Learn how to pair delicious produce with the perfect tipple at County Durham food festival

A popular food festival will showcase the region’s finest fare and best brews in a series of not-to-be-missed workshops this spring.

Bishop Auckland Food Festival returns on Saturday 18 and Sunday 19 April and will see the town’s historic Market Place bustling with more than 150 artisan food and drink traders from across the North East. 

The Durham County Council event will also feature free demonstrations by celebrity chefs, including MasterChef co-presenter John Torode, and interactive workshops, where visitors can learn how to pair the produce on offer with local craft ales and refreshing gins at Beer and Bites and Gin School. 

Leading the workshops is food and drink author, Georga Spottiswood, editor of Savour magazine.

“The classes are fun and educational and provide people with a solid knowledge of the best food and drink pairings. We pick drinks with characteristics that complement flavours in food,” said Georga.

“For Bishop Auckland Food Festival, we’ve put together a menu that will definitely pack a punch for visitors. For example, we’ll be featuring Three Brothers Brewing Co’s S’more Porter, which has a rich marshmallow taste with a smooth, roasted chocolate finish – and it works wonderfully with Burtree Puddings’ rich chocolate brownie.”

Beer and Bites is an interactive session that combines fascinating brewers’ tales with beer tasting and perfectly paired nibbles, taking guests on a tastebud tour of the best the region has to offer. 

The sessions will feature piccalillis from Calder’s Kitchen, as well as Weardale Nettle, a firm white with dried nettles, and Prince Bishops; a tangy firm blue, both produced by Weardale Cheese. The dairy, run by Simon Raine, produces between 100 to 120 kilogrammes of cheese a week and uses, on average, 1,000 litres of milk from a nearby farm.

“Beer and Bites is a fantastic way to showcase our cheese to a new audience. Many people think cheese should be paired with wine, but a beer and cheese make a perfect pair. A ripe and rich cheese can handle a strong beer, while hoppy beers can take the edge off a sharp blue,” Simon said.

“I absolutely love doing my hometown festival, it’s always the best event of the year.” 

The workshops will also include ales from Three Brothers Brewery, based in Stockton-on-Tees.

Kit Dodd, head brewer, said: “It’s a great opportunity for us to talk about the beer making process, what goes on behind the scenes and the passion we put into our products. 

“It’s really interesting to work with other producers and to see what combinations they love, too.”

Beer and Bites takes place at 1.45pm on the Saturday and Sunday and tickets costs £12.

Gin School is also back in 2020, providing a refreshing glimpse into the flavours and history of the fashionable tipple. Expect exciting new flavour combinations as the GINstructors from Savour Magazine demonstrate how to balance delicious gins with the best mixers and party nibbles.

Workshops will take place at 12.00pm and 3.30pm on the Saturday and Sunday in Bishop Auckland Town Hall. Tickets cost £12, including gin and tonic combinations and a chance to quiz the distillery owner themselves.

Paul Colman, who set up The Little Quaker Distillery with his wife Leanne, will be one of the distillers at the event. 

The Darlington-based business has won international awards for its Quaker Gin.

Paul said: “It’s really exciting to work with gins in this way. We teach people about the botanicals: citrus from lemons, oranges and grapefruits, Morello cherries and blackcurrants, how the drink should be mixed and garnished to complement and balance the flavours. 

“For the first time this year, we’re also introducing the best party picks – from the food producers who’ll be at the festival – to pair with gin, so customers can buy all their bits for the perfect night in at the festival.” 

Robin Byers, the council’s service manager for place and experience, said: “Our workshops provide an opportunity for people with a shared passion for food and drink to get together and try new things. We are delighted to be working with local producers and our friends at Savour Magazine to serve up more skills and inspiration this year.

Other celebrities appearing in the festival’s free cookery marquee include Great British Bake Off finalist Alice Fevronia, Saturday Kitchen regular Joe Hurd and reigning 

MasterChef champion Irini Tzortzoglou.

Jane Beedle, who reached the Bake Off finals in 2016, will also deliver a series of baking workshops for children and adults.

More guests will be announced soon.

To stay up to date with the latest festival news, visit Bishop Auckland Food Festival on Facebook or follow @bishfoodfest on Twitter or Instagram.

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