Thursday 28 August 2014

Bolton Food and Drink Festival

Bolton town centre, like many town centres has suffered the effects of recession and as a result, mostly consists of pound shops, charity shops and an awesome market. Although I love a good hunt round the charity shops and pound shops on occasions and I love the market, for most of the year there isn't much there to attract the crowds.

That all changes on August Bank Holiday, which is when Bolton holds its annual Food and Drink Festival.

I can hear all you critics, Bolton is hardly the most happening of towns but take it from someone who has been to quite a few Food and Drink festivals, Bolton's is definitely worth a visit.

This is my third year of visiting the festival and every year without fail its grown and taken over more of the town.  I could go on about it, but I think I'll just take you through some of the goodies I bought and hopefully persuade you to pay a visit next year...

We actually ended up going twice this year, and on my first visit I had only one place in mind for my lunch- The Hungry Gecko. The Hungry Gecko is run by Master Chef contestant and fellow Mancunian Jackie Kearney. As a vegetarian, Jackie always ensures that there are veggie and vegan options available so I knew I wouldn't starve! I did have a bit of a panic when Barbarella (the name of Jackie's food trailer!) wasn't in her usual spot, however this was short lived when I realised she had been moved to a prime spot in front of Bolton town hall. And I was even happier to see that as usual, Jackie had come up with some exciting vegan and veggie options.

My mind was instantly made up as soon as I saw the words 'veggie duck' and I opted for the baked spring roll with plum sauce. Which was delicious, however as a result I would have liked to have a bigger portion.

Next stop was The Kitchen on Great Moor Street's stall for dessert, the choice this time was a bit more difficult, it was a toss up between the walnut and date brownie or a chocolate tiffin. As usual, most of the food available on the stall was vegan and in the end I went for the walnut and date brownie, because I can never pass on a brownie.  This didn't taste like your ordinary brownie and it didn't have the chocolate hit I was expecting, however it was lovely and moist and there is nothing worse than a dry brownie!

On the second day I headed straight to The Hungry Gecko again, because on the first day I spotted the Bombay Frankie, which was described as 'Mumbai's burrito', and I'm a fan of anything that comes in a wrap. I went for the vegan version (obviously!) which was aubergine and potato masala, which again was yum!

For dessert, I had noticed one of the churro stalls (there was two this year) advertising vegan churros, so I grabbed a portion with sugar and cinnamon. Unfortunately the chocolate sauce was not vegan, which was a shame but I adore cinnamon so I wasn't too distraught.

So that was the food I ate there, but I can never go to these markets without picking up other things!

The first stop on the first day, right after going to The Hungry Gecko was Franca's stall which was next door. Franca's is a pizza takeaway in Bolton town centre run by actual Italians, as well as the takeaway, they also tour the local Food and Drink and Christmas markets selling their other produce. A few years ago I spotted them at an event in Manchester and tried their garlic mushroom bruschetta topping and was instantly hooked. Now every time I see their stall, I make sure I grab a jar of it.  It's great in a mushroom risotto and even on toast, perhaps with a bit of No Moo Melty.  Whilst finding the link for this blog post, I discovered that you can buy all their stuff now online- woo hoo!

Now I'm a cider gal, so when I spotted two stalls selling locally brewed cider I was very excited.  The first one, Lancashire Brewery is registered with the Vegan Society, so I knew I was in safe hands and picked a bottle of their two ciders- Copper and Blush. So far I've only drank the Copper which had a lovely crisp smooth taste.

The other cider stall was Red Bank Cider, which is brewed in Bolton. Unlike Lancashire Brewery it isn't registered with the Vegan Society, but the great thing about visiting small businesses at these events is that you get to talk directly to the owner who assured me that they were vegan friendly.  They do flavoured ciders as well as more traditional ciders, I picked up a box of their three flavoured ciders to- blueberry, strawberry and rum to take along to a birthday BBQ. Out of all the flavours, I would say the strawberry was my favorite.

As a chocoholic, I'm always keeping an eye out for interesting vegan chocolate. There were two stalls at the market selling vegan chocolate- The Chocolate Cafe, which is a business in nearby Bury, who are very good at labelling their vegan chocolates, their dark chocolate and ginger bar is divine. The other stall was one I hadn't seen before was called Chocolate Magic, and on closer inspection also had chocolates that were suitable for vegans, although not labelled as such.  I went for the dark Belgian Chocolate, hazelnut and oranges (I love hazelnuts) and the dark Belgian chocolate and sea salt, because I kept seeing so many milk chocolate and salted caramel bars around and this was the closest thing to it that was vegan!

So far I've only had the sea salt one, and I'm not too sure what I think- whilst eating it you get a mix of the salt and chocolate but then there is a weird bitter aftertaste which I'm not too sure about.

Oh and I nearly forgot my other purchase! There was also a stall called Real Thai Pies, which was advertising a 100% vegan vegetable green thai curry pie, which you could buy baked to eat then or frozen to take away.  I went for the frozen version which we had for tea with lattice fries and roasted cauliflower and broccoli- yum!

I hope I've persuaded you to pencil in Bolton Food Festival in your diaries for August Bank holiday 2015. Hopefully it will continue with tradition and grow more and have more vegan options next year!

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