The Taste of Cavan, Ireland

I’m feeling very lucky at the moment. When we moved to Cavan Town (population 5,600) I expected lots of rolling hills and sheep. I didn’t expect to find a passionate community of artisanal food producers and chefs in the greater County Cavan (population 52,900). Recently the people of County Cavan came together for the second annual Taste of Cavan event to showcase artisanal foods and talented chefs. Over two full days butchers sold sausages, bakers touted pies and Irish soda bread, cheesemakers brought their wheels, ice creameries scooped cones, jam makers sold preserves and a chocolatier traded her confections. Local chefs and celebrity chefs gave cooking demos. The Irish Countrywomen’s Association held a summer berry pie competition, Corleggy Cheese featured their Caven-bert, and the iconic 99 made it’s debut in adorable cupcake form. For me, the highlight of the weekend was meeting Clodagh McKenna, someone I’ve admired since I first saw her show, Clodagh’s Trails, on public television in America. Clodagh is an entrepreneur, a cookbook author, restauranteur, and Irish foods advocate. Her enthusiasm is contagious, and I love that Darina Allen dubbed her, “The woman who makes things happen.” I heartily suggest all my American friends check out her cookbooks, Clodagh’s Kitchen Diaries and Homemade: Irresistible Homemade Recipes for Every Occasion.

Taste of Cavan 2013 (c)La Domestique

{Photos: Clodagh McKenna and Jessica O’Toole, Tom and Corleggy Cheese, Clodagh McKenna with her Lemon Roasted Chicken and Tagliata Steak, ICA berry pie contest entries, Donohoe’s Foodfare butcher, Mr Muffin Man’s cupcake version of the iconic 99}   

Another thing I didn’t expect from Cavan is a national award-winning restauranteur and celebrity chef, Neven Maguire of MacNean House. Word has it his restaurant nestled in the rural village of Blacklion is booked out months in advance. Just like Clodagh, Neven is passionate about local Irish produce and seasonal cooking. He’s charming, fun and a true master of his craft. It was great craic (as they say) watching him teach audience members how to make fancy caramel nests for his luscious desserts. Speaking of dessert, pastry chef Shane Smith from Dublin gourmet food purveyor Fallon & Byrne did a couple of fantastic cake demos. It was great to see this Cavan born chef come home and share his craft with the community.

I met so many interesting people, like Brian McDermott, The Community Chef, who teaches cookery courses up in Donegal and is known for cooking without salt. Being a chocoholic, I’m thrilled that Cavan has a chocolatier, Ann Rudden of Aine Handmade Chocolate. I’ve always got one of her dark chocolate bars in my kitchen drawer to nibble on. It’s good to know that I can enjoy local cider all through the autumn and winter with Armagh Cider Company, and Monica of Finca Tres Fonts (who owns olive trees in Spain), keeps me supplied with olive oil all year round.

Now that the Taste of Cavan is over I feel it’s so important to retain that sense of excitement for the local food scene of artisanal producers and restaurants. I’m so inspired by the chefs who champion Irish farmers and truly walk their talk when it comes to farm to table. One thing Clodagh McKenna said really stuck with me, “We’ve got to keep the farmer’s markets about the farmers.” It’s a great reminder of what this whole food thing is all about.

Taste of Cavan Collage 2(c)La Domestique

{Photos: Pastry Chef of Fallon & Byrne-Shane Smith, Neven Maguire and Curried Chicken Spring Rolls, Brian McDermott and his Warm Irish Garden Salad, Armagh Cider, Ann Rudden of Aine Chocolate, Finca Tres Fonts olive oil}

26 Comments

  1. Wow Jess! Looks like you are living a pretty perfect part of the world. So happy for you :)

    Reply
    • Renee,

      Like I said, I feel pretty lucky. Thanks for popping by, friend!

      Reply
    • Thanks, Ketty!

      Reply
  2. Oh Jess, these are stunning! And I love that you got to see and meet so many great people-sounds a little bit like foodie heaven ;)

    Reply
    • Thanks Rincy! It was a great event!

      Reply
  3. Jess, you have captured the essence of Taste of Cavan with your wonderfully crafted text and delectable photos. So thrilled you have joined the Cavan food community. Such an asset.

    Reply
    • Thanks for all your support, Catherine! It means a lot. :)

      Reply
  4. How fun, Jess! I’ve seen Clodagh’s show on PBS a few times and it must have been great meeting her. I’m so thrilled for you that you’ve found such a passionate food community!

    Reply
    • I’m so glad you’re a Clodagh fan Nicole! :) Thanks for saying hi!

      Reply
  5. Wow! I’ve been a little out of the loop but how cool to see you are living in Ireland! I have always wanted to adventure for longer than a reasonable vacation on the other side of the world. Beautiful pictures, beautiful life.

    Reply
    • Kasey,
      Yes! It’s crazy! I still can’t believe WE MOVED TO IRELAND. Neither can my mother! It’s great to hear from you and I hope you and the family are fantastic!

      Reply
  6. That looks like such a fun time! I wish I could come there (and eat everything).

    Kacie

    Reply
    • Kacie,

      Haha, I wish I had gotten to eat more– too busy taking photos!

      Reply
  7. Such gorgeous shots- looks like a wonderful community. So thrilled it’s all working out. x

    Reply
    • Thanks so much for stopping by to say hi, Tori! Take care, Jess

      Reply
  8. What a delightful culinary event! The food all looks fabulous and I’ll bet it was so much fun to taste things and observe the Irish foodie culture. P.S. and I love your plaid dress with the offset collar!

    Reply
    • Thanks Sarah! You know I don’t usually do live events– I could use a few tips from you, because your event photography is always so good!

      Reply
  9. Jess, I’m so happy that you landed in such a community so rich with wonderful food! I can only imagine all you’ll be sharing with us. It’s a delight to hear about such places that are so far from home.
    xoxo
    E

    Reply
    • Erin,

      I feel so fortunate for that! Food is a common thread that connects us all.

      Reply
  10. Looks like a wonderful festival. I’ll have to keep an eye out for that cider when I get back to Dublin. Craft cider is my favourite, the sooner the government starts giving it the boost its given craft beer the better. Good that we can get nice stuff from the North, think the UK government is better for encouraging it.

    Reply
    • Jess,

      I’m with you– I like beer but I really enjoy drinking cider in autumn. It’s too bad they don’t promote it more.

      Reply
  11. They’re starting to lobby more for tax breaks. Craft beer in Ireland gets supportive tax breaks, that’s why its become to big in recent years. So far craft cider isn’t eligible, which makes it quite expensive, and people are reluctant to buy it when it costs almost as much as wine.

    Reply
    • Interesting, I didn’t know that. Now that you mention it, I really miss the craft beers of Colorado. Don’t see any craft beer up here in Cavan, must have a look for it in Dublin!

      Reply
  12. Gorgeous photos! I love the food community here in Ireland.

    Reply
    • Thanks Rebekah, me too!

      Reply

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