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!

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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

The Hungry Monk, Cong, Co.Mayo

I was in Connemara yesterday working hard (!) and the drive home took me through Cong Village. It really is a gem. Excellent eateries on almost every corner it seems (will try Pat Cohan’s Bar next time). Today I stopped in The Hungry Monk for lunch. I met Aisling Butler a few months ago when she was considering opening something in Cong, and we should be very glad she did!
Aisling

Today I had the Pork Belly, Tomato and Broad Bean stew. It came served with Sourdough Bread which would be wonderful for mopping up the sauce, but on Aisling’s suggestion, I had mash instead. Lovely, light yet creamy mash, perfectly seasoned. The pork had been slow cooked for 12 hours. Yes 12 HOURS I said! As a result it was so tender, it just fell apart with the fork. The sauce was what you might describe as rustic – chunky veg, plenty of beans, sweet, really flavoursome. A great combination of textures and flavours overall (as we say in the trade, ahem!).
Dinner

If you’re on the road from Ballinrobe to Galway, divert into Cong, and have your lunch here. I declined dessert, but the sweet treats looked really good – all homemade that morning.
Sweet treats

Keep up the great work Aisling and Jon! I’ll be back.
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Italian Nostalgia

Ciao Bella!

It seems like a long time ago since our visit to check out the food in Tuscany, especially now that Autumn is upon us. Gone are the mornings sitting out on the deck having a breakfast of freshly baked Italian bread from the campsite bakery, fresh cherries, yummy cheeses and salami, sweet sweet oranges, tasty tomatoes…..all of which definitely taste better in the sunshine.

Going back through this selection of photos brings back the tastes and smells of delicious garlicky marinara pizza in an authentic Italian restaurant on a back street called L’Antica Torre close to the piazza in nearby Filigne Valdarno, local pasta from Siena, chickens for sale in the CoOp Supermarket with their heads still on (eeeoow!), Lauderee Macarons in Lucca, gelato from Elmi La Gelateria at every opportunity, Panforte, Panpepato, Amaretti (Almond biscuits), Cantucci (brittle almond biscuits), Brutti ma Buoni, Ricciarelli, and Ossi di Morto (Almond and hazelnut biscuits), not to say anything about the Chianti…!

There was a lovely little wine shop on our campsite in Norcenni Girasole . The campsite was excellent, by the way, great facilities and brilliant staff. I could have done a cookery course one morning in the Villa la Palagina near by, but it was too hot to spend time baking bread! We would seriously consider going back again. We went with Kelair/Campotel.

There is far too much to cover in detail, but I am going to write a longer post about one experience at the Antica Macelleria Falorni, so tune in for that soon.

Buon appetito!