“You mean to say I went all the way to Waterford and missed the potato spaghetti? Sheesh.”
That’s pretty much what I was thinking when I heard (courtesy of Alex Meehan) about the potato spaghetti machine – a contraption for turning an unsuspecting four inch spud into eight or nine inch lengths of ‘spaghetti’. Yes, I missed said spaghetti and the monkfish around which it was wrapped at Martijn Kajuiter’s Michelin-starred restaurant at the Cliff House Hotel in Ardmore. Oh well.
Still, never mind. I found much else to delight in west Waterford last weekend while on a flying visit to the Waterford Festival of Food. Though whirlwind in nature – and the absence of potato spaghetti notwithstanding – the trip served up a well seasoned taste of a region less travelled by, with a Friday bookended by a killer breakfast at Nude Food in Dungarvan and a joyous dinner at O’Brien’s Chop House in Lismore, and a Saturday that included a fine lunch back in Dungarvan at the Tannery. There’s no denying that you can eat very well in this neck of the woods and, better still, you don’t need to wait for the next food festival to enjoy it.
Of course there were special festival events too. Inspired by last year’s foodcamp in Kilkenny, there was a similar, albeit lower key version included in the program here. It proved an excellent opportunity to learn about (and eat) the gloriously soft and pleasantly chewy bread roll that is the Waterford blaa, which local bakers are hoping will be granted PGI (protected geographical indication) status.
Blaas and butter were followed by much needed coffee, served with a generous helping of coffee education, from Brock Lewin of Badger and Dodo. Brock, an Aussie by birth, is another one of those souls engaged in the business of bringing a better cup of coffee to the Irish punter and, for that, I can only say good on ya, mate.
Foodcamp concluded with a panel discussion lead by Peter Ward of Country Choice in Tipperary and which included broadcaster Ella McSweeney, food blogger extraordinaire and Dungarvan native Niamh Shields of Eat Like A Girl, Eileen Bentley from Bord Bia, Jim Power, economist and founder of Love Irish Food, and Anike Tyrrell, acting CEO of the Waterford Enterprise board. There was much said on the challenges facing small producers in getting their wares to market, and while there may be issues with everything from regulation to consumer education, it seemed to me that the biggest asset any producer can have is a can-do attitude.
Certainly the folks at the Dungarvan Brewing Company, which we visited on one of the festival’s “Bus Bia” tours, have that attitude in spades. Barely a year old, their Black Rock Stout, Copper Coast Red Ale and Helvick Gold Blonde Ale – fine drinks all – have made quite an impression. The Harty family, whom we met at their oyster farm in the Gaeltacht area of Ring as part of the same tour, are also can-doers. Producing top quality oysters for export on a commercial basis since 1985, Jim Harty was immensely proud, not only of a business built from nothing, but also of the fact that it was one in which four of his children were also able to find employment.
For my part, I didn’t object to sampling said oysters with a drop of muscadet, which followed an even earlier morning sip of DungarvanBrewCo’s finest. As with all else I had tasted over the weekend, it confirmed that there are many more reasons to come back to Waterford above and beyond the peculiar lure of the potato spaghetti.