Read: Irish Foodie | Dingle Food Festival
First published in Irish Foodie, Autumn 2022.
“It’s good to be back! It’s 100% positive and there’s an amazing buzz about it.” Niamh Kennedy who does marketing and PR for the Dingle Food Festival, alongside her day job as head of marketing at the Dingle-based Murphy’s Ice Cream, is looking forward to this year’s event, which is taking place from Friday 30 September to Sunday 2 October. Founded in 2007, the Festival started out as a way of promoting local foods from the peninsula; it’s now one of the autumn highlights for Irish food lovers.
“There’s a good buzz because the festival is big, but it takes place on a small, intimate scale,” says O’Kennedy. “It’s always worked and we’ll keep the same method.” That includes a focus on the Taste Trail which involves more than 70 venues scattered around the town – shops, restaurants, art galleries and pubs – all offering a taste of something delicious. It’s a real excuse to explore the corners of Dingle, and to eat an always-interesting variety of foods, with past Trails featuring everything from fish tacos and baked oysters, to mutton pies, ice cream bon bons and natural wines. “Taste tickets are €3 this year. Come and spend €10, or come and splash out – it’s up to you,” says O’Kennedy. “We close down the streets and let people experience the best of what we have to offer. The Festival is for everyone, there’s a great mixture of young and old that come, all the locals too, to enjoy the food and the music on the street.”
Alongside the cookery demos, workshops and family entertainment that takes place each year at the festival, this year’s weekend will have a special focus on local with the launch of Bia Dingle, the brand name chosen by Chorca Dhuibhne Food Network, a group of local food producers and hospitality providers, to represent the food of the area. “From farmers and fishers, to foragers, artisan and commercial producers, to our hospitality partners in restaurants and guesthouses; there is a story behind our food and those who make it,” observes Trevis Gleason, Cathaoirleach of the Network. Gleason, a former chef and author of Dingle Dinners (The Collins Press, 2017), a collection of recipes and menus from the town’s chefs, is well placed to understand the lure of those tales: “We felt that it was time to share those stories; not just with the world and our visitors but, and perhaps most importantly, with our neighbours.” The launch will take place on the Saturday morning of the festival and Chorca Dhuibhne Food Network will host a collection of Meet the Makers stalls (just off Green Street), along with a Taste Trail stop and “stalls where families can meet some local farm animals, learn about beekeeping on the peninsula, and even watch sea salt being made from locally-harvested, pristine waters of West Kerry.”
Gleason is an unabashed fan of the Festival, which he calls “one of the most anticipated gatherings and celebrations of all things culinary on this island! From the Farmers’ and Fishers’ forum presented by The Dingle Hub, to the Blas na hÉireann Awards (founded, headquartered, and presented here during the festival), and the much-loved Taste Trail, there is something for everyone.”
That inclusive attitude is what brings so many people to Dingle for the Festival, including the producers that travel from all over the country – in the hope that they’ll be returning home with a coveted Blas trophy – but who also get involved in the events. “One of the ways in which we think it works so well as part of the overall weekend is that so many of the food industry gather together for Blas,” says Fallon Moore organiser and co-ordinator of the Awards. “The atmosphere and fun of the festival combined with the business of food that takes place on that weekend as the best of the best gather is what has made it an unmissable date in the Irish food calendar.”
While the Blas na hÉireann judging and awards continued – with a lot of nimble thinking – during the pandemic, Moore says that she is particularly looking forward to seeing the people who are involved in the awards, many of whom return year after year. After two years of announcing the winners online, the opportunity to gather together will not be missed: “This year there will be 350+ producers from all across Ireland who will travel with their teams, families and friends to celebrate the very best of Irish food and drink,” announces Moore. “We cannot wait to welcome them all back to Dingle!”