As the nation’s hospitality sector continues to stumble back into the metaphorical post-lockdown daylight, things are hotting up with a vengeance down Deise direction with a new Food, The Waterford Way dining trail throughout the county. The Menu is especially excited to try the cooking of new Executive Chef of the Cliff House Hotel, in Ardmore, Ian Doyle, a former WIT student who worked in Dungarvan’s Tannery, while studying, and has gone from that fine start to truly burnish his CV in subsequent years including four as head chef at two-Michelin starred Oaxen Krog, in Stockholm, as well as chef de partie at Noma, and he will be joined by Adam Kavanagh as House Restaurant Head Chef, and Doyle is promising to re-invigorate the menu with some especially fine local, seasonal dining.
Naturally, talk of The Tannery brings to mind another favourite destination of The Menu’s, lovely Dungarvan town, where Paul and Máire Flynn’s wonderful restaurant is sited, and he is equally looking forward to another crack at And Chips, Eunice Power’s superb chipper, one of his most pleasurable dining experiences last year.
The Waterford Way itself is a smorgasbord of producers and growers, including blaa bakers (M&D Walsh), cheesemakers (Knockanore and Knocklara, Comeragh Lamb, Harty’s Oysters, Sourdough from the superb Seagull Bakery and fine craft beers from the Dungarvan Brewing Company (www.foodthewaterfordway.com), and The Menu especially recommends a trip to the Blackwater Distillery, makers of finest gins, vodka and now their very splendid traditional pot still whiskey is in the offing (www.blackwaterdistillery.ie).
In Waterford City itself, The Urban Fox are offering guided food and beverage tours ranging from tapas style grazing to full dining packages, including Whiskey Tasting and even Axe Throwing (www.theurbanfox.ie). www.visitwaterford.com
The justifiably popular Allta Box scheme, mentioned here some weeks ago, including handmade sourdough, house charcuterie & freshly prepared pasta for you to cook allta-style at home, continues with the addition of three new nationwide delivery packages to be selected by the purchaser: shellFISH (offering a selection of fresh raw shellfish and wholefish with recipes) , SIXES (wine boxes from the wonderful Allta wine menu) and Goods (homeware and kitchen gadgets) (www.alltabox.ie).
Not every tipple has to be alcoholic and The Menu is therefore happy to keep the party going for the designated and non-drinkers with news of a Alcohol-Free Starter Kit from The Virgin Mary bar in Dublin, deliverable nationwide, including a carefully curated selection of 0% alcohol wine, beer and cider along with alt-gin and sophisticated soft drinks and there are plenty of thoughtful suggestions for creating your own innovative cocktails of same. (www.thevirginmarybar.com)
As regular readers will testify, The Menu is never done raving about the wondrous doings of the Real Bread Ireland organisation (www.realbreadireland.ie), and he makes no apology for so doing because the 32-county grouping promotes those bakers of real bread using nothing but flour, water and time, as opposed to the nutritionally inferior industrially-produced pap that is almost devoid of any real flavour at all.
Not only has RBI blossomed since it was first founded several years ago, but its members in turn have inspired others to begin baking, their initial experimenting taking place at home and then gradually expanding into the commercial arena.
RBI offers a truly supportive network that provides members with advice on a daily basis covering all manner of topics, from equipment to packaging to selling to technical baking information and it is wonderful to see these novices gradually build their own experience and knowledge en route to becoming fully fledged professional bakers.
One member, Rob Meyer, a bagel baker in Limerick, managed to establish Our Daily Bread (www.ourdailybread.irish), a click-and-collect baking operation during lockdown (also selling through Neighbourfood Limerick, and at the Milk Market in Limerick every Saturday). He turns out a fine selection of sourdough breads, Heavenly Pizza kits, baked confections and his signature Holy Bagels, while Darren Collins, in Waterford, along with his wife Grainne, continued to trade with their also recently established Beatha Bread (email@example.com or tel. 086 252 4619) again working up a wonderful range of breads (sourdough and other specialty breads and bakes, including Breton baked confectionery classic Kouign Amann and sesame and miso maneesh flatbread) that is set to become a firmly established part of the fine Deise food offering.
Down in his beloved West Cork last weekend for the first time since lockdown began, The Menu procured two of Brendan McCarthy’s loaves, sold from his mother’s erstwhile stall at Schull Farmer’s Market (Eithne McCarthy Home Baking) and while Brendan hasn’t given himself over fully to the baking bug, two very nice loaves, a white and a wholemeal made with Durrow Mill’s sprouted flour, were both lovely examples of the emerging native Irish sourdough tradition.
Brendan’s own initial introduction came courtesy of one of RBI’s original six founding bakers, Patrick Ryan, via a course on Patrick’s Hehir Island Firehouse baking school, and while Hehir Island remains the spiritual home, focus will turn to their new bread school in Newtownmountkennedy, in Co Wicklow, set to open last April but very obviously delayed by lockdown. During that period, Patrick became something of an online breakout star as his digital bread baking classes attracted students from all over the world and that too will continue—which sounds like a very fine introduction to baking your own bread, a fresh sourdough loaf from your own oven being a near impossible to beat eating experience! (www.thefirehouse.ie)