Wednesday, June 28, 2017

A Taste of West Cork Guide. Kate Brings It All Together

A Taste of West Cork Guide

Kate Brings It All Together
Ross with Sally Barnes
In West Cork, there are scores of good food producers, one down every lane, up every boreen. But which road, which village? Where do you find them when you want them? The answer is now quite simple: buy a copy of the Artisan Food Guide, just published by A Taste of West Cork Food Festival. 

The 80-page guide, edited by Kate Ryan, was launched by Michelin chef Ross Lewis (Chapter One) in Vertigo, the top floor of the County Hall, last week. Ross said good cooking begins with good shopping and this guide will help you do some great shopping.

And indeed, guests arriving in Vertigo were able to sample some of the produce from the likes of Ummera, Rosscarberry Recipes, Durrus Cheese, Hungry Crow Chocolates, Sally Barnes (Woodcock Smokery), Glenilen, Skeaghanore, Gubbeen, West Cork Pies, and West Cork Olives.

Helen Collins, chairperson of the A Taste of West Cork Festival for the past four years, welcomed the guests and other speakers. She extended a big thanks you to Tim Lucey, Chief Executive Cork County Council for his unwavering support, to outgoing Mayor of Cork County Seamus McGrath, another great supporter.

And, of course, she had a huge welcome for Ross Lewis, the chef who grew up in the area around the County Hall itself. Ross has dined in some of the world's finest restaurants but that doesn't stop him from enjoying the best of local (he had earlier lunched on lamb stew and floury potatoes in The Farmgate). He repeated his high regard for artisan producers - they are not in for the money - and that regard is well documented in his book "Chapter One- An Irish Food Story”.

Helen told us that the guide author Kate Ryan is Bristol born but has been living in Clonakilty for the past ten years. She is well known on the food scene through her blog flavour.ie, through her Clonakilty Walking Food Tour  (Failte Ireland approved, by the way!) and her willingness to get involved in local endeavours.

Clockwise from top left: Mayor Seamus McGrath, Helen Collins,
Ross Lewis and Tim Lucey

Another Ummera product
The book could easily have been just a list of the producers but is much more than that. West Cork is a big place so Kate decided to use some natural divisions, eg The Beara Peninsula, as chapter headings. So yes, of course, the producers are listed with some detail (including contacts and if visits are possible). Listed also are specialist food shops and local farmers markets. And, importantly, from a tourist point of view, she suggests itineraries to follow.

Let us illustrate her “scheme” by using the Clonakilty section as an example. So, you're an English or French foodie and newly arrived. Where to start? Spend a fiver on this book and you’ll see Clonakilty and its neighbours Timoleague, Dunworley and Rosscarberry.
Hungry Crow Chocolates, the bigger ones have dates and figs inside!

There are no less than 21 local food producers here including well known ones such as Ummera and Rosscarberry Recipes, lesser known such as Clonakilty Homemade Ice-cream and Devoy’s Organic Farm.

You can read which places are open to visitors and plan your own food journey. Or perhaps you’d like to rely on Kate's suggestions which starts with Ummera in Timoleague and ends with Bushy’s Strawberries in Rosscarberry. In between, you’ll visit The Baking Emporium, Camus Farm and Clonakilty Chocolate and more, maybe even a tour with Kate herself. After all that, you may well make Dunworley Cottage your overnight stay. And that's just one section!

The book will be an ideal "guide" to the Festival itself which takes place this year from 8th-17th September, with over 180 culinary and adventure events taking place across the region’s 33 towns and villages and 9 islands.  Visitors will find a foodie’s paradise, with several national and international chefs preparing culinary-themed feasts in local restaurants, food tastings al fresco, foraging walks, open-air markets, seminars, cook-offs, masterclasses and intimate evenings with local artisan food producers imparting their culinary wisdom.

As I said, West Cork is a large area, so much to see and do, so much good stuff to eat and drink!



Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Taste of the Week. Chocolates by the Hungry Crow

Taste of the Week

Chocolates by the Hungry Crow

 Niamh O'Reilly and Mark Stewart are the people behind Clonakilty’s 'The Hungry Crow’ and they make quite unusual and very delicious chocolate. The chocolates are missing just one ingredient: guilt! This ‘Free from’ policy helped them win the 2016 Listowel Food Fair ‘Best Emerging Artisan Food Product’.

And their Free From raw and vegan treats taste every bit as good as they look. Niamh makes her own nut butter and fruit is a very important ingredient.  Hungry Crow produce has no refined sugars, grains or dairy.

I had a few samples of the chocolate at the launch of A Taste of West Cork Artisan Book in the County Hall last week and more again this week when I called to see Mark at the start-up stall in the English Market.
He told me they are about half-way through their six week tenancy so you still have lots of time to call in and try the absolutely delicious chocolate treats, mostly featuring fruit and nut butter, perhaps the best chocolate I have tasted in a long long time.

My favourites are the bigger ones. They are normally built around either figs or dates (no ordinary dates either, these are the highly rated Medjool dates, Hungry Crow get theirs from Palestine). They are irresistible and are our Taste of the Week.

Stay in touch with Hungry Crow on their Facebook page 

Monday, June 26, 2017

The Grand Dame Celebrates. Metropole 120 Party

The Grand Dame Celebrates

Metropole 120 Party
“McCurtain Street is back on the map. Is Grand Dame, the Metropole Hotel, never went away and, in appropriate style, she celebrated her 120 anniversary at the weekend. The hotel and especially the ballroom, where so many couples met and married over the decades, was looking splendid as the many guests arrived.

And there were many of the couples who got married here along with former staff members among the invited guests. Newly elected Lord Mayor Tony Fitzgerald recalled a wedding occasion in his speech. He was a page boy at his aunt’s reception in the Met in the early sixties but admitted to spending most of the day checking out the lift! Indeed, that very lift was a major attraction in the very early days of the hotel when it was owned by the Musgrave family.

“Cork,” he said, “is a great city to work and live in. And also a great city to visit.” He told us that mayors from two of our twin cities will visit this year and he is also looking forward to a visit from the World Health Organisation to mark Cork's designation as a healthy city. “The Metropole has played its part in the development of the city. Long may it continue.”

General manager Roger Russell was next to address the guests and said it was a great opportunity to look back through the memories. “The response has been phenomenal, especially from former team members. What a story she, the Grand Dame, could tell, of the city, of the world. After starting in 1897, the Metropole, which was a temperance hotel owned by the local Musgrave family, quickly established itself."
This week's photo of the hotel's front and, below (from a few years ago), the back is reflected in the Lee

"In more recent times, just forty years ago, it began its relationship with the Cork Jazz Festival and we’re looking forward to the new Oyster Festival in September. I'm very proud to be manager here this evening.” And he finished with a big thank you to the team.

Aaron Mansworth, Group General Manager and Director at Trigon Hotels (they also include the Cork International Hotel and the Cork Airport Hotel in their portfolio), extended a big welcome. “It’s wonderful to be here. I spent five years working in the Waldorf Astoria in New York and there are certain similarities. We had a great team there and a great team here.

And he spoke of the exciting plans for the area and their new “M” hotel to be built nearby on the old PJ O'Hea site. “It is a wonderful project. Will be a huge benefit to the area, especially in terms of jobs. I’d like to acknowledge the local  business people who have put McCurtain Street back on the map. Here in the Metropole, we hope to continue creating memories for life! So please join with me in raising a glass to the wonderful Grand Dame!” 

And that we were all glad to do. The hospitality was terrific. All kinds of drinks: bubbles, beer, wine, cocktails. And chef Shane O’Sullivan sent out a constant stream of delicious canapés. And all the while the band (jazz, of course) played. A lavish party, they promised. And that is exactly what the Grand Dame and the team delivered. Here’s to another 120.
These ladies know how to organise a party!

Let us take a  few “flashbacks” to incidents in the hotel’s history before we finish. Edward VII is reputed to have had tea on the roof of The Metropole when he visited Cork in 1903 for the city’s Great Exhibition. Down the years many more famous personalities have been guests of the Metropole, and included Gregory Peck, James Mason, Frank O’Connor, John Steinbeck, Vittoria de Sica, John Huston and Walt Disney. 

However it was Dawn Adams, the 1950’s British film star, who created the greatest stir when she stayed at The Metropole. When she was attending the Cork Film Festival she requested a bath of milk. Douglas Vance, the famous hotelier of the Metropole, refused such a request as the people of Cork were finding it hard to makes ends meet. The story made headlines around the world at that time.

It wouldn’t be Cork without someone taking the pee!  According to a weekend Facebook post, one Cork comedian said that Dawn Adams eventually had her milk bath and while it was being poured a porter knocked at her door and she told him to go away as she was having a milk bath. He asked if it was pasteurised and she replied "it isn't past my ass yet“.

Cork's Dessert Festival launches today!

press release

Where and What's on Offer

Electric Bar and Restaurant
Mad Hatters Afternoon G+T July 1st 2-4pm
Cake Club Sunday 2nd July 3-5pm Also featuring dessert specials all week
The Franciscan Well
Ice Cream and Beer Weekend July 1st and 2nd from 1pm
Nandos Academy St
Free Nata with every coffee ordered
Blue Haven Kinsale
Promoting Ice Cream Sundae Menu all week
Casanova Gelato
Launch of "The Giant" Sundae
Featuring parfait cups all week
Arthur Maynes
Beefeater & Tonic with an orange foam
paired with an orange scented Creme Catalana
Hassetts Bakery
Featuring all their homemade desserts
Fundraising cupcake event Fri June 30th 11-3pm
Cafe Velo
Pie with Italian Meringue
Cronins
Homemade ice cream made with Cronin's brown soda bread
and Russian Imperial Stout from the White Gypsy
LISHH Dessert bar all week featuring fresh homemade desserts
with a coffee for just €5
Malay Kitchen
Featuring fresh Malaysian sweet treats all week
Griffins Garden Centre
Featuring all Grannys Griffins Fabulous Homemade Desserts
Competition for afternoon tea for 2
Amicus
Featured Desserts: Amicus After 8
The Allotment Sundae: Butterscotch Bonanza
143
Corks only entirely vegan cafe!
Dessert Demonstration Wed 28th 7-9pm €30
Sober Lane
Guest Dessert- Kinder Sundae
Guest Cocktails: 1. Nutty Russian- Absolut Vanilla, Frangelico, Kahlua and Milk
2.After Eight- Tia Maria, Creme de Menthe, Baileys and Milk
Holy Smoke
Featuring Desserts: Devil's Fruit and Holy Revenge

More desserts and events to be confirmed by: Midleton Park Hotel, The Oriel House Hotel, Myo Cafe, Box of FrogsThe Cornstore, Huckleberry Donuts, Oh My Donut, The Granary Foodstore.

The public will be voting all week on social media for :
Corks Best Dessert
Corks Best Treat and
Best Dessert Event


All other info will be posted on our social media daily!


For any more info email : dessert@festivalcork.com Or follow us on social media!

Sunday, June 25, 2017

Herbs? Salads? Natur-Ellie. Watch this Green Space

Herbs? Salads? Natur-Ellie

Watch this Green Space
Ellie, with a few of her herbs.
In the unlikely setting of a unit in a commercial estate, we are talking micro-herbs, herbs and salads in general. They are growing all around us. 

Urban gardener Ellie Donovan has just moved from another similar location and tells me she never thought there’d be such a demand for her organic micro greens. ‘“The chefs love them,” she says. She started with lots of varieties but is now down to six, the ones the chefs really like!
The urban garden!
She has been boosted by the signing of a new contract with the Market Lane group of restaurants. Market Lane’s original venture in Oliver Plunket Street will celebrate its 10th anniversary this year and no doubt their other restaurants Elbow Lane (and its micro brewery), ORSO Bar and Kitchen, and the spectacularly situated Castle Cafe will join in.

And it was at the cafe in Blackrock Castle that Ellie first began to work with the group. Here she set up a small kitchen garden and now the cafe is self sufficient and look after it themselves. She has also grown some hops in a confined location at the top of Elbow Lane. “All the Market Lane places are excellent. I love them and we have a great relationship.”
Recycled fish boxes
It is a confidence building relationship too and that will help Green Space expand. But it's hard going on your own! 

More hops for the brewery are in the pipeline. She will be using an enclosed outside patch of concrete close to the unit and will be growing lots of plants, probably including hops, in pallets that she has been collecting. And the garden at her country home will also help her ambitions to grow more outdoors.

One of the advantages in being in a commercial centre is that it is something of a community and people tend to help one another out. For instance, a nearby unit gives her used fish boxes and they are ideal for her business.
Micro!
Ellie uses coco fibre (also known as coir) as a growing medium. It is a natural product and hers includes rooting hormones. And then she also uses liquid fertilisers. At present, she is using tap water but plans are in hand - indeed some of the gear is in place - to replace it with rain-water. And another plan is to get a solar panel on the roof.

She is getting used to the particular environment of her Ballyvolane unit, learning day by day. She lost some lettuce overnight during the recent spell of very hot weather. She is pretty happy with the natural light but also uses some hanging fixtures that give close to a natural light. And she has heat mats in place for propagation.
Hydroponics in action
And what does she grow? Well lots of little herbs (some larger ones too: Rosemary, Sage, Lemon Balm, Lemon Verbena, Parsley...). The micros include Basil (four or five varieties), Coriander, Chinese and other chives, Rambo purple radish, and more. Also salads such as Mizuna, Wild Rocket, Mustards, Pea shoots etc. 

And she’s always experimenting, trying something new. So be sure and watch this Green Space!

* Read more about Ellie’s career here

Saturday, June 24, 2017

Amuse Bouche


This time two waiters appeared. One placed a cocktail in front of each of us, while the other set down on the table an array of appetizers, traditional fare from the fabled bar upstairs - ’21’ Club mini-burgers, crispy chicken wings, jumbo shrimp cocktail, and a large charcuterie.
“Nobody’s mentioned the mob,” Mike said, dredging a shrimp in the sauce and moving it to his mouth without a single drip. “You know something we don’t?”


from Night Watch by Linda Fairstein (2012) Recommended.

Thursday, June 22, 2017

Ballymaloe Cookery School and Gardens. Coffee Break turns into A Day Trip

Ballymaloe Cookery School & Gardens. 
Coffee Break turns into A Day Trip
The cock crows. He always does when I arrive at Ballymaloe Cookery School. Good to be back!

The Food Truck Café in front of the Ballymaloe Cookery School in Shanagarry has just reopened for the season. So when a friend suggested a mid morning cup of coffee, there was no hesitation. Plan was to be there for just a short interlude but that stretched to a walk in the gardens and part of the farm, and, much later, a return to the Food Truck for a delicious lunch.
A productive day for the panels.

 You may have coffee and cafe here from 10.30am until 5.00pm and they serve a light lunch between 12 noon and 3.30pm. First question? What to have with the morning coffee? There is a short list of temptation and the Tunisian Orange Cake was my pick and a good one it was. But it seems the winner on the day was the Gooseberry Compote served with their Jersey Cream Yogurt. Absolutely delicious.

Amphitheatre
Time on our hands then, time enough for a walk through the garden. There are some 70 varieties of herbs in the herb garden, laid out in a formal parterre edged with box hedges. Plenty of fresh herbs for Ballymaloe House and Cafe and the school.

The Herbaceous Border, planted in 1996, has thrived here, though not without a great deal of care and attention. Deep borders of fabulous perennials and grasses make it one of the very best of its type.
Gooseberry compote
 At the end of the border is the Shell House, with shell decoration by artist Blott Kerr-Wilson. We had been in these areas before - read more here


There is something new, always something new in Ballymaloe where their creatives just do what comes naturally. One striking feature, near the border, is the Garden Amphitheatre, a mini one. But it is capable of holding up to sixty people and is good for a cookery school lecture, even better for a wine tasting and lesson!

The Urban Garden
And not too far away, an Urban Garden was being constructed. The “entrance” sees you going out the back door of your home to see how your plants are coming along. Lots of good ideas packed into the small place, that includes a composting bin, a frame and a little greenhouse. Well worth a look for city-dwellers, even country dwellers whose gardens are on the small side.
Drying in the glasshouse
 I mentioned the Jersey cream earlier and soon we were passing those very ladies, at rest in the lush grass. Nearby were the free range pigs, at least the younger ones, a mix of Gloucester Old Spot, Tamworth and Saddleback. They were busy pushing one another near the water trough, looking to cool down on what was a very warm day. One even had his head buried in the wet mud nearby. Not too far away, some young hens gathered in the shade.

Glasshouse grapes
 I hadn't seen the kitchen garden before so that was next on the walk. All neat and tidy, all organic, lots of vegetables and flowers too for dishes and drinks. And a scarecrow hiding in the high fox gloves!

Head down

 Oh I almost forgot. We also had a tour though the glasshouse. It was baking! It is a fertile place, again supplying the restaurant, the cafes (both here and at the house), and the school itself of course. Always something being harvested, something being set, everything here is grown from seed and a no-dig policy is implemented.

Lunch taco
 You may buy a selection of the produce at the shop. I was looking for some honey but none available, not until August. All those stories you hear about bees being weakened by pesticides and other -ides are not fiction. Far from it. But I did get a few things including a white yeast loaf, one of the very best I've ever tasted.


We were just about to go back to the nearby carpark when we realised it was lunchtime. So why travel further? We sat under the canopy opposite the Food Truck for the second time and studied the  light lunch menu. It included a Tart of the Day, a Taco and a Salad.
Food truck

The Taco came with lamb, avocado, rocket, chipotle & horseradish mayo and crunchy veg, all for €7.50. Every single ingredient played a part here and the result was a slightly spicy and full of flavour meal. 


CL’s Super Food Salad was served with “Bread Shed” breads and included red lentils, quinoa, haricot, red kidney beans, roast parsnip/beetroot/carrot/red onion/mixed seeds/peanuts (7.00). Massive! Thought she might walk back to Cork after that. But no!

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Have you met Dornfelder? Let me introduce you.

Lingenfelder Dornfelder 2011, Grosskarlbacher Osterberg Pfalz, 12.5%, €18.95 O’Brien’s

The Dornfelder grape is a modern (1955) crossing which is well suited to the cool climate of Germany (and getting popular in England too). It is packed with red berry fruit and soft round tannins and this delicious example is reminiscent of good Pinot Noir.

The Lingenfelder brothers, Karl-Friedrich (left) and Georg, gave me a crash course on the grape when I met them at O’Brien's November Wine Fair. Their Dornfelder grapes come from a single vineyard Osterberg (Easter Hill). 

They practice sustainable viticulture and promote bio-diversity on all their vineyards and in the cellar there is no yeast culture addition, no fining, minimal filtering and no chaptalisation. The family, centuries in wine-making, are best known for their Rieslings.

The Dornfelder, which has spent six months in big oak barrels, ancient containers, has a rich ruby colour. The fresh and fragrant aromas speak of red fruit, floral notes too, herbs, maybe something even wilder. It is full bodied, red berry fruit (cherry, blackberry), slightly spicy, a touch tannic too. I found it very satisfying at the Wine Fair last November and this bottle confirms that good first impression. Very Highly Recommended.


Grapes and Wine may not go as far (perhaps they haven’t tasted the Lingenfelder version) but admit the grape, the second most planted red in Germany, has a certain honesty: “..it doesn't pretend to be more than a well-coloured, juicily fruited grape… and it fulfils that role very well.”

Pinot Noir is the most important red wine grape in Germany. Known as Spätburgunder, nearly 11,5% of the vineyard area is planted with it. On the white side, Riesling and Müller-Thurgau account for some 43% of Germany's 105,000 hectares of vineyards. (source: http://www.germanwines.de/ )

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Taste of the Week. Cascade by Cotton Ball Brewing

Taste of the Week
Cascade by Cotton Ball Brewing
Cascade-ing at Cork Summer Show
A lovely pint from Brian.



Cascade is a relatively new addition to the Cotton Ball Brewing Company’s  portfolio and I made its acquaintance at the Cork Summer Show at the weekend. It’s a beauty and our Taste of the Week.

It is a well balanced celebration of the hops of the same name, a single hop beer with terrific flavour, slightly spicy too but with flavour galore and the ABV is just 3.8%. Well done guys, a superb Pale Ale for the summer sessions and indeed any session.


There is a picture of Humphrey Lynch, the original owner of the Cotton Ball and grandfather of current owner Jack, on the brewery's bottles. His is a fascinating story and includes fighting in the American Civil War and dealing in cotton (hence the name for the pub he bought on his return to Ireland). More here.  

Monday, June 19, 2017

Cork Summer Show 2017. Town and Country Get-together in the sun.

The Cork Summer Show 2017

Town and Country Get-together in the sun.
Ford 100

The organisers of the Cork Summer Show got the weather they, and it, deserved this weekend and once again it proved to be a very enjoyable occasion, a chance to catch up with old friends, to try something new (like the Cotton’s Ball’s Cascade beer), to pick up info from the County Council tent on the many things to see and do from Mitchelstown to Allihies, from Youghal to Newtownshandrum.
First friendly face we recognised was Sandra Murphy. She had been up late at the previous night's fashion show in the Cork International Hotel but was in bubbly form as always at their desk. We entered a competition there, so fingers crossed!


Then we met Rebecca at the Taste Cork tent, all busy preparing for the day-long schedule of cookery demos. Up and down the rows of trade stalls then before arriving at the County Council stands where we collected quite a few information leaflets on places like Spike Island and Camden Fort Meagher, along with those handy town maps for places like Clonakilty, Youghal etc.
One Horsepower!

It was getting busy at the western section as owners (often with the whole family) prepared the cattle and horses and more for the judges. The equine judges were first in action and I must say I was taken with the side saddle event even if there were just two competitors.

Something cool was now in order and we got a delicious ice-cream from Clonakilty Ice-cream (I recommend the honeycomb!) before moving on to see the petting section. Luckily for the pigs and hunting dogs (there were two packs) here, the tops of their cages were partially covered so that they could enjoy some shade.

The poultry section had quite a few exotic breeds including a big line-up of bantams. The owner of one helpfully opened the cage door for me and I was able to get a close-up of his Polish Bantam hen; the cock was next door but that cage stayed shut! “A high maintenance couple,” the owner confided.
The newly elected City Lord Mayor Tony Fitzgerald was being shown around as we got back to the entertainment area where many families were sitting on anything from long wooden seats to bean bags) having a bite and a drink and listening to the music or enjoying the magician. 

A bit early perhaps but we did enjoy a glass of that Cascade, a well hopped deliciously flavoured beer from the Cotton Ball, with an abv of just 3.8%. Lots of other choices here too, including local gins and whiskeys. 


By now, lots of old Ford vehicles were motoring into the grounds, cars, vans and tractors, as the show organisers recognised the company’s 100 year old links with the city and county. Some lovely old, and not so old, vehicles here and we got a personal run-down on a 1947 Prefect, even info on courting in the back seat! My Dad had one of these in the early 60s
Polish Bantam

How about a bit to eat? The only problem here was making up your mind; there were so many stalls, big and small, selling food to eat on the spot. A few months back, I got some Peri Peri sauces to sample from Athula and when I saw he was doing food here, I had to try it. And yes indeed, his Peri Peri Chicken Pitta was delicious and nicely spiced (I had asked for medium!). That and a glass of water was dispatched while standing at a barrel table as the sun beat down.


We were into the afternoon now and, having arrived early, stamina was running out. Besides, the dog, who had been left at home, would need to be walked, so we retreated from Curraheen, meeting many people on the way in. This is a huge attraction for town and country and deserves all the support. And they came in record numbers. It is estimated that 27,000 people attended the show on Saturday and a further 33,000 attended on Sunday. 

Perfect Prefect