Yesterday we were priviledged to be part of Outstanding in the Field’s first UK event, at Trealy Farm, Monmouth. I arrived late, but still in time for a glass of Ancre Hill sparkling 2008 Seyval Blanc – which was a really good start to the afternoon. Ruth Tudor and James Swift gave us a great farm tour, describing their commitment to producing honest, sustainably reared animals on the ancient farm overlooking theUsk Valley. The two of them have developed and put into practice so many ideas it is truly humbling.
The assembled group of guests threaded our way up the hill, through ancient pasture and picturesque woodland to our dinner site. As we came over the brow of the hill, there below us was laid out an immaculate row of tables with white tablecloths and folding wooden chairs.
We rapidly took our places at the table and took time to introduce our selves to our neighbours: a mix of mainly Monmouthshire, London and American diners, with a couple of people from South West England, but all with a common interest in locally sourced, excellent food and drink.
The menu offered a six course tour through some of the finest produce in the region (not including the appetisers that I had missed down the hill by being late!) Trealy Farm charcuterie, hot and cold smoked salmon from Black Welsh Mountain Smokery, our own Pen-y-Wyrlod organic lamb (cooked with chick peas, coriander, preserved lemons and coriander), Philp Bevan’s amazing vegetables, stunning late summer pudding, a selection of Welsh cheeses and finally coffee with Gower Cottage Brownies. Each course was accompanied by (Ancre Hill) wines and/or cider/perry from the area.
The Hardwick team, in the form of Chris and Chris, prepared, cooked and presented this amazing feast, which was served up by the very engaging OITF team. Our waitress (under states her role) had developed an encyclopaedic knowledge of Welsh produce in the forty eight hours since she arrived and everything was handled efficiently, engagingly and with a barrage of smiles.
As the sun went down, we made our way to the fires lit on the hillside and chatted with old and new friends, producers and the OITF Team. For a first time event in the UK, it was undoubtedly a success. Sure it was expensive, elitist and for the few, but it provided a perfect setting to showcase the best of Monmouthshire produce and cooking, the landscape and the people. Beyond that, the meal demonstrated how pop-up banquets on a more modest scale could be made to work on any farm, on village greens or in town centres. I hope it is the start of something truly exciting.