Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Spotlight on Best in County Awards at Blas in Dingle

Fish in Garvey's SuperValu, Dingle

Blas na hEireann 2015 Award Winners
Spotlight on Best in County Awards

Ger Kirwan of Goatsbridge Trout Farm

Year on year, the awarding of Best in County Awards has been growing as a part of the Blas na hEireann Awards in Dingle every October. These awards are presented by the the Local Enterprise Office from the various counties and are much appreciated by the winners.

Blas: “The winners of these awards have reported that being recognised in their own counties has been vital to their businesses where a large portion of their sales are made locally, either in stores or farmers markets.”  And it is not just the awards, important as they are, that are appreciated by the producers. They also very much appreciate the support that they receive throughout the year from their Local Enterprise Office.

Actually one of the Local Enterprise officers Joe English let slip that food producers may already have a foot in the door. He said the offices find it hard to resist when someone comes in with good things to eat. You get their attention straight away! So there you are, if you are a food producer, make a beeline for your local office.

Like the Blas awards in general, this shorter list from the Local Enterprise offices reflect the trends happening across the Irish food and drink scene. Here you see craft brewers, gin distillers, sushi makers, cider makers, all relatively new to the stage but, of course, bakers, black pudding makers and, very importantly, chocolate makers also feature.

Joe's Farm Crisps

Increasingly, the winning products, either Blas or Local Enterprise, are ending up in prominent position in supermarkets. While walking around Dingle on Saturday morning, I was urged by Walter Ryan-Purcell of Loughbeg Farm, whose Oat Loaf has been a great success in Cork and Kerry Supervalu's, to take a look in the supermarket just behind me.
Jim's Kerrs Pink in Garvey's

Garvey’s was something of a revelation. It was completely revamped last May and looks brilliant, spacious and bright, with a great layout. And, encouragingly for me, there were lots and lots of what is loosely called “artisan” food. They love their spuds in Kerry, grow some terrific ones up around Ballydavid and Ballyferriter, even have annual hotly contested tastings, and local spuds and veg were prominent.

Then I took a look at one of the cheese displays, seeing Dingle Gold, Crozier Blue (one of my favourites and a Blas winner) along with their own brand cheeses. They have a very inviting fish display, most of it fresh from the nearby seas. But right smack bang in the middle were fillets of the farmed trout from Kilkenny’s Goatsbridge, a winner at Blas this year.

Cathal of De Roiste

On a shelf nearby, I spotted Longueville cider and the local Cronin's cider, beers by Eight Degrees and Galway Bay Brewery. Lots of foreign beers too but at least the Irish were up there, battling shoulder to shoulder. And naturally enough, Dingle gin and vodka has a display case to itself!

I’m told quite a few SuperValu managers are visiting Garvey’s to see what the future looks like. Looks pretty good for Irish producers to me, even if my look-around was far from forensic. Not all producers go the Blas route but a win in Dingle (be it gold, silver or bronze, or recognition by your county) is a boost to the producer and quite possibly a boost to his or her sales figures as well.
Best in County Awards 2015
Carlow -
Best in Carlow: Sunshine Juice
Best in Farmers Market: The Chocolate Garden of Ireland
Best in County: Aran Ard Teo – Gallaghers
Best in Farmers Market: Mallow Mia
Best in Galway: Galway Hooker Brewery
Best in Farmers Market: Tribal Foods
Best in Kerry: O’Donnells
Best in Farmers Market: Dingle Sushi
Best in Kildare: Aedamar’s Lemon Curd
Best in Farmers Market: L’Art du Chocolat
Best in Louth: Dan Kelly’s Cider
Best in Farmers Market: Daisy’s Pantry
Best in Mayo: Kelly’s of Newport
Best in Meath: Big Red Kitchen
Best in Farmers Market:  Blaste & Wilde
Best in Roscommon County: Waldrons
Best in Roscommon Town: Gilligans
Best in Tipperary: Piedmontese Beef
Best in Farmers Market:  Ayle Farm Foods
Best in Waterford: Blackwater Distillery
Best in Farmers: Market Pure Food Company
Best in Westmeath:  Mr Crumb
Best in Farmers Market: An Olivia Chocolate
Best in Wexford: Wexford Preserves
Best in Farmers Market: Naturally Cordial
Cork South
Best in Cork South: De Roiste Puddings
Best in Farmers Market: Joe’s Farm Crisps
Best in County Moonriver Chocolates
Best in Farmers Market   Silver Darlings

You may see the full list of Blas winners for 2015 here.

Son of a Bun know their Beef. In the Pink!

Son of a Bun know their Beef.
From the Start, to the Finish in Pink!

Niall, with yours truly
Son of a Bun, the new bright and airy burger place in McCurtain Street, know their beef, their key ingredient. Niall O’Regan, who launched the venue last night, told me he is from Bandon and the beef comes from an Irish Aberdeen Angus beef herd near the West Cork town, via butcher Dan Maloney who has his own abattoir. It is minced onsite in Son of a Bun everyday.

“The Son of a Bun motto is simple: sourced locally, minced daily and cooked pink. We believe that pink is the best way to serve a burger – and we guarantee that once you taste our burgers, you will feel the same way too,” he added.

And it makes for a brilliant burger, one that is served pink (unless of course you state otherwise). It is moist and tender, full of flavour and absolutely delicious, no two ways about it.

And it is flipping big! Niall’s wife Amanda took us through the menu as the guests gathered and the music played under the ceilingless roof. There are almost a dozen burgers on offer: the Cheese, the Stack, the Chilli, the Black, the Skinny, the Veggie and so on, most at under a tenner.

The mighty Rebel
 “Everything on our menu - our sides, fries, dips and chips – even our desserts are all homemade and prepared fresh every day. We think that it is important to know that everything is carefully selected which is why our beef and chicken are sourced locally and our eggs are all free range,” she said.

CL couldn't resist the Son of a Bun Burger. This is the CV: six ounce hamburger, cheddar cheese, smoked streaky bacon, shredded iceberg, tomato, crispy fried onions and SOB sauce. Mega and fantastic, especially when you add a pot of skinny chips!

Me? Well I spotted the Burger of the Month and went for that. This power-packed Rebel is armed for the teeth with that sensational 6 ounce burger (pink, of course), American cheese, pickles, crispy fried onions, streaky bacon, jalapenos, and mayonnaise. And on the side, a dish of chunky cut chips. Mega stuff. Not a crumb of mince, of anything, left on either plate.

They have a few small things to nibble while you wait including Nachos, chips and dips, and the bowl of mixed olives (three different types) that we choose. And they have a decent selection of salads and sides as well, something for everyone.

Guilty, as charged!
 And if you’d like a pint of craft beer with your burger, then you've come to the right place. We enjoyed draft Franciscan Well, Chieftain for me, Rebel Red for her but they have even more in bottles (including Stag Ban and Black Lightning) and I also noticed bottles of Stonewell cider there.

Now for the guilty part. I'd better confess. We each ended up with a massive Knickerbocker Glory, layer after layer of cream, ice-cream, fresh fruit, fruit coulis and the cherry on top. Sweet dreams after all that!

Niall and Amanda established their first restaurant, Niall’s, in Bandon in 2002. That was followed by the opening of the Coffee Pod on Lapps Quay, Cork in 2006 and by the Coffee Pod on Winthrop Street, Cork in 2007.

Amazing how McCurtain Street has gradually emerged as a food street, established restaurant stars such as Greene’s and Isaac's and everything from coffee shops and tea shops, to subways and ethnic, and now the Son of a Bun, the new kid on the block, a beautiful noise emerging from where the famed Crowley’s Music Shop stood for decades.

Son of a Bun
29 MacCurtain Street, Cork
021 450 8738
Twitter: @sonofabuncork
Facebook: sonofabuncork
Open every day from 12 noon until 10pm.
Home cooking: Amanda and Niall

Monday, October 5, 2015

Quinlan's Fish is the Supreme Champion in Blas

Just slide your little finger under the central loop
and take this four pack away. You don't have to be
as strong as the legendary Tom Crean. 

- Cork-based Bainne Codladh take Best Artisan Producer for its Lullaby Milk -

A family-run seafood business based in Caherciveen, Co. Kerry, Quinlan’s Fish, has won the prestigious Supreme Champion Award at this year’s Blas na hÉireann, The Irish Food Awards. The company’s winning entry is its fresh crabmeat. The entry won over the judges’ taste-buds because of its fabulous flavour, freshness and delicate texture.

There were more than 2000 entries for this year’s Awards from all over Ireland, making it the biggest competition of Irish produce on the island of Ireland. Adjudication involved over 400 independent judges over a period of three weeks. The winners were announced on Saturday night, 3rd October in Dingle, Co. Kerry - Ireland's foodiest town.

The highly acclaimed Blas na hÉireann awards have been setting the standards for Irish food producers for eight years and the number of entries this year broke all records, proving the value and vitality of the Irish food and drinks sector. For the winners, these awards are known to open doors to new markets at home and abroad

‘We are absolutely thrilled,’ said Liam Quinlan of Quinlan’s Fish. ‘We have four premium fish shops as well as three seafood bars supplying our produce direct from tide to table. My father, Michael, started the business 52 years ago and it has been 52 years of hard work since then. This is the biggest award and honour we have ever received and I hope it shows that quality always shines through,’ said Liam.

The Best Artisan Award, also sponsord by An Bord Bia, was won by Bainne Codhladh of Kanturk Co Cork, who won with its Lullaby milk. By taking the milk from the cows during the night it contains naturally high levels of melatonin which helps with sleep. It is particularly effective for babies with sleeping difficulties.

Also announced as prize-winners were:

Best New Product (Sponsored by Invest NI): Wild Irish Foragers of Birr, Co. Offaly for their Honeysuckle Shrub

Best Artisan Award (Sponsored by An Bord Bia): Bainne Codhladh Ltd of Kanturk, Co. Cork for their Lullaby Milk

Best Export Opportunity Award (Sponsored by Pan Euro Foods): Hannan Meats of Moira, Co. Armagh 

Best Start-Up (Sponsored by AIB): Cornude Popcorn: Cornude Artisan Popcorn is a range of yummy gourmet popcorn flavours freshly made in the Liberties in Dublin. 

Best Seafood Innovation (Sponsored by Bord Iascaigh Mhara): Kinsale Fare Limited, Co. Cork for Hake in a Mild Yellow Curry

Rogha na Gaeltachta / Best Emerging Producer in Gaeltacht area: Macroom Buffalo Mozzarella, which is produced from a herd of over 150 buffaloes on a farm at Cill na Martra. 

Best Packaging Innovation Award (UCC School Food Nutritional Sciences): Dingle Brewing Company, Dingle, Co. Kerry which hand crafts Tom Crean’s Irish lager.

Producers’ Champion 2015: Minister for Agriculture and Food, Simon Coveney. Following a survey of over 2,000 producers, Minister Simon Coveney was selected by the producers themselves as their Champion for 2015, in recognition of his efforts to promote Irish food producers and their products at home and abroad.

See the full list of the 2015 winners here.

This year’s Blas na hEireann Irish Food Awards attracted over 2,000 entries, making it the biggest competition of Irish produce on the island of Ireland. Every county in the country is represented. The final judging took place on Thursday last, 1 October at the Dingle Skellig Hotel. The winners were announced at an Awards Presentation at the Phoenix Cinema in Dingle on Saturday, 3 October as part of the annual Dingle Peninsula Food Festival. Prizes were awarded in some 100 categories.  

Sunday, October 4, 2015

Don't you know you’ll get piles? The Fantastic Dingle Taste Trail.

Don't you know you’ll get piles?
The Fantastic Dingle Taste Trail.
Fenton's Fizz
“Would you ever get up off the cold street. Don't you know you’ll get piles. At least couldn't you put your jacket under you?” 

We two were sitting (on seats) in the closed Dingle street, outside the An Canteen door, enjoying a beer with another couple. But one of the four was sitting on the street surface, as there were no more seats, when a young Irish Mammy came along and started on him. It was a laugh a minute for a while after that as the young woman sat near us and the banter continued. Only in Ireland. Maybe only on the Dingle Taste Trail. Priceless. And no ticket required! 

We had spent a few hours on the Taste Trail.  It was time for a drink and one of the best places for craft beer and cider at Dingle Food Festival, anytime really, is An Canteen. Got a great welcome, including a tasty beef sandwich, from Brian and Niall and a smashing pint of Indian Pale Ale from Andrew of Killarney Brewing Company.

Raclette (also Fondue) at Little Cheese Shop
That Ale by the way is called Scarlet Pimpernel in memory of Killarney man Fr Hugh O'Flaherty who saved 6,500 people during WW2. A glass of the regular Golden Spear Blonde Ale also got the thumbs up.

The Taste Trail at the annual Dingle Food Festival is one of the very best. The quantity of choice is amazing as close to 80 outlets take part, officially! And the quality, while it can vary, is mostly of a very high standard, sometimes really top class. And the value per bite is incredible. A book of  tickets can be bought at any of the participating outlets and in the festival office and then you can go and sample wine, beer, whiskey, fish, meat, pizza, desserts and more.

We enjoyed our few hours on the trail on Saturday afternoon and had some memorable stops, particularly at Fenton’s, Out of the Blue and finally at An Canteen. There was a big delay at our first port of call as the Fish Bar on the Marina seemed surprised by the massive crowd that turned up for their Tandoori Prawns on a skewer.
Waiting at the fabulous Global Village
But there was no problems with queues elsewhere. Yes, there were queues for sure but all moved quickly along. There was one other disappointment though in that the Liam O’Neill/Derry Clarke charity event at O'Neill's art studio was unavoidably confined to Sunday.

Fenton’s had a massive line, out on to Green Street, through the full length of the restaurant, right into to the back garden. But it moved along nicely and soon we were sitting down eating a couple of delightful organic Dexter Beef sliders and then sipping a Sloe Gin Royale Pink Fizz.

The drink was a mix of gin, made from locally foraged sloes, and prosecco. A wee amount of the red gin was poured in first, and then the prosecco was added to change the colour to pink. But the big kick remained in the bottom of the flute and that last mouthful was an ambush of liquid delight! By the way, all this (beef plus fizz) cost us six tickets (12 euro worth).
Music on the trail
More top class stuff to eat and drink at Out of the Blue. They had a few choices but we went for the two ticket option: Roasted halibut fillet with steamed smoked cod, rocket and toasted hazelnut pesto, roasted red pepper and garlic pesto, and celeriac mash. And that was washed down with a small glass of Verdejo (just one ticket).

The Boatyard next door had their tables out in the sun and here we stuck with the fish theme, a lightly spiced Fish Curry.
Fenton's (top) and
Out of the Blue

Up along Green Street after that and down Main Street heading for Orchard Lane to see the Trade It exhibition that featured producers from all over Europe, from Poland, Finland, Spain, UK and Ireland and more. It was scheduled for 2.30 to 4.30, but my jaw dropped when we arrived at 3.30 and found an empty tent. It had all finished up. I had really been looking forward to that.

Still there were plenty of market stalls in the Lane and we had a few samples of various foods, including a marvellous Goats Cheese from Helen of Knockdrinna. And then we had a little bonus when Chef Marc Murphy of the Dingle Cookery School gave a demo (how to cook hake) at their stand.

Next, we headed for An Canteen and that hilarious meeting with the Irish Mammy!

Mark Murphy demo

Friday, October 2, 2015

Amuse Bouche

In the last few days of 2010, Zurich was in an excited state of expectancy. Europe’s wealthiest city was preparing to surpass itself by proffering the most comfortably expensive luxuries… The champagne crates were piled high, the fridges were bursting with truffles and foie gras, and the great chefs were dreaming up irresistible epicurean feasts… Every decent hotel room was already taken, every taxi was making itself available, and the red light district...was expecting business to be brisk. The ‘FIFA family’ was coming to town..

from The Ugly Game (The Qatari plot to buy the World Cup) by Heidi Blake and Jonathan Calvert.

Thursday, October 1, 2015

Cooking Lunch in Paris

Cooking Lunch in Paris
Poulet Basquaise
Oven Grilled Sardines (Sardines Grillées Au Four)
Mussels with white wine and fennel (Moules Marinières)
Chicken and sweet pepper stew (Poulet Basquaise)
Mini Almonds Cakes (Financiers aux Framboises)

Has a meal ever changed your life? That’s the question posed by Elizabeth Bard, US author of Lunch In Paris. It is not a cook book, even if the menu above was “pulled” from its pages.  It is a love story, with lots of food and quite a few recipes.

It begins with a recipe. Or does it?
“This is amazing,” Elisabeth said. “You have to give me the recipe.”
“There is no recipe,” he said, smiling. “I use whatever I have. It never tastes the same way twice.”
She had no way of knowing how this man, and his non recipes, would change her life.

Each chapter follows the twists and turns of the relationship between the American woman and her Breton lover and later the interaction between her American relations and the French family. It has its ups and downs but mostly it brings smiles. Not least because at the end of each chapter there are a few recipes related, in some way, to incidents in the previous pages.
Elizabeth was puzzled for a long while as to how French women, particularly her mother-in-law,  stayed so slim and able to wear bikinis right into old age. She twigged when a gateau Breton was being shared out. “Une petite part ou une normal?” she was asked. “Normale,’ she replied. It was the wrong answer, if you wanted to fit into your bikini. All the other ladies choose the small portion.

Our starter came at the end of that chapter. I had been hoping to do the sardines but was told “they won't be in until Wednesday”.  Neither dish could be regarded as diet food but both could help you get back into the bikini. The mussels (Pat O’Connell) are basically your normal Moules Marinières, with the addition of a half bulb of Fennel (Superfruit). Recommended wine: El Grano Chardonnay (€14.30 Le Caveau)

Not too clear why the Poulet (Chicken Inn), our main dish, came in where it did. It does follow on from her introduction to that very basic French dish, the andouillette, “a peculiar sausage, roughly cut from the stomach and intestines of the pig”. Another French hurdle jumped by the author.
Peppers drying in Espelette

You'll find lots of Poulet Basquaise recipes on the net. Bard includes peppers from Espelette. I failed to get them in the English Market but Mr Bell had a good alternative in smoked paprika. Recommended wine (will also go well with the mussels): Marco Real Corraliza de los Roncaleses 2012, Santacara (Navarra DO), €15.50 Karwig Wines.

The financiers are usually shaped like a gold ingot but these, like the ones in the book, are round. You can do the little rectangular ones if you have the proper mould! Elizabeth and her husband bought their fianciers at the boulangerie, along with croissants. Again, recipes for these addictive mini-almond cakes are easily found on the internet. Speaking of addiction, the recommended wine is: QA Velenosi Visciole NV, 13.5%, 50cl, €18.95 Karwig Wines.

* As you've realised by now, we didn't actually cook a lunch in Paris. Less than 12 months ago though, we did have lunch cooked for us there by a top Chilean chef, Chris Carpentier, who runs his own restaurant in Santiago and is the man who fronts Masterchef in the country. Check it out here.