The feasting of Christmas is over for another year, and we are about to head into 2012, so I am in a reflective mood (and possibly slightly hung-over). 2011 has been a very good year locally for foodies, with many businesses thriving, and an excellent Food & Drink Festival. Here are some of the foodie highlights and a few thoughts for the New Year.
1. The Royal Wedding saw street parties all over the district, themed school lunches, huge sales of sparkling wine and our very own Childwickbury Goats’ Cheese was on the menu. I’m already looking forward to Olympic parties and barbecues!
2. The grow-your-own movement continues to thrive locally, with long waiting lists for allotments and Transition showing us how it is done with their award-winning show gardens. I really enjoyed visiting their gardens to learn about what grows well locally, and to get inspiration for my cooking. The Courtyard Cafe leads the way by using its own produce for lunch.
3. Farmers’ markets in Harpenden and St Albans continue to thrive, with waiting lists for the stalls but Radlett will have to wait until their market finds a better location. I love going to the local markets, and always buy more than I can carry. The Country Markets stall is one favourite for delicious marmalade.
4. The St Albans Food & Drink Festival was a huge success, with sell-out events and gorgeous weather on the finale day. St Albans town centre was packed with stalls and pop-up restaurants. We are already planning new events for next year, so look out for more details.
5. It was a difficult year for Earthworks, as they experienced two attacks of vandalism. They still managed to supply their market stall with delicious veg and eye-catching gourds and hosted successful events in their pretty garden. Please continue to support them as they rebuild their site.
6. The Food & Drink Awards celebrated the fantastic independent businesses that we have. The Pudding Stop, Soko, Redbournbury Mill, Darcy’s, and Inn on the Park were among the winners; each are fantastic at what they do, and unique to our area.
7. I changed a habit this year: we now try not to eat meat on a Monday. This was thanks to the Meat-free Monday campaign, which I discovered at a stall in the Town Hall. It’s so easy to do: how about porridge for breakfast, soup for lunch and veg chilli for dinner?
8. We are lucky to have so many good, independent cafes and shops. It is really easy to walk into an independent coffee shop rather than a chain: the coffee is usually better, often fairtrade, and usually cheaper, so I’ll continue to do that as much as possible next year.
9. Foraging looks to be the trendy thing next year, and I am really looking forward to the wild food trips The Foragers are planning. More on that soon.
10. Baking continues to be hugely popular. I loved helping local school children this year with their baking, and I judged a pie competition! Cupcakes have well and truly arrived in St Albans but as The Pudding Stop has shown, classic British cakes are here to stay.
11. Our local producers had a good year, and we are very lucky to have honey, bread, vegetables, cheese, meat and eggs all available locally. Pick up local goodies at Jay’s Deli in Harpenden and at the farmers’ markets.
12. And finally, we have two well-known celeb chef restaurants moving into St Albans in the New Year. Will they bring new customers or simply wipe out our independent restaurants? That is completely up to you. I wish everyone success and a hearty and healthy New Year.
photo caption: 12 days of Christmas by Heaven is a Cupcake