With Christmas only 11 weeks away (thanks for the reminder Steph), businesses at the BID Leamington Open Meeting last night, held at Ginger Ace, were encouraged to come up with creative ways to help promote themselves and the town.
There were ideas shared about making Christmas wrapping materials available to customers inside Leamington’s wonderful cafes and bistros, along with installing a festive advent calendar window at the Royal Priors.
Titan Storage Solutions made a generous offer of free storage space to Leamington businesses on the run up to Christmas – very handy if your stock levels are set to increase during the festive period.
Reminding us all of lively summer days to come, Jo Cameron invited businesses to become involved with next year’s Leamington Summer Carnival – either as sponsors or volunteers. Afterwards, business owners networked with a glass of wine in hand, and admired the stunning artwork on loan from Deasil.
The sun came out to the delight of thousands of foodies who poured into the Pump Room Gardens for this year’s Royal Leamington Spa Food and Drink Festival.
The annual two-day event, which is estimated to have attracted at least 25,000 visitors yet again making it one of the largest free food and drink festivals in the UK, was organised by BID Leamington with the support of local businesses over the weekend.
It was the festival’s eighth year and saw more than 150 local retailers and food vendors showcase a diverse range of food and drink from a vast array of exotic cuisines, including the Caribbean and Asia.
The icing on the cake for this year’s festivities was the first ever Leamington Bake Off, which was hosted by Sweet As Cake Emporium and attracted 19 entrants who entered 30 cakes and traybake goodies between them.
The prestigious Bake Off title was awarded to Zoe Eardley, aged 24 who lives in Leamington. She was delighted to have been crowned the winner after she entered a fishing themed lemon cream celebration cake which wowed the judges.
“It feels great to have won the contest, I saw some of the other entries and there was definitely some stiff competition!” she said.
“I have a real passion for decorating cakes, which is what I spent most of last night up doing! My boyfriend originally encouraged me to enter a cake into the contest and having never competed in anything like this before it feels like a great achievement.”
Both celebration cakes and traybakes were entered by participants – including a husband and wife who competed against each other – with entries marked on presentation, taste and texture.
Contestants as young as five were judged by three highly regarded local chefs; Jenny Hudson of Sweet As Cake Emporium, Peter Knibb of Restaurant 23 and Laura Hamilton, of Queans Restaurant.
Jenny Hudson said: “We’ve been hosting our own exhibit at the festival for six years now and this year wanted to do something a bit different.
“And with the Great British Bake Off airing on TV and there being a real passion for baking at the moment, we saw the festival as a great opportunity for local amateur bakers to showcase their talent. “We’ve tried 30 cakes today and they have all been really amazing, we’ve been so impressed with the calibre of entries.”
Now in its second year, the Aubrey Allen ‘Home Cook of the Year’ competition was won by Jonathan Carter who bowled over judges and spectators alike in a live cook-off to present a delectable three course menu based around lamb loin wrapped in pancetta.
Judges included Michelin chefs Martyn Pearn, from Oscar’s French Bistro in Leamington, and Adam Bennett from The Cross at Kenilworth, as well as last year’s winner Kate Reddington and Warwick and Leamington Spa MP Chris White.
Live music from local favourites featuring Thom Kirkpatric, Jazulou Jazz Trio, The Rock Bottom, Gebby Eaton and more provided a relaxing backdrop and entertained the crowds. Other popular attractions over the two days included the Taste Trail, the Kids Cookery School and tastings and demonstrations on the BBQ Masterclass and Live Kitchen.
Stephanie Kerr, of BID Leamington which organises the festival with the support of local businesses, said: “Every year the festival gets more popular and this year has been no exception.
“It has a great reputation amongst traders and visitors come from far and wide each year which is testament to the high standard of produce and entertainment on offer as well as the hard work from staff and volunteers.”
Alison Shaw, also of BID Leamington, added: “The event is a fantastic way to showcase the town and local economy and we would like to say a big thank you to everyone who supports the festival each year, including the traders, local businesses, volunteers and visitors who make it an exciting, fun and resounding success every year.”
Entries are rolling in for the first ever Leamington Bake Off as judges prepare to get their teeth into tasty treats being made by local amateur bakers.
BID Leamington, which organises the Royal Leamington Spa Food and Drink Festival with the support of local businesses, has teamed up with Sweet As Cake Emporium to launch the contest.
Stephanie Kerr, executive director of BID Leamington, said: “We’ve had such a great response to the Leamington Bake Off and we want to give everyone a chance to enter so we will accept entries on the day, however we appreciate any entries emailed in advance so we can plan for the arrival of so many delicious goodies.
“There are categories for five to 11-year-olds, 12 to 16-year-olds and over 16s with some fantastic prizes up for grabs as well as the honour of being named the town’s best amateur baker for your age group.
“Those who enter should bring their baking to the Festival Information Tent by noon on Saturday, September 5.”
The competition will be judged by three local chefs including Laura Hamilton from Queans Restaurant, Peter Knibb from Restaurant 23 and Jenny Hudson from Sweet-as Cakes as pictured.
Entry criteria and forms for the Leamington Bake Off are available from www.leamingtonfoodfestival.co.uk or www.sweet-as.co.uk
Full details for the free-to-attend festival taking place on Saturday, September 5 and Sunday, September 6, from 10am to 6pm, at the Royal Pump Room Gardens can be found at www.leamingtonfoodfestival.co.uk
Last month, Leamington welcomed the opening of Swirls Authentic Gelato – a truly Italian ice cream experience! This delightful newly-refurbished space boasts a sumptuous gelato counter offering 20 varieties of delicious, mouth-watering ice cream and sorbets – all homemade on the premises from seasonal, fresh ingredients, with flavours such as Salted Caramel, Cookies & Cream, Mint Chocolate and tempting fruit ice creams.
Swirls also offers crepes, strawberry waffles, smoothies and gelato milkshakes, which are all freshly made to order. As you enter Swirls, the inviting aroma of its new Kimbo range of Italian roasted coffee also greets you, leaving you wondering what to order first.
With a passion for all things Italian, Swirls’ owner Clair Edwards was determined to establish a really authentic brand of Italian ice cream here in Leamington – and one that is made solely on the Warwick Street premises. In what has been a labour of love for Clair and her team, sourcing the right machinery and thoroughly researching the market has been critical.
“It’s so important to us that we make and sell genuinely Italian gelato. It has to have a certain texture that can only be achieved by making the ice cream ourselves in small batches using the traditional “malcazione” Italian slow churning process. This creates a creamier and beautifully velvety texture. Where possible we also source ingredients locally and seasonally, we really believe this intensifies the flavour of our ice cream. We have also crafted our own gelato cakes – delicious layers of strawberry and vanilla ice cream. Perfect for sharing with friends over a cappuccino!”.
In a recent comparison of local ice cream parlours from blogger BooLovesBaking, Swirls was rated the tastiest ice cream in Leamington and Warwick – offering “magical, creamy gelato and generous one-scoop sized servings” plus the look and feel of the store and the outside seating area were considered a real bonus. You can also be assured of a very warm welcome from Manager, Paul Deavall and the Swirls team.