The new Fáilte Ireland Taste The Island programme, celebrating Ireland’s seasonal ingredients, adventurous tastes and bold experiences, takes place for the first time this year from September to November and our editor, Dee Laffan has picked some her favourite picks from the line-up.
Notoriously, the autumn season in the hospitality industry can be more challenging after the high of summer tourism, so to counteract this Fáilte Ireland created Taste The island. An eight-week showcase of Ireland's food and drink culture across September, October and November. It will literally throw open the doors to a celebration throughout the island of Ireland that means everything from restaurants and local craft food and drink producers to festivals and food trails and everything in between.
To pick only a few mentions from the programme to highlight was genuinely so tough as there are so many exciting things happening for the three months, so I recommend visiting the Fáilte Ireland website to see the full programme and plan some fun times for yourself this autumn!
My top picks...
Saturday, 28th September
I like one-day events as sometimes it's hard to commit to a full weekend event, so this event in Café en Seine appealed to me for that reason and the line-up of producers is brilliant.
For this event, Stephen Gibson and his team are showcasing some of the suppliers they work with all year round and include in dishes on the menu. Customers can pop in and meet the makers, taste what our island is producing and learn how to support our own food economy between 12-6pm. Producers include Wild About, Corleggy Cheese, Kish Fish, Boutique Wines, among others.
Deemed one of Europe’s longest-running food extravaganzas, the Galway International Oyster & Seafood Festival was launched in September 1954 by Brian Collins, the manager of the hotel now called Hotel Meyrick. That year just 34 guests attended the first Oyster Festival Banquet, these days, it draws thousands of visitors to sample the famous native Galway Oysters at the end of September each year. The festival also sees competitors, representing countries from all over the world, flocking to Galway to vie for the World Championship title.
Having attended the festival on a few occasions, I can say it is such a unique and fun experience, not to mention just getting to hang out in Galway for the weekend and checking out the incredible food scene there. What's not to love?
From September-30th November
I love treating myself to a little luxury from time to time and that also translates to a food experience. This Taste The Island experience in the five-star InterContinental Dublin sounds like just the ticket with a gourmet dining experience featuring a special three-course menu, carefully curated by Executive Chef Alberto Rossi and his team, in collaboration with Fáilte Ireland.
Highlights on the menu for me are the Seared Fillet of Halibut with Broccoli and Sweet Basil, Butter Poached Queens, Sherry Pickled Shallots and Almonds and the Pistachio and Raspberry Gateaux with Pistachio Sable, Financier and Raspberry Pannacotta.
Friday 4th-Sunday 6th, October
People who know me know that a part of my heart belongs to Dingle. I adore this small town with a big heart in Kerry, its stunning surroundings, fab restaurants, pubs and cafés and all the people I know who live there. Heading down to judge as part of Blas na hÉireann each year means getting to spend the weekend after it exploring the food festival and it is definitely one of Ireland's best.
The Dingle Food Festival takes place on the first weekend in October every year and is organised by a group of local people on a non-profit-making basis. The town comes alive with locals and tourists alike. Highlights of the festival include the Taste Trail, cookery demos, over 50 market stalls, workshops, tastings, and one of the newer additions to the festival programme, the much-loved Sing-a-Long Social in Dick Mack's. I wouldn't miss singing and dancing at this every year!
Saturday, 5th October
I love sushi and I thought this event sounds really interesting and one I would love to go to. Plus it's in Sligo, a beautiful part of the country and there are so many places to eat out in while you're there.
At this event, author Yumiko Matsui, a native of Japan who has lived in Kildare since 1993, will demonstrate classic and lesser-known sushi recipes using Irish ingredients along with five ways to create interesting, seasonal vegetable side dishes using Irish produce.
Sharing tips and skills throughout the demo, there will be plenty to learn and lots to taste.
Thursday, 10th October
I try to buy as much organic produce as I can and I only buy Irish produce. I loved the sound of this event in Coopershill Farm and Gardens as it is a celebration of the fantastic produce from Coopershill. Coopershill actually rears their own venison on the estate. Their organic kitchen garden also produces a wealth of wonderful, colourful vegetables which are much more than just an accompaniment to the meat, but truly earn their place on the plate. Fish caught just off the coast of Sligo will also be served on the evening.
Price: €364 including Taste of Coopershill Farm and Gardens Dinner, Bed and Breakfast for two sharing. For more information, please see irelandsbluebook.
Saturday, 26th October
I recently spent a night in Newforge House and its high reputation lived up to the reality, in fact, it surpassed my expectations. John and Louise Mathers are two amazing hosts and genuinely lovely people. John is an excellent chef and meal I enjoyed was full of fresh flavours from his kitchen garden and local produce. Add the backdrop of their stunning home and gardens to make it a must-visit getaway destination.
This October, Newforge House celebrates the riches that the lush pastures of Armagh provide in a fantastic event in association with Taste the Island. The six-course tasting menu will showcase the amazing, flavoursome local meats; fresh, creamy dairy and the colourful homegrown and local vegetables. Make a night of it with an overnight stay at Newforge House. With just six bedrooms, Newforge offers a relaxed intimacy and a home-away-from-home feeling.
Price: €260 for two people sharing. Includes Taste of our Pastures Dinner, B&B, and tea and cake on arrival. For more information, visit: irelandsbluebook.
Saturday, 26th October
I think that learning to make your own butter is one of the most valuable and wonderful things one can do, so this workshop was an easy pick for my list. Violet Hunter has been making butter on the family dairy farm for many years. Watch Violet churn cream into delicious country butter before enjoying it with homemade brown bread.Violet will also make a seaweed & wild garlic butter that we will then add to freshly shucked local Sligo Bay oysters from Wild Atlantic Oysters and bake with delicious Irish cheese.
Saturday 2nd-Sunday 3rd, November
I had to mention this one as I am the Chairperson of Slow Food Dublin and it is our festival. We're delighted to be part of Taste The Island this year and to hold our second festival highlighting the flourishing Dublin food and drink scene while collaborating with local producers, community gardens, restaurants and chefs all of who live and breathe the Slow Food ethos every day in their work.
The festival takes place over two days, with a line-up of experiences on Saturday, 2nd November taking place in various locations in the city and on Sunday, 3rd November, the festival's activities are anchored to one location in the National College of Art & Design in Dublin 8 and are split into three main areas: The Symposium, The Market and The Workshop.
The first line-up announcement will be at the end of September, so please follow Slow Food Dublin on social media to keep an eye out for details, or visit slowfooddublin.com.