THE BRIDGESTONE IRISH FOOD GUIDE
Picked up the Bridgestone Irish Food Guide the other day and am enjoying flicking through the information packed pages. It is an excellent reference and I’ll be using it for market trips, for day trips and weekend trips.
It is good but would have been better without the strident editorial, especially the bit that deems it “a traitorous action” to buy imported food in a foreign-owned supermarket. Passion is admirable but this “tackle” would earn a card on the football field. It is a bit over the top, especially considering that the book itself was printed in Spain. What do the excellent local printers think about that?
Sauce for the goose... If I have to watch my back in the supermarket, must I also be wary if I call to the listed and praised On the Pigs Back for some Bayonne Ham or Boudin Noir? Come on lads, get real. The good food movement is both local and international and if Brittany Ferries hadn’t taken so many of us to the continent in the 70s and 80s, the taste for it here would have much slower to develop.
No doubt huge strides have been made in the quality and variety of food available here in recent years, much of the movement sparked by “imported” innovators from abroad, notably, in the Cork area anyhow, by English, Dutch, French and Spanish artisans. The international element again!
Add these to those Irish who kept the good food faith when it wasn’t really fashionable and there is now a decent base for the future.
There are still huge challenges to be met, huge opportunities to exploit. Take fish of example. Cork is poorly served here, just three stalls plus a small Hederman’s smoked counter in the English Market and nothing else in the city centre! You’d get as much choice in a weekly market in a small French town.
This lack of choice can lead to lack of competition on price. At least O'Driscoll’s Fresh Fish from Schull came to the Mahon Farmers Market, not just with fresh fish but with fresh pricing (a bag of fish for a fiver) as well and that is why they draw the queues, even though Ballycotton are now matching them nearby for choice and price though not yet the queue!
There is no lack of opportunities for fish and markets. Just look at the North East of Cork City, an area including St Luke’s, Dillon’s Cross, Ballyvolane, Barnavara, Mayfield (pictured), Silverheights, Tivoli, Murmount and Montenotte. The population here is in the tens of thousands, bigger than most Irish cities and towns. Yet it hasn’t as much as one fish stall, not even a fish van calling, and no Farmers Market whatsoever.
So come on, all you current and potential good food producers out there. Do your bit. Put out the quality where the people can see it and you won't have to wrap it in green white and gold for me to buy it. Quality and availability will do the trick.
The guide is bigger than ever, over 600 pages, more food places included. But some notable absentees. On the restaurant side, there is no mention of Fenns Quay (who do get a recommendation from Michelin this year) and Market Lane (who are a delicious example of using local produce), both places that I have enjoyed recently.
Augustine’s, which had just moved to the Clarion, fails to make the listings but Boqueria, which has undergone both renovations and a change of ownership, maintains its status, though with a caveat.
At some point soon, they’ll probably have to impose a limit on entries. Maybe some of the artisans will upscale to, God forbid, factory size. Maybe that is why big outfits such as Flahavan’s (Oats and Oatmeal) are not included, though Barry’s Tea are. Then again, I didn't see any mention of East Cork’s small outfit, the Magpie Dairy who do excellent goats cheese products.
The guide is extensive but it is not the whole story. Consult it to be sure but also use your own initiative. I am having fun doing so. Take a chance on a new taste. You never know where it might lead you.