Yesterday, when I wrote about the Ballymaloe Lit Fest, I mentioned that I was lucky. It goes even further than that. In my small home town, curved along a small slice of the Atlantic and in the shelter of the Comeragh mountains, we have all kinds of wonderful too, and ample reasons to return.
I never thought that I would be having a drink with Fergus Henderson in the pub where I used to try to under age drink when I was 16, but there you go. You never know what life will throw at you.
Waterford Festival of Food has just whizzed by. One of the rare festivals that I never miss, it is always superb, combining the best of community activities, local producers and chefs with some of the best food talent around. Last year Angela Hartnett cooked at The Tannery, and this year, it was the turn of FergusStock with Fergus Henderson.
120 were in attendance and 120 were on the waiting list for a superb feast. We started with the now famous bone marrow with sourdough toast and parsley salad, followed by a terrific ox heart and beetroot salad, with the ox heart sliced thin and slightly crisped. It was so tender and full flavoured.
Whole roast brill was next, tender and buttery before the show stopper, a half pot roast pigs head (a marvellous selection of tastes and textures all shielded by the best crispy skin). St John’s famous rarebit was next (I love to pop into the bar for one with a glass of wine), finishing with a super rich chocolate ice cream that had so much chocolate in it, it didn’t dare to melt when left untouched while I digested the preceding courses.
Not much could top this, but then the next day there was Lunch with the Chefs at Lismore Castle where some of Ireland’s best chefs told their stories in conversation with John McKenna & Catherine Cleary. The food was served by Eunice Power (who I cooked with at our pop up at the festival last year), and was a terrific display of local produce (quinoa excluded!) and great cooking. I grew up near that castle – well 20 miles away – and it was such a treat to eat in there.
There was so much more on, local foraging walks, a seaweed seminar, an enormous farmers and producers market on the Sunday morning, food trails (I did a food trail on Friday night which descended speedily into a singing contest but was all good fun and the best insight into Irish culture for any tourist that wants to see the real Ireland).
The only downside is that it is too easy to get completely carried away as I always do, and by Monday I had had little sleep, too much wine, and lots of fun. I needed a few days to recover.
I am excited to see how they will build on it next year, and am very proud that this all happens on my home turf. One for your diaries: the Waterford Festival of Food.
You can see more photos of the festival on the Official Photographers website: David Clynch Photography.