Monday, May 29, 2017

Richard's Little Farm Delivers

Richard's Little Farm Delivers

Richard’s Little Farm deliver their organic vegetables to top restaurants such as Greene’s and Elbow Lane. But you too can become a regular customer by signing up for the regular vegetable box scheme!

Richard Hooton has been growing his own food for many years and decided to set up Richard’s Little Farm after completing a Masters degree in Organic Horticulture at UCC.

The farm, established in 2015, is situated in Hazelwood, Mallow, Co. Cork where he produces over 20 different varieties of vegetables, salads, herbs and fruit. Everything produced on the farm is grown only as nature intended, without the use of artificial pesticides, herbicides or fertilisers. 

All the crops are grown and harvested by hand and sold locally at the Mallow Farmers Market (Friday 9am- 1pm) and the Nano Nagle Centre in Killavullen (every second Saturday 10:30am- 1pm) and also in local shops and restaurants. And, as we all know, vegetables are always so much better when harvested fresh and used in season.

That Vegetable Box scheme is seasonal of course so will vary from time to time. You may receive updates each week via text, Facebook, email or Twitter. Then you pick what you want and, freshly harvested, it is delivered to your doorstep free of charge! You can sign up via the Facebook Page or by contacting Richard at 087 281 2054.

With just an acre to work from, this farmer sometimes has to think outside the box. Caught for space? Do what Richard did and start planting your salads in a length of gutter!

Richard is one of quite a few North Cork producers that I saw at The Taste Cork tent in the Mallow Home and Garden Festival at the weekend. One visitor asked him how he started, what did he need. “Oh, just a patch of land and a broad back,” he joked. A bit of get up (early) and go too, I reckon.
Other local producers at the show included Ballyhoura Apples (above)
and Longueville House cider and brandy.




Sunday, May 28, 2017

Dinner and Movies. Great Views too. Montenotte Hotel's Panorama Bistro

Dinner and Movies. Great Views too.
Montenotte Hotel’s Panorama Bistro
Dine with Rosanna next month

The restaurant at the revamped Hotel Montenotte is called The Panorama and the spacious and comfortable bistro and bar certainly lives up to the name. From most of room and from the terrace outside you have a great view over the river and much of the city.

And the revamp isn't confined to the inside. Below the level of the restaurant and out in front, a lovely new “formal” garden is rapidly taking shape. The rectangular centrepiece is divided into quadrants and the matching plants in the four areas are about to burst into bloom. 

And a feature inside, an unusual one, is the hotel’s very own cinema, The Cameo. And it is quite a luxurious room as we found out after dinner in the bistro last week.

When you enter through the door your cinema experience immediately begins with curtained walls, cinema lighting, large projection screen, luxurious tiered seating, surround sound and the latest in cinema technology, you will not have an experience elsewhere like it. They offer themed film nights from Comedy to International; there is something for everyone. And the venue is for hire.

The hotel caters for quite a few events and next month will start a series called “An Evening With…”.  Author, model and nutritionist, Rosanna Davison, starts the ball rolling on June 14th. Among her accolades, Rosanna has been crowned Miss World, qualified as nutritionist, and is a successful top model and most recently she is author of two bestselling health, nutrition and fitness books ‘Eat Yourself Fit’ and ‘Eat Yourself Beautiful’. 

Ticket cost is €100 per person and includes the reception, evening meal with Rosanna, and a donation to the hotel’s charity the Daisy Chain Foundation More details here
Work in progress

There is a new chef Adrian Hillgrove in charge. He has wide experience including working at Rick Stein’s flagship eatery in Cornwall. He has a love of seafood and fish and you'll see some of his fishes dishes on the A La Carte for the Panorama here.  

Brian Bowler, General Manager at The Montenotte Hotel, is delighted that Hillgrove has joined them: “He has a wonderful way with flavours, and his creativity and use of only of the finest in-season produce from the region ensures that our menus will delight those who visit and who stay with us.”
Salmon

There is a separate three course menu for the Movie Evening and we enjoyed that the other night.   The place was busy but the staff were on the ball and there was no delay in getting us sorted, the menus, water and some very tasty bread on the table without fuss.

Having read the chef's background, I started with the Chowder. I wasn't disappointed. The creamy bowlful was chock-a-block with red, smoked and white fish and a few mussels lurking there too for good measure. And CL was well pleased with a Watermelon and Feta Salad with chicken and orange and rocket.

Off to a good start. And so it continued. Sirloin Steak and Traditional Fish and Chips were featured on the Mains but I liked the sound of the Fillet of Salmon with Asparagus and Rocket; this had a fresh herb crust pesto, parmesan cheese, pink peppercorns and beurre blanc sauce. I liked the look and flavours of this excellent combination, loved the cheese and the pesto. Fairly simple and nothing over the top but a nice way of presenting the salmon.

Across the table, the Pan Fried Chicken Supreme went down well. A highlight here was a lovely Jameson and Wild Mushroom Sauce. The celeriac mash was excellent too as were our side dishes of vegetables.

The dessert list was short, with the usual suspects. But I was in for a delightful surprise as my Tiramisu was one of the best that I've come across in a while.

It was billed as a classic Italian dish, layered soaked biscotti and mascarpone cream, chocolate shavings. Plenty of sponge there to soak up all the sweet stuff! CL’s wasn't quite of the same class but not bad either. She had the Lemon Posset, poached winter berries, white wine stock syrup, blackberries, raspberries and ginger-nut crust. The berries were a little scarce but overall the lemon came through well. Two generous desserts, by the way and, on the A La Carte, each costs €6.95.

After then it was time to head the Cameo, just a few steps away, and the movie! Lights out.

Sit back and relax!
Movie Latest: Agents & Heroes @ The Cameo Cinema for the Month of June.

2 course meal €24.95 per person, 3 course meal €29.95 per person.

For bookings, call us on 021 453 0050






Saturday, May 27, 2017

Amuse Bouche

The exotic atmosphere was soured by the news that Singapore was about to fall. But being one to make the most of a bad situation, McCarthy enjoyed the local hospitality on offer. Years later he would recall the taste of Dutch gin mixed with crushed ice and fresh lime juice, and the colonial feast of ‘riz tafel’ with a multitude of plates of meat, fish, vegetables, curries with steamed rice, all washed down with locally brewed Dutch draught beer.


from A Doctor’s Sword by Bob Jackson (2016). Very Highly Recommended.

Thursday, May 25, 2017

"Why we select the wines we do". SuperValu’s Buyer Tells How and Why.

Why we select the wines we do.

SuperValu’s Buyer Tells How and Why.
 “Why we select the wines we do.” That was the theme of the eye-opening Supervalu Wine tasting, a Munster Wine & Dine event, at L’Atitude on Wednesday night. 

The company's senior wine-buyer Kevin O’Callaghan was our host for the evening and he brought along 12 excellent examples from the SuperValu shelves, concentrating mainly on the bottles with the Specially Sourced stamp.  “These have been sourced, tasted and approved by our wine-buying team.”

Bubbles!
Kevin, who has been with the company for 13 years, says their aim is to make wine more accessible so “people can enjoy good wines at affordable prices”. And that was underlined throughout the evening that started with a glass of Charles Mignon Grand Cru Champagne, this one, with its intense aromas of almond and apricot. It is  “a good food match, a blend of Pinot Noir (55%) and Chardonnay and, at €45.00, well priced against sparklers of comparable quality".

Soon we were on to the very affordable, a Flamants Picpoul de Pinet (12.99, 10.00 on offer), becoming ”a very fashionable wine and great with shellfish.” 

Next up was the Abellio Albarino 2015 (12.99, 10.00 on offer). Kevin is very proud of this one, not least because he helped design the label (just one of the ways in which SuperValu help their producers sell their wines). The Albarino, with its excellent aromas and flavours, is another terrific seafood wine. And it would be my favourite of the two openers, by a long way.

We were using a points system to score the wines and I gave the Picpoul 84 points, the Albarino 92. Why  the points? Kevin said it is an essential tool for the wine-buyer who could well sample over 100 wines at a session and the points system is a major help in differentiating between so many, especially at the end of a long session. So, since we were being put in the wine-buyer’s shoes, it was used on the evening! Nothing too serious though and we had quite a few laughs all through.

Next up was a “personality” wine, the Graham Norton Sauvignon Blanc from New Zealand. Once  SuperValu realised this was a serious wine - Norton was quite fussy about it - they went after the rights, especially since the comedian is from Cork. It has worked out well for all sides and Norton donates his share of the profits to charity. It is an excellent wine and, at €12.00, good value as well. And good value is something that Kevin and his team always have in mind. O’Callaghan, by the way, reckons that Sancerre is better with food than Marlborough.
 And speaking of food, the L’Atitude kitchen kept us supplied with a series of top notch bites throughout the tasting, ranging from Anchovies and Pepper on toast to Ummera Smoked Duck to a Pork Meat Balls with Olives to a Black Pudding and Apple in pastry.

Chardonnay was next, the Nugan Estate Personality Dreamers 2013 from the Riverina and on offer at €10.00. A bit of a division around the tables here because of the oak, even though they don’t use new oak so the effects are muted. I liked it very much indeed.

And more oak on our mystery white, this even more muted. The lightly oaked blend (including Bourboulenc, Roussane, and Grenache blanc) had us guessing during this blind tasting. It has a fabulous textural richness and a great finish. It comes from Corbieres and well worth seeking out at €10.00 on offer.

“Is Rosé on the way out?” asked a member. “It is static, at about 4% of the market,” answered Kevin. “But we’ve brought in some drier ones, including one from Provence, with way more fruit and character”. The European ones, especially these new ones, are worth buying, he advised.
 If the whites were good (and they were very good), the reds were probably better. This time we started with the blind tasting and it turned out to be a Cotes de Roussillon, a blend of Syrah (45%), Carignan (40) and Grenache. Violets prominent in the aromas, nice acidity and “made for drinking now. A summer BBQ wine!”.

He then introduced one of his favourites, the Castellani Arbos 2013 from Tuscany, 100% Sangiovese. Very approachable, easy-drinking, a garden wine, soft and luscious and a “good representation of the area and the grape”. 

Kevin described the next one as “a blockbuster”. And the Pagos de Labarca AEX certainly lived up to it. Great aromas and fruit and a lot of character. Lots of oak after 18 months in it, too much for some, yet this Rioja was my overall favourite. Price is €22.99, on offer at 18.00.

On now to the Nugan Estate Alfredo Dry Grape Shiraz. Kevin admits to being a fan of apassimento (amarone style). This wine is made in that style, the partially dried grapes giving more flavour, more concentrated aromas. “Plenty of oak, full flavour, acidity, juiciness, long finish, good balance, high in alcohol but no heat.” Bring on the BBQ steak. €19.99, offer 15.00.

I gave that a 92 and the same number to the Aresti Family Collection, a blend of a selection of red varieties from the Chilean family. Kevin is a major fan: “This is as a good a structured a red wine as you can get. Equivalents will cost you €40.00. It is regularly featured in competition and the lowest score it has ever attained is 91 points.” This is priced at a more modest €25,00 and 20.00 on offer. Take note!

So what has Kevin, who started off as a 16 year old delivery boy in Galvins, in store for us in the near future. He is excited about a new Grenache, Syrah and Mourvedre blend: “This GSM is organic and is on the way. Should be on sale in September - can't wait for it!” It is by Fleur de Anon.

“The last few years, we have been beyond the comfort zone. We hope to continue that trend and bring the consumer with us.” He certainly gained a room full of converts on Wednesday evening.

* Most of the wines had two prices, the regular and the offer. SuperValu have a series of well-flagged offer periods regularly over the year. So, if you know your favourite is likely to be among them, then you won't have long to wait to stock up.

* Next Munster Wine & Dine event is the July 7th visit to Gubbeen, a premium event. Make sure you get your reservation in on time!
Kevin (SuperValu) and Beverley (L'Atitude)

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Superb Lakeside Dinner at Carrig House


Superb Lakeside Restaurant at Carrig House

Amuse Bouche
 If, as is said, location is everything, the Lakeside Restaurant at Carrig House near Killorglin, has it made. But, in a restaurant, food is all important and here too Lakeside is in a good place. Add location and that good food (not forgetting the impeccable service) and what more does a diner need. Good wine? You can count on that too. All organised by Frank and Mary who have been owners of this 1850’s house since 1996.


So book early (the restaurant is open to residents and non residents) and get one of those window tables, though you will be able to see the lovely Caragh Lake (it has its bad moods too) from most tables. 

Other nearby rooms are in play too as you begin your trip to the table. If it is cold or even cold-ish, an open fire is blazing as you sip an aperitif and study the menu in one of the ante-rooms. Here too, you’ll enjoy an amuse bouche and soon you are relaxed, ready to take the few steps to the dining room.

The long list of starters will almost certainly include their famous chowder and their Glenbeigh Shellfish Tasting. On our first visit (May 2017), I picked that Shell Fish combo: Steamed Cromane mussels, sage, cider, clotted cream, cockles tempura, Napa cabbage kimchi; shucked oyster, Prosecco granita. Well that fresh and chilly oyster was the star of the plate, no doubt, but the other, more humble shellfish, went down very well too. 

Meanwhile, CL was being royally entertained by her duo of Prawns: Poached prawn, watermelon, avocado purée, lime sorbet; crispy potato wrapped tiger prawn, physalis, and chilli relish. That lime sorbet was a terrific accompaniment and the crispy potato wrap another highlight.

She loves her rabbit and so once the Rabbit Loin with smoked bacon popped up, it was a cert for her. And a winner too, served with wilted spinach, Puck Fair Ale infused pear pearls (try saying that in a hurry after a few bottles of the local brew!),  Jerusalem artichoke, and bee pollen.
Rabbit

And I rarely skip a chance to indulge myself in Skeaghanore duck and this was another beauty. The full description: Skeaghanore Duck Breast, juniper spiced, blood orange, baby carrot, carrot and orange purée, meringue, lovage jus. 

And the wine? They have  quite a choice. And that’s before dipping into the Reserved Selection. Frank was host, a superb one I will add, and he helped us pick the Esk Valley Pinot Noir from New Zealand, one of quite a few wines from both old and new world vineyards, and a good one too.

The piano player wasn't on that particular evening but no need for music to put us in the mood for dessert. I spotted warm roast figs in one description and surrendered to the Warm Creamy Rice Pudding, a delicious and rich delight topped by those figs and served with a Port reduction and kataifi crisps.

The other dessert at the table was the Rhubarb Crumble Tartlet, spiced rhubarb jam, and frozen yoghurt, quite a combination and one that kept CL happy.

And the evening ended with another bonus, there being no need to go out at all. Just a stroll to one of the nearby lounges and a seat in the heat. Very Highly Recommended overall, not just the lazy luxurious finalé.


Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Festival Cork’s inaugural Dessert Festival!

Week of events planned across Cork for Festival Cork’s inaugural Dessert Festival!

Following on from the success of hugely popular Burger Festival and more recently the Whiskey Festival the team at Festival Cork are delighted to announce their latest event
“ Cork Dessert Festival” running from June 26th to July 2nd - a festival showcasing the finest confections that Cork has to offer.

Ernest Cantillon and Eimear McCarthy festival organisers made the announcement this week:
 “We are very fortunate to have an abundance of quality producers and food outlets in Cork. Following the huge success of our previous festivals and the overwhelming support from businesses and visitors alike it was an easy decision for us to launch our newest event Cork’s very own Dessert Festival”

Across the week a number of well known venues including Electric, Sober Lane and Cafe Velo will pull out all the stops to deliver tastings, workshops and events allowing businesses & producers to promote their dessert offerings in a fun and innovative manner.

“The festival promises to appeal to everyone from the  sweet toothed dessert enthusiast to the master confectioner.” Ernest said, “We hope to showcase some of the finest desserts and allow for a few surprises along the way.”

The Dessert Festival is the first of it’s kind in Cork and if the previous events hosted by Festival Cork are anything to go by it promises to be a real treat.

Stay connected with the festival through
Facebook @Festivalsincork,
Twitter: @Festival_Cork and

If you would like to get involved in the festival please email dessert@festivalcork.com  

Taste of the Week. Ballintubber Vodka and Blueberry Cheese From Cahill’s Farm

Taste of the Week
Ballintubber Vodka and Blueberry Cheese
From Cahill’s Farm


Cahill’s Farm are in County Limerick and they make a 100% pure and natural, full-flavoured cheese, handcrafted in the traditional Irish way, and made with only the freshest, wholesome, natural, ingredients. 

They are well known in the world of cheese and are regular award winners including at Blas, the British Cheese Awards and World Cheese Awards.


This particular cheese is basically their Cheddar, with the addition of Vodka and Blueberries. It is a marvellous combination of creaminess and flavour and our Taste of the Week.

Monday, May 22, 2017

Pinot Grigio, one of the most popular grapes

Pinot Gris, more widely known by its Italian name Pinot Grigio, is one of the most popular grapes around.
Giorgio (right) in Cork last year.
Quite often it doesn't have much flavour and is easy to drink and these wines are sometimes described as inoffensive, a kind of damning with faint praise. It's as if someone said your wife or husband is "an inoffensive little person, you'd hardly know he/she was there". Luckily, the two below have lots of character, character that you'll appreciate as you get to know them. You'll soon know you have a real wine in your glass. And nothing offensive about it at all.

* In a 2015 article in the Irish Times, their wine expert John Wilson said Pinot was the Genghis Khan of wine and went on to write about Pinot Grigio (one of its many offspring). Read the full article here.

Colutta Pinot Grigio Friuli Colli Orientali (DOC), 2015, 12.5%, €17.50 Wines Direct.

Colutta may well be a small operator but is present in Ireland, Czech Republic, Estonia, Russia, Vietnam, Singapore, Hong Kong, Australia, South Africa and, of course, United States and Italy. Giorgio Colutta took over the family vineyard in 1998 and The History of Modern Italian Wine credits him with being one of the influencers of the first decade of this century.

He is not organic; his emphasis, he told a group of us in Cork last year, is on being environmentally sustainable, it is easier to be organic in the south, he said. He uses mechanical control instead of herbicides, recycles rainwater and is self-sufficient with regard to energy consumption.

Modern Italian wine says “he used Pinot Grigio as his passe-partout to introduce the indigenous varieties”. These varieties include his amazing Schioppettino, which he showed in Cork.

Colour of the Pinot Grigio is straw yellow and there are fruit and floral elements in the bouquet. It is smooth and rich and full of flavour. Much more intense than your usual PG and no wonder Wines Direct regard it as “the best Pinot Grigio in Ireland”. A long finish adds to the pleasure. Very Highly Recommended.

The website tells us that the wine is left on lees until February to develop a better flavour and bouquet. It is not oaked and best served between 10 to 12 degrees.

Zenato Pinot Grigio della Venezia (IGT) 2015, 12.5%, €18.00 O’Donovan’s Off Licence

Zenato, well known for their reds, are on the fringes of Lake Garda and current wine-maker Alfredo Zenato heads the family’s drive to “produce affordable wines of exceptional quality”. And this is indeed an excellent expression of the grape, with more personality than most and a refreshing finish.

The colour is pale gold with green tints. A pleasant melange of citrus and peach in the aromas continues in the impressive palate, smooth and elegant right through to a persistent and grippy finish. A perfect wine for moules frites in the months ahead on the patio (finger crossed!). Highly Recommended.

Lovely as an aperitif and should go well with most of the lighter Italian and Italian style dishes. We tried it (didn't have that many options at the time) with salmon, risotto and pak choi and it worked very well.