Exquisite Wicklow wedding cakes and a weekend of wine

Food File: A farm-to-table cafe in Dublin and something for budding food entrepreneurs

Exquisite works of art

The wedding and special occasion cakes made by pastry chef Clare Taylor, who has set up in business in Newtownmountkennedy, Co Wicklow, are exquisite works of art. Her fondant flowers and foliage are as beautiful as the real thing, and she employs all the latest patisserie techniques to create her intricate and elegant designs.

What is inside the cakes, which are made with Irish butter and free range eggs, is just as impressive, with a seasonal range of flavour combinations, as well as some classics available year round.

In spring, for example, a bride and groom might opt for a rhubarb and vanilla cake, which would consist of vanilla sponge, rhubarb compote and orange and cardamom buttercream. Summer cakes include pistachio, apricot and lavender, for which pistachio sponge is brushed with lavender syrup, sandwiched with apricot compote and iced with lemon and lavender buttercream. An autumn option is fig and blackberry, which has almond sponge, fig and blackberry conserve, honey and vanilla buttercream.

Taylor, who began her culinary training at Ballymaloe and went on to work at Thornton's in Dublin, the Ritz and Le Manoir aux Quat'Saisons in the UK, also spent two years with Patrick Ryan at the Firehouse Bakery, and was pastry sous chef on the team for the re-opening of Bewley's last year.

She makes cakes for special occasion as well as weddings, and also has a range of cupcakes, macarons, choux buns and truffles. See clareannetaylor.ie.

Farm-to-table

John and Sally McKenna have noses like bloodhounds when it comes to sniffing out promising new food businesses, and their choice of Cafe of the Year in their recent McKenna Guides Megabytes awards is a perfect example.

The traffic-clogged Longmile Road in Dublin 12 isn't where you would expect to find a farm-to-table cafe serving dishes made with veg, fruit, lamb, pork and beef raised on the owner's land in Enfield and grown in their walled garden.

Susan O’Sullivan opened the Farmhouse Café in her husband’s safety equipment and clothing store in the EP Mooney Business Park in 2013, and has since expanded to include an in-store bakery.

Breakfast and lunch are served during the 8am-3.30pm (Mon-Fri) opening hours, and the dishes on offer include a full farmhouse fry (€10.80), beef hotpot cooked overnight in an Aga (€13.95), and gammon sandwiches with dressed leaves and apple chutney on walnut bread (€8.65).

If you can't face the traffic, delivery is available via the Uber Eats app, which now serves Dublin. See farmhousecafe.ie.

A showcase of wine

The wines of the Loire Valley are the focus of a gastronomy and wine weekend at Renvyle House Hotel in Connemara. It takes place on February 15th-17th, the perfect time for a weekend away in such a romantic spot.

Hot and cold canapes will be served at a wine tasting session on the Friday night, followed on Saturday by dinner, cooked by head chef Tim O'Sullivan, with wine pairings. There will be winemakers from the region taking part to showcase their wines. The €199 per person price tag also includes two nights B&B. See renvyle.com.

Budding food entrepreneurs

Secondary school students who are budding food entrepreneurs are invited to compete for a prize worth €5,000 in the GROW2CEO challenge. Spinach is the vegetable featuring this year and teachers who register their class for the competition will be sent everything they need to grow it, including seeds, pots, soil and growing tips.

The students will then have to come up with a soup recipe and a business plan, and three classes will be invited to take part in a Dragons’ Den style final at GROW HQ in Waterford. The competition is supported by Cully & Sully and GIY.

Last year's winners were seven students from Colaiste Ghobnair on Inisheer island, who made Rugged Rocket soup, served with Wild Atlantic soda bread and Aran goat's cheese.

The deadline for entering is March 4th, and schools can register at giy.ie.

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