Inishfood Festival: Year 1

"It started off very small, just to get a few food bloggers together for dinner", explains food blogger Kirstin Jensen. "Next thing we knew...it just took off". And so Inishfood Festival in Donegal was born. The determination of three people (Kirstin, Caroline Hennessy and Donal Doherty) culminated in a 3 day festival that brought dozens of people from all over Ireland to the majestic peninsula of Inishowen.


Kirstin & Caroline formed the Irish Food Bloggers Association last year:


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Donal Doherty runs Harry's, a restaurant on the main road from Derry to Inishowen. Donal talks a lot about "local food"; more helpfully, he talks about "Made in Inishowen" food, because it's from this peninsula that nearly 85% of the food on his menu is sourced. Contrast that with a decade ago when only 10% of Harry's menu was sourced locally, and you get an idea of the transformation that's taken place in his restaurant: 
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Noel McLoughlin, who lives on the peninsula, gave up part-time farming a few years ago. "I got out of it because there was such a disconnection...you had no connection with the animals, or what happened to them... this farm to fork approach really appeals to me".  This 'farm to fork' approach has brought Noel back to farming; he now sells his Tamworth pigs direct to Donal for his restaurant.
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Three of Ireland's top butchers were at Inishfood - Dublin's Ed Hick, Cork's Jack McCarthy and Tipperary's TJ Crowe. Jack is from Kanturk in northwest Cork; the Irish for this town, 'ceann toirc', translates as 'boar's head' and it was Jack's Boar's Head Kanturk Black Pudding that won gold at a major international pudding competition last year. He demonstrated his remarkable butchery skills at Inishfood: 


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Ed Hick is from a famous family of pork butchers in Dublin. He's on the Taste Council of Ireland and is particularly keen on Irish food traditions "that your granny and great-granny used to do", such as using fresh blood to make black pudding and drinking raw milk. There's been a revived interest in these traditions in the past year, but it's still a minority of people who enthuse about them.
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"There's a huge foundation of wonderful food here", says Sally McKenna, co-founder of the Bridgestone Guide with her husband John. John wrote that Harry's "is currently the most complete Wow! experience in Irish food". 
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Imen McDonnell is an American TV producer who met a Limerick farmer in her home country a few years ago. With the promise of acreage and road frontage, he persuaded her to move to his family farm in Ireland where she now lives. Imen is positive, fresh and has a sense of food style that can be seen on her blog. During the Inishfood Festival, she gave a butter demonstration. 
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