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Donegal Town & surrounds should target ‘Foodie Destination’ title for 2017

Deirdre’s Diary

Food Festival Harvey's Point Team

The Foodie Destinations initiative was formed as part of the Irish Restaurant Awards 2014 but proved to be so popular it became its own entity in 2015. Its aim is to celebrate Ireland’s unique and wonderful food offerings and to encourage local food tourism initiatives across the country. The Burren won the prestigious award last year and currently there are 10 locations shortlisted and the 2016 winner will be revealed in the coming weeks.

The rich landscape of the culinary scene in and around Donegal Town was further highlighted at the 2016 ‘A Taste of Donegal’ Food Festival. In its eighth year, this event has become one of the most loved and admired food festivals on the island of Ireland.

‘A Taste of Donegal’ is a three-day celebration of great food and drink, a gathering of the top hotels, restaurants and food and drink providers in the region, each presenting an impressive showcase for their products. This year, the Food Festival attracted up to 30,000 people and it is widely accepted that it was the biggest and best ever. With over 120 exhibitors participating throughout the weekend, visitors could taste and purchase some of the finest food and drink available from all over the country. A highlight of the festival was the high profile demonstrations by celebrity chefs such as Neven Maguire, Kevin Dundon, Catherine Fulvio, Joe Shannon, Gary O’Hanlon, Paul Kelly, Shane Smith, Chris Sandford, Maire Dufficy, Brian Mc Dermott, Martin Anderson and Anthony Armstrong. There were also demonstrations by Zach Gallagher of the Irish Food Guide and Colin Mc Kee, ‘Donegal’s Best Chef’ award winner.

Donegal Food Festival 2016Donegal Town was blessed with glorious weather over the three days. The pier was transformed into a beautiful tented village with a dramatic backdrop of Donegal Bay and The Bluestack Mountains. It was a happy sight to see locals, tourists and traders smiling in the sunshine as they mingled together, sampling the culinary delights of Donegal and beyond. The party atmosphere was enhanced with performances by ‘Ireland’s Dean Martin’- Adrian Cullen, singing chefs, roving clowns, street entertainers and fabulous fireworks.

Donegal Food Festival 2016‘A Taste of Donegal’ is also a celebration of great people who come together in a spirit of collaboration and friendship. Credit is due to the hard working committee led by chairman Ernan Mc Gettigan and his wife Mary. The event is always well supported by sponsors and by local volunteers, many of whom work behind the scenes before, during and after the event, to ensure that everything goes according to plan.

Donegal Food Festival 2016There was great interest in the 2016 ‘A Passion to Inspire’ cookery competition, open to all chefs in the region. According to the judges, the standard of cooking was extremely high. We have an amazing pool of talent in terms of chefs who aspire to culinary excellence and who are keen to support their local artisan producers. We are fortunate to have Killybegs Tourism College on our doorstep, whose graduates include some of the most creative chefs in Ireland. The college has been educating tourism professionals since the 1950s and is today part of Letterkenny Institute of Technology.

Donegal Food Festival 2016Local food tourism initiatives such as ‘A Taste of Donegal’ present us with a platform to fly the flag for our region and position us as a high quality and competitive tourism destination with food as one of our unique selling points. There are over 20 restaurants and 10 cafes / coffee houses in Donegal Town and its surrounds. It is most encouraging to note that there are a number of new restaurants opening in the area. Existing restaurants are being renovated and there is an air of positivity all around. Our industry is dedicated to making memorable food experiences, which evoke a sense of place, culture and hospitality.

Donegal Food Festival 2016I truly believe that Donegal Town has evolved into a destination whereby there is a common goal to attract and welcome visitors from all over the world. The Wild Atlantic Way has given us a strong marketing hook that is opening doors for Donegal and the North West as an exciting new place to visit. ‘A Taste of Donegal’ has brought together a network of industry players that are committed to working towards promoting a vibrant and dynamic food culture in our region.

IMG_1532Winning the coveted ‘Foodie Destination of Ireland’ title for 2017 would greatly enhance our profile among food lovers and give Donegal Town a competitive edge, not just for the summer season, but all year round. Now is the time to keep the momentum going, join forces and work together to position Donegal Town and the surrounding area as the ultimate foodie destination of Ireland.

Donegal…Pride of All.


September 2016

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