The menu: Litfest takes a break

Rory O'Connell

Rory O’Connell, director of Litfest, confirmed it would be taking a break in 2018.

There has been more wailing than a colicky nursery and sufficient gnashing of teeth to keep every dentist in the land drilling ‘til next Christmas on foot of news that Ballymaloe Litfest will not return until 2019, with the format also up for grabs. 

Festival director Rory O’Connell’s announcement —delivered at the closing ceremony of possibly the best iteration of the festival to date, with strands on food consciousness, activism, and advocacy very much to the fore — shocked many but it is worth remembering this festival was originally conceived of as a biennial event, the decision to opt instead for an annual outing taken hastily over the course of that successful inaugural festival weekend, back in 2013. 

The commitment and effort required to put together what is the finest and most important food event in Ireland requires near-superhuman powers and The Menu believes it will return better than ever for having paused to recharge batteries. 

It is worth keeping in mind that another great event in world food, the Slow Food Terre Madre, held in Torino, is also a biennial affair — if it’s good enough for them...

Bloom is booming

No signs for the moment, though, of Bloom (June 1-5) taking a break as this annual Irish gardening extravaganza with a huge food element attracts enormous crowds to the Phoenix Park for a never-ending parade of top Irish producers and chefs. 

Among the demos and discussions taking place, GIY Food Matters leads a series of expert talks featuring more than 40 of Ireland’s leading writers, chefs, nutritionists, healthcare experts, academics, and journalists, all taking place in its custom-designed marquee. 

Ice cream and wine

Whenever it is pointed out to The Menu that his ‘professional obligations’ equate to most people’s idea of the highest of old times and that The Menu really is the proverbial confiture-smeared illegitimate (ie ‘jammy b*****d’), he is most quick to highlight his personal commitment and tireless work ethic, easily quantified with a sufficiently long tape measure and two strong men to ensure both ends meet on the far side of his mighty belly.

For once, though, he is prepared to acknowledge some possible truth in his naysayers’ detractions as he prepares to host an ice cream/wine matching (May 31), in L’Atitude 51. 

It features The Menu’s favourite Irish ice creams, from Marcus Hodder of Yum Gelato, and an attempt to pair them with wines from the L’Atitude list. 

No, it doesn’t get any better than that, just as long as he remembers, ‘ice cream in the cone and wine in the glass’ on what promises to be a splendid night’s entertainment.  

Seafood market docks

Boats and Bites (June 3), Cork Harbour Festival’s splendid family-friendly seafood market in Port of Cork returns and having worked up an appetite rowing a traditional currach or Chinese Dragon boat, punters then feast on sushi, oysters, mussels, lobster, and pickled fish along with a smorgasbord of other local food favourites. 

Also check out the seaweed foraging walk with cooking and cosmetics demo (June 11) at the Harbour Festival. 


Derg Raw Cow’s Milk Cheddar is produced by Kay and Paddy Cooney, on their farm, using the milk from their Friesian and Jersey cows. 

At about nine months old, this particular batch is still sweet and relatively young, nutty, firm, and with only the faintest tingle on the tongue, terrific for a sandwich and equally pleasant for solo nibbling with, perhaps, a nip of amontillado, but The Menu fancies this will be a mighty cheese altogether come full maturity, when calcium lactate crystals begin to form and what are currently mild caramel notes start morphing into deep fudgey honks. 


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