Sligo Food Trail goodies!

The Sligo Food Trail was officially launched on April 6th. I was delighted to work with Amanda McCloat, Head of Home Economic at St. Angela’s College in Sligo, and the Food Trail members in putting together the fantastic Goodie Bags that were distributed to key people on the launch night.

The producers and businesses showed typical generosity when it came to donations. The bags were packed full of delicious treats (both food & drink!), vouchers, books and, of course, copies of the Food Trail brochure:

The White Hag Brewing Company Ltd.
Café Fleur
Sweet Beat Cafè
WB’s Coffee House and Deli Bar
Shells Café and Little Shop
Beltra Country Market – Marguerite Quinlan
Fabio’s Homemade Italian Ice Cream
Prannie Rhatigan’s Irish Seaweed Kitchen
Clo’s Chocolate
Murson Farm
Seashore Veg
The Organic Centre
Aisling’s Home Cooked Food also to be found at the Grass Roof Café!
Bramble Lodge Foods
Eala Bhán / Trá Bán
Lyons Cafè
Pudding Row
Harrisons Gastro Bar & Restaurant
Radisson Blu Hotel & Spa

Some of these I’ve reviewed previously here on oonagheats.com or on the oonagheats.com Facebook fan page (Eala Bhan, Sweet Beat, Shells, Lyons Cafe, Radisson Blu, Aisling’s Home Cooked Food at the Grass Roof Café) but over the coming months, I plan to check them all out, painstakingly, one by one (poor me, LOL !) and give you the low down – watch this space!

Best Children’s Menu in Ireland – Spring Review

In February, I set out to assess Children’s menus, for variety, healthiness, availability and appeal. I’ve checked out quite a few at this stage, some directly (with the Children in tow) and some indirectly, just from a look at the menus.

We were invited by Anthony Gray, President of the RAI and owner of Eala Bhán and Trá Bán restaurants in Sligo to dine en famille at Eala Bhán and try out his newly launched “Healthy Kid’s Menu”. With thanks to Anthony for his generous hospitality, this is an honest appraisal. Anthony told us that the menu was devised by himself and his team and with input from Olivia Collins of Food PR.

Kids — Eala Bhán menu

It was very nicely presented, with the usual colouring in / activities on the reverse, though my pair are a bit old for the colouring in at this stage. Everyone got a soup amuse bouche, which is always a great addition!
Amuse Bouche

A review of the Starter options showed that the healthy option for starters was Soup. The fish cake, though listed as “Super Healthy” was deep fried (at least I assume it was or it would have said “baked”) in breadcrumbs. The third choice was sweet potato chips (deep fried again). For Starters, he close the Fish Cake and she went for the soup (vegetable).

The fish cake looked lovely, however, for a child, the presentation and garnish was a bit too fancy to be honest. Many children are not keen on salad or dressing or anything touching the food that they don’t want to eat! I tasted it though, and it was really good. In fact, I ate nearly all of it!!

The soup was excellent – a generous portion, with well balanced seasoning and very nicely presented, with brown bread on the side.

Choices of mains included fish & chips (deep fried), beef burger (chargrilled), deep fried chicken goujons, or vegetable lasagna (sic). For mains, he chose the Chicken Goujons & Chips and she went for the Beef Burger. The verdict on the Chicken and Chips was that the chips were really good – chunky, fresh and crispy, but the chicken was just “ok”. Deep fried so not very healthy. The burger was really super. Lovely soft bap, fab beef from Sherlock’s Butchers, perfect portion size, generous but not too much, overall a winner.

Desserts were chocolate, chocolate or chocolate! There was nothing else. He is quite the connoisseur of the chocolate brownie and said that while this was indeed very good, it was slightly overbaked and so a bit too much like chocolate cake, i.e., not squidgey enough! That said, he ate every pick! She went for fancy, and she is inclined to do, and the Chocolate Fondue was indeed very impressive!

A healthy menu should offer a fruit plate, or fruit skewers or even yogurt. If the menu is supposed to he healthy, then there should be some healthy options for all courses.

Overall, is great to see a restaurant make an effort at a healthy menu, and despite being well presented and tasty, simply calling something “healthy” and listing local suppliers doesn’t make it healthy I’m afraid. Perhaps input from a Nutritionist would help. At the very bottom of the menu in small print, it told us that Child Size portions of all adult meals are available. Fantastic! But this should be front & centre! At the very least, it should really have been pointed out to us by the server. This is where a restaurant can score points and set itself above the others when it comes to beating the competitors in the healthy kids meal stakes. It’s an opportunity that should be capitalised on.

Other quick picks from my travels (and please excuse some very poor photography on my part):

Tyrellspass Castle Restaurant, Co.Westmeath – soup and choices of turkey, beef or ham with veg first followed by the usual deep-fried chicken,sausages etc…
Tyrellspass Castle

Rua, Castlebar – excellent menu, and not a deep-fried goujon or chip in sight, hooray! Will definitely go back here with the kids in tow.
Rua Kids Menu

Shells Cafe, Strandhill – nice little kids menu, great to see that its basically smaller portions of the main menu dishes, with a twist!
Shells Kids Menu

Donaghy’s Pub, Sligo – very very limited kids portions on the menu, just 2 dishes that we could see – chicken nuggets and chips, and Healthy Fish Gougons (sic) for Kids – we weren’t offered a kids menu, if there was one (we didn’t ask either mind you);

Sweet Beat Cafe, Sligo – no children’s portions on the menu so we usually end up splitting dishes between us;

McDonagh’s, Galway – recently visited, but no kids portions offered that we could see (no complaints from the kids though!).

Sheridan’s of Milltown, Co.Galway – a good range of healthier foods for kids here. Spaghetti, mash, chicken curry and rice…and the usual sausages / goujons & chips. Better than some though.
Kids Menu Sheridans Milltown310316

Restaurants would do well to appreciate that, during the day and early evening, parents can be enticed to dine more often with children, if the children were better catered for. Who decided that all kids want to eat is processed meat & chips? Sure, they’ll happily eat it, but its not healthy, as most people know by now. Oh, and P.S., run a spell check on your menus people! There is no excuse for bad grammar, stray apostrophes and spelling errors.

Tune in again at the end of the Summer for the next instalment!

The Search for the Best Children’s Menu in Ireland is on!!

If, like me, you travel frequently with children, whether for day trips or weekends or longer, you will know that the quality and variety of food on menus for children ranges from the very ordinary to the somewhat less ordinary, with only a few exceptionally good ones bucking the trend. So I’m putting out a call to cafes and restaurants – how can you make your menus appealing to children, and by extension to the bill payer?!

For example, recently we stayed in Hotel Westport (again!). They when a great kids club for U12s, the Panda Club. Children eat at 5.15pm. This time though, since one of ours is now 13, the deal was that one night our pair (13 year old fussy boy & 11 year old foodie girl) could eat in the dining-room with us, which was really nice actually.

She loved the Amuse Bouche (fancy!).

Hotel Westport Amuse Bouche

They could choose from the Children’s Menu or the main menu (for an additional charge). The 13 year old did object to the games on the reverse, now that he’s so mature…! I thought that was a good idea though.The selection was pretty good and the quality in Hotel Westport is always up to scratch. The deep-fried goujons were a lot better than the chicken nuggets you see in so many places.

The following evening we went back to The Pantry & Corckscrew – creatures of habit are we! I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again – this is one of my favourite places in Ireland. The menu is original, fresh and interesting and the food lives up to expectations.

Children have a really interesting choice here – none of the usual fare and not a nugget in sight! Miss Foodie had an excellent homemade beefburger with lovely bun and chunky chips. The very fussy (discerning?!) 13 year old young man had tempura hake, also with chunky chips (though they could have had mash if they wished). Both super and all eaten very happily with even happier parents looking on.

Tonight we’re heading to our local Dromahair eatery, The Riverbank Restaurant. Its a firm favourite in this house and traditional choice for a Birthday Dinner (it’s mine today, just saying’, ahem!). They have published their Children’s Menu on line – clever people – which is great for anyone thinking of going, wondering about what the children could eat. Check out oonagheats.com on Facebook later tonight for photos!

So, I’m putting out the call – where is really good for children’s meals? I’m looking for recommendations from parents and restauranteurs far and wide. I’ll come and try and spread the word if it passes muster – my two assessors will have final say – after all, they will eat the food, while I’m your target market, i.e., the bill-payer! Once a good list has been established – I’ll publish it widely.

Restaurants should send me their menus and parents / others their recommendations to oonagh@alphaomega.ie

Bring it on!

High Protein yogurt? Why bother? Wyldsson snacks on the other hand…!

If you want to make a Nutrition claim for you food, then you need to be sure that it meets the standards that the legislation says it must. For example, something that’s Low Fat must have less than 3% fat, that’s 3g/100g. To be a Source of fibre, the food must contain at least 3g of fibre per 100g or at least 1.5g of fibre per 100kcal, and a High fibre Product must contain at least 6g of fibre per 100g or at least 3g of fibre per 100kcal – start looking more closely at your Nutrition labels and see if they meet the criteria!

For a High Protein claim, at least 20% of the energy value of the food should be provided by protein. This one is more difficult for the consumer to check, as you have to do a bit of calculation, and even then its not clear.

Glenisk Authentic Strained Greek Style yogurt says "High Protein" on the label. The Nutrition panel indicates only 8.3g of protein though / 100g, thats only 8.3%, not 20%. Oops!! or is it? The label says that the Energy value is 66kcal/100g, so 20% of this is 13.2kcal. As a consumer you can't know if this 13.2 came from the 8.3g of protein thats in there. We just have to believe them! I'm assuming that then yogurt has been fortified with protein powder, since the product is made from skim milk which contains only about 3.6g protein/100ml milk, but I could be wrong. Anyway, I’ve fired off an email to the FSAI and will let you know what they say -keep an eye on oonagheats.com on Facebook for updates!

UPDATE! Glenisk very kindly confirmed since this post was originally posted that (1) NO protein powder is used and (2) the energy provided by protein in these yogurts is actually at 50% ! Pretty good!!

Glenisk strained protein rhubarb

Anyway regardless of all that, how did it taste? Not bad, although the texture was a little odd I thought. Its semi-set, somewhere between a set yogurt and a mousse, but nice all the same. Good rhubarb flavour. I got some vouchers for a free sample of this yogurt, but would I buy it again? No, I don’t think so. Will stick to Glenisk low fat range – I absolutely LOVE them, especially the vanilla.

I was also sent some samples of Wyldsson products, which I admit I’d never heard of before. Now these I really liked! They might be aimed at elite sports people, or so the testimonials indicate (i.e., not me!), I’d definitely buy these. Loved the packaging – handy, refillable tubes for eating on the go, or foil punches (here’s a photo from their website). Really good balance of nuts, dried fruit and even a little chocolate – excellent all round. This is a young Irish company, based in Dublin headed up by Dave McGeady – go Dave! You can buy Wyldsson from the website or Facebook page.

Glenisk & Wyldsson

The Draft House Gastro Pub opens in Strandhill using local suppliers

Its lovely when an invitation pops up in your InBox with an invitation to the opening night of a new Gastro Pub! So it was back on May 15th last when owner Daniel McGarrigle (he of 5th on Teeling fame) invited friends and neighbours to sample the craft beer and food of this new venue, The Draft House in Strandhill, Co.Sligo.

 Draft House logo

We were treated to a wide range and many samples of the foods and beers on the menu. While some of the branding might be a bit twee (a pig on a surfboard, really?) and some menu descriptions a little silly (Sand Witches – I know its by the beach in Strandhill, but still… Granny’s brown bread – who is Granny? Why not just say local or house…? Chicken Supreme, for bird lovers – hardly! and the Water was labelled as “Unicorn Tears”, give me a break) the food was undoubtedly very good.

The one quibble I had was that when I asked the F&B Manager if the bread was made on the premises, she answered “Yes! It was made fresh yesterday”. Yesterday. That explained why it was a little dry then. However, I have recently learned that a local baker (My Strandhill Bakery) will be supplying the bread imminently, and I know that will be great since the baker has recently returned from bakery training in Paris and spent 3 weeks at the Bakery Academy of Ireland in Dublin over the Summer…and I’ve tried it.

My Strandhill Bakery logo

Its far better to buy local, fresh every day, rather than serve day old bread made on the premises.

On foot of a very enjoyable launch night, I returned with the children a week later. The place was very busy, which is a good sign. However, everywhere we sat seemed to be right underneath a speaker which was playing music just a bit too loud for a family at lunch time. So we left.

Not to be put off, we all returned again a week later. The food was great, but the service really needed attention. Very uneven. Asked for glasses that came wet. Then came dirty. Then came with attitude. The salad special said “mixed baby leaves” – it was all spinach. Perhaps things will improve with time and I will try it again in the future, but not in a hurry. Good food is always a draw, but poor service puts me right off, especially when other nearby places can do both well.

Good Luck to Daniel and Team – its great to see new place opening with a real emphasis on food and atmosphere. The menu is really interesting and the decor certainly different (albeit a bit dark downstairs for daytime). Just be sure to train your staff really well and ensure standards are set, monitored and maintained. Next time I’ll have a go on the swing upstairs!

Recent Roundup

So many restaurants, just not enough time to report them all fully I’m afraid. I hope these photos give you a taste (!) to bring you up to date. It has been a very busy year so far working with more great food producers, visiting new restaurants and cafés, judging baking competitions….such activity in the food community, brilliant!

Finals of the Co. Leitrim Aldi / Foiróige baking competition – the cake won, so light, flavoursome, a great bake as they say – no soggy bottoms!

Lunch in The Oarsman, Carrick On Shannon – Atlantic Hake with a side of the best mashed potato I’ve had anywhere for ages. Thanks Conor Maher for the suggestion!

Duck starter and Sea Bass main course in The Cottage, Jamestown, Co.Leitrim

Beer Battered cod & chips in The Clubhouse Bar, Dromahair, Co.Leitrim – on my doorstep!
The Clubhouse cod & chips

If you haven’t been to the Sweet Beat Café yet in Sligo -why not?! Its just fantastic – tell Carolanne I sent you😉
Sweet Beat IT feature

Wonderful marshmallow from Donegal, made by Artisan food producer Linda McClean of Mallow Mia! Brilliant for gifts or wedding favours.

KC Peaches, Dame St., Dublin – toasted brown bread with mashed avocado (very tasty even though it wasn’t actually mashed!). Food good though service was a little slow considering the only other person there was only having coffee!

Baba Ganousch in Luna Restaurant, Dromahair, Co.Leitrim – the village is growing its fab food status with Bernadette O’Shea’s incredible food.
Luna Baba Ganoush

Great to see new places opening on O’Connell St., Sligo – Knox is the place to try if you’re in town. Love the style and decor, food good too!
Knox coffee

Dromahair monthly(ish) Culinary Challenge Club – Mexican night!

There’s more to come – and I promise to post a lot more regularly from now on. If you’ve been anywhere great or awful, let me know and I’ll check it out!
Bye for now,
Oonagh