The 38th Kinsale Gourmet Festival on the weekend of 10-12 October created a sparkling weekend in the Cork seaside resort for food lovers from home and abroad. The event was fully sold out, and there is already a waiting list to book for next year’s festival when tickets become available.
The Friday afternoon ‘Cork Heat’ of the All-Ireland Chowder Champion Cook-off at Actons Hotel, a free event sponsored by Clona, was attended by over 200 people, who tasted the chowders and voted for their favourite. Compere Derek Davis presided over the proceedings with his usual warm affability, welcoming ten contenders for the title from Cork City and County: Celtic Ross, Rosscarbery; Cornstore Restaurant, Cork; Cronin’s Pub, Crosshaven; Monk’s Lane, Timoleague; Nash19, Cork; The Oliver Plunkett, Cork; the Pantry, Midleton, the Poachers Inn, Bandon; Rising Tide, Glounthaune and Trawl & Trend, Bantry. The chefs were competing to represent Cork County at the fifth All-Ireland Chowder Cook-off, which will take place in Kinsale in April, 2015. The winners of that event will travel to Newport Rhode Island to show off their skills. Competition was fierce, with special ingredients ranging from smoked lobster shell stock to lemon grass and coconut milk. Runners up were Poachers Inn and Nash19, while the winner was the Cornstore Restaurant, Cork. The Cornstore’s chef, Mike Ryan, was praised by Derek Davis for producing ‘a fine chowder, beautifully presented, with a little drop of Jameson Black Barrel Whiskey Sour on the side to make the difference.’ Taste of West Cork
The Festival opening at 6.30pm on Friday at the White Lady Hotel was marked by the sparkle of champagne, sponsored by Laurent Perrier, and hosted by the effervescent Derek Davis. Canapés were provided by Kinsale’s Good Food Circle Restaurants, each of whom provided their own menu for a five-course ‘Taste of West Cork’ dinner sponsored by Pallas Foods and Cork Co Co. Menus featured locally- sourced produce and ranged from warm scallop salad, locally foraged mushroom soup, West Cork charcuterie platter, local lamb, beef and duck, blackberry panacotta, and West Cork cheeseboards of Coolea, Durrus and Milleens cheese, all accompanied by Churchills Port from Gleeson. Mad Hatters Tea Party
Saturday’s Mad Hatters Taste of Kinsale, is the highlight of the event for many punters, who need little encouragement to don their ever-more elaborate “mad hats” and follow Alice, the Mad Hatter, the March Hare and the Fieldmouse on a tour of Kinsale’s Good Food Circle. This year over 500 Mad Hatters assembled at Acton’s Hotel at 11.30am for a sparkling reception, sponsored by Christy’s Wine and Spirits, before setting off for the four tasting venues. Kinsale’s chefs had excelled themselves, creating beautifully presented dishes from the best of local produce. These were complimented by selected drinks from the festival sponsors, Barry & Fitzwilliam, Blacks Kinsale Brewery, Findlaters, Gleeson, Longueville Wines, Stonewell, Tindal and Tipperary Water Participants sported some truly sensational hats, with several people opting for full fancy dress including a group of clowns and a "herd" of sheep and ‘Operation Transformation’ certainly worked for Karl Henry as he celebrated his stag as a jockey! Hats ranged from traditionally elegant to ingeniously comic creations, and were adorned with fruit, flowers and even Tiffany jewellery. The groups of "Mad Hatters" provided an entertaining spectacle for the people of Kinsale as they paraded from one restaurant to the next. It was hard to single out a winner, but Hattitude Kinsale awarded the prize for best hat to Brian McCarthy.The Transition Town Kinsale 50 Mile Meal Award judged by Karen Austin of Lettercollum House & Masterchef winner Diane Dodog for Most Exquisite was given to Pearse O’Sullivan of Toddies for Home-Smoked Mackerel with Seaweed Brown Bread, Plum and Beetroot Relish and a Buffalo Milk Yoghurt. Other sponsors at the venues were Ballymaloe Relish, Cafes of Kinsale, Clonakilty Black Pudding, Hegarty Cheese, Horizon Farms, and Taste of West Cork Later. All gathered at The White Lady at 4.30pm, where the nightclub was turned into a “dayclub” for a disco and dancing to local band Crazy Chester. Fruits de Mer
Seafood platters took pride of place at Sunday's Fruits de Mer Luncheon at Acton's Hotel. French onion soup was followed by deliciously prepared local mussels and platters of fruits de mer featuring lobster, crabs, prawns and other delights from the deep, with wine sponsored by Christy's Wines and Karwig. After freshly roasted Bewleys coffee, there was dancing to live music from Midleton-based band, the Magnetics. Jim O'Brien, General Manager of the Old Head Golf Links, was surprised and gratified to receive a presentation of Kinsale Crystal from Kinsale Good Food Circle in recognition of the golf course's contribution to Kinsale. Guests at the lunch included Celebrity Chef Ross Lewis of Chapter One. The charity auction after lunch raised a very generous total of €14,431for Kinsale Pink Ribbon Walk in aid of Action Breast Cancer. The items auctioned included a four-ball package for the Old Head Golf Links with accommodation at Acton's Hotel and dinner at a Good Food Circle restaurant, two nights' accommodation and wakeboarding at Ballyhass Lakes Activity Centre, a diamond necklace sponsored by Frances Lynch, rugby merchandise including a signed Munster shirt and a Heineken Cup match ball. A 5 star all-inclusive week’s holiday on a Croatian island was offered from the floor, and people bid for TV chefs Paul Flynn and Martin Shanahan of Surf and Turf fame to cook dinner for ten in the bidder's own home with all ingredients supplied. A similar package was offered by Man Friday chefs Philip and Daniel Horgan.