It’s funny that despite how messed up Ireland is at the moment, our food culture is punching way above its weight in a worldwide context. Among farmers, artisan producers, restaurants and hoteliers there is a strong awareness that not only is Irish food worth 8 billion in exports yearly but it is the one area bucking the recessionary trend.

I keep thinking that with the continuing drive of passionate chefs, producers and the food agencies, there is no reason why we can’t make Ireland a food destination like Piedmont in Italy, where people visit here for not just hospitality and landscape but for food.
Last week I attended a food event in the g Hotel in Galway which illustrated this connection perfectly. The g is a five star hotel, but ten years ago in Ireland, five star hotels created bland menus that “ticked all boxes”, with Italian food, trophy steaks, Caesar salads and mid-Atlantic staples that resembled a watery mix between Sheraton, Radisson and Celine Dion playing in the lobby. Sometimes a throwaway Irish dish to might make it onto the menu but far more important was the approach of trying to please too many people with descriptions and presentation of food while little thought was paid to where it came from.
Last week’s event in the g proved that happily, things have come a long way. Their “g is for Gourmet” dinner mirrored their overall policy in sourcing as much food as possible from local producers – the lamb was from local farms, scallops and prawns from Gannets in Galway, salmon and beautiful smoked tuna from Graham and Saoirse Roberts’ Connemara Smokehouse and cheese from Keane’s Bluebell Falls herd of goats.
Executive chef Stefan Matz who heads up both the g and Ashford Castle made the point that it’s no longer enough to talk about local food – “you have to practise what you preach and go and put it on the menu”.
From the producers standpoint it’s a win win situation – they see their food on top menus in Ireland which in turn sell it to an overseas audience. It is also wonderful to see a product like Bluebell Falls cheese transformed into three separate desserts; with three very different complex tastes – very technical cooking was in evidence but with a basic local foodstuff – it was a real eyeopener in what you can do with good simple quality produce.

Graham Roberts/Connemara Smokehouse & Regis Herviaux/Head Chef G Hotel

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