Another year, another Melton Food Festival....it's an annual tradition eagerly awaited by many in these here parts. There's a chance to taste something new, talk to local producers and those from further afield, have a drink with friends and perhaps at some stage sit down and watch one of the cookery demonstrations.
I've been going for a number of years...including those festivals which were held at nearby Brooksby Hall in huge marquees.
But again this year's fair was held at the busy and thriving Cattle market in the heart of the town itself.
Obviously the cattle, sheep and hens weren't there for the food festival, and as visitors walked past the empty pens to the entrance they immediately started to feel hungry. You could hear the sizzle of sausages and burgers frying and smell the distinctive bison burgers, as well as detecting the rich smell of chocolate which was accompanying fried churros.
I managed to slide past the street food stalls without stuffing myself full of food. After all there were 150 stalls, all piled high with produce to look at, taste, try and buy.
Alistair Mattinson was manning his Hedgerow Products stand. Everything he makes is sourced from Leicestershire, collecting bullaces and damsons, medlars and rowanberries as well as crab apples. I tested them all, well nearly all, and I have to say they were full of flavour. I only wish my blackberry jam tasted like his.
And it would have been rude not to test more from the hedgerows near Melton, this time infused with alcohol. Ooh, Sloeberry Spirits do a really mean vodka and blackberry ....they make about 5,000 bottles a year of that plus whisky and damson and sloe gin. Quite a few people buying bottles for Christmas presents....or so they said....
Another Leicestershire producer which caught my eye was Greyfriars Fine Foods....yes, the clue is the name....Richard III has inspired Rosie Clark to make contemporary foods with mediaeval flavours. And her products were different made with mead, marigolds and rose petals...beautifully labelled.
I think Riverford Organics have been to every local food fair I've been to over the past few years, and it was at Melton a few years ago, I met Diana who was whizzing up the most delicious sweetcorn fritters while she chatted away.
I must have eaten two or three, and promptly bought the lovely Riverford Cookbook which I use often. No sweetcorn fritters this time alas, but some very tasty kale with garlic.
Of course there wasn't just local produce at this food fair...exhibitors came from far and wide and I couldn't resist buying the most delicious hazelnut salami from French Flavour
Honestly, I put the salami in the fridge as soon I returned home, and the next minute, half of it was gone...and not by me I might add. One purchase that did stay in the fridge until I was ready to cook them were the 3 pounds of excellent fennel and chilli sausages from Saporito in Market Harborough.
By now my basket and bags were full of food...and I was so tempted by this stall....
It would have so easy to buy another basket...to take stuff home in of course....but unlike Oscar Wilde I resisted temptation. Until next year's Food Festival of course....