Showing posts with label Blas na hEireann. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Blas na hEireann. Show all posts

Monday, October 10, 2016

Dingle Diary. Blas and the Festival

Dingle Diary. Blas and the Festival
The Supreme Champion
Massive crowds attended the Dingle Food Festival (1st and 2nd ofOctober) but it was much quieter in the town when I arrived on the previous Thursday morning, just one of the dozens of judges gathering in the Skellig Dingle for the Blas 2016 judging. A record 2,500 products were entered and these had been whittled down to manageable numbers. 

Still there was a lot of tasting to do - from about 11.30 until around 8.30 pm in my case. We finished up in Dick Mack’s pub in Green Street for the alcohol tastings. The pub is well worth a visit in its own right, just to see the huge whiskey selection alone!

One of Dingle's little cafes
Then it was down to O’Flaherty’s Pub for a proper drink and a proper bite. There was a great buzz here, particularly when the music started. Dingle Gin and Tom Crean lager was flying but I delayed turning to those until myself and my new buddy Johnny had cleaned out the Beal Bán from the West Kerry Brewery!
On the Taste Trail



The next day, Friday, was more or less at leisure and we did a trip around the peninsula (post to follow). That evening though, the Blas judges assembled in the Oceanworld Aquarium where candles lit the scene as the various fish, the shark and the turtle swam around and we gathered for more Dingle Gin and more Tom Crean and, yes, fish and chips!
A Gold winner. For a full list of winners,
please click here
And then Blas chairman and founder Artie Clifford introduced local adventurer Mike O’Shea who gave us an illustrated talk on his life, concentrating mainly on last year’s trip to South Georgia to retrace part of Tom Crean’s footsteps. Very interesting indeed, even the penguins behind seemed to stay still, though there were some strange noises off stage! Check out more of Mike’s amazing adventures here.  

Saturday was the first full day of the Dingle Food Festival and the town was transformed as thousands of visitors arrived, sauntering through the closed streets to sample the food and drink on offer at every step. A huge market covered a few of the streets and then there was the Taste Trail with close to 80 offerings, some very inventive bites indeed.  Besides there were craft workshops, demonstrations by top chefs, a farmers forum, special lunches and dinners and so much more, even a visit to the distillery for us.
Pesto winners: Gold (left) and Bronze
Time too for the Blas judges to visit the producers and see the products (now in their packaging). It was an anxious time for the Blas entrants as the awards were announced throughout the day. I had a lot of sympathy for the entrants in Spirits and Liqueurs, Beers, Ales, Lagers, Stouts and Cider as these were last on the list, scheduled for 5.00pm. A long wait!

At least they could relax on the Sunday as Blas had been put to bed for another year and the sun shone as the Food Festival, again mightily well supported, continued for another day. Well done Dingle! Again.
Lots of talk about this Gold winner!
For the full list of award winners, click here
Sampling at the street market
See also: Visit to the Dingle Distillery
Driving the Dingle peninsula

Monday, October 3, 2016

STONEWELL RÓS CIDER IS CROWNED SUPREME CHAMPION

STONEWELL RÓS CIDER IS CROWNED SUPREME CHAMPION IN A GREAT YEAR FOR CIDERS AT THE 2016 BLAS NA hEIREANN IRISH FOOD AWARDS
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Cider Crown for Stonewell's Geraldine.

Ciders win big at this year’s Awards…
Stonewell Rós Cider from Cork has beaten off stiff competition from food and drink producers all over the island of Ireland to be awarded the coveted Supreme Champion title of the 2016 Blas na hEireann, the Irish Food Awards, sponsored by Bord Bia.
Geraldine Emerson from Stonewell Cider said “We use all natural ingredients. The Rós cider has a very pure, clean taste. This award is great because it is recognition for all the work that goes into making it. We’re delighted.”
Ciders also made it to the top of the pile in the Best Artisan Category, proudly supported by Bord Bia. In a first for Blas na hEireann there was a tie for the prize which was won jointly by Tempted? Elderflower Cider and MacIvors Plum and Ginger Cider.
Tempted? cider is made by Davy and Janet Uprichard near Lisburn. MacIvors cider is made by the MacNeice family in Armagh.
“Ciders have done really well this year. We have had to expand the number of categories in this area. With the growth of the cider sector on the island, the producers are reacting to customer demand by developing new flavour combinations such Stonewell which is made with rhubarb juice. It’s a stunning drink” said Awards Chairperson, Artie Clifford.
“This has been such a strong year for so many of our producers. The bar gets raised year on year pushing the producers react accordingly and to constantly improve their offerings. This can only mean that the quality of Irish food and drink is world-class.”
Other key award winners included:
Best New Product which was won by The Purple Pantry for Teeling Small Batch and Ginger Marmalade. Best Start-Up was Dublin City Gin.  Best Seafood Innovation went to Kilmore Quay in Wexford for their Breaded Haddock Goujons.
The Best UCC Packaging Innovation Award went to Cracked Black Pepper Beef Bites made by the Monaghan-based company, Rucksnacks. Best Packaging Design, also sponsored by UCC, went to Amodeo Salad Dressing by Tuscany Bistro from Annacotty in Limerick. Rogha na Gaeltachta, proudly supported by Udarás na Gaeltachta went to Folláin Preserves, Cork.
Chef’s Larder awards were given to Cavanagh Free Range Eggs, Co. Fermanagh, Fancy Fungi Mushrooms from Wexford for their Umami Paste, Dexter Beef Dripping from Killenure Dexter in Tipperary, Shellfish Pearls from IASC, Cork and Bog Oak Bitters, also from Cork.
Best in Farmers Market Awards included Antrim; North Coast Smokehouse, Armagh; Burren Balsamics for their Armagh Bramley Apple Infused Balsamic Vinegar, Cavan; Ciste Milis for their Raspberry Bakewell, Clare; Anam Coffee for their Burren Seasonal Espresso Blend, Cork; Freebirds Bakery for their Raspberry Brownie, Donegal;  Bidlims Moods for their Mint Jelly, Dublin; Hawthorn Lane Piccalilli, Galway; Mocha Beans, Kerry; Pauline’s Pantry, Kildare;  Gibney's Garden Preserves, Kilkenny;  Cakeface Pastry, Laois;  Jenny's Little Kitchen, Limerick; The Green Apron, Louth;  Daisy’s Pantry, Mayo; Clew Bay Cookies, Meath; Tullyard Farm, Offaly; Wild Irish Foragers, Tipperary ; Ayle Foods, Waterford; Pure Food Company, Westmeath; An Olivia Chocolate, Wexford; Wild About,  and Wicklow for Daisy Cottage Farm.
Best in County Awards were given to Antrim; Tempted? Elderflower Cider,  Armagh; Mac Ivors Plum and Ginger Cider, Carlow; The Village Dairy for their The Village Dairy Fresh Jersey Milk, Cavan; Lakelands Dairy for their Tesco Salted Caramel Ice-cream, Clare; Carrygerry House for their Creamy Seafood Chowder, Cork; Stonewell for their Stonewell Ros Cider, Derry; Morelli’s Frozen Yoghurt with Cherry, Donegal; Green Pastures for their Low Fat Creme Fraiche , Down; Clandeboye Estate Greek Style Yoghurt, Dublin; Dublin City Gin, Fermanagh; Erin Grove preserves for their Sour Cherry and Cracked Black Pepper Fruits for Cheese, Galway; Kylemore Abbey, Kerry; Quinlan’s, Kildare; Rye River Brewing, Kilkenny; Mileeven Fine Foods, Laois; Abbey Farm Foods, Limerick; The Green Apron, Longford; Goodness Grains, Louth ;Hilton Foods, Mayo; Carr and Sons, Meath; What’s for Pudding, Monaghan; IGWT, Offaly; Wild Irish Foragers, Roscommon; Gilligan Meats, Sligo; Aurivo, Tipperary; Ayle Foods, Tyrone; Quinn’s Homemade Gelato, Waterford; Pure Food Company, Westmeath; An Olivia Chocolate, Wexford; Irish Country Meats and Wicklow for Gino’s Italian ice-cream.
The winners were announced at an event during the annual Dingle Food Festival on Saturday 1st October, 2016. More than 2500 products were entered in a total of 120 categories. Finalist judging took place at the Dingle Skellig Hotel on Thursday 29th September, 2016. Preliminary judging took place at UCC. Baking was judged at the Baking Academy of Ireland, Dublin.
The Blas na hEireann awards are the biggest blind tasting of produce in the country. The criteria on which the product is judged as well as the judging system itself, which was developed by Blas na hEireann with the Food Sciences Department of UCC, are now recognised as an international industry standard.
PRESS RELEASE

Monday, October 12, 2015

Dingle Days. Glorious Food, Drink and Scenery

Dingle Days

Glorious Food, Drink and Scenery
Dingle has it all - glorious food, drink and scenery. It is a terrific visit at anytime and can be visited whether the sun shines or not. Nature doesn't have to perform at its best just because you’re on a visit. Indeed, sometimes Nature in a bad mood is as well worth seeing as it is on the days of calm and balm.

I was there for the Blas na hEireann tastings and the annual food festival and it was a marvelous few days. Tough enough start though on the Thursday with a full day of tastings for Blas in the Skelligs Hotel. Tough? Did I hear you say? Well try tasting nine blue cheeses in a row. Or, in the final session of the day, sampling 15 beers as the sun went down.
Savoury chocolates!

Venturing out in Ventry
But it has its rewards and the first came later that night in An Canteen when we sat down to a very local three course meal by the brothers Niall and Brian. Superb fish on the first two courses and those amazing savoury chocolates by Dovinia were a highlight. And I must also mention that excellent Connemara Pale Ale by the Independent Brewery.

Friday was largely a free day, so we headed west with the first stop at Ventry as the sunseekers were out in some numbers and, let me say, in their t-shirts. Also spent some time watching a group of kayakers getting ready and then sailing off into the haze. The weather had changed, duller and windier, by the time we got to Slea Head but we still got down to the sands and close to the rocks.
Dunquin

Lunch at Blasket Centre: Baked potato, tuna, cheese
The Blasket Centre is a great place to visit to get a feel for the peninsula and the islands and , as a bonus, it is a good spot to stop for lunch. Fueled up, we carried on and came to Clogher Head. Last time, our walk up here was stopped by a heavy shower but there was no such problems on this occasion. Great views out there, even if there was a little haze in the mid-distance.

On then towards Ballyferriter and a visit to Wine Strand before closing the loop - the sun was out again -  and cutting cross-county back to Dingle. We were keen to see the Conor Pass while the weather was still reasonable. By the time we got up though, the clouds had taken over. Still we had a fine view down to Dingle and beyond.
Ceann Sibeal from Clogher Head
Welcome to Wine Strand
Then an hour or two was spent at the awards by the Enterprise Office from the various counties (details here) and after that it was time to think about eating again. We were joined by some of the judges (lots of laughs with Susan and Judith Boyle) in the Global Village who came up with a terrific tasting menu, very popular too as empty plates went back every time. This was a selection of the peninsula’s finest produce over six tasting courses. Highlights were the fish (turbot, seaweed and fennel) and the meat (wild boar, scallop and raisins).

Saturday was a reasonably fine day and we were soon out and about after a good breakfast at the excellent and friendly Benners Hotel, so centrally located. Garvey’s SuperValu had their line of food already in place on the pavement outside. I had a look inside and was impressed. Outside, the market stalls on the various streets were busy and we called to quite a few.
Welcome to Dingle Gin & Vodka from Joe
Turbot at Global Village
Saturday though was mainly about the amazing Taste Trail and you may read all about that here. Caught up on the news from the award ceremony for Blas and delighted for the winners, particularly for those that we know. Taste trail or not, we were still up for a meal later that night and had booked in to the Grey’s Lane Bistro. It was a good call and a lovely meal.

Took it easy on the Sunday morning and, after yet another good breakfast in Benner's, two happy punters checked out and headed home. Dingle, we'll be back!
Smiling traders!

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
Donegal
Best in County: Aran Ard Teo – Gallaghers
Best in Farmers Market: Mallow Mia
Galway
Best in Galway: Galway Hooker Brewery
Best in Farmers Market: Tribal Foods
Kerry
Best in Kerry: O’Donnells
Best in Farmers Market: Dingle Sushi
Kildare
Best in Kildare: Aedamar’s Lemon Curd
Best in Farmers Market: L’Art du Chocolat
Louth
Best in Louth: Dan Kelly’s Cider
Best in Farmers Market: Daisy’s Pantry
Mayo
Best in Mayo: Kelly’s of Newport
Meath
Best in Meath: Big Red Kitchen
Best in Farmers Market:  Blaste & Wilde
Roscommon
Best in Roscommon County: Waldrons
Best in Roscommon Town: Gilligans
Tipperary
Best in Tipperary: Piedmontese Beef
Best in Farmers Market:  Ayle Farm Foods
Waterford
Best in Waterford: Blackwater Distillery
Best in Farmers: Market Pure Food Company
Westmeath
Best in Westmeath:  Mr Crumb
Best in Farmers Market: An Olivia Chocolate
Wexford
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
Limerick
Best in County Moonriver Chocolates
Best in Farmers Market   Silver Darlings

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

Monday, October 5, 2015

Quinlan's Fish is the Supreme Champion in Blas

QUINLAN'S FISH WINS 2015 BLAS NA hÉIREANN’S SUPREME CHAMPION AWARD
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.