More than chocolate was on offer for the estimated 78,000 visitors who satisfied their culinary appetite at the fourth Galway Food Festival over the Easter weekend.
With a 10 per cent increase on 2014, this year’s five-day gastronomy celebration featured a programme of 100 food-based events, food markets, emotive food and farming talks, cookery demos, county food tours, city taste trails and movies which ran throughout the city and county.
Including the first food tour to the Aran Islands, the event was helped by the beautiful spring sunshine, helping to attract visitors from all over the country and overseas.
Food writers John and Sally McKenna, who have named Galway the culinary capital of Ireland and the Wild Atlantic Way, said if the Government was serious about growing tourist numbers from 7.5 million to 10 million, the Galway Food Festival was the ideal case study to help drive such growth.
“It shows exactly how such tourism growth can be achieved by cooking and serving local Irish food, showcasing innovative food events, satisfying visitors’ diverse culinary appetites, keeping them in the city and surrounding countryside, all the while showcasing the best of produce that can be sourced on the Wild Atlantic Way and in the rich Galway and Connemara countryside.”
Artisans sell out
Artisan food producers and stall holders at the Galway Food Festival village at the Spanish Arch, the revitalised Woodquay market, along with the weekly Galway and Moycullen Farmers’ Markets reported increases in attendance and sales.
Ronan Byrne of the Friendly Farmer, Athenry, had sold out of its ‘Savage Sausage Sandwich’ early on Saturday afternoon.
“We were confident we planned well for an increase in customers this year. We worked into the early hours of Sunday morning to make sure we had plenty stock prepared for Easter Sunday, such has been the increase in visitor numbers this year.”
Galway Food Festival chairperson, Heather Flaherty, says the attendances solidify the importance of this event in the food tourism calendar.
“ We’re exceptionally proud of the strong and growing food community here and the Galway food festival allows the hard working, passionate people involved in our food industry to showcase and celebrate their work. The festival celebrates the diverse, evolving culinary landscape that we have in Galway and on the Wild Atlantic Way.”
Tour to Aran
The first food tour to the Aran Islands and the Aran Islands Goats Cheese Farm was sold out weeks in advance of the Galway food festival as were the food tours to south county Galway and the Galway Hooker Brewery.
Gabriel Faherty, formerly a fisherman and now herding 84 goats on Inis Mór for his growing goat’s cheese business, participated in the relaunched Woodquay Market for the second year. “We were sold out by 3pm Saturday, such was the footfall in Galway city, and the food tour was a huge success also.”
While queues were visible daily over the five days at each of the food markets, restaurants and cafes indicate that the festival is driving increased footfall.
The Galway city taste trail was another success with more than 100 restaurants, food outlets and food producers from the city and county involved.
Galway Food Festival director, JP McMahon, says his three restaurants, Michelin star restaurant Aniar, Cava Bodega, and Eat Galway were booked to maximum capacity.
“There is a great sense in Galway city and from food producers throughout the county that we have arrived at the place we have sought to get to, making Galway’s culinary landscape shine, ” he says.
Martine Mc Donagh of one of Galway’s oldest family businesses and fish restaurants on Quay Street, reported a 15 per cent increase at Martine’s wine bar and restaurant.
TV and Michelin Star chef Derry Clarke opened the festival’s Made in Galway Food Demo Theatre on Good Friday using Galway seafood ingredients and his newly launched grazerfield pudding products from his kitchen.
Twenty demonstrations took place featuring chefs from the world’s first paleo restaurant, Sauvage in Berlin,’ 50 Shades of Kale’ by The Malt House, and cooking with seaweed by the Twelve in Barna.
Key event for tourism
Festival chairperson Heather Flaherty says authentic, quality Irish food experiences are increasingly important to visitors, and an opportunity for tourists to connect with Ireland's and Galway's food culture.
“Galway has long been recognised for the vibrancy of its arts and culture scene, the warmth of its people, and the beauty of its landscape and seascape. Now visitors are coming for the diverse high quality food and drink product.”
GMIT’s head of the tourism and culinary arts school Cáit Noone says the festival provides a platform for local and regional food producers, restaurateurs, hoteliers, tourism operators and culinary professionals to collaborate and demonstrate an emerging food culture that captures the best of the west.
“No one person or business represents the festival, it's a collective of people with knowledge and skills who all have a passion for everything great about Galway.
“The success of this year’s Galway Food Festival copperfastens this five day festival as a key event on the food tourism calendar in Galway and on the Wild Atlantic Way’s calendar. It’s now a crucial event in the opening of the annual tourist season.”
Galway Food Fupport was supported by the Galway city and county councils, Galway LEO, Made in Galway, Fáilte Ireland, and sponsors Pallas Foods, Bunzl, Western Hygiene, Galway Coffee Company, La Rousse Foods, Thomas Woodberry’s Wine Merchants, the City Bin Company, and a host of loyal friend sponsors.