Bliss in gourmand heaven

Bliss in gourmand heaven

Bliss in gourmand heaven

what’s your pick? Thanks to recession, world food was brought to Birmingham’s doorstep.

In the warm sunshine at Birmingham’s Victoria Square, the erstwhile queen of England watches from her lofty perch even as tourists flash dark glasses, relaxing on plastic chairs spread out under colourful umbrellas. Paul McCartney’s sleepy voice croons the haunting ‘Yesterday’ and lyrics mingle sensuously with Scottish pipe music seeping through from the other end of the Square where a lone piper stands in traditional kilt and plays the music of the glens. People take their turns getting photographed with the handsome musician, dropping coins into his collection box as he courteously nods his thanks.

For gourmets and gourmands, the first International Food Fair at Birmingham is a matter of life and death. You can choose between ‘Death by Bailey’s truffle’ and ‘Death by Chocolate truffle’, both at a pound for 100 grams. Or, you can choose: death by sheer pleasure, from drowning in a pint of chilled draught beer even as you watch the bubbles escaping from its golden yellow depths. To the addictive sound of the Beatles, large pans of  mushrooms simmer in thick gravy, generous helpings of oriental noodles are dashed into cardboard boxes and ham and onion stuffed brown sandwiches get a dash of  tangy mustard sauce at tables standing in front of make shift stalls. Over 60 shops feature dishes and flavours from countries including France, Greece, Italy, Spain, Australia and the Far East. Hand made Italian ice cream, German sausages and Dutch biscuits, strudels from Austria; baklavas from Iran, as well as traditional British food are just some of the attractions.

Just as interesting are the stall decorations. From people dressed in traditional costumes to animal figures to window decoration done by food. Garlands of garlic decorate chilly and pepper salami stalls, strings of sausages hang at the German eats, porcelain shoes with daintily turned up ends and blue windmill patterns greets visitors to the Holland stall selling cinnamon windmill biscuits and chocolate cream marzipan while a glassy-eyed sheep stares at passersby from the Dutch cheese stall. Large wooden tubs of olives stuffed with almond, feta cheese or sun dried tomato gleam in the afternoon sun and children pester parents for double scoops of handmade Italian ice creams with a fat chocolate flake.

The best of British is represented with traditional produce and locally brewed drinks while Indian Balti cuisine and steaming hot mutton kebabs are a big hit with the largely Asian local population. Away from the food, a makeshift beach has materialised overnight near the Clock tower. Kids play in the white sand as parents sprawled on beach chairs and sip beer.

Locals as well as visitors are enjoying a host of tasty delicacies from across the globe at the first Birmingham International Food Festival that runs over nine days from June 20 to 28. Birmingham City Council leader Mike Whitby is confident that the fair will one day match the city’s now famous Frankfurt Christmas Market, which attracted a massive 2.8 million visitors last year, boosting the city’s economy by an estimated £67million. The reason behind holding the extravaganza is quite practical. Thanks to the recession people are not being able to travel much, so world food has been brought to their doorstep.

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