Friday 26 December 2014

Now you can have a little culture with your chips

Lucinda O’Sullivan gives a flavour of a food carnival in Limerick and a Crimean banquet

Published 29/03/2014 | 23:11

Festival will look for the world's best chip
Festival will look for the world's best chip

DENIS Allen’s anthemic Limerick, You’re a Lady pays tribute to the Shannon’s waters as “tears of joy that flow”.

It was never more true than this year, when Limerick — as City of Culture 2014 — is shining like a beacon.

The prestigious City of Culture accolade is priceless to people in businesses and trade and creates a pride and unity amongst its citizens. It would be impossible to relate here the number of events that are happening throughout the year in art, film, food, fashion, craft, music, history and heritage, literature, the spoken word and architecture.

It was indeed in the architectural treasure that is Limerick’s Georgian Quarter, at the Georgian House & Garden, in No 2 Pery Square, designated Culture House for this year, that we were given a taste of the ‘Culture & Chips Food Carnival’, a great all-round event for culture vultures of all ages to take place over the June Bank Holiday.

This is the brainchild of Patricia Roberts of No 1 Pery Square, the exquisite Georgian boutique hotel, and a number of colleagues in the hospitality industry. With her Brasserie One restaurant in 1 Pery Square, Patricia is also chair of the Restaurant Association of Ireland Mid Western Region.

“Being National City of Culture 2014 is a great honour and one that Limerick is very deserving of. Already a culturally diverse city, we have been waiting for the national profile to give us this exposure,” said Patricia.

“It's exciting to see the opportunities it will bring. This will ignite leisure business for the future, it puts us on the national map competing with other cities on a level we weren't before.

“We recognise we need strong points of difference to garner national attention and Culture & Chips is just that,” she added.

It is a different kind of food festival — a food carnival, a weekend for family, foodies and music fans, plus lots of fringe events. Also involved in this innovative concept are Paul Williams of Canteen on Mallow Street, Helen O’Donnell of the Hunt Museum Restaurant and chairperson of Limerick City Business Association, voted Limerick Person of the Year 2012, Nigel Dugdale also of Limerick City Business Association and Mick and Valerie Dolan of Dolan’s Pub and event centre.

So, Galway might have its oysters, but this mighty crew is going to put chips on the cultural menu.

An authentic Twenties’ Spiegeltent, which will be erected in Arthur’s Quay Park, is being specially transported for the event. Spiegeltents are ‘Mirror Tents’, constructed from wood and canvas, decorated with mirrors and stained glass and are pretty impressive and atmospheric structures in themselves.

The Jerry Fish Electric Sideshow will be in residence on Thursday May 29. The next evening, Friday May 30, a Culinary Carnival Banquet will see lots of quirky dishes incorporating chips feature on a menu specially created from local artisan products by the innovative chef Paul Williams (who worked at Heston Blumenthal’s Fat Duck Restaurant for two years).

These include starter sharing plates of salt-baked beet chips with St Tola goat’s cheese and watercress; black pudding and apple chips; Ballyhoura wild mushroom toast with Cloughjordan sourdough and Parmesan chips. Mains of roast rare breed beef will have bone marrow sauce, triple cooked chips and carrot chips. Think then of carnival extravaganza — giant rosewater meringues, homemade icecream, mini chocolate brownies and lavender shortbread. There will, of course, be lashings of appropriate wines and craft beers.

“We realised there is no world championship for chips, so why not create the World Chip Championship?” said Nigel Dugdale. So, on Saturday afternoon, May 31, after you have digested your Carnival Culinary Banquet, the World Chip Championship is taking place to find the best tasting chip on the planet. This will be an open contest for all cooks with a passion for the frite, each hoping to take home the inaugural title.

The day will continue with many events, including ‘Pommes in the Park’ on Saturday, which promises to delight with a fantastical evening of cabaret and chips. Jack L will bring his special brand of entertainment to the Spiegeltent on Sunday night, June 1, and the weekend will wind down on Monday courtesy of Salon du Chat to the sounds of the Brad Pitt Light Orchestra.

If that’s not enough to keep you entertained, the Irish Chamber Orchestra is presenting Carmen in the Milk Market on Thursday and Friday; the TomCat Street Festival (www.facebook.com/TomcatStreetFestival) takes place on Thomas Street and Catherine Street; the RugbyLAD Sevens Festival (www.rugbylad.com) is at Limerick Institute of Technology, and Limerick Sings International Choral Festival 2014 will take place at various locations in the city.

Those merriments apart, Limerick is a great destinations for foodies. Anyone who is seriously interested in food has to visit the Milk Market (www.milkmarketlimerick.ie). It is an extraordinary experience and is up there with any market in the world.

You can kick off with breakfast in Sallymills Cafe, take a wander through Adare Farm Shop, stop and indulge in homemade baklava and Turkish delights from Sefik Dikyar, follow up with crepes or galettes at Bon Appetit and pick up some preserves from chilli jelly to Seville orange marmalade at Teresa Storey’s Green Apron preserves. You will see wonderful Serrano and Iberian hams, plus Manchego and Iberian Reserve cheese, whilst at Sarah’s Pantry you will find delicious vegetarian dishes.

Worth checking out too is Kirsti Kelly’s Silver Darlings — Irish herrings prepared in the Nordic style of her heritage — marinated in beetroot, smoked paprika and chilli and Dijon mustard and star anise to name but a few. A good way to take in the best foodie places in Limerick is to take a Food Trail run by local food writer Valerie O’Connor.

Historian Turtle Bunbury will deliver the history of Stack A building and the development of Dublin Docklands, and soprano Helene Centre will perform on the evening.

Tickets are €80 all inclusive and can be purchased online at www.elywinebar.ie/banquet.

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