Culinary heavyweights set to dazzle at County Limerick food fair

Gerard Fitzgibbon

Reporter:

Gerard Fitzgibbon

NEXT weekend, as Newcastle West ripples with the sound of live bands and racing donkeys at the Knights of WestFest festival, a celebration of an altogether more succulent variety will take place on the local GAA pitch.

NEXT weekend, as Newcastle West ripples with the sound of live bands and racing donkeys at the Knights of WestFest festival, a celebration of an altogether more succulent variety will take place on the local GAA pitch.

The ‘Taste of WestFest’ two-day food fair will encompass everything from live cooking demonstrations, teddy bears’ picnics and exhibitions from artisan producers from across the country.

The event on September 15-16 will be one of the largest of its kind ever in County Limerick, and organisers hope that visitors will be so impressed and well-fed that they’ll be hungry for it to take place every year.

Noreen Gallagher, a member of the small team of organisers, said that the festival was just a small idea simmering in a pot just a few short months ago.

“What happened was, back in January there was an advert by the main WestFest committee looking for anyone who had ideas about things they’d like to do for this year.

“We just said, what about a food festival? Something along the lines of Taste of Dublin and Taste of Cork. We put a proposal to the committee and they said it’d be no problem, so long as we organised the bulk of it ourselves.”

Ms Gallagher, Sharon Noonan, Patrick Clement of Pallas Foods and a dedicated crop of volunteers have spent the last few months throwing together the ingredients for an event which they hope will appeal to everyone, regardless of their age or tastes.

The centrepiece of the event will be a 100-seater ‘taste’ marquee which will be erected on the GAA pitch in the Demesne, and will host live cooking demonstrations next Saturday.

Among the chefs set dazzle with their culinary flair are the Michelin-starred Ross Lewis and Tom Flavin, a Newcastle West native who is head chef of The Strand Hotel in Limerick city.

Dotted around the main marquee will be an array of over 55 exhibitors from as far afield as Dublin, Roscommon and Mayo, who will be serving up everything from chocolates and cup cakes to kangaroo skewers, paella and spit-roasted pig.

On Sunday, the main marquee will be converted into a pop-up restaurant which will be collectively run by the chefs from restaurants and gastropubs from across Limerick, including the Cornstore, the Mustard Seed, Market Place Brasserie, Cronin’s Bar, the Rathkeale House Hotel,

The Strand Hotel and the Courtenay Lodge Hotel.

Bite-sized tasting portions for starters, mains and desserts will be available from as little as €3.

‘Taste of WestFest’ will also have a clear family ethos, with parents encouraged to bring their children and their teddy bears to a teddy bears’ picnic in the Demesne on Saturday.

On Sunday, meanwhile, a reptile zoo, clowns and other children’s entertainments will be on offer.

Admission to the festival is free to anyone with a Knights of WestFest wristband, which can be purchased for €5 per adult and €3 for children, while toddlers are free.

Ms Gallagher said that she hopes that the crowds will be hungry, and the weather will be kind.

“Sharon and myself are very meticulous, and maybe a bit annoying sometimes! But we want it to be the best it can be. When Patrick came on board it was very good, because Pallas Foods have a certain standard themselves.

We’ve had some long days trying to get things right. All we’re hoping for now is that people come along”.