Thursday, November 23, 2017

In The Maryborough Drawing Room. Afternoon Tea’s Different Class

In The Maryborough Drawing Room

Afternoon Tea’s Different Class

Crème Brûlée

Butternut Squash Pannacotta
Cold and wet outside but in the Drawing Room of the Maryborough Hotel, there was a warm welcome to Afternoon Tea. The hotel’s dedicated afternoon tea room was opened earlier this month and you do get one of the best experience around in a beautifully appointed room, part of the Newenham suite, in the original 17th century house.  

The old world charm has been retained and you’ll relax under the high ceiling and take in the Georgian décor with plush lounge seating, listening to baroque (rather than rock) and, when you’re ready, let your concentration focus on the three tiers of deliciousness that the butler has just delivered to the table. 

Tea, of course, is an integral part of the event and you’ll have been helped make your choice from an impressive list of over a dozen, including well known ones such as Earl Grey, “safe” choices like Irish Breakfast, and the exotic Bi Lo Chun. In all, I tried three and my favourite was the Rooibos & Caramel (Relaxing - Full-bodied Rooibos sweetened with the delicate, sensual notes of caramel deliver a nicely rounded, sweet and mellow finish). Could be a great one for Christmas. 
House Cured Salmon

CL”s favourite was Ginger & Lemongrass (Uplifting - Green Tea from China with spicy ginger and the fresh delicate citrus notes of asian lemongrass). I hadn't heard of the Bi Lo Chun before. Maybe you haven't either? Its description is: Boasting a stunning sweet, slightly fruity and floral taste with a delicious lingering finish. 

There is also a full list of coffee options, from Espresso to Cappuccino. I think Hot Chocolate was also mentioned. We were guests for the occasion. Thirty five euro is the regular cost; add Prosecco (€43.00), Champagne (50.00). 

The savoury offerings looked great and tasted even better, a very strong line-up indeed, quite innovative too. This was our running order. I enjoyed them all and would be hard-pressed to find a winner, other than myself! Indeed, I was most surprised with the #3 and #4 as I didn't think they'd be as good as they were.

The second half was sweet indeed. All the items were excellent and again hard to pick a winner. The Crème Brûlée was a joint favourite. But when we finished up with the Grand Marnier Trifle, the heads were nodding in agreement that this was the one, thanks mainly to the fact that there was no shortage of the orange-flavoured Cognac based liqueur in the trifle sponge! Cold and wet outside but warm inside as we left.
Eclair


Savoury

1: Boa Bun filled with a Turmeric and Fermented Chilli Marinated Chicken, Carrot Slaw, Miso Aioli. 
2: House Cured Salmon, Wakame Seaweed, Cucumber Gel, Squid Ink Emulsion, and Toasted Rye Bread. 
3: Butternut Squash Pannacotta filled with West Cork Bluebell Falls Goat Cheese, Honey-ied Walnut, and Balsamic Pearls. 
4: Saffron and Basil Polenta Cake, Hummus and Heritage Tomato Salsa
Choc. Trifle
Apple, Coffee and Cinnamon Cake


Sweet

A: Caramelised Apple, Coffee and Cinnamon Cake. 
B: Chocolate and Grand Marnier Trifle. 
C: Chestnut and Pear Crème Brulée. 
D: Eclair filled with Pistachio and Hazelnut Praline. 
E: Warm Cranberry Scones served with House Preserves and Clotted Cream.

Two (of three) tiers.




Wednesday, November 22, 2017

Three cracking reds

Marco Real Colection Privado Crianza Navarra (DOC) 2013, 14.5%, €17.40 Karwig

The wines of Navarra are not as prominent in the Irish market as those of Rioja, its next door neighbour in Spain's North West. But this impressive amalgam of Merlot, Tempranillo and Syrah, illustrates well why it should be taken more seriously. 

The grapes are hand-picked and sorted twice on arrival at the winery. Twelve months in new French oak barrels is followed by 12 months in bottle and that earns it the Crianza sticker (on the back of the bottle).

The legs here, as you might expect, are slow to clear; colour is a deep ruby. There is an attractive mix of aromas (mainly ripe red fruits) plus hints of oak. Silky, Fruity. Spicy. Tannins are more or less totally integrated as is the oak. This full-bodied intense wine has a persistent finish and is Very Highly Recommended. Good value as well.




Casa de la Ermita Idílico Jumilla (DOP) 2012, 14.5%, €19.99 (€15.00 on offer from 23/11 to 1/3) SuperValu

A blend of Petit Verdot and Monastrell, this Crianza comes from old vines grown at 700 metres above sea-level.

It has an intense garnet colour, the legs slow to clear as you'd expect. Intense aromas too: darker fruits, plum prominent, hints of mint too. Rich on the palate, full of concentrated fruit flavours, spice too and close-to-smooth tannins. Excellent finish also, leaving you with that second glass feeling. This newcomer to SuperValu is very welcome and Highly Recommended.

Koha (Merlot, Cabernet Franc) Hawkes Bay (New Zealand) 2016, 13%, €14.00 Marks and Spencer
As you can see, this is a blend of Merlot (80%) and Cabernet Franc. It won Platinum for the producers, the Giesen family, in the recent Decanter awards and it is exclusive to Marks and Spencer. The sunny region of Hawkes Bay is perfect for Merlot. Just noticed that the Giesens produce an unusual style “blend” of hard apple cider and white wine, in a can!

Back to our smooth and fruity wine with its deep purple colour. Warm dark fruits prominent in a lovely mix of aromas.  Plums and berries on the juicy palate, oak in the background. Fresh and vibrant, this smooth engaging young wine, medium to full-bodied, is worth getting to know. Highly Recommended. Pretty good value too. Match with roasts and BBQ.

The Koha, by the way, is a long tailed cuckoo, a summer visitor to New Zealand.

Tuesday, November 21, 2017

Taste of the Week. Spice O’Life Curry Sauce

Taste of the Week
Spice O’Life Curry Sauce

Picked up a can of this Curry Sauce (it is made in Dunmanway by Spice O’Life) at the new O’Connor’s Butcher Food Hall in Mayfield that features some other artisan products as well.

There are some basic curry instructions on the side but no harm in adding carrots, mushrooms, onions, peppers, whatever you've handy, to the mix. And of course, you’ll have rice as well.

When cooked, just pour the sauce over the lot and fold in. That's what we did and were pleasantly surprised at the result. This sauce is excellent, our Taste of the Week.

The West Cork company “develop, create, and manufacture the solution to your sauce, marinades, dressings,  spice, seasoning and new product development needs” and their other brands include Dip!t, Marinade Me, Insanely Good and Presto! 


O’Connor’s, by the way, have a large bright building where the old Permanent TSB were and also a busy café called, appropriately enough, the Old Bank.

Monday, November 20, 2017

Long, Lazy Sunday at Ballymaloe

Garden to Plate at Ballymaloe.
Superb Craft Fair Too.


There were gasp when Ballymaloe House gardener Mags Coughlan told us she grows 4,500 leeks here each year. Soon we would see some of them on our plates as we enjoyed lunch in the house. The garden tour, a mead tasting, a long leisurely lunch and a visit to the ever increasing craft fair in the Grainstore and Big Shed, were all part of a lovely day that brought the curtain down on the Munster Wine and Dine activities for 2017. A good day. A good year.
Here's where we get our hazelnuts

Hazel Allen introduced the fifty or so of us to Mags who told us the aim here in the walled garden and surrounding area is to grow “seasonal and unusual”. Even with Mags working flat out, there is no way the garden could fully supply the house, so Ballymaloe gets much of its regular plant and vegetables supplies from local growers, a traditional relationship maintained.


That leaves the gardener, in consultation with the chefs of course, to concentrate on something different, a crop of sea-kale for example, followed in turn by asparagus and artichoke. And then there are also edible flowers and flowers for decoration. One of the specialities of the walled garden, taking advantage of a south-facing wall, are peaches. Lots of herbs here too, of course.

All is grown from seed so that means glasshouses and we walked through there admiring the lines of harvested pumpkins (also on the day’s menu). We were then shown the relatively new cider apple orchard; varieties here include Dabinett and Bramley. Here too we saw the hazel bushes which provide quite a harvest and have a bit of growing to do yet!

All had been quite in the fields where the pigs are kept until the arrival of our group. Then little groups of the younger pigs came rushing out to greet the visitors. They may not have been so eager had they known that the same people would be eating their older siblings later on.

Back then to the conservatory room in the house for an aperitif, thanks to Kate Dempsey of the Kinsale Mead Co. We sampled her Atlantic Dry Mead and also Wild Red Mead  – and then she made some delicious cocktails using her mead (and also the new Beara Gin). Quite a few were very impressed by the mead. Both meads are honey based and are rapidly becoming widely available in Supervalu’s and speciality shops such as URRU in Bandon and Bradley’s in the city's North Main Street.

Kate and her meads
Time now for lunch, the main event. A good start is half the battle. And so it was here with a delicious warming bowl of Garden Pumpkin Soup with Chilli and Parsley Oil. More simple food followed, simply delicious Ballycotton Crab Paté with cucumber and dill salad.

We had a choice for the main course. CL chose the Poached Ballycotton Monkfish with Chive Butter Sauce served with Leeks and Romanesco while mine was the Roast Ballymaloe Farm Pork with red cabbage and Bramley Apple Sauce. Each, with Pommes Duchesse and Glazed Carrots on the side, was superb.

The temptation levels then soared with the arrival of the famous Ballymaloe Dessert trolley. We were like the little piggies! Pavlova, poached pears, chocolate cake (and sauce), and so much more, all washed down with little sips of sweet Jurançon. Pratsch Gruner Veltliner and Solstice Rhone Valley were the earlier wines.

After the tea or coffee, or a garden infusion, there was a quick review of 2017, a raffle for foodie prizes and an announcement that Munster Wine and Dine had decided to donate €300.00 to Penny Dinners.
Crab

Some of us then took a walk around the annual craft fair. The opening day, Saturday, had been busy but one stall holder told me Sunday, the day of our visit, was even busier and she was looking to getting her feet up for the night! There were some gorgeous crafts here but, looking for a particular item with certain restrictions as to material, size and colour, proved mission impossible for me! The search begins again next week at the big Craft Fair in the City Hall and the smaller one at Franciscan Well Brew Pub.
Sweet stuff



Darkness had now settled on this amazing East Cork farm and our bus had arrived. A very satisfied group headed back to the city, bang on schedule. Here’s to another great Munster Wine and Dine season in 2018. Happy Christmas everyone from Eithne, Richie, Colm, Beverly, Michael, Stuart, and yours truly.
Craft Fair

Sunday, November 19, 2017

Davidson's Craft Butchers. Standard Bearers in Montenotte

Davidson's Craft Butchers

Standard Bearers in Montenotte
Chris (left) and Luke

I asked our local butcher Chris Davidson about his plans for the run-in to Christmas. “We’ve already started”, he said. “It's the earliest we’ve ever started but people started asking so we started taking the orders. It is our fourth Christmas here and we have great confidence in our products at this stage.”

And top of the Christmas wish list are their free-range East Ferry Turkeys. Easy Ferry also supply them with eggs and chickens. “The most popular order is the boneless Turkey Crown, now selling all year round. Spiced beef too is incredibly popular. We use the eye of the round, a very lean cut, very good.”

“We have plenty of alternatives, including duck, beef fillet, crusted lamb, and pork steak Wellington. And we also have a special: Cranberry and sausage meat stuffing balls.”

Chris, from Cobh, is a 4th generation butcher. His great grand-father was a butcher in the harbour town, followed by Chris’s grand-uncle and then by an uncle. Chris himself started learning the steps, the ones well down the ladder, as a 14 year old at the well respected Jim Crowley butcher shop in Midleton.
Crusted lamb

He worked there during the holidays, even when he started going to UCC. “I was never bored, it was always interesting.” And the thing was that Chris himself was always interested and eventually decided that it was for him.

He started work in the Montenotte premises with the previous owner in 2009 and, just about three years ago, took it over. He found it hard to get used to the paperwork but “so far, so good” is his verdict now.”Every year has been better than the previous one. The three years have flown. Now we are more comfortable, more confident, particularly over the past six months.” 

The “we” is Chris and Luke, the two full-time employees. He also had two part-time workers.
You’ll see newly installed flower boxes on the building and also notice Craft Butcher displayed over the Davidson doors. I asked Chris about that. A lot of hard study over three years by the looks of it. 
Ready to cook

“To be qualified as craft, you have to do the 8-module course. It is very comprehensive. It covers every single aspect of modern butchery. When you finish, there is nothing left to learn. You've been trained also to present your produce, to engage with and sell to the customer. All about hygiene and food safety. The qualification is all about reliability. I see it as being a standard bearer.”

Chris has put the training to good use, especially in their speciality range. They are very strong here and have won many awards at craft competitions. Davidson’s have been national runners-up with their Pork Steak Wellington and with their Home-made Meat Loaf, national champion with their absolutely delicious (personal experience) Crusted Rack of Lamb. And they have gold for quite a few specials including Steak Stir Fry, Butterflied Leg of Lamb, Chicken Pizzaiola, and Chicken Supreme stuffed with broccoli and gruyere cheese.
Stir-fry

And, looking to the future, the plan is to keep up that standard, to keep innovating. “We’re always tipping away here, trying to improve the range. We plan to increase our presence on Social Media as well. And an upgrade of machinery is also on the cards.”

And you can, of course, get more than meat here. “Arbutus Bread is a fantastic product and we also have their pastries on Saturday mornings. We stock some kitchen essentials such as bread and milk. And newspapers of course. We have Green Saffron spices and the Gran Grans Chutneys are also available here.” Well worth a visit!


Davidson's Craft Butchers
7 St Christopher's Dr, Montenotte, Cork, T23 KV96
Hours: Open Monday-Friday· 8a.m.–6:30p.m.
Saturday: 8a.m. - 6.00p.m.



Friday, November 17, 2017

Amuse Bouche

They were married on September 17, 1946…. the ceremony was held very early in the morning in Clogheen Church. “Then the reception was in the Victoria Hotel. It was a wedding breakfast with rashers and sausages. There was a wedding cake and they went on the mid-day train to Dublin. …..  I threw confetti on them at the station. It was unusual to have a breakfast reception - maybe it was because they wanted to get the twelve o’clock train.”


from The Life and Times of Noel Murphy by Con Hurley (2012). Recommended.

Thursday, November 16, 2017

Margo Ann’s A Champion. And So Are Her Producers

Margo Ann’s A Champion
And So Are Her Producers

Family affair.
Cork Business Woman of the Year 2017
This award is to recognise the outstanding achievements of one business woman in Cork who has demonstrated exceptional ability in her business and proven her desire to succeed is of great benefit to their business and community. Our winner this evening comes from a business family that are well known throughout Cork and having taken over the family fruit business of her parents in the English market, she was Ireland's first female bookie, and today runs her business that stocks the largest range of artisan food products in the South of Ireland. Ladies and Gentlemen, the Cork Business Woman of the Year 2017 is Margo Ann Murphy of the Roughty Fruit King.

When Margo Ann heard these words on the recent Business Cork Awards night, she “was in shock”. “I was the outsider of the field.” It was a competitive category and she didn't expect to win. Her sister noticed: “Will you be able to go up?” Of course she would; the shock was temporary!

She told afterwards that it was a great boost to her food business in the heart of the English. Over the past six or seven years (from 2011), the focus has shifted from fruit to quality artisan food and Margo Ann says the award is a boost for her many producers. “They are small producers, most of them in rural Ireland which is dying. We need to support them.”

And it's a two way street. She is loyal to the producers and they to her. When I interviewed Margo Ann’s brother Garrett a few years back he listed some of the suppliers for me and most, such as the Big Red Kitchen, are still going strong in the market. 

Sometimes in the past year, I've found it hard enough to find honey around town. But never a bother at the Roughty (now becoming known as the Roughty Foodie!). It was the same earlier in the week when I met Margo Ann. There were at least three suppliers on the shelves; Galtee (their bees explore the mountain flowers and heathers), Ballyvourney (mainly from blackberry flowers) and Youghal (coastal flowers mainly). “The honey is not heated, not pasteurised. It is raw,” she told me.

And speaking of blackberries, she told me she used to pick blackberries when she was a kid of eight and her foraged berries ended up at the Michelin starred Arbutus Lodge in the city. And not too far from the Arbutus she also picked fruit at the Rathcooney Fruit Farm and has been making jam at home for years.

So, if Margo Ann says that the blackberry jam made by Nicola of the Big Red Kitchen is good, and she does, it is an opinion based on long experience. Indeed, she has praise for all the Big Red Kitchen jams which come in a choice of small and large jars. And Margo Ann also pointed to the home made mincemeat as a good one for this time of year. And got even more excited when highlighting the Spiced Plum and Port. “This is great, especially with duck, with cheese, with the turkey and ham.”
One of many hampers

Tipperary’s Crossogue are also mainstays at the Roughty. They have won dozens of awards for their innovative products and Margo Ann has great time for Veronica. Veronica’s Damson and Port Jelly won Triple Gold at the 2016 Great Taste Awards and more recently her Lime and Tequila marmalade won gold at the World’s Original Marmalade Awards. There is quite a selection of Crossogue products in the stall here and Margo Ann highlighted the Orange and Damson marmalade.

At the very start I had asked Margo Ann what was the product most in demand. And she did surprise me by saying it was jam. “People are very interested in homemade jams. They are aware of what they want.” Margo Ann may not be picking the fruit herself anymore but she sure knows where to source good quality food in Ireland.

There are too many foods and drinks to mention them all but these are some that I spotted. Didn't know that Highbank Orchards now have an organic treacle as well as their apple syrup, both are here. Spices from Green Saffron, seaweeds from Wild Irish Sea Veg, gift hampers of different kinds and sizes, ginger beer and more by Black Castle, chocolate from Skelligs and O’Conaill’s, biscuits from Seymours and Lismore……
Syrup. And treacle

And it is not just food you’ll find in this packed stall. There is an outstanding display of colourful candles from Valentia Island, all containing essential oils (citrus, cinnamon, honey, lime, to name but a few). You’ll see colourful knitted mitts from Sneem, soaps from Ballinskelligs, even a goats milk soap from County Clare.

So produce from all over, good stuff and certainly the producers deserve major kudos. But well done to to the lady that brings it all together in the heart of the English Market, Margo Ann Murphy, the Business Cork Businesswoman of the Year 2017!
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