One thing the Isle of Wight does well is festivals. Back in the day - when the West Wight was all fields - it played host to the mother of all pop festivals; hippies were drawn from around the globe to a tiny corner of a tiny corner of England.
As any fule kno, the Isle of Wight Festival was revived in 2002 and, with Bestival, these events top and tail the music festival season. Somewhere in between is the Donkey Sanctuary's Faux Fest - like the pop festival but with tribute acts.
But it's not all grizzled rockers performing to young girls in hotpants; the festival season also includes food festivals - and it is these that are naturally of interest to Matt and Cat. For example, they have been regular attendees of Red Funnel's seasonal Cowes Food Show; where local producers peddle their wares and talented chefs concoct edible delights in the food theatre. Arreton's Sweetcorn Fayre is a good addition to the autumn festival calendar and the Garlic Festival probably has more years under its belt that the old and new pop festivals combined. One food festival that M&C would love to see make a return appearance is Ventnor Botanic Gardens' Hop Festival, toasting the garden's hop harvest with locally-brewed ale. Then there's September's proposed Festival of the Sea which promises to have all sorts of fish-related fare.
The newest kid on the festival block is the Isle of Wight Chilli Fiesta. The brainchild of the folk behind the Chilli Farm, it's smack bang at the beginning of the summer holidays. Matt and Cat visited on the first day of the inaugural festival. The weather gods smiled down on the event: it wasn't so hot that everyone was at the beach and it wasn't so dull that everyone was exploring the Island's many indoor attractions. As porridge-rustler Goldilocks herself would say, it was just right.
Once our ancient ancestors had got a handle on fire and established the principles of agriculture they had the components to create that staple of the human diet: bread. And whether it's with a hand-kneaded artisan loaf, nutritionally-questionable sliced white or a communion wafer, the practice of sharing bread with our fellow man is as old as the hills.
While some people prefer to eat in private, for the majority dining is a shared experience. And nowadays - even if you haven't eyed your family across a table for months - you may find yourself compelled to eat with strangers at one of the new-fangled refectory-style eateries. Matt and Cat are big fans of both the delicious food and the communal environment of mainland Japanese restaurant chain Wagamama. They have also waxed lyrical about the simple, church-like seating arrangements in Newport's Foundation Bakery. And now those two concepts - breaking bread and noshing with strangers - have been fused in Well Bread, Cowes' bakery-cum-café.
The north east Wight has a handful of eateries with a notable sea view; from Baywatch on the Beach you can enjoy a panorama which includes the iconic St Helens Fort; or if you get a shore-side seat outside the Old Fort in Seaview you can watch the busy maritime traffic in the Solent. Other venues - such as the magnificent Spitbank Fort and slightly less grand Costa Coffee at the end of Ryde Pier - can boast a view of the sea pretty much on all sides. A table on the balcony at Three Buoys, in Ryde's Appley Park, gives dinner a memorable backdrop as the orange light of the sinking sun is reflected off the extensive beach. The activities of ships and yachts add interest, and the twinkling lights of Portsmouth are far enough away to look almost enticing.
The restaurant at Appley has had a number of previous incarnations and it's not hard to see why. The awesome views aside, Three Buoys is a first-floor restaurant above a separate café, which must sometimes make it hard for potential patrons to spot that there might be more than ice cream and beachballs available at Appley these days. Also, delightful though Appley Park is, it is very much a seasonal location, and when the weather closes in there is little passing trade. What all this means is that it has to be an exceptional offering indeed up those stairs to draw in enough regular diners to make a sustainable business. Three Buoys thinks it has what it takes. So does it? You know what happens next.
Out in the West Wight countryside Chessell Pottery Barns is a popular venue that seems to have broken the mould that typifies chintzy tearooms in the thatched Meccas of Godshill and Shanklin Old Village.
The mould-breaking analogy is perhaps apposite; in order to succeed as year-round destination the former farm has diversified and offers pottery-wrangling activities. Decorating pottery is a clear attraction for parties, but you no longer need to get your hands covered in clay and paint to enjoy the venue. Matt and Cat wouldn't want to deter any budding Grayson Perrys, but they'd say the Courtyard Café is enough of an attraction in itself.
By our Isle of Wight Festival reporter, Wendy Varley
Phew! Isle of Wight Festival 2013 got off to a calm, orderly start, with none of the mud and traffic problems that afflicted it last year. I've even got a little bit sunburnt. The site was nicely busy by Friday, but there's plenty of elbow room: maybe the memory of last year has suppressed numbers. Organisers told OntheWight.com they're expecting "up to 50,000" over the weekend, but "up to" could mean a little or a lot short of that.
A few observations about the food on offer this year, compared to last: