Last weekend was the Rock Oyster Festival (22nd - 24th June 2012), a food, music and arts festival held on the banks of Cornwall's Camel estuary, well-known for its oysters that are of such a quality, even our own Great British Chefs' Nathan Outlaw uses them in his two Michelin star restaurant nearby. Monica Shaw reports on the festival, with unsuprisingly a bigger focus on food.
Photography & blog post by Monica Shaw
I had a chance to experience the Rock Oyster Festival last Saturday as part of a seafood-focused group holiday organised and hosted by The Food Travel Company. The festival is as much about music and family as it is about food, but I've got a one-track mind, and the day was short, so I focused my attention on sampling the edible wares on offer.
Rock Oyster Festival's line-up of chefs and food producers was pretty impressive. Paul Ainsworth (another chefs from Great British Chefs site) was there giving a demo, along with MasterChef winner James Nathan and numerous other esteemed chefs from Cornwall.
Rick Stein also made an appearance as one of the judges of the oyster shucking competition. In fact, one of the highlights of the day was meeting Rick and thanking him in person for his incredibly useful books, a huge asset to me as I've learned to cook with seafood.
I should also add that Rick's restaurant was dishing up some amazing fish tacos, more than fulfilling my nostalgia for the fish tacos I used to devour when I lived in Austin, Texas.
Of course, this being the Rock Oyster Festival, oysters were a high priority. And how lucky were we to be introduced to Tim Marshall and his son, Luke, of Rock Shellfish. The Marshall family has owned Porthilly Farm for five generations, farming oysters and mussels on the banks of the Camel estuary, and supplying numerous restaurants including nearby Nathan Outlaw's and Rick Stein's.
Tim and Luke are the friendliest of foodies and let us get up close and personal with the art of oyster shucking (not as easy as it looks). They also treated us to a platter of the finest oysters I've ever tasted, served simply with a bit of vinegar and samphire. Delicious, and particularly good with Camel Valley's Brut, an award-winning Cornish bubbly, generously poured by the folks at Wadebridge Wines.
It's worth pointing out that, as far as festivals go, the Rock Oyster Festival is on the small side, and if you're not into music or sitting around eating and drinking, you might find yourself a bit bored. But I confess, I warmed up to the festival as the day wore on. The food merchants and personalities who were there were of top quality, and the people (even the famous ones) were all incredibly friendly and happy to have a chat. Plus, the place is vast, with plenty of tables and chairs and green spaces for just "being". And I can now say with certainty: there are few finer things in life than whiling away the afternoon drinking bubbly, eating oysters and having lots of laughs with friends old and new.
For some delicious oyster recipes visit Great British Chefs' site.
My trip to the Rock Oyster Festival was arranged and provided by The Food Travel Company as part of their Seafood Safari Cornwall holiday. For more information visit thefoodtravelcompany.com or follow them on Twitter at @foodtravelco.