Good food gets better

The Irish Examiner

By Darina Allen

I’M CONTINUALLY surprised by how thrown waiting staff in many restaurants seem to be if one asks about the provenance of the food. They immediately seem to go on the defensive and it can take three or four attempts to find out the source of a piece of meat, fish or cheese.

A recent attempt to identify a cheese on a salad in a Cork restaurant came back first as Irish, secondly as west Cork and eventually, after I’d decided not to venture any further, I was presented with the name of a co-op in Co Tipperary. I’m still none the wiser about the name of the cheese or the cheese maker. Sadly, nowadays – despite the fact that local is the hottest word in the gastro vocabulary – the source of supply is more likely to be a multinational catering company than a local supplier, not to speak of a farmer or fisherman.

Why aren’t more restaurants serving local food proudly? Those of us in the hospitality business depend on local people to support our restaurants and hotels, yet few enough consider it a priority or obligation to put some money back into the local community by supporting local butchers, bakers, farmers, cheese makers or vegetable and fruit growers. Those who do, generate tremendous good will for their business and hugely enhance the experience for their guests by incorporating local food in season and identifying the producer on their menu. This is a win-win situation for both the customer and the producer. The latter gets the credit for the product and extra sales when satisfied customers go in search of the original next time they go shopping. Cork has a history of being proud of its own so Good Food Ireland Cork Week – from Monday, February 8, to Friday, February 12 – gives us the perfect opportunity to showcase the bounty of Cork city and county.

To mark the first Good Food Ireland Cork Week, restaurants and hotels, pubs and cafés all over Cork will serve a Good Food Ireland plate incorporating the food of the local Good Food Ireland members for €15 per plate including a glass of wine.

Good Food Ireland was founded by Margaret Jeffares in November 2006. It operates as a not-for-profit industry driven Irish food tourism organisation. It is the only industry group with an all island food tourism strategy.

The Good Food Ireland food map pulls all the strands of the food jigsaw together. The website has tons of info on little gems around the country. Kay Harte of the Farm Gate Restaurant in the English Market will offer her guests Millstreet Venison Casserole from Jack McCarthy Meats in Kanturk. Millstreet Country Park farmed venison is not as strong or gamey as the wild meat and is available fresh all year round.

Claire Nash of Nash 19 on Princes Street in Cork has had a Good Food Ireland plate on the menu since March 2009 which offers the produce of eight to 10 artisan producers to a tremendous response from her customers.

The plates change daily and include Belly of Pork and Free Range Bacon from Crowes in Co Tipperary, Sliabh Luachra and Smoked Beef from Jack McCarthy Meats in Kanturk, a selection of smoked fish from the Burren Smoke House, charcuterie and cheese from Gubbeen in west Cork, Cooleeney Brie from Thurles, Co Tipperary; Inch Pudding from Thurles in Tipperary, Ardsallagh Goats Cheese from Carrigtwohill, Co Cork; Organic Millhouse Smoked Salmon from Geraldine Bass in Buttevant, Co Cork and Nash 19 chicken liver pate and Nash 19 organic brown bread made from Sowans Organic Flour.

Ballymaloe House will feature the produce of many local producers including Tom Clancy’s Ballycotton Free-range Chicken, Noreen and Martin Conroy’s Woodside Farm Bacon and Bill Casey’s Shanagarry Smoked Salmon. So let’s get out there and celebrate Good Food Ireland.

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