Galway Food Festival highlights

The launch of the programme for the fourth Galway Food Festival was held on Monday March 9 in one of Galway’s coolest new hangout spots, Bite Club. Celebrating Galway as a food destination, the festival strives to highlight the importance of food provenance and sustainability. Many of the great and the good of the Galway food scene were present — chefs, producers, restaurateurs, educators, and food writers. One of the best things about the launch being in Bite Club was the refreshments — spicy tacos, hot wings, and poitin slushies were the order of the day. It certainly made a difference to the usual smoked salmon on brown bread and a glass of pinot gris. 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. More than 60 food related events will take place in hotels, restaurants, cafes, and shops throughout Galway city and county during Easter weekend. Fifty shades of kale, the Twelve Apostles, Cava on the Corrib, and Easter-themed afternoon teas are just some of the fun activities planned.

The festival kicks off today (Thursday ) with the opening by noted restaurateur and Michelin Star chef, Derry Clarke of l’Ecrivain Dublin. Clarke will also begin the live cooking demonstrations, hosting the first demo on Friday in the festival tent, a good start to a packed programme.

Building on the past three successful years, this year the festival is busier than ever, running for five days from today to Monday. If you are building your Easter holiday around it, these are my 'must dos' for the weekend’s events.

An Taibhdhearc is the venue for the talks this year. Highlights including Douglas McMaster from zero waste restaurant Silo in Brighton, and a discussion on farming and livelihoods in the west. Drop in for a visit if you are in the area between 11am and 6pm.

Something you will not find in the programme is one of the big success stories from last year, Galway Food Tour around the market. Sheena Dignam started her food tours last year during the festival and has been going strong ever since. Running all five days and beginning at Kai on Sea Road, the tours will take in some of Galway’s culinary hot spots and market stalls including Danny’s Doughnuts, Sheridan’s Cheese, and An Cupán Tae. Sheena Dignam will guide you along the streets where you will meet artisan producers and sample their products. The Saturday and Sunday tours will include an unforgettable trip to the now famous Galway Market, and all days will include visits to award-winning restaurants and cafes. There is a maximum of 15 people per tour so booking is essential, just the thing if you have visitors from out of town. Times, prices, and tickets are available from Sheena Dignam on 086 7332885.

Another returning success from last year is the Taste Trail. Taking place on Saturday and Sunday from 2pm to 5pm, this gives everyone an opportunity to sample dishes from participating restaurants in the city, from casual to fine dining, for a very special price. Load up your pockets with change and explore what is on offer. Last year the clear winners were The Kitchen with a fennel spiced pasty, and lovely crab toast at The Malt House. This year I aim to head further afield and see what The Corrib Tearooms, Maxwell’s, and McSwiggan’s have on offer, keep an eye out for the Taste Trail icon in restaurant, cafe, and shop windows.

Also on Saturday a fringe festival will spring up in Loam with a panel discussion for Galway’s leading women in food. The afternoon will focus on four women who work with, educate, or write about food, and how all their journeys have led them to Galway. The panel are journalist and Food Guild writer, Barbara Collins; Michelle Crehan of The Kitchen at the Museum; head of the Department of Hotel & Tourism Management at GMIT, Cait Noone; and Gill Carroll, businesswoman, creator, and owner of 37 West. Hosted by Jess Murphy, this free event will start at 4pm. It is not listed so for more information follow Kai on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram.

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Perfectly placed on that strip of Spanish Arch that is populated by restaurants overlooking the Corrib, the white tents that spring up for the Festival Village offer great variety every year, and this year is no exception. Staffed almost entirely by Thai natives, the terrace at Thai Garden is transformed into the most popular food stall of the village, catering for close to 1,000 happy diners in a day last year. With loads of other local favourites to choose from, Mr Waffle, Yum Tree Kitchen, and cheeky chappies The Dough Bros, all doing a brisk trade, there is no need to go hungry. Do not forget to bring a bag to stock up on all your granola, vinegar, and preserves needs also.

Saturday also sees the now annual revival of the Woodquay Market, the roots of which go right back to the early 1800s when potatoes, eggs, and butter were sold there. Historically, this was a real country market with fresh and smoked fish, simple soda bread, good salty butter, double cream, marmalade, fat blue duck eggs, bacon, and crumbly black pudding. Strawberries, 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 be missing out on the open sewers and street urchins that would have featured in the original. A great pity that. There are three open air markets to take a stroll through so hopefully the weather will again be kind.

On Sunday there are lots more demos, tastings, and a plethora of egg hunts for the small people, my regular is the Mr Waffle's Easter egg hunt to Millennium Park. Hunting for the orange Easter eggs was a big hit last year and the children are already clamouring to go.

Munch your way through Bank Holiday Monday, have the popular free range pig on a spit down the West with Massimo, and Aniar is tasting the wild foods of the west. But the best event is kept till last with the Galway Food Festival table quiz, where the team from Kai were last year’s winners. Can you unseat them with your culinary knowledge? Unlikely, but give it a shot anyway.

Like Galway Food Festival on Facebook to get all the latest news, events, and details of any changes in the programme,

or follow on @GalwayFood

and #GFF2015 on Twitter.

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