A Bit of Banter
At Old Butter Roads Launch in Blarney
|Joe McNamee with, from left, Martina and Tricia Cronin and Lenka Forrest|
“Sometimes you need to be broken to get stronger”, said Martina Cronin, Chef at the Square Table where her twin sister Tricia is front of house and manager, at the launch of the 2018 Old Butter Roads Food Trail in The Church Of The Resurrection Blarney on Saturday.
Martina was responding to journalist Joe McNamee whose gentle prompting drew some terrific answers from the chefs and producers on stage. Martina paid tribute to her mother: “The house was very food oriented.” But she was in transition year before she made her mind up to be a chef.
Ciaran Scully, teacher and chef, “had me ready for Dublin” where her education continued under top chefs Ross Lewis and Graham Neville. One of the things she learned along the way and which she and Tricia implemented at the Square Table was to use local as much a possible. “This way we met and got to know the local producers and that in some ways led to this festival.”
Joe asked Tricia how customers reacted to local produce. Her years in Jacques gave her a good grounding and introduced her to local produce. “I enjoy engaging with the customers on local produce and local producers. But you do need to know your stuff. There’s a lot of homework to be done, especially with new dishes. I find too that now locals and international customers are talking about the Old Butter Roads.”
Lenka Forrest who runs the Old Blarney Post Office Café in the village started here about two years ago and immediately “clicked” with the Cronin twins and Maire, the chair of the Old Butter Roads. “It is important to promote the great food that's within this area to locals and tourists. I was happy to get the call to join the OBR. And happy too to see how Irish food has changed over the past twenty years.”
|Victor of Bluebell Falls|
Lenka, originally from Czechoslovakia (“the Czech side!”), didn’t really have a food background. But spotted the closed-up Post Office and rented it. “I didn’t know anything about the business, about the margins. It is a tiny place - you can see us make everything. We use the right ingredients and give good customer service. I like sharing food and love to see people enjoying our food.”
Frenchman Jean-Baptiste Enjelvin is helping Dan Hegarty of Whitechurch make his great cheese for the past two years or so. He admitted he had no idea about Irish cheese but soon discovered “other amazing cheese makers, Gubbeen, Milleens, Coolea”. Hegarty’s are long renowned for their cheddar but Jean-Baptiste told us that the range is expanding, a Comte/Gruyere style, and had some delicious samples to share.
Zwena McCullough of the nearby Hydro Farm Allotments said she is passionate about growing. “We share everything in the allotments, including the fruit cage. It is organic, no chemicals, we have a great community from tiny tots to the quite elderly. A great variety of nationalities including a Moroccan lady who makes a great tagine! We help educate by running courses and so on.”
Victor from Bluebell Falls was also on the platform - they weren't all up together! And he told Joe his story. We visited his farm recently and you can see all the details here.
|Hydro Farm Allotments|
Pat Mulcahy from Ballinwillin Farm told us his business includes deer, wild boar, and goats, B&B, lunch, evening meals. He has about 40 meat products, all through organic farming. He found lots of obstacles at the start: “You need to be determined, lots of walls to jump.” Now he works with many chefs to get his food message across.
And while he meets some of the biggest names in the industry it is often at home that he feels the big pride. “The chest expands,” he admitted, “when I’m sitting around the breakfast table with guests from many countries enjoying the farm food as was the case this morning.” You’ll probably be hearing more from Ballinwillin about wellness and the link with food as they are seriously looking at the influence of quality and authenticity on good health.
|All together now!|
Pat also imports his own wine from Hungary. “Some of the best winemakers in the world are in Hungary but they don’t sell. We were lucky to get into partnership in a cellar and now bottle and import our own range of wine. Growing grapes is like farming - that's what attracted me."
The Aubane community seem to be ahead of the posse on the Old Butter Roads as they celebrated the 250th anniversary 20 years back and Celeste Buckley told us on Saturday about another celebration on May 18th next, the 270th, with a five course meal at the local community centre to be followed by music and dancing. “We have a very exciting menu for the event and are really looking forward to the night.” Details on here.
Kanturk too will be involved and we heard from Timmy McCarthy, the 5th generation butcher from the town. “We can't move forward without taking inspiration from the past. We have a rich array of producers and it all needed direction. This is a platform to promote the area!”
Joe McNamee then officially declared the event open. “This is a tremendous initiative. Food and tourism are intertwined and contributed to the country's recovery. The quality of the food and the movement of small premium producers led to this. But don’t reserve your support for special occasions. Support these producers in your weekly shopping.”
Chairperson Maire Ní Mhurchu, a founder member, then invited us to sample the trays of tasty bites laid out for us and so we did. “We all have a passion about food,” she said earlier. “We are a cooperative group and intend to show the area at its best. Our new website has been launched. As you know our logo is the Milk Churn.”
|Joe McNamee launches the 2018 event.|
“This is a great unspoiled area, yet very close to the city. There is a great heritage here and that shouldn't be forgotten either and the Aubane celebration is part of it as it the cart outside built by the local mens shed.”
Soon the celebrations began. Indeed, I suspect they had already begun in nearby Blairs Inn. Next stop after the church opening was Lenka’s cafe where Pat Mulcahy was roasting one of his wild boars. Lots of events coming up over the month so do stay in touch with the website and also their Face book page.
Also of interest: