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Saturday, September 30, 2017
Ballard watched the sun sink..and then got up. She once again bought takeout for herself and Lola on the boardwalk and ate sitting on a nearby bench. She could not generate much enthusiasm for food and ended up giving half her order of black beans, yellow rice, and plantains to a homeless man she knew named Nate. He was a street artist who until January had done decent business selling portraits of the former president. He reported to Ballard that images of the new president went unsold because his kind of people didn’t come to Venice Beach.
from The Late Show by Michael Connelly (2017). Recommended.
Wednesday, September 27, 2017
Exciting New Wines on Findlater List
There is a freshening up going on the wine list of Findlater's and the man responsible for sourcing the new wines is Master of Wine Mick O’Connell. He was in Cork at the weekend and had a bunch of the new ones with him for a well-attended tasting in Bradley’s, Cork’s specialist off-licence and food-store. So new tastes at Bradley’s (established 1850) courtesy of Findlater's (established 1823). Oldies but goldies!
The off licence was packed as the punters queued up to taste. I didn't get through them all - Culture Night beckoned - but enjoyed the Grand Bateau wines and also the Aplanta. The Roqueterre though seemed to be the overall favourite and over the past few days I had the chance to sample that and the Assyrtiko from Crete.
Lyrarakis Vóila Assyrtiko Crete (Greece) 2016, 13.5%, €16.95 Bradley’s, North Main Street, Cork
The Vóila plain and indeed adjacent areas in the east of Crete are regarded as ideal for Assyrtiko. “Our family discovered the quality potential of East Crete since the 70's. Originally on the “Vóila” plain and subsequently in the extended surroundings, we discover exceptional vineyards where the great grape variety thrives.” Quality is also helped by the hand-harvest “seeking to obtain a “proper fruit maturity”.
Decanter gave this lovely wine no less than 91 points. The producers recommend serving it at 12-14 degrees and pairing it with “all seafood, grilled fish as well as white meat cooked with lemon”.
It has a lovely gold colour and delicate aromas of white fruit. The ripe grapes contribute to rich fruit flavours and a good texture. There is though a matching acidity to balance and a very long and pleasant finish. Highly Recommended.
Roqueterre Reserve Carignan Vieilles Vignes Pays d’Herault (IGT) 2016, 12.5%, €12.95 Bradley’s, North Main Street, Cork
This dark red wine, made by Marilyn Lasserie, was “flying out the door” during Findlater’s Culture Night Tasting in Bradley’s. Not surprised as it is an excellent well-priced wine and one of a host of new ones introduced to the catalogue by Mick O’Connell MW, our host on the night along with Adrian McAleer.
Aromas of the dark fruit kind, with a good share of spice, introduce the wine, made of Carignan, the grape described on the label as “a forgotten treasure” of the Languedoc area. Reserve is produced from low-yielding vines, some of which are over 60 years old.
Dark fruit flavours follow through to the warm palate, smooth silky tannins there too and a long and uplifting finish. A pleasant wine indeed and Highly Recommended.
Other new wines available for tasting on the night were:
Passage du Sud Sauvignon Blanc (South of France);
Grand Bateau Bordeaux white;
Bijou Rosé Cabrieres (France);
Aplanta, Alentejo (Portugal);
Grand Bateau red Bordeaux;
Clous Puy Arnaud Bordeaux.
The Blas judging has been done (though the winners won't be announced until Saturday). The huge Dingle Food Festival will launch this Friday evening before taking over the town on Saturday and Sunday afternoons. Here are a few of my Dingle pics from this food weekend in recent years. Get all the details on the 2017 event here. Enjoy. I will!
|Shark Bite (via Out of the Blue) on the very popular Taste Trail|
|You can't get lost at Murphy's Ice-Cream. On the Taste Trail|
|Venturing out in Ventry|
|Turbot at Global Village|
|On the Taste Trail, over 70 outlets|
|Demos, formal and informal|
|Lots of little places to discover|
|Gold medal winner at Blas|
|This cask may not be there but a visit to the local distillery is a must!|
|The sun doesn't always shine at Slea Head|
Tuesday, September 26, 2017
Taste of the Week
Mescan Westport Saison
This is a Belgian style beer, brewed near Westport, and is our Taste of the Week. It is the kind of beer that, once it hits the palate, makes you take notice. You may also want to note that it has an ABV of 6.2%.
I came across it in Westport a few months back and so I didn't hesitate to buy it and three companions, including a lovely white, when I saw them in Bradley’s, North Main Street, Cork, the other day. They are not the cheapest, this 330ml bottle for instance, is priced at €3.95.
The Westport Saison is a great one to cut the thirst, is more fizzy, with clove and citrus notes. Very well balanced too and you don't really notice the high alcohol. But do sip rather than gulp!
Saison beer is a Belgian style brewed, in the good old days, for seasonal workers. Reckon I'd appreciate one (or two) after a hard day’s labour or even after an idle day.
Mescan, by the way, was St Patrick’s brewer and no doubt the odd conversion was facilitated by a jug of his brew. The bottle conditioned beer is still cloudy!
Their Westport white is superb. And I also have their Red Tripel and Westport Extra to try.
Monday, September 25, 2017
Up and Running and Well Worth a Call
|Teriyaki duck, complete with egg.|
There is some excellent Asian Street Food on offer in KOTO in French Church Street. The building, badly damaged by fire a few years ago, is beautifully repaired and KOTO have been quietly building their business over the past six months.
Time to let people know now, says manager Jeffrey Safar Hamidi. And why not/ The food is good, service is efficient and friendly and the meals are well priced. And if,you can't manage to get in, you can order via Deliveroo.
I was delighted to take up an offer to check out the menu, nothing like a bit of variety. And no shortage of it here. The menu card is compact but with so many dishes. Rice, Stir-Fry, Ramen, Noodles, Curry, and House Specials are the main headings. There is also an outstanding lunch offer: a main course and a scoop of ice-cream for eleven euro.
There is a good list of starters too, salads and sides also. And don't forgot to turn it over to see the drinks including those cocktails. Indeed, I started with one of the latter, a Negroni, a mix of gin, Campari and vermouth. Superb!
By then our starters were arriving. The grilled chicken skewers with a Satay peanut sauce and the Spiced Fried Calamari with lime and ginger dressing were our picks. We shared. Both plates were polished off though the chicken got an agreed nod.
I’m a sucker for duck in Asian cuisine and no surprise that I picked the Teriyaki Duck from the House Specials: Teriyaki shredded glazed shredded duck, red onion, scallions, jasmine rice, grated carrots, lambs leaf and crowned with a fried egg. A beautiful and substantial dish, that egg and duck combination a winner for sure but every element played a part in a delicious bowl of colours, textures, flavours.
CL choose a seafood noodle dish. The Kei Mao comes with prawns, squid and mussels, Thai green peppercorn, mixed peppers, carrots, broccoli, mushrooms, baby corn, green beans, mange tout, bean sprouts and rice noodles. She loved every little bit, right down to the bean spouts. Another mega and delicious feed, all for €13.50.
Dessert? Well, we shared the Cappuccino Mousse with burnt marshmallows. Went down well! If you want to check out the menu, you’ll find all the details here
KOTO has been up and running for six months now and Jeffrey, owner and general manager, tells me they are quite pleased with progress. To celebrate, they are are doing a series of promotions to “show and promote our Asian Street Food, our exciting cocktail list in addition to our beer and wine offering!”
The location is not new to Jeffrey (who you may well know from other his restaurant jobs around the city). His dad ran Gambieni’s, the Italian restaurant, that was in this very building for a long time. The most recent occupant here was Aroi, also an Asian restaurant, but they had the misfortune to see the business ambushed by that fire in September 2015.
Sunday, September 24, 2017
Oysters Galore on the Cork Gourmet Trail
How many did you eat?
“I had nineteen oysters last night,” claimed a London visitor to the weekend’s Cork Oyster Festival. And that “last night” was just the official launch. I’m still wondering how many she managed during the Gourmet Trail on the following day.
The trail visited five venues and some had up to three restaurants combining. There were so many opportunities to indulge in the delicious crustaceans she must surely have doubled the tally from the previous night!
|Gin cocktail in a cup at Cask|
And there were even more plates of the tasty oysters available at the after party as the various groups found their way back to the ballroom at the Metropole Hotel, the Festival’s headquarters. Oysters, more drinks and music. Well done to instigator/organiser Sandra Murphy and her crew.
Sandra was with our group on the trail and our be-hatted leaders were Kylie from the International Hotel and James from the Imperial. We were last to leave but our intrepid guides had us back good and early to join the after party.
|Sushi at The Met|
Lord Mayor Tony Fitzgerald had opened the festival on Friday night and the oyster event added to the terrific buzz around town as Culture Night drew the crowds. Guests at the launch were treated to oysters (included cooked versions) by Haven Shellfish and there was also some tempting sushi available with bubbles and wine and, of course, Murphy’s Stout from the sponsors.
On Saturday at noon, the ballroom was full but, after a Kinsale Gin and Tonic, we were divided into groups, met our leaders and headed off on the trail. More gin, part of a cocktail in a cup, at our first stop, the stunning Cask, just across the road. Lots of tasty bites here too and time also to begin to get to know our fellow trailers.
|Cornstore were displaying their Himalayan salt (used to age their famous steaks).|
Next stop was the Oyster Tavern, another lovely venue where I enjoyed an excellent meal recently. The oysters here were provided by the Electric Fish Bar, great spot to visit. The Oyster Tavern themselves came up with delicious sliders and bowls of chips.
Amicus were also feeding us with Tom Durcan beef, including carpaccio and teriyaki versions, and more, though their seasonal desserts, Kitchen Garden Rhubarb Fool and the Foraged Blackberry Fool, were irresistible.
Down the stairs then and out into the lane for another group photo before winding up Patrick St and visiting the Bodega where Rachel’s and Cornstore were also lining up with their offerings. The Bodega sushi (one pickled vegetable, another was smoked salmon) went down a treat.
|Sandra rallies her troops as the rain arrives|
Mike Ryan of the Cornstore - terrific dinner there recently - was the oyster “supplier” and he had a welcome variation called Angels on Horseback (the dish is typically prepared by rolling shucked oysters in bacon and baking them in an oven).
That was excellent though I noticed quite few voicing a preference for the battered prawn version! Rachel’s had a couple (at least) of show stoppers, including a shot of Tomato Water and a shot glass packed full of lobster.
So back to the Imperial Hotel (for the second time in a couple of days) and they had help from Jacques and Arthur Mayne’s.
Loved that Medjool Date from Jacques plus the superb desserts by the hotel itself. The savoury bites by Arthur Mayne’s (Avocado mousse with prawn, Caprese Bites, and the Chorizo and Chickpea Ragu) were outstanding.
|Caprese minis by Olivo|
One more stop and soon we were enjoying Margherita time at the newly opened Tequila Jacks. The drinks were eagerly awaited and easily downed. Food too, of course, hot stuff by our hosts and some cooler bits from Olivo, the Italian restaurant at the Cork Airport Hotel.
Tacos Mechados, Roasted Chicken taquitos and Shrimp Rellanos were among the Jacks offerings while the cool bites from Olivo included a lovely mini Caprese and also a Parma wrapped asparagus.
More food anyone? No! A second round of Margaritas was coming to its conclusion and, suitably fortified, it was time to brave the rain and the wind that had arrived midway though the trail and traipse back to the Metropole.
And if you did wanted to increase you oyster headcount, there were trayfuls of opportunity to do. I did see the visiting London couple but didn't get a chance to check her final oyster tally!
The Prosecco and wine flowed (enjoyed a Rioja blanco, well maybe two!), and then a final chat or two before saying goodbye and heading to the taxi.
|Tasty dips at Tequila Jacks|
Once again, well done to Sandra and the crew and here’s to seeing you all and more in 2018!
Saturday, September 23, 2017
Culture Night 2017
|Isabelle busy at On the Pig's Back|
Progress is slow as we enter the English Market on Culture Night. Little by little, it becomes clear that there are two lines in the packed old building, one going one way, another going the other way, both going slow! But you want to turn? No bother. Crowds yes, but courtesy abounds. A smile and then a gap and you’re on your way.
|Tim and Jack McCarthy|
On our way to a plate of local food. Eat it a counter or from the top of a cask. Eat it with strangers, from Cong, from Conna, from Congo. Who knows? Who cares? The music plays. The conversations start, flow on, on the food, the new baby, the dog, the new house, the turkey sexer (yes, that came up too).
Time to move on. Like the Arc-de-Triomphe roundabout, it is easier to get out than in, particularly if you're not too pushed where you exit. We weren't. Where next? There a gang of steel drummers playing by Brown & Thomas, a circus in North Main Street.
|Justin introduces his Bertha's Revenge to|
Cllr Des Cahill, ex Lord Mayor
We had been in North Main Street earlier, at a very well attended wine tasting in Bradley’s. Music outside the door there too. Master of Wine Mick O’Connell was conducting the tasting on behalf of Findlater's, introducing new wines he has sourced for them. Some gems there, from Portugal and Crete and Bordeaux, though it looks as if the Roqueterre Reservé Carignan 2016 from the Languedoc was “flying out the door”.
Superb stop in Nash 19 in Prince's Street where our generous host was, as ever, Claire Nash. She had some of her local producers lined up. Rupert was there with his cool cider and warm apple brandy from Longueville House while Justin Green was tasting his amazing Bertha’s Revenge gin.
That same gin had been used by Jack and Tim McCarthy from Kanturk in their sausages (no shortage of those!) and of course you couldn't leave without tasting the black pudding.
|Thumbs up from Tim Mulcahy of the Chicken Inn|
And great too to meet Jane from Ardsallagh. Lots of new things going on there including her Feta style cheese and also her delicious creamy ash covered pyramid. She also had a selection of cheeses combined with a layer of chutney - the mango is superb. Watch out for these in SuperValu soon.
The evening had started for us with a visit to the lobby of the Metropole Hotel where another superb host, Sandra Murphy, welcomed the guests, including Lord Mayor Tony Fitzgerald. Haven had their delicious oysters both raw (with a tasty salsa) and cooked and the hotel laid on some excellent sushi. And of course, there was a glass of bubbles on hand as well, wine and Murphy’s Stout too.
After that it was out onto the street to join the good humoured crowds making their way on foot and on bus to the many events all over the city. What a night!
In December, Pop insisted that Ed come for Hanukkah, because, he said, Zinaida would make latkes, and also they could watch Georgetown play Virginia, “Ewing versus Sampson, what a match-up!”. The latkes, Ed thought were heavy on the onion, and fried not in oil but, thoroughly, in Crisco; they ate them in front of the television, on paper plates, with sour cream and a quivering, translucent plum jelly.... Zinaida, Ed noticed,...., drank beer from a glass while poking at her frying pancakes... “The pancake,” she said, piling latkes on her spatula. “You want?”
Zinaida pointed out the refrigerator and added: “More zour crim.”
From Ed King by David Guterson
Thursday, September 21, 2017
Imperial Bond With Taittinger
Champagne Flights on the Mall
|Sparking Seventy Six|
The bond between Cork’s venerable Imperial Hotel, over 200 years old, and the long established Champagne house of Taittinger was further enhanced with a special event in Seventy Six, the classy bar of the South Mall hotel, last Wednesday. Kevin McKee, UK Director Taittinger Family, took us through three of their Champagnes: Brut Reserve NV, Brut Prestige Rosé NV and the Nocturne Sec NV.
And speaking of bond, Kevin told how James Bond figured in the Taittinger story. The now famous champagne house had only begun to come to prominence in the mid 1930s. So it was something of a surprise for the family to read James Bond ordering Taittinger, which he called “the best in the world” in Casino Royale, Ian Fleming’s first Bond book (1953). The compliment was unsolicited.
Frits Potgieter, the Imperial’s General Manager, is determined to have even more champagne in the South Mall. “This is the first time ever in Cork for the Taittinger family. And it’s great for us that they’ve sent Kevin here. We have a great relationship with Taittinger and this is a great informal way to introduce the various styles of champagne.”
And Frits also told me that after this first informal tasting, the hotel will offer tasting flights that will allow their customers try out and enjoy champagne. So do watch out for those.
Kevin told us that Taittinger are based in Reims, once the royal capital of France and it was here that Clovis The First, the first Christian king of the Franks, was baptised. During a chat later on, Kevin told me of a theory that the name Clovis “mutated” into Louis, the name of many subsequent French monarchs.
The fact that the kings were in Reims meant the local wine became the royal wine and that gave it quite a boost. Whenever there was a celebration in court, the local were an integral art of it and so Champagne became associated with all kinds of celebration.
We’re jumping about 12-hundred years here, from 500AD to 1729 when the first champagne house was founded. Taittinger was founded, though under a different name, in 1734. “It is still run by the family and that’s pretty unique,” said Kevin. “They are adamant on quality as their name is on the bottle. With champagne, there is nowhere to hide - flaws will be obvious - it has to be perfect.”
He told us of a constant battle between the accountants and the winemakers, with the accountants keen to move the champagne faster, the winemakers standing firm and refusing to let it go until it is perfect! “Luckily, we own about half the vineyards we need. Land in the Champagne region can cost one million euro per hectare!”
“We sell about six million bottles a year, only a very small percentage of the market.” He said the Imperial was an ideal match for the family “and the only partner we’re aware of who are doing a tasting flight.”
We started with the Brut Reserve NV. “the one with the white label. This has been in the cellar for three years. There’s lots of Chardonnay in there in this clear and crisp wine”. A very elegant cuvée indeed.
|Tempting canapés with the Nocturne|
The Rosé was another winner. Kevin explained: “There are two ways of producing rosé. Leave on the skins is one and that makes a heavy style, not one that we want. The second method is to make a red wine and add it to the mix. So twenty per cent Pinot Noir wine is added. We use clear glass in this bottle to show off the colour.”
Champagne, as we were finding out thanks to a selection of tempting canapés from the Imperial's kitchen, “is unbelievably versatile. You can use it right through the meal, from starter to dessert. This Rosé, three or four years in the cellar, has more body and flavour, again lots of Chardonnay there, and can cope with a bit more flavour on the plate.” The Imperial paired it with crab, ginger and mango and with Prosciutto di Parma, basil pesto.
Time then for the Nocturne with its purple label, designed for the evening. “A little bit softer, sec means off dry, next category up from brut, ideal for late in the evening.”
He explained the difference between brut and sec in sugar terms. “The brut and rosé have 9 grams per litre, almost dietary! This sec has 17.5 per litre, still very low in Champagne terms.” No shortage of sweetness with the delicious pairings here: Lemon Tart, white and milk chocolate desserts.
As the tasting drew to a pleasant lazy end, Kevin said Seventy Six on the Mall was a fantastic venue. “We are delighted to be partners here.” Frits thanks Kevin for coming and promised that this would be the “first of many tasting evenings”.
While we were in Seventy Six, we decided to try something from their Irish tapas menu. The Duck Liver Paté with port glaze and toasted brioche (7.00) was superb, creamy and full of flavour. And another that I can recommend is the Pan Seared Scallops with Jack McCarthy’s Black Pudding (9.00), a by now classic combination with top class local ingredients. Quite a wine list here too. Quite a bar on the Mall!
Wednesday, September 20, 2017
Bordeaux. On the Double
St Emilion and Côtes de Bourg
Chateau Moulin de Grenet Lussac St Emilion (AOC) 2012, 13%, €19.75 Karwig Wines
Lussac is the most northerly of the St Emilion satellites. Here in the former Cistercian abbey of Faize, La Famille Roskan-Brunot have their vineyards. The Cistercians were noted for the austerity of their abbeys but this wine is rich and harmonious. So much so that noted wine writer James Suckling gave the 2015 vintage 91 points.
The other three satellites are Montagne, Puisseguin and St Georges. “At their best, the wines from these areas are every bit as good as a Saint-Emilion grand cru. At their worst, they are attenuated and rustic.” I quote from The Wines of Bordeaux (2004) by Clive Coates. I reckon that this one is much closer to grand cru than to rustic.
The blend of 60% Merlot, 30% Cabernet Sauvignon and 10% Cabernet Franc, has a deep colour. Ripe dark red fruits, vanilla, tobacco and toast feature in the aromas. As smooth as it gets, with a hint of background spice, well rounded, rich and harmonious with a good aromatic finish, it is Very Highly Recommended indeed.
Chateau La Grommet Côtes de Bourg (AOC) 2009, 13%, €16.85 Mary Pawle Wines
Côtes de Bourg is known as the “little Switzerland of the Gironde”. Its beautiful landscape is much more pleasant on the eye than the boring flatlands of the Medoc across the estuary. If you’ve holidayed in or near Royan, then you’ve probably met the wines of Bourg and those of Blaye.
This particular Grand Vin de Bordeaux is made from organic grapes. It is a blend of Merlot (the dominant grape in this bottle and, indeed in the area) and Cabernet Sauvignon and has spent 12 months in barrels.
Colour is a mid purple, legs slow enough to clear. Lovely aromas of warm red fruit. On the palate, it is ample with good depth, intense, fresh and balanced. A rich wine, with its by now silky tannins, it has a long flavourful finish and lacks nothing in character. A Bordeaux red for sure and Highly Recommended.