I don't review restaurants. There are enough people out there who feel qualified to do so and therefore I don't get involved in that aspect of Irish food. What I do, is simply share information and news about food in Ireland so that others can discover new foods, learn more about modern Irish food and make up their own mind.
I am passionate about buying as much from local people as you can and I really believe that shopping at a local market must become a regular part of our weekly shop, as happens in France and many other countries. I love helping build up our own Leghowney Country Market, here in Donegal, and I do what I can to encourage people to buy Irish and buy local.
Over the last few years, buying local and supporting local food enterprises has finally become recognized by Irish consumers as being vitally important to the rest of the economy. This has helped the development of more country markets and farmers markets as people realize that local money, spent locally, stays local. It means that people can take their passion for baking or making their favorite food product to a new level and generate a business from it. It means people are returning to living as part of a community.
Most of Ireland's growing artisan food brands started off at local markets. In the close-knit community that surrounds a market, artisan food entrepreneurs are able to develop their product and streamline their decision-making based on honest opinions from regular customers. This also helps to make the products being offered for sale at a market be of the highest quality possible within a shorter product-development time frame. The food producer will quickly find their optimum price position too, as regular customers that love your product won't be long telling you if it's value for money or not!
For the last few years, over the Christmas and New Year period, I have posted out a question on Twitter. "What was your Irish Food Find of 2013? #BestIrishFood" went out this year and I had a truly amazing response which I have again whittled down to the 20 most regularly mentioned replies.
The responses from people all over Ireland are varied and show a definite confidence in Irish taste buds to try new products. You will see some great new food products and also recognize some familiar names that are growing in popularity though are still only being discovered by many, for the first time.
In this year's Best Irish Food Finds over 80% of the food products, as recommended by Irish food lovers that responded to my Twitter Question, started off in Farmers & Country Markets around the island of Ireland. This is wonderful news for the future of new Irish Food producers, their products and food markets.
There were many replies, which named restaurants or food shops as favorite finds, but in this particular list we only concentrate on the food product and its producers. County Cork, the acknowledged home of the Irish Artisan Food Revival, shines well in this year's list. One name kept popping up again and again, over the last ten days, as the food find most requested by so many people around the country - we will, of course, save that for last.
Remember, this is based on Irish Twitter replies of your favorite food finds! I have included the county of origin and the Twitter name of the producer.
In alphabetical order, The 20 Best Irish Food Finds to Watch Out For in 2014 are:
Arbutus Bread Cork, Co. Cork @ArbutusBread
Castlefarm Shamrock Cheese, Co. Kildare
Clotilde's & Fruit Compote, Co. Cork @ClotildeFruitCo
Fennel Cider Butter, Co. Wexford @WildaboutFoods
Firehouse Bakery, Wicklow/Cork @firehousebread
Free Range Edible Snails, Co. Carlow @gaelicescargot
Green Saffron Spices, Co. Cork @greensaffron
Highbank Orchard Syrup, Co. Kilkenny @highbankorchard
Improper Butter, Co. Dublin @improperbutter
Inch House Black Puddings, Co. Tipperary @Inchhouse
Irish Atlantic Sea Salt, Co. Cork @Irishseasalt
Irish Local Honey, Co. Donegal @IrishLocalHoney
iASC's Irish Shellfish 'Umami' Butter, Co. Cork @iASCSeafoodIrl