A year ago, the Ashburton Food and Drink Festival kick-started my Devon A-Z challenge, giving me over 50 different local food and drink producers almost literally on my doorstop. A year on and the festival was back in town again. A lot has changed in a year: my awareness of the Devon food and drink industry has grown significantly and there were many producers at this year’s festival that I had met before (and sampled from before).
On a more personal level, since the previous festival we have bought a house and, on the weekend of the 2014 festival, we were in the middle of trying to prepare it for moving in. Mrs Running Buffet allowed me an hour off though, so I hotfooted it down to the town centre to see what was on offer.
I made sure I said hello to Sarah and Chris from Shebbear Cheese, whom I had managed to miss completely at last year’s event. (You may remember them from previous blog posts; their Bramley Barton went down very well last year). This time around I went for a piece of Rupert’s Choice, named for their late, cheese-loving cat. It has a lovely soft texture and, although it has quite a mild flavour, it is still a tasty cheese. They suggest using it as a mozzarella substitute; to be honest, we’ve just been nibbling pieces of it from the fridge.
In a carbon copy of last year’s event, I also bought two Tom’s Pies and a jerry can of Devon Blush cider. I feel that we have the beginning of an annual tradition. We also had the makings of a pretty decent dinner: a glass of cider and a pie. Lovely.
One of the stalls at the festival was a familiar sight (they are a regular feature at food and drink festivals around the county) but also one that I had never actually bought anything from. Frandie Macaron make macarons and have been selling them at festivals and online for the last few years, having grown a successful business from a passion for baking and, by all accounts, a passion for macarons in particular. Why had I not bought any macarons before? If I’m honest (and whisper it quietly), I wasn’t really sure what all the fuss was about. Macarons have become pretty popular recently, possibly as a result of things like The Great British Bake Off. But they’re just a couple of crispy shells with a gloopy filling, aren’t they? As attractive as they look, all piled up together, they just didn’t seem that exciting.
But this would be one of my last opportunities to add Frandie Macaron to the Devon A-Z list, so I decided to stump up the money and buy a couple of macarons. I took them home to share with Mrs RB (after our pie and cider supper): one salted caramel and one blueberry (featuring blueberries from another Devon A-Z alumnus, the Blueberry Brothers). Mrs RB shared a similar view of macarons but is never one to look a gift horse in the mouth, particularly when the gift is food, so we picked one each and tucked in.
And it is probably not going too far to say that they are amazing. So that is what all the fuss is about. The shells are crispy on the outside but gloriously chewy in the middle and the overall taste was brilliant. Mrs RB claims that the salted caramel filling was the best salted caramel anything that she has ever tasted. They are not the cheapest sweet treat on offer, but they are really rather good.
Thank heavens I finally got on board the macaron train before the Devon A-Z challenge comes to an end.
Pictures will be added as soon as I have found the camera. It’s in a box somewhere, ready for the move.