The Menu: Hosting a Community GROWbox and a look into an apple farm in Tipperary

Joe McNamme gives up the latest news from the Irish food world.
The Menu: Hosting a Community GROWbox and a look into an apple farm in Tipperary

Waterford-based GIY are collaborating with Energia for a Get Ireland Growing initiative with €10,000 worth of food growing kits to be given away to budding horticulturalists of all ages and levels of experience. A Community GROWbox features a bespoke ‘seed library’, enabling hundreds of growers to grow their own food and provide sustenance for the pollinators this summer.

Anyone interested in hosting a Community GROWbox should apply and each successful applicant will receive a special ‘seed library’ to be placed outside their premises (private home, inside an apartment block, club, workplace or any location where other potential growers can easily access the seeds and share their growing journeys with likeminded individuals.

The very first has been established in University Hospital Waterford, to be managed by nurse Maria Curtin. In addition, a grand prize of a community garden worth €3,000 will be awarded to the most inspiring community of growers at the end of the summer. (

Of the very finest of fine Irish craft brewers, Mescan, based in Westport, Co Mayo, are one of The Menu’s most favourite of all, their superb Belgian-style brews especially enjoyable when served with food, and so he can heartily recommend the Mescan food-pairing wheel, now downloadable from their website and, while you’re at it, you might as well go ahead and order a selection from their online shop for home delivery. (

Speaking of the very lovely town of Westport, local chef/restaurateur Cian Hayes has entered a collaboration with the Hotel Westport, to create Cian’s at Hotel Westport, an exclusive pop-up affair offering dining in a comfortable yet socially distant environment, with Hayes employing the wares of some very fine local suppliers, including Calvey’s Achill lamb, Cuinneog dairy produce and Joe Kelly’s organic veg, to produce some very specials dishes. An extensive wine list is accompanied by a summer cocktail menu to complement selected desserts. (

The grand re-opening continues with the very welcome return of the Lettercolm Kitchen Projet in Clonakilty, now featuring an online ordering system with the daily menu including a pre-packed collect-and-go service. With the LKP garden flush with an abundance of nature’s bounty, expect it to feature heavily in the usual range of tarts, salads and burgers. Ordering by email or phone.

One of The Menu’s most favourite dining destinations in all of Ireland, the impossibly romantic and cosy Wild Honey Inn, in beautiful Co Clare, rejoins the fray on July 21, to offer dining and accommodation, and while some may be disappointed to hear that dining is currently only open to residents due to current social distancing regulations, The Menu is beyond delighted as he believes it is just about the only way to enjoy the WHI, a fine meal followed by a short roll to the immaculately appointed boudoir—he wouldn’t have it any other way!

The Wild Honey Inn in Clare will make a welcome return on July 21.
The Wild Honey Inn in Clare will make a welcome return on July 21.

Covid 19’s latest victim is Michelin-starred Aniar Restaurant in Galway, with chef/proprietor JP McMahon deciding not to re-open until April next year but, having just embarked on a global promotion of his new culinary tome, The Irish Cookbook (Phaidon, recently reviewed in this column) as lockdown commenced, McMahon, who also operates the Aniar cookery classes, is set to continue addressing a wide audience of culinary enthusiasts with a new series of private online cooking classes, either in individual one-on-one classes or for groups of up to four, with content and theme to be chosen by students and up to five or six dishes completed in every three-hour class. (


If an apple a day keeps the doctor away, then a ‘care package’ of the calibre The Menu recently received from The Apple Farm, in Tipperary, was so full of nutritious goodness it will in all likelihood render The Menu’s usual coterie of medical practitioners entirely redundant for the rest of the decade. What’s more, regular readers will know The Menu is not the type to hold his nose and accept inferior flavours for the sake of wellbeing, and, if food is medicine, there is absolutely no reason that it not to be the most delicious and flavoursome of medicines, exactly the case with The Apple Farm’s fruit-derived products, made with superlative apples, strawberries, raspberries, plums, pears and cherries grown on their orchards and farm.

Now, if you happen to consider one of those bland, imported and largely flavourless ‘apples’ found on most mainstream supermarket shelves to be ‘fruit’, then your first taste of one of Apple Farm owner/operator Con Trass’s apples will be mind expanding so hardly surprising the same should apply to the gorgeous juices. The still apple juice is sublimely balanced on the cusp of sweet and tart, yielding a crisp refreshing juice (12 750ml bottles delivered to the door, an absolute bargain at €35.95!) but it is the sparkling apple juice, that is truly cosmic in its impact, the quite exquisite carbonated pure fruit juice straying into perry territory with its pear-like notes.

In addition, came other fruit juices, lemonades, vinegars, ciders, superb crisp slow dried apple rings and an apple jelly that had The Menu weeping for joy and when he heads out on his summer staycation camping odyssey around Ireland next month, a spell on The Apple Farm Caravan & Camping Park is top of the destination list—consider it a trip to the ‘health farm’!

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