MORE than 30,000 culinary enthusiasts will gather in Wigan next month for the seventh Food and Drink Festival.
Featuring a theme in 2014 that will certainly whet many an appetite - beer and baking - the festival is continuing to grow in popularity every year.
And this year the homecoming of Wigan’s own star baker John Whaite, who claimed the Great British Bake Off title in 2012, is one of the highlights, vying with the 27th CAMRA beer festival for top billing.
Preparations are well under way ahead of the official opening on February 27 and last week experts, food writers and bloggers were invited to sample a little taste of what is to come.
Haigh Hall’s resident chef Andrew Sturgess treated guests to a pastry crimping masterclass before they were served a delicious afternoon tea style selection of treats.
As an enthusiastic, if not very skilful amateur chef, I was keen to learn a few tips from Andrew but despite his expertise being clear for all to see, my brain let me down as I found it impossible to follow his instructions.
When it was our turn to don the aprons and have a go, unlike the pastry itself, my nerves crumbled under pressure and the finished product looked like it would not make it past quality control.
My poor skills aside, the night was a success and proved to be an excellent appetiser ahead of next month’s main course.
Festival organiser Keith Bergman told the Observer that he is hopeful that the 2014 festival will continue to build on its already soaring reputation.
He said: “From what started as a two-day event seven years ago has now grown. This year, we are hoping to attract 30,000 people visiting our local pubs and restaurants.
“The festival showcases and celebrates our food and drink industry, our producers and produce, all the people who are committed in Wigan to food and drink.
“This year we have five main elements; the CAMRA beer festival, the food and drink programme, the Kitchen Theatre, food and drink in the community and our restaurant showcase.”
Also featuring as a guest star is former Coronation Street actor Sean Wilson - who has forged a new career as a respected cheese-maker - who will be hosting a special tasting event.
And there will also be a “Beer Bus” running a hop-on, hop-off tour to the borough’s three independent breweries plus the inaugural Wigan Wine Festival based at Haigh Hall including a tasting room and experts, food and live music.
Events take place throughout the day and evening until Sunday, March 9, and with all tastes catered for, this year’s festival is shaping up to be one not to miss.
Full line-up of events
Thursday February 27, 5.30pm to 11pm
The 27th Wigan CAMRA Beer Festival
Robin Park Indoor Sports Centre, Loire Drive, Wigan, £2, CAMRA members free. Enjoy 60 real ales, 35 real ciders and perries and a great selection of foreign draft beers, plus live music and food, www.wigancamra.org.uk
Thursday February 27, 2pm to 3pm
Kneading & baking demo, Ashton Library, free
Pick up some free breadmaking tips with Food Positive at this great session. Don’t forget to enter your loaf into the bread-making competition.
The Great Wigan Schools Bake Off Final (in association with Metrofresh)
Haigh Hall, £7 (01942 828 271)
Young bakers from 10 Wigan schools take part in a homage to the national BBC competition. There will be demonstrations, tastings of cakes, pies and pastries and the crowning of Wigan Schools Mini Baker of the Year 2014. Includes afternoon tea.
Friday February 28
Kneading and baking demo , 10am to 11am Hindley Library, free
Kneading and baking demo, 2pm to 3pm; Standish Library, free, advance booking required
The 27th Wigan CAMRA Beer Festival, 12pm to 5.30pm, 5.30pm to 11pm
Enjoy 60 real ales, 35 real ciders and perries and a great selection of foreign draft beers, plus live music and food.
Robin Park Indoor Sports Centre, Loire Drive, Wigan; £1 (afternoon), £3 (evening), CAMRA members free, www.wigancamra.org.uk
The Godfather Banquet Part III
The Wayfarer and Il Viandante. 1-3 Alder Lane. Parbold; £20 (lunch), £25 (dinner) 01257 464600
The award winning restaurant will put on a specially created and crafted Italian sharing menu throughout the day and evening. Includes live Italian music in the evening.
Saturday March 1
Bread making classes. Ashland House, Ince, Wigan. WN2 2DX; 9am to 12 noon, 12.30pm to 3.30pm, 4pm to 7pm; £15,
Shirley Southworth (07727 057 129)
The 27th Wigan CAMRA Beer Festival, 11.30am-11pm
Robin Park Indoor Sports Centre, Loire Drive, Wigan, £2, CAMRA members free
Pirate day – join the fun and dress as a pirate! www.wigancamra.org.uk
The Pudding Club, 7pm, The Coven, 43 Hallgate, Wigan, £20 (01942 237801)
Guests are invited to enjoy a welcoming non alchoholic drink followed by a starter and main course then six amazing desserts. All vegan and gluten free.
Thai at the Tavern, Tavern Thai Bar & Restaurant, 37 Mesnes Street, Wigan (01942 375413)
A special evening of quality food with an authentic Thai festive menu and live music.
Sunday March 2, 11am to 3pm
The History of Haigh Hall walled kitchen garden; Haigh Hall, free, Kath Godfrey, Conservation Volunteers 07764 655 711
The kitchen garden is a highlight of the Haigh estate. Join the Conservation Volunteers and the Friends of the Walled Gardens for a chance to walk around and learn the history of the gardens. The garden also includes a diverse food growing area, and there will be opportunities to get your hands dirty!
Victorian Sunday Lunch; Ashfield House Hotel, Ashfield Drive, Standish, £15.95 (01257 473500)
A sumptuous lunch set in a stylish environment. Step back in time at the lovely Ashfield House and enjoy this special lunchtime treat that includes a menu of regional food fayre.
Gluten free afternoon tea, 2pm, The Coven, 43 Hallgate, Wigan; £10 (01942 237801)A unique, totally delicious and indulgent afternoon tea including gluten-free cakes and sandwiches with plenty of vegan choices.
Monday March 3
Trade exhibition, 10am to 3pm: meet the local producer; Haigh Hall, Copperas Lane, Wigan; free, advanced booking required (01995 642144)
Made in Lancashire are hosting this trade exhibition aimed at supporting producers and buyers in sourcing locally made products to help satisfy the growing demand from consumers to buy local. Buyers from across the region are invited to attend free of charge.
Cookery School, 10am to 3pm: cooking the perfect Italian; Rigalettos Italian Restaurant, DW Stadium. Wigan; £14 (01942 770432)
Tuesday March 4, 7pm
Dine and demo with Andrew & Chris; Haigh Hall, Copperas Lane, Wigan; £25 (01942 832895)
On tonight’s menu: goats cheese and romano pepper roulade, canon of lamb en croute and a ‘secret’ dessert, plus a cookery demo from our chefs.
Kitchen Theatre Day one, 11am to 3pm - The Great Wigan Food Giveaway (in association with Metrofresh)
Wigan Outdoor Market Square, free. The opening event of the Kitchen Theatre. Come learn all about positive nutrition and healthy eating. Every visitor to the Kitchen Theatre receives a food giveaway bag brimming both with information and great local food and drink goodies.
The story of Uncle Joe, 2pm; Shevington Library, free
John Winnard, joint owner of Santus and Co, manufacturers of Wigan’s most famous export, will ‘keep you all aglow’ with this talk on the history of the company and the mint ball!
Wednesday March 5, 10.30am
Cookery school: the perfect steak, 10.30am; Miller and Carter at the Wiggin Tree, Parbold Hill; £14 including lunch (01257 462318)
Kitchen Theatre Day 2, 11am to 3pm - The Wigan Chilli Cook Off, Wigan Outdoor Market Square, free; part of the official National Chilli Cook-Off qualifying rounds. Entrants have four hours to cook one gallon of chilli con carne from scratch. The winning team receives £200 and qualifies for the UK final. The winner of the UK final will win a trip to Las Vegas to represent the UK in the World Food Championships and a chance to win $25,000! The competition is open to all Wigan residents. For rules and information visit www.ukchillicookoff.co.uk
The Food & Drink Market, 9am to 5pm, Standishgate. Free
Getting bigger every year, the market offers cuisine from across Europe as well as the best of British bites.
The Calabrian Collection, La Giara, 4 Orrell Road, Wigan, £19.95 (01942 375815)
A one-off menu courtesy of Ernesto, Helio, and the chefs. Featuring a tasting platter of delicious Italian dishes from the southern ‘toe’ region of the country.
Thursday March 6,
Kitchen Theatre Day 3, 11am to 3pm, Restaurant Showcase; Wigan Outdoor Market Square, free
Great Steaks with Miller and Carter, 11am. The head chefs from the renowned steak house will be telling us all about the best cuts of beef and how to cook the perfect steak.
Land and sea, 12 noon. The student chefs and chef lecturers of Wigan and Leigh College take to the stage to demonstrate pork belly with seared scallops.
Tasting Tradition, 1pm; Mike Daniels of Ashfield House Hotel and Restaurant will be cooking up his signature dish.
Pie in a Jar! 2pm. Andrew Sturgess of Haigh Hall introduces his culinary concept - ‘pie in a jar’.
Food of the Georgian Era; Museum of Wigan Life, Library Street, 11am, free (01942 828 128)
Dr Annie Gray, TV food historian (as seen on Hairy Bikers and Paul Hollywood’s Pies and Puds), gives a fascinating insight into Georgian food and recipes. Wigan Library, Wigan Life Centre North, 2pm, free, advanced booking required (01942 827 621)
Asian Dinner Delight; 8pm, The Old Chapel, 136 Market Street, Hindley (01942 523115)
A special menu of dishes chosen and created by highly respected chefs at Mahabharat, plus live Asian music.
The Best of British, The Fat Olive, 13 Upper Dicconson Street, Wigan, £19.95
Join Souf, Head Chef Richard and the team on a culinary tour of the UK with this very special 4-course celebration menu.
Friday March 7
Community Allotments Open Day, 11am to 3pm; Worsley Hall Community Allotments, Closebrook Road, Worsley Hall, free, Kath Godfrey, the Conservation Volunteers (0776 4655711)
Learn all about allotments, food growing and volunteering opportunities. Come and see the progress of Wigan’s first straw bale classroom, learn about keeping bees and chickens, take part in various workshops and sample the culinary delights of the clay pizza oven!
Kitchen Theatre Day 4 - The Wigan Food and Drink Festival Restaurant Showcase; Wigan Outdoor Market Square, 11am to 3pm, free; double helping of free food to get today started:
Gallimores Pasta Party; Lunch is on Howard and his staff as they introduce you to their restaurant and giveaway tastings.
The Curry Club; Meet George and the team behind the highly regarded Hindley based Indian Restaurant – the Mahabharat.
Bueno Calabria! 12pm; Head Chef of La Giara – Pemberton – Pepe, will teach you the culinary way of Calabria.
Crowning Glory, 1pm; The Crown at Worthington is one of the most popular restaurant pubs in the borough. This afternoon, you can learn why, with their chef demo.
The Great Northern Cookbook with Sean Wilson, 2pm. Sean Wilson, who played Martin Platt in Coronation Street for 21 years, now produces award winning cheeses from his Saddleworth Cheese Company, as well as writes, talks and presents on food and drink. This afternoon Sean will be demonstrating some dishes from his recently published book l The Great Northern Cookbook; 4pm to midnight
The Wigan Wine Festival (in association with Gerald Seel); Haigh Hall, Copperas Lane, Wigan, £2 advanced booking, £2.50 on the door (01942 828 271). There will be a floor of reds and roses and a floor of whites, a champagne lounge and a tasting room; along with experts on each floor, food and great live music. Cheese maker Sean Wilson will be holding cheese tasting throughout the night.
In association with Gerald Seel. Free shuttle bus- see website for details.
Friday 7 to Sunday March 9
American Beer Festival; The Crown at Worthington, 19-21 Platt Lane, Worthington, Standish, free admission (01257 421354); A three-day showcase of US inspired and brewed beers. Including lite beers, cask beers and lagers.
Saturday March 9
Kitchen Theatre Day 5, 11am to 3pm; Baking Bliss; Wigan Outdoor Market Square, free
A day dedicated to baking, sponsors by MetroFresh.
Introducing Wigan’s Best ‘Junior’ Baker! 11am
Wigan Metrofresh and local chefs have been working in schools encouraging baking and running a competition. This morning, the winner will be on stage introducing their winning dish.
Gluten Free and Vegan Baking, 12 noon
Baking with a difference. Sue Healey from the Coven Restaurant will be demonstrating how to bake a delicious menu of cakes and other desserts for people who need a wider choice of dish.
Masterclass with John Whaite, 1pm
Meet Wigan’s own TV chef, cook book author and acclaimed pâtissier. Winner of BBC Great British Bake Off 2012, John will be giving a demonstration of baking recipes from his up and coming cook book, giving tips and taking questions, and signing his books.
Family Street Entertainment, 9am - 5pm; Standishgate and Market Place, Wigan, free. Giant chefs, salt and pepper on wheels.
Let Them Eat Cake! 11am to 12pm. Wigan Library, Wigan Life Centre (North), Wigan, free (01942 827621)
In association with Wigan Clandestine Cake Club. Find out more about the world famous cake club and the Wigan branch. Cake tasting, recipes, tips and much more with members of the Cake Club.
Bread Baking Competition, 12 noon to 1pm; Wigan Library, Wigan Life Centre (North), Wigan, free (01942 827621)
If you’ve entered your loaf into the libraries bread competition, bring your recipe and loaf for judging.
Bread: The Story of Greggs, 2pm to 3pm; Wigan Library, Wigan Life Centre (North), Wigan, free, advanced booking required (01942827621)
The Brewery Bus, 11am to 5pm; The Anvil, Dorning Street, Wigan, £25, advanced booking required (01942 828271)
Bus tour around Wigan’s three acclaimed micro-breweries. Visit Problem Child Brewery (Parbold), Prospects Brewery (Standish) and Allgates (Wigan). Of course, no brewery tour would be complete without tasting the beers! Tour includes two pints in each brewery and light lunch.
The Lancashire Hotpots, 2pm; Market Place, Wigan, free; Live music on the town centre stage culminating with festival favourites The Lancashire Hotpots.
Afternoon Tea with John Whaite, 3pm. The Wheel Restaurant, Wigan and Leigh College, Parsons Walk, Wigan, £14.95 (01942 761888)
Great British Bake Off winner, and Wigan lad, John Whaite hosts a very special afternoon tea with Wigan & Leigh College’s catering students. Includes a talk from John and tea.
Gourmet Beer & Food Matching ; The Crown at Worthington, 19-21 Platt Lane, Standish, Wigan , £49.95, book early! (01257 421354). Part of the Crown’s American Beer Festival. The multi award winning pub and restaurant will again host this popular evening that includes eight food courses each accompanied with a matching beer.
Sunday March 9
Ice Cream Sundae, 11am to 3pm; Mesnes Park, Wigan, small charges apply (01942 828 271)
Come along to Mesnes Park Pavilion to experience over 20 different flavours of ice cream by Fredericks. Bring the kids to decorate their own ice cream and make foodie crafts with Discover Community Art.
Mexican Tapas Party- Festival Finale!; Gallimores Restaurant, 13 The Wiend, Wigan, WN1 1PF, £16.95 (01942 492100)
A wonderful end to festival evening with Howard and his staff. Come down and treat yourself to a 6-course Mexican tapas menu and great live entertainment.