Saturday, August 18, 2018

Amuse Bouche


She poured her coffee, raised her mug. Could a woman sit in her kitchen and drink coffee and wait for a muffin to pop in her toaster, and then smother it with apple jelly and bite into it and not weep for her dead son lost beneath the rubble? Could she listen to the news, the weather, the stock reports, the live phone-ins full of grief and outrage, and mentally calculate what her stock was worth. And still be a mother?

from Academy Street by Mary Costello (2014). Recommended

Friday, August 17, 2018

In Praise of East Cork. Food. People. Place. Worth a Visit!

In Praise of East Cork.
Food. People. Place. Worth a Visit!
Town crier in Youghal
Friendly people, great food, attractions on land and sea, both natural and man-made, make East Cork a gem of a place to visit. From the fantastic 13th century St Mary’s Collegiate Church in Youghal to high class Fota House Gardens and Arboretum, both free to enter, there is a treasure chest of places to visit in the area.
Fota Wildlife

Let me take you on a trip to see part of it. We’ll also enjoy some delicious meals as East Cork is a foodie’s paradise with top notch venues including Sage and Kevin Ahern’s 12 Mile Menu,  Barnabrow (ideal for weddings and a leisurely Sunday lunch), Midleton’s pioneering Farmers Market (every Saturday) and the food mecca of Ballymaloe.
Christy Ring

And, before or after Barnabrow and Ballymaloe, do take the opportunity to visit the  medieval town of Cloyne. It is one of the hidden gems of the area, its skyline dominated by the large medieval Round Tower and across the road is St. Colman's Cathedral built in 1270/80 and still in use. Famous Cloyne people include the 20th century hurler Christy Ring and the 18th century philosopher George Berkeley, both of whom are remembered here: Ring's statue is by the GAA field and Berkley's tomb is in the cathedral.

Barnabrow
Coming from the city on the main Cork-Waterford road, take the Cobh exit ramp and head for breakfast or lunch, right to Bramley Lodge, or left to The Bakestone Cafe at Ballyseedy.  Now, set up for the day, go over the nearby bridge to Fota Island and its many attractions.

If you have kids, go the Wildlife Park; if not, walk through the renowned Fota Arboretum and maybe add a tour of the Georgian House. If you like it around here, you may also try the high class  Fota Island Hotel and Golf Resort. Other top class hotels in the area include the Raddison Blu (Little Island) and the Castlemartyr Resort.
Garryvoe walk

Moving on, go over the Belvelly Bridge and you’ll soon come to Frank Hederman’s famous smokehouse. You are now on Great Island where the cathedral town of Cobh is situated. Much to do here including the Sirius Art Gallery, walking tours (including the Titanic Trail and Spike Island), harbourside bars and restaurants and of course the Cobh Heritage Centre which tells of forced deportations and also the tales of the ill fated liners, The Titanic and the Lusitania.
Mitchel Hall on Spike Island

If you have four or more hours to spare, be sure to take the ferry over to Spike Island. It is a fantastic tour, great guides, so many interesting things to see and do, much of it related to its historic military and prison life, but also superb walks and views out over the harbour. Very Highly Recommended.

Fota House and arboretum; walled gardens too

Cruise liners call here regularly during the season, with a carnival atmosphere in the town on the days they are in port. And here boats take you across to Spike and also on harbour tours. Maybe you’d just like to walk around the town; I did so recently, taking in the Holy Ground, the Titanic Garden and the Sonia O’Sullivan statue, and you may check it out here. Perhaps you'd prefer just to sit on the decking at The Titanic Bar & Grill and watch the boats go by.

Sonia

Whiskey Sour in Jameson
Time now to head out of the islands and head east to Midleton and a tour of the Jameson Experience. If you give the right answers here, you’ll end up with a certificate of proficiency in whiskey! No shortage of cafes and restaurants here (indeed there's one in the distillery). Plenty more outside, including Ferrit & Lee and the family friendly Granary now celebrating twenty two years in business.
Cork Harbour

Dessert at Radisson Blu, Little Island
There will be detours, of course. One that I like is off the Whitegate road, out of Midleton. Look out for the signs for East Ferry and enjoy a walk by the estuary and maybe reward yourself with a well cooked meal at Murph’s, a restaurant with a lovely view.

Another suggested detour - you may need a driver here - is to head towards Ballyvolane House near Castlelyons. Lots to do here, including fishing and glamping, and it is also the home of Bertha's Revenge Gin!

And if you're in this area at the weekend, be sure and call to the 200 year old O'Mahony's Pub in Watergrasshill. Superb local food and drink, music also, extensive sheltered outdoor areas and ways and means to keep the kids happy.
Dinner at Sage


Next stop is Ballymaloe, the home of modern Irish food. You could spend a day here. Maybe an overnight stay to sample the world renowned cooking. Call to the cafe for a mid afternoon or mid morning  coffee. Be sure to take a look at the impressive Cookery School gardens, not forgetting the Shell House and their truck cafe during the summer. And don’t forget Golden Bean coffee roaster Marc Kingston is also based here.
Krug tasting in a Ballymaloe cornfield

In the nearby seaside village of Ballycotton, take a stroll down to the pier and see the fishermen come and go, maybe take a boat trip to the lighthouse on the nearby island. If you feel you need to stretch the legs, then there is a spectacular walk  along the cliff tops. After all that exercise, treat yourself to a gorgeous meal at Pier 26.
View from the Bayview Terrace


If you need to overnight, then the Garryvoe Hotel and its top notch Samphire Restaurant, with great views over the bay, is close at hand. And across the bay, there's its sister hotel, The Bayview; great views here. Closed in winter but, when open, check out the superb cooking of chef Ciaran Scully, an example here.
Ballycotton cliff walk

Youghal is the final town, on the Blackwater and just shy of the border with Waterford. On the way, you could stretch the legs in Killeagh’s Glenbower Woods one of many attractive walks in the East Cork area. In Youghal, take a boat trip on the Blackwater. If you want a mid-day salad or sandwich in the town, then the Sage Cafe will take good care of you. Just alongside is the newly refurbished Clock Gate Tower, a must visit!


After all the activity, you deserve to rest up for the night. Enjoy a meal in the Old Imperial Hotel on Youghal's main street, maybe just a drink in its old Coachhouse bar, maybe both! Aherne’s, of course, is famous for its seafood and they too have rooms.
Samphire at Garryvoe Hotel



And do try and get your hands on the local craft beers, including Ireland's first organic Red Ale, made by the dedicated team in the town’s Munster Brewery; they also do tours. Amazing apple and pear drinks, including their unique Ice Wine, coming from Killahora Orchard (near Glounthaune).

And before leaving the area, don’t forget to visit Ballynatray House, a Blackwater gem.
Dinner at Brook Inn

If, at the end of a day's touring, you find yourself heading back towards the city, then do consider the Brook Inn near Glanmire for dinner. It is a lively buzzy place and the food is good there too.

Enjoy East Cork, the food, the place and its people!

Ballynatray House, by the Blackwater

(revised 17.08.18)
If you have a cafe, restaurant, visitor attraction, not listed here, please let me know and I will do my best to visit with a view to inclusion in next revision. You may also use the comment facility below.

Thursday, August 16, 2018

Two Hundred Year Old Pub Gets New Lease of Life Thanks to Máire and Victor. Emphasis very much on Local Food and Drink at O’Mahony’s Watergrasshill.


Two Hundred Year Old Pub Gets New Lease of Life Thanks to Máire and Victor.
Emphasis very much on Local Food and Drink at O’Mahony’s Watergrasshill.



O’Mahony’s Pub in Watergrasshill packs a lot into its weekend life. Start with the food: delicious sharing boards and small plates are based on the best of local and seasonal produce and don't cost the earth. While you will get your mainstream pints, you may also enjoy a good craft beer or two and their current House Drink is Bertha’s Revenge Gin made by their neighbours over in Castlelyons.

And that’s only the start of it. Take a look outside and you’ll see an area “as big as a field”. More like a big garden, with a stage platform and there’s lots of cover here making it an ideal spot for a celebration of any kind (they’ve already had a wedding here) and great too for BBQ with its own bar.
Antipasto

And it’s also here that you’ll find the Long Room, the music venue. And if you feel like dancing, go right ahead. Take the floor, a real dance-floor, maybe a chunk of a ballroom of romance recycled.

And all that music and dancing takes place in a recycled cow shed. The village used to be a staging post for cattle on their way to the city and indeed, there was a slaughter house at the back (a glasshouse will be going up there soon). The meat hooks hanging in the bar will remind you of those times.
Artists at work

And that’s not all you’ll see hanging here. Máire is an artist and her works are proudly on display. And that  leads me to the kids. Yours are more than welcome. Their own menu is up on the big blackboard. And there’s another blackboard, a whole wall of them, outside in a smaller sheltered area. Here the children can draw to their heart's content and every now and then there is a competition.

Just so much going on here. The Bushby strawberries, those beautiful fruits from West Cork had run out, just a few left. No problem. Blackberries are growing well “out the back” - lots of herbs there too and there will be more. So those blackberries are on the menu in an instant! Beat that for fresh and local.
Kofta

So what did we have al fresco on a sunny Friday evening? Started with Antipasto (10.50), one of three sharing boards. It consisted of Pana Sourdough, Mozzarella from Macroom, artichoke hearts and more, with little bowls of hummus and pesto. Enjoyed that, me sipping from a cooling flavourful pint of Eight Degrees Howling Gale Ale (5.00) while CL was enjoying some of Bertha’s Revenge Gin with Fever-tree Tonic (9.50).

Victor is well known for his part in the House Cafe in the Opera House and there are similarities with the food in that successful venture. For instance, suppliers such as Ballyhoura and Kilbrack Farm also feature in Watergrasshill.
Bavette

As does butcher Eoin O’Mahony (no relation). The O’Mahony’s Bavette steak salad, a beautiful Asian marinade worked a treat on the meat which is scattered with sesame seeds and served with vermicelli noodles (9.50), is a beauty. 

The Lamb Kofta is another highlight, also €9.50. This comes with Cork made Syrian flatbread, hummus, tzatziki, sumac pickled onions and leaves.
Dessert, with ultra local blackberries! The timber serving boards are made in nearby Carrignavar.

Time now for dessert. With the strawberries running out, Victor suggested the Treats Board (8.50). And we shared the delights of the mix of a Shortbread treat with fruit (those blackberries from Watergrasshill, not Guatemala), a chocolate brownie, a lemon curd slice, and more.
Local drinks: Bertha's Revenge and Eight Degrees

Too full to dance after that! Only joking. The food here is excellent, well sourced and you won’t be stuffed with chips, mash, baked potatoes and so on. But do watch out for their side of Patatas Bravas, just one of many good things in this warm welcoming venue. Try it out soon, just ten minutes from the tunnel!

Tradition and sustainability
O'Mahony's
Main St, Watergrasshill, Co. Cork
Food
6pm – 9pm, Fri – Sun

ENQUIRIES
+353 (0)86 831 6879

Wednesday, August 15, 2018

Three wines to enjoy from Tuscany


Three wines to enjoy from Tuscany
Terrabianca Chianti Classico Riserva Croce (DOCG) Riserva 2012, 13.5%, €25.75 Karwig Wines 

Colour is a beautiful ruby red. Aromas of ripe cherry. Superb fruit on the palate, sweet juicy cherry, touch of pepper, terrific structure, good acidity and satisfyingly long fruit-driven finish. Very Highly Recommended.

This is 97% Sangiovese with 3% Canaiolo. The grapes are selected at the winery before being approved for separate vinification in stainless steel tanks at a controlled temperature. Ageing: Aged in Slavonian oak (50 hectolitre), then about 3 months in French oak barrique (2nd use) and in bottle for at least 12 months. 

Serving Suggestions: Best served at 16-18 °C (60.8-64.4 °F). Pairs well with pasta dishes.


Selvapiana Chianti Rufina (DOCG) 2015, 13.5%, €23.99 JJ O’Driscoll’s Cork, Wine OnLine, Liberty Wines 

Rufina is a highly regarded sub-zone in Chianti and its best wines are a match, some more than a match, for those from Chianti Classico. This producer is one of the best and produces the wine from the area’s famous Sangiovese grape (with a touch of Canaiolo). It is aged for 12 months, some in steel but most in oak casks and barriques.

It is a startlingly light red. Cherry and berry on the nose. Fresh and juicy on the palate, quite a backbone of flavour, smooth though and easy drinking but also generously blessed with finesse. Elegant and precise and with a long finish, this Chianti Rufina is Very Highly Recommended, especially if you like the lighter styles.


Camillo Ciliegiolo Maremma Toscana (DOC)  2015, 13.5%, €18.85 64 Wine Dublin, Bradley’s of Cork, Greenman Dublin, Le Caveau Kilkenny

This is made from organically grown, forty year old Ciliegiolo vines. Ciliegiolo? I hear you ask. I asked too and confirmed it is little known with an uncertain genealogy, being either the parent or offspring of Sangiovese. 

Antonio Camillo is noted as a top grower in Maremma (an area of southern Tuscany that has been producing wines since the Etruscans) by none other than Oz Clark in Grapes and Wines.

The book, co-written with Margaret Rand, says Ciliegiolo (little cherry) “is sometimes bottled as a varietal, and it can be found as far south as Sicily and as far north as Val d’Aosta.”

The Camillo version is a bright mid-ruby in colour, the aromas a mix of cherry and berry. Refreshing ripe cherry fruit, some spice also, good acidity and persistent fine-grain tannins all in the dry finish. Good structure, very drinkable and Highly Recommended. Try, they say, with hearty dishes (stews) and hard cheeses.



Tuesday, August 14, 2018

Prime 74. Pride of Tipperary Town.


Prime 74. Pride of Tipperary Town.


Tipperary Town is serendipitously situated in the centre of a great food producing area. Not just Tipperary county itself but all the neighbours, though the county itself includes the world class cheese producers Cashel Blue. The near neighbours also include the likes of Crowe’s Pork, White Gypsy Beers and Cashel Fine Foods. And a bit further away, in the south west, nationally known producers such as Gubbeen and Skeaghanore Duck. 

You can get all these and more on your plate at Prime 74, a relatively new restaurant in Tipperary Town, less than an hour from Cork City.  Chef and owner Martin Lavelle is dedicated to seasonal and local and is doing a great job in this lovely premises at 74 Main Street (park in nearby Market Place).

We were in early for a recent lunch, just a few ahead of us, but soon the room was more or less full. And soon we would see, and taste, why. Service is friendly here. The menus were at hand as soon as we were seated and that included a list of specials which were detailed to us. And we were also told of a Duck Spring Roll that hadn’t made the list!

The lunch menu is served from 12.00pm to 4.00pm and is a tempting list. I was looking at the Warm Chicken Harissa Salad (also available as a mains). The Red Wine Poached Pear and Cashel Blue salad was also tempting.  But, in the end, we decided to do mains and dessert.

And my mains, the Pappardelle Dexter Beef Ragu, rocket and Parmesan, came from that specials list. The beef was top notch and well cooked and the combination of flavours was amazing. A superb dish for €13.50.

And our other mains, Deep Fried Curried Fish Cake, Baby leaf Spinach, Poached Egg and Chips, was another flavoursome gem, this too fairly priced at €14.00. The curry element was nicely judged.

With the way cleared for dessert (all 5.50), I again picked from the specials and was very happy with my eye-catching Chilled Rice Pudding with Chantilly cream, strawberries, basil and spiced crisps. And happiness too at the other side as the Lemon Meringue Pie with Raspberry Sorbet and Mint was another sweet treat.

Drinks? Well they do have wine (there is a function room upstairs) and that excellent local beer by White Gypsy. Lots of soft drinks too and teas and coffees of course. We were still in the heat wave so we were looking for something cool and non-alcoholic and were more than happy to see the local Sparkling Apple Juice from the Apple Farm in Cahir. A very enjoyable drop indeed. And a very enjoyable meal indeed.


74 Main Street
Tipperary Town
 062 31388

HOURS
Sun 12:00 - 19:00
Mon Closed
Tue 10:30 - 16:00
Wed 10:30 - 16:00
Thu 10:30 - 16:00, 17:30 - 21:00
Fri 10:30 - 16:00, 17:30 - 21:00
Sat 10:30 - 16:00, 17:30 - 21:00


And since you're in Tipperary why not visit

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