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Tuesday, August 30, 2011

A TASTE OF DONEGAL FOOD FESTIVAL 2011

DONEGAL in chocolate (by Brenda Ryan) at the Taste of Donegal Food Festival
For the second year running we attended the "A Taste of Donegal Food Festival" in Donegal Town this weekend.  It is run the last weekend of August each year and seems to go from strength to strength and as with last year the entrance fee was kept to a minimum of €2 per adult (children with adults enter free) or alternatively a €5 ticket which covers entrance in for the whole 3 days of the festival.

A Taste of Donegal Food Festival 2011 ~ live cookery display
The festival is mostly under cover and takes up much of the new pier at Donegal Town on the edge of Donegal Bay.  On Sunday, when we attended, the cover was not needed as the sun was shining, the skies blue and cloud free and so during the course of our visit we were able to take a cappuccino break at one of the many tables outside the main tented area and at the same time enjoy one of the live shows going on, a lady speaking on wines.  The festival runs many live shows during the weekend including not only wine appreciation but also cookery displays by various chefs both from Donegal and guest celebrity chefs such as the gently spoken and very talented, Neven Maguire.

One of the outdoor stands at the Taste of Donegal Food Festival
There are many stands both inside and outside the marquee and include a range of products such as cakes, sweets, olives, cheeses, smoked produce, soups, chowders, wines, beers, ice creams, fudge selections, homemade sausages, breads, rganic vegetables and fruits and much more. 

Huge selection of olives at the Taste of Donegal Food Festival 2011
You can taste free samples of the foods available and purchase those you like.  You can also buy tubs of delcious homemade chowders ~ we bought one from one stand and one from another to compare.  Both were delicious and packed with a variety of seafoods, so both were winners in our view and well worth the €2 in one case and €1.50 charge for them.

Cupcake Heaven at the A Taste of Donegal Food Festival 2011
Inside again, as was the case last year, it was cupcake heaven with many cupcake stalls with a colourful and tempting display of colourful cupcakes.  The ones that made me smile were the many cupcakes with the Donegal flag and colours on them in support of the Donegal team who sadly didn't make it to the all Ireland final as it turned out.

Old fashioned sweets at the A Taste of Donegal Food Festival 2011
The sweet theme continued with stalls selling old fashioned sweets from jars and a huge stand with every variety of jelly sweets, marshmallows and strings of liquorice.

Lots of sweeties at the Taste of Donegal Food Festival!
I watched, as did many others, the deft knife skills of a chef carving pretty flowers from raw carrots.  Her skill with a knife was great to watch as she rapidly produced delicate petals to form a large chrysanthemum type flower.

Carrot carving at the Taste of Donegal Food Festival
Further on, at one of the stalls we were amazed by the skill of a chef there.  Brenda Ryan of "Dream Cakes By Brenda") was helping out at the stand of the Smugglers Creek Inn, a restaurant based in nearby Rossnowlagh which enjoys an enviable location with views over the 4 mile long sandy beach there. 

The hugely talented cake maker, Brenda Ryan with her chocolate display
Brenda had created a huge display of flowers, little animals, waves and dolphins all fashioned out of chocolate.  I could scarcely believe it was all chocolate and had at first thought some of it was carved out of wood or in some cases maybe metal sculptures.  But I was wrong and every part of it, save the grass in the little gardens, was made of chocolate but even the grass was edible as it was made using wheat grass.  Brenda is one highly skilled and talented lady.  You can contact Brenda for "wedding and celebration cakes made to order" at info@dreamcakesbybrenda.com

Seafood sausages by the Smugglers Creek Inn
The Smugglers Creek Inn stand rightly won the Best Stand Award and I was intrigued to see "Seafood Sausages" there.  I asked the ingredients and found they are made of various seafood together with seaweeds.  The taste was sensational. 

Award winners Niamh and Peter Curry of Carraig na Breac and Mark Rush of the Smugglers Creek Inn
Beside the Smugglers Creek Inn was the stand of Carraig na Breac who had a full range of their own home smoked foods including their hugely flavoursome smoked bacon.  Carraig na Breac is owned and run by Niamh and Peter Curry from Drumshambo, County Leitrim and they won an award at the festival for their tasty produce. 

Wandering along further we watched three men from the excellent four star hotel, Harvey's Point which sits on the shores of Lough Eske just outside Donegal Town, as an aside here I have to add that Harvey's Point must offer some of the largest hotel bedrooms in Ireland!  At the fair they won a number of awards including the deserved "A Passion to Inspire 2011" Award.

Gino "The Singing Chef" at the Taste of Donegal Food Festival 2011
What attracted us was not the fresh pancakes being made and topped with either chocolate of fruit for the crowd (which in fairness were an attraction in themselves), but rather the wonderful music emanating from the stand.  After watching for a moment I realised that the man in chef's whites with the name tag "Gino" was actually singing live and not miming as I had assumed. 

It was magical and he had the crowd firmly in his hands, entranced as they were with his wonderful voice.  Luckily my husband's camera can also video so I managed to get Gino in full voice captured for others to enjoy as we did. 

To watch the video of Gino singing "Time to Say Goodbye" click the link to my YouTube video HERE.

For those interested in taking a stand at the Taste of Donegal Food Festival 2012 year, you can email them at development@donegaltown.ie  And judging by the success of this years event and the number of stands, it might be as well to get in touch with them as soon as possible to guarantee a place next year.


Inside the marquee at the A Taste of Donegal Food Festival 2011

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