The Menu passed eight months of childhood polishing his Gaeilge in the hinterland of Dingle and his grá for the place has burnt fiercely ever since — throw food into the mix and it’s pretty much the honeymoon suite for both parties. The Dingle Food Festival (Oct 5-7) sees the entire town turn into a food and wine market with a splendid taste trail on offer. The national Blas na hÉireann food awards are also divvied up over the weekend but what piques The Menu’s interest is the arrival of the Dublin-based For Food’s Sake, who stage regular food-focussed events, presenting Food Memories: A Taste of Personal Palate-Shaping Experiences, hosted by the splendidly capable Aoife Carrigy (www.holymackerel.ie) interviewing food producers, chefs, food writers and bloggers recalling some of their most treasured food memories. The Menu would like to volunteer the memory of his first duck egg collected from a small neighbouring farm, brought home in the pocket and boiled for tea. Where? Why, in Dingle of course! www.dinglefood.com
A nostalgia-fest for The Menu this week with news of the opening of Toonsbridge Dairy Café, for the new café is the latest venture from The Real Olive Company, a true stalwart of the Irish speciality food sector and one-time employer of a more youthful Menu, an act of enormous charity indeed. Following the astounding success of the Toonsbridge buffalo milk dairy products (the mozzarella, in particular), Toby Simmonds and Jenny-Rose Clarke opened a little shop next to their west-of-Macroom HQ, near Inchegeelagh, selling buffalo milk produce (mozzarella, ricotta, butter, raw milk, aged cheese, cream cheese and yoghurt) along with their renowned Mediterranean foods (olives, oils, Iberico meats) and the sterling produce of some of their neighbours (De Roiste puddings, Coolea cheese, jams). Now the garden café (open Fri-Sun 11am-6pm) will serve simple food using the above-listed produce as well as coffee, organic wine and sherry and scrumptious homemade desserts. !
The Menu has long had his heart set on a pilgrimage up the Western seaboard to sample the fare of Knockranny House Hotel supremo Seamus Commons and news that chef Seamus is representing Ireland in the upcoming Le Trophée Passion cooking competition hosted by France’s most esteemed Académie Culinaire (Oct 8), showcasing much of our magnificent produce, only serves to further whet The Menu’s notorious appetite. Come on, you boy in Salsa Verde (or some other similarly Emerald-tinged foodstuff)!
Chef Tom Flavin, of Limerick Strand Hotel’s River Restaurant is quite the busy bunny of late, scooping a bunch of awards across the water for his Secret Ingredient range of jams and preserves. Gooseberry and shallot was pleasant but the pear chutney was the boy for The Menu, hitting a sweet/spicy spot somewhere west of a cider vinegar tang that sits very nicely with a piece of Hegarty’s cheddar or even a piece of cold roast lamb.