The sad news first our friends – The May Day weekend is officially over! Three days of glorious sunshine, laziness and partying will remain in our memory for very long. The good news is that, it was one of the busiest, greatest weekends we have had so far living in the West Midlands! We have been all over the place – visited St Ethelbert’s fair in Hereford, travelled to Eastnor to see the famed Eastnor Castle and tasted the fierce goods at the Chilli Festival. On Monday, we drove to Worcester and did some Mother’s Day shopping in the city centre (Polish Mother’s day is celebrated on 26th of May) – it was insane and we loved every second of it! Mal has also edited the pictures we took and Rita scanned a beautiful brochure about the castle – we will write a nice blog about the trip so keep your eyes open wide and you shall not miss it!
This entry will be dedicated to the Chilli Festival – it was red, hot and involved everything chilli – from cholocate cream, to chilli chutneys, chilli wraps, chilli cakes, chilli ice creams, chilli wine and cola to traditional chilli con corne and chilli tequila! From the very beginning, the Chilli event has been a big hit with the West Midlands folks. The first edition in 2012 has been visited by nearly 5 000 people and second edition this year drew twice as many! We don’t blame anybody for coming, and those who didn’t come are blaming themselves for not showing up! Mark our words, the 3rd edition in 2014 will have to be moved out of the castle and into the park – it will turn into a real chilli madness! The organizers chose a perfect date for the festival as well: the 5th and 6th of May (Saturday and Sunday) are big celebration in Mexico and among Latin American communities in the US. Cinco de Mayo (Spanish for the 5th of May) commemorates the Mexican army’s victory over France at the Battle of Puebla on the 5th of May 1861 during the Franco-Mexican War (1861-1867). Once just a minor holiday, in recent decades it has evolved into a powerful celebration of Mexican culture and heritage with large parades, music festivals and street dance performances. While standing in line to enter the festival grounds, we had a chance to speak to American-Mexican family that really appreciated the opportunity to celebrate the Mexican holiday in a foreign country. Their kids loved the actor dressed in traditional falsa poncho and sombrero hired to entertained the crowd. We found his stereotypical sense of humour as fake as his Mexican accent and moustache and the overuse of the word “gringo” really annoying, but at least he was kind enough to pose for a picture. Surrounded by such a merry company, the queue moved really quickly and after paying the fee of £9.50 per person, we were allowed to enter.
It was our first visit to Eastnor and the castle (or rather a grand mansion built to resemble a castle) made a huge impression on us. We will try to describe it in details in a separate blog entry, but it is worth mentioning now, that the estate is simply huge. Before we reached the building and the festival site, we had to pass through a small park, picnic area and a knights maze. There are two entrances to the site: one in the front, near the main car park and the second in the far back near the Deer Park. The main entry leads through the shop and into a garden, the other offers a long walk around the estate forest and the lake. We chose the first path but even then, it took us almost 10 minutes to get to the right place. No complains here – we had a beautiful trek through the knights maze, stopped to dance to Pantasy Steel Band playing traditional Caribbean music and witnessed some of the cooking classes organized for the kids. We entered the main courtyard exactly at high noon – hungry like a pack of wolves and went straight looking for the food!
It wasn’t hard to find a great place to eat. Right by the entrance, we met a group of people queuing politely in a truly British fashion. You must know, that if a British person sees other people waiting for something, he or she will join them even not knowing what they are waiting for. We didn’t have to guess why our fellow visitors were lining up – within seconds our noses were filled by the delicious aroma of hot chilli con carne and rice. The decision to join the crowd turned out to be an excellent one – the food served at the stall was extraordinary! The company came to Eastnor all the way from Manchester and it would be a crime not to write who they were. Ladies and gents, kindly be introduced to Mango Rays!
Company: The Chilli Peppers Company
Address: Stoney Bridge, Cark in Cartmel, Cumbria LA11 7PE, tel. 015395 58110
Additional information: http://www.thedevilsgarden.co.uk/index.php?app=gbu0&ns=catshow&ref=Chilli-Pepper-Company-Geds
The Chilli Peppers Company is based in the lovely village of Cark in Cartmel in the Lake District. The Village is known as the home of sticky toffee pudding (that’s the home we like!) but soon things could change. Thanks to the hard work of Gerald Fowler and his wife, the place now rapidly becomes a hot spot on the map for chilli lovers! The Chilli Pepper Company specializes not only in super hot chilli sauces, chutneys and powders, but were the first business in the UK supplying rare chilli seeds for those who wanted to grow the chilli in their gardens. Gerald is a specialist when it comes to growing different chilli plants – if you need any advice, please contact him and he will gladly help you to become the local king or queen of chilli. For those of our readers who are looking for extreme experiences, The Chilli Pepper Company has two very unique products: 10 Minute Burn Hot Sauce (banned at 3 food festivals for being too hot for a normal human beings – guaranteed to take your internal organs for a roller-coaster ride to hell) and 15 Minute Burn cutely nicknamed “The Pocket Rocket” (Bhut Jolokia chilli extract for the bravest of the brave).
Company: Cola Rebell
Address: Clay House, 5 Horninglow Street, Burton on Trent, Staffordshire, DE14 1NG (UK branch)
German Headquarters: Flughafenstrasse 52a, Haus C Hamburg Hamburg 22335 Germany
Website: http://www.colarebell.de and http://www.colarebell.co.uk/
Additional information: http://www.facebook.com/colarebell.uk and http://www.facebook.com/colarebell
Ok, some things in life are just too obvious. When we saw the rock and roll, black and red coloured stand of Cola Rebell, we immediately knew they are a kick ass company. We were right. Cola Rebell was founded in 2009 in Hamburg, Germany and quickly became a cult classic among young crowd. In 2012, the rebellious spirit emigrated to the UK and with a little help of Derek and George Wainwright; a British branch was quickly set up. Cola Rebell offers everything you need: great product (chilli and ginger plus natural cola), t-shirts with company’s logo, posters, decorative cans for coffee and teas and a truly rebellious attitude we simply love! German Cola Rebell is advertised with “Die cola mit kick” (Cola with a kick) while the British one is on a mission to save mankind from a plain cola. Maria, the hostess we met at the Cola Rebell stand at the Chilli Festival, was incredibly helpful and funny. She agreed to pose for a picture for us while giving a detailed description about the newest line of beverages. The lady surely deserves a raise and we won’t be surprised if Cola Rebell starts endorsing Motorhead in the future. Great minds think alike and Lemmy could drink something else than beer or whiskey! It is worth mentioning that Cola Rebell has a caring side as well and supports numerous charities like the YMCA, Children with cancer UK, and the St Giles Hospice.
PS. Check their YouTube channel to see the commercials – http://www.youtube.com/user/ColaRebell
Company: Ambalama Spices Limited
Address: Poolhullock Llandinabo Hereford HR2 8JB, Telephone: 01989 730398
The Ambalama Spice Limited Company was born in 2004, after the massive tsunami destroyed many South Eastern Asian countries. At that time, Nigel and Jean Sturtivant have just sold their Scotland hotel and went to Sri Lanka for a relaxing trip. They returned to the UK shortly before Christmas, only to find out that the places they have visited several days before didn’t exist anymore. In a desperate effort to help those affected by the tragedy, the Herefordian couple decided to fly back and ask if there was anything they could do. To their surprise, the locals refused charity and money. They wanted to earn their living in a way they have always had – by trade. The Sturtivants decided to open a store with local spices and came back from Sri Lanka with orders for half a tonne of rare herbs and other specialities. After a decade, Nigel and Jean became specialists in herbs and spices from all over the world. They tried each one of them in their own kitchen and can advise how to turn a plain meal into a king’s feast. Their stand called “Ambalama Spices” drew a real crowd at the Chilli Festival and we had to stand a while to see what they had in offer. Jean was very kind and provided us with kokul mas spice. Now we can make a true Sri Lankan chicken curry!
Company: The Garlic Farm
Address: Mersley Lane, Newchurch, Isle of Wight, PO36 0NR
Additional information: http://www.facebook.com/TheGarlicFarm and https://twitter.com/TheGarlicFarm
The saying goes that every beginning is a humble one. More than 60 years ago, Mrs Norah Boswell, a resident of Isle of Wight , planted garlic in her kitchen garden. This simple act had serious consequences not only for her family but also for the local community. The kitchen garden is now gone but The Garlic Farm is doing very well. The Boswell Family is one of the biggest producers of garlic in the UK, they own a café, a guest cottage, education centre, heritage hall, a gift shop and their own garlic festival! Visiting the farm can be a great experience for individual visitors and organized groups: the guests can sleep in the cottage on the farm grounds, visit the garlic fields in special tractor trailer, taste the products while they are being made and have a picnic in the private 40 acre forest. The Garlic Farm makes garlic chutneys, sauces, olive oil, condiments, garlic butter and chilled treats. You can also buy cooking books written by Natasha Edwards, the daughter of Colin Boswell, current owner of the farm. In short – it doesn’t matter if you’d like to buy some garlic, spend a nice holidays on the farm or just visit the festival – The Garlic Farm have everything you need!
Company: Chilli Pepper Plantation
Address: Cider Cottage, Upper Norton near Bromyard, Herefordshire, HR7 4PN, telephone: 01885 488408
Additional information: http://www.hayfayre.org/stalls/chilli-pepper-plantation/
All right, we are probably stating the obvious here, but Pam Davenport, the lady owner of Chilli Pepper Plantation, is a real chilli expert. Even surrounded by other chilli professionals gathered at the festival, her knowledge made her stand out from the crowd. We had a pleasure to speak to Pam for a long while and she told us so many things about the chilli plants that we could write a book! Did you know for example that chilli is good for a sore throat or eating chilli releases endorphins, the happiness hormones in our bodies? Mixing chocolate with chilli now makes perfect sense – if you are ill or feeling blue, just one teaspoon of chilly flavoured chocolate cream will make you happy like a bunny rabbit during spring. Chilli Pepper Plantation has been founded just 3 years ago but it proved to be a hit with customers. The planation now cultivates 45 different chilli plants from all over the world (including rare deep purple and black ones!) but Pam wants to double their number in the next two years. All chilli peppers collected at the planation are used to make delicious jams, preserves and marmalades. We have tried chilli jam with cumin and Vietnamese coriander – both delicious beyond any description.
Company: The Velvet Bean
Address: Church Lane, Ledbury Herefordshire, Hr8 1DH
As you know by now, chilli and chocolate are match made in heaven. However, if you think that further improvement of this heavenly union is impossible, please let us introduce you to our next guests. The recipe for success is very simple: all you need is the finest Belgium couverture chocolate, two highly skilled chocolatiers and the results will be astonishing. The Velvet Bean located in the historic market hall in Ledbury, has been charming the local folks and tourists with their products since 2004. Ben and Melissa Boyle are always experimenting with flavours, shapes and sizes and each visit to their shop is a true adventure. Honestly, we would have never thought of mixing champagne with chilli extract but their tarts quickly became a sensation at the festival. Walking around the stalls, we noticed large groups of people eating beautifully decorated sweets. Curious, we asked some of them where the sweets were purchased and we were showed to The Velvet Bean stand. After several minutes, we had a huge bag of guilty pleasures and no regrets! If you are looking for unique celebration gifts (weddings, birthdays, parties etc.) The Velvet Bean is your best bet. The owners are also extremely nice people and it is a true pleasure to do business with them.
Company: Fat Man Chilli
Address: Preston-on-Wye, Herefordshire HR2 9JX, tel. 01981 501103
Malcolm Knight, the owner of Fat Man Chilli, is a man of great sense of humour. Before we managed to find his stand, Rita has been given a Fat Man Chilli leaflet handed out by one of the organizers. We liked the name so much that we decided to write about the company on our blog straight away. When we located the stall, Rita greeted Malcolm by asking “Are you the Fat Man Chilli? and the response was: “I’m the fat man and my chilli is on the table”. After the laughs have been exchanged, we went down to business. Fat Man Chilli is a small, family run enterprise, but they have a great reputation and even bigger potential. They grow some of the finest chilli plants and use them to make sauces, preserves and jellies. We have tried their chilli-apple jelly with lime and we give it 5 stars. If you are a chilli newbie (or like in Rita’s case, you are not allowed to eat spicy food), you could be interested in excellent and very mild tomato ketchup. Rita tested it on herself and admits the sauce to be perfect for starters and have a lovely, rich texture. Fat Man Chilli workers are travelling all over the Midlands and attend at least 4-5 markets each month, but if you cannot meet them personally, all products are available in their online store.
PS. The company has an excellent motto: “Chilli heads unite!” (we just had to quote it!)
Company: Hills Chilli Cakes and Cookies
We are extremely sorry, but we couldn’t find anything online about this wonderful company! Their name is Hills Chilli Cakes and Cookies and as far as we know, they are based in Worcester. Hills Cookies (as we call them) are new to the market, they have been founded just a month before the Chilli Festival and this was their first food market. The company is tiny: there are only two people involved (a lady and gentleman), but we sadly do not know their names. If you ever come across their stall somewhere, please try their cakes – we have no words to describe how delicious they were. We bought a classic chocolate cake with brandy/chilli flavour and we loved each bite. As you can see on the pictures, they had cupcakes, cheesecake, sponge cake and many, many others.
Company: Fire Foods
Address:7 Darley Dale Crescent, Grantham, NG31 8EH tel. 01476 574383 /07941152752
Additional information: http://www.facebook.com/FireFood and https://twitter.com/firefoods
FireFoods is a family business from Grantham, Lincolnshire run by Zoe and Woody. They say that chilli is their whole life and we truly believe them. We wish you could hear them talking with a passion about their products, chilli plants and plans for the future – their enthusiasm was as even hotter than their chilli! They are the only company in the UK certified by Guinness World Records for having the hottest chilli pepper on the planet. In 2010 their Infinity chilli has been given the rating of 1,067,286 Scoville Heat Units (SHU) after being tested by Warwick University. Two years later, the rating has been modified and The Infinity chilli now stands at 1.25 million Scoville units after further testing. If you are brave enough you can buy their Infinity chilli sauce for only 7.5 pounds and it will burn a hole in your stomach for free 🙂
You can find it in their online store here: http://www.firefoods.co.uk/product/infinity-chilli-sauce/
Zoe and Woody work incredibly hard and their products have been given the highest food hygiene ratings as well. Each product has been prepared by their own hands and they are very proud of their achievements.
Company: The Mini Jar Company
Address: 23 Kingfisher Close, Sheldon, Birmingham, B26 2QF
Additional information: http://www.facebook.com/pages/The-Mini-Jar-Company/217146215028566
Advertised as “preserves with a difference”, The Mini Jar Company is a multi-award winning small business based in Birmingham. The company has been founded nearly three years ago and specializes in making chutneys, curds, mustards and preserves. Their products come exclusively in small 45 ml jars that are no longer available to be purchased from supermarkets. The company uses only local plants and eggs. There are no artificial colourings, flavourings, additives or thickening agents used and each product is suitable for vegetarians and vegans. The Mini Jar Company makes the preserves at a small production and processing facility in Newnam Bridge, Worcestershire. We purchased several jars of pickles and curds and they were gone within several days! If you are not able to attend any food festivals, please keep your eyes wide open as the mini jars are being sold in few local shops in Herefordshire!
All right! We hope you have enjoyed this little review. Please visit the festival next year, it is going to be massive!
And return quickly, we still have to show you around the castle – it is going to be a great ride!
Bon apetit, chilli lovers!
Rita and Malcia D.
Chilli Festival at Eastnor Castle
Date: 5-6 of May 2013
Live music from Los Squideros, with their Latin Beats, and also Pantasy Steel Band playing traditional Caribbean music•
Children’s cookery school
Cooking Demonstrations from local chefs
Chilli Eating Competition… can you handle the heat?
Knight’s Maze, Children’s Adventure Playground and Junior Assault Course, Burma Bridge Treetop Walkway, Gift Shop, Tearoom, Ice Cream Parlour. 11.00am until 4.30pm (last admission 4.00pm)
Castle & Grounds Admission Adult £9.50, Senior £8.50, Child (3-15 yrs) £6.00, Family (2+3) £25.00