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Friday, April 29, 2016
You can’t believe how fertile the land is. You sprinkle seeds on the orange brown soil and within days shoots are pushing up. You only have to stretch your arms to pick ripe plums from the tree-lined boulevards. It is another Garden of Eden. For twenty five cents you can buy a hundred oranges. There’s a green fruit called aquacate that is creamy and smooth – three for just a nickel – and tastes delicious, with lemon juice, salt, and a kind of parsley called cilantro. There are: Purple mountains. Talking birds. Flowers growing wild everywhere. Mangoes. A fruit called papaya that grows to a meter in length, weighs up to three kilos, and tastes delicious with a hint of lime.
From The Price of Escape by David Unger.
Thursday, April 28, 2016
Holy Smoke On The ‘DykeCheck Relihan's Blow Out.
|Blow Out; included are Smoked Cob Wheels and Naked Slaw|
All you hunter-gatherers can now converge on Holy Smoke in the Mardyke Complex, the new ground of John Relihan, an experienced master of the ancient art of cooking with fire and smoke (he was head chef at Jamie Oliver's Barbecoa BBQ restaurant in London). You want meat, head for the ‘Dyke.
Have any of you seen Cooked, a mini-series by Michael Pollan now on Netflix? He says that the BBQ is the "last idea of the ritual cooking of meat"; that the long and slow technique may well have come to America on the slave ships, was very much tied to the tobacco harvest in the south and that the term “pit boy” came from there. That series is worth a look. He calls commodity pig farming “a vision of hell”. On a lighter note, you’ll see veteran songsmith James Taylor sing about his pig called Mona!
No vision of hell at the Mardyke though; just lots of exposed brick vaulted ceilings and bare lights hanging down. We got a chance to take a look, and a taste, earlier week, and must say I enjoyed every little morsel.
Low and Slow is the motto here and you'll see it in red letters around the room, a room by the way which is full "night after night". You’ll notice the buzz the minute you enter. Great place to go with a bunch of friends. Grab a beer as you check the menu.
It is meat all the way; well, there are a couple of options for the non-meat eater. The wood too is key. Back to Pollan again who explains that it is the burning wood gasses rather than the wood itself that give off the smoke that marries with the meat. You’ll notice different woods on the menu and that's because each wood has different flavour compounds. Split a length of cherry wood and you’ll smell cherry, according to Cooked.
You may have lots of individual plates here, of Pork, Beef, and Chicken. And Burgers too. Perhaps the best way to test is to order the large BBQ Blow Out (24.50). You’ll get Brisket Burnt Ends, Dry Rubbed Baby Back Ribs, Pit Smoked BBQ Chicken, and Pulled Pork. That’s what we did.
|Head Chef John Relihan|
Two sides are included, one from the Humble list, one from the Divine. We picked their Skin on Skinny Fries and the Divine Pit Smoked Burnt End Beans. With all the focus on the meat, I have to highlight those unexpectedly delicious beans. The full description is: Sweet smoky beans mixed with Brisket Burnt Ends cooked low and slow. Indeed, it looks as if those sides, both humble and divine, may be worth a closer inspection.
Now, with meat and beer (Howling Gale and Rebel Red from the taps) delivered, it was time to get the tools from the box on the table. Yes, all your cutlery needs are already there, along with a big roll of kitchen paper to tidy up the finger licking mess. And the Holy Water, of course.
It takes a while, even for two, to work through all that meat but well worth it. The pork was probably the highlight, the ribs a close second. Then again, that chicken half, chopped into four, was good too, particular the tasty thigh! Big cubes of smoky brisket were also much appreciated. Not to mention those beans! Would have been barbecue heaven had we been able to roll open that ceiling and let the sun shine in. But it was very enjoyable as it was. Hard to beat a packed restaurant with all that chat.
|No shortage of beer!|
- Chef Relihan has serious form when it comes to cooking with fire. He was head chef at Jamie Oliver's Barbecoa BBQ restaurant in London and trained with world renowned Pitmaster Adam Perry Lang. Read more about John and the people behind Holy Smoke here
- Check the menu here
On the door of the gents, a tame enough fellow,
despite the ring on his nose.
Little Hanover Street, Cork
Phone: (021) 427 3000
email : firstname.lastname@example.org
- Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/HolySmokeCork/
- Twitter @holysmokecork
Wednesday, April 27, 2016
Wines Of The Marques de Caceres.
For Food, And Afterwards!
The Forner family had been involved in wine for decades before having to flee to France during the Spanish Civil War (1936-39), having “lost everything”.
Eventually, they began making wine in Bordeaux before, many years later, finding their way back to Spain to begin a winery in Rioja. Forner are better known to us as Marques de Caceres and the Frenchman, Florent Thibaut, is their Export Sales Manager. Florent was introduced to the attendance in Jacques by Dave Buckley of Cassidy Wines.
Florent started us off with a gorgeous Verdejo, saying that in fairly recent times, Marques de Caceres had began to make white wines in Rueda and Rias Baixas. “This grape is local in Rueda, giving a dry but aromatic wine, very pleasant on its own or with food (fish, salad).” It certainly was vibrant and fresh in the mouth with a delightful bouquet.
Next up was another white, their Albarino from Rias Baixas in Galicia. Think he said Galicia means mother earth, and he mentioned that the name of the wine indicated that it came, possibly via the Santiago de Compostella route, from the Rhine (-rino) and was brought by a monk (of course!).
He highlighted its minerality and said it is a great match with seafood, especially oysters. Jacques, who know a thing or two about matching food and wine, came up with some excellent pairings and the first was their Salted Cod Croquettes, a good match with the two whites.
Florent had excellent English and well able to hold his own in the banter that broke out from time to time. On being asked about the contribution of the Riedel glass to the wine, he said: “The glass is to the wine like the dress is to the lady!” Another quote, not from Florent, came to mind: Rioja wines are voluptuous; they are round and full and rich. They are not Audrey Hepburn; they are more Marilyn Monroe.
So now we were on to those voluptuous reds, all from Rioja, starting with a very highly rated Crianza, which is for restaurants. “It is one hundred per cent Tempranillo from older vineyards.. with typical pepper, spice, a great choice with charcuterie, chorizo.., very much a wine for food… very pleasant but a serious wine.” Indeed, Excellens is a wine with great character and was quite a hit in the room.
And speaking of chorizo! As the reds were being tasted, Jacques served up a tasty dish of Basmati Rice, chorizo, peppers and chilli. Oddly enough, the Reserva didn't go down as well as the Crianza! Maybe, it was because “the nose was less expressive”. Florent went on to say that the Crianza “was more full-bodied, more tannic...for food.. Matches well with lamb”. And on cue, Jacques had some delicious lamb chops on the table!
In time too for the Gran Reserva which, Dave Buckley, told us “is not made every year”, only when the fruit is very very good. ”Florent enthused: “And this eight year wine is very good indeed, from older vineyards. Very gentle, with smooth tannins. See that fresh colour…. Very fruit-driven, dark fruits.. Blackcurrant...that pepper and spice (from the oak) is there too..balsamic. For food, and for relaxing afterwards.”
Speaking further on this Gran Reserva, Florent noted its complexity and elegance. “Wine doesn't always have to be easy… sometimes you have to travel towards the wine.. From Cork to Rioja!” Reckon he had a busful of volunteers at that stage!
- Most Rioja reds will have spent some time in oak. Check out the various designations below:
The green label (cosecha) indicates less than one year in oak, less than one in bottle.
The red label (crianza) indicates 1 year in oak, 1 in bottle.
The burgundy (reserva) indicates 1 year in oak, 2 in bottle.
The royal blue (gran reserva) indicates 2 years in oak, three years in bottle.
Tuesday, April 26, 2016
Taste of the Week
Mega Munchy Muesliby The Foods of Athenry
I have always enjoyed my breakfast when the Lawless family, the people behind the Foods of Athenry, are involved. So I was very much inclined to try their Mega Munchy Muesli when I saw it on the shelf in Bradley’s recently. At the back of my mind, there was a little hesitation though as sometimes muesli can be very very dry - unless you drown it with milk!
But no worries here. Just added a normal drop of milk and I had my Taste of the Week. They got this blend spot-on, a lovely mix of high-fibre gluten and wheat free jumbo oats with 40% added seeds, fruits and nuts - and nothing else. Aside from that drop of milk! Delicious.
I have also enjoyed their Strawberry and Vanilla Granola and their High Omega Very Berry Granola. Haven't had their Sunshine Porridge yet! So that’s on the list now. Variety is the spice of life
They make lots of gluten free products on the Lawless farm, including cakes and bars. Check them all out here. They are widely available in Ireland, in the UK and further afield. See stockists lists here.
Monday, April 25, 2016
Good Things Cafe
Good Food, Wine, Company
When we think of international, we think of country: Ireland v Italy in football, New Zealand v Australia in rugby, and so on. In food though, it struck me during an “international” meal in Good Things Cafe, in its sparkling new Skibbereen location, that we should be thinking more in terms of the individuals.
The Colombian farmer who grows your coffee beans, the Irish farmer who raises your free range pigs, the Indian who produces your spices and rices, the organic grower who sends us delicious clean wines and so on. The world is becoming to some small degree a collection of like-minded individuals, a collection of local producers, working hand to hand across the world, and not depending on some giant distributor who’d prefer to have the same food “from Nigeria to Iceland”.*
The conversation though wasn't anywhere near as serious as that. Carmel Somers, the owner of Good Things, got us off to a good start. “One of our growers has just delivered some asparagus. We are serving it with Coolea Cheese and some balsamic. Would you like that?” There was instant international accord.
“This Coolea Cheese? Is that from here?” Italian winemaker Elena Pantaleoni asked me. I had just met the lady from the famous organic vineyard of La Stoppa and she was delighted to hear that Coolea was very local indeed. Among those at the table were Pascal Rossignol, the Frenchman (now well seasoned with Irishness) who runs Le Caveau, and Sally Barnes renowned for her Woodcock Smokery in Castletownsend.
|Many tongues, one language|
Left to right: Clare, Elena, Billy, Nico, Pascal, Sally, Colm.
Elena’s Trebbiano was already in our glasses and she told me that they also make a sparkling version, “for food”. It is sold mainly in the local area and is great in summer, served a little chilled.
The delicious asparagus was now at the table along with a Mezze plate along with La Stoppa Macchiona 2007. “It is made from the same grapes, Barbera and Bonarda, as the Trebbiano but has spent two years in big barrels. This is the current vintage, it is warm, more powerful, more fruity,” said Elena.
|Spectacular seasonal salad|
The dishes and the wines, all exquisite, continued to come. Pascal asked Eleana for the story behind the names. Trebbiano is a valley, Macchiona is a very small village, and Agento is the name of the founder of the vineyard, a man from Genoa. The Agento is an amazing wine and not just because of its bright orange colour. The colour, and the extra tannin, come from three months skin contact. "The first Agento was first produced in 2002 so we do not have a long experience of this wine,” said Elena and she recommended serving it at 15 degrees.
By now we were on to our main course. I was very much enjoying my Crab Tart, Salad leaves and a Soda Scone. And that was just one of the many tempting dishes on the menu. Pascal pointed out: “The Agento is very versatile at the table, a wine for sharing!” And Elena echoed that sentiment.
|Carmel & Elena|
Desserts, like other courses, are somewhat different here at this very highly recommended spot who make a “priority of sourcing locally”. Mine, and it was superb, was an Orange and Rhubarb Salad, with a Coconut and Pomegranate Praline. Finished off the Agento and then moved on to a delightful Malvasia Frizzante! Coffee by the Golden Bean set us up for a trip to sample the fresh Atlantic air at the Woodcock Smokery.
Sally's operation has been going since 1981. She pulled out some kippers, smoked with no dyes, no additives. But she wasn't very happy: “Not a great batch. Herrings can live up to twenty years but there is now a poor population due to intervention on the market by the EU a few decades ago.”
|Sally and kippers|
Sally, who travels quite a deal in her role in the Slow Food movement, specialises in products from slow-smoked, “fresh wild-caught fish devoid of any artificial additives or preservatives. We don’t use farmed fish; the fish we buy in is caught locally and from sustainable sources.”
She wasn't too happy with bureaucrats in general though she did acknowledge a big improvement in the bluefin tuna population. It’s been a tough enough battle for Sally over the years and no surprise that she and Elena (who also had her battle as detailed in the film Natural Resistance, shown in Cork last week) are friends. Individuals are key, locally and internationally, not countries, not big companies.
- A quote from the film Natural Resistance. See trailer here
Sunday, April 24, 2016
The Meatball PlaceTasty Spot in Carey’s Lane
|Get the ball rolling. Superb starters|
The Meatball Place, up and running in Carey’s Lane since November last, has a different kind of menu. Here you choose how your main dish is “constructed”.
It is easy and well worthwhile. This is how it works. Pick your meatball (choose from five), then you pick your sauce (from six) and then your side (from eight). No shortage of variety. For instance, on recent visit I had Chicken (Chorizo & Chive) meatballs, a Classic Tomato Sugo, and Buttered greens. CL had Fish (Salmon, Hake & herbs), Pesto Salsa Verde, with Rustic Garlic & Rosemary Potatoes. By the way, all the Meatball mains are just a tenner.
A selection of starters, Meat & Cheese Boards, cannelloni, desserts, teas & coffees, craft beers, draught beers, and wines, complete the choice available.
Grainne Holland is the chef/proprietor here but you’re more likely to meet fellow proprietor and Front of House Tony Costello. Tony and the staff are very helpful and, if you're wondering which of the gorgeous sauces to have with your Pork Meatballs, then they'll help you out, no problem.
The menu is quite simple really and you may check it all out here.
We got the ball rolling, to use their own phrase, by sharing a plate of starters. The combo of Buffalo Chicken Wings and Chicken Blasts will cost you €12.00; all the prices here are very reasonable.
|Chicken Balls. Gorgeous sauce.|
The board comes with a little garden salad and the Spicy Blasts are basically Filo Pastry Chicken Rolls, delicious and tasty. The wings are served with a pot of Cashel Blue cheese and celery sticks and are as good as you’ll get. You may buy these separately as well; all starters are €6.50.
Then we were on to the Meatballs: Beef, Chicken, Pork, Fish, and also a Yemeni style Balafel.
My chicken, detailed above, was spot on and a great match with the rich tomato sauce. Every little bit was finished off. And it was the same at the other side of the table with the Fish combination going down very well indeed. On the included side, a generous side, we had Buttered Greens and also Rustic Garlic & Rosemary Potatoes, all well cooked and all delicious.
Grainne serves up quite a variety here, aside from the Meatball combinations. You may have Meat and Cheese Boards, Soul Dishes that include a tempting Angus Beef Cannelloni. And do watch out for the specials. With a full bar licence, there’s no shortage of drinks to wash them down. I certainly enjoyed my bottle of Stag Rua from 9 White Deer in West Cork; their Stan Ban is also available. Good to see the local beers here. Indeed, their produce is sourced locally.
8 Carey’s Lane, Cork
Mon-Sun 12.00pm - 10.00pm
(021) 239 0535
Wi-Fi available in restaurant.
Friday, April 22, 2016
I suspect the name is best known nowadays, anyway, for the dish of raw beef slices, with a Dijon mustard sauce, which was devised in 1970 by Giuseppe Cipriani, the owner of Harry’s Bar in Venice, to spare a customer gastric problems. He named it Beef Carpaccio, off the top of his head, because the look of the beef reminded him of Carpaccio’s characteristically red pigments.
from Ciao Carpaccio by Jan Morris (2014)
Thursday, April 21, 2016
The Golden BeanKingston Making A Mark
From the opening Cascara to the closing Espresso, the Munster Wine & Dine visit to Marc Kingston’s Golden Bean Coffee roastery in East Cork was an eye-opener.
The Cascara, surprisingly low in caffeine, is made from the dried skins of the cherry of the coffee. Once regarded as waste, the cherry is now used to produce this unique drink, more like a tea than a coffee. But not quite a tea either. More a fruit tissane as suggested here.
Marc, and his assistants Blair and Ciaran, had us up and running and demo followed demo, the highlight being a roasting session on the impressive Giesen machine and then tasting the coffee from that fresh batch!
The machine may be impressive, with a high tech control panel alongside. But high tech or not, it still needs the intervention of a human, a human like Marc, who knows what he’s doing. The coffee picked for roasting was from the Dutra family owned farms in the Matas de Minas area of Brazil.
|Blair (left) and Ciaran|
It was also the coffee used for our Cold Brew sample. This went down very well indeed and, if you are at the Lit-Fest in Ballymaloe next month and the sun is shining, you may well find it on the coffee menu. Marc’s roastery is in the grounds of Ballymaloe House.
Lots of questions and answers throughout the entertaining evening. All Golden Bean coffees are single estate - he doesn't do blends! - and will be that bit different from year to year. Store your coffee in a cool, dark and dry place.
That gorgeous smell you get when grinding is something of a mixed blessing, as that smell means less flavour in your cup. Many people used electric mills but the blades hammer the beans. Marc reckons the manually operated mill may be best, “good and slow”. And one more tip: don't forget to stir your little cup of Espresso. It will enhance the flavours.On mixing other fluids with coffee, Marc is not that keen. “Alcohol kills coffee!” With milk and sugar in it, “it doesn't taste like coffee”. But he did admit to being partial to the odd Espresso Martini! He did stress that water quality is very important. “We are lucky here in Ballymaloe to have a nice soft water. But in heavy limestone areas, best to use mineral water, a mineral water with a low mineral content.”
Blair guided us through a Colombian tasting, a Finca Camilia from the Santa Barbara Estate owned by the Echeverria family. This company is well known, up there with “the Oscars of the coffee world”. In fact, many of the farmers that Marc buys from are well established and the prices are usually higher than Fair-trade. This was a gem, “peach, toffee, molasses…”
Back to Marc then who told us that your Espresso has “far more antioxidants available” and is processed through your body much quicker, in about 30 minutes. So you can enjoy one after dinner and not be awake late into the night. And, believe it or not, a six month old baby can process Espresso, in proportion, as quickly as an adult!
If using milk, use pasteurised but not homogenised. They use Glenilen (they have a stall near them at the market) and McCarthy’s and, from the bigger names, Clona and Avonmore.
Now the roasting was coming to its climax and Marc, with notes in hand, was taking control as the cracks were heard. Finally, it was done and the now dark beans (they had started off with a light green colour) poured out into the pan before being taken over to our two baristas.
Soon, they were serving us that coffee made from those freshly roasted beans. First up was a filter sample. Excellent! But the class cup was on the way. That Espresso, with gorgeous crema, was my pick of the bunch! A marvellous cup to bring the lovely evening to a close.
So a big thank you to Marc and his assistants for their patience and knowledge and the excellent coffee. The next Wine & Dine event is scheduled for May 27th and will include a visit to Cashel Blue and a farm tour, wine tasting and dinner at Ballinwillin House. Members are requested to keep an eye on emails for updates. If you’d like to join the fun, then send an email to email@example.com.
Wednesday, April 20, 2016
Raise Your Hat to Syrah!Praise Too The Shiraz.
Syrah is one the best known grapes in the world. The origins of this dark-skinned red have been widely debated but, according to Wine-Searcher.com, its modern viticultural home is unquestionably the northern Rhone Valley of eastern France. In Australia, Syrah is overwhelmingly (but not exclusively) known as Shiraz, and is regarded as the country's national grape.
There is a wee chapel dedicated to St Christopher on the top of Hermitage in the Rhone. But was it St Patrick who started Syrah’s rise to world fame? In Grapes and Wine (published 2015), the story that the Irish saint planted the first wines on the famous cnoc as he made his way to the island monastery of Lérins is raised.
Another famous visitor to the area was Alexandre Dumas. “In 1834, Alexandre Dumas travelled to the South of France along with his friend Jadin, arriving one evening at Tain-l’Hermitage. ‘On entering the hotel, I took Jadin over to the window and invited him to raise his hat to the hill that towered over the town. This Jadin did, and when I told him that these were the slopes of the Hermitage, he took it upon himself to raise his hat a second time.’ “ The above quote is from About Our Wines (a Cotes du Rhone booklet).
Wayne Thomas Shiraz 2004 (McLaren Vale), 14.5%, €26.80 Karwig Wines
Twelve years old but still displaying a great depth of colour, dark with only a slight lightening at the rim; legs slow to slide down. Aromas of berries and spice. Superb rich fruit and spice on the palate too, oak is well integrated and a long finish. Robust and balanced or, as his son said, Big and ballsy! This is more or less perfect and Very Highly Recommended.
Get on down to Karwig’s, or just go online, while they still have some of it. Sadly, Wayne Thomas died in 2007 and though his son is a winemaker he operates not in the McLaren but in the Hunter Valley.
Wayne “Thommo” Thomas was quite a character and you may read a tribute to him here.
Clairmont Classique rouge Crozes-Hermitage 2008, 13%, €22.50 Karwig Wines
This one hundred per cent Syrah (from vines over 30 years old) has a purple colour, slightly less so towards the rim; legs slow to clear. Red fruits are prominent in the aromas. Again, good fruit, some spice too on the palate, smooth with fine tannins, excellent balance and long finalé. Somewhat more restrained than the Thomas and also Very Highly Recommended.
The producers indicate that this red Crozes-Hermitage will pair well with grilled lamb, cold meat or roast turkey. Aged, it will be a great match to any kind of stew.
Much larger than the prestigious Hermitage appellation which it surrounds, Crozes-Hermitage is also much more prolific.
Morambro Creek Shiraz 2008 (Padthaway, Australia), 14.5%, €23.40 Karwig Wines
The Bryson family “employ sustainable environmentally friendly viticulture” and “meticulous traditional winemaking”. It all adds up to gems like this!
It is purple in colour, a little less so at the rim, legs slow to clear. Ripe fruits and more in the aromas, blackcurrant for sure. Expansive on the palate, full of fruit and spice, yet great harmony there too, soft and balanced with a hint of sweetness, the wood is well integrated and you have a long and pleasant finish. Another excellent Shiraz and Very Highly Recommended.
Tuesday, April 19, 2016
The Old Imperial Hotel YoughalDining in the Coachouse Bistro
Heading to the seaside for the day? A walk on the boardwalk in Youghal is one way of working up an appetite and a call to the Coachouse Bistro in the Old Imperial Hotel, now under new ownership, is one way of satisfying it.
I started a recent meal there with a gorgeous chowder. The Coachouse Seafood Chowder consists of salmon, cod, hake, smoked haddock, Albarino cream, brunoise of vegetables. There were a few prawns in mine as well and that cream is a delicious delight, all for €7.95.
CL meanwhile, was staying quite, enjoying her well presented Chicken Liver Pate, with date jam and toasted sourdough croûte (6.95). Other choices included a Bread and Dips Share Plate; Homemade Soup of the Day; Classic Caesar Salad; Mushrooms on Toast; and Crispy Chicken Wings (in various styles and portions).
|Drive under arch to car-park|
On to the mains then and something that little bit different for CL: A large Mexican Chicken Salad (with mango chutney), pommes noisettes and salad (14.95). The spices were mild, the potatoes delicious, the salad well-dressed. Large, but all went down well. Lots of choice too for mains and do check the specials board - the staff will probably tell you. By the way, the same menu is available in the bar.
I hit the jackpot with my mains: Twelve Hour braised Featherblade of Beef in Brownstone Ale served with turnip, creamy mash, and a delicious pan jus (16.95). Think that Brownstone should be Roundstone, at least that’s what was printed on my pint glass (4.20, 2.30 for the half). They have the beer on draught on the bar. It also says Triple Hop but you'd hardly notice any hops at all in this pleasantly mild drink. In any case, the feather-blade was fantastic as was the jus.
Enjoyed the meal and the service, some very friendly folk at work here. They tried their best to get us to move to dessert but we were pretty full at the point and had to reluctantly withdraw, resisting the charms of the Warm Homemade Apple Pie vanilla ice cream and chantilly cream; Selection of Baldwin's Ice creams, Tuille Basket; Chocolate Fudge Cake, warm chocolate sauce, vanilla ice cream; Peanut-butter and Salted Caramel Cheesecake chantilly cream, mango coulis; Raspberry Frangipane Bakewell Tart traditional custard; Jamaican Mess, crushed meringue, banana, butterscotch sauce, custard, cream, vanilla ice cream; and the Cheese Board, selection of Irish farmhouse cheeses, date jam, crackers, fruit.
They have a dedicated kids menu and have recently introduced this offer: Kids now eat free, Monday - Thursday, 4pm - 6pm! One free kid's meal with every adult main purchased.
The Old Imperial is one of the best kept buildings in Youghal, one of oldest too; as well as the bistro and its very popular Coachouse Bar, it is a 18 room family friendly boutique hotel. It is open for breakfast, lunch and dinner, coffee and drinks.
Old Imperial Hotel
27 North Main Street
Tel: (024) 92435