Today I went to Sweetfest and… it wasn’t quite what I was expecting. I think that’s mostly my fault; I’ve been to two craft shows this year and for some reason I thought this was going to be like that. I knew there was only going to be 20 or so exhibitors but I didn’t recognise any of the names, really, so I thought there would be a mixture of maybe cafes/food places and places selling useful gear, that sort of thing. But… no. That link earlier takes you to a page listing what each place will be selling; I’m quite sure it didn’t have that info when I bought my ticket. Because it turned out they were all cafes and patisseries, just selling food. So it wasn’t what I was expecting. I had realised there would be a lot of food and had therefore anticipated eating there; I ended up having a chocolate and cashew scroll, which was ok but not awesome, and then gelato: nutella, which was great, and raspberry and rosemary which is an awesome theory but I couldn’t taste the rosemary. It was interesting walking around looking at the pastries etc and I wish I’d been game enough to try one of Naughty Boy’s amazing shakes.
However, I was also going for the sessions, so it wasn’t a total loss. I hadn’t expected to pay attention to Katherine Sabbath’s cake icing demonstration but I was there early and a bit bored by the stalls, so I sat and watched her create this incredible tall cake – two cakes, sliced, turned into about an eight-tier monstrosity with three different coloured icings inside and ‘water-colour’ frosting on the outside (the three different colours basically smudged together). She was a very good presenter – when she said she’d been a teacher for four years, it totally made sense – and it was intriguing that she’s got famous courtesy of Instagram. I don’t get Instagram. But the cake: she was alternating chocolate mud and some sort of vanilla cake, and the frosting was pink, mustard, and violet, and it was Martha Stewart’s swiss meringue buttercream, flavoured with salted caramel. Katherine answered some questions, and she did so very well and in such a way that either she’s a very genuine and exceptionally gifted public speaker or she’s learnt very fast: no “it must be Valhrona couverture chocolate” stuff, it was ‘use what you can afford’ which I appreciated. It was fascinating watching her work – smoothing at the end with her Gyprock concrete scraper! – and it was very much a show.
Secondly, and the reason I went on the Saturday, was Philippa Sibley, apparently the Queen of Desserts although I’d not heard of her before. By comparison with Katherine she came off as almost impatient; she was efficient, a bit abrupt, precise. She did not waffle. I loved her style a lot. I was a bit sad that she didn’t go into a lot of detail about how to make the pastry – I think she was pushed for time because Katherine went way over – but her tips about pushing the pastry into the very edges of the tin, alfoil right into the edges and avoiding any creases at all, and having the overhang of pastry were deeply awesome and made me inspired to try out making tarts. Which was indeed the whole point of going to see the session. I didn’t buy her book at the time but I would consider it in future…. Sibley did not put on a show. She was doing a demonstration.
Overall I think this was a really good idea for a food festival. There needed to be more chairs for the demonstrations (they said on the programming that there was limited seating). I would go again next year with a friend, as long as the presenters sounded interesting.