Artisan of the Year: Anna Leveque, Triskel Farmhouse Cheeses, Portlaw, County Waterford
We met Anna for the first time at the West Waterford Food Festival, and were captivated by the singularity and completeness of her cheeses. The Triskel cheeses are nuanced, delicate and subtle, and that subtlety reflects the classic Gallic-style forms of the cheeses morphed with Irish milk, and filtered through Ms Leveque's own signature.
Restaurant of the Year: Harry’s Bar & Restaurant, Bridgend, Inishowen, County Donegal
Donal Doherty and chef Raymond Moran have moved Harry’s to top place in the restaurant pantheon, cleverly doing something no one else has done before: they concentrate exclusively on the foods of the Inishowen peninsula, and they communicate about their work better than almost anyone else. Their food has a story, and they are culinary storytellers supreme. They also offer just about the best value in Ireland, but you would happily pay a king’s ransom for such immaculately sourced and cooked Irish food. www.harrys.ie
Chef of the Year: Mickael Viljanen, Gregn’s Castle, County Clare
“The best cooking I have eaten in Ireland”. We have heard this so often during the last year, said to us by someone who has just tried Mickael Viljanen’s cooking in Gregan’s Castle, in County Clare.The great Derry Clarke, who cooked alongside Viljanen for a couple of nights in Kenmare’s Park Hotel, simply said to us: ““I’m going to do a stage with this guy!”. Viljanen has the technique and, like the new wave of Nordic cooks, he has the humility and the respect for his ingredients that creates food of breath-taking beauty and simplicity. He connects with his food, and lets us connect with it also. Quietly profound. www.gregans.ie
Inspiration of the year: Michael Kelly, GIY Ireland
GIY Ireland has massed 6,000 members in just over 18 months, making Michael Kelly’s achievement something of an agricultural Facebook in terms of success. This brilliant not-for-profit organisation is exactly the right idea at exactly the right time, and groups now range all over the country, from Abbeyleix to Youghal, with even a couple in Northern Ireland. “Together We Grow!” is their slogan. Together we grow better, it should be! www.michaelkelly.ie
Man of the Year: Jack McCarthy, McCarthy’s Butchers, Kanturk, County Cork
The Confrerie des Chevaliers du Goute Boudin paraded in Kanturk in September, and the brotherhood presented Jack McCarthy and his son, Tim, with a Gold Medal for their black pudding. To get a gold medal from the French for a boudin noir is a stunning achievement, but it’s no more than Jack and Tim deserve. For more than a century, McCarthy’s have been cutting-edge charcutiers, and there isn’t a casual or workaday thing prepared by these brilliant butchers in their modest, essential shop. www.jackmccarthy.ie
Farmer of the Year: Jimmy & Bernadine Mulhall, Coolanowle Farm, County Laois
The Mulhall family are part of the New Agricultural Economy. Several years back, they switched from chemicalised farming to organic farming. Then they pioneered selling the meat from their farm solely through Farmer’s Markets. In September they opened their own Farm Shop at their farm in County Laois. They are ahead of the posse, and they are flourishing, because they know and understand one simple truth, as espoused by Wendell Berry: “Eating is an agricultural act”. www.coolanowle.com
Retailer of the Year: Ardkeen Stores, Waterford
The Jephson family’s independent supermarket is supermarket nirvana. Everything about Ardkeen – and we mean everything – is as good as it can be: the staff, the design, the lighting, the aesthetic, the atmosphere and, above all, the stuff on the shelves. Every great local speciality food is here, beautifully presented, and sold by sympathetic, knowledgeable staff, people who care about what they do, and who know that they are a vital player in the food culture. If you haven’t visited, you simply can’t understand how supermarket retailing can be an art form. www.ardkeen.com
New Food Award of the Year: Highbank Orchard Syrup, Cuffesgrange, County Kilkenny
Ingredients: Irish Organic Apples. No Added Sugar. Suitable for Vegetarians. Free from Artificial Colours, Additives and Preservatives”. That’s what it says on the label of Highbank Organic Orchard Syrup, made in Kilkenny by Julie and Rod Calder-Potts. So, apples is what you gets, and what they make is a syrup that is also a tonic. This is a great product, and it has already edged West Cork honey to the margins when it comes to the morning porridge here at Bridgestone Central. But it’s not just breakfast that benefits from Highbank Syrup: slug it on some ice cream, or a slice of warm apple tart, and you have orchard heaven. www.highbankorchards.ie
Newcomer of the Year: Tastefully Yours, Dunhill, County Waterford
We would walk a country mile for a great piccalilli, and the best picalilli we have tasted in years is made by Norbert Thul and Andrea Hassett’s company, Tastefully Yours, from Dunhill in Waterford. Everything they fashion is beautifully made, the flavours crisp, sharp and alive, and beautifully packaged. There is a neat shop and tearoom also at Dunhill Ecopark where they sell the complete TY range along with fresh breads and cakes, and look for them also at Farmer’s Markets.
Food County of the Year: County Kilkenny
They have one of the best food festivals, they have some of the very best artisan producers, their restaurants prize the local foods, their Foodcamp was a breakthrough experience in 2010, their LEADER company has woken up to the fact that strong local food economies are vital, they have kept foreign-owned multinational supermarkets out and, all-in-all, Kilkenny is streaking ahead when it comes to presenting a powerful, unified, county-based artisan food experience.
Megabytes 2011 Award: Clanwood Farm, County Offaly
Orla Clancy produced a burger at Electric Picnic that turned the burger on its head. In place of an homogenised, international, bland, zero-identity industrialised piece of rubbish, Ms Clancy had organic beef from her own Clanwood Farm, organic leaves from Lough Boora Farm, organic cheese from Mossfield Farm and organic bread rolls from Coolfinn bakery. Out of the ridiculous, the sublime. We will be happy to stand in a field and eat a Clanwood farm burger, anytime.
Megabytes Achievement Award: Field’s Supermarket, Skibbereen, West Cork
Seventy five years of serving the town of Skibb with the best West Cork can produce, that’s what John Field and his family have achieved. In many ways, it’s impossible to imagine the great stores, shops and supermarkets we have in Ireland without acknowledging that Field’s may be the most important of all, a shining light of brilliance, great service and, above all, a vital first point of selling for West Cork artisans. John, Christy and all the crew are exemplary purveyors of pristine produce, people who put the art into retailing.