Awards are two a penny these times, so much so that they often come and go with minimum publicity.
However the recent 2010 Georgina Campbell Ireland Awards caused a significant stir not only because of the calibre of the winners but also because Georgina Campbell issued a dire warning about the consequences of incessant haggling in restaurants and hotels to the point where it has become totally uneconomic for many establishments to operate.
“Many fine establishments have cut costs to the bone and businesses are now literally hanging by a thread,” Georgina Campbell said. “Prices have often been reduced to an unsustainable level and yet there is constant pressure from the public to make even further cuts.”
Receptionists around the country have a litany of stories of being harangued and abused on the phone by prospective guests who have been encouraged by the media to continue to bargain, doesnâ€™t matter what price is quoted.
The lengths that some people will go to knows no bounds.
Recently four ladies arrived in a local cÃ¢fÃ©. They settled themselves in and ordered four cups of boiling water, the slightly baffled but polite waitress served them and asked if they would like something else, they replied that they were fine thank you, whereupon the took a tea bag each out of their bags, added it to their cups, added sugar and milk from the table. They chatted away happily for half an hour and left without comment â€“ an absolutely true story.
Georgina Campbell complimented this years award winners for showing. “A determination to keep standards up while prices fall” This is far from easy. If prices are cut too much it becomes impossible to deliver top quality service so when guests arrive they are disappointed when the experience does not live up to the expectation.
A lack of Government action means that fixed costs remain too high for many businesses and cannot be negotiated.
One hotelier who slashed his prices in an effort to maintain business finds he has attracted a totally different clientele and has lost his original loyal following. He now wonders how he can raise prices again in these recessionary times.
Back to the awards – Georgina Campbellâ€™s Hotel of the Year Award 2010 went to the Brooklodge and Wells Spa, Macreddin, Co Wicklow owned by Evan Doyle. “Brook Lodge has earned national recognition for its strong position on organic food – and their organic food markets are legendary. ” Georgina Campbell said.
Campagne in Kilkenny, described as a “bling free zone” won Restaurant of the Year for “its exceptional dining experience. No fancy large plates, no extravagant flowers, nothing at all showy, just exceptional attention to detail, well judged flavour combinations and perfect French inspired modern cooking.” Doesnâ€™t that description make you want to whizz to Kilkenny right away. Owner Chef Gareth Byrne shared his recipe for Deep Fried Smoked Haddock, Poached Egg, Spring Onion Hollandaise
Chef of the Year Award was presented to a chef I have admired for some time, Eamon Oâ€™Reilly of One Pico in Dublin. Next time you are in the city seek out his delicious food in Molesworth Place in the city centre.
There were a whole raft of other awards, four of which also came to Co. Cork. The Quality Hotel in Clonakilty, Co. Cork, owned by two local businessmen won the Family Friendly Hotel of the Year. According to Georgina “many happy families vote with their feet by heading back to this hotel, every year.”
The Natural Food Award went to Carmel Somers of Good Things CafÃ© in Durrus for “using the very best of fresh, seasonal and mainly local foods â€“ and preparing them simply and with style, to showcase their natural goodness and the quality produce of the locality. There was also great excitement in Shanagarry – the Wine Award of the Year went to Ballymaloe House in Shanagarry much to the delight of Sommelier Colm McCan and wine consultant Sascha Whelan who have gone to extraordinary lengths to source special gems for the wine list. Many are exceptional value; some are unique to the list.
Another family business, Aherneâ€™s Seafood Restaurant in Youghal, won the Seafood Circle Restaurant of the Year.
“Perfectly cooked fish and classic saucing are the hallmarks â€“ but servings are impressively generous too, a point which wonâ€™t go unnoticed in these budget-conscious times. For the entire list of 2010 award winners see http://www.ireland-guide.com/award/index.php
So hats off to Georgina Campbell for flagging up this issue. Her advice to all of us is “to think twice before pushing restaurants and hotels beyond their limit” if for no other reason than enlightened self interest. After all we will no longer be able to enjoy our favourite places if they go out business â€“ consumers need to think long and hard before pressing for even better bargains”
So how about a well deserved night out â€“ support your favourite local restaurant otherwise they may have shut their doors next time you call.
One Pico Guinness BreadÂ Â
250g strong flour
250g pinhead oatmeal
200g wheat bran
125g wheat germ
Â½ can of treacle
1Â can of Guinness or stout
3/4 tblesp bread soda
Mix all dry ingredients then slowly add in wet while continuing to mix place in two pre greased tins and bake at 160oc for 1 1/2 hours checking all the time please note fan assisted ovens vary times (*please watch accordingly) serve with crab salads or toasted with smoked salmon or simply toasted for breakfast.
(portion into 1/4 and freezes really well)
Brooklodgeâ€™s Grilled Organic Kerry Black Rib Eye Beef, Roast Portobello Mushrooms, Roquefort Cheese Crust â€“ Red Wine Jus.
Due to the stalwart dedication of Raymonde Hilliard and others in protecting The Kerry Black Cow down through the years, we now have a sizeable herd in Ireland. And there are now regular occasions in the kitchen of The Strawberry Tree where we have the honour of serving this to our guests, here is one of our recipes. We use organic ingredients at Brooklodge.
4 x 200g Kerry black rib eye beef
4 x Portobello mushrooms
80g Roquefort cheese
100g bread crumbs
A few sprigs thyme, parsley and bay leaves
1 clove garlic
Â¼ bottle of red wine
Â½ litre of beef stock
salt and black pepper
Soften the butter in a mixing bowl, add the cheese and whisk together, add bread crumbs, chopped garlic, parsley, thyme and Â½ one onion add salt and pepper to taste and set aside.
Red wine Jus:
Slice the remaining Â½ onion and cook in pan till caramelised, add red wine and bay leaf and reduce heat till a syrup, then add beef stock and reduce till sauce consistency, add salt and pepper to taste.
Roast the Portobello Mushrooms in the oven with a little butter, thyme salt & pepper. Grill the rib eyes in a grillette pan to your liking, add the cheese crust and then grill till crusty. Serve with the mushrooms and sauce.
Ahernâ€™s Poached Turbot & Prawns with a Chablis Cream Sauce
200g fillet of turbot
5 cooked peeled fresh prawns
75 ml white wine
75 ml cream
4 oz butter
Herbs: chives, coriander, parsley
Poach the fillet of turbot in wine, water, lemon wedges & herbs. When Turbot is cooked (opaque in colour), remove from liquid & reduce liquid to Â½ of its volume, add a little cream and whisk in 4oz of butter. Replace the fillet of turbot in the sauce Add chopped herbs then serve with fresh parsley & lemon wedge â€¦
Monkfish could be substituted for Turbot.
Campagneâ€™s Deep Fried Smoked Haddock, Poached Egg, Spring Onion Hollandaise
4 x 100 g portions natural smoked haddock
50 g flour
50 g egg white
100 g panko breadcrumbs
4 egg yolks
2 tbsp lemon juice
200 g clarified butter
Â½ bunch spring onion, very finely sliced
4 organic or free range eggs
For the haddock
Remove skin and any small bones from the fish dust lightly with the flour, remove the excess and then dip into the egg white, drain and dip into the breadcrumbs, coat evenly and place in fridge while preparing the poached eggs and sauce
Bring a pan of water to the boil add a dash of vinegar and poach the eggs to your liking, remove and keep warm
Place the butter in a pan and heat until melted and slightly warm
Whisk egg yolks and lemon juice together over a very low heat until a sabayon forms and the egg yolks are thick but not scrambled, slowly add the melted butter a little at a time until it is all incorporated, season with salt and add the spring onion to serve. Warm the mashed potato and pipe onto warm plates. Deep fry the haddock at 180Â°C until golden brown, remove from fryer and season. Gently reheat the eggs and place on top of the mashed potato, placing the haddock beside it. Put a good tablespoon of sauce over the egg and serve immediately
One Pico Vanilla Cheese Cake Mousse with Berry Compote
150g Philadelphia cream cheese
50g double cream
30g castor sugar
1 vanilla pod, split and seeds scraped out
Squeeze of juice fromÂ 1/4Â lemon (1 teaspoon)
For the topping
6Â plain hobnob biscuits
100gr frozen mixed berries
50gr castor sugar
Â First make the berry compote by reducing berries and sugar to a thick compote by placing in a pan for 10 minutes set aside and cool. Now make the biscuit base.
Crush the biscuits to a rough crumble texture. Place theÂ biscuit mixÂ into a largeÂ pan, sprinkle with sugar and carameliseÂ quickly for 5 minutes. Cool & set aside. Now make the cheese filling. Place the cream cheese, sugar and the seeds from the vanilla pod into a mixing bowl. Whisk on a low setting until it is mixed well. Now add the cream, a little at a time making sure there are no lumps. Then add the juice from Â½ a lemon and whisk until the mixture starts to thicken. As soon as the mixture becomes thick turn the machine off. Place in a piping bag ready to pipe.
Firstly place compote in martini glass, then pipe in cheesecake mousse then top with caramelised biscuit
Brooklodgeâ€™s Marmalade Pudding
This is a recipe given to The Strawberry Tree by the wonderful Shirley Spear. Shirley runs the acclaimed Three Chimneys Restaurant on a remote corner of The Isle of Skye off Scotland. A fabulous Winter Pudding to warm you whether in Ireland or The Isles!
150g brown bread crumbs
120g light brown sugar
25g self raising wholemeal flour
360g coarse cut marmalade
1tsp bicarbonate soda
1tsp boiling water
– Melt the butter and marmalade in a saucepan over a gentle heat.
– Mix the flour, bread crumbs and sugar and add to marmalade and butter.
– Whisk eggs till fluffy and gently beat into the marmalade mixture.
– Dissolve Bicarbonate with water and add to mixture.
– Pour into a 2lb pudding bowl, wrap tightly, put into saucepan of water and cover, bring to the boil & simmer for 2 â€“ 2 1/2 hours.
Continuing our countdown to Christmasâ€¦
This week why not make a few homemade a few jams and chutneys to use as condiments over Christmas â€“ they also make delicious edible gifts to give to your friends and will solve some of your Christmas present problems.
Apple and Tomato Chutney
Makes 10 x 1 lb (450 g) pots
7-8 lbs (3.2-3.4 kg) ripe tomatoes, peeled and chopped
1 lb (450 g) onions, chopped
1 lb (450 g) eating apples, peeled and chopped
3 lbs (1.35 kg) sugar
1 1/2 pints (900 ml) white malt vinegar
2 tablespoons salt
2 teaspoons ground ginger
3 teaspoons ground black pepper
3 teaspoons all spice
4 cloves garlic, crushed
1 level teaspoon cayenne pepper
8-12 oz (225-340 g) sultanas
Prepare all the ingredients. Put into a large wide stainless steel saucepan and bring to the boil. Simmer steadily until reduce and slightly thick – 1 hour, approx. Pot in sterilized jars.
Delicious with cold meats and cheese, allow to mature for a couple of weeks before tucking in.
Makes 6 x 200ml (7fl oz) jars
900g (2 lbs) raw beetroot, peeled
450g (1 lb) onion, diced
450g (1 lb) cooking apples, peeled and diced
25g (1oz) grated ginger
1 teaspoon salt
600ml (1 pint) cider vinegar
350g (12oz) granulated sugar
Chop the beetroot finely. Put into a stainless steel saucepan with the diced onion and apples. Add the grated ginger, salt and vinegar.
Cover and simmer until the beetroot is soft and the apples have cooked to a fluff, approximately 1 â€“ 1 1/2 hours.
Add the sugar and cook until thick, 15 to 20 minutes.
Pot into sterilized jars and cover with non reactive lids. Store in a dark airy place.
Great cookery classes at Brennans.
Ballymaloe Cookery School graduate Lucy Hyland and Chef Gary Masterson will teach a series of cookery classes that focus on super foods to help you feel great on theÂ 23rd and 26th November, and at Thompson’s Farmshop, Carrigaline on theÂ 17th November 2009. Cost per session is â‚¬55. SeeÂ www.foodforliving.ie or contact Lucy on 086 8179964.Sage CafÃ© Deli
in Main Street, Youghal, where you can find delicious freshly baked brown bread, scones, cakes and good coffee from Cork Coffee Roasters (087) 7766322. Contact Joan Collins at Sage (024) 85844.Donâ€™t miss the Listowel Food Fair
from the 5th to the 8th of November 2009. For details of the exciting programme of events go to www.listowelfoodfair.com