Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Taste of the Week. Gubbeen Smoked Pork Ribs

Taste of the Week
Gubbeen Smoked Pork Ribs

Fingal Ferguson of Gubbeen Somekouse has become a well respected smoked meat producer; he has over 50 products and a fascination that grows each year with the arts and science of charcuterie. Here, you’ll find superb chorizo and salamis, smoked bacon and more, even that famous cheese is smoked.

Fifty products and growing. One of the latest, Gubbeen Smoked Pork Ribs, is truly mouth-watering and our Taste of the Week. Like all his products, this comes from quality ingredients to which time and care have been added. The result is a “marriage of traditional methods and modern flavours”.

This latest product, I got mine at Mahon Point Farmers Market, means you can have a barbecue anytime you like. The BBQ sauce ingredients include pimento, olive oil, harissa, garlic, herbs and spices and it all adds up to one of most flavoursome meals imaginable. It is ready to eat but we did heat ours up a bit and tucked in. The succulent meat more or less fell away from the bones but using your fingers and teeth (the traditional way) adds to the primal pleasure. Oohs and aahs all the way! And yes, the odd grunt too.

Gubbeen Farmhouse Products, Ltd.,
Gubbeen House,
Schull, Co. Cork.
Ireland.

Cheese Telephone: 
00 353 (0)28 28231
Smokehouse Telephone: 
00 353 (0)28 27824

Monday, February 20, 2017

Jacobs on the Mall. Catching the Early Bird

Jacobs on the Mall
Catching the Early Bird


 An Early Bird was required last Friday so I checked a few websites and it was the one in Jacobs on the Mall that had most appeal. We got into the lovely old building about 5.30pm, thirty minutes after opening, and found that the place was filling up rapidly. Word of the Early Bird had obviously spread and we soon found that the promise was indeed amply fulfilled.

Basically, you get three courses for €25.00. And Head Chef Trish Lewis gives you three or four or more choices for each course. There is a good wine choice here too, lots of different wines form different parts of the world. Good to see a few Irish beers featured and also highlighted were Blackwater Gin and Kalak Vodka.

 There were three starters plus Soup of the Day. My Pick was the Smoked haddock paté, with lime gel, pickled cucumber and crostini. Very enjoyable indeed, the lime a nice touch. And CL’s Crispy chickpea fritters with pickled cucumber, and beetroot hummus, was another excellent opener, a tasty mix of colours, textures and flavours.

Chef Trish provided at least six choices for the mains including steak (with a hefty supplement). We could have had a Beef-burger, Fish and Chips, or a Blackened Chicken bruschetta.
I opted for the Pan fried cod with a creamy pearl barley, samphire and chorizo. I’m a fan of all these elements and I enjoyed every little bit of the dish which was cooked to perfection and also well presented.

Our other mains was Cuban style pork, with mint, avocado, orange, balsamic vinegar and rustic potatoes, another well cooked plateful, another happy customer.

There was agreement on the dessert as we both ordered the Raspberry and lemon curd slice with Chantilly cream, a nice little finish to an excellent Early Bird that is available Monday to Saturday from 5.00 to 6.15pm.

It is a gorgeous venue, one of the few indoor places where you might find a leaf in your wine, rather than the fly in your soup. There is a lot of foliage overhead here! Service is excellent here, from the friendly welcome to the contact at the table right through to the farewell and help with getting the coat on. Well worth a try.



Jacobs on the Mall
30a South Mall
Cork
Tel: (021) 425 1530
Message/Facebook: @jacobsonthemallrestaurant
Twitter: @JacobsOnTheMall 
Hours: Mon-Sat 5.00pm to 10.00pm. Closed Sun

Sunday, February 19, 2017

Barnabrow’s Gourmet Evening Exceeds Expectations

Barnabrow’s Gourmet Evening Exceeds Expectations
Exceptional Wine and Food Pairings
Calm, before the gourmet storm
Fine food, paired so well with gorgeous wines by ENO, featured in Barnabrow House last Saturday night as owner Geraldine Kidd continued to celebrate 20 years in business in the lovingly-restored manor house and 30-acre estate which dates back to the 17th century. The gourmet event was held in the majestic, medieval-style banqueting hall, with its gothic windows, a splendid room that sets a grand, yet relaxed tone.

Chef Stuart Bowes, who came to the East Cork venue some five years ago with an impressive pedigree - he once cooked for 2,000 people at the Sydney Opera House - came in for praise from the owner: “He made us pull our socks up!”

Stuart  thanked everyone for coming. “It was quickly booked up. We have the best ingredients in the planet around here and my ethos is to keep it simple.” He pointed to the Périgord truffles, the Kerry venison and the blood orange from Sicily as probable highlights.

Donie O’Brien of Eno Wines had carefully selected wines to match the dishes and we enjoyed an organic Cava, Pares Balta Cava NV with the opening soup: Soupe de Poisson, Gruyere and Rouille. The Rouille sauce is most often used in the cuisine of Provence, most often with bouillabaisse and indeed the lovely soup had strong echoes of the southern French fish soup.

Ballotine

We had already been welcomed into the beautifully decorated venue, where Barnabrow hold their wedding feats, with a glass of the Cava. Donie congratulated Barnabrow and promised a real wine treat and he was fully justified in doing so. Most of ENO wines come from small producers and many are organic.

And, indeed, the next wine was the star of his selection, the next match a highlight of the evening. Stuart’s Ballotine of Organic Chicken and Ham Hock, Hazelnut, Pain d’Épices was paired with J. Lohr Riverstone Chardonnay 2015 from California. 

The producer is a “real perfectionist”. The wine has been fermented and raised in oak yet Mr Lohr, a former NASA employee, has judged it all very finely indeed. No wonder, Ashford Castle are about to include it and its amazing aromas, flavours and texture, on their list.

Truffles
Speaking of aromas, next up was the Winter Black Périgord Truffle Risotto. Another outstanding and superbly executed dish from the Bowes kitchen. No oak used in the production of the matching wine, a light and fresh Pinot Noir from the Auvergne. A lovely wine with spice, fruit and finish but the Truffle dish was the star of this round.

That was followed by the main event, the Wild Venison, Roast celeriac, Savoy Cabbage, Blackberry. A simple dish but every element played a part. The Venison was perfect, I loved the cabbage and the blackberry was a great idea.


Venison

And ENO came up with another terrific match: Baron de Ley Rioja Reserva 2012, very smooth and rounded, opulent and rich, very much the complete wine. Decanter Magazine declared the 2010 version “best in Spain”.

And before I forget, the service here was intuitive and unobtrusive, efficient and friendly. And continuing in a sweet vein, we next enjoyed a sweet and rich cheese course: Truffled Brie de Meaux, honey, Poppy Seed Dorrito. Just like every other course, the quantity was just spot-on, the quality never in doubt.


Truffled Brie de Meaux

And we also had a rich and sweet wine: Quinta Seara d’Ordens LBV Port 2007. So much sweetness in one drop, one little sip was enough each time. What a match. Perfect!

And dessert saw those oranges take to the stage, or at least to the table, in an eye-catching palate-pleasing Blood Orange Trifle. Superb. And still time to finish off with a selection of Petit Fours and tea or coffee.

Blood Orange Trifle

Time to rest!


The carefully designed menu and the matching wines made it an evening to remember and impressed the many guests, some here to check Barnabrow as a possible wedding venue, others (based on past experiences) back to enjoy .

Geraldine Kidd’s enterprise is a superb location for weddings (the majestic, medieval-style banqueting hall, with its gothic windows, sets a grand, yet relaxed tone), for corporate events, for celebrations of all kinds (birthday parties, christenings, naming ceremonies, and Christmas parties) and, don't forget, for Sunday lunch. Check it all out here 

Saturday, February 18, 2017

Amuse Bouche

Calcio ( calcio storico Florence )
‘There was this fantastic thing a writer called Archie McGregor did in the 1980s…. It was called “Bruno Glanvilla writes”, and it was very much a skit of Glanville boasting, “I was in Italy last week, in bella Italia, and I was with Graham Souness, and…. oh, what a handsome man he is.” Glanville was showing off,’ ….’It was all about the fine meal he enjoyed, and the wine he drank, and the people he met.”
In a word, culture. And by the 1970s, the English football fan had set about trashing if not the citadels of European culture, then at least the idea of them.


from And the Sun Shines Now (How Hillsborough and the Premier League Changed Britain) by Adrian Tempany (2016). Very Highly Recommended.

Thursday, February 16, 2017

Munster Wine & Dine 2017 Launch at Club Brasserie

Munster Wine & Dine 2017 Launch at Club Brasserie


An amazing series of tapas style dishes, prepared by hosts Club Brasserie, heralded the start of the 2017 season for the Munster Wine and Dine Circle. Each dish was accompanied by news of an event already confirmed in the calendar for this local group, who love their food and drink and love also promoting local produce.
After a welcome prosecco, thanks to Gary O’Donovan, we had a short and interesting presentation by Cal McCarthy, Senior Sales Manager at Clonakilty Black Pudding. He told us the success of the company was down to the passion of the people involved, especially founders Eddie (RIP) and Collette. “It is available in the UK, Australia, the United Arab Emirates… we must be doing something right.” And he also told us about the right way to cook it: “..on its own, in the oven”. By the way, they also do gluten free black and white pudding and sausages.
Clonakilty Black Pudding
Beth and Harold and their staff in the Club Brasserie then began their superb service, starting with that iconic black pudding and Beth confirmed the tasty dish was indeed cooked in the oven. New committee member Stuart Musgrave then outlined the first event. In March, a group will visit Barry’s Tea, another iconic Cork producer, and the “best tea blender on the world” according to one time rival Stewert.

By now, another dish had arrived from the busy kitchen, a presentation of mushrooms from the folks at Ballyhoura and mixed in were some of their new smoked oyster and shiitake, “very tasty” according to Beth. MWD secretary Beverley Mathews was then on her feet, outlining the April event. “This will give you the chance to stand in the shoes of a large scale wine buyer.” Supervalu's top buyer, Kevin OCallaghan, will be present for a tasting of some of their wines in L’Atitude in what should be a fun evening.

Ballyhoura mushrooms
I’m not sure that there was an event for every dish and we were on to the mussels when chairperson Eithne Barry enthused about the next event, a May trip to Kinsale. She fleshed it out. A bus from the City Hall with the first stop at Black’s Brewery in Kinsale for craft beer and gin. Next stop at The Spaniard for a glass (of water?!). And finally, dinner at Man Friday, a dinner to be cooked by the younger generation in the long-established restaurant!

Soon Eithne was telling us about the summer’s premium event, a day out in West Cork. The bus will take us direct to Gubbeen where our hosts will be Fingal and his sister Clovis. Fingal will give a tour of the farm, telling us all about the cheese, about his very special smokehouse (where he produces the most divine Chorizo and Salami and more) and about his knife-making for which he is rather well-known. Over then to Clovis who will feed us all as the July evening unfolds.

Lamb
 Speaking of premium, Harold and Beth brought out a very special dish, their lovely East Cork Lamb, with their own harissa oil and spiced chickpea, small and beautiful. Speaking of East Cork, one of the earlier plates featured Ardsallagh goats cheese.

The MWD speaker now was yours truly and my task, on Saturday September 15th, is to take a group on a short walk, focussing on the Coal Quay and Shandon, areas long associated with Cork food. Back down to the city centre then for a late leisurely lunch in Jacques where no doubt there will be a reminder, maybe even a replica, of a dish from the good old days (but we'll leave the details up to the Barrys!).

Crab
 West Cork Crab was now on the menu, served with a lime chilli mayonnaise. And MWD treasurer Richard Scott took the floor to highlight the final event of the year on the 3rd Sunday of November. Lunchtime visits to Longueville House (2015) and to Ballyvolane House (2016) have proved highly successful. If it works, why change it., So this year, we are off to the Long Room in Ballymaloe where fifty happy visitors will be seated. Before the lunch, a local producer or two will be on hand to give a  presentation.

Looks like a great finalé to what should be a varied and entertaining programme.

* The membership list is very close to its upper limit. If you are interested, please email mwdcircle@gmail.com. Fees are €30.00 single, €50.00 double.

Chocolate mousse

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Three Lesser-known Grapes. Petit Verdot, Pinotage, Cinsault

Three Lesser-known Grapes
Petit Verdot, Pinotage, Cinsault

You won't find any of this trio in the comfort zone of “international” grapes. And, aside from Pinotage, you’ll not often find them in a bottle on their own. But I have and I’m very glad I did.

Petit Verdot is highly valued in Bordeaux but generally only as a small contributor to the red blend there. It ripens late and is therefore well suited to the Languedoc where our delicious example comes from.

Pinotage, according to Grapes and Vines, “is potentially South Africa’s greatest treasure…. and yet South Africans are some of its fiercest critics”. The varietal was created in Stellenbosch (it is a university town) in 1925 by crossing Pinot Noir and Cinsault. Our bottle is one of the more modern lighter types, bright and juicy.

And that same Cinsault (Samsó in Spain, Cinsaut in most other countries) is found in our other bottle, all sourced by the way by Le Caveau in Kilkenny. The producer in Chile, a Frenchman, has made a natural aromatic wine and spells it Cinsault.

At a tasting last year in L’Atitude, Francesca Jara said of it: “Five years ago, natural wine was almost an underground movement in Chile. This is 100% Cinsault, from really old vines (80 years plus), no added sulphites, no oak.”

Les Hauts de Median Petit Verdot, Pays D’Oc (IGP) 2015, 13%, €13.95  Le Caveau

These Petit Verdot grapes are grown on the slopes of a volcano in the Languedoc (between Béziers and the sea). Winemaker Aurélie Trebuchon-Vic advises there may be a slight deposit - “a sign of traditional wine-making that respects the natural qualities of the fruit". No chemicals and no pesticides are used.

Colour is a deep enough red, a glossy one. Aromas are pretty intense, dark fruits and herby notes too. And there is a super balance of fruit (mainly cherry), spice and acidity in the medium body. It is harmonious, fresh and delicious, with good length, a lovely surprise and Very Highly Recommended. Aurélie recommends enjoying it “with some friends and grilled meat”. More at www.preignes.com


Inkawu Pinotage 2013, Laibach Vineyards, Stellenbosch (South Africa), 14.5%, €22.90 Le Caveau


Laibach Vineyards, who specialise in natural and organic wine,  is situated in one of the prime red wine growing areas of South Africa. Early morning picking means no warm fruit reaches the cellar. This particular wine was aged in French oak (75% new) for 15 months. An entirely natural sediment may form, so decant. By the way, no deposit at all in my bottle.

It has a ruby red colour and you’ll find dark fruit and vanilla in the aromas. It is rich and spicy, complex, lots of flavours (including red cherry, toast). The balance is spot-on and there is a long dry finish. 

Inkawu is the Xhosa name for fun monkeys, a hint that the wine is “a playful, high-spirited expression” of the new South Africa. Maybe so. In any event, the care and hard work, the respect for the land and the fruit, has been rewarded and you may share by enjoying this Very Highly Recommended wine.



Louis-Antoine Luyt Cinsault 2013, Maule Valley (Chile), 14%, €23.50 Le Caveau


Louis-Antoine Luyt, trained by the renowned Marcel Lapierre in Beaujolais, is renowned for the character of his Chilean wines which are organic and natural, some made from very old vines indeed. Quite a character himself - some more detail here.  

This full-bodied ruby red, with no added sulphites and no oak, has inviting aromas of cherry fruit. Lots of fruit flavour, some spice, notes of aniseed follow along with a refreshing acidity and then comes the long dry finalé. Tannins are a little rustic but less so than when I tasted it a year ago. Easy drinking and, as importer Pascal Rossignol might say, easy to digest, this Cinsault is Highly Recommended. Be sure to decant this one!

At last year’s tasting, Francisca said Chile has more than cheap wines, more than the major varieties. “Irish supermarkets don't have what we drink in Chile.” You won’t find this in supermarkets either so major thanks to Le Caveau for giving us the chance to get out of the comfort zone.


* The striking label is based on old Chilean bus signage.

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Taste of the Week. Smoked Shiitake and Oyster Mushrooms

Taste of the Week
Smoked Shiitake and Oyster Mushrooms

Lucy and Mark of Ballyhoura Mushrooms have been serving us delicious stuff since they started out. Year after year it just got better. Soon Michelin star chefs wanted their mushrooms and now you can get them abroad, in prestigious outlets such as Fortnum and Mason.

Fortunately you can still get them at the farmers markets where they started off five years ago. And I spotted our Taste of the Week there in Mahon last Thursday, their delicious smoked Shiitake and Oyster. These beautiful mushrooms are always good from Ballyhoura, now they are at a whole new level of flavour.
Starting off. November 2011 in Douglas Farmers Market

They are a must try and I’m sure cooks and chefs all over the place will be striving to get their hands on them. We got just a few for a quick lunch, fried them up and served them on toasted Arbutus. As they say on Twitter: OMG. Amazing! Our simple lunch was all of that and I was thinking they would make a fantastic ingredient in a pasta dish. But I'll leave all that up to you chefs out there.

By the way, Mark and Lucy have an excellent website up and running here.  You may read all about their mushrooms (cultivated and foraged) and products (eg Cep Oil). There are a few recipes there as well. And, of course, you can order the likes of Porcini Dust and Wild Garlic Vinegar from their online shop. But don’t forget the farmers markets in Mahon and Midleton!