Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Rural Cafe serves Europe on a Plate

Rural Cafe serves Europe on a Plate
Mozarella to Manzanilla

There is a little red shop and cafe in the countryside on the R584, a fascinating winding road  between Macroom and Bantry. Nothing special here, you might think. You’d be a long ways wrong. For in this little treasure house, you may buy Olives, Olive Oil, Sundried Tomatoes, Dried Fruit and other Mediterranean goodies.

And you will also see Mozzarella and Ricotta on sale here. More from the Med? No, because these gorgeous cheeses are made with milk from the local buffalo, introduced here a couple of years ago by Toby Simmonds (of the Real Olive Co) and local farmer Johnny Lynch.

Was on my way to Killarney last week and decided to make a detour to the shop which is just past the famous Gearagh and on the right immediately after crossing the Toon River. As it turned out, Toby and Jenny Rose were in the café. Delighted to see them.

Toby said they had been “blown away” by the reaction to the recent opening of the cafe, thrilled with the huge local support. Already there are plans for expansion and the Toons Bridge Dairy Shop/Cafe could become a must call stop on the way west. Maybe a full stop!

Jenny Rose: "We sell our buffalo milk produce (mozzarella, ricotta, butter, raw milk, aged cheese, cream cheese and yoghourt) and our Mediterranean foods (olives, oils, Iberico meats etc.). We also provide an outlet for other local artisan producers (De Roiste puddings, Coola cheese, jams etc.). Attached to the old creamery there is a pretty garden, where we grow lots of the herbs and edible flowers used on the olive stalls."

In the cafe, they serve simple food made from the abundant ingredients on site as well as good coffee, organic wine and sherry and scrumptious homemade desserts. We didn’t time it all that well. Would have loved to have had a bigger meal but settled for a small one.

But that small one was unbelievable: mozzarella (so so fresh), tomato and basil. Best ever! And CL was also thrilled with her Toasted Sandwich of Mozzarella, Tomatoes, and a basil pesto, served with a tomato relish. Top class and so too was the coffee. Sadly, we had to leave the collection of cakes and desserts behind us but I’m sure they found good homes.

Jenny Rose and Toby then took time out to show us around the adjoining dairy where the cheese is made, soft cheese and hard cheese. Sean Ferry is the cheesemaker, an experienced operator, previously involved with Gabriel cheese. 

While there is a quick turnaround for the soft cheese, the hard cheese (both buffalo and cow) has to be held for much longer, about eight months for the buffalo and maybe up to three times that for the cow. Sean then took us to the Cheese room where the big rounds mature under ideal conditions.

Back out into the yard then where the vans come and go to the English Market and to the many farmer’s markets that this little dairy serves. 

Time to say goodbye and thanks to Sean and head down a nearby side road to see the buffalo in the fields. Directions were precise and we found them without a bother, thinking all the time that the few people behind this thriving enterprise deserve fantastic credit for the way they have put it all together. And there is more to come! Watch this space.

For us though, the focus was now on the road. Toby obviously loves the countryside around here and strongly recommended we take the route. And it was well worthwhile, even if there was grass growing in the middle. Loved the autumn colours and the views as we headed up through Reenaree and then down into the back of Ballyvourney. 

Hard cheese, buffalo (on top) and cow.

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