We all love food festivals. A place filled with mouth watering dishes from around the world and samples being handed out like nobodies business – what’s not to like. Unfortunately though, for the vegans and ethical eaters amongst us unless you’ve gone to a vegan event it’s definitely not a culinary free for all. It’s normally filled with label checking, awkward dietary conversations and turning down free food (one of the worst things in the world). BUT Earlier this month we spent the day at Eat Cambridge, an annual independent foodie event and realised this was no longer the case. Keep reading Vegan Adventures at Eat Cambridge Food Festival 2018 to find out more about this amazing event, the delicious vegan food you can find and why sustainability is key.
Showcasing Cambridgeshire’s delicious independent food scene
Eat Cambridge was founded in 2013 and has an annual festival every May along with two weeks of fringe events. It’s a real chance to see independent Cambridge food at it’s finest and meet all the local foodies. It might be in Cambridge but it’s not all tea and scones, it’s a collection of Cambridge based independent companies with produce from far and wide. Cambridge has a thriving international community and at the event you’ll find everything from locally distilled gin all the way to Venezuelan empanadas and Korean dipping sauces. There’s also a awesome variety of talks and workshops ranging from wine matching to produce growing. This year ‘sustainability’ was a major theme so we decided to go down and take a look.
The event itself is put together by Heidi White who is definitely no stranger to the Cambridge food and drink scene. Heidi is the founder of FoodPark, an incredible collective of Cambridge based street food pioneers and also the author of the popular Cambridge food blog The Moving Foodie.
Single-handedly Heidi is doing great things for the independent food scene in Cambridge so it’s great to know that sustainability and veganism is a huge concern for her and the event. In our emails she noted
“There’s a huge emphasis on sustainability of food choices everywhere we turn and it’s good to see this represented in our smaller, independent businesses too”
“The demand is there for vegan and vegetarian, gluten-free and healthy options and also for the tools and information to live more sustainably”
It’s great news to know that someone who has influence over the Cambridge food scene is on the same wave length. So, we were very happy to go along to the event and find out exactly what all the fuss was about!
Vegan Adventures at Eat Cambridge 2018
The main event was held in the Cambridge Guildhall, a really beautiful venue that gave room for loads of stalls and customers but kept a friendly and personal atmosphere. A lot of the companies had worked together before so it gave the whole event a real community feel. Food was flying, drinks were being served and there were a lot of free tasters!
We were really impressed and honestly quite surprised how much vegan food was on offer. Obviously this isn’t a vegan food festival, you still had cured meats and delis filled with cheese but overall there was a huge selection. Throughout the whole event we only found a handful of stalls that had no vegan options available. Most of the stalls were really clearly labelled with vegan and allergy signs and ALL of the stall owners knew their products back to front and were happy to answer any questions. We spent a whole afternoon trying everything we could and the food was delicious!
One of our favourite places was Replete Gourmet Flatbreads who had a wide range of incredible flatbreads with a variety of fillings. We tried the Indian kulcha, onion bhaji, tomato and chilli chutney flatbread and it was banging. Really tasty, not too oily and filled with flavour. They have a whole vegan range that they take to a variety of vegan festivals around the country so make sure you look out for them!
We ate some seriously tasty vegan empanadas from La Latina. They came with a nice spicy salsa and a beautiful guac style dip which I think we could’ve eaten by the bucket load. Outside of the event they sell all of their food from a pimped out double decker bus which sounds awesome.
We met the guys from Asado Sauce who were proud to be all natural, low in sugar, vegan and MSG free. They had a variety of really herby and rich Latin American & Korean sauces that would be incredible to cook with. All of their recipes have been passed down through family generations so we’re looking forward to adding it into our cooking.
There was also a blistering variety of vegan, natural, sugar free and gluten free oils, balsamics and rubs from Taste Gourmet Spice Company. Plus some cracking bread that we took home from White Cottage Bakery.
“Life is love, and I live for the love of food. I am Madame Sunshine.” Madame Sunshine
One of the coolest characters we met was Madame Sunshine with her selection of sauces chills and chutneys inspired by life in Ghana. We tried some Tigernuts, a nutritional oat like food native to Ghana with a naturally sweet taste. All of her products were vegan, nice and clearly displayed and she was Veg Society approved. We also tried some beetroot ice cream which we found a bit bizarre but very moreish!
We had a lot of fun with the drinks and it helped that most of them were alcoholic. I think you can tell a lot about a person by the size of taster they pour you, and, at Eat Cambridge they were all really, really nice people.
There was a massive variety of vegan spirits from the Cambridge Gin Lab and the English Spirit Tasting Room. We found cranberry infused cider from Cranes Cider and the Cambridge Cider Company had a nice selection of apple based alcohols. Their Angry Wasp was our favourite; dry, crisp and it really hit the spot especially at 6.5% at 1 in the afternoon…
We tried some great vegan local ales from The Pint Shop, some gin infused jam and some refreshing herbal teas.
A very popular stall was Calverley’s Brewery who have some amazing and unique ales. The brothers behind the brewery were very happy to say all of the ales were 100% vegan and agreed that adding fish bladders won’t make anything taste better!
There was also some local music outside
Talks and extra cool stuff
One of the cool things about Eat Cambridge was it wasn’t just food, it definitely looked at the bigger picture. It was really clear that sustainability was a huge factor for all of the stalls and that so many people are pushing for more sustainable options within Cambridge.
A group that are really pioneering this is Cambridge Sustainable Food. They are key to sustainable food education, food banks and the spread of ethical food in Cambridge. Basically, they’re doing awesome work. During the event we talked about their Food Hub project; a storage and distribution centre for locally produced, sustainable food from farms in the Cambridgeshire area. With the hub they’re hoping to significantly lower wastage, food miles and costs – something all companies should be aiming for. Their vision is to
“promote sustainable supply chains and access to healthy and environmentally sustainable food for all” Cambridge Sustainable Food
We also had a nice long chat with Cambridge Organic Food Company. They offer seasonal, locally sourced vegetable boxes to your home and are huge advocates for sustainable, organic food. They’re a clever bunch of people and give talks at Cambridge Science Festival about food miles and how crucial it is to go local.
Throughout the festival there was a whole variety of really interesting talks about seasonal produce, organic food, food and feminism – everything food based, they had it. The guys from Sugar Smart were there encouraging and educating people on low sugar diets and we went to a talk by Vhari Russel who runs the hugely successful Grub Club Cambridge. She spoke about using local herbs and we tried some Lovage and Anise hyssop which both had such incredibly fresh flavours. It definitely encouraged use to us a wider variety of herbs in our cooking and the whole event was a perfect place to
get pissed and eat free food network and learn for food bloggers.
Vegan Adventures at Eat Cambridge 2018
Previously I’ve been dubious of food and drink festivals because of lack of ethical options but Eat Cambridge has definitely changed that. It’s doing such great work for independent business and doing so with the right mindset. Although it is marketed as a regular foodie festival, there was a huge variety of foods, drinks, ingredients and products that are responsibly sourced and vegan friendly.
The atmosphere was great and it was super nice to talk with the owners, brewers and chefs from all of the companies. No sales reps or gimmicky advertising, it was clear that these people are passionate about their food and want to talk about it. Everyone was very friendly and happy to chat and chomp for hours whilst I asked endless questions about vegan products and sustainability. It’s also seems to make the food tastier when you know the story behind the product and it’s creators. We came away drunk and full, a perfect combo. The one thing they didn’t have was vegan cake, so I’ll definitely be going back in the future to see if it’s added to the menu.
Every year for two weeks in May
Details for this years main event;
Date: Saturday 19 May
Time: 10.30am – 4pm
Venue: The Guildhall
Entry: Adults £2
Children under 16 FREE
Fringe events vary. More details can be found at http://www.eat-cambridge.co.uk/
Have you been to Eat Cambridge or know any other great food festivals? Tell us in the comments box below!