The Menu: The year of Ballyhoura Mushrooms

This time last year, Mystic Menu sat down before his crystal ball and threw out some predictions.

The Menu: The year of Ballyhoura Mushrooms

It would be the year of Ballyhoura Mushrooms, he said, and indeed the North Cork-based Mycophagists added to their tally of awards, including an Irish Food Writer’s Guild Award and a Euro-toques Ireland gong, but it was hardly any great act of prescience on his part for their utterly superb homegrown exotic mushrooms were a true game-changer.

So successful was their rise, however, that certain restaurants and retailers, unable to procure Ballyhoura produce, passed off inferior imitations as the real thing, in other words, engaged in food fraud. The Menu hopes, in 2015, this issue is addressed once and for all at a national level with relevant State agencies and the hospitality industry, finally being forced to address their long-neglected responsibilities in this area.

Sustainability goes mainstream

The Menu suspects 2015 is the year the word ‘sustainability’ breaks into mainstream thinking with a lot of the major agri-biz conglomerates gearing up to incorporate the word, if not quite the concept, into their marketing plans.

Agricultural sustainability involves producing at an optimum and sustainable level as opposed to the unsustainable maximum level that is the Holy Grail for Food Inc. and it is essential we, the long-excluded consumers, become involved in the debate. The Menu believes his choice for food book of the year, Dan Barber’s The Third Plate (Penguin), will be to the forefront when the issue is raised.

The movement back to focusing primarily on vegetables and grains continues apace. Towards the latter half of last year, The Menu stumbled across Kevin Murphy, a former artist-turned chef/proprietor of Idá’s Restaurant, in Dingle, and enjoyed a delightful and highly original meal, his own unique rendition of a global dining trend where vegetables and fruit are afforded equal status with whatever meat or fish is served, if it is even served at all.

Of course, one of the early progenitors of such dining in this country was Galway chef Enda McEvoy, who astounded the nation by earning a Michelin star for Aniar restaurant. It will be interesting to see if his new Galway city venture, Loam, will procure similar stellar status later in the year.

A fine replacement at Euro-toques

Membership of Euro-toques, the European-wide chefs organisation, co-founded by Myrtle Allen and devoted to safeguarding culinary traditions and inculating a deep respect for the finest of local, sustainable produce, is a fairly sound indicator a chef is on the right track.

Outgoing Eurotoques secretary feneral Ruth Hegarty was always going to be a hard act to follow but in Caroline Byrne, The Irish chapter have found an exceedingly fine replacement and he anticipates a very active year for all members. (

Today ’s special

There is a new favourite non-alcoholic tipple in The Menu’s household, a range of Kefir drinks from the very splendid Cork-based, My Goodness, that sustained his clan throughout Christmas. The range is made with a variety of fruits and spices, much of it foraged locally.

Beer of the Week

Modus Hoperandi India Pale Ale, 330ml, 6.8%; ABV - €3.79

Stockists: Redmonds, O’Briens, Bradleys, Matsons, Desmonds Next Door

Ska Brewing are based in Durango, Colorado, the US State which brews more beer than any other with 160 craft brewers. Ska Brewing’s branding is based around Ska and Rude-Boy culture’s distinctive look that matches the punchy flavours in their beers.

Modus Hoperandi is strong stuff (68 IBU) with rich pine and lemongrass aromas, a sweet caramel attack followed by a fruity, intense hop hit and lingering dry fruity flavours. Great with spicy food (eg, Thai Green Curry) and even better with Prince Buster, The Specials and The Selecter blaring from the stereo.

- Leslie Williams

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