Former Ireland international rugby player Keith Wood has opened a restaurant in his native Killaloe, Co Clare, with his business partner Malcolm Bell. Upstairs at Wood & Bell is a smart room offering a "French-inspired menu", according to executive chef Paddy Collins.
Vegetables and fruit for the restaurant, and the cafe which occupies the ground floor, are being cultivated by Wood and his wife Nicola.
"I have always been interested in gardening, and designed the layout about 12 years ago," Wood told The Irish Times. "We populated it with some old varieties of fruits that were in our own garden next door. My sister and brother planted and managed it when we were living in London, and Nicola took it over fully a couple of years ago.
"We have mostly used the produce ourselves, but since Paddy has come on board, he has given us a wish list for planting."
Nicola takes up the story: "We live just a few doors down from the restaurant and have an acre of walled vegetable garden with raised beds and a polytunnel behind our house. It's an incredible asset to have in the middle of the Main Street in Killaloe, overlooking Lough Derg.
"So that is where I spend a lot of my time, especially in the summer. A couple of years ago I did a 12-week organic gardening course with local gardener, Elaine McKeogh, from Good & Green in Ogonnolloe, Co. Clare. The garden started out very much by trial and error, and I threw myself into making chutneys, jams, syrups and compotes. Any surplus fruit and veg would be used in the cafe. Now that the new restaurant is open, the potential is huge ... and the pressure is on."
So, as well as helping to grow the ingredients, is Keith Wood a hands-on restaurateur? "My office is next door and when I'm in Killaloe I am there as much as possible. Malcolm Bell does the same. Padraig Nestor runs the day-to-day, but we are there a lot." woodandbell.com
Sustainability is at the forefront of a new joint venture between Stephen and Denise Bell's Bell Lane coffee company in Mullingar, and Freshii Ireland franchise-holders Dave O'Donoghue and Cormac Manning.
Handprint Coffee has opened at the Freshii healthy fast food outlet at Point Square, beside the 3Arena in Dublin, selling coffee from sustainable sources, served in completely compostable takeaway cups and lids. Baked goods, sourced locally and delivered daily, will also be on offer.
The new coffee concept will be rolled out to larger Freshii outlets that have seating areas, such as the Sandyford branch, due to open this month.
Keith Symes was producing Wicklow Rapeseed oil on his family farm, but felt that the market had become saturated. So, with the help of Bord Bia's Super Brands programme, he developed the Sussed range, which highlights the oil's health benefits and positions it as a "healthy heart" choice.
Sussed Healthy Heart Plus, algae oil – a vegetarian source of Omega-3s and DHA – is blended with the rapeseed oil, and a little cold-pressed lime juice is added.
The extra virgin Irish-grown and pressed rapeseed oil also comes in a two-calorie-a-spray pump bottle will make calorie-counting easier for those who have started the new year with that intention.
The range is available in 250 retail outlets nationwide, including branches of Tesco, Dunnes and SuperValu. The recommended retail price for the rapeseed and algae oil is €6.95 for 500ml (€5.95 for the pure rapeseed), while the two-calorie spray is €3.40.
The line-up of chef swaps on the cards at Aniar restaurant in Galway is headed by Amanda Cohen, chef and owner at New York vegetable restaurant Dirt Candy. The Canadian, who was a speaker at the Food on the Edge chefs' symposium in Galway in 2015 and 2016, will collaborate with chef owner JP McMahon on April 6th and 7th.
The series kicks off with Danni Barry of Clenaghans Restaurant in Northern Ireland (February 9th and 10th), and continues with guest chefs from France (Christophe Dufau, Les Bacchanales, Vence), Russia (Stanislav Pesotskiy, Bjorn, Moscow) and Iceland (Gunnar Karl Gíslason, Restaurant Dill, Reykjavik), later in the year.
The menu options will be the same as the normal Aniar format – six courses at €65; eight courses at €85 and 10 courses at €110.