September sees Ireland’s largest food festival swing into action once more. The 2018 programme boasts more events than ever before over the ten days of the festival, with over 250 events in 41 towns and villages and 8 islands across West Cork from 7th to 16th September.
There is a definite guest chef flavour to the programme too with 32 taking part. Through a partnership with Cork Airport and Norwegian Airlines, expect a taste of America with top chefs exploring the West Cork larder from Quincy, Providence, Rhode Island and Massachusetts.
Two Masterchefs make their inaugural appearance in the programme too. The 2016 winner of Masterchef USA Shaun O Neale and 2014 winner of Masterchef Ireland Diana Dodog are both bringing their unique take on food and flavour to their respective tables. A mix of exceptional home-grown talent from all corners of Ireland makes for a thrilling line up of dining experiences.
As ever, the festival celebrates the producers that make West Cork a food lovers paradise, as well as opportunities for lively interactive conversations on everything from soil to plastic waste to child obesity, highlighting the closely intertwined links between the environment, health and food.
Such a variety of events draw in tens of thousands of people from all over the world into this little corner of Ireland to take part in ten days of walks, talks and events to make A Taste of West Cork the premier Irish food festival of the year.
The full festival programme can be downloaded for free from A Taste of West Cork website, but with so much choice on offer, where do we start? Well, help is at hand! Here are my Top Picks for this year’s festival!
Bia Bistro Scituate USA comes to BIA Bantry, 7pm, BIA at The Bantry Bay Hotel, €50pp Call 027 55789
Originally from Ballincollig in Cork, Brian Houlihan is restauranteur and head chef of Bia Bistro in Scituate, Massachusetts. Brian teams up with fellow Scituate resident Joe Nolan, fishmonger and chef, for an evening of great entertainment and delicious seafood in Bantry.
Sing for Your Supper, 7pm, Levis Corner House, Ballydehob, €45pp Call 028 37118
If you can hold a note, blast out your favourite song during supper at Ballydehob’s legendary IMRO winning Levi’s and win the chance to have your dinner paid for. Music, great food and the very best in West Cork hospitality awaits!
Lobster Garden Party, 7.30pm, The Lifeboat Inn Gastropub, Courtmacsherry, €55pp www.lobstergardenparty.eventbrite.ie
Enjoy an evening of the freshest seafood expertly cooked by Masterchef Ireland champion Diana Dodog and head chef of The Lifeboat Inn, Martin Buckley, (formerly of Cliff Townhouse, Dublin). Local fisherman land freshly caught fish and shellfish pierside in Courtmacsherry daily. Expect oysters, prawns, lobster bisque and more!
Roam with the Buffalo, 11am, Macroom Buffalo Cheese Products, €7pp www.leevalleytastetrails.ie
Visit Ireland’s only milking herd of Water Buffalo in Macroom; walk the fields, meet the herd and even maybe a new arrival or two. Tour the creamery and watch the fresh mozzarella being made by hand. Afterwards enjoy a tasting of cheese and barbecued buffalo skewers.
Islanders Rest BBQ, 1pm, Sherkin Island, from €20pp Call 028 20116
Derry Clarke once more stokes the coals for his annual BBQ on the picturesque Sherkin Island. All proceeds raised go directly to the RNLI Baltmore Lifeboat Station.
Cookout, 2pm-1am, Connolly’s of Leap, Leap Call 086 1048377
Founded in 2015, Cookout brings together DJs of all kinds for 12-hour street parties mixing together music, food, drink and dance. The legendary Connolly’s of Leap is the host venue for the epic street party curated by Cookouts founders: Big Daddy Can, Bilbo Bongo and JusMe. From Jamaica to London, Columbia to Brooklyn this is a party packed with beats and eats all day and all night long.
Writer’s Retreat, 10.30am, Liss Ard Estate, Castletownshend, Skibbereen, €45pp Call 028 40000
Join UCC Culinary Historian, writer and broadcaster, Regina Sexton, and award winning novelist Robert Doyle, for a day-long food-writing workshop in the beautiful surrounds of Liss Ard Estate. Mixing food and prose, poetry and history – a must-do for the budding writer.
Féila Feola Meat | Fish | Smoke & Fire, 2pm, Marquee at Drinagh Co-Op/Spar, Skibbereen, €70pp www.flavour.ie/taste
A trio of Masterclasses for all you’ll ever need to know in Smoke & Fire cookery by guest Head Chef Decky Walsh of Holy Smoke, Cork; at home meat preparation by Master Craft Butcher Ger O’Callaghan and Fish Filleting by Fishmonger Clayton Dooley.
Plus a 10-course Feast from the Fire paired with craft beers from West Cork Brewing Co and craft spirits from West Cork Distillers, and a producers Micro-Market for a chance to meet the people behind some iconic West Cork foods. Learn, Taste, Feast!
LOAM at Restaurant Chestnut, 6pm, Ballydehob, €95pp Call 028 25766
Enda McEvoy, head chef of LOAM in Galway, guest chefs in boutique Restaurant Chestnut for one night only. Enda’s focus on modern ambitious cooking rooted in tradition will be no doubt find its spiritual home as he picks from the very best of West Cork’s larder for his tasting menu experience.
Seminar “Plastic is a plague on the earth and the ocean”, 11am, Liss Ard Estate, Skibbereen, €20pp www.eventbrite.ie/plastics
A panel of leading experts discuss Ireland’s plastic addiction and debate the ‘duty of care’ citizens have in reducing our reliance on plastics of all kinds for Ireland and the planet.
Speakers include: Eamon Ryan, leader of The Green party; Dr Julie Maguire; Professor Kevin O’Connor of UCD; Mindy O’Brien of Voice Ireland; Dr Tara Shine, environmental scientist and Madeline Murray co-founder of plasticfreekinsale.com.
Roly’s Bistro and Annie May’s, 7pm, Annie May’s Bar & Bistro, Skibbereen, €50pp Call 028 22930
Well known Dublin restaurant, Roly’s Bistro, pops up in Annie May’s for a collaborative evening of good food using excellent local produce. This event is a firm favourite in the annual programme – one not to be missed for the fantastic hospitality that Annie May’s is much loved for!
Tastings at Woodley Country House, 11am-1pm, Woodley House, Castletownshend Road, Skibbereen €45pp Call 085 756 8746
Experience a Vegan taste of West Cork with the experienced team behind The Country House Kitchen. Cookery demonstrations of savoury and sweet vegan treats will aim to open up a world of deliciousness of a vegan diet suitable for passionate foodies, fitness fanatics and health enthusiasts alike.
Making Better Coffee at Home, 11am, Organico Café, Bantry, €5pp Call 027 55905
Join Shane Kelleher of local micro coffee roastery Red Strand Coffee to learn how to make better coffee in the comfort of your own home with whatever equipment you have to hand: from French press to Aeropress to stovetop espresso. Includes coffee tastings.
Heron & Grey – The West Cork Menu, 7.30pm, The Mews, Baltimore, €95pp www.mewsrestaurant.ie
Surely to be one of the most popular dining experiences in this years’ festival, Andrew Heron & Damien Grey make their way to West Cork bringing with them their very unique food stylings to The Mews. I tip this as the hottest ticket in town and with tickets not on sale until 1st September and limited seats available this might just break the internet! Cutting edge Irish cuisine doesn’t get more exciting than this.
Perfume Workshop, 11am & 2pm, Waters + Wild, Glandore, €45pp Call 086 238 4953
Give your taste buds a break and instead indulge in an exquisite olfactory experience with Waters + Wild certified organic perfume maker. This workshop combines an introduction to the art of natural perfume making, blending essential oils, resins and tinctures. Take home a sample set of perfumes for your very own.
A Food Blast Off Taste Extravaganza, 7.30pm, Pilgrim’s, Rossarbery, €65pp Call 023 8831796
Assassination Custard are coming to West Cork! Ken Doherty and Gwen McGrath take over the award-winning Pilgrim’s in Rosscarbery for one night as they deliver up an array of intriguing and tasteful dishes that will challenge and delight the taste buds. No-nonsense, flavour forward and excitingly inventive, this is one dining experience not to be missed!
Tea & Tales, 2.30pm, Dursey Island, Beara, €25pp (+ cable car fee) Call 087 797 0630
Dursey Island is home to Ireland’s only cable car and is a place steeped in history and abundant with glorious views. Journey across Dursey Sound to take a tour of the islands points of historical interest, including the church of Kilmichael. Take in views from Mizen Head to the Skelligs, followed by tea and scones in an Islanders’ cottage.
Seafood & Seashore, 7pm, Dunmore House Hotel, Clonakilty, €65pp Call 023 883 3352
Dunmore House Hotel will host celebrated Cork chef and Irish food champion Kevin Ahern, chef-proprietor of Sage in Midleton. Kevin is well known for his micro-local menus combined with foraged foods from both the hedgerow and seashore. As he leaves East Cork for West Cork, there will be a whole new larder to work from – an exciting prospect indeed. Each course will be paired with natural and organic wines from le Caveau.
Kayaking, Foraging & The Big Green Egg, 2pm, The Eccles Hotel, Glengarriff, €75pp Call 027 63003
Head chef of Eccles Hotel, Eddie Attwell, is a locavore, grower and forager. Take a walk with Eddie through the polytunnels at the hotel where he organically grows vegetables picked fresh daily for the onsite restaurant. Set off on a kayaking trip around Bantry Bay exploring and foraging for edibles and then return to the hotel for a feast of all that has been collected during your trip.
Masterchef USA 2016, 7pm, Schull Harbour Hotel, €50pp Call 028 28801
2016 USA Masterchef winner, Shaun O’Neale, takes up residency for one night only at the Schull Harbour Hotel for an evening of delicious Cork produce served up with an American twist. Shaun will entertain diners with stories of his Masterchef experience – a chance to find out what Gordon Ramsay is really like!
The BIG Eggsellent Breakfast – Tackling Child Obesity for a Healthier Future, 10am, The West Cork Hotel, Skibbereen, from €10pp (family tickets available) www.flavour.ie/breakfast
Join Flavour.ie, West Cork Eggs and Alison Health for a fun, interactive presentation to promote positive choices at breakfast time for children. Since launching in May 2017, Eggsellent Breakfasts has connected with 1500 children across West Cork to encourage swapping sugary cereals for a nutritionally balanced and wholesome Eggsellent Breakfast. Come and find out how, share a breakfast, pick up a goodie bag, meet Helen the Hen and maybe win an Eggsellent Hamper too!
Feast from the East, 7.30pm, Budds, Ballydehob, €35pp Call 28 25842
A feast of Korean and Vietnamese vegan food lovingly prepared by Jena Malone, a New York native who landed into West Cork ten years ago. Jena will serve up a seven course tasting menu of delectable vegan foods borne from her loves of ethnic foods and dining out.
Michelin Star Chef Danni Barry, 7.30pm, The Glebe Gardens, Baltimore, €70pp (inc wine pairings) Call 028 51948
Taking a break from her new venture “Clenaghan Restaurant” in Northern Ireland, the festival is pleased to welcome back Ireland’s only Michelin-starred female chef Danni Barry for an evening of exquisite food in the beautiful relaxed surroundings of Glebe Gardens.
A Fair & Local Feast, 7pm, Fernhill House Hotel, Clonakilty, €50pp www.flavour.ie/fairtrade
Clonakilty was Ireland’s first Fairtrade Town 15 years ago. To mark this anniversary the Clonakilty Fairtrade Committee host a gala dinner showcasing the best ethical ingredients from West Cork and abroad. Caitlin Ruth, head chef of Deasy’s, will be curating a five-course Fair & Local tasting menu.
Guests will be welcomed with a jazzy cocktail reception by Beara Ocean Gin. Special guests and speakers on the night will highlight the work done so far, and those that champion the Irish ethical food movement.
Kate Ryan is an established food writer, blogger and founder of Flavour.ie, a website that is dedicated to promoting West Cork Food through writing, events and tours. Kate writes regularly for the Evening Echo and The Southern Star newspapers, The Opinion Magazine, TheTaste.ie, Headstuff.org and has been featured in the Irish Examiner and Irish Times. Kate was commissioned by A Taste of West Cork Food Festival to author an “Artisan Food Guide” published in June 2017.
Her blog, The Flavour Files, is recipe driven showcasing the best of West Cork produce and encouraging everyday cooking with it at home, as well as the best places to eat in the region.
Keep up with Kate’s food adventures on flavour.ie, and via her Facebook, Twitter and Instagram pages. Sign up to the Newsletter for previews of upcoming events, exclusive offers and news round-up.