One of The Menu’s great comrades, the wonderful Waterford chef-turned-teacher Michael Quinn, is taking his charges, final-year BA (Hons) culinary arts students in Waterford Institute of Technology, from the groves of academe out to the kitchens of Waterford’s Bellissimo restaurant for a four-night chef takeover (March 24 to 27) offering tasting menus chockful of finest local Deise produce, in a partnership also involving Pallas Foods and ABP.
Bellissimo proprietor Tony McMahon initially proposed the event to inspire the young chefs at the beginning of what hopefully will prove to be very fruitful careers and to offer local citizens the chance to experience a truly special dining experience.
The Menu, already besotted with the stunning landscape of Connemara, is positively bowled over at the thought of a Wild Food Foraging Weekend (March 13 and 14) in the beautiful Ballynahinch Castle Hotel with a package including two nights’ B&B and one dinner in the Owenmore Restaurant, from the hotel’s new chef, Alan McArdle, two half-days of foraging (led by Brian Gannon, of Wild Foods Galway, and McArdle), Saturday picnic lunch and Sunday lunch in the Fisherman’s Pub.
At time of writing, a decision has yet to be made on just how much to pare back Paddy’s Day festivities in light of the global coronavirus epidemic, but there is no denying the situation presents extremely challenging times ahead for the tourism and hospitality sectors which rely so much on the joys of communal socialising.
The Menu urges all, while following expert safety guidelines, to continue to support a sector sure to be impacted this holiday weekend. Dublin’s 777 will be offering their Sunday Brunch on Paddy’s Day, all dishes priced at €7.77 (777.ie) while Slice cafe, in Stoneybatter, will be serving up Guinness pancakes with Cointreau cream and crushed hazelnuts, along with their usual menu of fine coffees, wine and food (asliceofcake.ie). Slemish Market Supper Club pops up (March 13) for a courser at Follow Coffee Co, in Ballymena, in Co Antrim.
The Menu expects great things with the “reboot” of Sage Midleton; the new version continuing to offer modern Irish micro-local cuisine as part of Sage’s renowned 12-mile sourcing policy but with the focus now entirely devoted to casual dining and an exceedingly funky and very buzzing backdrop.
Those seeking one last hurrah over the linen tablecloths will need to move quickly as doors close on April 4 before reopening as Sage 2.0 on April 8.
Glorious Game (Face Publications): Face publisher Anthony Hodgson is a very talented designer with an appetite for the nosh, having produced some of the most handsome-looking cookbooks ever committed to print anywhere in the world and the gorgeous GG is no different, a luxurious production, down to gilded page edges, a class of culinary bible without the bashing, exquisite and tantalisingly photographed dishes making for food porn of the highest order.
GG, curated by chef Ben Tish, features game (feathered and furred) recipes from top British and Irish chefs and food writers and, while most purchasers will be pro chefs seeking splendid inspiration, gifted amateurs will be pleasantly surprised at its accessibility.
Granted, certain big guns set out quite daunting culinary challenges and even big guns will find themselves up against it when Dan Cox instructs that roe deer be hung, fur on, in your “meat-ageing fridge for three weeks”, after which you remove the fur, hang for a further two weeks (packing hide in salt for tanning) before butchering and cooking — as you do!
Equally, any cook with the stomach to consider Pascal Aussignac’s foie gras and confit squirrel will do well to source the main ingredient.
But those are outliers (and not without merit; Cox’s grilled cream, a delicious companion to venison); Chapter One’s Ross Lewis illustrates the Dublin restaurant’s long relationship with game via a delicious woodcock dish, Skye Gyngell and Diana Henry allow game’s primal flavours to do the heavy lifting, Angela Hartnett’s wild boar fettucine is excellent reason alone to learn to make homemade pasta, Tom Kitchin’s grouse sausage rolls are lunchbox heaven, while Cork’s own adopted son, Michelin-starred Takashi Miyazaki, achieves zen simplicity with a sublime one-dish wonder, Botan nabe, a wild boar hot pot for sharing, and, in an ideal world, no one would ever again cook grouse until first reading the immortal Simon Hopkinson’s “treatise” on doing same.
The Menu reckons he puts the Olympic Council in the ha’penny place, regularly enduring nightmarish scheduling shenanigans whilst ensuring his progeny’s continued endeavours on various and multiple fields of play, and the beloved burger has become an especially favourite and convenient dinner on any evening requiring swift refuelling to further charge their Corinthian spirit.
Duhallow Organics’ Dexter 10z beef burger has proven wildly successful as all and sundry agree that the flavours of this fully organic beef, slow-grown, then hung for 30 days, plumbs some serious depths.
With nothing other than seasoning added to a slab-like patty sporting a decent ratio of fat-to-meat to achieve all-important flavour, The Menu’s only further addition is ketchup and sticky-sweet onions, sautéed with herbes de Provence, bay leaf and garlic and finished with wildwood blackberry balsamic vinegar.