Stitch and Bear

A long-running Irish blog with reviews of the best restaurants in Dublin and throughout Ireland. Some wine and cocktails thrown in for good measure!

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Recent Irish food winners

I'm dedicating this post to some excellent Irish food & drink producers. In recent days, I've read of wins abroad for Irish cheese manufacturers Knockdrinna at the British Cheese Awards 2011, while at home, we've been busy celebrating great Irish produce through events such as the Blas na hÉireann National Irish Food Awards. Later this month, Irish food producers and enthusiasts will gather at Savour Kilkenny to continue the celebration of all that is good and great about Irish food. 

Based purely on my personal preferences, I am going to write about three different producers, each of whose products I like for different reasons. One is an old childhood friend, one is relaxing in front of a fire and one is made from caprine milk (well, goat's milk). 

The childhood friend - Folláin

I grew up in the Muskerry Gaeltacht (Gaeltacht Mhúscraí) and one way of earning a few bob in the summertime was to pick blackberries and other soft fruit for the small, local jam factory. We'd head to the fields with an empty bucket (formerly used to hold caustic soda for cleaning the milking machine) and pick blackberries from the briars. Every day I'd eagerly anticipate the small fortune that was to be made, but of course, by the end of the day, I'd have purple lips and tongue, while my bucket was definitely not overflowing.

The local jam factory was Folláin, which started by producing a grapefruit marmalade in 1983, based on a O'Lionáird family recipe. This family-run business is a true success story, growing from a small kitchen enterprise to a fully-equipped and high-tech production facility, while still remaining rooted in the small village of Cúil Aodha. While I've always loved their jams and preserves, my real love lies with their range of relishes, particularly the Fire Roasted Pepper and Exotic Fruit relishes.

Stitch and Bear - Follain relishes
Folláin Red Pepper & Exotic Fruit relishes
My favourite is the Exotic Fruit Relish, although 2fm DJ Rick O'Shea from is a well-known fan of the Fire Roasted Pepper Relish. It's delicious as the base to a cheese toastie, or else served with cheese and crackers. 

Folláin have found a profitable side to their business in the production of own-label products for different supermarket chains and their quality was recognised at the Blas na hÉireann 2011 awards where their Supreme Fire Roasted Pepper Relish for Supervalu and Irish Country Relish Chargrilled Pepper for Aldi took Gold & Silver respectively in the Pickles & Chutneys category.
There's an old Irish saying "Is maith an t-anlann an t-ocras", which translates as "Hunger is a great sauce". Let me tell you, the old Irish folk got it all wrong, they really meant to say "Is maith an t-anlann Folláin" or "Folláin is a great sauce"

The fireside friend - Cooley Distillery

Irish whiskey is mainly dominated by large multinationals these days, and only one independently owned distillery remains in the country - Cooley Distillery. When created in 1987, it was the first new distillery in Irleand in over a century and it set about revitalising some old Irish whiskey brands as well as restoring the Old Kilbeggan Distillery.

Greenore, one of the Cooley brands, is a single grain whiskey, made with corn and aged in bourbon casks. Different age statements are available, and I'm particularly fond of the 8 year version. It's a smooth whiskey with tastes of caramel and toffee and makes for very easy drinking. It comes in a very attractive thick glass bottle  with clear labelling which allows the colour of the whiskey to shine through. In 2010, Greenore was awarded a Best in Class and a World Whiskeys Awards Best in Class. I'm not sure how readily available it is, but I have seen it for sale in the Celtic Whiskey Shop on Dawson Street for €32.99
Stitch and Bear - Greenore 8 year irish whiskey
Greenore 8 Year (Image taken from Celtic Whiskey Shop)
Like Folláin, Cooley Distillery also manufactures spirits for own brand labels, and they too were successful in the recent Blas na hÉireann 2011 awards, where their Avoca Aged Blended Irish Whiskey and Avoca Irish Whiskey took Gold and Bronze respectively in the Spirits & Liquers category.  My bottle of Greenore 8 is coming to an end, so I called into Aldi to buy the Avoca Aged Whiskey, which sells at the attractive price of  19.99. It's ever so slightly darker in colour than the Greenore, and is similarly smooth tasting. The flavours are sweet with a bit more wood than the Greenore. Personally, I'll be sticking to Greenore for my nightcaps, but when you consider price, the Avoca is good whiskey to have on your shelf.

Stitch and Bear - Avoca Aged Blended Irish Whiskey
Avoca Aged Blended Irish Whiskey
The Farmyard Friend - Knockdrinna

Kilkenny-based Kockdrinna has been making cheese since 2004 and now their range covers cow's, sheep and goat's milk cheeses. Their new goat's cheese Kilree swept the boards at the British Cheese Awards 2011, being named Supreme Champion in addition to winning the Best Irish Cheese & Best Semi-Soft Cheese.

My favourite Knockdrinna cheese, however, is the wonder Knockdrinna Snow. Made from goat's milk, it gets its name from the velvety snow-white rind. It is firm when young, but matures into melting softness. It has the most wonderful lustrous, pearl-like white colour,  making it a feast for the eyes. Once you've finished gazing, you can get on with grazing as it is delicious smeared on cheese biscuits. I get my Knockdrinna  from Sheridan's Cheesemongers, but it can also be bought online directly from the farm.

Stitch and Bear - Knockdrinna Snow goat's cheese
Knockdrinna Snow Goat's Cheese (Picture from Knockdrinna)
That's the end of my celebratory post of Irish food and drink. As I said earlier, these products are chosen purely on my personal preferences and childhood memories. I'm sure that everyone will have their own favourite candidates. Why don't you share your favourites with me, and take the time to explain why they are your favoruites. Perhaps I'll discover some great new products, thanks to your recommendations!

1 comment

WiseMóna said...

I am so glad you wrote this up. It is a real tribute to some of Irelands great goodies. I am sharing it on my WiseWords FB page. Lovely as always.

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