Bath is a 90 minute train journey from London's Paddington Station, but is to me, a completely different world. A quintessentially English town, Bath has beautifully tended gardens, imposing Georgian houses and impressive crescents. It feels like the perfect setting for one of Jane Austen's many novels, one of Bath's most illustrious residents (Nicolas Cage being another!).
Food festivals and markets of this kind are among the most enjoyable ways I find of spending my time (apart from eating of course). I had a great time tasting and purchasing some of the fine merchandise on offer and chatting to a variety of local producers specialising in foodstuffs from cheese to extra virgin rapeseed oil, chutneys and conserves.
Among these producers were Christian and Rebecca, a delightful couple and founders of Bread Tree, a company specialising in the importing niche and relatively unknown products made by Italian artisans.
I bought a large piece of spicy "LARDO" from them - a type of Italian "salume" (charcuterie), lardo is pork fat cured with rosemary and other herbs and spices, and is normally very thinly sliced and served as topping on grilled "bruschetta" bread. It is similar to Sarlo (the Russian equivalent), and it is a real delicacy.
It was great to meet Sam Moody (The Bath Priory's head chef) and see him in action during his cookery demonstration. Sam cooked a delicious risotto made of different types of fish and seafood, herbs including chervil, tarragon and dill and with plenty of mascarpone and parmesan cheese for extra creaminess and flavour. The risotto was beautifully dressed with Richard Vine's seasonal micro herbs and tasted divine.
The star of the show however was his Hinton Estate beef, purchased from Bartlett & Sons butchers in Bath, and cooked at a constant temperature of 48℃ in Sam's sous vide bath (talk about kitchen envy...).
The meat was then carefully browned and served with a medley of pan-fried wild mushrooms including morel and girolle.
I also attended a wine seminar by Neil Phillips (writer of the The Wine Tipster) who was doing a tasting of "Wines of Rioja". Neil is a great speaker and introduced us to a range of different Riojas including a white (2007 Cosme Palacio) and a most sensational 1995 Gran Reserva called Campillo Tinto which is 100% tempranillo.
Our final stop was at The Bath Priory for afternoon tea at one of the town's most elegant hotels and spas. Sue Williams (our host and the hotel's general manager) gave us a little tour of this luxury, boutique hotel before showing us into the sitting room.
Winner of a Gold Award as the Best Small Hotel in 2009/10, The Bath Priory is a haven of tranquillity and good taste. It is a privately owned and relatively small hotel which feels more like a stately home than a hotel.
The dainty sandwiches, cakes and scones were freshly baked on the premises and tasted delicious @ £17.50 including a tea of choice.
We were also served a lovely sausage roll, and as an extra dessert, panna cotta topped with jam and berries.
I thoroughly enjoyed my day in Bath, and look forward to returning in 2011 for more Bath Food Festival, afternoon tea at The Bath Priory Hotel and Italian lardo! Many thanks to Syamala of Sauce Communications and to Sue Williams of The Bath Priory for being the perfect hosts.