The Food & Wine Magazine Christmas Show at the RDS was an event I’d been looking forward to for ages. As soon as I had heard the dates and details announced I’d said to myself I’d try everything to get to Dublin this weekend and take in at least one day of the event. Yes, Taste Of Dublin was announced for the same weekend but on review the RDS seemed like a better bet for me and, it certainly didn’t disappoint.
Myself and herself trudged (you could swear it was miles away) through the snow from Bewley’s Hotel, up the road to the RDS and into the show around midday for what would be three hours of sampling, tasting, chatting to producers, planning changes to the kitchen at home, spying foodie Christmas presents, all that kind of thing.
I’ve been to the RDS for plenty of things before but again, the main hall was well laid out, arranged and accommodating of the crowds coming in over the course of the afternoon. I reckon we arrived at the right time, demos already underway, people strolling around with samples of beers, wines, hotdogs and more but it wasn’t jam packed. Warm, most certainly, but jam packed, no. That’s not to say it wasn’t busy, just a lot easier to navigate than other big food events I’ve gone to.
We decided we’d do a few laps to take in everything on offer before picking a spot for lunch, skipping Santa’s Grotto to take in the artisan producers on the right of the hall, down through the beer and wine, around by the main chef stage and demo area, back up through some of the retail suppliers, home wares and all the way around to the restaurant zone where on the second time around we opted for a Japanese style lunch from Kokoro Sushi Bento (Chicken Teryaki for myself with Fried Tofu & Pumpkin Curry for herself). Once lunch was out of the way, it was time to start shopping.
If it was there, and on a table, the likelihood was that you could buy it. Having lunch before shopping was the right thing to do though as I would have started at the hot dogs from the first producers stand and wouldn’t have stopped. We did park ourselves at the Cooleeney Cheese stand and after picking up some of their Daru cheese at the Food Producers Extravaganza in Clonmel a few weeks ago, I was back for more, this time on the hunt for some goats cheese for herself. We got to try the soft cheese and hard goats cheese (Gleann Oir) and walked away with a large log of the former for a seriously impressive €12 (as in great, great value, it’s about a foot long), a chunk of Gleann Oir and on the back of that and our chats at the stand were gifted a portion of their new Garlic & Dill soft cheese (more on all those in another post).
The one thing I really like about the event though is that the artisan producers that are there will answer your questions, give you their stories and leaving the Cooleeney stand I had directions to the house with an invitation to stop by if I was ever stuck for anything (they’re near Urlingford, not far from Kilkenny at all) and a great tip of freezing goats cheese once you’ve let it mature to the stage you’re happy with, both of which I reckon I’ll be taking up.
After the cheese it was on with the hunt for more gluten free goodies and we stopped by Rebecca Smyth’s Nutritious Nibbles stand. I’d passed by Rebecca’s stand twice already me with the “I’m sure I recognise that lady” face on me and her with the “I know I know that guy” face – turns out I had already met Rebecca at the KLCK blogger night in Kilkenny two months back.
Rebecca started her business back in April of this year, specialising in gourment gluten free cookies and biscuits. Herself couldn’t pass up the opportunity of the three packs for six euro offer after sampling some nibbles at the stand. We opened up the chocolate chip packet this morning to have with the coffee and they’re as nice as any cookie I’ve had in a long time, not at all what I had expected from a total gluten-free biscuit. Three of her cookie range took Gold at the Great Taste Awards in the UK earlier in the summer. If you’re in Kilkenny you can pick them up in Cafe Mocha or look for her at the Carlow Market every weekend.
Thinking that cheese and crackers might be on the agenda for the night, we went on the hunt for something to go with haul to date so I ducked over to the French Gourmet Food stand to pick up some Scallop & Seaweed Rillettes. I’m not the world’s biggest seafood lover by any means but figured it would go well with crackers at the table.
On the first lap around I had picked up the business card of Sheelagh McRedmond of Druid’s Pantry in Offaly. It was her sweet pepper relish that caught my eye but with an offer of any three jars in a gift bag for €12 and having tasted the sweet pepper and a tomato and chili salsa, I was sold and walked off with a jar of each and a plum pickle to bring up to the folks last night. As it turns out, all three jars were opened at the table, being tried on potato skins, chicken and later with the afore mentioned goats cheese, a definite winning combination.
All of the Druid’s Pantry relishes and preserves are gluten free and while the crackers at the stand weren’t, the spoons were quickly handed out for herself to test and approve the plum pickle. If I’m to be welcomed back home to the family for Christmas I’m going to have to come bearing a few jars with me such was the positive reaction over dinner last night.
Having taken in some of the demos, run three or four laps of the main hall sampling our way around the RDS, discovering to a possible detriment that there was a pass machine in the corner we called it a day after three hours with a drive to Sligo in worsening road conditions (and by God did they worsen) looming.
Overall consensus? A great day out. Sure enough, we only stayed there for three hours which might not have done justice to the €20 (plus 2.50 per ticket booking fee) ticket price but you could get eight hours out of the day, take in all the demos, all the tips, sample your way around every producer and not have to put your hand in your pocket for anything. Mind you, if we hadn’t left when we did we were on the verge of starting Christmas shopping and would have walked away with an old-fashioned dresser made in Naas, a new oven, a raft of games for Christmas and enough cheese, cookies and other goodies to keep us stocked up well past winter.
If I could fault it anywhere, it would be on the seating (or shortage of) for the eating areas. We wound up having our lunch perched on the stairs at the back hall along with woman with a young family and another woman with elderly parents. Some kids seemed happy to camp out on the floor with their popcorn but a larger general purpose area for eating wouldn’t have been a bad call, or to open the upper floor with some additional tables and chairs to carry the overflow.
Overall though, money well spent and a day very much enjoyed, will definitely be back again next year.