PUBLISHED: 19:30 24 November 2019
Perched on the north Norfolk coast, Holkham Hall is stunning all-year-round. But come December, the estate dazzles spectacularly as it’s transformed into a magical winter wonderland.
Festooned with fairylights and garlands, Holkham’s state rooms are individually decorated for the season – each space having its own theme.
Santa takes an audience during December (now sold out). And there are craft workshops and candlelit tours to enjoy too.
But the absolute highlight, and back for the third time this year, is the Festive Food Fair. Held from Saturday December 14 to Sunday December 15 and open from 10am to 4pm, the free attraction brings together more than 70 food and drink producers and crafters, sprawling out into chalets in the courtyard.
And the cookery theatre is back – this year with the theme ‘Game on…with a little smoke’.
The event’s supported charity for 2019 is Heritage House, a day care centre for the elderly and vulnerable in Wells next the Sea, of which the Countess of Leicester is patron. The charity will have its own chalet at the fair where you can make donations and enter its raffle with some great prizes on offer.
13 producers to look out for
Gur Beck Country Foods: A tasty array of gourmet Scotch eggs, made with local meat, free-range Norfolk eggs, homemade seasonings and homemade breadcrumbs. Gluten-free and vegetarian versions are available and popular flavours include chilli and cheese, and turkey and cranberry.
The English Whisky Company: Made in Norfolk! The PX is a sticky, gorgeous drop perfect alongside cheeseboards and desserts. And sample Nog – a Norfolk take on Irish cream liqueur.
Norfolk Brewhouse: Winner of the East of England Co-op Producer of the year award. Drops range from Moon Gazer ale to Jigfoot, Nibbler and Dewhopper.
Ferndale Cheeses: Delicious raw milk cheeses, made, cloth bound and matured the traditional way. Try the original Norfolk Dapple, Smoked Dapple, beer-washed Norfolk Tawny, and Norfolk Carrow – made with mustard seeds. A must on any Christmas cheeseboard.
Lillypuds: Award-winning Christmas puddings (both traditional and gluten-free) made with the best ingredients – from plump dried fruits, to East Anglian beer – Chockwork Orange from Brentwood Brewing Company. Their dark appearance is defied by their juicy, ripe flavour, thanks to a make-up of 50% fruit and less sugar. Delicious.
The Tea Lady: Handmade preserves with a difference. The Caramelised Red Onion Chutney (with a chilli kick) is perfect for the Boxing Day table. And sample the new Christmas Marmalade, combining three citrus fruits and The English Whisky Company’s PX.
Founding Drinks: Some tasty boozy bottles for those parties. In addition to the original Wild Knight English Vodka, made with Norfolk barley, Nelson’s Gold Caramelised Vodka, and Boadicea Gin, the brand has just launched Espresso Martini.
Gnaw Chocolate: Something for everyone – including vegan and no added sugar chocolate. The Norfolk chocolatier is known for its funky inclusion bars, from Rocky Road to Salted Caramel and Peanut, and Snowberry Drift – white chocolate with strawberry pieces and crunchy honeycomb.
Mrs A’s Bakes: Additive-free, handmade gourmet marshmallows in around 20 flavours, from Black Forest, to Key Lime Pie and Mojito. She also makes marzipan fruits.
Nelson and Norfolk Tea: Teas and tisanes blended by a master in his craft. Look out at the fair for the Christmas Tea, adding pieces of almond, baked apple and cinnamon to black tea, and for the juicy Christmas Orange Infusion.
Flint Vineyard: This winery on the Suffolk/Norfolk border has had phenomenal success. If you’re after an alternative fizz for your parties look no further than Hannah and Ben’s Charmet Rose 2018. It’s the first wine of its kind to be made in England, with secondary fermentation taking place in the tank rather than the bottle. A very special drink.
Staithe Smokehouse: Phil’s smoked salmon is delectable and of the highest quality. He also has smoked haddock, kippers, smoked salmon mousse, smoked prawns and smoked salmon tarts.
Blackbird Cottage: A little bit of luxury. Handmade French style rillettes, pates, terrines and parfaits made with game, pork and venison from local producers. Everything is egg, gluten and preservative-free.
Where to eat
The café is open from 10am to 5pm both days but there are also some concessions. Bam Bam Crepe will be flipping sweet and savoury crepes in flavours such as S’mores (with Nutella, crushed biscuit and mini marshmallow), and Southern Style (with pulled pork, spring onions and sriracha sauce).
Sister businesses Cocky Dogs and The Bucket List will be at the event with their festive delights including The Merry Bucket- fries topped with roast turkey gravy, maple bacon, sausagemeat and cranberry sauce, and The Wurst dog – topped with fire turkey curry.
The Mussel Pod bring the finest Brancaster Bay mussels. There’s confit duck burgers and macaroni cheese from Quack n Mac, and Cuppa Jo’s has those hot drinks sorted.
Cookery theatre highlights
Saturday includes: Eric Snaith, the Mussel Pod, Michael Chamberlain, Jeremy Parke, a festive bake-off, The Tea Lady and Simon Hunter Marsh with Ade Piff.
Sunday includes: Fran Hartshorne, Chris Busby, Roger Hickham, Sam Bagge, Scott Dougal, Charlie Hodson with Matt Brown and Dan Lawrence.
This content was originally published here.