Waterford's blaa roll bakers honoured in awards


THE BLAA may be relatively unknown outside Waterford, but four bakers producing the yeast roll received national recognition at the Euro-toques food awards in Dublin yesterday.

The small, square roll dusted in flour has been produced in Waterford since the 1600s but, because it is preservative-free, it has a very short shelf life and has not travelled beyond the county.

Hickey's Bakery and MD Bakery of Waterford city, Harney's of Kilmacow and Barron's of Cappoquin were praised for carrying on the Waterford tradition and continuing to produce the blaa in the traditional way without trying to extend the shelf life or commercialise the product.

Euro-toques is a Europe-wide chefs' organisation which promotes high quality food production and culinary traditions. Almost 200 chefs are members of the Irish branch. This is the 12th year of the Euro-toques awards, which are now sponsored by Taste Festivals Ireland.

McGeough's Butchers of Oughterard, Go Galway received an award for its distinctive air-dried and smoked meat products. Butcher James McGeough trained in Germany and used these skills to produce various types of sausages and German-style meats with an Irish twist.

Cloonacool Arctic Charr fish farm in Sligo won an award for the responsible and sustainable farming of Arctic Charr, a native Irish fish breed. The fish are fed with natural spring water and organic meal feed on a farm at the foot of the Ox Mountains.

In a new category this year, Green Saffron spice specialists in Midleton, Co Cork, won the Taste Festivals Excellence Award for an outstanding consumer product.

Henry O'Neill of the Restaurants' Association of Ireland was also honoured for his key role in establishing Euro-toques in Ireland and lobbying on behalf of small restaurants for the past 21 years.

The Euro-toques award nominations are made by Euro-toques members and the winners are selected by the Euro-toques food committee.

One of Euro-toques' founders, Myrtle Allen, said such awards were an enormous help to small but good entrepreneurs who struggled to survive in the early years before making their name.

The awards were presented by Minister for Food Trevor Sargent, who questioned the sustainability of importing food from all over the world. He pointed to the importation "on a whim" of produce such as asparagus from Peru, garlic from Chile and mange tout from Kenya.

He also described as "quite obscene" the €4 billion cost of obesity to the State every year. "That's a lot of money which we could do an awful lot with," Mr Sargent said.

Euro-toques commissioner general Lorcan Cribbin encouraged consumers to support quality local food.

Mr Cribbin, who is also the head chef of Dublin's Bang Cafe, said it was understandable that people would look for the cheaper options in these difficult times, but quality food often represented better value in the long term.

Euro-toques awards: the winners

1. Waterford Blaa bakers:

MD Bakery, Mount Sion Avenue

Hickey's, Barrack Street

Harney's, Kilmacow

Barron's, Cappoquin

2. McGeough's Butchers of Oughterard, Co Galway

3. Cloonacool Arctic Charr fish farm, Co Sligo

4 Green Saffron spice company, Midleton, Co Cork

5. Henry O'Neill, chief executive of the Restaurants' Association of Ireland