The Buffalo Tasting Evening in The Mills Inn.
"Failte roimh gach einne chuig an Dinnear Speisialta. Ta suil againn go mbainsidh sibh taithneamh as an ocaid seo."
These were the words of greeting as we arrived at the Mills Inn in Ballyvourney for the first ever tasting dinner for the local Toons Bridge buffalo meat. We certainly enjoyed the occasion which started with Don O’Leary of the Mills introducing us to the men behind the buffalo venture, Toby Simmons (The Real Olive Company) and Johnny Lynch (farmer).
It all started over a drink just three years ago. There was some trepidation about the buffalo, that the Irish wouldn't take to them. But, as Toby said last night, everybody is fascinated by the buffalo. And that was underlined when the farm was the subject of TG4 documentary Cogar: Buabhaill ar na Bánta (Where the Buffaloes Roam).
Don O'Leary said the joint venture by the two local men has been an inspiration to people in the area and has been an eye-opener. It could lead to a few more entrepreneurs starting up and indeed there is one venture currently brewing, involving local skill and ingredients, that may well be up and running by Christmas. We’ll keep you posted!
The starter plate: Poached Buffalo Tongue with its own mousse and Cauliflower Pickle; Buffalo Mozzarella with Pesto and Sun Blushed Tomato; Carpaccio of Buffalo with Rocket Salad, Buffalo Cheese and White Truffle Oil.
Buffalo Broth with Autumn root vegetable and a Tailmeat Wanton (served with Mills Brown Bread and Buffalo Cream Butter).
Pan Roasted Aged Dry Buffalo Sirloin with a Potato Gratin and a Buffalo Milk Horseradish and Mixed Pepper Ice Cream, Caramelised Onion Puree and Roast Garlic Jus; Fillet of Buffalo and Wild Mushroom Cottage pie with a Colcannon Kale.
Toons Bridge Buffalo Ricotta with local Ballyvourney Honey on a Sweet Tuille;
Buffalo Cream and Blackberry Tiramisu.
As I said at the start, Buffalo from tongue to tail. With Buffalo in every course, this meal ran the risk of being boring! But it was far from that and here great credit must go to the Mills chefs, Kevin Purcell (Head) and Alan Rossborough, who put a lot of work and thought into the menu.
But what did the meat taste like? Unless you were expecting something exotic, you would not have been disappointed. After all, the Buffalo is a bovine, as is your normal cow. The main course, particularly the Sirloin, perhaps provided the clearest tasting and I must say it was very pleasing indeed. Some wines are described as easy drinking. Well, this was easy eating. Delighted with it, taste and texture.
Much depends of course on how any meat is handled. This was killed about five weeks back and was beautiful and tender. Ballincollig's Christoir O'Crualaoi was the butcher and I met him at the meal. He was very happy with the outcome and aptly described the meat as a mild beef with hints of lamb. In any event, it is a fine meat that can easily find a place on the Irish plate and a welcome on the palate.
Everyone had their own favourite course. I enjoyed them all. The broth though was a highlight also, really tasty and warming.
Many of you by now know and appreciate the Mozzarella coming from Toons Bridge. I hadn’t tasted the Ricotta before but, combined with a dash or two of the local honey, it turned out to be a gorgeous surprise as indeed did that whiter than white sliced butter, once I recognized it as such. Thought it was a cheese at first.
It was that kind of night. A night to learn and explore. Hope you get the chance soon. Indeed, if you are in the Cork area on Sunday why not pop in to the Mills Inn at lunchtime where you’ll find Buffalo on the menu!