- Kinsale Bay Food launch new Bord Bia packaging de...
- Restaurant Reviews. Up-to-date. Cork & Ireland
- Top Wines. With Reviews & Irish Stockists.
- Ireland's Great Producers, Great Tastes
- Top Posts, last 12 months
- Griffins of Dripsey Join Dessert Festival Fun
- GREEN SPACE TO PARTNER MARKET LANE GROUP TO REDUCE FOOD MILES AND FOOD WASTE
- Beaujolais trade tasting comes back to Dublin
- Blog Policy
Friday, July 21, 2017
All he had to do was drive to a fish warehouse in Oakland, hand a slip of paper to a Chinese kid who worked for Fariq’s organization, and throw the squid into his van. From there, he’d take it to Fremont, put it on the ground, and come back the next day, when it had thawed. Then he’d open it up and pull out the vacuum-sealed loaves of drugs. I used to love squid, he told them later. I can’t eat it anymore.
from Every Man A Menace by Patrick Hoffman (2016). Highly Recommended.
Thursday, July 20, 2017
Back to the Garden for Maryborough Chef
A Delicious New Summer-time Menu at Bellini’s
Hotel dining rooms are improving all over the city and Bellini’s at the Maryborough is at the forefront thanks to Head Chef Gemma Murphy and her team.
Gemma is renowned for her presentation skills. But there is substance galore behind the style on your plate. She is well able to source good produce, with the emphasis on local and seasonal, and cook it to perfection.
Macroom Buffalo Cheese, Goatsbridge Trout, La Rousse Fine Foods, Keeling’s Fruit and Vegetables, Matt O'Connell Seafood, the English Market and Ballinwillin Boar and Venison are among her sources.
And it's getting even more local! She has developed a vegetable and herb garden “so she can ensure only the best will be used in her cooking”.
Delighted to get the chance to try the new menu. After a warm welcome, we were seated comfortably and starting to make the choices. Not that easy as all the dishes appealed.
I was looking at the starters and found it difficult to get past the first two. Eventually though the Ballinwillin Wild Boar (Pea and Watercress Pannacotta, Apricot Mustarda) “won” against the Grilled Mackerel. The boar and venison coming from the Mulcahy's in Ballinwillin is top notch and this superb dish added another dimension.
CL too had a difficult choice toying with the Assiette of Summer Vegetables (with Macroom ricotta) before settling on the Scallops (Bacon Dashi, Compressed Pineapple, Picked Shimeji, Cubanelle Chilli Oil). Another winner. The dashi was poured on at the table and the little umami mushrooms, like everything other element, played a tasty role.
No big creamy sauces for the chef here. We both went for fish in the mains and each of us was very happy. CL enjoyed the Sea Bream Fillets (Grilled Asparagus, Charred Onion, Salt Baked Fingerling Potatoes, Shellfish Bisque, Squid Ink Dressing) while my Pan seared fillet of Cod (Braised Beluga Lentils, Fava Beans, Heritage Tomato, Grapefruit and Saffron Puree) was another delight.
And of course there were sides; the House Fries and Market Vegetables (a substitute on the night for the carrots) were our choices, both well up to standard.
So how about dessert? Some excellent choices here. Was looking at the Coconut and Yuzu Pannacotta before settling on the Pimm’s Jelly (Foraged Elderflower Scented Mascarpone Strawberry Sorbet, Shortbread). That was shared, our server diplomatically placing it centre-table. Service was excellent throughout. And another empty plate went back!
There are some fantastic wines on the list here, including quite a few by the glass and also a selection by the half-bottle. Once we decided on the fish, we ordered a glass of white each. One was the German Eins-Zwei-Dry Riesling, smooth and fruity and dry for sure. The other was the Ara Della Valle Pinot Grigio, smooth and persistent. Both feature on the house white list, along with a few more.
If don't want the full menu of the restaurant, well take a look at the Bellini bar daytime menu here. Here too, you’ll see Lots of cocktails on offer and you can also sample the local craft beer by the Franciscan Well Brewery.
And they also do Afternoon Tea in the Garden Room. And if the kids come, well there’s even an Afternoon Tea Menu for them. If you need to be pampered at any time, just follow the sounds of flowing water to the spa. And I'd better mention, they also have a gym!
Wednesday, July 19, 2017
Vigne Marina Coppi “Sant’Andrea” Colli Tortonesi Barbera (DOC) 2015, 13.5%, €25.99 Liberty Wines
The winery was founded in 2003 and named for Marina Coppi, the child of renowned cycling champion Fausto Coppi who twice completed the Giro and Tour de France double, 1st in 1949 and then in 1952.
The estate, which concentrates on native varieties, is in the region of Piemonte where the Colli Tortonesi is a lesser known appellation. Ten per cent Croatina has been included with the Barbera. No oak has been used and you'll note there is very little tannin.
Ruby is the colour. There are intense aromas, mainly of cherry. Much the same fruit and intensity on the palate, also excellent acidity. As smooth and rounded as you’ll get with a trace of background spice. A beautiful lingering finish too and Very Highly Recommended. Liberty also carry the Coppi I Grop, another to watch out for.
Allegrini Valpolicella (DOC) 2016, 13%, €22.49 Liberty Wines
The Modern History of Italian Wine pays the Allegrini family, best known for their rich and powerful Amarone, quite a compliment when citing them as one of the most influential winemakers: With the Allegrini family, Valpolicella takes the form of art, of a lifestyle where the beauty and light of Italy shine through wine.
Very high praise indeed. It might be a huge leap to see the art in this particular bottle but I’m inclined to the view that there is a delicate beauty and light to enjoy. And there is also a guarantee of quality as the family were, in 2005, one of the founders of the Comitao Grandi Cru d'Italia which unites the best of Italian producers.
This Valpolicella is a light ruby colour, and bright. On the aromatic nose, cherry is to the fore. It is light, fruity, with a hint of spice. This engaging youngster is a playful companion, ideal for that favourite sunny seat in the garden. But will grow and mature a bit over the next year or two. A blend of Corvina (65%), Rondinella (30%) and Molinara (5%), with a finish of some heft, it is Highly Recommended.
Read more of the Allegrini story on the Liberty Wines blog here.
Read more of the Allegrini story on the Liberty Wines blog here.
Taste of the Week
|Coolea in brine|
I’ve often heard of the camaraderie and support that exists between artisan producers. And I saw it in action at Schull Market on a recent Sunday morning.
I was looking at the cheese selection on the Gubbeen stall when Tom Ferguson began to sing the praises (not of their own Gubbeen, which is worth a song or two) but of a two year old Coolea. He followed up by offering me a sliver. It was every bit as good as he said so I bought a wedge and it is our current Taste of the Week. No big surprise really. Coolea were one of the pioneers and the cheese is sought after at home and abroad.
The cheese venture came about because the Willems family, wh had come from Holland, couldn't find any cheese here other than cheddar and mother Helena started, in 1979, on a very small family scale with a little pot. But now Coolea is a big name and much of the output is sold at the famous Neal's Yard in London while in Ireland Sheridan’s are the major customer.
The cheese was to be called Milleens after the local townland but that was knocked on the head as the Steeles, further west on the Beara peninsula and living in a townland of the same name, had just started making a cheese called Milleens. And so the Coolea brand was born.
It is firm and smooth, a pressed uncooked Gouda style cheese. Early on the flavours are caramel, nutty and floral but they become more robust as time goes on, sweeter if anything and still carrying traces of its delicate youth. A gorgeous cheese and well worth watching out for.
Monday, July 17, 2017
Pizza and Wine on a West Cork Beach
The Puffin Cafe at Castlefreke.
There is still plenty of room in the car park but many choose to park on the road. It is a typically Irish scene as you arrive at a beach-side car park on a sunny day. But what is not typical is the beach café, the only building on the Long Strand, Castlefreke. It is black, as black as a puffin’s back, and is named, The Puffin Café.
Most of the action, well if you call sitting and lying action, on this sunny day is on the outside. A few brave souls, kids mainly, are testing the water. But there’s not a surfer in sight. Soon, the kids will be trooping up to the café, making the hard choice at the ice-cream counter, something like 14 varieties to choose from!
Already family groups are eating at the big picnic style tables outside. Pizzas, and ice-creams and drinks, are in big demand. But the inside seats, and there are quite a few of them, are not! I'm happy with that. I've been out in the sun all morning and now glad of some shade.
A lovely warm welcome and we are soon seated, checking out the menu which doubles as a place-mat. We note the names immediately, smiling as we go through them: Bowie, Salsoul, Rick Rubin, Chuck D, Jazzy Jay, Larry Levan and more are used for the pizzas.
My pick is the Furious Five (€15.50), a welcome melange of San Marzano tomatoes, prosciutto, peaches, mozzarella, blue cheese and rocket. Quite an excellent pizza with the peaches working surprisingly well with all the rest. There were some nine pizzas on the list ranging from a Margherita (10.50) to a Fish offering, the Larry Levan featuring Smoked Mackerel and beetroot at €16.50.
CL has picked something that little bit smaller, the Salsoul Sandwich (8.50). This tasty starter consists of Marsala Roasted chorizo, roasted peppers, onions and leaves and is served in a sourdough flat bread. See the full menu here.
We drank lots of water as we ate but they do have wine here. From France comes Le Petit Pont Reserve in both red and white, at €6.50 a glass. From Italy, you can have the Costadoro organic white and red at €7.50 a glass or €28.00 a bottle. €28.00 also for a bottle of Prosecco. If you want something more expensive, then ask them about their small range “of quality and eclectic wines” that are off menu. Other drinks available are sparkling water, ginger beer, and pip organic.
The name game continues with the desserts: Boney Mmm; B-Boying; Minnelli: and Freke Out! The latter, by the way, is the Puffin’s special Ice Cream Sundae. And, of course, you can also check out the ice-creams!
No shortage of coffee choices (I thought my espresso was top notch) and you may have tea, ordinaire or herbal. Oh yes, almost forgot, there is music too at the café, outdoors on this occasion. All that, and sunshine, means a fun stop at the beach.
The Puffin Cafe’s summer (June, July, August & September) hours are: MONDAY + THURSDAY + FRIDAY: 12pm-4pm. SATURDAY: 10am-10pm. SUNDAY: 11am-8pm.
Sunday, July 16, 2017
The White Horse Grub Club
Chance to try street food from the wide world.
There is something about the White Horse. The buzz. People. Everywhere.
We walked in about 7.00pm on a Thursday. The restaurant was packed. The bar was full as we walked through to get to the Grub Club in a different dining room. The sign said “Sold Out”. So that bright and airy room was also full as was the lovely sheltered tiled patio area outside..
The Grub Club, an occasional feature, is just one of the many attractions of this lively spot. They have a music venue upstairs, a brew club, their own guitar (big) band and more. The Grub Club gives patrons an opportunity to try other cuisines, mainly street food style, from other cultures and Marlene had invited me along to sample the food of the West Indies.
We were seated on the cusp of the indoors and outdoors and soon they began serving an introductory Caribbean punch to all the tables.
Then the starter: Chargrilled Marinated Tiger Prawns skewer, mango salad, coriander, lime and chilli dressing, crispy shallots. The salad was a treat on its own not to mind the prawns and juicy cherry tomatoes on the skewer.
And there was also a paired drink: Spicy Coriander Bloody Mary. I skipped on that one but later enjoyed a cool delicious pint of the Bohemian Barefoot Pilsner by Eight Degrees, the suggested pairing for the main course.
And what a main course, something very different indeed: Jerk Chicken, rice and peas (and a few beans too!), homemade Jamaican Coco Bread, and Jerk sauce. Another totally enjoyable dish; the chicken was perfect, the sauce mild and ever so slightly sweet, the bread a delicious bite, handy too for taking up the last of the sauce!
We were enjoying this and the buzz around the room. And the dessert maintained the excellent standard for this twenty euro meal (drinks extra). It was an Upside down caramelised pineapple cake, homemade coconut ice-cream, crispy cinnamon tuile. That really worked well and provided a sweet end to a lovely evening, even sweeter if you sipped the Basil and Cucumber Margarita. By the way, all the suggested drinks were a fiver.
I must say that, with the large crowd in, the service was excellent. The staff pulled out all the stops to get all the dishes out as quickly as possible. The Grub Club is a great idea, a reasonably priced night out with a chance to try something that you might not normally come across.
Next Grub Club Event
The next event is scheduled for at . The menu is below and it is priced at €28 this time to include specially paired wines with each course.
Next Grub Club Event
The next event is scheduled for at . The menu is below and it is priced at €28 this time to include specially paired wines with each course.
Starter: Blow-torched mackerel, cucumber gel, burnt lemon, preserved lemon dressing, chicken fat, crispy potato, samphire. (Allergens - Sulphites / Fish)
Main course: Lamb belly, Smoked aubergine purée, pickled blackberry, broad beans, feta in filo, lamb jus. (Allergens - Sulphites / Celery / Milk / Gluten - this dish can be made gluten free on advance request)
Dessert: Rhubarb and custard pie, our own homemade popcorn ice cream. (Gluten / Milk / Eggs - Gluten free alternative available)
Tickets available from www.whitehorse.ie/venue and at the bar.
Saturday, July 15, 2017
I looked at the turkey, which had dropped off the end of the table and slid… to rest ..beside the door. I had ordered a big turkey, even though there were only three of us.Daddy had always said a small turkey looked mean, and we could make sandwiches and stew from the leftovers, and all those thoughts about the turkey and how many ways I could prepare it went through my head as my husband died, there and then in front of me. I stood in shock in those ten seconds while he fought to breathe, until he was entirely still.
from Lying in Wait by Liz Nugent (2016) Highly Recommended.
Thursday, July 13, 2017
Budds Ballydehob for Lunch.
Sandwiched between a couple of climbs!
|Ant activity near Three Castles Head|
When I knew I was heading for Schull, I put getting up to Mount Gabriel on top of my list. But, on Saturday morning, we headed south instead from the village with the Three Castles Head the immediate objective. Gabriel would have to wait until the afternoon!
Three Castles Head is in the Mizen area. Having passed through Goleen, you come to a cross where your turn left for Mizen Head and straight ahead for Three Castles Head (which is also signed). There was a cycle race on the road so the trip was very slow.
|The Three Castles|
You will come to Dunlough Bay and a rough car park. Open (and close) the farm gate and follow the few well placed arrows. Firstly, the walk is on a path across fields and then it gets a little (just) rougher.
You’ll pass the white buildings, including the cafe, named after the head and open only in summer. A notice requests a voluntary contribution (3 euro is suggested) as you pass through a narrow gate on the farm.
|Mizen Head in the distance|
I didn't time the walk, but after 25 minutes or so, the three castles will come into view, suddenly. Their situation is quite spectacular and you also have great views over the nearby ocean and into Dunmanus Bay. The three ruins are known collectively as Dunlough Castle and are located at the most westerly point of the Mizen Peninsula in West Cork. You have excellent views also over Mizen Head including its lighthouse structure.
You may continue your walk up and beyond the castles, up towards a cairn on top of one of the peaks. Some detail via an Irish Times article here. I did go up a little beyond the castle before turning back.
It was coming close to lunchtime but reluctantly I passed the café which had been highly recommended by locals. I had promised myself I'd call to Budds in Ballydehob who, as one of Cork’s cafés of character, were supporting the Cork Summer Bounty Week.
A group of cyclists were having lunch here too so it was busy enough. I read the specials and my server pointed out that most of their produce was local. I picked the salad which featured Lea’s baby carrots and squash, Macroom buffalo ricotta, on a bed of local mixed leaves with beetroot and balsamic purée, walnut and Portobello mushroom.
The carrot was rather a big baby but quite a tasty one, the mushroom was superb as was the ricotta and all the leaves were as fresh as could be. All in all, a lovely summer lunch. CL also hit the jackpot with the Wagyu Beef burger, with local black and white pudding, and smoked Gubbeen cheese. An expresso later and we were on our way to another climb!
We checked with the tourist office as to the best road in to the foot of 407 metre high Mount Gabriel (you can drive to the top) and the man on duty was delighted to tell us as he lives in the area. The “mountain” is well-known for its two radar domes (aviation tracking) on top and lesser known for the fact that, in ancient times, copper mining was carried out here.
|From top of Gabriel|
Every time I've seen it while in Schull, I had imagined the views from its would be great. Now I was on my way and while some low cloud had intervened the views were still stunning even if the domes and their fences are not and could do with a spruce up.
Back then to our lovely guesthouse, Stanley House, for a break and a shower before heading out for more food!
Friday Night in Schull. L’Escale & Hackett’s Bar
|On the way to Three Castles Head|
Wednesday, July 12, 2017
Local Grapes: Three Blends To Try
Local grapes feature in these three bottles, one each from Bordeaux, the Alentejo region of Portugal and Piedmont in Italy. While the Bordeaux grapes will be familiar to most of us, the local Portuguese and Italian grapes will be less so. Worth a try though!
Chateau Thieuley Bordeaux (AOC) 2015, 13%, €15.95 Wines Direct
I love Bordeaux (and Bergerac) whites, especially when Semillon is the main grape, and this excellent dry wine, rich and full flavoured, suits me very well indeed. Sec (dry) is highlighted on the front label and it has spent 3 months ageing on lees. The blend is Sauvignon Blanc (35%), Sauvignon Gris (15) and Semillon (50).
Colour is a clear gold/straw. There are rich aromas, exotic fruit plus floral elements. From its elegant and attractive nose, to its generous mouthfeel, its excellent freshness ad acidity, to its long finish, it is pretty much faultless, Well balanced and Very Highly Recommended. Should be superb with most kinds of sea fish including lobster and salmon, freshwater fish too.
Antonio Lopes Ribeiro ALR, Vinho Regional Alentejano 2012, 14%, €16.50 Mary Pawle Wines
The organic grapes for this blend grow in an wooded area planted with Pine, Oak and Chestnut. I though I got a hint of oak but maybe not as it is unoaked! Trincadeira, Aragonez (Tempranillo), Alicante-Bouschet and Touriga Nacional are in the blend and the wine-makers say “it goes with everything”.
This versatile medium bodied wine has a ruby red colour and red fruit aromas. Baked fruit and spice on the palate, moderate tannins, and a long dry finish. Highly Recommended.
* The lettering on the bottle could fool you into thinking it is AIR but no, the ALR comes from the initials of Antonio Lopes Ribeiro.
Valle Unite Ottavio Rubé Rosso 2014, Costa Vescovata, 13.5%, €14.55 Le Caveau
Costa Vescovata is a town in Piedmont and the Valle Unite is the winery. The grapes - it is a blend of Dolcetta and Croatina - are local and this organic wine is “a brilliant price/quality ratio” say Le Caveau. It is named after Ottavio Rubé, one of the founders of the co-op.
Colour is a deep ruby and there are strong, even “funky” red fruit aromas. Same strong fruit evident on the palate, a good input of spice too, also savoury flavours, quite grippy with excellent acidity. A decent finish too. A good buy and Highly Recommended. You can expect some sediment here so best to decant.
Taste of the Week
Kinsale Bay Shepherd’s Pie
This Shepherd’s Pie, from the Kinsale Bay Food Company, looks splendid in its new packaging. It is also full of flavour and is our lovely Taste of the Week.
It is a classic lamb pie with chunky vegetables in an aromatic gravy topped with a creamy mash potato. The lamb is100% Irish; the pie is Gluten Free and high in protein.
And that aromatic gravy is more than an advertiser’s imagination. Much more. It is really aromatic, so much so that the puppy got really interested and tried to get up on the table to check it out.
I gave him the almost empty carton (heat in the oven rather than the micro wave, by the way) and he licked it so much that he could see his own reflection. That made the vote for Taste of the Week unanimous.
Tuesday, July 11, 2017
Tapas at Schull’s Casa Diego
And Farewell to lovely Stanley House
After trips to Three Castles Head and Mount Gabriel and, in between, a lovely lunch at Budds, we were wondering where to eat on our last night in Schull. Had earlier spotted Casa Diego and thought the flexibility (stop when full, maybe!) of tapas might well fit the bill.
They certainly did. Aside from a long list of tapas they also do a more structured meal with starter, mains and so on. They have an indoor dining room and also a bunch of tables on a sheltered sloping garden. And it was the open air venue that we chose.
And choosing from the long list wasn't easy as there were many tempting dishes there, everything from Banderillas (a small skewer containing spicy crunch cocktail onions, peppers and olives) to Chorizos a la sidra (chorizo in cider) to Gambas al ajillo (local scampi in garlic, virgin extra oil and chilli).
The wine list isn't as long but I did spot a favourite, the Semele, with its distinctive design, the letters forming a person drinking. Karwigs import this and it has a complex nose, well-ripened red fruit, and is dry, with a well-rounded finish. Certainly enjoyed that.
We started with a selection of the tapas and later ordered more! Favourites included the Pimientos Rellenos (Piquillo peppers with a selection of mushroom or vegetables); the Huevos Estrellados (Fried eggs with potatoes and Iberican ham); the Michirones (Fava beans stewed with cured ham, potatoes, chorizo and bay leaves); the Embutido Ibérico (a massive plate of Spanish chorizo, lean pork sausage with coarse black pepper, and Iberican Ham); and the Berenjena Rellena (stuffed aubergines wth minced meat and homemade tomato covered with melted parmesan cheese).
The only bum note was struck, surprisingly, by the Patatas Bravas. You get a plateful of the spicy cubes but most of the bigger cubes weren't fully cooked. Still, we had more than enough from the smaller ones as the plate was big and packed.
Service had been friendly and excellent throughout. When we went up to pay we were told they didn't accept credit cards. Had we been eating in the inside room, we’d probably have seen that on the door. We were told there was an ATM in Centra, just down the street. So we walked down there and brought back the cash to the friendly trusting folks in Casa Diego. By the way, L’Escale, on the pier, is another restaurant that doesn’t take credit cards.
|Schull harbour from Stanley House|
On the following morning (Sunday), we said goodbye to Nancy and her lovely Stanley House on the Colla Road. Our room had a gorgeous sea-view as had most of the outdoor areas and gardens. They cook an excellent breakfast here too and Nancy is very helpful with directions and tips on what to do in the area.
Still time to call down to the Country Market which is held every Sunday morning in summer. Lots of good things here from homemade baking and jams to a full sized Gubbeen stall where we lingered awhile, tasting a smashing two year Coolea with Tom Ferguson himself. Filled a bag there and then took a final walk along the shore. Didn't get too far in the sun. Just sat down on one of the many seats and watched some swimmers come in after what looked like a long one.
The market was even busier as we walked back to the car park and set off towards the city.
Monday, July 10, 2017
Friday Night in Schull
L’Escale & Hackett’s Bar
|We have ways of|
making you walk!
It was time for a bite in Schull on Friday night (07.07.17). Not looking for dinner this time, just a tasty top-up. Hackett’s do evening meals but only “when it gets hectic”. It wasn't hectic enough yet apparently, though there was a crowd enjoying the sun and the drink on the pavement outside.
So we headed down to the nearby pier and the colourful L’Escale. It had been recommended to us. Just as well, as their website and Facebook pages aren't really up to date. Indeed, the website says call back to check their new 2015 summer menus.
Surprisingly that their social media is not up to speed as they use tech when you order. You are given a phone sized gadget that vibrates, bleeps and flashes when your order is ready. Efficient yes but don't think I'd like to see the practice spread, making another disconnect between the customer and the staff. Could there be a future message: Go to Hatch 57, your order is there; type in your code to access.
Despite the hi-tech bit, they don’t take credit cards. And neither does Casa Diego, the customer friendly tapas place on Main Street.
|If you'd like to go face to face with the server and the cook, then this mobile|
unit, parked on the Schull pier, has a tempting menu
L’Escale was busy. It always is. Fish and Chips and Pizza (may be ordered downstairs) are popular here and there are lots of families in. We went up the steps to place our order for a lobster salad (17.50) and received our gizmo which went ballistic a few minutes later. So I took my noise with me back up the steps; the guy there just nodded towards my tray (no words exchanged) and I took it to our outdoor seat which we had found ourselves.
|Door notice at Hackett's|
You knew they wouldn't be around asking you if everything was okay. But it was. It was a perfect bite, just what the stomach required after a lovely lunch earlier in Gubbeen. L’Escale also have a wine list but we were happy enough with the water as we were heading to Hackett’s.
It is a traditional pub, lots of old timber. Mainly the usual suspects too as regards draught so I was glad to see the familiar Rising Sons Brewery represented by their Indian Pale Ale and I enjoyed a couple of cool pints of that as the music speeded up and the sun sank slowly (I presume!) in the west.
|All quiet at L'Escale on Sunday morning.|