Kinsale, Co. Cork: Ireland's foodie paradise. Fishy Fishy, Crackpots, The Bulman's... There's no shortage of renowned restaurants in this small fishing village, just 25 minutes from Cork City.
Starting this Friday, there's another great reason to visit Kinsale, with the 10th annual Kinsale Arts Festival kicking off. There's a packed programme, including theatre, visual arts, music, comedy, various workshops, family events and food. Lots and lots of food. Some highlights:
- TV Dinners: A night of food inspired by classic TV shows, and promising interactive entertainment, short films and tasty treats (think Fresh Prince of Blini Air, Generation Game Sushi Conveyor Belt) - September 25-27, Long House Quay, 6.30pm, 90 mins, €42 including two glasses of wine.
- The Breakfast Review: British writer Seb Emina - author of The Breakfast Bible, will be joined by food writer and journalist Joe McNamee for a morning of banter and brunch with a contemporary take on the Irish breakfast thrown in for good measure - September 20, The Black Pig Wine Bar & Cafe, 11.30am, 60 mins, €18
- The Domestic Godless Canaliculus Purgamentorum: This one is a bit nuts, but sounds wonderful. A series of dishes, afloat on rafts and boats, will drift along the canal for visitors to sample. The dishes offer "a nostalgic reminiscence of both the best and the worst of seaside holidays replete with humour and a sense of the absurd." So, expect caviar toothpaste, jellyfish jellies, hot dogs transformed into baked beans. The Domestic Godless have performed throughout Ireland, with an anarchic disregard for current culinary trends. This show involves eating and tasting but is not a full meal. Unfortunately, special dietary requirements cannot be accommodated - O'Herlihy's Townhouse, September 20-24, 7pm, 60 mins, €20
For the closing weekend, journalist Jim Carroll of The Irish Times returns with Banter, a weekend of chats and conversation about film, music and food. Kieran Murphy of Murphy's Ice Cream, Sully of food producer Cully & Sully fame, and an in-depth interview with chef Rory O'Connell about his work and views on Irish food and culture are among the highlights. I've never attended a dull Banter event, and these sessions look promising.
Rory O'Connell now works as a chef and teacher at the internationally renowned Ballymaloe Cookery School, which he co-founded with his sister, Darina Allen. Before that, he cooked with Nico Ladenis at Chez Nico in London, with Raymond Blanc at Le Manoir aux Quat Saisons in Oxford and Alice Waters at Chez Panisse in California. So what brought him back to Ireland?
I caught up with Rory O'Connell in advance of the talk. "The message that Ireland produces good quality food is spreading, as is Irish people's understanding that we produce world class food," says O'Connell. "We travel abroad and we see that what we have is as good as anywhere."
One of the major trends in Irish food and drink has been the rise of craft beers, while health food has also grown in popularity. "A generation of young people are discovering that that is possible to make a living from food instead of office work."
But while growing numbers on diminishing incomes head to Aldi and Lidl, isn't it all a bit elitist? Good food can be expensive, O'Connell admits. "I think good food is a right, in the same way that we are entitled to health, legal aid and education. We are noticing a more diverse cohort at farmer's markets and a growing awareness of local and seasonal food. The next stage should be to go into schools and teach kids to cook. Even boiling potatoes, grilling a lamb chop, and making a tomato salad doesn't take that much effort. The key is to get people making food at home and take processed foods out of the equation."
O'Connell believes that Ireland in general and Cork in particular are growing in stature as food destinations. It will be interesting to hear more from him.
- Kinsale Arts Festival, September 19-28
- This post previously appeared on Cheapeats.ie