Monday, June 25, 2018

Three Whites. Each Highly Recommended.


Beck Weissburgunder Burgenland (Austria) 2016, 12.5%, €18.95 64 Wine Dublin, Bradley’s of Cork, Greenman Dublin, Le Caveau Kilkenny

This Weissburgunder (Pinot Blanc), from eastern Austria, first came to my attention at the Chef Sessions in ORSO in March last and I noted it for an extended trial! It is biodynamic and new to the Le Caveau portfolio. The fruit is hand-picked and the wine spends six months on its lees in oak casks.

It is a pale gold, with lots of micro-bubbles clinging to the glass. There are aromas of white fruit, including pear. A lively tingly introduction to the palate with lots of white fruit flavours following on, full-bodied with a pleasant refreshing acidity and a long finish. Fragrant and refreshing, this is a versatile food wine and Highly Recommended. More to Austrian whites than Gru-Vee!



Wohlmuth Kitzecker Riesling 2016, Sausal Südsteiermark Austria, 12.5%, €21.65 Karwig Wines

The fruit comes the village of Kitzeck where slopes of up to 80% makes it one of Europe’s steepest vineyards.

Light gold is the colour and you’ll note green tints. Aromas are of peach and melon. On the palate it is juicy and fruity, outstanding fresh acidity, it is long, minerally and citrusy, makes your lips pucker. With peach, apricot and citrus elements in the mix, it makes for a lovely aperitif. Great too with seafood, particularly with prawns. Highly Recommended
.


Luigi Righetti Bianco di Custoza (DOC) 2016, 12%, €13.95 Karwig Wines.

This blend, one hundred per cent of the Soave grapes according to the Karwig website, has a light straw colour. It is moderately aromatic, fruity with a dry and delicate flavour, a good mouthfeel and a decent finish. Excellent as an aperitif or with fish or shellfish. Easy drinking and Highly Recommended.

The Bianco di Custoza is a white DOC wine from the Veneto region of north-eastern Italy. Nine grape varieties are allowed, but generally just three are used, the best known of which is Garganega, the Soave grape.

Located in the heart of Valpolicella Classico, the Luigi Righetti estate is a small to mid-sized, family run winery. Since 1909, when Angelo Righetti first earned a reputation as an outstanding winemaker, the family has focused on producing quality wines offering extremely good value as is the case here.


New Zealand 2018 Vintage Latest:
Vintage 2018 benefits from warm summer
A warm summer benefited New Zealand’s winegrowing regions, with 419,000 tonnes of grapes harvested during Vintage 2018.
This is up 6% on the 2017 tonnage, but is still lower than initially anticipated in a season marked by a very early start to harvesting.
New Zealand Winegrowers CEO Philip Gregan says many wineries had been hoping for an even larger vintage, given 2017’s small harvest.
“However, we now expect export growth in the year ahead will be modest. It will be up to wineries to manage any product shortages from the vintage.”
In addition to prompting an early harvest, the warm summer produced fruit with good ripeness levels.
A highlight from Vintage 2018 is the increased production of red wines.
“Production of both Pinot Noir and Merlot has lifted more than 20% on last year, which will be welcomed by both wineries and consumers. These varieties were down sharply in 2017 and it is very positive to see a return to more normal production levels this year,” Mr Gregan says.
New Zealand Winegrowers is confident Vintage 2018 wines will add to New Zealand’s reputation as a premium producer of cool climate wines.
“Every vintage is different and ultimately the final test is the quality delivered in the bottle to consumers. We are certain that consumers will enjoy the benefits of the warm summer when they get to taste the wines from Vintage 2018,” Mr Gregan says.

New Zealand wine exports are currently valued at $1.71 billion, up 3% in the past year. Wine is New Zealand’s fifth largest export good.

Sunday, June 24, 2018

Larkin's Brewery of Wicklow. A Family That Brews Together.


Larkin's Brewery of Wicklow.
A Family That Brews Together.
Unusually, for a craft brewery, the main focus in Larkin’s County Wicklow Brewery is on lager. Maybe it is a Wicklow thing as Mont, known for their lager, are also based here.

Just a few years ago, the Larkin family beer enterprise was confined to the domestic kitchen. Decision to “go” in 2015 was backed by the whole family and a year later equipment was ordered. Great feedback at the 2017 Irish Craft Beer Festival saw the Larkins schedule a full launch early this year and now, with a trio of lagers front and centre, they have arrived.


Larkin’s Pale Ale 4.5%, 440ml can €3.75 Bradley’s Cork

Essentially this is a pretty serious Pale Ale, refreshing, with low to moderate bitterness. Colour is a mid-gold (hazy), white head is long-lasting. Might be of moderate bitterness but the twice used Lemondrop and Cascade hops make their presence felt as this well-made beer heads to a dry finish.

Larkin’s Märzen Lager 5.7%, 500ml bottle €3.50 Bradley’s

The Märzen style originated in Bavaria. It was brewed in March (hence the name) and served during the Octoberfest. “Dark brown, full bodied and bitter” is the description of the original.

Larkin’s is pretty close to that: malty, good flavour and a clean finish. Colour may not be quite a dark brown, closer to amber. The off-white head, thin to begin with, lasts longer than expected but that’s a minor detail. This is a highly enjoyable lager and well worth a try.

Larkin’s Doppelbock Lager 7.6%, 500ml bottle €3.95 Bradley’s

“There’s eating and drinking it” is a Cork saying and it could well be applied to this strong lager. Traditional bock is a sweet, relatively strong beer and the name doppelbock indicates even more strength. It was originally brewed by monks for nourishment during Lenten fasting. Cute boys, those German monks.

The Larkin’s Doppelbock has a dark brown colour with a coffee-cream head that vanishes fairly quickly. It is aromatic, with concentrated sweetish flavours including caramel that disguise the high alcohol. Strong yes but fairly well balanced and with a satisfactory finalé. The Märzen is the easier drink though but if you are fasting, then that Doppelbock’s your only man.

Larkin’s Baltic Porter 7.0%, 500ml bottle €3.95 Bradley’s


Baltic Porter comes originally from the Baltic states, usually stronger and sweeter. By the way, a lager yeast is normally used and indeed, you read “lager” on the Larkin’s label.

It has, as you'd expect, a black body; also a coffee coloured head that doesn't last long. Toasted coffee and caramel type flavours, a touch of that sweetness too; flavours are concentrated and the finish is soft and pleasant. A rather nice porter but not that easy drinking. Might use it as a warm-up for a stout session!

* They also produce a Helles lager but I didn't get my hands on one - yet!

Larkin's Brewing Company
Unit 2, Renmore Business Park, Kilcoole, Co. Wicklow.
info@larkinsbrewing.com
+353 (1) 281 1640


Saturday, June 23, 2018

Amuse Bouche

So Johel stressed over the menu: huge platters of fried plantains,
Scotch Bonnett Chili by Temaciejewski

mountains of griot marinated in lemons and Scotch bonnet chilis; beef tassot made the way his grandmother liked it, soaked in orange juice for a night, then boiled and fried; and tray after tray of deep-fried akra. Everything was drenched in piklis, so spicy the waiters carrying the platters out from the kitchen kept rubbing their eyes with the back of their tuxedoed sleeves. Not to mention the drinks: vats of Prestige in big steel buckets, and on every table a bottle of five-star Barbancourt and pitchers of cocktails made from Haitian grapefruit, available at a Haitian greengrocer in Flatbush.


from Peacekeeping by Mischa Berlinski (2016). Very Highly Recommended.


Thursday, June 21, 2018

Summertime Lift-off at Cask. Cocktail Champ. Music. Food. New Elevator


Summertime Lift-off at Cask
Cocktail Champ. Music. Food. New Elevator
A cup of punch to welcome the sun.

The start of the summer season in Cork’s leading cocktail venue, Cask, was well celebrated in the McCurtain Street venue on Wednesday evening. Guests galore were on hand for the evening. And the sun came too!


Owner Richard Evans and Arthur Little made us all feel welcome. And the biggest welcome, well the biggest applause, was reserved for Carl d’Alton who, earlier the week, was crowned the Irish World Class Cocktail Champion in Dublin, taking over the title from Andy Ferreira, his mentor in Cask.

Cask, as you probably know, is situated across the lane-cum-courtyard from its big sister Greene's and their hotel Isaac’s. Arthur is MD of the busy complex and had another reason to be happy on Wednesday as their new outdoor lift was unveiled for the first time. The glass walled structure has quite a low visual impact on the old architecture of the place and I’m told there is a quite a view from the top.

With the short speeches over, it was time for Karen Underwood (right) and her talented backing musicians and they played long and played well as the food came in waves. No shortage of drinks either. Cask were launching their summertime menu under both headings and again renewed their commitment to local and seasonal. 

Sustainability in bars is about a lot more than paper straws and using up your manky lime wedges. It’s about creating an environment where every possible product you use is produced close to you, or at least the majority of them. 

The reality is though in a world where everyone claims to have ‘small batch, artisan’ products, you still need to be super fussy about what you use. In Cask, if we’re putting an ingredient in our cocktail, it’s because we believe it’s the best possible option to make the drink absolutely banging!”

So if you want Beet, Black & Blue, then this is the cocktail for you: Jameson Black Barrel, Beetroot, Ardbeg, PX sherry, and Orange bitters.

Fancy the Ball ’N Chain? The mix here is Beefeater, Elderflower Pisco, Pine-berry Shrub, Apple water, and Poachers Wild Tonic. Driving tonight? Check out the Fine & Dandy made with Dandelion Jam, Spent Citrus Sherbet, Lilac Soda, Raspberry and Elderflower Sorbet.
A bao, with chicken

Like the titles? I do. Here are a few more: The Whole Shebang, The Udder Wan, Made in Mayfield, Cheeky Sheri’s Cherry Sherry. No shortage of other drinks of course, including sparkling wines, and quite a selection of whites and reds (including a few organic) and all available by the glass. 

And Cask has been getting excellent notices about its food offering, under the wing of top chef Bryan McCarthy (the head chef at Green’s). Start with the Light. About six choices including House Marinated Olives with garlic parsley and also Guacamole, sour cream, Tomato salsa, Lime, Mexican crackers.
World Class Carl

Feel like something from the More. A Tuna Ceviche sounds good to me. Maybe the Salad Caprese? And then there’s the Ballyhoura Mushrooms on toast. And more.

Speaking of more, there’s even A Little More, everything from crispy aromatic Peking Duck to Philly Steak Sandwich to Nordic Bread Pizza. And there are cheese and charcuterie boards to share. Even desserts.

No shortage of choices in Cask. And there is another one. You may dine and drink inside in the bar or outside in the courtyard under the waterfall. And you can be sure that the outside space will be even more popular in summertime. Have a happy one!

Wednesday, June 20, 2018

Two From Fleurie. Beaujolais Gems From the Granite.


Two From Fleurie
Beaujolais Gems From the Granite
Granite from Beaujolais
Fleurie, like all ten crus, is in the north east of the Beaujolais region. Here the Gamay grape, thrives on the granite soil, the wines always refreshing and never short of acidity. Fleurie, with delicious cherry scents, flavours of red berries, is an elegant and excellent partner for a wide variety of lighter dishes.

Did you know that the Gamay grape is an exile in Beaujolais? In 1395, it was outlawed by Royal decree as being “a very bad and disloyal plant”. Sixty years later another edict was issued against it. And so it was pushed out of Burgundy and south into neighbouring Beaujolais where it has thrived on the granite based soils.

In Beaujolais generally, there is a continuity of quality, almost a guarantee of it, if you move up a step or two to the ten crus and the Villages that ring them.

In 2016, May and June, it wasn't at all pleasant in Beaujolais. In the area where the crus are situated, the hail came with a vengeance and, according to Decanter, Beaujolais authorities reported some plots in the appellations of Chiroubles and Fleurie were completely destroyed. But that fickle spring was followed by a splendid summer and a friendly autumn and the result, with less fruit, was a very fine vintage indeed.

By the way, the ten crus that produce the flagship wines are: Chiroubles, Saint Amour, Fleurie, Régnié, Brouilly, Cote de Brouilly, Juliénas, Chénas, Morgon and Moulin-à-Vent.

Dominique Morel Fleurie (AP) 2016, 12.5%, €23.99 JJ O’Driscoll, Cork; Wine Online


Dominique Morel has set himself a target: “I make wines that I like to drink, with lots of fruit, good colour and a rounded mouthfeel". And this light ruby coloured wine, with delicate cherry aromas, also floral notes, is silky with superb fruit, just as M. Morel would have wanted. Silky and with terrific concentration and lovely velvety tannins. Very Highly Recommended.

Bastion De L’Oratoire Chanson Fleurie (AC) 2014, 13%, €14.95 in sale (was 18.95) O’Brien’s

Colour of this beauty is a bright mid-ruby. Abundant aromas of cherries and spice. Juicy in the mouth; no shortage of red berries (strawberries, raspberries) and sweet cherry in delicious combination, smooth and well balanced, refreshing too with excellent length. Impeccable and Very Highly Recommended. It is, of course, 100% Gamay and no oak has been used by Chanson who are both négociants and winemakers.


Tuesday, June 19, 2018

Taste of the Week. Ballyhoura Mushrooms Risotto Mix

Taste of the Week
Ballyhoura Mushrooms Risotto Mix

Not all of you are lucky enough to be in a position to get your hands on Ballyhoura mushrooms at Farmers Markets (we got ours at Mahon). But did you know that they have quite a few mushroom products available to buy at various good food stores, including the new pantry in Bakestone at Cobh Cross? 

Products include Cep Oil, Mushroom Vinegar, Mushroom Ketchup, Mushroom Soup Mix, even a Mushroom Unami Powder, and also this Risotto Mix, our Taste of the Week. Indeed, you can also purchase online.

The mix provides earthy woodland notes and intense mushroom flavour and is perfect for making a dish for two people. You’ll find the recipe on their site here. Well worth a try!

Our pic looks a bit on the dark side  and the reason is that we used black garlic cloves.


Dream Comes True for Athula. New Production Facility Opened


Dream Comes True for Athula
New Production Facility Opened 
Happy Day!


A dream came through for Athula Kuruppu Achchige in Carrigaline yesterday when his state of the art production facility was officially opened in the local industrial estate. His immediate family from Cork and Sri Lanka, along with many friends, were present on this happy occasion for a man who has worked hard on his long journey to Cork.

A 26 year long civil war in his own country in 1983; that and growing family responsibilities forced him abroad to look for work as a chef. He couldn't be choosy and went where the agents sent him and that included Iraq (where he was head chef at an American base) and then Bahrein airport’s VIP Lounge (where he cooked for local and world leaders passing through).
County Mayor Declan Hurley (left) and local TD Michael McGrath open Athula's spanking new unit in Carrigaline.

Eventually, in 2005, he headed for Ireland and a job in the Hayfield Manor. In 2012, he opened his own restaurant Rooster Pil Pil in Ballincollig. But what he really wanted to do was to produce his own sauces and, with help from the local enterprise office, that became a really in recent years.

He was advised to go to the farmers markets and see if his products would sell. They did and he got an opportunity to find his feet in the new Cork County Council Incubator Kitchens (also in Carrigaline). He has proved himself there and now, again with local authority help and a large investment of his own, has a wonderful state of the art stream-lined production facility.
Great to congratulate Athula on his big day!

His first products, a range of Peri Peri Sauces (from mild to hot), went down well. And now he is also producing a few curry sauces including Jalfrezi, Tikka Masala and Korma. The products are available in 35 SuperValu stores, over 30 independents and now just coming onto the shelves in Aldi. And soon he’ll be selling spices and high quality Ceylon teas from his homeland.

Athula Fusion Foods
Unit 11, Carrigaline Industrial Estate
Kilnageary Road
Carrigaline
Co. Cork

Call 087 136 7525



Monday, June 18, 2018

24 Hours on a Midlands Loop. Heritage Hotel - Mikey Ryan’s - DEW - Birr Castle - National Stud-Japanese Gardens


24 Hours on a Midlands Loop
Heritage Hotel - Mikey Ryan’s - DEW
Birr Castle - National Stud-Japanese Gardens
Small waterfall in Birr castle grounds

 With the improvements in Ireland’s roads, one can pack a lot into twenty four hours as our recent run illustrates, from Cashel to Birr to Tullamore to Laois and then a grand finalé in Kildare.
Here's looking at you. Birr's Giant Telescope


When you’re on tour, even one as short as this, you need a good base. We had an excellent one in the Heritage Hotel in Killenard on Co. Laois, just a couple of minutes from the motorway, ideally situated for all our visits.
In the lobby of the Heritage

There is an amazing 4-storey staircase (left) here, based, we’re told, on that of the Titanic and exceedingly popular for wedding photos. Indeed, there are very expensive special overhead lights installed to help achieve the best shot.

The lobby and that staircase are indeed spectacular and the whole enterprise speaks of space and comfort. There is a magnificent high-ceilinged dining room, the Arlington, and the food is top class. You may also dine in the Slieve Bloom Bar. No craft beer here but they do have plenty of gins including a few local ones, Brennan’s and the more impressive Mór.

Breakfast is also taken in the Arlington and again it is impeccable. There is even a generous display of breads and cereals for coeliacs. Staff are very friendly throughout and even volunteered directions as we headed off in the morning.

Had been tipped off about Mikey Ryan’s, the relatively new Gastro-pub in Cashel, and that was our first call on the way from Cork. Very impressed and enjoyed a lovely lunch there.

An hour or so later and we were in Birr, heading for the castle and grounds. It has no dedicated parking so you park across the way and, by the way, you pay seven days out of seven.

There is a separate tour of the castle, but only in the mornings. The grounds are well kept but I love how the meadows are allowed grow, especially the wildflowers. You’ll have no problems finding your way around.


The arches

One of the highlights for us was undoubtedly The Great Telescope, built by the 3rd Earl of Rosse in 1845 and, for over 70 years, the biggest in the world. It is still an amazing sight, still impressive.


Natural light

Wisteria 100 years+
The Spring Wildflower Meadows have not been ploughed since at least 1620 and look out also for a couple of ancient oaks, The Carroll and the Meridian (both about 500 years old).

Make your way to the formal gardens and the amazing hornbeam arches, in the form of cloisters, with “windows” cut out of the hedges. And another highlight is the Wisteria, over 100 years old. It flowers impressively in May-June so we timed our visit well! Close by is the Moon Gate celebrating the family’s links with China.

Lots more to see here; no shortage of facilities either, including a café.

Back to the car then and the flat drive to Tullamore for a tour and tasting at the DE Williams refurbished bonded warehouse (they have a new distillery on the outskirts of the town). No parking though at the warehouse - you’ll have to take pot luck in the area. We found the tour efficient rather than engaging before trying three of the whiskies at the end: the original, the 12 year old reserve, and the 15 year old Trilogy (my favourite). More on our DEW visit here.

Our final destination was the National Stud and the Japanese Gardens, two names but one place, one ticket. One outstanding visit, check out our excellent experience here. After a lot of walking and listening, we enjoyed lunch in the lovely airy café onsite before hitting the motorway and heading home.
Japanese Gardens
See also, from this visit:
National Stud and Japanese Gardens
More Photos of Visit to National Stud and Japanese Gardens
Mikey Ryan's Cashel

Clonakilty Street Carnival. The more we pull together, the further we will go.

Clonakilty Street Carnival. The more we pull together, the further we will go.
Volunteers

I spotted a demi-sphere in a Clonakilty back-garden last Saturday. It was made of old bicycle wheels. Inside there were a few hens and outside it supported some thriving peas. It struck me later that this kind of inventiveness, this ability to think outside the box and to cherish those who do so, is part of the town’s success. 
Chris O'Sullivan introduces Mayor Gretta O'Donovan

The motto at Richy’s Restaurant, now celebrating 16 years in the town - Think Global, Eat Local - is another example, another spur to raise the bar. Richy is full of enthusiasm. He doesn’t see barriers, he says. Richy doesn’t hum and haw. “If you want me to cook a meal on top of Carrigfadda Hill, I’ll do it.” 
Work to be done!

And they do support local here as was underlined the following morning when we sat down to breakfast at Glendine, a lovely B&B run by Mick (Clonmel) and Mari (Youghal) Hanly, both members of the brass band, and involved in the carnival and the town. Local all the way on the plate here.
Getting there

Clon, as it is popularly known, has a string of awards to its credit, including Tidy Town and Entente Florale. It is designated an Irish Heritage town. It is the first official Fair Trade Town in Ireland and, more recently, was named European Town of the Year in 2017, that after a major refurbishment of the main street, the very street in which they hosted, for the third time, an amazing street carnival, the highlight of which was the feeding of about 2,000 people last Saturday. Population of the town is about 4,500.

We got down there early-ish on Saturday morning. Three massive rows of tables were laid out. But they were bare. Not for long though. Soon the organised volunteers appeared. The tables were covered and then pots of wild flowers began to appear. At the entrance to the street, the providers, local restaurants and hotels, were setting up in the covered area.

In Clon, there is something for everyone: “Social Together” was the theme for the 2018 festival and that of course meant kids, lots of them. And they had their own long table. And much more besides. 

All day long, amidst the colourful ribbons, bubbles and bunting, there was live music, a kids’ zone with supervised bouncy castles, pottery classes, penalty-shootouts, face-painting, magicians, bubbles and popcorn machines, as well as giant games, ping pong, and crazy golf, and an enclosed area for the real smallies. Street performers, with games and costumes, helped the kids enjoy themselves.

Gradually the momentum began to build as the weather held good and the locals and visitors began to arrive in force to enjoy the free entertainment and to make the  theme of “Social Together” a lively fun-filled reality. The more we pull together, the further we will go.

And there was music, lots of it, off all kinds, from jazz to pop groups to their own magnificent Clonakilty Brass Band (founded in 1900). Some played in the Astna Square area near the kids zone while others took to the big stage at the other end of the street. And there were others trying their luck, even a teenage quartet belting out Beatle numbers on a side street.

While music in Clonakilty, like life in the town, has many strands, the town credits Noel Redding’s impact on his adopted home as “monumental”. In 1972, Noel, the original bass played with Jimmy Hendrix, moved to Clon and stayed there for the next 27 years. His legacy continues in the venues he performed at, the festivals he helped to inspire and the abundance of musical talent he fostered and attracted to the locality.

Of course, the main focus in the afternoon would be back at those tables. As three o’clock approached, we joined the queue, a long one but very good humoured. Soon, we were making choices, so many as you can see on the photo of the menu, everything from Quality Hotel’s Falafel and trimmings to Lettercollum’s Paella, from Celtic Ross’s Bacon and Cabbage croquette (very good reports on that one) to Hart’s Cafe’s veggie curry. I enjoyed the Asian style Seafood Noodle salad by Scannell’s while CL’s choice was the Nasi Goren by Richy’s. 

But there was something for everyone. Oh yes and there was dessert also, big pots of stunning fruit yogurt by Irish Yogurts. And a drink? Of course. Plenty of water, wine and a special beer for the day (a good one too!) by the local brewery. All for fifteen euro! The kids meals, by the way, cost seven. 
The queue!
Looking for a seat!

And once we had our meal in hand, the next question was where to sit? But no problem. As we left the serving area, we were met by one of the fantastic volunteers. She had a tray, put our food on it and guided us, chatting and laughing, to seats that we, left to our devices, might have found difficult to spot. So we ate and the music played and the sun shone! Great stuff.

So well done to the committee and the volunteers, people who also had their businesses and shops to run on the day. I met some of them including Kevin O’Regan, Mick Hanley, Michelle Mitton, Trish Kerr, Tim Coffey, Andrew Loane, Chris O’Sullivan, Robert O’Keeffe and Richy Virahsawmy.
from Scannell's

If Chris was everywhere music was happening, Richy was everywhere there was food! And he was a happy man as the rush wound down. “Would you find this anywhere else in Ireland?”, he asked. So big congrats to Richy and all his colleagues behind the scenes for another fantastic day in Clonakilty.

Sponsors too play a major role here and the list is as long as Mick Hanley’s arms (both of them!). This year the Street Carnival committee were delighted to welcome Irish Yogurts as a platinum sponsor. Irish Yogurts is a family run business and was founded in Clonakilty in 1994 by Diarmuid O’Sullivan.

Kevin O’Regan, Clonakilty Carnival Committee: “This is a community effort driven by commitment, enthusiasm and great energy.” Craic, ceol, bia, comharsanna, cuairteoirí = an meitheal is mó ar domhan. See you next year in Clon!