Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Winner of BBC MasterChef 2011 is Celtic Cook Off Guest

Winner of BBC MasterChef 2011 is Celtic Cook Off Guest of Honour
Tim Anderson will participate over two days in 2012 Celtic Cook Off in West Cork

The
Celtic Cook Off in West Cork continues to build on the success of the inaugural event in September 2011 by attracting top chefs to take part in what is becoming one of the culinary events of the year.

The 2011 Celtic Cook Off was held as part of the
A Taste of West Cork Festival that proved very popular with the paying public, the local food producers, Fáilte Ireland, the media and all the Chefs involved. The basis of the Celtic Cook Off was to create a fun and informative Cooking Show that showcases the best of West Cork produce cooked simply with each Chef’s own interpretation and ideas.


Tim Anderson, BBC MasterChef Winner 2011, is attending the September 2012 event as Guest of Honour. During two days he will meet local artisan food producers and have a chance to both sample and cook with their produce. He will also meet the competing chefs from the Celtic regions, including Sean Hill for Wales and Jack Stein for Cornwall, before acting as one of the six judges for the Celtic Cook Off itself along with Roy Brett from Scotland and Martin Shanahan from Ireland.


Tim Anderson was born in Wisconsin, USA and raised on a balanced diet of cheeseburgers, pizza, Danish pastries, and root beer. At age 18 he relocated to Los Angeles, where he quickly became a connoisseur of regional Japanese noodles, American craft beer, and tacos sold out of trucks.


Upon graduating from college, Tim moved to Japan to indulge in the country's many hot springs and diverse local foods – in particular the unexpectedly pork-intensive and indelicate dishes of Kyushu, Japan's southernmost island. It was there that Tim fell in love with a British woman, and so he once again displaced himself, this time to London, where he developed a love for British ale, cheese, curry, game, and seafood. Along the way, he has travelled to France, Mexico, Italy, Hong Kong, Thailand, Taiwan, Burma, and Denmark, accruing new and diverse culinary influences at every opportunity.

In 2011 he wove those influences into a colourful tapestry of flavour to win the hit BBC series MasterChef at age 26, making him the youngest champion ever. He currently works as a mercenary chef, food writer, and sommelier of beer.


Date of Celtic Cook Off: Wednesday 12 September 2012, 7.30 PM
Location/Venue: The West Cork Hotel, Skibbereen, Co. Cork, Ireland.


A Red that’s light and bright


A Red that’s light and bright
Chartron et Trebuchet, 2010 Macon AOC, 12.5% abv, €12.99 Curious Wines

Want to try something in red other than Cabernet Sauvignon, Rioja or Merlot, then why not have a look at this bright featherweight from the Macon?

It is an easy drinking fruity red with a little tannic kick, light and with a decent balance. If you don’t fancy the more full-on reds, this one, a blend of Pinot Noir and the Gamay grape (used extensively in Beaujolais), is a sound bet.

The general advice for this Macon, which is probably more of a spring and summer wine, is to drink it as young as possible. This is the kind of light red that easily fits with a salad and would be gorgeous with one that includes Ummera smoked chicken.

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

As Others See Us. Swedish Journalist Visits Cork.

First "met" Swedish writer Pelle Blohm on twitter, thanks to a Corkman, Mark O'Sullivan @markstkhlm, an ex Tramore Athletic player, who lives in Sweden and also Philip O'Connor, Swedish based Irish sports journalist @philipoconnor . Pelle is a regular visitor to Ireland, has been Grand Marshall at a Swedish Patrick's Day parade and owns an Irish wolfhound.


Pelle Blohm (@PBlohm on twitter): Freelance writer about football and culture and stuff in between. TV-expert-commentator in football. 


Pelle played professional football at a high level and had stints in places such as Derby and China as well as more local contracts at home and in Norway. In this You Tube clip you see him scoring against Torino in the 1992 UEFA Cup.  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SfXF5JewthY


Met Pelle at his B&B, @HandlebarsBandB  on the Lower Road, just after his arrival by train from Dublin and we headed off to Mahon Point Farmer's Market and Kinsale for a few hours. The ink was hardly dry on my short blog account of the day when I got a tweet from Mark saying an article by Pelle had appeared in his (Pelle's) local paper, the NA in Örebro, and told me "it was a good plug for Mahon Point Farmers Market and Kinsale".


See what you think. Must warn you though this is a Google translation, prone to error, though Mark says it is a pretty fair translation. I have added my own interpretations where there is doubt (in brackets).



CHIDED (BY) A CAB DRIVER DUBLIN
Talking football tends to be one of the best ways to break the ice
with the taxi drivers wherever you are in the world. It name drops a
name of a player or team and I usually talk to be running and the
atmosphere on top.

This early morning Dublin was not quite as usual. I jumped into a taxi
to take me to Heuston Station and by train to Cork. After a little
morning buzz about the weather chaffisen (the driver) asked:
- What do you do then?
sleepy as I was I took the easiest route.
- I work with football.

It (he) exploded in the front seat.
- Stupid, fucking, wankers those footballers. All they do is drinking,
gambling and whoring. Then went he with a long rant about working-class
boys who flooded with sick money that they do not have a clue how to
care for. 

Idiot British club owners and a crazy industry. Of course, I
was silent, sit well here and look out over empty dark streets, I
thought. After all, he had a point with his outburst. Although his
words breathed old Irish morality Catholicism. Thinking of adding a
diplomatic comment somewhere but just then we were there.

Down in Cork I met Billy Lyons. A man who through friends and the amazing network
Twitter gave away five hours of their (his) time to show me around Cork's
surroundings. A man who talked the strangest accent I've heard in
English. He almost sang out the words that fit together without
interruption. Each sentence ended and began, remained an enigma. Then I
was still warned of the singing Cork dialect. I took a chance with yes
and sometimes no other times. It worked pretty well. 
Pelle in Kinsale

Billy drove past the soccer fields on top of the round green hills (in Kinsale) and talked to (about) local football as he is passionate about, I saw the old Charles Fort from the 1800s, the beautiful summer town of Kinsale and the famous pub Bulman. 

Billy is a food writer took me to Mahon Point Farmers Market outside of town (Cork) where I walked around and greeted the vendors of local Cork Products. Tasted pâté, cheeses, bread and mushroom soup. Got a rant (explanation) about sushi with an Irish twist and juices and jams from the area. Fantastic day together with a very hospitable and proud Cork Nationals. 

Later on vincaféet (wine cafe?) L’Atitude 51 at the edge of the River Lee's southern channel, I read in the NA (his local paper) if someone wrote a nidlåt (anthem?) of Örebro. We are poor in Örebro on writing good songs about our city. Ireland is a master in this branch. 

Here are so many songs at any time of the country, towns and villages. Pride and love, joy and pain that is mediated through the music. We should call Örebro musicians to
write more songs such as Nikola Sarcevic and his song Hometown. 

They should be put online and on CD's, paid for by the municipality and
used to promote Örebro. Instead of Phil Lynott's tribute to Dublin.
Mats Ronander of Örebro. Or a variant of Luke Kelly's song about
Belfast. "The town I loved so well" in Örebro robes of Karin Wistrand.
End of Pelle's article.

You can see the original article, which was written in a McCurtain Street bar where, according to Pelle, the Wi-Fi was good and the coffee wasn't, here 

Monday, February 27, 2012

LAST SUPPER AT AUGUSTINE'S

Breads
Mushroom and Onion Soup
Carpaccio of Monkfish, blood orange fennel salad
Squid Ink Rissoto 
Chicken consomme over boudin blanc
Scallop, Terrine Foie Gras & Oxtail, apple puree
========
Then a palate cleansing shot of Lemon and Lime.
Pigeon Wellington, Warm Coleslaw, Celeriac Fondant

After the cheese, we enjoyed Chocolate Grenache and Raspberry Sorbet
+++++++++
Augustine's bowed out in style last Saturday night. The always popular venue was packed out for the last supper. Great company and, of course, great food. Photos didn't turn too badly so I think, on this occasion, I'll let Brendan Cashman's superb food do the talking and wish himself and Carol, and his staff, all the best for the future. I think we all left hoping that this was au revoir rather than farewell.

HAYFIELD IN HARMONY WITH SANTA SOFIA


HAYFIELD WINE SOCIETY WITH SANTA SOFIA

Well done to Sandra Biret-Crowley, sommelier at the Hayfield Manor Hotel, and her team who came up with yet another brilliant Wine Society Evening. This time, the wines from the Santa Sofia winery  (near Verona) were featured and you’d be hard pushed to find a better set from anywhere.


You’d be hard pushed too to find a better man to put the message across than Luciano Begnoni who beguiled one and all with his knowledge of the wines and “the way he told them”; not quite the queen’s English but very very engaging. His theme was a wine for every occasion.

First up, after a welcome glass of Prosecco (Bortolotti Spumanti), was the Pinot Grigio Garda DOC Le Caldera 2010, fruity and elegant, “a wine for every day”, according to Luciano. The reds though were to prove the stars of the show but, first let me tell you that the Whisky Cured Salmon, our first course, set a very high standard that was maintained for the enjoyable evening.

Now on to the House Smoked Magret Duck Breast, with duck liver and Foie Gras Parfait, orange dressing and Toasted Brioche. The team had decided that the Ripasso Valpolicella DOC Superiore 2008 would accompany this and it was a terrific choice.

This was a wine for every second day, according to Luciano, soft and easy to drink. “Aged in Slovenian barrels for 9 months, it is not so much spicy but very fruity.” Now we were on to the “once a week” wine: the Amarone della Valpolicella DOC Classico 2006.
“Cherry and vanilla,” according to Luciano. “And black pepper. It is complex and will have a long life. Now is only the beginning.” Just superb. And so too was the dish that accompanied it: Fillet of Irish beef, whole glazed cepes and confit of Shallot, scallion pencils, black truffle scented Potato puree, red wine jus.

Next up was the sweet one: Recioto della Valpolicella Classico 2007. Luciano: “This sweet wine is difficult to produce but it is well balanced, sweet beginnings, clear to the end. After 12 months in French oak, it has a nice complexity and hints of cherry, wonderful with chocolate.”

We found instant confirmation as the Hayfield served up Chocolate Marquise with Griottine Cherries, Honeycomb, Crystallised Pistachios and Cherry Cappuccino. “A great combination” as Luciano had forecast.

Still time for one more wine: Montegradella Valpolicella DOC Classico Superiore 2008. Made from the same grapes as the Amarone but with an ABV of 13.5 as against the massive 15% of the Amarone. It was a perfect fit with the plate of Irish and continental cheeses.

Yours truly and Luciano (right)
Luciano was accompanied to the dinner by Donie O’Brien, Commercial Manager of the Erne Drinks Company that distributes the wines here. Donie, who spent 15 years with Heineken, was also in top form and indeed the two were quite a double act! A very likeable duo, let me add.

So thanks to Santa Sofia and their reps and to Paul and Ciara of the Hayfield along with Sandra, Orchids Sous Chef Stuart Bowes and Executive Chef Graeme Campbell for a superb evening in a lovely setting.


* At retail level, the Santa Sofia wines and other Erne wines, are available in The Dublin Wine Rooms at the IFSC (dublinwinerooms.com) and at their shop in Monkstown (enowine.ie). Both of these premises use Enomatic wine machines with 48 different wines on tasting everyday.

Friday, February 24, 2012

LUNCH STOP AT THE BULMAN

THE BULMAN
Enjoyed lunch at the Bulman yesterday. I was accompanied by Swedish journalist Pelle Blohm who was as surprised as me at the relatively high temperatures. But it still wasn't warm enough to sit outside.
We were on our way back to Charlesfort after strolling around Kinsale and seeing the sights. Pelle enjoyed the town and especially the old fort, the eerie ruins of the barracks and, of course, the views.
Time for lunch now, after all that walking. First though a drink was required and I suggested a bottle of Stonewell cider. Pelle usually finds cider too sweet but he certainly enjoyed this one, as indeed did I.

 I spotted an Ummera product on the menu and couldn’t resist having the Smoked Chicken with Pine Nuts and Cashel Blue cheese on a salad (10.50). Very enjoyable, terrific taste and texture variations in the dish, and a great choice, even if I say so myself.
The morning had started with food as well. Pelle, just off the train, was plunged into the activity at Mahon Point Farmers Market to meet some hard-working Irish people and taste some great food. Thanks to the traders who welcomed him with open arms, people such as Barrie Tyner, Gubbeen, Madeline of Sushi fame, Martin Conroy of Woodside and the folks at Ballyhoura Mountain Mushrooms.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

FENN’S QUAY FOODIE FACE-OFF



FENN’S QUAY FOODIE FACE-OFF


Fair play to Fenn’s Quay’s  Head Chef Kate Lawlor: she has organised another foodie face-off in her restaurant over the coming Wednesdays. Paul Axford and Sarah O'Riordan are the contestants in the second semi-final of what is properly called Chef du Jour and the winner will take on Waterford’s Jeni Pim (above, left, with Kate) in the final.

First up is Paul Axford who takes over the kitchen on Wednesday the 29th. Kate tells me this enthusiastic amateur cook has “a nicely constructed menu”. Paul is fit and ready to go and there could be tackles flying in the kitchen as he is a rugby league aficionado with a particular gra for the Leeds Rhinos. You may read all (well, maybe not all!) about him on his blog http://probablyranting.wordpress.com and stay in touch via his tweets at @paxo13.

A week later, on March 7th, Sarah O’Riordan presents her menu. Sarah has a “proper” food blog at http://yummynom.blogspot.com and her twitter handle is @yummynom. Kate: “Our second contestant is also an enthusiastic cook and Sarah has come up with a quirky menu. She is buzzing with excitement and looking forward to her shift in the kitchen.”

“On each night, our guests will be treated to a 4 course menu at the reduced price of €36 and there will be a selection of wines available on the night for purchase. With communal tables, it's a great night for all foodies to chat about the food and wine. They will meet their chef and see how many stars the judges award.”

The first semi-final took place before Christmas when Waterford’s Jeni Pim got the nod ahead of Clare resident Paul Callaghan.

Chardonnay Marsanne, star of the Pfeiffer Parish

 Chardonnay Marsanne, star of the Pfeiffer Parish
 
Pfeiffer, Carlyle Chardonnay Marsanne, 2008 Australia, 13.5%, €14.55 Karwig Wines 

Carlyle is the name of the parish where Australia’s Pfeiffer Wines  are based and Chris Pfeiffer is so proud of this Chardonnay Marsanne wine that he named it after the parish.

This is about as local as you can get and these little things are important. I remember New Zealand wine-maker Tim Finn, one of the wine pioneers there, speaking in Star Anise before Christmas and mentioning one of his little blocks and its peculiar suitability for producing excellent wine from a certain grape. But Tim was in no doubt what would happen to that little parcel if a major wine company took over. It would just be dug up and the most profitable vine planted.

And that would inevitably lead to less and less choice for the consumer. The survival of the family farmer, be it in dairy, meat or wine, will ensure choice in the long term. It is important and a point underlined by Darina Allen in last week’s Ear to the Ground when she pleaded strongly for the survival of the small butcher.



 Chris is one of these passionate family wine-makers and, fortunately, they do exist and quite a few of them find a market here and indeed visit regularly as you can see here.


Chris (left) showed this wine a few months back at an Australian Stickie evening in the Hayfield. I was impressed with it then and perhaps more so now after a longer “study session”.


Colour is pale yellow with hints of green and the nose is aromatic. On the palate, you sense immediately something fresh and rare. Lets you know it’s there, a lively little number, yet the unusual grape duo produce quite a smooth creamy combination, a very nicely balanced wine, with a dry persistent finish.

When Chris and his wife Robyn (who also attended at the Hayfield) took over the winery in the mid 80s, they were delighted to receive important practical help from their neighbours, even if the nearest of the new friends lived about 40 miles away!

Chris was representing those same Rutherglen neighbours and fellow winemakers at the Hayfield and was every bit as eloquent in promoting their wines as in pushing his own, perhaps even more so. He is obviously proud of his area. No surprise then that he named this one after the parish. It is a lovely wine from what must be a lovely place.

Monday, February 20, 2012

Superb Food at the Hayfield Manor


Hayfield Manor Hotel

“Now you see her” is the title of a Joy Fielding mystery novel based in Cork. One of the main characters had excellent taste and based himself in the city’s five star Hayfield Manor Hotel.

I was there last Friday evening, no mystery, just there to enjoy a superb dinner at the Perrotts Garden Bistro, one of the Hotel’s two restaurants. The other option is the Orchids Restaurant but that was booked out by the time we started checking for places.

The Orchid may the favourite but the Bistro, though it may not have the carpet on the floor or the linen on the table, is still a class venue, great place for a group or a couple to enjoy a meal. Service is well tuned, delivered with efficiency, a smile and a chat (if you want).
The Monkfish

 We found it hard to pick a starter so took the easy way out and went for the lot, well for the Starter Plate for Two (18.00), a plate with samples of their Caesar Salad, Warm Crottin de Chevre, Tiger Prawn Spring Roll, House Smoked Magret Duck Breast and Shot of Soup. All tasty, though my personal favourites were perhaps the Caesar and the Duck! CL, after some deliberation, gave her one two to the Spring Roll and the Caesar.

Halibut
Then on to the Main Event, as they term it on the menu. CL went for the fish special: Roast Fillet of Monkfish, with Cabbage, Leek and Fennell Fondue (in own pot), crushed baby potato and chervil beurre blanc (24.00). No calories spared here in the creamy fondue and overall an excellent combination, a superb match.

Sauternes
Often I go for the special myself but this time picked the Pan Seared Fillet of Halibut, with Herb infused Potato Gnocchi, and crispy Alsace Bacon, with Carrot and shallot puree and Pea Shoots Salad. Not a great Gnocchi fan but must say that this was another super dish. Fish was done to perfection, the puree was a highlight as were the crunchy tasty bacon pieces, the flavour coming through cleanly to add contrast to the fish and the same could be said of the textures. A five star combination for sure.

We had a liquid dessert! Had a good look at the tempting list on the menu but, feeling rather full, we ordered a glass each of the Chateau Barbier Sauternes 2005 (9.00). And sip by sweet sip, we brought the meal to a lazy close.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

A Hillside Pinot Grigio


A Hillside Pinot Grigio
Ronco Blanchis, Pinot Grigio, Collio, Italy 2010, 13.5% abv, €13.99 @Karwig Wines 

Colour: Straw is what the publicity says but that seems a little dull. Maybe barley flashing in the sun.
Nose: Quite aromatic and very promising.
Palate: This wine is quite full bodied with more flavour than usual, velvety, and more rounded than normal. Here you find fruit, a good balance and a decent finish. 

Quite a contender all round and would like to taste it in a head to head with the excellent pale Little Beauty Pinot Gris that Fleur McCree showed in L’Atitude last week.

Collio is a province of Gorizia, part of Friuli, and is next to Slovenia. It is said to produce Italy’s best and most expensive dry whites.

When speaking of Pinot Grigio, the reliable Vino Italiano says that “Friuli’s best are the best in Italy”. Honestly, I can’t tell you if this is the best in Friuli. But it ain’t half bad. Recommended.

And just to explain: Ronco is a term for a hillside vineyard.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Amuse Bouche

Time for your Amuse Bouche
In 16th century England, the law dictated much of everyday life.
“Food was ...regulated... depending on status. A cardinal was permitted nine dishes at a meal while those earning less than £40 a year (which is to say most people) were allowed only three courses, plus soup. Happily, since Henry VIII’s break with Rome, eating meat on Friday was no longer a hanging offence, though anyone caught eating meat during Lent could still be sent to prison for three months.”
From Shakespeare by Bill Bryson.

Monday, February 13, 2012

LAZY LUNCH AT ELECTRIC


LAZY LUNCH AT ELECTRIC

Click on image to enlarge

Enjoyed a long lazy lunch, with two colleagues that I used to work with, at South Mall’s Electric last week and it worked out very well indeed.


But I knew the signs were good when I checked out the menu on their site. No delay then as I made the booking via the site, a very impressive facility indeed, as you immediately know where you stand and it even gives you a reference number.


I mentioned lazy there at the start but should make it clear that it applies to the customers, not to the staff, all of whom were friendly and efficient and up for a chat and a bit of banter. Makes the whole experience that bit more enjoyable.


There are over six starters on offer and the one that caught my eye was the Crispy fried tripe with chorizo, chickpeas & kale (€6.00). I didn’t change my mind in the comfortable restaurant and must say I really enjoyed it. Quite a combination of flavours, quite a match.


There are about nine “Main Plates” and, in addition one or two, of the starters may be ordered as main courses, a great range of choices for lunchtime. One of my colleague picked the Ground steak beef burger with an onion ring, chips & aioli (€13) and pronounced himself quite happy it while the other was delighted with her Tagliatelle with prawns, parsley, chilli, lemon & garlic, reasonably priced at €11.00.


For me, it was the Baked cod with wilted greens, herb mash and parsley beurre blanc (€13.00). Nice presentation here and the chunk of cod were quite large and done to perfection; the greens and the kale were a perfect complement while the sauce was just gorgeous. Fortunately, they didn’t give me too much of it or I’d have been taking a spoon to it (pictured, top right).


One colleague, the only one working, had fallen by the wayside when it was time for “Something Sweet”. All deserts are priced at €5.80 and we had no complaints with the two. I enjoyed the rather different Iced prune and almond terrine with blackberries (bottom left in photo) while my colleague tucked in to her Sticky toffee pudding with rum & raisin ice cream (top left).


During the meal, I had a glass of one of the four white house wines (a very satisfactory Sauvignon Blanc from the Languedoc); they also do four reds and one rose. There is also a full wine list and, with the bar downstairs, you have lots of choices in the drinks department. Took our time over a couple of coffees and then two happy customers headed off before the parking discs expired.

MACROOM’S CASTLE HOTEL


MACROOM’S CASTLE HOTEL


Must tell you that I really enjoyed a recent stay in the town of Macroom where I was a guest at the excellent centrally located Castle Hotel

The hotel is located right on the main street and looks very well indeed, well kept, well painted. It has three doors on to the street, one for Dan Buckley’s Bar, one for the Next Door Cafe and the other for reception.

Our first contact was the reception desk and we got a very warm welcome indeed. No shortage of information on the hotel and its facilities and also three brochures for the town and its surrounds. That friendliness continued right through all areas of the hotel, restaurant, bar and cafe. Other facilities available to guests include a lovely swimming pool, gym and treatments area.

Before we checked into the hotel, we had taken a walk through the nearby Gearagh, a fantastic place and well worth a visit. Now after leaving our bags, we headed west the street to the nearby Town Park, through the Castle entrance, and enjoyed a smashing stroll on the banks of the Sullane River.

We had been told the pastry treats in the cafe were irresistible and soon confirmed they were. Later, we visited the Hotel’s B’s restaurant, where again the service was ever so friendly and the food was well presented and generally top notch.

After dinner, we gravitated towards the bar. Once again, we found friendly helpful people. A proactive young employee gave us a tip as to where best to sit, to stay away from the door to the street as the weather had turned very cold and an icy blast intruded whenever the door opened. We took his advice.

After a good night’s sleep in our warm comfortable room, we headed for breakfast. What a selection! Juices galore, all the cereals, nuts and seeds you’d ever want, yoghurts and berries, breads and pastries and, of course, the hot meals from which I picked the Smoked Salmon and Scrambled Egg.

This lovely hotel is right bang in the centre of the town and the town itself is also very central to the region’s attractions with Cork and Killarney each about 30 minutes away while West Cork and North Cork are also easily accessible. Even if you must pass through rather than stay, do stop at the Next Door Cafe or the restaurant and see if you resist their goodies.

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Little Beauty Comes To Town

Fleur (centre) with L'Atitude owners Beverley (left) and Emma
Tom (left, Fleur and Cathal

Fleur with Maurice of Wine Alliance

Little Beauty Comes To Town


In 2002, the land in Waihopai Valley, Marlborough, New Zealand, where the grapes for the Little Beauty wines  now grow, was a sheep farm. Fleur McCree and her partner spotted its potential and got to work, planting from scratch and patiently waiting three years for their first crop.

“It was exactly the kind of place we were looking for and we wanted to work it,” she told the appreciative audience as she held a tutored tasting of the wines upstairs in the newly opened L’Atitude Wine Cafe at No 1 Union Quay.


There were many hurdles to overcome, including starting to sell their first wines as the recession hit. But sell she did and sell she does, this Irish call the prelude to trips to Scandanavia and Russia and maybe a call to Pro-Wine.

She sells these wines to luxury hotels in the UK and the prices there really underscore the point that Little Beauty’s Irish Importer Maurice O’Mahony of Wine Alliance  makes frequently: these wines over perform at their price points.

Irish stockists sell the range at anything from €15.00 for the Sauvignon Blanc to 25 for the Pinot Noir. In the likes of Claridges, the Savoy and the Gleneagles you’d be paying anything from 50 pounds sterling to 70.

Prices could well rise here. The emergence of China, Hong Kong and Japan as big markets for NZ wine has pushed Ireland from 5th to 8th in the league of NZ wine importers. If that trend continues, it is possible that less and less wine from that beautiful far country will find its way here.

We started off with the 2009 dry Riesling. This was bursting with flavours, fine, balanced and refreshing. A Bronze Medal Winner at the Hong Kong International Wine & Spirits Challenge, this wine is currently being presented at 2* Michelin Restaurant, Andrew Fairlie at Gleneagles, Scotland.

Marlborough is the home of NZ Sauvignon Blanc and when you know that the Little Beauty winemaker Eveline Fraser was “stolen” form Cloudy Bay, you know this is going to be good, and it didn’t disappoint. It is indeed “A fine example of an aromatic, intense and mouth-watering single vineyard Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc”.

The limited edition Pinot Gris was next up and by the way all the wines were accompanied by really tasty nibbles from the kitchen at L’Atitude, quite a reminder to the punters that this a venue worth visiting on a regular basis. The pale Pinot Gris had a fresh and inviting aroma and felt full and creamy on the palate, a step up for sure on some regular Pinot Grigio visitors to these parts.

Fleur and yours truly
Next tasting was the 2009 Gewürztraminer. This was strongly aromatic and pleasingly luscious but stopped well before reaching full sweetness. Goes well with Asian cuisine.

And then came the Pinot Noir, the silky star of an altogether excellent show, and Fleur recommended matching it with lamb. It is a gorgeous wine, full of plum, raspberry and red cherry flavours. It has an attractive background spice and has benefitted from 12 months in new French oak.

A Little Beauty to finish a delightful session in L’Atitude. The Wine Cafe intends holding a series of these events and the next, on the Rhone (presented by Simon Tyrrell of the Wine Store), takes places on Monday March 5th. Check with the venue for tickets.

And that isn't all. L’Atitude also holds classes for both novices and those interested in going further and indeed the next series is due to start shortly. The contact number is 021 2390219 or email: info@latitude51.ie. Also keep an eye on their Facebook page


Friday, February 10, 2012

Hands on and join the food dots in West Cork weekend

Stephen Sage has been on to tell us all about a fantastic Weekend Break for food enthusiasts in West Cork, Ireland, for St Patrick’s Day 2012

West Cork has a reputation as a centre of excellence for artisan food production; a reputation founded on the care, commitment and skill that the artisan producers and providers of this enticingly beautiful part of Ireland bring to all that they do.

Many of them have a lifetime’s worth of practical experience, and are more than happy to share their skill and passion with people who appreciate good food.

West Cork Food has been created to bring the treasure-house of that experience within the reach of individuals like you, people who truly appreciate good food, how it’s produced and how it’s cooked.

During a weekend or longer, you get to meet and visit artisan producers, watch the experts at work, acquire some new skills, stay in quality accommodation and enjoy the captivating landscape and seascape of West Cork in all its diversity.

West Cork is an area served and supported by small businesses, a key element of its distinctive character. West Cork Food is itself a small, local business, and we act as a focus for the wide range of artisan producers scattered across the region so that they can provide food, cookery or gardening enthusiasts like you with a unique experience; an experience that incorporates the active participation of those producers themselves.

West Cork Food is organised and managed by Sally Barnes and Stephen Sage, and grew out of their discussions around how to bring the world-class quality of West Cork artisan food production to a wider audience.

Journalist Carol Gilbert described the initiative in these terms: ‘Sally Barnes and Stephen Sage have initiated an enterprise, which effectively joins up the dots. They have included all that is best to showcase West Cork food and provide an enjoyable quality experience for groups visiting the region.’

Web: www.westcorkfood.com

Thursday, February 9, 2012

GREAT BUZZ AT L'ATITUDE OPENING

Click on image to enlarge. Top: Bev (right) and Emma welcome guests and, top left,
Brock shows how it's done. Below: guests and staff.

L’ATITUDE WINE CAFE


L’Atitude Wine Cafe, on the go at 1 Union Quay, across from City Hall, since early December, officially opened last evening. Joint owners Beverly Matthews and Emma Lagrande were on hand, making sure the party went well. And it did: no shortage of wine, no shortage of tempting food, no lack of general merriment. A great buzz!

Half of Cork’s twitter characters were there and the conversation flowed for well over 140 minutes. I enjoyed mine. Brock of coffee roaster @BadgerAndDodo was the first man I met and he helped serve up some smashing coffee.

The crew from @BubbleBros joined the fun as did a bunch of wine connoisseurs including @theleggalamb, @wineallianceMoz and @marcus_karwigs. Had a great chat with the enthusiastic @biasasta and her husband.

Restaurants were well represented with @Nash19Cork and @AugustinesRest among the attendance. Food suppliers spotted included @TomDurcanMeats and @mccarthykanturk. The press and PR world were well represented by @deshocks and @renatemurphy, among others.

The Wine Cafe is open for breakfast, lunch and light evening meals. The wine menu is on a huge blackboard and there are over 50 carefully selected wines to try, 25 of which are available by the glass, pichet or in a special tasting measure. So: sample and learn!

Not all wine. Stout and lager and local craft beers are also available and of course locally roasted gourmet coffees and speciality teas. The food, described as “deli style”, comes with a strong French and Italian influence but with an Irish thread running through it. Something different and well worth a visit!

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Valentine's: from tea to wine to aphrodisiacs




CELEBRATING VALENTINE’S WITH TEA. AND WITH WINE.


Seems to be confusion galore about St Valentine, the Patron Saint of Lovers. How many saints of that name were there? Anything from one to fourteen, depending on where you read.

Hard to say then if the real Valentine enjoyed a cup tea or a glass of wine, two suggested ways of celebrating next Tuesday, the first recommended by Nash 19, the second by the folks at the Wine Store.

Nash 19 may not have saintly approval but Mairead O’Brien quotes Henry James: “There are few hours in life more agreeable than the hour dedicated to the ceremony know as Afternoon Tea.” Nash 19 will be serving Afternoon Tea in Honour of St Valentine during February and March. The daily slot is 2.45 to 4.00pm, booking is essential (021 4270880) and cost for two is €38.00.

Mrs Tyrrell of the Wine Store tells me they love their Northern Rhone wines and would love to share some with you this month. “The list of the wines in this offer include many that are not normally listed on the site, some are only available in very limited quantities.” Looks like a special to me and well worth checking out here.

Must say, I enjoyed my Plan de Dieu during last summer’s trip to the area and spotted one on the list - Côtes du Rhône Villages, Plan de Dieu 'Le Temps est Venu' 2010. It is down from 15.95 to 13.95. And there are decent deductions on the prices of Condrieu and Côte Rôtie. Certainly worth a look. But hurry if you want a Rhone special in for the big day!

If you want to really impress why not check out the Fotal Island Hotel. They have some tempting packages here.

And, if you’re truly daring, or just chancing your arm, the Town Bar and Grill in Kildare Street (Dublin)  have a Special aphrodisiac menu on for Valentine’s Day!

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

MONSTER MUNSTER FOODIE TWEET-UP


MUNSTER FOODIE TWEET-UP
Ace chef West Cork’s Bryan McCarthy (left) is looking forward to welcoming foodies from Munster (and probably) to a monster foodie tweet-up at Springport Hall Hotel on the first Sunday of next month, March 4th. No less than nine courses are planned for the evening which begins with a drinks reception in the Balltydaniel Bar in the highly rated hotel.

Bryan is the chef at the 4 star 1 AA Rosette hotel, “cooking with the seasons and using local artisan produce”. You’ll find him on twitter under @newfoodie2012 while the hotel itself tweets as @springfort and the event tag is  #munsterfoodietweetup . Costs are €75pp for drinks reception, 9 course tasting menu & wine (+ accommodation €25pp).

“This is going to be brilliant,” Bryan enthuses. “We already have a lot booked and spaces will be limited. It’s a great deal at that price and it's going to be epic! The local disco is going to be well over before we finish up. Don’t worry about the disco though as it's rumoured there might be a DJ on the night!”

Bryan is pretty well known for his sensational Twelve Hour Feather Blade of Hereford Beef which went down a treat at last year’s Taste of Cork in Fitzgerald Park. We asked him if it will be on the menu.

Bryan: “As for the menu, there will be lots of local produce including Jack McCarthy’s black pud, Ardsallagh goats cheese, our own pork, wild garlic and of course the Feather Blade beef.”.

Conor O’Brien of JN Wines is consulting with Bryan on the wine list. Details have yet to be finalised. Conor tells me it'll be a sparkling wine reception, then one white wine, two red wines and a dessert wine to finish. “This will be JN wines third time sponsoring the #munsterfoodietweetup and we hope to keep that up into the future.”

Springfort Hall Country House Hotel,
Mallow,
Co Cork.
Tel : 022 21278 


Monday, February 6, 2012

Taste Overload


Wine Camp - 5000 Wines a Year: I saw a comment recently from a wine writer noting that they tasted over five thousand wines a year. I could only think how sad. Was this some sort of punishment? Did someone commit a crime? What a pity to turn such a pleasure into such a grind...