The Menu: Mouth-watering predictions for 2013

A new year and time for The Menu to don his Gypsy Rose outfit to serve up some predictions for 2013. The Menu enjoyed some memorable 2012 events: Dungarvan Food Festival, The Irish Examiner Food Festival, International Slow Food at Terra Madre in Turin and Theatre of Food at the Electric Picnic and Liss Ard Music Festival. Equally, he was heartbroken to miss Savour Kilkenny Festival and Dingle Food Festival — that will be rectified in 2013.! But the inaugural Kenmare Food Carnival was a bit special, not as multi-faceted as the aforementioned but as one of the original culinary outposts in the dark pre-food days in Ireland, KFC has all makings of a future top food attraction. www.kenmarefoodcarnival.com

It seemed a tad foolhardy when the intrepid Patrick Ryan of Firehouse Bakery started a breadmaking school on an island last year but The Menu was very swift to cotton on to something special. This excellent little school (and erstwhile restaurant/hostelry) on Heir Island, West Cork is fast becoming a vital outpost to the forefront of Ireland’s ongoing sourdough revolution. www.firehouse.ie

Last summer, chef Kevin Aherne of Sage Restaurant, Midleton, picked up a Bridgestone/McKenna’s Guide award at the Irish Examiner Food Festival in Cork but The Menu predicts this is the year Aherne, with his irreproachable commitment to truly local produce, combined with his excellent skills with the skillet, should see him make waves at a national level. www.sagerestaurant.ie

Noreen and Martin Conroy’s Woodside Farm Rare Breed Pedigree pig farm in East Cork is a small outfit, servicing just four Farmer’s Markets a week, yet they are the largest such venture in the state, their superb quality produce drawing increasing national renown.

As John McKenna of McKenna’s Food Guide pointed out, free range pork is one of the three fastest growing areas of Irish speciality food (along with craft beer and sourdough breads) which is set to spark a debate about what exactly constitutes free range and how to clear up the still unregulated and very murky area of labelling. Woodside Farm would make an excellent benchmark, says The Menu. www.woodsidefarm.ie

Last year, Ballyhoura Mushrooms opened up a whole new culinary vista for The Menu with exquisite produce he has been relishing ever since — speciality Irish-grown mushrooms, marinated mushrooms, soups, oils and dried mushroom products. Already beloved by chefs down South, some of the top names up in The Smoke are now becoming desperately keen to plate ‘em up too! The Menu predicts a huge year for the North Cork mycophagists.! www.ballyhouramushrooms.ie

The Menu is indeed a ferocious man for the garlic, getting through a couple of bulbs a week and his 2012 discovery of West Cork Garlic happened just as proprietors Marye Miret and Axel made the transition ‘from gardeners to farmers’. They will have 50,000 cloves in the ground by the end of the current planting season! www.westcorkgarlic.com

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