Taste Scene

Michael Devlin

Food festival. Sleep. Repeat

At the time of writing (Monday at 11.30am) I am still fairly busted. Actually, replace the word ‘fairly’ with ‘completely’. That would be a better adverb. Le mot juste, in fact.

And yet it’s a good busted, a busted where me and tastebuds can recall with no small amount of satisfaction the sheer splendour of everything on offer at this year’s Omagh Food Festival. And such a festival of food it was.

Now in its third year, the event has grown significantly since it relocated from its former base in Main Street in the town to the adjacent car park. It went from 12 stalls in its first year, to 24 this time around. If Omagh Food Festival could previously have been described as a nod to a food fiesta, this year’s was full blown carnival, as anyone who visited the event will appreciate.

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The great thing about it was that it had something for everyone. From face-painting to cider to burgers to the exceptional Greek food courtesy of Dollakis in the Park from Enniskillen (more about that later), the whole experience of this blossoming event was one to be treasured, cherished and remembered. The organisers (you know who you are), should be very proud of themselves. Strangely enough, I myself am proud for them.

DAY ONE – UNPREPARED
Myself and the clan hit the town on Saturday afternoon circa 2pm and we’d planned on circumnavigating the festival for a while before deciding on what to eat for lunch. In all, we had planned on spending an hour there before retiring to the homestead. However, as soon as we entered the marquee, it became immediately and abundantly clear that an hour wasn’t going to suffice.

This festival was going to require a long, slow savouring. There were simply so many delights on offer; it would have been a sin not to take them all in (or as many as me and the gut could appreciate and contain).

Resolving to return on the morrow, the clan sampled some delights, ordered two flat breads from Dollakis (a falafel and halloumi one and a battered children other) and then proceeded to rub them all around our stupidly grinning faces. I can confirm that both the falafel and the chicken were beyond culinary reproach. They were so good, in point of fact, that we would eat the chicken one again on day two.

DAY TWO – EATIN’ TROUSERS
This would be the day me and the clan would come to fully appreciate the festival and all its wares. Whilst the little humans were decorating cupcakes or having their physiognomy re-rendered in rainbows and/or watermellons, I was talking to the good people from Tamnagh Foods about their excellent cheeses and associated accompaniments or listening to the ever-affable Pat from Long Meadow wax lyrical about his rhubarb and honey flavoured cider.

Just to clarify, Pat’s cider turned out to be a real elixir and Tamnagh’s Banagher Bold cheese is a world beater – literally – as it scooped a gold medal at the World Cheese Awards in 2015. I therefore purchased both before continuing my food odyssey with yet more culinary delights.

These included some magical olives and unpasturised vintage cheddar from Tom and Ollie’s (I also bought a mahoosive chunk of Compte for good measure), sumptuous sausages from Kennedy Bacon and a dipping extravaganza from the good people from Curry Sauce NI.

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Note: The madras was some of the tastiest lava I’ve ever experienced.

Then, as the little humans deliberated over Pure Baltic’s rolled artisan ice-cream, Roberta’s Cakes and Bakes and Sweet Spot’s bubble waffle ice-cream, I had another pint of Long Meadow Cider and pondered the transience of youth.

Thereafter we all experienced another tasting session courtesy of Ruby’s Fine Foods (some of the best marmalade available to mankind) and yet more bacon courtesy of Mervyn Kennedy, who was firing out the delicious samples like a man possessed.

‘Possessed’ is probably a good word to elucidate how I felt at that juncture in proceedings. I was veritably resplendent with good humour and a deep sense of merriment. No doubt Pat’s cider helped this cause but so did the atmosphere from a people and an event which smelled and sang of revelry. Day two’s two hours, it turns out, weren’t near enough to take it all in either. I gleaned only the briefest experience of Paula McIntyre’s cooking demo and somehow, against all the odds, I failed to sample any of Darren of Ion Distillery’s craft gin. And how I missed out on one of the magnificent Ballyriff Buffalo burgers, only the fates will know.

Note: I’ve tasted these burgers before and yes, they are things of beauty. I also have it on good authority that if you missed Great British Bake-Off contestant Imelda McCarron, you missed a special trick.

I suppose, in hindsight, I couldn’t see, eat or drink everything in sight, despite the demands of my inner glutton. More’s the pity.

DAY THREE – THE AFTERMATH
At the time of finishing this narrative (1.59pm), I’m already looking forward to next year’s Omagh Food Festival. It turns out, you don’t have to travel for hours to find such an event which ticks all the right boxes – and with such gusto.

With the benefit of hindsight and forward planning, me and the stomach will be in training ahead of the next event and – God, eatin’ trousers and money willing – I WILL eat and drink everything in sight.

Did I mentioned it was free entry?

Note: I refrained from weighing myself this morning. I think even my fingers are fatter. What a weekend.

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