What better place for a Welsh food festival than in the lush green grounds of Ynysangharad Park in Pontypridd, the home of the National Lido of Wales, perched right next to the River Taff, with quaint terraced cottages built for the local mining community around one hundred years ago visible in the distance.
Last weekend, I went along to Big Welsh Bite 2018 in Ynysangharad War Memorial Park: a free annual food festival organised by Rhondda Cynon Taf Council to showcase the best food and drink produce the region has to offer. Having had a great time at Big Welsh Bite last year, I was really looking forward to tasting some of the food and drink on offer from the different producers. Now in its fifteenth year, the two-day festival attracted record numbers of visitors this year, over Saturday 4th and Sunday 5th August 2018.
Sponsored by Rhondda-based family-run business Subzero ice cream yet again for 2018, this year’s Big Welsh Bite featured mouth-watering food and drink over 35 exhibitors. Here are some of my personal highlights.
Highlights of Big Welsh Bite 2018 at Ynysangharad Park
I first came across Cardiff -based La Ffroga at last year’s Big Welsh Bite and I regretted having already eaten as their hot raclette cheese looked and smelt so good. When I heard they were at this year’s event, I made a beeline for their stall.
The gourmet cheesy fries (£5) were absolutely delicious; golden, crunchy morsels of fluffy potato, laden with tangy melted raclette and finished with balsamic glazed shallots and salad. If you prefer, you can order a traditional raclette, served with new potatoes instead of fries, and extra meat and veg is also available at an extra cost.
Ooh La La Patisserie
Another stall I just couldn’t resist visiting was Ooh La La Patisserie. Based in Abercynon, Ooh La La Patisserie is best known for its beautiful handmade macarons, available in a range of flavours.
I picked up six macarons for just £5 including chocolate orange, lime and coconut, raspberry, Nutella, salted caramel and marshmallow. I can’t speak from experience but I’ve heard macarons are quite tricky to make, and these ones looked absolutely flawless – and the taste was even more impressive!
This year’s Big Welsh Bite was my first encounter with Cottage Sweets, run by a Californian lady named Cathy Icardo who moved to Chepstow to live closer to her parents, who had settled in the town, and eventually set up her own business making artisanal marshmallow.
Forget marshmallow as you know it. This is next level. The minute you place it onto your tongue, it begins to melt in your mouth, dissolving into a creamy, sweet liquid.
The marshmallow lollies (£2.50) are something else. Marshmallow cubes are slid onto a wooden skewer, dipped in chocolate and sprinkled with various toppings. I tried the vanilla marshmallow lolly, thickly coated in milk chocolate and finished with colourful sugar balls.
I’ve been a big fan of Rogue Preserves for a while now. Back last year, I used their Bloody Mary Chutney to create a mouth-watering Italian panzanella salad.
This year at Big Welsh Bite, Rogue Preserves were displaying a selection of their best-selling chutneys and preserves, including the newly launched Espresso Martini Marmalade.
If you follow my Instagram stories, you might’ve guessed that I’m a little bit addicted to iced coffee. So, when I discovered mobile coffee bar, Van Goffi had come stocked up on cold brew, I just had to try it out. It tasted great and it was the perfect thing to quench my thirst on a hot, sunny day in Ynysangharad Park.
It would’ve been rude not to try an ice cream from event sponsors, Subzero. I went for a single scoop of bubble gum ice cream which was a luminous blue in colour, indulgently smooth and slightly sweet, with a subtle hint of bubblegum. All in the name of cooling down, of course 😉
I featured Taffy’s Treats in my blog post about last year’s Big Welsh Bite, and it was lovely to see them at the festival again this year. Their Welsh Cake Fudge is still going strong and it was actually available for sale in its newly developed retail packaging for the first time ever! A range of other flavours were also available, including bara brith and Irish creme liqeur.
As well as stuffing my face with food purchased from the stallholders, I also managed to catch a couple of cookery demonstrations, taking place at Ynysangharad Park at regular intervals throughout the day. I especially enjoyed learning how to make Welsh beef and ale with croutons, a hearty dish that I will be attempting to recreate myself at home as soon as Autumn arrives and the colder weather is upon us.
Besides tempting festival-goers with a tantalising selection of food and drink, Big Welsh Bite 2018 also offered an exciting variety of family entertainment.
The show arena next to the National Lido of Wales, also situated within Ynysangharad Park, hosted a number of amusing performances throughout the day, including running ducks, racing llamas and an interactive bird of prey show.
It wouldn’t be a Welsh food festival without sheep putting in an appearance. A number of farmyard animals were invited along to Big Welsh Bite 2018. As well as a pair of adorable sheep, there were turkeys, rabbits, ducks, hens, pigs, goats and numerous other animals.
If you wanted more of a thrilling experience, or just fancied a ride on the cup and saucers, the funfair was the place to be, complete with colossal bags of candyfloss, over-sized sugar dummies and candy lollies.
Big Welsh Bite 2019
For the second year running, I had a lovely day-out at Big Welsh Bite and I can’t wait to find out what Big Welsh Bite 2019 has to offer, taking place from 3-4th August 2019 at Ynysangharad Park – clear the diary! For more information, visit the Rhondda Cynon Taf Council website.
What’s your favourite food festival? Leave your thoughts in the comment box below.