It’s the big Stone Food and Drink Festival weekend, the biggest gastronomic gathering in Staffordshire.
Events have been taking place in pubs and restaurants all week, and local shops have been getting involved too, but on Friday 2nd, Saturday 3rd and Sunday 4th October, it’s the big weekend itself, with Westbridge Park transformed into a culinary heaven. Here’s our guide to the big weekend.
There is so much going on at Westbridge Park over the three days, from demonstrations and talks to live music, a cocktail bar, beer tent, masterclasses, a pop-up restaurant, not to mention lots of activities for the children – and the 100+ food stalls showcasing the finest food and drink from Staffordshire and around the country. The site layout, as you can see above, has been changed from previous years to create more space to accommodate the growing number of visitors to the event each year. Last year, Stone Food and Drink Festival generated over £500,000 of economic activity – and it will probably be even higher this year.Stone Food and Drink Festival website Food Festival on Facebook Food Festival on Twitter
Make sure you have a look at the full Stone Food and Drink Festival programme, but here’s our pick of the best foodie fun that’s ahead…
Sample Staffordshire’s finest ales
You’ll be able to sample the finest ales, ciders and more from Staffordshire’s finest breweries – Lymestone Brewery, Slater’s Ales, Peakstone Ridge Brewery, Titanic and Freedom Ales – in a new and improved beer tent – it’s a beer festival within a festival in essence! And the music stage will see some great bands entertaining the crowds. Look out for The Formula – a great band who played our 5th birthday party in September – on Saturday at 4pm; Honey Ryder at 1.30pm on Sunday; and Stone Cold Sober-ish on Saturday at 1.30pm.
Get clued up in the ‘Talks and Tastings’ tent
One of the best things each year at the food festival is the chance to hear passionate local producers talking about their food and drink, and this year will be no exception. You’ll be able to learn how to mix the perfect gin and tonic with Old School Wines’ Andrew Wilson; hear about how Staffordshire’s breweries brew their ales; find out how to cook perfect lamb chops with Stone butcher Lee Walker; Amarpal Harrar of iCookIndian will give you some top tips on West Indian cuisine.
Perhaps pick of the bunch this year, though, will be Matt Wilcox, chief executive of the Unity Group, talking about a very special culinary project that’s taking place with young disadvantaged people at The Wheatsheaf in Oulton. We covered this earlier this year – http://alittlebitofstone.com/2015/01/10/something-exciting-is-cooking-at-the-wheatsheaf/ – and it’s pretty inspirational stuff. Matt will be in the Talks and Tastings tent at 6pm on Friday.
The full ‘Talks and Tastings’ programme is HERE
See master chefs cooking up a storm!
The demonstration kitchen is the heart of the Stone Food and Drink Festival site at Westbridge Park, with demonstrations from some of Staffordshire’s brightest talent on the hour across the big weekend. You can see the schedule HERE so you don’t miss your favourite local chef. Taking this part, among many, are Richard Cullen from Cullens in Stone (pictured above); Matt Davies, group executive chef at The Lewis Partnership; Paul Gilmore, head chef at Gilmore’s at The Wheatsheaf in Oulton; and Tom Harrison, head chef at Aston Marina.
Head for the High Street!
If you’re visiting Stone for the food and drink festival, don’t just stay at Westbridge Park for your whole visit. Pull yourself away and head for Stone town centre. On Saturday there’s the famous food festival farmers’ market, a bigger and better version of the monthly market that takes place in Stone on the first Saturday of each month.
Lots of local businesses will also be joining in the fun, including a Taste Bud Challenge at Flavours of Flora behind the library – can you identify by taste or smell the herbs and spices in the mystery jars?!
There’s an open day at Canal Cruising – a chance to have a look around the oldest dry dock on the canal network. And there’s a heritage open day at St Michael’s Church, including the chance to climb up to to the top of the tower for some incredible views of the town, including Westbridge Park.
Lots of Stone’s town centre pubs and restaurants have live music and special offers – The Swan’s mini Staffordshire beer festival is one to watch – and, if you need time out, you can stroll along the canal or the River Trent – both a very short distance from the High Street and Westbridge Park.
Keep the kids entertained!
Stone Food and Drink Festival has been improving its offering for families over the last few years, and there’s more on offer than ever this year at Westbridge Park. ‘Professor Panic’ and his performers from Panic Circus will keep youngsters entertained with free puppet shows, circus workshops, clown shows and giant bubble fun in his traditional Circus Big Top. There will also be free kids’ cookery classes, a fun foodie ‘treasure trail’ around the site, craft activities, face painting and more.
Tickle your tastebuds in the Gourmet Marquees
With over 100 producers from all over the country, there will be something for everyone, from gourmet gifts and ingredients, kitchenware and more. Look out for the ‘Taste of Staffordshire’ zone, where you’ll find the very best the county can offer. There’ll be lots of street food ‘on the go’, to sit-down gourmet meals and afternoon teas in the pop-up restaurant, as well as a champagne and fizz bar.
Have a great time at this year’s Stone Food and Drink Festival – and do share your photos and stories with us, by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org or through Twitter or Facebook
Entry to Westbridge Park will cost £7 per person (accompanied under-16s free) or £15 for a three-day pass. Enjoy Staffordshire card holders get two-for-one entry all weekendStone Food and Drink Festival website Food Festival on Facebook Food Festival on Twitter