Conferences, get togethers, press events – most of these, my husband either doesn’t care for or comes along to if it’s a family happening. There is one invitation, however, that he coveted more than any other on my calendar last year – and when I discovered I was visiting again this year, I knew he was more than a little envious of me.
And that’s because the location was River Cottage HQ, in Axminster, and I’d been invited for a River Cottage Christmas Feast. I don’t think there are four more glorious words in the English language.
Not only was he not coming to River Cottage, but he also needed to take the day off so that I could enjoy myself, whilst he ferried boys back and forward to school and entertained little Hero at home. When Christmas Feast day came, I said my goodbyes to everyone and drove to Axminster, and by 2pm I was getting ready in the most wonderful Bed and Breakfast, Spillers Farm. At 3.pm I hopped into the taxi that would take me to River Cottage for the Christmas Feast.
Climbing off the tractor, I smiled. River Cottage was every bit as beautiful as I remembered it in the Summertime.
River Cottage Christmas is a reminder to me that decoration only needs to be subtle to invoke feelings about a season – warm, twinkly lights and carefully hung posies of dried flowers. It was a cosy, Christmas-is-coming kind of evening. No stockings, candy canes – just a rustic hint of a Summer that has been, a nod to this Autumn, leaving soon; and a peep ahead at the Winter evenings about to draw near. It was blissful – and as the rain scattered against the windows, I entered the dining room to fill my tummy with River Cottage magic, created by Sam Lomas and his very gracious team – but not before sampling the most delicious apple brandy aperitif as I settled into my seat.
Throughout the evening, we learned about curing and brining [you’ll see Chef Chris’ advice in action as we get closer to Christmas preparation here on our blog], and took part in an “I’m a food blogger, get me out of here” blind box challenge in the Yurt – which was filled with bales of hay and sheepskins for resting on and fussing over the River Cottage cats who were wandering lazily around the grounds before settling into their favourite corners for a snooze.
We toured the house at our leisure, rested in aged armchairs beside the aga, and marvelled at the beauty of River Cottage Christmas. The simple, earthy and wholesome approach to life engrained in everything they do there – it’s captivating, enchanting and ultimately, just so delicious.
I so badly wanted to curl up like the fluffy ginger cat in the yurt, and settle in for the evening. It’s so homely, so welcoming that I never want to leave – and almost miss it before I leave.
After dining on celeriac ravioli with wild mushrooms and leaves, River Cottage cider brined ham, carrot purée, friend savoy cabbage and braised beans and a dessert of honeycomb brulée with apple purée and apple crisps, followed by the most amazing cookies and chocolate treats, we wandered out into the night to bump and tumble our way to the top of River Cottage HQ in the tractor, and to bed.
Thank you for inviting me, River Cottage – it was such a complete and indulgent pleasure to be a guest at your table once again.
P.S. I promise to send my husband next year.