Over the past couple of weeks leading up to the Savour Kilkenny Food Festival, we’ve been introducing you to some of the local Food Heroes who will be showcased at the festival from October 25-29. Now, meet your next batch.
Mary Walsh, Kilkenny Free Range
What started out as a hobby for Mary Walsh has now turned into a small family-run business, Kilkenny Free Range, situated on 15 acres near the town land of Shellumsrath. Mary’s love for home cooking and for food in general resulted in the decision to keep hens and chickens on the land.
Mary and her husband, Tony, work together to provide free-range poultry fresh from the field to fork. The volume of production, very small by industry standards, allows them to maintain the highest possible quality and to mind the welfare of the birds produced. The two main products at Kilkenny Free Range are Shellumsrath Goose and Shellumsrath Chicken.
While rearing a few geese on the farm, Mary noticed an absence of geese on offer in many of Kilkenny’s restaurants. She decided to start producing dry-tucked free-range geese for many of the city’s restaurants, including Campagne, Mount Juliet and Zuni over the Christmas period. Over 300 geese are now reared yearly on the farm.
Between 150 and 170 Hubbard breed chickens are produced every week – 100% free range – again supplying restaurants in Kilkenny, as well as Dublin, with door-to-door supply being offered for individual customers.
Kilkenny Free Range has featured on RTÉ Radio One with Damien O’Reilly, in The Sunday Business Post and the Irish Food Guide Blog as well as numerous write-ups from Ireland’s top food writers, direct recognition of the quality poultry produced in Shellumsrath.
Along with the enjoyment Mary receives from her work in Shellumsrath, and as well as cooking, she has a love for dancing and she sings with an Irish choir.
Visitors are encouraged to call into the farm and get a bird’s-eye view of the work done by Mary and her husband Tony. A phone call or email is advised for information on orders and deliveries. See www.kilkennyfreerange.com.
Mary Teehan, The Truffle Fairy
Mary Teehan, an award-winning chef, set up her chocolate business in Thomastown in 2005. The Truffle Fairy Café and Chocolaterie is the only one of its kind in Ireland. Mary’s open-plan Café, in Chapel Lane, Thomastown provides a unique experience where visitors can savour award-winning handmade truffles and brownies, accompanied by hot chocolate or fine coffee, while watching world-class chocolatiers at work.
Everything is hand-made, the artisan way and through the use of the finest French and Belgian couverture, ethically sourced ingredients, spices, liquors and natural flavours. Gluten-free is part of the Truffle Fairy ethos – all of the Truffle Fairy truffles, fudge, bars, buttons, brownies, cookies and muffins are completely gluten free.
The Truffle Fairy’s delightful range of truffles, from lavender and ginger to sweet chilli orange, makes the dilemma of choosing a truffle to accompany your cappuccino – or one of eight flavours of hot chocolate – an enjoyable one.
Supporting local food producers is another priority for Mary as she sources her organic eggs for baking from Eamonn Wallace in Callan and sells local pottery and craft alongside Julie Calder-Potts’ Highbank apple syrup and juices, and homemade wildberry jams.
Much of Mary’s spare time is dedicated to bringing up her 2-year-old, but she loves spending time at the sea, swimming, and previously surfing, when possible.
Mary’s produce is no stranger to the International Great Taste Awards, with her ‘Truffle Fairy Chocolate Brownie’ winning a gold star in 2012, along with her truffles receiving similar awards at the 2011 Great Taste Awards.
The café opening hours are Monday to Friday from 10am to 5pm and Saturday from 10.30am to 5pm. See www.trufflefairy.com.
Julie Calder-Potts, Highbank Organic Farm
In the surroundings of the 17th-century farmyard Highbank Farm, Julie Calder-Potts and husband Rod produce delicious, organic apple-based award-winning produce, including organic apple juice, Driver’s and Proper Cider and the ever popular Highbank Orchard Syrup, which was launched at the Savour Kilkenny Festival in 2010.
The present farmhouse, steeped in history, was originally built in the 19th century by ancestors of the Calder-Potts, and much of the family history itself is embedded in the farm and coach yard. In 1969, the first apple orchards were planted by the Calder-Potts to complement the hop gardens, also the location of the first example of hops farming in Ireland.
Julie’s knowledge and innovation along with the fertile Kilkenny limestone soils are a unique combination that allows the production of delicious apples and apple juice. All of Highbank’s produce is done in line with the strictest of organic standards. No chemical sprays, herbicides or chemical fertilisers are used. GMOs are also shunned completely.
The Orchard Syrup is “Ireland’s answer to maple syrup” and is the first of its kind. It is totally organic, unique and healthy, made from Irish farmed apples and offers a delicious alternative to honey for your porridge or salad dressing, amongst other recipes.
The Calder-Potts have received much recognition for their hard work and innovation at Highbank Farm. Regularly appearing in the Bridgestone awardee lists, they have also received awards at the National Organic Awards in 2011, as well recognition for their Irish, local and artisan produce from Good Food Ireland.
Julie and Rod have recently opened a farm shop in the yard, and history, wildlife or organic tours in the surroundings of Highbank are available upon appointment. Much of their time is focused on life at the farm, and away from the orchards, they have begun breeding Irish Draft Horses. A visit to the farm comes highly recommended, as does a read of the family history, which is available on the farm’s website. See www.highbankorchards.com.