Back in 2013 the inaugural “Kerrygold Ballymaloe Litfest of Food and Wine” brought 8,000 people onto the Cork grounds. It soon became known as one of the world’s top food festivals, getting coverage from the likes of the New York Times, Financial Times and the Wall Street Journal. As you would expect, tickets for this year’s event sold like hot cakes despite it being held over 4 months away. If you were one of the quick or lucky ones, you will get to enjoy a weekend of food and drink demonstrations, talks and tastings, combined with some fantastic music and dancing! From the 20th to the 22nd of May, Ballymaloe will be a hub for food and drink enthusiasts worldwide, allowing them the chance to chat and share ideas with like-minded people.
For such a renowned festival, what should one expect to experience over the weekend? Chef powerhouses like Yotam Ottolenghi of “Nopi” fame and Francis Mallmann, who has been featured on the Netflix documentary “Chef’s Table”, will be guest speakers. Those partial to a drink will be entertained by Ger Buckley the master cooper at Midleton Distillery, Caroline Hennessy co-author of the book “Slainte – The complete guide to Irish craft beer and cider”, and Janice Robinson wine book author and one of the most respected wine critics and journalists in the world.
Other speakers will include the likes of John McKenna, curator of the annual “100 Best Restaurants in Ireland”, Katie Sanderson of “The Dillisk Project” fame, Louise Bannon who sharpened her skills as the former pastry sous chef of “Noma” in Copenhagen, and the duo of Seamus and Kevin who are behind “Sheridan’s Cheesemongers”. With such a wide range of speakers, it’s the perfect opportunity to learn from the experts.
Although there is going to be something for everybody over the weekend, we’ve narrowed down a few options that are worth beating the crowds for. Once you’ve made the trek to Cork on Friday, there will be a massive opening party at The Big Shed from 7:30pm. It’s said to be the red hot chill out spot so grab some refreshments and food, interact with cooks, foragers, wine sommeliers, brewers and bakers, before turning in for the night.
Make sure you don’t click that snooze button on Saturday morning as there will be a grand welcome and opening comments at 9:30am. After that, you can choose from options like an Irish craft cider panel talk and tasting, learn about Lebanese home cooking from Kamal Mouzawak, pick up the tricks of the trade from seashore forager Prannie Rhatigan, listen to a panel of Irish women discuss their experiences in the food industry, then get some Baltimore style food in the “Mews” pop up restaurant. As if that wasn’t enough, there are also food writing and cookery demonstrations, whiskey, wine and beer talks and tastings, and Yotam Ottolenghi will discuss the story behind his famous London restaurant Nopi.
Festivals usually stack their Saturday events at the expense of the Sunday, however this is not the case with Litfest, and if anything, Sunday has the potential to be the best day. Yotam Ottolenghi and Ramael Scully will demonstrate the dishes that made Nopi famous, Katie Sanderson will show you how to incorporate the latest super-food, seaweed, into your life, and Joseph Trivelli from “The River Cafe” in London will demonstrate some of his iconic Italian dishes.
There will be more panel talks and tastings for wine, beer, olive oil, gin, and cheese too. Before the weekend is over, add a little spice to your life by learning more on Middle Eastern cuisine with Kamal Mouzawak, pick up some tips from San Francisco’s “Bar Tartine”, and wash it all down with a cocktail tasting that uses only foraged ingredients.
Who would have thought a few years ago that Cork would become known as a mecca for the best of food, drink and wine, attracting experts and pioneers from all parts of the globe.