Welcome to a special edition of The Menu as there can only be one destination in the diary of any self-respecting guzzling gourmand next weekend when the 10th birthday of the splendid West Waterford Festival of Food 2017 (April 21-23) takes place in the delightful little seaside town of Dungarvan, one of The Menu’s most favourite places to put on the nosebag.
While the community-focussed festival tends to avoid overloading with celebrity stardust, the programme is still laden with appeal, most especially for young families.
The glorious Greenway cycle path is the location for a guided family cycle with picnic/games on the beach while a more adult version features a producer food trail cycle, culminating in a picnic lunch in Kilmacthomas before returning to Dungarvan by bus.
Masterclass sees chef Eunice Power hosting three Irish chefs, seafood supremo Niall Sabongi, of Rock Lobster, in Dublin, Dungarvan’s own cake baker supreme Judith McNally, chef/proprietor of Ormond’s café and one of The Menu’s favourite chefs, Kevin Murphy, of Idá’s in Dingle.
A Superfood Demo features Old Post Inn’s coeliac chef/proprietor, Gearóid Lynch, West Cork-based April Dannan and nutritional therapist Oliver McCabe.
A day-long Gin Distilling Workshop given by Blackwater Distillery maestro Peter Mulryan should prove an extremely hot ticket but for those failing to procure one of those precious places, Mulryan also features in the Craft in a Glass series, in Merry’s, covering all manner of native craft libations.
But in the heel of the hunt, a body comes to the festival to put on the nosebag and opportunities are myriad: The Food Trail offers a three course dinner, each course taken in one of multiple participating restaurants, while Dinne´ar na Fe´ile, (in the Causeway Tennis Club), features a wonderful seven course tasting menu from Cliff House head chef Shane McGrath, Darren Collins (The Olive Tree) and Paula Hannigan (Waterford Castle) and there may still be seats available for the Duck Sunday lunch at the Tannery Cookery School.
And, finally, the closing act, as always, will be the mighty Margadh na Fe´ile market, in Grattan Square.
The Menu will always have a soft spot for a decent blackberry jam but when presented with its infinitely more refined sibling, the traditional bramble jelly, he is pretty much guaranteed to ascend into epicurean heaven before your very eyes and he was thus transported after a very recent sampling from a jar of same, produced by Gordon Reid and Victorita Teirau.
With a wobble and a shiver, it dissolved onto the tongue, the dusky notes of the sweet dark fruit triggering a Proustian evocation of childhood summer evenings spent stringing up the muslin to drain the precious nectar from a hot sugary mash of berries and The Menu made short work of dispatching the entire jar over the following few days, best enjoyed on oat cakes slathered with some fine country butter and topped with the glorious jelly.
And where might one procure a jar? Well, therein lies the rub for it will probably prove quite difficult unless a body can make it to the tiny Tracton Community Market held on the first Sunday of every month at the local arts centre, in Minane Bridge, and, at that, Gordon and Victorita’s production levels do not appear to be of sufficient volume to cope with any great demand.
The point The Menu is making is, while it may be near impossible to obtain a jar of this particular bramble jelly, similar treasures are to be found in little markets all over Ireland.