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John & Sally McKennas Guides

March 13th, 2014

We were delighted to receive our 5th McKennas Guide ( maiden name was The Bridgestone Guide ). Their guide is a must have for all those who are interested in navigating the food and drink trail through Ireland. Recent years have seen an explosion in food in Ireland and John & Sally are usually there before anyone else. I remember meeting Sally for the first time in 2011 at the now Legendary InishFood Festival in the Inishowen peninsula in Donegal. At the time, I wrote a detailed blog – part 1 and part 2 are still online.

They have since announced many more wonderful innovators and food and drink pioneers onto the scene. I’m delighted to be recognised by them every year since 2010.


We were even more delighted to get a great recommendation on their treasure trove of a website – Their very generous write up can be found here

Thanks very much to John & Sally. Its nice to get the feedback.

#inishfood – Journeys End

March 21st, 2011

With about 4 hours sleep; I awoke on Saturday morning after the Odyssey of the previous day’s trip and the late night hospitality of the Lake of Shadows resident bar resting upon my shoulders. I felt less like the Greek poet Homer who charted Hercules long voyage from Troy, but more like that other Homer, of Springfield fame.

The breakfast room was abuzz with all manner of foodie debate as @pat_whelan and Mag Kirwan of @goatsbridge fame cut to the heart of the Irish food industry. It was not a conversation for a man who had only hours before heard the sirens song and crashed among the rocks that were the Drift Inn and the hotel resident’s bar. I ate my rashers, sausages and eggs and drank my coffee in silence. Incidentally, the breakfast at the Lake of Shadows Hotel is very good.

Coffee & Pigs

We arrived at Harrys Bar & Restaurant after the coffee demo ( which I had really wanted to see ) and just in time to see some pig carcases on display. Luckily there was still coffee a plenty and Ross from Bailies Hand Roasted Coffee and Juan from Coffee Angel sorted out by coffee cravings, and I thawed out about 11 o clock. Tipperary Pork hero TJ Crowe joined Ed Hick, Jack McCarthy and a dead pig on stage and brought us through the process of getting the animal to the table.

This little Piggy went to the market

This little Piggy went to the market

It was a joy to see craft butchery at its best and the bloody excess of Ed’s black pudding demo was the icing on the cake.

Ed Hick's bloody hands

Ed Hick's bloody hands

I recently found a Spanish wine with a Pig on the label and I dropped it down to TJ during his demo. He seemed happy with the present.


I spotted Pat Whelan giving one of his passionate interviews to Ella McSweeney and promptly took a photo and tweeted it. Never let a #tippfood promotional moment get away.


The Media were delightful

I had tweeted with Ella but never actually met her. Being involved with the Tipperary Food Producers, she had really helped our profile when she visited Crowes Farm and covered our Food Extravaganza last November. I was one of the members the crew chose not to interview on the evening, but I was determined not to dwell on that.

As the day progressed, I got talking to Ella and tried to embarrass her by getting a photo to show to my uncle, who is a dairy farmer in Tipperary. Ella is very well regarded by the dairy farmers of Tipperary. My advice would be for her to never visit there alone. There would be all manner of road frontage offered and quotas would be bandied about with gusto. The fact that she was so nice and down to earth was great. We talked about GIY, the Food Connect program run by the Tipperary Food Producers and also about our plans to hold a Salon du Blog as part of the Totally Tipperary festival planned for Cloughjordan in late June. I hope she can make it down, and I will keep the dairy farmers away.

Ella McSweeney gets to meet Gary Gubbins of Red Nose Wine

Ella McSweeney gets to meet Gary Gubbins of Red Nose Wine

The Food Bloggers of Ireland

It was great to meet so many passionate people that you come across online and in print on a regular basis. Sally McKenna was just lovely and the support that the Bridgestone Guides give to the local food ( and wine ) businesses is invaluable.

Food Heros from Donegal to Cork to Tipperary

Food Heros from Donegal to Cork to Tipperary

I had long been an admirer of Imen McDonnell’s very stylish blog “I Married an Irish Farmer” so it was great to meet her in person. I would love to say that I watched the butter making demo intensely, but last night’s exploits were catching up and a cure was needed. We snuck out the bar for a quick minute
I should state that I did watch #butterlive a few days later online.

Where everybody knows your name

Where everybody knows your name

Tipps best butchers enjoy a laugh

Tipps best butchers enjoy a laugh

The mood in Harrys on the day was electric with lots of interaction between everyone

Sleep & Rugby

Sleep was catching up on us and a Rugby match was looming at 5, so I slipped away and made my way back to the hotel and the bed that I was dreaming of. A bad rugby result was not an ideal aperitif for what was to come but the bus took us back to Harrys for the main event, the Inishfood no menu feast.

There are better food bloggers than me that can better describe the banquet that Donal and Ray put before us, and I would suggest you check Kristin and Caroline’s Irish Food Bloggers roundup of blogs to get a real flavour of all that was on offer.



My highlights included the pork in all its guises ( obviously ), but the fish dishes were so fresh, and the langoustines and the Pollack were just superb. Donal was generous enough to include one of my favourite wines as part of the banquet. I think that everyone enjoyed Les Obriers de la Péira and the people who make it adhere to very similar principles to Donal and his team at Harrys.

Bob Dylan and the Lotto

Pat Whelan started a Twitter rumour that I won the lotto and there were some very interesting tweets flying about for about an hour. The band played Leonard Cohen, Bob Dylan and I think there was even some Tom Waits. A great end to a great odyssey and Donal Doherty and his team deserve huge praise for pulling off such an epic event.

My only regret is I did not spend more time seeking out and talking to more people. I am a little shy in such exalted company but hopefully some or all of them will come to one of our Tipperary Food Producers events. Look out for #totallytipp and #tippfood hastags on Twitter. April’s Dungarvan food festival will see many of the faces make a reappearance so I hope to be braver and introduce myself to more when I venture across the mountains to beautiful West Waterford.

The Long way home

We won’t mention the navigation on the way back and ‘someone’ getting us lost and finding ourselves on the backstreets of Belfast and then in Armagh. It’s a good thing he makes good rashers. So, just as Odysseus did in ancient Greece, we tied ourselves to the foodie mast, and had our ears plugged up with beeswax so as to safely sail past the Sirens and their song and we arrived safely back in Tipperary. It’s getting late, and this blog has lasted way to long and I’m starting to ramble so until the next foodie journey.

Article – Fethard Today, Moscow Tomorrow

January 28th, 2011

The Bridgestone Top 100 Places to Eat was published recently and John McKenna could be heard on various radio shows and was quoted in a number of national newspapers. As a proud recipient of a Bridgestone Award and having heard John speak on a number of occasions, I am always interested in his opinion of what’s hot and what’s not.

It is of course a subjective opinion and one person’s salt is another person’s pepper. However, one thing that struck me from the interviews I heard was the assertion that to save the national economy we must first save the local one. It is a subject that I have become very passionate about since opening Red Nose Wine (at the start of a recession), and more especially since getting involved with the Tipperary Food Producers. Wine and Food are two parts of the same experience for me.


A Donegal Table

I spoke of food and wine last week and will again this week, but a few good news stories emerged from the despair that 2010 brought to the restaurant trade. When I spoke on behalf of the Tipperary Food Producers Network in Kilkenny last year at the FoodCamp seminar I met Donal Doherty of Harrys Bar & Restaurant in Inishowen Co. Donegal. This is a restaurant in a very remote part of the country that has become one of the most sought after eating experiences in Ireland. John McKenna mentioned them on radio and in print numerous times.

Local Local Local 

What makes them different is they have a very bold yet sincere declaration in terms of their promise to customers. All of the food must come from “one small beautiful penninsula – Inishowen”. This is taking local food to the maximum and they proudly list their local food partners as sharing in the glory. Myself and Donal are members of the Twitterati and you can follow the movements of the restaurant in real time. He is known as @harrysdonal in the Twitter world.

The savage winter would have cost them ( and many other restaurant owners ) a lot of business, especially in the critical December month. However, when the weather relented in the week after Christmas, according to John McKenna the restaurant did 2,000 covers. ( I met Donal in Dublin since the article was published and that number was actually closer to 2,100 ). Inishowen is a small place and that figure requires loyalty built with people who are travelling from far and wide.

As a Tipperary man talking about local food, then why should I talk about Donegal? It might be a long way to Tipperary but Donegal is surely further away. It is a model of success that I believe offers a great opportunity for Tipperary restaurants. I know that a lot of cafes and restaurants do buy local produce but I am not aware of one that does so exclusively. If there is one, please let me know.

Wow do you make your sauce?

There are a number of large food and beverage companies that supply a lot of the hotels and restaurants in Ireland at a very competitive rate. As well as choice, they also have that most useful of commodities, economies of scale. They offer a low cost alternative in a struggling industry so it is very easy to see why people use them. However, when the sauce on your chicken comes from a jar and tastes identical in Cork and in Sligo, then I believe you are losing more than you are gaining.

The business’s that are adapting to the economy best are offering something very different from their competitors and I think people want value, and as I have said before, value does not equate to price. If it did, we would all eat in McDonalds and I would never sell a bottle of La Péira.

A very special pub ( with great food )

I have had some really fantastic food in Tipperary and I think we are awash with great places to eat. I am trying to get Jasper in McCarthys in Fethard to put my picture up on the wall in the very famous pub. I have a space in mind beside Pricilla Presley. I am trying to argue that he would have it up before I am famous for the book I shall one day write. So far, he is not biting.

The Legendary McCarthys

The Legendary McCarthys

McCarthys do have a lot of local produce on their menu ( 90% of meat on the last order ) and I had a sublime meal out there recently. I had aged Tipperary beef in a Red Wine sauce which was cooked to perfection ( medium – rare). I have to admit I supply wine out there so when I say the wine was perfect with it, I am very biased. I am sure Brad Pitt is biased when says he has a great looking wife, but it doesn’t mean he is wrong.

The owner of Chateau Miraval ( on sale at Red Nose Wine )

The owner of Chateau Miraval ( on sale at Red Nose Wine )

Brad and Angelina also have a great wine called Miraval, but blatant plugs aside, McCarthys was a great night out and a good example of somewhere that people are wiling to travel to. The new chef has transformed the menu and the fish my wife had was “fresh as a daisy”.

Tipperary Food

Tipperary has a great opportunity to become the county of choice for food. Bord Bia released fantastic export figures recently and food is a strong positive in a very weak economy. Tipperary has the brand name, the location, but more importantly we have the food. As soon as it is possible to make quality wine in Tipperary, I will be the guinea pig, but until that time, I will match the local food to the wine of like minded people from around the world.

We just need people to buy into this idea of local business saving the national economy. The restaurants need to do it, but the people must support it and they must get value for money.

That is a lot of words about food in an article about wine, but I did warn you last week that I would talk about food for a few articles. I have a lot of plans to get Red Nose Wine to the next level in 2011 and many are ideas that involve food and local food at that. I am always looking to work with like minded people on these ideas.

I have just ordered my first container of wine from Chile with some other importers who are very like minded in what they are trying to bring to the Irish wine industry. We are competitors but we are also fighting the same fight and have many things we can help each other with.

Ham & Pinot Noir

Speaking of wine, I will now describe a typical Tipperary dish and I will match it to a wine for you. I was invited to a very food orientated party last weekend and there was all manner of food on offer. Among these was a perfectly prepared ham, sourced from the wonderful Crowe Farm in Dundrum.. A sweeter style wine is required here and Riesling or Gewurztraminer would be great white options. A medium bodied Pinot Noir ( possibly from New Zealand ) would be a great red to match the ham.

Ella Mcsweeney visits Crowes Farm

Ella Mcsweeney visits Crowes Farm

Apologies to Pat Whelan for stepping on his “Food” toes with the early part of the article but I think that Pat would agree with the sentiment. He is a very strong advocate of local food and Tipperary Food in particular. I appreciate that I am repeating myself but by saving the local economy we can save the national one. We need to become an exporting country, and food can play a big part of this. But this must start locally first. Fethard today and Moscow tomorrow.

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“Life is much too short to drink bad wine”

ST. PATRICKS DAY – Tipperary Food Producers in Clonmel

March 9th, 2010

An exciting one day food extravaganza is planned for Clonmel on St.Patrick’s Day Wednesday next the 17th of March. The fair will take place under the arches of the Main Guard and promises to be a treat for all the family. Along with the fine food available to try and buy there will also be Tipp Fm Roadcaster on the street creating a unique atmosphere reminiscent of years gone by. It will enrich the area, support a feeling of community and will definitely be an event for the whole family to enjoy.

Everyone knows that one of the best things about St.Patrick’s Day is food, glorious food. At this special, under the arches food extravaganza there will be plenty of delicious offerings to be had. All the producers involved are members of the Tipperary Food Producers Network, who operate very strict quality criteria, and therefore you are guaranteed top quality local products. Each of the participants has won various awards for their produce but the true test is always in the taste and there will be plenty of opportunity to sample on the day.

Those taking part are Inch House, renowned for their black pudding, The Scullery who do a particularly tasty pudding in their delicious range. , Crossogue Preservers. The Cookie Jar, Tasty Treats and. James Whelan Butchers will be showcasing their famous Steak burgers while Crowe’s Farm will bring their award winning artisan bacon and ham to the feast. Local baker Nuala Hickey will be showcasing her world famous brack while Una O Dwyer will be cooking her award winning range of sausages. Red Nose Wine will provide samples from some of Ireland’s modern day winemakers in France. The newest members to our network Audrea Hassett and Sarah Baker will also be showcasing there products.

Don’t miss this special event where you can source all your ingredients or buy food gifts for everyone you know. It is the perfect antidote to food shopping in the supermarket and a real treat for your taste buds. Under the Arches at the Main Guard Clonmel will be crammed with goodies and will be open from 12noon to 4.30pm on Wednesday 17th of March for one day only.

St.Patrick,s Day Food Extravaganza Under the Arches at the Main Guard has been organized by Tipperary Food Producers Network in association with the Clonmel Chamber of Commerce, Clonmel Urban Council and the St.Patrick,s Day Committee.

Article – Tastings, Horses and Bridgestone

January 22nd, 2010

It is positively balmy out today as I write this article, at least when compared to the trauma of last week’s cold weather. Will the improved weather inspire an article about wines born of the heat – I don’t think so – we are not quite there yet. On the radio today, they spoke of Blue Monday and the despair that is out in the country. I turned it off and threw the negativity in the bin. It is true that this is the slowest part of the year, and retailers struggle as people hide away. However, poor sales aside, I would suggest that it is a great time to plan out the new year, and in the wine world that means trade shows. My calendar for this month and next is filling up with trips to Dublin to slurp, smell, swish and spit out the wines of the world. There are portfolio tastings from bigger suppliers, trade shows put on by different embassies, and many other connotations and excuses for me to taste my way to some interesting new wines. The reality is that I might find one wine in every hundred tasted. Ideally, though, these Irish shows don’t offer me too much, unless they have wineries that are looking for Irish representation. It is always good to keep tasting new wines, and get used to the nuances of changing vintages, so that is one the main reasons to go to these shows. While I hold wines from some of the best importers in the country, my core offering will always be made up of the wineries that I import directly from.

With this in mind, I am delighted to say I will be attending one of the best shows in the world at the end of January. It is in based in Montpellier in the south of France, and hosts the very best in small, family estates from France, Spain, Italy, South Africa, Argentina and many other countries. What they all have in common is they are part of the organic and/or biodynamic wine movement. I have written about this type of wine recently, but suffice to say more and more of the world’s top vineyards have converted or are in the process of converting. I will talk more about the show in an article I will write while at the show, as well as numerous blog pieces I will post to including video footage direct from the fair, so be sure to log on from next Tuesday (January 26th). With this in mind, I really need to get my hair cut before I go. There is nothing worse than a scruffy video blog. It is easy to get carried away at these shows but I never buy or even promise to buy at them. I find it a great way to meet existing suppliers, get introduced and recommended to new contacts by them, and find interesting wines that you can then arrange to follow up with. I always try to physically visit the vineyards I import from. It builds up trust, and I can personally see how they make the wine and if they do as they promise. There are too many stories of wines tasting very different at the show when compared to when it arrives. They also really appreciate it as well, as it offers them a chance to “sell” their dream to the customer. Everyone I buy from believes in their product and their way of life. “You may say that I’m a dreamer, but I’m not the only one”. I like to think that passion is evident in the wine you take home from Red Nose Wine, and especially when compared to the commodity wines on the market. There is one vineyard I met last year and his wines were sublime and very well priced. I arranged to meet him at his vineyard last summer, which I did. I travelled three hours out of my way and we agreed a deal, but he has yet to export his wines. It is a very small allocation but I think he had been badly stung from an importer, i.e. he was not paid, so is very hesitant to go down that road again. I will give him one last chance when we meet for a 3rd time.

And now for something completely different as the Pythons would say. There was some celebration over the last week in Liam Dalys pub in O Connell Street, Clonmel as Sean Daly’s horse won at 14-1 in Thurles. I had given them some champagne glasses for New Year’s as well as selling them some bubbly, so I was also delighted for the win. He will have to carry lots of bubbly from now on, just in case. Unfortunately I did not have any money on the horse, but I am not bitter about the times I did back the horse in the past, and it lost. I can rejoice in Sean and his fellow syndicate member’s happiness. I was once in a greyhound syndicate with Sean and let’s just say it did not go so well, so Sean knows the highs and lows. I would love to tell you about the greyhound but I am not ready to talk about it yet. As well as missing the race last Sunday, I also missed the celebration in the pub last Sunday night. On a slightly more relevant note, Hickey’s Bakery, The Cookie Jar and Red Nose Wine all won Bridgestone awards in the new guide. We are all part of the Tipperary Food Producers Network and are proud to join the other members in the guide. We must have been doing something right this last year and a bit. Until the next article from France, I will ignore the January blues and look forward and plan for the spring.

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“Life is much too short to drink bad wine”

Red Nose Wine Article - Nationalist Jan 21 1010

Red Nose Wine wins Bridgestone Award

January 20th, 2010

Red Nose Wine got a Bridgestone Award in the recent 2010 guide.

Gary Gubbins is doing something interesting with Red Nose, a new wine warehouse where Mr. Gubbins sells the good wine from the good growers that he has sniffed out from all over the globe. “Our winemaker skills lie more in in wine making, than marketing”, says Gary, a vital distinction in the modern world of wine where so many mass market brands are just alcoholic cola”