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Letterkenny hosts new Irish Street Food Festival 29th and 30th July

Donegal's newest Food Festival kicks off this weekend in Letterkenny with an action packed program of events over Saturday 29th and Sunday 30th July 2017!

Off The Street Food Festival, Donegal's first ever Irish Street Food Festival, will feature local food producer's stories, food talks, cooking demonstrations, music and entertainment and a host of Donegal Street Food!

The brainchild of Chris Molloy from The Lemontree Restaurant and Derek Walker of Letterkenny Artisan Market, this new Irish Street Food Festival is offering a huge variety of food stalls selling amazing street, fresh local produce & much much more.

Two days of live music by local musicians, live cookery demos in the marquee by local talented chefs and producer story sections where you get to hear the stories behind some of Donegal's best food producers.

Declan McConnellogue from The Haven Smokehouse

Among the food producers from Donegal that will be telling their food story are Ballyholey Farm, OURganic Gardens, The Haven Smokehouse, Simply Natural Health, Harrys Walled Garden, Carols Stockmarket, Hive Donegal, Gareth Austin Horticulture and Boghopper Brewery.

Cooking Demonstrations will run all weekend and Donegal chefs on the stage on Saturday and Sunday include Gary M Peake, Mary McLaughlin, World Chowder Champion Kieran Duey, Frank Pasquier, Maurice McGeehan, me... Zack Gallagher, the 9 Hostages Coffee Baristas, Chris Molloy and Ciaran Sweeney.

The Street Food Festival takes place at the rear of the AIB Bank on Letterkenny Main Street and access is via Justice Walsh Road. There will be over ten stalls from local chefs cooking up a local Donegal Street Food and in total there will be over 50 food stalls!

As part of the food festival the popular Letterkenny Artisan Market will relocate to the festival site in the town centre over the weekend.

“The popularity of street has really grown in the last couple of years so we just wanted to try an run an event like this in my home town", said Chris Molloy, about the new Street Food Festival. "Entry is just €3 per ticket, €5 for a full weekend ticket and children go free!"

With something for the whole family, this is a true celebration of the vibrant Donegal Food scene, and a weekend not to be missed! For more info see

Limited Early Bird Two-Day Tickets for Food On The Edge available until the 31st July

Food On The Edge is a global conference, founded and directed by Galway chef JP McMahon, that brings chefs and food industry speakers, from all around the world, together in the City of the Tribes, to discuss the future of food and the food industry.

The symposium’s aim is to generate debate, discussion and thought leadership on the future of food both in the industry and on the planet. The 2017 dates are the 9th and 10th of October.

Approximately 50 chefs will speak over the two day symposium. All are chosen for their innovation, passion and influence on today’s food culture. Each speaker, with their own unique perspective, talks for 15 minutes on the cultural, social, environmental and educational aspects of food and will attempt to challenge our perspective on food and our connection to it.

The principal theme of this year’s Food On The Edge symposium is Action : Reaction and the emphasis for the talk is on the vision for the future of food and how we can make things better on both a local and a global level.

Speaking at the recent Irish launch, JP McMahon said, “After three years it was time to reflect on the issues we’ve been talking about and try to change or act on them. Feedback from chefs that had taken direct action as a result of attending Food On The Edge – chefs at the top of their game and chefs just starting out – has been inspiring and motivating. We’d like to hear these stories and promote action.”

Founder and Director of Food On The Edge, JP McMahon

Chef-owner Domini Kemp said she was delighted to be asked to speak at this year's event. "The impact of Food On The Edge cannot be understated. Part of what JP is doing is establishing Irish food culture. When you go to Food On The Edge you come aware very inspired."

The 2017 Food On The Edge venue is the Black Box Theatre, which is located along the banks of the River Corrib in Galway City. Now in its third year, this event sells out rapidly but limited edition Early Bird Two-Day Tickets are currently available until the 31st July for the special price of €350. These tickets give you access to all talks, lunches and also gets you into the famous Food On The Edge Wrap Party!

The official social media hashtags for Food On The Edge 2017 are #ActionReaction and #FOTE2017 and you can Purchase these special Early Bird Two-Day Tickets HERE.

Get your Early Bird Tickets Now, before it's too late!

Newcastle West, Limerick, Food Tour on Thursday 24 August with Sharon Noonan

Following on from the successful launch of the Newcastle West Food Tour in June, the next tour will take place during Heritage Week on Thursday 24 August when guests will have an opportunity to explore the finest culinary hotspots and rich gastronomic history of the famed West Limerick town.

Developed by well known local, Sharon Noonan, tastings on the tour are plentiful and include coffee with raw milk from Croom, granola from Curraghchase, craft beer from Kilmallock and of course no food tour of Limerick’s largest town would be complete without enjoying award winning cheddar from its resident cheese maker, Cahill’s. 

More unusual stops include a visit to a sushi bar which is the latest addition to the restaurant scene in Newcastle West and a poetry reading from the town’s favourite son Michael Hartnett adds a quirky literary twist.  The tour culminates with a mouth watering lunch boasting a menu created from locally sourced ingredients.

Sharon, who presents the popular Best Possible Taste radio show and podcast, says the food and drink landscape in Newcastle West is ‘extremely impressive’ when you look closely.

“The town was home to Nash’s famous red lemonade and still is to Ballygowan, Ireland’s first developed water brand and the undisputed giant of Irish bottled water,” she explained.  The Desmond Banqueting Hall dominates the Square which is home to Sonas Healthfoods, our answer to the Happy Pear with its diverse and large range of Irish artisan food products.  Our eclectic stalls at the Thursday and Saturday markets have so much to offer with items such as freshly baked sourdough bread and Irish garlic which sell out early.”

Limited places are available on the next Newcastle West Food Tour which takes place on Thursday 24 August.  For further information, please contact Sharon Noonan 087 099 5741 or email

A September tour takes place on Saturday 23 September 2017.

Cooking Tips for the Perfect Irish Steak!

"...there is no flavour without the fat."

Irish Beef and Irish Steak are second to none on the world's stage of top quality meats. Our cattle are predominately grass-fed and this is something that other countries recognise as 'special' in Irish meats. I believe that this is the main reason that our Irish Beef is the tastiest meat on the planet! 

Sirloin Steak

A good steak is one of those dishes that can simply make or break any restaurant. If butchers owned restaurants, we'd all be happy! So Buy your Meat from a local Butcher!

Here are my tips for Buying a great Steak.

1. When choosing a steak, Sirloin (striploin) is a fine choice due to its tasty, melt-in-the-mouth succulence. A good steak has just the right amount of fat and nice marbling. Rump steak and Rib-eye are slightly cheaper than Sirloin and I think they are better steaks for barbequing or frying, with much more flavour.

2. Age of the steak is important, as the hanging process develops the flavour and tenderises the meat. So ask your butcher how long the beef has been hung for. As a rule, 21 days is a minimum and 35 days as a maximum hanging time is a good range to go for.

3. Good, well hung beef should be a deep red colour.

4. Check that the beef has good marbling - little streaks of fat running through the meat. This melts when heated, helping the steak to baste itself from within as it cooks.

5. There is no flavour without the fat! A good layer of creamy-white fat around the top of rump and sirloin steaks is essential, as is a little fat through the meat.

Ribeye Steak
Five steps to cooking the perfect steak at home

1. Take the steaks out of the fridge 30 minutes before cooking to allow to come to room temperature. Heat your griddle pan or frying pan over a high heat.

2. Lightly rub the steak with a little olive oil, or Donegal rapeseed oil and season with sea-salt and freshly ground black pepper just before cooking.

3. If your pan is small, don't cook off more than two steaks at a time and keep them spaced apart. If you add too many steaks to the pan at once, the temperature will drop and the steak will stew, rather than fry.

4. Don't turn the steaks until they are well seared, then turn them over and cook on the other side (see timings, below). I always lift a sirloin or ribeye steak up on it's fatty edge and sear that too until it crisps - yum!

5. Let the steak rest for about 2 minutes (under loose tinfoil if you want) before serving, to allow the juices that have been drawn to the surface to relax back into the meat.
Fillet Steak
 Cooking Times for Steaks.

These timings are based on cooking a Sirloin steak that's about 2cm (3/4 of an inch) thick. Cooking times will vary depending on the type and thickness of the steak, and how hot your pan is. 
Be adventurous and try cooking your steak a little less well done than you normally would. I guarantee that you’ll never eat a well-done steak again once you’ve tasted a really juicy medium!

Blue: Warmed through, just, on a plate on the side of the cooker and then seared each side
Rare: 1 minutes each side
Medium rare: 2 minutes each side
Medium: 2½   minutes each side
Medium-well: 3½ minutes each side.
Well Done: 5 minutes each side - but do try to eat your steak a little less done than you usually would and you'll discover the real juicy taste of great Irish Steak!

Juicy Medium Rare - Just the way I like it!


Zack's BBQ Sauce & Basting Stock!

With this wonderful weather upon us and the whole of Ireland pulling out their BBQs to take advantage of the sunny afternoons, I thought that I’d give you a tip that will help turn your Barbecue into something really special!

The first thing to note is that you should not coat your meat (any type) with the Barbecue sauce until it is almost finished cooking. The reason for this is that the sugars and tomatoes in the BBQ sauce will caramelise and burn on the outside of the meat before it is actually cooked on the inside!

Instead you use a Basting Sauce (aka basting stock) while it's cooking to keep it moist and add flavour. Use a 1” paintbrush to coat the basting sauce over the meat as it is cooking. 

When your food is cooked, brush the BBQ Sauce over the meat and give it another few minutes on the grill to glaze and finish the flavouring.

My Basting Sauce Recipe:
500ml apple juice
100ml olive oil
50ml malt vinegar
Juice of 1 lemon
1 Chicken stock cube
4 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 tspn thyme
1 tspn rosemary
½ tspn paprika
½ tspn black pepper
½ tspn salt

Put everything in a pot and bring to the boil. Turn off the heat and let it cool. Use this to moisten your meats as they cook.

My BBQ Sauce Recipe:
50ml olive oil
1 medium onion
5 cloves garlic
1 red chilli (deseeded)
1 red pepper
1 yellow pepper
1 green pepper
2x 400g tins chopped tomatoes
50g brown sugar
4 tbls honey
50ml soy sauce
300ml tomato ketchup
100ml brown sauce
1 tbls Treacle
1 tbls Sesame OIl
1 tbls Dijon mustard
1 tbls Worchester sauce
juice and zest of 1 lemon
juice and zest of 1 orange
1 tspn Tabasco sauce
½ tspn cracked black pepper
100ml water

Chop the vegetables roughly because your going to blitz the sauce in a food processor when it's cooked. Put them into a large pot and add all the other ingredients. Bring it all to the boil. Turn down the heat and simmer the sauce for 30 minutes. Blitz in a food processor or with a blitzing gun, you can make it smooth or leave it a little rough for a bit of bite. You can use this BBQ sauce straight away or you can put it in the fridge overnight to help the flavours develop. 

When your beef, chicken, ribs, lamb, Kebabs, burgers, sausages, fish, prawns, or whatever you're using, is cooked to your liking, simply brush the BBQ sauce over your meat, give it another few minutes on the Barbecue to add a tasty, shiny, crispy delicious glaze that will have your guests licking their fingers with delight!

My BBQ Sauce is also excellent for rubbing on Chicken Wings or Pork Ribs. Cook the meat in a pre-heated oven at 180°C until its done. Take it out and brush with the BBQ Sauce and pop back in the oven for another 10 mins. Delicious!

Both sauces can be made in advance and kept in the fridge. The BBQ Sauce will keep for months, if you jar it when its still hot. 

Enjoy the Sunshine and insist on locally-sourced Irish food for your BBQ!


The "Just Ask" Restaurant for the Month of June is Good Things café in Skibbereen

The Bordbia Just Ask restaurant of the month for June goes to Good Things café at Dillon’s Corner, Skibbereen, Co. Cork.

Carmel Somers, Owner & Chef at The Good Things Café, Skibbereen, Cork
Good Things is the creation of chef, boss and mother extraordinaire, Carmel Somers, a passionate chef who cooks simple, fresh and tasty food.

“Good ingredients make good food", says owner Carmel Somers, owner & chef at Good Things café. "Therefore, at Good Things we make a priority of locally sourcing the best ingredients possible. In essence, whatever we cook, we like to ensure it’s something we would like to eat. Not only do our customers eat our food but also our staff, our family and our friends, therefore, we do our utmost to provide truly good food".

Their fresh meat is supplied by local butcher, William Walsh and Dave Louks of Sheehymore Free Range Farm supplies their chicken and eggs.

Fish and seafood are sourced from The Fish Station in Skibbereen and Ted Browne of De Brun Iasc Teo in Dingle. Additional suppliers include Sally Barnes of Woodcock Smokery for her smoked fish and the Ferguson family of Gubbeen Farmhouse for their Gubbeen cheeses and cured meats.

The Kingstons of Glenilen Farm are the suppliers for all their country butter, creme fraiche, clotted cream and yoghurts. Local fruit & vegetable suppliers include Steve and Aly of Grá Farm, Radical Roots of Bandon, grower Phil Walsh, Gubbeen Greens from Gubbeen House Gardens and Tim York of Lisheen Organics in Skibbereen.

Carmel also runs a successful Cookery School which continues with their tradition of cooking honest tasty good things to eat. For more details visit their website at or call +353 (0)28 51948. (pics @GoodThingsCafe )

Bord Bia’s Just Ask initiative was established in 2009 to recognise restaurants across the country that demonstrate best practice both in sourcing local produce, and profiling suppliers on their menus. Listing the local farmers and businesses involved with bringing a menu together can enhance the experience for diners and promotes better engagement with the farm to fork journey.

To date, there have been over 65 winners, selected by food writer Georgina Campbell in collaboration with Bord Bia. Each month, a Restaurant of the Month is selected for an eatery that exemplifies the principles of the campaign. A leading restaurant is chosen for the annual Restaurant of the Year award and Good Things cafe actually won the Restaurant of the Year 2017 at an award ceremony last September.


A Very Fast Soda Bread Pizza!

Summer time, gardens, children, friends, Barbeques & Pizza are some the main ingredients for a great day with the family! 

Pizza is so easy to make but some people are put off by the thought of getting the yeast, proving the dough and all that. So here is a simple soda bread dough that you can make in five minutes and the cooking of the pizza then takes another 10 minutes!

This is based on a traditional Irish white Soda Scone Bread with a wee twist and it works perfectly every time.

My ingredients:
For the dough -makes two 10” pizzas
800g plain white flour
½ tspn baking powder
A few twists of ground black pepper
A few twists of ground sea salt
½ tspn mixed Herbs
½ tspn finely chopped garlic
2 tbls olive or rapeseed oil
400ml cold water (approx)

You can buy Pizza Trays fairly cheap, in any hardware or discount shop.

My Method:
Heat your oven to 180ºC.
  1. Put all the dry ingredients into a large bowl and stir with a whisk to mix well. Add the oil and stir.
  2. Now add ¾ of the cold water and with your hand pull the mix into a dough. Add a little more water if you need to. When the dough comes together in the centre dust it with a little flour and turn it out onto your table.
  3. Cut in half and roll out into two thin circles the size of your pizza trays. Place in the oven and bake for 5 minutes. Remove, turn them over and leave aside in the trays.
For the topping
1x jar of Tomato Bolognaise Sauce
Thinly sliced peppers, Salami, onions, olives, bacon or any other topping of your choice
Chopped fresh Basil
150g grated Mozzarella cheese
Grated Irish Cheddar or Goats cheese

My Method:
Spread the sauce on the half-baked pizza base. Place your sliced meats, vegetables & herbs on top and finish with the grated mozzarella and cheddar cheese. Pop into the oven for another 6-8 minutes and serve immediately.

Experiment with toppings like prawns and cheese sauce, potato slices and chorizo, vegetables of all kinds sliced very thin, bacon and blue cheese or anything else you like!


The Deadline for Foodie Destinations 2017 Applications is July 13th

The deadline is approaching for entries to the  Foodie Destinations 2017 organised by the Restaurant Association of Ireland (RAI). This competition celebrates the best of  Ireland’s unique and wonderful food offerings and encourages local food tourism initiatives across the country. 

If your town, village, suburb or region believes you have a unique food tourism offering and would like to apply, head over to where you'll find the entry criteria and the application form. 

The Foodie Destinations 2017 winner will be a destination that actively promotes itself through joint promotional activities such as food festivals, gourmet trails or farmers’ markets as well as great dining experiences for locals and visitors alike. They will have established a local producer/supplier network which is utilised and promoted by local businesses. 

Plans for future growth and investment into the food and hospitality industry at a local level will also be taken into consideration by Foodie Destinations judges. Education, training, development and employment will be key components of the ultimate food Foodie Destination and collaboration is of utmost importance - they want to see communities working towards a common foodie goal.

This year the RAI welcome FBD Insurance as their official sponsor. John Reade, Head of Business Insurance at FBD Insurance has this to say: “For 50 years FBD Insurance has been proud to support local community initiatives and as Ireland's only indigenous Insurer we are delighted to see so many communities developing their own food culture offerings and contributing to the wonderfully diverse food culture in Ireland.”

The Boyne Valley was the winner of the 2016 Foodie Destination competition and it had successfully pitched itself as a region "synonymous with heritage and lush green landscape" with a concentrated effort on the marketing and growth of their fabulous artisan producers from Ireland’s only garlic farm, heritage potatoes, blue goats cheese to rapeseed oils.

The deadline for 2017 applications is 12 noon, Thursday 13th of July.

All final applications must be submitted online here at :

Follow the competition on Twitter @FoodieDest and hashtag #FoodieDestinations and check out the dedicated website

For all queries contact Emma at the RAI on +353 (1) 677 9901 or


Restaurant Association calls for immediate action on Chef Shortage crisis

The Restaurants Association of Ireland (RAI) has again made calls for emergency measures to be implemented to solve the crisis shortage of chefs in Ireland. The RAI are again reiterating the need for the re-establishment of CERT, the former State Tourism Training Agency. 

Chief Executive of the RAI, Adrian Cummins commented, “Some restaurants across the country are being forced to close on Mondays and Tuesdays due to the shortage of chefs. It is interesting to note that the other large industries in Ireland such as agriculture and fishing have dedicated training centres around the country.”
The RAI says that there is still a crisis in the shortage of chefs in the country, and an investment in training is needed urgently. The organisation is calling on the Minister for Education Richard Bruton T.D. to re-establish CERT with immediate effect. Mr. Cummins continued “The hospitality and tourism industry is one of our most valuable assets. It is ludicrous that there are no training colleges for our industry in this country.”

Mr. Cummins commented on the new proposals, “The chef shortage in this country is an ongoing problem. The new apprenticeship proposals are a stepping stone in tackling the crisis but the re-establishment of CERT is the only solution.” The RAI state that the main skills shortages are among suitably qualified chefs. Shortages of commis chefs feed into shortages at higher and specialist levels. Among the applicants submitted for chef positions, many are deemed not to be appropriately qualified. This reflects the fact that there is not enough chef training centres. Currently 1800 chefs qualify each year from certified culinary training programmes. There remains an immediate deficit of 5000 chef trainees annually.

The RAI recommends investment in management and the establishment of 10 new chef training centres nationally. CERT, the State Tourism Training Agency, was established in 1963. CERT was responsible for providing a trained workforce for the hotel, catering and tourism industry. It offered training courses for those wishing to pursue a career in this field and for employees in the industry who wanted to develop new skills. It was abolished in May 2003. Speaking about CERT, Mr Cummins said “CERT was fit for purpose and serviced the industry with skilled labour, it was held in very high esteem during its operational years.”

Irish workers account for 69% of employees in the Hospitality sector. This highlights the importance of the industry. Mr. Cummins continued, “We want to be able to market Ireland as a centre of food excellence, a true culinary experience with world-class chefs leading the way. Instead, we are finding ourselves in a position where we have a severe shortage of chefs in Ireland which is now threatening the success of the tourism industry’s recovery.”

You can contact the Restaurants Association of Ireland by Telephone on : +353 1 6779901

You know, it is actually OK to eat Sliced Bread!

I've been a professional chef for over thirty years and being a chef means that you have the opportunities to cook and eat some amazing food! I will eat anything (except prawns, crab and lobster, which I suddenly became allergic to, six years ago, after a lifetime of eating them without any problem). I still cook them by smell and memory, but I miss eating crab claws - terribly!

We have two kids and they certainly don't eat everything that I'd like them to. They're very typical to most children, when it comes to food and they can be cautious to trying new things. I know that will change when they're a little older, and that's ok! 

I started my first job at aged 13, in a local bakery and restaurant here in Donegal Town, working after school and summer holidays and I worked there for five years. It was this experience that helped form the basis for my wanting to become a chef. 

There's been a lot of debate recently about which type of bread, if any, is best for you and I now just want throw my two cents worth of opinion into this pot! 

I believe that (like any other food) it's not really about what you eat, its more about how much of it you eat! Bread is a good source of carbohydrate for growth, as well as vitamins and is generally low in fat and sugar. 

When it comes to bread and sandwiches in our house, we eat wholemeal brown, white or treacle soda bread, Indian meal (maize) bread, pancakes, sourdough and sliced white bread. We bake our own bread, mostly white soda bread or wholemeal brown bread, regularly. 

Most of the time our kids will go for wholemeal soda bread or sliced pan white bread. They will eat the sliced pan either plain, as a sandwich, toasted, or dipped in egg and fried as french toast. They spread it with butter, honey, marmalade, chocolate spread, peanut butter or strawberry jam - and sometimes a combination of several of these! 

And although I personally prefer the taste and the texture of a sourdough bread, there is nothing wrong with a white sliced pan although it does get some pretty bad press. Most of the negative argument against it is because the sliced pan is made in mass production units, from refined flour with the addition of enzymes, stabilisers and preservatives which extend its shelf life. The flour is normally re-fortified with B vitamins (thiamine and niacin) and minerals (iron and calcium), which are necessary for growing children.

Unfortified flours like T55, that are preferred for making slow fermented breads, also have enzymes (alpha and beta amylases) added, to help the natural lactobacilli bacteria break the starches in the flour down into more easily fermentable sugars for the yeasts to feed on, which creates carbon dioxide, which gives the bread it's rise. It's actually these increased levels of reducing sugars that lead to the formation in the baking process of products similar to maillard reactions (a bit like like caramelisation or the searing of a steak) which intensify the bread's flavour and crust colour, making sourdough for example, taste so good.

The quality of white sliced bread certainly does vary but at the end of the day, a white sliced pan isn’t trying to pretend that its anything other than what it is - a simple, cheap, sliced white bread.

My point is that there’s room for all kinds of bread. Not everyone wants to (or can) bake, not everyone has time to bake, not everyone has access to a local small bakery and not everyone likes sourdough, but people are free to make their own choices. 

Put simply, it is actually okay to eat ordinary sliced bread!

And that's simply my opinion. 

Closing Date for Entries for the Blas na hEireann Irish Food Awards 2017 is June 14th

Entries are about to close for the 2017 Blas na hEireann Irish Food Awards.

Image result for blas na heireann 2017

The Blás na hÉireann Awards (which are now in their 10th year) take place alongside the Dingle Food Festival, in late September each year.

Last year there were more than 2500 entries in what are the largest blind-tasted Food Awards on the island of Ireland.

The 2016 Supreme Champion was the delicious Rós Rhubarb Cider from Stonewell Cider, Cork.

“Every product that carries a Finalist, Gold, Silver or Bronze sticker is picked up from a store shelf much more quickly than those without it,” said Artie Clifford, the Blás na hÉireann Awards Chairperson.

Artie Clifford, Chairperson and Founder of the Blas na hÉireann Irish Food Awards

“Our research has shown that the Blás accreditation has the highest recognition among Irish consumers. Putting the Blás na hÉireann Award logo on your food packaging has made a significant difference to the businesses that have received a Blás Award," added Artie.

The closing date for the Blás na hÉireann Irish Food Awards 2017 entries is June 14th.

To enter your amazing Irish Food product go to Today!


Don't Miss the Coolest Foodie Break in Ireland on May 21st

I'm delighted to announce our first Donegal Food Tour in collaboration with Harvey's Point Hotel, run by the wonderful Deirdre Gysling and her husband, Marc! We will explore some of the best in local and seasonal food and drink, on a food tour that involves a visit to a master bakery, a craft brewery and a fishing trip on Donegal Bay.

Harvey's Point Hotel nestled at the bottom of the Bluestack Mountains just outside Donegal Town

Harveys Point is a multi-award-winning fabulous hotel located on the shores of Lough Eske (just outside Donegal Town) and nestled cosily under the Bluestack Mountains! This special Irish Food Tour break is running from Sunday 21st May through to Tuesday 23rd May, with cookery demonstrations, foodie discussions, wine tasting and three different dining options to enjoy at Harvey’s Point Hotel.

Owners of Harvey's Point and fabulous food lovers, Deirdre & Marc Gysling

The Monday of the stay-over package is completely devoted to a great day out of Donegal food related activities!

Monday's Food Tour is going to be brilliant fun and learning and the full itinerary is as follows:

Following a leisurely breakfast overlooking Lough Eske, meet up with me, Zack, (I'll be your personal guide for the day) and I'll tell you all about the growth of artisan food and food tourism, we'll share some chat about Donegal foodie things, meet some wonderful people and get to enjoy a real taste of Donegal!

Our first visit of the day is to our good friend and Master Baker, Franck Pasquier, at the Donegal Craft Bakery.

Franck will take us through the process and history of sourdough, slow fermentation for bread-making. You will also get the opportunity to learn some of the tricks of the trade and how the different bread types are produced. Tastings of Franck’s savoury and sweet bread varieties will be provided!

Onwards then to Ballyshannon, Ireland’s oldest town and the birthplace of the famous blues guitarist Rory Gallagher (no relation), for a visit to the Donegal Craft Brewing Company.

Owner Brendan (Dicey) O’Reilly and Master Brewer, Patrick, will take us through the process of making craft beer from start to finish and there’ll be samples of his famous Donegal Blonde and other beers too!

Back on the coach again for a twenty minute drive to Donegal Town and Donegal Charters. At the Pier, we'll board the fully licenced 8-metre fishing vessel, “Donna Marie”, owned and operated by local skipper (and my cousin) Paul Ricketts, who is also s chef, for a trip out on Donegal Bay.

We’ll pass the seal colony at Seal Island and the old Coastguard Station, an embarkation point of emigrants during the Famine years. Paul will bring us out to where he fishes his Lobster Pots and you will experience first-hand how Lobster is caught! We'll also be cooking and eating some fresh seafood on the boat’s built-in barbeque!

A visit to The Irish House on the Diamond in Donegal Town for an Irish Coffee and some weaving
Catriona's dad, Denis Mulhearn, is a fifth generation Donegal weaver

The Irish House produce and offer authentic Irish made products that represent the best of Donegal & Irish made Tweed clothing and Crafts in the tradition of their forefathers and in doing so, support and promote many local businesses. Catriona and her family will offer a complimentary Irish Coffee and will talk us through the history and process of Donegal Tweed making.

Board the coach for a visit to the famous Biddy’s O' Barnes Roadside Tavern.

Biddy's O'Barnes is a famous roadside Pub in Barnesmore Gap, Co. Donegal, Ireland. Since it's days as an Inn, dating back to the 18th century, a time when the Coach was the main form of transport, Biddy's was a stopping point, where horses were rested, and travellers relaxed before the next stage of their long and tiring journey through the Gap. Today we continue that tradition before heading back to Harvey’s Point where you will have time to freshen up before dinner.

The Total weekend foodie break package includes:

• Three night stay in a Lodge Cabin at Harveys Point Hotel
• Three Full Irish Breakfast Feasts
• Sunday Carvery Lunch Banquet
• The Donegal Food Tour with Zack Gallagher
• Dinner on one evening of your choice in Harveys Point's award winning Lakeside Restaurant
• A Cooking Demonstration with Wine Tasting on Tuesday
• Homemade cookies and fresh fruit on arrival
• Free WIFI & Car Parking

And this only costs €318 per person sharing,
for absolutely everything!

This special Irish Food Tour break is running from Sunday 21st May through to Tuesday 23rd May and Numbers are Limited so, to Book go to: 
or call Harvey's Point Hotel, today, on +353 (0)74 97 22208

I look forward to welcoming you all to Donegal and sharing our Donegal Food story!


Finals of Ireland's Apprentice Chef take place on 11th May

On Thursday 11th May, secondary school students will get stirring to complete the final service in the 2017 Flogas Ireland and Failte Ireland sponsored Apprentice Chef Programme. The objective of the programme is to steer students towards eating a healthier and more balanced diet that will improve their mental and physical health and to also promote the catering industry as a career choice.

Since October 2016 over 500 students have enjoyed a series of demonstrations and workshops as part of the programme which aims to promote the importance of healthy eating to enhance physical and mental well-being, encourage young people to consider a culinary career to help combat the current chef crisis in Ireland and contribute to the development of self confidence and self esteem.

The young finalists will enjoy an authentic professional kitchen experience and serve restaurant standard dishes ranging from “green tea smoked chicken with cauliflower rice, apple & fennel slaw” to “pistachio, courgette and lemon cake” to a panel of judges. The Apprentice Chef Finals are being held in the Hotel, Culinary & Tourism Department at the Institute of Technology, Tralee, where they will have to produce their dishes for tasting and judging by a panel of independent judges.

Having been mentored by accomplished Kerry chefs Mark Doe and Louise Brosnan, who recently completed a stage in Belfast with Danni Barry, Ireland’s only female Michelin Star chef, and supported by nutritional therapist, Susie Cox, each dish presented by the students will have a “Good Mood Food” influence.

Apprentice Chef mentor Louise Brosnan

This is the fifth year of the Apprentice Chef Programme which was established by Mark Doe of Just Cooking Cookery School in Firies, Co Kerry and Mark Murphy, senior lecturer in Culinary Arts at IT Tralee. 

Apprentice Chef mentor Mark Doe

Co-founder Mark Doe said, “Since we started the Apprentice Chef in 2012, over two thousand secondary school students have attended workshops and cookery demonstrations. In our initial year we had a modest cohort of students from Kerry and Limerick. In year 2 students from Co Cork participated and for the first time this year, we were delighted to collaborate with Waterford IT and students from Tipperary, Wexford and Waterford have joined the programme. We are continuously impressed by the standard of dishes produced and this inspires us to build on the programme’s success and we will continue in our efforts to take it to national level. We are indebted to our sponsors, Flogas Ireland and Failte Ireland, for their support to date and we look forward to future collaboration.”

 George Hennessy, Apprentice Chef Winner 2016

The inaugural 2012 winner, Julia O Doherty from Hazelwood College in Dromcollogher, Co Limerick went on to study pharmacy at UCC. On International Women’s Day this year she contacted the Apprentice Chef team saying, “I find that there are many similarities between cooking and the pharmacy course. While I swapped my chef’s jacket for a lab coat and safety glasses, my goal in cooking still holds through in many dosage forms – the product must make the recipient happy. In a nutshell, it goes without saying that my success in the competition has not only inspired me to thrive in the development of my culinary skills but also in my academic studies and my pursuits in extra-curricular activities." Julia added, "When I have an exam approaching or a tough assignment due, I reflect on the challenges that I met and overcame in preparation for the competition. As a result, I have gained self-confidence and public speaking skills which are invaluable at third level.”

All finalists receive a specially commissioned Ambri chopping board, a Just Cooking cookbook and their Apprentice Chef monogrammed chef uniform.

The Supreme Apprentice Chef will also receive a set of professional knives, €1000 equipment for their school, a year’s subscription to Easyfood Magazine and a styling session at Easyfood Magazine HQ this summer. A specially commissioned perpetual trophy will also be presented to the winner.

For more information on the Apprentice Chef visit and and Follow them on Twitter on

Best of Success to all involved!

Tasty 2017 - Donegal Town pilots a new Transition Year Students Irish Food Project

TASTY 2017 is an innovative pilot Irish Food & Tourism Project, which has been recently launched in Donegal Town. It could be described as a mix of Master Chef meets The Apprentice!

Local chefs from seven of Donegal Town's leading Hotels and Restaurants have teamed-up with Transition Year (TY) Students from the local Abbey Vocational School (AVS) and together they are competing and creating new TASTY 2017 food products that feature locally sourced ingredients.

Following an interview process at the AVS, forty-two young student entrepreneurs were selected and split into seven TASTY 2017 teams. Each Tasty 2017 team has been assigned to a local hotel or restaurant who will mentor the Student Teams over an eight week period.

During the course of the project, each of the participating students will get the opportunity to work alongside tourism industry professionals and learn all about Food Origin, Sourcing, New Product Development, Culinary Arts, Food Packaging, Marketing, Social Media & Presentation Skills.

Sponsored by Donegal Town Credit Union, the Tasty 2017 project is being overseen by a voluntary steering committee which includes:

Enda O’Rourke - Catering Consultancy (Chairperson of Tasty 2017),
Geraldine Diver - Principal of Abbey Vocational School,
Dr Seán Duffy - Head of School of Tourism, LYIT Killybegs,
Conor Daly - H!VE Restaurant,
Donal Cox - Operations Manager, Solis Lough Eske Hotel and
Emily Browne - Smuggler’s Creek Inn, Rossnowlagh.

The project is been co-ordinated by Dympna Kennedy (0879334434) who is also the information point of contact for Tasty 2017 and co-ordinates the  Facebook Page at

Liam Kelly, of Donegal Town Credit Union explained why they decided to sponsor the TASTY 2017 project. “The ethos of our Credit Union is people working together for the people, with the people, and for the benefit of the people in our Donegal community” he said. “This innovative pilot programme gives our TY students real-life insights into varied career paths and opportunities within the local tourism industry and fits perfectly with the community ethos of Donegal Town Credit Union”.
Liam also paid tribute to the voluntary steering committee, the teaching staff, Chef Gabrial McSharry, all the local Donegal food producers and suppliers involved and the management and chefs at the supporting restaurants and hotels.

The 7 Teams taking part in Tasty 2017 are:

(and Do Like their Facebook Page if you like their food products)

Foireann Caonach
with Smugglers Creek Inn

Food Product: Irish Whiskey & Carragheen Cheesecake with Sea Salted Butter-Scotch 
Team Members: Shuan Campbell, Aine McGovern, Lisa Gallagher, Laura Taylor, Ellie Chambers, Euan Cullinan 
A.V.S Mentor: Mary Crawford

Lord of the Wings
with The Village Tavern

Food Product: Donegal Silkie Whiskey soaked Chicken Wings with a Smoked Sea Salt & Blissberry Farm Honey Glaze and a Donegal Blue Cheese Dip 
Team Members: Jasmine Timony, Aoife Breslin, Aisling Meehan, Marie Harris, Patrick Harley, Dillon Thomas - A.V.S Mentor: Patrice Rooney

Uisce Fishce
with Quay West Restaurant

Food Product: Whiskey & Honey Cured Salmon on a Stout Saltine with a Cream Cheese & Seaweed Aoili 
Team Members: Cian Hegarty, Siofra Mauehofe, Niamh Boyle, Ellen McGrory, Orla Breslin 
A.V.S Mentor: Sorcha Begley

A Donegal Fusion
with Chandpur Indian Restaurant

Food Product: Donegal Chicken in a peanut sauce, red pepper & onion concasse, mixed spices with Donegal Honey with cream 
Team Members: Victor Mitchell, Elizabeth Mackle, Kerrie McHugh, Aine McGroarty, Katie Shovlin,William Browne - A.V.S Mentor: Kyle Clarke

with Harvey’s Point Hotel, Lough Eske

Food Product: Slow cooked Beef Cheek & Donegal Stout Stew 
Team Members: Eoin Gallagher, Charlotte Timony, Killian Faulkner, Abbie Boyle, Niamh Histon, Nicole Browne - A.V.S Mentor: Karen Stewart

The Seaside Bakery - Tonn Arán
with Solis Lough Eske Castle Hotel

Food Product: Tonn Arán - A Healthy new Seaweed Bread with Foraged Ingredients 
Team Members: Karla Kelly, Ciaran McGrory, Aine McGroary, ClodaghBoylan, Mya Magee, Elaine Wright - A.V.S Mentor: Lucy Gordon

Tirchonaill Toffee
with The Mill Park Hotel & Leisure Centre

Food Product: A Dessert Plate of Silke Whiskey Toffee Pudding, Silke Whiskey & Sea Salt Caramel Sauce with a Local Rhubarb and Custard Parfait. 
Team Members: Ella Duffy, Daniel Gallagher, Shaneen Graham, Keri O'Loughlin, Marguerita McHugh and Evan Towey - A.V.S Mentor: Mary Keeney

The LYIT School of Tourism in Killybegs is also supporting the TASTY 2017 project. Students taking part in the TASTY 2017 project first had to undergo an interview process, with successful participants assigned to teams of students with a mixed set of skills to complete a group task. This was followed by a day visit to the LYIT School of Tourism in Killybegs and opportunities to experience a real-life hospitality environment prior to visiting their participating restaurant or hotel.

“We view the TASTY 2017 pilot project as an extended work experience journey for the AVS TY Students. Each of the hotels & restaurants have been assigned their TY student teams," said Dr Seán Duffy (LYIT School of Tourism). "They are currently working on the creation of new Donegal food-dishes involving locally sourced ingredients".

Ms. Geraldine Diver, Principal of the Abbey Vocational School in Donegal Town, is delighted with the project. “TASTY 2017 is an invaluable hands on learning experience that could never be achieved from a business textbook. This project will facilitate learning in so many areas and the students will gain invaluable life-skills throughout the process” she said.

The seven TASTY 2017 Teams will have to present their finished food products to a panel of judges and over 300 members of the public at a Gala Awards and Presentation Evening hosted by Solis Lough Eske Castle, Donegal Town on 16th May 2017, where all their hard work will be acknowledged and the winners announced. “It promises to be a very special evening which the team at Solis Lough Eske are delighted to host” said Sinead McGowan, of Solis Lough Eske Hotel.

On the night, each of the seven TASTY 2017 teams will present their culinary work to an invited public audience and a judging panel. Each team will make a presentation on the journey of their product and tell their food story. The public will also get to taste each of the products.

The judging panel is headed by celebrity chef Neven Maguire, McNean House, Blacklion, with Thomas Clancy, Food & Wine writer, Sunday Business PostJoan Crawford, Failte Ireland, Paul Hannigan, President LYIT Letterkenny & KillybegsAnne McHugh, Chef Executive, Donegal ETB and Zack Gallagher, Irish Food Tours Ltd.

Each product is being judged on a combination of criteria including local sourcing of ingredients, taste & presentation, marketing strategy and social media reach over the eight weeks.

There is also a tourism promotion element to the project with the opportunity as each of the food establishments that have been mentoring the teams will feature their unique TASTY 2017 dish on their own menu for the whole of the 2017 summer tourism season!

“The aim is to provide visitors to our county with a taste of the superb food and tourism experience available here in the Donegal Bay area, thereby encouraging holiday-makers to extend their time in the region,” explained Enda O’Rourke from

Michael Tunney, CEO of Local Enterprise Office Donegal, said that the project was a great example of the type of creativity and innovation that Donegal’s Good Food Initiative hopes to inspire around the county. “The Donegal TASTY 2017 project fits well with the goals of our Food Coast Brand and demonstrates how by working together in Donegal, we can encourage people to look at the potential of the food and hospitality sector both in terms of employment and enterprise.”

Emily Browne of Smugglers Creek Inn echoed this sentiment, saying “It's great to see hospitality businesses taking the initiative and driving forward new pilot projects like this one for the greater good of the entire locality”.

This is surely an idea that could be rolled out throughout the whole country to give students an insight to the opportunities that the food and hospitality sector can present. Irish Food and tourism are currently being blended together into a new tourism product here in Ireland, with excellent potential for growth.

Projects like Tasty 2017 are key to encouraging young food entrepreneurs coming into the Irish food trade and ensuring that the food and tourism industries here in Ireland will have a solid future.

So, well done and good luck to all the students involved!


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The Irish Food Guide Blog includes news, foodie chat, recipes, award results, links and other general information on the Food & Tourism Industry in Ireland.

It is written & curated by Zack Gallagher, Donegal Town, Co Donegal, Ireland.

“My Blog is a slice of the Irish Food ‘Network’. I’m a Chef with over 27 years experience and also have a background in media. I’m passionate about Irish Food Tourism and I believe that a rising tide really can lift all boats!”

Supporting Irish Food created by passionate producers and encouraging the Irish food & hospitality industry to use modern social media methods to increase their business.

Zack is building an all-Ireland Food Tourism network to assist Tour Operators bringing guests into Ireland to connect easily with artisan Irish food producers, so as they can experience the provenance and personality behind our Irish food Visit

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