2013 May - Archive

Nestled deep along the Connemara shoreline is a very special business, close to the hearts of the local community, and loved by customers all over the world.

In our blogs we always highlight the importance of local producers, and artisan and cottage industries, well this particular business is as close to nature as any.

Located in Aillebrack, Ballyconneely is the Connemara Smokehouse. Right on the waters edge the Smokehouse is a good drive off the main road, down a narrowing lane that makes you wonder if you’ve taken a wrong turn – well you haven’t, you’re just about to discover one of the oldest smokehouses in the country.

Previously I wrote about the wonderful family business of the Roberts family that has been in operation since 1979, but now there’s another reason for people to know about the Smokehouse. Connemara Smokehouse has just become Ireland’s first food Economusee. What on earth is that?

An Economusee is an economically independent artisan business that opens its doors to the public in order to promote its craft, and craftspeople. It gives people a reason to visit artisan busineses, and offers visitors a learning experience. This prestigious title puts The Connemara Smokehouse in a special place – deepening its ties to culture, community, trade, sustainable development, and protecting jobs.

There’s a need to strengthen awareness of these businesses in order to cement their future and development. For the Connemara Smokehouse they can now showcase their artisan process to the public in a way that both informs and teaches.

There aren’t many businesses that can claim to have totally natural produce, but one that takes fish directly from the waters around it, and smokes the produce using age-old natural processes is one that we must cherish.

Speaking at the opening of the Economusee, Teagasc Regional Advisory Manager Brendan Heneghan said: “The economusee concept originated 20 years ago in Quebec, Canada, where there are now over 50 economusee’s contributing to employment and the maintenance of local skills and knowledge in traditional rural businesses ranging from artisan food to boat building.”

“Needless to say we are thrilled to be the first food economusee in Ireland and now a member of this prestigious network. We aim to build on this success as the opening of the economusee today allows Saoirse and I to realise some of our long term dreams and plans for the business. It also showcases Connemara globally, which in turn should benefit other businesses locally and the seafood industry on a national scale”.

We have always used produce from The Connemara Smokehouse and will continue to do so because we believe in their ethical, and traditional processes. We at Kai also feel that the quality of the Roberts smoked produce is uncomparable. We are proud to say we are an artisan business supporting artisan businesses. It’s good to keep it in the family!

So, next time you’re heading to Connemara make sure to put the Economusee top of your list.

Best of luck to the Roberts from all of us at Kai.

For more information on The Connemara Smokehouse visit www.smokehouse.ie or for more information on the whole Economusee organisation check out http://www.economusee.eu

 

Filled Under : Uncategorized

This weekend saw the 7th annual Burren Slow Food Festival take place in Lisdoonvarna.

It’s a great event run by the Slow Food group in Clare that invites food producers, consumers and industry experts to come together to experience and sample the grass roots of food culture in Ireland.

Slow Food is a group like no other, spanning 150 countries since 1989 the organization beliefs are based upon the following statement:

“Slow Food believes that everyone has a fundamental right to the pleasure of good food and consequently the responsibility to protect the heritage of biodiversity, culture and knowledge that make this pleasure possible”.

Understanding the motivation behind Slow Food indicates that they are different, and the events they run come from the heart, and without any monetary or political agenda.

Last weekends event was such a typical Slow Food event in every manner of the word. It was based in a community centre in Lisdoonvarna and yet the likes of Richard Corrigan made sure he turn up to see what was going on.

The event is so much more than a food festival. The term food festival so often conjures a picture of food stalls lined along a city street, and often run for commercial means. Well, this festival is not run as a commercial event, but by a volunteer group that are passionate about food, where it comes from, it’s producers, and promoting everything local.

The Burren event was a chance to sample local artisan foods, meet local producers and growers, engage with fellow foodies, and enjoy cookery demonstrations from well-known chefs.

The producers that attended the market were not the familiar market aficionados but small scale cottage industries. These small businesses are an important backbone and testground for our food culture in Ireland.

From one mans locally produced hedgerow wines to a selection of locally foraged seaweed snacks there truly was a taste of Clare at that market.

Our very own Jess took part in a live cooking demo with JP from Aniar producing a wonderful wild salmon ceviche with a lovely wild salmon that turned up that morning, while JP showed onlookers how to pan fry raywing.

Other super events held over the weekend included Seaweed Foraging, guided walks, beer tasting and talks on the Atlantic Coastal Food Community hosted by John and Sally McKenna.

It was a big, wholesome, organic event that gave so much more than any foodie could ask for, and all run by people who love food.

If you can go next year put it top of your list for Food Festivals in 2014. We go every year and it never disappoints!

 

Filled Under : Slow Food

Galway Advertiser, May 09, 2013.

With Anne Marie Carroll

The last outpost of civilisation before you reach Salthill, when Kai opened, it opened with a bang and very quickly achieved a cult following. It suffered not a jot from teething problems, it was a fully formed concept practically from the word go. Kai was unpretentious and fun with flower and seed strewn salads piled on boards, big Ortiz tuna tins filled with bread, and the sun spilling through the skylight even on the dullest of days illuminating the lunchtime altar of cakes. Everyone’s favourite Kiwi chef Jess Murphy brings her own brand of kitchen voodoo and you know you are a regular when you grow to understand husband and partner-in-crime David Murphy’s accent at front of house.

Aside from the best brunch in town every Sunday, it is always well worth the extra trek and the couple of extra euro for the short, seasonal, lunch menu. Six or seven options that always showcase the best the west coast has to offer, from potted crab to gurnard fish finger sandwiches on Kai’s own foccacia, I have yet to be disappointed. Dinner is an equally short and ever changing menu with about five ‘beginnings’, ‘middles’, and ‘ends’.

I was last there for the cookbook club, held about once a month. This is a book club crossed with a supper club, where Jess and her team cook recipes from one book. Past books have included Ottolenghi’s book Plenty and Denis Cotter’s famous vegetarian cookbook Cafe Paradiso. The chosen book last month was What Katie Ate by Katie Quinn Davis. A great book, filled with lovely recipes and amazing photographs, it was one I had been promising myself. Originally a native of Dublin, now based in Australia, Katie Quinn Davis is a graphic designer turned food blogger and works as a freelance commercial photographer specialising in food.

I joined up with charming company, my new BFF, Jennie Browne from Goodness Cakes and reigning social media queen of Galway. We also had the wonderful Seamus Sheridan from Sheridan’s Cheesemongers and Peter Boland from Cases Warehouses at our table. Both were there to talk about the importance of local suppliers and supporting cottage industry, and also to introduce some wines and cheeses to the assembled diners. The dishes selected from the book came thick and fast from the kitchen, the best value three courses for €35 I have ever encountered.

Among the starter dishes were patatas bravas — spicy potatoes with crispy ham and wobbly eggs baked in enamel tins and served family-style to the table along with a red cabbage and fennel slaw, lightly dressed with a creamy, lemony, herbed yoghurt and studded with blood orange, goat’s cheese, and toasted pecans. There were jugs of lemon cordial with a hint of mint as well as the excellent wines. A creamy orecchiette pasta dish served in a pecorino sauce with scattered peas and pine nuts with pretty roasted vine tomatoes balanced on top and a generous bowl of wings and roasted limes to squeeze over.

For the second course Jess had chosen a lovely Panzanella with a punchy balsamic dressing and a fregola salad (a grain like giant couscous) with bacon and preserved lemons. A crunchy leek topped fish pie landed on the table alongside a ‘retro’ beef curry topped with caramelised bananas, piles of popadoms, and jars of relish, the dishes kept coming until there was barely room to set down your glass.

Dessert was a piquant rhubarb and hazelnut tart paired with an initially strange tasting strawberry, basil, and black pepper ice-cream, that grew on you eventually.

Alas that was the last cookbook club before the summer season kicks off, but the good news is that Kai is now opening seven days a week for your dining pleasure. Remember it seats just 45 so make sure you reserve a table, especially at weekends. The cookbook club will return after the summer, and I for one shall be keeping a beady eye on Kai’s Facebook page, so that I do not miss out on what is one of the best evenings out Galway has to offer. Totally Toto Africa.

Filled Under : ethical , food , galway , locally sourced , organic food , restaurant , restaurant galway