The launch of the programme for the third Galway Food Festival was held on Monday in one of my favourite Galway hang out spots, the lovely House Hotel. The late lamented Gerry Gavin had launched the first festival programme and the delightful Máirín Uí Chomáin the second. This year Ronan Byrne (aka The Friendly Farmer) did the honours beautifully. In a break with convention, they had not sought out a food celebrity, but in keeping with the theme of the festival, 'Food Traditions', a man of the land was called for. JP McMahon, festival chairperson, and Heather Flaherty also spoke at the launch.
Celebrating Galway as a food destination, the festival strives to highlight the importance of food provenance, sustainability, and healthy eating, and many of the great and the good of the Galway food scene were present. Chefs, producers, restauranteurs, food educators, and… me! One of the best things about the launch being in The House Hotel was that the nibbles were delicious — duck spring rolls and little cones of fish and chips with tartare sauce, they have someone hidden in the kitchen who makes the most delectable chutney and pickles. A huge amount of organising goes into the festival, with the committee members and many others giving freely of their time and expertise to make it a success. With more than 90 restaurants, food outlets, and producers participating at more than 70 individual events, it is not a task for the faint hearted.
Building on the past two successful years, this year the festival is bigger and better, running for five days from Thursday April 17 to Monday April 21. I am now used to building my Easter bank holiday weekend around it and these are my 'must sees' from the latest programme of events.
The festival kicks off on Thursday with the launch by noted restauranteur Oliver Dunne. Afterwards you can enjoy a cocktail demo at the House Hotel or a wine tasting at Woodberry's — or both if you have the inclination.
Good Friday sees the first day in the demo tent, including skilful demonstrations like seaweed with Sally McKenna, and of course plenty of fish for the day that's in it. The regular Friday Moycullen Market is also joining in the festival fun, so drop down for a visit if you are in the area between 1pm and 6pm. Sheena from Kai is running a very special food tour on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday, starting in the Galway Market and sampling from shops and stalls as you go with the tour ending in Kai Restaurant, well worth tagging along with.
Saturday is jam packed with events, including a very interesting talk on 'Women in the Industry' in the Mick Lally (Druid) Theatre, lunchtime comedy in The Ruby Room at The King’s Head, vegetable carving in Thai Garden, and a Venetian street food showcase in Il Vicolo. Every interest is catered for, from beer matching to health food. Possibly the most exciting event of the weekend takes place in 37West on Saturday night when the team from Sauvage in Berlin, the celebrated paleo fine dining restaurant, will move into their kitchen and a prepare a spectacular five course meal.
Saturday also sees the now annual revival of the Woodquay Market, the roots of the which go right back to the early 1800s. Historically, this was a real country market with eggs and butter, fresh and smoked fish, simple soda bread, good salty butter, double cream, marmalade, fat blue duck eggs, bacon, and crumbly black pudding. Strawberries and tomatoes, cabbages and apples followed in their seasonal progression, with Irish cheeses and potatoes early and late. It is lovely to see it revived even if it is only for one or two days a year. Enjoy it while you can. We will however be missing out on the open sewers, the stench of unwashed bodies, and street urchins that would have featured in the original, but that is probably a good thing.
On Sunday there are lots more demos, talks, and tastings and an egg hunt for the small people with Mr Waffle's Easter Egg Hunt to the Millennium Children’s Park. Hunting for the orange Easter eggs was a big hit last year and the children are already clamouring to go. There are two open air markets, the Galway Market and the Festival Village Market, to take a stroll through, so hopefully the weather will be kind. Then munch your way through bank holiday Monday, have the popular free range pig-on-a-spit down the West, with Massimo, Kai, and pints of excellent Galway Hooker beer. Aniar is tasting the wild foods of the west. But the best event is kept till last with Galway Food Festival Table Quiz - can you unseat last year’s winners from The Kitchen with your culinary knowledge? Unlikely, but we'll give it a shot anyway.
Be sure to like the 'Galway Food Festival' Facebook page to get all the latest news, events, and details of any changes in the programme, or follow on Twitter @GalwayFood #GFF2014.