Nestled on the southern shore of West Cork, Ireland, the historic harbour town of Kinsale—the self-declared gourmet centre of Ireland—is as serene a location as one can find. However, the tranquility is broken over a raucous weekend each year as Kinsale celebrates at full tilt all of the wondrous foods she has to offer during its annual Kinsale Gourmet Festival. This year October 12-14th, 2012 marked the 36th annual celebration by Kinsale and the Good Food Circle (GFC) of restaurants. The GFC is a group of 10 member restaurants that pride themselves on their high reputation for culinary expertise in fine dining.
The weekend kicked off on the Friday with a mid-day cook-off on the quay. The chefs of the GFC showed off their skills and provided taste samples for spectators and passer-byes. With a lot of good cheer and competitive spirit on the streets, things quickly got serious on Friday night at the Taste of West Cork Dining Experience Black Tie Ball. Patrons were treated to a feast of West Cork delicacies over an eight-course dinner prepared by ten(!) chefs of the GFC. These ten chefs are each used to orchestrating food preparation in their own kitchens. Trying to navigate the confines of a single location to cook for nearly 150 people is truly something to behold. Talk about too many cooks in the kitchen! As Hal McElroy, General Manger of the host Trident Hotel, commented: “Just getting them to walk in the same direction is a bit of an accomplishment!” However, the meal went off without a hitch and truly highlighted the local ingredients available in the region. Live music and dancing went on until the late hours of the night.
On Saturday morning many participants rolled right out of bed and into The Mad Hatter’s Taste of Kinsale. Starting in full costume at the Kinsale Yacht Club, The Mad Hatter, Alice and friends led nearly 400 guests on a tour of the GFC restaurants who presented spectacular dishes from their kitchens. Tickets included unlimited food and wine, so the party swings into full gear in no time. As an added element of fun everyone was asked to wear a ‘mad hat’ in honour of the Mad Hatter. Imagination and creativity were on full display as diners walked from location to location tasting the delicious dishes bearing testimony to the culinary skills of the chefs of Kinsale. Afterwards, for those who still had the stamina it was off to the Festival Club to yet again dance the night away!
Part of the excitement of the day included a 50 Mile Meal Award. Each chef was asked to prepare one of their dishes highlighting produce from within a 50-mile radius. This year’s prize went to Chef Pearse O’Sullivan of Toddies at The Bulman who prepared locally line-caught fish, battered with Bulman Red Ale and served with seaweed tartar and a salad of Toonsbridge buffalo mozzarella, and green beans with a raspberry vinaigrette.
For those who hadn’t had their fill, Sunday held more delectable treats. Guests were served a mouth-watering, four-course lunch including lobster, prawns, crab, and other seafood, along with spirits & wine. Again, the celebrations started early and finished late into the evening.
Over the last 36 years Kinsale has clearly learned how to celebrate their excellence in gourmet food. Seventy-two hours of nearly non-stop festivities really allow visitors to immerse themselves in the culinary pride of this picturesque town.
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Gav Martell is fortunate to call travelling the globe in search of good eats “work.” When he isn’t busy cooking on TV — CHCH and Rogers — and publishing recipes and articles — FoodNetwork.ca, YummyMummyClub.ca and CanadianFamily.ca — he uses his three kids as an extra set of hands in the kitchen, and as the very best taste-testers.
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