Food news: Tasty Trails
Irish food tourism: there's three words that might have raised a giggle a mere decade ago. Today it's big news, as both our food scene and our tourism sector go from strength to strength. And local food tourism networks in some of Ireland's most beautiful corners are working hard to help visitors find a great feed.
Several new food trails were launched this month. Sligo Food Trail (sligofoodtrail.ie) has mapped out a DIY trail for visitors to dip in and out of, with over 60 local cafés, restaurants, food producers, markets, craft breweries and accommodation providers offering everything from cold-pressed juices and authentic gelato to local seafood and gorgeous baking. And there's plenty of adventure too, like the Strandhill Adventure Foodie & Chill Package which will build appetites with surf sessions and guided seatrails, satisfy them with brunch at Shells Café and dinner at Trá Bán and soothe with seaweed baths and local pub sessions.
Mayo's Great Western Greenway is one of the most spectacular off-road bicycle tracks you could ask for. A new calendar of special menus and events from the Gourmet Greenway trail (mulrannyparkhotel.ie) is full of seasonal pairings and interesting collaborations between chefs and craft breweries or local butchers, such as the Gourmet Greenway Afternoon Tea weekend (June 10-11) from Shauna Kelly of Kelly's Kitchen Newport and her dad and next door neighbour, the award-winning butcher Sean.
The Burren Food Trail (burren.ie) had a big year in 2015, winning all sorts of local and international awards including the Restaurant Association of Ireland's Foodie Towns and the European Destination of Excellence (EDEN) for Tourism and Local Gastronomy. But they're not resting on their laurels, and visitors can now choose from five themed food trails. Learn about the 'Fertile Rock' of this unique region on a Farm to Fork trail, visit some of Ireland's best cheese-makers or go wild with their family-friendly Wild Child Trail (involving animals, ice-cream and zip wires, amongst other intriguing elements).
If you can't decide which part of the country you want to focus on, or don't want to put together your own itinerary, Good Food Ireland (goodfoodireland.ie) now offer a new suite of Culinary & Cultural Holidays. These include bookable food-focussed itineraries for touring the Wild Atlantic Way, Ireland's Ancient East or the Coastal Causeway routes, as well as date-specific Cooking Adventures and Food and Drink Experiences.
At 10pc ABV, O'Hara's 20th Anniversary Limited Imperial Stout is not for the faint-hearted. But nor was starting an Irish craft brewery back in the 1990s. Bold, smooth and syrupy with notes of chocolate, coffee, liquorice and caramel, it's brilliant with strong blue cheese, grilled meats or dark chocolate desserts. €5.50, carlowbrewing.com
Have you tried?
Bircher is the new porridge. Well, at least until winter rolls around again. Try it at Dublin's Industry & Co (industryandco.com), where they make Spring Bircher (pictured) by soaking organic rolled oats overnight in almond milk, apple juice and spices and serve it with Greek-style yoghurt, berries, mint and maple syrup. Or hold out for the Summer Bircher at Brother Hubbard and Sister Sadie (brotherhubbard.ie), made with coconut milk, apple juice, toasted coconut and mango, and topped with crème fraiche, passion fruit, pomegranate, toasted seeds and mint.
Not content with turning the nation right off their chicken fillet rolls on the second of RTÉ's six-part series, What Are You Eating?, Philip Boucher-Hayes recently appeared on The Late Late Show to take a pop at cheap sausages. But for all its 'grimfotainment' shock tactics, the well-researched series is worth a watch for sound facts on what really goes into our food. Watch it on the RTÉ Player - or catch the last episode next Wednesday (8.30pm, RTÉ1) when they look ahead to a future of food that may include creepy-crawler burgers.
Whey to go!
Imen McDonnell's The Farmette Cookbook: Recipes and Adventures from my Life on an Irish Farm is already into its second print run. The news was celebrated at last week's book signing in Dublin's Hodges & Figgis and the party continued with buttermilk-inspired cocktails at Drury Buildings. McDonnell was inspired by whey-based cocktails sampled in the US where they're becoming a bit of a thing. With many Irish chefs re-embracing home-made butter and curds, perhaps dairy-based cocktails are set to make a comeback.