There's nothing quite like the fevered build up to the Electric Picnic. In amongst the hedonistic daydreams of dancing all day long in a field with flowers in your hair with an almost mystical ability to never get completely pissed on a diet of mainly pints of Heineken are the tempered practical and fear inducing thoughts such as "will it rain", "will I discover a puncture in the inflatable mattress" and "what if all my beer smuggling techniques fail?".
There’s nothing quite like the fevered build up to the Electric Picnic. In amongst the hedonistic daydreams of dancing all day long in a field with flowers in your hair with an almost mystical ability to never get completely pissed on a diet of mainly pints of Heineken are the tempered practical and fear inducing thoughts such as “will it rain”, “will I discover a puncture in the inflatable mattress” and “what if all my beer smuggling techniques fail?”.
Despite all of this, when the day finally arrives and you are bombing it up the M8 to Co Laois, boogying in your seat to you specially selected “Festival Playlist”, literally nothing else bothers you except how quickly you can get there, get the tent pitched and crack open that first tinny to the massive bass rumblings of Trenchtown in the distance. You have arrived. Shaken off the shackles of the humdrum mundanity of the nine-to-five and for four sweet days you will be a different version of you whilst hanging out with your newly made Festival Friends.
And then it happens…your nose catches a smell of something being cooked somewhere and now that you have sorted yourself out with shelter, liquid refreshment and have attuned your ears to the incessant noise that will become the background to your four days of freedom, you can turn your attention to going in search of food.
EP is not just about the music, beer, raving in woods, silently discoing and hanging out under canvas. No, such is the draw of the food at the Picnic that the denizens of Irish food commentary, John and Sally McKenna, even hand out an award for the Best Festival Food. To put that into context, absolutely none of the music acts get such a prize. Odd? Give over….it’s the Picnic and nothing is odd here, in this place.
So, what did I eat, and how did I choose to eat it? Well, I was keen to try and not be drawn back to too many of the food stalls I visited last year that made my own extra special Flavour.ie list of Best Festival Food! I cannot tell you how difficult it was not to swing by Kinara Kitchen, Suha’s Falafel etc etc. No easy thing when queuing for a coffee at 11pm at a pod right next to Kinara Kitchen without peeling away and diving head first into whatever curried delights were being served up by those magicians (point to note: they won the McKenna’s best festival food accolade for the 3rd year running – I literally was going cold turkey…). Of all the food stands visited, only one was a return from last year, whilst the Flavour.ie Best Festival Food Award went to something surprisingly simple but amazingly good. Read on dear friends….read on….
Literally the first thing we went to when we made it through the tightest security known to man and entered into the Main Arena. Hanging out beside the Trailer Park as ever were the Bad Boys BBQ looking like they were having too much fun altogether cooking massive hunks of meat in their locomotive of a smoker. “Soakage” was a term bandied about as some people’s justification for coming here. But I knew different. My sage advice to my fellow Festival Warriors was “get the pulled pork first – they sell out of that before anything else…it’s awesome”. Pulled pork or handmade burgers the size of your…er, hand, it was all to the good. Reasonably priced for “some money” with “everything on” we devoured on the spot, incapable of being able to eat and walk at the same time. That’s the power of a Pulled Pork Bap from the Bad Boys….
Saturday morning. Everyone else is still sleeping in their tents, so we decide to head out for meander around the arena before the madness descended for day 2. As per, we are drawn towards Global Green. Everywhere, bodies are strewn across the floor. Turns out that the latest thing to do to kick off Day 2 of your Festival Experience is to do Yoga. Yoga. No. I wander past and head towards where there are lots of men making fire and hitting things with a variety of different sized hammers. Ah yes, we are in Green Crafts. Every year I say to myself I will book into the wicker basket making workshop and never do. Still, maybe one day. We are starting to feel a little thirsty now so we head over to a small stand selling a variety of cordials.
Made up with 100% filtered rain water, cleansing ingredients and finished off with a flurry of dried flowers and a couple of strawberries skewered onto a cocktail umbrella, this was for us! Mr Flavour went with Deep in the Woods, a fruity number made up of brambleberry, strawberry etc, and I went for the Hipster – a beautifully earthy concoction of rosehips and hibiscus.
After fighting off the wasps I was delighted with myself for choosing something so healthy and sustainable. All I needed was a kaftan and a pair of sandals….
In comparison to last year, I hardly spent anytime in the TofF despite my very best intentions to do so. But I made absolutely sure that I was there to support my good friend and maestro of the food truck Diana Dodog as she made her TofF debut talking about how to make delicious and nutritious food truck food using humble ingredients. Diana was cooking for us her wonderful lentil stew lovingly called “Veggie Delight” complete with a lemon yoghurt and pickled red onion.
As she was interviewed while she cooked, her love of good homely food shone through as well as a real humbleness about the great opportunity that she has created for herself to do what she loves most of all since winning Masterchef Ireland in 2014. We got to sample some, and yes, it was completely delicious, as always!
It’s Saturday, and all this Heineken drinking is making me yern for spicy food! I keep telling myself that there are other things I could be eating other than curry from Kinara Kitchen. I want something spicy. And chickeny. I need to eat spicy chicken wings. And I need them now! I dart towards The Wing Bar. OK, review the menu, figure out how I need to order and BOOM…a portion of Buffalo Chicken wings with Blue Cheese sauce please and a side order of fries. I’m not sure what I’m expecting, other than to fill my face and put paid to this hankering for spicy chicken, but when they were served up to me I knew immediately that I was in for a treat!
Beautiful soft, moist chicken wings, perfect temperature tossed in a buffalo sauce with just the right amount of spicing whilst not blowing your head off. A generously sized portion, full to the brim and accompanied with a super creamy blue cheese sauce. A full pot of fries also presented. Skin on, super crispy and fluffy on the inside. Perfect for dipping into the sauce. I sat down on the grass and devoured the lot. Such a simple combo, but actually just damn perfect. Not only did it knock my craving into next Wednesday fortnight, but it was cooked beautifully, seasoned perfectly, generously portioned and, by EP standards, and absolute bargain at €10 for the lot. I decided then that there was a distinct possibility that I would return to this place before the weekend was done, and I did…on Sunday, this time BBQ wings with BBQ sauce (Mr Flavour chose, he’s not too good with decision making so clearly here he opted for the simplest option) but was yet again equally delicious, portioned and bang tidy!
I do believe it is almost illegal to begin your Sunday whilst at EP unless you have attended the Sunday Service with the Dublin Gospel Choir. This is as close to an open air brunch experience as you are likely to get. All except for the few either (a) mad yolks up and dancing at the front or the (b) inexperienced couples who don’t realise they will have to “give her a big smooch” on the big screen (amateurs), we are all sat down on picnic rugs on the ground eating and drinking and getting our Hallelujah on.
For our “breakfast” this morning we headed to the Gourmet Burger Kitchen. OK, admittedly I was drawn to it because it was clean and shiny and there was no food debris on the ground around it. Things like that appeal to me, greatly. Mr Flavour was happy to go along because they were selling meat, and that appealed to him greatly too. A Quarter Pounder with Cheese for me. It looked big. Big things only impress me if they deliver what they look like they are capable of delivering. My GBK burger did not fail. A fab, fresh patty cooked to perfection with super crisp lettuce, tomato, red onion, proper cheese and tomato relish. Lightly toasted bun, floury and sweet. Feck it, it was a damn good burger and, for a brief moment, went to the top of my list of Best Festival Food. But then the wings happened again and I was seduced and that was that.
€8 for a burger is a lot, but it was brilliant and filling and kept us going well into late afternoon…
Sunday late afternoon and I’m looking for some serious eats. My fuel tank is running on empty. I am 92% hops and malted barley, the other 8% is becoming increasingly dazed and confused from second hand fragrant smoke. I’ve had my eye on the Kerala Cafe ever since I arrived. Everything from it smelled amazing, and I kinda felt sorry that it was not really able to compete against the might of the Kinara Kitchen, and my genetic make up means I am predisposed to support the underdog at all times.
They were selling a Festival Box. It was €10, but late on a Sunday evening at the Picnic is a great time to grab a food bargain as the vendors that once prayed on us and our weak tummy’s and sore heads turn the hunted as they desperately try to flog the last of their food and start cutting the price of their grub! OK, we were short a naan bread but they knocked a couple of Euro’s off the price and for €8 some rice, tarkka dhal and Keralan chicken curry with mint yoghurt sounded the bomb. And it was…fresh yummy spices – coriander and cumin coming through strong; creamy coconut, soft dahl and fluffy rice…I was in heaven. Hearty too…that did me for the rest of the evening.
It’s 10.30pm Sunday evening. It’s very almost the time I’ve been waiting all weekend for…Florence + The Machine on the Main Stage. But I am flagging a little now, and I’m chilly. I need to perk myself up before I have anymore beer. I’m wandering back from the FKA Twigs gig back towards the main arena and I smell coffee. “That’s it”, I think to myself and so I queue. A latte is the order of the evening and a lovely latte came my way. Smooth, creamy and at the perfect temperature. I love it when something simple and unexpectedly good happens! The coffee does the trick of both warming me up and reigniting my brain and I catch up with our decidedly haggard looking group at the main stage as we await to be inspired by Flo and her Machine.
Goes to The Wing Bar….I love you, and I will seek you out again sometime…you may be simple, but by jingo you are tasty as hell!
€3 for 2 and a half undercooked and over salted chips from the Organic Beef Van under the big tree to the left of the main stage….you should be ashamed of yourselves….tut.
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