Food festival diary
It's going to be a busy couple of months for food festival-goers, kicking off with Theatre of Food at the 10th Electric Picnic next weekend. Waterford's Harvest Festival (waterfordharvestfestival.com) will run over a week, from September 9th-15th, and a core part of the programme is the GIY Ireland Gathering, on the 14th and 15th, with a stellar line-up of speakers.
The Galway Oyster & Seafood Festival (galwayoysterfest.com) on September 26th-29th has an oyster-eating contest between the 14 tribes of Galway; check the website to see if your surname entitles you to compete. Dingle will be overtaken by food lovers for its food festival and Blas na hÉireann awards on October 4th-6th (dinglefood.com), and the action moves to the south east for the seventh Savour Kilkenny festival (October 25th-29th, savourkilkenny.com).
Shell out for a good time
September is oyster month at The Cliff Townhouse in Dublin 2, and to launch the four-week celebration of the bivalve, there will be a series of talks, free to anyone booking lunch or dinner afterwards. You can listen to food historian Máirtin Mac Con Iomaire talk about the history of the oyster on Thursday, September 5th at 5pm, then enjoy a half dozen fine specimens and a glass of Moet & Chandon champagne for €19.50. Oyster farmer Michael Kelly is guest speaker the following evening and chef Seán Smith will be talking about preparing and cooking with oysters at 12.30pm on Saturday, September 7th. See theclifftownhouse.com
Get to know seaweeds
If Catherine Cleary's review of Source Sligo this week piques your interest in seaweed, check out Sally McKenna's new book Extreme Greens: Understanding Seaweeds (Estragon Press, €20), out now in bookshops and online from guides.ie. The title hits at the heart of why this versatile food is not so popular here, while it is revered in other parts of the world: many of us just don't understand it. McKenna does, and her variety of uses for it span cooking, cosmetics, and natural remedies. It includes more than 80 recipes, too, including one for togarashi, the Japanese seasoning, using dilisk, sesame, spices and citrus.
Great Irish Bake Off judges Biddy White Lennon and Paul Kelly, and presenter Anna Nolan may be smiling for the camera, but in the marquee alongside Clonabreany House in Co Meath it's a different story, as 12 amateur bakers, selected from 464 applicants, grapple with unfamiliar ovens and testing technical challenges. The series gets underway on TV3 next month. Laughter, tears, and complete breakdowns are promised. White Lennon is a food writer and critic and Kelly is executive pastry chef at the Merrion Hotel, so they know their crust from their crumb, and won't be easily impressed.
The Paul Costelloe for Dunnes Stores range of fine bone china is very elegant, as well as reasonably priced. The afternoon tea boxed set, including a coffee/tea pot, sugar bowl and creamer, costs €40. Four espresso cups and saucers are €20 and the cake stand costs €25.