I was recently invited to attend the second edition of Odaios Tented food exhibition in Dublin’s Fitzwilliam square. Odaios is a food supplier for the catering industry and fine food retail market. Their ethos is to deliver high quality products to their clients and to provide excellent customer service. I came across Odaios last year as one of my Thermomix customers happened to work there and subsequently decided to join our team of demonstrators. I have been very impressed by their range of products so when I got the invitation, I was very excited to get to meet the producers. I was not disappointed. There was a vast array of food on display that you could sample inside huge Tippees (sorry I didn’t take any pictures but they looked fab’) and outside, there was a barbecue sending delicious smokey scents of meat as a whole pig was being barbecued for lunch. I was in food heaven!
I was first greeted by Luisa from Blázques Jamones, who invited me to taste their fabulous cured ham. The slices are cut waffer thin by a very skilled (and gorgeous!) ham carver who won a carving championship. The cut is very important to get the right texture on the palate and fully appreciate the delicacy of the ham. Blázques is a family owned business (a trait shared by a lot of the producers at the fair) established 75 years ago. Their Iberico pigs are free range and graze on pastures of acorn plots in their beautiful parkland in Andalusia. The acorn, I was told, makes the pig fat rich in omega oil so it is actually good for your cholesterol! Their products range from 36 months matured cured ham to fresh cuts of pork meat.
I then went on to see Lindy from Coopershill house who was presenting her smoked venison. Coopershill house is an eco-friendly Grand Irish Country House set in 500 acres of woods and deer pastures in county Sligo. It has been the family home to eight generations of O’Haras and is featured in the Ireland Blue book, a reference in high quality Irish Country House Hotels, Manor Houses, Castles and Restaurants. Her smoked venison was just delightful, very tender and with just the right amount of smokiness coming through.
Moving on to a French family owned company of Meat and ham produces (called charcuterie in French): Loste-Tradi France. Established in 1866, they have a long tradition in butchery and pork prepared products. Now their range extends also to pastries and cold starters. Their patés and saucissons (which I tried) were very fresh and tasty and they are trying to export those very French products to the UK and Irish markets. They are stocked in prestigious places such as Harrod’s and Selfridges in London and have acquired a loyal customer base of French expats over there. The Irish market is quite new to them but they are hopeful to get the Irish to discover the wonders of French charcuterie. I must say I can’t wait to see those products freely available in supermarkets over here as I miss my rillettes and patés terribly!
Continuing with the patés, I moved on to a gentleman named Rufus from Patchwork who was busy filling beautiful ready-made canapés cases with some interesting looking patés. These are miles away from the French traditional patés I am used to as some of them don’t even contain meat and others are flavoured with very exotic ingredients such as the lemongrass and chilli paté, which I tried and found absolutely divine. This UK based company is all about creative patés that can be easily spread on anything you fancy and they even have a range sold directly in piping bags ready to fill a gazillions of canapés in no time. Some examples of their crazy creations are Marmelade and whisky chicken liver paté, wild boar with black seal rum and ginger, brown lentils with mushroom and garlic, spinach and nutmeg or Stilton and Guinness paté!
The cases were borrowed from another stand at the event: Piddy’s 3 toques. This Belgian company makes very original pastry cases for all occasions. These cases have a very long shelf life so they are very handy to have in your cupboard for use in an impromptu dinner (they have full size tart shells as well as the canapé version). But a long shelf life doesn’t mean a mediocre product, far from it. I tried their vol au vent cases and they were far superior to the ones I usually buy at my supermarket (I might just ask them to stock this brand instead!). Check out their website for a full inventory of their products as their range is quite extensive.
Next, was a butcher company from Northern Ireland (county Fermanagh) called Kettyle Irish foods. They are located in the heartland of a beautiful natural environment (around the Erne Basin), with green, serene, yet spectacular landscapes, which was designated as an “Area of special scientific interest” by the European Union. This region has always been renowned for its primary beef production, the majority of its beef originating from traditional breeds such as Angus, Aberdeen and Hereford. I was amazed by the colour of their beef, a rich dark red with proper yellowish fat so characteristic of good quality meat. Their cattle are all free-range and the meat is dry-aged for 28 days, thus ensuring both flavour and tenderness. They also have an incredible variety of meat cuts, most of which you wouldn’t find in your usual butcher.
Last for this post (but there will be more to follow), is Cornish Sea salt. As its names implies, the company is based in Cornwall, South-West England. Their sea salt is hand harvested from the purest Grade A waters so it’s no wonder celebrity chef James Martin dubbed it “The Gucci of British sea salt”. The reason why it’s so important to have good quality sea salt as part of your diet is because this salt is unrefined and unprocessed. It therefore retains all of its minerals and trace elements such as potassium, magnesium and calcium at a balanced biological level. The table salt on the other hand has lost most of its minerals through the refining processes and contains anti-caking agents, which are chemicals used to stop the salt from clustering together. Taste-wise, it is also worlds apart, that’s why many chefs recommend the use of sea salt in their recipes. I was already familiar with Cornish sea salt as I have used the plain version at home and found it really good but I was amazed to discover they have several flavoured salts as well. I tried the chilli version (the chilli is not overpowering but adds a hint of heat and flavour to the salt) and the smoked salt was wonderful, perfect for fish or salad dishes.
As a final note, I would like to mention that I was not paid for writing this post. I think it is important to raise the awareness on good quality food as nowadays, so much harm is done by the heavily industrialised food companies with scandals such as most recently the horse meat passing as beef. I enjoyed talking to these producers, who are passionate about what they are doing and take great pride in their food.