Wednesday, 10 July 2013

#FutureFoodies - Independent Food Purveyors of Birmingham





I recently wrote about the preview evening I attended for #FutureFoodies, the new event in Birmingham that showcases independent food traders.  The 26th June saw the actual event launch, held at Hotel La Tour in the centre of Birmingham.



Over 400 people attended during the course of the evening, sampling goods from 20+ independent food and drink businesses from the Birmingham area who provided complimentary wares for #FutureFoodies attendees to try.  


The event, organised by Dine Birmingham in conjunction with Yelp Birmingham, The Gastro Card, Midlands Food Bloggers and Hotel La Tour, was billed as “Birmingham’s first social media food fair”.  A first of its kind in terms of a food festival whose promotion was almost wholly reliant on social media channels.  Differing from national food shows, #FutureFoodies had a regional focus on Birmingham with all suppliers based in the area with most of the produce being locally sourced.

Whilst the city boasts a variety of chain enterprises, the wealth of independent eateries and traders is growing all the time, encompassing trends such as supper clubs and street food events.  #FutureFoodies provided the perfect platform to showcase the city's independents to consumers, traders, writers and bloggers to become acquainted with what's happening in and around Birmingham.

After fighting the rush hour traffic to get into the city to get to the event by the time I got there, most of the samples had been taken!  So with a heavy heart I couldn’t try everything.  However, I did have a few things and I had tried some of goodies at the preview evening earlier in the month, so all was good.




After being greeted by the guys from Yelp, I met up with my old foodie friends Le Truc Café who were showcasing their delicious ‘Death In The Afternoon’ cocktail.  A heady mix of champagne with absinthe, it's one of their signature cocktails.  Le Truc Café is a fabulous French restaurant in the Arcadian Centre, Birmingham and boasts a vast vegetarian menu as well as being able to cater for any adhoc veggie/vegan requests.  I recently wrote a review of their veggie offerings following a meal I enjoyed there – take a look here.






Lewis’s of Moseley are a delicatessen and artisan food emporium based in Moseley.  As a taster of what you can find in their shop, there were delicious anti-pasti olives and cheeses to try along with home-made lemon filled meringues which were crunchy on the outside and chewy in the middle - just as they should be! 







Ubuntu Bread based in the Balsall Heath area of the city have a fabulous range of handmade breads from feta cheese & herb Irish soda bread to pecan & raisin loaf.   All loaves are crafted by using traditional methods and sourcing ingredients regionally - flour from Gloucestershire and free range eggs from Birmingham.   Tasting the samples I had, the breads were soft and tasty and if purchased as a loaf, you would end up eating slice after slice until it was all gone - guaranteed!



Aalto Restaurant is based within Hotel La Tour and their showpieces were their renown desserts which were served with matching wine.  Hotel La Tour, recently featured on BBC1's The Apprentice, is one of Birmingham's few independent hotels which has carved out a niche of providing luxury and business services as well as securing an excellent reputation for providing quality food and is frequently patronised by many food celebrities including Lorraine Pascale.  See my review of Cafe Ezra which is also based within Hotel La Tour.





  
Miss Macaroon, as the name suggests makes and sells beautiful candy-coloured macaroons.  Rosie Ginday who founded the company is a trained pastry chef having trained at University College Birmingham and local Michelin starred restaurant Purnell’s.  Putting her training to good use, Rosie’s aim has been to make catering more accessible to marginalised young people from deprived areas of the city and as such, she runs ‘Macaroons that Make a Difference’ programmes for the unemployed.

The macaroons themselves are gorgeous and it’s impossible not to coo over their prettiness.  To be eaten as they are, created as wedding favours or to made into bespoke celebratory cake shapes, macaroons have already proved their popularity across global style capitals such as London and Paris and they are now making their mark more widely including here in Birmingham. 





Devenishgirl Bakery based at St Gabriel’s Centre - Weoley Castle in South Birmingham, is a venture that has been developed by Melanie Glass.  Similarly to Miss Macaroon’s aims, it is a social enterprise, part of an organisation called Worth Unlimited which is a youth charity engaging disadvantaged and marginalised young people by offering them training and paid employment opportunities.

Apart from their delicious cakes, they also sell fresh produce hampers and provide Vintage Tea Party packages which as well as including the food itself, also provides all the necessary crockery, cutlery and decorations!






CupKakery is run by Yvonne, a trained chef, who discovered her talent for making cakes following a request from a family member to make a celebratory cake for an event.  As her reputation as cake maker grew, as did the craze for cupcakes and CupKakery was born!  CupKakery cakes boast having the lightest sponge, smoothest fluffiest buttercream which is little less sweet than a conventional cupcake – that’s certainly worth trying!





Miss Apple’s Sweets, run by Brazilian born Karen, started her path in confectionery by learning the craft of cake decorating in New York.  Wanting to bring something new and exciting to food market, Karen began to produce one of her favourite sweets from her native Brazil called Brigadeiro.  They’re bite size chocolate sweets, a cross between a bonbon and a truffle.  Preservative free and made with condensed milk as opposed to cream, its traditional guise is made up of a chocolate ball with chocolate sprinkles and as the years have progressed, flavours and toppings have diversified.  The story behind these delicious little creations focuses on a group of women in the 1940’s who made and sold little chocolate balls to raise funds for Eduardo Gomes’, a Brazilian Brigadier who was running for President – hence they’re called Brigadeiro.  Eduardo didn’t win the elections but the sweets won over the hearts of the Brazilian population and are still acclaimed there to this day with a new army of fans now across Birmingham.






HEFF (Heart of England Fine Foods) are a regional food group focusing on the promotion of quality foods.  Working with small-medium sized food and drink businesses, HEFF provide essential services that help companies compete in their market place.

One of the companies that HEFF were exhibiting at #FutureFoodies were ‘Just Crisps’ (available at selected outlets including Selfridges).  ‘Just Crisps’ story is rare combination whereby the crisps are made from the potatoes grown at Hill Ridware Farm in Staffordshire, and cooked in the oil made from rapeseed crops also grown on the farm.  Rapeseed oil has (literally) become flavour of month right now and its taste is a lot gentler, more palatable than standard oils.  I wholeheartedly recommend looking out for these crisps when you next go shopping!  






For those seeking liquid refreshment were able to sample goods from Aston’s Beer Geek Brewery, BYWine as well as Amy Seton’s BirminghamWhisky Club.  Fresh from the recent success at Birmingham’s first Whisky Festival, introductory information and tasters were available for different types of whisky.






Plus championing cider’s corner was Aston Manor who is the UK’s number one independently owned cider producer and the country’s third largest.  The company itself operates from Birmingham with their orchards (yielding many types of bittersweet cider apples) being based in the nearby Malvern Hills.

Kingstone Press Cider is one of Aston Manor’s flagship products using a blend of apple varieties grown in their Malvern orchards.    Beautifully dry and crisp, it’s ideal to be consumed as a standalone drink (perfect for summer) and equally, lends itself well for cooking.  Veggie sausage & cider stew anyone?

To complement the apple cider, Kingstone Press also have a pear version.  The Kingstone Press range is available online and via selected supermarkets.






Also there was ‘The Kitchen School’ who is a ‘not for profit’ company based in Birmingham across two food venues:

Grow@kitchen based in Digbeth, is where they grow organic food and run gardening and complimentary cookery courses on a 1/4 acre site in the heart of the cultural and industrial quarter.

Cook@kitchen based in Harborne, is where they offer basic & advanced cookery skills in a professional kitchen school. The School will open in December 2013.

The Kitchen School’s vision is to create a food literate nation where everyone is as passionate and excited about good food as they are.

Working especially close with those that have health needs or for those on a tight household budget, they teach the skills and share the knowledge to make food, cookery and eating an engaging and positive experience.  From an urban location, they offer a farm to fork experience, from planting a seed to cooking a three-course dinner.  Jayne from The Kitchen School was promoting the Digbeth and Harborne sites at #FutureFoodies.








Digbeth Dining Club (DDC) is a street food and entertainment event, hosted every Friday by the Spot*light Club near to The Custard Factory in Digbeth, Birmingham.  Their concept of introducing the phenomenon of street food, a craze spreading fast across the UK, coupled with live DJ music is popular amongst everyone from families to colleagues having a post-work gathering to revelers that fancy some fine fodder before painting the town red.

Each week’s events have a different set of mobile caterers from the area, some of whom are regulars at the city’s farmers markets.  At #FutureFoodies, DDC were represented by gourmet toastie makers The Jabberwocky and Platinum PancakesPlatinum Pancakes described how they source everything regionally if not locally to make their pancakes.  Everything from the flour to the eggs.  Again, flying the flag for all things local.





Next to DDC were Punjabi Rasoi and Wrapchic who provided meat and vegetarian spicy food samples with many going back for seconds!



As I spoke with the other attendees, there was a recurring theme of everyone stating:  “I never knew all these existed!”  And it is true!  It’s only when events like #FutureFoodies are organised that you get to know what is happening on your doorstep and also what the city has to offer.  Equally, everyone was asking “when is the next #FutureFoodies event?” 
The answer to that is hopefully: “Soon!”


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