Not since the heady days of 1846-7 when El Batallón de los San Patricios (The St Patrick’s Battalion) assembled south of the border to take up arms in the Mexican-American War, has your regular Gael displayed such an enthusiasm for things Mexican.
An army, of course, marches on its stomach; the modern-day homegrown Los Patricios wouldn’t dream of doing anything else and the result of this new-found epicurean enthusiasm is the opening of 20 new restaurants and burrito bars in Ireland since 2011. Domestic cooks have embraced outlets such as Lily Ramirez-Foran’s online ingredient shop www.mymexicanshop.ie and its bricks-and-mortar equivalent, Picado Mexican, to try out the real thing at home.
Playing no small part in this new dawn is the Mexican Embassy-backed Taste of Mexico Gastronomic & Cultural Festival (Nov 18-23), now in its fourth year, showcasing food, drinks, music and fashion from this great nation. Events include a search for the ‘Best Enchilada in Ireland’. Chef and Mexican food authority Helma Honda hosts a conference (Nov 19) on authentic Mexican cuisine in the Instituto Cervantes, Lincoln Place, followed by a tequila tasting with José Torres Diaz, from the Mexican Tequila Regulatory Council. If you don’t know the difference between tequila and Mezcal, then renowned Mezcal authority Sergio Inurrigarro conducts a special tasting (Nov 20). www.embamex.ie & www.tasteofmexico.ie
There are few places the Menu would rather be than Knockranny House for their annual Game Weekend (Nov 21-22), the highlight being the 7-course Game Dinner, cooked by the splendid Seamus Commons with wine administered by the incomparable Nick Faujours. The full weekend package also includes a game cooking demo from Commons and a tutored wine tasting from Faujours, currently Food & Wine’s ‘Best Sommelier in Ireland’ along with full B&B. www.knockrannyhousehotel.ie
Listowel Food Fair (Nov 20-23), celebrates its 20th anniversary and includes a craft beer symposium featuring Scottish outfit, Brewdog, along with local heroes, Dungarvan Brewing Company ( www.listowelfoodfair.ie ). Slow Food East Cork presents Scandinavian chef Trine Hahnemann’s fascinating introduction to the Nordic Food Movement at Ballymaloe Cookery School (Nov 20) with all proceeds going to the East Cork Slow Food Educational Project firstname.lastname@example.org or phone 021 4646785). The Menu is very much looking forward to visiting wonder-chef Enda McEvoy’s new restaurant, Loam, in Galway ( www.loamgalway.com ) while Paul Tsang’s Cantonese restaurant, the Jasmine Palace, in Limerick, has been around a tad longer, nearly 30 years, but is now offering a revamped menu, private dining and the option of a personal chef ( www.jasminepalace.ie ).
The Menu has, of late, passed a fair degree of time at Yum Gelato ice cream stall monitoring progress in the ongoing development of Marcus Hodder’s new waffles . And while The Menu would be more than content to consume such a waffle unadorned, nibbling away at the crisp, chewy, carmelised exterior, mining through to the pillow-soft, yeasty heart within, he will concede that Marcus’ preferred serving style, including a scoop of any of Yum Gelato’s stunning ice creams and a spoonful of fruit compote, does prove that, sometimes, even perfection can be improved upon. www.facebook/yumgelato
Beer of the week
Dungarvan Coffee and Oatmeal Stout, 4.7% ABV, 500ml, €3.39
Stockists: Carry-Out Stores nationwide, Independent Off-Licenses, O’Briens. O’Donovans
Dungarvan’s Winter Seasonal stout is back and this year seems a little richer and spicier than before. The oats (for added smoothness) are from Flahavans, and the espresso coffee added at the fermentation stage is from Badger and Dodo in Fermoy.
This year a Colombian Arabica bean called La Joyeria was used and the result is a complex coffee and mocha aroma, a smooth penetrating palate showing good acidity and a distinctly spicy finish. This is a world away from commercial stouts and perfect for chilly winter evenings.
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