Saved by Chocolate
There are some visits which we make that don’t feature in the blog. There are many reasons for this, but mainly because they were a little dull, and not worth writing about. The Spring Tide Food Festival was quickly falling into this category, save for one shining beacon of hope.
Esra had been informed by one of his colleagues at work that this event was coming up. Not one to turn down a food and drink festival, as you well know, we decided to schedule it into our social calendar. On the Friday evening before the event, we did a quick online recky. Taking place in Burton Bradstock it was run by the National Trust and promised a great foodie festival. We did note that it was £2 each to enter, but with that came free parking, so undeterred we maintained our plans.
Burton Bradstock is a good hours drive from where we live, not a distance issue, merely an infrastructure one. Anyone who lives in this county knows that the roads between locations are winding, narrow and tortuous, entering and exiting a number of pretty villages along the way, progress is never swift. The traffic was, as usual, very light on our journey out to the coast. Other than the usual stop, start, along roads with passing places, whilst we courteously let cars from the opposite direction pass, it was also pretty uneventful. Unless you count me burning my mouth on the scalding hot coffee Es had prepared, then the expletives which subsequently filled the car, but lets gloss over that unladylike behaviour.
We entered the car park, which was a grassed area overlooking the sea and parked where directed by the ubiquitous ‘high-vis’ man. The event itself is held in the field opposite and was made up of one large marquee and a few outside vendors. “Is this it?” were the first words from Esras mouth, with a slight tinge of sulkiness in his voice. “Looks like it” I replied. Well, we were there, we had made our journey, so we paid our money and entered.
The quality of produce on offer, as always, was second to none. Artisan breads, meat, fish, locally made beers and cider and of course lots of cheese. In between the food stalls sat local artists selling a wide range of beautiful items from jewellery to artwork, so it wasn’t the quality but the quantity on offer which was the disappointment. ‘I really can’t write about this’ I thought, there is just not enough to keep readers entertained, its nothing they haven’t seen before, its a watered down version of Shaftesbury Festival or Dorset Knob Throwing. Quite frankly, it was a bit of a damp squib. So resigning myself to the fact that we have made a very long journey to pick up a few delicious items for dinner tonight, we finished our round of the stalls. I sent Es off to get some bread to go with the lovely creamy garlic and chive cheese we had just bought. And I went in the opposite direction to collect a chocolate black cherry muffin I had spied. On my way back to find Es I came across Solkiki, a chocolate producer.
Those of you who know me know I don’t really have a sweet tooth. However Es loves anything sweet and I thought I would buy him a treat in the form of a chocolate bar. Whilst perusing I noticed the usual award stickers, but what didn’t initially twig was that they were INTERNATIONAL award stickers. This guy was not playing small, this was not Best in the South West, this was the big boys games. He was competing against the likes of Hotel Chocolat and he was winning. That alone piqued my interest.
He asked what kind of chocolate I liked “oh, I don’t really eat chocolate” I told him, “I just want to buy my husband a nice gift”. He looked at me with amusement and stated that he could convert even the most ardent chocolate hater (if there is such a thing). I explained that its not that I don’t like chocolate, of course I will eat it, I do like some of the dark, single bean, single estate bars, but one or two squares and I’m happy. He allowed me to taste a couple of samples and they were delicious. I did fall in love with a bar made using coconut milk and whisky nibs, which tasted unlike anything I have ever tasted before. That was swiftly purchased and subsequently secreted in a secret hidey hole in the house. Whereas I purchased a lovely salted peanut bar for Es, and therein lies another story, but maybe another time.
So, chocolate aside, for me the most impressive thing was Bob! You know I wax lyrical about producers enthusiasm and knowledge, but this guy was just that little bit more. He was one of those people with a real ethic, an honest love of his craft and a genuine concern for the producers further down the line. What I didn’t know is that just because something is labelled fair trade, not all fair trade is equal. Just as supermarkets have locked onto our changing preference for ethical treatment of our meat animals, and place ‘free range’ on their produce. Free range doesn’t always mean allowed to roam endlessly in lush green fields enjoying life, it can mean, not caged but allowed to wander around a very crowded barn. Personally I consider it flagrant deception, relying on an understood idiom and twisting it to suit their marketing and sales targets. Unfortunately the same seems to apply to fair trade labels. Oh the farmer does get a pay out for every fair trade item sold, but that can be only 1p of the £5 you just paid for the chocolate bar. Again, hooey!
Solkiki is micro batch, single estate, rare bean, better than fair trade produce. Its also Vegan, but for those of us not against consuming meat and dairy, you really wouldn’t know any different. Iris and Bob run this ethical and quite frankly wonderful business from Dorset and the only reason I wrote this blog post was to share their enthusiasm with you. If you ever meet them in person, they just give you the ‘good’ vibe, and this is clearly from their care and genuine interest in the plantations and co-ops they work with, ensuring fairness for all in ‘have’ and ‘have-not’ society. I wish I had a larger platform on which to extol the virtues of truly exceptional producers, sadly I just have my little corner of the world wide web, however I implore you to check them out through the link above and treat yourself to their products and by all means let me know personally what you think, as I am genuinely interested.
Finally. Just let me set the record… I did not get any favours or payment for this post, it is my sincere and impartial view.
Would I recommend Spring Tide Food Festival? depends. I would not travel a great distance for it when there are so many fabulous and larger venues such as Frome Market. If its on your doorstep it may be worth a pop in, but then again to pay £2 for the privilege would put me off.