The Menu: Food news with Joe McNamee

What's big for food in the week ahead?

The Menu: Food news with Joe McNamee

Euro visions

The Irish branch of Euro-Toques, the pan-European chefs’ organisation, hosted its annual Food Awards, presented by EirGrid, at Ashford Castle last Monday.

The Menu salutes an especially strong posse of winners.

Women have always been to the fore of the ongoing Irish food revolution and here again made up four of the six winners, with new award categories introduced, too.

The redoubtable Sally Barnes picked up the Craft Award for her Woodcock Smokery and her superlative smoked wild fish.

Cheesemaker supreme Silke Cropp received — along with son Tom — the Artisan Produce Award for exquisite Corleggy Cheese, while Maria Flynn took the Land Award for the hugely popular Ballymakenny Heritage Potatoes.

The wonderful food writer Georgina Campbell was honoured with a special lifetime achievement award for her immense contribution to Irish food and hospitality.

The two other very worthy winners were oyster farmer John Ward who received the Water Award, for his Dooncastle Oysters, in Connemara, and Kenneth Moffitt received the Farm Award for Thornhill Duck, reared on the family holding in Blacklion, Co Cavan.

All butter roads lead to...

The Old Butter Roads Food Festival continues with a packed programme at Ballinwillin House & Farm (June 8-9) in Mitchelstown, commencing with canapés and pre-dinner wine tasting of ever-intriguing proprietor Pat Mulcahy’s Chateau Mulcahy wines followed by a Bao Bun Supper courtesy of chef Bryan McCarthy (of Greene’s and Bao Boi).

There’s musical entertainment after. Saturday is led by another great pal of The Menu’s, Aoife McElwain, who along with her multiple food-related roles is also the author of Slow at Work: How to Work Less, Achieve More and Regain Your Balance in an Always-On World (Gill).

Chef McCarthy not only provides the light lunch but also cooks the Long Table Supper served that evening in the dining room, all sounding like an especially wonderful weekend for a select band of just 14 guests.

Allen v Blythman

Two stars collide as Darina Allen is in conversation with food writer and the industrial food sector’s bête noire, Joanna Blythman, at Ballymaloe Cookery School (June 5). (Booking 021 464 6785 or

The Menu dined recently and quite magnificently at Ardmore’s Cliff House Hotel so an educational walk for World Oceans Day (June 8) with forager and whale watcher Andrew Malcolm followed by dinner in the bar sounds like a fine reason for a return visit.

Suesy Street celebrates the new asparagus season with a special menu while Ely Wine Bar & Grill introduces Dressed Down Fridays, lunch followed by tunes.

Not to be outdone, the recently renovated Bewley’s, of Grafton St, kicks off its weekend Bewley’s Jazz Brunch Experience.

The Knorr Great Carvery competition returns once again and is accepting entries from pubs and hotels throughout the 32 counties (

And, finally, Rachel Allen and Arun ‘Green Saffron’ Kapil doing the demo is all part of the Seafood & Shanty Ballycotton Fun Day (June 3) down on the pier in the lovely little East Cork seaside town.


Today's special

Sadly, some lazy chefs view goat’s cheese primarily as a get-out-of-jail card when confronted with the need to feed vegetarians and while the goat’s cheese tart done properly is a mighty little dish, The Menu would dearly love to see a tad more innovation when it comes to using such a splendid ingredient.

As it happens, The Menu himself was recently up to a little culinary experimentation with fine Bluebell Falls Original Goat’s Cheese, a soft young Irish farmhouse cheese produced in Newtownshandrum in North Cork.

He found himself pairing the sweet, slightly citric, creamy cheese with some new season strawberries, a splendid combination that was only crying out for a drop of fizz and, of course, The Menu duly obliged.

Spirit of the week

Ornabrak Single Malt Gin, 43% ABV; 70cl — €49.00

Stockists: Bradleys, O’Donovans, Ardkeen, World Wide Wines, McCambridges, Baggot St. Wine, Redmonds, Jus de Vine, Cashel Wine Cellar

Ornabrak is from the same stable as Kalak Vodka which appeared on this page a couple of years ago and like Kalak (and unlike most Irish gins) this has been made from 100% malted barley with a quadruple distillation before the botanicals are added and the creamily textured single malt character does shine through.

Five botanicals are used — Juniper, Angelica Root, Lemon Verbena, Lemon Peel and Douglas Fir Pine needles — the latter particularly noticeable on the nose with the juniper, herbal and lemon notes coming through.

For mixing, Ornabrak recommend Poachers Original Tonic with a slice of green apple; it also works with a sprig of pine.

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