Saturday, February 25, 2017

Amuse Bouche

Unsurprisingly, Madame was utterly baffled by my attentions. But what a marvellous woman! She taught me everything I know. In the kitchen.

She aroused my palate if nothing else. Ireland in those days was a gastronomic wilderness. Parsley sauce was considered the height of sophistication. Here, I learned that boiling was not the only way to treat a vegetable; that pastry was an artist’s medium; that meat could be smoked, cured, grilled and braised; that herbs and spices added flavour; and that garlic existed.


from Unravelling Oliver by Liz Nugent (2014). Highly Recommended.

Thursday, February 23, 2017

There are cheesecakes. And there are Charly’s Cheesecakes

There are cheesecakes. And there are Charly’s Cheesecakes

As patrons of the start-up stall in the English Market have been delightfully discovering over recent weeks, there is a new and exciting level in the world of cheesecakes and Charly’s heavenly creations are top of the pyramid. At an different level entirely.

And who is Charly? Well she is the daughter of Dubliner Derek Gilsenan. Derek is a chef and a few years ago, on his days off, he and Charly embarked on cooking and baking fun. Together they started making cookies, ice-cream, whatever Charly felt like on the day.
Starting another day in the English Market
The father and daughter were doing well and the praise came in after their first ever cake sale at Charly's school in Waterford, where the family live. Derek, not yet a converted cheesecake lover, felt he and Charly were on to something good.

He went all to to get proper gear and the rewards followed when Charly's Cheesecakes   made an amazing debut at Winterval, Waterford’s winter festival.

Different class!
And so they progressed and now this is Derek's only job. He is at it full-time and describes this as a make or break year. The big operators have taken notice but Derek is not about to reduce the superb quality of his products.

“I'd rather have four good markets and make a living by sticking to my guns. I enjoy what I do. Stalls like this one in the marvellous English Market are a great boost to me and other start-ups. It gives us a lift and I am really looking forward to taking up a stall at the Saturday Coal Quay Market in Cornmarket Street when I finish here on the 11th of March.”

 Like many other food producers, Derek has noticed a huge demand for gluten free, particularly during the Glow Festival in Cork. And the good news is that many of his cakes are gluten free with anything up to 14 different flavours available GF, including the likes of Terry's chocolate, Belgian white chocolate and various fruits (passionfruit, strawberry, raspberry and more).

And he is passionate about what he uses in the business. All his packaging, comes from DOWN2EARTH MATERIALS  at Forge Hill (and is compostable). And the packaging is top notch, that clear dome superbly displaying the goodies inside! And those goodies contain no gelatine. “No cakes need it, it is sinful to use it in cakes.”

“I will never run out of flavours.” If you check the list on his Facebook page, you'd think there are not too many more out there. But even that list is not complete and he promises many more. “Basically, if you give me a tin of roses I will reproduce each flavour in individual portion sizes.” 

Only top quality ingredients are used in Charly’s. The high quality chocolate comes from Belgium and he counts Muldoon's of Waterford (makers of the award winning whiskey liqueur) and Malone’s Fruit Farm of Carlow among his suppliers. 

By the way, all those fruit garnishes are hand-cut and mounted by the man himself. Oh, he still gets help from Charly herself. “She started it and she's sticking with it!” By the way, he is looking for a supplier of a soft cheese, cows or goats!

 This business started out as  a hobby a few years back and began getting serious about five years ago. You can find the cheesecakes in the Saturday market in Waterford, the Thursday market in Kilkenny and soon in the Saturday Coal Quay Market in Cork.

The quality and the passion have taken Charly's Cheesecakes a long way. They are totally different, “on a different level” as he says himself. Go taste one for yourself! And that's easily done, as he usually has a tray of little tasters available.



Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Purple Grape, Purple Grace

Purple Grape, Purple Grace
Superb Bergerac Blend

Caro Feely is one of the speakers at the 2017 Ballymaloe LitFest in May. At noon, on the 21st, she will engage in conversation with renowned wine-writer Tomás Clancy, in a presentation entitled “Glass Half Full - The Ups and Downs of Vineyard Life”. See LitFest.ie for tickets (€16.00). Should be a very interesting hour! Below we look at one of her interesting wines. 

Terroir Feely, Grâce 2012, Vin de France, 14%, €25.50 Mary Pawle Wines



Saussignac, well known for its dessert wines, is an area near Bergerac, where Sean and Caro Feely operate, maybe not quite within the rules of the appellation, hence the Vin de France classification for this organic red wine, a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon (60%) and Merlot (40%).


Operating on the edge can be a gamble. “We hold our nerve and wait to hand-pick the grapes for this wine with optimal ripeness. Our patience is rewarded with a rich, elegant and mineral wine, the grace of nature. A living wine, rich and fresh, that offers great depth of dark fruit, a hint of orange peel, spice and mint.” No sulphites have been added to this Very Highly Recommended 2012 edition, of which just 2,650 bottles were produced.

Grace has a purple colour with aromas of dark fruit (mainly plum), mint notes too. It is indeed rich and fresh, and dry, tannins fine-grained and persistent, some spice here too. And yes, that terrific depth of fruit but with a superb balance and then a long and satisfying finalé. A pleasure to drink and Very Highly Recommended.

For a earlier review of La Source, another Feely blend of Cabernet and Merlot but in reverse proportions, check here


Ferraton Les Pichères, Crozes-Hermitage (AC) 2009, 12.5%, €25.75 Mary Pawle Wines

This 100% Syrah is made from organically grown grapes on limestone sub-soil with, on the surface, large pebbles from the River Isère. It spends 8-10 months in barrel, depending on the vintage. Watch out too for the Ferraton Le Reverdy.

The Pichères is a deep ruby, a clean purple on bottom of the cork. There is a complex mix of aromas, including black and red fruits. Spice and pepper are prominent on the palate. It is medium to full bodied, fruity and so well balanced with an excellent finish. A well rounded serene Syrah, impressive overall and Very Highly Recommended.

Did you know, that in winemaking, rainfall is a big factor in the difference between the Northern Rhone where its hits 923mm per annum and the Southern where the average is 677mm? See World Atlas of Wine for more details.

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Taste of the Week. Gubbeen Smoked Pork Ribs

Taste of the Week
Gubbeen Smoked Pork Ribs

Fingal Ferguson of Gubbeen Somekouse has become a well respected smoked meat producer; he has over 50 products and a fascination that grows each year with the arts and science of charcuterie. Here, you’ll find superb chorizo and salamis, smoked bacon and more, even that famous cheese is smoked.

Fifty products and growing. One of the latest, Gubbeen Smoked Pork Ribs, is truly mouth-watering and our Taste of the Week. Like all his products, this comes from quality ingredients to which time and care have been added. The result is a “marriage of traditional methods and modern flavours”.

This latest product, I got mine at Mahon Point Farmers Market, means you can have a barbecue anytime you like. The BBQ sauce ingredients include pimento, olive oil, harissa, garlic, herbs and spices and it all adds up to one of most flavoursome meals imaginable. It is ready to eat but we did heat ours up a bit and tucked in. The succulent meat more or less fell away from the bones but using your fingers and teeth (the traditional way) adds to the primal pleasure. Oohs and aahs all the way! And yes, the odd grunt too.

Gubbeen Farmhouse Products, Ltd.,
Gubbeen House,
Schull, Co. Cork.
Ireland.

Cheese Telephone: 
00 353 (0)28 28231
Smokehouse Telephone: 
00 353 (0)28 27824

Monday, February 20, 2017

Jacobs on the Mall. Catching the Early Bird

Jacobs on the Mall
Catching the Early Bird


 An Early Bird was required last Friday so I checked a few websites and it was the one in Jacobs on the Mall that had most appeal. We got into the lovely old building about 5.30pm, thirty minutes after opening, and found that the place was filling up rapidly. Word of the Early Bird had obviously spread and we soon found that the promise was indeed amply fulfilled.

Basically, you get three courses for €25.00. And Head Chef Trish Lewis gives you three or four or more choices for each course. There is a good wine choice here too, lots of different wines form different parts of the world. Good to see a few Irish beers featured and also highlighted were Blackwater Gin and Kalak Vodka.

 There were three starters plus Soup of the Day. My Pick was the Smoked haddock paté, with lime gel, pickled cucumber and crostini. Very enjoyable indeed, the lime a nice touch. And CL’s Crispy chickpea fritters with pickled cucumber, and beetroot hummus, was another excellent opener, a tasty mix of colours, textures and flavours.

Chef Trish provided at least six choices for the mains including steak (with a hefty supplement). We could have had a Beef-burger, Fish and Chips, or a Blackened Chicken bruschetta.
I opted for the Pan fried cod with a creamy pearl barley, samphire and chorizo. I’m a fan of all these elements and I enjoyed every little bit of the dish which was cooked to perfection and also well presented.

Our other mains was Cuban style pork, with mint, avocado, orange, balsamic vinegar and rustic potatoes, another well cooked plateful, another happy customer.

There was agreement on the dessert as we both ordered the Raspberry and lemon curd slice with Chantilly cream, a nice little finish to an excellent Early Bird that is available Monday to Saturday from 5.00 to 6.15pm.

It is a gorgeous venue, one of the few indoor places where you might find a leaf in your wine, rather than the fly in your soup. There is a lot of foliage overhead here! Service is excellent here, from the friendly welcome to the contact at the table right through to the farewell and help with getting the coat on. Well worth a try.



Jacobs on the Mall
30a South Mall
Cork
Tel: (021) 425 1530
Message/Facebook: @jacobsonthemallrestaurant
Twitter: @JacobsOnTheMall 
Hours: Mon-Sat 5.00pm to 10.00pm. Closed Sun

Sunday, February 19, 2017

Barnabrow’s Gourmet Evening Exceeds Expectations

Barnabrow’s Gourmet Evening Exceeds Expectations
Exceptional Wine and Food Pairings
Calm, before the gourmet storm
Fine food, paired so well with gorgeous wines by ENO, featured in Barnabrow House last Saturday night as owner Geraldine Kidd continued to celebrate 20 years in business in the lovingly-restored manor house and 30-acre estate which dates back to the 17th century. The gourmet event was held in the majestic, medieval-style banqueting hall, with its gothic windows, a splendid room that sets a grand, yet relaxed tone.

Chef Stuart Bowes, who came to the East Cork venue some five years ago with an impressive pedigree - he once cooked for 2,000 people at the Sydney Opera House - came in for praise from the owner: “He made us pull our socks up!”

Stuart  thanked everyone for coming. “It was quickly booked up. We have the best ingredients in the planet around here and my ethos is to keep it simple.” He pointed to the Périgord truffles, the Kerry venison and the blood orange from Sicily as probable highlights.

Donie O’Brien of Eno Wines had carefully selected wines to match the dishes and we enjoyed an organic Cava, Pares Balta Cava NV with the opening soup: Soupe de Poisson, Gruyere and Rouille. The Rouille sauce is most often used in the cuisine of Provence, most often with bouillabaisse and indeed the lovely soup had strong echoes of the southern French fish soup.

Ballotine

We had already been welcomed into the beautifully decorated venue, where Barnabrow hold their wedding feats, with a glass of the Cava. Donie congratulated Barnabrow and promised a real wine treat and he was fully justified in doing so. Most of ENO wines come from small producers and many are organic.

And, indeed, the next wine was the star of his selection, the next match a highlight of the evening. Stuart’s Ballotine of Organic Chicken and Ham Hock, Hazelnut, Pain d’Épices was paired with J. Lohr Riverstone Chardonnay 2015 from California. 

The producer is a “real perfectionist”. The wine has been fermented and raised in oak yet Mr Lohr, a former NASA employee, has judged it all very finely indeed. No wonder, Ashford Castle are about to include it and its amazing aromas, flavours and texture, on their list.

Truffles
Speaking of aromas, next up was the Winter Black Périgord Truffle Risotto. Another outstanding and superbly executed dish from the Bowes kitchen. No oak used in the production of the matching wine, a light and fresh Pinot Noir from the Auvergne. A lovely wine with spice, fruit and finish but the Truffle dish was the star of this round.

That was followed by the main event, the Wild Venison, Roast celeriac, Savoy Cabbage, Blackberry. A simple dish but every element played a part. The Venison was perfect, I loved the cabbage and the blackberry was a great idea.


Venison

And ENO came up with another terrific match: Baron de Ley Rioja Reserva 2012, very smooth and rounded, opulent and rich, very much the complete wine. Decanter Magazine declared the 2010 version “best in Spain”.

And before I forget, the service here was intuitive and unobtrusive, efficient and friendly. And continuing in a sweet vein, we next enjoyed a sweet and rich cheese course: Truffled Brie de Meaux, honey, Poppy Seed Dorrito. Just like every other course, the quantity was just spot-on, the quality never in doubt.


Truffled Brie de Meaux

And we also had a rich and sweet wine: Quinta Seara d’Ordens LBV Port 2007. So much sweetness in one drop, one little sip was enough each time. What a match. Perfect!

And dessert saw those oranges take to the stage, or at least to the table, in an eye-catching palate-pleasing Blood Orange Trifle. Superb. And still time to finish off with a selection of Petit Fours and tea or coffee.

Blood Orange Trifle

Time to rest!


The carefully designed menu and the matching wines made it an evening to remember and impressed the many guests, some here to check Barnabrow as a possible wedding venue, others (based on past experiences) back to enjoy .

Geraldine Kidd’s enterprise is a superb location for weddings (the majestic, medieval-style banqueting hall, with its gothic windows, sets a grand, yet relaxed tone), for corporate events, for celebrations of all kinds (birthday parties, christenings, naming ceremonies, and Christmas parties) and, don't forget, for Sunday lunch. Check it all out here 

Saturday, February 18, 2017

Amuse Bouche

Calcio ( calcio storico Florence )
‘There was this fantastic thing a writer called Archie McGregor did in the 1980s…. It was called “Bruno Glanvilla writes”, and it was very much a skit of Glanville boasting, “I was in Italy last week, in bella Italia, and I was with Graham Souness, and…. oh, what a handsome man he is.” Glanville was showing off,’ ….’It was all about the fine meal he enjoyed, and the wine he drank, and the people he met.”
In a word, culture. And by the 1970s, the English football fan had set about trashing if not the citadels of European culture, then at least the idea of them.


from And the Sun Shines Now (How Hillsborough and the Premier League Changed Britain) by Adrian Tempany (2016). Very Highly Recommended.