Boyne Valley Flavours has announced an enviable line-up of award-winning chefs, best-selling cookbook authors, culinary experts, and international guest speakers for this autumn’s Samhain Food Festival – now in its fourth year.
Some of the biggest names in Irish food will head to the heritage town of Kells, Co. Meath for what promises to be a magnificent weekend of events and experiences (November 3rd to 6th), celebrating the coming together of 5,000 years of Irish food and culture.
Highlights of this year’s festival include captivating cookery demos, cocktail making masterclasses, a long table seasonal supper, kids cookery classes, food and drink tastings, farm tours, visits to artisan producers, farmers markets, panel discussions, and much more.
Commenting on the Samhain 2022 line-up announcement, Festival Curator, Olivia Duff, said: “Our attitude towards food and drink is influenced by many external factors; Great chefs and producers, family and tradition, beliefs and practices. Samhain Festival Kells 2022 will explore all of these elements through, taste, discussion, demonstration, play, and workshops. It promises to be an absolute feast for the mind and the palate.”
With a history of over 5,000 years of farming in the region, there is a drive and passion within the Boyne Valley Flavours Network to establish the area as a veritable food destination and create greater awareness, access to, and knowledge transfer of Irish food culture, locally, nationally and globally. The first full day of the festival on Friday November 4th will see the vision for launching Ireland’s very first ‘Centre of Food Culture, Boyne Valley’ – a project supported by Meath & Louth County Council – presented at the Samhain Symposium in the Kells Courthouse Tourism and Cultural Hub.
Then, from 2pm to 5pm the same venue will host an afternoon of conversation, inspiration and deliberation around the subject of Irish Food Culture, chaired by Iconic Irish Food Writer, John McKenna. He’ll be joined on stage by international guest speaker, Rinaldo Giacomo Rava, of the University of Gastronomic Science, in Pollenzo, Italy, TU Dublin’s Mairtin Mac Con Iomaire, Darina Allen (Ballymaloe Cookery School), Chef, JP McMahon (Eat Galway Group), Kevin Sheridan (Sheridan’s Cheesemongers), and local producer, Maria Flynn (Ballymakenny Farm).
The Samhain Symposium is free to attend but the capacity of the venue is limited to 100 people so you are encouraged to book your complimentary ticket online early at www.boynevalleyflavours.ie to avoid disappointment.
On Friday November 4th (10am start), The Bunnery Cookery School will play host to the Samhain Schools TY Cooks of the Year Competition, sponsored by SuperValu Food Academy. The cook-off final will see teams of two from eight different schools in the Louth/Meath areas going head-to-head, tasked with creating a two-course meal that heroes at least two local ingredients per dish from businesses in the Boyne Valley Flavours Producer Network. The aim of the competition is to create an engaging opportunity for local Transition Year students to connect with the heritage, produce and producers of their region and understand the importance of appreciating and supporting their local food and drink industry. Judges on the day will include leading chef, Jess Murphy (of Michelin Bib Gourmand Restaurant, Kai, in Galway), Pauric White of Cavan Institute of Technology & Tutor on Chef Apprenticeship Programme, and Euro-Toques Ireland Young Chef of the Year 2017, Conor Halpenny (Head Chef of Bib Gourmand restaurant, Square, in Dundalk).
‘Irish Food Stories’ Series:
Saturday’s schedule of events in the Kells Courthouse Tourism and Cultural Hub commences at noon as leading independent Food & Travel Writer, Ali Dunworth, takes to the stage to talk to the ladies behind Ireland’s newest Irish food magazine, Scoop. Ali will chat with Publisher, Kristin Jensen (also of Nine Bean Rows Books and Blasta Books), and Editor-in-Chief, Dee Laffan, on their vision to curate the new magazine.
This will be followed at 1.30pm by Devin O’Sullivan, Founder of social enterprise, Feast Ireland. In a pre-empt to his forthcoming book The Story Matters Most, food provocateur, Devin, will explore the past, the present and the future of food in a unique and interactive presentation. Uncover the truth behind farmed salmon, the impact that food waste has on the environment, how supermarkets trick you into buying ‘local food’ grown thousands of miles away, and much more.
Grow It Yourself (GIY) Ireland’s Founder, Michael Kelly, is the final speaker of the day at 3pm as he shares excerpts from GIY Diaries; down-to-earth, informative accounts of his own growing year that will impart hard-earned wisdom and inspiration for you to do the same. His expert advice will guide you, whether you are a complete beginner or a more experienced grower, and regardless of the amount of space you have.
Live Cookery Demos With Industry A-list Authors In The Headfort Arms Hotel:
Across town, things will be hotting up at The Headfort Arms Hotel on Saturday November 5th and Sunday November 6th as published A-list Authors from across the Irish food industry make their way over to the cookery demo stage.
Saturday November 5th
Chef and Restaurateur, JP McMahon, and Drogheda-born Chef & Baker, Roann Byrne, will lead the way (1pm start), closely followed by the Authors of the popular Blasta Books cookbook series. Patrick Hanlon and Russell Alford (AKA GastroGays – 2pm), Jess Murphy (2.45pm), Kwanghi Chan (3.30pm), and Lily Ramirez-Foran (4pm) will all be showcasing their talents and demoing recipe favourites from their books; ‘Hot Fat’, ‘The United Nations Of Cookies’, ‘Wok’, and ‘Tacos’.
Sunday November 6th
From 1pm, multi award-winning Chef, Dr. Martin Ruffley will be joined on stage by Jacinta Dalton and the pair will cook recipes from the Levant chapter of his book, ‘Rekindling the Fire: Food and The Journey of Life’. At 2.30pm, the doyenne of Irish food and Owner of Ballymaloe Cookery School, Darina Allen, will demo a range of recipes from her new book, ‘How to Cook: The 100 Essential Recipes Everyone Should Know’. Accompanied by The Smokin’ Butcher, Hugh Maguire, the two will chat about reviving some of the lost skills in Irish cooking. And, last but not least, Graham Herterich AKA The Cupcake Bloke (4pm), will showcase a number of recipes from his best-selling first book ‘Bake: Traditional Irish Baking with Modern Twists’.
The cost of attending each of the 45 minute-long cookery demos is €5.00 per person and tickets can be purchased online at www.boynevalleyflavours.ie. On the completion of their demo sessions, each Author will be available to do a signing of their book, all of which can be purchased at your leisure inside The Headfort Arms Hotel at Antonia’s Bookstore.
Spirits of Samhain At The Red Chapel:
Take a whistle stop tour of the Boyne Valley with Whistler Whiskey and Boann Distillery on Saturday November 5th (4pm start). Attendees will explore the world of The Whistler Irish Whiskey and journey through the Boyne with Head Distiller at Boann Distillery, who will lead the tasting, expertly guiding you through five of the cask finishes and styles of the distillery’s Irish whiskey range. Glasgow-Diaz will curate a sense of place by creating snacks, small plates and canapés made with local ingredients from nearby farms, growers, and producers. The cost of attending the tastings is €25.00 per person and tickets can be booked online at www.boynevalleyflavours.ie.
Award-winning Food & Travel Writers and Boyne Valley Flavours Brand Ambassadors, Russell Alford and Patrick Hanlon (AKA GastroGays), have devised a fantastic evening of cocktail making in the unique setting of The Red Chapel on Saturday November 5th (6pm start). This fun and interactive event will introduce you to a plethora of products from the many incredible distilleries and drinks producers that the Boyne Valley region is home to. Each participant attending the hands-on class will be provided with all the ingredients, utensils and instructions needed to create three delicious cocktails. Russell & Patrick will then lead a live demo, taking you through the mixing and garnishing of the unique ‘Flavours of the Boyne Valley’ cocktails, that they have created especially for this event. Tickets for the ‘Flavours of the Boyne Valley Cocktail Making’ session are €25.00 per person and can be purchased online at www.boynevalleyflavours.ie. Please note that this event has a maximum capacity of 30 people so you are encouraged to book early to avoid disappointment.
Join Mark Jenkinson of The Cider Mill at The Red Chapel on Sunday November 6th (2pm start) and take a fascinating look at our native Irish apple trees and over two millennia of Irish Cider making history and folklore, from Rustic to Royalty. This session includes a tutored tasting of five different Ciders and Perry to tempt your taste buds. Tickets are priced at €20.00 per person and are only available in limited numbers so you are encouraged to book early at www.boynevalleyflavours.ie to avoid disappointment.
Kevin Sheridan (of Sheridan’s Cheesemongers), will host an Irish Farmhouse Cheese & Craft Beer Tasting in collaboration with award-winning Beer Writer, Judith Boyle in The Red Chapel on Saturday November 5th (2.30pm start). Attendees will get the opportunity to sample and savour four outstanding farmhouse cheeses paired with Irish craft beers carefully curated and presented by Beer Sommelier, Judith. Tickets for this tasting are priced at €20.00 per person but are limited in numbers so you are encouraged to book early at www.boynevalleyflavours.ie to avoid disappointment.
At the Kells Courthouse Tourism and Cultural Hub on Saturday November 5th (4pm start), Iconic Irish Food Writers, Sally and John McKenna, will consider a timeline of Ireland’s farmhouse cheese industry. They will examine the roles played by the original cheesemaking women who spearheaded the revolution in Irish food in the late 1970s. They will be joined by two of Ireland’s great cheesemakers; Silke Cropp of Corleggy Cheese and Siobhán Ni Ghairbhith of St. Tola Goat’s Cheese. The cost of attending this talk and tasting is €5.00 per person and tickets can be booked online at www.boynevalleyflavours.ie.
Then, at 4.30pm on Saturday November 5th, the Kells Courthouse Tourism & Cultural Hub will host a screening of ‘Taste Of Home – In Aid Of UNHCR’. Working with UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency, and Jess Murphy (Owner and Head Chef of Kai restaurant in Galway), feature in four short documentaries that follow refugee chefs as they meet Irish producers and chefs from all over the country to showcase their home cuisine from Afghanistan, Palestine, Guinea and Yemen. The cost to attend the screening is €5.00 per person, with all proceeds being donated directly to UNHCR. Tickets can be booked online at www.boynevalleyflavours.ie.
Elsewhere on the Saturday afternoon, at Eureka House The Bunnery Cookery School will be running a ‘Rookie Cookie’ children’s baking class (starts at noon and runs until 1.15pm), during which your kids will learn how to make a couple of different types of cookies from scratch and be shown some simple decorating techniques. Each child will leave with a box of cookies and a full recipe pack so that they can bake them again at home.
All ingredients will be provided. The cost per child for attending this session is €20.00 and tickets can be booked online at www.boynevalleyflavours.ie.
Trad Session At Jack’s Bar & Samhain Literature Pub Crawl
The festival kicks off on Thursday November 3rd with a civic reception in Jack’s Bar (8pm start). Enjoy local beers and stouts paired with award-winning Carlingford Lough Oysters while being serenaded with a live trad session from 9pm onwards, performed by talented local musicians. Entry to the reception, followed by the trad session, is €5.00 per person and tickets can be booked online at www.boynevalleyflavours.ie
The Samhain Literature Pub Crawl on the evening of Friday November 4th (7.30pm start), will see attendees taken on a cultural tour of three incredible Kells pubs. In each spot, you will receive a locally brewed drink paired with food from producers based in the Boyne Valley region, and be treated to a literary piece and plenty of laughs from three incredible special guests. The cost of joining the Literature Pub Crawl is €30.00 per person. Tickets can be purchased online at www.boynevalleyflavours.ie.
At 5pm on Saturday November 5th, you can kick back and relax in The Keltic Bar at The Headfort Arms Hotel and enjoy a tasting of the local Slane Whiskey and a seasonal cocktail. Slane Castle’s Alex Conyngham and Food Writer, Ali Dunworth, will delve into the story of forty years of Slane music concerts and how this shaped the creation of the Slane Irish Whiskey Distillery. They’ll reflect on how and why the gigs started, highlights of the legendary shows the castle has hosted over the years and how all this helped to shape the journey, twists and turns of bringing Alex’s vision for a new Irish whiskey brand and distillery to life. Tickets for this event are priced at €20.00 per person and can be purchased online at www.boynevalleyflavours.ie. Spaces for Slane Rocks are limited to 50 people so you are encouraged to book early to avoid disappointment.
One of the main highlights of the festival is the unmissable long table seasonal Samhain Supper on Saturday November 5th (7.30pm start) which takes place in the Kenlis Suite at The Headfort Arms Hotel. The Supper will celebrate the liminal time of Samhain with toasts, tales and tastings and a menu, created by local students chefs and overseen by their mentors, that showcases produce from across the Boyne Valley region. You will also be treated to some very special live entertainment throughout the evening, delivering a dining experience that is guaranteed to live long in the memory.
The ticket price of €75.00 per person includes dinner, drinks and traditional tales, and can be booked online at www.boynevalleyflavours.ie. Please note that the maximum dining capacity for the long table supper is 120 people so you are encouraged to book early to avoid disappointment.
Live Well, Waste Less
Caitriona Redmond (Wholesome Ireland), food and cost of living writer for the Irish Examiner hosts a conversation with Maurice McGeehan, ‘The No Waste Chef’, on how best to not only survive but thrive in this spiralling food cost environment we find ourselves in presently. Maurice, who is Performance Chef with the IRFU, is known for producing creative nutritious menus from ingredients that most of us condemn to the waste bin. Join the maestro of ‘no waste’ and the queen of food cost in this captivating session at the Kells Courthouse Cultural and Tourism Hub on Sunday November 6th (1.30pm).
Immerse yourself into the food producing culture of the Boyne Valley with a visit to the historical Martry Mill on Sunday November 6th (3pm start time), which has been grinding grain since 1641. Miller, James Tallon, will give attendees a fascinating insight into the culture of milling in Ireland and the opportunity to ‘mill and fill’ your own bag of stone ground flour to take home. This session will also include a Soda Bread making demo and tasting. The cost of attending the ‘Meet The Miller’ event is €5.00 per person and tickets can be purchased online at www.boynevalleyflavours.ie.
Spice Bags Live Podcast
On Sunday November 6th (4pm), Co-Hosts, Dee Laffan, Blanca Valencia, and Mei Chin will be recording a special live episode of their award-winning Spice Bags Podcast (winner of Best Irish Food Podcast 2021 at the Irish Food Writing Awards) at Samhain 2022 from the Kells Courthouse Tourism and Cultural Hub. They will be chatting with Allen and Lorena Krause, who have spent the last 21 years beautifully restoring Killua Castle in Clonmellon, Co. Westmeath. Allen was born in Mexico of Austrian and Spanish ancestry and Lorena is also from Mexico. The couple use regenerative agriculture and have red deer, Irish moiled cattle, old Irish goats, Jacob sheep, Kerry Bog ponies, geese, ducks and hens, and have also rewilded part of the land.
Sheridan’s Cheesemongers will host a family-friendly Samhain Market at their Virginia Road Station headquarters from 10am to 2pm on Saturday November 5th. Call by and discover a plethora of local food and drinks producers, including butchers, grocers, bakers, fishmongers and plenty more as well as stocking up on lots of delicious cheese and pantry supplies in Sheridan’s on-site shop.
On Sunday November 6th, head over to the unique country market in the picturesque village of Clonmellon from 11am to 1.30pm to soak up the atmosphere and meet over 30 quality artisan food producers and crafters. The market is the place to go if you want to shop local and immerse yourself in the sights, sounds and aromas of the Boyne Valley. The market, which takes place every second Sunday, is free to attend and everyone is welcome.
Free Walking Tours:
Bring your wellies and experience the story of Christmas on Saturday November 5th with a lovely outdoor family-friendly ‘Turkey Walk & Talk’ at the multi award-winning Hogan’s Farm (1pm start). Having produced outdoor-reared free range bronze turkeys for almost 60 years, the farm is excited to open its doors to the public and take you on a walking tour of its three acres of splendid Charlesfort Woodland pasture. This will be followed by a visit to the Farm Shop & Café.
Those interested in learning more about the history of Kells itself will also have the option of joining a free guided ’Walk About Tour’ around the beautiful heritage town, hosted by passionate and knowledgeable local volunteers. Attendees should meet outside Kells Courthouse Tourism and Cultural Hub on Saturday November 5th at 2pm.
Both Walking Tours are free to attend but spaces are limited to 30 people (Hogan’s Farm) and 20 people (Kells Walk About) respectively, so you are encouraged to book your complimentary ticket early at www.boynevalleyflavours.ie to avoid disappointment.