(#notanad but my tickets were kindly gifted by the Free From Food Festival)
Saturday 23rd November was my early Xmas. Why? It's not often I can eat pretty much everything anyone's selling in the room. Yep, it was the Free From Food Festival.
If you don't already know, the festival doesn't allow products with gluten, dairy & refined-sugar. In other words, it's a coeliac's dream and I wasn't going to miss it.
My first stop was the Gluten-Free Heaven stand (natch). I've been writing articles for them for over 4 years now so it was really fun meeting everyone and new readers!
But the lure of food soon took me away and I found myself in taster mode, sampling everything going. First stop was Nut Blend, an absolutely deletable nut butter range with no syrup or sweeteners. It wasn't long before I purchased the praline flavour.
Nutty about Nut Blend - yum!
Thirst quickly set in and I decided to break out the iced coffee I'd been given at the door from Rebel Kitchen. It had a handy little cap I could put back on it, meaning I didn't have to down it all at once (unlike some drinks with straws) and I was rather sad when I finished it. (Don't sympathise with me too much, though - I left with a box of 12 more drinks, which have already depleted somewhat. Can't think why...)
I skipped past Little Roar because I hadn't yet had lunch (and I knew if I started on their delicious cakes I'd never stop). But then came the real hardship:
Honestly, there were so many different and amazing food stands, I found myself like a spinning top, wondering which one I should turn to. The Indian Street Food stand looked fanastic (see their rather enticing black board below):
But then there was a massive queue for Shakey Shakey (which didn't surprise me as it also happened last year). And while it all looked very impressive, it seemed more like the sort of thing I'd choose after going to the pub.
So in the end I plumped for food from Good Food & Co. I was hugely reassured by the fact the owner's a coeliac and had such clear gluten-free signage. But then came another hard task - deciding between the slow roast lamb, jerk kid goat, Moroccan chicken or a pumpkin, chickpea and coconut curry.
If my family had been with me, we could have had all four dishes and I'd have reported back on each. But a bout of chicken pox had kept them away (sob!) so I opted for the vegan curry with brown rice (and was so pleased to be offered brown rice, which just goes to show how things are changing).
After I'd chowed down, I went to one of the talks, which led to a good discussion with Sarah Howells, Laura Strange & James Wythe (all gluten-free bloggers).
Later, I couldn't help but go to Little Roar. 3 cakes in, I was so eager to try them I completely forgot to take a photograph. So here's one from their website which showcases The Bollywood.
My favourite was probably Blueberry Hill. But I reckon I should eat them all again just to be sure. (Ah, research.)
So was it all a bed of roses (so to speak)?
I thought it was wonderful but I'll admit I saw a few narked comments online. Either people were cross at some stallholders' prices ("£3.50 for a mini mince pie!") or they wanted a greater range ("Why were there so many nut butter stands?"). One person also seemed rather jealous of the goodie bag they weren't given.
I'll admit there were a couple of stallholders I quickly walked away from when I realised how much they were charging. In their defence, I know it's not cheap to do a big event and covering costs can be tricky. That said, there comes a point where a potential repeat customer just won't pay what's being charged, especially if it's not presented well (and yes, there's one stand I'm thinking of in particular). But the stalls I bought from provided delicious food and the majority were very reasonable. The raw cakes I bought were £2.50 each, the main meal £6.50 and the talks (some with live cooking) were free.
So if you're wondering whether it's worth going to the Free From Food Festival, let's just say I'm already clearing my diary for the next one in London.
Did you go to the festival? What did you think? Please share your thoughts below!