Some lovely and clever people who have food businesses in the city and county of Waterford recently pulled together to pull off an excellent food festival to showcase some of their unique food producers and restaurants. Lucky me was one of a group of varied and excellent food bloggers who were shown some of the highlights, including a Slow Food tour led by the legend Donal Lehane. It's taken me couple of weeks to digest and recover, plus to process the inspiration that can be taken from some team spirit and planning to pull off this type of event. Here are the highlights:
Ponticelli Coffee, only one year in business and supplying to many local cafes with their freshly roasted and ground signature blends. Their Viking blend was created just for the festival and I've been enjoying the beans for my morning coffee since getting back.
Sushi was next on the agenda and the lovely Tetjana at Glorious Sushi demystified the art of fascinating sushi making to the eager bunch. We cooked rice, sliced beautiful raw fish and put everything together till the magic happened. I wolfed my own 'creations' excitedly and now know how to make one of my favourite foods, without spending 11 years in an apprenticeship in Japan.
Next up was lunch at the Atheneum, with full bellies we still enjoyed delicious treats from Chef who has taken old Irish recipes and is bringing them back, like pressed pork belly and delicious terrine
Delicious home-made breads and local cheeses made for a lovely lunch served in this stunning setting overlooked the river. What a location, great food and a real family welcome.
The community garden in Ballybeg, currently on Secret Millionaire was the high point for me. The guys there have managed to turn a basic project into a FETAC training facility with a commercial supply plan in place to grow organic veggies for local restaurants. Allotments are available to locals for an affordable €2 per month, unlike a similar project in Limerick that charges €200 per year. Great to see young girls out in their pajamas tending onion crops and digging soil.
The guys at the Metalman Brewery were an inspiration and show what hard work and a love of what you do, can produce. Their beer The Alternator gave us all a welcome jolt for the afternoon and we learned about ingredients and storage, and of course, beer drinking!
Mount Congreve is a beautiful old house in County Waterford with the most beautiful and well-tended walled gardens, full of heritage apples, pumpkins and even grapes in the greenhouse.
We were treated to an amzing dinner of tapini at La Bodega that night, chefs pulled out all the stops with a great concept of making fabulous mini plates from local produce and matching them with local beers and excellent wines. Dishes like Crowe Farm Mini Belly Welly, broad beans and spinach, and the M&D Blaa pudding had us pampered at a very exciting culinary night. Plenty of craic was had with our silent 80s dance charades, the perfect game for a night of great food and fun!
A trip to M & D Bakery was top of the charts for me. Michael and Dermot bake about 4000 of these fluffy, light and delicious delights every day from their small bakery. Having gone to college many moons ago in Waterford I was delighted to see the whole, hand-made process with my own eyes and came away with a bag-full of Blaas and a recipe to try at home. We enjoyed rasher blaas and the regional delicacy the Tayto Blaa with mugs of tea before leaving, heaven. It would be great to see an obvious link up like institutions like the Waterford Regional Technical College and Ardkeen Hospital buying in Blaas from guys like these, it would show a solidarity and support for a unique and excellent indiginous food product, something not many places can boast.
Some history was next on the agenda and the amazingly energetic and enthusiastic Rosemary Ryan shared with us just fractions of a rich and exciting history via a tour to the fascinating Reginalds Tower, the super sexy new Museum and back to the beautiful Bishop's Palace for sweet treats and coffee. Waterford is looking great, the city has clearly been given much love and is slick and very presentable and making the most of their historical past. Great to see what can be done with forward planning, joined up thinking had good ideas.
P.S can't forget to mention a trip for lunch to Waterford's most excellent establishment Geoff's Bar. After so many years Geoffs continues to be cutting edge and eclectic in its interior, the food, a crab and smoked salmon salad was light and refreshing and the coffee, I believe was by Ponticelli. Where local businesses support each other, sustainability happens.