Friday, March 31, 2017

Amuse Bouche

As the cook can dispense a number of much-sought-after privileges - a juicy piece of crackling here, a pig’s trotter there, a spot close to the stove for drying socks, a drop of coffee before going out on the dogwatch, etc. - he is always surrounded by a crowd of sycophants seeking his favors. Napoleon benefited from these various acts of kindness without doing a thing to earn them.


From The Death of Napoleon by Simon Leys

Thursday, March 30, 2017

Cork’s Ambassador Hotel. Hitting the Heights in More Ways than One

Hitting the Heights in More Ways than One

Cork’s Ambassador Hotel
The Ambassador, with the decking to the left.

Did you know you can get one of the best views of Cork City from your balcony at the Ambassador Hotel? One hundred and eighty degrees, from beyond Páirc Uí Chaoimh in the east to beyond St Fin Barre’s to the west, other landmarks, such as the RH Hall Silos and the Elysian in between. This view emphasises their claim that the hotel is very convenient to the city and its attractions.

The view inside isn't bad either. And if you’re there on business, well they’ve been talking to you, know what you want: a station to do a bit of work with a good chair, a flexible light and, wait for it, your own Espresso machine, all in your room.
Room with a view
Staying with business, they have rooms to suit all kinds of meetings, catering for ten to 250. The biggest room, the Bellevue Suite, is quite impressive, fully equipped, Wi-Fi and Air Conditioning included.  And if you need to keep that conference going through lunch, there is a range of refreshments and food (up to a 3-course lunch) available. Bellevue, also equipped with its state of the art lighting system and a dance-floor, is ideal for weddings and other large celebrations.

Aoife Lohse, Sales and Marketing Manager, took us through the hotel the other day. It has been extensively refurbished since the McGettigan takeover just a few short years ago. But not all the old stuff has been discarded. Some beautiful furniture, stained-glass windows, even gorgeous (and efficient) radiators, are to be seen throughout the wonderful red brick Victorian building. The impressive facade gives a sense of the rich history of the St Luke’s area and a clear example of 1870’s Irish architecture at its best.
It is not all corporate here, of course. Take the family bedroom, for instance. This, with no less than three beds is big, big enough for a big family. And you and the kids will be well placed to enjoy the surrounding area, the waterside towns of Cobh (known for the regular visits of huge cruising liners) and Kinsale are not too far away. And then there’s Fota Wildlife Park. Indeed, the hotel is only minutes away from the Dunkettle junction where you can choose to go east, or south or west or north. Cork’s your oyster. 

And after a busy day enjoying yourselves (or working!), why not relax on the new south-facing decking, with large awning and its state of the art barbecue. And if the weather is not great, then indoors you have the McGettigan’s Cookhouse and Bar.
Bring the family!

Your own Espresso
And after our tour of the hotel and its facilities, including a fitness room (very busy in the morning and early evenings, according to Aoife), it was to McGettigan’s that she brought us for lunch, a very enjoyable meal indeed.

The dining room is “library” themed, very comfortable. We weren't reading the books though but a very extensive menu that caters for everyone from child to adult, everything from steaks to pizzas, from super-salads to sandwiches. The McGettigan's brand by the way is not just local; you’ll find it in locations such as Dublin City centre, Wicklow, Wexford, Limerick, Donegal, Galway, New York,  Dubai and Singapore.
Duo of fish

Even though the menu is wide-ranging, you also have have a specials board. Immediately, the Catch of the Day caught my attention: Duo of Wild Atlantic Hake and Turbot, with Clonakilty Black Pudding whipped potato, white wine and saffron sauce. Enjoyed every little bit, along with a glass of Drostdy-Hof Chenin Blanc from South Africa.

CL went for the Roast of the Day: Roast leg of lamb, with scallion whipped mashed potatoes, slow roasted beef tomato, roasties and red wine jus. Perfectly cooked down to that very tasty tomato. Wine here was the house red, a very quaffable Sangiovese from Tuscany. 
Cheeseboard

We finished off in style with a “small” version of the cheese plate. Durrus, Gubbeen, and Cashel Blue were among the cheeses featured and there were some very appropriate bits and pieces as accompaniment, including a delicious apricot chutney. A very enjoyable lunch indeed!

* The Ambassador is just one venture of the McGettigan Group, one of the country's biggest hospitality businesses, set up more than 50 years ago.
Night, night

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Cork Whiskey Festival. The Details!





Wines of Italy's Marche. Carminucci Family impress with this set

Wines of Italy's Marche
Carminucci Family impress with this set

The Marche (pronounced Mar-kay) is a long narrowish region on the east of Italy, between the Adriatic and the Apennines. The main cities are Pesaro in the north, Ascoli in the south and Ancona in between. It has an ancient wine-making tradition and its warm and cool viticultural zones mean a variety of produce.

Verdicchio is, by far, the main white grape of the area, with highly regarded wines coming from Castelli di Jesi and Matelica. But “there’s a significant production of a crisp Trebbiano-based white in the south”, near Ascoli-Piceno, according to Vino Italiano, and this is where our family, Carminucci, comes from. 

Red wines here are “a softer version of Chianti” according to Vino Italiano, and they can also be “some of the best values around”. 

The World Atlas of Wine is of much the same opinion. "Rosso Piceno... generally with lower yields and judicious oaking, can be good value." Sangiovese and Montepulciano are the main red grapes.

The Carminucci family started making wine here in 1928 and Findlater’s have  introduced their wines to Ireland.  The five wines below come from the sub-regions of Falerio, Offida, Rosso Piceno, 

Carminucci Naumakos Falerio (DOC) 2015, 12.5%, €15.95. Findlater's (whose stockists include Bradley’s North Main Street, Cork).
This is a fresh and fruity blend of Trebbiano, Passerina and Pecorino. Trebbiano is the backbone while the other two, each native varieties, boost the aromatic complexity. Crisp, tangy and refreshing.

Colour is a light straw, tints of green, micro-bubbles. Aromas are pleasant if modest, of almonds. There are refreshing fruity flavours with an immediate appeal, persistent from start to finish. And I'm not talking tasting portions here. This is not a wine to sip and abandon; it has second, even third, glass appeal! Good acidity too. Could possibly do with a bit more body, a tad more viscosity, but a very pleasant wine as is and Very Highly Recommended.

Carminucci Belato Offida (DOCG) Pecorino 2015, 12.5%, €16.95 Findlater's (whose stockists include Bradley’s North Main Street, Cork)
This is 100 per cent Pecorino. I am talking about a grape, not the famous sheep's cheese of Italy. The Pecorino grape is so called because a bunch resembles a sheep’s head. That’s one story. Another is that the bunches are a favourite treat for the sheep. In any case. it does well here in Offida.

Wine-Searcher.com says: Pecorino cheese is, coincidentally, a surprisingly good food match for Pecorino. I did try a previous one with the Pecorino from Toons Bridge and it certainly worked well. Brief details here

Colour of this Carminucci, a producer newly introduced by Findlater’s, is a pale straw, invitingly bright. Aromas are delicate and pleasant, of apple, pear and banana, some floral elements too. On the palate, it is full and rewarding, good depth of flavour and minerality; it is full bodied, dry and well balanced. A very pleasant mouthful indeed and Highly Recommended.

Winery tips: Serving temperature: 10-12 degrees; pair with
aperitifs, fresh cheese, white meat, fish.

Carminucci Naumakos Rosso Piceno Superiore (DOC) 2013, 14%, €16.95 Findlater's (whose stockists include Bradley’s North Main Street, Cork)

As with the whites, the DOC for this red is in the south of the Marche region, close to Falerio, Offida and Rosso Conero. The blend is 30% Sangiovese and 70% Montepulciano. It has been matured for 12 months in 400 litre oak barrels.

It is a dark ruby red with a complex bouquet of the darker fruits (plum, cherry), hints of liquorice too. The first rich sip tells much. It is a lovely rounded wine, full of flavour, some moderate spice, with  a terrific balance, quite fine tannins and a persistent finish. Very Highly Recommended.

Carminucci Grotte Sul Marc Falerio (DOC) 2015, 11.5%, €14.95 Findlater's (whose stockists include Bradley’s North Main Street, Cork)

Same three grapes but a different vineyard to the Naumakos, lower ABV also. Light straw colour, tints of green. Pleasant aromas of fruit (apple, pear), plus floral notes also.

After the introductory tingle, the fruity freshness (grapefruit now added to the mix) continues; it is dry, fresh yes, and well balanced. Good acidity too (they recommended trying it with fish) and a pleasant and persistent finalé. Highly Recommended.

Carminucci Grotte Sul Marc Rosso Piceno (DOC) 2015, 13%, €16.95 Findlater's (whose stockists include Bradley’s North Main Street, Cork)

This Grotte Sul Marc line underscores “our link with this territory… the Grottammore hill zone”. It is a blend of Sangiovese and Montepulciano and no oak has been used in this one. You are advised to “use all through the meal, with delicatessen products, cheese, and roast meats”.


Ruby red is the colour. There are cherry aromas. On the palate it feels smooth, with rounded red fruit flavours, slight spice and altogether a rather lovely wine, dry and soft and with a good finish. Enough acidity to keep it welcome at the table. Highly Recommended.

See also from current Italian series: 
Fontanafredda. Important Player in Italian Wine
Two Amazing Whites from Italy.
In the Heart of Chianti
From the Islands

Pighin's "Grave wines are bargains". Good too!


Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Taste of the Week. From the Bula Bus

Taste of the Week

From the Bula Bus
Smoked sausage and pickled cabbage

The Bula Bus is a restaurant, in a bus, a double decker. They cook downstairs, serve you upstairs. It is an old bus from Manchester that doesn't go anywhere anymore. It is parked up, permanently, in the backyard of Billy Byrnes pub in Kilkenny.

But they do have a stall at the local Farmers Market every Thursday and it was there that I got fed last week and found my Taste of the Week in their Czech style Smoked Sausage.

Six euro bought me street food at its best. A big choice of sauces and condiments and the large sausage was served with Californian style pickled cabbage, a faster version of Sauerkraut. 

The sun was shining as I sat down on a public seat nearby and tucked into my substantial and very tasty lunch. I could have been in California or Prague but Kilkenny’s Parade was cosmopolitan enough for me.

It is easy enough to catch the Bula Bus crew and their out of the ordinary food - they are open most days behind the pub. More info here.


A brief account of a 2014 visit to the bus: it was time for lunch so the group (about 14 strong) headed off to the Podge Meade’s Bula Bus, a former unit of the fleet in Manchester city but now parked up at the back of Billy Byrne’s pub. The kitchen is downstairs and the upper deck is laid out as a restaurant, serving wild and foraged street food. Venison, mushroom and rabbit (which I enjoyed) featured on the menu.


Monday, March 27, 2017

Good Food is no Illusion at Royal Spice


Good Food is no Illusion at Royal Spice 

Murg Tikka

There is music playing, the pleasant hum of people talking close by. Soft lights and, over your table, hangs one of many similar big red shades guiding illumination down to where you want it. It is a colourful place - you spot garlands hanging and balloons in a row. 

You begin to think that this, the Royal Spice in Kilkenny, must be a big place. But it is not - mirrors make it appear that way. It is something of an illusion. 
Samosas
 But nothing illusionary about the food on your plate. A bit of oriental magic maybe, worked on splendid local produce, but no illusion whatsoever. Just excellent Indian dishes for you and the twenty plus around you (yes, this room doesn't take much more than thirty) to enjoy.


This is one of the better Indian restaurants and one suspects that it is their desire, a desire they daily put into practice, to support local producers that helps it stand out from the crowd. As well as their own expertise in the kitchen. Not everything is Irish, of course; black tiger prawns, for instance, are imported.

Chicken Shashlik
 After the customary poppadoms and dips, the starters arrive. There is a terrific choice here. My selection is Murg Tikka, fresh Irish chicken marinated overnight with mixed ground spices, yoghurt, garlic and ginger, delicately grilled in their tandoori oven served with their authentic dohi chutney. Top quality and absolutely delicious.


Good reports too from the other side of the table where the superb crispy Samosas filled with mixed vegetables and served with their homemade beetroot chutney is going down well.

 Lassai Gosht

I take a few sips of my local beer, the lovely Costello’s Red, as we sit back and await the mains. Soon my Lassai Gosht, fresh Irish lamb pan-cooked with sliced garlic, onion, coriander seed, peppercorn and yoghurt served with the chef’s own special sauce and garnished with chilli arrives. Something that little bit lighter about the Indian dishes here and this is another delight.

Not quite as spectacular though as CL’s Chicken Shashlik. This consists of fresh chunks of marinated chicken with pieces of onion, peppers, tomatoes, cooked in a clay oven with tandoori mixed spices, served sizzling on cast iron. It makes a hissing smoking entrance and the substance lives up to the showy part. Another brilliant dish.
We are very happy with the meal, with the friendly welcome and service and the immaculate cooking. Well worth a visit if you are in the area.

Royal Spice
Watergate Street
Kilkenny
056 7786010
Facebook: @royalspice
Twitter @royalspice
Opening Times: Monday - Thursday 5:00 PM – 10:00 PM
Friday & Saturday 5:00 PM – 11:00 PM
Sunday 2:00 PM – 9:00 PM

Sunday, March 26, 2017

At the home of Ireland’s Oldest Beer. The Smithwick’s Experience, Kilkenny.

At the home of Ireland’s Oldest Beer.

The Smithwick’s Experience, Kilkenny
 Smithwick’s, our guide tells us at the start of our tour in its Kilkenny home, is the oldest beer in Ireland, first produced here in 1710. The 307 years impress our group, which includes a few Americans. But we are told it is entirely possible that beer was made here by Franciscan monks as far back as 1231. 


In 2012, the Kilkenny People headlined: Profitable brewery closed. The tradition ended in 2014 when the brewery closed and the beer is now brewed in Dublin, at Guinness.
Smithwick family was first to have running water in Kilkenny, 
hence the bath-tubs as seats for tour visitors.
 We were introduced to the family behind the name, eight generations of them, including John Smithwick who originally leased the building. John was a budding entrepreneur and the twenty year old soon started the brewing business. 


But then the penal laws hit - Catholics weren't allowed own businesses. The crafty Smithwick found a loophole and Protestant Richard Cole became his frontman, an early example of eucenmism. 
 That block on Catholic ownership lasted for an incredible 117 years. And the fact that the Smithwicks weren't the legal owners meant they could only operate locally so the business was hindered - going outside of the locality would put the “arrangement” at risk. 


Finally, it was John's great-grandson Edmund who got the legal right to run the brewery in his own name and celebrated by putting the name over the the gate (that we had entered a few minutes earlier). At this stage too, the family were very close with Daniel O’Connell, the Great Liberator.
Smell the hops
 Roads weren't great at the time so Edmund started using the rivers to distribute Smithwick’s. Expansion followed and soon it became a national brand. We would meet all the key family members, or at least their talking portraits, as we made our way through the house. And the centuries.


In the 1930s, Walter brought a more modern outlook. He introduced their first logo, the No.1, and also started a commission scheme for the salesmen. By 1950, the brand was becoming known outside of Ireland and in January of that year, they attempted their first export to Boston. It landed in Boston - that much is known - but then it appears that every bottle was stolen! Nowadays, Smithwicks is exported to the US, Canada, France and South Korea.
 The guide went on to introduce us to the ingredients and the process. We had a good sniff of the various hops used in the beer, now made in three versions: the traditional red ale, the pale ale and the blonde. Hops sniffed included the American pair of Amarillo and Cascade.


By the way, if you ask for a Smithwick anywhere in Ireland, especially in Kilkenny, you’ll almost certainly get the traditional red. Our final call was to the bar to sample the wares. The basic tour entitles you to a pint of the red ale. A few euro more and you can have a paddle with half-pints of the three different beers. 
Waiting for the missing blonde! The red in middle, pale ale on right.
My paddle and few others, including that of a couple of Californians, didn't work out too well. We got the red and the excellent pale ale but the blonde tap ran out. 

We were told we’d have our blonde in a few minutes but the guide was called away (presumably to lead another group), there was no other employee left at the bar and we never got the blonde. Ourselves and the Californians and a few more left without tasting it and that put a bit of a downer on an otherwise interesting tour.

Friday, March 24, 2017

Amuse Bouche


If rubbing shoulders with the good and great floats your boat, read on… Dr Michael Smurfit invited me to a private dinner at his K Club. His firm, Woodfab, was having problems procuring enough timber from Coillte at the right price. …… The encounter didn't yield any progress… The most memorable feature of the night was that Smurfit drank different wine (Petrus, I think) from us out of his own decanter. Bad manners, methought, even if what we drank was top-notch vino.


from Full On by Ivan Yates (2014). Recommended.

Thursday, March 23, 2017

Barry’s Tea. Favourites for more than a century.


Barry’s Tea. Favourites for more than a century.
Wall of Tea

As the 19th century turned into the 20th, a blacksmith’s son from Ballyhooly came to Cork city to work in a shop. Soon, in 1901, he became a “counter-jumper” and set up his own shop dealing in Tea, Wine and Spirits. That entrepreneurial country boy, James J. Barry, was the great grandfather of Tony Barry, our host on a tour of the Barry's Tea factory in Cork earlier in the week.

The first Barry's Tea Shop was in Bridge Street and, by the 60’s, Tony told us that they were well known for tea. His father was then running the business - the shop now in Princes Street -  and had a lucky break. Marketing was barely known as a science in those days but a young man asked to do a study on the firm and discovered a gap, a gap that Barry's turned into an opening. The young man found that Barry's Tea was very well liked but that many customers had trouble getting to the shop to buy. The solution was to distribute to other shops around the city and Madden’s, Bradley's and Smith’s were among the first.

Marketing, by the way, wasn't exactly new to the Barry’s. Back in 1939, they recruited three elephants from a  visiting circus and marched them down the traffic-free city streets "with tea chests strapped on!”  Read more of the Barry's Story here.
We were there, at their current Kinsale Road facility, as part of a group of Munster Wine and Dine members. MWD member Stuart Musgrave knows Barry’s well and was indeed once one of their rivals. But he reckons, always did, they make the best blended tea in the world.

And Barry's, who nowadays employ 65 people, certainly know their stuff. Tony explained a bit. “Rwandan teas give a good colour but are very light. So you need something for strength and India provides that. Still, you don't want something too strong either so add a contribution from Kenya and you’ll have a good all round bend.”


The tea plant, a bush, grows in equatorial areas. The bushes grow like a hedge, making it easy to pluck the leaves. Hand-plucking is still very common. It is a natural product. After plucking, nothing is added. Green tea and black tea comes from the same type of plant. “The green is steamed and rolled and is fresher while the black is withered and fermented.”
Tony Barry, standing left, invites us to taste
He told us that there are similarities between wine and tea, that terroir matters in both. “So how do you know where to get the best?” someone asked. “Well, “ he smiled. “We’ve been around for over 100 years. We know where to get the best teas, where the best tea gardens are. We have lots of contacts now and they know what we want.”

“Tea is not a complicated business, “he said. “But you do need to get each part right, from sourcing to blending to distribution and sales. It is not traded as a commodity so we don’t have to buy futures.” Still, when there is a high quality crop, they aren't slow in building up their stocks.


We had a few samples of traditional teas and not so traditional (including apple/pear flavoured and Berry Berry) before we began our walkabout. First stop was the the real Tasting Room with veteran tastier Denis Daly doing the honours. The window is north facing window here - they want natural colours, not a tea turned a flattering gold by the morning sun!
Berry Berry

The samples enabled us tell the difference, at least for that moment, between the various teas from Asia and Africa and then we were off on our factory walk. First we saw the high stores of palleted tea, some in vacuum packs, stamped with exotic names such as those from the gardens of Gatunguru in Kenya. “Some of these gardens are in the most beautiful areas of the world.” That vacuum packed tea could last for a few years but Barry's like to rotate within the year.

Then we saw the blending area followed by the packing and the boxing. Amazing to see the tea-bag machine in action, making no less than 2,000 bags per minute! Next came the boxes being packed, by robots, into large packs for transport via container.

Indeed, there was a container load lined up for export to the USA - they export about 11% of the total. The working day was drawing to a close and so was our eye-opening informative tour. Reckon I'll never look at the humble cup of tea in the same complacent way again!
Selection
Check out the Barry's website, including online shop, here.

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Fontanafredda, important player in Italian wine. Three examples.

Fontanafredda: important player in Italian wine. Three examples.

The Modern History of Italian Wine (2016), to which we'll be referring often over the next few months, picks Fontanafredda, renowned for decades for its Barolo, as a key player in Italy's wine industry. The important company now produces some 7.5m bottles a year and you can find quite a few of its products, including the Barolos, in Karwig Wines. Below are just three examples. 

Fontanafredda Raimonda, Barbera D’Alba (DOC) 2009, 14%, €21.15 Karwig Wines


In 1858, an area close to the village of Serralunga D’Alba was registered to the King Vittorio Emanuele II. Here he indulged his passion with the commoner daughter of a drum major and it was eventually their son Emanuele Guerrieri, Count of Mirafiore, who devoted his life to making wine here, “with a very modern approach”.

Success with Barolo followed later but, after war and economic strife, the banks took over in 1931 and appointed a winemaker to take charge. In recent years, the property passed to Oscar Farinetti, “another visionary” according to the recently published Modern History of Italian wine, “who revitalized its sale and the commercial image of the brand”. 

Dressed with the colours of the estate, the Stripes series “is the central line of production by Fontanafredda”. And the Barbera for this striped bottle is grown around Serralunga.

Part of the wine is aged in large French and Slavonian oak casks, the rest stored in small barrels of medium toasted French and American oak for about a year. The two parts are blended prior to bottling.

Colour is a deep ruby. There are intense aromas of cherry and plum, notes of vanilla. Quite a striking velvety mouthfeel on this one, round with ripe and tangy fruit, hints of spice, and an excellent acidity. A very pleasant drop indeed and Very Highly Recommended.

Karwig’s also do another excellent example of the grape: Renato Barbera D’Alba.

Fontanafredda Gavi (DOCG) 2015, 12.5%, €23.10 Karwig Wines

This is another of the vineyard’s Stripes Series and the Cortese vines from which it is produced are grown near the village of Gavi in south east Piedmont. Serve between 10 to 12 degrees and you’ll find it is ideal for starters and light meals.

It is a light straw colour with a definite green tint and micro-bubbles cling to the sides of the glass. There are fairly intense aromas, a melange of white fruit and blossom. Lively fruit flavours predominate as it rolls smoothly across the palate. It is an easy-drinking well-balanced wine with a long dry finish. Highly Recommended.

Fontanafredda “Le Fronde” Moscato D’Asti (DOCG) 2012, 5.0%, €9.95 Karwig Wines

This is a gorgeous moderately sweet wine, another string to the impressive Fontanafredda bow. Try it with all desserts, they encourage. I had a few of those delightful cheesecakes from Charly and tried the two together. Excellent, though I'm told it may be even better with drier cakes (e.g. panetone). And, by the way, it is also lovely on its own.

May not have much alcohol on board - yes, that five per cent is correct - but it has quite a lot going for it otherwise. It is slightly fizzy, lots of bubbles in evidence, mainly clinging to the sides of the glass, a frizzante rather than a spumante. Indeed, the low alcohol count means it can be convenient to use within a multi-course meal, either as aperitif or with dessert. I prefer to use a normal white wine glass rather than a flute.


It is aromatic (this one sage and honey) and floral, full and fruity also. Well worth trying, ideal in the garden in summer, with three or four friends. Recommended.

Recently reviewed:

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Taste of the Week. Cinnamon Cottage Ratatouille

Taste of the Week
Cinnamon Cottage Ratatouille
Irish diners used to have mixed opinions on Ratatouille, mainly because earlier versions weren’t much more than an anonymous mess on the plate. And then very few were eating aubergines and peppers in 1970s Ireland.

Irish Ratatouille and we Irish diners have come a long way since then and there are some terrific examples of the dish around nowadays, both in homes and in restaurants. One of the best I came across recently came from Cinnamon Cottage.

This is a brilliant mix: aubergines, courgettes, peppers, tomatoes and more. Fantastic textures and flavours, a dash of spice too, all combining to make a Ratatouille with attitude and our Taste of the Week.

Monday, March 20, 2017

Johnny Fall Down. Warm Glounthaune slopes ideal for cider apples.

Johnny Fall Down

Warm Glounthaune slopes ideal for cider apples

A farm that has been recovered from a semi-wilderness is the unlikely scene for a craft cider revolution. Thanks to Dave and Barry of Johnny Fall Down we had a tour of the fields at Killahora (Glounthaune) last week where the south-facing slopes are planted with over 40 varieties of apple.

Not just apples. Pears are there in abundance. And other fruits trees too, including damson, plums. Even though this current operation started in 2010/11, there is a orchard history here, going back through the centuries, evidenced by an old wall (a relic of a walled garden). And reminders in the hedgerows, gnarled old crab trees and some wilding too.

And it is not just fruit either. Dave has a particular interest in trees and plants and so here you’ll find some rare ones, everything from tiny Bee Orchids to huge (not yet!) Sequoias.

They focus on the rare apple varieties here, Barry tells me, as we climb the slopes. “They give us more punch.” And you can try that for yourself. Their first product, the Johnny Fall Down rare apple cider, is available around Cork city in various pubs including Cask and The Roundy.
The south-facing slopes are ideal. It just seems warmer there. And, by the way, there is a fantastic view, a panorama of Cork harbour and estuary and the islands, including nearby Harper’s and Fota. And birds of prey hover above on the thermals.

All the apples and pears (already in flower) are planted in neat rows, all tidy and well maintained. But those twisted old crabs trees in the hedgerows are amazing. The first one that we saw had hundreds of little apples, many of them quite sound, on the ground underneath, months after they had fallen. 
Dave (left) and Barry

And they'll soon have company. Dave and Barry intend to plant fruits and herbs in and about the hedgerows. In a few years time, you'll see cherries and more in the wild.

We were just in time to see Dave do a bit of grafting, a Turner’s Barn pear was being introduced to its host Pyro Dwarf. First he cut the Turner’s, at about 45%, down to the Cambium (layer of tissue in the middle), and repeated the procedure on the host. Then, the tricky part, making a tongue and groove so that the union would be even better. 
from an old crab apple tree!

Then he bound the two with a bio-degradable tape (keeps in the moisture and allows the graft to take) and it was ready to go. “Not rocket science,” he humbly admitted. But still one just had to admire the enthusiasm and the precision as he demoed the ancient art. After the demo, it was work as hundreds remained to be done!

Then, time for a tasting, starting with some of the single varietals. Some had the acidity to the fore, others sugar, others tannins. Getting the balance right is the challenge for Barry in the months and years ahead.
Could be drinking from the fruit of this in about five years time!

It won't be just cider. Already one of their products, a pommeau, is being used in cocktails. Barry also plans a Perry, champagne style!  Perhaps the one that made the biggest impression on me was the Ice Cider, even if it was still only half-way on its journey. I usually - inadvertently, I hastily add -  pick the expensive ones. “A lot of juice required to make this!”.

And soon we would say goodbye and leave this beautiful part of the parish behind. The terroir seems to be just perfect for purpose and Dave and Barry complement each other perfectly also. Their knowledge and expertise is top notch. 
Pear bursting out

And there is enthusiasm in abundance. More importantly though, there is patience, there is no rush, they’ll wait for nature (magic in those hedgerows in years to come) and produce accordingly. I can’t wait to see what Killahora comes up with next but Dave and Barry can and their products will be all the better for it. Watch this space.

An old crab tree

And what of the man himself? We read on our sample bottle that Johnny Fall Down is a rare apple cider, bitter-sweet with an abv of 5.5%, made from 42 varieties of cider, many of them unique to the Glounthaune producers. It has a lovely light amber colour, bubbles galore on the rise. Aromas hint of really ripe orchard fruit and there are hints of tropical fruit on the well balanced palate. The "rosé like" finish comes from a mix "of rarer tannins" that have matured for six months. Well worth waiting for!