All roads led to Donegal this weekend for ‘A Taste of Donegal’ Food Festival. It is a three day celebration of great food and drink with exhibitor stands, celebrity chef demonstrations, tutored wine and beer tasting and much more. For many of us in the tourism industry, this event is the highlight of our social calendar. It’s a time to celebrate the end of a great summer season and to catch up with our friends and colleagues. It’s a time for locals and visitors to mingle together and share the common bond that is food and fun.
I recall the first Donegal Food Festival, which was held seven years ago. Despite the wind and rain, even then it was deemed a ‘Taste of Success’ in terms of the diligence and resilience of the committee and the way in which everyone worked so well together. Each year, this event has gone from strength to strength. Well over 20,000 people attended ‘A Taste of Donegal’ over the weekend and everyone left with a smile on their face and many carrying a bag of foodie goodies to share at home.
The Donegal Food Festival is a showcase of the character and characters of Ireland. It features artisan producers who travel from near and far to present and sell their goods. Friendships have been forged over the years and it was great to see familiar faces such as the Man of Aran, Mr O Muineachain and Mr Kelly from Newport to name but a few. Local Food Blogger and Head Chef, Zach Gallagher was at his multi-tasking best, from creating the biggest burger ever seen in the North West to tweeting for his Irish Food Guide.
The food on offer was truly fabulous. I sampled spanking fresh, ice cold Wild Atlantic Oysters from Sligo, and a delicious Thai style prawn and monkfish skewer from the Fish Shop in Mountcharles. It was fun trying the multi-flavoured award winning Mc Gettigan sausages – from chocolate and orange to mango and curry. Local man Peter Thomas presented his serious selection of Irish cheeses – Bellingham Blue is world class and there was a great buzz about the goat cheese log with honey. The brilliant people from Ballymaloe were busy selling their relish and Keogh crisps were doing a roaring trade. Sitting with a Burrito in the sunshine overlooking Donegal Bay was a most memorable experience.
For local hotels and restaurants, ‘A Taste of Donegal’ is an opportunity to let our young chefs shine. The ‘Passion to Inspire’ is a cookery competition designed to showcase our culinary stars of the future. This year, our very own Danny Cavan received a gold medal for his Cuisine Art dishes of Oyster Bavarois and Trio of Hereford Beef. Well done also to Paul and James who secured silver medals.
The overall prize went to Rana from Chandpur Indian Restaurant in Donegal Town. Rana and Susan are a dynamic team and we wish them continued success.
Thanks to Paul, Samantha, Sheila, Declan, Jordan, Emmet, Carl, Odhran & Christina for looking after our stand and serving over 6,500 free pancakes. Over 1,000 Euro was raised for our chosen charities – The Irish Heart Foundation and the Motor Neurone Association.
Congratulations to Ernan, Mary and the hardworking Donegal Food Festival Committee who once again proved that great events happen as a result of people working together as a team. We are immensely proud that Donegal is now firmly on the map as a foodie destination. Here’s to ‘A Taste of Donegal’ and to the power of the people behind it.