The third annual Boyne Valley Food Series is off to a flying start and continues summer-long in some of the most picturesque and undiscovered corners of Ireland's Ancient East.
The Rock Farm Slane (rockfarmslane.ie) celebrates summer with tomorrow's Bealtaine Festival (12-5pm) of food, music and crafts. Ask about the idyllic glamping site complete with pizza oven and Castle views while you're there. Or swing by next Saturday, May 7 for a Slane Food Circle's Electric Bike Tour. Join the charming organic farmer and ecotourism guide Carina Mount Charles on a 25km food tour through the Boyne Valley, meeting organic farmers and tasting local produce including meats, cheeses, ice-creams and a very special local cider as you go, and working off as much or as little of those samplings as you care to thanks to the electric bicycles.
Over in Tankardstown House (tankardstown.ie) next Thursday, May 5, join head chef Rob Krawczyk and his father, the skilled charcutier Frank Krawczyk for an evening's charcuterie and curing demo and gin sampling. You may need to draw straws for the designated driver on that one - or check out Boyne Valley Accommodation Offers & Packages at discoverboynevalley.ie. You can download the full brochure of events at boynevalleyfoodseries.ie.
Bottle of the Week:
Kinnegar's Rustbucket Rye Ale (5.1pc ABV, €3.99)
Last week's Belfast Craft Beer Festival gathered some of the island's most dynamic craft breweries under one roof. Belfast has a strong tradition of brewing, boasting 13 city breweries in the early 19th century. As Dublin's Guinness became the powerhouse of Irish brewing, those small Belfast breweries disappeared, so that when Hercules Brewing Company began brewing two years ago it was the first craft brewery to open in the city for 160 years. Their small-batch Yardsman Lager is worth a try when you're in the area, although not yet widely available around the island. But many of those craft breweries featured last weekend are more widely distributed, and the festival's website, belfastcraftbeerfest.com, is full of good leads as to where to get your hands on some of their beers.
For example, widely available and well worth discovering is Donegal-based Kinnegar Brewing who produce unfiltered, unpasteurised beers that taste as good as their smart packaging looks. The range includes a choice of pale ales for hop-heads alongside the mellow Devil's Backbone amber ale and rich Yannaroddy porter. But their stand-out style is the Rustbucket Rye Ale, with its spicy mix of rye and barley malt balanced with a little hit of citrusy hops. Just the brew with which to toast the continuing rise of craft breweries around the island. Cheers to that!
West is best for seafood lovers, as this weekend's Connemara Mussel Festival celebrates community, food and culture in the scenic setting of Tullycross, Co Galway. There's live music by night, an artisan market, children's cookery classes and chef demos by day, and tomorrow's grand finale Gourmet Buffet in Renvyle House Hotel. connemaramusselfestival.com
Your Kitchen, Your Way
Two new cookbooks from the Gill Books stable cater to our increasing appetite for diets that support health and wellbeing by addressing our body's particular needs. And both of them are informed by hard-won wisdom paired with serious culinary kudos.
Prolific cookery author and busy restaurateur Domini Kemp has teamed up with nutritional therapist Susan Day to write The Ketogenic Kitchen (€29.99). Their heavily researched cookbook draws on both women's personal experience of cancer and proposes the low-carb, high-fat ketogenic diet as a practical tool to support the protection against, treatment of and recovery from chronic diseases such as cancer.
For Cavan-based Euro-toques chef Gearoid Lynch of The Olde Post Inn, the life-changing diagnosis was one of coeliac disease. His resulting cookbook, My Gluten-Free Kitchen (€24.99) is a collection of 120 gluten-free adaptations of everyday recipes, including many typically missed by those on a strict gluten-free diet, from southern-fried chicken or bun burgers to quiche and pizzas or scones and crumble.
Have you tried?
Summer is here. Well, officially it's tomorrow. Unless you talk to meteorologists, who say it's a whole month away. But let's go with our Celtic roots on this one, and celebrate this eve of Bealtaine. And what could be more quintessentially summer than tucking into perfect fish and chips after a meander along a golden strand?
For what are arguably the best fish and chips on this island, hightail it to Harry's Shack at Portstewart Strand. The saltwater-cured haddock comes fresh off nearby Greencastle boats, the spuds for the chips are from the restaurant's walled garden, the batter is fortified with buttermilk, the mushy peas sweetly comforting and tartare sauce perfectly piquant.