Saturday, 23 May 2009

Heston Blumenthal @ The Hay Festival

Just returned from my first ever visit to the Hay literary festival, which is a bit shocking as it's only an hour and a half's drive away. Didn't really get lost on the way. Well, we sort of stopped following our directions and the 'Hay Festival This Way' signs vanished for a few miles but we had a rough idea where we were going so no, didn't get lost.

The site itself was a little smaller than I thought it'd be, and there's not much to do on site beyond going to the talks. It's only a short walk to the town itself though so you can have a little explore. I have no idea what quirk led to Hay-on-Wye having so many bookshops but there we go.

Anyway, we had tickets to see Heston Blumenthal being interviewed by the ginormous nose of Jay Rayner. It was interesting. Hadn't realised quite how self taught a chef he was. Prior to opening the Fat Duck he'd only had 3 weeks of experience in professional kitchens. I knew all the stuff about translating French cookbooks despite not being able to speak the language - just going word for word with a French-English dictionary, what a loon! That tenacity and obsessive streak showed in a lot of his little anecdotes actually.

I really want to go to the Fat Duck now. Especially having heard him discussing the new flammable sorbet dish he's working on (and working with a conjurer so that the waiting staff can simultaneously ignite everyone's sorbet at the click of a finger). Taster menu is about a hundred quid per-head. Cheapest GLASS of wine is around £90. Best start saving now...

There was a Q&A session at the end, during which he dropped a pretty big hint that he was working on a range of appliances for domestic kitchens - mainly the water bath technique of vacuum sealing meat and slow-poaching them in low temperature water baths so that the meat is perfectly cooked.

Other things we did were... Eat a bacon sandwich, drink a cup of tea, buy some mugs, wander into town, have some curried potato thing, have a sheep's milk ice-cream, lounge around in the sun, read Jamie Oliver's ridiculous new lifestyle magazine (good recipes in it actually), drink a pint of official Hay festival ale. And then came home.

Going again next week to see David Simon, creator of The Wire. I hope he does an impression of McNulty.

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