Last week I was lucky to go on an adventure up west to Galway. The city has become a European Region of Gastronomy and is the first region in Ireland to be awarded the honour of this designation. I checked into the Clayton hotel there and sampled some great local Galway cuisine in the city with a friend. It really was a lovely introduction to #GastronomyGalway.
The next day I was up bright and early ready to attend the #touRRoir18 food, tourism and culture, cross sector global forum hosted by Good Food Ireland in NUI Galway.
Galway was a very apt location chosen for the event, as it boasts the unique landscape and culture of the west of Ireland. I went there to listen to and learn from the excellent line up of global speakers and to also validate my own opinions about our amazing Irish food offerings. My verdict… I was not disappointed with the wealth of information and knowledge that emerged from the programme on the day.
What I experienced was an incredible introduction to the world of like minded people and genuine hospitality. Everyone there had a huge passion to drive a new tourism revolution and offered a diverse range of ideas on how to shape, participate and introduce more tourists to our amazing island.
Upon arrival our morning coffee/tea was accompanied by a lovely selection of Irish soda breads and scones with delicious Crossogue preserves. Crossogue make award winning jams and marmalades, with traditional family recipes using natural ingredients, based in Thurles, Co.Tipperary. This culinary delight was my first introduction to celebrating great #irishproduce on the day.
The programme covered seven sessions all of which included enterprising presentations and panel discussions. These topics gave me and the other delegates an insight into the importance of authenticity, destination branding, sustainability, the battle for trust, communication, culture and where to go next. We were exposed to a huge array of information and I was delighted to absorb the energy from the room.
Later in the evening the networking drinks and cultural reception showcased an incredible range of local beverage producers. The first gem I found was as Mr Jeffares blackcurrant juice. This family run business produces 100% natural pure juice with no added sugar from their home grown Irish blackcurrants at Ballykelly farm in Wexford.
I also discovered Attyflin Estate Apple Juice which is produced in Co.Limerick by Attyflin Estate. Attyflin Estate is set on 250 acres in the Golden Vale. Covering parts of three counties, Limerick, Tipperary and Cork, the Golden Vale has the best land in Ireland for dairy farming. Paul Mordant gave me an insight into the rich history of the estate and the extensive orchards that they have created to supply to fresh apples and juices to consumers that are now looking for a greater connection with the food they buy.
The Shanon College of Hotel Management gave an Irish coffee making demonstration. These Irish coffee’s were made with Teelings Irish Whiskey and in case you don’t know (like me) the Teeling Whiskey Distillery is located in the heart of Dublin city where they craft a unique selection of Irish whiskeys.
After the drinks reception the producers showcase dinner was the next chance for me to celebrate and enjoy the best of Irish produce. We were able to sample an amazing selection of foods from all over our beautiful island. Cork to Donegal, Galway to Wexford and every county in between! Irish oysters were produced and showcased by Achill Oysters based in Co.Clare, smoked Irish organic salmon was showcased by the Connemara Smokehouse, a selection of cheeses produced by Toons Bridge Dairy and also pork terrines and pates produced by On the Pigs Back both from my own home county #CulinaryCork.
With over 30 food and drink producers showcased at the event it really made me proud of our food culture and heritage and what we have to offer both domestic and international culinary tourists. This fantastic showcase of Irish producers helped highlight the importance of collaboration in creating a unique Irish food experience. The showcase dinner was accompanied by Trad on the Prom where the culture aspect married excellently with the food experience.
I immersed myself in the day and learned a lot. My main take away is that we are hiding a massive gem due to our modest disposition! I have always believed in my heart that one of the best things that Irish tourists have to look forward to is experiencing our authenticity. We are all just far to modest about our wonderful food product offerings and that teamed up with our rich culture can drive an amazing Irish tourism experience.
Let us always remember to enjoy the art of celebrating food! After all it is a great opportunity to eat, drink and be merry!