The Menu has seen some quare things over the years but, truly, we are living in extraordinary times, the situation changing by the hour and, as always, the hospitality sector is the canary in the coalmine, the first to show the signs of distress that will surely and eventually have a colossal impact on all of us.
And it is not just the hospitality sector: all those growers, farmers, producers and retailers who supply the superb Irish ingredients, some of the finest foodstuffs to be found anywhere in the world, are also feeling the effect.
For most, it will be the greatest challenge of their professional lives, further exacerbated by an increasing sense of foreboding that an even greater challenge to our personal lives lies just around the corner — for all the deep distress that comes from the potential failure of a business, often built up over years, it is nothing to the loss of a beloved family member or friend.
But, The Menu takes huge solace in the truly inspirational response of the Irish food world and the Irish public at large, all rallying to support one another.
This is probably best exemplified by a gofundme.com page entitled Feed The Heroes, allowing anyone to donate money which is then used to purchase takeaway to be delivered to the truly heroic frontline health workers who will be at the coalface of this great crisis.
Support here: Feed the Heroes https://t.co/GG4an3tk7E— Niamh (@niamh_od_x) March 18, 2020
The first day, The Menu looked at this page, it had raised almost €40k yet it was proving impossible to spend funds raised as most restaurants insisted on donating meals for free.
The Menu, quite frankly, was moved to tears and, in keeping with that spirit, has resolved to turn his weekly column into a class of Irish food community bulletin board to, as best as possible, enable the evolution of alternative safe-selling business practices and enterprises that support the Irish food world and, by extension, every single one of us, through this great crisis and looks forward to the day when we will all once again sit around a table together, breaking bread and raising a glass to our continued good health.
Real Bread Ireland, the national network of Irish real bread bakers producing delicious and highly nutritious breads, are posting details on www.realbreadireland.org of baker members around the country who might be offering their product in your area, including ‘freezer packs’ of sourdough loaves, a genuine sourdough loaf being ideally suited to freezing for consumption at a later date when, if simple instructions are followed for defrosting, tastes almost as good as when first baked.
Many are also very happy to offer a pre-ordering service and specially tailored pick-up options, amongst them, Cormac Finn of Real Bread Killarney (www.facebook.com/KillarneyRealBread) who takes bookings 48 hours in advance and once baked, loaves are wrapped and labelled with name, phone no and price to be then collected from Horan’s Health Shop, Beech Road, in Killarney.
Based in Beaufort, outside Killarney, Cormac also offers a ‘bread box’ collection point outside his house.
With news that Douglas, Mahon Point, and Wilton farmers’ markets are taking the commendable step of closing in the interest of public health and safety, neighbourfood.ie — the online farmer’s market shopping website — is seriously ramping up with all outlets operating a #NoContactShopping policy, including deliveries to the boot of your car should you wish to even avoid the already heavily monitored collection points, with just two people allowed in at a time. Food producers wishing to avail of this service can contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
Blás na hÉireann, the organisation behind the biggest food awards, in the 32 counties of Ireland have created a list of top producers and retailers who are still in a position to supply the public. (See www.irishfoodawards.com/supporting-local-producers).
The Gourmet Butcher, in Clonmel, Co Tipperary, is offering customers a complete online shopping service (www.thegourmetbutcher.ie) including same day contactless delivery, with meats all vac-packed for optimum storage and even freezing.
The award-winning McCarthy’s of Kanturk, longtime specialists in the online retailing of quality meats, are also ramping up their delivery options. (www.mccarthysofkanturk.ie)
Those looking for top quality fruit and veg delivered to the home should contact Organic Republic, in Cork, (www.facebook.com/OrganicRepublic) and Rocket Deliveries, in Kerry (www.rocketdeliveries.com).
The very wonderful Ardkeen Stores, in Waterford, The Menu’s current food emporium of the year, are operating a ‘no contact grocery pickup’ policy with ordering and payment taken over the phone and delivered to your car boot outside the store. For those entering the store, all HSE protocols are being strictly observed. (www.ardkeen.com)
Maria Flynn, of Ballymakenny Farm, in Co Louth, grower of superb heritage variety potatoes already much favoured by Irish chefs, has created a ‘Spudshack’, essentially a drive-through outlet on the farm and, on foot of Peter Whelan, of the Whole Hogg, in Slane, calling by to purchase spuds, has added Peter’s chorizos and salamis to the offering. (Twitter: @bspudshack Eircode: A92 V30Y).
Kinsale Mead have developed an online shop for their award-winning product which can be delivered to your door and are also offering vouchers for tours of the meadery, to be redeemed when the dust has settled. (www.kinsalemeadco.ie/mead-shop)
Finally, The Menu suggests those with the wherewithal to do any homegrowing of fresh fruit and veg should check out Brown Envelope Seeds (www.brownenvelopeseeds.com) and Irish Seedsavers (www.irishseedsavers.ie).