Stone Food and Drink Festival Preview: Three days full of treats to tickle tastebuds
THE Stone Food and Drink Festival returns this weekend to showcase the finest food and drink from Staffordshire and further afield.
Organisers have built on last year's success with new attractions and events for the 2012 festival, which takes place from Friday to Sunday.
The festival will feature stalls from about 100 exhibitors of local and international produce and drinks.
Stone's Olympian canoeist Lizzie Neave, is to open the event on Friday at 1pm.
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She will later take the stage in the festival's Talks and Tastings Tent to answer questions about sports nutrition and her Olympic experience.
Festival chairman Richard Stevens said organisers are anticipating about 12,000 people to visit Westbridge Park over the weekend.
He said: "We've come back bigger and better than ever."
Among the new features is the Talks and Tastings Tent, which will host hourly demonstrations , including cocktail masterclasses, butter churning wine and cheese tastings, talks on whiskies and a farmer's market.
A new dedicated children's area, the Little Foodies Marquee will see Kiddy Cook North Staffs run classes over Saturday and Sunday to get kids thinking about their food.
Melanie from Melody Time will host sessions packed with songs, rhymes and musical games, a face painter will help transform children into their favourite animal and there will be fairground rides.
Also new for 2012 is a water taxi from Aston Marina.
Mr Stevens said: "The water taxi is a really novel way for people to get to the park. They can park their cars and, for a small charge, be taken across the water to the festival."
"We have been doing this now for eight years and we hope to improve the festival every year because it's an important part of the local community, everyone really enjoys it and we get to showcase all our wonderful local produce."
Andrew Wilson, owner of Old School Wines in Tittensor, has set up shop at the exhibition for the last five years.
"We are setting up a 40ft long champagne and cocktail bar, the biggest in Staffordshire," he said. "Previously we have used the festival to showcase our wines but this time we wanted to show off other aspects of the business.
"We will holda demonstration in the Talks and Tastings tent, where we will present special chocolates imported from America which go well with certain wines. There are four varieties, all with different percentages of cocoa."
As well as whiskey tastings, Old School Wines is also showcasing its Pietini cocktails.
Mr Wilson said: "We have Andrea Polczek, who used to work for Jamie Oliver, showing off the dessert cocktails."
The Pietinis include a lemon meringue, made from limoncello, vodka, cream and biscuit and a Black Forest gateau made from creme de mure, cambord, cream, biscuit and chocolate.
Mr Stevens said he anticipated a fun weekend. "I love coming to the festival," he said. "It's brilliant to support the local economy and to get out and meet new customers.
"People are always saying they drive past our shop but have never come in and it's a great way to make that first contact."
Also exhibiting is Eccleshall's Bertelin Farmhouse Cheese Company. Lucy Heath, who looks after the business said: "This is the third time we'll be attending the festival.
"People are welcome to come and try our cheeses and buy the ones they like. This year we're providing a prize for the Treasure Trails of Stafford, so there will be clues hidden at our stall and the prize will be on display.
"The festival is great for us because we can showcase our products and we get a lot of feedback from customers we can use that feedback to make improvements." Another new feature for 2012 is the Titanic Beer Tent. Titanic Brewery director Dave Bott said: "We've been coming to the festival for four years now and we keep getting bigger each time.
"It's a unique experience for customers at the festival because it's the only time we sell all our beers at the same time in the same place. We have the regular beers that people might recognise like the Anchor, the Lifeboat and the White Star, but also special and seasonal beers. It's a fun weekend and we're really looking forward to it." Online ticket sales have now stopped but they can be bought on the day for £6 and can be purchased buy one get one free with an Enjoy Staffordshire card.
For more information, visit www.stonefooddrink.org.uk