Since its inception, food has played an important role at the Electric Picnic. We can still remember munching on crepes stuffed with Brie, vegetables and rocket at the first event back in 2004.
The quality of food at the Picnic has often overshadowed other festivals; and while the standard has risen across the board, this year’s Picnic offering is bigger than ever, with some 100 stalls and trucks dotted around the site in Stradbally, plus a dedicated Theatre of Food hosting events throughout the weekend.
Returning for its fifth year in the Mindfield arena, the Theatre of Food will this year host three days of demos, tastings, workshops, discussions and fringe events. You can taste some food cooked by some of the stars of the Irish food scene, including Kevin Thornton, Catherine Fulvio, Martin Shanahan (who'll be cooking a warm chilli seafood salad), Wade Murphy and more making an appearance.
A number of hands-on events include a cheese making workshop with Silke Cropp of Corleggy Cheese (5.15pm, Friday), where you'll get the chance to transform milk into cheese over the course of the weekend; while on Sunday at 1.30pm, Imen McDonnell (farmette.ie) will host a workshop on butter making, combined with 1980s style aerobics (Yes, you read that correctly). In an event she's calling Butter-cise, Imen will provide terrycloth headbands and jam jars filled with Glenisk organic cream. Then to some 1980s music, you can shake the jars, jog on the spot and do jumping jacks until the cream separates from the butterfat. After that you'll make flavoured butters to eat on homemade brown bread.
There will be lots of demos and tastings throughout the weekend, including one at 6.15pm on Friday, when craft butcher Pat Whelan will discuss and cook unusual cuts of beef, and share some recipes too.
There are two sets of siblings at the festival this year: Stephen and David Flynn of The Happy Pear in Greystones will give a demo (led by Miriam Atkins, 2pm, Saturday) with recipes for happy, healthy food, including a chocolate and salted caramel tart. The theme will continue with sisters Domini and Peaches Kemp (of this parish) who will demonstrate on how to create healthy, interesting food with unusual ingredients, such as cauliflower pizza bases, sushi made with jicama (also known as “Mexican turnip”), and a lesson on how to open a coconut (an essential Picnic survival tip, naturally).
On Saturday at 4pm, Aoife McElwain will lead a discussion with South African food stylist Johan van der Merwe on the rise of food styling – and what exactly is it anyway? There'll even be some tips on how to avoid recreating that infamous Martha Stewart French onion soup photograph.
By Sunday, most festival goers will be glad of a “cure” and Aine Maguire and John McKenna will be giving a demo at noon to show you how to make good hangover food. Or for something a little healthier, Louise Clarke of Nude Food in Dungarvan will give a demo of vegan food (including beetroot hummus, sweet potato salad and yellow split pea fritters) later that afternoon at 2.45pm.
It's not all food though, as there'll be a look at libations too: The Irish Times wine writer John Wilson will host a wine-tasting workshop with Leslie Williams (Sunday, 2.30pm), looking for a perfect wine and chocolate match; Susan and Judith Boyle will be turning craft beer into slightly naughty ice cream and sorbets (Saturday, 1.30pm); and surely the most festival-ly sounding event of the weekend goes to Oisín Davis and Paul Flynn, who will be hosting "How to be a Session Hero" (Saturday, 3.30pm) where they'll give a demonstration on making large quantities of party drinks.
There's lots more on over the weekend, see electricpicnic.ie for details
Outside the Theatre of Food, food vendors will mostly be clustered in the main arena, although there will be a number of places to refuel in each of the campsites. Lots of familiar fodder will be there, including Kanum's enormous servings of Pad Thai noodles with chicken or vegetables (€8), and spicy green curry (chicken or vegetable, €8).
Rathmullen House sends a cute van each year to dole out steaming servings of tasty Ward's Burtonport crab linguine (yes, in the middle of a Co Laois field). They're returning this year with a two-course special of wall garden tomato and basil soup and that crab linguine for €13.50. Pieminister has some Grade A hangover-zapping pies, served with mushy peas, mashed potato, gravy and crispy onions. We like the Matador (chorizo, beef, olives and butter bean) and the Heidi (goats cheese, sweet potato, spinach and red onion).
The Big Blue Bus – from the Bernard Shaw in Portobello – will be serving wood-fired pizzas in the Jimi Hendrix campsite this year. Toppings include Pablo's (pepperoni and chorizo) and a Spicy Special (jalapenos, red peppers, pepperoni and fresh rocket), plus they write two different names on their blackboard each day and if it happens to be yours, pop in for a free pizza.
Kinara Kitchen, which won best food at the Picnic in 2013 and 2014, will also return, bringing fantastic Pakistani food – complete with naans freshly baked in a tandoor. This year's menu includes Khaat a khaat boat (€10), tandoor chicken with garlic, ginger, tomato and spices served on a naan with chutney in a banana-leaf boat, or a boat of lightly spiced chicken biryani (€10). Extra naans are €2.
New to the festival this year, Cereal Killer Cafe – London cafes run by Belfast-born twins Gary and Alan Keery serving more than 100 kinds of cereal – will bring bowls of nostalgia to the Picnic. You can get "cereal cocktails" including "Did I tell you I was Vegan" (Reeses Puffs, Oreo, soya milk) or "Double Rainbow" (Fruity pebbles, Froot Loops, freeze-dried marshmallow and strawberry milk). At €6 a pop they're not cheap, but it beats scraping soggy Rice Krispies off the floor of your tent.
On the drinks front, the Glasshouse in Body and Soul will be serving some cocktail slushies throughout the weekend, including Elderflower Collins and autumnal Blackberry daiquiri, both €6.50. Pop in on Sunday for a Bloody Mary day to night party. Or head to the Trailer Park, where 'Car-au-Vin' has Parisian music with live accordion and you can take part in some fun wine-tastings with the rather entertaining sommelier.
Throughout the weekend, McKenna’s Guides will award four plaques for The Green Award (most ecologically- aware producers), Best Dressed Award (most attractive stall), Judge’s award (for all-round creativity in food) and the Picnicer’s Choice, as voted for on Twitter by festival goers – just tweet #EPicnicAward and the name of your favourite food stall to vote.