John and Sandy Wyer ran out of money when they were doing up Forest Avenue. Phew! Imagine if they had run out of ideas. Because ideas are what John and Sandy trade in, and their limited budget has given them a performance space in which to work imaginative tropes on classic culinary ideas, a space to write riffs on what a lamb dish should be, riffs on what potato bread should look and taste like like, riffs on how you should serve a cheese plate, or compose a wine list.
Running a restaurant used to be easy.
An owner and a chef, or a chef-owner, got a room and a kitchen and fitted them out. They wrote some menus, culled together suppliers, pulled together a wine list, and they cooked lunch for paying customers from Monday to Friday, and cooked dinner from Monday to Saturday. On Sunday, the chef and the staff rested, and did the VAT.
Graham Neville's cooking is like a conjuring game. How do you get the most ethereal texture with goat's cheese to lay beside thinly sliced beets? With the tactile meat of partridge, what unctuous partner will give the best contrast? How do you finish a killer dessert of passionfruit soufflé to give both a temperature and texture variation?
Artisan Food of the Year: Sheridans Cheese Biscuits.
Never mind the deliciousness of the new Sheridan's Brown Bread Crackers. It's the smartness of this product that wows! us: the animating brilliance of Sheridan's, baking by the great Richard Graham-Leigh, Macroom Mills stoneground flour, Bandon Co-Op butter, Cronin family farm buttermilk. Now that is how you make the best cheese biscuit in the world. Nothing less than genius.
Too much has been written since Christopher Hitchens' death last week but, as so much of the output has been personal – my great friend/drinking buddy; great orator but what-a-pain-in-the-butt – I have not read anything which pondered the central fact of his life and work:
If Hitch was so smart, why was he so stupid?
Several extraordinary things emerged from the first Belling West Cork Artisan Food Awards.
Best Of... lists are meaningless, and great fun. The following ten discs have dominated our wee Bose during the year
It seems terribly fashionable to say that Ed Behr is the Steve Jobs of American food writing. Mr Behr would dislike such a comparison with the late Apple supremo, because everything about The Art of Eating, the magazine Mr Behr founded in 1986, is devoutly devoid of fashionability and Steve Jobs, even in death, remains extraordinarily fashionable.
Stefano Crescenzi admits something quite extraordinary in his opening thoughts to ‘Dunne & Crescenzi: The Menu’: “In this respect we feel we have lost ownership of the restaurant. It has become a place of the people, made by the people who so joyously inhabit it”.
It would be easy to say that Enda McEvoy's Aniar restaurant in Galway is Ireland's answer to the latest restaurant craze, that new culinary wave that trumpets itself as "Where the Wild Things Are". But Mr McEvoy's work is more subtle than that. Yes, there are wild things on the plates here in this lean, smart room - sea buckthorn; sorrel; chickweed; hazelnut; seaweeds; meadowsweet - to name just a few on the menu from Saturday night. But emphasizing the wild things overstates their importance and understates Mr McEvoy's sensibility, and it is that sensibility that counts.