Festival leaves a sweet taste

As several thousand happy and sated punters headed for the exits at the Irish Examiner Food Festival in Cork’s Fitzgerald Park yesterday evening, the light mist finally began to thicken, marking the end of the splendid weather that proved a vital ingredient in the tremendous success of a celebration of food and drink on Leeside.

Festival leaves a sweet taste

Also very happy were the four restaurants and one producer selected as recipients of Bridgestone Guide Awards created especially for the festival, including Best Restaurant, which went to head chef Fred Desermeaux and Greene’s Restaurant in MacCurtain St, Cork.

Over the course of four days, more than 12,500 descended on the park to dine on the wares of 17 of Cork’s finest restaurants and local food and beverage producers and retailers.

On the park’s verdant lawns the Dublin Gospel Choir sang thanks to the heavens for some truly clement weather, the Saturday night crowd in particular lending credence to the notion that we are a Latin people trapped on a wet rock in Northern Europe.

Even though Sunday dawned overcast, the rains largely held off and more than 3,000 came, with Philip Ryan, one of the festival’s organisers, admitting: “We were haunted with the weather, the gods were smiling on us — we were hoping for 10,000 and easily surpassed that; it’s been fantastic.”

The palpable sense of festivity was shared by some of the high-profile visitors, including Darina Allen, Rachel Allen, Andrew Rudd and Paolo Tullio who, after performing in the demo tent along with a host of local stars, hung around to enjoy the atmosphere, food and bubbly.

Despite being weakened by a nasty cut which she sustained during a demonstration on Friday, Rachel Allen still signed autographs for crowds of fans, only stopping when she fainted.

Among the celebrities who attended on Saturday were TV3’s Alan Hughes, RTÉ’s Derek Mooney and singer Brian Kennedy.

“Exhibitors are delighted, customers are delighted, our sponsors are delighted and best of all, many of our early visitors have returned for multiple visits,” confirmed Mr Ryan yesterday evening.

“We hope to come back next year, bigger, ‘badder’ and better than ever.”

Fellow organiser Ernest Cantillon said they had received some amazing feedback through social media.

“We had a very mixed reaction last year but decided to give it another go. The reaction has been fabulous,” he said.

Mr Cantillon added that among the highlights were the performances of the Dublin Gospel Choir and former You’re A Star contestant Pat Fitz, who proved a hit with patrons young and old.

Irish Examiner marketing manager Karen O’Donoghue said: “The Irish Examiner is really proud to have been involved in such an excellent event that delivered top quality food and an abundance of fun to the people of Cork over the weekend.

“Food is something we as a newspaper are passionate about and to have our food writers Darina Allen, Michelle Darmody and Joe McNamee involved this year was great. Looking forward to 2013.”

Award winners

The Bridgestone Guide is Ireland’s premier food guide and created special awards for this year’s Irish Examiner Food Festival awarded in the following five categories by Bridgestone Guide editors William Barry and Joe McNamee.

Best Restaurant: Chef Fred Desermeaux and Greene’s Restaurant, Cork

A very tough call given the fantastically high standard on site but Fred’s Tasting Platter was delicious, a decent kids’ burger, chips and drink was excellent value at 4 and they also had a vegetarian option.

Best Dish: The 12 Mile Platter by Kevin Aherne, Sage Restaurant, Midleton, Co Cork

Aherne stole the show from seasoned pros during his debut cooking demo, his naked passion for local produce to the fore. This same passion was also evident in a beautiful platter, all organic or free range: chicken with green chilli and basil, carrot, gooseberry and lavender marmalade, free range duck egg, potted pea, courgette and smoked goat’s cheese frittata with soft herb goat’s cheese, free range rare breed pork shoulder and ham hock terrine with beetroot and elderflower relish.

Best Service/Hospitality: The Cornstore, Coal Quay, Cork

Friendly, efficient and very knowledgeable, Mags, Kate and Colette were the pick of what was generally another huge plus throughout the weekend.

Best Producer: Glenilen Farm

Some truly splendid produce on show but in the end it was the sheer quality and range of Glenilen’s gorgeous West Cork dairy produce., fast becoming an international star as well. And that pannacotta …!

Best Beverage: Colm McCan, Ballymaloe House

The impossibly friendly Colm served up an absolutely stunning range of sherries, from driest, palest finos to deep, syrupy Palo Cortados and the sugar sensation that is Pedro Ximenez. Neither did it hurt that those sherries accompanied some divine dishes, most especially a crab paté.

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