One of my greatest flaws is that I can be a bit of a lazy learner.  If I pick something up I’ll usually get the basics and leave it there.  I play 5 or 6 chords and a handful of songs on the guitar.  I could just about get by in a French cafe ordering a coffee and a croissant.  The art of skillfully applied make-up has alluded me to this point in my life through sheer laziness.

Food, however, and my relatively recent all-encompassing enthusiasm for it, is the one area where my aversion to learning seems to have let up.  My ardour for learning about food is the most committed I’ve been to learning about anything in my entire life.

I had this realisation while making the trip home from one of the most incredible and inspiring food weekends I’ve probably ever had.  I realise I’m only at the beginning of my food journey, and somewhere along yesterday’s drive from Inishowen in Co Donegal to my flat in Dublin I copped that this food journey was going to be a very long and supremely gratifying one.  Yup.  I’m in for the long-haul.

The thought came to me because of Inish Food and all of the people that came together to make this past weekend happen.  Inish Food started as a tweet by Italian Foodie suggesting that some of us foodies on Twitter should go “on tour” this year to visit restaurants around the country.  Harrys Restaurant in Bridgend, Inishowen, Co Donegal was suggested as the first destination, with Kristin and Caroline from The IFBA getting involved to organise the numbers for a dinner.  They were thinking maybe 6 to 12 bloggers might visit Harrys one Saturday night sometime in 2011.

Instead, Donal Doherty of Harrys took the idea and ran with it, leading to an assortment of some of Ireland’s most passionate and dedicated food producers, writers and eaters to coming along to join the party.  In the end, there was an estimated 60 people involved in the weekend, most of whom stayed for the flabbergastingly delicious dinner – or feast, rather – on Saturday night.

Inish Food kicked off on Friday night with Darren Bradley’s yum-tastic wood-fired oven pizzas washed down with a beer tasting courtesy of L Mulligans Grocer, followed ah-mazing story-telling and tunes at Rambling House at Linsfort Castle.  Saturday flew by in a day of demos from Bailies Hand Roasted coffee, a Masterclass with Butchers Ed Hick, J Crowe and Jack McCarthy including a black pudding demo, farmhouse butter-making with Imen, artisan cheese from David Tiernan from Glebe Brethan Farm, a walled garden tour with Donal and his gardener Gareth, and a general inspiration-fuelling sharing of ideas and passion.

At one point on our tour through the walled garden near Harrys that Donal has taken over with great plans for its future, Kristin from Dinner du Jour and The IFBA said to myself and Lucy that she imagined we would look back on this day in 40 years and be able to say “I was there.”  Then we all got a little weepy at the amazing-ness of the weekend and how lucky we were to be a part of such a diverse group of people, brought together by a simple passion for beautiful, local food.

I believe the reason that it could prove to be a We Were There weekend was because for many of us it crystalised a commitment to supporting local food and spreading the word about outstanding Irish food.  As David Tiernan from Glebe Brethan Farm said, “Irish is local.”  We’re such a small country and there is so much incredible produce being grown and created all over the country, with only more to follow.  As a blogger, a cook, and an eater, I have never felt more proud and excited for the future of what this little island has to offer to the culinary world.

Others have written about Inish Food since yesterday.

A big shout out has to go to my roadtrip companions Joanna, Catherine and Lucy for their excellent company throughout the weekend and also to Mary and Willie at the Westbrook B&B in Buncrana who made us feel at home for the weekend.

And finally, a massive MASSIVE thank you to Donal and all the staff from Harrys Restaurant, Caroline and Kristin from The IFBA, and everyone who played their part in making Inish Food such a special weekend.  I for one can’t wait until Inish Food 2012 and I will definitely definitely be making a trip back to Bridgend for another meal at Harrys at the next possible opportunity.  What a gem of a restaurant.  Please go and see it for yourself.

Have a look after the jump for a few of my photos from the weekend, taken from my trusty iPhone.  Which got a lot of exercise over the weekend due to my continuous stream of tweets 🙂

Wood-fired pizza at Darren Bradley’s on Friday…

Story telling at Linsfort Castle…

Donal welcomes us to Harrys for Inish Food…

The Butchers…

Jack McCarthy’s pudding…

Imen from I Married An Irish Farmer talks us through making your own butter…

Glene Brethan’s cheese…

The Walled Garden which is on loan to Donal and his gardener Gareth from the woman behind Bang On The Door designs a.k.a. Groovy Chick (yeah, I had NO idea she was Irish either!!)

As trusty as my iPhone is, it didn’t capture our seven course feast very well.  Head to Clare and Catherine’s streams.

Amaze.  Totally amaze.  I said a few thank yous above but one more thank you to everyone who helped make this weekend such an unforgettable one.  Thank you!