West Waterford Festival of Food | Dig in at Dungarvan

Taste, trails and theatre will take centre stage at the 12th annual West Waterford Festival of Food, happening in the scenic seaside town of Dungarvan from April 26 – 28.

“This year’s programme is bigger and hopefully better than ever,” said chairperson for the festival Anita Geoghegan at the festival’s launch party at the Cliff Townhouse beside Dublin’s Stephen’s Green on March 14. “We have over 120 events in just three days which is spectacular. On top of that, we’ve more than 100 stalls on the Saturday and Sunday for the festival’s markets.”

Now one of the largest and best-known food festivals in Ireland, this year’s event will tie together the best of indigenous produce from the region, taken from between the Comeragh Mountains and Celtic Sea. It also features a vast line-up of household-name chefs, dinners in historic venues, pop-up dining events, workshops, demos and tasty restaurant and foraging trails.

An early highlight of the festival is its opening event. The historic Lismore Castle will play host to discerning diners seeking a taste of the past, bundled into 800 years of history. Guests will have the opportunity to enjoy a Michelin starred menu designed and prepared by chefs Ross Lewis (Chapter One), Danni Barry (Balloo House) and Paula Stakelum (Ashford Castle).

On the festival’s Saturday, there will be another event set in a stately home as Woodhouse Estate in Stradbally will be opened for ‘A Great House Dinner’. Ireland’s rising female chefs Rose Greene (In de Wulf, Belgium), Holly Dalton (3fe / Gertrude) and Maeve Walsh (Canteen and Eurotoques Young Chef of the Year 2015 & 2016) will delight diners with a wonderful celebration of Irish food and their vision of what the future holds for the country’s dining.

Other noteworthy events include ‘Supper Theatre’ in Dungarvan Mart, which returns for its second year. Actor Aidan Dooley will deliver a performance based on the travels and tales of Antarctic Explorer Tom Crean. This will then be followed by a ‘Ship’s Supper’ served by chef Louise Clark (Nude Food). It will be made with ingredients one could find at the South Pole.

The festival will also host an Irish premiere – ‘The Cushty Dining Experience’. A tribute to classic British sitcom Only Fools and Horses, traditional Irish pub An Seanachaí will transform into the show’s bar The Nags Head for a night of wheeling, dealing and dining with Rodney, Del Boy and friends.

Speaking to Travel Ireland Magazine, Geoghegan was particularly excited about the festival’s collaboration with FoodCloud, a social enterprise that redistributes unwanted, in-date food from businesses to charities. “They have made 45 million meals that otherwise would have gone to waste. That’s stunning.”

As well as giving a talk, FoodCloud will host a dinner. Chef Tom Walsh (Portmarnock Hotel & Golf Links) will be preparing a feast from salvaged produce.  “As far as I know, it’s going to be a five-course tasting menu,” says Geoghegan. “The price is €30. I’ve heard discussion of what they want to serve, and it sounds elaborate, though they can’t think up the menu until they know what’s in FoodCloud that week. It will be an interesting different kind of event.”

In terms of trails, lovers of fresh air and food can avail of tours of spots like the Comeragh Mountains and Colligan Wood. Also available is a seaside trip focusing on the bounty available on the coast and a Georgian quarter restaurant trail, taking in some of the town’s historic buildings and three different restaurants over three courses.

On top of all this, there will be Middle Eastern feasts, Mexican pop-ups, as well as the festival’s Saturday and Sunday markets. According to the festival chair, there is plenty for all age groups: “It goes on all weekend. There are some free public events. If you have a tenner in your pocket, you’ll have a good time. If you wanted, you could spend multiples and multiples of that.”

Geoghegan revealed the line-up took six months to plan. She said the programme is so packed in fact that ‘no matter how hard you try this year, you can’t get to half the events.’

Over 50,000 people from across Ireland attended in 2018. However, Geoghegan is confident the festival will draw bigger numbers next month. “This year, weather permitting, is going to be even better. That’s because we’ve got more lined up, events that will suit the whole community.”

Tickets for the West Waterford Festival of Food are on sale now. For more details, see the event’s site at westwaterfordfestivaloffood.com.

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