LOVE IS ON THE MENU
The Menu is out once more with the plastic roses and his Richard Clayderman cassette as he moons and swoons around an increasingly irate Mrs Menu for Valentine’s Day (Feb 14), one of the busiest days in the hospitality calendar is just around the corner.
Galway’s Il Vicolo knocks it out of the park entirely on the strength of its impossibly romantic riverside location alone, but seals the deal entirely with a special V-Day set menu including complimentary prosecco (ilvicolo.ie).
The Mustard Seed, in Ballingarry, Co Limerick, is a superb romantic getaway country house with an impeccable welcome and some delicious food (mustardseed.ie), while there are myriad inventive options available on the Sligo Food Trail, including a luxurious overnight package in Markree Castle, including afternoon tea with prosecco, chocolates, Voya seaweed products, a candlelit five-courser, and very late checkout, while Sligo Food Tours features delicious aphrodisiacs on the Sligo Love Tour (sligofoodtours.ie).
LET THE TACO BATTLE BEGIN
Eatyard unleashes Taco Battle (Feb 22) with some of Ireland’s finest taco masters fetching up at Dublin’s Jam Park for the inaugural taco cook-off, competing for the Top Taco award.
Hosted by Marcus Ó Laoire, with tacos from La Cocina Cuevas, The Taco Truck, Fuppin Delish, Órale, Eatery Park, and Tacos Don Ron, diners vote for their favourites, to crown Ireland’s first Taco Master.
Children under 12 are admitted free. Additional events include spicy taco-eating contests, sombrero throwing, piñata competitions, limbo, and a Mexican bean race. the-eatyard.com
GET THEE TO THE TANNERY
The Menu and clan passed a bracing spring day last weekend mooching around lovely Dungarvan, the only downside for he and Mrs Menu being an affliction of progeny that meant they were unable to call in sick for the week and check into the Tannery Townhouse, sample a jorum or two in any of the town’s many fine hostelries, and cap it with dinner at The Tannery restaurant, one of his most favourite Irish dining spots.
However, less-burdened readers can avail of a special midweek-only offer of two nights B&B with one evening dinner at The Tannery for just €160 per person sharing. (Tel. 058 45420 or email firstname.lastname@example.org)
ONE FROM THE SHELF
The Menu is very much enjoying his spacious new lodgings, affording him space for all sorts of new antics, not least a weekly cookbook spotlight, covering all and sundry, from brand new offerings to treasured old classics deserving of revival or reappraisal.
Darina Allen’s latest, One Pot Feeds All (Kyle Books), is an excellent guide for all manner of home cooks, from put-upon parents, short on time but long on desire to furnish nutritious fare for the family, to equally time-pressed students and young singletons with limited cooking facilities, and even those with time on their hands seeking to host a dinner party where all the hours are passed at the table with guests rather than shackled to the stove but the food is still delicious.
Single-pot cooking is truly elemental, even prehistoric cooking—after all, when humans first began to cook, do you really think they had a few side fires to reduce a jus and blanch some greens to serve up alongside their mammoth steaks?
To this day, many cultures, including two of the world’s oldest and most sophisticated cuisines, Chinese and Indian, practise single-pot cooking on a daily basis.
Neither is it just pots; there are also baking/roasting trays, pans and dishes, and one of The Menu’s favourite modern kitchen utensils, the slow cooker.
One Pot Feeds All begins with eggs, and a single-pan classic, the omelette, but ups its game with the rather neglected treasure that is the oven-baked egg, cooked just long enough to leave a still runny rich yoke.
Chicken dishes are myriad and inventive incorporating multiple culinary influences from afar, from coconut chicken curry to Mexican chicken broth to Moroccan tagine.
There are comforters from closer to home, too: chickens roasted with accompanying potatoes, served with aioli or a brilliant Italian-style recipe for poaching the bird in milk.
Meat begins with another single-pan classic, chargrilled steak & Crozier Blue salad but the meat cooking really comes into its own when you turn down the heat and set the clock for low and slow, from masala lamb shanks to venison and parsnip stew to a pork taco party, a whole shoulder of organic free-range pork with guacamole, salsa, corn tortillas, where the oven does the heavy lifting for five or six hours while you and your guests lounge around lifting glasses and bottles until a delicious dinner is ready to serve.
Vegetable dishes range from inventive quick snacks — equally serviceable as side dishes when you go hog wild and break out a second pot — to vegetable and bean stews, and the simplicity of the single dish principle applied to sweet stuff is best exemplified when natural sugars of fruit are intensified by heat: Apples, rhubarb, peaches, all roasted; pears, poached.
Though he guzzles coffee like a good thing, The Menu has never lost his grá for the old cupán tae and enjoys a cuppa on a daily basis, forever seeking out fine new blends to try.
Recently, he came across McEntee’s, a comparatively new Irish tea company based in Drogheda, in Co Louth, particularly enjoying the Loose Leaf Gold Blend, a sweet, malty, biscuity blend which, being low on tannins, is a mellow, smooth draught and an ideal tea for those who drink it without milk.