This past weekend was an extraordinary one for Boyne Valley Flavours for two reasons, we successfully delivered a new food and culture festival in partnership with Hinterland Festival Kells- Samhain Festival and we also scooped an award at the World Food Travel Association’s Food Trekking Awards in London on Sunday 3rd November for Most Innovative Food or Beverage Marketing Campaign for a Destination beating stiff competition from the likes of Discover San Sebastian (Spain), Esperienza (Italy), Bike Food Stories (Italy), Miami Seafood Restaurant (Greece) and many more destinations.
Both are phenomenal achievements for Boyne Valley Flavours- a membership-based organisation which aims to promote the Boyne Valley as a food tourism destination and support and promote producers and venues based in the region. We have only been in official existence since 2013 when the Boyne Valley Food Series commenced, and the development of a Boyne Valley Food Strategy 2014-2022 was formulated to enhance the good work already commenced in the region from groups such as Meath Artisan Network and Oriel Food Group in County Louth. Since then the Boyne Valley Food Series has thrived and it now sits under the Boyne Valley Flavours brand which also encompasses the Boyne Valley Producers Network which aims to support & promote producers.
Samhain Festival was a new collaboration between Boyne Valley Flavours and Hinterland Festival Kells, who joined forces to present a festival celebrating 5,000 years of Irish Food and Culture as part of Fáilte Ireland's new Taste the Island initiative and we have thank Fáilte Ireland for their great support. Over the three-day festival there were over 30 fascinating and enlightening events all centred around Irish food took place around the town of Kells.
The weekend kicked off in style on Friday with a sold-out crowd enjoying A Wine Goose Chase, written and performed by Susan Boyle in the Headfort Arms Hotel’s Vanilla Pod restaurant. On Saturday local Boyne Valley chef Tara Walker opened proceedings along with Boyne Valley Flavour’s Brand Ambassadors- the Gastro Gays who also held a live recording of their podcast Chew the Fat. Master bread maker Patrick Ryan presented a masterclass in sourdough bread making leaving the whole audience motivated to master the craft for themselves after tasting Patrick’s divine creations! Killua Castle was the location for another sold out event centred around Irish game ending in a beautiful venison lunch.
Fresh from his own recent successful Food on the Edge conference Michelin starred chef JP McMahon presented two events- 10 Food from 5,000 years and Nose to Tail with poet Neil McCarthy leaving audiences in awe of his incredible knowledge and passion for Irish food. Chef Brian McDermott whose cookbook recently won Best Cookery Book in the World 2019 presented a cookery demo focused on fish with many easily applied tips on how to cook well at home.
Kevin Sheridan along with Boyne Valley cheesemaker- Michael Finegan who produces Boyne Valley Blue and Bán cheeses collaborated with Sally Ann Cooney of Boyne Brewhouse with a look at the Irish Farmhouse cheese industry and a fantastic cheese and beer/cider pairing.
One of the highlights of the weekend was undoubtedly the Samhain Long Table Supper, with a menu featuring the finest Boyne Valley produce with venison from Killua Castle, smoked black pudding from The Smokin’ Butcher and Carlingford Oysters. Boyne Valley Flavours were honoured to welcome the doyenne of Irish food Darina Allen to the Boyne Valley on Sunday, where she launched the inaugural National Black Pudding Day with multi award winning butcher Hugh Maguire- The Smokin’ Butcher and also presented a demo with Hugh on Forgotten Skills, in this case making black pudding in the traditional method. Darina also took part in A Tribute to Myrtle Allen with renowned food historian Regina Sexton.
Michael Kelly of GIY Ireland joined us to present a Grow Cook Eat event which left all in attendance eager to get planting. Chef and activist Ellie Kisyombe cooked up a storm and the Our Table brunch with all proceeds going to Our Table which helps educate people in Direct Provision with culinary skills. A full house joined chef Domini Kemp for her Food as Medicine event which gave a truly breath-taking insight into the importance of food to our health.
Aoife Carrigy wrapped up proceedings with a fabulous performance celebrating literary history of Irish pubs.
This is only a taste of some of the many fantastic events that took place over the weekend which also included a tour of Martry Mill including a cookery demo from local chef and journalist Gerard Meade, The Zero Waste Kitchen with Chef Maurice McGeehan, The Gluten Free Kitchen with chef Gearoid Lynch, Cool Food School Terrific Tomatoes workshop, Post Brexit Agri Food Landscape with Deirdre Hurley, Daragh McCullough and Minister Helen McEntee, The Evolution and Consequences of our Food Choices on People Planet and Pocket with Grainne Kelleher, James Burke, David Rane and Dr.Máirtin Mac Con Iomaire, Chef’s Manifesto- There is no Planet B with Michael Kelly, Conor Space and John McKenna, a poetry reading with Neil McCarthy, The Irish Paradox- The Island that Doesn’t Eat Fish with Birgitta Curtin, Niall Sabongi and Sally McKenna, and a Samhain Market in Sheridans Cheesemoners. Aoife Carrigy wrapped up proceedings with a fabulously entertaining performance celebrating literary history of Irish pubs-‘Two Pints of Plain for the Boule Bloomin’ Bowsies’.
This weekend was a celebration of Irish food - the history of it, the traditions behind our food, our relationship with it, the people who champion it and the future of it. To win an award so prestigious as the Food Trekking Award really was the icing on the cake on what was already a fantastic weekend and will further enable Boyne Valley Flavours to continue their mission of driving food tourism into the Boyne Valley region and supporting producers.
A huge massive thank you to all who helped us deliver this festival including Fáilte Ireland, our festival sponsors and all the many volunteers who pitched in over the weekend. Thank you also to everyone who attended the Festival! Remember to save the date for Samhain 2020- 7th & 8th November!
See you there!
The Boyne Valley is home to a bountiful supply of passionate farmers, food and drinks producers, chefs and eateries whose passion is to bring the flavours of our landscape to your table. To understand, you must experience!
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