The Shrine to Divine
A Taste of Tipperary
This year, the Irish leg of the Great Taste Awards judging was hosted by the Tipperary Food Producers at Hotel Minella in Clonmel. As I entered the hotel to begin my two days of judging, I was having flashbacks as I had spent many hazy nights in Minella at the salubrious nighclub back in my single days. Thankfully, walls don't talk and it soon was time to get the head down and wield my pen to take copious notes on each of the products we tasted. I can assure you that the business of tasting is a very thorough and rigorous one, with over 1,300 products entered into GTA 16 from Ireland, over 850 of which were tasted in Tipperary.
The spirit of meitheal was very much alive as the Tipperary Food Producers arranged a series of events to showcase the fabulous local food and drink at a tour of Coolmore Stud with an informal BBQ and a tour of the Rock of Cashel followed by a long table dinner at Chez Hans.
A stunning cake by Vera Miklas
On the final evening, following three and a half very successful days of tasting new flavours, forming new friendships and falling in love with Tipperary, guests and judges could choose from four separate intimate dining experiences. Each as personal and authentic as the other, one dinner was served in Crossogue House and Farley Castle, home to the famous Crossogue Preserves, a second dinner in Inch House, home of the renowned black pudding, hosted by owners John and Nora Egan, a third in Hickey’s Bakery and Café hosted by fourth generation baker, Nuala Hickey, and the fourth in elegant Greenane House, where I had the pleasure of touring this history-filled residence, one of the oldest in Ireland, followed by a simple, delicious dinner showcasing local cheesemakers and butchers and a showstopping cake by Vera Miklas
The Great Taste Award winners will be announced by the Guild of Fine Food in August, with the Supreme Champion being awarded at a gala dinner in early September. Could Ireland do the double? Well, more than one 3-star winner was found during my judging sessions, so I firmly believe that we're in with a chance. Fingers crossed!
Many thanks to Tipperary Food Producers for their kind hospitality during my judging stay.