Posted in Events & Adventures in Food

Waterford Festival of Food – Food Camp

Ireland’s second food camp took place last Friday 15th April at St. John’s Castle, Dungarvan, Co. Waterford as part of the Waterford Festival of Food 2011 which ran for a week.
Dungarvan The timetable outlined 3 simultaneous, speaking sessions at each of the 4 time slots, which meant decisions had to be made, in order to select the 4 of a possible 12 that I could partake in.
The first three to choose from were Keith Bohanna on branding, Donal Lehane on the Slow Food movement and Mary Flynn on traditional butter making with a demo.  As a fan of Keith’s blog postings on packaging and as a sucker for great packaging myself I decided to tune in to ‘Artisan Food Packaging – Before and After, the story of 5 Irish Artisan Food brands reinvented.’  Keith is fairly up on the technical stuff (he runs an Internet Marketing & eCommerce Consultancy), so if you’re interested in the content of his presentation he has posted it over on his own blog  He looked at Kilbeggan Organic Porridge, Wild Orchard, Mella’s Fudge, Organic Herb Co. and Glenilen Farm.  All of them have gone through a design process – some simple, others complex and have come out the other side with impressive branding and packaging. Interestingly Keith informed us that only 28% of the text on websites is absorbed by the reader and may be even less for packaging.
Keith Bohanna - Bia Beag (blog)Next up was a choice of topics on Marketing, Irish Fishing and Blaas.  No, I’m not being rude here, there is such a thing as a Blaa.  More specifically, a Waterford Blaa. Intrigued to learn more, in I went to hear Dermot Walsh (3rd generation baker of Blaas, with M&D bakery) talk through the history of bread making and the origin of the Blaa.  This dates back to the 1700s with the arrival of the Huguenots and their baking with a white heirloom flour, this finely milled flour was used to produce what was being called ‘pain blanc’ and is now known as the Waterford Blaa.  M&D Bakery, along with 3 other Waterford producers are in the process of applying to the EU for PGI (Protected Geographical Integrity) status and hopefully will soon enjoy the same protection as Champagne, Parma ham, Greek feta cheese and Cumberland sausage.  This was my first tasting of a Waterford Blaa and with the rich companion of Mary Flynn’s (of Nell’s Farmhouse) handmade butter they were devoured. Lovely and soft, they’d be perfect stuffed with your favourite sandwich filling or dunked into soup. Delicious.  (I think I’ll have to add them to the next revision of my ‘School Lunches – The Definitive Guide’)
Waterford Blaa (M&D Bakery)The third speaking slots of the day were on Oyster Farming, Branding and lastly, the one I went for, “Don’t be left with a bitter taste in your mouth” – coffee-making demo and tasting session.  This was by Brock Lewin of Badger and Dodo. Brock is originally from Australia and has the smooth accent to match his coffee. Brock talked us through the factors that affect coffee-making : Extraction, Dose, Grind, Temperature, Agitation.  Key learning points for me were:
Storage – cool, dry, dark, ceramic container
Fresh – grind to brew time 15 minutes max
Proportion/Dose – 6g per 100ml = 60ml per litre for anything brewed.  For espresso machine 8g
Temperature – 92 to 96C
Agitation – give the grounds a bit of stir before leaving to brew
Home-made cappuccino without machine – Use a simple cafetière to brew your coffee, then pour it in a cup.  Rinse the cafetière and heat your milk in it, in the microwave, then give it a plunging to froth it up – et voila.
Badger & Dodo Coffee CupBrock Lewin Badger & Dodo Coffee MakingThe last three sessions were on Marketing, Food Security issues in the work of the OECD and lastly, a talk on the brewing process and tasting.  I opted to learn a bit about the International food story as presented by Earnán O Cleirigh (OECD).  The information, though sobering, was delivered with a well-informed flow and looked at factors that determine who has access to sufficient food and why.  Graphs showed worryingly, soaring, global food price figures.  Earnán discussed issues such as inter-generational transmission of poverty and factors such as change in consumption habits (China), fuel costs (fertiliser production), and impact of climate (Australia, Russia). I came away having learned that 1 billion people are hungry, 1 billion people endure ‘hidden hunger’ (micronutrients deficient) yet 30% of all food is wasted.
After the last session we all lunched together in a tented area on the grounds of St John’s Castle.  My own hunger was allayed with some of Mag Kirwan’s Goatsbridge trout, Keith Bohanna’s salad and local brown bread while one of my dining companions, Niamh Shields (soon to be published blogger, stuffed her Waterford Blaa with Cheese & Onion Taytos – yum.
It was in the tent too, that we convened for a panel discussion, chaired by Peter Ward – Country Choice, Nenagh. Panel members (L to R in photograph) were Niamh Shields (EatLikeaGirl), Ella McSweeney (RTE), Eileen Bentley (Bord Bia), Jim Power (economist, Love Irish Food Founder), Anike Tyrell (Waterford Enterprise Board) & Peter Ward (Country Choice).
Waterford Festival of Food 2011 - Dungarvan Food Camp PanelWith a topic of “From Field to Fork – getting artisan products to market” this discussion looked at the struggles that artisans face in finding their route to market.  The importance of branding, product uniqueness, labelling and the use of social media were all discussed with a strong argument being made for protection of product via EU schemes such as PDO (protected designation of origin), PGI (protected geographical indication) and TSG (traditional speciality guaranteed).  The need for a central database of artisans was also discussed, with a suggestion from the floor to use the data that is collected when artisans register with their Health Boards.  With plenty of small producers numbered in the audience, discussion was passionate and heartfelt.
I’m looking forward to the next one.
Til next time, Sheila.