Ireland's most exciting upcoming food festivals
Spring is sprung, the grass is riz, and I know where the food fun is, says Lucinda O'Sullivan, as she looks at upcoming food festivals
It is wonderful to see how our food industry has blossomed over the past few years.
Despite a couple of horsey hiccups in 2013, our overall image around the world is of green, clean food and this must be maintained at all levels of the industry.
Bord Bia recently held its Marketplace 2015 trade event, where 500 food buyers from 34 countries met with 185 Irish food and drink companies, ranging in size and profile from small to very large enterprises, through a series of over 5,000 pre-scheduled 'speed-dating' style meetings. There were more than 100 buyers from Asia alone, and the Chinese trade delegation was the biggest ever to visit Ireland. Michael Carey, Chairman of Bord Bia, pointed out that food and drink is our fastest-growing export sector. Last year, Irish food and drink exports were worth over €10.5bn.
That brings me to food markets and festivals, where a lot of the smaller food businesses cut their teeth and show off their wares. If you have an idea, don't just park it - put it into action, there has never been a better time and you will get great advice from your local Enterprise Office. Get out and around and see what other people are doing, and see what you can offer that is different. There is no time like the present. Apart from the regular local food markets, with the good weather approaching, the major food festivals are kicking off around the country.
The fourth Galway Food Festival is already under way this weekend. Here, the folk of the west will be putting their best feet forward again and, not only is it an illuminating experience, but you will have great fun too. Last year 70,000 people attended. Festivals such as Galway also bring together people in the industry who, hopefully, get the message that it is essential to work together for the good of their region, as well as for themselves.
Restaurateur and chef JP McMahon of Aniar and Cava Bodega has certainly been a driving force in raising the image of great food in Galway. This year, visiting chefs from abroad include Rodrigo and Boris Leite-Poco of Sauvage paleo restaurant in Berlin. Events today and tomorrow include an 'Around the Market Place' guided tour, led by Sheena Dignam, where you will meet artisan producers and sample their goods. Tickets are €30. Tel: (086) 733-2885.
At 3.30pm today, at The House Hotel, Head Chef Kevin Hynes will be doing a demo of the flavours to be found along the Wild Atlantic Way. Entry is free. Tel: (091) 538-900. You might also enjoy an Easter-themed afternoon tea in the amazing g Hotel. €42 for two people. Add a glass of pink Champagne each and it's €59 for two. theghotel.ie
There are a number of events kicking off at 2pm this afternoon, including a cocktail demo and tasting at Martine's of Quay Street, a wedding fair at Dela Restaurant, and a chocolate and wine tasting at Thomas Woodberry's. galwayfoodfestival.com
Next weekend, from April 9-12, the eighth West Waterford Food Festival will be centred in the beautiful coastal town of Dungarvan, which makes it the perfect place for a lovely weekend away.
Chef Paul Flynn, of The Tannery, has been at the forefront of bringing fine food to Dungarvan since he bravely opened his restaurant, in what was really a culinary desert, back in 1997. He is another of Michelin's extraordinary oversights, but maybe he is better off, as so many Michelin chefs now rush to the more casual dining arena.
Dungarvan Farmers' Market and Dungarvan Country Market take place every Thursday and Friday morning respectively, with a wide range of stalls selling everything from soups and stews, apples and juices, to gluten-free cakes and bread, organic beef, lamb and eggs; so there will be lots to browse through at those. There is a full programme of events on the different days, including a seaweed seminar on Clonea Beach, where you can walk, chat and sample with Marie Power. Tickets, €10.
There has been a huge increase in the popularity and production of gin and you can enjoy an 'Irish Craft in a Glass' event with gin specialist David T Smith; or visit the Irish Countrywomen's Association (ICA) Cook Camp for a series of demonstrations by ICA ladies of their favourite recipes at the Deise Day Care Centre. Tickets, €5.
There are Restaurant Trails, including one along the quays, encompassing a different course taken over three restaurants - The Moorings, Interlude and Indian Ocean. Tickets, €45.
On Friday, local chef Eunice Power will be cooking in the beautiful Dromana House overlooking the Blackwater River, home of the Villiers Stewarts, celebrating 800 years of Dromana and generations of west Waterford food stories. The Spanish Embassy is providing wines and this should be a memorable event. Tickets, €75.
There are a number of excellent restaurants and eateries around the area including, of course, The Tannery, Merry's Gastro Pub, The Moorings, Interlude, Nude Food and the fab White Horses Restaurant at Ardmore, to name but a few. See westwaterfordfestivaloffood.com
After you have recovered from the fun and food in west Waterford, you might as well move on to Kinsale where, on Saturday April 18 and Sunday 19, chefs from all 32 counties will compete for the title of All-Ireland Chowder Champion 2015. The winning chef will also be invited to Newport, Rhode Island, Kinsale's transatlantic twin town, as a guest chef. Last year's winner was Danny Fitzpatrick of Fitzpatrick's Restaurant, Dunleer, Co Louth.
The weekend kicks off on Saturday from 1pm-4pm with Kinsale's Taste the Wild Atlantic Way Street Food Festival, which will see the town transformed into an open-air street market.
On Sunday, the Chowder Cook-Off will take place in Acton's Hotel from 2pm-4pm overseen by Liam Edwards, Chairman of Kinsale Good Food Circle, and everyone attending the event will have a chance to vote for their favourite chowder. Tickets are priced at €10, and also act as your voting card, which will entitle you to sample all of the chowders. See kinsalerestaurants.com