Joe's gastronomic review of 2013

Another year, another yard of baling twine to hoist up The Menu’s trousers for he once again put in sterling work on behalf of his beloved readers roaming the length and breadth of the land, eating and drinking all the way.

It was the year he discovered the Green Way in the glorious county of Mayo and the wonderful cooking of Seamus Commons in a new-found favourite, Knockranny House Hotel, a pleasant-enough building rendered truly remarkable by an utterly splendid and very welcoming staff who treated The Menu like a valued member of the family and not at all like the prodigal son he really is.

Magical time at West Waterford Food Festival

There were many, many splendid food gatherings, in Galway, Dingle, Kenmare, Kilkenny, to name a few and, of course, The Menu again returned to his beloved Dungarvan for the West Waterford Food Festival, including a magical night in The Tannery as chef Paul Flynn did a ‘cover version’ of the legendary Fergus Henderson’s Nose to Tail Eating. It will be interesting to see how they manage to replace the very wonderful Therese McDermott who has done a magnificent job of helming the festival but is now stepping down.

Hard to trump Ballymaloe Literary Festival

Best of all, indisputably, was the inaugural Ballymaloe Literary Festival and The Big Shed, the party HQ, for what was probably the finest ever gathering of culinary literary talent the world has seen to date, all and sundry mingling, munching and moshing ’til the wee hours in The Big Shed. It will be a hard one to trump and The Menu cannot wait for the next attempt in May 2014.

Crafty toast to the New Year

The Menu will, of course, be ringing in the New Year with family and friends deep in the heart of his beloved West Cork, but beforehand will be nipping up to The Cotton Ball pub in Mayfield, in Cork City, to sample their three new craft beers, the fruits of the newly-installed in-house brewery, a most exciting development indeed. A very happy new year to one and all!

Wine sachets bring a healthy cheer

The Big Day having passed and The Menu reasonably sated, he inevitably turns his attentions to the giddy social whirl and there’s nothing he loves more than stepping out of his sleigh, stamping the snow off his boots before entering a friendly hallway ripe with the splendid perfumes of mulled wine simmering on the stove. And The Menu is very taken with Simplee Mulled wine sachets, from Simplee Flavours, in East Cork. A heady mix, it makes for a deliciously fruity and subtly spiced elixir (non-alcoholic apple juice is equally delicious!) but best of all 10% of proceeds go to Dog Action Welfare Group and, last year, Simplee owner Edel Cooney managed to raise more than €3,000. Check out their Youtube video featuring a debonair character by the name of Scooby swanning around in a tux, a million miles removed from when Edel first found him on a motorway six years ago, starving, balding and nearly blind.

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Eight Degrees Brewing Aztec Stout, 5.5% ABV, 330ml — €2.70-2.99

Stockists: Bradleys, Galvins, McHughs, Baggot St. Wines, Eight Degrees Brewing from the Ballyhoura area of North Cork has three seasonal beers this year. Using the collective title Back to Black they are offering a hoppy 7% Zeus IPA, a 9% richly roasted Russian Imperial Stout, and this spicy fellow.

I chose the Aztek Stout as bottle of the week because it is distinctly different using chipotle chillis, vanilla pods, cocoa nibs, cinnamon and oatmeal. Rich chocolate and spice aromas with coffee and spice on the palate and a solid chilli kick.


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