Wednesday, June 20, 2018

Two From Fleurie. Beaujolais Gems From the Granite.


Two From Fleurie
Beaujolais Gems From the Granite
Granite from Beaujolais
Fleurie, like all ten crus, is in the north east of the Beaujolais region. Here the Gamay grape, thrives on the granite soil, the wines always refreshing and never short of acidity. Fleurie, with delicious cherry scents, flavours of red berries, is an elegant and excellent partner for a wide variety of lighter dishes.

Did you know that the Gamay grape is an exile in Beaujolais? In 1395, it was outlawed by Royal decree as being “a very bad and disloyal plant”. Sixty years later another edict was issued against it. And so it was pushed out of Burgundy and south into neighbouring Beaujolais where it has thrived on the granite based soils.

In Beaujolais generally, there is a continuity of quality, almost a guarantee of it, if you move up a step or two to the ten crus and the Villages that ring them.

In 2016, May and June, it wasn't at all pleasant in Beaujolais. In the area where the crus are situated, the hail came with a vengeance and, according to Decanter, Beaujolais authorities reported some plots in the appellations of Chiroubles and Fleurie were completely destroyed. But that fickle spring was followed by a splendid summer and a friendly autumn and the result, with less fruit, was a very fine vintage indeed.

By the way, the ten crus that produce the flagship wines are: Chiroubles, Saint Amour, Fleurie, Régnié, Brouilly, Cote de Brouilly, Juliénas, Chénas, Morgon and Moulin-à-Vent.

Dominique Morel Fleurie (AP) 2016, 12.5%, €23.99 JJ O’Driscoll, Cork; Wine Online


Dominique Morel has set himself a target: “I make wines that I like to drink, with lots of fruit, good colour and a rounded mouthfeel". And this light ruby coloured wine, with delicate cherry aromas, also floral notes, is silky with superb fruit, just as M. Morel would have wanted. Silky and with terrific concentration and lovely velvety tannins. Very Highly Recommended.

Bastion De L’Oratoire Chanson Fleurie (AC) 2014, 13%, €14.95 in sale (was 18.95) O’Brien’s

Colour of this beauty is a bright mid-ruby. Abundant aromas of cherries and spice. Juicy in the mouth; no shortage of red berries (strawberries, raspberries) and sweet cherry in delicious combination, smooth and well balanced, refreshing too with excellent length. Impeccable and Very Highly Recommended. It is, of course, 100% Gamay and no oak has been used by Chanson who are both négociants and winemakers.


Tuesday, June 19, 2018

Taste of the Week. Ballyhoura Mushrooms Risotto Mix

Taste of the Week
Ballyhoura Mushrooms Risotto Mix

Not all of you are lucky enough to be in a position to get your hands on Ballyhoura mushrooms at Farmers Markets (we got ours at Mahon). But did you know that they have quite a few mushroom products available to buy at various good food stores, including the new pantry in Bakestone at Cobh Cross? 

Products include Cep Oil, Mushroom Vinegar, Mushroom Ketchup, Mushroom Soup Mix, even a Mushroom Unami Powder, and also this Risotto Mix, our Taste of the Week. Indeed, you can also purchase online.

The mix provides earthy woodland notes and intense mushroom flavour and is perfect for making a dish for two people. You’ll find the recipe on their site here. Well worth a try!

Our pic looks a bit on the dark side  and the reason is that we used black garlic cloves.


Dream Comes True for Athula. New Production Facility Opened


Dream Comes True for Athula
New Production Facility Opened 
Happy Day!


A dream came through for Athula Kuruppu Achchige in Carrigaline yesterday when his state of the art production facility was officially opened in the local industrial estate. His immediate family from Cork and Sri Lanka, along with many friends, were present on this happy occasion for a man who has worked hard on his long journey to Cork.

A 26 year long civil war in his own country in 1983; that and growing family responsibilities forced him abroad to look for work as a chef. He couldn't be choosy and went where the agents sent him and that included Iraq (where he was head chef at an American base) and then Bahrein airport’s VIP Lounge (where he cooked for local and world leaders passing through).
County Mayor Declan Hurley (left) and local TD Michael McGrath open Athula's spanking new unit in Carrigaline.

Eventually, in 2005, he headed for Ireland and a job in the Hayfield Manor. In 2012, he opened his own restaurant Rooster Pil Pil in Ballincollig. But what he really wanted to do was to produce his own sauces and, with help from the local enterprise office, that became a really in recent years.

He was advised to go to the farmers markets and see if his products would sell. They did and he got an opportunity to find his feet in the new Cork County Council Incubator Kitchens (also in Carrigaline). He has proved himself there and now, again with local authority help and a large investment of his own, has a wonderful state of the art stream-lined production facility.
Great to congratulate Athula on his big day!

His first products, a range of Peri Peri Sauces (from mild to hot), went down well. And now he is also producing a few curry sauces including Jalfrezi, Tikka Masala and Korma. The products are available in 35 SuperValu stores, over 30 independents and now just coming onto the shelves in Aldi. And soon he’ll be selling spices and high quality Ceylon teas from his homeland.

Athula Fusion Foods
Unit 11, Carrigaline Industrial Estate
Kilnageary Road
Carrigaline
Co. Cork

Call 087 136 7525



Monday, June 18, 2018

24 Hours on a Midlands Loop. Heritage Hotel - Mikey Ryan’s - DEW - Birr Castle - National Stud-Japanese Gardens


24 Hours on a Midlands Loop
Heritage Hotel - Mikey Ryan’s - DEW
Birr Castle - National Stud-Japanese Gardens
Small waterfall in Birr castle grounds

 With the improvements in Ireland’s roads, one can pack a lot into twenty four hours as our recent run illustrates, from Cashel to Birr to Tullamore to Laois and then a grand finalé in Kildare.
Here's looking at you. Birr's Giant Telescope


When you’re on tour, even one as short as this, you need a good base. We had an excellent one in the Heritage Hotel in Killenard on Co. Laois, just a couple of minutes from the motorway, ideally situated for all our visits.
In the lobby of the Heritage

There is an amazing 4-storey staircase (left) here, based, we’re told, on that of the Titanic and exceedingly popular for wedding photos. Indeed, there are very expensive special overhead lights installed to help achieve the best shot.

The lobby and that staircase are indeed spectacular and the whole enterprise speaks of space and comfort. There is a magnificent high-ceilinged dining room, the Arlington, and the food is top class. You may also dine in the Slieve Bloom Bar. No craft beer here but they do have plenty of gins including a few local ones, Brennan’s and the more impressive Mór.

Breakfast is also taken in the Arlington and again it is impeccable. There is even a generous display of breads and cereals for coeliacs. Staff are very friendly throughout and even volunteered directions as we headed off in the morning.

Had been tipped off about Mikey Ryan’s, the relatively new Gastro-pub in Cashel, and that was our first call on the way from Cork. Very impressed and enjoyed a lovely lunch there.

An hour or so later and we were in Birr, heading for the castle and grounds. It has no dedicated parking so you park across the way and, by the way, you pay seven days out of seven.

There is a separate tour of the castle, but only in the mornings. The grounds are well kept but I love how the meadows are allowed grow, especially the wildflowers. You’ll have no problems finding your way around.


The arches

One of the highlights for us was undoubtedly The Great Telescope, built by the 3rd Earl of Rosse in 1845 and, for over 70 years, the biggest in the world. It is still an amazing sight, still impressive.


Natural light

Wisteria 100 years+
The Spring Wildflower Meadows have not been ploughed since at least 1620 and look out also for a couple of ancient oaks, The Carroll and the Meridian (both about 500 years old).

Make your way to the formal gardens and the amazing hornbeam arches, in the form of cloisters, with “windows” cut out of the hedges. And another highlight is the Wisteria, over 100 years old. It flowers impressively in May-June so we timed our visit well! Close by is the Moon Gate celebrating the family’s links with China.

Lots more to see here; no shortage of facilities either, including a café.

Back to the car then and the flat drive to Tullamore for a tour and tasting at the DE Williams refurbished bonded warehouse (they have a new distillery on the outskirts of the town). No parking though at the warehouse - you’ll have to take pot luck in the area. We found the tour efficient rather than engaging before trying three of the whiskies at the end: the original, the 12 year old reserve, and the 15 year old Trilogy (my favourite). More on our DEW visit here.

Our final destination was the National Stud and the Japanese Gardens, two names but one place, one ticket. One outstanding visit, check out our excellent experience here. After a lot of walking and listening, we enjoyed lunch in the lovely airy café onsite before hitting the motorway and heading home.
Japanese Gardens
See also, from this visit:
National Stud and Japanese Gardens
More Photos of Visit to National Stud and Japanese Gardens
Mikey Ryan's Cashel

Clonakilty Street Carnival. The more we pull together, the further we will go.

Clonakilty Street Carnival. The more we pull together, the further we will go.
Volunteers

I spotted a demi-sphere in a Clonakilty back-garden last Saturday. It was made of old bicycle wheels. Inside there were a few hens and outside it supported some thriving peas. It struck me later that this kind of inventiveness, this ability to think outside the box and to cherish those who do so, is part of the town’s success. 
Chris O'Sullivan introduces Mayor Gretta O'Donovan

The motto at Richy’s Restaurant, now celebrating 16 years in the town - Think Global, Eat Local - is another example, another spur to raise the bar. Richy is full of enthusiasm. He doesn’t see barriers, he says. Richy doesn’t hum and haw. “If you want me to cook a meal on top of Carrigfadda Hill, I’ll do it.” 
Work to be done!

And they do support local here as was underlined the following morning when we sat down to breakfast at Glendine, a lovely B&B run by Mick (Clonmel) and Mari (Youghal) Hanly, both members of the brass band, and involved in the carnival and the town. Local all the way on the plate here.
Getting there

Clon, as it is popularly known, has a string of awards to its credit, including Tidy Town and Entente Florale. It is designated an Irish Heritage town. It is the first official Fair Trade Town in Ireland and, more recently, was named European Town of the Year in 2017, that after a major refurbishment of the main street, the very street in which they hosted, for the third time, an amazing street carnival, the highlight of which was the feeding of about 2,000 people last Saturday. Population of the town is about 4,500.

We got down there early-ish on Saturday morning. Three massive rows of tables were laid out. But they were bare. Not for long though. Soon the organised volunteers appeared. The tables were covered and then pots of wild flowers began to appear. At the entrance to the street, the providers, local restaurants and hotels, were setting up in the covered area.

In Clon, there is something for everyone: “Social Together” was the theme for the 2018 festival and that of course meant kids, lots of them. And they had their own long table. And much more besides. 

All day long, amidst the colourful ribbons, bubbles and bunting, there was live music, a kids’ zone with supervised bouncy castles, pottery classes, penalty-shootouts, face-painting, magicians, bubbles and popcorn machines, as well as giant games, ping pong, and crazy golf, and an enclosed area for the real smallies. Street performers, with games and costumes, helped the kids enjoy themselves.

Gradually the momentum began to build as the weather held good and the locals and visitors began to arrive in force to enjoy the free entertainment and to make the  theme of “Social Together” a lively fun-filled reality. The more we pull together, the further we will go.

And there was music, lots of it, off all kinds, from jazz to pop groups to their own magnificent Clonakilty Brass Band (founded in 1900). Some played in the Astna Square area near the kids zone while others took to the big stage at the other end of the street. And there were others trying their luck, even a teenage quartet belting out Beatle numbers on a side street.

While music in Clonakilty, like life in the town, has many strands, the town credits Noel Redding’s impact on his adopted home as “monumental”. In 1972, Noel, the original bass played with Jimmy Hendrix, moved to Clon and stayed there for the next 27 years. His legacy continues in the venues he performed at, the festivals he helped to inspire and the abundance of musical talent he fostered and attracted to the locality.

Of course, the main focus in the afternoon would be back at those tables. As three o’clock approached, we joined the queue, a long one but very good humoured. Soon, we were making choices, so many as you can see on the photo of the menu, everything from Quality Hotel’s Falafel and trimmings to Lettercollum’s Paella, from Celtic Ross’s Bacon and Cabbage croquette (very good reports on that one) to Hart’s Cafe’s veggie curry. I enjoyed the Asian style Seafood Noodle salad by Scannell’s while CL’s choice was the Nasi Goren by Richy’s. 

But there was something for everyone. Oh yes and there was dessert also, big pots of stunning fruit yogurt by Irish Yogurts. And a drink? Of course. Plenty of water, wine and a special beer for the day (a good one too!) by the local brewery. All for fifteen euro! The kids meals, by the way, cost seven. 
The queue!
Looking for a seat!

And once we had our meal in hand, the next question was where to sit? But no problem. As we left the serving area, we were met by one of the fantastic volunteers. She had a tray, put our food on it and guided us, chatting and laughing, to seats that we, left to our devices, might have found difficult to spot. So we ate and the music played and the sun shone! Great stuff.

So well done to the committee and the volunteers, people who also had their businesses and shops to run on the day. I met some of them including Kevin O’Regan, Mick Hanley, Michelle Mitton, Trish Kerr, Tim Coffey, Andrew Loane, Chris O’Sullivan, Robert O’Keeffe and Richy Virahsawmy.
from Scannell's

If Chris was everywhere music was happening, Richy was everywhere there was food! And he was a happy man as the rush wound down. “Would you find this anywhere else in Ireland?”, he asked. So big congrats to Richy and all his colleagues behind the scenes for another fantastic day in Clonakilty.

Sponsors too play a major role here and the list is as long as Mick Hanley’s arms (both of them!). This year the Street Carnival committee were delighted to welcome Irish Yogurts as a platinum sponsor. Irish Yogurts is a family run business and was founded in Clonakilty in 1994 by Diarmuid O’Sullivan.

Kevin O’Regan, Clonakilty Carnival Committee: “This is a community effort driven by commitment, enthusiasm and great energy.” Craic, ceol, bia, comharsanna, cuairteoirí = an meitheal is mó ar domhan. See you next year in Clon!




Sunday, June 17, 2018

Seamus Goes Solo at Rum Bar And Kitchen

Seamus Goes Solo at Rum Bar And Kitchen
A yummy rummy dessert!

Quite a menu at the Rum Bar and Kitchen in Marlboro Street. A few nibbles, a long list of small plates (you may order one or two in bigger sizes), some excellent large plates, and also a few tempting desserts! Took us a while to make up our minds but many of the dishes are shareable - indeed they have some large platters, mainly charcuterie and cheese, to share -  and that makes choosing that bit easier.

No matter what we ordered we were going to omit some very desirable choices such as that €12.00 Cheese Platter (Cashel Blue, Gubbeen Smoked and Tipperary Brie with apricot chutney, candied walnuts, grapes and crackers).

But we wouldn't be disappointed. Far from it. We started with three, from the small plates. One choice was the Spanish Fries (4.50). The fries, served with chopped olives, grated cheese, aioli and pesto, were a delicious delight, quite a change from the usual Patatas Bravas.

The Crispy beef brisket Bon Bons (four for 7.50) enhanced by a red wine jus were full of flavour, the jus superb. And the hoisin sauce with the home-made duck-leg spring rolls was also top notch and added to another very enjoyable small plate (8.50). 

Other small plates available include: smoked Gubbeen and honey roast ham croquettes, English Market Chicken liver paté, and also their own house chicken wings. See the full menu on their Facebook page below.


So, after those excellent small plates, how would the large plates measure up? They hadn’t been open a week when we called but our mains were top notch too.


The Seafood Fricatta (14.50), a fresh seafood selection in a tomato sauce, was well cooked, neatly presented and at the correct temperature (as were all the dishes), no shortage of fish and slightly spicy.

But our favourite of the two was the Classic Meatballs (14.00). The dish was choc-a-bloc with those meatballs and linguini in a spicy Italian herb tomato sauce with shaved parmesan. A simple classic and simply excellent.

Would we have dessert? Yes please, we’d love the Rum Baba. And we did. The sponge cake was soaked in the rum, came with fresh cream and fruit. It vanished very quickly indeed. By the way, all desserts are a fiver. Very reasonable, as are all the food prices here, considering the quality and the friendly service.

The Rum Bar and Kitchen is Seamus Healy’s new city centre bar serving tasty bites with a fantastic drinks selection and, yes, there are some lovely rums there too. And cocktails of course including classics such as Mojito, Long island, Pino Colada, Daiquiri and Margaritas. But, on an invite from Seamus, we were there for the food (mainly!). 

Seamus has quite a few years of experience in the hospitality sector, mainly in local hotels. He has been encouraged by the comments since their “soft” opening on June 8th. This is the ex soccer player’s first solo venture and we wish the former Albert Rovers man all the best!


Rum Bar & Kitchen
32 Marlboro Street
Cork
Tel: (021) 427 4707
Message: @rumbarandkitchen
Twitter: @RUMbarkitchen 


Friday, June 15, 2018

Amuse Bouche


...in the main street of Long Grass a whole beef had been roasted and a large black butcher was carving it up and handing hefty slabs to cowboys and dignitaries alike. One hundred pheasants from Virginia were fast consumed. Doc Holliday, a stranger to quail’s eggs until that day, liked them so much that he ate forty. A veritable river of drink was imbibed. Food disappeared so quickly that a second beef was roasted, from which Lord Erne himself cooked the sweetbreads.

from The Last Kind Words Saloon by Larry McMurtry.

Thursday, June 14, 2018

Iberian Way. A Generous Bite Of Spain In Cork


Iberian Way.
A Generous Bite Of Spain In Cork 


Made my first visit to Iberian Way in Douglas Street recently, expecting some small one-bite tapas. It didn’t happen. Just wonder why, in Ireland, virtually every tapas provider, either Irish or Spanish, doesn't serve the one-bite tapas you get in Spanish bars, though Feed Your Senses in Washington Street did have a few on the menu last time I called.

Anyway, back to Iberian Way, a restaurant cum deli that is contributing to a new lease of life for the old Cork street. The Tapas here are served on plates or platters or in bowls and are generally meant for sharing (some are designated two units, four units etc). There is a choice of 17 on our menu, including some well-known ones eg. Patatas Bravos, Croquetas, CalaMARi.
Asparagus

We order four, starting with the IBERAGUS: green asparagus in olive oil with slices of ham and grated cheese. A good start with the warm asparagus blending in well, especially with the cheese. Thumps up there.

I like honey and I like Aubergines so I thought I was on a good thing when I ordered Aubergines with honey. The vegetable was deep fried and well drizzled with honey, a bit too sweet for me. Maybe one round would have been enough but we got about five each. Overall, they are pretty generous here!
Aubergine and lots of honey

We passed on the Mini BURGERS, the TACO, and the FLAMENCObergine (they do play a lot with capitals here!) and the BrOkEn EGGS. But we would have eggs with our CoJoNuDaS, toasted slices of bread with black-pudding and quail eggs. Very tasty indeed.

Our final plate yielded six CROQUETAS, creamy and crusty bites of béchamel, three with cheese, three with ham. Deep fried and pretty filling, pretty flavoursome too in fairness. Each of our four dishes cost eight euro, a fair price indeed.
CoJoNuDaS

Would we finish on a sweet note? Yes, we would. There is a short list including a homemade soft cheese with coulis, chocolate brownie with white chocolate soup, and a selection of cured cheeses. 

We picked the Coulant of Turrón, the “chef’s signature”, described as Almond Nougat with hazelnut pralineé and spiced corn ice-cream (€6.00). It came in a huge bowl, packed with delicious flavours and textures’ it was a true delight for the sweet tooth, an outstanding finalé indeed.

By then, our wine has vanished. The wine list, comes in a ring binder, and looks bigger than it actually is. But you do have a good choice of reasonably priced wines and all the information you need to make a choice. 

Quite a few available by the glass (mostly about 6.50). CL enjoyed her Castelo de Medina Verdejo, fresh and persistent (just like her husband!), while my happy pick was the excellent and refreshing Abadía do Seixo Albarino.

Iberian Way
72 Douglas Street
Cork
087 954 6451