Formerly known as the Bridgestone Guide, it is written and published by John and Sally McKenna, and widely seen as the definitive guide to the best restaurants, food producers, retailers, and markets. It is the result of research by a team of nine editors working around the country.
Since the launch of the first 200-page edition back in 1989 the book has continued to expand with this — the 10th — edition clocking in at 700-plus pages, 100 more than the last edition in 2010 and with a 50% increase in the Dublin section alone.
“Irish food is the shining star in the Irish economy,” says McKenna.
“The book has grown by 20% in two years, reflecting the massive growth in the speciality food sector, and all this in the middle of the worst recession in 30 years.
“There is no other sector of the Irish economy that is matching the growth, creativity, and the success of this sector and it is the one good news story we have today, the creation of jobs and money locally.”
McKenna says there are three specific drivers of this continued success in the speciality or artisan food market: craft brewers producing local beers and ciders; free-range, often rare-breed pigs being reared to produce speciality or artisan pork and bacon; and sourdough bread baking.
“I guess we’re looking for the perfect bacon sandwich washed down with a glass of real beer — that is, the local bacon, the local bread, the local beer; not the bland, homogenised food, and people are saying they don’t want the industrialised model, they want the local model and that represents smart shopping and smart choices,” he says.
Over the last 21 years, The Irish Food Guide had been sponsored by Bridgestone Tyres, but that relationship has now come to an end.
The organisers say they are interested in potential sponsorship and business partners but that it will be a slow process.
McKenna believes the publication of the latest edition heralds an enormously optimistic future for the Irish food sector.
“This is local food creating local jobs and keeping money in the locality, and The 2012 Irish Food Guide proves we are, indeed, Ireland, the food island — producing the best foods in the world, and it’s an honour to write about the extraordinary and brilliant people who make them and sell them.”
The Irish Food Guide 2012 is published by Estragon Press at €15.* guides.ie.
Ten of the best from The Irish Food Guide:
* The Greenhouse, Dawson St, Dublin 2. The success story of the year.
* Woodside Farm, Ballincurrig, Co Cork. Small yet perfectly formed.
* Sage Restaurant, Midleton, Co Cork. Chef Kevin Aherne is totally committed to the finest local produce.
* Dungarvan Brewing Company, Co Waterford. One of the real stars of the craft brewing scene.
* Eight Degrees, Mitchelstown, Co Cork. The fastest growing outfit of new wave of brewers.
* La Cucina, Castletroy, Limerick. Some of the finest Italian cooking in the country.
* Milk Market, Limerick. Probably the finest market location on the entire island.
* Arbutus Bread, Cork. Former Michelin-star chef Declan Ryan’s second coming as a baker.
* O’Connell’s Ducks, Ballinskelligs, Co Kerry. These ducks carry far less fat than usual, making their cooking a cinch.
* The Apple Farm, Cahir, Co Tipperary. Con Traas is simply one of the finest farmers around.