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New Galway food festival aims to leave lasting taste



Date Published: {J}

When times are tough, there’s strength in numbers. As part of this, a group of Galway restaurants and food producers are joining forces over the Easter weekend for a Food Festival to focus on the best of Irish fare and to show people we still have reason to celebrate in spite of the economic gloom.

Most of the events will be based in the city, with a special Festival village in the Fishmarket Square by the Spanish Arch. But there will also be trips outside, to places like Connemara Smokehouse and an organic farm in Athenry, as well as excursions to the seashore where experts will show people the wealth of free, nutritious food that is available to us – if we want to avail of it.

The Festival will be opened by Sally McKenna of the Bridgestone Guide at Fishmarket Square on Good Friday, April 6, which is traditionally the worst day of the year for the restaurant trade. And the organisers are making no secret of the fact that they want it to benefit the city and its environs.

This Food Festival was the brainchild of the businesses in Galway’s Latin Quarter who joined forces several years ago to attract people into that area of the city, on the basis that co-operation was more beneficial than rivalry.

Unlike previous initiatives of the group, this Festival is not confined to the geographical area of the city from Mainguard Street to the Spanish Arch. Some of Galway’s leading restaurants are taking part, including Kai, Aniar and Bar 8, while in the county, the Gallery in Gort, The Twelve in Barna and Taste Matters in Loughrea area also involved.

The Chairperson of this inaugural festival is JP McMahon, owner of Cava and Aniar restaurants, who was approached by the Latin Quarter group with the idea. He felt it had real potential as long as it was about improving food quality and not just about selling drink.

“I love the idea of bringing better and better food to Galway. The more people saying ‘we need to do better food’, the better,” says JP, whose Spanish restaurant, Cava, is one of the most popular in the city, with its choice of smaller style tapas dishes and main courses.

“Our attitude is ‘let’s not exclude a restaurant [from the Festival] because it doesn’t meet the quality, instead let’s get them to raise the bar for the weekend.”

There are three criteria for restaurants becoming involved, explains JP, who has helped put Galway City on the food map through Cava and more recently Aniar, which specialises in locally sourced, frequently foraged foods.

The three rules are that the participating restaurants must use local suppliers, local produce and seasonal food.

“There must be three items on the menu that draw from local, seasonal and artisan produce,” explains JP.

The Festival is mixing artisan and national suppliers because the reality for most restaurants is that these elements work together, he points out, citing his own restaurants as an example.

While all the wines in the fine-dining Aniar are from artisan vineyards, the suppliers to Cava include wine and spirit importers, Findlaters.

“It’s an issue of supply and demand. If you go down the route of using artisan, you have to accept you can’t turn artisan suppliers into multinationals. Artisan is good but it won’t solve every food issue in Ireland. If you produce food on a smaller scale, it’ll be more expensive.”

The idea is to find a balance on restaurant menus between bigger suppliers and local produce.

For more, read this week’s Galway City Tribune.

Galway in Days Gone By

The way we were – Protecting archives of our past



A photo of Galway city centre from the county council's archives

People’s living conditions less than 100 years ago were frightening. We have come a long way. We talk about water charges today, but back then the local District Councils were erecting pumps for local communities and the lovely town of Mountbellew, according to Council minutes, had open sewers,” says Galway County Council archivist Patria McWalter.

Patria believes we “need to take pride in our history, and we should take the same pride in our historical records as we do in our built heritage”. When you see the wealth of material in her care, this belief makes sense.

She is in charge of caring for the rich collection of administrative records owned by Galway County Council and says “these records are as much part of our history as the Rock of Cashel is. They document our lives and our ancestors’ lives. And nobody can plan for the future unless you learn from the past, what worked and what didn’t”.

Archivists and librarians are often unfairly regarded as being dry, academic types, but that’s certainly not true of Patria. Her enthusiasm is infectious as she turns the pages of several minute books from Galway’s Rural District Councils, all of them at least 100 years old.

Part of her role involved cataloguing all the records of the Councils – Ballinasloe, Clifden, Galway, Gort, Loughrea, Mountbellew, Portumna and Tuam. These records mostly consisted of minutes of various meetings.

When she was cataloguing them she realised their worth to local historians and researchers, so she decided to compile a guide to their content. The result is For the Record: The Archives of Galway’s Rural District Councils, which will be a valuable asset to anybody with an interest in history.

Many representatives on these Councils were local personalities and several were arrested during the political upheaval of the era, she explains.

And, ushering in a new era in history, women were allowed to sit on these Rural District Councils – at the time they were not allowed to sit on County Councils.

All of this information is included in Patria’s introductory essay to the attractively produced A4 size guide, which gives a glimpse into how these Rural Councils operated and the way political thinking changed in Ireland during a short 26-year period. In the early 1900s, these Councils supported Home Rule, but by 1920, they were calling for full independence and refusing to recognise the British administration.

“I love the tone,” says Patria of the minutes from meetings. “The language was very emotive.”

That was certainly true of the Gort Rural District Council. At a meeting in 1907, following riots in Dublin at the premiere of JM Synge’s play, The Playboy of the Western World the councillors’ response was vehement. They recorded their decision to “protest most emphatically against the libellous comedy, The Playboy of the Western World, that was belched forth during the past week in the Abbey Theatre, Dublin, under the fostering care of Lady Gregory and Mr Yeats. We congratulate the good people of Dublin in howling down the gross buffoonery and immoral suggestions that are scattered throughout this scandalous performance.


For more from the archives see this week’s Tribunes here

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Archive News

Real Galway flavour to intermediate club hurling battle in Birr



Date Published: 23-Jan-2013


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Archive News

Athenry fail to take chances as they bow out of Junior Cup



Date Published: 29-Jan-2013

Athenry FC 1

Kilbarrack United 2

(After extra time)

For the second year in succession Athenry were done in extra time in the FAI Junior Cup as last season’s beaten finalist’s came from behind to snatch an excellent game in Moanbawn on Sunday afternoon.

On a heavy pitch that was only playable following extensive groundwork by club officials all morning, the home side were by far the better side in the opening half, but failed to take advantage of a number of opportunities that came their way.

An Alan O’Donovan penalty gave them a merited advantage just after the restart, but thereafter were on the back foot as Kilbarrack took over, but for all their pressing, the home rearguard were dealing comfortably with their forays.

However they were struck a body blow just six minutes from time, as big striker Keith Kirwan was left all alone at the far post to head the equaliser and from that point on the Dubliners were the better side.

They started off the extra time in the ascendancy and enjoying all the momentum before striking for a good winning goal on 104 minutes. A strong bench allowed them to make some necessary changes and it was not a facility that was available to Athenry manager Gabriel Glavin.

With Gary Forde and Gary Delaney out through suspension following their sending off against OLBC in the previous round, and Seamie Crowe injured, it left their bench rather threadbare with just a number of young squad players available.

Playing with the aid of the slight incline and any wind advantage going, the home side had a Connor Cannon effort on target in the opening minute, while John Meleady was just over with a flick at the other end.

Meleady then tested Andrew Walsh who saved comfortably, before the goalkeeper pulled off a brilliant double save on 14 minutes.

Firstly he went full length to push away a Meleady shot and was then back on his feet to parry David Jackson’s close-range rebound.

For more, read this week’s Connacht Sentinel.

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