Irish Food Writer Guild Awards
Once a year, the Irish Food Writer Guild Awards are being held in Dublin to showcase and celebrate the best in Irish food. Members of the guild are watching Irish producers throughout the year and nominate a person/company who they believe deserves this award. The writer has to buy the product him/herself and presents it at the regular meetings. The nominee has no idea at this stage of his nomination until members of the guild have voted. This year was no exception and it came as a complete surprise for all winners when they got the news.
Criteria for the awards are easy – the product has to be made, produced and sold in Ireland as the Irish Food Writer Guild celebrates indigenous food producers and organisations who create, make and share great Irish produce and products while helping to maintain Ireland’s outstanding international reputation in food and drink. New to these awards this year is a Community Food Award, which highlights an organisation or individual working with food that has embraced an ethos of social responsibility to an exemplary level.
The Irish Food Writer Guild Awards are celebrated in style each year and it is a privilege to be invited and take part in the celebrations. For the last three years, the ceremony was held in Restaurant Patrick Guilbaud and the kitchen team has to create a menu using the winning produce. Each year, the team (L’Ecrivan and Derry Clark prior to that) surpasses the previous year and this year was no exception.
This year’s winner are:
Connemara Smokehouse Smoked Mackerel, Co. Galway – Food Award
Owned and run by the Roberts family since 1979, Graham Roberts and his wife Saoirse manage all aspects of the Connemara Smokehouse from its remote location on the west coast of Ireland. Selling to customers all around the world, their hot-smoked, delicately flavoured mackerel was honoured at this year’s awards. www.smokehouse.ie – Dish was Connemara Smokehouse Mackerel with Soy and Hibiscus Jelly, Jerusalem Artichoke Purée and Buckwheat Dentelle
Wildwood Balsamics range, Co. Mayo – Food Award
In 2016 Mayo-based painter Fionntán Gogarty established Wildwood Balsamics to continue selling the fruit- and herb-based vinegars he has been making all his life. Fionntán now supplies more than 20 stores around the country and with 18 individual flavours and a growing range of blends, Wildwood Balsamics offer a unique and sustainable taste of Irish terroir. www.wildwoodvinegars.com – Dish was McNally Farm Candy Beetroot with Wildwood Raspberry Vinegar and St Tola Goat Cheese
McNally Family Farm, Co. Dublin – Organisation Award
In the 20 years that Jenny McNally has been selling her organic farm produce at Dublin markets, she has become a local hero for many of the capital’s food lovers, including the growing number of cafés and restaurants with whom she now works. All produce grown at the McNally Family Farm is picked the day before each market, ensuring the longest possible shelf life and highest possible nutrient density. www.mcnallyfamilyfarm.com – Dish was McNally Farm Candy Beetroot with Wildwood Raspberry Vinegar and St Tola Goat Cheese
Inagh Farmhouse Cheese (St Tola Irish Goat Cheese), Co. Clare – Environmental Award
Producing St Tola Goat Cheese on a 60-acre family farm on the edge of the Burren, Siobhan Ni Ghairbaith and John Harrington have implemented a comprehensive sustainability programme for nearly 20 years. The couple actively promote the principles of conservation and responsible farming, helping to educate and inspire the general public. www.st-tola.ie – Dish was McNally Farm Candy Beetroot with Wildwood Raspberry Vinegar and St Tola Goat Cheese
Baltimore Bacon, Co. Cork – Food Award
A specialist plasterer turned free-range pig farmer in 2014, Nathan Wall of Baltimore Bacon now sells produce from his own pigs at weekly farmers’ markets in Bandon and Clonakilty, as well as locally reared pigs for his non-free-range bacon sold to retailers and restaurants. The range includes smoked and unsmoked bacon and ham, all of which are produced naturally, free from nitrates and additives. The dish was Cider and Apple Smoked Baltimore Bacon with Parsnip Purée, Caramelised Brussels Sprouts and Onions and Fresh Mandarin
Cockagee Pure Irish Keeved Cider, Co. Meath – Drink Award
Mark Jenkinson of The Cider Mill is dedicated to reviving ancient cider traditions from his organic farmhouse orchards outside Slane, Co. Meath. The only cider producer in Ireland to practice keeving, a traditional and fully natural fermentation process, he produces just 20,000 litres of Cockagee Pure Irish Keeved cider a year. www.cockagee.ie – Dish was Croquant of Sheep’s Yogurt Chantilly with Cockagee Irish Keeved Cider Pastry Cream and Caramel Sauce
Ferguson Family of Gubbeen Farmhouse, Co. Cork – Lifetime Achievement Award
From their 250-acre coastal farm just outside Schull, West Cork, the Ferguson family of Gubbeen Farmhouse have been farming and producing food since the 1980s. Each member of the family has their own area of expertise and together they are one of the finest examples Ireland has of the contribution that can be made to a national food culture by a few dedicated individuals. www.gubbeen.com – Dish was Cheeseboard
Sligo Global Kitchen, Co. Sligo – Community Food Award:
Founded in 2014, Sligo Global Kitchen hosts communal meals for people living locally in direct provision and the general public. Artist Anna Spearman approached Cameroonian Mabel Chah to liaise with other residents in direct provision. The result is Sligo Global Kitchen, which is a proactive way of building links by facilitating people to celebrate each other’s food culture.
Wine served was Charles Heidsieck Rose Reserve, Greywacke Wild Sauvignon Blanc 2015 and Montes Outer Limits ‘Old Roots’ Cinsault 2015 – all sponsored by Liberty Wines
Photographer of the day was Paul Sherwood who made everyone feel comfortable (firstname.lastname@example.org) – photos of the winners are the property of Paul, while the food photography was done by my humble iPhone.
The event is organised by Rachel Sherry and her team at Grayling PR. Winner descriptions were taken from the official press release. Interviews will appear on The Food Affair on Cork City FM on Sunday, 11th March 2018 and a shortened article will appear in the Cork Independent on Thursday, 15th March 2018.