So, Private View II decided to take its eye off art today and concentrate on two other things close to its heart, food and drink. A press invitation to the BBC Food Show Winter at the NEC was just the ticket.
It’s on until Sunday so there’s still time to get along. It’s vast, and has an enormous number of imbibing, scoffing and shopping opportunities, plus cooks – many known for their TV shows as well as restaurant work and books – putting in appearances with live cooking demonstrations, interviews and book signings. Still to come over the next few days are, amongst others, James Martin, Paul Hollywood and Mary Berry, Tom Kerridge, the Hairy Bikers, Lisa Faulkner and Hemsley+Hemsley. Today I saw a bit of Phil Vickery being creative and Lorraine Pascale talking about her love of peanut butter.
I mostly enjoyed the wandering and sampling though. There are enough freebies to mean you don’t need to buy any of the admittedly-nice looking snacks for sale.
The drinks area has plenty of wintery-type drinks, including a chocolatey and flat white Martini Baileys, and other spirits infused with cream too, plus gins and vodkas, as well as wine, cider and beer brewers. There was even one vodka apparently made with milk – a side product of a dairy farmer.
I had a chat with jolly Jaspal Purewal on the Indian Brewery Company stall as I sampled the wares of his son’s company, which include Indian Summer, India Pale Ale, Peacock, Bombay Honey and Birmingham Lager. Why do they call themselves the Indian Brewery Company I asked, expecting it was something to do with the ingredients or brewing process: “Because we’re Indian” came back the reply. Ask a stupid question…. They’re currently based in Ansley in North Warwickshire but looking to move into Birmingham.
I ate a potentially nightmare-inducing amount of different cheeses, and some hot curries, sauces and cooking mixtures. There were lots of sausage-producers there and also the Linda McCartney vegetarian range. The Saucy Fish Co served me up a nice snack, and I also tried different types of smoked salmon, crab and anchovies. There seemed to be lot of gluten-free versions of every type of food you could think of. I also sampled rice pudding, ice cream and fudge. I wish all my sampling was in proper meal order but I must admit it wasn’t – thank goodness for a strong stomach.
The main difficulty was getting to the front of the stalls, through the crowds, with everyone trying to get the most for their ticket price, which started at around £20 and increased considerably for VIP packages including Supertheatre.
My tips for getting the most out of the day:
- Don’t have much for breakfast
- Get there as soon as it opens, before it gets busy
- Don’t wear too much, or leave your coat in the cloakroom – it got hot in there
- Sharpen your elbows to deal with the lurkers around the front of the stands where all the free samples are being given out
- Try something new; I enjoyed a kale smoothie (yes really) and took home a free leaflet of recipes
- Leave your sense of embarrassment at home – if you want to make the most of your ticket and eat and drink your way round the show you can’t have an in-depth conversation with everyone on a stall. Just dip in and depart.
- If you don’t have access to the ‘Supertheatre’ (and the very name put me off), don’t fret, there are opportunities for seeing lots of other big names in areas such as the winter kitchen, bakes and cakes stage and Stoves live cook stage. Today there also seemed to be some giveaways of kitchen items at the start of these – but they involved audience members having to get up and dance while being filmed and shown on a big screen before the host presented the goodies. Consider whether you want a new toaster that much!
- Don’t miss the goody bags being given out nearby when you’ve left the main exhibition area – that huge box of pasta at least will come in handy!