Thursday 11 September 2014

Electric Picnic 2014: What a weekend!

It took us 3 hours to drive from Dublin to Stradbally due to the traffic and our German friend who is usually very quiet expressed quite a bit of road rage at several stages, funny to witness from the back seat. I was tempted to drink my Côtes du Rhone wine, decanted in a plastic bottle for the occasion (classy, I know) on the way there but I resisted. We arrived to a muddy Stradbally on Friday evening but the sun was starting to shine and my wellies were already on my feet: it was the start of an exciting weekend.

It's impossible to describe all the things you can see, witness, enjoy, listen to and eat at Electric Picnic. It's definitely much more than a music festival, it's like a giant theme park for adults.

There are many campsites, lots of different stages everywhere, plenty of food vendors, workshops, comedy gigs and so many other things going on, almost too many to chose from. 

The different areas all have their own atmosphere, the main stage, casa Bacardi, Trailer Park, Body and Soul, Mindfield, the Salty Dog.... It is such an overwhelming experience for all your senses not to mention a bit of a walk.

I took about 450 pictures and could probably blog about the festival for the next week but I chose to sum it up a little bit just to give you an idea. 

Theatre of Food

This is where I spent most of my time as you can guess. The Theatre of Food tent is located in the Mindfield arena, not too far from the main stage.  John and Sally Mc Kenna are the founder of TOF and Caroline Byrne (aka The Dublin Foodie) has been co-organizing it since it started four years ago. The three of them did such an amazing job of arranging a line up of chefs, artisan producers, food writers, bloggers, mixologists, baristas…  From talks about Irish artisan food to a Modern Irish Cooking demo by Neven Maguire, cocktail tips to African tagine tasting, the programme was so diverse and interesting that it was difficult for me to leave the tent to attend other gigs.

I was absolutely honoured to be invited to do a cooking demo at Theatre of Food this year, where I made bouchons (pork dumplings) from Reunion Island (where my dad is from) and talked about Reunion food. As  was a little nervous I forgot to put the kaffir lime in my dumplings (please don’t tell my dad) but that’s OK, it’s an optional ingredient and some people don’t use it in their recipe (phew...). Food writer Leslie William was the best MC I could have hoped for, with his great sense of humour and wittiness he really put me at ease. It went well and I’m so glad I did it, merci Mr. FFID (we can see the top of his head on the pic) for being my beautiful assistant, my friends L. and D. for taking pictures, Leslie for his help on stage and of course I can't thank enough John, Sally and Caroline for allowing me to be part of this unforgettable weekend at Theatre of Food!

Find my Reunion Island recipes here

Food Highlights at the festival

Mr. FFID and I some brought Irish farmhouse cheeses and terrines with us and had a few picnics at the campsite but we also tried a few food options from the many great food vendors over the weekend.

Kinara Kitchen were super organised in their queuing/payment system, you could see they were very experienced. The food was fresh, flavoursome and deliciously spicy. They won 'Best Festival Food' by public vote at this year's Mc Kennas' Guide Electric Picnic Food Awards. 

The Global Green Food Project won the Mc Kennas' Guides Electric Picnic Judges Award. Their area was amazing and the food made by Country Choice on Tour was top quality.

Their breakfast blaa made a tasty hangover cure while their courgette and ginger jam on a sourdough toast provided a healthier option (so I ordered both!).

We also found the corn dogs to be the ultimate soakage food and tried them on the trusted recommendation of food writer Leslie Williams.

Music Highlights

I became quite emotional listening to Portishead and cried pretty much throughout the entire gig, I enjoyed the Pet Shop Boys and loved Beck. I also liked the Body and Soul area with its bohemian atmosphere and found the Salty Dog stage very cool. The highlight for me was the Other Voices stage in the middle of the woods, I fell in love with Mick Flannery's voice and couldn't believe how talented the young lads from the Strypes were.

I will never forget happening across a random stranger playing the soundtrack of my favourite French movie 'Amélie' on a piano which was left in a small hut in the middle of the woods. Magical.

The Boutique Camping

I love camping but I don't think the 31 year old me would have survived the regular campsites which were cramped and noisy. We had our own tent in the boutique camping and the queues for the showers and bathrooms weren't too bad for early birds like myself. I wasn't jealous at all of the people staying in the tipis, yurts or cute looking huts, not one bit jealous...

The atmosphere

There were people with babies, bearded hipsters, groups of young girls, 30 somethings, older people... 41,000 people gathered in a field in Laois for 3 days of fun, it was good craic and from what I saw, filled with friendly people.

The attention to detail

Every area and every single decoration, no matter how small had been thought about and planned, this is what made the site so special. The stages, the seating areas, the sculptures, the vendor trucks and everything about the site was just stylish and arty. I have to say it was the most Instagramable festival ever, a pity my phone battery was dead most of the time.

The verdict?

I came back with a sore back, an ever-lasting hangover and little bags under my eyes but I was so happy that I wasn't an Electric Picnic virgin anymore. I didn't think it would happen but I even had the post-Electric Picnic Blues upon my return, that should tell you how good the weekend was. Simply epic.

Disclaimer: I was a guest at Electric Picnic as I was giving a cooking demo at the Theatre of Food. I gave no undertaking to write a review and the words above are, as always, my absolute honest opinion.