Of all the things that can give you a big nudge of festive spirit, a crisp morning at a Christmas market that is showcasing a plentiful amount of food and drink stalls is top of my list. I absolutely love a Christmas market! They make my stomach and liver as happy as a Christmas Elf in Santa’s workshop. And if my childhood memories serve me right, that makes me a super happy, five foot nine elf. Plus, I can normally be seen sporting a hat of some sort during these cold, tinsel laden months. As well as the smells and sounds of various sweet and savoury goods weaving their way into your Rudolf-esque red nose and bobble hat covered ears, the bustle of people with shining smiles who are also experiencing a festive nudge makes me feel warm and fuzzy, just like Santa’s beard (I met Santa once and he sounded remarkably similar to my Dad). So, imagine how I felt being asked to attend my home town’s very first dedicated Christmas Food and Drink Festival a couple weekends ago. Forget Santa’s beard; I felt as fluffy as a polar bear! It was a truly magical event that took place in Bideford’s historic pannier market.
For those who don’t know, Bideford Pannier Market is situated just off to the left of the very steep High Street. It is a building you will definitely not miss with its bright red window frames and intricate stonework. Built in 1884, Bideford Pannier Market really is at the heart of our Little White Town. Each week it is home to local stall holders sharing their products, as well as the independent Market Place shops and Butchers Row which are open daily for locals to get their fix. On this chilly Sunday at the end of November, it was the perfect location for my favourite town’s debut food and drink extravaganza.
Before even entering into the historic building just after 10am as a solo food enthusiast, I could see there were a lot more people out and about and wrapped up warm than normal. Everyone was obviously just as excited about what was to come as me, but only just, as I was at full blown polar bear standing on its back legs excitement now (it was like a scene from David Attenborough). Hand sanitiser used and face mask on, as well as too many layers (I was sweating), my eyes were filled with the amazing sight of a jam-packed market hall. I could not believe the amount of traders standing proudly behind their stalls ready to greet the hundreds and hundreds of attendees wanting their Christmas fix. I had fallen into foodie heaven! With breakfast skipped, for obvious reasons, I began my trip through the food and drink wonderland. Four hours later, I emerged triumphant with a bag full of amazing local food and drink purchases and a beaming face. If four hours doesn’t say a lot, I don’t know what does. I had the most wonderful, wonderful time.
Worldwide Cuisines from Local Businesses
Making your way around the market was similar to jet setting between an abundance of different countries travelling in first class, of course (in my dreams). From one stall to the next, you were greeted by the sights and smells of that specific country from across the globe. From Italy, to Korea and Taiwan, before finally landing back in our beautiful North Devon Towns of Torrington, Ilfracombe, Bideford, Exmoor, Appledore and many more. Even if the trip from stall to stall was not actually a first class flight on a jumbo jet, it certainly was for everyone’s taste buds. Add into that being able to meet and chat to the business owners in person, I felt like I got to know each business personally, rather than just through their mouth-watering dishes. My fiancé and I had an afternoon feast when we got home, which was so worth missing breakfast for!
Interactive Food and Drink
As much as I love perusing over tummy tingling food and drink, nothing quite beats being interactive with it! What’s more, with the people who create the products and actually know what they’re doing, unlike me in my kitchen sometimes when searching for dinner inspiration. A decorative chocolate bark demonstration with local Torrington based cookery school, Tineke Cooks, hit every sweet tooth in my excited mouth. It was a miracle my child like Christmas tree bark creation, adorned with salted caramel pretzels and twinkly edible stars, found its way home. Pulling myself away from the deliciously smooth chocolate, I fell into cocktails; and that was before drinking my concoction. What better way to end a jolly few hours than with a (quite strong) festive themed mini cocktail making masterclass from Westward Ho! based cocktail bar, The Small Bar. Without a drop spilled from neither myself, nor the three other cocktail apprentices, cocktail master Adam guided us through the making of a warming Winter Spiced Pear cocktail. That fluffy polar bear standing on its two back legs? It was now, holding a cocktail and enjoying every sip!
From left to right: The finished product; my friend Toni and I enjoying our creations; the essential cocktail making equipment.
Something for Everyone
Amongst the rows of happy traders selling mounds of products (some of whom sold out, which is not surprising!), were the small details that really brought this celebration of Christmas to life with an extra bit of magic. The giant snow globe could be seen in all its wonderland glory with children creating snow storms with their hands before being covered in it from head to toe. The big man himself (Santa, not my Dad) made a special appearance in his very own present filled grotto and was inundated with excitable children checking they were on his nice list. Thinking back, I probably should have checked my list status with him, just to be sure.
Despite probably looking too old to sit on Santa’s lap in his grotto, I did not need to as I felt like all my foodie wishes had come true in one massive festive swoop. The team at Welcome Back to Bideford put together a truly outstanding festival that celebrated everything and everyone in our small community that has a passion for food and drink. I have heard rumours of future events taking place; I, for one, cannot wait and will definitely be attending for another four hours, if not more.
I would like to thank Lucy Rel who invited me to the Bideford Christmas Food and Drink Festival and to all the businesses for being so welcoming and gifting me with their delicious products. Please check out my reviews of each of these, and other businesses, here.
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