A CHILLI-eating contest, vintage tea party and cider farm are amongst the eclectic offerings at this year’s Foodies Festival.
Returning for the ninth year, the festival for food lovers has attracted an array of top Edinburgh chefs, such as Mark Greenaway, Tony Singh and Neil Forbes, as well as MasterChef stars including Celebrity MasterChef favourite Russell Grant.
This year’s festival, which is expected to attract around 18,000 visitors across the weekend, has a range of new features to whet the appetites of foodies who travel from far and wide to the event which has become Scotland’s food and drink event of the summer.
A “feasting tent” at the heart of the festival is this year designed to act as the social hub, where visitors will enjoy eating with chefs, friends and family at long banqueting tables.
Festival director Sue Hitchen says this area will be “buzzing” with activity.
“The thinking behind it is communal eating,” she explains. “We will set out long tables that we cover in cloth and we’ll have bunting and balloons. People tend to buy bottles of wine and bring their street food and chat to each other.
“Chefs tend to hang out there too so it’s a great place to go to chat to people and talk about the festival.”
Lovers of spicy food will be well catered for at the new chilli food market, which will see a range of chilli growers and artisan producers of sauces, sweets and jams.
And for those who can handle the heat, a chilli eating challenge will take place at 5pm on each of the three days of the festival.
Anyone brave – or foolish – enough to take the challenge will be invited to try and break the current record of 13 varieties of chillies eaten in one sitting in order to lift the chilli-eating crown, which was set at one of the other Foodies festivals which have already taken place across the country.
The spice lover managed to eat Scotch bonnet essence before finally throwing in the towel and heading for the water.
“I think this will be really good fun,” says Sue. “Twelve members of the audience are encouraged to go through their pain barriers and consume different levels of chilli. Edinburgh is our seventh festival this summer and the current record was established at one of the other festivals.”
Another exciting addition this year is the vintage tea tent which will transport guests back in time with daily tea dances.
“This is basically going to be like an old-fashioned tea room, with tea served in vintage tea cups and vintage table cloths on the tables”, says Sue. “We will have ballroom dancers coming along every day for the tea dance at 2pm. It will be very popular.”
There will also be a vintage kitchen market running beside the tea tent, allowing visitors to pick up beautiful pieces from the past to add to their own kitchens at home.
The new real ale and cider farm is also expected to be a huge draw for crowds this year.
Complete with hay bales for people to relax on, the area is designed to be a chill-out zone for cider and beer lovers.
Expert Melissa Cole will be on hand to chat to customers about their shared love of beer and cider, and to add to the chilled-out festival vibe, there will be a guitar behind the bar for those in the mood to get a sing-along started.
The chocolate, bake and preserves theatre will play host to top pastry chefs, chocolatiers, bakers and sugarcraft experts. There will also be a village dedicated to those with a sweet tooth where people can enjoy home baking, while browsing a selection of stalls selling baking essentials and the latest gadgets.
There is a brand new outdoor barbecue arena for lovers of al fresco dining. The purpose-built barbecue stage will feature hourly barbecue demonstrations and invite the audience to take part in challenges including meat-eating competitions.
And children are also encouraged to get involved, with festival organisers putting on a special event for them.
The children’s cookery theatre is hosting around-the-world themed cookery classes, with workshops designed to help children find their taste buds and teach them basic cooking skills.
“I have a personal interest in making sure children’s palates are developed as early as possible at an early age,” says Sue.
“At the workshops they get the chance to taste different foods from around the world, including Thai, Italian and South American food. It gives them the chance to experiment with food.”
Having started as a small event in Edinburgh eight years ago, the festival now boasts more than 200 artisan producers, pop-up restaurants, premium brands, international street food and the chance to watch top chefs cooking live.
Returning features this year include the popular drinks theatre, where regular masterclasses and demonstrations allow visitors the chance to taste and learn about wine, champagne, sherry, ales and spirits with experts including TV’s wine expert Charles Metcalfe, beer expert Melissa Cole and champagne tipster Neil Phillips.
There is also a daily cocktail-making competition to find the best cocktail in Edinburgh, judged by an audience of visitors to the festival.
The Edinburgh Foodies Festival is just one of nine held across the UK between May and August.
The festivals are recognised for their focus on street food and this year visitors can enjoy a huge selection of award-winning hot and cold food from around the world including hog roasts, Vietnamese buns, exotic meats, tapas, churros, burritos, Moroccan tagines, South American prime beef, Jamaican and Thai street food.
In addition, there will be numerous champagne tents and pop-up bars for refreshments.
The entertainment stage features live music acts and Fringe performers throughout the day until 8pm.
The festival runs from August 8-10 at Inverleith Park.