Saturday, July 23, 2016

Amuse Bouche

Alfred, meanwhile, busied himself in the vegetable garden. … Here, among his asparagus and runner beans, his buckets and hoes, and wearing lederhosen and a loose shirt, Alfred whiled away his mornings, digging the dirt and watering his vegetables…. Alfred also built himself an enormous greenhouse which he named his ‘orangerie’, a reference to the ornate construction dominating the royal palace gardens of Sanssouci, Potsdam, a few kilometres to the south.

from The House by the Lake by Thomas Harding (2015) Very Highly Recommended!

Thursday, July 21, 2016

Leisurely Lunch In Greene’s. Local, and High Class

Leisurely Lunch In Greene’s
Local and High Class

When I read that Greene’s Restaurant were offering lunch every day of the week (from 12.30pm), there was no stopping me. Off we headed to 48 MacCurtain Street and soon we were seated at a comfortable table with a great view of the waterfall just outside the window. Soon though we were concentrating on the menu rather then the view, €21.50 for two courses, €24.50 for three.

To begin, we could have had Goats Cheese, beetroot, walnut and raisin. Or Soup of the Day with a garnish. CL though went for a classic here: Pork Belly, black pudding, apple, celeriac, cider and crackling popcorn.  We met chef Bryan McCarthy on the street later and he said they’ll never be allowed to take this off the menu. We could see why.
Pork Belly
I enjoyed another dish that’s going well there: Mackerel, crab, seaweed, squid ink, nasturtium and radish. What a combination of textures, colours, and flavours. A delicious starter.

Speaking of classics, McCarthy’s well-known feather blade was also on the menu, along with a Risotto featuring Ballyhoura Mushrooms and Coolea.  They used the best of local produce here. And use it very well indeed.

Mackerel & Crab
My pick was the fish of the day: Hake, sea vegetables, chorizo. Fabulous fish! CL was equally delighted with her Market Chicken, carrot puree, pancetta, sugar pea, egg yolk emulsion and beetroot. And that puree was her delicious sauce.

We could also have had sides, including Mashed potatoes, root vegetables, triple cooked fries and baby potatoes. But, having spotted a favourite dessert, we made a strategic decision to avoid the tempting sides!
And that dish? Well no other than Bushy’s Strawberries fresh from the farm in Rosscarbery. The fruit is top notch but they are enhanced no end by the extras that the Greene's kitchen adds, including milk, elderflower, gorse and yogurt. And the presentation is eye-catching. So you appreciate the display, for a second or two, three at most, and then you tuck into the seasonal sensation!

Well that was the three great courses and then we finished off with a couple of well-made expressos. By the way, there was a lovely little amuse bouche at the start as well. Lunch is quite a big deal here. Very Highly Recommended.

Greene’s Restaurant
48 MacCurtain Street, Cork
Phone: 021 455 2279
Web (includes sample menus):

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

O’Brien’s July Sale. Three to Consider

O’Brien’s July Sale
Three to Consider

The monthly sales at O’Brien’s are always worth a look. I’m afraid I was a little late getting to Douglas this time. But the bottles I wanted were still there and here are three of them, from a great selection of close to one hundred! Check them out here.

Tons de Duorum, Douro (DOC) 2014, 13.5%, €15.45 (11.95 in July sale) O’Brien’s

The name is inspired by the bright colours that result from the reflections of the sun on the Douro creating different tones in the vineyard. Local grapes Touriga Franca, Touriga Nacional and Tinta Roriz are used; they are hand-harvested and the wine goes on to spend six months in oak.

Intense dark and red fruit aromas greet you from this ruby to violet coloured wine and the legs are slow enough to clear. No shortage of ripe fruit flavours on the elegant palate, refreshing with a little spice there too, fine tannins and a lovely soft finish. Another good value wine from the Douro and Highly Recommended.
Brocard La Boissoneuse, Chablis (AOC) 2013, 12.5%, €24.95 (22.95 in July sale) O’Brien’s

You really don't have to wait to get this light gold wine into your glass to appreciate the gorgeous aromas. The white fruits and some floral hints emerge from the bottle the minute you extract the cork.

The cork has a wax coating. A bit of a nuisance I thought - until I looked up this You Tube demo. Suitably instructed, I warmed the top of the wax with the palm of my hand and then extracted the cork as normal, the wax top breaking off cleanly as the cork emerged.

There is true harmony on the palate, those white fruit flavours (apple, citrus) and a charge of bracing minerality giving a superbly clean combination and a long and very satisfying finish.

The winery has respect for its ancient soils and notes the cycles of the sun and the moon, all with the aim of bringing the Chardonnay grapes to “perfect harmony”. Their organic principles have been rewarded with this Very Highly Recommended Wine. Two euros off may not be a great draw. Definitely you’ll get bigger bargains in the sale but few better wines than this. O’Brien’s themselves say it “leaves some of the best Premier Crus in its wake... a revelation”. "Not your typical Chablis," says Nicolas, the Douglas manager. But a very good one.
Bethany Creek Shiraz, Barossa 2011, 13.5%, €19.95 (€12.95 in July sale) O’Brien’s

The grapes for this excellent wine come, as is not uncommon in Australia, from their own and a number of neighbouring vineyards. Vintage commenced on 4 March at Bethany Wines, later than usual and a full month later than in 2010; the cooler temperatures resulting in slow, even ripening of the fruit and good flavour development. So, no harm done! On the contrary.

Colour is purple and there are fruity aromas, some spice too. Those red cherry characters follow through to the palate, fruity and spicy with fine tannins, quote a soft mouthfeel, an elegant wine that has “gained from two years careful oak maturation”. This approachable well-balanced wine is Highly Recommended. So get in quick as stocks, at this bargain price, may not last until the end of the month!

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Taste of the Week. From Arbutus Bread

Taste of the Week

From Arbutus Bread

While buying my favourite Medieval sourdough loaf, not the best looking babe in the bakery, from Arbutus Bread at Douglas Market last Saturday, I spotted a knobbly knuckly cake. “What’s that?”

The young assistant quickly replied: “It is made with croissant dough, apple, cinnamon and sultanas.” “Okay. I’ll have one.” And that delicious one is our Taste of the Week.

It costs €4.50 but we got quite a few slices out of it. It is delicious on its own and we found two ways to enhance it.  The first is to serve it with custard or vanilla sauce (as they call it in Vienna, according to Rick Stein on one of his long weekends). This gives you an really high class bread pudding. You can add butter if you like!

And the second is to match it with a rosé. This is the time of the year for the pink. And one of the best is a long standing favourite at Karwig Wines, the Domaine Houchart Côte de Provence (2015). I tried that pairing at Monday’s BBQ and it worked a treat.

Sunday, July 17, 2016

In Praise of East Cork. Food. People. Place. Worth a Visit!

In Praise of East Cork.
Food. People. Place. Worth a Visit!
Peaceful evening in Youghal

Friendly people, great food, attractions on land and sea, both natural and man-made, make East Cork a gem of a place to visit. From the fantastic 13th century St Mary’s Collegiate Church in Youghal to high class Fota House Gardens and Arboretum, with Barryscourt Castle in between, all three free to enter, there is a treasure chest of places to visit in the area.
The Cafe at Stephen Pearce Pottery

Let me take you on a trip to see part of it. We’ll also enjoy some delicious meals as East Cork is a foodie’s paradise with top notch venues including Sage and Kevin Ahern’s 12 Mile Menu,  Barnabrow (ideal for weddings and a leisurely Sunday lunch), Midleton’s pioneering Farmers Market and the food mecca of Ballymaloe.

Coming from the city on the main Cork-Waterford road, take the Cobh exit ramp and head for breakfast or lunch, right to Bramley Lodge, or left to The Bakestone Cafe at Ballyseedy.  Now, set up for the day, go over the nearby bridge to Fota Island and its many attractions.

If you have kids, go the Wildlife Park; if not, walk through the renowned Fota Arboretum and maybe add a tour of the Georgian House. If you like it around here, you may also try the high class  Fota Island Hotel and Golf Resort.
Bramley Lodge

Moving on, go over the Belvelly Bridge and you’ll soon come to Frank Hederman’s famous smokehouse. You are now on Great Island where the cathedral town of Cobh is situated. Much to do here including the Sirius Art Gallery, walking tours (including the Titanic Trail and Spike Island), harbourside bars and restaurants and of course the Cobh Heritage Centre which tells of forced deportations and also the tales of the ill fated liners, The Titanic and the Lusitania.
Fota House and gardens

Cruise liners call here regularly during the season, with a carnival atmosphere in the town on the days they are in port. And here boats take you across to newly renovated Spike and also on harbour tours. Maybe you’d just like to walk around the town; I did so recently, taking in the Holy Ground, the Titanic Garden and the Sonia O’Sullivan statue, and you may check it out here. Perhaps you'd prefer just to sit on the decking at The Titanic Bar & Grill and watch the boats go by.


Time now to head out of the islands and head east to Midleton and a tour of the Jameson Experience. If you give the right answers here, you’ll end up with a certificate of proficiency in whiskey! No shortage of cafes and restaurants here, including the family friendly Granary now celebrating twenty years in business.
Cobh traffic jam!

There will be detours, of course. One that I like is off the Whitegate road, out of Midleton. Look out for the signs for East Ferry and enjoy a walk by the estuary and maybe reward yourself with a well cooked meal at Murph’s, a restaurant with a lovely view.
Next stop is Ballymaloe, the home of modern Irish food. You could spend a day here. Maybe an overnight stay to sample the world renowned cooking. Call to the cafe for a mid afternoon or mid morning  coffee. Be sure to take a look at the impressive Cookery School gardens, not forgetting the Shell House. And don’t forget Golden Bean coffee roaster Marc Kingston is also based here.

The Cafe at the Stephen Pearse pottery in Shanagarry also serves Golden Bean and is now gaining quite a reputation. And, of course, there is the pottery itself!

Sculpture exhibition on lawn at Ballymaloe House

In the nearby seaside village of Ballycotton, take a stroll down to the pier and see the fishermen come and go, maybe take a boat trip to the lighthouse on the nearby island. If you feel you need to stretch the legs, then there is a spectacular walk  along the cliff tops. After all that exercise, treat yourself to a gorgeous meal at Pier 26.
Cobh's Titanic Bar & Grill. Al Fresco

If you need to overnight, then the Garryvoe Hotel and its top notch Samphire Restaurant, with great views over the bay, is close at hand.
Ballycotton cliff walk

Youghal is the final town, on the Blackwater and just shy of the border with Waterford. On the way, you could stretch the legs in Killeagh’s Glenbower Woods one of many attractive walks in the East Cork area. In Youghal, take a boat trip on the Blackwater.

After all the activity, you deserve to rest up for the night. Enjoy a meal in the Old Imperial Hotel on Youghal's main street, maybe just a drink in its old Coachhouse bar, maybe both! Aherne’s, of course, is famous for its seafood and they too have rooms.
Samphire at Garryvoe Hotel

And do try and get your hands on the local craft beers, including Ireland's first organic Red Ale, made by the dedicated team in the town’s Munster Brewery; they also do tours.

And before leaving the area, don’t forget to visit Ballynatray House, a Blackwater gem.

Enjoy East Cork, the food, the place and its people!

Ballynatray House, by the Blackwater


Saturday, July 16, 2016

Amuse Bouche

On Friday morning…. the British presence … had decreased.. Only cursory ‘pot shots’ were exchanged. For breakfast, the women ‘fried veal cutlets and gave the men a good feed’. Bob Holland was hopeful of having some meat from the beast he had killed for dinner, but he had to make do with a can of soup and some bread made by Cumann na mBan members.  He was told this was more suitable for a Friday, but Rose McNamara enjoyed ‘a meat dinner, potatoes, etc.’. Colbert and Holland had time to reminisce..before British troops reappeared at Rialto Bridge…
Fish on Friday boy. No meat.

From 16 Lives Con Colbert by John O’Callaghan (2015)

Thursday, July 14, 2016

La Calavera in Douglas. Let Pablo Power You Up!

La Calavera in Douglas.
Let Pablo Power You Up!
Marinated meat slow cooks for 12 hours. Nothing artificial here 
La Calavera, the new Mexican restaurant/takeaway in Douglas, is proving very popular, especially with young people and athletics, owner Shuting McLoughlin told me when I called for lunch during the week. “I’ve been working in Asian all my life but Mexican is lighter and healthier and customers come three or four times a week. The athletes, including rugby players, love our Power Bowl with double the meat and brown rice instead of white to increase the protein.”

There is quite a choice here and Shuting’s husband Ray said they intend to add a fish option shortly. At present, you may enjoy a Burrito, or a Naked Burrito (without the Taco), a Fajita, Tacos (3 small Tacos with 3 meats), and that Power Bowl! And the fillings available include Chilli Con Carne, Barbacoa, Carnitas, and Vegetarian. You may see the details of each filling on the photo of the menu board (at end).
Naked Burrito

I had chicken in my Fajita and Shuting explained that the chicken comes daily from Clonakilty. They have so little storage space here that virtually everything comes daily and the suppliers have no problem doing that because there are so many restaurants and food outlets in Douglas. That means more competition as well! 

And it’s not just the chicken. All the meats here are Irish and, on the vegetable side, local produce is used when seasonally available. Read more about their sourcing policy, “better food from better sources” here.

My chicken, marinated in Citrus Adobo (a stock used in Spanish and Latin American cooking to enhance the flavour), was delicious and the peppers and onions that came with it in the Fajita were outstanding as well, a lovely dish, quite substantial too, all for €6.95!

Soft shell corn tacos. You can have
three different meats and they are gluten free

Halfway through, I did a swop with CL. She had been singing the praises of the Naked Burrito. I soon found why out for myself. Her filling was the Carnitas, free range pork served shredded and she specifically ordered the beans. Quite a different experience to the Fajita but another delicious combination of flavours and textures. And again, just €6.95.

Shuting and Ray had been studying the ethnic restaurants in Dublin where there are so many compared to here. And they thought that Mexican would be a good fit here in Cork and, with experienced chef Pablo at the helm, La Calavera seems to be going down well. The restaurant space is quite small so there will be a big emphasis on the takeaway side.
Fajita. It's big and beautiful!

You have great choices here, just look at all those bowls in the bar. And another important thing, you can ask for your preferred level of spice. Pico de Gallo is mild, Roasted Chili Corn is medium while Salsa Verde is medium to hot.

Back to those health benefits. I usually advise, always will, that you check those out for yourself. But here are a few points. Essential vitamins and minerals can be found in tomatoes, lettuce, and other vegetables that are commonly found in Mexican food. Protein, from the meats (the leaner the better) is important because it improves energy levels and keeps muscles and tissue healthy. Mexican sauces, such as salsa and chile, contain spicy peppers and that may help lower blood pressure and cholesterol. And those beans can be a good source of fibre. Looks like a good choice and not just for the young!

And where did they get the name? La Calavera means skull and in this context refers to the sugar (sometimes chocolate) skulls used (often presented to children, sometimes left out for dead relatives) during festivities surrounding the Mexican Day of the Dead also known as the Christian All Souls Day. For more on the practice, see here.

La Calavera
Douglas West, Douglas
Tel: (021) 489 0011
Twitter: @lacalaveracork

12:00 pm - 10:00 pm
12:00 pm - 11:00 pm
12:00 pm - 10:00 pm