We've got it licked! Our food firms get a taste of gold in UK
Well now it's official - we have great taste! Irish food producers have had tremendous success at this year's Great Taste Awards, run by the Guild of Fine Foods in the UK. What is so exciting and satisfying about all of this is that it endorses Ireland's reputation for lean green Irish produce of supreme quality. For a small country like Ireland to have taken 24 of the 153 3-Star Gold Awards is phenomenal.
What I also find so rewarding and exciting for our entrepreneurial food producers is that it shows no matter how small you are when you start out, if your product is innovative and quality-driven you can get there. It's not just for the big boys. I meet a lot of fledgling food producers at the markets around the country and I love watching how they grow.
A year or so ago, I wrote about Brian and Rachel Nolan's Nobo dairy-free ice-cream. I met them at the Dun Laoghaire market and it is brilliant now to see them walk off with a 3-Star Great Taste Award. As I said at the time, "go taste their ice-cream, it is simply delicious. No bo-cow - geddit." Obviously, the judges loved it too.
Hannan Meats in Moira, Co Down, took an incredible six 3-Star Awards and multiple 2-Star Awards for its Himalayan Salt Aged Beef, in various categories from fillet steak to tagliata; whilst James Whelan Butchers of the Tipperary Food Producers Network took a 3-Star Award for its beef dripping. Based in Clonmel, Pat Whelan is at the helm here and a great man for promoting Irish food. He now has shops in Dublin's Avoca stores in Monkstown and Rathcoole.
Michael and Aileen O'Neill, of Irish Atlantic Sea Salt in Lickbarrahan, West Cork, won a 3-Star Award for their Sea Salt With Dill Pollen, while the Donegal Rapeseed Company also took a 3-Star Award for its Northern Ireland Rapeseed Oil.
What a scoop too for The Cloudberry Bakery in Castlemaine, Co Kerry, to have walked away with a 3-Star Award for its Sea Salted Caramel. It must be very sweet indeed. Dawn Meats, in Waterford, took a 3-Star Award for its Nature's Meadow French Dressed Lamb Rack, while Callan Bacon, in Kilkenny, took a 2-Star Award for its Dry Cure Bacon Steaks. Bewley's also took a 3-Star Award for its Fortnum & Mason Panama Esmeralda Special Coffee.
Another person I wrote about earlier this year with her fledgling business, was Limerick-based Kirsti O'Kelly and her Silver Darlings - pickled herrings Nordic style. She has picked up a 2-Star for her Beetroot & Horseradish Herrings. Murphy's Ice Cream, based in Dingle, Co Kerry, took a 2-Star Award for its Black Currant Sorbet; while Louis and Jane Grubb also took a 2-Star Award for the fabulous Cashel Blue cheese.
Killowen Farm in Co Wexford took 2-Star Awards for its Greek-Style Yogurt with Blueberry Compote, as did young Adam Hoban and his family with their Purple Pantry's Plum Jam with Star Anise & Cinnamon. Kerryfish Ltd, trading as Quinlan's Fish, took a brace of 2-Star Awards for its Smoked Wild Irish Salmon and for the Smoked Irish Organic Salmon.
The supermarkets also featured in a big way, with Marks & Spencer getting awards, including 2-Star Awards for its Salt Moss Aged Boneless Lamb Leg joint and the 28-Day Dry Aged Tomahawk Steaks, produced by Kettyle Irish Foods. Aldi took 35 awards, including Aldi's O'Shea's Traditional Irish Pale Ale, produced by the Carlow Brewing Company, and its Specially Selected Irish Angus Fillet Steaks, produced by ABP in Cahir.
Lidl took 26 awards for products including Glensallagh Smoked Streaky Bacon, produced by Honeyvale Foods based in Cahir, Co Tipperary; Deluxe Fresh Whole Irish Duckling, produced by Silver Hill Foods, in Co Monaghan, and Comte de Brismand Champagne. Tesco Ireland's awards included its Irish Chicken & Sliced Potato Bake and their Lamb Loin Chops.
To put this all into perspective, more than 10,000 food products were entered into the Great Taste Awards and for a producer to come out with any award is amazing. The full list of awards can be seen on greattasteawards.co.uk