If you have noticed a dearth of blogs over the last couple of weeks, it is, I am afraid, down to the FreeFrom Food Awards presentation party which happens next Tuesday evening. Not only have the awards grown like topsy over the last couple of years, but so has the party!
Way back in 2008 it was around 50 people nibbling on the odd nut and olive in the upstairs room of Antony Worrall Thompson’s Notting Grill restaurant; by 2011 we had Antony, who has been a loyal supporter throughout, turning on the massive steam engines at the Kew Steam Museum and we had grown to around 100 guests; last year saw nearly 150 freefrom-ers gather down in Docklands at the Museum of London.
But this year we have grown to well over 200 and we are in the rather grand premises of the Royal College Physicians in Regents Park – one of the very few post-war Grade 1 listed building in London, I will have you know… And, having previously resisted all calls of modern technology, although we are not yet bringing on the dancing girls, this year we will be having an AV presentation, video-d interviews with the winners and, the thing which has given us far more grief that all of the rest put together, a tasting buffet of the winning products!!
This may not sound like much of a big deal but… We have always made a huge point of not telling anyone whether or not they have won. The resulting tension and expectation makes for a far more exciting and fun evening than if everyone already knows who had won what and we are not about to give up on that.
But with over 200 people wanting to taste the winning products, how do you get hold of enough of those products without letting the winners know there is something afoot? Fine if the product is long life or frozen, or if it is available in a supermarket so that the shelves being stripped in one outlet would not have any significance. But what if they are a small manufacturer of a fresh product – as many entrants, and often winners, are? How are you going to explain away that great big order two days before the FreeFrom Food Awards? And then, how are you going to serve all of this food?…. We have 17 categories and several have joint winners so we are talking about well over 20 products!!
Never mind, we have done it – and without letting on to a soul!
Fortunately for us, Chef David, at the Royal College of Physicians, has been brilliant and has not turned a hair when confronted with our massive list of products that need heating and stirring and steaming and slicing! Nor did he turn more than one hair when we asked him for a gluten, dairy, egg, wheat and nut free selection of canapés and snacks! Very fortunately for us (although not, of course, for her!) his wife is a coeliac so the idea of a gluten-free menu was not as scary as it might have been for some chefs. Anyhow, he has come up with a delicious menu (which, I gather, was OK’d by his wife for gluten contamination before it came to us) on which to feed our guests.
Meanwhile the College has, with patience, charm and courtesy, accommodated our requests for video booths, extra reception tables (to allow our partners FreeFrom Food 2013 (Europe) and our new charity, Freedom From Torture to display their wares), wifi to allow our Twitter Master, Alex Gazzola, to send live tweets through out the presentation announcing the winners to Twitter-dom (#FreeFromFoodAwards), wired microphones to accommodate my electrosensitivity (I won’t use a radio mic) and access to their house wine in case our guests work their way right through the massive gluten-free beer and sulphite-free wine bar…… They even provide us with steaming pots of coffee, fresh orange juice and the most delicious petit fours nibbles whenever we visit!!
Now, all that remains is for me to starve for the next three days so that I can get squeeze into the rather slender waist of my chosen party dress!! Cressida (seen here with Antony in one of her more fetching hats from 2010) has wisely gone for a very glamourous, but loosely flowing devoré velvet number, but I was planning to delve into my vintage cupboard and give my lovely 1970s Anna Belinda velvet suit an outing – depending on whether or not I can do the skirt up!!!