Jim McCarthy hasn't had much time to get on his bike during the summer of 2013. For a guy who is a serious cyclist – Jim will see you in Paris in a day or so: you will take the 'plane, but he will take his bike! But what is a guy to do? The Chart House has simply been too busy, too much pressure, so many customers. And it's easy to see why everyone wants to be in this room: it feels good to be here, it's a modest and honest place, welcoming, warm, softly lit, understated. It has an Irish lack of pretention which disarms you.
We first met Marcella Hazan in July 1992, when she came to cook a three-day course at the Ballymaloe Cookery School in Shanagarry.
Sometimes, mixed metaphors are just what you need to describe the evolution of a chef.
A good friend, after his first meal at Sage in Westport, wrote that chef-proprietor Shteryo Yurukov “really seems to have found his feet/spread his wings”.
Yeah, you know what he means. Mr Yurukov has been working in Westport and other points in Mayo over the last dozen years, but Sage is the first time he gets his name over the door, along with his partner, Eva Ivanova, who manages the room with charm and skill.
Brother and sister Aran and Colleen McMahon have followed in the footsteps of their mother, Ann, and run both Rua and Café Rua, both in Castlebar, County Mayo, two destinations that celebrate the best in the north west.
Consider that moment when you get a taste of the very best example of something to eat. Someone puts something in front of you, you take a bite, and it's not only bliss, it's benchmark.
Consider Gautham Iyer's samosas.
Little deep-fried parcels of peas and potatoes and other vegetables, a pair of them served with a mint and chilli chutney and a tamarind chutney, on a long rectangle of a plate.
They are perfect: hot, dry, light, delicate, spicy, comforting. They have all these characteristics, and then more.
Not many people grow up dreaming of becoming a statistical modelling analyst or a retail logistics capacity and flow planner. But running and owning a brilliant restaurant (or pub in Ireland) is an ambition up there with being a respected doctor or professional footballer or musician for many people.
The question everyone asks about Waterford’s Bodega! is this: does any other room enjoy the sort of manic energy that seems to be inscribed in the DNA of this restaurant?
The answer is: no. Bodega stands alone. It’s the restaurant equivalent of a cocktail, something riotous, colourful, alluring, something clamorous that provokes a deep longing in you to consume it right now. It’s the room you want to be in, the action you want to be in on, the conversation you want to join. It’s a blast.
Cuinneog butter is a hand-made butter made from Mayo milk from a little garden unit just outside Castlebar. It's quite widely distributed, so you often see its distinctive orange label in supermarkets and speciality shops. Cuinneog is also turning up more and more on restaurant menus, with restaurants like Chapter One highlighting that they use this very special ingredient. It's still the only commercial butter made in Ireland that is what is known as a "Country Butter", butter made using cultured cream.
It’s the simplest plate of food imaginable: a piece of hake, a little salsa with tomato, red onion and parsley, some sautéed potatoes, and a green salad with pomegranate seed.
And it is perfect, in every detail.
We have been going to stay at Ballymaloe House for twenty five years. We first arrived there on our bicycles, having taken the train from Dublin with the bikes in the Guard’s van, then cycled on the old road through Carrigtoohill and Cloyne and on to the house itself. Ballymaloe surprised us back then – Myrtle Allen clearing tables late on a Saturday night! that Milleens cheese like nothing we had ever tasted! the dessert trolley! – and today, after twenty five years, Ballymaloe can still surprise you with the simplest things.