A few weeks ago, Donal Skehan of the Good Mood Food Blog decided to update his blogroll. He was aiming to create a list of the most regularly updated Irish food blogs; something that I hadn’t as of then come across in any of the internet’s many corners. If that wasn’t enough, he also planned - with the help of Bord Bia – an ‘event’ to facilitate this update that would see a whole host of the aforementioned Irish food bloggers gathered in one place for a gastronomic chat, iPhone frenzy, Twitter-thon and all of the inbetweens! Luckily, I caught wind of all this early on and managed to secure an invite, despite only being just three months into the whole food bloggery (my new favourite word!) lark. Roll on an incredibly humid Thursday and there I was, rubbing shoulders with around thirty other bloggers from various counties in Ireland and even a handful who hailed from overseas! Some, like me, were new and a few others were altogether seasoned (no pun intended, but I might as well...) but nearly all of us had never experienced something like this before.
Of course, to just stick a group of food bloggers into a room and let everything develop organically from there would have been far too much of a comical disaster waiting to happen, so an afternoon’s worth of entertainment and foodie showmanship had been arranged to keep all of our minds busy. Kicking off the festivities was Bord Bia’s Maeve Desmond to welcome everybody who had arrived on time, ie not me. Five minutes later (plus my own personal nametag!) and I got in just in time to catch the start of David Owen of Bord Bia’s meat department’s presentation on Irish pork.
Speaking of which, as part of the buildup to the event, Bord Bia kindly arranged for several pork packs to be distributed to quite a number of the bloggers in attendance. This was all in light of an ongoing promotional drive of Irish pork products by Bord Bia, the reputation of which has suffered in recent years due to a largely isolated hiccup in 2008. Rest assured, the pork that was delivered to my door was quite possibly some of the best meat I’ve ever tasted. It also did nothing to help dispel Irish stereotypes given that it was signed for and taken by Rebecca (proper Cockerney luv!) from a farmer wearing none other than a straw hat! In the end we used it to made two dishes: roasted pork with homemade colcannon and apple sauce, and sweet and sour pork with udon noodles. I wasn’t entirely happy with either recipe at the time so neither have featured on the blog, but after tasting meat that delicious you can bet your bottom dollar I’ll be giving it another whirl in the not too distant future!
So, the recurring theme of the day quickly turned out to be a porky one. Well, after Lorraine Fitzmaurice of Blazing Salads had taken her turn at demonstrating some vegetarian cooking for us that is. She was kind enough to take time out of what I’m sure is a hectic schedule to give pointers on baking spelt soda bread and how to create a quick and simple miso pesto tagliatelle dish that was just as quickly gobbled up by everyone in attendance!
Following shortly afterwards was a presentation by master butcher Pat Conway of GMIT who provided the best tagline of the afternoon: ‘and if Maeve will allow me the time!’ with regards to everything, anything he sought to do.
An entertainer in the making if not already a skilled butcher, Pat explained in precise detail the ins and outs of preparing your very own sausages, loin and shoulder of pork with not one piece of meat spared. The lovely Maire Dufficy then proceeded to rustle up a plethora of dishes using similar cuts of meat, also introducing pork belly and mince into the mix.
The best tip we picked up along the way? Don’t annoy your local butcher by only having him mince a small amount of pork for you at once, their mincing machine will have to be cleaned out afterwards.
A quick networking tips and pointers session for Damien Mulley led us into lunch, which, as you may have guessed, featured plenty of delicious pork loin and belly cuts with the added bonus of a very light cheesecake for dessert! Of course, nobody touched the food for a good five minutes for the sake of photography; it’s nice to know I’m not alone in eating most of my meals lukewarm.
Time constraints meant that advice from Eoin Purcell about developing your blog into other forms of media had to be delivered at the same time as the cheesecake, whilst the following hour or thereabouts was dedicated entirely to the professional food styling of Jacosta Clarke and Erica Ryan. Altogether they provided some fantastic tips but reading through my fellow bloggers’ pages does nothing but suggest that anybody actually needed them!
What followed was probably the last thing anyone with the slightest ounce of common sense should have done: left a mountain of culinary freebies for a gaggle of food bloggers to consume. To sum it up, I walked off with a bush of rosemary in hand, cheese in a folder and smoked trout in my pocket. There were delightful oat biscuits courtesy of Lilly Higgins, a great range of Good4U produce, herbal tea and even shredded, dried beef by a company called Biltong; the closest thing I’ve seen to American beef jerky on this side of the Atlantic! Let’s put it this way: I ended up with wrist cramp at having to figure out the best way to carry my plunder up Nassau Street.
That’s not to say I didn’t spend time chatting to my fellow food bloggers before leaving, no. I met some great people there from all kinds of different backgrounds, many of them named Aoife coincidentally! To actually put a face to some of the Irish blogs I’d already seen was a big thrill, and to discover new ones even better. If I learned anything from the group, it’s that many felt exactly the same way about the recipes they post as I do: worry over whether or not it’s good enough. At the end of the day however, what I see on their blogs consistently looks and sounds fantastic so I guess the right attitude to adopt is to put yourself in everybody else’s shoes and imagine they think the same about your own work; it’s probably the truth! Either way, only good things can come of us networking between each other, especially for me given I’m always on the lookout for dining buddies. I managed to catch up with Donal briefly as well, who’s midway through writing his second cookbook at this stage.
All in all, the food bloggers event was a massive success and a great experience for everyone involved. Maeve, Donal and Klara Golez of Bord Bia did a fantastic job at arranging the entire event, so a huge thank you goes out to them from myself and Consumed. Apart from that, all I have to say (or ask, rather!) is when’ll the next one be? And count me in.
One minor note to finish up with: check out my blogroll. Just do it. You’ll see it now contains virtually all of the blogs listed on Donal’s update. Like he says, us foodies have to stick together!