We’re all going on a foodie holiday

While I sit here totally pogged out from a birthday meal at Les 4 Vents, it almost seems hard to think about yet more food! And yet with the various temptations on offer in Wales, it’s almost difficult not to as well. Carmarthenshire, for instance, has a whole website dedicated to its food trails, which feature its very best farm shops, pie shops, tea shops, pubs and bars to name just a few. It also promises to put you on to Prince Charles’ favourite cheese and cake (you need to go to Carmarthen’s Indoor Market for both), smoked trout, squirrel on sale in Carmarthen Market, and the newly acclaimed ‘best restaurant in Wales’, Y Polyn, hiding in the sleepy village of Capel Dewi. The trails make it easy to avoid the big supermarkets and eat locally – and a visit to fisherman Big Bill, who cooks up his catch every weekend and serves it in his Llansteffan living room, also seems strangely appealing.

Also a candidate for a late ‘staycation’ in the first half of September is a trip to the Abergavenny Food Festival. Make sure you don’t miss The Chocktail Party on the Friday night – a choice combo of spirits and chocolates with luxury chocolatier Marc Demarquette and James Chase of Chase Distillery, plus sleight-of-hand from Harvey Nicols’ bar manager/mixologist Dom Jacobs too. The festival itself includes a pop-up Indian restaurant, pastry sessions from expert chef Richard Bertinet, the chance to meet the founders of the Ottolenghi restaurants, and much more besides. Unfortuantely, come the 15th and 16th of September I’ll be in the thick of managing a pit of hormonal 16-year-olds who keep changing their minds about their IGCSE options. I’ll be there with you in spirit though…promise!

Variety is the spice of life

To keep me from despair during the stress of September and October, I’m already thinking of ordering a batch of new cookbooks in to help me let off steam (Hairy Dieters, anyone?). But I’m thinking that HalfWine‘s new collection may help me too: they’ve just unveiled a new range of wines for chilli and spice lovers like me. The half-bottle wine merchant is highlighting several wines from Alsace to go with my home-made curries – and I like the sound of the recommendations made so far by HalfWine’s founder. Riesling is suggested for Thai green curries and other chilli-based dishes, with Gewurztraminer flagged up for cream-based ones, such as Tandoori chicken. Half-bottles are great for my household too: being part French, we never get through a whole bottle between us in one sitting, so half-bottles help us to reduce wastage and to try new varieties in a more cost-effective way, as well as choose quality over quantity and moderate the amount that we drink. Now – anyone know any good Indian cookery books?

Slimming for summer?

You’d never think that the pre-holiday diet was dead, but according to a recent survey conducted by Directline Holidays, it is as good as. Only 5% of over 500 surveyed admitted crash dieting before a holiday and fewer than 2% are worried about how they look in a bikini. This can mean only one of two things: either Brits have let themselves go completely, or they’re opting for more sensible long-term programmes of weight-loss and weight maintenance. Let’s hope it’s the latter! As for me, I’m not so much thinking of next summer’s bikini as I am of Christmas: for me, shedding pounds between September and December is a matter of damage limitation, given that Christmas food is possibly my most favourite food on the entire planet. Now, where’s my Weight Watchers stuff?!

Tea, glorious tea

Part of my weight-loss programme normally involves an accelerated consumption of liquids to counteract the decreased amounts of food that I’m inevitably taking in. Liquids I tend to rely on during this time are coffee, Diet Coke, water, cup-a-soup, and tea. Tea is a particularly good one due to the sheer number of varieties available, and now I have another company’s teas to add to my ‘to try’ list: Lishi Teas source direct from China, where tea has long been respected for its medicinal properties. I particularly like the look of its chrysanthemum tea, which I’ve never heard of or tried. Designed to be mixed with green tea, they come from Anhui Province and are traditionally also mixed with goji berries and sugar. It’s also said to help with various ailments, including sore throats, fever, and acne – so if Lishi Tea can add more unusual and medicinal teas like this into their repertoire, chances are they’ll find me on their list of customers in the near future.

Fight illness with food

We’ve all heard of chicken soup for the soul – but now prestigious London restaurant Redhook is trying to fight illness with food. Hoping to raise funds to help those with Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy, on September 12th the restaurant will be holding an auction, with items to bid for including a boxing glove signed by Dizzee Rascal, and a Star Trek comic book signed by Sir Patrick Stewart. Tickets for the evening include cocktails on arrival, gourmet canapés, unique entertainment, automatic entry into a raffle for a fabulous weekend for two in Wales, and the opportunity to bid in the auction in support of Action Duchenne. Additionally, guests can purchase a bespoke three-course meal, designed for the evening by head chef Jeff Roxas-Green. Tickets for Auction Duchenne, which are £50 for the evening, and £80 to include the additional three course meal, are available from the Action Duchenne website: http://www.actionduchenne.org/auctionduchenne

Flying the flag for Red Tractor quality

Have you ever seen that red tractor logo on your food packaging and wondered what it meant? Look no further – Red Tractor Week, which runs from September 24 to September 30, should tell you everything you need to know. In short, though, you can take it as a hallmark of quality, a guarantee of origin, and a promise of environmental protection and animal welfare. The campaign is backed by stars of Coronation Street and Bad Girls, who aim to show how easy is it to buy, cook and eat Red Tractor foods. Red Tractor Week 2012 will involve a number of activities designed to educate shoppers on the availability and accessibility of Red Tractor products and the values behind the logo, including cook-along videos, an exclusive look ‘Behind the Logo’, a nationwide cookery competition and a regional schools initiative. To take part and find out more, visit www.redtractor.org.uk/RTW2012, where you can enter the Red Tractor cooking competition, and find out how to follow activities via Twitter and Facebook. You’ll find me there downloading their week-long meal plan!

Take your tractor to the Cake and Bake Show

Once you’re done embracing one of Britain’s most iconic logos, you can get on with embracing one of its biggest trends – baking – at the Cake and Bake Show (although actually, as it’s being held at Earls Court in London, you may have difficulty arriving by tractor!). Also taking place in September, the show stars Great British Bake Off judge Paul Hollywood, along with Richard Bertinet, renowned chocolatier Paul A Young, and many more. Don’t miss Mary Berry’s cake demonstrations, or the food market selling cakes, bread, pies and the latest baking equipment. And, for tiny bakers, there’ll be a children’s area headed up by Annabel Karmel – so prepare for stickiness (which, to be honest, with it being back to school time, you’re probably ready for anyway). Happy baking!