Sat 23 Sept 2006
While the York Festival of Food and Drink has drawn to a close for another (its 10th!) year we headed along last weekend, at the starting end of the festival.
First stop was the selection of markets at Parliament Street, a short walk from the station. We hadn't quite prepared ourselves for just how busy this would be ... and we weren't quite up to battering our way through crowds without having had breakfast. So that meant we more or less had to start with a double sausage butty from Debbie and Andrew
. We then made our way down Parliament Street to St Sampson's Square. Parliament Street was playing host to two markets which meant that first of all there was a hefty range of regional English goodies, followed by the European market, culminating in the Deliciously Yorkshire market in St Sampson's Square.
Given the rather large number of people crammed into a relatively small space there were probably too many stalls to make the walk a comfortable browse. We were kept properly occupied battling pushchairs, groups of people and those who suddenly stop - so properly occupied that we weren't that inspired to stop, taste and buy.
We made it down to the Deliciously Yorkshire market, which was a little quieter. We bought a bag of pork scratchings and a pork pie to share and had a bit more of a wander. The Deliciously Yorkshire market had a good selection of meats, breads and cakes. And it also started to get busy, so we decided it was time to indulge in a relaxing beer.
The organisers of the York Festival of Food and Drink kindly produce a Real Ale trail. If you are particularly keen, you can get a card stamped at each of the 15 pubs on the trail and receive a t shirt. This is probably fine if you live in York, but 15 pints in an afternoon is probably just one or two too many for me to manage ... especially as Andy is my resident lager drinker, and so no help at all.
We started at the Yorkshire Terrier on Stonegate. This is the newest of the York Brewery
's pubs and is probably one of the smallest pubs I've been into for a long time. They had a very impressive range of beers on offer - around 9 hand pulls and both Bitburger and Grolsch for the 'discerning' lager drinker (I think they also offered Carling for the 'less discerning'!). Most excitingly, they offered a 'tasting tray' - four thirds of a pint, presented in a little wooden carry tray, for the princely sum of £3. I first experienced tasting trays while in America quite a long time ago. My experience of American beers was not entirely positive until I started visiting the pubs attached to microbreweries around Annapolis, Maryland, where I was able to purchase an array of small serves of beer. It's something you don't see a lot of in the UK. Anyway, vaguely over excited and unable to choose which beers I wanted to taste, I let the barman do the hard work and ended up with a good, all-round selection.
In order to make sure I drank my beers in the right order I carefully tasted them all first and then drank from 'nicest' to 'not so nice' ...
This meant that I started with York Brewery's Centurion's Ghost - a dark beer which was light in the mouth, with a lovely bitter flavour and a soft finish ... mmm. Next up I finished off my Guzzler, which, aside from being a brilliant name for a beer, was a gorgeous, savoury pale gold beer. With its hint of coriander it was a great drink. Moving right along to the Terrier, which was a light, sweet and floral golden beer, I then finished off with the Hampshire Rose, which, although a dark amber colour was rather nondescript. Of the four beers, it's the only one I wouldn't bother ordering.
We dragged ourselves out of the pub to have a wander through York's normal, daily market. Although there was quite a bit of produce available here, there was also a lot of non-food related ... stuff. So, not quite as impressive but by this point it was time to investigate the Yorkshire Cream Tea tasting. The tasting would have cost £3 but what we hadn't realised is that it was being held at one of the stalls in the Parliament Street market and we just weren't cut out to deal with the crowds (in my case, irrespective of how much cream was on offer!). There was nothing for it but to head off to the Tap and Spile on Monkgate - home of a pork pie tasting. While we had missed out on tickets (poor planning!) we did hope to pick up some in the pub. My god! We could hardly move! In fact, the pub (which is quite generous in proportion) was packed to the rafters, so we scarpered and headed to the Brigadier Gerard, also on Monkgate. This is a Sam Smith's pub and while I'm a reasonably enthusiastic Sam Smith's drinker I was disappointed at the condition of the Alpine Lager, although the bitter was good.
Next stop was the Golden Slipper on Goodramgate, for a read of the newspapers, before heading back to the market and purchasing some bacon and venison salami, and polishing off some more pork scratchings!
A quick drink at the Golden Fleece (the most haunted pub in York) was followed by a final couple of drinks at the Last Drop Inn on Colliergate.
And that more or less concluded something like 8 hours at the York Festival of Food and Drink. Last year, we regretted not having a cooler bag. Well, this year we had one and next year ... we'll book event tickets in advance!