Abergavenny this weekend but the big show is the following week and it's free

Many of you will be preparing yourselves for the annual pilgrimage to the Abergavenny Food Festival this weekend, still ‘The Big Daddy’ of all the country’s food festivals. What started out fifteen years ago as a way of promoting local farm and food producers after the devastating effects of the BSE crisis, is now recognised as the most diverse and successful food festival in Britain.

It’s always had a tremendous support from national media, chefs, journalists and professional food buyers and the informal party atmosphere throughout the town is one of the enduring features of the festival. Heading the bill will be Raymond Blanc, Tom Kerridge, Yotam Ottolenghi, Theo Randall, Gizzi Erskine, Mitch Tonks and the Hemsley sisters. These are just a few of the many that will be performing demonstrations or heading discussion groups over the weekend.

It’s no surprise that most of the country’s leading food writers and buyers will also be in attendance and it’s a great opportunity, especially for any new food business, to showcase their produce and with a knowledgeable audience comes important feedback comments and ideas. I shall be there myself over the weekend browsing round the stalls and meeting with friends, but it will be difficult not to be thinking about our own celebration we shall be having on the following Friday 25th September 15 miles up the road.

It is our big annual eel release at Llangorse Lake with the boys and staff of The Grange School, Monmouth. This is always our last eel release of the year and celebrates another successful year end for our Eels in Schools project. There’s an open invitation for anyone to join us for the day that has been involved with the project through the year, or anyone wanting to learn more and get involved next year. That includes customers, chefs and press or anyone interested in seeing ‘sustainability’ in action. From our small flotilla of boats we shall restock Llangorse’s 28 acre lake with about 20,000 eels. Over the past 5 years we have restocked the lake with over 150,000 eels. It will be over the next few years that we will be able to gauge the success of this project as some of these eels start reaching maturity and monitoring the migratory escapement will become the priority.

After the release we normally have a BBQ and last year Japanese Michelin-starred chef Yoshinori Ishii and his head chef Masato from ‘UMU’ produced an amazing display of food. This year it’s the turn of Scandinavian food campaigner and writer Silla Bjerrum of Feng Sushi fame. Silla is famous for her ‘sustainability’ credentials and love of curing. Silla has already sent me some suggestions of what she shall be cooking and demonstrating and we are in for a treat. Eel dragon roll, mini eel donburi, salmon nigiri, sea bass and salmon maki, Silla’s Sild sushi, crispy skins and mizuma.

We shall have some of our prize winning filleters displaying their skills we may even have Mr Richard Cook himself on the filleting block. Jonny Rees one of our coracle fisherman has promised to come again with a selection of coracles to demonstrate in, he said he even has one that I can have a bash at trying to steer (must remember to pack a spare set of dry clothes). In fact now I come to think of it we have the makings of a show to rival Abergavenny and it’s free. Anyone interested in coming, contact me or the office for more details.

It’s been an exciting year and we are only three quarters of the way through it. The work on the barn conversion next door is really starting to take shape and the shop/café that has served us so well for the last 15 years will, in the next 12 months, be just a memory. The new building means more retail space with a restaurant and café plus teaching and demo area. These developments also mean strengthening and adding to an enthusiastic team we are building. Anyone wanting to join us on the next exciting stage of our development send me your details.

The first of our three water recycling lagoons is very near completion and will soon be operational - another piece of the jigsaw fitting into place as part our zero carbon footprint strategy.