There are few more essential foods in The Menu’s weekly shopping basket than the finest Irish farmhouse cheese. He carries an especial grá for those remaining raw milk cheeses which are the grand cru of what is one of the world’s finest national cheeseboards, so is only too delighted to herald impending Irish Raw Milk Cheese Week (May 8-14) to promote those aristocrats of the artisan cheesemaking sector, a rare occasion when he is happy to employ that greatly traduced the word, ‘artisan’.
The work of eight raw milk Irish cheese makers will feature at promotional events at select retail stores, restaurants and farmers markets across the country, allowing the public to sample their collective offering of 24 unique and quite superb Irish cheeses, to explore their creation and discover their own. producers, each and everyone a genuine food hero of The Menu’s: Tom Burgess, of Coolattin; Silke and Tom Cropp, of Corleggy; Dan Hegarty and Jean-Baptiste Enjelvin, of Hegarty’s Cheddar/Templegall; Siobhan ní Gharbhaith, Inagh Farmhouse Cheese (St Tola); Eamon and Patricia Lonergan, of Knockanore; Mike Thomson, Mike’s Fancy Cheese (Young Buck); Darcie Mayland and Mike Parle, Lost Valley Dairy (Carrignamuc, Sobhriste); and highly acclaimed newcomer, Lisa Gifford, of Leitrim Hill Creamery, producing hard and soft goat’s cheese, and which The Menu shall be further expanding on in these pages in weeks to come.
In 2003, Kevin Sheridan, of Sheridan’s Cheesemongers and Dr Colin Sage, an old compadre of The Menu’s, came together to form the Irish Raw Milk Cheese Presidium to not only encourage and celebrate the production of these superb raw Irish cheeses but also to raise awareness of their benefits as a truly living food, whose flourishing natural microflora, undamaged by pasteurisation, are a vivid reflection of their local terroir. In addition, they sought to protect them from less enlightened souls in the industrial dairy sector and their state enablers who would much rather see an end to raw milk cheese production, largely for reasons of commercial self-interest.
To get involved — and The Menu is on those in hospitality as much as private consumers — see the website for myriad opportunities to learn about and taste the fruits of our finest specialty food-producing sector.
The Menu wrote in glowing terms last year of smoking supremo Sally Barnes’ truly splendid new food school-cum-dining hall, The Keep, alongside her Woodcock Smokery, near Castletownshend, in West Cork, a wildly beautiful rustic wooden structure that can be opened or closed to the elements and with a view across West Cork as far as the Cork and Kerry Mountains.
The Menu can’t think of a finer way to enjoy a first visit than Feed Your Senses, a five-course musical brunch, menu created and prepared by chef Nolwen Milot, made up of Sally’s sublime smoked fish and other superb fare from local producers . Eagle-eyed readers and Dear Old Sainted Mother Menu will recall Nolwen also appearing in this column in an encomium to his crepes and very fine caramel sauce.
The musical angle is covered by legendary Cork performers, singer/songwriter Paul Tiernan and singer Tony Davis who will be feeding the senses with a lunchtime concert taking place during proceedings while one of Ireland’s few surviving artisan basket makers, Martin O’Flynn, and Madeleine McKeever, of Brown Envelope Seeds, will also be in attendance, speaking of their respective crafts, during courses.
All in all, this sounds very much like The Menu’s definition of soul food, and with just a limited number of 24 tickets on offer, it would be advisable to book asap.
Denis Cotter’s Paradiso: Recipes and Reflections (published by Nine Bean Row), marks 30 years in business for one of Ireland’s most important restaurants that just so happens to be vegetarian.
The Menu will be very much returning to this book for deeper evaluation, but in the meantime, take it for granted that this will be a nigh essential purchase for any keen cook, domestic or professional, and is likely to feature close to the top when awards season rolls around.
The Menu was recently enjoying one of his favorite repasts, Irish oysters, this time from Flaggy Shore, in Co Clare, where Mark Commins and Conor Graham, owner/operators of the very splendid Linnane’s Lobster Bar, at New Quay, in Co Clare, quite a stone’s throw away from the Flaggy Shore HQ — and The Menu is talking about a pebble cast by a three-year-old with a sore arm, literally the distance a mere shuffle, which he did himself several years ago, after a fine evening of winning and dining during the covid restrictions, then strolling over to his camper van to enjoy a fine drop of the craythur sitting on the quay wall alongside the oyster hatchery, looking across the water to the twinkling lights of Co Galway.
Mark and Conor took over Flaggy Shore Oysters from the legendary Gerry O’Halloran who began the business 35 years ago and had in recent years ran it with his daughter, Ciara, and the Menu can vouch for the continued quality of this superb Irish product which is now cropping up in some of Ireland’s finest restaurants.
Having received two small crates with no further information, he divined from their size that the smaller ones were ‘dainties’, which look to be less than a year old, and a larger size that is probably around the two-year mark. Both were quite excellent, the dainty, sweet and surprisingly saline considering the heavy rainfall of recent months, and with a refreshing hint of cucumber, while the larger plumbed with greater depths of flavour, a distinct nutty cast to their marine umami.
The Menu could happily sit there eating them raw all day long with nary a dressing other than a bottle of fine wine, in this case, La Dilettante, a wonderful vouvray from Catherine and Pierre Breton’s Domaine Breton in the Loire, but as there is less Zeal for this glorious mollusc in all its raw glory in Chez Menu, he set to making crispy tempura oysters with a homemade aioli on the side and, of course, another bottle of that sublime vouvray.