WITH the 2012 Dingle Peninsula Food and Wine Festival due to get underway this Friday, many of the area's main accommodation providers are reporting strong bookings ahead of the weekend.
However, according to festival organisers, the message is that accommodation is still available, especially in the town's environs and by smaller accommodation providers.
There is certainly an air of anticipation surrounding this year's festival; the ever popular Taste Trail will offer a taste of what you fancy in over 60 locations around town as people stroll the streets in search of a tasty morsel (or seven!) from as little as €2 this Saturday and Sunday.
Several cookery demonstrations are to be hosted at St James Church by Niall Ó Conchúir of An Canteen restaurant in Dykegate Lane, Lorna Tyther of the Phoenix Restaurant in Keel, food writers Niamh Shields and Signe Johansen, JeanMarie Vaireaux of Out of the Blue in the Quay, food columnist Rozanne Stevens, Dan Browne of IT Tralee), Mark Dough of Taste Kerry, Noel Enright of The Charthouse in the Mall, guest chef Martin Shanahan and the team from the Global Village restaurant on Main Street.
A number of children's events are also scheduled, including a pizza demonstration and a cupcake demonstration on the 'Blue Bus', the 'Very Hungry Caterpillar Picnic' and the ' Mad Hatters Tea Party' in the Town Park.
A number of workshops will also be hosted, covering chocolate making, bee-keeping, herb-garden cultivation, curing bacon the traditional way and how to make great coffee. Some of the many other events include live music, a tuna cookout, a seaweed identification walk and a beer and cider festival.
The annual Blas na hÉireann Food Awards, which will be announced during the festival, will prove a major talking point as the 160 shortlisted Irish food producers will find out whether or not they have made the grade in being awarded a prestigious Blas award as 40 judges blind taste produce across 40 food categories.
"In 2007, we welcomed 400 entries. In 2012, this has grown to in excess of 2,000," explained Artie Clifford, the Chairman of the Blas na hEireann Awards.
"The 160 shortlisted will see their produce showcased in the Dingle Brewery and we are expecting some of the industry's top buyers including representatives from Harrods and Tesco Global."
According to Mr Clifford, 54 per cent of Irish shoppers surveyed now recognise the Blas na hÉireann Awards as a quality symbol and past Blas recipients have reported a sharp increase in sales – with some even doubling their sales in the first week after the festival.
It all kicks off this Friday; more information on all aspects of the Dingle Food Festival is available at DingleFood.com where a programme can also be downloaded.