I am sure many of you have seen the trucks with ‘Pallas Foods’ on the side, and if you pass the cold storage depot in Oranmore any weekend you will see 10 or 20 of them all parked together with the back doors wide open. It has more than 100 trucks on the road so that will give you some idea of how big it is.
Pallas Foods is the biggest supplier of food and food ingredients to restaurants and hotels in Ireland, so I thought it would be a worthwhile trip to see the operation in detail and to see the range and quality of what goes in to make the very many meals that we eat out. As it is a trade only supplier, we the general public would have no inkling of how it operates, so when I met its Galway representative at a food show, I accepted the offer of a tour of the facility. My curiosity had been piqued previously when I had seen a copy of its 2011 food book; it is extremely impressive and the size of a phone directory, in full colour, and with a vast array of products and ingredients.
Firstly, we visited its exclusive supplier of beef products, AIBP in Nenagh, I was not quite sure what to expect of my visit to a meat factory but the attention to detail and to animal welfare was amazing. I will not go into too much detail here, but suffice to say that everything is done to make the transition of a live animal at the gate to a fillet steak (or whatever cut you can think of ) with animal welfare as the number one objective. As well as being good practice to do this, it also ensures a better finished product. The signing in process was the most detailed and thorough I have ever encountered and I was then clothed from head to toe in a clean room type set of whites that covered every part of my body including the few scraps of hair on my head. I also had to sterilise my footwear and hands every time we moved from one section of the plant to another.
While I realise that our artisan butchers do a great job, I also think that this meat factory is exemplary and that it produces some really excellent products.
Next, on to the main facility in Newcastlewest, where 500 people source and sell products to restaurants and hotels all over Ireland. There is a large telephone call centre that rings chefs all over Ireland every day to take their orders. Those orders will be in the restaurant kitchens next day, anywhere in Ireland.
There is nothing that it does not supply, from fois gras to fresh fish, fresh meat, cheeses, pastas, poultry of every type, breads and all kinds of bakery products, oriental products, fresh vegetables, wines, sauces, and ingredients of every description. The list is practically endless. What interested me was how Pallas controls the quality of what it stocks, so I met one of the senior buyers/quality staff to ask about their vendor qualification process. Having seen the requirements that a potential supplier has to meet, including regular site visits, I think you can be pretty sure that if they sell it, then it is top quality. The Pallas Company was started by a local family in the 1980s and is now part of the world wide Sysco Company. This means that an approved supplier to Pallas Foods in Ireland now has the potential to reach hundreds of thousands of Sysco customers in the USA. It has a programme in Newcastlewest where they are actively working with several Irish companies to do just that. So, if you are thinking of opening a restaurant and want to remove the hassle of locating various suppliers then Pallas Foods can be your one-stop shop. The head office is at Pallas Foods Ltd, Newcastle West, Limerick, telephone (069 ) 20200, www.pallasfoods.eu
Great value dinner menu in The Lady Gregory Hotel, Gort
I called in to The Lady Gregory Hotel as I passed through Gort recently and was offered a new dinner menu that seemed amazing value. For €20 you can have three courses plus coffee with a good choice of starters, mains, and desserts.
My fellow diner and discerning palate was my 12-year-old daughter, and we started with seafood chowder for me and vegetable soup for her. The chowder was creamy, full of cubed pieces of fish, and was really very good indeed (no mushy farmed salmon ). The vegetable soup was pronounced delicious, and even though I had suggested not finishing it so there would be room for a main course the bowl was emptied. For my main course I choose tiger prawn linguini with rocket and sun kissed tomatoes, coriander pesto, and cheese. The portion was enormous, smothered in Parmesan, lots of tiger prawns, and the pasta cooked exactly as it should be. My daughter had the Lady Gregory gourmet beef burger with smoked cheese, onion rings, mash, and onion gravy. To say that the portion was generous is a serious understatement, it was enormous, but more importantly it tasted superb. The burger was served with a ciabatta bun, excellent minced beef, and the smoked cheese was perfect. The onion rings looked a little too oily for both of us, but other than that is was really good.
For dessert we opted for cream filled profiteroles and chocolate fudge cake, and both were very good and too much to finish. We are not big eaters, but I really think that even the most hungry of you would be hard pushed to eat everything. All the gravies and sauces are coeliac friendly and there is always a vegetarian option. Even though it was early on a Thursday evening there were a lot of diners, and I have to mention the waiting staff who seemed to be on roller skates as they kept everyone happy. The menu is available seven days a week in the large bar area from 3pm until 9pm. At the weekend, ie, on Friday night and Saturday night, you can have the same deal in the main restaurant. At this price level a lot of people will be tempted to treat themselves, and why not?
The Lady Gregory Hotel is on the old Ennis Road in Gort, phone (091 ) 632333.