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Judging the 2023 Irish Food Writing Awards

The charming Corinna Hardgrave, the Irish Times restaurant reviewer, was seated to my right at this year’s Irish Food Writing Awards dinner. We had a great time discussing the Irish restaurant scene and the highs and lows of being a restaurant critic.

And we were both big fans of Homestead Cottage, Chef Robbie McCauley’s new place in Doolin, which is gathering all sorts of raves from the critics these days.

I was asked to judge two categories this year, Seafood Writing and Food Blogs. The Seafood Writing Award went to Janine Kennedy, a transplanted Canadian who works as a dairy farmer in Tipperary when she’s not writing about food. Appropriately enough, her work appears in Farmers Journal. One of the articles I judged was about an oyster farm in Sligo that offers tours.

Glenmar Shellfish, a wholesaler in West Cork, sponsored the seafood writing award. The company’s CEO, Diarmuid O’Donavan, was seated to my left. We had a lot to talk about as well including fish species and the worldwide market for Irish fish and shellfish.

Being the author of Sex, Death & Oysters was one of my qualifications for judging the seafood awards. Diarmuid and I discussed the role that Irish edulis oysters play in the world market.

Ireland supplies European flat oysters to famous European oyster appellations where they are dunked in the local waters and then rechristened with prestigous names like “Belon” and “Colchester.” But don’t get me started, I could write a book.

Glenmar Shellfish supplied the crabmeat for the sensational “Crab Tian” that was served as the dinner’s first course. It was so pretty, it was hard to get started eating it. But I eventually got hungry and mucked up the luscious pile of cold crabmeat and creamy topping and spread it on slices of sourdough.

The Food Blog award was won by The Botanical Cuisine Digest, a student-written publication. Here’s what I had to say in my Judges’ Comments:

Reading Botanical Cuisine Digest is a refreshing surprise. How rare it is to come across a food blog that seeks to make the world a better place! Students in the Botanical Cusine program at TU Dublin conduct interviews with scientists, farmers, chefs, and brewers for the blog. Their articles explore the cutting edge of food production and preparation and challenge us to eat more sustainably and become smarter consumers. The blog fulfills the: “maintaining an online presence with regular new written content” award criteria admirably. Great design too. Senior Culinary Arts Lecturer Annette Sweeny deserves a lot of credit.

Visit the Botanical Cuisine website for more info.


Robb Walsh