Bloom has been on my “to-visit” list for a number of years, mostly because Taste of Dublin has become an annual foodie pilgrimage for me and the two are so often compared. But having finally got to Bloom this Sunday, I really don’t see the two events as being in any way comparable. Taste is like a super fancy food court, where Bloom is more of a giant farmer’s market.
Bloom, ostensibly a gardening event, has evolved to become largely about the food. It is a space where Irish producers showcase their wares by way of free samples and discounted deals. And given that it is a Bord Bia sponsored event, you may argue that the gardening element is being somewhat overshadowed. But that’s just my opinion.
Anyway I went, I ate, I caught up with a good friend and I made a few purchases… here’s what I got.
Firstly I hit up the craft section, probably my favourite part of Bloom, and I had to show lots of restraint from the candle and ceramic temptation. I could not however resist a couple of Lainey K prints for my newly painted kitchen walls. I can see myself buying more from this quirky and fun designer; her products really suit my urban cottage(ish) aesthetic. I just popped them into simple, black frames from Søstrene Grene and watched them liven up my soft grey walls.
Continuing my search for some subtle pops of yellow, to enliven my grey and white kitchen, I bought some cute ceramics from Big Leap Designs, a Mayo company who hand decorate their tableware, and a delicious lemongrass candle from Emma’s All Natural Soy collection. I LOVE the scent and am so relieved that these are made so close to where I live, therefore repurchasing will be a doddle. People live in a world without fancy candles or pretty cushions, but can they really be happy there???
Having sampled many, many variations of granola and more than a dozen jams and chutneys, I did also make a few food purchases. The first of these may yet frustrate me endlessly. I use a lot of stock when I am cooking, and always struggle with the absence of a quality, ready to use version (so common in other countries). This has left me crumbling my stock cube or dissolving a stock pot, head bowed in foodie shame. When suddenly, there it was…. the product of dreams…. Organic Chicken Broth from Sadie’s Kitchen. And then I cooked with it last night!!! Is it weird to fall in love with chicken stock??? Not with this one… it is UNREAL!!!!! And not available in Athlone (yep that’s where I live!!!). Trauma. But some research has taken place in the meantime and
I am hoping stockpiling (cringe at the pun) can happen in Horan’s Health Food Store, Tralee, when next I visit the family. Because I can no longer live without this product in my life… so much flavour, nothing nasty, a dream to use!!!! (Nope they are not paying me.) Yes it is possible to get this excited about stock!
And finally I picked up some fancy pesto and hummus. The samples tasted yum with crackers but when the pesto was heated with a little chicken, double cream, fresh tagliatelle and ground black pepper, the product really started to shine. The walnuts really add to the texture and it is a really delicious staple for a quick supper. And for the best bit…. they stock it in my local SuperValu.
Now some of you may justifiably be thinking, is she ever going to mention the gardens. And to be honest, it might be better if I didn’t due to my lack of green fingers…or indeed a garden. But I did take a look (it felt rude not to) and overall I would say I was bemused. I know there is fashion in clothing – gingham, ruffles and asymmetric hemlines for example. And in food – avocado on toast, beetroot flavoured everything and added bloody protein (just eat a piece of cheese peeps!). I am even au fait with the current trends in interiors – chalk paint and filament exposed bulbs. But until Bloom I was completely unaware of how trend driven gardening clearly is. Flowers in fashion are wild and purple – lavender, elderflower, foxgloves… you get the idea. Stuff that grows on hedgerows. And it left all the gardens, to the completely untrained (and almost ignorant I admit) eye, looking exceptionally similar. Manicured lawns and perfect flower beds are clearly out; a controlled wilderness vibe is clearly in. It was fun to see but I expected so much more diversity. And please…. a piano in a garden….now that would never catch on in South Roscommon!!!!!!
So the verdict: I enjoyed Bloom. My new purchases are making me very happy. I would return. But the Chelsea Flower Show it ain’t.