Food and tourism is a combination that works at least as well as any ingredients you might pair on a gourmet plate. The number of food experiences available all over the country has grown almost as quickly as the number of people who are keen to sample the very best of what the country has to offer.
And the menu, if you can call it that, has never offered so much choice. You can try your hand at goat cheesemaking on a family farm in Co Cork or bring children to see what’s it like to be a beekeeper in Co Galway. If that doesn’t hit the spot, how about collecting, cooking and of course eating your own organic lunch? Or if you’d prefer to have it served up to you you can arrange to dine with a chef at your own private lunch. For the health-conscious, there are a number of possibilities. If, for instance, you take the time to visit the country’s only commercial blackcurrant farm in Co Wexford, you’ll learn that blackcurrants truly are one of Ireland’s super-berries.
They contain more vitamin C than any other commercially available fruit, according to nutrition studies, and they also contain calcium and iron.
Blackcurrant farmer Des Jeffares, a third-generation grower, will tell you that, while he and his wife Margaret will explain how they were forced to add new value to their offering when Ribena stopped buying Irish blackcurrants in 2013.
The blackcurrant producers came up with the idea of developing a sugar-free blackcurrant cordial, Mr Jeffares Blackcurrant Cordial, and opening the farm for tours. Ironically, it was what Margaret Jeffares had been encouraging others to do since she established Good Food Ireland in 2006 in an attempt to build a network to link two of Ireland’s biggest industries, agriculture and tourism.
Now, as food trails all over the country take off, Good Food Ireland is offering an online service that allows customers to book quality, vetted food experiences.
Telling the story of the country through its food resonates particularly in Ireland where most of us are only one or two generations removed from farming, says Margaret Jeffares. And, she tells Feelgood, more Irish people care where their food comes from. With increasing concerns about climate change, they also want to make the best choices possible. She says climate change is already affecting producers and growers. At the
Jeffares blackcurrant farm a soft winter has meant that the fruit is not ripening at the same rate so it is harder to pick. Yet, they are working out strategies to adapt in the same way that they and other food producers are blazing food trails all over the country.
Here are four to try:
Vegan ice cream
GOOD news for vegans and those with a dairy intolerance. Northern Irish ice-cream maker Morelli has launched a vegan/dairyfree range called Libero (“free” in Italian). There are two new flavours: strawberry, which is free of all allergens, and chocolate containing soya.
The rising demand for a dairy-free option prompted the company to invest six months in research and development to come up with a new range, Daniela Morelli, sales and marketing manager, told Feelgood.
“We have used coconut fat to replace the dairy ingredients which gives it a great texture and mouth feel,” she said. “Feedback so far has been great and sales have been good.” If the demand continues, Morelli will add more flavours to the range.
More than 130 exhibitors will take part in A Taste of Donegal Food Festival which runs over three days in Donegal Town from August 23 to 25.
The festival, now in its 11th year, is designed to celebrate and promote great food and drink in Ireland.
Expect great samples from the exhibitor stands, lots of celebrity chef demonstrations, and tutored wine and beer tastings as well as entertainment.
Cork's English Market is looking for innovative food producers to join Ireland’s oldest food market.
The market is particularly keen to hear from businesses with a commitment to low “food miles” and those who sell local, seasonal, nutritious and healthy foods.
Successful applicants will be invited to trade at the start-up stall for an agreed period of time where they can test the market for their product.
■ Application forms from www.corkcity.ie or email email@example.com
Fire and smoke
IT’S going to get smoky in the kitchen later this month when the Big Grill, Europe’s largest barbecue festival, kicks off for its sixth year from August 15 to 18 in Herbert Park in Dublin 4.
More than 20,000 visitors are expected at a festival that celebrates the art of cooking with fire and smoke.
Chefs and pitmasters from Ireland and the UK will join over 20 restaurants at the weekend where there is only one rule: everyone must cook with live fire using natural charcoal and wood only. No gas or electricity are allowed.