Thursday, August 21, 2014

Make Friends with Karwig’s Gru-Vee!

Make Friends with Karwig’s Gru-Vee!
In the vineyard: Das Grüne Heupferd

Winzer Krems, Kremser Goldberg Kellermeister Privat, Kremstal DAC

Vintage: 2013, Grüner Veltliner, 12.5%, €18.10, Karwig Wines

It is always worth a call to Karwig Wines in Carrigaline. Even more so when they have new Austrian wines in, as they have now. Picked up a few the other day and this Grüner Veltliner is my standout favourite. 

Colour is a pale honey, micro bubbles clinging to the glass. There are aromas of white peaches with some floral elements. On the palate, is fresh and lively (those bubbles?) with lovely fruit flavours, the slightest traces of sweetness yet well balanced all the way through the lingering finish. Very Highly Recommended.

By the way, don't worry if you over-buy. The winery says it is excellent to drink now (and I'd concur) “but has a storage capacity of 3-10 years, at ideal storage conditions even longer.” So now you know!

If you are in Karwig’s and looking for a red, here is one I can heartily recommended. It is the Caldora Sangiovese Vendemmia 2012, an IGT from Italy. This gives you an intensely fruity welcome, really easy-drinking and excellent value at €13.00! Caldora is the second label at the famous Farnese.

Taste of the Week

Taste of the Week
This week’s Taste of the Week is a delicious Spicy Lentil Pie by Gan Gluten. Clare O’Brien is an excellent baker and the pastry here is top notch. The filling is full of flavour and not overly spicy at all. Just a lovely snack at lunch-time or add a few bits and pieces to it and you're well on the way to a tasty dinner.

Clare, whose sisters run the Farmgates (in the city and in Midleton), sells her cakes, breads and savouries at Mahon Farmers Market every Thursday and also sells to restaurants, cafes and delis. Why not check out her stall on Mahon Point this morning? I might meet you there!

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Single Origin Coffees. East Timor - Assui Craik and Mexico - Finca Muxbal

Single Origin Coffees

East Timor - Assui Craik

Mexico - Finca Muxbal

Coffee cherries on the tree.
Each cherry produces 1, 2, even 3 (rarely) beans.
I’ve been sipping some really great coffee the past few days, thanks to Hancock and Abberton    who recently introduced me to their Brands of Distinction line. The two above are each a limited Edition Coffee and also a Single Origin speciality. Many people now wonder if the coffee they drink is ethically traded and you may check the providence of these gems here. Briefly, the Mexican is produced by a son and mother team while the East Timor coffee comes via a 16 strong farmers group.

The coffee industry in East Timor was largely destroyed during the turn of the century invasion by Indonesian militias that many of you may remember. It is still though a “major export commodity and provides a substantial income for a quarter of the population”.

Mexico is the 5th largest coffee producer in the world. Chiapas is the largest coffee producing state and it is from here that these incredible Muxbal beans originate. The word means “surrounded by clouds”, rather appropriate considering the farm, managed by mother and son duo Maeggi Rodriguez and Jorge Gallardo, is at around 1600 metres above sea level, more or less the same height as its counterpart in East Timor.

East Timor is much further south than Mexico and this leads to a difference in the harvest season. The Mexicans harvest during December to March while the farmers in East Timor do so in July to September.
Coffee tasting specialists have rated both coffees very highly and rightly so. So, how would a non specialist amateur like myself find them? Can honestly say that I though both were excellent, though I did have the slightest of preferences for the Mexican cuppa.

This is a medium roast with a superb creamy feel on the palate and a clean almost dry finish. Traces too of sweetness, honey (they say) and indeed they also mention peaches with the creaminess. In any event, it all adds up to great few minutes in the morning.

And I was very pleased too with the Assui Craik (the coffee is named after the local village). This has a lighter roast with quite a complex fruity palate (stewed plums and blackberries are suggested) and then the finish is sweet, hints of chocolate present.  That bit different from the Mexican but another lovely cup of a morning (which is when I drink most of my coffee).

If you would like to try these, or other similar coffees yourself, Hancock & Abberton, based on the Naas Road in Dublin, have a subscription service. You can sign up for three months but the savings are more if you sign for twelve. Check out the various packages here. Remember that these batch runs are limited and will sell out. Each coffee will be accompanied by the provenance, tasting notes and blend profile.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Ballymaloe Garden Festival

Ballymaloe Garden Festival
Marking Ballymaloe's 50th Anniversary

Naturally enough, there will be quite a focus on food when the second annual Ballymaloe Garden Festival is held on 30th and 31st of August. Klaus Laitenberger will show you how to grow organic vegetables, Debbie Shaw will tell you all about raw food while Michael Kelly will present his guide to growing your own food.  

If you feel hungry after all that gardening, you’ll have choices. The Big Shed will be in use again and there will be food served by local market heroes. And that’s not all. Tom and Johann Doorley will be on hand on Sunday to show you “how to eat your garden”. They believe that good food should be enjoyed by everybody and that cooking is therefore a vital life skill.

The Festival, to be held in the grounds at Ballymaloe House, promises to be a wonderful weekend full of garden workshops, walks, and talks, says Aoife McCann. “We will have specialist nursery stalls filled with seeds, rare and old fashioned trees, shrubs, climbers, perennials, fruit, culinary and medicinal herbs and garden equipment all manned by experts.”

FORM Sculpture trail

“It will be all about sustainable garden design, layered pruning, saving seeds and our traditional native heritage, demonstrating different methods of propagation, growing interesting and unusual food, forgotten skills of  bygone times, foraging for cuttings and flowers for fabulous floral arrangements, growing your own vegetables from seeds, growing a market garden business, a photography workshop, cookery demonstration, first aid from your garden, native Irish bees and so much more.”
“We will be joined this year by Gary Graham, Brian Cross, Caroline Holmes, Fiann Ó Nualláin, Michael Kelly, Debbie Shaw, Tom and Johann Doorley, Thady Barrett and many others ……The timetable of events is available here.”
This year sees Ballymaloe celebrate its 50th year and to mark this Susan Turner has designed a new garden for the Festival, set within the walled garden. Susan will give the opening talk of the festival introducing the  50th Year Anniversary Garden and her design.


Richie Scott of Artistic Alliance, together with some of the exhibiting artists, will give tours of  FORM,  an outdoor sculpture exhibition on the grounds of Ballymaloe House.
“The Big Shed will be back with a children’s area, plant, craft and gardening tools stalls. Lots of free talks given by our garden experts. There will be food served by our local market heroes. A delicious time to be had while learning about saving seeds, our edible landscape, first aid from the garden, conservatory plants and garden equipment demonstrations.”
Cost of entry to the festival is €5 per adult, with children under 16 free. Entrance tickets available on the day.
The garden lectures and workshops held in the Grainstore/Walled Garden will be priced individually, tickets will be available on the day and on website .
Any enquiries please email or phone Aoife on 087 2675022.

Monday, August 18, 2014

Know Their Onions in Market Lane

Know Their Onions in Market Lane
Just after 12.30pm on Friday, I joined the queue going into Market Lane. We were seated in no time and the place was buzzing, customers chatting, staff welcoming, smiles and a happy buzz all round. And the food wasn't bad either! Excellent actually.

Hadn't been in for  a while but was glad to see that French Onion Soup (€5.95) still on the menu. It is still gorgeous, full of standout flavours and I just love the added Gruyere and Croutons. Reckon I’ll always be looking out for that one.

Our other starter was also a beauty: Baked Ardsallagh goat’s cheese, caramelised pear and spinach on a quinoa and walnut tart with a beetroot, orange and rocket salad (7.95). I know quinoa doesn't always get a good press but this was a delicious good looking combination, full of attractive flavours and textures.

The high standard was maintained throughout. My main course, a vegetarian one, was the Moussaka with aubergine, fennel, beans, cinnamon, lentils and cheddar cheese with a feta, orange and rocket salad. Loved this, full of juicy flavours and some good chunky bites there too, all for €13.95.

The big spender choose the Spiced Lamb Shoulder with Bombay aloo potatoes, organic leaves, pickled cauliflower, shallots and mint and cucumber raita (11.95). She would have preferred a few more potatoes but made short work of yet another delicious dish from the Market Lane kitchen.

No time unfortunately for their tempting desserts. Indeed, with an evening visit to a local brewery on the cards, I didn't even have a glass of wine. And here you get a generous glass, 187 mls no less; besides, the price is in proportion to the full bottle price. And they have some lovely craft beer on offer as well, including their own Angel Lane Stout. Watch out for more of their own beers in the very near future as their very own Elbow Lane Brewery nears completion.

Market Lane, open seven days a week, caters for all sizes of wallet, all sizes of stomach! That goat’s cheese salad, for instance is available in two sizes. If you are in a hurry, you may avail of their Special €10.00 Lunch Offer of Soup, Half-sandwich, mini-chocolate pot and tea or coffee. Quite a bargain.

And watch out as well for their 3-course Early Evening Meal which has some great choices and indeed includes many of the regular main courses. A great way to get to know a really good quality good value restaurant. And, by the way, you won't be on your own. Always a buzz here.

Saturday, August 16, 2014

Amuse Bouche

(especially for Alone in Cork City)

I can’t stand it when people grin with just their teeth, it happens quite a lot in New York, especially in restaurants. And what I’d like to know is why do they also prick up their little ballerina eyebrow and ask just one? as if there’s something wrong with you, I mean my wife died in childbirth, maybe I’ve just woken up from a five year coma and don’t know where my buddies are, maybe I’m happy sitting on my own with my black diary and my iPod, OK?.
Maybe I choose to be alone. I don’t, but the possibility should be permitted the way it is for the very rich, very beautiful and very vain who waltz through New York and through Life, without ever being accosted by some snotty, accusatory cow - Just one?

from The Companion by Lorcan Roche

Friday, August 15, 2014

Bakestone Cafe. Ali Honour and All Those Cakes

Bakestone Cafe

Ali Honour and the 403 Cakes

Almond and Orange Tart.
The $64,000 dollar question. How many cakes does Ali Honour bake in a year? I don't know. And I don't know where you'll get the dollars either! The question came to mind on Wednesday when I spoke to Ali after a very tasty meal in her Bakestone Cafe at Ballyseedy at Cobh Cross. Not sure Ali knows either but she does know, and fully appreciates, that Cork people have an insatiable appetite for her gorgeous creations.

First things first. I started with a big bowl of Cauliflower and Broccoli Soup. It was a terrific soup and good value at €4.50.  A slice of Bakestone’s superb seeded Brown Bread came with it and I bought a loaf of that on the way out. By the way, Bakestone have lots of Gluten Free products. Check the huge blackboard for details.
Chicken and rich tomato sauce.
 Value too at main course level. There were three specials on the board. CL picked the Chicken on a Rich Tomato Sauce, topped with Parmesan, served with toasted sourdough and dressed leaves (€10.50). A really excellent plateful, a little bit different but full of flavours and colours and a variety of textures. And much the same could be said about my Beef Quesadillas with Guacamole, sour cream, and refried beans (€10.75). Great stuff.

Various tarts and quiches are always available and the third special on Wednesday was the Salad of Roast Thyme Squash Goats Cheese, sun dried tomato, toasted hazelnuts with sourdough croutons and pesto dressing (€9.90).

Having finished the mains, there was just enough room left for the sweet stuff and a cup of that excellent Badger & Dodo Coffee. My choice was the Mixed Berry Tart while CL took the Almond and Orange Tart. Needless to say, the selection on the counter was mega!

Maybe not 40 but not too far off it! The two we had were gorgeous - I almost stole the Almond and Orange - and so it was two happy customers, two quite full costumers, that left the cafe.

Beef Quesadillas with Guacamole
Great too to have a quick chat with the busy Ali who is rightly proud of her recent venture into sourdough, quit a success by the taste of it in our dishes. There is quite a excellent crew on duty here, all helpful and very efficient as well. Very Highly Recommended. And not just for the buns and cakes!

By the way, 403=64,000. I didn’t know that!!

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Marvels of Moulis

Marvels of Moulis
Moulis is not the first name that trips off the tongue when you are asked about Bordeaux. It is indeed the smallest appellation in the area but that doesn't prevent it from producing some very fine wines. I got to know the little village fairly well this summer, driving up and down the street quite a few times in a vain attempt to find the region’s Maison du Vin (closed down, methinks).

If you’d like to try a wine from Moulis, you could well be in luck as my search on revealed that both wines below (maybe not the exact year) are available in Ireland. If you do get your hands on the 2006 Brillette, decant and make sure it is at room temperature before pouring.

L’Oratoire de Chasse Spleen, Moulis 2011, 13%

Chasse Spleen, according to Hugh Johnson, is “one of the surest things in Bordeaux” and the current edition of the Wine Atlas says “it can be viewed as an honorary St Julien for  its smoothness, its accessibility”. High praise indeed for the chateau with the unusual name, sometimes credited to Baudelaire, sometimes to Byron.

This is a second wine of the estate. Cabernet Sauvignon (50%) and Merlot (40) are the main players in the blend. The chateau says the Cab Sauv helps make it fresh and velvety while the Merlot is credited with giving it opulence and smoothness.

But I've been told forget the label: “Listen to your palate”. So here goes. The wine is a brilliant medium red with fruit aromas, including plum, some mint and pepper. On the palate, there is no shortage of fruit flavours; fine tannins are present but nothing too gripping. This is a fresh well-made well-balanced wine with a persistent finalé. Wouldn’t mind renewing acquaintance with it in a few years time.
Chateau Brillette, Comte de Perier de Larsan, Moulis 2006, 13.5%

This wine, a blend of Merlot (52%), Cabernet Sauvignon (40) and Petit Verdot (8), comes well recommended. A Jancis Robinson tasting gave it 16 out of 20 which equates to “distinguished”. She also advised drinking it between 2012 and 2018. Guess I got that right!

This is a dark rich red, lighter towards the rim, and it has complex fruit aromas (mainly plum, for me). Rounded fruit flavours on the palate, generous with notes of pepper and wood, soft tannins and good acidity. Decent enough finish as well. Think I’d be happy to agree with the rating by Jancis!