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Horrible Hannah blows outside but inside Lily Ramirez-Foran and her chef friend Anthony O’Toole are cooking up a super-tasty Mexican storm as part of the 12th annual West Waterford Food Festival. A warm welcome and soon we are seated with scores more in the Causeway Tennis Club in Dungarvan.
The service began with Botana and Beer. The beer was top class stuff as always from the Dungarvan Brewing Company, who were combining for the second year running with Mexican Lily. The initial event was in the brewery but such was the demand for tickets that it was obvious a bigger venue was needed for this year.
Back then to the Botana and Beer. Not your usual beer though! This was the Dungarvan Mine Head after a make-over, transformed into an Ale and Chili Margarita, with the aid of Hibiscus and lime. Sounded well, tasted better. And there were some tasty nibbles to go with the Déise Margarita: handmade Corn Chips, Spicy pepitas, Salsa Verde, De Arbol Salsa Roja.
Lily is the founder of Ireland's first Mexican boutique grocer and cookery school, Picado Mexican in Portobello, Dublin 2, and has been here for the past 19 years with her husband and business partner Alan Foran (also helping out on the night).
Anthony O’Toole is a private chef, curating one-off food and drink events for a wide range of clients. He is quite a gardener as well and this was not his first collaboration with Lili. They gave us an idea of what we would be eating for the evening and advised to use our hands (we did have a fork!) and pile up our plates as there’s not much sympathy for slow eaters in Mexico.
Sally Barnes is a recent favourite of Anthony's and her smoked mackerel (wild, of course) featured in the Comienzo, the starter. Its full title: Sally Barnes Smoked Wild Mackerel Tostada, pickled Jalapeños, the Sea Gardeners’ Toasted Dillisk. First bite and I knew I was on a winner. A superbly made starter, a smooth combination of delicious flavours and textures.
On then to the Taquiza, the mains. There were two and we got both, everyone did. First up was Anthony’s Crown Prince and Waltham Butternut Squash with Ancho Chili Crust, peanuts and sesame Salsa Macha, Citrus Créma, and Mexican Slaw. It may not have looked the best but scoop the squash up into the hot tortilla, add a little from the dips on the table and some of that Mexican Slaw (with lime juice, I think) and nobody around me stopped with after just one. It was excellent.
And then came another dark offering but another superb dish: Old Farm leg of pork braised in Mine Head American Pale Ale (also by Dungarvan Brewing), Gaujillo and Mandarin Adobo Fried Jalapeno Salsa and that excellent slaw again. The pork, thinly cut and perfectly cooked, was delicious and again those tortilla warmers were empty in no time, replacements arriving just as fast as the punters dug into the irresistible deliciousness.
Sweet Crema, Pomegranate, for your chocolate
By the way, the matching beer for the starter was the Blonde Ale and for the main course we had their Copper Coast Red. But there was plenty of beer and no compulsion. If you preferred it vice versa, that’s what you got.
The final beer, with the Postre (dessert), was Black Rock Irish Stout. And that dessert was Tequila, Chipotle and the Proper Chocolate Company 85% Dominican Republic Chocolate Torte, with sweet créma, pomegranate, and Crystallised Hibiscus dust on the side. Quite a finalé to a lovely evening in Dungarvan. Final score: three sets to love for Lily and Anthony.
* The producers featured were Dungarvan Brewing, Old Farm fro Nenagh, Anthony O’Toole (eggs, veg and herbs), Sally Barnes Woodcock Smokery in West Cork, The Sea Gardener (Dungarvan), The Apple Farm (cider vinegar), Picado Mexican, Edible flowers by Bumble Bee Farm (Drimoleague) , and The Proper Chocolate Company (Glasnevin).
On a recent visit to the Woodcock Smokery in Castletownsend, smoker Sally Barnes gave me a piece of her Albacore Tuna to bring home.
It is really amazing; looks as if Tuna is meant to be smoked. Maybe, meant to be smoked by Sally. “It is hot smoked. Our tuna are guaranteed line-caught and are certified by Friends of the Sea.This is a tuna unlike any you have ever tasted. It's a succulent meaty bite with subtle smoke and ocean tastes”
I think that last sentence really sums up our Taste of the Week. We used it in a version of a Salad Niçoise and it was delicious. By the way, if you are looking for Anchovies, you can get very reasonably priced tins in O Portuguêsin McCurtain Street.
Sally uses only wild fish, quite a variety of them, and her products are much sought after by top chefs. And you may read all about her operation here.
Fresh from West Cork is back in town and you’ll find it installed in Bradley’s, North Main Street. Walter, familiar to many of you from his stint last year in the English Market, fronts the operation and is as enthusiastic as ever.
And why wouldn't he be? He has some great produce in Bradley's; all the familiar names are there including Irish Atlantic Sea Salt, Rosscarbery Recipes, Gubbeen, Ummera, Glenilen, Sally Barnes (he especially recommends her smoked mackerel, “a big seller”), West Cork Pies, Culture Foods (the Sauerkraut people, who are now exporting) and more.
June Kingston’s Soda Wheaten loaf is a best seller and there are tasty apple tarts from the Walshes of Caheragh (near Drimoleague). And don't forget the Loughbeg Tea Brack and be sure to get some Glenilen clotted cream to go with that! Then you have yogurts and Lemon Labneh from McCarthy’s Dairy not to mention the many fish products from Union Hall including Smoked Mackerel Paté and Smoked Salmon Paté.
No shortage of honey and jam. The honey comes from Noel and Patricia Love of Knockeen (Skibbereen) while jams are supplied by Kathleen McCarthy of Drimoleague and Eithne McCarthy from Skibbereen. And watch out too for the Loughbeg chutneys, quite a few but the star is the Yellow Zucchini Relish which was adored by a bunch of “nine Michelin chefs from London when they sampled it at the English Market last year”.
And the good news is that you can get these six days a week, from 8.00am to 9.30pm! And more good news. If you like your vegetables fresh (and who doesn't?), Colm O’Regan of Horizon Farms will be making three deliveries a week to North Main Street.
And from next Friday, you'll be able to get raw pressed juice here: carrot, beetroot and a vegetable and fruit blend! “And the week after that, we'll have mini-meals,” he said. I looked puzzled! “Especially for toddlers,” he clarified. So there you are. Walter and Fresh from West Cork will feed you all, big and small.
It has been a good week at the table but pride of place goes to this magnificent Beef and Potato Pie from West Cork Pies in Schull. A hungry three man jury gave this flavour packed pastry a unanimous thumbs up! They also produce Pork Pies, Steak and Kidney Pies and Scotch Eggs. They say: What you’ll get from me are good quality, very tasty, products full of substantial ingredients not just cheap gravy and the odd lump of something indistinguishable. Glad to agree. The pies are available at various outlets in West Cork, in various pubs around the city (check the link above) and also at the Fresh from West Cork stall in the English Market.
The verdict may have been unanimous but it was very close. Other top class contenders this week included the award winning Steak Rub from the Cornstore, the fantastic Amodeo salad dressing from Tuscany Bistro and also the gorgeous Wild Smoked Salmon Butter by Woodcock Smokery (Sally Barnes).