Thursday 25 April 2013

Edible Education at LitFest

As many of you may know, another thing close to my heart is food education. I am so excited that we are bringing together many of the leading lights in food education on the Sunday morning of the Literary Festival in the Grain Store.

I will be joined by Bill Yosses, the White House Pastry Chef, who helped Michelle Obama develop an educational garden at the White House and Stephanie Alexander, celebrated writer and restaurateur  from Australia, who for the last 11 years, has been devoted to the development of a primary school kitchen garden program. 

If you're concerned about what exactly in our food these days, especially after the recent horsemeat scandal, then the workshop, Digesting Unsavoury Truths with journalists Joanna Blythman, Ella MacSweeney and Suzanne Campbell is sure to illuminate.

And there'll be plenty of ways that everyone can get involved with learning about food, from seed to fork in The Big Shed, where growers, producers, seed sellers and chefs will be there as well as lots of fun activities from crafts to nature trails to engage foodies of all ages in learning more about where what we eat comes from, and how we can get involved in making it more sustainable. Including Michael Kelly with his GIY roadshow.

We hope you will leave fired up and inspired to join the revolution... or start one of your own!

Thursday 18 April 2013

Heaven for Wine-Lovers at LitFest

The Ballymaloe LitFest is not just a food festival, oh no, it's a Festival of Food and Wine and we have a  great line up of wine experts, producers and tastings, which has been curated by our wine lecturer at Ballymaloe Cookery School, Colm McCan. Whether you are a wine professional, fancy yourself as a wine buff, or just enjoy a nice glass of vino on a Friday night, there's something for everyone. And it doesn't even stop there. Oh no! We have  whiskey producers, and port and sherry tastings. I can only give you a sniff of them here, so do check out the full listings on the LitFest website and do come along, it'll be great to see you there. I can hardly believe how fast it's coming up. It's THIS weekend!!!

On Saturday, Irish Times wine columnist John Wilson and President of the D.O. Rias Baixas Juan Gil De Araujo Gonzalez De Careaga will be talking, and tasting a selection of  Albarinos, followed by Albarino and Shellfish in Ballymaloe House. The Ballymaloe kitchen will be cooking the freshest of our local shellfish to accompany these beautiful wines.

If you count yourself as a relative beginner in the world of wine, you can catch two of Ireland’s best known wine writers, John Wilson and Tom Doorley talking about wine books in general, with a particular nod to the books of Maurice Healy, Ireland’s first wine journalist. There will be a tasting of some wines featured in his books, and simple tips on the secrets of wine tasting.

Mary Dowey, one of Ireland’s much loved wine writers, will present a talk and tasting on ‘GOING NATURAL - NEW TRENDS’ along with Pascal Rossignol, (guest wine lecturer at Ballymaloe Cookery School, and award winning Le Caveau wine specialist) with a focus, and tasting on new trends in the wine world, with an emphasis on topics including ‘Natural’ Wines; Old Vines; Sulphur, and Biodynamic Wine.
On Sunday, Mary Dowey will also present a wine talk and tasting ‘Spice Mixes’  - wines to go with spicy dishes from range of different cuisines.

And if you're into wine, then you will know that Sunday evening's literary conversation and wine tasting with one of the world’s best loved and most respected wine writers, Jancis Robinson MW, is not to be missed. We're delighted to have her discussing her definitive title, Wine Grapes accompanied by some, but not all, of the 1,368 vine varieties to taste!

There are lots of other wine & drinks events as well taking place throughout the weekend. Talk and tasting, on Single Pot Still Irish Whiskey from Midleton Distillery, served alongside Irish Farmhouse Cheese and there will also be a presentation and demonstration on everything to do with barrels and the ancient craft of cooperage by Ger Buckley, Master Cooper, Midleton Distillery.

John Bowman  will chair a ‘QUESTIONS AND ANSWERS’ SPECIAL ON FOOD AND WINE  - a debate on food and wine issues with an expert panel.

Winemaker Pierpaolo Rapuzzi will present ‘A SPECIAL CORNER OF ITALY – FRIULI’ - a wine tasting of indigenous Italian grape varieties from this special corner of north-east Italy, with Pierpaolo Rapuzzi of Ronchi di Cialla, a key Friulian producer, located in the commune of Prepetto, very close to the border with Slovenia.  The Rapuzzi family have been awarded for their work in rescuing endangered indigenous grape varieties.

John McDonnell of Wine Australia Ireland will present RIESLINGS TO BE CHEERFUL' a selection of styles of Riesling, both from Australia, and from other parts of the wine world, and also ‘Rewards of Patience’. There will be a talk and tasting on ‘DOURO VALLEY - STILL & FORTIFIED' with Maurice O'Mahony, Wine Alliance.  William O’Callaghan of Longueville House, Mallow will present ‘IRISH APPLE BRANDY and CIDER’. John Wilson, The Irish Times will present WINE and LITERATURE’ a light-hearted wine tasting, accompanying each wine with a quote from some literary source, including Shaw, Fields, Colette, Rabelais and Pablo Neruda!

In The Big Shed there will be a wine and drinks area, with a dedicated section for talks and tastings. There will be a selection of drinks including a line-up of the finest Irish Whiskey from the award winning local Irish Distillers Pernod Ricard, Midleton Distillery, as well as a selection of  wines with ‘Irish wine making connections’ from the Ballymaloe wine cellar, beer from Irish Craft Brewers from around Ireland, and a selection of Sherry

And on Sunday evening, TANGO & MALBEC' - talk & tasting on Malbec from Argentina with Tom Lynch, El Comandante Wines.

Do check out the full listings on the LitFest website.

Saturday 13 April 2013

A Food Writer's Paradise

If food writing’s your thing then you’re in for a treat at the Ballymaloe LitFest. We are focusing on every aspect of the literature of food and wine - from the craft of professional food writing, self publishing, history and the celebration of the art of writing.

On Sunday, two of the UK and Ireland's most respected food critics, Matthew Fort and John McKenna, will discuss the journey of food writing from cave drawings to digital recipe swapping. 

And talking of the digital world, as you will know I am still a relative beginner when it comes to technology and the world of blogging. So I'm delighted that we have a workshop led by some of the Irish pioneers who are taking food writing into the future. Bloggers Aoife Carrigy (Holy Mackerel. ieand  Lucy Pearce (our resident blogging teacher at the Cookery School, whose next course is on May 18th) and Caroline Hennessy, journalist and co-founder of Irish Food Bloggers Association will be joined by the founder of Grow It Yourself , Michael Kelly to discuss the emergence of this new form of food writing.  
If you’ve always harboured dreams of being a food writer and were wondering about self-publishing I highly recommend heading along to Michelle Darmody’s workshop, followed by Rachel Allen, Rowley Leigh, Jancis Robinson and Nick Lander’s conversation on the Tyranny of The Deadly Deadline, which will give you the inside track on what it’s really like to be a food writer. Believe me it’s not nearly so glamourous as you might imagine – well, not all of the time!

In separate events, acclaimed chefs and authors David Tanis  and Denis Cotter will read from and discuss their award-winning books. And you can catch two of Ireland’s best-loved contemporary wine writers, John Wilson and Tom Doorley talking about wine books in general, with a particular nod to the books of Maurice Healy, Ireland’s first wine journalist. There will be a tasting of some wines featured in the books, and simple tips on the secrets of wine tasting.

And on Sunday evening in the Carrigaun Room there is a Literary Conversation and Workshop chaired by Professor of Modern English at UCC, Claire Connolly, entitled The Taste of Words: Food and Literature in Performance.

And if you just can't choose get yourself a day pass - or one for the whole fabulous weekend!

Monday 8 April 2013

Sizzling Chilis and Aromatic Spices at LitFest

As you have seen from my blog over the past months I love to travel, and an integral part of every journey are the new foods and flavours I discover along the way. My recent trips have taken me to the aromatic marketsof Laos and the vibrant coast of Mexico, eating food in the paddy fields of Sri Lanka and the mountains of India. So I am delighted that we will be hosting a number of experts in far-flung cuisines bringing some spice to the LitFest proceedings!

We have Madhur Jaffrey, grand-dame of Indian cuisine, a long-time colleague of mine, giving a demonstration at the cookery school on Saturday morning. Her events tend to sell-out fast, so grab a ticket while you still can. On Sunday she is giving a talk in The Grain Store on our love of curry.

Then we have David Thompson, world-renowned expert on Thai food, and chef-patron of the world’s first Michelin Starred Thai restaurant, will be giving a cookery demonstration on Sunday morning. The air will be fragrant with the scents of chili, lemongrass and galangal and participants are guaranteed to be wowed at the final tasting! David is also giving a talk on Thai street food in the afternoon in The Grain Store which is sure to be a feast for the eyes and ears.

And if you're a fan of spicy food, but never know what wines to pair with it, then wine expert MaryDowey will demystify us on Sunday afternoon.

Also on Sunday, respected authority on Mediterranean food, ClaudiaRoden will be bringing us some Spanish sunshine, as she discusses her most recent book. 

Let's hope we have some sunshine for the weekend too! 

Friday 5 April 2013

Hot new trends in food at LitFest

I wanted to take a little time to share a little about a few of the events at the Ballymaloe Literary Festival of Food and Wine, which is coming up fast. I can hardly believe, after so many months of planning that it’s just three weeks away!

Saturday morning kicks off with the hottest trends in the past year, or should I say, the coolest: the Nordic Food Revolution. In our main space, The Grain Store, we’re delighted to be hosting Claus Meyer, co-founder of the world’s number one restaurant, Noma,  and Ben Reade, one of our former students, now Head of Culinary Research and Development at the Nordic Food Lab. Hosted by John McKenna of the Bridgestone Guides, this promises to be a fascinating insight into new ingredients and styles. I had a wonderful trip to Copenhagen last year. I am so excited about their innovative use of foraged ingredients, many of which are totally new to our palates.

Meanwhile Camilla Plum, owner of Denmark’s first organic restaurant, will be running cookery demo at the Cookery School Garden Café. Camilla has written many acclaimed books on cooking, gardening and organic living and she will be weaving her magic with herbs from our own organic gardens to create delicious dishes.

You may remember a few months back we had a Noma pop-up restaurant at the Cookery School. Well if you’re kicking yourself that you missed it, your luck’s in, because on the Sunday evening Yannick and Louise, former Noma chefs are back, for one-night only - what a treat we're in for!

On Sunday Sandor Katz, master of fermentation, another current hot-topic in the world of food, shares his lifetime’s knowledge in a practical demonstration in the Garden Café in the morning, followed by a discussion with Ben Reade in the afternoon.

And if you were wondering about the latest trends in wine, then Irish wine writer Mary Dowey and Pascal Rossignol, wine merchant, will be discussing them, with a specific focus on natural wines.

There's so much to look forward to at LitFest! And I'll be sharing more next time!

Monday 1 April 2013

Ballymaloe Literary Festival of Food and Wine

Oops, it's been a busy few weeks!

On the May Bank Holiday weekend this year (3rd-6th May), we're hosting the first ever Ballymaloe Literary Festival of Food and Wine at the Grain Store, Ballymaloe House and Ballymaloe Cookery School.

We have an incredible line-up of over 40 speakers including: Alice Waters, Madhur Jaffery, Claudia Roden, Stephanie Alexander, Claus Meyer, Camilla Plum, Rowley Leigh, David Thompson... Jancis Robinson MW and her husband Nick Lander are coming over from the UK, as are Joanna Blythman and some of the new young voices in food: Thomasina Miers, Stevie Parle, Alys Fowler and Claire Ptak... And that's just the beginning. This glittering international cast will be matched by a strong Irish presence. You'll have to look at the website to get the whole picture. And we even keep adding to that! How about this for a tempting line-up?

When we first came up with the idea, I was tremendously excited, as I still am, at the thought of bringing leading figures from the world of gastronomy to East Cork, for all of us to meet and mingle with. So I just picked up the phone and spontaneously rang many of my friends in the food and wine world, as one name after another flashed into my mind. I asked if they'd like to come to Ballymaloe, and they all,  apart from one or two who were already committed, said yes. After a few days I thought I'd better count and see where I was, and by that time almost thirty people had agreed to come, so then I thought it  was time to stop and to consider the practical implications of flights and so on!

The idea had first come about when a friend of ours Geoffrey Dobbs, who is a founder member of the Galle Literary Festival in Sri Lanka, came over to Ballymaloe and suggested we had a literary festival at the Grain Store, which he felt was made for this sort of event. For us here, the obvious connection was food and wine, and when we started to check around we discovered that whilst there were numerous literary festivals, ditto food festivals and wine festivals and tastings, for some reason there didn't seem to be a literary festival of food and wine.

Organising this sort of event is new territory for all of us and an exciting learning curve. We have been buoyed up by people's  reaction and the enthusiasm and support of our sponsors, to whom we are so deeply grateful, there's a list of them on our website. We've already had lots of offers of help in many different areas and enthusiastic volunteers for over the weekend.

We are also planning a huge FRINGE in The Big Shed with a myriad of events for all the family - do go and check it out on the website. I think it's really important to involve all ages. And we've also linked up with local schools. We have oraganised a "literary competition" to encourage budding young authors to think about food, and to write a story about a local farmer, fisherman, food producer, cheese maker... that they know and admire.

The bookings are coming in thick and fast, a few events are already booked up, but there are still tickets available for many sessions. Tell your friends, spread the word, and I really look forward to meeting you there.