And the winners of this year's Munchies 2017 are ...

Welcome to Part I of The Munchies 2017, in which The Menu salutes some of the heroes and achievements of the culinary calendar. (Next week, Part II.)

And the winners of this year's Munchies 2017 are ...

Food Emporium of the Year

Since early childhood, The Roughty Fruit King had always been a part of The Menu’s pyscho-geographical landscape. Then, as the English Market found itself reinvigorated by a new, innovative, young band of traders in the 90s, eventually becoming today’s vibrant culinary locus of food in Cork city, the RFK stayed the same, forever trapped in amber. That began to change when Margo Ann Murphy and brother Garrett took over the reins from their father, Michael, changing the focus of the stall, which has now grown to become one giant hamper packed to the brim with some of the finest Irish specialty foods, including a humongous and nigh unsurpassable range of jams and preserves, splendid little stocking fillers.

What’s more, it carries one of the finest ranges of pure Irish honeys to be found anywhere on the island, always a gold star achievement in The Menu’s eyes. Its trading name has also evolved but The Menu can’t quite bring himself to say a certain ‘f’ word, so instead salutes Margo, Garrett and The Roughty Food ‘Emporium’.

Cookbook/Food Book of the Year

The Menu knows well the proclivities of the publishing trade, most especially with culinary tomes, as they invariably delay most releases until the beginning of autumn, to build momentum for the Christmas market. In the fallow months prior to this autumnal onslaught, he had found himself underwhelmed by this year’s offerings until discovering Salt, Acid, Fat, Heat, by Samin Nosrat.

Nosrat is an American cookery teacher (she taught Michael Pollan for his book/TV series, Cooked) as well as chef (formerly of Chez Panisse) and The Menu was especially disappointed that she had to cancel her proposed appearance at Ballymaloe Litfest.

He instead made do with repeated readings of her superb book, which brilliantly breaks down the act of cooking by analysing the roles of the four titular elements: salt, to enhance flavour; fat, a vehicle for flavour and enabler of texture; acid, to balance and adjust flavour; and heat, the ultimate arbiter of texture in food. Samin then demonstrates theory in action with straightforward, unpretentious recipes that deliver extremely tasty dishes.

Food Organisation of the Year

Cloughjordan Eco-Village, a registered educational charity in Cloughjordan, Co Tipperary, is an intentionally established community devoted to sustainability, resilience and self-sufficiency; in other words, an experiment in living that, by its existence, also acts as a teaching resource. Over 100 residents live in 129 homes built to the highest standards of ‘green’ performance, all powered by Ireland’s largest renewable energy system.

The Eco-village hosts 20,000 newly planted trees, a community farm and a hostel to house the many guests who visit to attend workshops, conferences, concerts, performances and other events. It is also home to Riot Rye Bakery School, owned by Joe Fitzmaurice and Julie Lockett, this year’s RAI Best Cookery School in Ireland and, one of the original drivers of Real Bread Ireland.

It takes courage to live in such a community, probably more than The Menu possesses, but each visit has always left him recharged once more for the ongoing battle to protect our glorious food heritage into the future.

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