FRIDAY FOOD FACT – Taste of West Cork Food Festival

This weekend sees summer coming to a close for another year. But you may  yet want to wait a while before packing up the barbecue gear – we’ve seen some weather reports for next week which forecast an Indian summer,  with soaring temperatures predicted.  Wouldn’t you just know it, the sun comes out when the kids have gone back to school! Good news though for the folk down in West Cork. The region is about to celebrate it’s annual  Taste of West Cork Food Festival, from 4th to 13th September. Chair Person and local solicitor Helen Collins says in her welcome address in the progamme that guests are ‘a thousand times welcome to A Taste of West Cork. Please come and experience the wonderful West Cork journey.’.  And this is one journey you will enjoy – taking place as it does right in the heart of the Wild Atlantic Way. The ocean is never far away in West Cork. 

Over the years, this fesitval has grown  to this latest ten day extravaganza celebrating all that’s good in this pioneering area for artisan food production. In 2015, a grand total of 32 towns and villages and eight islands will be host to festival events.  We love a good local food journey! So we couldn’t help but dip into the programme to see what’s on offer. And we have to say,  it’s very exciting indeed.

Proceedings kick off with a magnificent pre-festival seven course Gala Dinner at a beachside hotel on stunning Inchydoney island.  All the produce of West Cork will be on show on the evening of Thursday 3rd September. Booking absolutely essential. Fish lovers can partake in a  Seafood Workshop,  a free event given by Bord Iascaigh Mhara, Clonakilty, on 4th September.  Chlidren’s Bee Keeping, hosted by Trevor Danaan, a certified bee keeper and owner of 12 hives at the tender age of 14, takes place on 8th September, booking essential. During the festival, there will be the regular weekly farmer’s markets at  Skibbereen, Clonakilty, Bandon, Bantry  and Schull.

On Saturday 5th September at 10.30am, Bandon Farmer’s Market is the place to enjoy tea and home made buns before setting out on  the Historic Market Locations walking tour of the town, with  leading local archeologist Clare McCutcheon, followed by a visit to the town’s craft butchers for a tasting of quality Irish meats. Needless to say, lunches, dinners and all sorts of eating opportunites are peppered throughout the progamme, taking place in the famous restaurants, bars and cafes of West Cork. There’s opportunty to enjoy a magical night time kayak on Lough Hyne, where natural bio-luminesence in the water this time of year is known as ‘dripping diamonds’. You can go West Cork whale watching from Baltiimore harbour, hoping to spot giant Fin Whales which come to the Atlantic waters of West Cork in September. You might also see dolphins and basking sharks. There’s a West Cork Islands boat tour to enjoy, among other outdoor events and walks.

Needless to say, West Cork is rich in Good Food Ireland members, some of whom are hosting events.  And lo and behold, we’ve spotted a few famous Good Food Ireland faces from further afield,  making the trip down west for the occasion. Not surprising – who wouldn’t want to take in the magnificent scenery and exuberant atmosphere of a region that has driven local food production for the last few decades?

Here’s our run down of West Cork members and visiting members you can expect to bump into over the festival duration:

Friday 4th September sees award winning ‘ 12 mile menu’ chef Kevin Aherne, from Sage Restaurant in Midleton, travel from East to West,  to be set a whole new ingredients challenge!  Kevin will be cooking a ‘12 Yard Menu at Glebe Gardens’,  using ingredients from the organic gardens here. 7.30pm, €55 per person, wines pairings included, booking essential 028 20579

Ruth Healy, of Urru Culinary Store Bandon,   former Good Food Ireland Food Shop of the Year,  hosts a Rare Cookery Book Workshop on Saturday 5th September, 4.30pm. €5.00 per person, booking essential.

Sunday 6th September, Siobhan O’Callaghan of award winning Good Food Ireland Cafe of the Year Kalbos in Skibbereen, hosts Cork foodwriter and guest chef Joe McNamee, in her new venture at Uillinn Arts Centre, Skibbereen. 7pm,  €35.00 booking essential

Scannell’s Bar Clonakilty hosts a 10 Mile Meal, on Monday 7th September at 8pm. All food sourced within a ten mile radius of Clonakilty. €30, booking essential.

Down on the farm with Alan and Valerie Kingston at Glenilen on Tuesday 8th September. A morning tour of farm and dairy production takes place at 11am €3.50 per person, booking essential

Battle for ‘Best in the West’ at Richy’s R Cafe and Restaurant, Clonakilty, with two guests chefs battling it out for the best three course menu on the night. Dinner guests will vote after eating their creations! Tuesday 8th September 7pm €50.00, booking essential.

On Tuesday 8th September, Generations  is a Slow Food West Cork Event, featuring three iconic food producers, including Milleens Cheese. 11-12.30pm, €12, Riverside Cafe Skibbereen, booking essential.

A fantastic opportunity to meet legendary Good Food Ireland producer Anthony Creswell of Ummera Smokehouse, Timoleague, on Wednesday 9th September. A free morning visit to the smokehouse, where the reputation for fine smoked produce has been built over forty years. Free event.  Call 023 884 6644 or 087 202 7227 for more info and booking.

West Cork Lakeside Dinner in the company of the folk from Toonsbridge Dairy and others, to dine, sing and chat. Gougane Barra Hotel, Ballingeary Wednesday 9th September,  7pm €40.00 booking essential 026 47609.

Michelin Star cooking and dining comes to West Cork for one night only on Thursday 10th September, when Aniar owner/Head Chef Jp McMahon gets away from Galway,   to cook in the inimitable style which has Ireland’s food critics raving. Venue is The Church Restaurant, Skibbereen. Drinks reception 7.30pm followed by dinner, €50.00 per person. Booking essential 028 23625

Derry Clarke of Michelin starred L’Ecrivain Restaurant in Dublin,  makes his way to the magical island of Sherkin, just off Baltimore, on Saturday 12th September. Derry will be shedding the formality of restaurant cooking for the day, turning his hand to casual dining,  using local produce to cook up a stormer of a barbecue,  in an annual fund raising event in aid of the RNLI Baltimore Lifeboat Station. From 1-5pm on the island, where lots of fun always happens!  €20 per head, book on  028 20116. Regular ferries from Baltimore harbour.

The festival concludes on Sunday 13th September with a Grand Festival Finale Sunday Street Market from 12-4pm in Main Street Skibbereen. It’s always a fantastic atmosphere and there will be music to dance to and lots of stalls to browse.

We hope you’ll catch a few of our foodie friends in action over the festival period. Get the full programme on  Festival supported by local sponsors, with Failte Ireland and Bord Bia.