Food news: A taster of Ireland's top food tours
If you are on holiday abroad and have an interest in food, a food tour is one of the best ways to get away from the tourist traps and acquire a bit of an insight into local culture and tradition. One of the best-known international operators of these tours is Culinary Backstreets, culinarybackstreets.com. On a trip to Lisbon last year, our guide was exceptional, and we learned as much about the history of the city as we did about its food, the information delivered in small delicious morsels and with a light touch, with plenty of stops for tasting both food and drink.
In Dublin and Cork, if you have summer house guests and are looking for excursions to pack them off on while you get some peace at home, you could suggest that they sign up for one of the tours organised by Fab Food Trails, fabfoodtrails.ie.
The walking tours take between two-and-a-half and three hours, and tastings - all using great Irish produce - reflect the current food scene; local guides throw in a little culture and history for good measure. Both day and evening tours are available, all focused around the city centres.
Irish Food Tours, irishfoodtours.ie, offer tours in various parts of the country including Clonakilty and Kinsale. One that caught the eye was 'Aran Island Cheesemaking', led by Gabriel Faherty, who makes delicious Gouda, feta, boilie and mature goat's cheese from the milk of his herd of Nubian and Saanen goats; the fresh goat's cheese balls sprinkled with sea lettuce are a favourite.
Gabriel runs both historical island tours and an island tour that includes a stop at the cheese factory, with participants given the chance to meet the goats, watch cheese being made, have an educational commentary and taste the products.
In Galway, Sheena Dignam (pictured above) of Galway Food Tours, galwayfoodtours.com, offers a culinary walking tour of Galway, leading food enthusiasts around Galway's best food destinations, including the famous Saturday market, sampling fresh sushi, cheese, Galway oysters, and sweet and savoury bites along the way. During the tour, participants meet artisan producers. "For me, what makes Galway so special is the local producers," says Sheena, "and the best thing about the market is the diversity - from cheese to sushi, oysters to curry stews, doughnuts to falafels. But especially it's such a great atmosphere! The traders are great craic."
NEW GIN ALERT
The latest Irish gin is Ornabrak, a single malt made with a base spirit distilled in Skibbereen from Irish malted barley, with botanicals including juniper berry, Douglas fir needles, garden angelica root, lemon verbena leaf and lemon peel. The apothecary-inspired bottle is gorgeous. RRP €49
Knorr is on the hunt for the best pub and hotel carveries in Ireland, with three in each category to be shortlisted in each of the four provinces. Mystery diners will assess the shortlisted establishments, with winners announced in September. Enter before June 30 at ufs.com/carvery
CRISP IRISH CIDER
Many ciders taste more of sugar than they do of apples, but Liam McDonnell's Legacy Irish Cider, made from 100pc apple juice (and no additives or preservatives) in the scenic Brickey Valley near Dungarvan, Co Waterford, is the real deal, with a crisp, sparkling finish; €3.95/50cl, ardkeen.com