At Bal­ly­maloe Lit Fest of Food & Wine, Mark Gra­ham hap­pily eats hum­ble pie along with some very fine fayre

The Irish Times - Friday - The Ticket - - FUN & GAMES -

Reg­u­lar vis­i­tors to this cor­ner of pa­pier real es­tate will know that it wasn’t a com­pli­men­tary heads-up I ex­tended to the Bal­ly­maloe crew last week. My in­verted snob­bery got the bet­ter of me, not for the first or last time. On Satur­day af­ter­noon a call came through from a trusted com­padre de car­navales, telling me that I “needed” to be in Bal­ly­maloe. The co­or­di­nates for Bal­ly­cot­ton were punched into Wan­derly Wagon’s warp con­sole, and with hy­per­drive kickin’ in, I imag­ined the Bal­ly­maloe House cro­quet lawn mak­ing a per­fect halt­ing site for the night. And surely they knocked out a day­cent de­sayuno.

As I set­tled the van on a level patch of grass, avoid­ing wick­ets, stakes and hoops, I passed a flashy mo­tor that boasted “Audi – of­fi­cial part­ner car of the Ker­ry­gold Bal­ly­maloe Lit­er­ary Fes­ti­val of Food and Wine”. It needed to be a big car to fit all that on the side. My bar­rio bias be­gan to bub­ble to­wards the sur­face again, but it was short­lived. The Allen uni­verse is pop­u­lated with the most be­atific Borg and I was about to be as­sim­i­lated.

Folks from the Fum­bally Cafe in Dublin merrily min­gled with Galway’s Ard Bia mas­sive. Gail Porter of LizzieMay’s dis­played her sweet treats and dis­cussed disco bis­cuits. Hap­pily drift­ing, graz­ing and pos­ing for pics was Yo­tam Ot­tolenghi. Mary Nally took time out from or­gan­is­ing this weekend’s Drop Ev­ery­thing, get­ting sucked in by the Bal­ly­maloe buzz for a day longer than planned. The colourful cre­ations of The Ticket’s own Aoife McEl­wain of Movie Bites fame filled the barn’s big screen, and she gave a yelp of joy to see her ter­rier, Daf­fodil, pop up on the telly. Mu­si­cian Brian Deady man­aged to bind the haute hip mix with some Lykke Li doo-wop.

“This is heaven for me. These guys are my rock stars. Here I get to see them in per­son, and then they come to drink and dance with us,” said Luca from the Fum­bally, nail­ing the scene. It would’ve been per­fect if only Ot­tolenghi had stuck around ’til clos­ing-time to knock out some ke­babs.


A cel­e­bra­tory sense of com­mu­nity filled the air like the pun­gent aroma of a ripe Ro­que­fort. It’s a world I know lit­tle about, but the über-friendly crowd were there to eu­lo­gise scrump­tious scran in sump­tu­ous sur­round­ings, and they epit­o­mised fes­ti­val spirit. I’d al­ready been turned, but spot­ting the Rocket Man in the house sealed the deal. I’d first hap­pened across this fella when he set up his salad stall out­side the gate of an over-priced food fes­ti­val, giv­ing out his won­drous fayre for free. “It’s good pro­mo­tion,” he told me as he handed over a mir­a­cle as­sem­bled from beet­root, pome­gran­ate seeds, bul­gar wheat and yo­ghurt. Not only does he bang out the most as­tound­ing beets, pulses and leaves, he’s prob­a­bly one of the nicest blokes to ever rip a ro­maine or slice a shal­lot. His sal­ads are only an an­gel’s hair away from tran­sub­stan­ti­a­tion. I pro­pose de-cap­ing Donal Ske­han and mak­ing the Rocket Man our su­per­food su­per-hero.

Food will be an im­por­tant part of the arty smor­gas­bord at Drop Ev­ery­thing on Inis Oírr this weekend. It’s a “con­tem­po­rary cul­tural bi­en­nial” and not a fes­ti­val, but that didn’t stop me lov­ing the first one. Life, Fast­net Short Film, Wick­low Arts, Bal­ti­more Wooden Boat & Seafood and the fi­nal fur­long of Dublin Writ­ers’ Fes­ti­val should all be worth check­ing out too, but you should take ev­ery­thing I say with a pinch of salt, a dust­ing of cayenne and a driz­zle of rose­mary-in­fused olive oil. The opin­ions ex­pressed here may oc­ca­sion­ally be ill-in­formed, hastily hatched and cut with a dys­func­tional sense of so­cial right­eous­ness. If I’m wrong, I don’t mind eat­ing hum­ble pie, es­pe­cially if it has a green saf­fron aloo gobi fill­ing and gets washed down with Dan Kelly’s cider.

In the mean­time, if I get peck­ish, there’s al­ways the large chip on my shoul­der. Pass the vine­gar.

Safe trav­els, don’t die.



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