The Menu: Sourdough September and a celebration of Limerick's producers

Pigtown, the food and culture series in Limerick, celebrates the city and county’s wonderful food heritage and producers - it all kicks off on September 16
The Menu: Sourdough September and a celebration of Limerick's producers

Patricia Roberts of No1 Pery Square Hotel, Chef Michael Tweedie of Adare Manor Hotel and Edon O'Brien meeting the pigs at Rigney's Farm, Co Limerick. Picture: Alan Place.

The butchers

Pigtown, the food and culture series in Limerick, celebrates the city and county’s wonderful food heritage and producers, not least when the city was a world-renowned centre for traditional pork processing. It all kicks off on September 16 and runs into October.

Now in its fifth year, it somehow managed to offer a semblance of a programme last year, albeit pretty slim pickings in comparison to previous years, so it is most heartwarming to see the 2021 version so flush with fine offerings.

The 061 Dinner (September 16), a tidy play on the local area code, refers to ‘0’ imports, ‘6’ restaurants, and ‘1’ goal — to use only Limerick’s finest local produce across six different menus, all to be served up on the same evening in 1826 Adare, the East Room at University Limerick, Longcourt Clubhouse at Newcastle West Golf Club, River Bar and Restaurant at the Limerick Strand Hotel, Sash Restaurant at No 1 Pery Square, and Tuscany Bistro in Castletroy. It costs €40pp, and booking is essential at each venue.

Treaty City Brewery offers an exclusive Pigtown 2021 brew, Pigtown Pilsner, with owner Stephen Cunneen also offering tours of the brewery in the Medieval Quarter.

On Culture Night (September 17) the Pigtown Party at the Milk Market is a family affair and includes a free pig mask-making workshop (limited numbers), hot food and craft stalls.

Other Pigtown highlights include cookery demos at the Milk Market from Mike Tweedie, executive head chef at the Michelin-starred Adare Manor Hotel; 1826 Adare chef/proprietor Wade Murphy; and No 1 Pery Square head chef Keith Piggott.

The Pigtown Dinner at the Mustard Seed (September 23), one of The Menu’s favourite Irish venues, is a four-courser for €49, while an authentic taco evening at the charming Green Room Café in Springfield Castle, Co Limerick, features an entirely local larder and entertainment for just €20pp.

Pigtown staycation packages from No1 Pery Square Hotel and the Limerick Strand Hotel include lots of local food offerings. 

See pigtown.ie

The bakers

The very splendid bakers of Real Bread Ireland, who once more come together for Sourdough September, are offering free sourdough starters to take home to begin your own efforts at mastering the art of cooking one of the most splendid of all foodstuffs, which is delicious, extremely nutritious, and infinitely superior to industrial sliced pans.

The Real Bread Ireland website offers links to easy-to-follow Real Bread Rising recipes and instructions to maintaining your starter, as well as a link to the Riot Rye website and top baker Joe Fitzmaurice’s Common Loaf recipe, with full video instruction.

A list of participating bakers is available on the website, with bakers in Cork, Kerry, Limerick, Waterford, Clare, Galway, Dublin, and elsewhere. In Cork, Fanny Leenhardt-Cohalan offers splendid sourdough bread baking courses (wellbread.ie) for those in need of a little handholding to get them started on what The Menu promises is a life-changing culinary journey.

See realbreadireland.org

The agroforest makers

Riot Rye baking supremo Joe Fitzmaurice with his crop of rye grown on the farm at his Cloughjordan base in Co Tipperary.
Riot Rye baking supremo Joe Fitzmaurice with his crop of rye grown on the farm at his Cloughjordan base in Co Tipperary.

One of the most important and informative food events The Menu attended in recent years, just before the initial lockdown in 2020, was an agroforestry conference in Kinsale, hosted by Kinsale Community College’s permaculture department, for he believes agroforestry must be at the heart of any truly regenerative system of agriculture and is essential to our survival in a truly fraught future for food production.

Out of that gathering has emerged Ireland’s first five-day course in syntropic agroforestry (September 22-26), facilitated by Nots (National Organic Training Skillnet) and led by Felipe Amato, a former student of agroforestry guru Ernst Gotsch. It is taking place at Hazel & Davi’s Wicklow Farm, Ashford, Co Wicklow. Sign up through Nots to receive a discount of €200).

Mornings are devoted to theory, and afternoons to practical work. The course covers the basics of syntropic agroforestry and beginning two different systems: a fruit and nut garden, and a market garden.

See nots.ie

Today's Special

Currach Atlantic Wakame Seaweed Cask Single Malt Irish Whiskey.
Currach Atlantic Wakame Seaweed Cask Single Malt Irish Whiskey.

Having been greatly taken by the Currach Kombu expression of single malt, a sublimely delightful drop that belied its comparative youth (three-year-old whiskey) and sported some truly original flavours, The Menu was keen to try the latest iteration, the Currach Atlantic Wakame Seaweed Cask Single Malt Irish Whiskey.

Expecting some subtle variations on a theme, The Menu was instead very surprised to find a markedly different beast rolling around on the palate: a spry, light mouthfeel in comparison to its infinitely more robust counterpart.

Both versions are aged in virgin American oak barrels charred with sea plants, kombu (kelp) and wakame, (all sustainably harvested in Co Clare by the Talty family, of Wild Irish Seaweeds renown), adding a smokey salinity to the whiskeys along with a sweet caramel from the oak. 

However, while the nose of the Kombu version was rich and plummy with spiced dark fruit, the Wakame is a far more ethereal affair, biscuity and saline, as if catching a draft of sea air on the wind.

On the palate, it is lightly spiced and supple, a briny, herby caramel that elegantly resolves with an anise sweetness and a pronounced yet perfectly calibrated saltiness. 

It makes for fine solo sipping, but The Menu highly advises a sampling alongside an Irish farmhouse cheeseboard, in particular Hegarty’s Templegall, Cáis na Tíre and a nicely aged Gubbeen.

See originspirits.ie

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