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John McKenna's blog

All the best places to eat, shop and stay in Ireland. A local guide to local places.

The Cake Café Book, by Michelle Darmody

If the great graphic novelist Chris Ware, author of the monumental Building Stories, and Jimmy Corrigan, The Smartest Kid On Earth, were to write and illustrate a cookery book, then it would, I suspect, look and feel pretty much like Michell Darmody's Cake Café Book.

That is to say, it would be obtuse, gorgeous, it would feature diagrams, it would be unapologetic about itself, and it would be a bit of a nuisance for anyone who doesn't have perfect eyesight. And it wouldn't be like anyone else's cookery book.

Hannan Meats' Guanciale

Here's a strange thing. Northern Ireland food producers have won the Supreme Award at the Great Taste Awards for the last two years.

McCartney's of Moira won it for corned beef in 2011, and Hannan Meats of Moira won it for their guanciale in 2012.

Hang on... both of them are from Moira? Wee Moira? Two Supreme Awards, on consecutive years, to one little mid-Ulster town? 9000 entrants and the Supreme Awards go to two meat specialists in Moira, County Down? You must be joking!

Ballymaloe LitFest

The array of speakers and demonstrators who have been assembled for the Ballymaloe LitFest reads not so much like a Who's Who, but more of a food lover's ultimate dream.

Pick the great names you would love to see and hear talking about food and books. Alice Waters. Ok. Claudia Roden. Ok. Madhur Jaffrey? Ok. Sandor Katz? Ok. David Tanis? Ok. Neven Maguire? Ok. Ella McSweeney? Ok. Rachel Allen? Ok. Claus Meyer? Ok. David Thompson? Ok. Stephanie Alexander? Ok

Pick Me!

You know, the great thing about food and wine is having your prejudices revealed as falsehoods. You get your mind changed about foods and wines because something arrives that is unmistakably good, that is unimpeachably fine.

So, Muscadet. It's a joke, right? Like Soave, and Lambrusco, and Blackberry 'phones, and Nokia's share price, and the Microsoft Surface. Mighty war horses that are now cart horses. Not worth opening unless someone has sent you a dozen oysters. There is much better stuff in the Loire valley, so don't waste time on these acidic fiascos.

Gerry Galvin

Gerry Galvin

When we talk about Gerry Galvin, whose funeral service was held yesterday at Oughterard, we rightly focus on the ways in which he was so different from the norm.

He was a chef, yes, but he was also a published poet, and the author of a whacky gastronomic thriller. He was a restaurateur, but he was also a formidable intellectual, and his book, The Drimcong Food Affair, remains one of the most bracingly original, and serenely wise, books ever written by a working chef.

McLoughlin's Butchers, Dublin

McGloughlin's Butchers
Pat McLoughlin

Cooking is a group effort.
What ends up on your plate, whether you are mopping up the gravy from your plate in Bear, or enjoying something delicious in Pearl Brasserie, or enjoying rack of lamb in Restaurant Patrick Guilbaud, owes a lot not just to the skill of the chef, but also to Pat McLoughlin, of McLoughlin's butchers of Ballyfermot, a quiet guy who quietly supplies prime cuts to some of the best places to eat in Dublin.
“My father began the business in 1965 and always sold quality”, says Mr McLoughlin.

The Organic Centre

The Organic Centre
The Organic Centre
The Organic Centre

Hans and Gaby Weiland have always been ahead of the curve. They were into organics before everyone else. They were into foraging before everyone else. They were into cheesemaking before (almost) everyone else. They were into fermentation before Sandor Katz was out of short pants.

In My Mug with 3FE Coffee

3FE

Colin Harmon makes everyone's life better, one cup of coffee at a time. “Make nice coffee, be nice to people, see them come back” is his modus operandi, and it works. In 3FE and in his job distributing coffee to others and teaching coffee classes, he makes the world a better place. But, you say, Colin and his team are mainly in Dublin, so how can I get my life improved if, let's say, I live in West Cork.

The 10 Best Records of 2012, or wasting Your Time For One More Year

Paul Buchanan

You don't need this list of my 10 favourite discs of 2012. But I do. So, here goes...


Isabelle Faust:  Berg/Beethoven Violin Concertos (Harmonia Mundi) Berg's music advances like an enormous torso of natural energy, whilst Faust rides the wave with a surfer's skill. Stunning.

Andras Schiff: J S Bach, The Well-Tempered Clavier (ECM) By not using the pedals, Schiff has had to carve all the colour out of Bach's masterpiece by sheer dexterity.

Fly: Year of the Snake (ECM) Mark Turner, Larry Grenadier and Jeff Ballard tear the trio format inside out.

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