Saturday 3 December 2016

Food oscars: Irish Restaurant Awards are back

The Santa/Rita/LIFE Magazine Irish Restaurant Awards are back, so it’s time for you to vote, eat, drink and be merry

Published 06/02/2011 | 05:00

As the days lengthen, the weather brightens and finally spring seems to be in sight, it's time to shake off the shackles of our winter hibernation. We're entering a time of reawakening and re-emergence, and what better way to kick-start a return to life than to indulge in a gastronomic flight of fancy?

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To help get your juices flowing, the Santa Rita/LIFE Magazine Irish Restaurant Awards are back, and this year, the food Oscars, as they've come to be known, are bigger than ever.

Despite everything, we still love to eat. If there's one thing we'd like to hang on to from the Celtic Tiger era, it's our love of restaurants and eating out. There's nothing like it.

Food and eating could possibly be the way to steer our country out of the mess it's in. The latest research from Bord Bia has revealed that almost half the population eats out at least once a month. Food and drink exports may well be Ireland's salvation; amazingly, exports of food and drink grew by 11 per cent last year, and things are only set to get better, with almost all of these companies expecting to see further increases in their exports this year.

There's never been a better selection of quality food at astonishingly affordable prices, made even more so with our fantastic 20 per cent off food (and selected Santa Rita wines) in more than 100 of Ireland's top restaurants, with the Dine Out Voucher below. Our Dine Out Voucher offers the chance to try out fine dining in restaurants such as The Tannery in Dungarvan, Co Waterford, Saba in Dublin, and Fallon's in Kilcullen, Co Kildare, with 20 per cent off your food bill. Further, there are great family-friendly, casual, after-work venues to try out with the voucher -- and possibly to adopt as a regular haunt as a result -- including Cafe Sol in Kilkenny, ely bar & brasserie in Dublin, and Bella Italia in Limerick.

Entertaining, hosting, feeding others: it's what we're good at; it's what we love doing. And, all over the country, people with a passion for food are conveying this love to others, and running small, sustainable businesses producing high-quality foods. Polish-born Jola Wojtowicz, pictured right, a Kinsale-based restaurateur and entrepreneur whose Waking Hours you can read on page 44, is a perfect example of such positive thinking. We want to highlight these people and hear their stories.

This year, LIFE magazine's own special award, as voted for exclusively by our readers, will be for Ireland's Local Food Hero. The search begins here, today. You can nominate your Local Food Hero using the coupon on the opposite page. Your nomination can be anyone from your granny, or your local butcher or baker, to a farmer or your local cafe owner -- basically, anyone who has inspired you personally where food is concerned.

To give you an idea of how diverse people's food heroes can be, starting on page 12, some of Ireland's most delectable and discerning personalities pick the people who have inspired them, food-wise.

On nominating your food hero, you will also automatically be entered to win a fabulous three-day trip for two to Bordeaux for some top-notch eating and drinking. One winner will also be chosen each week over the next three weeks to win a VIP trip to the Santa Rita/LIFE Magazine Irish Restaurant Awards, which includes two tickets, overnight accommodation at Dublin's Burlington Hotel, and a five-star meal, prepared by last year's award-winning chefs.

This is also your chance to be a part of the awards themselves, by completing the nomination form on the page opposite. This form allows you to be part of Ireland's most celebrated and comprehensive restaurant awards.

Taking part is easy: just select the category that most appeals to you -- Best Chef, Best Customer Service, Best Casual Dining, Best Gastropub, Best Hotel Restaurant or Best Restaurant -- and then make your nomination. There is only one nomination per form in those categories, but you can also nominate the LIFE Magazine Local Food Hero.

On Sunday, April 24, we will announce the shortlist of six finalists in the LIFE Local Food Hero category, as selected by the LIFE magazine judging panel, and LIFE readers can vote for their favourite. The winner will be crowned Ireland's LIFE Magazine Local Food Hero 2011.

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The Santa Rita/LIFE Magazine Irish Restaurant Awards are the largest and most coveted awards in the Irish restaurant industry. This year's awards will be presented on May 25 at the Burlington Hotel, Dublin. This year's event will see Danny Millar of Balloo House, Garrett Byrne of Campagne, Seamus Commons of Knockranny House and Paul Flynn of The Tannery prepare a sumptuous meal for 800 guests at the glittering black-tie event -- a fantastic celebration of all that is great in the Irish restaurant industry.

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