Bloomin Marvelous!

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Every year at the end of May/early  June;  Dublin’s Phoenix Park (the largest walled city park in Europe) becomes temporary home to the Bloom festival.

Bloom in the park is Bord Bia’s (The Irish Food board) annual showcase event for Irish food and horticulture.  An afternoon spent at Bloom involves gazing at the amazing floral constructions and arrangements, checking out the local art and craft stalls, fun zones for the kids and of course what drew me there – the food village!

Bloom 2013 attracted in excess of 110,000 visitors over the five days – exceeding the previous best of 90,000. The event continues to grow in popularity with artisan producers , exhibitors and garden designers alike.  Bloom absolutely highlights the talent, diversity and creativity of the Irish food and horticultural sector and its capacity to contribute to the economy. It was also the launchpad for Origin Green, a unique sustainability development programe developed by Bord Bia to demonstrate internationally our commitment to sustainabilty. Take a look at this .

I took myself down to Bloom last Sunday morning – early, to beat the crowds!  I was amazed by the sheer size of the event; you really needed the map to get around. My first port of call was the Quality kitchen where TV Chef Catherine Fulvio from Ballyknocken House was cooking. I always enjoy watching Catherine cooking either live or on TV.  She has an easy style and makes everything seem possible!

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Catherine Fulvio and I after her demo

After Catherine’s demo I began my stroll around, beginning with the Love Irish food Marquee.

Love Irish Food’ is an independent campaign set up by Irish manufactured food & drink brands in 2009 to highlight the positive consequences of buying Irish brands and the important contribution they make to sustaining employment and to the Irish economy. Some of the country’s most prominent food companies in included in this initiative are very well known such as , Ballymaloe Country Relish, Brodericks bars, Folláin Jams, Jelly Bean Factory, Keelings fruits, TJ Crowe sausage & bacon products, Coole Swan cream liqueur, Golden Irish eggs, Noirins bakehouse.  New to Bloom this year are Big Als burgers, Rudd’s Fine Foods, Kilkenny Food Company, Newgrange Gold rapeseed oils, and Robert Roberts Tea & Coffee.

While there I had a taste of the lovely Coole Swan Liqueur, I love this stuff! If you haven’t tried it look for it. It’s a cream liqueur made with white Belgian chocolate. Have it with ice or use for deserts. I sometimes just pour over good vanilla ice cream and sprinkle some Cadburys chocolate flake through it – sooo good!

Ballymaloe Relish is also one of my most favourite products – ever! So naturally I had to sop by their stand. My fridge is never without a jar of this. Its great with cheese sandwiches but my favourite way to use it is with Heinz baked beans, stir a generous sized spoonful into the beans and it takes them to another dimension completely! Trust me it’s true!

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Neven Maguire and I after his cooking demonstration

I was also lucky enough to meet with TV Chef Neven Maguire after his food demonstration. A very popular chef in Ireland Neven always draws the crowds. Likewise with his Macnean  Restaurant in County Cavan , its impossible to just call and get  booking for a weekend there. You need to wait a few months but its worth it. Neven’s TV show will be shown in the US later this year on PBS so I’m sure he will be very popular with the American public too.

Then it was off to the Artisan Food market and the meat and fish market.  Now as everyone knows Ireland has a great affiliation with potatoes and I think at the moment no one is doing a better job at marketing potatoes (or Spuds!) than Keoghs! Apart from that I am genuinely in love with their Atlantic sea salt and cider vinegar crisps (chips for our American friends). They are just beautiful.  They do really interesting seasonal flavours too, including Shamrock flavoured at St. Patricks Day and Roast Turkey flavour for Christmas…seriously good!

Also came across Derrycamma farm.  Based in Castlebellingham, County Louth , this award winning farm produces cold pressed Rapeseed oil. Having tried the Garlic version I can certainly see why they are award winning!

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Patrick and Carol Rooney from Derrycamma Farm
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PJ from Cashel Blue and Grainne from St. Tola
Ross and Tom Keogh

 Cheese is one of the products that Ireland is most famous for and two of the stars for sure are St. Tola organic Goats cheese and Cashel Blue. Paired with the in fashion beetroot St. Tola is beautiful. I bought the crottin of soft organic goats cheese  – a smooth and lemony flavour makes this very appealing. This cheese won awards at Bloom and won the best Irish cheese at the world cheese awards. If you’re visiting Ireland you can take a trip to the goat farm near Clare’s Wild atlantic Coast.

Cashel Blue created in 1984 and is the original cows milk blue cheese. Watercress, pear and cashel blue cheese salad would be a favourite with this one.

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Sophie Morris and Graham from Kooky Dough

For those who love their cookies but don’t always have the time to make them from scratch there is Kooky Dough. I met with Sophie and Graham at their stand and they showed me their new products, pre prepared and rolled dough for not only cookies but also muffins and scones!  All you need to do is slice and bake! Simple and delicious !

Smoked Salmon is one of my other favourite things and undoubtedly The Burren Smokehouse in County Clare is one of if not the best in Ireland. Birgitta and her husband Peter run the business not only produce smoked salmon but also smoked trout, mackerel and cheese. They sell all over Ireland and export worldwide. Try the organic smoked salmon with Guinness bread, simple but amazing. Another place to visit while in County Clare as The Burren smokehouse will do tastings and demonstrations. You can even combine a visit there with another to Birgittas husbands brewery!

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Birgitta from Burren Smoked Salmon

Popped in for a bit to the Bloom in and met with Jack Teeling from Teelings Whiskey in Dublin. A new product and will in the future have a visiting facility. Will be great to have this in Dublin.

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All in all it was an exhausting but interesting and inspiring day. I left armed with produce and more knowledge of the Irish food scene. I met some really lovely artisan food producers and am delighted to say that they were all only too happy to discuss food tourism and how they could be a part of it. The future is bright! Met so many people I couldn’t include all here but please checkout the Facebook page for more pics.

Off now to think of ideas on how to use all the lovely things I bought!!!!!

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