Food news: West is Best
It seems only right that Galway will be European Region of Gastronomy 2018. The food scene in Ireland's friendliest little city and surrounding county has been making remarkable strides and offers some of the most diverse, creative and thoroughly Irish eating you can hope to experience.
Key to its success is the dynamic team behind last year's phenomenal Food on the Edge symposium, which saw many of the world's best chefs gather in a Spiegeltent in Eyre Square for two days of Ted-style talks about 'the future of food'. It sounds lofty and esoteric but was the very opposite, with much reality-rooted soul-searching about today's chefs' role in sustainable eating for all.
The conference returns this year (October 24 & 25, foodontheedge.ie) with a line-up that includes Massimo Bottura, officially the world's best chef (or at least according to the World's Best Restaurant list) alongside industry heavyweights such as Pierre Koffman, the man who shaped the kitchen skills of Gordon Ramsay and Marco Pierre White. There's a suitable smattering of Irish talent done good at home (Danni Barry, Dylan McGrath) and abroad (Robin Gill, Trevor Moran), and some unmissable returnees (Mark Best, Nathan Outlaw). Early-bird tickets are on sale until July 31 at €350 for two days. Or follow proceedings for free on Twitter @foodontheedge.
Again, it seems only right that Galway should pull off such an ambitious feat. This city has always had an imagination way bigger than its proverbial boots, mucky with agricultural roots. It's that marriage of cosmopolitan inspirations with pride in excellent local producers such as Gannet Fishmongers and the Friendly Farmer that gives Galway's food scene its signature style.
Perhaps it's the welcome shown to talented blow-ins such as Jess Murphy, the Kiwi chef-restaurateur of Kai fame, or Daniel Rosen, the New Yorker mastermind behind BoyChik doughnuts, or Junichi Yoshiyagawa of Kappa-Ya, or Francophile Sheena Dignam of Galway Food Tours. Perhaps it's the wonderlust of key scenesters: Aoibheann MacNamara and her Ard Bia (above) team with their grá for all things Eastern; the Nordic leanings of JP McMahons' Aniar and Enda McEvoy's Loam; the North African-Mediterranean street food of Brother Rabbits (whose owner, Eoin Coyle, also happens to run a snail farm on the Long Walk, as you do); the pizza-to-make-mamma-proud of the Dough Bros. Whatever it is, it's pure Galway, and deliciously so.
Taking the Biscuit
Finding seaweed in your shortbread sounds like finding a fly in your soup - until you taste The Galway Food Company's Connemara Seaweed All Butter Shortbread. An acquired taste that you may just get hooked on. Try with chowder, cheese or a cuppa. thegalwayfoodcompany.com
Ring the Changes
Top female chefs, restaurateurs, food writers and academics - including Trish Deseine (above), Danni Barry and Regina Sexton - gather in Galway this week for Athrú 2016, the first Irish culinary conference on gender roles in professional kitchens and the hospitality sector. athru.net
Any visitor to Galway can see that the city is sold on Galway Hooker Irish Pale Ale (crisp, flavoursome and very sessionable) but their Irish Stout is also worth a try, being big, balanced and rich with bitter mocha notes. 4.5pc ABV, €3.30/500ml