Thursday, April 17, 2014

Blossom Walks - Open Day at Irish Apple Farms Nationwide

Blossom Walks - Open Day at Irish Apple Farms Nationwide
~ Bord Bia and Irish Apple Grower Association to host series of Blossom Walks ~
Twitter: @Bordbia
Con Traas of The Apple Farm, Cahir.

 Bord Bia, in conjunction with the Irish Apple Growers Association, is delighted to announce details of the inaugural ‘Blossom Walk’ which will take place on Saturday, 3rd May. As part of the event, seven apple farms and orchards nationwide will open their doors and gates to the publicFrom Cahir to Cappoquin, members of the public will be invited to enjoy guided walks, engage with the growers, learn about the history of the individual farms and discover apple growing techniques. There will also be an opportunity to purchase some of the grower’s produce.

The value of Irish apple production is almost €4 million according to Bord Bia and trade estimates. Culinary and dessert apple production accounts for 80% of the production value (€3.15 million), while cider apple production accounts for 20% (€0.78 million).  Approximately 15,000 tonnes of Irish apples are sold each year with culinary apples representing 47% of total sales. There are currently 83 commercial apple growers in Ireland.

Speaking ahead of ‘Blossom Walk’, Olan McNeece from the Irish Apple Growers Association said “We look forward to offering visitors a unique opportunity to see how the Irish apple growing industry works first-hand. While no entrance fee will be charged, any donations made on the day will be given to “Blossom Ireland”, a very worthwhile charity who provide dedicated, therapy-led camps and after school activities for children with intellectual disabilities.”

For more information, event listings and recipes visit

Participating Apple Farms:
The Apple Farm
Con Traas
Moorstown, Cahir, Co. Tipperary
Melalgulla Orchard
James Scannell
Lnockane, Ovens, Co. Cork
Gilbert’s Orchard & Farm Shop
Alan Gilbert
Quinagh, Co.Carlow
Askinamoe Orchard
Sean Gahan

Ferns, Enniscorthy, Co.Wexford

David Quinn
David Quinn
Cappoquin Estate, Cappoquin,Co.Waterford

Boyne Grove Fruit Farm
Olan McNeece

Stameen, Drogheda, Co.Meath
Highbank Orchard
Rod Calderpot

Farmley, Cuffesgrange,
Co Kilkenny,

Blossom Ireland:
Blossom Ireland was founded by two mothers passionate in the belief that their boys with special needs deserve the same opportunities as all children. Their goal is to go some way towards filling the gap between the available public services and the actual needs of the child and their family, particularly during out of school hours. Currently we provide dedicated, therapy led camps and after school activities for children with intellectual disabilities aged between 8 and 15 years.
Blossom Ireland is a very young charity financed 100% by donations and fundraising.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

West End Winner

West End Winner In Killarney Town
Amuse Bouche
Enjoyed a terrific meal at Killarney’s West End House Restaurant at the weekend. It was superb from start to finish, well cooked and well presented food and top notch service from the moment we walked in to this comfortable place.

Buns in a sack!

A tasty Amuse Bouche, featuring Duck Confit, was followed by two tremendous, somewhat unusual starters. Mine was a delicious delight, packed with flavours and textures: Quail - spiced breast, confit sweet potato, quail eggs, merguez, salted grapes and avocado (12.95). And much the same could be said about CL’s which was Rabbit - Ballotine, black pudding, pickled carrot and broad bean  (11.95).
Rabbit (top) and quail starters
They had quite a list of mains but we each picked from the specials and they were special, each every enjoyable indeed. One was Brill with Asparagus, artichoke, baby peppers  Beetroot purée (28.50) while the other was Seared duck breast, chermoula, pak choi, spiced lentil,  jus (29.50). Yum on the double here.
And there was still room for desserts. One was a Crème Brulée with a difference: Kahlua (a coffee-flavored rum-based liqueur) and Espresso Crème Brulée served with a Coffee Macaron while CL’s was also quite prefect: Apple - Tart Tatin, Vanilla Bean ice cream, salt butter fudge, whiskey caramel sauce. Each came in at  €7.50.
The West End re-opened last year after large scale renovations and the team have got their act together pretty quickly. Not alone is the cooking and presentation top class but the portion sizes are really well judged and you can enjoy your three courses without feeling bloated at the end. Must say also that their potatoes and vegetables, that come in the side  dishes, are also cooked to perfection. Besides, it is a lovely place with some five dining rooms in all, and a very friendly front of house team. Didn't meet anyone at the back but they too obviously know their stuff. Very Highly Recommended.


(064) 663 2271
Tue - Sat: 6.00 pm - 9:30 pm


Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Eight Degrees Scores Bronze at World Beer Cup!

Irish brewery wins at World Beer Cup

Bronze medal in the Olympics of beer for Cork's Eight Degrees Brewing

Big congrats to Mitchelstown's small Irish brewing company, Eight Degrees Brewing, who scored a massive success at the 2014 World Beer Cup. The World Beer Cup is an international brewing competition in Colorado acknowledged world-wide as the ‘Olympics of Brewing’. It attracted over 4,700 entries, from 1,403 breweries in 58 countries.

Eight Degrees Brewing was awarded a bronze medal in one of the most hotly contested categories - the American-Style Amber/Red Ale category. It won the medal for its Amber-Ella beer, an ale made with American and Australian hops balanced with malt tones. The achievement is particularly noteworthy, given that they entered an American style beer, into one of the two most sought after American-style categories within an American awards process.

The award is massive for us and will immediately open up export opportunities, including the United States. We never dreamed that a small three-year-old independent Irish craft brewery could achieve an accolade like this," said Scott Baigent, co-owner of Eight Degrees Brewing. The company’s head brewer, Mike Magee, was in Denver to receive the award.

Amber-Ella was initially brewed only last September, as a ‘one night stand’ for the Irish Craft Beer and Cider Festival. Earlier this year it was named as one of Beoir’s 2013 Beers of the Year and, by popular demand, it was brewed again in February 2014. Amber-Ella will now become part of Eight Degrees’ core range along with other award winning beers like Howling Gale, an Irish pale ale.

Eight Degrees is an independent Irish craft brewery based in Mitchelstown, Co Cork, focused on creating exciting and naturally adventurous beers for craft beer consumers.

Visit and for additional World Beer Cup information. A list of winners is here:

Cam Wallace 087 1654770
Scott Baigent 086 1594855

The World Beer Cup is a global beer competition presented by the Brewers Association (BA) that evaluates beers from around the world and recognizes the most outstanding brewers and their beers. Gold, silver and bronze awards in the competition’s 94 beer-style categories were presented at the World Beer Cup Gala Awards Dinner at the Hyatt Regency in Denver, Colorado on April 11, 2014.

Muc Turns Up for Book Launch in Ballymaloe

Muc Turns Up for Book Launch in Ballymaloe
Jamón Ibérico

Muc*, the pig from Buenvino, was in Ballymaloe Cookery School at the weekend. Or at least one of his back legs was. You see, four years back Muc was killed and the long air-drying period began. Before that, he had happily wandered the woods around the big house in the south west of Spain, snouting out the best of nuts, especially those gorgeous acorns, qualifying him for the coveted Ibérico status.

Muc, now a tasty hunk of Jamón Ibérico**, was in Ballymaloe as Buenvino owners, Sam and Jeannie Chesterton, came to have their cookbook, simply named the Buenvino Cookbook, launched by Darina Allen. All the recipes have a Spanish flavour but you can get most if not all the ingredients here.

Quail's eggs
Rory O’Connell certainly did and he and his team cooked up many of the recipes from the book and we were able to enjoy: quails eggs with a pinch of cumin, fresh pickled anchovies, toasted almonds, Almond soup with PX soaked raisins, manchego, spinach with chickpeas, tortillas,  and more, before finishing off with a plate of Paella! All accompanied by Lustau sherry (manzanilla for me) and Vina Herminia wines (a Rueda verdejo and a Rioja red).

Finca Buenvino, a pink washed farm and guesthouse, is in the middle of the Sierra de Aracena nature reserve in Andalusia and the book tells how Jeannie and Sam ended up there and are now regarded as true locals.


Darina, who has visited the Finca, says Jeannie is a wonderful cook (and she does cookery courses there). Jeannie herself emphasizes that while her cooking is influenced by Spanish methods and ingredients, that this is not a “thoroughbred” Spanish cookbook, rather her take on their way of life and the food they share with their guests.

It was Irish "hatched" Sam who persuaded Jeannie to join him in Buenvino about thirty years ago. It is something of a cook's paradise. “We kill and cure our own Jamón Ibérico and bake wholemeal loaves and Moroccan flatbreads from organic flour...Honey comes from the hives above the orchards, organic vegetables and herbs from the garden. In autumn, wild mushrooms spring up in the woods…”

Darina introduces Sam and Jeannie

The book, published by BFP , runs to over two hundred pages and there are all kinds of tantalising recipes from Tapas to full meals, from  Baked Octopus and potatoes to a Lamb with aubergine tagine, from various treatments of anchovies to a Citrus and Honey Cake, from a Stew of Mixed Fish to the Pear and Almond Tart, from Tortillas to Iberian Pork Fillets with red peppers. There are even some pronunciation tips, for Chorizo for example.

Such variety! And all beautifully illustrated. “Have a great time cooking these recipes” wrote Sam as he and his wife signed the book for us. A great time, maybe even a long time. But it is looking very good indeed.

Jeannie gives her seal of approval to Rory O'Connell's paella

Just two recommendations to end with, there are many.
1 I can't wait to buy this book and be transported back to their little corner of paradise. (Thomasina Miers, founder of Wahaca restaurants).
2 A creative and dedicated cook who understands food with plenty of taste, colour and flair. (Maria Jose Sevilla, Foods and Wines from Spain, Spanish Trade Commission, London).

* Name has been changed!
** Jamón Ibérico puro de bellota is a rare and exclusive air-cured ham. The Ibérico pig is a pure bred, free-ranging animal that feeds mainly on acorns from Holm Oak trees. It is these acorns that give Jamón Ibérico it’s unique smell, taste and feel. The meat is delicate, with a sweet flavour and less salty than Jamón Serrano.

Monday, April 14, 2014

Talk of the Tongue. International Wine and Food Society Event

Talk of the Tongue

International Wine and Food Society Event

The Tongue (left) and more from last Thursday's Celebrating Local Tastes.

“Celebrating Local Tastes” was the title of the first outing for 2014 of the Munster Branch of the International Wine and Food Society.  Held at L'Atitude 51 (1 Union Quay), it turned into an absorbing evening with suppliers Frank Hederman, Jack McCarthy, On the Pig’s Back and Eve’s Chocolates taking the opportunity to showcase their impressive wares while the whole event was enhanced by some well chosen words, not to mention well chosen wines*, by our hostess Beverly Mathews.

First up was smoker Frank Hederman: “Our smokehouse food is made very simply using salt and smoke as natural preservatives to enhance very beautiful Irish raw materials. We are in the condiment business, simply adding flavour, creating new taste experiences and memories using age-old, natural techniques.”

Most of us are familiar with his famous smoked salmon and mackerel, maybe even with the smoked mussels. Lately he has produced smoked butter and on Thursday last introduced us to the new smoked Creme Fraiche. If you see it, buy it!

Then it was the turn of On the Pig's Back and Maria Perez concentrated on their cheeses and demonstrated a terrific variety of flavours using Ardsallagh, Ardrahan and Crozier Blue, among others, to make the point that local cheeses are absolutely first class, capable of holding their own in any company.

One man who can certainly do that is Kanturk butcher Jack McCarthy. He came laden with generous plates of his fabulous charcuterie, Irish charcuterie he emphasized, maybe even Duhallow charcuterie!

On Thursday last, he had quite a selection, including his Italian style copa. Then he introduced his Sliabh Luachra, an air dried beef for which they have been named Nationality Speciality Champions. We thought that was good but what really set us talking was his Tongue. It brought memories back for many (of a certain age!) but everyone was talking about it in a most complimentary way!

Had to finish off this excellent evening with something sweet and that was supplied by Jill from Eve’s Chocolates. “Eve’s”, she said, “is one of Cork's best kept secrets”. But that is not how they want it. So do go and visit them at Eve's Chocolate Shop, 8 College Commercial Park, Magazine Road, Cork. If you go this week, watch out as you could be falling over eggs and bunnies or they may be falling over you. Death by chocolate!

The Wine and Food Society are planning their next outing and if you would like to become a member then contact Aoife (treasurer) Other officers are  Richie Scott (assistant treasurer), Beverley Matthews (secretary) and Greg Canty (chairman)

*The wines were:
Valdespino, Manzanilla Deliciosa  "En Rama" (unfiltered)
Pipoli Greco Fiano from Basilicata (Southern Italy) 2011
Chateau Ste. Eulalie "La Cantilene" from Minervois La Laviniere 2009  

Friday, April 11, 2014

No holding Bekaa with this Convent Reserve!

No holding Bekaa with this Convent Reserve!
Ksara estate

Chateau Ksara, Reserve du Couvent 2011, Vallee de la Bekaa (Lebanon), 13.5%, €19.15 Karwig Wines

Hard for me to believe that there is just 30 per cent Cabernet Franc in this gorgeous wine. The red grape of the Loire dominates here and I wouldn't have been surprised to see its contribution at about 70%. But no. The blend is 40% Syrah, 30% Cabernet Sauvignon and 30% Cabernet Franc.

The winery was founded by Jesuits in 1857. Must have been some nuns there too - there usually were - as Couvent is the French for convent. The estate is no longer in Jesuit hands.

The wine has a beautiful mix of fruity aromas and the colour is a deep ruby. On the palate it is rich and delicious, the refreshing input of Cab Franc obvious methinks, there are hints of the wood (and of the French influence!); it is fine and full flavoured with a lasting finish. Can't help thinking though that I got into this 2011 a bit too soon as it seems there is more to come from it. Still, it is even now an excellent wine and Very Highly Recommended.

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Eating and Shopping in Connemara. Joyce Country. Day 3

Connemara Day 3
Coast Drive - Spiddal Shopping Spree - Joyce Country - Sky Road - Mitchell’s Fish Special

A boat waits for better weather on the River Bealanabrack at Maam
P1150996a.jpgA super fish meal at Mitchell’s in Clifden, eased down with a beautiful bottle of Chateau la Brie (Bergerac), was the highlight of this sometimes misty day in Connemara. The wine is mistakenly listed as Bordeaux on the list but this mix of Semillon and Sauvignon Blanc could easily pass among a bunch of the uppity neighbours to the west.

A very high standard was set with the starters. Mine was the fantastically flavoured Grilled Oranmore Oysters, with parmesan and cream, while CL raved over her Tian of local crab, avocado, caramelized apple, vine tomato salsa.

No let up with the superb main courses: Pan fried Wild Monkfish and mussels, cream cauliflower, spring onion, caper and lemon butter and the Pan Fried Haddock, Killary Mussels, Cauliflower puree, caper and lemon butter. And even the sides, boiled potatoes and vegetables, were superb.

The final decision of the meal was to to split one dessert and this was the most gorgeous Banana and Belgian Chocolate Nut Pudding with Lemon Meringue ice-cream and hot chocolate ganache.

Mitchell’s, where unusually all the front of house are male, regularly top the restaurants lists in Clifden and I'm now adding a Very Highly Recommended. And a warning to book early!

Tasty crumble at Spiddal cafe
Went on something of a shopping spree at the Ceardlann in Spiddal earlier. Started with a sweet pastry treat at the highly recommended Builín Blasta, the cafe in the craft village. Good coffee and a very tasty Plum Crumble set me up for the shopping.

Not all the shops were open but quite a few were and it was great to meet and chat with the craftspeople and artists. We did the rounds twice and ended up with a couple of bags of jewelry, glassware by Sue Donnellan and also some ceramic pieces from Sliding Rock. And absolutely no regrets.

On the contrary, it is fabulous to be able to buy local and support our hard-working talented craftspeople. Buying local is generally termed as buying local food but it should apply to everything we can produce, provided it is sold at a fair price. Buy local, buy fair.

Looking forward to giving out a few presents when I get back and also to seeing some of the stuff mounted on the walls at home. If you are in the Galway area, do try and visit. Very Highly Recommended.

It took us quite a while to get to Spiddal. After the sunshine of the past two days, we set off in a persistent mist. Still, that didn't stop us from heading to the limits of the coast. Drove around the loop from Glinsk to the sea and back to Carna. Tough country here. Fields of boulders and hard for the few cattle to find firm ground and a square of grass.

By the way, an attraction (it has many) of Galway is that it is one of the most accessible places in Ireland to see, close up, farm animals and their young: Cattle, Ponies, Donkeys, Goats, Sheep and, of course, lots of Connemara lambs.

After Carna, we headed off to the islands, at least the islands linked by bridges: Leitir Móir and Leitir Meallain. Quite spectacular, even if the drizzle was never that far away.

The mist was easing off after Spiddal and, instead of going underground (as originally planned) to the Glengowla mines near Oughterard, we headed to Maam Cross and up to the Joyce Country. Barren mountains and lakes surrounded us as we drove on past Maam itself and then down into Leenane, following the same valley whose flanking hills then enclose the famous fjord.

Clifden in the evening
Back then to Clifden but not before taking one more turn (for old time's sake) on the Sky Road. It might have been dull but the drive was still a delight. A wee rest and it was off to Mitchell’s to enjoy the last big meal of the trip.

Must say also that our base in the Dun Ri guesthouse was excellent. Very central, very comfortable, and a good breakfast every morning and a friendly chat or two thrown in, sometimes with the owners, sometimes with the other guests (one a winemaker from Wisconsin), or with both. Check it out!

Connemara Day 1
Connemara Day 2
A different view of Kylemore Abbey