Set in the centre of the dramatic forest, the Speech House was originally a hunting lodge and now it operates as 37 bedroom hotel, which has large grounds to host many events like this food festival or the annual Fern Bonfire and firework display. However, the Forest Showcase is an independently-run event – rather than something organised by the Speech House.
On the day of the Forest Showcase, there was an autumn chill but glorious sunshine and blue skies as we arrived into the festival around 1pm. The one-day event had been opened that morning by Masterchef and YouTube’s ‘Buttery Biscuit Base’ star, Gregg Wallace.
We made our way into the Food Hall where we were met with Blakeney cider and perry producer McCrindle’s Cider’s stand. The cider maker’s ‘Loiterpin’ perry was on display – an eye-catching product in a Champagne-style bottle. Owner James McCrindle explained that this type of drink was made long before winemakers in Champagne did, as the Forest of Dean provided the coal to make the glass for the special bottle. We tried a sample of the Loiterpin and it was a light and fragrant bubbly – good enough to toast a nuptial speech.
We also had a glass of the still berry McCrindle’s cider – very nice and not too sweet – and I bought a trio pack of the Dry Vintage as my first Christmas gift purchase of the year.
As well as the Blakeney producer, some other local area’s cider makers were exhibiting – Severn Cider, Apple County and Gwatkin. The brewers showcasing their ales were Longhope-based Hillside Brewery, Mitcheldean’s Bespoke Brewery and further-afield Wiltshire’s Wadworth Brewery.
Next stop in the tent was Hillbrooks Icecream, where I sampled the salted caramel flavour. I didn’t even realise that such a good ice cream producer existed in the Forest of Dean.
We moved on to sample some cold-pressed rape seed oil. Stainswick Farm makes these incredibly fantastic oils on its farm in Oxfordshire. This is a seriously good product – the basil oil would be perfect for a salad, the oak-smoked oil was not too intense but extremely delicious, the garlic oil was good and my personal favourite – the white truffle oil, which is truly fantastic and would be perfect to finish off a plate of pasta or risotto.
Moving on to another drizzly food product, Tigg’s dressings. A winner of a Great Taste Gold Award 2015 – its original dressing is the favourite of mine from the range – and the owner said the preference of most people. It has a zingy, sweet and sour taste created from the cider vinegar and tomato ingredients.
We then sampled some of the cheese from Somerset-based Gould’s Cheddar stall. My favourite was the three year-old Fiery Fred’s Crazy Cheddar as it was creamy and strong, but not too crumbly. Very moreish. I picked up a block for my Christmas cheese board. This exhibitor was also showcasing the Windy Ridge Cheese ‘afterburn’ variety, a cheddar that is packed full of Jalapeño peppers, red chillies and a mix of red and green bell peppers – very tasty for palates that enjoy a bit of heat!
Other edible items showcased included meats, confectionary, patisserie, conserves, fruit and vegetables, bakery, olives and antipasti, scotch eggs, pastries, Asian produce, vegan and vegetarian options, herbs and spices, juice coffee, wine and spirits
The Forest Showcase offered so much throughout the day for things for people to see and do, as well as the bustling Food Hall there was talks in the Cookery Theatre by various chefs and food producers – including a beer and food pairing demonstration by Harts Barn Cookery School and Hillside Brewery – as well as the Arts and Crafts Pavilion for handmade or unique goods, the Kids Zone with turnip tossing and vegetable statue making, a petting zoo as well as the Live Music Tent.
Before heading off I made sure I visited the Native Breeds stall for a pulled pork in McCrindle’s cider roll. As you can imagine, it was the perfect end to a fun foodie day out.
The Forest Showcase was a great event and good value at £12 for a family of four. It was a good event – and hopefully there will be more exhibitors and visitors for next year’s festival.
Photography is courtesy of Garry Holden Photography.