You may ask: why this post about Bloom Festival in Dublin and what is the connection with Athlone?

How Athlone and Dublin Are Connected (Through Food!)

Well, here’s how Athlone and Dublin are linked in this particular case. I won complimentary tickets to Bloom Festival thanks to Fernhill Garden Centre in Athlone – as you know, they are a renowned garden centre in Ireland and their cafe, Savoury Fare, has won many awards (you can read more about it here). Another connection is chef and TV personality Neven Maguire: he is the face of Dunnes Stores’ Simply the Best range.

You have probably seen the posters inside Dunnes Stores in Golden Island. Not only that, but Neven Maguire dedicated an episode of his Irish Food Trails to Athlone and the River Shannon.

Fernhill Garden Centre in Athlone

Fernhill Garden Centre in Athlone ran a competition to win complimentary tickets to Bloom Festival Created by Bord Bia in Dublin’s Phoenix Park. I was lucky to win a pair and attended the expert talk by Eoin Reid from Fernhill Garden Centre at Bloom. He explained how to choose plants for your garden according to the seasons to ensure your garden has colour throughout the year.

Fernhill Garden Centre at Bloom Festival
Eoin from Fernhill Garden Centre

It is important to choose your plants carefully and make informed decisions based on the orientation of your garden (does it get full sunshine or is it mostly in the shade?), the type of soil and its drainage. There is no point in getting plants that will not survive harsh Irish winters, for example, or plants that require at least 6-8 hours of full sunshine a day if you have a North-facing garden, which wouldn’t receive much sunlight.

Bloom Festival – The Quality Kitchen

Each day of the Bloom Festival featured a series of renowned chefs giving cooking demonstrations in the Quality Kitchen. The set up was extremely professional with induction hobs and overhead monitors, so you could even see the camera close-ups of the dishes being cooked from start to finish. Some lucky audience members also won the opportunity to sit at the chef’s table through a raffle system.

Neven Maguire cooked one of his signature curry dishes using local Irish food ingredients. He is a champion for Irish produce and passionate about making each ingredient sing and stand out. He also prepared a delicious-looking beef satay with pickled cucumber salad, which doesn’t take too long to make and would certainly impress guests at a dinner party.

Paola Bassanese and Neven Maguire at Bloom Festival
Paola Bassanese and Neven Maguire

The title of his presentation was ‘Cooking for Family and Friends’ and each recipe was easy to follow and perfect to feed people of all ages. He shared that he was really proud of his children who are not fussy about food and will try anything.

Neven Maguire at Bloom Festival

One thing he also said that was really impressive was that his core staff members at the restaurant have been working with him for years, bucking the trend of high staff turnover. You could see in his actions in how respectfully and gratefully he treated his assistant Claire while she anticipated his every move, presenting each ingredient to the chef with perfect timing.

At the end of his demo, chef Neven met his fans, signing copies of his book Home Economics for Life and posing for selfies. (affiliate link)

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