The Samhain Festival of Food & Culture will return to Kells, Co. Meath for its fifth year from November 2nd to 5th. The jam-packed program of events and experiences celebrates the past, present and future of Irish food and culture.
Award-winning chefs, renowned food writers, best-selling cookery book authors, culinary experts, and thought leaders in sustainability and agriculture, will all convene in the heritage town alongside this year’s internationally-acclaimed guest speaker, Carlo Petrini - Founder of the international Slow Food® movement.
Showcasing the very best of Boyne Valley Flavours, the family-friendly festival comprises a wide variety of events, from food and drinks tastings, cookery demos, and cocktail masterclasses, to food safaris, farm visits, kids workshops, and panel discussions with some of the biggest names in Irish food.
The theme for Samhain Festival Kells 2023 celebrates the prominence of cattle in Irish folklore, with domesticated cows having been of paramount importance in Irish culture and farming dating as far back as the fourth millennium B.C.
This thread will be brought to life across numerous different events throughout the weekend’s festivities, including exploring the ancient traditions surrounding natural butter making, creating a culture for Irish farmhouse cheeses, a farm walk at Killua Castle, a future of farming discussion, and a cookery demo delivered by TV Chef & Restaurateur, Paul Flynn, of recipes from his new cookbook, ‘Butter Boy’.
See below for a list of festival highlights and ticket information.
Samhain Literature Pub Crawl:
(Friday, November 3rd, 8.30pm)
The festival features the most cultural Pub Crawl you’ll find anywhere in Ireland. On an enlightening evening, attendees will experience three of Kells’ incredible pubs, receiving a local alcoholic drink and Boyne Valley bite pairing in each venue while being treated to a literary piece, plus plenty of laughs, from some very special surprise guests.
Flavours Of The Boyne Valley Cocktail Making:
(Saturday, November 4th, 6pm - 7pm)
One of the many highlights this year includes an interactive hands-on Flavours of the Boyne Valley Cocktail Making Masterclass with the GastroGays, hosted in the heritage town’s stunning Red Chapel.
Participants will be given a live demonstration by award-winning Food & Travel Writers, Patrick Hanlon and Russell Alford, and receive their own cocktail kit containing all the ingredients needed to create three signature cocktails that honor the flavors of the Boyne Valley.
Long Table Samhain Supper:
(Saturday, November 4th, 7:30pm)
This will be followed later the same evening by an unmissable communal Long Table Samhain Supper in the Headfort Arms Hotel featuring Michelin-starred Chef, Enda McEvoy (formerly of Loam restaurant, Galway), that will surprise and delight.
In keeping with his ethos, McEvoy will collaborate with Pauric White (Instructor of the Commis Chef Programme at Cavan Institute), culinary students, and the local food community to create a considered menu that tells the stories of producers from across the Boyne Valley region, with a celebration of Irish beef central to it.
Boyne Valley Food Safari:
(Saturday, November 4th, 10.30am - 1.30pm)
A brand new Boyne Valley Food Safari on will see participants taken by bus on a whistle-stop tour, and sampling the fayres of, three award-winning local producers; Michael Finnegan (Boyne Valley Cheese), Mark Jenkinson (The Cider Mill), and James Tallon (Martry Mill).
Nine Bean Rows Books & Blasta Books Cookery Demos - The Red Chapel, Kells
(Saturday, November 4th & Sunday, November 5th)
The festival’s enviable A-list line-up includes demos & tastings from best-selling cookery book authors, Darina Allen - ‘A Breadmaking Revolution’ (Sat Nov 4th, 11.30am - 12.30pm), 'Nine Bean Rows’, Paul Flynn - ‘Butter Boy’ (Sun Nov 5th, 2pm - 3pm) and Denis Cotter - ‘Paradiso’ (Sun Nov 5th, 3pm - 4pm), and Blasta Books’ series 2’s Dee Laffan, Mei Chin & Blanca Valencia -‘Sing For Your Soup’ (Sat Nov 4th, 12.30pm - 1.30pm). Conor Spacey - ‘From Root To Tip’ (Sun Nov 5th, 1pm - 2pm), and Bahay’s Richie Castillo & Alex O’Neill - ‘An Exploration of Filipino Food Through An Irish Cultural Lens’ (Sun Nov 5th, 4pm - 5pm).
*Tickets for each individual cookery demo are priced at €10.00 per person.
Food & Drinks Tastings - The Red Chapel, Kells
(Friday, November 3rd to Sunday, November 5th)
Raw & Natural Cheese & Wine Tasting
(Friday November 3rd, 7pm)
A Raw & Natural Cheese & Wine Tasting hosted by Kevin Sheridan (of Sheridans Cheesemongers) & Enrico Fantasia (of wine importers, Grape Circus) will explore Irish raw milk cheeses, pairing them with a selection of natural wines from Piedmont, Italy - the home province of the University of Gastronomic Sciences, which the festival’s guest speaker, Carlo Petrin, founded, and where he still serves as President.
Traditions Of The Land - Natural Butter Making With Max Jones
(Saturday, November 4th, 12.30pm - 1.30pm)
Join Food Conservationist, Max Jones, for a traditional butter-making demo and tasting. Butter has been a key fat in our diet for thousands of years, and when we discover its true provenance, we learn that it is an alchemical transformation of summer grass into life-giving gold. Our relationship with butter has gradually changed over the past 200 years, and our palate has shifted to accept sweet-cream butter from the fresh cream available by milking on a large scale. In this session, Max will make natural butter and offer tastings so that attendees can tell the difference.
Creating A Culture For Irish Farmhouse Cheese with John & Sally McKenna
(Saturday, November 4th, 2.00pm - 3.00pm)
Iconic Irish Food Writers, Sally and John McKenna (Authors of McKenna’s Guides), will explore the development of Irish farmhouse cheesemaking, from a much-derided cottage industry to an internationally respected artisan powerhouse. They will talk to cheesemakers who have taken part in the journey, and attendees will have the chance to sample some of the cheeses in question as part of a tutored tasting with Kevin Sheridan (of Sheridans Cheesemongers).
Brack - The Past, Present & Future Of The Irish Classic
(Saturday, November 4th, 4.30pm - 5.30pm)
Author of ‘Bake’ and Blas na hÉireann multi award-winner, Graham Herterich, AKA The Cupcake Bloke, is known for taking traditional Irish bakes and giving them modern twists, particularly his beloved Brack.
In this unique tasting, he will present a trio of Bracks, while exploring the past, present and future of this treasured bake. Expect to be surprised by his unique combinations - including a Coffee & Chocolate Brack with Vanilla Coffee Mascarpone, Poached Pear & Pecans - which will be paired with specially created drinks made using Listoke Gin, Boann Whiskey, and Coole Swan that showcase a selection of the Boyne Valley’s fantastic distilleries.
Some experiences, including a Guided Kells Walk About Tour (Saturday, November 4th, 2pm - 3pm), entry to the grounds of Killua Castle (Sunday, November 5th, 11am), and Samhain Farmers Markets at Sheridans Cheesemongers' Virginia Road Station headquarters (Saturday, November 4th, 10am - 2pm) and Clonmellon Market (Sunday, November 5th, 11.30am - 1pm), are all free to attend.
All of these events and experiences, plus many more, are now available to book online on the Boyne Valley Flavours website, www.boynevalleyflavours.ie.