Last Wednesday saw the first night of the Kai Cookbook club kick off, much to the delight of all in attendance.

A 6 course meal of gastronomic delight awaited 12 hungry diners from Nose to Tail, one of the classic cookbook staples from Fergus Henderson.

The banquet style meal was served in the upstairs dining room where a group of people entered as strangers, but left as friends.

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Musicians, poets, and teachers gazed across the table at foodies, voyeurs, and would be experimentalists.

The first course was a typical French onion soup with bone marrow on toast. The soup came in a cup packing a real punch – a full on warm onion flavour, probably even an improvement on the French staple.

Next up were two salads served in long bowls, one of which guests found most frightening, Pigs head salad, and a more welcomed anchovy and baby gem salad.

The idea was that the anchovy salad would be eaten first and would cut the fat of the following dish.

“Where’s the pigs head”, “Is that it?” exclaimed the diners. The curiosity over the pig meat settled with sounds of pleasure coming from those who had began to eat the slow cooked pork.

The head had been soaked in whiskey for 6 days before being slow cooked, and its meat then tossed in a fresh salad with complimenting mustard vinaigrette.

PIGS HEAD IN WHISKEY

The start of the meal was filled with talk about the pigs head, how it would be served, what it would look like, and how horrid the whole concept of eating an animal head was.

However diners then recalled having trotters for dinner as children, and by the time the bottom of the pigs head bowl was scraped clean, images from the butcher boy had been dispelled, and a rather satisfied look decorated faces around the table.

It was curious how the attitudes of people changed as the exploration into the pigs head went from squeamish to pleasure, and a want for more. This I think immediately made the evening a success.

The idea of the club is to get people talking, create a talking point, to debate, deconstruct and leave satisfied. Half way through the meal this had most definitely been achieved.

Next up were two more meat dishes with accompanying roasties. The meat however was so impressive the veggies pretty much remained in their resting place.

First up was a free range ham cooked in hay. And naturally we all had a lot to question about the hay. The ham was the most succulent and tasty ham I have ever had the privilege of eating, with such a rich pork flavour, and a banging parsley sauce on the side. Christmas hams will never be the same again!

HAM IN HAY

A boiled chicken was served at the same time, just big enough for the table, passed up and down so everyone could tear a sample of meat from the carcass – medieval style.

The finale was a blackberry fool with rabbit shortbread biscuits, a most appropriate desert to clean the pallet and to send the diners home with a want for more.

Washed down with a fine red and white wine Jess took time to talk about the dishes and how they were cooked outlining that it took her up to 6 days to prepare some of the dishes.

All guests were given copies of the menu and recipes to take home, which no doubt will be tried at some stage to unsuspecting guests at the dinner parties. Pork butchers across the city will be getting pig orders in the coming weeks for sure!

If you want to get in to next months cookbook club dinner I would advise you to book early, every person present last week said they would most definitely return next month, and I will certainly be in attendance!

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Over the last 8 months we have made many new friends, created beautiful new dishes, and explored the amazing produce we have here in the West of Ireland.

Kai has not yet made its way through all 4 seasons, but so far we have had a menu bursting with incredible forage, and the freshest farm grown vegetables, meat, fish, and fruit. It goes to show that even in winter there is no need for us to stick solely to meat and spuds, not that there is anything wrong with that!

Morning, and afternoon coffee time at Kai always warms our hearts, with the fire raging and friendly faces having their regular coffee we are humbled by the space we provide to mothers and children, doctors and lawyers, students and teachers.

They say one happy customer will put a smile on the face of 10, who will all with time return. This year we seem to have pleased many of the reviewers and critics, and have received much media attention and award nominations.

The café and restaurant has created a buzz – but that is not about the food. It is true we pride ourselves on our food, but the reaction of our customers is what attracts the reviewers and critics. Without you guys coming in everyday and enjoying our food, none of the reviewers would know about us.

We would like to thank all of you for your custom, and for telling the critics to come, thanks also the critics for telling others to come.

Taking a chance in a recession to start a new business is an incredibly frightening place to be, but our customers have shown us that we were right, and we will continue in the same vein.

The team at Kai hope to put on a number of exciting foodie events over the coming months, and we hope you will all join us.

If any of you ever have any feedback for us please drop us a line.

May 2012 be abundant and prosperous for everyone.

- The team at Kai

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We only work with the best producers and we are delighted that Bridgestone has recognised Castlemine Farm as the Farmer of the Year in the 2012 Bridgestone Top 100.

Castlemine produce the finest free range, grass fed animals with beautiful lamb, beef, and pork coming from their Roscommon Farm. The benefit of rearing animals this way ensures better quality meat, and healthier animals.

Brendan and Derek Allen are third generation farmers using traditional farming methods, producing some of the finest meat we have seen through our kitchen.

We love to use Castlemine meat as the quality is impeccable, and its full flavored taste is a reflection of the respect and attention the Allen brothers give their animals.

Their 250 acres at Castlemine is the home to specialty breeds like the Black Angus and Hereford beef, a variety of lamb breeds, and free-range pig breeds like Saddleback, Gloucestershire Old Spots and Tamworths. These pigs are always outdoors and their meat develops intense flavor, plus a good covering of fat which makes it moist, tender and truly tasty during cooking

How Free range are the Castlemine pigs? Have a look for yourself

If you were lucky enough to purchase one of the boys bronze turkeys at Christmas you will know the benefits of traditional farming methods – if not, make sure you get your name down early for next year.

The guys at Castlemine are up to speed with modern living, so rather than telling you where you can buy their produce, you can log on to their website and buy all of their meats online.

If you cannot get down to Kai for lunch or dinner, get Castlemine meats through your front door at www.castleminefarm.ie

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We only work with the best producers and we are delighted that Bridgestone has recognised Castlemine Farm as the Farmer of the Year in the 2012 Bridgestone Top 100.

Castlemine produce the finest free range, grass fed animals with beautiful lamb, beef, and pork coming from their Roscommon Farm. The benefit of rearing animals this way ensures better quality meat, and healthier animals.

Brendan and Derek Allen are third generation farmers using traditional farming methods, producing some of the finest meat we have seen through our kitchen.

We love to use Castlemine meat as the quality is impeccable, and its full flavored taste is a reflection of the respect and attention the Allen brothers give their animals.

Their 250 acres at Castlemine is the home to specialty breeds like the Black Angus and Hereford beef, a variety of lamb breeds, and free-range pig breeds like Saddleback, Gloucestershire Old Spots and Tamworths. These pigs are always outdoors and their meat develops intense flavor, plus a good covering of fat which makes it moist, tender and truly tasty during cooking

How Free range are the Castlemine pigs? Have a look for yourself

If you were lucky enough to purchase one of the boys bronze turkeys at Christmas you will know the benefits of traditional farming methods – if not, make sure you get your name down early for next year.

The guys at Castlemine are up to speed with modern living, so rather than telling you where you can buy their produce, you can log on to their website and buy all of their meats online.

If you cannot get down to Kai for lunch or dinner, get Castlemine meats through your front door at www.castleminefarm.ie

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There is only one guy that we like to buy our fish from, and its Stefan Griebach, the most passionate Frenchman in town. This guy loves his job, he understands the fishing industry, and he knows what people want.

If it weren’t for Stefan every menu in town would still be bursting with Cod and Plaice. However, Stefan has kindly brought in more exotic fish like Megrim and Sweaty Betty, which our customers are crazy about.

MEGRIM

Stefan explains his fish, he educates his customers about his products and tells them how best to cook it, and that’s not just to the public. Stefan brings fish in to the restaraunt everyday for us to choose from, if there is something new on offer he will tell us all about its taste, texture, and best way to cook it. This is the benefit with working closely with suppliers, rather than just ordering from a list. We take as much a hands on approach as the fisherman that land the catch.

The philosophy at Gannett is much the same as ours, Stefan and his team sell wild sustainable fish, and is continually introducing new fish to the market. As he says himself the waters are brimming with tonnes of amazing fish, but people are slow to buy them as they have never heard of them before.

One thing that amuses me most is that 10 years ago the ugly Monkfish was thrown back, and now its a luxury. And now a fish that looks beautiful but given a rather comical name is a late evening hit – Sweaty Betty.

Also known as The Greater Forked Beard – Sweaty Betty is one of the best fish in Irish waters – it lives in huge number just West of the Aran islands, and is completely sustainable, arguably a great alternative to the common Hake.

It is down to suppliers like Stefan to ensure the quality and origin of the fish we buy is 100%, and our neighbourhood Frenchman is the epitome of someone who loves his job, and takes pride in what he does.

He came here from France in 1997. He had firsthand experience of the fishmarkets in France and, on his arrival here he worked his way up through salmon farming and fish wholesaling and learned the industry the hard way.

In 2006 he saw his opportunity, formed Gannet Fishmongers, and opened his first fish stall in the Galway market.

When the fishing boats arrive in Rosaveal to auction their catch, Stefan goes through the boxes and picks the freshest fish for his five market stalls, his shop in the Eyre Square Centre and Kai.

If you want the best catch for your kitchen table be sure to visit Gannett at Galway, Oranmore, Loughrea, Moycullen and Ballinasloe markets, or at their shop in the Eyre Square market.

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