Two of the doughtiest women in Irish food, sisters Hannah and Rachel Dare, of the very splendid Organico shop, cafe, bakery and health food store, in Bantry, have had a thriving online business for some time but when Hannah’s husband, John Prendergast, wanted to recognise the contribution of the now homebound employees of his co-owned tech company, the idea was born to send them gift packs from the Organic range.
Tthe subsequent reaction of the delighted employees was so off the charts that the sisters resolved to make it an official product in their online range. Each comes with a customisable note crediting and packs can be purchased and delivered to multiple home addresses.
One of The Menu’s favourite chefs in Ireland in recent times is Ahmet Dede, the Turk-turned-Gael, who was head chef at the late lamented Baltimore Mews when it earned its Michelin Star, has made his adored West Cork his home, another indicator of the man’s impeccable taste. Last year, however, The Menu crafted a feature which included a contribution from Dede, specifically recipes from his own Turkish culinary heritage and he subsequently went on to deliver a rapturously received pop-up night with an entirely Turkish menu as part of the Taste of West Cork food festival.
So The Menu was absolutely over the moon to learn that Dede’s post-Mews plan was to open a fine dining take on Turkish food in the Custom House, in Baltimore, based on finest local produce. Covid-19, however, had other plans and Dede has instead opened as a takeaway offering a gorgeous little package (including vegetarian and gluten-free option) of main course, side dish, bread, dessert and for the criminally low price of just €25pp.
Following swiftly in train is a delicatessen, offering freshly baked sourdough bread baguettes, Turkish style soups and salads, freshly baked tarts, sweets and treats, and homemade products. This all sounds pretty perfect to The Menu, who hopes to make it to his beloved West Cork over the summer and Dede will be near the very top of his list of dining destinations. True perfection, of course, will arise when he is able to finally draw up a chair and dine in-house.
If Dede is a to-be-hoped for summer destination for The Menu this year, then he is equally keen to return once more to Restaurant Chestnut, in Ballydehob, where chef Rob Krawczyk and partner Elaine Fleming play host to one of his most favourite dining spots in the world. Now trading as Sticks &; Twigs To Go, a more casual take on their quintessential hyper-local Michelin-starred offering, menus will be dictated, as always, by seasonal availability and the elemental simplicity of in-house cultured, turf-smoked butter with brown soda mini-loafs (pictured above), gives some sense of the special nature of this particular take on ‘casual’ and there are picnic options for those smart enough to realise West Cork itself makes for one of the finest al fresco restaurants on the planet.
Pre-order and pay by phone (Thurs, 12pm-4pm; Fri/Sat, 9am-11am) with staggered collection times (Fri/Sat, 12pm-4pm). Menus on www.restaurantchestnutwestcork.ie
When The Menu was a garsún he would betimes, rise at dawn, packing sandwiches and a flask, and head off on bikes with a couple of pals for a few wonderful hours of mostly failed fishing. For The Menu was a deeply unaccomplished angler indeed, and, over the years, just about the only fish he has managed to catch with any great frequency and success have been death wish mackerel, so anxious to be caught, they’ve near enough hurled themselves from the water straight into The Menu’s welcoming pan.
But The Menu’s scant few coarse water successes over the years have been mostly trout, a fish he remains fond of to this day, so he greatly welcomed an opportunity to sample O’Connell’s smoked trout, a new offering from the renowned English Market fishmongers. Oak-smoked by Paul O’Connell, in their Bandon smokery, it is a tad less oily and rather firmer than more commonly consumed salmon but is more than blessed with a depth of characterful flavour. Sliced wafer thin, the buttery, even creamy flesh, takes but a gentle teasing of the tooth to cause the whole schemozzle to dissolve on the tongue with a heady, sweet and balanced smokiness.
Served with a crunchy fresh sourdough loaf from The Menu’s own ‘Lockdown Bakery’, Food For Humans peppery micro-greens and homemade horseradish mayonnaise, all consumed al fresco while observing the comings and goings of the nesting blackbirds and their fledglings in his own back garden, a lockdown-confined Menu with very itchy feet of late, fancied himself for a brief spell to be in the South West of France, from whence the crisp Pays de Gascogne, he was employing to complete a most perfect meal, also hailed. www.koconnellfish.com
For as long as Covid-19 continues to affect the Irish food world’s ability to trade as normal, The Menu is delighted to continue to offer his column to feature businesses employing alternative routes to market during these challenging times.
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