The launch of the programme for the second Galway Food Festival took place on Monday March 11 upstairs at McCambridge’s. The lovely Máirín Uí Chomáin, in a particularly elegant outfit and a covetable pair of shiny, fire-engine-red shoes, did the honours beautifully. As an author, the chairperson of Irish Food Writers Guild, and a true Connemara woman, she was perfect for the job. JP McMahon, festival chairperson, also spoke at the launch, in particular speaking warmly of the late lamented Gerry Galvin, who had launched the festival last year. A man who will be sadly missed.
The festival is bigger and better this year, running for five days from Thursday March 28 to Monday April 1 during the Easter Bank Holiday weekend, and I for one am certainly looking forward to it. Celebrating Galway as a food destination, the festival this year aims to highlight the importance of food provenance, sustainability, and healthy eating. Many of the great and the good of the Galway food scene were present at the event. Chefs, producers, restaurateurs, food educators, and… me! One of the best things about the launch being in McCambridge’s was that the nibbles were very nice indeed with chef Heather O’Flaherty and her team working hard behind the scenes. A huge amount of work goes into organising the festival with the committee members and many others giving freely of their time and expertise to make it a success. With some 70 restaurants, food outlets, and producers participating at more than 70 individual events, it must at times have been like an exercise in herding cats.
These are my top picks from the programme of events, but there are actually so many things to go to that without having the power to clone oneself you are going to have to choose carefully. On Thursday Love2cook is holding ‘The Last Supper – Tastes from Jerusalem’ an Ottolenghi inspired meal in St Jude’s, Salthill. However there is also a cocktail demo in the House Hotel, and a meet the wine maker with a five course feast in Tom Sheridan's. This is when the cloning would come in handy.
Good Friday sees the first day in the demo tent, including skilful demonstrations in baking, wild food and, of course, fish, for the day that's in it. I'm interested mostly to go to 'Using the Whole Hen' with Jess Murphy and JP Mc Mahon… dying to see what they do with the beak! The Great Debate on the controversial Galway Bay fish farm is also a must attend in my book that day. The regular Friday Moycullen Market is also joining in the festival fun, well worth a visit if you are in the area between 1pm and 6pm.
Saturday is jam packed… a Mad Hatters Tea Party in the Salthill Hotel, Fun Cooking for Kids with Jacinta Dalton and Cormac Handy from The Foodie Forum, and Thomas Woodberry's Pop-Up Wine Bar ‘For One Night Only!’ Every interest is catered for, from beer matching to health food. Saturday also sees the revival of the Woodquay Market, the roots of the which go right back to the early 1800s when mainly potatoes, eggs, and butter were sold there, and sometimes turf and materials for thatching houses. Imagine a real country market with fresh and smoked fish, simple soda bread, good salty butter, double cream, marmalade, fat blue duck eggs, bacon, crumbly black pudding, the seasons of strawberries and tomatoes, cabbages and apples following in their natural progressions, and always Irish cheeses and potatoes early and late. Now we can all enjoy it, however we will be missing out on the open sewers, stench of unwashed bodies, and street urchins that would have featured in the original, but that is probably a good thing.
Comedian and Come Dine With Me winner Danny Dowling is in The Ruby Room at The King’s Head on Sunday. There are lots more demos, talks, and tastings and a choice of egg hunts for the small people. Mr Waffle's Easter egg hunt to Millennium Park, hunting for the orange Easter eggs, or at The Twelve in Barna. Two open air markets, the Galway Market and 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 and Kai. The Dáil Bar has mussels and crusty bread, a glass of wine, and live music. But the best is last with Galway Food Festival table quiz — can you unseat last year’s winners from The Kitchen with your culinary knowledge? Unlikely, but let's give it a shot anyway.
Be sure to like the Facebook page 'Galway Food Festival' to get all the latest news, events, and details of any changes in the programme, or follow on Twitter @GalwayFood #GalwayFood2013