Wednesday, January 31, 2018

Two Splendid and Delightful Whites.

Chateau de Chatelard Beaujolais Blanc (AOP), Cuvée Secret de Chardonnay 2016, 13%, €18.30 Karwig’s

Given the Beaujolais bias toward Gamay, it is not surprising that Beaujolais Blanc is little-known. Just two per cent of the crop is Chardonnay. Chatelard do quite a few good reds also and Karwig’s have a selection.

This white has a light gold colour, clear and bright. There are fairly intense aromas, fruity and floral, all present too in an ample palate. There is a creamy texture plus a superb balance and the finish is soft with a nice length. A pleasant surprise and Very Highly Recommended. Good on its own or with seafood and fish (don't forget freshwater fish too, such as trout).

The winemakers tell us that about twenty per cent has been aged in barrels to “give more fatness and complexity”. Vintage is by hand and this is a natural product so you may find a soft and light deposit (a sign of quality!).

Meyer-Fonné Vin D’Alsace (AOC) Gentil 2015, 12.5%, €16.65 Le Caveau, Bradley's Cork
Felix Meyer makes his wines in accord with biodynamic principles and “with unmatched precision, depth, purity and expression of terroir”. This Gentil (many Alsace winemakers produce a gentil) is a blend of Muscat, Pinot blanc, Riesling and Gewürztraminer, “a perfectly balanced and serious wine”.

The denomination Gentil is reserved for AOC Alsace wines that fit within the standards of a superior quality blend. I reckon this one had no problem meeting the criteria. I have also found over the years that the Gentils are fairly priced, good quality and good value.


This has a beautiful light gold colour and bubbles tend to linger. There are intense white fruit aromas, a waft of blossom too. The palate is engagingly fruity, spice in the mix too, excellent texture and a long dry finish. Quite a gem at the price and Very Highly Recommended.

Biodynamic Pioneer in Champagne Honoured. Tribute to Erick de Sousa.

Press release

In France, some of the world’s best wine-tasters and most refined palates met in Bordeaux to honour Erick de Sousa!

Last summer, the world’s best sommeliers paid tribute to the standards and quality of the champagnes produced by the talented de Sousa Champagne house.

Erick de SOUSA, with his pioneering of biodynamics and a constant search for ways to improve the quality of his Champagnes, now heads one of the best Champagne houses.
Champagne De SOUSA

High-level gathering
Erick de Sousa is recognised by
the best sommeliers in the world!
France - last summer, some of the biggest names in oenology met up in Bordeaux during the
professional master’s programme.
In June, some of the greatest sommeliers got together for an "historic" photograph.
From left to right, there is Philippe Faure-Brac, the world's best sommelier 1992, Claire Lurton,
who hosted the event, Markus del Monego, best sommelier (Germany) 1998, Serge Dubs (France)
1989, and on the back row: Raimonds Tomsons, this year’s happy winner, best sommelier in
Europe and Africa, next to Erick de Sousa, Paolo Basso (Italy) 2013 and Giuseppe Vaccarini,
world's best sommelier in 1978.
This high-level meeting, which has now placed Erick de Sousa among the world’s biggest names in
wine tasting, shows him to be recognised as one of the world’s best Champagne producers and
winemakers.
Champagne De SOUSA: Erick De SOUSA - Ph.: +33 (0)3 26 57 53 29
The rigours of organic production for natural excellence

It was back in 1986 that Erick De SOUSA, representing the third generation, took over the reins of the family business based in Avize, in the heart of the Côte des Blancs. His vineyard of 9.5 hectares brings together the finest Grand Cru Chardonnay classified vineyards (Avize, Oger, Cramant and Le Mesnil sur Oger) but also Pinot Noir (Ay and Ambonnay). Passionate about local produce and his region, Erick De SOUSA, helped by his children, has long been engaged in organic viticulture, refusing to use pesticides and fertilizers, but favouring natural active ingredients (plants and minerals) to protect the vines. One better, this strong supporter of natural practices is a pioneer of biodynamics, working some of the vines with a horse, using rock crystal to improve soil quality. A respect for vines and the land passed from generation to generation, which leaves its mark on de SOUSA Champagne and gives it its remarkable and noticeable qualities!

A Champagne house on the move!

- end of press release.

The house of de Sousa comes in for high praise also in Wine Revolution by Jane Anson, particularly the Mycorhize Grand Cru Extra Brut NV. "I can't recommend highly enough getting hold of this 100% Chardonnay fizz - or any of the Erick de Sousa range of terroir-driven Champagnes." The Mycorhize refers to the association between mushrooms and vine roots, a healthy sign.

Tuesday, January 30, 2018

Taste of the Week. St Tola Ash Roll

Taste of the Week

St Tola Ash Roll
I know this has been mentioned here before but it is such a superb product that I just couldn't resist putting it up again. Bought half a roll recently in Iago (Princes Street, Cork) and enjoyed it no end.

It is an amazingly creamy cheese from the tough fields of St Tola in County Clare. The cheese has been rolled in traditional food grade ash when fresh. The ash slows down the development and maturation of the cheese and after a few weeks of careful handling, an elegant, smooth textured and full flavoured cheese emerges.

Take your time as you savour the special flavour and that smooth creamy texture; you might even notice the slightly grittier texture of the ash. Enjoy it on its own or pair it with either of these two delicious Irish products: Killahora Orchards Rare Apple Ice Wine or the Hot Crabapple Pot (if you don’t fancy the heat - it is mild - then try their Elderflower and Crabapple Pot) by Wild Irish Foragers and Preserves.

Gortbofearna,
Maurice Mills,
Ennistymon,
Co. Clare,
Ireland V95 XA9C.
GPS: 52.903140300  -9.178353600 

Monday, January 29, 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.

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!
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, perhaps after visiting the recently revamped Clock Tower, then the Sage Cafe will take good care of you.

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 29.01.18)
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.

The West Cork Burger Company. Taking the humble burger to higher levels

The West Cork Burger Company

Taking the humble burger to higher levels

Smoked Shin of Beef Burger
A new entrant has arrived in Washington Street, moving comfortably into the Premier League of the Burger. The early hamburger had typical ingredients of bread, vegetables, and ground meat. It is gone well beyond that now and the West Cork Burger Company, who opened in October, are elevating its status even further.

A hamburger, beefburger or burger is a sandwich consisting of one or more cooked patties of ground meat, usually beef, placed inside a sliced bread roll or bun. The patty may be pan fried, barbecued, or flame broiled. Hamburgers are often served with cheese, lettuce, tomato, bacon, onion, pickles, or chiles; condiments such as mustard, mayonnaise, ketchup, relish, or "special sauce"; and are frequently placed on sesame seed buns. A hamburger topped with cheese is called a cheeseburger. (from Wikipedia)

Last year’s Cork Burger Fest and last week's nationwide event and the competition involved have challenged burger outlets to come up with something a little different. Probably a little early to look closely at this year but last year, with food outlets and butchers joining in the spirit, certainly led to a a lot of innovation locally before Son of a Bun were declared the winner.
Reb-Elvis

And innovation leads me neatly back to Washington Street where co-owner Henry Hegarty proudly introduced me to his line-up last week. No less than five burgers. Henry is planning a new menu in about six week’s time and it will be interesting to see which of the five is selected.

The early favourite, it was ahead on Wednesday, is the Reb-Elvis. “This burger comes with a serious health warning”, Henry said just as we started eating. Keep your finger on speed dial to the emergency department. This burger finished the King and it may just get the better of you too! We teamed up with our friends at Rebel Chilli to create this monster of a burger. We call it, The Reb Elvis! A 6oz patty, peanut butter, raspberry and jalapeno jelly, smoked streaky bacon, Irish cheddar, bacon and fig jam, gherkins and pickled chilli's. Long live the King!

I read the detail, and kept eating. What an amazing feast for a tenner! The jelly, the jam, the heat and, of course, the meat. And the bun, soaking up the juicy bits and the flavours, wasn't half-bad either. 

All local. And, for the Festival Week, sides were included.  My pick, should probably say my kick, was the Kimchi. Spot on. Shared that with CL, and got a bunch of their tasty fries in return. And I also stole some of her pickled Shiitake mushrooms.

My burger was great but we both agreed that hers probably shaded our mini-contest. And we are hoping that it will feature in the new menu. It is the Smoked Shin of Beef Burger: 6oz Patty, black garlic aioli from their friends at West Cork Garlic (great the way they support local producers), smoked chilli jam, sun dried tomato and those pickled shiitake mushrooms. Cheese too of course. This one scored big, well worth its place in the Premier League!

There is a interesting strand in the backstory here. When Henry was a young fellow (he’s not really that old yet!) and travelling with his father they often stopped here in this premises in 6 Washington Street - for a meal. It was then known as the Delphi Palace and the new operators acknowledged that with another of their Festival Five, the Delphi Palace Burger: 6 oz lamb patty, spice rub, black garlic aioli, green chilli, aubergine pickle, rocket and spinach raita.

Also featured was the Chicken Avo Burger - Marinated chicken breast, avocado, tomato, bacon & fig jam, sun dried tomato pesto, cos lettuce & garlic mayo. Back to the east for the fifth burger, the Pork Banh Mi: 6 ounce patty, Vietnamese dipping sauce, carrot and Daikon pickle, cucumber pickle, pickled chillis, coriander, mayo.

Quite a line-up!

* Pics by the West Cork Burger Company.

Sunday, January 28, 2018

Jimmy. Danny. Tony. Ninety Years Of Sweets ‘Neath Shandon’s Tower

Jimmy. Danny. Tony.
Ninety Years Of Sweets

‘Neath Shandon’s Tower
Danny Linehan

World Wars. Financial Crashes. Troubles  Galore. They’ve all come and gone since Jimmy Linehan started making boiled sweets under the famous clocks of Shandon (Cork) in 1928. 

But there were good times too and the family kept going through it all, making those still much sought after sweets in the same building (the upstairs also used for years by Fr O’Flynn and his Cork Shakespearean Society, known as The Loft). So the same building for the sweets; different faces now with Danny (Jimmy’s son) and Tony (Danny’s son) doing the hard work.
Press mould

Tony showed me some of the Shandon Sweets machinery when I visited the other day. Nothing too fancy here, just well-made mechanical machines that seem to go on forever. 

He showed me one of their original press moulds. “That’s a hundred years old at least,” he said. “We have a few of them. It is easier to switch the machine than the insert when we have a different sweet going through.” 

A sheet of the sweet-base goes through and the pressure squeezes it into the moulds. The sheet is still together when it come out the other side but the connection between each is so slight that is quite easy to shake them up and the individual sweets fall out.

And what’s in that base? Just sugar, glucose and water. It is heated in the large cylinder to 300 degrees and that reduces it down to “a molten sugar”. Check here for a video of Tony pouring it on to the work table. 
Tony and the Batch Roller

Some hard work on the table follows, about 40-45 minutes of pulling and rolling and then you have a product ready for the press-mould. 

Or maybe for the Batch Roller, a bigger machine. A large “ball” of clove sweet, for example, is put in and the machine squeezes it down to “ropes” from which they cut either the clove sweets that come in your little bag or maybe a Cork Rock. This machine is of a more recent vintage, fifties or sixties. See it in action here.  

Indeed, there is little enough modern machinery here. The muscles are relied on as most sweets are hand-made. But they do have one luxury, an electronic packing machine. “This can do the work of two,” enthused Tony. “And was very handy in the run-up to Christmas.” Then the Clove Rocks, Mixtures, Acid Drops, Apple Drops, Pear Drops, Lemon Rock, Butter Nuggets, Rhubarb & Custard, and more, were flying out the door.

The colours you see are all natural powdered food colour while the flavours come from natural oils. Tony told me that the multi-coloured sweets, the clove and the Bull’s Eyes for example, take a bit more work.
Hot Stuff

Boiled sweets are their mainstay and there’s been little or no change over the decades. “They are all natural, no preservatives, no additives, all Gluten Free.” He is often asked for sugar free sweets and did try them at one stage. They tasted quite well but the demand wasn't enough and the line wasn't continued.

I hadn't thought about it but sweets are seasonal. Tony pointed out that Cough Drops and Manuka Honey Lozenges are popular in winter while summer favourites are strawberry and pear drops and mixtures.

Then he told me that they make their own marshmallow here. And then I remembered it. It comes in its own cone, much like an ice-cream cone. And they also do fudge and toffee.


And where do they sell all these goodies? All around the country, from Cork to Donegal, both retail and wholesale. And there is also a great demand, maybe not in January but for the rest of the year, for sweets at the factory door. “When the weather picks up you could be kept going all day with it,” said Tony whose niece is called into action for that period.


By now, Tony and Danny were getting down to business. So I said goodbye and headed down John Redmond Street sucking a newly finished apple drop and wishing and hoping that the Linehans will still be going strong, still making those traditional sweets in 2028!

For more info (and pics) check their Facebook Page and the website below.



37A John Redmond Street
Shandon, Cork.
Tel: 021-4507791

Friday, January 26, 2018

Amuse Bouche


The tablecloth shows alternating concave and convex folds..… Two little serving platters have eels garnished with fruit slices. They have no obvious religious or iconographic meaning; however, river eels were popular in Italy at the time, and we know that Leonardo, although usually a vegetarian, put “eels and apricots” on at least one of his shopping lists.

All told, The Last Supper is a mix of scientific perspective and theatrical license, of intellect and fantasy, worthy of Leonardo.


from Leonardo Da Vinci by Walter Isaacson (2017). Recommended.

Thursday, January 25, 2018

Dynamic Duo At Dockland Cork

Dynamic Duo At Dockland Cork
Lamb

Dynamic duo Harold Lynch and Beth Haughton are behind the new Dockland Restaurant on the very same site where their popular Club Brasserie stood up to a few short months ago. A hectic two month conversion process (= flat-out hard work!) saw a new, brighter, deli cum restaurant emerge to cater to the new lighter and healthier eating trend that has begun to emerge in recent years.

The welcome is as warm as ever. And don't worry! Lots of small bites but If you want your full dinner here, you’ll be in for a treat. Take your time as you make your way through the delicious starters, the array of main courses and the tempting desserts. 

We had missed out on the experience before Christmas but made it Lapps Quay the other night. And, yes, we were there for the dinner! Settled in and studied the menu, starting with the Bites to Bigger Bites. Something here to suit every pocket and taste, from a Bowl of Marinated Olives (3.00), to Baked Ardsallagh Goats Cheese, red peppers, chilli flakes dip, on toasted Arbutus Bread (5.00) to Baked King Prawns, garlic, chillies, olive oil, Arbutus sourdough (13.00).

My pick was the Ballyhoura Mushrooms crostini, cream, tarragon, parmesan truffle oil (5.00). Just love the texture and flavour of this little marvel. And CL’s starter was another gem: Roasted Aubergine, Toonsbridge Mozzarella, tomato fondue, parmesan and pesto (5.00).
Aubergine

There have a list of Pizzas as well but we concentrated on the Main Plates of which there was quite a choice. Mine was the Grilled Sumac Spiced Lamb steak (with tomato, herb cucumber salad, chargrilled vegetable couscous, spiced yogurt, and toasted almonds). What a lovely dish, a perfect balance of flavours and spice, tender and delicious, all for €18.00. 

CL considered the Fish of the Day but in the end went for the regular Baked Hake (22.00). The hake came with gremolata, parmesan crust, piperade, tomatoes, black olives , cream and basil. Lots going on there but the meticulous cooking of Harold Lynch and crew in the kitchen means every little detail was spot on, as was the case with the lamb, and the whole dish was a flavoursome treat.
Something Sweet was the next heading to be considered. CL picked the Yogurt, poached vanilla mint berries, muesli, honey, pumpkin seeds (6.30). This is a new addition to their morning, brunch, lunch and evening menu and perfectly described as “a little sweet healthiness”, which it certainly was. Mine was a little more indulgent but I enjoyed every little bit of the Rolled Meringue, lime vanilla cream, poached plums and toasted almonds (6.30).
Hake

The lunch menu is even more extensive and at all times you may spend as much or as little as you with. Drop in for a pair of the small bites and a glass of wine. Maybe just a pizza. If you don’t have time to linger, then join the queue at the Deli counter for take-out. By the way, even though there are 90 seats in the restaurant, you are advised to book, particularly at the weekend. 
Plum

Front-of-House is led, as was the case with Brasserie, by Beth. She and her crew make you feel welcome from the opening smile and they are efficient also. The bar is now part of the main restaurant and you may enjoy a favourite drink before you start, a gin and tonic perhaps, maybe a Negroni? Cheers.
“a little sweet healthiness”
Dockland
City Quarter
Lapps Quay
Cork
T: 353 (0)21 427 3987