The South West’s biggest festival of food and drink returns to Exeter in May. Here’s our official round up of what not to miss this year
1. Head to the Darts Farm Tipis
Festival stalwarts Darts Farm will again take over their Northernhay Gardens spot, and this year they’re celebrating their 25th birthday with a whole host of masterclasses.
King of the grill? Barbecue meisters will love the Big Green Egg cooking demos with a host of pitt pros. And catch the Darts Farm Master Butchers sessions where Alastair and Philip David will be showing off their sausage-making skills (look out, too, for the butcher bros’ appearances with Michael Caines).
Interested imbibers will find plenty to whet their whistle: Susy Atkins’ Devon Wine masterclass, Salcombe Gin’s tasting sessions and sans-alcohol Sea Arch gin will tempt weekenders and designated drivers to get stuck in. Also on the drinks front, Tarquin’s Cornish Gin and Luscombe Drinks are teaming up for a mixology masterclass and will teach festival goers how to craft cocktails to take their summer parties to the next level.
2. Watch chefs in action at the Cookery Theatre
Festival co-founder and Lympstone Manor chef patron Michael Caines will be cooking his fave dishes on stage throughout the weekend. Don’t worry if you miss his demos however, as he’ll also be compering many of the other chefs’ sessions.
Returning festival faves of the top chef variety include The Pony & Trap’s Josh Eggleton, Guy Owen of The Idle Rocks, Tom Williams-Hawkes of The Salutation Inn and Fifteen Cornwall’s Adam Banks. There are also new additions this year, including rising star Elly Wentworth and Riverford Field Kitchen co-founder Jane Baxter.
On Monday, the South West Chef of the Year showdown commences at midday. Look out, too, for Good Game’s meaty masterclass and Mitch Tonks’ seafood soirée. The theatre is always busy, so make sure you get in early to bag a front row seat.
3. Indulge in shoppers’ delight
The Food and Drink Pavilions at the festival are a source of incredible goodies. This year, you’ll be able to fill your bags with finds from over 70 local producers – including a few newbies.
From dainty macarons and plump pies to peanut butter made from scratch and carbon negative beer, there’s no shortage of artisan produce – with the hardest decisions involving what to gift or to simply scoff on sight.
4. Eats and beats
The fun doesn’t stop once the chefs have packed away their pinnies for the day. Night owls head to Exeter Castle where the festivities continue from Friday 3 to Sunday 5.
There’s an all-day line-up of live music in the Castle Courtyard. Join in with the crowd at the front, or use the opportunity to head to one of the tables in the bar and settle into that food coma. The good vibes continue into the evening with Exeter Beats at the Castle, where BBC Radio 1’s Scott Mills and Nick Grimshaw will keep the party going ’til late.
Keeping it local is the easiest way to cut your plastic use, says Michael Dart of Darts Farm, one of the biggest independent farm shops in the South West
Scratching your head over what you can do about plastic-packed oceans? Not sure how to eat, shop and cook in a way that won't damage the environment? Want to support your local producers but stuck in a supermarket rut?
Casual kicks come by the bucketload at Harry's, with bacon waffle brunches and bellinispiked lunches rolling into date-night dinners