Something very exciting was happening at the Vanilla Pod restaurant in Kells recently. As part of the Boyne Valley Food Series they were hosting a five course Hungry for Heritage dinner and I had the pleasure of taking part. The idea behind it was to bring together a host of local producers and celebrate the food of Ireland. Food that is steeped in history and heritage and draws on the wealth of ingredients available from the sea, the land, moors and pastures. The menu had me salivating from the start.
On arrival we were treated to a glass of Brú Beer which is brewed locally in the Boyne Valley using local ingredients.
The restaurant was packed with eager diners and there were some lovely little details which reinforced the heritage theme. Each table was decorated with local herbs, flowers and vegetation and there was a display of the local produce which we would be tasting throughout the night.
First to arrive on the table were some boxty fries which were provided by Paul Og Gallagher of the Boxty House in Temple Bar. He also treated us to an engaging and informative history of the Humble Spud.
To accompany the boxty fries we were served up one of the best sharing platters I’ve had the pleasure of tasting. A veritable meal in itself. Fresh bread, smoked duck so tender and full of flavour, pickles, ham-hock terrine delicately presented and incredibly creamy and tasty potato gnocchi.
Next up to tantalise our taste buds was Tom Doherty’s black pudding with savoy boxty and a deep fried hens egg drizzled with a scallion dressing. While I’m not a fan of black pudding in general it paired excellently with the savoy boxty and the tanginess of the scallion dressing worked perfectly with the hens egg.
Poor Man’s Broth followed suit. Deep flavours of root vegetables in a wholesome broth served with fresh home-made stout bread. It was cleverly presented in a vintage cup and saucer which gave a perfectly sized serving for a five course meal.
Leaving the land of the Boyne we headed next to its Rivers with tender flaky roast trout served with oat crumb, crisp samphire and beets with a rich mustard sauce.
From the Boyne River we were next taken to the moors with Rich Man Poor Man which was rabbit cooked two ways. Served on a platter for two with freshly cooked potatoes we had rabbit stew and loin of rabbit.
My first time eating rabbit and discovering its distinct tender but more chewy texture which takes on its accompanying flavours and seasoning quite well. It was served with barley and a rich abundant sauce with smokey hints which paired well with it.
The rabbit strew was hearty and flavoursome with a lighter broth consistency. Succulent and more tender than the loin it was my favourite of the two.
For the final course we were served Posh Porridge. Kells honeyed oats with wild forest berries and whiskey cream. The sharp tangy taste of the wild berries paired with the rich whiskey cream and hint of honey on the oats was a taste explosion on the palette and surprisingly light.
To complete the evening there was a range of aged Irish cheese accompanied by local preserves. The Hungry for Heritage menu combined a range of exquisite local produce from the surrounding lands and rivers, coupled with a packed restaurant of eager appetites it made for a rewarding and successful evening.
Disclaimer: I was invited to attend the evening as a guest of the restaurant and official blogger for the Boyne Valley Food Series. The review is an honest and fair reflection of the evening and the varied food on offer.