Chilli Event Reviews

Review and information about chilli related events in the UK

I was pleased to be able to write a mini review for the Shoreham Chili Fest 2013 for the Chilefoundry. The event took place on Coronation green, just off the high street. This festival is close to my heart as I live in Shoreham so it’s only a short walk and it was at this festival I was welcomed officially into the Chile foundry review team!

The first day of the festival was fortunate to fall on a market day making the event feel many times larger and also bring in the crowds. Being in the centre of the heat wave also helped, especially after the rainy wash out at a previous festival. Shoreham Chilli Fest contained some welcome chilli festival regulars such as Grim Reaper foods, Edible Ornamentals, Mr Vikki’s and Burning Desire Foods, alongside some interesting new additions into the market with some creative ideas.

This year also saw the chilli eating contest hosted by the Clifton Chilli Club. The contest had the usual amusements with those giving a try against those who have asbestos mouths! An interesting addition to the competition was some Sichuan Flower Peppercorns from China Spice. If you have never tried them, they are an unusual experience, opening up your taste buds and increasing salivation.

Add an extra hot viper chilli into the equation after some of these and the results are quite intense.

Unfortunately the competition was not on a raised platform meaning anything from a couple of rows back had no view. This would be an easy improvement for following years.

I did meet up with the winner of the chilli eating competition afterwards. He was absolutely fine, and he was even skipping out to the hot sauce vendors to buy a bottle of 1million SHU extract to wash down the chillies he had just eaten!

To keep everyone entertained there was a band as well as a range of drinks available including chilli milkshakes. Numerous food stalls were spaced in-between all the chilli tasters giving a nice layout and flow to the event. The giant marquee provided shelter from the sun and outside several picnic tables catered for a sunny spot and families. Shoreham has some beautiful views out over the water, the increased number of stalls at this years event unfortunately blocked these views. A slightly altered layout could provide a picnic/eating area with a view. Though would this mean sacrificing one more chilli tasting stand… a tough choice.

This festival is growing in size and popularity year by year and I hope it continues for many more. Due to its location the event can never grow too big. If you’re after a large chilli event and a full day out then this festival is not for you.

If you like little towns and street markets, combined with a chilli head kick, then drop buy for a lovely day out. If you come by car, parking will be a challenge, coming by train is easy and the station very close.

 I enjoy this mini festival, if you come down one year hopefully you will too. I look forward to 2014

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At the beginning of July, the North East saw one of the biggest Chilli events return for it’s 2nd year, the suitably named North East Chilli Fest. Seaton Delaval once again become the backdrop to weekend of sunshine and spicy fun, courtesy of organisers Mark & Shelley Deakin who run Hot Stuff Chilli Company.

The couple are both passionate about all things spicy, they set up their company after realising that their was nobody catering for Chilliheads in the North East of England. They soon progressed to organising the festival for the same reasons. The majority of Chilli Festivals traditionally are located in the south of the UK, but this is changing. Next year the Deakins are also jointly organising The Lakes Chilli Festival which promises to be a hot event too.

Seaton Delaval Hall on a regular day

The North East Chilli Fest 2012 was an event I had really wanted to attend, but due to the 700 mile round trip, I felt it was a little too much, but then I heard nothing but great things from those that attended, including Phil Palmer from the Dartmoor Chilli Farm who was quoted as saying “If Carlsberg did Chilli Festivals” (and had an 800 mile round trip!) I knew I had missed something special.

The Hall transformed

So this year I was offered a lift up to the Festival with one of the traders in return for helping them during the two days.The Festival opened at 10.00am both days and offered a park & ride scheme for visitors, which I think worked really well as last year the front lawns were utilised as car parking, potentially limiting space for vendors and entertainment. So this year there was a large area for visitors to sit and eat their food from the many hot food vendors, and generally relax in the sunshine with a pint of beer or cider.

The festival in full swing with views out to sea

This new format was a great idea as it really added to the festival atmosphere. The grassy area accommodated the main entertainments marquee where bands played and also diverse acts like Chris Cross, the human contortionist performed to the crowds.

The main chilli vendors were in the courtyard of the main building, with an outer and inner square which created a circuit to guide visitors around enabling them to stock up on their old favourites and new products.

The layout meant that no trader was hidden or missed, most of the traders were under supplied market style stalls which gave the area the vibe and feeling of a busy market. It was good to see the likes of Mr Vikki’s, Grim Reaper Foods, Chilli Junkies, Fire Foods, The Chilli Pepper Company, A Bit Chilli!, Bims Kitchen, Chilli Pepper Petes, Crazy Fred’s, Edible Ornamentals and Capsaicinoia plus m any more.

The sun shone and Mark assured me that he had ordered the weather to be nice and sunny, but not too hot! and he got it just right. When I took a walk around, it was great to see families sitting in the sun, soaking up the festival atmosphere.

A highlight of any Chilli Festival has to be the Chilli Eating competition and the two this weekend highlighted just how hot the locals like their food!, with local boy Dan Prinn from Mr Vikki’s winning on the Saturday.

Chilli eating competition winner Dan Prinn (right) with Host Rob Dumbrell

One thing that struck me, being from down south, was how friendly the people were. This also added to the festival feeling.

So thanks to Mark & Shelley for pulling out all the stops and making this years festival even better than the previous year. Here’s to 2014 and their other venture, The Lakes Chilli Festival 2014 which is being held at Dalemain Hall in Penrith on the 2nd & 3rd August.

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I look forward to any event which is hosted at a chilli farm or nursery. I’m not sure if it’s the intrigue of someone else’s growing setup or just the sense of awe at seeing row after row of chilli plants.

Last weekend I had the pleasure of attending one of the first events on the 2013 chilli calendar; the Simpson’s Seeds Day of Fire and Spice. Simpson’s Seeds occupy a walled garden nursery in the beautiful Wiltshire village of Horningsham. The village forms part of the Longleat estate which is famed for its large country house and safari park. Historically, a team of gardeners at the nursery produced flowers, fruit and vegetables for the house. The grape vines and peach trees may be long gone now, but the raised beds help the nursery maintain a traditional feel.

The Walled Garden Nursery

This event has been running for a few years now and is coordinated by proprietor Matt Simpson. It’s primarily a plant sale, but Matt also invites a handful of guest stallholders along to sell their chilli products too.

The event kicked off at 11am, although a few eager chilli-heads had arrived earlier in the morning to ensure that they got their hands on some of Matt’s more unusual chilli plants. Two of the more interesting varieties were Gibbering Idiot and Goats Weed – a Capsicum Annuum variety which is thought to originate from Venezuela.

The Gibbering Idiot is a new Habanero variety which is being developed by Simpson’s Seeds and was only available in limited quantities on the day. Needless to say they were all snapped up very quickly!

 Gibbering Idiot

In total, there were over 30 varieties of chilli on offer in the glass house. These were complemented by a wide range of sweet peppers, herbs and tomatoes too. During the day, Matt was on hand to give customers expert advice and insightful recommendations. Matt has written books on both chillies and tomatoes and really knows his stuff.

Outside in the sunshine were stands from Deer’s Leap Chillies and the Upton Cheyney Chilli Company. The Deer’s Leap Chillies stall had a lovely selection of condiments including a delicious lime pickle and a spicy Sicilian style sauce that I am looking forward to trying later this week.

Matt Simpson with Sarah Gratton of Deer’s Leap Chillies

The Upton Cheyney Chilli Company stall was manned by a few members of the Clifton Chilli Club. Customer favourites included their Megalodon and Oak Smoked Chipotle sauces, the latter of which sold out just as I arrived at the event.

 Matt checking out the range of sauces from the Upton Cheyney Chilli Company

Inside, there was a vast array of seeds from the Simpson’s Seeds catalogue and a selection of Matt’s “Yummyliscous” sauces too. The sauces included the award-winning Horny Goat and the humorously named Sillius Soddus which took pride of place on the “Nutters Table”.

The “Nutters Table”

After a steady stream of visitors, the event drew to a close at around 4pm. Several had travelled from as far as Birmingham and Swansea but had been rewarded with the fantastic range of plants and chilli products that were available on the day. A few growers from other southwest chilli farms were also spotted throughout the day which just goes to show how friendly the chilli community is.

Last to leave were a few members of the Clifton Chilli Club who decided to film a video review in the glass house. The backdrop of “Nutter’s Corner” seemed particularly apt as they sampled a new chilli extract product from Bristol-based Dr Burnorium.

Clifton Chilli Club reviewing a product in “Nutters Corner”.

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Tucked away between the idyllic Cotswolds and the beautiful Welsh Marches lies the quaint Eastnor Castle. This year, the bank holiday left the gorgeous weather and the Chilli festival thriving with activity.

The Castle gates opened at 11am to the general public, big hats and suncream on hand. A short walk through the grounds led you past the enchanting notes from Pantasy Steel band, playing some great tunes for every set of ears.

The Castle courtyard held over 40 stalls from the usual sauce makers, sellers, distributors like Hot-Headz, The Chilli Pepper Company, Mr Vikki’s, Wiltshire Chilli Farm, Grim Reaper foods, Bim’s Kitchen, The Mini Jar Company, and Fire Foods to name a few. Along with these lovely folk there were several food stalls selling Churros, various hot and cold meals suitable for every taste, vegetarian, vegan and the meat fiends alike. A beer tent and other beverage sellers to quench thirst were also standing tall and seemed very popular. 

The fantastic weather drew twice as many patrons in comparison to last year’s show. The Clifton Chilli Club hosted a chilli eating competition on both the Sunday and Monday, bringing a large crowd to the lawn to watch the madness that ensued. 

It certainly made for some great entertainment and the whole crowd joined in cheering. Los Squideros played a few sets in their bright and happy red outfits, singing a mix of Mexican tunes and classics we all know and love.

Of course there was the castle to explore itself, open to the public to wander in and out as they please. There was a Chilli trail and a cookery theatre for the younger audiences. Whilst I wasn’t able to catch the cookery demonstrations on Indian cuisine and Egyptian mezze, I heard nothing but good things and was told numerous times that it was a great set to watch for inspiration and ideas.

All in all, the Eastnor Chilli Festival, in my opinion, was a great success. The day was beautiful, the stalls were varied and plentiful.There was something there for everyone to see and do, and the entertainment was a great crowd pleaser. Many happy people (except those suffering the effects of the chilli eating competition) left the festival that evening, with bags of goodies and smiles on their faces. 

I look forward to next year as I’m told it is only going to get bigger!

 

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