Birgitta Hedin Curtin, the owner-manager of the Burren Smokehouse, is also one of the founder members and leader of the Clare Convivium of the Irish Slow Food movement in Ireland. She and a small handful of people organised the annual festival which take place every May. It was the first and has been the longest running food festival in Ireland!
The festival weekend started off like last year - with a Champagne Picnic on a boat under the Cliffs of Moher. The weather was slightly less heavenly than a year ago, but that did not stop us from having a great time and admiring the natural land- and seascape while sipping champagne and eating the Burren Smoked Salmon and salad picnic.
On Saturday, the traders set up their stalls and people started streaming in. John Mulcahy from Fáilte Ireland, and Darina Allen from Ballymaloe launched the festival, and afterwards they had a very fruitful discussion with Lisdoonvarna residents about setting up amenities like a community garden in the adjacent park.
The first cookery demo was done by executive chef Peter Jackson from the Armada Hotel who with the help of his father conjured easy dishes which looked very sophisticated at the same time. True to the motto of the festival, he even used gin in the dishes.
Another cookery demo was quite a flam(e)boyant affair by executive chef Jonathan Keane and junior chef Alexander Jaromin from the Lodge at Ashford Castle. In the morning, they went out to forage for pine, gorse, wild garlic and other natural ingredients for their demo in our community park. Pieces of bog oak from a TY student from County Offaly were used as a "plate" for pieces of cheese and ham canapes.
There were talks on Raw Milk cheeses with quite a few of the Irish Raw Milk Cheese Presidia members present and in front of the audience to talk about their everyday life, how they got to be in the cheese production business, and what the challenges are.
Another event MC'd by Irish Examiner columnist Leslie Williams was the much awaited talk on Irish gins, with different panel members from The Shed Distillery and Blackwater Distillery present. This was followed by two gin tastings, the last one done by mixologist Oisín Davis from Poachers highlighting the importance (and history) of the tonic that goes with the gin.
On Saturday night, the Slow Food Banquet took place as every year starting off with a Drumshanbo Gunpowder Gin and Redbank Oysters from Newquay in Clare, followed by a wonderful three-course dinner in the Burren Storehouse.
Frank Benson from Banner Bees gave a talk and tasting from his vast experience as bee keeper, and hopefully inspired some of the very interested people in the audience to take up this very worthwhile activity.
Brian O'Briain from Anam Coffee, the artisan coffee roastery in the Burren, paired his different and very distinguished coffee blends with pastries from pastry chef Fabiola Tombo at the Copper Pot Artisan Bakery in Liscannor.
This talk and tasting was by far the sweetest of all things on the Burren Slow Food Festival agenda, and it went down a treat, literally!
The final highlight of the festival was a joint oyster talk and tasting by two very different producers, Redbank Oysters from North Clare, and Achill Oysters. The oysters come from very different seabeds, and it became clear during the tasting that the origin of the oysters has a big impact on the taste.
The oysters were complimented by Micil Irish Poitín - to the surprise of the audience!
Visit the Picture Gallery on the Burren Slow Food website to feast your eyes on the impression of a fun-filled weekend!