Sunday, July 15, 2018

Dooks Fine Food. Fethard’s Medieval Walls. And a call to the Apple Farm.


Dooks Fine Food. Fethard’s Medieval Walls.
And a call to the Apple Farm.
Salmon and salads at Dooks in Fethard

My latest trip to Tipp saw me take a walk along the medieval area of Fethard, lunch in Dooks restaurant, and call to the Apple Farm, near Cahir, on the way home. 

People go to Fethard to mostly visit the Coolmore Stud and dine or drink or both in John McCarthy’s famous establishment on the Main Street but I did neither, holding them back for the next trip! McCarthy’s, by the way, is a busy spot. It is one of Ireland’s oldest unchanged pubs, is also a restaurant and, believe it or not, an undertakers. Be careful which menu you ask for.


No such problems at Dooks Fine Food which has a prime position at the bottom of the main street, alongside the Clashawley River, at the junction of the Clonmel and Urlingford roads and opposite a large car park. Richard Gleeson’s restaurant and deli is spacious and bright, lots of local food for you to enjoy inside, or on the seats outside and, of course, at home if you shop at the deli.

Chicken and salads at Dooks
Fethard, by the way, is hardly an hour from the east side of Cork city - you have the M8 motorway for the majority of the way and that leaves just about 16 kilometres on secondary roads.Take the Cashel exit and you’ll have no problem finding the little town. And no problem finding Dooks either.

Richard was preparing a large plateful of a colourful Mozzarella salad when we arrived. It was eye-catching and tempting and featured in our lunch, well at least one serving of it. Dooks had opened long before that of course as they do breakfast here, served from 7.30am. Quite a choice including a very interesting looking fry of Rosemary, orange and fennel sausage, oven roasted tomatoes, fried eggs and Dooks white yeast toast.
The walls of Fethard

But back to the lunch. My pick was the Roast salmon fillet, with horseradish cream and pickled shallot and that came with my choice of two salads: Roasted aubergine, balsamic reduction, toasted mixed seeds, feta and mint, and the second one of roasted carrots, toasted sunflower seeds, pickled shallots, Dooks ricotta and tarragon. Quite a plateful (for 13.50), full of good stuff, even those seeds a lovely feature.

It was the OBC (official blog chef) who got the delightful cherry tomato, Toonsbridge Mozzarella and basil salad. She also choose the Roasted aubergine and her meat was the Lemon, Garlic and Buttermilk marinated chicken supreme with rocket pesto, another plateful of well cooked produce, well presented and well dispatched.
North Gate in Fethard

We did have a look at the short but “well-formed” wine list, spotting some favourites there such as the Bodegas Menade Verdejo from Rueda and the Domaine Chaume Arnaud Vinsobres from the Rhone. But we stuck with the non-alcoholic, a refreshing Sparkling Elderflower by local producers Irish Hedgerow. With the sun beating down outside, we also skipped the coffee and were a little sorry for that omission when we spotted some delightful pastries as we paid at the counter. Next time!
Apple Farm
We had walked around the very impressive medieval remains, before lunch, following the long stretch of wall (parts dating from 1292) by the river and moving by the various gates, Water Gate, East Gate and, most impressively, North Gate, also the cluster of two castles and the old Holy Trinity Church (key available at O’Sullivan’s pharmacy).
The Fethard Town Hall (right)

Holy Trinity Church
Fethard
The Town Hall has had variations and alterations and various functions since its 16th century beginning and is now in use for tourist purposes. Here too you will find the Fethard Horse Country Experience and from here you may arrange a tour of Coolmore Stud. Check it all out here.  I’ll be doing just that the next time I’m in Fethard.

On the way back to Cork, we made a short detour from the M8 to the Apple Farm on the Clonmel road. And stocked up on jams, cider, and fruits, including some of the delicious juicy sweet cherries. It is a busy spot but the drought is taking its toll and plums, we heard, may not be as plentiful as last year when the harvest comes in.
Indeed, a day after our visit, owner Con Traas was tweeting: The last rain fell at our farm on 19/6, a mere 0.2mm drizzle. Since May 11th (2 months to the day) we have recorded 23.2mm total (about a weeks rain here in normal circumstances). We have exceeded the criteria for both absolute drought and partial drought.

I know the constant sun has been great this year but we could do with some rain now! Wonder what the weather was like in Fethard when those Norman builders were hard at it all those centuries ago.


Recent Tipp calls:


Not so recent:



Saturday, July 14, 2018

Amuse Bouche


She opened the top and the smell of bacon and warm bread billowed out. Her stomach growled.
‘It’s good,’ the man said. ‘I had one earlier. Eat.’
Andra knew she shouldn’t. He could have put anything in it. But the smell. And she was so hungry. She reached inside the bag, pulled out half a sandwich, took a bite.
‘Why don’t you sit down,’ he said. ‘Give me five minutes to explain.’
She perched on the edge of the bed, chewed, swallowed. ‘You’ve got till the end of this sandwich,’ she said. ‘Now talk.’

from Here and Gone by Haylen Beck (2017). Very Highly Recommended.

Thursday, July 12, 2018

Hard To Pick A Winner! Two Good Wines from Croatia (Istria) and France (Jurancon).


Pick A Winner! Two Good Wines from Croatia (Istria) and France (Jurancon). With France and Croatia meeting in Sunday's World Cup final, I thought I'd sneak in these two excellent wines. Hard to pick a winner! Enjoy the wines. And the match.

Matoševic Alba “Malvasia Istriana” 2016, 13%, €22.99 JJ O’Driscoll Cork, Wine Online

This wine, imported by Liberty, is Croatian and comes from the Istrian peninsula, the largest peninsula in the Adriatic Sea. The grape is Malvazija Istarka - easier to pronounce the version on the label (above). Malvasia  has probably been best described by Oz Clark when he said: “..the thing about Malvasia - it’s not so much a single grape as a whole family”. So you don’t get similar results.

There has been some ageing on fine lees but no oak and the winemaker, Ivica Matoševic, has been called “Croatia’s best winemaker” by no less than Steven Spurrier.

This has a quite light straw colour. It is well scented, white fruit and blossoms, and mineral notes too. Flavours are fresh and concentrated, mouthfeel is smooth (the time on lees has helped), and there is super acidity and a long minerally finish. The very good first impression is maintained and Highly Recommended is the verdict!


Domaine Laguilhon Jurancon sec (AP) 2016, 13%, €19.99 JJ O’Driscoll Cork, Wine Online

This Jurancon is a blend of Petit Manseng and Gros Manseng, 50% each. It has spent 9 months on lees “to enrich the palate”. The vineyards, in the foothills of the Pyrenees, are in Monein, and are “known for making richer styles of Jurancon’.

It is a pale yellow with green tints. Scents of white fruits (pears apples), floral notes also. Fresh fruit on the palate, citrus becoming prominent, vivacious acidity, lovely mouthful and a lip-smacking finish. Highly Recommended.

I noted the “sec” on the label. And that reminded me of a visit to the Dordogne. On arrival in Sarlat on our first night, we rushed down to the local Lidl (the only shop open) so stock up. I took charge of the wines and spotted a cardboard box full of Jurancon on the floor . From an earlier holiday in the Pays Basque, I knew this to be a lovely dry white so I grabbed one and put it in the trolley.

But we needn’t have rushed to Lidl as our host plied us with red wine in the gite and the Jurancon was left in the bag. Pulled it out the following day and looked at it. Saw that it was a deep yellow colour. Checked the back and saw the Moelleux word.

Not too impressed. I didn't like sweet wines then, only dry. Still, by this stage, we had plenty in the gîte and said we’d try it as an aperitif, as suggested on the bottle. Love at first taste. Aperitif and also dessert. Can't remember what we had in between. And if you like the Moelleux (don’t think I’ve ever seen one here though), you might like to try the delicious sweet wines from the area (which are regularly featured on restaurant lists in Ireland).

Wednesday, July 11, 2018

Sarabande's GSM. Where Syrah dances on a windy hill. And partners well with Grenache and Mourvedre.


Sarabande's GSM. Where Syrah dances on a windy hill
And partners well with Grenache and Mourvedre.
Isla and Paul, when I
met them in Cork

The Syrah for the wines below is trellised across the top of a windy hill in the Languedoc that was planted with the aid of dynamite. The earth is completely made up of classic blue/grey schist with practically no topsoil. Therefore the rock had to be blown up so that the vines could find some dirt where they could anchor.

Despite these kind of local obstacles, there are more vines growing in the Languedoc than in Australia. Paul Gordon should know. He is Australian and he and his Carlow wife Isla work (and I mean work) the Sarabande vineyard, about twenty minutes drive from Beziers. The rugby-loving couple’s vineyard is called Domaine la Sarabande. 

They met in New Zealand in 2003 and then spent five or six years in wine in Marlborough. In 2009, they settled in France and raised some €40,000 from relations and friends in return for wine in the future. Isla: “There is just the two of us. We are very small; everything is gently worked and done by hand..” 

With so many vineyards in the area, there is much competition locally and so the pair export most of their wine, mainly to English speaking countries. And indeed, those same countries (Ireland, US, Australia and New Zealand) are all happy with the Sarabande screw caps but not so the French. 

Today, working with some unique terroirs and old vineyards treated organically and by hand, the Gordons, according to their importers O’Brien’s, “produce some stunningly good old world wines but with a modern Oz twang”.

Sarabande “Les Rabasses” Faugeres (AP) 2014, 14.5%, €21.45 (got it for 17.16 in sale) O’Brien’s

The aromas of the Faugeres are dominated by black cherries and plums as is this blend. The Syrah, on its exploded base, is trellised across the top of the windy hill. Unlike the Syrah (the dominant grape - about 50% - in this GSM blend), the Grenache and Mourvedre are grown as bush vines. They sit on a south facing slope which is well drained. This is particularly important for the notoriously late ripening Mourvedre variety.

And so it is from this hilltop vineyard that this Les Rabasses comes with its hard-won flavours. Keep it, they say, or drink it now with “equally flavoursome food”. Suggested are: Cold meats/pâtés, Duck, Hard mature cheese, Roast lamb/beef, Slow cooked shoulder of lamb.

Colour is a mid to dark ruby. There are strong aromas of dark fruit, spicy. Fruit forward and deep, power and finesse in equal measure, that spice too, excellent acidity as well; the finish is pure, long and also balanced. Very Highly Recommended.

Sarabande “Misterioso” Faugeres (AP) 2014, 14.5%, 16.95 (13.56 in sale) O’Brien’s 

Sarabande tell us that “bright cherry flavours are the backbone of this cheeky little number…that will invite itself.” Indeed, it is mainly cherry all the way from the colour to the aromas to the dry finalé. A slash of spice too, fine tannins and well balanced acidity add to the easy-drinking enjoyment. Highly Recommended.

The blend this time is mostly Grenache and Syrah with “a small amount of Mourvedre.” Only the best quality fruit survives the sorting stage.

Tuesday, July 10, 2018

Taste of the Week. Harriet’s Lemon Curd at Roughty Fruit


Taste of the Week
Harriet’s Lemon Curd at Roughty Fruit

A good curd is hard to find. 

So when we got one, we made it Taste of the Week. Produced by young Harriet Kelleher from Macroom, you can get it at the Roughty Fruit in the English Market. Ingredients: butter, free-range eggs, sugar, lemons and, wait for it, passionfruit!

There are many ways of using this tarty mix, especially in baking, tarts and tartlets and so on. Over 100 of them here from BBC Food https://www.bbc.com/food/lemon_curd .

We noticed our local Mayfield café (and a good one it is), the Old Bank, using it with their pancakes so I tasked the OBC (the official blog chef) and she responded with a winner as usual! 


Monday, July 9, 2018

Kitchen at the Galway City Museum. Serves A Cracking Local Plate.


Kitchen at the Galway City Museum.
Serves A Cracking Local Plate.

So here we are at lunch-time down by the Spanish Arch in Galway. We have a string of recommendations including Ard Bia at Nimmo’s. We see the last shaded outside seats taken as we stroll through the Spanish Arch. I’m sure it’s super-cool on the inside of this ancient building as well and am inclined to try it.

Until we spot the Kitchen at the Museum, just opposite Ard Bia. This has been firmly recommended by our guesthouse host just 30 minutes earlier so we head the few metres to the Kitchen.

Here, the outside seats are in full glaring sun, so we move inside, still all bright and light here, and a lovely welcome from a server from Rochestown. Amazing, I’ve been in Galway for 30 minutes and two of the first three people I meet are from Cork.

The mission statement at Kitchen declares their intention to be a stand-out dining venue while supporting local producers. They score very highly on both counts and we very much enjoy their delicious colourful healthy food.

They serve lunch from 12 noon, under two main headings: Sambos and Get Fresh. There’s a Cuban Ham and cheese sambo, a Bacon Bagel, a Loaded Raw Veggie Wrap and more. I pick the Zesty Lemon Chicken Wrap (poached chicken, preserved lemon yogurt, red peppers, grated carrot and baby leaves, all for eight and half euro). This is terrific, packed with colour and flavour and crunch.

And, at the other side of the table and from the other side of the menu, the high maintenance OBC (official blog chef) is powering up for the long day ahead - just in case she mightn’t get enough in Aniar later on - with her Warm Cajun Chicken Salad ( BBQ chicken breast, paprika fried potato, charred sweetcorn, tomato and red onion salsa, coriander, jalapeños, sour cream, grated carrots, and slaw, for €12.50). Everything you need in a salad!

They have a nice little selection of drinks here, including beers from Galway Bay and Galway Hooker and also Cooney’s Cider. But we are being good and get a very good one: a litre of Elderflower Fizz (including Prosecco, of course), a big pitcher of refreshing cool deliciousness for under four euro, probably the best value drink we got during our two days in Galway, day or night!

During the meal we had time for an exchange or two with  our server, swapping info on eating out in Cork and Galway, and soon two very happy customers were on our way, out to the sun. We would be back to visit the adjoining museum (hope to have a post on that in the near future).

Also on this Galway trip:

Galway City Museum
Spanish Parade
Galway
Phone: +353 (0) 91 534 883






Sunday, July 8, 2018

At The Square Table, Sisters From The West Make The Best of Local


At The Square Table, Sisters From The West Make The Best of Local


We are in a small restaurant in Blarney. Behind me, the front of house person is explaining the dishes to a table of visitors. The info is precise, full of detail and confidently given with clarity, enthusiasm and no little humour.

This is Tricia Cronin in action. Tricia and her twin sister Chef Martina  (left) are the team, a formidable straight-talking duo, at The Square Table - the 35 seater sits on the village’s ancient square - and they serve up lots of good things here. And another good thing - they don’t do bullshit! What you see is what you get.


egg, mushroom

After a formative spell in Cork with Dubliner Ciaran Scully, teacher and chef, Martina headed for the capital where her culinary education continued under top chefs Ross Lewis and Graham Neville. One of the things she learned along the way and which she and Tricia implement at the Square Table is to use local as much a possible. “This way we meet and got to know the local producers.”

At the launch of a local festival earlier this year I heard Tricia declare: “I enjoy engaging with the customers on local produce and local producers. But you do need to know your stuff. There’s a lot of homework to be done, especially with new dishes.” Here’s a woman, a pair of them, who talk the talk and walk the walk.

black pudding, apple purée


We’ve walked in to try the Early Bird, available from 6-9pm Wednesday & Thursday; 6-7pm on Friday & Saturday: 2-courses €25.50, 3-courses €29.50. By the way, this is no skinny early bird - you’ll get good quality and quantity here! The Cronin sisters grew up in the country and food was a key part of the hard-working daily life.

So let us take a look at the menu for this particular Wednesday evening. We are in the middle of a heatwave, so the soup is relegated to the also rans! Record temperatures or no, I rarely turn down the chance to eat Ballyhoura mushrooms so I go for the Crispy Egg and Ballyhoura Mushrooms with Hollandaise. Yumami!

Cleaned the plate as did OBC (the official blog chef) whose pick was the Jack McCarthy’s Black Pudding and Puff Pastry Roll, house piccalilli, and apple purée. An excellent combination and a generous helping of the purée to help it on its delicious way. 
Hake

And that generosity is also exemplified when we are served three gorgeous side dishes with our mains: carrot and kale, a potato mash, and a delightful turnip and mustard dish (that drew compliments galore from the tourist table behind).

I had noticed my mains on their Twitter feed: West Cork roast chicken, buttered leeks, cauliflower purée and Coolea Cheese (from the sisters’ home area). Cooked to perfection, served at the perfect temperature and well presented, a delight to dispatch. The best of Irish given an accomplished touch of the continental.

Chicken

And OBC, a bit of a Hake connoisseur, was also well satisfied with O’Connell’s Pan-fried hake, pea purée, McCarthy’s crispy bacon and organic sugar snaps. Great colour, great flavours and texture. And then those sides!

They offered us a choice of three tempting desserts but we were rather full.

And where do the Cronins get their good things? Well if you go there, and you should, just ask and Tricia will tell you. You can also look it up on the back page of the menu, a long back page but here’s a sample of suppliers: Hegarty’s of Whitechurch for cheese (six other suppliers), Tom O’Brien also Whitechurch for eggs, Kilbrack and Anna Belle farms for vegetables and salads, meat from Michael Twomey (their mother’s butcher) and more, smoked salmon from Old Mill Bank and crab from Liscannor, and further afield there’s yogurts from Velvet Cloud and ice-cream from Featherbed Farm. A tasty journey through the best of Ireland’s producers.

5, The Square,
Blarney,
Co. Cork
021 4382825