They say money makes the world go round, but has anybody ever considered food for the same title? It is so much more than sustenance. Food is the light and colour in every day; from a carefully prepared breakfast to an anticipated late night snack, it has the power to delight, ignite, bond and inspire. It is for this reason that any major city worth it’s salt (pun entirely accidental) has a city food fair, and it was why I for one was beyond excited when the GT Food and Drink fair opened in Lagos.
It was a sizzler weather wise and organisers might not have anticipated the crowds that would descend in earnest to Oniru, but come we did. Amongst the hundreds of stalls I chatted to small producers and suppliers, all who had a passion for the Nigerian food industry. It felt a bit family reunion-esque as I ran into the Cookie Jar team (their new peanut cookie is a revelation) and saw other Food Heroes previously featured on Gastrotastic.com such as Nuli Juice. New discoveries came in the form of Eleojo Foods of Kogi State who convinced me of the merits of their pre-dried bitter leaf and Oh So Wholesome, gluten and dairy free snacks that were as addictive as a conventionally naughty sweet treat and were made by Oh So Nutritious one of Nigeria’s leading health food companies. My recommendation to readers? Buy and eat some more.
However, like any event there were a few superstar turns. At the fair celebrity chefs based in Nigeria and further afield (Marcus Samuelson of New York’s Red Rooster fame and Raphael Duntoye of London’s La Petite Maison were just two of the international stars who made the trip) wowed audiences with their masterclasses. I was thrilled to see Alex Oke of XO Boutique Bakery who is also the head pastry tutor at Nigeria’s Culinary Academy, on the roster of celebrity chef masterclasses, especially as I have experienced heaven by way of his patisserie creations. Known in the industry as the King of Bread, Alex’ baking masterclass was all about introducing the audience to the essentials of baking with a few insider tricks and tips thrown in for good measure. For those who had never experienced the carb nirvana that are XO’s creations the bakery also popped up at the fair with a few XO Boutique Bakery Greatest Hits on the menu. Worth the drive to Oniru alone this weekend (and Ikoyi on any other given day) would have to be the mozzarella and olive sourdough loaf, which drizzled with olive oil is meal magic all by itself, giving a new ring to the line in the Lord’s Prayer ‘Give us this day our daily bread’!
I also succumbed to a hearty slab of Sticky Toffee Pudding that was disgrace yourself and lick the plate clean worthy, or in this instance, container. In the mayhem of the fair itself I was struck by the chilled and professional vibes of Alex and his team who seemed so unflappable, even when managing the disappointment of the crowd who missed out on their sold-out-early stall’s goodies.
I couldn’t end with this post without a Gastrotastic food soliloquy to the wonder that were my Urban Fuxion Ribs. It is unlikely I will ever stop being a carnivore. I come from Uganda, and in East Africa grilled meats are not so much a ‘thing’ but a way of life. Therefore, anyone who can do justice at the grill station will have my attention. The Urban Fuxion Pork Ribs didn’t just meet on taste expectations – this was barbeque meat – the unofficial masterclass. The pork fell off the bone and was so soft and succulent and melt-in-your-mouth fabulous. The rub and glaze was a perfect balance of sweet and finger licking sticky with heat and just spicy enough finish. I found myself channelling Disney’s Pluto and chewing on the bone after the meat was long done, I know not a lady-like high point, but when food is very good, propriety often goes out of the window. Also worth a mention was the fried rice accompaniment, studded with shards of red and green peppers, truly yummy, but no match for the main event ribs. I know there are other challengers in the Food Truck Scene (we’re talking to you Chef Niyi Williams of Corner Food Truck lol!), but I can honestly say that Urban Fuxion have well and truly thrown down the rib gauntlet and I cannot wait to taste their offering again and of course, the competition’s very soon! Let the food-truck battles begin!
It might be another year til the next Food Fair but with the food scene in Nigeria continuing to grow at a rapid pace, things will only get bigger, bolder and of course taste even better. My waistline might not thank me for this weekend’s exploits but that satisfied-by-delish feasts part of my soul certainly did.