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If you’re anything like me, you get a serious case of the winter blues. I spend six months of the year wishing summer would come and the other six months dreading winter. Yes, you’ve guessed it, I adore the sunshine!
But while I struggle with the cold, dark months of December and January, the one thing I do love is the warming, delicious, comfort food that comes with them.
So, when we were invited to experience River Cottage’s Mid Winter Feast on December 29th, I knew it would be right up my street. The perfect excuse to take a break and indulge!
I’m a serious foodie and, after hearing so many amazing reviews, I had always wanted to visit River Cottage HQ.
For those of you that don’t know, River Cottage is a working organic farm situated on the Devon/Dorset border in the South West of England. Home to several highly-esteemed cooking schools, unique events and dining experiences, River Cottage is passionate about fine food and local, seasonal produce.
With strong ethics and high standards of animal welfare, River Cottage has championed sustainability in the food industry for years.
And what’s more, since 1999, River Cottage has enjoyed nationwide fame with a series of popular TV programs and books centered around award-winning TV personality, chef and journalist, Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall.
So, to say I was excited to finally get the River Cottage experience was an understatement! And it didn’t disappoint.
All images in this post were shot by my talented husband, James Aitken who was invited to photograph the event. So, if you enjoy the photos, head over to his website and social media.
From start to finish, the day was truly memorable, for all the right reasons. Arriving at River Cottage, you really get the rural farm treatment, being transported down into the stunning countryside valley by tractor and trailer. Great fun!
As guests arrived in stages, each group was taken into the welcome yurt to enjoy an aperitif and a range of seasonal canapes.
The canapes really set the standard for the rest of the day. I never thought beetroot humous and pickles on a rye cracker could taste so damn good!
We were then given free reign of the farm, kitchens and gardens until all the guests had arrived. Nowhere is off limits!
River Cottage even encourage you to pay a visit to the kitchens to watch the expert chefs working and ask questions about the food being prepared. This really enhanced the overall feel of the day, adding to the authenticity and transparency of the farm and the River Cottage brand.
Sitting down to our meal, we enjoyed getting to know the diners around us. People come from all over the world to visit River Cottage and it was great to hear everyone’s life stories and exchange contact details.
Before the food was brought out, expert chefs introduced each dish, explaining the ingredients, how it was made and detailing any special techniques used. After hearing the chef explain the individual ingredients and cooking methods in the most mouth-watering of ways, the first course was brought out and we could dig in.
The starter consisted of a divine mix of strained yoghurt, different styles of carrot, spiced nuts and salsa verde. As you can see from the image below, it was beautifully presented and unbelievably tasty! We had one large portion between four guests, and with bread for the table too, there was plenty to go around! After all, we had to leave space for the main and desserts to come!
While waiting for the main course, bite-sized canapes and snacks were served. Who’d have thought that a battered parsnip would be the most delightful thing on earth?!
The main course was served, after a great introduction from the chef: slow-cooked beef with pureed celeriac, beetroot and a delicious jus. We also enjoyed a large, yet light, side salad and a bowl of smoked onions between four. Yum!
When cooking at home, I’d never think to combine these flavours, to puree celeriac or smoke onions, but this was honestly one of the most delicious, richly-flavoured meals I’ve ever eaten. I can still taste the sticky and tender beef melting on my tongue!
Of course, an alternative option was provided for vegetarians or any guests with food intolerances, which looked equally tantalising.
As if we weren’t full enough, we had dessert, petit fours and coffee to come! Dessert consisted of pear cake with chocolate ice cream and chocolate crumb.
Dessert was equally delicious and I just about made room to fit it in, although it was touch and go considering the amount of food I’d consumed! During the welcome, we’d been told that if we don’t leave full, there’s something drastically wrong. And River Cottage definitely lived up to that promise! So much amazing food!
Aside from that minor detail, the whole experience was a real treat! From the tractor down to the farm, right through to the petit fours, we were wined, dined and filled with exceptional food and drink.
The verdict? Whether you’re embarking on a flying visit through the West Country or are making a special trip just to visit River Cottage, I’d wholeheartedly recommend stopping by.
If you love food and all things rustic, RC is the place for you! And with several canteens throughout the South West, the farm and cooking schools, there are plenty of ways you can enjoy River Cottage on a range of budgets.
So, whether you purchase one of their dining experiences as a gift for someone you love, or just treat yourselves to some fine dining, River Cottage is a great day out for the whole family.
What about you? Have you been to River Cottage? Do you want to visit? I’d love to hear your opinions in the comments.
River Cottage invited us to experience their Mid Winter Feast. However, all views and opinions are completely my own.