If you're making plans for next weekend and would like to include some fine eating and drinking, you're spoilt for choice with several excellent food and drink festivals taking place around the country.
Over in the west, Lisdoonvarna's Burren Slow Food Festival (May 27-29, slowfoodclare.com/festival) showcases the surprisingly broad array of edibles growing in and around 'the fertile Rock'. The weekend kicks off with a Friday evening Burren Champagne Picnic under the Cliffs of Moher, and features talks from JP McMahon from Aniar, Galway, Evan Doyle from Wild & Slow and Oonagh O'Dwyer from Wild Kitchen, plus a farmers' market, bushcraft and cooking for kids, and wine and oyster tastings.
Serious beer lovers should head south to the Killarney Beer Festival (May 27-29, inec.ie/festival/killarney-beerfest) with stalls from two dozen craft brewers and cider producers, interactive master classes in home brewing, and soakage provided at the Artisan Food Village. The beer-loving consumer organisation Beoir Ireland will announce various awards and crown their Beoir Champion Beer of Ireland. The €10 entrance includes two free pints and live entertainment from headliners like the Booka Brass Band.
Over east, expect strawberries galore at the 8th annual Wexford Food and Wine Festival (May 27-29, wexfordfoodfestival.ie). An open-air Food Producers Market runs all weekend at the heart of Wexford town, and events include a Wexford Craft Beer Trail, 'A Taste of Burgundy' tasting and dinner at Kelly's Hotel, foraging trips to The Raven, beekeepers in Selskar and more.
Finally, Sheridans celebrate their 21st birthday at their 7th Annual Sheridans Irish Food Festival (May 29, sheridanscheesemongers.com) at their Virginia Road Station Headquarters in Co Meath. This is a real family affair, offering kids workshops in the making of cheese, sausages, chocolate and butter, as well as free children's entertainment, traditional fair games and a farm animal zone with Agri Aware Mobile Farm and Maperath Farm.
There will be lots of cheese, as you might expect from Ireland's leading cheesemongers, but lots more too with stalls from over 90 great Irish food producers. Entrance is €5 per car with all proceeds going to the children's charity, BUMBLEance.
Bottle of the week: Citra Single Hop IPA
Catch it while you can, baby! The latest citradelic offering from Cork's 8 Degrees Brewing is here to partaaay. The first release in a limited edition series of single hop beers, this IPA features zingy Citra hops for a big juicy beer that is bursting with tropical passion fruit flavours cut by a refreshing orange peel bitterness and well-balanced with generous malt character. Bring on the pulled pork, barbecued wings or spicy sausages. Available for a few weeks (while stocks last) in independent off-licences.off-licences. 5.7pc ABV, 330ml, €2.80
Who pays €9.95 for a bar of chocolate? Celebrities like Oprah, Elton, Angelina and Brad apparently, all of whom are fans of Compartés chocolate, according to Harvey Nichols who have just started stocking the beautifully packaged bars in their food markets and on harveynichols.com. Handmade in small batches in Los Angeles using fresh natural ingredients from local farmers' markets, the range includes Cereal Bowl (white chocolate with cereal and marshmallows), California Love (dark chocolate with salted pretzel pieces) and Coney Island (milk chocolate with caramelised waffle cone pieces). Where to start?
It was this weekend four years ago that Queen Elizabeth II visited Cork's English Market, producing the most iconic image of her historic State Visit to Ireland when she was captured sharing a joke with market fishmonger Pat O'Connell. Dating from 1788, the covered municipal market is one of Europe's finest and is always worth a good browse. For the full experience, head upstairs to the gorgeously unpretentious Farmgate Cafe (farmgatecork.ie) where the brave can order Tripe & Onions with Drisheen, a blood sausage beloved of locals who developed a taste for the offal that was so abundant when Cork was the hub of a huge 18th-century export trade in Irish salted beef. Or you could play it safe with their Catch of the Day featuring the freshest of fish from the market stalls below.
Who are we?
If you are what you eat, then Food and Drink in Ireland (published by the Royal Irish Academy, €25) gives a fascinating insight into who we have been on this island all the way from the early Mesolithic food gatherers through to 20th-century beef eaters and beyond. Looking at food through the various lenses of history, archaeology and sociology, this new collection of multidisciplinary essays is the most comprehensive academic study of the collection, cultivation, consumption and culture of food and drink in Ireland ever published. Beautifully presented and a fascinating read. See ria.ie.