As I do every year, I look back at the year gone and pick my favourite moments, people, products, drinks and food and so these are my Food Stars 2016 – A Review.
I met Anthony Creswell of Ummera Smokehouse recently while having lunch in L’Atitude 51 and he introduced me to hie latest product ‘Smoked Organic Picanha Beef’ – tender meat with just the right amount of smoke. Loved it but as far as I know, it’s not widely available yet – but keep an eye out for it. Would be perfect as a starter or as part of a charcuterie board.
This year’s star goes to Bertha’s Revenge – distilled at Ballyvolane House near Fermoy, this gin is a beauty. I like gin in cocktails but this gin is so smooth that I could drink it neat. The whole story behind Bertha is a great selling point and Justin Green, owner of Ballyvolane House is a great storyteller. Ballyvolane House is also a beautiful place to forget the outside world for a while and enjoy excellent food and service.
It was damn hard to pick a chef as we are so lucky in Cork to have excellent chefs who work so hard and give their best every single day. Celebrating just one seems unfair but I have to say that I am a big fan of Michael Flemings of Flemings Restaurant in Tivoli. He is a chef who is cooking for over 30 years in the beautiful restored Grange House, ignoring trends and sticking with what he considers ‘proper’ cooking. A small orchard gives him beautiful autumn bounty that is mirrored in his menu. Michael is loyal to his suppliers – even during the recession sticking with each single one as he knew only quality would do. Cutting corners is not in his vocabulary. Having a wicked sense of humour adds to his charm. He is an excellent teacher, creating star chefs over the years who have gone to become executive head chefs in outstanding restaurants.
Every Christmas, I give my wonderful Mr T a list of cookbooks I would love to see under the Christmas tree and he goes and picks a few (so that I still have a surprise). Last Christmas, I was asking for ‘All in the Food – 75 Years of Cathal Brugha Street’. This book is a selection of recipes that former students of the culinary course have cooked. Chefs who have been to DIT include Darina Allen, Derry Clarke, Richard Corrigan, Catherine Fulvio and Neven Maguire to name but a few. The book is available at Eason’s and directly from the publisher.
Best Food-Drink Shop
Best Food Shop has to be Bradley’s in North Main Street. Michael Creedon is a champion of artisan producers and has given many their first spot on a shelf. He also has one of the best selection of Craft Beers and knows a thing or two (joking, he is a walking encyclopedia of wine & beer). He doesn’t brag about his shop and his knowledge at all – so I have to do it for him. Bradley’s is awesome.
Ok, now you might think that I am going to give this title to some food producer – wrong! It is actually split between two people and non of them is in the food business. The title goes to my amazingly patient Mr T who is brave enough to eat all my little projects (cooking a pigs head, a beef’s heart – these kind of things) and my friend and neighbour Carol who is similar brave and has so far eaten all my fingerfood creations I prepare for our ‘catch-ups’.
Best Food Moment
A visit to Patrick Guilbaud last March for the Food Writer Guild Awards is still set in my mind as utterly delicious. Excellent service, beautiful presented food, relaxed surrounds…. it couldn’t get any better than that.
Best Food Activist
Avril Allshire Howe of Rosscarbery Black Pudding is not only a talented producer of damn fine black pudding but also tireless working for Irish food and its protection. She organised the Food, Facts, Fads & Phonies conference to highlight misconception in the food sector.
Now, this is a new category but one I needed to add as the cheese was so utterly delicious that Mr T and I almost fought over the last piece. I am talking about Bertrand Pére & Fils, a French Camembert that was so creamy and silky that I fell in love with it. Made from raw cows milk, the cheese is manufactured in Normandie and if you close your eyes, you can see green fields while the cheese just melts away in your tummy. It is available from Iago in Princess Street.
It has to be Mahon Point Farmer’s Market. The vibrant market is a must for any food lover – each Thursday producers are putting up their stalls and you can buy the freshest produce directly from the makers.
Best Food Event
Obviously, my own events are utterly awesome (if you haven’t done so yet, you need to join of the next critic nights) but one event I really loved was the Cookbook Workshop at Urru in Bandon. The subject of this year’s workshop was Keith Floyd and we all brought our Keith Floyd books (and let’s face it, we all own at least one) and spoke about what Keith Floyd did for the food scene and the home chef. It was an enjoyable evening in Bandon and Ruth Healy served delicious dates stuffed with smoke duck breast and the original apple brandy from Longueville House. I am already looking forward to this year’s workshop.
While shopping in my local SuperValu Store in Blarney, I came across the supermarket’s own magazine ‘Uncorked‘. Taking it home, I took my time flipping through the pages. Edited by the formidable Ross Golden-Bannon, Uncorked gives you great information on wines without the jargon, gives tips on food and wine matching and so on. I particularly loved the recipes for winter whiskey cocktails.