23 October 2015
By Elaine Murphy
The 39th Kinsale Gourmet Festival on 9-11 October 2015, hosted by Kinsale’s eleven Good Food Circle restaurants, saw fine food celebrated in appropriate style, with a bevy of visiting gourmets from home and abroad relishing the festive atmosphere. The historic town was packed, with the event fully sold out. Be warned: a waiting list is already building for next year’s festival, which will mark the fortieth anniversary of this ever-popular weekend.
The event got off to a great start on Friday afternoon with the ‘Cork Heat’ of the All-Ireland Chowder Cook-Off at Acton’s Hotel, sponsored by Clóna, attracting a record crowd. The €5 admission fee entitled people to a tasting sample of each chef’s chowder, and a vote for the best, as well as samples from Blacks of Kinsale. Last year’s winners from Cork City’s Cornstore Restaurant returned to defend their title, and competed with chefs from Budds Restaurant, Ballydehob, The Rising Tide, Glounthaune, The Fish Bar at Electric, Cork City, Bastion of Kinsale, The Pink Elephant, Kilbrittain, The White Horse, Ballincollig, Richy’s Restaurant, Clonakilty, Poachers Inn, Bandon, Pier 26 Restaurant, Ballycotton, Celtic Ross Hotel, Rosscarbery, Quinlans Seafood Bar, Cork City, 9 Market St, Kinsale and The Speckled Door, Old Head.
This year’s Chowder Champion Chef, Sandra Murphy, came from The Rising Tide, Glounthane. They will represent Cork at the 6th All-Ireland Chowder Cook-Off in Kinsale next April, competing against chefs from all over Ireland for the coveted title of All Ireland Chowder Champion. The overall winner will travel to Newport, Rhode Island to show off their skills.
A Taste of West Cork
Friday evening continued with a champagne reception at the Trident Hotel, courtesy of Laurent Perrier, in the presence of Kevin O’Malley, the United States Ambassador to Ireland, with the very popular guest of honour Simon Coveney, Minister for the Marine, whose family has farmed in the Kinsale area for two generations. Members of Kinsale’s eleven Good Food Circle restaurants greeted guests with luxurious canapés from their own kitchens, before guests dispersed to the restaurant of their choice for a splendid 5-course ‘Taste of West Cork’ dinner which included Macroom Buffalo Mozzerala, Old Head Crab, Ummera Smoked Chicken, De Courcey Beef and Durrus, Coolea & Mileens Cheeses. There was a moment of sadness when the late Derek Davis, for many years the genial compere of the Good Food Circle’s events, and a good friend to Kinsale, who died suddenly last May, was remembered in a tribute from Jack Walsh, past chairman of the GFC.
Mad Hatters Taste of Kinsale
Saturday’s Mad Hatter’s Taste of Kinsale, sponsored by Musgrave MarketPlace, saw a large crowd of colourfully attired “Mad Hatters” in all types of fancy dress, assemble at Acton’s Hotel for a sparkling send-off sponsored by Christy’s Wines & Spirits. In what has become a time-honoured tradition, participants followed Alice, the Mad Hatter, the March Hare and the Fieldmouse on foot to four successive venues for a dazzling lunchtime spread of beautifully presented dishes created from local produce by the chefs of Kinsale’s Good Food Circle restaurants along with Haven Shellfish, Kinsale Fishermen, Cafes of Kinsale, Hegarty’s Cheddar, Ballinwillin Farm, Pat McCaul sent one of his magnificent animals, a Wild Boar who held court in Hamlets. These were complemented by selected drinks from the Festival sponsors Blacks of Kinsale, Barry & Fitzwilliam, Christys Wines & Spirits, Longueville Wines, Tindal Wines and Tipperary Waters. The townspeople enjoyed the imaginative displays of millinery creations. It was not easy to name the winners, but finally prizes were awarded to Eilis O’Connell supporting lobster and crab pots on her head. After many a delicious morsel, the revellers met up again at The White Lady to end the afternoon with dancing to live music from Crazy Chester.
Fruits de Mer Luncheon
The Festival concluded on Sunday with the 4-course Fruits de Mer Luncheon, sponsored by Pallas Foods and Bewley’s. Guests were greeted with a glass of locally produced sparkling Esterre and wines and craft beers were provided by Gleeson inc Gilbeys and 9 White Deer while Tipperary provided waters. Elaborately designed seafood platters featuring lobster, crab, prawns and other marine delicacies were admired by all. Rugby fans watched Ireland win in the France vs Ireland World Cup Match, and there was dancing to live music from Lady and the Tramps. This year’s Charity Auction raised funds for The Ciara O’Brien Trust, Kinsale Pink Ribbon Walk, Ray Of Sunshine, RNLI & Mens Shed.
Participating restaurants in this year’s Festival were Restaurant d’Antibes@The White House, Blue Haven, Crackpots, Finns’ Table, Fishy Fishy, Jim Edwards, Man Friday, Pier One@the Trident Hotel, Toddies at The Bulman, Sidney’s@Actons Hotel and The White Lady.