2012 was a great year for Irish Food! People all over the country have been taking what was originally a hobby or pastime and have been creating new small food businesses with some wonderful results. These new food producers are evident at the many farmers markets, country markets and food festivals all over Ireland, north and south of the border.

Existing small food companies, with assistance from their County Enterprise Boards, have been expanding their business, employing people and gaining more recognition for their products at a growing number of Irish Food Awards ceremonies.

Restaurants are changing their attitude and are getting away from the one-stop-shop attitude of commercial purchasing. They have been getting hands-on with local growers and producers, often making a financial input to the development of a local new food business. This is generating a pride within the restaurateurs as they finally become aware of the fact that they too are a vital part in the chain of events that can help to grow and nurture new local food businesses.

Chefs all over the Ireland are driving this new food awakening by insisting that the food they now serve from their kitchen reflects the local produce of their own region as much as possible. This is helping to create a more honest food culture among Irish people, as the market-stall produce again becomes a part of our weekly shopping.

Established and well-travelled Irish food champions such as Darina AllenJohn & Sally McKenna, Georgina CampbellPeter WardGood Food Ireland, The Sheridan family, and others, have been enormously important in creating today's awareness about the passionate producers in our midst. A new generation of Irish chef's, restaurateurs, food writers and the ever-growing Irish food blogging community have learned much from these original food gurus. Their continued dedication to promoting Irish food is, in turn, encouraging a new generation of food producers to get back to basics.

Bordbia, the Irish Food Board, has been instrumental in helping Irish food producers get their product to market and especially to the export market. Irish Food has undergone a phenomenal growth in exports over the last year and our reputation abroad, for our quality food, is second to none. This is something we all should be proud off, especially in the current financial climate.

This can be a great time to start a food business. If you have passion and belief in what you are doing and in the produce you are making,  as the old saying goes: "People will taste the effort you put into it!"

My Twitter request for great "food finds of 2012" went out on the 28th December 2012 with 3 further retweets over the following few days:

I didn't give the request a push on Facebook this year as I believe I've got enough varied replies from across the Irish Food network via Twitter. From all the replies I have put together a fairly well balanced representation of some of the wonderful foods that people have discovered, for the first time, during 2012. Some of the foods are from producers who are already established or growing brand names. Some others are just getting started on their way.

Do please note that these are not just my choices. They have been sent in by Irish Food lovers around the country who have discovered a new flavour or food and loved it. 

Congrats to all who are included in the list. Again this year, one name came up more often in your replies than any other. We'll save that one till last! 

So here with full contact details, in alphabetical order and as voted by Irish Twitter Foodies, are...

The Best Irish Food Finds of 2012

Food Product Producer Contact Details
Annascaul Black Pudding Annascaul Black Pudding Co., Annascaul, Co Kerry, @annascaul_bp Website Tel: 066 9157127 - Thomas Ashe
Arun Bakery Artisan Bread Arun Bakery, SPADE Centre, Nth King Street, Dublin 7 @ArunBakery Facebook bakeryarun@gmail.com086 244 3193 - Vlad Rainis  
Atlantic Spirulina Sea-Veg seasoning Quality Sea Veg. Co., Burtonport, Co. Donegal @ http://qualityseaveg.ie +353 (0)74 – 9542159 - Manus McGonagle
Bellingham Blue Cheese Glydefarm Produce, Mansfieldstown,
Castlebellingham, Co Louth
@BellinghamBlue Tel: 042 937 2343 - 087 277 8538 Website – Peter Thomas
Boyne Valley Blue Cheese Boyne Valley Blue, Mullagha Farm, Slane, Co Meath @Boynevalleyblue Website Michael Finnegan
Broighter Gold Rapeseed Oil Broighter Gold, Limavady
BT49 9DY, Northern Ireland
@BroighterGold Website Tel: 07912076607
Email: leona@broightergold.com 
Burkes Farm Ice Cream Burkes Farm, Tara, Navan, County Meath @ http://www.burkesfarmicecream.com 046-9025232 or 087-9532656 Bernie and John Burke  
Carraig na Breac Smoked Duck Carraig na Breac Smokehouse, Drumshanbo Co Leitrim @CarraigNaBreac 087 240 4289 - Peter and Niamh Curry Facebook
Cathy’s Spelt Bread Mixes Cathy’s Spelt for Health, Riverside Business Centre, Tinahely, Co.Wicklow @CathysSpelt Website Tel: 00353 (0) 402 28912  - Cathy Whitty
Cloughjordan   Wood-fired Bread < Cloughjordan Wood-fired Bakery, Cloughjordan Eco-Village, Co. Tipperary @Cloughwoodfired  Website Tel: 085-182 2777 Joe Fitzmaurice
Corleggy Cheese Corleggy Cheese, Belturbet, Co Cavan @CorleggyCheese Facebook Tel: 049 9522930 Silke Cropp
Curraghchase Free-Range Pork Rigneys Farm, Curraghchase, Kilcornan, Co.Limerick @RigneysFarm Website Joe and Caroline Rigney
DeBrun Crab Claws DeBrun Iasc Teo., Ballinaboula,  Dingle, Co. Kerry @ Ted and Hannah Mae Browne Tel: 066 9151933
Donegal Rapeseed Oil Donegal Rapeseed Oil Co., Raphoe, Co Donegal @DonegalRapeseed Website 00353 (0)74 9145386 – Thomas Hughes
Highbank Orchard Syrup Highbank Organic Orchard
Farmley, Cuffesgrange
Co Kilkenny
@highbankorchard Website Tel: +353 56 7729918 - Rod Calder-Potts
Imokilly Regato Cheese Dairygold Food Ingredients Ltd., Mogeely, Co Cork @ Website Tel: 021 –4667220
Irish Waygu Beef James Whelan & Sons Butchers, Clonmel
Co. Tipperary & Avoca Foodmarket, Monkstown
Co Dublin
@Pat_Whelan Website Clonmel: 052 6182477 Dublin: 01 6638924 Pat Whelan
Kilree Cheese Knockdrinna Farmhouse Cheese Co., Stoneyford, Co Kilkenny @Knockdrinna Website Tel: +353 (0)56 7728446 - Helen Finnegan
Lannléire Honey Lannléire Honey, Trean, Dunleer, Co. Louth @ Website Eoghan MacGiolla Coda - Tel: 041 6861884
Lavistown Cheese Knockdrinna Farnhouse Cheese Co., Stoneyford, Co Kilkenny @Knockdrinna  Website Tel: +353 (0)56 7728446 – Helen Finnegan
Longueville House Cider Longueville House, Mallow, Co. Cork, Ireland @Longuevillecork Website Tel: +353 (0)22 47156  - William O’Callaghan
Moran’s Basil Pesto Moran’s Homestore, Ballinagh,Co.Cavan @moranshomestore Website Phone: 049-4367556  Kieron & Claire Moran
Old Farm Free-Range Pork Oldfarm, Redwood, Lorrha, Nenagh, Co. Tipperary @Oldefarm Website Tel: 086 8100 125 – Margaret & Alfie O'Farrell
Rhubarb & Elderflower Jam Inishowen Home Baking, Drumaville, Malin, Co Donegal @ Facebook  -  Tel: 086 0840633 - Janine Strong
Sheep’s Milk Ice Cream Suzanna at Zwartbles Ireland @ZwartblesIE Website
Slow Food Co Artisan Bread Slow Food Co., Newtowncunningham, Co Donegal @scarpedillo Website Kemal Scarpello - +353(0)749156777
St Tola Goats Cheese Ash Log St Tola Cheese, Inagh, Co Clare @StTolaCheese Website Tel: +353 (0)65 68 36633 - Siobhan Ní Ghairbhith
Tastefully Yours Beetroot & Orange Chutney Tastefully Yours - Dunhill, Co Waterford @ArtisanChutney Facebook Norbert Thul and Audrea Hassett - (051) 396 590
The Whole Hoggs Free Range Pork The Whole Hoggs, Slane, Co Meath @TheWholeHoggs Facebook
Peter & Susan Whelan - Tel: 086 2708809
Toons Bridge Buffalo Mozzarella Toons Bridge Dairy. Old Creamery, Macroom, Cork @toonsbridge Tel: 026 41471 - Jenny-Rose Clarke
Wicklow Gold Nettle & Chive Cheese Wicklow Gold Farmhouse Cheese, Curranstown, Arklow, Co Wicklow @ Website Tel: 0402 91713 - John and Bernie Hempenstall

And the most mentioned "#BestIrishFood " of 2012 is...

Trout Caviarfrom Ger & Mags Kirwan

Launched at the start of March 2012, Goatsbridge Trout Caviar has taken the Irish food scene by storm. Caviar is processed, salted fish roe or eggs and is regarded as a luxury food delicacy and ancient gourmet treat. There are several types with the best-known form of caviar coming from a fish called a 'Sturgeon'. But trout caviar has grown in global popularity in recent years.

“Trout caviar is good enough to eat off the spoon. It has large, golden-orange beads and a subtle flavour with a nice ‘pop’ when you bite into it," says Mags Kirwan of Goatsbridge "and have been very heartened by the response from the restaurant and food sector here so far.”

For more details on Goatsbridge Trout Caviar see http://goatsbridgetrout.ie/

Goatsbridge Trout Farm, Thomastown, Co. Kilkenny, Tel: +353 (0)86 818 8340 

You can follow them @goatsbridge on Twitter

Thanks to everyone who sent in their special food finds of the year. 

Happy New Year to all.

For more Irish Food News from Zack see www.IrishFoodGuide.ie