put that in your pipe and smoke it, and I haven’t even mentioned foodie hotspots The Isle of Wight and The New Forest. *Waves at county Muddy Eds: Debbie, Amber, Sarah, with a zehr cheeky grin and muchos love.*

Back in the tent and Cottonworth Vineyard’s English Sparkling Wine was flowing. How often are you poured wine from the vintner himself, Hugh Liddell “rabbiting on about the wonders of chalk”, his words not mine.

Dammit, only at times like this do I miss your standard London meedja shindiggle — where’s your Oyster Card driver when you want a second glass of gold-medal winning Hampshire, yes Hampshire, fizz? (Sussex, Surrey hope you’re still puffing away.)

A hamper of delicious, delectables: Fjordling’s smoked trout, pork pies from Jakes Artisan Foods, Bad Boy Biltong, Two Hoots cheese, a tempting sampler of Twisted Nose gin and much more, kept all us gobby media-types silent as a select band of Hampshire’s foodie fraternity took to the floor.

Hugh Liddell and Danebury Winery’s Caroline Stevens waxed comical about The Vineyards of Hampshire Festival, held in July in the vine maize at Cottonworth: concerns that visitors might find themselves lost after a glass or two of bubbles were quickly put to bed.

 Next up, Parsonage Farm’s Sarah Mills, a woman who fizzes with caliente passion. She’s an ex-cookery teacher and it shows. As well as the sausage and mash pop-up mentioned in the intro, she’ll be running a Hampshire themed pork butchery and charcuterie preparation workshop.

Lyburn cheese’s Mike Smales told us about his legendary farm tours and cheese suppers (if it rains, you get wet), surrounded by huge rounds of butter-yellow Old Winchester cheese: ten years old and still edible, it can last for up to thirty apparently.

Last, a bona fide c’leb: Jane Devonshire. Yup, one more thing Cotswolds, Sussex etc, Masterchef 2016’s Winner is a Hampshire gal who’s hosting a proper grown-up feast, plus a separate canapé evening, at The Myer’s Touch in Winchester. Both evenings are in aid of Ark Cancer Charity. 

These events are just the tip of the giant stilton (oh cripes, stilton isn’t Hampshire is it? Massive faux pas, my bad). Lots more info on the food festival’s hundreds of pop-ups, masterclasses and tours coming up on Muddy over the next few weeks or you can find the full programme here.

Bien manger!

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