Galway Food Festival Focus: Meet the Market Producers
For Galway Food Festival 2016, running from March 24th to 28th, the supremely popular Galway Food Tours are hosting a number of their ‘Around the Marketplace’ tours. Franco-Irish food and wine lover Sheena Dignam will lead food enthusiasts around Galway’s finest food destinations and food market. Guests are advised to come hungry, as along the way they will sample fresh sushi, the finest cheese, Galway oysters, mouth-watering breads and savoury bites as well as delicious sweet treats while soaking up the famed atmosphere of Galway city.
From it’s home on Church lane by St Nicholas’ Church, Galway Market has been trading in the centre of the city for centuries. “The market dates back to medieval times“, says Cait Curran who has been selling her organic and bio-dynamic fruit and vegetables from the market for 25 years, “I think it’s one of the oldest, if not the oldest in the country. It was dying off about 20 years ago and there was a big revival in market trading.”
Galway’s famous bustling street market is home to Cait’s stall as well other traders selling everything from handmade chocolate to sushi. Acting a smorgasbord of Galway’s finest foods, there is no better introduction to the city and county’s best producers. A weekend tradition for many Galwegians, the market gives you a chance to mingle with the locals and barter with stall holders as you wander from stall to stall absorbing the smells, tastes, sounds and sights.
Chef and propriter of The Kitchen, located in the Galway City Museum, Michelle Crehan-Kavanagh has fond memories of the market, “I remember going to the market with my dad to buy baby chicks to send to my granny down the country. We were living in these old high rise flats at the time and the the only place to contain them was in the bath. As kids we would all be in the bath with the chicks before taking them down to my granny the next day”. A trip to the market is still a highlight for Michelle, “I love the fact that you can go up there and buy a bucket of dirty spuds.”
This year Galway Food Festival is celebrating ‘100 Years of Food’, and vegetable grower Cait says that she has seen an increased interest in Ireland’s traditional produce, “kale is a case in point, it’s one of the new healthy vegetables so there has been huge demand for Kale in the past few years. But traditional veg like onions, potatoes and carrots still sell the best”. “At the same time Irish tastes have grown hugely since we have travelled more. Exotic stuff that you couldn’t sell in a million years ten fifteen years ago. Things like Jerusalem artichokes, globe artichokes, and celeriac, these things people are just discovering now”, she adds.
The Friendly Farmer Pop Up Shop sells free range meat with a particular focus on the poultry produced from their farm outside Athenry in East Galway. Ronan Byrne, ‘The Friendly Farmer’, who won the RAI National Local Food Hero 2015, has been trading at the Galway Market for 7 years. Tony and Thomas from stall say it’s not just the quality of the meat and other products that the market offers, “it’s people meeting each other and chatting. That’s what it’s about, there are always people smiling and having a bit of craic.”
Stefan Griesbach from Gannet Fishmongers, who supply the best restaurants in Galway as well as trading at the market, says fresh Irish fish is what they are about, “we try to focus on local fish, mostly from Spiddal a local fishing pier or from Cork or Donegal, all around the coast really”. Their stall is a spectacle of seafood; scallops, prawns, monk fish and wild sea bass. “It’s all fresh, raw fish. Today the hake is going really well“, Stefan says.
Stefan and the Gannet crew are looking forward to the increased traffic The Galway Food Festival will bring, “there will be be two pop-up markets and we are in the middle so we will benefit“. Helen MacFarland of Galway Handmade Chocolates agrees, “it brings more people to this market because they go to wood quay and Spanish arch and we’re kind of stuck in the middle so we’re a stop on the way past“.
Helen began trading at the market for 4 years ago, “I basically got made redundant and decided I was going to work for myself and I started doing chocolate”. She now produces 26 different flavour chocolate and 40 flavours of fudge, and can always be found at the Galway Market at the weekends. Helen makes all her mouth-watering chocolates and fudges by hand, including her best selling Salted Caramel Chocolate. She is hoping for some sunshine for the Galway Food Festival, “weather has had a huge effect. Just before Christmas in November when we had all the really bad storms and flooding, we might have been here but there were no customers!”
A draw for many to the market is the green sign of the BoyChik Doughnuts stand. New Yorker Daniel, who’s mother used to call him Boychik, says he moved to Ireland for love. Whistling while he works he tells me he began at the Galway Market selling mixed vegetable crisps, but after taking advice from his girlfriend at the time, who’s uncle was the ‘Doughnut King of Dublin on O’ Connell street’, he began making his hugely popular deep-friend delights.
Other food traders at the market include vegetarian food company The Bean Tree, Coolfin Gardens Organic Bakery, falafel stall The Gourmet Offensive, the spelt baking specialists The Happy Loaf, Kappa-ya Sushi, The Real Olive Company, and Yummy Crepes.
While not a market trader, a special mention goes to Sheridans Cheesemongers located within the market. Open during the week also, this famous shop boasts an impressive range of cheeses and other gourmet foods. Taking part in the Galway Food Festival, on Sunday 27th they will host a Wedding Cheese Cake Demo from 12pm to 1.30pm, tickets are just €5 person.
Galway Food Tours ‘Around the Marketplace’ food tours are priced at €30 per person and will run Thursday & Saturday at 11.30 am, Sunday at 12 pm and Saturday & Sunday at 3 pm. There tours last approximately 1.5-2 hours. There is a maximum of 15 people per tour so booking is essential. Tickets are available from Sheena on 086-7332885.
The market is open all year round on Saturdays from 8 am to 6 pm and Sundays, Bank Holidays, Fridays in July and August and every day during the Galway Arts Festival from 12 – 6 pm.
Erica grew up with a baker and confectioner for a father, and a mother with an instinct and love for good food. It is little wonder then that, after a brief dalliance with law, she completed a Masters degree in Food Business at UCC. With a consuming passion for all things food, nutrition and wellness, working with TheTaste is a perfect fit for Erica; allowing her to learn and experience every aspect of the food world meeting its characters and influencers along the way.