I was very much looking forward to my friend’s wedding in Cork. Then she revealed that on the weekend of the wedding, just a few miles away, a food festival would be taking place. A FOOD FESTIVAL! Wonderful.
I was not in the best of shape, having spent most of Friday night lost in the woods on the way back to our house (yes, really, we were renting a cottage in a 10.5 acre private wood on a private island), but I bounded in regardless. West Cork has a terrific food reputation, and what I had seen already at the wedding really whet my appetite.
I was surprised to see a big screen with the pope saying mass overseeing proceedings. It whisked me back to Pope Jaun Paul’s visit in 1979 (I think), when the country ground to a halt. I was but a nipper but I remember it so well, mainly because my Dad was glimpsed briefly on TV as he attended. Then I realised that they were just waiting for the All Ireland Gaelic Football Final to start on TV as Cork were playing. Ah, I just love Ireland sometimes. It can be a beautifully irreverent place.
The festival itself was charming, featuring predominantly independent small artisan producers doing interesting things. That for me, is the beauty of Ireland, we really haven’t succumbed to the chains that much, individuality is prized, although sadly, I can see the out-of-a-box high street slowly creeping in.
Food highlights at the festival were:
Rebel Chilli make a variety of chilli sauces, mainly Mexican based and authentic, as one half of Rebel Chilli is Mexican. Others have Thai influences to appeal to the Irish palate (we do love Thai it seems!).
I bought these great little lemon cucumbers from one stall. With a thicker skin than normal, and a slightly acidulated skin, they were a find. Sourced originally from new Mexico, these are popular in childerns lunch boxes, where they eat them like an egg (or kiwi, I guess). I like them sliced on their own in a salad. I would like to try pickling them too.
Slightly terrified free range chickens kept these kids entertained while they waited for their match. I would imagine most of these kids are very familiar with them, being country types like myself, but it’s a good thing, nonetheless.
Many of you will be familiar with Gubbeen, and mainly their cheeses which are widley available in good cheese shops in the UK. They also have terrific pork products. I bought a hock, some bacon, and some of this terrific enormous black pudding (incidentally not made by them but by a local artisan supplier).
This chap makes fabulous raspberry vinegar and dressing, using local raspberries. Sadly, it’s only available in West Cork at the moment, but I hope that this will change soon.
Brown Envelope Seeds sell a great range of heirloom and local seeds. These are available online too. I bought a few packets of seeds with interesting flowers for adding to my salads etc. next year. I really must continue my edible flowers series.
Kalbo’s Café sold a great range of traditional and popular cakes, like coffee cake, a favourite in Ireland. They also sold a lifesaving gubbeen bacon and egg bap. How could I refuse post-wedding?! They have a café in Skibbereen too which I hear is worth checking out.
One clever guy had made a woodfired oven on wheels, and was making homemade pita with hummus and pizza.
Looks good, doesn’t it? Bear in mind, this is a small regional town. Entry is only €5 and you’re entered into a raffle at that. Something for them to be very proud of, I think.