Food festivals in Ireland
Autumn is a season of food festivals in Ireland and a good time to sample the charms of counties Cork and Kerry in the southwest before the short winter days set in.
Dingle, the most westerly town in Ireland, is a village by most standards, with a year-round population of some 2,000 souls, though this triples in the summer. In early October, as visitor numbers decline, a familiar peace descends on Dingle’s triangle of colorful streets, and cars are once more outnumbered by tractors and bicycles.
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The Dingle Food Festival (Oct. 2 to 4, www.dinglefood.com) is a lively event organized by local volunteers, showcasing the produce of Dingle’s traditional farmers and fishermen and its many artisan food makers. Local fishermen catch tuna, scallops, mussels, crab and lobster, as well as cod, the must-have ingredient for fish and chips. The town’s seafood hot spot, Out of the Blue (www.outoftheblue.ie), boasts that it will not open unless there is freshly caught fish to serve.
A thriving farmers market will introduce you to local charcuterie and cheese, home-baked bread and a range of homemade gourmet delights. These include locally brewed beer and cider, samples from Dingle’s own whiskey distillery and Murphy’s Ice Cream, made from local cream.
The streets are lined with food stalls daily during the festival, and you can also sign up for cooking demonstrations, talks on beekeeping and other traditional skills, or sample special tasting menus at local restaurants — foodies rave about the five-course menu at the Global Village restaurant (www.globalvillagedingle.com). Kerry mountain lamb, scented with wild herbs from its grazing places, is at its best, and oysters are back on the menu now that there is an “r” in the month. Dingle is also a great place for traditional music, and festival evenings are enlivened by many a free session, as musicians gather to show their paces.
While Dingle’s festival is an outdoor, informal event, you will want to bring your finery to Kinsale’s 39th Gourmet Festival (Oct. 9 to 11, www.kinsalerestaurants.com). U.S. Ambassador Kevin O’Malley will mingle with festival-goers and the guest of honor at the opening champagne reception is the Minister for the Marine, Simon Coveney, widely tipped as Ireland’s next taioseach (prime minister). This historic seaside town, a short hop from Cork City and the airport, has 11 fine dining restaurants in its Good Food Circle, and Friday evening’s 55 pound ($85) ticket includes a five-course dinner showcasing local food including West Cork’s famous farmhouse cheeses — the pungent Milleens and the milder Gubbeen. Festivities conclude with a sumptuous seafood lunch on Sunday followed by dancing to a live jazz band. Cheers, or slainte, as they say in Ireland!
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