Farmer’s Market of the Year
The Menu has long evangelised on behalf of Irish produce, in particular, the superb fruit and vegetables it is possible to produce in one of the most benevolent growing climates in the world.
On a trip to Spain, several years ago, he chastised certain Irish fellow travellers for gushing over a local tomato, promoting it as superior to anything available back home.
“On the contrary,” trumpeted The Menu, “each year, in Ireland I eat its equivalent and even better!”
Some years later, one of Ireland’s finest chefs and a most considered thinker, pointed out The Menu had the advantage of knowing where to source such produce.
“We have the ability to produce world-class produce,” said the chef, “but that doesn’t mean we always do so.”
It was a point well made; the reason The Menu has regular access to world-class fruit and vegetables is because he primarily shops for same at farmers markets, too much of the supermarket equivalent consisting nutritionally inferior imports, devoid of real flavour.
The Coal Quay Market hosts some of Ireland’s very finest growers, including Caroline Robinson and Paddy Frankl, who share space with a small but dedicated band of fellow stall holders, including Orchard Dairy, Organic Republic, Bread & Roses, Pana Bread and Primrose Cottage Preserves.
This bounty of pristine producers, allied to the bricks-and-mortar presence alongside of the charmingly rustic Café Gan Ainm, the market’s de facto ‘community centre’, makes it The Menu’s Farmer’s Market of the Year. www.facebook.com/CoalQuaySaturdayFoodMarket
Product of the Year
Fionntán Gogarty, the alchemist behind Wildwoods Vinegar, is the creator of a five-year-old, Barrel-Aged Balsamic Blackberry Vinegar, that has quite revolutionised culinary output from The Menu’s kitchen.
Firstly, it is a testament to Gogarty’s perseverance and patience, for, in the time it takes to produce this magical liquid, you could birth and raise a child to school-going age.
It is certainly worth the wait: writing earlier this year, The Menu described it as an ‘utterly exalted liquid, a deep purple-black syrup, its acidity mellowed by age, allowing exultant floral blackberry notes to sing highest in the choir’.
An unusually versatile product, it has a multiplicity of potential applications.
The Menu has spooned it on ice creams and granitas, used it as a grace note in savoury meat sauces and braising liquids for beef, venison and boar, dribbled it over soft runny cheeses, added it to sparkling water for an instant thirst quencher and it opens a whole new world of mixology for the cocktail fan.
Indeed, the only limitations to its potential are to be found in the imagination of each user. www.wildwoodvinegars.
Food Hero of the Year
Since the inaugural meeting, in January 2015, of Real Bread Ireland, at Highbank Orchards, in Kilkenny, when six of Ireland’s finest bakers first gathered to establish this splendid organisation, promoting real bread (made from nothing more than flour, water and time) over the pappy, additive-laden output of the industrial bread manufacturers, RBI has since expanded to over 100 members, spanning the entire island of Ireland.
Two baker-members in particular, Patrick Ryan (Firehouse Bakery) and Joe Fitzmaurice (Riot Rye) deserve special praise for the manner in which they have driven forward the organisation’s ethos, but it is Keith Bohanna who The Menu singles out today for especial commendation.
Despite operating a demanding business in an entirely different sphere, Bohanna’s advocacy and administrative work for RBI (and others!), though entirely unremunerated, save the occasional loaf, has ensured the organisation has not only survived but prospered to become one of the most vital such advocacy groups operating in the country today. www.realbreadireland.org