Top Autumnal Irish Food Festivals

Student chef Liadan Sheehy, at the launch of the Dingle Food Festival, which takes place from October 3 5. Front row, from left, Jerry Kennedy, butcher; Jim McCarthy, restauranteur; Niall O Conchuir, chef; Derek O’Connor, veg grower; back row, Clevlio Romirea, fisherman; Mark Murphy, Jean Marie Vaireaux, Martin Bealin, Jill Burton, all chefs; Timmy Brick, milkman; Thomas Kavanagh, bee keeper. Photo: Don MacMonagle

At the tastiest launch ever for the 8th Savour Kilkenny Food Festival 2014 (24th 27th October) were Derbhilia Coogan, the newly signed Kilkenny model with John Casablancas Model Management in Canada, Kilkenny Rose, Vera McGrath and Miss Kilkenny Sarah Jan

In fact, you could roll along gently for the next few weeks visiting different parts of the country each weekend, be it along the newly declared Wild Atlantic Way, via the Gourmet Capital of Ireland Kinsale, Fungi the dolphin in Dingle, the City of the Tribes, or bask in the heritage of the former medieval capital of Ireland Kilkenny. On your travels, you will meet new and long standing food producers and just generally encounter people with a common interest in food, wine and conviviality. I can promise you that with some mouth watering morsels, a glass or three of wine and a good bit of crack, you will go home revitalized.

The incredible 10th Kinsale Arts Festival is currently running until September 28, incorporating Food Words, in both a humorous and more serious light, including a discussion, Banter with Sully of Cully Sully and Kieran Murphy of Murphy’s Ice Cream. The Domestic Godless trio of artists,Canada Goose Jackets
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canadagoose2015 also appearing at Kinsale Arts Week, operate with an irreverent disregard for current fashions and culinary trends. So think of Sea Urchin Pot Noodle, Foot Mouth Terrine at their Canaliculus Purgamentorum installation at O’Herlihy’s Townhouse until Wednesday. The Galway Oyster Festival was started in September 1954 by Brian Collins, who was the then Manager of the Great Southern Hotel on Eyre Square (now Hotel Meyrick), with an attendance of only 34 guests feasting on dozens of oysters.

Since then, the festival has welcomed over half a million visitors, who have consumed more than 3m oysters, washed down with Champagne and stout whilst listening to some of the best musicians in Ireland. It has played host to over 300 international contenders vying to take honours in the World Oyster Opening Championship. Throughout the three day annual festival, a host of great events will take place including a seafood trail in the city’s restaurants and ‘oyster hot spots’ in local bars. The National Oyster Opening Championships take place on Friday night, before the Oyster Olympics on Saturday. The ‘food village’ will gather at the Festival Marquee with an intimate selection of Galway restaurants serving locally sourced ingredients and seafood. Revellers can enjoy the Masquerade Mardi Gras, which kicks off at 8pm on Saturday night and on Sunday, Feile Na Mara, for all the family, will be happening in the Festival Village. It kicks off on Friday evening with an official opening and ‘An Artisan Affair’ at the Riverside Park Hotel. On Saturday there will be daytime and evening Taste Trails around the town as well as cookery demos. The young folk are well catered for here too with a fancy dress at the GAA clubhouse, followed by a puppet show at the Briery Gap and a schools cook off on the Square on Sunday at 3.30pm. On Sunday, if last year is anything to go by, their Monster Outdoor Market on the Square will be ‘savage’. This year’s festival will kick off with the first ever Dingle Culinary Pentathlon, which will see professional culinary schools from all over the country test their athletic and cookery skills to the limit. To win this cook off, students will have to race through the town, picking up a ‘blind’ basket of ingredients en route, that they will then use to create a two course lunch in under an hour, on which the results will then be judged. To celebrate the festival’s 8th anniversary, the annual Taste Trail will now take in 80 establishments around the town; Derry Clarke, who has created the ultimate Dingle Pie, will be raising funds for charity at Liam O’Neill’s art gallery, while chilled Cromane oysters will be served at Lord Baker’s, Dingle’s oldest pub.

Free demos and workshops include a mix of local and national chefs such as Martin Bealin of Dingle’s Global Village restaurant, which won Best Emerging Irish Cuisine at the RAI awards and Neven Maguire, voted the Best Chef in Ireland, who will make his first visit to the festival this autumn. There will also be street buskers, food art installations, and a large craft beer and cider event at An Canteen restaurant. The weekend will also be choc a bloc with fun, free activities for children; including falconry, puppet shows, honey and chocolate making demos, culinary tales in the park, and pizza making on the Big Blue Bus. A huge artisan food and wine market runs throughout the town, which also adds greatly to the festival atmosphere and fun, as well as useful information and lovely goodies to buy and take home.

The Festival also plays host to the final judging and presentation of the 7th annual Blas Na hEireann Awards, the ultimate accolade for Irish producers. With increased entry levels again this year, there will be much celebrating by the producers who win gold, silver and bronze medals in over 80 food and drink categories. It has been running for an incredible 38 years and people meet up with many old friends at each event. The official opening and Champagne Reception this year is followed by A Taste of West Cork Dining Experience, which includes a five course menu in member restaurants around the town. Saturday is always a fantastic day with the Mad Hatter’s Taste of Kinsale kicking off at 11.30 am with a sparkling reception, followed by an Alice in Wonderland themed foodie walking tour of four tasting venues, where the restaurants set up the most amazing food and wine stations. You have to learn to pace yourself for this event. Over the years, it is always easy to pick out the first timers who overindulge at the first venue and fall well before the final fence! The hats worn by the crowd are almost as amazing as the food it’s just a fantastic fun day.

That leads us on to the October bank holiday weekend, when the Savour Kilkenny Festival of Food will be kicking off on October 24 and running until October 27. In association with Special Olympics Leinster, there will be cookery demos by chefs from top cookery schools, including Rory O’Connell from Ballymaloe, Kevin Dundon of Dunbrody, and the No Salt Chef, Brian McDermott, from Donegal. John The Restaurant Healy will be master of ceremonies for a fun cook off between three of Ireland’s food critics. The Chef’s Table will be back, where chefs like Cormac Rowe and Ken Harker of Mount Juliet, plus Stephen Gibson of Dublin’s popular Pichet restaurant will share recipes and tricks of the trade.

Festival nights can be taken up with gourmet diners including a Black White Masquerade Dinner at the Michelin starred Lady Helen Restaurant at Mount Juliet on Thursday, October 23, where diners will enjoy a 10 course tasting menu with a twist. Guests are asked to wear black and white and a colourful mask. Tickets cost 75, excluding wine. Pascal Rossignol of Le Caveau has chosen the wines, which he will introduce on the night. Tickets cost 55, excluding wine.

Nearby at the City Bar Grill at the Kilkenny Hibernian Hotel, they will be paying tribute to the cow for giving us cheese, milk, ice cream, yoghurt, roast beef, fillet steak, burgers and more, with a There’s Something About Dairy, which is three course ‘udderly’ fabulous menu at 29.95, excluding wine.