Wednesday, 16 December 2015

Savour Kilkenny 2015 (Part 3): Pulled Pork, Preserves and (Half) Pints

I fully believe I was the first person to 'do' pulled pork in Ireland.

This was before it was cool of course, and I don't mean it in any boastful way. You see for years I've been a major fan of pork shoulder, a cheap cut that my local butcher sells at a very reasonable price. I cook it low and slow and therefore it has a natural inclination to fall off the bone in tender shreds of piggy goodness. So I've always teased it apart and added back in the reduced juices if  it was cooked in the oven, or make up a separate gravy if done on the barbecue. I'd serve it with rice, or mustard mash and if I had people over I'd stuff it into soft rolls with coleslaw and mustard.

So there.
It was me.
I was the first ...

Of course since then it has become the norm in every meat-driven joint and fast food franchise across the land and can even be bought pre-pulled in supermarkets. We now have pulled chicken and pulled beef amongst other pulled meat products. I became so sick of the pork-wagon-jumping I stopped pulling my own and just try to slice it into big chunks now, letting guests pull it themselves if the so wish!

But every now and again I do get a hankering.

Anyway, back to Savour ...

Having left the Beer vs Wine discussion I had a hunger and thirst that needed solving, and although I was initially going to solve the thirst issue first, my nose and then the rest of my body was drawn to an inconspicuous stand at the edge of the festival. The hankering had struck again!

We were in no panic to drink anyhow, as the day was flowing perfectly. There was a clarity and natural progression to our day so far, so as long as we were on time for our train back home we could do, see, drink and eat what we liked. These festivals have always had a therapeutic quality for me, as there is a sense of detachment from the reality of work, stress and 'The Real World' in general. You can get lost in food/drink-driven forgetfulness and just focus in a purely selfish way on your own needs and wants, with guilt trying in vain to force its way into your psyche.

So Nige - my vegetarian fellow therapy seeker - went in search of falafels and I headed towards the porky smell. I had came across The Goode Life Food Co. at other festivals so felt I was in safe hands and sure enough, their chalkboard had just one item - spit roasted pulled pork. Resisting the urge to shout out, 'You're just copying me!' I placed my order.

It was served in a fresh soft roll with mustard, fried onions and relish, and just as I sat on the wall to tuck into all that oozing glory, the sun went in and it started to rain. I'm sure I looked a sight trying to balance an umbrella, notebook, phone and bag as I devoured my lunch in record time.

And then it was time for a beer ... or maybe two.

The beer tent was getting full at this stage with a nice mob of locals and tourists, and youngish and oldish all smiling, relaxing and enjoying life in a way that only a mix of sated bellies and honest, decent beer can do. Although the marquee seemed larger than last year the number of breweries looked around the same, which disappointed the greedy beer ticker in me. But Irish microbreweries were well represented with O'Hara's, Costello's, Dungarvan, Trouble and Metalman all there, although Trouble had bottles only, which seemed a bit of a cheat!

First up was Equinox from Metalman, a refreshing wheat lager - a spicy yet mild palate cleanser that scraped away the last of the pulled pork and left a lingering citrus kick of lime and lemon.

Next was supposed to be Dungarvan's Black Rock but they had , er, tap issues so I went for their Copper Coast instead, which had its usual soft caramel flavour with a tiny touch of spiciness from the hops, but was probably the wrong choice after the wheat beer.

Carlow Brewing (O'Hara's) was my next stop where I had my first taste of their (then) new beer in the single Hop Adventure series. This time it was the Australian bred Galaxy hop, which turned out to be lemondrop and sour apple sweets combined, and was as well made and easy to drink as all of O'Hara's beers tend to be.

Time was pressing on and we decided to take another wander around the festival to look at some of the sellers who were plying their wares in the various tents, marquees and parked vans.

Some of the highlights for me were:

Wildabout from Wexford with their Nettle Pesto and Celtic Roots chutney.

Rebel Chilli from Cork with an amazing Jalapeno and Raspberry jelly.

The local Speltbakers with a fabulous array of bread and baked goods.

The Truffle Fairy, also localish, and their amazing goats cheese, thyme and lemon truffles.

We finished up back at the beer tent with a glass of Metalman Windjammer - a dry and sharp amber beer with lemon cardamom, tropical fruit and brown sugar. I combined this with an unbelievably tender Kangaroo skewer, cooked fresh with just rapeseed oil and a shake of salt. It was superb!

So that was it, it was time to head for the train, detouring on the way to the packed-to-the-rafters Shortis Wong deli and then a last drink in Billy Byrnes - a glass of 9 White Deer Black Lightning - all good milk chocolate and smoky, black cardamom.

On the train back to Carlow we talked about Kilkenny and the festival. It had been a long day with two excellent talks and buckets of atmosphere and a vibrancy I'd only previously experienced in markets and festivals abroad.

The weather helped, as did the location in the shadow of Kilkenny Castle but it was more than that ...
I wrote down the following words: Vibrant, Eclectic, Ethnic, Electric, Passion, Atmosphere, Buzz, Busy but perhaps I should let them stand alone rather than try to put them into sentences.

From a personal point of view the day was a success too. It was the comfort of familiar travelling clothes, my usual bag, my notebook, my companion and knowing the city and festival itself to a degree. But more than that it was the way the day flowed, like honey dripping from a spoon - unstoppable, clear and mesmerising and the lack of pressure and any real urgency. (Apart from the talks!) A day for forgetfulness and a way of leaving your worries behind temporarily.

It really showed me that great festivals like this are about more than just the food and drink. They're about how they positively impact on the people who attend and those that speak, demonstrate and sell their own products with such passion.

And from my experience that's a major selling point that's rarely promoted.

To food and drink - therapy through taste!


24th October 2015

(Savour Kilkenny 2015 (Part 1) is here and (Part2) here btw.)