Tuesday, July 17, 2018

Taste of the Week. Cherries from the Apple Farm


Taste of the Week
Cherries from the Apple Farm


No need to say too much about our current Taste of the Week. The sweet delicious cherries grown on Con Traas’s Apple Farm are simply superb!

Easy to appreciate these juicy beauties. But not easy to grow. If that were the case, you’d find them in every farmers market. When grown in Ireland, cherries need protection for a number of reasons, and typically most growers use some form of simple tunnel to grow them in. 

The Apple Farm explains: This is because cherry flowers are susceptible to cold winds when flowering, and the cherries themselves are liable to crack and get diseases due to rainfall, and then if they survive all this, are a favourite food of many birds. A plastic tunnel can protect the trees and fruits from all these problems, meaning that instead of getting a good crop one year in five (or ten if you live in the wetter parts of Ireland), you can rely on a crop each year.

Thanks to Con and his team for making the extra effort. Put these cherries on your list if you’re anywhere near the Apple Farm, just a few minutes off the M8 on the N24 (Cahir-Clonmel Road)! Lots of other fruit available too, in season.

Monday, July 16, 2018

McCambridges. A Galway Icon.

McCambridges. A Galway Icon.

Ask anyone from Galway where’s best for lunch and you can be sure that city centre McCambridge’s, operating since the 1920s, will appear on the shortlist. This busy spot keeps the standards high and the customers keep coming back.

Spread over the space of two shops, McCambridge’s is basically operating on two levels. Downstairs it is mainly a Food Hall with a full grocery range (mainly local produce),  a large sandwich bar, a self serve salad bar and olive bar, a deli counter stocking the best of cold meats and cheese, a well stocked wine and spirits section and a full coffee bar.
Some sandwich!

There are a few tables and chairs on the street outside for when the sun shines, but mostly the restaurant operates in the spacious and bright room at the top of the wide stairs. Here, if you are lucky enough to have a seat near the windows, you can watch the bustle of the city while enjoying a glass of wine. 

Only the finest of  ingredients are used, with a strong preference for local and artisan produce. It is a casual atmosphere with great food.  An All Day Menu is served from Monday to Saturday, with an All Day Brunch being served every Sunday.  You can also enjoy a wide range of wines, craft beers and cocktails with your food.

We are spotted as we reach the last few steps of the stairs and quickly directed, with smiles and courtesy, to our table. The menu is soon at hand. The place is busy but the service is good. I’m looking at the Ceapairí, that’s sandwiches for you non-gaelgeorí, little knowing that the one I pick will be a champion, one of the best ever.

Here is the mix: McCambridge’s Baked Ham, Janet’s Country Fayre Beetroot Blush Mayo, Coolatin Cheddar, and red onion served on a toasted Roundstone sourdough (9.95). Nothing very mysterious there but all good quality ingredients all together in a superb sandwich.

The OBC is not looking for anything big today so settles for something from the starters: Chicken Liver Paté, McCambridge’s Red Onion marmalade and toasted brioche (5.95), plus a side of leaves (3.95). Happy enough with that. By the way, you may buy quite a few of these ingredients downstairs in the deli.
In the deli

A pot of Campbells Tea and a glass of Sparkling Elderflower (dear enough at 3.95) brought the total to €26.30. Soon we joined the throng in the pedestrianised Shop Street outside, the buskers playing, onlookers delaying, and made our way down to the fresh air in the Nimmo’s area.

38/39 Shop Street
Galway
091 562259

Also on this trip: 


Also on this Galway trip:

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!