On a glorious Saturday morning earlier this month, we travelled from one end of Dorset to the other to sample the delights of the Dorset Seafood Festival in Weymouth. What a sight to behold it was too with attractive stalls lined up on either side of the harbour in the sunshine and wonderful, fishy aromas permeating the air.
I can’t do justice to the whole array of exhibitors and workshops on offer here so I will concentrate on a few that caught my eye. Visit www.dorsetseafood.co.uk to find out more. The event was sponsored by Pommery champagne and we propped ourselves up at one of their stands with a glass of their ‘light, fresh, vivacious, creamy and elegant’ non-vintage fizz and a plate of luscious oysters while we perused the programme. We were ideally situated for a Pommery tasting workshop that was about to start, presented by Sarah Hix from Pommery and wine expert and TV presenter, Joe Wadsack. When I asked what dishes they liked to pair with Pommery champagne, I thought I might collapse from hunger, and although I had already eyed up squid stuffed with sun-dried tomatoes, spinach and pinenuts on Perry’s stall, there was more exploring to do before it was time for lunch.
I shall name just a few of the stalls we enjoyed but there were many more on offer: we tried chilled, refreshing gazpacho from the Blue Fish Café and Restaurant on Portland; we bought elephant garlic from the Isle of Wight based Garlic Farm; we nosed around the delights on offer on Loch Fyne’s stall (smoked fish and pâtés) and my 7-year-old son even joined the RSPB who were running a stall. Dorset Oysters had on offer some fascinating information about the flavour of oysters including some sample tasting notes outlining the differing balance of flavours to be found depending on where the oysters come from in the UK. These tasting notes gave points for flavour, saltiness, sweetness and umami and described nuances such as nuttiness, cut grass, white sugar, avocado and cucumber!
Returning to the food stall set up by local restaurant, Perry’s, for my stuffed squid lunch, I was disappointed to find that I’d been beaten to it by many others who’d also thought this to be the ideal choice for lunch. Sold out! So we opted for seafood paella from Basilica, The Mediterranean Grill, and this was superb especially as we devoured it on the harbourside amongst the hubbub of the festival which, by now, was in full flow.
Having the children with us, and it being such a gorgeous day, we were then obliged to spend a post-lunch interlude on Weymouth Beach, but we returned to the harbour before heading home and stocked up on local scallops oysters for supper.
All in all, this was a great day out helped, quite clearly, by the weather but, nonetheless, I can heartily recommend the festival to anyone but particularly for fish lovers who will be in their element and at a loss to choose between cooking demonstrations by top chefs (Mark Hix, Giles Thompson and 2009 MasterChef winner Mat Follas this year), filleting demonstrations, champagne and wine matching sessions, fresh fish auctions, and book signings by famous chef authors. In such a stunning setting, with over 50 stalls selling seafood, a range of associated products and much more besides, there is a definite return visit marked in my diary for 2011.