Friday, July 21, 2017

Amuse Bouche

All he had to do was drive to a fish warehouse in Oakland, hand a slip of paper to a Chinese kid who worked for Fariq’s organization, and throw the squid into his van. From there, he’d take it to Fremont, put it on the ground, and come back the next day, when it had thawed. Then he’d open it up and pull out the vacuum-sealed loaves of drugs. I used to love squid, he told them later. I can’t eat it anymore.


from Every Man A Menace by Patrick Hoffman (2016). Highly Recommended.

Thursday, July 20, 2017

Back to the Garden for Maryborough Chef. A Delicious New Summer-time Menu at Bellini’s

Back to the Garden for Maryborough Chef
A Delicious New Summer-time Menu at Bellini’s

Sea Bream

Hotel dining rooms are improving all over the city and Bellini’s at the Maryborough is at the forefront thanks to Head Chef Gemma Murphy and her team.

Gemma is renowned for her presentation skills. But there is substance galore behind the style on your plate. She is well able to source good produce, with the emphasis on local and seasonal, and cook it to perfection.

Macroom Buffalo Cheese, Goatsbridge Trout, La Rousse Fine Foods, Keeling’s Fruit and Vegetables, Matt O'Connell Seafood, the English Market and Ballinwillin Boar and Venison are among her sources.

And it's getting even more local! She has developed a vegetable and herb garden “so she can ensure only the best will be used in her cooking”.
Breads

Delighted to get the chance to try the new menu. After a warm welcome, we were seated comfortably and starting to make the choices. Not that easy as all the dishes appealed.

I was looking at the starters and found it difficult to get past the first two. Eventually though the Ballinwillin Wild Boar (Pea and Watercress Pannacotta, Apricot Mustarda) “won” against the Grilled Mackerel. The boar and venison coming from the Mulcahy's in Ballinwillin is top notch and this superb dish added another dimension.
Wild Boar


CL too had a difficult choice toying with the Assiette of Summer Vegetables (with Macroom ricotta) before settling on the Scallops (Bacon Dashi, Compressed Pineapple, Picked Shimeji, Cubanelle Chilli Oil). Another winner. The dashi was poured on at the table and the little umami mushrooms, like everything other element, played a tasty role. 

No big creamy sauces for the chef here. We both went for fish in the mains and each of us was very happy. CL enjoyed the Sea Bream Fillets (Grilled Asparagus, Charred Onion, Salt Baked Fingerling Potatoes, Shellfish Bisque, Squid Ink Dressing) while my Pan seared fillet of Cod (Braised Beluga Lentils, Fava Beans, Heritage Tomato, Grapefruit and Saffron Puree) was another delight.
Scallops

And of course there were sides; the House Fries and Market Vegetables (a substitute on the night for the  carrots) were our choices, both well up to standard.

So how about dessert? Some excellent choices here. Was looking at the Coconut and Yuzu Pannacotta before settling on the Pimm’s Jelly (Foraged Elderflower Scented Mascarpone Strawberry Sorbet, Shortbread). That was shared, our server diplomatically placing it centre-table. Service was excellent throughout. And another empty plate went back!

There are some fantastic wines on the list here, including quite a few by the glass and also a selection by the half-bottle. Once we decided on the fish, we ordered a glass of white each. One was the  German Eins-Zwei-Dry Riesling, smooth and fruity and dry for sure. The other was the Ara Della Valle Pinot Grigio, smooth and persistent. Both feature on the house white list, along with a few more.
Cod

If don't want the full menu of the restaurant, well take a look at the Bellini bar daytime menu here.  Here too, you’ll see Lots of cocktails on offer and you can also sample the local craft beer by the Franciscan Well Brewery.

And they also do Afternoon Tea in the Garden Room. And if the kids come, well there’s even an Afternoon Tea Menu for them. If you need to be pampered at any time, just follow the sounds of flowing water to the spa. And I'd better mention, they also have a gym!
Dessert

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

On Your Bike in Italy. A Champion Wine

Vigne Marina Coppi “Sant’Andrea” Colli Tortonesi Barbera (DOC) 2015, 13.5%, €25.99 Liberty Wines 

The winery was founded in 2003 and named for Marina Coppi, the child of renowned cycling champion Fausto Coppi who twice completed the Giro and Tour de France double, 1st in 1949 and then in 1952.

The estate, which concentrates on native varieties, is in the region of Piemonte where the Colli Tortonesi is a lesser known appellation. Ten per cent Croatina has been included with the Barbera. No oak has been used and you'll note there is very little tannin.

Ruby is the colour. There are intense aromas, mainly of cherry. Much the same fruit and intensity on the palate, also excellent acidity. As smooth and rounded as you’ll get with a trace of background spice. A beautiful lingering finish too and Very Highly Recommended. Liberty also carry the Coppi I Grop, another to watch out for.



Allegrini Valpolicella (DOC) 2016, 13%, €22.49 Liberty Wines 


The Modern History of Italian Wine pays the Allegrini family, best known for their rich and powerful Amarone, quite a compliment when citing them as one of the most influential winemakers: With the Allegrini family, Valpolicella takes the form of art, of a lifestyle where the beauty and light of Italy shine through wine.

Very high praise indeed. It might be a huge leap to see the art in this particular bottle but I’m inclined to the view that there is a delicate beauty and light to enjoy. And there is also a guarantee of quality as the family were, in 2005, one of the founders of the Comitao Grandi Cru d'Italia which unites the best of Italian producers.


This Valpolicella is a light ruby colour, and bright. On the aromatic nose, cherry is to the fore. It is light, fruity, with a hint of spice. This engaging youngster is a playful companion, ideal for that favourite sunny seat in the garden. But will grow and mature a bit over the next year or two. A blend of Corvina (65%), Rondinella (30%) and Molinara (5%), with a finish of some heft, it is Highly Recommended.

Read more of the Allegrini story on the Liberty Wines blog here.

Taste of the Week. Coolea Cheese

Taste of the Week

Coolea Cheese
Coolea in brine

I’ve often heard of the camaraderie and support that exists between artisan producers. And I saw it in action at Schull Market on a recent Sunday morning. 

I was looking at the cheese selection on the Gubbeen stall when Tom Ferguson began to sing the praises (not of their own Gubbeen, which is worth a song or two) but of a two year old Coolea. He followed up by offering me a sliver. It was every bit as good as he said so I bought a wedge and it is our current Taste of the Week. No big surprise really. Coolea were one of the pioneers and the cheese is sought after at home and abroad.

The cheese venture came about because the Willems family, wh had come from Holland, couldn't find any cheese here other than cheddar and mother Helena started, in 1979,  on a very small family scale with a little pot. But now Coolea is a big name and much of the output is sold at the famous Neal's Yard in London while in Ireland Sheridan’s are the major customer.

The cheese was to be called Milleens after the local townland but that was knocked on the head as the Steeles, further west on the Beara peninsula and living in a townland of the same name, had just started making a cheese called Milleens. And so the Coolea brand was born.

It is firm and smooth, a pressed uncooked Gouda style cheese. Early on the flavours are caramel, nutty and floral but they become more robust as time goes on, sweeter if anything and still carrying traces of its delicate youth. A gorgeous cheese and well worth watching out for.






Monday, July 17, 2017

Pizza and Wine on a West Cork Beach. The Puffin Cafe at Castlefreke.

Pizza and Wine on a West Cork Beach

The Puffin Cafe at Castlefreke.
There is still plenty of room in the car park but many choose to park on the road. It is a typically Irish scene as you arrive at a beach-side car park on a sunny day. But what is not typical is the beach café, the only building on the Long Strand, Castlefreke. It is black, as black as a puffin’s back, and is named, The Puffin Café.

Most of the action, well if you call sitting and lying action, on this sunny day is on the outside. A few brave souls, kids mainly, are testing the water. But there’s not a surfer in sight. Soon, the kids will be trooping up to the café, making the hard choice at the ice-cream counter, something like 14 varieties to choose from!

Already family groups are eating at the big picnic style tables outside. Pizzas, and ice-creams and drinks, are in big demand. But the inside seats, and there are quite a few of them, are not! I'm happy with that. I've been out in the sun all morning and now glad of some shade.

A lovely warm welcome and we are soon seated, checking out the menu which doubles as a place-mat. We note the names immediately, smiling as we go through them: Bowie, Salsoul, Rick Rubin, Chuck D, Jazzy Jay, Larry Levan and more are used for the pizzas.

My pick is the Furious Five (€15.50), a welcome melange of San Marzano tomatoes, prosciutto, peaches, mozzarella, blue cheese and rocket. Quite an excellent pizza with the peaches working surprisingly well with all the rest. There were some nine pizzas on the list ranging from a Margherita (10.50) to a Fish offering, the Larry Levan featuring Smoked Mackerel and beetroot at €16.50.

CL has picked something that little bit smaller, the Salsoul Sandwich (8.50). This tasty starter consists of Marsala Roasted chorizo, roasted peppers, onions and leaves and is served in a sourdough flat bread. See the full menu here.

We drank lots of water as we ate but they do have wine here. From France comes Le Petit Pont Reserve in both red and white, at €6.50 a glass. From Italy, you can have the Costadoro organic white and red at €7.50 a glass or €28.00 a bottle. €28.00 also for a bottle of Prosecco. If you want something more expensive, then ask them about their small range “of quality and eclectic wines” that are off menu. Other drinks available are sparkling water, ginger beer, and pip organic.

The name game continues with the desserts: Boney Mmm; B-Boying; Minnelli: and Freke Out! The latter, by the way, is the Puffin’s special Ice Cream Sundae. And, of course, you can also check out the ice-creams! 

No shortage of coffee choices (I thought my espresso was top notch) and you may have tea, ordinaire or herbal. Oh yes, almost forgot, there is music too at the café, outdoors on this occasion. All that, and sunshine, means a fun stop at the beach.

The Puffin Cafe’s summer (June, July, August & September) hours are: MONDAY + THURSDAY + FRIDAY: 12pm-4pm. SATURDAY: 10am-10pm. SUNDAY: 11am-8pm.

Sunday, July 16, 2017

The White Horse Grub Club. Chance to try street food from the wide world.

The White Horse Grub Club

Chance to try street food from the wide world.
Jerk chicken
There is something about the White Horse. The buzz. People. Everywhere.

We walked in about 7.00pm on a Thursday. The restaurant was packed. The bar was full as we walked through to get to the Grub Club in a different dining room. The sign said “Sold Out”. So that bright and airy room was also full as was the lovely sheltered tiled patio area outside..

The Grub Club, an occasional feature, is just one of the many attractions of this lively spot. They have a music venue upstairs, a brew club, their own guitar (big) band and more. The Grub Club gives patrons an opportunity to try other cuisines, mainly street food style, from other cultures and Marlene had invited me along to sample the food of the West Indies.
Prawns

We were seated on the cusp of the indoors and outdoors and soon they began serving an introductory Caribbean punch to all the tables. 

Then the starter: Chargrilled Marinated Tiger Prawns skewer, mango salad, coriander, lime and chilli dressing, crispy shallots. The salad was a treat on its own not to mind the prawns and juicy cherry tomatoes on the skewer. 

And there was also a paired drink: Spicy Coriander Bloody Mary. I skipped on that one but later enjoyed a cool delicious pint of the Bohemian Barefoot Pilsner by Eight Degrees, the suggested pairing for the main course.

And what a main course, something very different indeed: Jerk Chicken, rice and peas (and a few beans too!), homemade Jamaican Coco Bread, and Jerk sauce. Another totally enjoyable dish; the chicken was perfect, the sauce mild and ever so slightly sweet, the bread a delicious bite, handy too for taking up the last of the sauce!
Dessert

We were enjoying this and the buzz around the room. And the dessert maintained the excellent standard for this twenty euro meal (drinks extra). It was an Upside down caramelised pineapple cake, homemade coconut ice-cream, crispy cinnamon tuile. That really worked well and provided a sweet end to a lovely evening, even sweeter if you sipped the Basil and Cucumber Margarita. By the way, all the suggested drinks were a fiver.

I must say that, with the large crowd in, the service was excellent. The staff pulled out all the stops to get all the dishes out as quickly as possible. The Grub Club is a great idea, a reasonably priced night out with a chance to try something that you might not normally come across. 

Next Grub Club Event
The next event is scheduled for Thursday the 24th of August at 7pm. The menu is below and it is priced at €28 this time to include specially paired wines with each course.

Starter: Blow-torched mackerel, cucumber gel, burnt lemon, preserved lemon dressing, chicken fat, crispy potato, samphire. (Allergens - Sulphites / Fish)

Main course: Lamb belly, Smoked aubergine purée, pickled blackberry, broad beans, feta in filo, lamb jus. (Allergens - Sulphites / Celery / Milk / Gluten - this dish can be made gluten free on advance request)

Dessert: Rhubarb and custard pie, our own homemade popcorn ice cream. (Gluten / Milk / Eggs - Gluten free alternative available)

Tickets available  from www.whitehorse.ie/venue and at the bar.


Saturday, July 15, 2017

Amuse Bouche

I looked at the turkey, which had dropped off the end of the table and slid… to rest ..beside the door. I had ordered a big turkey, even though there were only three of us.
Daddy had always said a small turkey looked mean, and we could make sandwiches and stew from the leftovers, and all those thoughts about the turkey and how many ways I could prepare it went through my head as my husband died, there and then in front of me. I stood in shock in those ten seconds while he fought to breathe, until he was entirely still.


from Lying in Wait by Liz Nugent (2016) Highly Recommended. 

Thursday, July 13, 2017

Budds Ballydehob for Lunch. Sandwiched between a couple of climbs!

Budds Ballydehob for Lunch.

Sandwiched between a couple of climbs!
Ant activity near Three Castles Head
When I knew I was heading for Schull, I put getting up to Mount Gabriel on top of my list. But, on Saturday morning, we headed south instead from the village with the Three Castles Head the immediate objective. Gabriel would have to wait until the afternoon!

Three Castles Head is in the Mizen area. Having passed through Goleen, you come to a cross where your turn left for Mizen Head and straight ahead for Three Castles Head (which is also signed). There was a cycle race on the road so the trip was very slow.
The Three Castles

You will come to Dunlough Bay and a rough car park. Open (and close) the farm gate and follow the few well placed arrows. Firstly, the walk is on a path across fields and then it gets a little (just) rougher. 

You’ll pass the white buildings, including the cafe, named after the head and open only in summer. A notice requests a voluntary contribution (3 euro is suggested) as you pass through a narrow gate on the farm.
Mizen Head in the distance

I didn't time the walk, but after 25 minutes or so, the three castles will come into view, suddenly. Their situation is quite spectacular and you also have great views over the nearby ocean and into Dunmanus Bay. The three ruins are known collectively as Dunlough Castle and are located at the most westerly point of the Mizen Peninsula in West Cork. You have excellent views also over Mizen Head including its lighthouse structure.

You may continue your walk up and beyond the castles, up towards a cairn on top of one of the peaks. Some detail via an Irish Times article here.  I did go up a little beyond the castle before turning back.

It was coming close to lunchtime but reluctantly I passed the café which had been highly recommended by locals. I had promised myself I'd call to Budds in Ballydehob who, as one of Cork’s cafés of character, were supporting the Cork Summer Bounty Week.

A group of cyclists were having lunch here too so it was busy enough. I read the specials and my server pointed out that most of their produce was local. I picked the salad which featured Lea’s baby carrots and squash, Macroom buffalo ricotta, on a bed of local mixed leaves with beetroot and balsamic purée, walnut and Portobello mushroom.

The carrot was rather a big baby but quite a tasty one, the mushroom was superb as was the ricotta and all the leaves were as fresh as could be. All in all, a lovely summer lunch. CL also hit the jackpot with the Wagyu Beef burger, with local black and white pudding, and smoked Gubbeen cheese. An expresso later and we were on our way to another climb!

We checked with the tourist office as to the best road in to the foot of 407 metre high Mount Gabriel (you can drive to the top) and the man on duty was delighted to tell us as he lives in the area. The “mountain” is well-known for its two radar domes (aviation tracking) on top and lesser known for the fact that, in ancient times, copper mining was carried out here.
From top of Gabriel
Every time I've seen it while in Schull, I had imagined the views from its would be great. Now I was on my way and while some low cloud had intervened the views were still stunning even if the domes and their fences are not and could do with a spruce up.

Back then to our lovely guesthouse, Stanley House, for a break and a shower before heading out for more food!


On the way to Three Castles Head