2013 was the year when “cronut” was on the tips of tongues, when we became obsessed with baking, and when tasting menus change the way we ordered in restaurants. And 2014 has just as much up its sleeve. Restaurants and producers are being swept up on a wave of exciting and dynamic fads that will change what you eat. Ireland is no different. Here, we’re hot on the heels of some of the world’s biggest new food trends, from comforting traditional food to exotic upscale dishes.
1. From microbreweries to upscale cocktails
There’s no doubt about it: 2013 in Ireland was the year of craft beer. Micro- and independent breweries such as the Franciscan Well Brewery in Cork, the Hilden Brewery in County Antrim, Northern Ireland and the Burren Brewery in County Clare got tastebuds revved up. And in pubs and restaurants, beers and ales from O’Hara’s, Eight Degrees and Whitewater made a perfect accompaniment to plates of artisan Irish cheese and local charcuterie boards. And there’s no doubt about it: craft beers are here to stay for 2014. But alongside this, a new drink trend has been brewing in Ireland, and globally: upscale cocktails. We’re not talking mojitos mixed from a packet – we’re talking elegant, sophisticated and very creative cocktails. All over the island, little speakeasy-style cocktail bars and gin dens are driving the new trend, from the hush-hush Blind Pig Speakeasy and the Vintage Cocktail Club in Dublin, to Limerick’s award-winning Cornstore and the fabulous cocktail bar in Belfast’s Merchant Hotel. And restaurants, such as Dublin’s new Drury Buildings and Mandarin Karma in Derry-Londonderry are putting as much effort into their cocktail menu as they are into their food. If cocktails are your thing, in 2014 Ireland is the place to be.
2. Local is everything
Forbes, who have pitched “Local food” as one of their top three food trends for 2014, write that “diners increasingly want to know where their food comes from, and are seeking out local foods.” And in Ireland, local isn’t a fad or a trend – it’s a way of life. Here, cows roam rich green pastures, artisan cheese ranks among the finest in Europe, and pigs even get their own island… Don’t believe us? Just look at Black Bacon. This is the essence of local food in Ireland… Here, Pat O’Doherty’s special pigs roam on an island that is fragrant with herbs. And it doesn’t stop there: butter on the island of Ireland is among the purest in the world, with County Down’s Abernethy Butter even gracing the tables at Heston Blumenthal’s Fat Duck restaurant. And that’s not to mention the smokehouse fish industry, with incredible smoked salmon and mackerel from local smokehouses in the Burren, Connemara, Cobh and Drumgooland in County Down. Trust us, in Ireland local really IS everything.
3. Mexican goes upscale
According to the Huffington Post, Mexican food is going upscale for 2014: “More and more people are learning what real Mexican food is, and it’s a lot more than tacos.” But hang on, this is Ireland, an island famed for its rich pure flavours, traditional tastes and lovingly crafted products, right? Well, yes, but the restaurant scene in Ireland is one of the most cutting-edge in Europe and in the heart of Dublin is a little Mexican restaurant that is redefining Mexican food. With heady Latino chic, a Tequila-lined bar and a small space lined with white subway tiles, 777 is setting the pace in the Irish capital. Feast on smoked haddock ceviche, pequeno pajaro (wood-fired quail) and pickled pork tostados. Forget New York, forget LA, if you’re looking for the gourmet Mexican food, Dublin is where it’s at.
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4. Comfort food
The trend of comfort food is here to stay for 2014, according to the United States’ National Restaurant Association. In Ireland, the one thing we do VERY well is comfort food. You probably haven’t tasted real joy on a plate until you’ve tucked into an Ulster Fry, a tasty explosion of sausages, bacon, soda farl (like a potato cake), mushrooms, beans and fried eggs. In fact, Ireland is so good at comfort food that our chefs have been rediscovering Irish classics and putting them back on the menus. Think chunky seafood chowder with a dillisk (seaweed) scone at The Malt House in Galway city; courgette and parmesan boxty at The Wineport Lodge in Athlone, and a legendary Irish stew at the Crown Bar Liquor Saloon in Belfast.