Amuse your tastebuds
Tasting menus can be a wonderful way to experience the mastery of a good chef, but they can also be overwhelming, with wave after wave of complicated food bringing on sensory overload.
Conor Dempsey, chef patron at Amuse in Dublin's Dawson Street, offers only a selection of set menus of varying lengths, from a two-course lunch (amazing value at €24; €29 for three), to an eight-course romp through the entire dinner menu (€90). On top of the multiple courses, there are amuse bouches, pre-dessert and petits fours to contend with. And Dempsey's food features a great many unusual Asian ingredients, so there's a lot to take in.
The late Paolo Tullio, in one of his restaurant reviews, suggested that it was "the kind of menu where a dictionary would be useful", before awarding it 10/10 for both food and value.
The eight-course menu features four things I’ve never heard of – kimizu, Timur pepper, kamebishi soy and kabaya. But help is at hand, and I don’t need to resort to Googling under the table. Well-schooled staff take time to identify every element of each dish; a tasting notes menu arrives that gives lots of detail on each dish, and you can even ask for the menu glossary, which contains more in-depth explanations of the more unusual ingredients used, even the ones that might not feature on your chosen menu.
The tasting notes menu is left with you during dinner, so you can refer to it, and you can request a copy of the menu to take home. If you ask nicely enough, you may even get it signed by the chef. See amuse.ie
Lamb delivered to your home
Achill mountain lamb is coming into its peak right now, and we've just heard of another supplier that will deliver this seasonal delicacy straight to your door. CaorAcla Achill blackface lamb is a favourite of chefs, including Ross Lewis of Chapter One, who says: "They are half the weight of normal lamb. They are not grain-fed or fattened before slaughter and come straight from the mountains, where they feed on a diet of mountain grass and herbs. They have the sweetest, most aromatic meat I've ever tasted." Full or half-lambs can be ordered, with prices from €65, plus delivery, for a half lamb. Full lambs, from €120, are delivered free of charge. See caoracla.ie
Healthy eating books for kids
Fiona Dillon, food blogger and author of Food from an Irish Garden, has written a series of six books for children – featuring a character called Freddy Buttons – that aims to educate young readers on food provenance and healthy eating.
Dairy manufacturer Glenisk collaborated on the project, so you'll see the appealing Freddy, drawn by illustrator Derry Dillon (no relation to the author), on promotional packs. The first three books are suitable for children aged five to seven, and the others are aimed at a readership between six and eight years. They are in bookshops now and there's an interactive website, freddybuttons.com, where you can buy online.
A date for your diary: Taste of Cavan, August 7th-8th. Food festivals are proliferating, but this one offers more than just food.
Cavan Equestrian Centre is the new venue for this event that attracted 35,000 visitors last year, and there will be a full support programme including a medieval village, with knights on horseback and demonstrations from weapons master Boyd Rankin, who collaborated on Game of Thrones.
Cavan chefs Neven Maguire and Gearóid Lynch will be joined in the cookery demonstration area by Kevin Dundon and Rachel Allen.