The Menu: Cooking classes and Clonmel-made snacks that are a chip above

Phil Martin's Blanco Niño tortilla chips are nacho average snack
The Menu: Cooking classes and Clonmel-made snacks that are a chip above

Blanco Nino founder with Mexican amaranth farmers, in Milpa Alta, sampling amaranth for the Irish company’s new range of tortilla chips

Chef Supper Club

The Menu is ‘rising very early’ indeed to be making mention in July of an event that doesn’t kick off until September, but he reckons The Chef Supper Club (CSC), the latest project from Michelin-starred Liath chef/proprietor Damien Grey, is set to become something very special indeed and bookings, which opened on July 4, will be greatly sought after.

Grey, the man who was a global innovator when it came to producing lockdown home meal kits, is set to prove there is still life in that particular aspect of fine dining — even as others in hospitality are putting them to the side to return to live dining.

The CSC offers one-night-only home dining experiences, five course tasting menus for two from €120 from a stellar array of the finest Irish chefs including Ciarán Sweeney, Gráinne O’Keefe, Mike Tweedie, Killian Crowley, Enda McEvoy, Ahmet Dede, Haleigh Whelan and Aishling Moore, with sommelier Cathryn Bell.

The chef will design the menu, you receive the kit and then the chef takes you through each stage of its delivery, step by step, in a live broadcast. Upgrades to the basic package include the opportunity to have the wonderful Cathryn Bell select special wine pairings while a ‘Chef’s Table’ upgrade allows a privileged few to interact directly with the chef as well as receiving Cathryn’s wine selections.

In addition, CSC offers From Scratch, multiple live episodes on creating dishes from scratch with expert chefs — including Chapter One by Mickael Viljanen pastry chef Tara Gartlan — as online tutors, including ultimate sourdough, expert saucier, patisserie, braai (barbecue) master or cooking with sous vide, with then these are for you.

Potions is a similar experience, this time offering wine and beer appreciation courses as well as cocktail pairings, and how to pair beverages with your meal. It also features a wide range of easily replicated non-alcoholic offerings.

Pastry power

Another highly talented culinary figure taking her career online is renowned award-winning pastry chef Aoife Noonan, formerly head pastry chef with two Michelin-starred Restaurant Patrick Guildbaud and a regular on the Today show.

Her new website is set to become the forum for a range of bespoke high-end online cookery classes, as well as offering a series of monthly must-have limited edition pastry line releases (currently limited to certain counties in Leinster).

Domestic cooks and corporate groups can select off-the-shelf classes including Cake Basics, Afternoon Tea, Brunch With Friends, Macaron Masterclass, Special Occasion Desserts and a four-week Patisserie for Beginners course.

For a truly unique experience, Noonan also offers customised group sessions. Standard classes are priced at €65 per person, with specialised sessions starting from €75 per head.

Grow and eat

Grow It Yourself founder Mick Kelly — host of TV show Grow, Cook, Eat — will lead two more exclusive tours of the wonderful Grow headquarters in Waterford. 

This behind-the-scenes tour of the HQ gardens includes a cooking demonstration from head chef JB Dubois, followed by pizzas on the terrace, garnished with toppings handpicked from the garden, and a complimentary signed copy of Grow, Cook, Eat to take home.

Whiskey tasting

Teeling Whiskey master distiller Alex Chasko, head of operations Iain Wood and global brand ambassador Robert Caldwell offer a virtual tasting, Not Your Run of the Mill Tasting (July 21), of some of the Dublin distillery’s most innovative offerings including cask strength whiskeys selected straight from casks, from porter mashbills to crystal rye.

Tickets include five 30ml whiskey samples, customised tasting mat and nosing glass.


Blanco Nino’s new range of Irish-made tortilla chips using premium ingredients including non-GMO heirloom variety corns
Blanco Nino’s new range of Irish-made tortilla chips using premium ingredients including non-GMO heirloom variety corns

Regular readers perusing their scrapbooks of previous columns may well recall The Menu featuring Phil Martin’s Blanco Niño project down through the years, beginning with an ambitious project to bring traditional Mexican food practices to bear on Irish-grown corn to produce an authentic Irish corn tortilla.

Although the effort was decent, it will have to be marked down as a noble failure and an acceptance that, for all the wonderful produce grown here, sometimes there is no other option but to look elsewhere. The Irish climate, temperate and all as it is, simply could not match conditions in Mexico and the southern US when it comes to growing tortilla corn.

Despite now working with imported non-GMO corn, all the nixtamalisation (the process that breaks down the corn to enable it to become the masa used to make tortillas) is still all carried out at Blanco Niño’s plant in Clonmel.

One of The Progeny’s favourite suppers is cheesy nachos, layers of refried beans, cheese and corn tortilla chips, all baked in the oven until piping hot, to be served with guacamole, sour cream and salsa. Truth be told, the adults at the table enjoy it every bit as much.

Now Blanco Niño has expanded its product range. Introducing three flavours, they have become the go-to tortilla chips for The Menu’s home cooking. The lightly salted chips are perfect for cheesy nachos, while the smokey fruity flavours of chilli and lime are superb when it comes to dipping into a variety of Mexican-style cold dips, sauces and salsa. Best of all, however, is the ancient grain flavour, made with amaranth sourced from Milpa Alta, overlooking Lake Texoco, and another heritage variety, blue corn, yielding a chip with a deep and flavoursome earthy, sweet nuttiness. 

It pairs sublimely with both soft creamy Durrus cheese and a homemade smoked mackerel paté, and The Menu has a whole host of other ideas for perfect pairings to be served up al fresco in the garden for the remainder of the summer.

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