I’m always fascinated by the idea of work and craft. How a restaurant gets a Michelin Star and gets a second or a third. Getting your suppliers to grow old strains of grains, to breed certain strains of birds etc. This piece on the hard work and obsession with ingredients is inspiring. And Cork has a story just like that now thanks to Mews restaurant in Baltimore. Everything is local, as organic as they can find and everything has a purpose.
“If you stick to your vision and don’t compromise then you reap the rewards and the first step is the Michelin star. We knew what we were doing. We wanted to be one of the best restaurants in the country.”
I’ve eaten in a few Michelin Stars and some would blow you away with the work involved in dishes, for others I genuinely question how they were special and how they got an awards for anything more than media mentions. Nothing remarkable food wise and service only so so. Earlier there was the wonderful story of a father and son team growing real Wasabi in Ireland, something that’s even hard to grow in native Japan. The work involved in getting this to grow in Irish soil and in Irish weather shows real dedication. Already the top restaurants are asking to use it. This is a perfect match.
It was in Chapter One that Ed Jolliffe told me the story of Fever-Tree Gin and recommended it to me when I was having some Dingle Gin. Local! I loved the story and their pitch “if three quarters of your G&T is the tonic, wouldn’t you want it to be the best? “ So they went around the world getting the best natural ingredients. Then the bit I really loved – they targeted the best restaurants and best hotel bars who they probably knew would love to get something of this quality to pass on to their customers.
Sourcing local well reared meats, well caught fish, well grown veg is a big thing for this restaurant and some of the best ones around. Every piece of a meal has an origin story. You see and are told the work that goes in to presenting this to you. I remember at some point a desert was described where hot juice from apples was dropped into an ice bath to form little pure beads that was one minor part of the dish. Impressive.
The idea of owning and controlling the whole stack, like how Apple controls everything, both the hardware and the software but not just buying in the parts but dictating how the glass is made in the phones, designing their own chips to their spec, where the materials come from and having them made sometimes using machines they designed. Every single detail. I like that, compared to a fucking pickle on a stone I got in another Irish restaurant. Let the food speak for itself not go-faster-stripe bullshit. Shit coffee but the mugs were amazing yeah?
I see good restaurants do more and more of this as they have the swagger and purchasing power to do this even to the degree that the salt and pepper, the butters are special compared to what you’d normally get. Everything is examined to see can improvements be made. Teas and coffees were some of the last elements to be changed but this is changing. Special teas, bespoke roasted coffee blends. So coffee then…
It makes me think what can be improved in coffee and all the new intense-about-what-they-do coffee shops. I see all these coffee shops and some are roasting their own beans but yet you look at the milk and it’s the same milk that everyone else uses. We’re so lucky in Ireland that our milk is great. But I was wondering why the main element in most coffees is not consistent or being controlled more? To reuse Fever-Tree’s question: “if two thirds of your coffee is the milk, wouldn’t you want it to be the best? “
I remember being told how in LA bagel and pizza places would install special filters to mimic New York water that makes NY bagels the best. All to make sure everything is perfect. It wasn’t fully the water it seems though.
So what about the milk, what milk gives the best cappuccino, gives the best flat white? There is some research about milk with higher protein count and fat count giving a better taste. Yes yes soya milk and oat milk is popular too but people still go for ordinary milk in big amounts. Here’s the story of a crowd in the UK looking at this and like so much coffee culture, Australia has been looking into this for a much longer time.
Ireland of all countries should be at the cutting-edge of this, we produce great milk, cheese and anything dairy. We’re big into our bespoke dairy farms too so why not bespoke milk for our coffees that we seem to be consuming in bigger and bigger amounts? Start your milkers!