All in good taste for the foodie festival season
The May Bank Holiday kicks off the foodie festival season. Our reporter picks the best weekend feasts to eat, drink and be merry
In Ireland, we've long had a solid love affair with summertime festivals. Music, literature, arts… we love nothing more than enjoying it all in the open air (rain-gear optional).
In recent years, our love of convening in the great outdoors has coincided with our very own gastro explosion. Festivals are the perfect place for artisan producers keen to show off their wares. Whether you're a die-hard gourmand, or merely curious, there's an event to break bread with others in every corner of the country. And as everyone knows, the inclement Irish weather is greatly enhanced when we decide to eat, drink and be merry.
Connemara Mussel Festival, Tullycross, Renvyle Peninsula, Co Galway; Today - April 30
As the name suggests you'll find no shortage of mussels here. Quite apart from seafood, this is a spirited celebration of Irish music, dance, art and sport. Organisers have lined up an intriguing bill of goings on, from talks on seashore foraging to boat trips, chef competitions and céilís. There's even tai chi, a motor club rally and hot air balloon rides. connemaramusselfestival.com
The Taste and Sound Of Carlingford, The Old Mill, Riverstown, Co Louth; April 29
It may be happening in Ireland's smallest county but make no mistake, A Taste and Sound Of Carlingford still promises to be big on action. Against the beautiful backdrop of the Cooley peninsula, the Carlingford Brewing Company is pulling out all the stops. The streets are overrun with artisan stalls, gastro tents and a host of musicians and entertainers. Predictably, the beer will be flowing all day too. Admission is €25. carlingfordbrewing.ie
Burren Slow Food Festival, Co Clare; May 12-14
Slow food cooking is, as the experts might say, having 'a moment', and this food festival is suitably jam packed with well-known names. Among those partaking in the festival are Ashford Castle chef Jonathan Keane, and renowned cheesemonger Seamus Sheridan. Add to this a slew of guided walks, beer- and salmon-tasting events, artisan food stalls and cookery demonstrations. It's a fine opportunity for serious foodies to mingle freely with their own.
Wexford Food & Wine Festival, Co Wexford; May 27-28
The list of producers set to exhibit at this festival is as long as it is diverse: from Belgium and Syria to Crete and Thailand, there's something for every palate. We also like the sound of Susan Boyle's (not that one) 'wine tasting comedy show' (on May 24). If you've ever wanted to taste vegan bacon, the Natural Health Store stand is the place to do it. Keep an eye out for the many free workshops too, including ones on reducing food waste to foraging. wexfordfoodfestival.ie
Foynes Irish Coffee Festival, Foynes, Co Limerick; May 30-June 1
There are many people for whom coffee is much more than the murky brown liquid that helps us from bed to car each morning. This is just the weekend for you, coffee lovers. Enjoy busking on Foyne's main street, fancy dress, the festival parade, fireworks, a pet farm, a craft fair and circus workshops. All events are free. foynesfestival.com
A Taste of Dublin, Iveagh Gardens, Dublin; June 15-18
It's the Big Daddy of foodie festivals, and every name you can think of in Irish gastronomy will be present and correct: think Rachel and Darina Allen, Roz Purcell, Clodagh McKenna, Ross Lewis and Neven Maguire. If that glittering roll call isn't incentive enough, the chance to sample fare from award-winning eateries like the Michelin-starred Deanes Eipic, the Wild Goose Grill and Pickle certainly should. Add a host of delicious pop-up wine bars into the mix, and it's easy to have a brilliant gourmand afternoon (once you get your head around that pesky Florin payment system). Tickets start from €17.50 (€15 for children).
Westport Food Festival, Co Mayo; June 23-25
The powers that be have yet to unveil the goings on for the seventh annual festival, but it's a safe enough bet to expect lashings of great food, drink and entertainment in the festival's tented village. Last year's most popular draws included pizza making, a bike buffet and mushroom gathering. westportfoodfestival.com
Feile Bia Na Mara, Achill Island, Co Mayo; July, dates tbc
Achill has long boasted a rich sea heritage, and the full gamut is laid on for visitors in its glory this weekend (the name translates as 'seafood festival', in case you were wondering). While local chefs will be out in force to feed the masses, details of this years' special guest chef are being kept under wraps. A must for seafood fans.
Carlingford Oyster Festival, Co Louth; August 11-14
It's back to Carlingford for the town's much-loved Oyster Festival. Known the world over, visitors partake in a heady schedule of events, including an oyster pearl hunt, world crab fishing contest, oyster tent and sailing regatta. There's even a 'lovely girl' competition (the Morgan's Fine Fish Carlingford Oyster Pearl Competition). Kids aren't left out of the fun, either: face painting, kayaking, a magic show and children's cookery demonstrations will keep them occupied.
A Taste of Donegal, Donegal Town, Co Donegal; August 25-27
Neven Maguire, Catherine Fulvio and Kevin Dundon repair to the northern section of the Wild Atlantic Way for this bayside festival. The itinerary is heaving with cookery demonstrations, as well as wine and beer tasting. You'll also find an array of local food producers and restaurateurs, plus comedy and music aplenty. The entire weekend will culminate in a fireworks display over the Donegal Bay. atasteofdonegal.com
Waterford Harvest Food Festival, Co Waterford; September 8-10
The folks behind the Waterford Harvest Food Festival profess to be passionate about healthy, good food, so expect to learn plenty about growing your own and mastering the art of slow food cooking. With lots on offer to keep children entertained, grown-ups can get down to the business of enjoying restaurant trails, jazz gigs, harvest jigs and a celebrity cook-off. waterfordharvestfestival.ie Clarenbridge Oyster Festival, co Galway;
September, dates TBA
A stone's throw (okay, a stone's pelt) from the City of the Tribes, Clarenbridge in Galway is known as a prime oyster breeding ground. And where better to sample the sea's offerings than in this picturesque village? Since 1954, the Clarenbridge Oyster Festival has celebrated the sea's bounty with plenty of craic. There's even a prize for the best-dressed lady, so it's as stylish an outing as it is lively.