THE diet officially kicked off in Kerry on Monday morning as bulging bellies heaved under the stress inflicted following a glorious weekend of indulgence at the 2012 Dingle Peninsula Food and Wine Festival.
Launched by Minister Simon Coveney TD and festival chairperson Mark Murphy on Friday evening at An Díseart, the festival kicked off with the hosting of a wonderful food heritage experience with a pig-on-a-spit, storytelling and music.
Then it was on to the Dingle Bay Hotel for the festival's opening party, where revellers, along with local luminaries, set the scene for a mighty weekend.
As a gloroiusly sunny Saturday dawned more than 60 local outlets were serving up everything from kangaroo steaks to haddock lollipops, fresh oysters to seared scallops, bacon and cabbage to black pudding, pies and gourmet Dexter beef burgers, wines, desserts, cupcakes and everything in between.
The streets were literally thronged as foodies young and old moved from place to place, dipping in for a taste or a sip, grasping their taste trail tickets in hand (the only currency worth having in Dingle last weekend).
The foodie fun continued on Sunday's Taste Trail, which was framed by Ireland's largest outdoor market with stalls showcasing every kind of produce imaginable. Every nook and cranny in Dingle was filled with old alleyways inhabited by hot chocolate vendors and side gates opened to reveal pots of Irish stew bubbling away.
According to chairperson Mark Murphy, the footfall at this year's festival has far exceeded 2011. "We could be looking at something in the region of 12,000 – 14,000 visitors for the weekend which is absolutely amazing," he said.
The Dingle Peninsula Food and Wine Festival also hosted a number of workshops in St James Church over the two days with everything from how to cook venison to creating a monkfish vol-auvent on the menu.
Children's events dotted the town with over 250 kids packing into the town park for the 'Very Hungary Caterpillar Picnic' and storytelling.
Meanwhile, up on Main Street kids (and adults) were getting into the swing of physics as a 'Spoonful of Science' showcased amazing feats - which confounded many. Live music and art exhibitions also dotted the town map.
Speaking to The Kerryman on Monday, Mark Murphy, reflected on what many are describing as one of the best food festivals in Ireland, if not further afield.
"The atmosphere was amazing, everyone was talking about food," said Mark.
"We welcomed visitors from all over the country for the weekend, plus visitors from Europe, Asia, the USA and Australia. I met one couple from Oregon in the US who planned their entire visit to Ireland around the festival," he added.
Mark paid tribute to the festival committee, businesses, producers, volunteers and everyone who turned out en masse to make the 2012 festival a resounding success of massive proportions.
Artie Clifford, chairperson of the Blas na hÉireann Irish Food Awards which were also announced over the weekend also added that since the festival wrapped up on Sunday evening, he was been inundated with texts, emails, calls and tweets of thanks following an immense weekend.