Last Thursday the Salthill Hotel was a taste for the senses as McCambridge’s on Shop Street celebrated its eighth annual Food and Wine Fair. Proceeds raised on the evening all went to a local charity and national schools. The function room was a myriad of tasty treats, heart warming snacks, award winning artisan produce, sweet delicacies and rich wines from some 40 award winning food and wine producers, many of whome are from the immediate Galway area.
McCambridges was first established in 1925 by George Mc Cambridge who fled Belfast from the Black and tans. After working in Powells at the Four Corners for some time, George began leasing a building and selling products. That business grew from strength to strength and soon became one of Galway’s most prestigious food and wine stores.
As the business was handed down through the generations it saw great changes. It once had a pub which eventually led to Galway’s first off-licence. It began importing wine from France in 1969 and continues to do so today. The family business is now run by George’s grandchildren — Eoin is the managing director while Natalie runs the off-licence, Norma is the project manager.
They annually succumb to the desire to share their wonderful goods with their customers by holding a food and wine fair. Now in its eighth year running, the fair celebrates local, national and international products and has established itself as one of Galway’s most highly esteemed social events.
The atmosphere in the hotel reflected that of a Christmas party with the joyful buzz of people chatting and tasting food. Upon entry traditional musicians set the scene of a fun filled social evening. Attendees were given the chance of winning one of McCambridge’s renowned Christmas hampers filled with home-made goodies before entering the festive room.
Although the night began the Christmas season it also highlighted a very worthy charity ‘Hand in Hand’ Children’s cancer charity for the west. ‘Hand in Hand’ is a non profit organisation that provides support to families in the west of Ireland who are affected by childhood cancer. This amazing charity provides support to families and siblings with a sick child, cleaning and laundry services, as well as meal deliveries. The service gives families that precious time to tend to their sick son or daughter.
Aside from providing much needed funds to ‘Hand in Hand’, the night also supported local national schools which sold tickets. Schools such as Dominican College, St. Mary's College, Galway Educate Together, Scoil Iognáid, Gael Scoil Mhic Amhlaigh, and Coláiste Iognaid were the lucky sellers of the tasty food and wine fair tickets.
Although the event was for over 18s, it was a warm, friendly, environment for parents and families to come and socialise, with some of the finest home-made foods and wines, illustrating perfectly the range and choice that is available locally, negating the need for people to leave Galway to find food to satisfy even the most demanding of palates.
The producers all had warm welcomes and were delighted to have the public taste their hand crafted delicacies. By 6.30 the room was filled as people tasted the foods and wines and chatted to suppliers.
Among the stall holders were Irish cheese makers, farmers, cake bakers and even the French made an appearance with the finest pastries. There was a stand with a variety of cupcakes that varied from sweet to savoury. Some products on display were first produced in the 1800s.
There were nine wine exhibitors and 54 wines to sample. The aroma from the white wines was bursting with fruity flavours and the reds contained a rich full body. The fair has been hugely beneficial economically to suppliers and producers as one wine producer said “we did it three years ago and there was a noticeable effect and were hoping for that again”.
In a room adjacent to the hall the Christmas kick starter continued with a cookery demonstration. Máire Duff from Bord Bia took to the demo kitchen where she prepared and cooked a leg of lamb. The seasoned lamb with berry sauce was wafting around the room and the turkey alternative set the taste buds tingling. Gerry Talty from Spanish sea vegetables provided sea spaghetti which was cooked for the onlookers. Arun Kapil from Green Saffron cooked a turkey curry using the finest Indian spices. He showed how you can make an exciting St Stephen’s Day meal with the leftover turkey.
A kitchen demonstration also took place on the night with Ronan Reynolds from the award winning Ard Bia in Nimmo’s taking to the counter. Ard Bia make a range of tasty pumpkin seed bread, home-made fruity jams, along with many more tasty and nutritious treats.
Mc Cambridge’s had a pop up shop set up in the Salthill Hotel on the night displaying and selling some of its most famous and popular items.
Although the night was filled with exquisite and rich treats it also had healthy options. There was a vast array of sugar free fruit juices and granola cereals that are brilliant lunch box fillers, along with free-range turkeys and organic salmon.
All the treats, meats and wines were offered to the huge crowd and producers even gave a discount on their products for that night. Customers could choose the treats they wished to buy and arrange them into a hamper for collection another time.
The night was a huge success not only for the McCambridge family but also for the smaller producers and suppliers throughout the region. Some described the fair as “a way to get the produce to people and convince them to buy it ” through tastings of their delicacies. The night gave the newer producers a chance to make their mark on potential customers. Leaving the event one we were filled with Christmas cheer and excitment for the season ahead. Once again, the McCambridges were local heroes.