Riverford Christmas Fair 2013, or, the story of Mr Carrot & the Scary Bear

The main hall, with Guy Watson demo in the background

The main hall, with Guy Watson demo in the background

As I think I’ve mentioned before just a few times (ahem), I’m a happy Riverford customer, and have been a happy veg box recipient since we moved in to our house over a year ago.

I’ve been enjoying the company’s more confident and consistent move into social media this year, and Facebook was how I found out about the London-based Christmas fair. I nabbed a couple of tickets (£6 each for us, Pickleface was free and there was a fundraising element for Shelter from the Storm, too) and last weekend we took the circuitous route out to Camden.

The whole event was extremely, joyfully, appropriately Riverford. Even the venue – Cecil Sharp House, home to the English Folk Dance and Song Society – felt the part. Activities included the big man himself, Guy Watson (who is a very smiley chap, and very easy to chat to) and Kirsty Hale doing cookery demos which filled the hall with delicious scents; there were also the typical stalls and samples and children’s activities in the garden.



The vegetable puppet making / decorating went down an absolute storm with Ramona, who after creating a Mike Wazowski sprout, a mushroom with a full floret of broccoli hair and the fourteen-eyed demon broccoli, finally also created the friendly Mr. Carrot, complete with pipe cleaner tail. He apparently acted as an early warning signal to alert us to the presence of a Scary Bear in the vicinity, so I spent quite a lot of the afternoon doing Mr. Carrot voices in between snaffling tasty morsels. Here he is, with his creator. Sadly Mr. Carrot eventually lost all his facial features in a tragic accident we no longer speak about.

She also enjoyed choosing her favourite fruit or veg to have painted on her face, and opted for tomatoes. I’m slightly kicking myself that I didn’t sit for a crop of blueberries myself as Kate aka “Chickpea”, who was doing the artwork, was rather brilliant. The team playing with the kids outside were awesome – Ramona was so excited when she got to play the role of a tiger helping to pull up the World’s Heaviest Turnip (it made sense at the time) and was staggered that they actually remembered her name when it was time to say goodbye. “But how did that man know my name mummy?!” “Maybe he remembered it because your name is incredibly cool?” “Oh, yes.”

For adults, there was food. Lots of it to try, and universally delicious. Samples included some gorgeous cheeses including the astonishingly good Cropwell Bishop Stilton – I’m a bit hit and miss with blue cheese but it was smooth and just strong enough without being what I call, in my grown up way, “feety” (insert maturity / cheese pun here). Absolutely gorgeous with a cranberry and port chutney. I’ve raved about Riverford mince pies before – even though they lost out to Bettys by a whisker, they’re still extremely good. We also bought a generous roll stuffed with slices of spiced beef, which Ramona quickly dispatched, and sweet braised red cabbage, which I hoovered up. A cauliflower, chickpea and coconut milk spicy soup took the chill off, and I managed to sip down a generous sample of a lovely red.

One of our real star discoveries of the day was Montezuma chocolate, which, being a hardcore Green & Blacks fan, I’ve never tried before. The milk chocolate with lime and chilli was an absolute revelation – fruity, creamy and with that surprising burst of heat at the end. I’m including it in practically everyone’s Christmas presents this year (if I don’t eat it first) and have already got my mum hooked on it. Sadly, I tried Montezuma’s Apple Crumble milk chocolate this week and found it sadly lacking (nice chocolate, a little bit of crunch but no discernible apple flavour), but it serves me right for cheating on my lime-scented lover with a flashy biscuity mistress.

All in all a lovely, family-friendly, foodie day. I look forward to next year’s!

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