My hopes were high. Cork is reputed to be Ireland's culinary capital. It's home to the English Market (a place that has always expressed pride in Irish produce: http://www.corkenglishmarket.ie/). The city also has fabulous restaurants. (I love Café Paradiso, Isaac's and Jacques - reviews to come.) And then there's the city's hinterland; a rich countryside and bountiful seashore which has inspired food producers such as Gubbeen cheeses and cured meats and Sally Barnes' Woodcock Fish Smokery, among many others.
Alas, I was disappointed. When I arrived in the city at 1.30pm, very little seemed to be happening. There were supposed to be workshops being held in the English Market - sausage making, cake baking, shopping on a budget and more - but the doors were closed and the place was in darkness when I peered in.
There was a street market but it was much smaller than advertised. And it wasn't very diverse. There were several hot food stalls selling gourmet hot dogs, savoury pies and spicy kebabs. There was a coffee counter. And there were lots of stalls selling sweet things: cupcakes, brownies and all sorts of cakes.
Is it just me or do you agree that markets should be based on more than this? I want to buy food to bring home. Fruit, vegetables, fresh pasta, meats, fish, olives, breads; where were they all? It just didn't seem like a real market to me.
The day wasn't an entire disappoinment though. I met two lovely food producers who make their own peanut butter and other nutty products:
And so it should because Oliver learned how to make it while volunteering in Zambia five years ago. He uses the recipe he learned from Zambian women - pure peanuts mixed with a very small amount of salt and some peanut and walnut oils. You really can taste the goodness.
I bought the plain peanut butter. They also do one with added chocolate chips and another with honey. I'm planning to have it in my porridge tomorrow morning (the first bowl of porridge of the winter as it's suddenly become very cold) as well as using it in satay sauces and maybe even in a white chocolate and peanut butter blondie.
I also drooled over some of the items on offer on the Heaven's Cakes stall. This Bandon-based bakery produces fabulous French-inspired cakes and they also have a regular stall in the English Market.
Was I unlucky? Should I have visited on a day other than Sunday? Did anyone else have a more positive experience?
My final verdict is that - judging on my experience - Cork and its fabulous food producers deserve a much better food festival than this.