Saturday, August 19, 2017

Amuse Bouche

I prefer cognac

Ringo offset his notorious dislike of onions and spicy foods - he was the Beatle who brought baked beans with him to Rishikesh in 1968 - with an everyman diet. “I’m easy to please,” he said of his palate. “Fish, meat, nothin’ fancy. I don’t need your curries and chop sueys. Garlic and onions kill me. I prefer cognac.”

But his history of intestinal troubles caught up to him in April 1979 while he was in Monaco....


from Ringo by Michael Seth Starr (2015). Recommended.

Thursday, August 17, 2017

Cork City by The Lee. Stay. Eat. Shop. See!

Cork City by The Lee. 
Stay. Eat. Shop. See!
Music city



The Firkin Crane in Shandon,
once the butter capital of the world
See: The Queen made it her number one stop in Cork so you’ve just got to see the English Market, an institution in the city since 1788. Nearby, you’ll see the spires of historic St Fin Barre’s Cathedral.

St Anne’s Church in Shandon is another landmark. Visit and don’t forget to ring the bells.  Cork was once the butter capital of the world and the Butter Museum is in the shadow of Shandon.

Staying north of the river, why not pay a call to the storied cells of the 
City GaolThe Glucksman is a lovely art gallery in the leafy grounds of the university while the well established Crawford Gallery is easily accessible in the city centre, next door to the Opera House. And don't forget Elizabeth Fort and the newly opened Nano Nagle PlaceAlways something interesting on at The Triskel, an arts venue in a converted church.
video

Shop: While in the English Market why not do a bit of shopping and check out local delicacies such as buttered eggs and spiced beef. The compact city centre boasts a few top notch shopping centres: Merchants Quay, Opera Lane and the new Capitol area. North Main Street has Bradley’s, founded in 1850, and famous for its wall of craft beers.

For a different experience head to 
Mahon Point Farmer’s Market every Thursday where you’ll find fantastic local cheese and meat and much more, including wild mushrooms, all within a few yards of the large shopping centre.
No shortage of farm to fork restaurants in Cork

Eat: No shortage of eating places including Greene's, JacquesLesGourmandises and Isaac's while lively lunchtime venues include the Farmgate and Nash 19Mad on meat? Try Son of a Bun, Holy Smoke, SpitJack, and many more. Exceptional Japanese at Miyazaki (just six stools though!) No meat? Then the amazing Cafe Paradiso is the one, Iyers is another. Idaho is the city centre cafe while coffee stops abound.  For a fuller list of restaurants and cafes, city and county, see my regularly updated list here. Also check the Whazon Cork listings.

A city of bridges
Drink: For something a little different try L’Atitude Wine Café close to the City Hall. The emphasis here is on quality wines and tasty local snacks with a continental touch. Electric, with its downstairs bar and upstairs fish bar, has taken the South Mall by storm since it opened in 2010.  SoHo and the Bodega are other modern bars with restaurants attached.

For something more traditional, including the music, there are quite a few with The Oliver Plunket being very central indeed.
And, if you prefer craft beers then the Franciscan Well on the North Mall is the place to go as they have a micro brewery right behind the counter. Other pubs with micro-breweries include Rising Sons (Cornmarket Street), Elbow Lane (Oliver Plunket Street, excellent food here also) and Cotton Ball (Mayfield).

Stay: With excellent food in the building and efficient and friendly service, the River Lee is a lovely place to stay in Cork. If you need something more central, the Clayton is for you. A short distance from the centre, you'll find the Ambassador and the Montenotte, each with great views over the city
Fitzgerald's Park

If you are caught for time, stay at the Metropole and explore the amazing McCurtain Street, its pubs, theatre, cafes and restaurants.

Something on the traditional side? Why not the Imperial where you’ll be wined and dined and never be short of company as the locals come and go. Like it leafy? Then the Hayfield Manor and the Maryborough near Douglas are recommended as is the Radisson in Little Island.

Making a quick getaway? The Cork International Airport Hotel is excellent. Heading north or west? Check the Commons Inn.

Walk: Cork is very compact and great for walks. Call to the tourist office and pick up the maps and info for some city centre strolls.

Like to try something more energetic? Then start at the 
North Mall and take a brisk riverside stroll through the Mardyke, into Fitzgerald’s Park, past the UCC Grounds and then onto the Lee Fields. Just remember you have to come back!

There is a very popular walk by the harbour starting at 
Blackrock Castle, another great place to visit with an excellent restaurant, the Castle Cafe. For something shorter but still interesting, do the circular walk around the Lough, a suburban lake full of swans and ducks and other wildfowl.

Ballycotton cliff walk, just east of the city
Get Out: No shortage of things to see and do on the eastern side of the city. Take a trip to Fota House and its famous gardens and arboretum. If you have kids, then the Fota Wildlife Park is at hand. Much to do in Cobh also, including a trip by boat to Spike Island, a former prison with history galore. 

Spike Island
To the south then and a highlight in Crosshaven is the coastal artillery fort of 
Camden with a wealth of history and great views. Another fort, this also being restored, is Charlesfort in Kinsale, a historic town rich in excellent eating places and with a must visit Wine Museum in Desmond Castle. Blarney is just north of the city. The castle, and its famous stone, is a busy spot. Eat at The Square Table.

Strike off to the west and take in the impressive ruins of the abbey at 
Timoleague . WestCork boasts magnificent beaches and good food producers whose products you may sample in restaurants such as the Pilgrim's (Rosscarbery),  Richy’s Bistro (Clonakilty), and Bastion (Kinsale).

For more detailed guides to the county, check out my East Cork and North Cork recommendations.

Jazz time
Listen: There is almost always a music festival on in Cork and surrounds and the big one is the Jazz, always on the final weekend of October. There is a Folk Festival at the end of September and film buffs are in town in force in November. Check them all out here.

The Choral festival dominates in the spring and summer sings with the Midsummer Festival, followed by the International Folk Dancing Festival. 
Music in the Marquee  is a big highlight. Night after summer night, the Marquee hosts top names. Bryan Adams, Cliff Richard and Elton John played this summer (2017).


Avoid: The usual big city security precautions apply. Avoid leaving anything visible in your car and so on. Not much else to avoid. Maybe the rainy days. But even those can be fun. Never know who you’ll find singing at the local bar, even on the street. It is a fun city. So enjoy!

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Winemakers Since 1803: The Wohlmuth Family Of Austria

Winemakers Since 1803: The Wohlmuth Family Of Austria
The Wohlmuth family have been in wine since 1803, the winery now run by Maria and Gerhard as well as their son Gerhard Josef and his wife Marion. Hand in hand with nature is the motto here “with an uncompromising aspiration for quality”.

Lots of hard work involved, much of it down to the steepness of the vineyards around the village of Kitzech (close to the city of Graz, European Capital of Culture two years before Cork) in Südsteiermark (South Styria). With an average steepness of up to 90%, they are among Europe’s steepest. The soil is slate which leads to deep-rooted vines. Here, they grow mainly white varieties and also Pinot Noir.

The grapes for the Aristos are grown to the east in the Neckenmarkt vineyard in the Mittelburgenland region (a couple of hours east of Graz and close to the Hungarian border) where they have been producing since 2002.

Karwig Wines carry quite a lot of the Wohlmuth wines, including a Chardonnay Sekt. Check them out here

Wohlmuth Aristos Burgenland (Austria) 2010, 13.5%, €20.95 Karwig Wines

Quite a lot of info on the back label: it is a quality wine and a dry one. The grapes are hand-selected and it is a blend of Blaufränkisch and Cabernet Sauvignon, aged in French oak. The vineyard is in Neckenmarkt which has loamy slate and shell limestone. The Blaufränkisch is “our great red wine love”.

It is a light (and bright) ruby colour with aromas of blackberry and blackcurrant and a little pepper too. Pleasant fruit flavours on the palate, medium bodied with a little spice and soft tannins. Nice acidity too, promising a good match with food (lamb cutlet; duck breast on lentils are suggested), and the wine is Highly Recommended.

Wohlmuth Reid Gola Pinot Gris Wohlmuth (Austria) 2013, 13%, €17.80 Karwig Wines

Wohlmuth say this “refined Burgundy-style wine” has “lots of potential”. Gola (the vineyard) is of Slavian origin, the word meaning “naked”, which refers to the meagre slate soil. Here the roots go deep and the “soil” is reflected in the wines. In Gola, they also grow Chardonnay, Pinot Blanc and Riesling and more.

Light straw is the colour. There are very pleasant aromas indeed, a mix of blossom, white fruit, herbs. It is zingy, peppery and dry. Quite a palate-waking intro with ripe stone fruit flavours, no shortage of minerality and an excellent lingering finish also. Highly Recommended. Food pairings suggested are classic pan-fried chicken and also wild garlic risotto.

The Wohlmuth Winery is well-known for the artwork on their labels; the painting on the 2013 bottles is by Professor Ulrich Gansert.


Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Taste of the Week. Glendalough Beech Leaf Gin

Taste of the Week
Glendalough Beech Leaf Gin

You may have to hurry if you want to get your hands on our latest Taste of the Week, the Beech Leaf Gin from Glendalough Distilleries. They haven’t made much of the latest addition to the award-winning range! It is a limited edition with a “beautiful colour”.

During last month’s walk in the woods with Geraldine Kavanagh, their official forager, we passed a few beech trees and were interested, having been earlier introduced to their Beech Leaf Gin. But we didn’t pick any. Geraldine: “There is just a small window between late Spring and early Summer when the leaf is at its best, when they are soft and good.” 

The soft, downy leaves from the mountain beech around the distillery are picked then at their best and added to the botanical gin, resulting in a complex and herbaceous gin. Colour is rich, reminiscent of the beech leaves in autumn. Hints of apple and nutty tones on both the nose and the palate, the Glendalough Beech Leaf Gin is great neat, in cocktails or with Fevertree Ginger Ale and a slice of lime.

Check out the Celtic Whiskey Shop where it sells at €52.50 per bottle; it will be on their website any day now. Also available at these Dublin pubs: Drury Buildings, PMacs, and  JT Pims.

For more on that foraging walk, please check here 

Monday, August 14, 2017

Rossini’s. Local and Italian Misto.


Rossini’s. Local and Italian Misto.
Piece of pizza!

When you dine in Rossini’s, you get a taste of Italy, as you'd expect, and a taste of Ireland as many of the fresh ingredients are bought in the nearby English Market.

Valpolicella
Rossini’s was established, in Princes Street, Cork, in 1994, by Antonio Toscano and their reputation for delicious authentic Italian cuisine quickly grew in the Cork area. I hadn't been there for quite a while until last week. It was a quiet night around town, the Tuesday after the Bank Holiday. So we had to settle for Italian music on the stereo - no live music, no dancing in the aisle. Still turned out to be a very enjoyable meal indeed.

No shortage of starters on the menu. We were finding it hard to choose and so settled on the Antipasta Misto. This turned out to be quite a plateful, a very tasty plateful indeed. There were some calamari fritte, some delicious Mozzarella with big slices of tomato, some bruschetta, cured meats too, breads, salad…. Good food and good value at €15.00.

They have their own pizza oven here, built by a champion! And I enjoyed my champ of a pizza, the Cacciatora: BBQ sauce on the base, pulled chicken and lots of peppers (15.00). Not too sure that Cacciatora was the best name for it but it sure was one of the best pizzas I've eaten.

No shortage of choice for the main courses, pizzas of course and pasta dishes too. They have quite a few steak options, chicken options, and fish options (including a risotto marinara). 

CL paid particular attention to the chicken and eventually picked the Pollo Saltimbocca (15.90) over the Pollo Parmigiana. She was very happy with the choice and enjoyed her chicken wrapped in ham and a tasty and interesting selection of veg that included roast potatoes, courgettes, red onions, red pepper and cauliflower.

The wines were Italian, of course, and we opted for a glass of Valpolicella (7.50) and an excellent Soave (7.25). No dessert on the night so our total, before tip, came to €60.65.

Rossini’s make it easy for you to try out their food without breaking the bank. They have about three set menus that start from €14.90 up. You’d have a choice of two or three starters and two or three mains. You could for instance have Calamari as starter and the Saltimbocca as mains and it wouldn't break the bank. Add a glass of house wine or dessert for 4.50.

Watch out too for their special nights (eg Valentine’s) and you might also like to try them via Deliveroo. And I see too that a tasty looking Pollo Cacciatora features on their well-priced lunch menu (Fridays, Saturdays only).

Rossini’s
33-34 Princes Street, Cork
021 - 4275818
Opening hours: 5.00 to 10.00pm Sunday to Thursday.
1.00 to 11.00pm Friday to Saturday.
Check their Facebook https://www.facebook.com/ristoranterossinis/ for updates.


Sunday, August 13, 2017

O’Connell’s Ivory Tower. Fusion but No Confusion

O’Connell’s Ivory Tower 

Fusion but No Confusion
Mackerel
One day in the late 60’s, I inadvertently disturbed a blonde American draft "dodger" hiding behind a couch in an upstairs artist's studio in Princes Street. Another fair-haired artist, chef Seamus O’Connell, works here these days and there’s no disturbing him in the kitchen of his first-floor restaurant, the Ivory Tower, Ryanair’s destination restaurant of 2011.

Open Thursday to Saturday 19:00 ’til late, the Ivory Tower currently offers two menus, a three course Market Menu (€33.00) and a seven course Tasting Menu (€50.00). Watch out also for special menus. Probably the best place to keep up to date with the Ivory Tower (where Seamus has been chef for over 15 years) is their Facebook page here
Dumpling

Though all ingredients are bought fresh each weekend and sourced locally in Cork, the cuisine is influenced by many countries, especially those in the far east and in central and southern America, not to mention those closer to home. Both menus (they change each week) are peppered with references to Japan, Korea, Mexico, Indonesia and so on.

Take the Tasting Menu (seven courses), as we did, and you'll start with Mackerel, lime & shiso sunomono. The fish is beautifully marinated and admirably paired with the sunomono (a Japanese vinegar-ed cucumber salad). We were nodding affirmatively to each other across the table as we nibbled this one.
Tempura
And it just got better. Next up was the Korean Beef Dumplings with the Cantaloupe Kim Chee, another perfect match. More nodding. The palate was well and truly alive now, ready for anything!

And an Irish-Japanese duet emerged next: Kerry Chanterelles and Asparagus Tempura, delicate and delicious. 

And now soup. In the middle of a meal? Why not? Especially when it is his fantastic Duck, Carrot and Orange Soup. The crispy duck bits come in a separate dish and you just sprinkle them in. I had taken a spoon or two of the soup first and found it excellent but it just got better with the duck. Seems to be a particular magic of O'Connell that he can put two and two together on a plate and come up with five stars!

Soup
We were well on our way to a strong finish here in this first floor restaurant where one large window overlooks Oliver Plunket Street. We weren't admiring the view though, admiring our plates instead as the Octopus Risotto Nero Niçoise arrived. It looked dramatic and was yet another winner. Again, a superb combination. The risotto was amazing but each of the main parts would have been lovely on its own.
Octopus
And now for the meat, the Wagyu Beef Steak adoborojo. The last word there, I think, refers to a Peruvian treatment and the Wagyu, from Cork, was all the better for it. Purple potato too. The steak was cooked to perfection and could have cut with a plastic knife, no bother. Not a bit left.

There would be a sweet finalé, of course: Flourless Chocolate and pecan cake, accompanied by Scandi liquorice ice-cream. We had no worries about the quality but, in advance, were wondering if there’s going to be too much! But, no, the chef had also judged the quantity to perfection and we enjoyed the crisp topping, the crunch of the nuts, the soft centre and the coolness of the ice-cream and flavours of the dish as a whole. Quite the finish to quite a meal.
Wagyu

We enjoyed a few glasses of wine too, a couple of Cotes de Rhone and a crianza as well. The Ivory Tower has quite a selection, about 40 in all, with three of each colour available by the glass. 

Service, by the way, was excellent throughout. A change to the menu was notified at the start and we got extra info on each dish as it arrived in a rather grand, if somewhat faded, room. Babel may have been a tower of confusion; just food fusion here though. Very Highly Recommended.
Dessert



Saturday, August 12, 2017

Amuse Bouche

Still, when he beheld his breakfast on its sunny yellow plate, his resolve began to decay. He couldn’t help but think of properly fried bacon, of hash browns, and fluffy free-rangers, of a coffee upon whose bronzed crema a spoonful of sugar might wallow, like a cherub upon a cloud. As he struggled with some aberrant species of ham-and-cheese croissant that clung to his gums like denture glue, he began to wonder if he might just man up after all and make a dash for Bub’s. Well, perhaps not a dash. A power shuffle, a wilful creep.


from Eyrie by Tim Winton (2013). Highly Recommended.

Thursday, August 10, 2017

Dine by the Water

Dine by the Water
Superb food and superb views

Bunnyconnellan's
I’ve been very lucky this past few years to have dined in some well placed restaurants and cafes, places from Cork to Donegal that have a dining room with a view over water. Sometimes over a river, maybe over an estuary, over a lake perhaps, and then sometimes over the ocean. I was lucky too to have brilliant weather in most of the places.
Carrig Country House

Caragh Lake is in Kerry, not too far from Killorglin, and you have great views over its waters when you dine in the splendid Carrig Country House
Screebe House - their photo

There are some similarities between Carrig House and the lovely Screebe House  in Connemara; great food and great views. 
Blairscove

And in West Cork, near Durrus, there is Blairscove House. Here you can enjoy a splendid dinner and views over Dunmanus Bay.
Breakfast view (just a small section of it!) from the Trident's Pier One

There are no shortages of views in Kinsale. One of my most recent visits was to Man Friday on the hills above the bay Man Friday. And another recent visit was to the Trident Hotel, right in the town and so close to the waters that you think a boat is going to come through the dining room windows.
Sunrise at Garryvoe
The Samphire at the Garryvoe Hotel has expansive views of Ballycotton Bay and the lighthouse, excellent food too.
Hake at Celtic Ross
The views at Rosscarberry’s Celtic Ross, where French chef Alex Petit maintains a high standard, are quieter but no less pleasant.
Cliff House View
Ardmore’s Cliff House is renowned for the food, the views over the bay and their 3-word tweets!
Pier 26
Back again to Ballycotton and to Pier 26. This restaurant overlooks the harbour and the lighthouse island and the fish is highly recommended, of course! And down in Schull, L'Escale is right in the harbour area; the lobster here is a must try.


And if you really want a 360 degree ocean view while dining then take a trip from Ringaskiddy in Cork to Roscoff in Brittany on board the Pont Aven.  Splendid food and views!

Dingle

For harbour views, you'll find it hard to beat the sights as you come and go to Dingle’s Out of the Blue. And close by is the Boatyard. Fish will be on the menus of both for sure. Then again, there's a splendid view of Cork Harbour from the tea rooms at Camden Fort Meagher (below).
View over Cork Harbour from Camden Fort Meagher

Rosapenna

No shortage of seaside restaurants in Donegal. One of the best is the Seaview Tavern in Malin Head village even if the view to the sea is somewhat interrupted by the cars parking across the road. No such problems at the Rosapenna Golf Hotel, whose dining room overlooks Sheephaven Bay and the beach at Downies. Further west, the bar at the Cove at Portnablagh, another top restaurant, overlooks a different part of the same bay.

Perhaps the best ocean view is that enjoyed from your table in Bunnyconnellan’s, a very pleasant view and very enjoyable food here at this renowned Crosshaven (Cork) venue.
Islander's Rest on Sherkin
Back to West Cork and to Baltimore and Le Jolie Brise where I’ve sometimes enjoyed a dish of mussels as the day drew to a close with the island of Sherkin out in front. Speaking of Sherkin, the Islander's Rest sure has great water views!
Ostan Gweedore
Hard to top that. One view that comes close, maybe level, maybe even better, is from the Donegal restaurant of Ostan Gweedore where there is the most fantastic view over the beaches and the waters of the Atlantic.

Turbot at Electric Fish Bar
Perhaps you prefer river views. One of the best in Cork is from Electric, especially from the Fish Bar. From the first floor of the South Mall building, you have fine views of the southern channel of Lee to the west and to the east.
River Lee Hotel, top left
Also in the city, you hand almost dip your fingers in the Lee as you wine and dine at the Weir Rooms of the lovely River Lee Hotel.  
View from the Spinning Wheel in Dripsey Garden Centre

The Spinning Wheel, above the same River Lee, is at the very popular Griffin’s Garden Centre in rural Dripsey. Here you can enjoy some of Granny Griffin’s delights as you watch the water-skiers speed by down below.

Never know what you might see passing as you dine in Cobh
You have no shortage of harbour views in Cobh where you’ll find The Quays and The Titanic Bar & Grill.  And you’ll also find pleasant estuary views not too far away at Murph’s  in East Ferry. 
Kenmare Bay
The Boathouse at Dromquinna, near Kenmare, is also well situated, right on the northern flank of the bay. And, in Limerick, the place to be is Locke Bar
Locke Bar's water-side tables

The Puffin Cafe on Long Strand, Castlefreke, Co.. Cork, is my latest addition (09.07.17). It overlooks that long beach and the ocean.

Have you a personal favourite view over water while dining? If you'd like to share, please use the Comment facility below.