Biabeag – WordPress generated 2014 in review

The stats helper monkeys prepared a 2014 annual report for this blog. Decided to include it as a blog post 🙂

Some of the stats are kinda interesting.


Here’s an excerpt:

The concert hall at the Sydney Opera House holds 2,700 people. This blog was viewed about 20,000 times in 2014. If it were a concert at Sydney Opera House, it would take about 7 sold-out performances for that many people to see it.

Click here to see the complete report.

Highbank Orchards Christmas Food and Craft Fair 2014


This Highbank Orchards Christmas Food & Craft Fair 13th and 14th December (Saturday and Sunday) promises to be a two day Christmas Extravaganza for all the family. It starts at 11am each day and finishes at dusk 🙂

At 12.00 Saturday 13th December Highbank Orchard will cut the ribbon to open Ireland’s smallest distillery and they will have for sale the first bottles of Highbank Orchard Spirit amidst a celebration of over 30 local food and craft stalls with hot and cold food, hot apple juice, Glasrai & Goodies hampers and toys – Christmas shopping made easy.


There is are also

  • Christmas trees,
  • puppet shows by Miriam Lambert,
  • Mid Winter Mini beast hunts with Monica,
  • Orchard Train rides
  • Ann Neary & Edward Hayden’s ‘Stress Free Christmas Cooking’ accompanied by Breda McDonald making butter.
  • Of course there will be an occasional appearance of Santa 🙂

There is no entrance charge but it is recommended to prebook the events listed below as places are limited.

Ann Neary/Edward Hayden Present : Stress free Christmas Cooking

Anne Neary (Ryeland Cookery School) & Edward Hayden (TV3 celebrity chef) appear in our Cooking Pit. Pre booking essential.


Image thanks to

Miriam Lambert Puppeteer presents: Goldilocks and The Three Bears – ‘imagine a story come to life’

Suitable for families. Only €5.00 per head with prebooking essential to avoid disappointment.

resized Goldilocks

Midwinter mystery adventure with Monica Fleming

Discover what our native wildlife is getting up to in the depths of winter mini-beast quest, pond dipping, winter tree identification, build an animal hide.

Last years mini beast tours fascinated the younger children particularly; they could be seen enthusiastically shaking autumn leaves from trees to see what insects might be hiding there.

These adventures run from 2pm to 3.30 each day Saturday and Sunday.

Pre booking essential – click here to get your tickets now.


Ballaghtobin Real Christmas Trees

These are Nordman non-shed trees direct from the growers and each tree is over 9 years old. They are netted for easy transport. You can buy one online here and collect on the day.

Thanks to @badgeranddodo @ponaire @roastedbrown for a great Meet The Roasters

Saturday evening was really enjoyable – between 55 and 60 people heard 3 passionate roasters talk about their businesses, their stories and what makes it work for them.

Some quick notes and video below – but first a couple of photos from the full set that Ken McGuire took on the night.

Jennifer Ryan, Ponaire

Jennifer opened and her main focus was on the work she has done on getting her supplies of beans certified. Interestingly, and this lead to discussion with the audience and also her fellow roasters, she found the Fairtrade certification to be extremely bureaucratic (17 page form not only for each bean but each size of packaging for the same bean from the same source). What was also revealing (and this was also said by Ferg) is that the premium paid in each case is not passed onto the consumer.

So more work and less margin. But she is adamant that it is so important to her personally and she also believes in it as a core brand value for Ponaire.

She also spoke about something that she does which is to buy the entire crop from either a small holding completely or a given area of it. All helping to build up the connection back to the grower.

Ferg Brown, Roasted Brown

This is a quiet man on the press and blog side so the majority of what he had to share on the night was new to me. He is “only” in business for a couple of years in his current location (having started off as a mobile coffee stand (#streetfood) and after an initial rocky start he bought from Brock for a while and learned loads from him!

When he moved into Curved Street he initially sourced from Hasbean and then, via a roasting course in the UK, came across someone who was about to invest in a roaster (Notes Roastery in London) and they came to a con-acre arrangement! So every 2 weeks Ferg goes to the UK and roasts half a tonne (this is from memory, I take zero responsibility for its accuracy) of coffee and bags it. They share the fun of sourcing green beans together from a Norwegian based direct trade supplier – Nordic Approach and he again learns loads from his roasting partners.

Ferg is growing the business slowly and does not yet want the pressure that his own roastery in Dublin will bring in terms of the volume required for payback on the investment. He expands by waiting for new business to come in (mostly from new cafes/coffee shops that are opening). As he puts it Dublin is too small to be poaching business off other roasters – it is not a game he wants to play.

He also wants to build up relations with one or two coffee farmers directly and to be able to visit them and work with them to develop and grow both businesses simultaneously.

Brock Lewin, Badger and Dodo

Brock got the chance to coffee-geek out a little as the last speaker and you could tell how much he enjoys it. He is the largest of the 3 with 150 trade customers and plans for his own place in Galway which is opening in October.

So he shared a little of his back story (with a sidebar on the strong coffee culture in Melbourne), and then spoke about the growth of his business and how he has changed and adopted to that growth. Stuff like being a judge in the Barista championship had to be stopped (because of time pressure) but the importance of Barista’s in the chain is carried through in the business through his insistence on his customers having fully trained barista’s on staff with training from Vin being provided as part of that.

On the geeky side of coffee brewing you will need to watch the video – wayyy too much detail to include here and if I got it wrong there is a chance he would hunt me down :-).

Thank you’s

Thanks to Jennifer, Brock and Ferg for coming to Highbank and sharing their passions. Thanks to the audience who came along (including a couple who travelled from Northern Ireland! They worked it into a visit to friends in Callan). And thanks to Ken for his pics and video and to our hosts Julie and Rod in Highbank Organic Orchards for the unseen work they put in each time to set the stage for this events.

Improvements for next time

A couple of things that will be done to improve the next one – Meet the Chocolatiers and Chocolate Maker. We will start at 18.30 and not 18.00 to give people a chance to finish off Saturday commitments and get in on time. And I will work harder to ensure that the sharing by the panel is opened up to questions and interaction with the floor 🙂

Comments and feedback welcome as always.


Great @slowfoodhq video that explains Slow Food Movement clearly in under 2 minutes

This is worth a quick watch – really clearly communicated and executed by the team in Italy.

Slow Food South East will be briefly explained and introduced at Meet The Roasters on Saturday and we will have membership forms and be there to answer questions. Inbetween coffee imbibing 🙂


If you were in an Irish hotel room and snacky – what products would you like to see?

This request came in (great to see) from a soon to open Irish boutique hotel – they want to use Irish artisan long life food products in their mini bar.

So I’m thinking the following with addition of suggestions just now on Twitter (I will keep adding to this and please add comments too).

Crispy and Savoury

Keoghs Crisps




Scratch My Pork (with thanks to Jaq)




UPDATE – Joe’s Farm Crisps



Natasha’s Living Food (ta to Tommy)


Wilkie, Bean and Goose and Hazel Mountain

7063689 10499519_599271786856867_627319160992693618_o 35338b_e4547da33b124a4eb3cdbb203d87c780.jpg_srz_341_482_75_22_0.50_1.20_0.00_jpg_srz

Wiltons (ta to Nassir)


UPDATE – Foods of Athenry – Cookie Shots #gf #vegan


Apple Juice



The Apple Farm (ta to Bernie)


Other snack things

Boilie Goats Cheese Pearls


Cherries – Bee Sensations


D P Connolly – all sorts (ta to Emily)

Screenshot 2014-09-14 17.21.37

Tastefully Yours Chilli Sauce for dipping into


Irish Craft Beers – so so many


UPDATE: Dee’s Moroccan Veg Pot


Thats it for now – please leave comments with other suggestions and I will pass onto the hotel concerned. Ta to all who helps on Twitter!


#foodsummerschool2014 : The Artisan and the Consumer – Getting The Message Across

Presentations from:

  • Professor Raymond O’Rourke, University of Ulster
  • Andrew Bradley, Bradley Brand & Design

Floor Q&A Discussion

John kicked off with the hijacking of english language by large food co’s who happily use terms like artisan.

Raymond O’Rourke started.

Food Labels – major ways of getting message across? Ways of improving for the artisan sector:

Mandatory – name, ingredients, QUID, allergens, best before date

So where is there flexibility? 

Country of Origin – we should move to bring in country of origin for lamb, pork, goat and chicken before they are made mandatory by the EU – France has already done something like this. There is a bill in place introduced by Fergal Quinn to do this. This move would help the issue of substantial transformation – where ingredients grown and produced overseas are imported, processed and labelled as Irish. 

Next Raymond moved to the terms ‘artisan’ ‘farmhouse’ ‘natural’ – Starbucks Artisan, Dominos Artisan…. FSAI have drafted a code on the use of 

  • Artisan/Artisanal
  • Farmhouse
  • Traditional
  • Natural

Provenance – PDO’s/PGI’s

We have too few of these – they require active cooperation between potentially rival businesses. The upside is strong legal protection and a good marketing boost to traditional foods from an area/region.

Local Food

His take on this – 75% of food products sold by Carrefour come from local suppliers (that maybe specific to some stores or countries) so there is major room for increasing this share in Ireland.

Andrew Bradley

He reckoned that the hijacking of the terms (mostly artisan) is an opportunity, not a threat. An opportunity to differentiate. You can’t take on the Starbucks on their use of the term(s) but you can own the ‘art’ in artisan – that can’t be copied.

So take that idea and understand the benefit of that – what does that ‘art’ do for the consumer? Get specific in terms of the target market – give your marketing a focus and narrow your brand appeal. 

When you have that target market in place then understand your benefit in the context of their lifestyle? What is your relevance.

A brand is not a name, a logo, a reputation. Andrew suggests that its a promise and that is what you package up. A brand helps margin and the value of a business.

He gave example that Keelings brand was premium priced in Tesco and sold accordingly. Tesco’s removed it and strawberry sales dropped 30% that year. They brought Keelings back.

He now compared Janet’s Country Fayre – gift packaged. Next to that is Wild – more attitude and a different relevance. 

Now Kerry Green Irish Whiskey Marmalade – an undifferentiated brand and label.

Next up he shared photos from Bloom. Looked at Goodness Grains with a little bit of fun together with gluten free. He wasn’t keen on O’Donnells Crisps – not so sure what they stood for. A little impotent.

The Little Milk Company – he did not know what it was about (he was right, not a great stand). 

Keogh’s BBQ Pack – I can BBQ potatoes, clear messaging and could promote an impulse purchase. Against Sam’s Potatoes Heritage Range – whats the benefit, whats it about?

Farmers to Market – Irish Free Range Chicken – no clear benefits for the consumer, not clear why there is a price premium attached to the range/product.

Glenilen – the successful creation of a sub brand for kids. 

He finished with an example of a rebrand of a small butchers (4 stores in Dublin). They moved to The Scarlet Heifer as a business and brand name so that they could begin to stand out and be notable. 

Moved to Q&A

Darryl from Newgrange Gold asked what they can do as a small brand. Andrew said they need to understand how they are different and stand over that. John teased out the benefit of speed for small business and the channels available to get messages out. Andrew asked about their use of social media and Darryl admitted that it is underused (Keith – it is 788 tweets which is basically no use of Twitter at all). He also tried to get Darryl to explain the benefits without using jargon which he was struggling with!

John brought in Kevin Sheridan here – asked him about their marketing. Kevin said that fundamentally they should go back to a market stall and they talk to people. But that can’t be done as you scale – however you can hang onto the building of relationships between consumers and the people within a small food business. Interesting discussion here on story telling and how that can be undermined by its adoption by larger businesses.

Piece by Dermot from MD Bakery in Waterford, part of a PGI group. He reckoned that anything helps you differentiate is extremely valuable – so a 2.5 year process is well worth the time to invest in it. (nicely put). John asked about the difference in the reaction to the blah – and Dermot said that from the time the application went in there was a steady increase in interest and sales because of it. 

John tried and failed to get suggestions from the crowd on other PGI possibilities. But a discussion ensued and a body of work identified as required – do a listing/survey of possibilities and identify people/businesses/groupings who could lead new applications. 

Marian Byrne from the Dept shared a couple of instances where applications on an all Island basis failed in Europe – she and the Department have a dedicated team available to support applications and there are about 10 applications or potential applications in the works right now. 

John summarised. Strength lies in PDO’s/PDI’s combined with the strength of the individual brands.









Chair: John McKenna, McKenna’s Irish Food Guides 

Ross Lewis, Chapter One Restaurant
Jessica Murphy, Kai Restaurant
Evan Doyle, The Strawberry Trees Restaurant
Cait Noone, Head of the College of Tourism & Arts, GMIT
Ed Hick, J Hick & Sons Pork Butcher
Siobhan Ni Ghairbhith, St. Tola’s Goats Cheese
Martina Calvey, Achill Island Mountain Lamb

A discussion on the links between chefs and artisan food. 

panel taste council 2014

John’s Q to Cait – are students thought that the Man In the Van is the source of all or that Artisan Food Producers are place to go? 

Cait responded that the college has changed its procurement policy to deliberately seek out good local and national food producers. She also did a PR piece for the Food Forum that they run in the college.

John to to Evan – Your relationship with framing artisan suppliers goes back 25 years to Kerry. Contrast that with now?

Evan – started by sourcing from local producers and not all organic then. He had to drive to some suppliers to get their produce. Now producers are eager to come and engage with the restaurant and chef’s. He gave examples of Denis Healy, Siobhan from St Tola, Birgitte pulling wild Salmon out of the Nore. Those relationships are a guarantee on the producers side of quality and consistency of supply within seasons. On Evan’s side to commit to purchasing at a fair price and paying in a timely manner.

Next up was Martina Calvey who first spoke about the history of the business with her Dad. Lamb was not part of the culinary experience then. He was a butcher, farmer and also a charmer! So he convinced people to buy the lamb they were not used to. He slaughtered and boxed and branded as Achill Island Mountain Lamb. From then to now they are the only slaughter house on the Islands. A unique provenance – the lamb is born, fed, reared and slaughtered on the Island. 

From there they have developed over 50 years the knowledge and processes required to make their product as good as it is today. They have extended the business by having other farmers raising their lambs to the same standards which the Calvey’s set out.

Ross Lewis then spoke about his business/restaurant and what other Michelin star chefs think about Ireland and cooking here. He shared that a recent visit by 5 other starred chefs revealed that they were in awe of the small scale food production here and the standards implicit in that. Stuff like grass fed cattle.

There is an issue that small scale food producers cannot supply and distribute themselves – the work and scale is not possible. The challenge with a distributor in-between is the break in communications that occurs – the lack of an emotional exchange between the producer and the person who is about to use the product to cook with. He loves the passion of the artisan producer who creates a premium product. 

There has been a revolution in the food business here with more chefs opening up to those kind of products. He also said that the internet is the biggest change in his 15 years – it opens a channel of communication directly between restaurants and consumers who use those channels in planning their visits. Multiple references across a number of channels validate their choice.

He finished by reckoning that the internet may power a business model to support distribution.

Q from John to Ed Hicks. What are the issues today for a small scale producer? 

Ed said the communications breakdowns are a big issue – for example a chef at 11pm placing an order and expecting a delivery in the morning! The micro production runs within artisan are not efficient and do not support Just In Time!

He also made a reference to payment by restaurants – food producers would prefer their name on a cheque over their name on the menu any day! Food producers want to produce, not do paperwork and chase down multiple debtors.

Is there a possible solution in patronage – developing in advance a very close and mutually dependent relationship of supply and use over a full year. John referred to the analogy of Community Supported Agriculture. 

Ed reckoned that the chef moves to being a co-producer of sorts so their understanding of production and constraints is heightened and also food producers will equally understand the life and cycles of a working kitchen.

John moved onto Siobhan and the example of the male kid with no value to a dairy farmer which was seen by herself and Evan as an opportunity to commercialise a waste product. Are there other opportunities like that.

Her answer was yes – the guarantee from Evan made it possible to develop and sell a new product into the marketplace so that more of that close co-operation is a really good thing. 

John to Jessica – how important is her relationship with producers to the reputation of the restaurant in the first 2 years.

She said that it is really important – they cook the products and are the presenters of those products in finished form to consumers. Update – from Twitter her specific quote which is much better “they make my business & I cook purely to represent them” They gain inspiration from them and she considers the producers as part of her extended family.

John with a question to Cait – is it mind blowing for an 18 year old to see the passion that drives a producer. 

She reckons less so now than a couple of years ago – as they have changed their relationship with the food sector and have raised their own standards then the students are exposed to passion from their first day. That emphasis has also changed the profile of the students who come to the college and her courses. She nicely embarrassed Ross by saying she has had students who come to her and say “I want to be the next Ross Lewis”!

Q to Evan – so whats the problem? Why are so many places serve bland imported food?

Evan responded that the kitchens in those places can be lazy – they take the most efficient option. If you move to buying directly from producers they there is a strain on the kitchen, the chef and the consumers – seasonality imposes big constraints and that needs education and extra work and imagination within the kitchen to overcome this.

An ongoing and never-ending requirement to tell the ongoing story of food and work with producers in the sparse times as well as the glut (3 months of root vegetables as an example).

John to Ross – how do you cope with the accountant pulling you up on the cost of supporting and working with artisan producers.

Ross said he calls the shots! But that has taken a lot of hard work and deliberate positioning to get to that position. Good relationships take a lot of work – like a marriage!

John asked him how important to gourmet travellers is his relationship with producers and referred to Noma’s impact on Copenhagen. Ross said that there is a subset of the global population who will travel anywhere to eat and the internet makes it even easier for them. We don’t have the 3 star chef’s yet who will draw in that group but the stage is set for it to happen. And he said that he gets visitors who want to know what an Irish chef is doing with Irish food. He finished by saying that over the last 5 years he has started to see culinary tourists during the summer season which has helped him to fill a quiet time.

John asked Martina how Achill Lamb can assist with tourism and growth. She said that they are part of the overall draw on the Gourmet Green Way (a spin off of the Green Way project) and that does draw visitors. 

John said that Mayo has developed its food culture and sector so well over the last number of years from a very low base – featuring local roll models and supporting them.

Martina agreed and said that the opportunities are there for even part time producers to set up and explore passions on a commercial level and Mayo Co Co have been very proactive in encouraging this. 

John to Siobhan – how does it feel to see St Tola featured on a menu. She responded by saying it is a source of pride – but they referred to the issue of a restaurant naming suppliers whom it no longer uses or only used sporadically. Or once even. So standards around locally sourced and artisan etc need to be maintained and developed. This is hard work and the output of that hard work and the brands that evolve need protection against being undercut by marketing gimmicks and bullshit (last bit mine! Keith).

Ed chipped in here on the challenge of multiple retailers using a soft grain black and white photo of a producer with half a dozen chickens – where the visual has no relationship to their actual production methods. That dumbing down or pandering does not help the education process. 

Evan closed off with a reference to Failte Ireland and Bord Bia – they need to proactively target food tourists as an active opportunity. 

Good discussion, enjoyed that