Locals clean up at Irish Food Awards as West Cork's ‘brand' strengthens

October 17th, 2018 11:50 AM

By Jackie Keogh

Diarmuid O'Sullivan of Irish Yogurts in Clonakilty who won bronze for their Gourmet Sicilian Lemon Live Yogurt.

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WEST Cork’s reputation as a foodie destination has been further enhanced after numerous local food producers were presented with gold, silver and bronze medals at the Irish Food Awards.

Overall, there were 53 winners from Co Cork, but with an estimated 75% of the country’s artisan producers based in West Cork, it is not hard to see how the region dominated the Blas na hÉireann competition.

The results, which were announced in Dingle at the weekend, saw a whole host of producers take medals across a range of different categories.

The medal winners included Skeaghanore Duck, Drinagh Eurospar in Skibbereen, Shannonvale Foods, West Cork Eggs, Caherbeg Free Range Pork, De Roiste Foods, Gloun Cross Dairy, Irish Yogurts, Durrus Cheese, Macroom Buffalo Cheese Products, Gubbeen Farmhouse Cheese, Union Hall Smoked Fish, Keohane Seafoods, and The Good Fish Company.

The Fresh Fish Deli company in Skibbereen was also among the prize winners, as was Hackett’s Bakers & Confectioners, the Clonakilty Food Company, Bandon Vale Cheese, Coolmore Foods, Milsean Chocolate, Folláin Preserves, West Cork Distillers, the Kinsale Mead Company and Stonewell Cider.

What is unusual about the Blas na hÉireann awards is that it is the biggest blind-tasting event in the country, and is a central component of the annual Dingle Food Festival, which takes place during the first weekend of every October.

The criteria for the judges was developed by Blas n hÉireann, in conjunction with the Food Science Department of University College Cork, and it is now recognised as an international industry standard.

During the first round of judging – which took place over the course of four weeks in June and July – more than 2,500 entries were tasted and tested at UCC and The Baking Academy. 

That brought the total number of finalists in each category down to just five, and each of the five in the 140 different categories went forward to the final in Dingle. 

All of the finalists had their food products blind-tasted by the judges who come from a variety of backgrounds, such as chefs, academics, trade buyers and home cooks. 

One of the reasons the competition is so popular is that it also serves as a showcase: producers get to mingle with the public and offer them bite-size pieces of some of the latest and most interesting food products on the market.

The chairperson and founder of Blas na hÉireann, Artie Clifford said: ‘All food on this island is local, but the passion for food, good food and local food, has never been greater.’

Fiona Field, the manager of A Taste of West Cork Food Festival said: ‘We, here in West Cork, now have a brand that is instantly recognisable. And for that, I would like to thank all of our local producers. I’d also like to congratulate the award winners – they richly deserve their success and recognition.’

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