The smell of freshly baked bread wafting from a bakery is one of the most universally liked aromas. It is especially nostalgic for me, as when I was about 14 years old I worked for two summers in Toohey’s bakery in Loughrea. As it was located at the bottom of our garden I had always loved the smell when I called in on the way home from school. John Toohey was a gentleman and while I was expected to do my bit in about 100 degrees heat I was well looked after. One of the ovens was a coal/coke fired monstrosity with a huge sliding heavy metal tray that cooked 144 loaves at a time. When it was pulled out all the bread had to be taken off by hand, and I quickly developed hands that could tolerate hot tins and bread. And of course that smell, fantastic, and many a time we would pull open a hot loaf and lash on the fresh butter.
Most local bakeries have now disappeared and I think there may only be four or five now in the entire country. Many of these giant industrial processing units bring in flour at one end in huge trailers like cement trucks and computers and control equipment are responsible for wrapped bread coming out the far end. Many times the only difference between breads is the colour of the wrapper. However we now have a medium sized bakery in Racecourse Business Park that is roughly behind Brooks, the building materials place at the rear entrance to Ballybrit Racecourse. It is called Alan’s Bakery and it produces much of the bread for all the Polish shops in Ireland.
Alan is a native of Poland and has built quite a sizeable operation. The bakery is a little hard to find and I found it by smell as I was taking my 12-year-old to her gymnastics club, which is about 100 yards away. Last Christmas they decided to open a shop unit where the public could buy bread, cakes, and coffee, and that is where I recommend you go to find some freshly baked bargains.
It is open Monday to Friday from 9am to 7pm, plus some hours on Saturday. The shop sells all the breads plus whatever cakes and buns the staff are making that day. If you want to get the bread straight from the oven then the time to call is around 4pm as the vans load up in the late evening so they can be on the road to all corners of Ireland during the night. The range of breads is quite good with rye bread, multigrain bread, sunflower seed bread, delicious garlic and onion bread, and several more. All breads cost €1.80 and are available sliced or whole. The only exception to that price is for spelt bread, which costs €3.50. They also make a great little snack, a mini pizza about eight or nine inches long which you can have cold or the staff will heat it for you, priced at a very reasonable €1.50. My daughter is addicted to these. They make a great snack before gymnastics, which has 500 energetic kids a few doors down.
They have a great range of cakes and buns, however some of the best bargains are priced in a way that I think is confusing. For example they have mini donuts and absolutely gorgeous mini choux pastry (that’s the pastry used to make éclairs) buns filled with cream (they call them small cream puffs) and they price them by the kilo. That may be the way Polish people are used to buying them but it is strange to us. I asked to weigh one and see how much it would cost? 20 cents was all, which makes them a mega bargain in my book. You could bring home a dozen of these for less than €2.50. The same is true for the mini donuts and also small flat sesame toffee type cookies costing only about 12 cents each. So if it is priced in kilos don’t be shy about asking individual pricing, as all the ones I checked were bargains. Regular chocolate éclairs are €1.20 each and their biggest seller called a soufflé omelette with cream and jam is also €1.20. The word omelette only refers to the shape, its actually all cake and cream with tons of calories to keep you happy.
While I was there a continuous stream of local workers called in for their favourite sticky delights. If you are in the area and feeling peckish then they have a special offer where you can buy any coffee with something like an éclair or doughnut for just €2. Nothing is ever left on sale if it is more than 24 hours old, so you can be sure it is all fresh. On Fridays they make a bigger than normal selection of larger cakes, cheesecakes, etc, at equally excellent prices. They will also make birthday cakes and even copy your own design of cake.
Slow wine tasting
There is a slow wine tasting with Slow Food Galway on Tuesday February 21. Slow food is an international movement founded in Italy in 1986. Initially launched as a reaction to fast food, the movement sees as its goals the promotion of sustainable foods, the preservation and promotion of local agriculture, foods, and cuisines, and the slowing down of the trend towards globalised, mass-market, food production.
Ironically it is now a global movement itself with more than 100,000 members in 150 countries, and we are lucky to have a great convivium (chapter) in Galway. Check it out at www.slowfoodgalway.com The night begins at 8pm at Cases Wine Warehouse and will involve a tasting of wines that fit in with the slow food ethos and an explanation of how they do so. The night is free to Slow Food members and costs €8 for non-members. Members are asked to bring a small appetiser to accompany wine. Tickets may be purchased from Cases Wine Warehouse at the number below or from Slow Food at 087 9312333 (Kate) or 086 6484147 (Deirdre).
Correction to date for pop up restaurant night
The date I mentioned in my article two weeks ago was February 27, however it should have been February 25.