There’s an air of excitement to something new; that just-discovered, fresh burst of possibility that fills one with a sense of hope and vigor. And that’s exactly the sentiment felt by those present for the introduction of the Irish Food Bloggers Association, a brand-spankin’ new organization formed by food journalist and blogger Caroline Hennessy and book editor and blogger Kristin Jensen.

The announcement was made at the Food Camp, an event that  – fittingly – made its debut at this year’s Savour Kilkenny Food Festival. The association, known simply as the IFBA, is the first of its kind. As food blogs in Ireland gain more exposure and popularity, its writers are finding a desire to connect and the IFBA offers a place for that. Here, bloggers can share everything from recipes and food styling tips to culinary event invites and hosting ideas. It’s also a place for food producers, restaurateurs, farmers and anyone involved in the food business in Ireland to link up.

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As the country tries to come up with innovative and creative ways to pull itself out of the recession, an online network like the IFBA will most certainly be a resourceful tool. One of the hot topics at the Food Camp was how the food industry can work together to bring vital economic growth to Ireland, some even going so far as to say the food industry can “save” the country. From farmers to those representing large-scale food producers, the message was the same: Ireland needs to rebuild local food economies, and the focus needs to be on localization, quality and catering to Ireland’s food culture and taste. These and other topics can enjoy continued, open-ended dialogue thanks in part to organizations like the IFBA.

I’m excited to be a part of the IFBA and this movement to bring the foodies (bloggers, producers, farmers, etc.) together for the greater good because in an overpopulated metropolis like Los Angeles it’s hard to feel that anything is possible. At times it seems like every idea has already been done a million times over, which doesn’t exactly encourage an enterprising spirit. Anything “new” is simply an old idea with a few new tricks, or at least this is how it can feel to a jaded Angelino, like me. Of course LA is not all doom and gloom, but there I felt I couldn’t make any sort of impact with my blogging as the city is absolutely bursting at the seams with food bloggers. This is one of many reasons why I made the move to Ireland.

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I think there’s an inherent need for most human beings to feel they are contributing something significant or at the very least to feel they are more a part of something than a mere cog in the wheel, as they say. Being here now, during these confusing, unstable and uncertain times is actually quite thrilling; there’s really nowhere to go but up and all ideas are welcome. It’s all just ripe with possibilities, and though nothing is guaranteed and the road may be difficult, I’m happy to be here and to play even a minute role in what will be a make-or-break time for Ireland and its food industry.

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Spicy Peanut Asian Noodle Salad

(Serves 6)

Part of the Savour Kilkenny Food Camp was a potluck lunch, where vendors and food bloggers brought a meal to share. My contribution was this noodle salad. I actually made it again for dinner a few nights later, but added a bit more protein with chicken. However, if you’d like to keep it vegetarian (actually, vegan!), simply omit the chicken.

1 package of soba noodles (250 grams)

4 tablespoons soy sauce

1.5 tablespoons rice wine vinegar

2 tablespoons hot water

3 tablespoons smooth peanut butter

1 teaspoon red chili flakes

2 teaspoons minced ginger

1 teaspoons toasted sesame oil

1 red bell pepper, sliced into thin strips

1 yellow bell pepper, sliced into thin strips

1 large carrot, sliced into thin strips

Kernels from two ears of corn (or use tinned corn, drained)

1 chicken breast, cooked and sliced

2 scallions, sliced thinly

Toasted sesame seeds to garnish

Bring a large pot of water to a rolling boil. Cook the soba noodles according to package directions (usually cooks for 5 minutes). Drain and set aside. Do not rinse!

In a large bowl, combine the soy sauce, vinegar, hot water, peanut butter, red chili flakes, ginger and sesame oil and whisk until combined. Taste it here for seasoning and add more chili flakes if you prefer a spicier noodle dish. Place the noodles, bell pepper slices, carrot, corn, chicken and scallions in the bowl with sauce and carefully combine; I find using chopsticks or salad tongs to be good tools for this. You want the sauce to coat the noodles but be careful not to break up the noodles as they are quite delicate. Place into a serving bowl and top with toasted sesame seeds. Serve warm, room temperature or cold – it’s a versatile dish!