Friday, March 23, 2018

Amuse Bouche

Southern comforts
The mention of locking doors and the rebel songs from the Irish pubs brought Belfast back to him. He tried to flinch away from the images. Concentrate on the drink. The first mouthful. The Jameson deserved his attention. He had nothing but praise for it. A whiskey made in the south. A Catholic whiskey. Bushmills was Protestant, made in the North. Black Bush. It was well named. But he couldn’t care less. As far as alcohol was concerned he was totally non-sectarian.

from Midwinter Break by Bernard MacLaverty (2017). Recommended.

Thursday, March 22, 2018

The Fish Wife Hooks A New Fan On A Wet Friday

Fish Wife Hooks A New Fan On A Wet Friday

It’s a wet night in the city and we’re heading home. But what to eat? We don’t need a big meal and we don’t want to cook either. McCurtain Street is looking miserable in the wet but you couldn't be in a better place for takeaway. We looked to our left and there was our solution: The Fish Wife. Minutes later, we were in the car with two cartons full of fish and chips, eager to get started.

As soon as we were home, we started unwrapping. Everything looked well, looked very tempting. We had both ordering the haddock versions (€8.80) of their fish and chips and our individual boxes came with lemon, tartare sauce and mushy peas (really mushy!).  The fish was perfect and perfectly cooked and the batter was super thin - no need to go fishing for the fish! The perfect solution for us on the night.

And you get quite a choice here, even if you stick to the fish and chips. On the night, we could have had Hake, Plaice, Smoked Haddock, Breaded Scampi, and Grilled Swordfish. There are choices of sauces, sides, different types of chips, a list of burgers (by craft butchers Davidsons) too, chicken dishes also, even a Student Menu.

The McCurtain Street venue, operating now for about eight years, is tiny. There is some shelf space (might take three) if you eat here on the stools but you’ll be banging backs with those in the queue alongside you. There is a solution though, quite a novel one. Order your fish and chips here. Go across the road to the lively Shelbourne Bar, buy a drink per person in your party, your fish and chips will be delivered here and you can eat at your heated outdoor table! And they’ll get rid of your cartons as well. Neat.

The Fish Wife has a second outlet, with more seating, on the Grand Parade, alongside the entrance to the English Market. Both shops are open seven days a week.

The Fish Wife
McCurtain Street  and Grand Parade 
Tel: 087 2644266 / 021 2419840
Delivery via Just Eat.

Wednesday, March 21, 2018

A Red and White worth noting. From the heart of the Corbieres garrigue.

 A Cathar castle in Villerouge-Termenès about 30 minutes from the chateau.
A summer festival when I visited a few years back but in 1321 the last of the Cathar leaders were burnt alive here.
Château Beauregard Mirouze Campana rouge Corbieres (AC) 2015, 13.5%, €14.85 Bradley’s Cork, Le Caveau
This is a blend of 50% Syrah (some over 40 years old) and 50% Grenache. It is produced in small vineyard parcels, actual clearings in the heart of the Corbieres garrigue (scrub), by organic methods. Add in low yields and you get a “really honest… satisfying red”. The winemakers suggest pairing it with strips of duck breast with ratatouille. 

One advantage of being surrounded by garrigue is that the vines are well away from the sprays of neighbours. On the other hand, wild boar enjoy the cover of the scrub and so the Mirouze family have to use an electric fence to deter them.

Colour is a deep ruby. Something wild, funky they say, about the nose, perhaps it’s the garrigue. Quickly on the palate, fruit, juice and spice emerge in intense and happy combination. Good body too, a tannic backbone and a persistent finish. No shrinking violet this yet it is much more finesse than rustic. A well made and friendly wine and Very Highly Recommended. It is indeed honest and satisfying and, by the way, well priced too.

Château Beauregard Mirouze Campana blanc Corbieres (AC) 2015, 12.5%, €14.85 Bradley’s Cork, Le Caveau

Again, like the red, this is a Bio wine, certified organic. It is produced from the fruit of vines well known in the Mediterranean area, Marsanne (60%), Roussane (20) and Vermentino (20). They hand-harvest; fermentation and ageing takes places in large vats. And the makers have a preference for matching it with Fried shrimp with coriander and other herbs.

It has an inviting golden colour. The aromas also attract, with fruit and floral elements prominent. There are gorgeous peachy and melon flavours on the elegant palate, a fresh and edgy acidity to balance and an excellent finish to boot. Very Highly Recommended.

One of the better-known Languedoc appellations, Corbieres is also one of the most productive. Its vineyards, situated south and west of Narbonne, are best known for its red wines, and there is now an increasing number of good whites. Château Beauregard is less then fifty minutes from Carcassonne, less than half that to Narbonne (and its Roman Road, the Via Domitia).

Tuesday, March 20, 2018

Taste of the Week. Red Strand Coffee

Taste of the Week
Red Strand Coffee

I’ve been tending towards South America, especially Columbia, when I buy coffee nowadays and tending towards local roasters for a long time. So when I saw Columbia and a new local roaster in Bradley’s, I took a closer look and left with a bag of Red Strand’s Rio Magdalena Oporapa. 

The beans are grown at a height of between 1600 and 1650 metres in the Huila department of Columbia and roasted by Shane Kelleher in Clonakilty, West Cork. It has that recognisable Columbian profile of sweetness (Caramel) and acidity, rich and mild with a medium body. The label notes indicate Milk Chocolate, Caramel, and Orange and it is certainly a very drinkable, very satisfying coffee, now appearing in some local restaurants as well as local markets.

Shane was inspired by these markets and the producers around him to start the Red Strand Coffee Roastery. “My ethos is to only roast coffee I want to drink myself. Life's too short for bad coffee!”

If you would like to sample the coffee, please look for the Red Strand Coffee vans in Kinsale, Clonakilty, Bantry, Skibbereen and Schull markets. They’ll be serving up Lattes, Cappuccinos, Flat Whites, Mochas, Espressos, Americanos, Hot Chocolate, even tea!

Red Strand Coffee
Cois Fern, Fernhill
Clonakilty, Ireland
Tel: 087 656 6800

Monday, March 19, 2018

Two Top Whites from Bergerac and Rias Baixas

Eidos de Padriñán Albariño, Rias Baixas (DO) 2015, 12.5%, €18.30 Karwig Wines

This enjoyable well-made wine, with enough freshness to balance the fruitiness, is made by a family winery in Val do Sainés, a sub region of Rias Baixas which claims to be the birthplace of the popular Albariño grape. 

It is said of the family that “they empty the grape of virtue”. Sounds a bit drastic. I think they mean to say they get the best from it.

It has a beautiful mid-gold colour. Peach and pear among the aromas, honeysuckle too. Melon and citrus add to the flavours on the palate; it is round and fresh and has that excellent acidity that makes this versatile wine a winning match with many cuisines, including Asian. A long finish, no shortage of minerality, completes a pleasant experience. Highly Recommended.

Get the best from the wine, empty it of virtue, by making sure it is nicely chilled, ideally between nine and ten degrees celsius. Then you can drink like a monarch! The King of Spain chose Albariño wines to celebrate his marriage to Queen Letizia.

Tour des Gendres Cuvée des Conti Bergerac sec (AOC) 2013, 13%, €17.15 Bradley’s (Cork), Le Caveau

I’m always partial to a Bergerac or Bordeaux white that has more Semillon than Sauvignon blanc and this is the case with this organic white which has 70% Semillon, 20% Sauvignon and 10% Muscadelle. 

You might think that this basic entry level wine might not get that much attention. But, in Cork last year, Guillaume de Conti told me this is one that gets full attention. “It bears the family name, and it gets great care so that each vintage is of a high level.” And this, helped by six months on the lees, certainly is. Good value too.

Not too sure of the colour! Tasting was by candlelight during a power cut, glimpses of gold spotted. Quite an intense bouquet though, fruit (white) and floral. It is fruity for sure but acidity is lively too, so well balanced, and there’s a long dry finish. Great purity and intensity and Highly Recommended.

The Conti family moved from Italy to France in 1925. In the recently published Wine Revolution, author Jane Aston recommends that you try their "Pét-Nat from 100% Sauvignon Blanc vines, bottled with no added sulphur." 

Amuse Bouche extra

Drew is coming for Sunday dinner….

Grandma is wearing a good dress with an apron.. She has made her spicy beans and a roast with gravy and real potatoes, not the ones that are flakes in a white box that says mashed potatoes. For dessert there’s peach cobbler cooling on the stovetop.
Real potatoes...
… She wants me right up under her, watching how she does the cooking so I can feed my future husband a healthy meal. She shows me how to cut the onions, the carrots, and stir the brown gravy. When she lets me taste the cobbler, she feeds it to me from her hand that still has a salty onion taste.

from The Girl Who Fell from the Sky by Heidi Durrow (2010). Very Highly Recommended.

Friday, March 16, 2018

Amuse Bouche. Mimi Sheraton v Paul Bocuse

In 1977, the New York Times sent Mimi Sheraton, their restaurant critic, to France for a month where, among others, she lambasts the renowned Paul Bocuse.

Eventually she appears on a French talk show, masked by a veil… She tells Paul Bocuse that, in the interest of quality, he should perhaps start to spend some time in his restaurant’s kitchen. When the show is over and the cameras are turned off, the gourmet chef becomes violent. He tries to rip of Sheraton’s mask, she pushes him away, Bocuse stumbles and falls. Afterwards, Sheraton feels regret. That’s what she tells People magazine. Regret that she didn't slap him in the face.

from In the Restaurant (2016) by Christoph Ribbat. Very Highly Recommended.

Thursday, March 15, 2018

Super Birthday Meal in Lovely SpitJack Room

Super Birthday Meal in Lovely SpitJack Room

Over a dozen of us descended on The SpitJack last weekend to celebrate a significant birthday (and also the 70th anniversary of Ireland's 1st ever Triple Crown win!). We were seated upstairs in one of the most delightful dining rooms in the city and, with the aid of a confident crew, both in the kitchen and front of house, enjoyed a delightful meal and a lovely evening.

 We worked off the regular dinner menu where there are many choices and while the group were studying their options, I decided on a couple of wines, my first time having wine here. The red was Leda Truffle Hunter Barbera D’Asti while the white was La Mariniere Muscadet Sevre et Maine. I'm getting back into Muscadet, after a bit of a lay-off, and enjoyed this creamy lees aged bottle. Indeed, the white was slightly more popular on the night. The fresh and fruity red though also went down well.
Lamb Shank

Starters include Chicken Croquettes, Chicken Liver Paté, French Onion Soup, Salmon Mille Feuilles, Beef Carpaccio and Beetroot Carpaccio. The most popular though was the House Salted Cod "Bunyols", (Catalan Style Cod Fritters, Flacked Salted Cod, Fried Crisp Exterior, Soft Pillow Centre, Lime Chantilly), also my choice as it happened. CL, the guest of honour, enjoyed her favourite Beetroot Carpaccio.

Great buzz at the table and indeed a great buzz in the restaurant as a whole. The place was packed, upstairs and downstairs, and as soon as a table became free it was filled again. Hard to beat good food, good friendly service and all at fair price in impressive surroundings.

Now for the main event. Nine main dishes were listed along with two specials.  I've enjoyed the Lamb Shank here before and not surprised that it was the most popular choice though the cod and the  chicken ran it close. The Lamb came braised and rotisserie roasted with Red Wine Glaze, Pearl Barley & Winter Vegetable Cassoulet, Crème Fraîche, Mint Oil, Braised Lamb & Brandy Jus. By now, the SpitJack newcomers in the group were well impressed and checking around to see what they’d order next time. 
Chicken mains

In the meantime, I was enjoyed my Monkfish special and sipping the Muscadet, the wine a long way in terms of quality from the 7 or 8 franc bottle that I used buy on early visits to France away back when! Another highlight at this stage were the side plates of Rotisserie Potatoes, enhanced by the juices dripping from the meat cuts above.

Not everyone stayed the course for dessert. Among those that did, the Vanilla Crème Brulée with Pecan Shortbread was the most popular. They serve it in a large-ish shallow dish so you get a large caramelised disc, very tasty as I confirmed once again! Coffees galore and soon we were ready for road. The night, after all, was still young, just like the evergreen guest of honour!

34 Washington Street
Cork City