Poppy Seed Cafe, Clarinbridge

the Galway Appetiser

Poppy Seed coffee house and restaurant opened in the heart of Clarinbridge in 2007. This cafe is a modern and spacious, light filled space along the banks of the Clarin river, set back from the hum of the very busy main road and with ample parking. It seems the sun can find its way into this room on even the dullest of days. With one wall opened into a Meadows & Byrne store, Poppy Seed provides a welcome break from the hard work of homemaking with its excellent homebaking, just the ticket to break up a busy day. Open seven days a week and with freshly baked breads and other treats every morning, Poppy Seed offers a good menu for breakfast including an array of its speciality handmade pastries and premium coffee. Lunch choices are both healthy and hearty with chicken pâté with brioche and plum compote, Galway Bay seafood crumble with salad and brown bread, gourmet sandwiches and salads, quiches, and quesadillas all on offer. In addition to all this fine fare, the retail space offers wines, handmade Irish chocolates and biscuits, plus an array of preserves, chutneys, and savoury treats. If you need a gift or a hamper Poppy Seed will make it up for you and wrap it prettily to boot.

Although this is mainly a daytime eatery, I found myself there to enjoy the first fine wine gourmet dinner of 2013. These events are held periodically throughout the year. Chef Alan Burns from La Rousse Foods, and formerly of Limerick’s stylish Number One Pery Square was our chef for the evening, having started his preparations three days earlier. Sinead Cabot from Cabot & Co Wines, a specialist wine importer and distributor based in Westport, introduced the wine matches for the evening. She spoke passionately on what was obviously an area of huge expertise for her, never once indulging in the rather more fruity language she uses on the company blog, but you will have to Google to find out more about that. I could not possibly print it here. She was very engaging with fun elements to the evening, starting off by passing out jelly babies to the expectant diners and finished by encouraging us to sniff a bottle of corked wine that she promised us would smell like a mouse’s nest. I declined that kind offer.

After the jelly baby we started with a nice light salad of Wexford chicken two ways, smoked and crumbed, with a smokey Slovenian Pinot Gris. West coast brown crab boudin came next, on sea spaghetti and warm tartare sauce, with its match of a bone-dry white, Carbol Picpoul de Pinet, Languedoc 2011. Braised shin of Clare beef, bourguignon garnish, and pommes purée came with the rather unappetisingly monickered Spatburgunder, a German wine, but luckily it tasted better than it sounded. The best wine for me, however, was certainly saved till last in true biblical fashion, a fabulous 2003 Sauternes. The prettily plated dessert of a rectangle of pastry filled with a sharp passionfruit curd was served with a smooth mango sorbet and a trail of crispy oat crumble. I had to beat a hasty retreat at that stage as a long drive and a babysitter awaited me and sadly passed on the petits fours and coffees that stood at the ready. The five course gala dinner including the matching wines was set at €45 per person and was a great night out, well worth keeping your eyes peeled for the next one, especially if you live in the vicinity of Clarinbridge. Now with a second premises in the centre of Galway city, this is one family run business that seems to be going from strength to strength and I predict more success for it for the rest of 2013.

Poppy Seed, The Bridge Centre, Clarinbridge, Co Galway, phone 091 79 6019, email [email protected], www.poppyseed.ie Opening times 9am to 5.30pm.

Fun with Slow Food

Slow Food believes in good, clean, and fair food. The organisation believes that the food we eat should be produced in a way that does not harm the environment, animal welfare, or our health; and that food producers should receive fair compensation for their work. It works to defend biodiversity in the food supply, spread taste education, and connect producers of excellent foods with the Galway people through events and initiatives.

I recently attended its event on ‘Blogging and Food Photography’, an increasingly hot food topic in recent times. Held in the Irish International Hotel and Catering School just off Eyre Square, the day was organised and hosted by newly appointed spokesperson Maria McNeela.

To start, since you cannot have a food blog without some mouthwatering photography, Michael O'Meara, proprietor of the award-winning Oscar’s Seafood Bistro, shared his extensive knowledge on how to capture food through the camera lens. All was going swimmingly until Michael opined that restaurant reviewers were obsolete. Awkward! Way to hurt a gal's feelings, Mike!

After a quick break to feast on some Kinvara smoked salmon on brown bread (no box of USA biscuits being passed around at an event of this quality ), it was time for Móna Wise, food columnist with The Sunday Times, to speak on the subject of food blogging. And as the current holder of the title of Ireland's Best Blog, she was the perfect speaker to give invaluable advice on the subject.

Last up was the wonderful Máirín Uí Chomáin. You may remember her from Cuisine le Mairin on RTE. She is the acclaimed author of Irish Oyster Cuisine and many other cookbooks. She is a Connemara woman through and through, who speaks English like it is new to her. She spoke about her upcoming book on cooking with salmon. She spoke also of her love of the sea, her life journey, all her adventures in food and beyond. Warm and captivating, a real west of Ireland treasure and a woman who has the knack of touching hearts. There was nothing I would have liked better than to listen to her stories for hours more. To find distinguished food writers and photographers numbering among the more familiar chefs, restaurateurs, and producer members of Slow Food is something very special.

The Galway chapter of the slow food movement has some fantastic upcoming events including a barbecue feast with local beer tasting; nose-to-tail butchery; deep sea fishing during the mackerel season (with the catch cooked on the boat ); a mushroom hunt; clam bake; and some of-the-moment seashore foraging. More practical demonstrations and workshops will include smoking meat, fish, or cheese using a homebuilt smoker.

With the global food supply chain increasingly seeming to be as about as robust as a daisy chain, it really is something more of us should consider being involved with.

For more information or to join go to www.slow foodgalway.com or contact Maria McNeela at [email protected]

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