Monday, October 20, 2014

The Square Table Launched

The Square Table Launched
Big Night for Coolea Sisters

Top left: Graham Neville (l) with Lucy and Mark of Ballyhoura Mushrooms.
Top right: Cheers! Martina and Yours Truly.

“I wish the two sisters all the best. They have shown great courage,” said Michelin Star chef Ross Lewis as he helped officially launch The Square Table restaurant in Blarney last night. The two sisters are Patricia and Martina Cronin, both originally from Coolea and now well experienced in the restaurant world. Patricia is front of house while Martina (who has worked with Ross) is the head chef.

Martina has also worked with Graham Neville, Head Chef at Restaurant Forty One, who also spoke at the opening. Graham is rather modest and it took Ross to step in and remind us all that Neville is the reigning Food and Wine Magazine Chef of the Year.

The two girls also spoke and their first priority was to say a big thank you to the people of Blarney for their support over the past few months. Martina said they simply wanted to present good well sourced Irish food and had big thanks for three mentors in particular: Kieran Scully (Bayview Hotel), Ross Lewis (Chapter One) and, of course Graham Neville.

Their suppliers too came in for praise as did their local staff (“absolutely fantastic”), all their friends, family, especially Mum and Dad.

Ross Lewis, from Cork himself, said he knows the Cronins well! “The heroes of today are those who employ people. I started in 1993 and I know that success will come.” But he warned that staying power was needed to deal with the special demands of being an employer, including PAYE, PRSI, banks, teaching employees.

“The complexities are enormous. It is a very daunting task. But I know the Cronins are determined. Martina has the doggedness of a lion. It is amazing and great to see people that we’ve worked with get out on their own”.

The sisters were hardly on their own last evening. There was a terrific turnout. Suppliers present included River Wines, Ballyhoura Mushrooms and Pat O'Connell. The media and blogger world was well represented by Joe McNamee, Jack Power, Caroline Hennessy, among others. And no shortage either of fellow restaurateurs, including Nash 19 and Jacques.

The family were naturally up in force from Coolea and customers were also among the attendance. And, after the speech, Matina was back in the kitchen sending out a stream of gorgeous little bites including Durcan’s Spiced Beef, Ardsallagh Goat Cheese, Liscannor Crab, Michael Twomey’s Wagyu Rib-eye, Ballyhoura Mushrooms, and Old Millbank Smoked Salmon.

On the sweet side there were Macaroons, Poached Blackberries, Chocolate Brownies and a Lemon Cream and Blueberry meringue, all gorgeous. And no shortage of wine to wash it all down.

Thanks for the invite ladies and the best of luck in Blarney!

Saturday, October 18, 2014

Amuse Bouche

She drinks too much. Two aperitivos before dinner. A full bottle every night at our table. Afterwards, a night cap or two. Grappa for her, a kind of Italian poitín, and sometimes limoncello. When she drinks, she asks searching questions.’Why haven’t you found a woman, Charlie?’ Why hasn’t she found a man? Not men, but a man. ‘I don’t want to be a serial shagger,’ she says. ‘I want to settle down. It’s almost too late for kids. What happened to us all?’

from No Paradiso by William Wall

Friday, October 17, 2014

Come Savour The Night of 1000 Feasts in Kilkenny!

Come Savour The Night of 1000 Feasts in Kilkenny!

Next Sunday week, I’ll be having an evening meal in Kilkenny. But I have no idea as to the venue. If you'd like to know more, read on …. 
Kilkenny will be cooking up a storm as hundreds of homes in the City and County throw open their doors for a mouth-watering Night of 1000 Feasts on October 26th.
A major appeal has been issued to food lovers to organise a feast at home, on their streets, in their local community centres, in local restaurants or hotels to raise funds for the Town of Food project.
“Whether it is simple or extravagant it doesn't matter.  We want everyone in Kilkenny feasting on Sunday 26th October, during the Savour Kilkenny Festival, to celebrate good food, friendship and to support this very important project at the same time”, according to project coordinator Francis Nesbitt.
Nesbitt said that this is the first time an event like this, where hundreds of people are feasting in their homes at the same time for a common cause has been tried in Ireland.
 He added: “Kilkenny is one of Ireland’s top food destinations with World class artisan producers, chefs and restaurants. The Night of 1000 Feasts will be a major celebration of our food culture. Nothing like this has been tried in Ireland before but we feel it perfectly captures our love of good food and the community based nature of the Town of Food project.”
Organised as part of the Savour Kilkenny Food Festival, which is on from October 24th – 27th, the Night of 1000 Feasts may be enjoyed by some far from the Marble City. “We will be reaching out to the Kilkenny Diaspora to take part, register their Feast on our website and tell us all about their Feast online”, promises Nesbitt.
 Town of Food Chairman, John O’Connor suggests that in this fast moving World people don’t take the proper time to prepare, cook and appreciate food with their loved ones. “This is the perfect opportunity to gather friends and to make a great night of it.” 
Those hosting meals are asked to register their feast on the Town of Food website and friends attending can make a financial contribution to the project. Registered hosts will be entered into a draw to win a major prize.
“Well known Food Bloggers from all over Ireland will be heading to Kilkenny to join in and report on the Feasts. We’re sure that the live-tweeting of photos from some of the Feasts are sure to have everyone salivating”, Susan FitzGerald, one half of ‘Green and Vibrant’ who are organizing the Bloggers' visit, said. "Savour Kilkenny is already one of the most mouth-watering events in the Irish festival calendar. The Night of 1000 Feasts will bring that fun, tasty buzz right into peoples’ homes, and via the Bloggers' live tweeting people around the world can join in with the Kilkenny craic! Keep your eye on the hashtag #1000Feasts to follow the fun!"
Town of Food is a community led initiative aimed at promoting Kilkenny as an important food destination. It aims to support the production and promotion of local, quality food ingredients and to develop an educational food hub to attract professional and amateur cookery students.
The project will be based in a custom developed Food Education and Incubation centre in the former Boy’s National School in Thomastown, Co. Kilkenny. A training garden and community space will also be developed there.
Thomastown is an established tourism and food destination nestled on the River Nore and home to the renowned Mount Juliet estate which boasts the Michelin Star rated restaurant Lady Helen.
Under the EU Rural Development Programme, LEADER will provide funding to Town of Food of up to €750,000 for Building works, marketing and training to the end of 2015. In order to access these funds, Town of Food must raise €182,000 in ‘matched funding’ through donations, fundraising and sponsorship.
For more information contact: Mag Kirwan 086-8188340 or  Project Coordinator, Francis Nesbitt 087 236 8555

The Kinsale Gourmet Academy.

The Kinsale Gourmet Academy
Speaking at the launch were (clockwise from top left)
 David Rice, Lord Mayor Alan Coleman,
Des McGahan and Ross Lewis.
Ross Lewis, the Cork-born Michelin star winning chef and co-owner of Dublin restaurant Chapter One, spoke of his early visits to Kinsale as he launched the spanking new Kinsale Gourmet Academy at Ballinacurra House on Tuesday.

“Kinsale was the only place where you could get coffee in 1978. That was in the Blue Haven, on Saturdays and Sundays only. And it was a bonus if you got a scone, left over from Saturday!”

Ross has a great admiration for the area and especially for Martin Shanahan of Fishy Fishy. At the Chef’s Table in Chapter One, they often have US visitors and these visitors were regularly asked if they were visiting Kinsale. And the usual answer was: Yes, we are going to Fishy, Fishy. Now Ross asks the visitors if they will visit Kinsale, after visiting Fishy Fishy.

Ballinacurra Head Chef David Rice heads up the new purpose built and very well equipped academy. David “missed medicine by about 600 points” and started his culinary career washing potatoes (with an occasional promotion to making sandwiches) in the Blue Haven.

Limerick man David eventually worked under Ross at Chapter One. “What that man taught me. Unbelievable!” He obviously taught David a respect for the country’s artisan producers and the Kinsale academy will showcase their work.
The sea featured in both demo dishes
“There will be a variety of courses, including one day, two day, and five day courses, that will be both for learning and relaxing! Next year, we intend to set up a professional course of a much longer duration. I really appreciate this evening’s turnout.”

Cork County Mayor Alan Coleman and owner Des McGahan also spoke at the well-attended launch, both with great humour and that trend continued when Ross and David took the mike. And indeed, it was a feature throughout the cookery demonstration that the pair undertook in the academy itself.

It was a lovely evening in a magical place. Some beautiful canapes and later there were pizzas from the brick oven and cocktails from the newly opened Cuban Bar. The Cuban Cocktail Lounge has authentic paraphernalia and original objects de art items sourced directly from Cuba. It’s the perfect Rum Shack for Havana Club based Mojitos, Cuba Libras, Daiquiris and more.

A large focus for the Academy will be building on Ballinacurra’s reputation for catering for private groups and corporates. Owners Des and Lisa McGahan will work with them to design a bespoke course to suit their needs and objectives, level of capability, and so forth. It will include a teambuilding element, adding in meeting time or other activities.

Individuals will also be able to book into scheduled courses which will range in duration from a half day upwards. Classes will be kept small to ensure the students receive the best quality and one-to one tutoring possible. The Academy has been purpose built with the students in mind,  8 double workstations where 16 students can work hands-on. There is also an instructors island with the top-of-the-range induction hob for demonstrations.

Ross and David show it's done!

"Ballinacurra House and Kinsale have become synonymous with fabulous food for many years.
The new Gourmet Academy will further strengthen Kinsale’s reputation as the ‘culinary’ capital’. It was one the key factors missing in Kinsale’s bid as ‘Foodie Capital of Ireland’ and we feel it’s the final piece of the jigsaw which will further add to the prestige of the town,” said Des.

Ballinacurra House, in a rural area on the edge of the town, is set within a walled garden with 10 foot-high stone walls, security gates and 40 acres of  woodland and lawns. This elegant country mansion brings back old-world opulence and personal service in a unique and totally private environment. “Our exclusive-use estate allows you the opportunity to share your experiences or special occasion with friends, family or peers in magical ambient surrounds, without compromise.” If you have a corporate event or a family event coming up, why not check it all out here.

Tel: +353 (0)21 4779040

Dingle School
Just about two weeks earlier, I had attended the opening, by Neven Maguire, of the Dingle Cookery School. This is another magnificent facility with a team of excellent chefs in charge of a large range of courses, everything from a half day Catch and Cook course to a four week evening course on Ethnic Cookery. And they also have a couple of Pop-Up Restaurant nights scheduled, including one for Halloween.

See the Autumn/Winter courses at

Tel: +353 (0)86 8723521.

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Taste of the Week

Taste of the Week
Folláin Extra Fruit Whiskey Medium Cut Marmalade

Folláin to me means class in a jar and this marmalade is no exception. Wakes up the taste buds and helps brighten up the morning. Widely available, it is one of many good things coming out of the Coolea area and is Taste of the Week.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Euro-toques Day Out. From Wood to Waterfall

Euro-toques Day Out
From Wood to Waterfall
Under the waterfall at Greene's: Pam, Kate, Christine.
From foggy morning to sunny afternoon, the Munster contingent of Euro-toques enjoyed their day out last Monday. That foggy morning was spent foraging mushrooms in a North Cork wood while the afternoon saw the chefs and guests tuck into a gorgeous late lunch in Greene’s by the Waterfall. Greene's head chef Bryan McCarthy put the day’s package together with a huge input from Mark and Lucy of Ballyhoura Mushrooms and sponsorship by Wines Direct and La Rousse Foods.
In the wood
It was quite an education in the woods and we all agreed you’d need more than one outing with an expert before trusting yourself in the mushroom field. Lots to take in as Mark and Lucy shared their in-depth knowledge.

“Chanterelles can't be cultivated, they are symbiotic. They grow from May to the first frost, have a sweet seafoody flavour and an apricot aroma when fresh. They have a solid stem. The false chanterelle has a hollow one. There are also autumn chanterelles, including a black one one called the Horn of Plenty, found in areas of pine, with a lovely woody flavour, our favourite!”.
In the wood (2): Caroline takes the higher ground;
Fionnula relaxes with her bag of food.
Bottom: "This one stinks!" (right)
and Gautham searching in the fog.
Note the polypores on the tree
on the left.
“Ceps are found near mature beech trees, When they are young they are snow white with a natural umami flavour, great texture and very versatile as regards use.” But maybe not as versatile as the Birch polypore which, when dried out, can be used to sharpen your kitchen knives!

Much more to be found out as the bus load of mostly amateurs spread out among the trees, watching out for branches springing back, muddy patches, cow pats, slippery slopes, briars, even barbed wire here and there. Still, despite a few minor tumbles, it turned out to be a terrific morning in the old deciduous wood and quite a few baskets were filled.
Cured organic Deenish Island Salmon
Back to the bus then and we arrived in Greene's in mid-afternoon sun be be greeted with cool glasses of La Contesse spumante.  Fionnula Harkin of Wines Direct, introduced us to Francesca of Le Contesse who told us about the family run vineyard, how the grapes are handpicked and that quality and consistency are prime considerations. Fionnula emphasised that this is the kind of vineyard that Wines Direct deals with, “family run vineyards, nothing industrial”.

Ross Lewis from Chapter One, a senior member of Euro-toques, then spoke. “Ireland has some of the best primary produce in the world. And Euro-toques is one big food family, passionately engaged with artisans. As the artisan movement gets stronger and stronger, Ireland's food will have its day in the sun.” He reported that tourists in his own restaurant are overwhelmingly positive about their experiences of Irish food.

Seared Wild Irish Venison Haunch Fillet
wine: Luc Lapeyre Les Clots (Languedoc)
And then it was time to sample some of that food. We had some beautiful nibbles by the waterfall in the sun before moving indoors to continue enjoying the produce of Ballyhoura Mushrooms, Wines Direct, Caroline Robinson Organic Vegetables, Kilbrack Farm, La Rousse Foods, Ummera, Jack McCarthy, Waterfall Farms, and Arbutus Breads. Greene’s chefs, like their Euro-toques colleagues nationwide are, as Ross Lewis said, “passionately engaged with artisans”. And this meal brilliantly underlined it!

  • If you spot your favourite chef sprouting a moustache this month and next, he’s more than likely doing it for charity, all in aid of Movember who raise awareness and funds for prostrate cancer, testicular cancer and men’s health. Don’t leave it all to the chefs!
Poached Garden Pear & Wild Foraged Blackberry
wine: Le Contesse Pinot Rose.

L'Atitude 51. More Than A Wine Bar!

L'Atitude 51. More Than A Wine Bar!
Wine aces: Emma (left) and Beverley

Since 1968, when people in Catalunya talk of Barcelona FC, they say “it is more than a club”. Perhaps from now on, L’Atitude 51 will be referred by its many friends as “more than a wine bar”. For that was the gist of the citation read out in Dublin last week when the popular Cork venue was awarded the Wine Award of the Year in the 2015 Georgina Campbell Awards, Ireland’s longest-running hospitality awards, and highly respected by the industry.
Co-owners, Beverley Mathews and Emmanuelle Legrand, told me that they are extremely proud and honoured to receive this award in recognition of their efforts to create a better understanding of wine and encourage people to step out of their oenological comfort zones. This award is the crown they have been working towards since opening less than 3 years ago; despite that, it came as a complete surprise to both ladies when the announcement was made. Beverley and Emmanuelle stress that this journey could not have happened without the loyal following of customers who have supported L’Atitude 51 from the outset.
The key philosophy behind L’Atitude 51 is to make wine fun and exciting, and to that end they are always on the lookout for new and original activities to promote wine. The recent virtual skype tasting organized for Culture Night, which is cited in Georgina Campbell’s review, is one such event and was the first of its kind in Ireland.
They also organize a monthly CineCafe, which features a movie with a food and/or wine theme and incorporates a tasting in keeping with the movie. They also hold regular wine classes. Besides wine, music also plays a prominent part in their calendar of events with live gigs aplenty. Always striving to keep things fresh, they are currently in the throes of a complete overhaul of their wine list in an effort to get people drinking “better”. The new list will be launched in time for L’Atitude 51’s 3rd anniversary at the beginning of December – so keep an eye out for it!
L'Atitude 51 
Beverley Mathews - Emmanuelle Legrand
Tél. : 021 2390219
Email :

The Award Citation
L’Atitude 51 Wine Café, Cork
This is the only category of our Awards for which we encourage applications. While we also take note of other outstanding wine offerings encountered on our travels, interested establishments may submit their wine lists for consideration, and they are then judged together with other aspects of the wine experience.  
Billing itself as a wine café, this quirky riverside venue is part tapas bar, part wine bar - and, run by French and Irish friends, Emmanuelle Legrand and Beverley Mathews, it has a distinctly continental flair. Emmanuelle and Beverley have a serious passion for wine, which they love to share with customers.
Alongside the well-sourced ingredients for the café or evening tapas menus (great selection of European and artisan foods served up as delicious taster plates), you’ll find a creative wine list on an oversized blackboard listing over 50 bottles, half of which can be sampled as tasting glasses (75ml), or ordered by the glass or carafe. Daily specials come with a suggested wine pairing, and a 'wine flight' (tasting to compare several wines) can be arranged in whatever combination interests you. Or you can take part in their 'mystery wine challenge', where they select three wines for you to taste 'blind' - if you get them right, they refund you the price of the three wines...Win or lose, it's a fun way to learn more about wine.
Other interesting drinks include Irish craft beers (8 Degrees on draught, Dungarvan by the bottle) and Longueville House cider, as well as an international list and cocktails too. Upstairs, wine workshops and tastings - including meet the winemaker evenings and tutored whiskey tastings - are held in a room with great river views. And innovative events are a special feature of L'Atitude 51 - a recent example was an internet tasting, where wines were tasted in Cork with insight coming from the Irish winemakers in Sussex, South Africa and New Zealand on Skype (big screen). Whether to focus on learning or simply while away an afternoon or evening sampling the tempting wares, it’s an inviting spot. Very much a bar with benefits.
Events to come...
- Thursday 16th October
Lynda Cullen, Jamie O’Shea
Jazz Festival @ L’Atitude51
- Friday 24th October (10.30 pm – Free) Lyda
- Saturday 25th October
Eileen Healy – Edel Sullivan
- Sunday 26th October
Colin McLean Latin Trio

Movies you “See & Taste”
Wednesday 22nd October at 8 pm
Babette’s Feast
Tickets 12 euros (includes tasting)
Booking essential : Tel. 021 2390219 or

Thursday 6th November
"A Wine Goose Chase"
This is an interactive wine tasting combined with storytelling which takes you on a trip with the tenacious Irish people who transformed the wine world and didn't let coming from a grape-free land stop them!
Tickets €20 Doors 8pm Show starts at 8.30pm
Booking essential :

Friday November 7th "A Taste of Ventoux"
Presentation and tasting with Fred Chaudiere of Chateau Pesquié – an estate located at the foot of the Ventoux Mountain in the Southern Rhone, run by 3 generations of winemakers.
Tickets €15. - 7.30pm
Booking essential :
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Sunday, October 12, 2014

Early Bird at La Dolce Vita

Early Bird at La Dolce Vita

Appetiser (top) and Parmigiana di Melanzane

Felt like an Italian the other night. Re-start. Felt like eating Italian the other night and headed up the banks of the south channel as dusk came to French’s Quay (named after a wine merchant) and Proby’s Quay where La Dolca Vita stands in the shadow of the cathedral.

They say this is where the city's Italians come to eat and, by the sounds in the comfortable dining area, it is no idle boast. We were welcomed in at 6.45pm and decided to try the early bird, two courses (starter and mains) and a glass of wine for €21.50.

One of the features of this room, and indeed of its earlier phases (remember Proby’s Bistro, the Brick Oven), is the amount of lampshades, must be about two dozen, hanging from the ceiling. Makes the lighting all rather cosy!

Soon we were at our table, going through the choices and noted that the fish and meat is sourced locally, from the English Market. There were at least six starters available to us and dozens of main courses. While we are deciding, we are treated to an tasty pesto appetizer.

They do have the brick oven here still (they call it the “Big Fella”) and that was used to do our starter. We each went for the Parmigiana di Melanzane (Brick oven cooked sliced Aubergine, Parmesan, Tomato sauce). Substantial and really superb.

The brick oven was in action again for my mains: the Salsiccia & Cherry tomatoes pizza (Pomodoro, mozzarella, italian sausage and cherry tomatoes drizzled with basil oil). The tomatoes were deliciously juicy and the herby sausage was full of flavour. Hadn't had a pizza in ages and really enjoyed this one.

The other mains, Salmon la Dolce Vita (Fresh salmon with Prawns in Cherry Tomato Sauce), tasted as well as it looked. The simple tomato sauce was a lovely match for the well-cooked salmon and a side dish of potatoes and veg was excellent as well.

All that, and two glasses of Nero d’Avola “from the south”, for €21.50. A lovely meal and at a very good price indeed and it was two satisfied customers that departed at 7.48pm. The early bird is available Monday to Thursday until 8:30, Friday, Saturday and Sunday until 7:00.

Amuse Bouche

There’s something wonderful about drinking in the afternoon. A not-too-cold pint, absolutely alone at the bar - even in this fake-ass Irish pub. It’s new, built to look like old. Erin go Bragh bullshit with its four flat screens… The generic Irish bric-a-brac they deliver by the truck-load. Empty moving vans roaming the Irish countryside right now, I imagine, waiting for old Missus Meagher to drop dead into her black pudding so they can buy up the contents of her curio shelves. All of it shipped straight off to a central clearing house, where it’s divvied up between Instant Irish Pubs in New York, Milwaukee,Singapore and Verone.

from Medium Raw by Anthony Bourdain.

Friday, October 10, 2014

Out of the Blue. Where the best fish go.

Out of the Blue.
Where The Fab Fish Go

Dingle was all abuzz for last weekend’s annual Food Festival. Not easy to get a restaurant booking on Saturday night and one of the most sought after tables was at Out of the Blue on the waterfront. Tim Mason’s 12 year old fish restaurant, powered by two French chefs, has a colourful “hut” type frontage. But don’t worry. The building, which goes back a bit from the road, is solid and the cooking is spectacular.

After emails, phone calls and texts, all a few days earlier, they managed to squeeze us in late on Saturday night. Met one of my twitter pals at the wine bar on the way in. “You’re in for a treat”, she said. And, boy, was she right! The good vibes continued with the smiling welcome and service was a delight all the way to the final cheery good nights.

They have quite a wine list normally but had added a string of specials for the Food Festival. I didn't go further than the first one. I like my Verdejo and, with the fish in mind, choose the Mesta Verdejo Organic 2013 from the Ucles region in Spain. Inviting aromas are followed by a clean and refreshing palate; a very enjoyable wine. Was also tempted by the Cres Richards Marsanne-Roussane (a favourite blend) but was very happy with my Spaniard.
Amuse, soup, and crab

Didn't need to touch the wine for a while though as we started off this special festival tasting menu with a glass of prosecco to accompany Mackerel Pate and home cured Salmon. The sea, oh the sea,  gra geal mo chroi! Great flavours and texture had us humming.

And that was followed by a Pumpkin and Fennel and Curry Soup with some sautéed scallops lurking in the gorgeous warming mix. Eating and drinking in this well blended bowl. Then it was the turn of the crustacean: crab balls and crab toes with a mango and chilli pesto. Looked well and the flavours were clean and brilliant. The sea, oh the sea!

And then another chorus as the “main event” arrived. This was the magnificent duo of fish: roasted turbot with morelle crumble, pan-fired John Dory with tarragon and horse-radish sauce, with a mini pumpkin stuffed with ratatouille and basil. That ratatouille was brilliant, could have eaten it on its own but, combined with the two fish, the whole ensemble fully deserved the main event tag. It must have been full-tilt in the kitchen at that point but no sign of any turbulence on this superb plate.
Main event

Before dessert, we had baked camembert with rhubarb and pear chutney. I enjoyed mine but there was a mixed reception, some thinking that the mustard dressing with the salad was just too much!

And then there was quite a finale, a massive multi part dessert: Passionfruit panna cotta, hazelnut, walnut and caramel tart, hazelnut and almond biscuit and a gianduja (a mix of hazelnut and chocolate).  “For a treat” they said. And they weren't kidding. Superb dessert, superb meal. Very Highly Recommended.

See also:
The Dingle Taste Trail
The Dingle Distillery Tour
My Dingle Food Experience