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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!


Unique Dinner at The Mustard Seed to celebrate International Women's Day 2017

The award winning Mustard Seed at Echo Lodge in Ballingarry, Co Limerick has teamed up with Sharon Noonan, presenter of the Best Possible Taste West Limerick 102FM radio show and food podcast to host a special dinner, to be held on Wednesday 8 March, to mark International Women’s Day 2017.

Wednesday 8 March is International Women’s Day 2017

Sharon Noone is originally from Co Antrim and is now resident in Newcastle West. She has included the recently announced Northern Ireland signature dish “Born and Braised” on this special event's menu.

Guests to the Mustard Seed (an Ireland’s Blue Book property, which is recommended by Georgina Campbell and has won numerous accolades for its fine dining, customer service and luxurious accommodation) will choose from a menu which features some of Sharon’s favourite ingredients and dishes from both sides of the border.

 Mustard Seed at Echo Lodge in Ballingarry, Co Limerick 

Head chef Angel Pirev demonstrated his ethos for using locally sourced produce during an appearance on the last programme in Neven’s Irish Food Trails, which aired on RTE1 on Wednesday 1 March last.

The ingredients to make the dish and other courses will be sourced mainly from local businesses including butcher Pat Barry, Cahill’s Cheese, the Little Milk Company as well as the Mustard Seed's own kitchen garden. 

“It has been such an exciting process collaborating with Sharon,” explained the Mustard Seed’s John Edward Joyce.  “We look forward to producing our West Limerick interpretation of the Northern Ireland signature dish which incorporates beef shin and I’m sure guests will have difficulty deciding between it and the other options on offer.”

John Edward with Neven Maguire

The classic Northern Irish confectuionary, “Yellowman”, will also make an appearance on the 5 course menu as it was a visit to the top restaurant that inspired Sharon to make her BAI funded radio documentary “Devlins’ Yellowman – A Taste of Childhood” last year.  “When I first started thinking about what to put on the menu, “Yellowman” was top of the list,” Sharon said. “Although it will be the Mustard Seed kitchen’s version and not the one using my family’s secret recipe.  I don’t want to be excommunicated!” she said.

 Sharon Noonan, presenter of the Best Possible Taste West Limerick 102FM

International Women’s Day takes place on Wednesday 8 March and celebrates the social, economic, cultural and political achievement of women.  The 2017 campaign theme is #BeBoldForChange.

The dinner costs €47.00 per person for 5 courses plus tea/coffee with petits fours. 

Guests wishing to spend the night in one of the recently refurbished rooms can avail of a special overnight rate of €55 B&B per person sharing. 

Pre booking is essential by contacting The Mustard Seed on 069 68508 or email


WIN a Box of Keogh's Shamrock Crisps just in time for St Patrick's Day

Keogh's Farm are the only potato growers in the world who offer fresh potatoes and potato crisps from the same farm side by side in the same store!

"We sleep, eat, breathe potato crisps and potatoes!” says. Tom Keogh, managing director of Keogh’s Family Farm. The family have been growing potatoes in north county Dublin for over 200 years. The city of Dublin has grown around the farm over the years!

In 2012 the Keogh Family launched the world’s first-ever shamrock flavoured food delight: Hand-cooked Shamrock and Sour Cream Irish potato Crisps. The flavour for these was developed with the "Living Shamrock Company" in Ballinskelligs, Co. Kerry, who have been producing fresh shamrock for the American President since 1952. 

I'm delighted this year to be once again associated with Keogh's Farm in having a Box of their famous Crisps to Give Away in time for this year's St Patrick's Day!

To WIN this Hamper simply LIKE or Follow the Keoghs Facebook or Twitter 
by Clicking below:

LIKE or Follow Keoghs Farm to Enter the Competition and send them a message!

The competition will Close on Tuesday 7th March 
and you should get the Box of Crisps in time for St. Patrick's Day
(not guaranteed - depending on winner's location.)

Best of Luck to all!

Competition Closed - Winner is Anthony McGinty via a Facebook Like

The Top 10 Best Irish Foods to Watch Out For in 2017

If you want to find out what's really happening in the modern Irish Food scene - get on Twitter!

Every year, around Christmas Eve - I ask this question on my @IrishFoodGuide Twitter account... "What was Your Best Irish Food Find of the Year?"

I always get hundreds of replies from food lovers all over Ireland and this year was no exception with replies pouring in on Twitter over all the days of Christmas and New Year.

Most people tweeted back about amazing food products that they had discovered for the first time and others cheered on favourite food producers, street food and the excellent range of craft beers, spirits, ciders and wines that they've tasted over the last year from all over the island of Ireland.

Some folks tweeted about great restaurants that they've enjoyed last year but other writers and websites will take on the challenge of putting together the 'best restaurant' lists!

I have always said that "Irish Food" is food that is produced here on the Island of Ireland and so I've always included products with provenence from Northern Ireland as such.

This year I could see a change in the types of food products that came in the tweets and I spent a few days collating, counting and checking all the Tweeted suggestions from the public.

And so, based on all the tweets recieved from the public over the last two weeks, I've compiled (and for the first time category-listed) this year's Top 10 Best Irish Foods to Watch Out For in 2017, as voted by the public, on Twitter, in Ireland.

I've also included a Twitter Follow Button for each of the food products or people involved, so that you can follow them all with a simple click!

Best Irish Wine
Wicklow Way Wines
Newtownmountkennedy, Co Wicklow -
Móinéir Blackberry Wine with Wild Elderberries
Founded by Pamela Walsh and Brett Stephenson, Wicklow Way Wines are made in small batches at their County Wicklow winery, entirely from local Irish fruit. Their wines offer tantalising aromas, flavours and colours and are a unique way to savour a little of Ireland’s rich bounty.

Best Irish Craft Beer
Kinnegar Brewing Company
Rathmullan, County Donegal -
Kinnegar Rustbucket Rye & Barley Malt Ale
Currently working on the opening a brand new state-of-the-art brewery in nearby Letterkenny, Kinnegar Brewing was established in 2011 by Rick LeVert and Libby Carton. Rustbucket is a balance of rye and barley malt. The rye gives it a little spiciness which combines nicely with hops that contribute a citrusy note. Alc. 5.1% vol.

Best Irish Charcuterie
Corndale Farm
Limavady, County Derry -
Corndale Free Range Pork Chorizo
Corndale Farm, established in Limavady in 2012 by Alastair Crown, with the aim to produce top-quality pork from his herd of rare-breed, free-range pigs and have developed their own recipe for a unique smoky, savoury chorizo with a gentle background heat.

Best Irish Potatoes
Ballymakenny Farm
Ballymakenny, County Drogheda - 
Ballymakenny Farm Heritage Potatoes
Although coloured potatoes have been around for hundreds of years, they were quite hard to find until Maria Flynn started growing her specialised purple varieties at their farm in County Louth.
Now some of Ireland's top chefs and restaurants hold these potatoes, that are rich in immunity boosting and cancer fighting properties, in very high regard.

Best Irish Nutritional Sweet Snack
Absolute Nutrition Foods
Brittas, Co Dublin -
Absolute Nutrition Chocolate Protein Balls
Dublin girl Joanne Davey, a trained holistic nutritionist, founded Absolute Nutrition in 2014 and has created an artisan collection of award winning paleo, protein & energy treats and snacks.
They make everything by hand in their Dublin based kitchen.

Best Irish Nutrional Savoury Snack
Irish Biltong Company
Naas, Co. Kildare -
High Protein Gourmet Beef Snack
Biltong is made by marinading beef in a special spice mix and allowing it to air dry before cutting it into thin strips to be eaten as a healthy snack, which is high in protein and low in sugar or fat. Irish Biltong, set up by Noreen & John Doyle, is fast breaking ground into sporting and fitness circles.

Best New Irish Street Food
Tom & Caolán Cullen's Arctic Stone
Marlay Park & People's Park, Dublin City -
Freshly Made Hand-Rolled Ice Cream
Flash frozen ice-cream, made to order, is a relativley new concept which originally developed in Thailand. By using premiem Irish ingredients, brothers Caolán & Tom Cullen have built a large core following of regular customers at their weekend street food stalls in Dublin city and at national markets and festivals.

Best New Irish Confectionary
Chocolatey Clare
Ravensdale Park, Kimmage, Dublin -
Dairy Free, Gluten Free & Vegan Chocolate
Clare Tait's range of Dairy Free, Gluten Free & Vegan Chocolate flavoured chocolates are made entirely by hand in a dedicated section of a professional kitchen. She sources her ingredients carefully and uses fair-trade and organic ingredients where possible.

Best Irish Speciality Grower
Ballyhoura Mountain Mushrooms
Ballinalacken, County Limerick -
Speciality Mushrooms & Mushroom Products
Lucy Deegan & Mark Cribbin set up in 2011 to  grow and supply the finest possible quality mushrooms and mushroom products in Ireland. They now  grow in excess of 10 varieties of speciality mushrooms year round which are grown in the absence of chemicals or pesticides.

Best Irish Seafood Product
The Haven Smokehouse
Carrigart, County Donegal -
Turf Smoked Organic Salmon
Declan McConnellogue & Sue Cruse set up The Haven Smokehouse on their small farm near Carrigart on the Downings peninsula in north county Donegal, because they wanted to turf-smoke organic salmon. Their determination and passion, like the taste of their salmon, is unique.

And so, there you have the Top 10 Best Irish Foods to Watch Out For in 2017 as voted by the public in Ireland, on Twitter!

An interesting and diverse mix of new and established Irish Food products. Now it's your turn to get in contact with them all and try them out for yourself!

You can Follow me on Twitter here:

Do try to enjoy as much Irish Food as you can this year!

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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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