KILKENNY'S efforts to boost its reputation as Ireland's food capital have been given a boost as the prestigious Bridgestone Guide has named Kilkenny as Food County of the Year in its Megabytes Awards 2010.
Local food producer Highbank Orchard of Cuffesgrange has also received Bridgestone's New Food Award of the Year for the company's Highbank Orchard Syrup.
In announcing the award winners, Bridgestone praised numerous initiatives in Co Kilkenny, including the Savour Kilkenny Food Festival, the 'Taste of Kilkenny' food trail, a Food Camp held during last year's Savour Kilkenny festival, and the Co Kilkenny Food Strategy 2010-2014, which was launched by Kilkenny Leader Partnership during the festival.
Bridgestone said about Kilkenny: "They have one of the best food festivals, they have some of the very best artisan producers, their restaurants prize the local foods, their Foodcamp was a breakthrough experience in 2010, their Leader company (Kilkenny Leader Partnership) has woken up to the fact that strong local food economies are vital, they have kept foreign-owned multinational supermarkets out and, all-in-all, Kilkenny is streaking ahead when it comes to presenting a powerful, unified, county-based artisan food experience."
It was not clarified what was meant by "(keeping out) foreign-owned multinational supermarkets", as this is not the county's offiical policy, although Kilkenny is the only county in Ireland where there is no Tesco.
Highbank Orchard meanwhile received accolades for its Organic Orchard Syrup, which Bridgestone said had surpassed West Cork honey, among other products.
As Bridgestone said of the product: "'Ingredients: Irish Organic Apples. No Added Sugar. Suitable for Vegetarians. Free from Artificial Colours, Additives and Preservatives'. That's what it says on the label of Highbank Organic Orchard Syrup, made in Kilkenny by Julie and Rod Calder-Potts. So, apples is what you gets (sic), and what they make is a syrup that is also a tonic.
"This is a great product, and it has already edged West Cork honey to the margins when it comes to the morning porridge here at Bridgestone Central. But it's not just breakfast that benefits from Highbank Syrup: slug it on some ice cream, or a slice of warm apple tart, and you have orchard heaven."
Thriving local food economy
The Bridgestone accolates were welcomed by food producers and by Kilkenny Leader Partnership, which developed the county's Food Strategy and is currently working on other initiatives to foster artisan food production in the county.
"As part of the development of the local food economy over the past number of years, Kilkenny Leader Partnership has long since recognised that a thriving local food economy has a multitude of far-reaching positive outcomes, including the provision of jobs to people in rural areas and the development of the county as a food tourism destination," said Gabrielle Carroll, enterprise and project officer with Kilkenny Leader Partnership.
"The development of our food culture, through Savour Kilkenny and Trail Kilkenny's 'A Taste of Kilkenny' food trail creates a positive image of the area, its people and their values. The community of hard-working and innovative people in this sector will continue to be supported by KLP during 2011 with some exciting developments expected this year."