It's written in the stars that simple quality is best

  • By Village Farm Marquees
  • 12 May, 2017

We interview Ben Cox, owner of a popular East Yorkshire pub who has his finger on the pulse when it comes to great event food.

Ben, Chef and owner of the Star Inn at Sancton gastro pub, has been a champion of great local produce for decades. Having worked at the Tickton Grange Hotel and wedding venue as a sous chef for a number of years, he decided to go it alone and open his own food outlet in 1997, fuelled by his passion for wholesomeness, taste and creativity.

Since then, that passion for excellence has been rewarded with recognition in the Good Pub Guide, the Michelin Guide, The Good Food Guide – as well as being voted one of Yorkshire’s 12 favourite pubs.

In addition to running the Star itself, Ben and his wife Lindsey provide food and drink for special occasions like weddings, so he has his finger on the pulse when it comes to event catering.

He shared with us the key ingredients of great party food, with flair.

“As a chef, I was one of the few that originally championed the idea of locally sourced food because it’s better for food miles and the local economy, more ethically produced and – above all – tastes amazing. Originally, I was one of only a couple of chefs who were pushing for this locally and it’s great to see the concept taking off more and more, helped by TV celebrity chefs,” said Ben.

“For a wedding, this can work brilliantly by creating a real talking point. Guests will often swap their experiences of the local ice-cream parlour that started life in a farmer’s shed, or the smokehouse that did the same and has made the foodie big time.”

Asked what trends he’s seeing in wedding and event food currently, Ben said:

“The traditional buffet with sandwiches, sausage rolls and dim sum is very much a thing of the past.

“Couples typically want a la carte-style options for their wedding breakfast meal. I think it’s because we’re increasingly a nation of foodies and people don’t just want the traditional roast beef or chicken with two veg any more, they want the kind of thing they would choose when going out to their favourite restaurant for a special meal.

“We’re also seeing more and more demand for things like pulled pork sandwiches and light chillies and curries, when it comes to the more informal evening meal. Cheese ‘cakes’ are also increasingly popular and make a great evening buffet-style snack when coupled with quality patés and homemade chutneys.

“We’re also being asked for canapes more and more, delicious mini dishes that enable guests to enjoy samples of locally produced ingredients like smoked salmon or duck, beef and Yorkshire pudding or a calzone made with local cheese. These are small enough to be light but keep them both full and occupied throughout what is a long day.”

Ben continued: “Where drinks are concerned, gin is becoming increasingly popular. Pimms remains a perpetual favourite for when guests are arriving. By the same token, the real ales which were in vogue for a long time have taken a bit of a back seat. Other things that work really well, depending on the time of year, are mulled wine to warm guests in the winter time, and boozy hot chocolates.”

So just how do couples choose from the rich array of food options?

“I always tell people to think of the place and the food they like best, and base their wedding menu choices on that,” added Ben. “For example, one couple who are regular customers at the pub, love our steak pies best out of everything on the menu, so they chose steak pies as a lovely hearty meal for their winter wedding.” 

Ben’s recipe for wedding food perfection:

  1. Think about the timing of your wedding. Seasonal foods will give you the best fit and taste – such as asparagus in May and June, or heart-warming game for a Christmas wedding.
  2. It might sound like a boring practicality but it’s important to check for allergies among your guests, too. Gluten intolerance is common these days, but you also need to check whether people have a reaction to things like nuts, shellfish and even the humble celery, believe it or not. The type of foods and flavours should be your first focus, so that it’s right for you, and then your caterer can tweak your chosen menu to meet any special requirements.
  3. Choosing a theme is also a good move. Too many people forget that the food is a key aspect of their event’s ambiance. Having a focus is one great way to add a bit of a flourish. For example, a battle between Yorkshire and France for a couple with links to both, featuring Yorkshire puddings side-by-side with boeuf bourguignon and a selection of continental cheeses.
  4. Make sure you walk through your day in your head and allow for your guests to have something to nibble on throughout. They’re likely to feel quite peckish at times, and feeding them with a mixture of canapes, main meals, pulled pork or barbecue sandwiches, cheese boards and a sit down meal can be a great way of keeping them occupied too
  5. Find companies you can really trust for everything from your crockery hire to your kitchen equipment. Caterers like us will specify exactly what we need to deliver high quality food for your event, and it’s important to have the support of recommended suppliers for the things that make sure it all comes together.
  6. When booking your catering, make sure you understand exactly what the plans are for serving your food, which is just as important as what you’re serving itself. For example, we can provide a high standard of waiter service, as well as taking on the role of Master of Ceremonies and compere, which can be a godsend when it comes to making sure your guests are where you want them, when you want them there.
  7. Don’t forget to sort out your bar and drinks. Will you need a bar with staff to serve drinks, or simply waiter service? Don’t assume that your catering supplier will also organise and man your bar, as this is usually an add-on service you need to specify.
  8. Spend your food budget on dependable good quality staples with great flavour. There are lots of fashions and gimmicks doing the rounds at the moment, as always, such as street food vans and ice cream vans serving desserts. But it’s important not to get too carried away with lots of potentially tacky distractions when it comes to food, and very often simple quality is the best way to go and speaks for itself.

Ben and Lindsey are one of a network of outstanding suppliers we work with to help you achieve your perfect day. You can read more about what they offer at https://www.thestaratsancton.co.uk .

We offer a free, no-obligation initial chat, so if you’re planning a wedding or special celebration and would like to run your plans past someone with an experienced and sympathetic ear, don’t hesitate to contact us on (01262) 468160 or email info@villagefarmmarquees.co.uk.

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By Village Farm Marquees 13 Jan, 2018
Winter weddings can be extra-magical, and to make them even more appealing, for  limited time we're offering £300 of free extras with marquee bookings for next winter. To find out more, call us on (01262) 468160 or email us .
By Village Farm Marquees 21 Dec, 2017

Christmas offers a very special opportunity for families to enjoy time together and create wonderful memories, so when Tong Garden Centre asked if we could bring to life their ‘Christmas Cabin’ concept, we were more than happy to help.

Tong Garden Centre is one of the largest independent garden centres in Yorkshire, located on a 17-acre site on the edge of Bradford in West Yorkshire. It has an outdoor plant area and shopping departments filled with garden furniture, gifts, home accessories and leading brands spread across 110,000 square feet of retail space. Also on-site is a coffee shop, restaurant, children’s outdoor playground and a newly refurbished food hall.

We talked to Tong’s marketing manager Jo Dales about how the business is catering for the increasingly important annual festive season.

By Village Farm Marquees 21 Dec, 2017

There are all sorts of things to get excited about when it comes to winter weddings – the chillier months open up a new realm of possibilities for your special day that simply wouldn’t seem right in spring or summer. Think roaring log fires, mulled wine, festive decorations and candlelit receptions. What’s more, many of the associated price tags are usually lower than they are during the prime British summertime wedding season.

Expert wedding planner Helen Davies, who works in partnership with us at Village Farm Events, is passionate about winter nuptials. Here she gives her view on why this can make for an especially magical time of year to tie the knot.

’Tis the season to be merry

Winter used to be the off-season for getting married but the quieter November to February period is growing in popularity with couples who spot the romantic opportunities it can offer.

The chance of snow is one attraction as a sprinkling of the white stuff can result in stunning photographs and inject a sense of fun to proceedings for guests of all ages.

Let’s be honest though, while crisp air, searing sunshine and cobalt blue skies would create a wonderful backdrop, it’s possible you might actually end up with dull grey clouds and a bitter blast of wind and rain. But it’s worth remembering that this could happen at any time of year in the UK with our unpredictable weather and the key is to be prepared!

Helen said: “Weather is always at the forefront of our concerns when it comes to wedding planning and in some ways it’s easier to prepare for it in winter, when you’re already expecting colder air temperatures and anything else the elements might throw at you.

“It’s likely you’ll be spending most of the celebration indoors but consider transport needs if there’s any walking involved between locations. A nice touch would be to provide blankets or pashminas should guests wish to warm up, and also umbrellas if rain is on the cards.”

In fact, warmth should be the top priority according to Helen: “It’s so important to ensure everyone feels toasty. Most guests will probably arrive wearing coats so you’ll need a cloakroom nearby for them to hang them up. Venues with real fires will be a huge bonus for a winter wedding, although a marquee is still an option as modern heating systems are brilliant and you can still create a really cosy atmosphere.”

By Village Farm Marquees 23 Nov, 2017

When was the last time you hired a band? Unless you've been responsible for booking live entertainment before, it's likely that you wouldn't have a clue where to start! Here at Village Farm Events we have a secret weapon in our armoury in the form of York agency Electrifying Promotions, which provides quality party bands suitable for an array of events including weddings, parties, corporate gatherings or basically any do where live music is required.

Electrifying Promotions will work directly with you to ensure you choose the most appropriate accompaniment for your event. Gill Mallon, who runs the agency, has years of experience in the business and can help make sure you hit all the right notes with your musical choices and don't end up with an empty dance floor.

Here Gill gives us some sound suggestions to keep the party atmosphere flowing, whatever the occasion.

A helping hand

"Planning a major event such as a wedding can be overwhelming, and it's understandable you'd want all the help you can get. Booking a DJ or a live band can be daunting, it's not easy to know the right questions to ask or where you stand with negotiating the price when it comes to music," said Gill.

"Agents like Electrifying Promotions can offer a cost-effective and convenient way to take some of the pressure off your shoulders. We can save you hours of research by listening to your needs and narrowing down your options based on your preferences and budget, without you having to spend ages looking through pages of information. We will deal with the musicians on your behalf and handle the payment so you're not digging around for cash at the end of your special day."

  Get the party started

"Here at Electrifying Promotions we currently have 30 bands on our books, covering a broad range of styles from rock and funk, pop and disco, soul and Motown, to opera and swing. Whatever your tastes, you can pretty much guarantee we'll have something to suit you!

"Choosing a musical style is usually the main priority, and you may need to think about your guests or audience too, not just your personal taste, but there are also practicalities to consider relating to the venue - how big is the area where the band will be? Is it large enough to accommodate a five-piece band with drum kit and amps or would you be better off looking at an acoustic duo? Does the venue have any noise restrictions such as a sound limiter?"

A sound limiter is a devious bit of kit that will cut off the power supply to the band if they get louder than the maximum decibels, which is a major party pooper, and is one of the first questions Gill will be asking.

She continued: "With weddings, it's a good idea to think about not just your evening reception where most couples like to see all their friends and loved ones having a good knees up, but also other parts of the day where you might enjoy musical accompaniment, perhaps an operatic aria in church or some gentle guitar strumming at the wedding breakfast."

Bands on Electrifying Promotion's books tend to do two 45-minute sets, but something else to consider is the 'inbetween' times - options include having a DJ to cover this, or loading up an iPod with background played over the band's amp. Some bands might be able to cover these periods themselves with more low-key sounds.

Gill also recommends looking after the band members: "The musicians need time to set up and pack away so they are often there from 6pm to gone midnight. They do work hard and really appreciate being fed and watered."

Can I pick the playlist?

Gill explained: "Most bands prefer that you select the songs from their playlist which you definitely do and don't want, then leave them to structure your choices into a workable order. People sometimes make the mistake of thinking they need to work out exactly which songs they want, but really you just need to establish the style of music you want and the sort of atmosphere you'd like to create, the band will do the rest.

"It's important to choose the right act for your music choices, there's no point expecting an act to play a song that's totally removed from their musical style.

"The band will need to consider a number of variables in order to ensure their sets flow well and they will know which songs within their repertoire are dance floor fillers. Feel free to make an input but let the band bring their experience to bear when finalising the actual playlist."

A final word of advice from Gill: "Plan ahead! Please don't leave your booking too late, sometimes we can pull things together in three weeks but it's much safer to book up to a year in advance."

 

We're thrilled to be working with Electrifying Promotions and really value Gill's immense experience and personal touch. If you'Sd like to a free, no obligation chat about your musical entertainment needs, contact Village Farm Events on info@villagefarmmarquees.co.uk or (01262) 468160.

 

 

By Village Farm Marquees 23 Nov, 2017

For quite a few years now, many couples have ventured overseas to warmer climes to fulfil their nuptials, often accepting they'll have a very limited number of guests present due to the additional expense incurred with flights and accommodation.

Photos of brides paddling barefoot in the crystal clear sea with white dresses floating on the sultry breeze are a familiar sight but how often have you attended or admired photos of an outdoor wedding here in the UK? Well if you're currently drawing a blank, this will probably change sometime in the near future as outdoor weddings in good old Blighty are becoming increasingly popular!

Couples can be forgiven for not knowing where to start with planning one, given very few venues have licences for outdoor weddings. The inclement climate in our green and pleasant land might seem like another barrier, but here wedding planner extraordinaire Helen Davies explains how holding your dream wedding in the great British outdoors might yet become a reality.

Let's go outside

The British Isles are much admired for their beauty, from golden sands, to lush hills and valleys, peaceful forests and fabulous manicured grounds. There is literally an abundance of scenery and wildlife across the entire land, even your average back garden can be a wonderful haven of tranquillity.

"There are all sorts of reasons more and more couples want to get married outdoors," said Helen. "Some might feel a deep connection with nature, some might just not want any kind of religious aspect to their marriage, some might not like the formality associated with a traditional wedding in a conventional building and want a more relaxed, laid-back atmosphere.

"The idea of exchanging vows in a beautiful or favourite outdoor location, even in your own garden, is becoming increasingly appealing. I think it also allows you to truly express yourself in a very creative way as there isn't a set way of doing things, you have so many options.

"It's the things that people do to personalise their wedding that make it so memorable for them and their guests, and holding it outdoors is a sure-fire way to ensure it's unforgettable."

But what about the legalities?

It's true, there is only a small selection of outdoor wedding venues where you can legally marry in this country - weddings in the UK have to be in a licensed building which must meet certain criteria.

But don't let this put you off, there are ways and means to deal with this challenge! "The simplest solution is to cover the requirements separately by visiting the registrar to obtain your marriage certificate. This is very low cost and you only need two witnesses present, and they don't even need to be people you know. This could be done at any time before your actual wedding," explained Helen.

"You can then hold your celebration at your chosen location, with your guests in attendance. You will need a ceremony conductor and can get help with writing and designing your ceremony, it can be completely personalised to your wishes, including the words you exchange as you commit to each other," she added.

Helen can help take the pressure off the bride-to-be by dealing with the additional factors that come into play when looking for an outdoor wedding venue. She can assist with choosing an outdoor location, assess its suitability, and seek permission to use it. "The couple might know exactly where they'd like to hold the wedding or they might just have a loose idea around it being in a woodland, or a garden or close to water, even on a beach. I can help them scout for locations that would work," said Helen.

But what about the weather?!

As with any outdoor event, there are a number of potential pitfalls to plan for, not least the predictably unpredictable British weather!

"It's probably best to plan an outdoor wedding in our warmer, drier months. Nobody wants to see guests shivering in a sleety November and it's unlikely the bride wants to be slipping around a wet, muddy field in February," said Helen. "That said, it's still possible to encounter an unexpectedly cool breeze or shower in the middle of August, so it's about being prepared - do you need to provide rain ponchos, or even wellies? Or maybe pop some cosy blankets on the seating that people can snuggle into?"

Alternatively, if we are struck by a sudden heatwave, you might want to supply guests with insect repellent, sunscreen and bottles of water.

Helen added: "Other considerations to take into account include parking, toilets, access for suppliers such as caterers and entertainers, and hiring electricity generators. Think about the decor and lighting too, which can create a stunning effect in an outdoor setting. Also, can you offer overnight accommodation for guests? Upmarket glamping or even old-fashioned camping might be a possibility.

"I believe an outdoor wedding is the ultimate way to express yourself and create the most personalised experience possible, I really do love helping couples plan these very special days."

In terms of the reception following the ceremony, a marquee usually goes hand in hand with an outdoor wedding. Village Farm Marquees has a multitude of options that would complement an outdoor ceremony, whatever the theme.

By Village Farm Marquees 23 Nov, 2017

What a lovely day we had in Leeds showcasing our stunning marquees at The UK Wedding Event ! We were absolutely overwhelmed by all the lovely couples we met.

It was such a treat to work with so many passionate suppliers to create such an amazing wedding atmosphere.

The UK Wedding Event is a family owned business operating from Leeds, specialising in events, website design and videography.

Husband and wife team Rob and Emma host a number of these bumper wedding fayre extravaganzas each year where more than 100 exhibitors showcase their services to visitors travelling from all corners of Yorkshire and beyond as they plan their wedding day. All the events are held at attractive locations and with an even spread of exhibitors to give couples plenty of choice for their big day.

Couples have all options catered for, with top suppliers from a range of leading industry professionals in attendance. The Leeds event was held at The Centenary Pavilion at Elland Road, on the outskirts of the city, and offered easy access from the motorway with free parking to boot.

All the couples received a free goody bag on arrival along with a glass of bubbly to help them kick-off a fun and rewarding event in a positive fashion.

We worked with some fantastic suppliers to create a stunning wedding marquee, so if you are planning a wedding or event check out some of the guys in the list below:   

By Village Farm Marquees 23 Nov, 2017

Although we often spend time with a client in the lead up to their event, sensing their anticipation, excitement, and sometimes their nerves, we rarely witness the actual celebration ourselves. So it's always a pleasure to listen to our clients' recollections when we return to pack away the marquee and we get to hear about the joy (and the occasional tears) that accompany these special occasions.

One such client is Nicki Hepworth, from Great Hatfield in East Yorkshire, who hired a Village Farm marquee for a dual purpose back in August this year.

When the wind blows

Nicki was due to celebrate her 50th birthday and knew she wanted to throw a party for her friends and family that they would all remember for years to come. It simply had to be a belter of a knees-up, so a marquee was the first thing on her shopping list.

She said: "I chose Village Farm Marquees for a few reasons - they're local to me, their prices are competitive, and my first impression was they just seemed so professional."

Nicki admits that she did move the goalposts somewhat as the size of her guest list began to expand, finally resting at the 100-mark. She said: "I had a rough idea of the size of marquee I'd need but we had to size up as the guest list grew. Village Farm were brilliant about that, they gave me lots of advice and were really supportive. Changing the marquee to a bigger one wasn't a problem at all."

Something that was worrying Nicki was the weather: "It was a very windy day and the marquee was in quite an exposed place, I wasn't sure if it might take off! It was secured really well though, and thankfully the wind died down by the time the party was due to kick off in the evening."

The marquee was erected, fully lined and carpeted the day before the event to leave plenty of time for Nicki to complete her birthday decorations. She'd also organised catering via a quirky pizza van and music courtesy of a DJ to keep people in the party spirit, all comfortably housed within the marquee.

"I wanted a 1980s theme and my son and I had given the DJ our own playlist of 80s hits," she added. "My favourite memory from the whole party is just seeing so many people filling the dance floor with great big smiles on their faces!"

 

By Village Farm Marquees 27 Oct, 2017

It's always a pleasure to meet a new client to see how we can help them and this was the case recently when Wyke Sixth Form College in Hull approached us with a fresh challenge!

 Here Tony, our co-director at Village Farm Marquees, explains how we worked together to create a bespoke indoor marquee solution that gives the college a cost-effective resource which can be used again and again.

Sports hall transformation

"The college had previously always hired freestanding marquees but decided it would be better value and much more flexible if they could have our own equipment that would enable them to put up a marquee lining and flooring in the sports hall, then pack it away and store it, whenever they wish," said Tony.

"At Village Farm Marquees we pride ourselves on really listening to our clients' needs and providing bespoke solutions rather than off-the-peg packages, and this is what clinched it for Wyke College.

"Wyke had looked at a few different providers, then chose us because we devised a credible solution that suited their needs.

"We designed it using a semi-framed structure, which makes it easier for them to manage the assembly themselves than it would with a full frame system."

By Village Farm Marquees 27 Oct, 2017

Lincoln Christmas Market is one of the biggest events in many independent traders' calendars, which this year will take place from December 7-10, and it's certainly a must-do for one of our long-term clients, Westmorland Sheepskins.

We've had the pleasure of working with Howard Heaton and his family-run enterprise for a number of years now, providing marquees for their attendance at the prestigious Lincoln event plus many other markets and shows across the country.

Howard set up Westmorland Sheepskins over 30 years ago, specialising in genuine sheepskin, wool and leather goods. An offshoot of his grandfather's 130-year-old business, Heatons of Leeds, he has been in the business since the day he was born and knows what he is talking about when it comes to trading in raw skins and materials (he can tell you where a sheep hails from at first glance!). A Yorkshireman through and through, he won't stand for any nonsense when it comes to product quality and neither will he fleece ('scuse the pun) his customers - his prices represent excellent value for guaranteed quality that is, quite honestly, very hard to find these days on the high street.

We spoke to Howard about his approach to business and why quality is so important to him.

By Village Farm Marquees 27 Oct, 2017

‘More challenging than I could ever have imagined’ and ‘simply breathtaking’

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