Monday, 22 June 2015

Taste of London, Summer 2015.

An outdoor food and drink festival on a sunny summer's evening at Regent's Park in London. How could that ever not be fun?

As you may remember, my dear friend Jenny and I had loved our trip to Taste of London Winter last year, so it was with much excitement that we arrived at the foodie festival's summer sister on Friday evening.

Giant pink fork. Why not?
Readers, summer Taste of London was even BETTER than the winter one!

While we'd liked the cosy indoor location of the winter Taste, being outside gave summer Taste such a fun, buzzy atmosphere. Granted, we were really lucky with the weather. Everything looks good in evening sunlight, don't you agree? It would not have been much fun had it been raining and cold.

Being guests of AEG (the main Taste sponsor) was such a treat as it meant Jenny and I got to skip the (albeit fast-moving) queue to get in - I don't think I'll ever stop getting excited about press passes - and at 5.30pm on the dot, the crowds were raring to enter and commence an evening of munching.

It's actually a smidge overwhelming when you first arrive as you don't really know where to start. It was huge! It consisted mainly of marquees and tents, but there were also open stalls, a bandstand, cookery demonstration stages, food trucks and porta-cabins.

There's so much to see, taste and try, and we had an absolute ball just wandering round, discovering new companies, chatting to interesting people and munching free samples.

So. Many. Free. Samples. It's the dream.

Although the Taste site was huge, it got suuuuuper busy and was really full by the end. Our fellow Tasters were a really young, cool crowd though. (Obviously I fitted right in. Ahem.) I even ran into the lovely Katie of Katie’s Kitchen Journal.

Allow me to give you a taster (ha) of what was on offer and what I loved... (Brace yourselves, this is a picture-heavy post, but there’s just too much great stuff I want to show you!)

This Seggiano pesto was cerraaazily good. Super super tasty and just happened to be vegan too! Win.

A lot of people know about Coyo coconut yoghurt, but the Coconut Collaborative is a less-known but super scrummy brand emerging on the coconut yoghurt scene - they do both frozen and normal yoghurt and I loved the sample I tried.

Y'all know how much of a tea addict I am and I was super happy to discover the London Tea Company. I tried some of their peach and rhubarb iced tea and it was so divine. They've got all sorts of interesting flavours and I am unsurprisingly keen to try more.

There was a lot of popcorn at Taste. Portlebay Popcorn, Propercorn and Joe & Seph's to name but a few. I am a huge fan of interestingly-flavoured popcorn as a healthy snack and am big fans of all these brands. Oh, and the crispy bacon and maple syrup flavour in the picture above? Amazeballs.

Speaking of popcorn, Jenny and I made sure to pop into the very swanky-looking Laurent-Perrier "tent" (this is related to popcorn, bear with me):

Never girls to pass up a glass of bubbly, we made a bee-line for the charming young men pouring glasses of Laurent-Perrier's finest Champagne.

This summer, Laurent-Perrier have teamed up with Joe & Seph's gourmet popcorn and created what seems to me like a pretty winning combo - Laurent-Perrier Cuvée Rosé alongside the exclusive limited edition strawberry and elderflower popcorn.

While the popcorn might be too sweet for some (AKA Jenny, not the sugar-fiend that is yours truly) on its own, when paired with the Champagne it seems less so, and they really are a beaut combo.

The wandering and tasting continued with a stop-off at Almondy, who are about to launch a new super scrummy hazelnut cake which just happens to be gluten-free too:

Yes I had multiple pieces, and yes I had a photo with the Almondy ladies - they were so fabulously pink I couldn't possibly not!

As well as new companies and start-ups, there were plenty of well-established brands at Taste. We obviously weren't going to give Lindt a miss, were we?

I tried my hardest to convince the Lindt team to bring peanut butter Lindors to the UK but alas, I don't think I was successful. If you ever go to America, buy some for me, will you please? So. Damn. Good.

And speaking of chocolate, it would be rude to go to Lindt and not Green & Black's, wouldn't it?

So that happened. 

And because we hadn't had enough sugar yet, we were keen to sample as many of Pots & Co's tasty pudding pots as we could. Believe me when I say the chocolate hazelnut is super dreamy. I love that they come in reusable ceramic pots too.

Totally Fudged was another new find for me, and Jenny and I were both totally taken by their salted caramel fudge. It was perfection. We were super impressed that everything was done by just one guy too!

As you can imagine, all that eating was thirsty work. Enter, tons of Innocent people handing out free full-size cups of their coconut water (très generous) - I am a huge coconut water fan, and I'm inclined to say Innocent's is my fave of all the brands!

A new deliciously refreshing discovery came in the form of Harry Brompton's alcoholic ice tea. It was absolutely divine.

Equally tasty, however, and beyond awesome for their name alone, are Sassy Drinks:

Sass may be my actual new fave drink - it's a totally natural fruit drink and was soooo good. And I mean, c'mon... They're all about being sassy!? Too great.

Another super cool discovery was Mr Spain and his Wine of Fire:

My picture does not do justice to the awesomeness of these sparkling wines - they're absolutely amazing! The wine shimmers, sparkles and swirls round the bottle in these fabulous colours, but contains all natural ingredients (the colour comes from the inclusion of crystalised fruit juice) and tastes exactly like normal sparkling wine. Jenny and I were so wowed that we bought a bottle each! Seriously cool and unlike anything I've ever seen.

Continuing down the road of cool alcohol brands, have you heard of Pinkster Gin?

I love the patriotic, playful and pink branding of the company, and their gin sure does make for a delicious G&T.

D'you know what? There was a lot of gin at Taste. And pretty much every company used one brand for their tonic: Fever-Tree. Their truck was absolutely heaving with customers but I was extra keen to pay them a visit as my dear friend Jess just so happened to be working there that night. Naturally, I tried my best to chat to and distract the poor gal as she tried her best to do her job. Oops.

The girl makes a mean G&T though. We tried Fever-Tree's Mediterranean tonic water in ours which gave our drinks a delightful fruity undertone. Much yum.

Many drinks aside, Taste of London is billed as the world’s greatest restaurant festival, and there were pop-ups from loads of fantastic restaurants. The slight trouble was that we ate so many free samples that we were too full to buy ourselves any actual meals.

What’s more, Jenny and I were lucky enough to be invited to one of AEG’s Let’s Taste Live Cooking sessions, where we got to learn how to make yummy things with a cookery lesson from Jeremy Pang from School of Wok using AEG’s top-of-the-range hobs.

We started off with Hoisin coca-cola ribs before whipping up some stir-fried Sichuan chicken and steamed scallop siu mai (kind of like dumplings with scallops on top). It was so much fun and I’ll be honest – our chicken was blimmin’ delish.

It’s always a delight (and a pleasant change from a student flat) to cook with such high-quality equipment and with ingredients all laid-out for you. The dream.

One of the things I love about Taste is that it’s a great place to buy foodie presents that you wouldn’t find in most shops. The payment system is totally unique too – Crowns are the official currency of the event: One Crown is worth £1, and you have to buy Crowns there. It’s simple enough, but I imagine people end up spending more than they would do otherwise! Smart move, Taste of London.

I got my dad some very snazzy charcuterie for Fathers' Day which I'm hoping he'll love.

However, just like at Taste of London Winter, Jenny and I both thought the event ended too early. All the bars and stalls were meant to stop serving customers at 9.30pm (although some cheekily yet pleasingly lived life on the edge and carried on) and everyone was swiftly ushered out afterwards, just as the party vibe was getting started and everyone was having a great time. Such a shame. We would have loved to stay longer – there was plenty more I wanted to eat and drink!

That aside, we had an absolute cracker of an evening – it was so much fun! I absolutely LOVE Taste of London and cannot recommend a visit enough. And hey, it's not too long until the next Winter one! Pop it in your diary, folks.

Massive thanks to DMC PR and AEG for inviting me! What's tempted you most from my Taste of London post?

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