Sunday, October 25

Fish and chips by the sea

An enjoyable Friday at the Dartmouth Food Festival. For some unfathomable reason we began the morning with a Curry Masterclass. Least said about the class (and the local cooking school) the better. In an effort to improve my knife skills I spent the next hour filleting mackerel and plaice under the watchful eye of a jovial type from Plymouth. It seems my dexterity with a knife is also open to question.

Seeking solace in a pop-up pub on the quay (and still recovering from the previous late night) I rediscovered the life-enhancing power of light ales and a steak burger. Mitch Tonks was omnipresent, and when not glad-handing all who crossed his path, was chauffeured around by a striking blond in a powder blue Ferrari. We subsequently met with an entertaining trio of foodies from the publishing/television industry that were disappointingly negative about my latest wheeze, before teaming up with the Sunday Telegraph's wine corespondent and the MD of Gonzalez Byass UK.

After downing successive schooners of Tio Pepe in Browns Wine Bar I was unsurprisingly full of bonhomie, exchanging business cards with a succession of strangers from the hospitality industry. Little did I realise we had barely begun. A charming Italian that, as with many Italians, claims ancient lineage to the Medici family, insisted we sample his wares. We drank several, along with a Roquefort mousse, some roasted sardines marinated in a tomato broth, braised pig cheek and polenta, a beef shin ballotine and wild mushroom ragu...before finishing with a dish of panna cotta and Amaretti biscuit. The two of us shared dinner with a great bunch of characters - a table of ten, including someone who insisted I was at Bluecoat School with her parents (who are both in their 80s). Maybe I should dye my hair? One of our number - yet another wine merchant, invited everyone back to his bodega to continue the party.

To say I was quick out the block Saturday morning would be to gild the lily. I tried hard to appear attentive in the company of BBC Radio 4's Dan Saladino (The Food Programme), who was interviewing fishing boat skipper Alan Steer and restaurateur Mitch Tonks. Could have sat there all morning and nearly did. This was followed with a talk by Rebecca Hoskins, a sheep farmer. Sheep farmer, one time film maker, and conservationist. God it was BORING. It's not that I'm not interested in conservation, but as with childbirth and dying it is not a subject that fascinates yours truly. The guy next to me was an allotment holder from Hampstead, a retired oil company executive now intent on saving the planet. Too precious for words.

Stumbled around the corner to Browns for another wine tasting but baulked at drinking a batch of indifferent new-world wines and retired to the pub next door. Sneaked home with a carryout and listened to the footy on the wireless. I was later resurrected by Mrs G. to attend two coffee seminars/tastings with local baristas, before dining out on fish and chips in the company of an entertaining couple from London's east end and a coach party from the Black Country. Sunday morning we are being taught how to dissect crabs and cook fish, prior to a Prosecco Brunch.

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