A few weeks ago, your Gourmet Food Examiner took a trip to Ireland to examine the food scene, and the results were nothing short of inspirational. As it turns out, Irish food may be the best-kept secret in the culinary world. The people at Good Food Ireland are working to overturn that secrecy, and to help a country that’s humble about its successes reap the accolades it deserves.
Ireland itself is perfect for food production. The temperate climate and plentiful rainfall are a boon for farmers, and the lush, green grass is perfect for livestock. Ireland is an island, and its shores bring in seafood from the clean, pure waters of the Atlantic Ocean, the Irish Sea, and the Celtic Sea. Small farms dot the landscape, home to cheese makers, meat producers, and people whose families have sometimes been doing business for a century or more.
In fact, Ireland is so good at producing food, that its best products are sometimes more easily found overseas than where it was made. It’s true. More than 90% of Ireland’s beef, for example, is exported to other European countries. Ireland also sends over 400 million dollars worth of cheese to England every year, and quite a bit to France. Think about that: two of the countries most associated with fine cheese are eating up the cheese produced in Ireland. Butter, seafood, lamb and whiskey are also transported to the rest of the EU and other parts of the world.
Knowing the full picture makes it easier to understand why Ireland’s food scene has had some trouble emerging. With a large amount of the country’s food being sent elsewhere, Ireland has a similar problem to the United States in that the country has been overrun with non-local and overly-processed foods. That Irish stew you ordered at a Dublin pub might not be as Irish as you think. There’s a good chance it’s not even Irish beef.
So, how do you find the good, local, authentically Irish food in Ireland? That’s where Good Food Ireland comes in. Margaret Jeffares founded Good Food Ireland in 2006 to establish a brand standard for Irish food -- and that standard is exceptionally high. In fact, Jeffares says that a large number of the applicants are turned down.
While the standards to be a member of the Good Food Ireland Family are particular, they’re not elitist by any means. The smallest cafe or food producer can meet the standards, provided that they’re committed to fresh, local ingredients. That means that whether you choose a small lunch spot or a five-star restaurant, you can expect a high level of quality and service. The beef or lamb in your stew? It will undoubtedly be Irish.
The work Good Food Ireland does may be extensive, but the result for the consumer is simple. Just look for Good Ireland providers, and you’re guaranteed an authentic Irish food experience.
Over the next few weeks, the Gourmet Food Examiner column will be featuring restaurants and dishes from the recent tour of Ireland and Good Food Ireland’s stable of providers. Be sure to subscribe, so you won’t miss a thing.