In the most recent edition of his Apple Club Newsletter, Con Traas discussed codling moths, the Cahir Climatologist, domestic economics, apple thinning, apples and aspirin, and gave a short history of Gregor Mendel and his Laws of Heredity, as applied to your earlobes.
The Newsletter is both a most diverting and a most illuminating read, and we look forward to it every time, almost as much as we look forward to turning off the road at the sign for The Apple Farm and buying a few cases of our favourite apple juice and, most recently, Mr Traas’ splendid new sparkling apple juice. As a communicator and a farmer and an economic model of how to run a farm successfully and independently, Mr Traas is a paragon of virtue.
So, we step out of the car at the entrance to The Heritage, and the concierges already know the names of our children.
We get back to our room after enjoying a splendid dinner cooked by that fine chef Robbie Webster, and there are three cookies and three glasses of milk waiting for the kids. The cookies have their names written in icing sugar: Connie; Sam; P.J. this sort of level of service is inspired and driven by Donagh Davern, manager of The Heritage. The cookie trick, for example, is one he learnt from Francis Brennan in The Park Hotel, Kenmare. Except that Mr Davern has taken it up a gear: it is his innovation to write the kids’ names on the cookies. From the first meeting to the last goodbye, service at The Heritage is exemplary.
In Ireland we drink more tea than anyone else in the world, yet we know little or nothing about tea. Jorg Muller is quietly changing that. His Solaris blends of tea are brilliant brews, concoctions that have elemental qualities that once sampled, can’t be lived without. His green chai, for instance, is the finest green tea we have ever tasted – beautifully balanced, free of bitterness, life-enhancing. This is the aesthetic of the world of tea, sold in a beautiful box, waiting to improve your life.
The Coffee Roasters
Each morning, as we fashion a cafetiere of Morning Growler, or Java Republic, or Costa Rica blend from Ponaire, we thank our lucky stars that specialist coffee roasting in Ireland now enjoys such exalted expertise. And that passionate expertise is being rewarded: David McKienan has a state-of-the-art roastery and café in Dublin. Tommy and Jennifer from Ponaire are opening a new roastery and coffee shop and deli in Annacotty in Limerick in a couple of week’s time, and Cork Coffee Roasters just goes from strength to strength. The roasters are on a roll!
Farmers in Ireland have a problem: they only talk to other farmers.
Jenny Young talks to the world. As a communicator she, and her husband, Peter, are unparallelled. Their newsletters, their events, their organisation, their farm shop at Castlefarm in County Kildare, show how farming can and must interact with community and customers. They act local – superb quality foods produced to organic standards – but they think national, and they are the new farming superstars.
The Jephson Family
Ardkeen Quality Food Store is unlike any other food shop you have ever shopped in: it is better than all he others. The Jephson family have managed to create a supermarket that feels like a farmer’s market and that sells exactly what you want. They also have the sweetest, nicest staff on the planet. Our last Saturday morning visit was, believe it or not, one of the highlights of our year: this wasn’t shopping, this was a cultural event, an aesthetic interlude.
We need smart people to state the obvious, to show that common sense is far from common, and no one does it better than Michael Pollan. His book “In Defence of Food; An Eater’s Manifesto” summed things up brilliantly in a little haiku: “Eat food, Not too much. mainly plants”.
But if that seems a little too pat, then just take a look at the open letter to the President-elect that Pollan wrote for The New York Times, and which appears in full on his site. Borrowing on the ideas of Wendell Berry, Polaln attempts nothing less than a comprehensive intellectual restructuring of world agriculture. From fossil fuel to photosynthesis, you might call it, and reading it will be the best twenty minutes of your time spent in 2009
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