Euro-Toques Ireland Food Awards are back!

It’s good to see some of our favourite food and drink producers honoured at the 2023 Euro-Toques Food Awards, which were held recently at the lovely Dunbrody Country House Hotel in Arthurstown, Co Wexford.

Offering a unique opportunity for chefs to acknowledge the work of the small artisan producers they depend on, the Euro-Toques Food Awards were established in 1996 based on an idea by the legendary Myrtle Allen, and are still held annually to recognise and celebrate the very best food being produced in Ireland.

Introduced by renowned Irish chef Kevin Dundon and food writer, author and Irish Food Writers’ Guild Chairperson, Caroline Hennessy, six awards were presented by Euro-Toques Ireland under the categories Water, Land, Farm, Dairy and Artisan Produce and Craft.

This year's award winners are:

  • WATER: Kelly Mussels

for their outstanding Blue Rope Mussels and their contribution to regenerative aquaculture in Ireland

  • LAND: Sliabh Aughty Honey

for their outstanding Raw Honeys and their contribution to the protection of Irish heritage and biodiversity.

  • FARM: Skeaghanore West Cork Farm

for their outstanding Pekin Duck and their contribution to preserving the traditional and ethical way of rearing animals in Ireland

  • DAIRY: Velvet Cloud

for their outstanding Sheep Milk Yogurt and their contribution to championing Ireland's rich and flavoursome dairy bounty

  • ARTISAN PRODUCE: Killahora Orchards

for their outstanding Rare Apple Ice Wine and their contribution to championing the artisan production of Irish craft drinks using apples.

  • CRAFT: Wildwood Balsamics

for their outstanding Wild Aged Vinegars and their contribution to protecting the tradition and skill of vinegar making in Ireland.

The ceremony was followed by a wonderful garden feast that brought together 100 chefs and producers, a real celebration of Irish produce featuring this year's winners, nominees, and Euro-Toques members. Produce from over 30 producers was showcased on a beautifully laid-out communal Harvest Table, created by the Euro-Toques Food Council to highlight some of the best produce Ireland has to offer.

The common denominator running through the six categories this year is the theme of social responsibility with a focus on increasing biodiversity and the conservation of traditions and heritage. For 2023, Euro-Toques particularly highlighted: mussel farms and regenerative aquaculture; honey producers and beekeepers; producers of forgotten meats; our rich bounty of yogurts and ice-creams; makers of craft drinks based on apples such as cider, brandy and wines; and last - but not least - our innovative vinegar makers.

"The Food Council's mission extends far beyond this event,” explained the newly elected Head of the Euro-Toques Ireland Food Council chef Conor Halpenny. “Together we represent a diverse tapestry of culinary knowledge, experiences, and insights that have shaped our approach to recognizing excellence within the industry. We are committed to fostering a sustainable, inclusive, and thriving culinary landscape. Our responsibility is not only to acknowledge the talents and achievements of our nominees and winners but also to inspire and empower the entire community. Today, we honour the unsung heroes - the producers, farmers, and artisans - who work diligently behind the scenes to craft the flavours that delight our senses. We pay tribute to the artisans - the masters of their craft -who tirelessly strive to preserve traditions, revive forgotten flavours, and push the boundaries of what is possible in the culinary realm."

Euro-Toques Ireland's long-term strategy is to create a platform where chefs and producers can meet, network and exchange knowledge. Membership to the Community is open to all chefs and producers who are aligned with the ethos of Euro-Toques Ireland, based on local, seasonal produce that has been grown, farmed, or produced in a way that prioritises short supply chains. Manuela Spinelli, Head of Community, People & Culture said: "When chefs and producers ask me 'What do I gain in becoming a member of Euro-Toques?' I always answer, 'You get to be part of it!' Developing a community with shared values is our objective at Euro-Toques Ireland and engage, engage, engage, is our message."


WATER: Kelly Mussels 
The Kellys work with the native blue mussel - Mytulis edulis - which thrives in the clean,
cold waters of the Irish coast. With a delicate, briny flavour and firm, chewy texture, these small, delicious molluscs are highly prized by chefs who know that starting with a good product means that you don't have to do much to it. Farmed sustainably by the Kelly family on the Galway coastline, the mussels are grown using both the long line and mussel raft methods. They live in dense colonies, feeding on the plankton present in the seawater and filtering it as they go. Nutrient dense, environmentally sustainable and absolutely delicious, Kelly's mussels are an Irish ocean treasure.

LAND: Sliabh Aughty Honey
The Leahy family have been beekeepers for four generations, harvesting Sliabh Aughty Honey from hives near and on the slopes of the Sliabh Aughty Mountains near Loughrea in east Galway. Starting with Noel Leahy's grandfather, bees have played an integral part in the family history. Their native Irish bees, kept in traditional hives, take nectar and pollen from wild heather on the mountains. The Leahy's also keep hives of these small, busy polinators in their garden, natural pastures and nearby woodlands. The honey is 100% raw, with all the aroma and flavour of local wildflowers, and is processed in a traditional manner with no additives or blending. This is a true superfood, with antioxidant, antibacterial and anti-inflammatory properties. Using their raw honey, Leahys also produce cult favourite Noel's Hot Honey for The Dough Bros in Galway. For the way it captures wild flavours in a jar, Sliabh Aughty Honey is a true taste of place.

FARM: Skeaghanore West Cork Farm 
Spotting a duck-shaped niche in the Irish market in 1994, set Eugene and Helena Hickey on a path that has ensured that the name Skeaghanore is known to chefs throughout Ireland and abroad. Skeaghanore Duck is produced on their family farm overlooking Roaring Water Bay in West Cork. The Hickeys hand-rear the ducks -a domestic breed called Pekin - which is particularly succulent and tender. Helena believes that their location also gives them an edge: the salty sea air imparts a unique taste, acting as a pre-salting agent and enhancing the rich, savoury flavour of the duck. Testament to the quality of their product is the fact that they are always stocked by Fields of Skibbereen, one of the first outlets to stock the duck when they first started production almost 30 years ago. With the next generation now working on the farm, it is clear that duck is no longer a forgotten meat and the Hickeys are to be applauded for ensuring its survival on Irish menus.

DAIRY: Velvet Cloud
From their family farm in Co Mayo, Aisling and Michael Flanagan make a range of natural sheep milk yogurt and cheese under the name Velvet Cloud. The land is ideal for sheep, something appreciated by their flock of Lacaune and Friesland ewes, who can graze on the grass and clover pastures almost the entire year around. Their products include a sheep milk yogurt – the only one of its kind in Ireland - sheep milk, a semi-hard sheep cheese and their newest addition, a soft and spreadable sheep milk labneh. Their yogurt is made with just two ingredients: fresh sheep's milk from Flanagan's farm and live yogurt cultures. With a naturally sweet taste and unctuous, creamy texture, it is an especially versatile ingredient and one that has caught the attention of many chefs who use it in all manner of sweet and savoury dishes.

ARTISAN PRODUCE: Killahora Orchards 
Killahora Orchards – Rare Apple Ice Wine
Founded by cousins David Watson and Barry Walsh, Killahora Orchards in East Cork is rooted in the past – the first mention of their orchard dates from 1837 – but with a firm view to the future. With the goal of making the best possible drinks from the apples and pears that they grow on site, Watson and Walsh have always been innovative. Their portfolio includes Pom'O apple port, a pet-nat bottle conditioned bittersweet cider, and a fine, lightly sparkling perry.
Their Rare Apple Ice Wine is made in a similar manner to Canadian ice wine: freezing and then thawing apple juice before slowly fermenting it to produce a first class dessert wine. The rich, toffee apple and butterscotch flavour is complemented by a fresh acidity at an ABV of just 10.5%. This versatile tipple can make an appearance in cocktails, with a cheeseboard or, when chilled, as a palate whetting aperitif.

CRAFT: Wildwood Balsamics 
Wildwood Balsamics was founded in spring 2012 with the elderflower harvest and has followed nature's calender ever since. Artist turned vinegar-maker Fionntan Gogarty picks his ingredients from the mountains, hedgerows, seashores and gardens of Co Mayo before transforming them utterly into vinegars of rare flavour and beauty. He starts this process by making wines from foraged or organically grown fruit or flowers. These wines are turned into vinegars and then, with the addition of cooked fruits from the wine-making process, become balsamics. None of this happens quickly: the young berry balsamics take 18 months to produce, the flower and herb based ones take two years. Gogarty also barrel-ages some of his balsamics for five years, infusing them gradually with flavour that enhances every food that they come in contact with. Just a few drops of these precious potions, which come from the very landscape of Mayo, lighten flavours with their bright acidity.

Focusing on the foods and production methods that preserve the traditions and heritage of the Irish food, farming and fishing industries, each year Euro-Toques Ireland members are asked to nominate their favourite suppliers, from a shortlist carefully selected by the Euro-Toques Food Council. Members of the Council are: Conor Halpenny (Head), Aishling Moore (Deputy), Anthony O'Toole, Sham Hanifa, Janice Casey-Bracken and Philippe Farineau.
Further details on the Euro-Toques Food Awards 2023, including nominees and winners:

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