Bloom in the Park 2019 – food, flowers, fantastic!

Last June Bank Holliday was the 12th year of Bord Bia‘s Bloom in the Park, or “Bloom”, as its more commonly known. Having started off primarily as a garden & horticultural show, the food element quickly grew and is now a major part of this annual event.

I really love planned, structured gardens, especially walled gardens, gardens with sculptures, gardens with built features (check out the Crumlin Children’s Hospital one) and among all the beautiful gardens, the stand out one for me was the Vina Dona Paula garden designed by Allen Rudden. I really liked this, it’s exactly what I’d like to have at our house in Leitrim (if you’re looking for a home for it?! just sayin’…). The steel, the girders, the concrete re-enforcement, the paving, the wall flowers, the planting, everything, I thought it was fabulous.

It is always the food side of any event that’s the big draw for me, and several of the gardens had a food or drink theme…

The UCD History of the Irish Diet in Plants concept garden, in their own words “tells the story of the Irish diet from the early settlers to the introduction of farming, how tastes changed with the entry of imported foods, the impact of industrialisation, and the implications of the modern expansive diet.”

Staying with the food & drink garden theme was Blackwater Gin which is made in Waterford. Now that there are so many gins on the market in Ireland (more about that anon), this was a novel way of promoting a gin brand through innovative means: “Built predominantly from reclaimed, recycled and upcycled materials, it features strong shapes, textures and contrasting materials that are softened by lush foliage of semi-shade and shade loving plants”.

The Fingal Bee Positive garden was very topical, all about the importance of bees, pollination & biodiversity:

And so onto the Food Village…so many producers, so many gins and new drinks including poitín, beer, whiskey…but also plenty of new faces as well as familiar ones:

Margaret’s Eggs headed up by the wonderful Margaret Farrelly herself, the head chick in my book! They are always innovating, new brand, new packaging, liquid egg, you name it, change is constant!

I also liked the new mayonnaise from Ballymaloe Foods, who kindly gave me lots of samples to try out! They were sold out of their beetroot by the time I got there unfortunately, though I wasn’t surprised as it’s really good, fresh, not to sweet, not too vinegary, just right. We use the Ballymaloe sauces at home all the time, so handy for the teenagers to cook for themselves coming in from school. I use the relishes in homemade burgers (Ballymaloe recipe of course!), especially the jalapeno for a bit of a kick. 

Marjorie O’Malley of Achill Island Sea Salt revealed that they were planning for the grand opening their new Visitor Experience, and which, by the time you read this, will in fact be open for business!

Another great Mayo brand is Velvet Cloud sheep’s milk yogurt and cheese, made on the Flanagan family farm outside Claremorris Co.Mayo, and I was pleased to see Aisling Roche Flanagan (pictured here on the left) there with her children all roped in and working hard, full of enthusiasm. I love this yogurt. 

The Velvet Cloud was used up last week (though its widely available in supermarkets, so do yourself a favour and go and get some!), as we made our overnight oats with the lovely blend from the Merry Mill.These are organic and gluten free (if you’re into gluten free that is, not me though, don’t start…!). The Oat Boost blend is a mix of oatflaes and seeds, really good. 

Who else…? Mallow Mia Gourmet Marshmallows started life at one of my Start Your Own Food Business courses a few years ago in Donegal, so I’m delighted to see Linda McClean has grown this business from strength to strength. 

There were a few really good innovative products among these too, like Spoonful Botanical. This one was one of my favourites – a health food with really great flavours. I don’t believe in sacrificing flavour for health benefits, and this one certainly doesn’t. I wish them every success.

I also talked to The Foods of Athenry, Lough Ree Distillery, Silver Spear Gin, East Coast Bakehouse, Sunshine Juice (lovely fresh tasting fruit and veg juices made by Walshe’s in Carlow), Mescan Brewery, Jackford Irish Potato Gin and many, many more. You can find details about all the exhibitors, including contact details here.

Finally, when I was wilting, Lough Ree Distillery sustained me – there is nothing quite like a G&T to perk you up! This one is made in Lanesborough, Co.Longford. I also bought a wee taster bottle of Silver Spear – I see that featuring tonight actually, it’s Friday after all! Interestingly, a lot of the gin producers there used good old Schweppes as a mixer, none of your fancy tonics, as they felt, and I agree, that some of the others are too flavoursome and can kill the real taste fo the botanicals in the gin itself.

We left exhausted, laden down with purchases, dying to try our new finds, and already looking forward to next year. Bloom goes from strength to strength, it was definitely bigger this year, so much to see and do, a great day out. Wear comfortable shoes!

 

Ten Top Tips for Starting Your Own Small Food Business – new course!

Hi everyone!

Just very quickly, having just finished training a great group of early stage food producers in Mayo in November and another group in Leitrim in January & February on the Food Starter programme from Bord Bia, I’m delighted now to bring you my new, very special, one day course which will be held in the Neantóg Kitchen Garden School, hosted by the fantastic Gaby & Hans Wieland.

So if you’ve ever wondered what’s involved, who to talk to, where to start, then take just one day to check out the potential for your food business by coming on this new course!

March 30th, Saturday: Top 10 Tips for starting your own small food business
**Guest Lecturer Series**

with Oonagh Monahan from 10:00am – 4:00pm, €100 per person
A unique opportunity to learn from one of Ireland’s leading small business mentors, in a small intimate setting. Get all your questions answered about the what where when and how to set up your own small food business, including the latest in legislation and registration requirements. Case studies will highlight the challenges and satisfaction of small food production.

I hope to see you there!

Oonagh

Croatia Revisited

It’s getting  bit cold here these days and the leaves have nearly all fallen off the tress following the recent storms. When I plugged in my phone this morning, the camera uploads flashing by brought me back to my trip earlier this year to Croatia. I had previously visited Croatia in 2003 and spent a week in Dubrovnik. It wasn’t long after the war and, at that time, the evidence of those events could still be seen in the bombed and bullet-ridden buildings up and down the coast. Dubrovnik itself though, being a UNESCO world heritage site, had been fully restored even then.

This time, however, we headed north to the Istria peninsula and we based ourselves in Pula. It was booked on a whim, with little or no research (most unlike me!), but with great anticipation of sunshine, mediterranean seas, Roman ruins, culture, and of course…the food & wine! And we weren’t disappointed.

There are strong influences of Italy, especially in towns like Rovinj, which used to be part of the Venetian Empire at one point. Our our guide told us that her Grandmother had lived in four countries and had never moved house! Such was the history of unrest in the region. The town is lovely, narrow lanes, though hilly. We came across a man grilling sardines on the lane outside his house! We travelled there by boat from Pula, a lovely journey with great views of the coast and islands.

 

So whats Croatian food like? Well, lots of meat and fish, truffles, honey, olive oil and plenty of influences from Italy, as we were in the Northern part of the country on the Istrian peninsula. Ražnjići and ćevapčići are both local minced meat concoctions. Cevapčići is often served with a roasted red pepper sauce and is really tasty – a but like a cross between and sausage and kebab. We first tried it after a long day kayaking up the coast and cliff jumping and we stopped for lunch in the Safari Bar, Premature, which is located within the Cape Kamenjak nature park – fantastic!

Safari Bar group

 

Wherever we went, every time I ordered fish, no matter what type, it seemed to some with baby potatoes and spinach, although someone did tell me afterwards its not actually spinach! It was mostly seabass or mackerel and served simply. Not much by way of choice to be honest. I was getting a bit sick of fish / spuds / spinach after a few days! And though I’m sure I shouldn’t say so, I’m not really a big fan of truffles. Perhaps they’re an acquired taste.

 

Croatia is a wine producer and while I wasn’t familiar with any Croatian wines before travelling, I was really impressed. The reds in particular were great, and such good value!

We stayed in the Park Plaza on the Pula peninsula – a beautiful report with a good range of restaurants. One of my favourites there was the Hugo cocktail – sparkling wine, elderflower cordial and mint, with some sparkling water. Hard to beat looking out over the Mediterranean on a warm evening!

So would I go back? Yes, definitely, but I think I’d have to find out more about other local foods – there is only so much fish & spinach or ćevapčići  I can handle!

 

 

 

Tardy with the blogging, but busy with the social media!

Oh I’ve been very tardy with the blogging this year. But, in my defence, I’ve been very active on Facebook, where I have two pages – oonagheats which mostly features me reviewing restaurants and various foods and MoneyforJambook for new food startups, interesting foods I’ve come across in supermarkets and food producers. I’m on twitter @oonagheats (I love twitter!) and Instagram @oonagheats too though, so if you’re looking for a morsel, then please find me there!

And ofcourse for those of you interested in starting up your own food business but don’t know where to begin, my book Money for Jam is still for sale in bookshops all over the place and from online booksellers – here is the link to the list!

Money for Jam – 2nd edition – The essential guide to starting your own small foot business – Oonagh Monahan – book launch – Oasta Cafe . pic Frances Muldoon.

 

New food trends 2018

What will be the big food trend in 2018? We’ve already seen how protein-enriched food
has moved mainstream, no longer the preserve of the elite athlete or mud-runner! The vegan or the plant based diet as its now known, has grown hugely in popularity, as has vegetarianism.

I came across this great yogurt concept at Gifted in the RDS in December. It’s called ProU, based in Dublin, available widely. Lovely people, great yogurt, made by Killowen Farm in Wexford.

(Photo: Farmers’ Journal)

I suspect that sugar will stay high on the no-no list, and rightly so. Fat isn’t so bad in moderation, (yay for real butter!), and everyone needs their carbs (be gone, Atkins Diet).  The free-from market grows and grows, though it drives me mad when I hear Gluten-free described as “healthy”. It’s no healthier than gluten-containing foods. Don’t get me started, I’ll post about that another day.

Someone said to me last week that they reckon cauliflower will be the veg of choice in 2018. I had a great meal which featured cauli done 5 ways lately in Fallon & Byrne, including great colourful varieties. I was always a fan of cauliflower cheese for supper, with white toast buttered on the side. Delicious! I posted a photo of this on twitter before Christmas.

For me, fresh, healthy, great tasting, convenient, food on the go is something I’m always on the look out for. In 2017, Chopped was a revelation for me – a fantastic concept, well executed.

So what’ll it be? Please get in touch and let me know your thoughts. You’ll get me here or on twitter @oonagheats.