Bloom 'n' Taste

Joanna Schaffalitzky — 

I was out and about quite a bit this June. First stop was the Bord Bia run Bloom Festival, which was held in the Phoenix Park over the Bank Holiday weekend.

I went to Bloom with my friend Thaed on the Bank Holiday Monday and we spent quite a pleasant morning wandering around the Artisan Food Market, the Bord Bia demonstration tent and all the beautiful gardens.

Our first stop was to look around the Victorian Walled Garden. It was full of rows and rows of vegtables interspersed with bee friendly flowers.

We then wandered through the show gardens, admiring them and taking numerous photographs. I really liked how some of them managed to incorporate edible plants into the garden without having an obvious vegetable patch. There was a lot of emphasis on growing your own, and of course multitudes of water features.

After enjoying the beautiful and innovative gardens we listened to our stomachs and went to explore the Artisan Food Market and the In Season tent. We both picked up some lovely mushroom and strawberries, which were some of the sweetest I have ever tasted.

The market was filled with a wide variety of producers and it was great to finally meet Mags from Goatsbridge Trout with whom I had been conversing on Twitter. I also had great talks with some of the other producers and we left laden with goodies ranging from air dried pork to chocolate chip cookies.

We also had a good nose around the stalls for skills such as blacksmithing, bee keeping and woodturning, which were all very intersting and we also poked our heads into the Bord Bia demonstration tent, but as it was Neven Maguire demoing at the time it was a little crowded!

The only thing we missed during our day at Bloom was the tent where the plant sellers were, I have no idea how we managed to completely miss this until we were leaving as it was quite a large marquee. All in all though we had a brilliant day and I would definitely return to Bloom as you get a lot of value for the price of your ticket.

The weekend following the Bloom Festival, myself and my mum headed along to the Taste Festival in the Iveagh Gardens. We had tickets for the 12 - 4pm session, so arrived just at 12 to enter the grounds along with hundreds of other people.

Our first order of business was to exchange our real money for the florins that are the only currency useable within the confines of the festival. Joining a long queue of other people also doing the same thing.

We then did a bit of a scope out of the festival, working out where each of the restaurant stands were (we had done a little research the previous evening to decide which dishes we liked the sound of) and what else was on offer.

Then it was time to head to the demonstration tent to see the lovely Donal Skehan cooking up 3 delicious dishes of cupcakes, a goat's cheese pasta dish and a roast duck salad.

We both enjoyed his style of cooking tremendously as it was so full of energy and humour, though he did become a little distracted by a giant bear joining the audience half way through.

We were now feeling a little peckish, so we made our way back to the restaurant stands to try some of the fare on offer.

We started off with a Shrimp & Smoked Haddock Croquette with Herb Mayonnaise from Chapter One, which was very nicely presented and put together. I was little worried that the smoked haddock would overpower the more sublte shrimp flavour but you could definitely taste it.

We only had to go to the next stand over for our next dish, a portion of the Roasted Scallop, Confit Duck, Summer Squash Puree & Foie Gras Lollipops from Salon des Saveurs. This was delicious, but both myself and my mum felt that they were being a little mean only giving half a scallop rather than a full especially considering the price. The fois gras lollipop was my favourite part of the dish and I could've easily eaten enother of those.

We took a little break from eating then and strolled around the other stands. It was a little disappointing to see how few small producers there were, especially after Bloom had been packed with small artisan producers. Most of the stands were for large, well known companies, with the exception of the Good Food stand who had a collection of smaller producers.

We then headed up the other end of the site to try out the other restaurant fare. Instead of sharing this time, we went for two different dishes from different restaurants and compared notes. My mum went for the Tempura of salmon and courgette from First Floor Restaurant at Harvey Nichols and I had the Steak Frites from The Saddle Room.

Mum really enjoyed her tempura, and from the little nibble I had the batter was lovely and light. It was served with a wasabi mayonaise. The steak frites was very nice, though I like my steak a little less well done, but that's personal preference and not something I expect at a big event like this. The bearnaise sauce that was served with it was very good, though it did clump a bit as it got cold.

After all the food we were feeling a little thirsty so we splurged a large chunk of our remaining florins on a bottle of prosecco to enjoy at one of the outdoor tables. It had been spitting a little earlier in the day but it seemed to have cleared up a little, so we found and couple of seats, poured our drinks and sat back to enjoy. Just as we did the sky opened and we desperately huddled under our umbrellas.

This picture was taken just as we thought it had eased off a bit, it hadn't, and got dramatically worse. We managed to grab a couple of the free rain ponchos, we only wished we had done so sooner!

We spent the rest of afternoon session wandering around exaiming the stalls and deciding what to spend our last few florins on and taking pictures.

The clouds opened just as we were trying to leave so we made a run for the shelter of the stand being shared by L. Mulligan Grocer and, which seemed to have become a Noah's Ark for several others. We hung out there talking to 9 Bean Row amongst others until the rain had eased off a little. This is when we encountered the most annoying thing of the afternoon, we could only leave through the gate we came in, even though they wanted us out as soon as possible and we were closest to one of the other gates.

All in all I would definately go to Bloom again, but I wouldn't bother with Taste unless I got a really good deal on the tickets like I did this year (Two for One). You don't get as good value for money with Taste as you do with Bloom.

I really liked that Bloom had lots of small producers and really encouraged growing and cooking your own food. Taste on the other hand only had big producers along with the restaurants. The prices for the tasters are also very high, 5 to 7 florins and as a florin equals a euro, that's not very good value. It can be a good day out, so long as you are aware in advance how much it is going to cost you and you set a limit of how much you want to spend.

Did any of you go to either the Bloom or Taste Festivals? What did you think? Did you enjoy them? Were they value for money?


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