If I can convince you to do one thing this year then it would be to make sure you book your tickets for the upcoming Tipperary Food Producers Christmas Cookery Extravaganza being held in the Clonmel Park Hotel on the evening of December 7. Not only will it herald Christmas it will also get you in a festive culinary mood as the host this year is the one and only Rachel Allen. Oh yes, ‘the’ Rachel Allen, cook, TV Star and prize winning author. Only as late as last week she picked up a Bord Gais Energy Irish Book award.
With such an accomplished and well recognised celebrity chef at the helm this is set to be a fantastic night. Along with the cookery demonstrations Tipperary Cheese and wine will be served, Clonmel-based wine expert, Gary Gubbins of Red Nose Wine, will be giving guidance on wines to accompany the variety of dishes from the cookery demonstration and well known food blogger Imen McDonnell, will give a live butter-making demonstration. As the event is being organised by the Tipperary Food Producers Network, the food artisans will be there with their unique produce available to taste and to buy. Indeed for the very organised this could be a great night out and a one stop Christmas shopping expedition into the bargain! However whether you come to shop or just to browse and enjoy it looks like being a tremendous evening. Definitely a great way to get together with friends and pick up some great tips and hints from the professionals on how to make the most of food this Christmas.
Of course if you can’t make it along on that particular evening it still doesn’t stop you exploring our local food landscape which is always richly abundant at this time of year. The Tipperary Food Producers Network is made up of more than 30 local food businesses. Their common ground is excellence in what they do and as ambassadors for Tipp they are fantastic. Only last week I happened to catch the musician Alex James on the Saturday Night Show. Alex James was a member of the very successful rock group, Blur. He left the rock and roll lifestyle behind to pursue a career in cheese production. From his country farmhouse in the Cotswolds in England he has created a fantastic cheese farm. Alex James was in Ireland last weekend on a cheese trip and I was delighted to hear him mention that he was visiting Cooleeney Cheese. In any other industry they would be shouting from the rooftops about this celebrity visit but, as is typical of the humility within the food industry, it barely registered on the radar. That is just one example how of how food from Tipperary is making its mark both nationally and internationally without fanfare or applause. There are plenty of other excellent artisans picking up awards and receiving recognition, but as is often the case in this sector the day to day running of a food business allows little time to stop for a bit of a boast!
If you are not too familiar with what’s going on then I suggest you check out the Tipperary Food Producers Network website. It will give you a brief description of all the members and from there you can explore further. Of course if you live in County Tipperary then all of these producers are only a drive away and mostly the produce is readily available in various local shops. From sweet treats to meats of all kinds, there is a local product to enjoy.
I suppose now that I am up on my culinary soap box I may as well give you the party political bit, but do stay with me because it is important given the times we live in. At present for every €10 spent with local food businesses, €34 goes back to the local economy. This compares to every €10 spent with a large retail multiple where only €16 is returned to the local economy! You don’t need to be a mathematical genius to see which is better. Also the 30 or so members of the Tipperary Food Producers Network employ approximately 220 people between them with an annual turnover of €24 million. The network includes producers of meat, beverages and bread, soup, sweets, pastry, catering, dairy, cheese, farm shops, preserves and condiments, jams, fruit and vegetables. We certainly owe it to our county to know what’s on offer.
However, the real test is in the taste and quality. It’s all very well trying to support local businesses just because they are local, but we have to get great products and good value also. I am happy to stand over that when it comes to the other members of the network. We spend a great deal of time trying to find ways of bringing our produce to market in order to compete successfully in this very crowded arena. My personal measure is that of taste. Packaging and presentation are important but at the end of the day you won’t be eating the wrapper or box; the sensation it creates in the mouth is where it’s really at. I challenge you to try some local products and see if they don’t stand head and shoulders above everything else.
I really hope to see you at the Christmas Cookery Extravaganza. Make sure to get your tickets as soon as you can as they won’t be available on the door and they are limited. Tickets for the event on at 7.30p.m. in the Clonmel Park Hotel, Clonmel, on Wednesday December 7th, are €20. Tickets can be purchased from James Whelan Butchers or any of the network members.
For information members of the network include Cashel Blue Cheese, Crossogue Preserves, Crowe Farm Meats, Cooleeney Cheese, Cloughjordan house, Baylough Cheese, Boulaban Farm, Brownes, Fine Foods Cashel, Hickeys Bakery, Mags Home Baking, Tipperary Kitchen, Inch House, James Whelan Butchers, Oakpark Foods, Ponaire Irish Handcrafted Coffee, Red Nose Wine, Russell Catering, Seymour Organic Farm, The Apple Farm, The Cookie Jar, The Scullery, O’Donnell’s crisps and The Auld Mill Bakery, Irish Piemontese Beef