The Menu with Joe McNamee

The Menu with Joe McNamee

MYSTIC MENU

Once again, Mystic Menu delivers the ‘All-Menu-nac’, predicting the year ahead in food.

Meat: Quality over quantity

One of Mystic Menu’s 2019 predictions, the rise in flexitarian veganism, was something of a no-brainer after years of astonishing growth of spurning of animal-derived foodstuffs but it was also the year veganism became existentially tied to issues of climate change and sustainability.

The waters, however, remain muddied, not least as evidenced in a recent RTÉ documentary which failed to grasp that importing vegan ‘staples’ such as avocados or almonds from halfway round the world is in fact deeply unsustainable, but there are certainly extremely cogent arguments to be made for eating less meat, and Mystic Menu is absolutely certain that is a trend that will continue to thrive in 2020 — his hope is people will eat less meat but spend more on premium products, purchasing directly from local producers or independent craft butchers, ensuring the farmer finally gets his fair share.

The collaboration between two eminently progressive food activist organisations, Chef’s Manifesto (the global chefs’ network advocating for a better food future) and Grow HQ, acting as the Irish hub for CM, will definitely be one to watch as they take on issues such as marine sustainability, eating the whole farm, nutrient density and other topics. (www.sdg2advocacyhub.org/chefmanifesto & www.growhq.org).

Forecasting fruit and nuts

The Menu has long been baffled as to why we, possessed of one of the most clement growing climates in the world, do not grow more fruit and nut trees, most especially as, for reasons of food security and climate change, we need to be planting trees in their millions and preference should always be given with an edible bounty.

Having recently had the pleasure of dining on exquisite Irish hazelnuts, infinitely superior to anything you’ll find in the supermarkets, Mystic Menu fervently hopes the Permaculture Department of Kinsale College’s hosting of an Agro-Forestry Conference (January 25) will kick start a national movement to take up the shovel and begin planting. (www.fruitandnut.ie)

Bringing fungi to the party

Launched late last year, Mystic Menu believes it will be another big year for the always innovative Ballyhoura Mushrooms who have revolutionised the Irish fungi world over the last decade and predicts big things for their mushroom supplements.

Already huge in the US and elsewhere (they are used in Japan in mainstream medicine as a complementary therapy during chemotherapy), BM’s range are designed to improve cognitive function, performance, endurance and to boost the immune system. (www.ballyhouramushrooms.ie)

2020 vision

2019 was another exceptional year for Irish fine dining with the national tally of Michelin stars up to 18. There are now four in Cork but, equally, there is an undeniable pep in the step of the city’s local casual dining scene, where a cluster of new and good mid-range outfits are offering very good cooking of superbly sourced local produce, not least, Pigalle Bar & Kitchen, Goldie, O’Mahony’s of Watergrasshill, and The Glass Curtain, and, Mystic Menu has the inside track on an impending international focus on culinary Cork that should further elevate the local scene.

It will be needed, no doubt, because the ongoing shenanigans across the water in which England seems set on consuming England to the detriment, not only of England, but all other countries in her immediate vicinity.

An especially fraught situation, it has already had substantial impact on the Irish hospitality sector and looks set to continue to threaten the rude health of the Irish food world; continue, dear reader, to fight against it by always purchasing finest, local seasonal Irish produce above all else. Happy New Year!

Skellig Six18 Gin 43.4%; 70cl - €50.00

Stockists: Redmonds Ranelagh; Celtic Whiskey Shop Dublin and Killarney; Castle Tralee; selected independents, skelligsix18distillery.ie/

Skellig Six 18 Distillery opened in Cahersiveen, Co Kerry recently and this gin is its first release. A pot still whiskey is to follow in around 2024 with a visitor centre due in 2020. Released only in November this is pouring in Chapter One and in pubs on the Skellig coast with more widespread distribution coming soon. Botanicals include locally foraged douglas fir, yarrow and birch sap as well as the usual juniper. Floral and candied citrus aromas, creamy and initially sweet on the palate before herbal notes kick in and with a spicy kick on the finish.

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