Showing posts with label A Taste of Donegal. Show all posts
Showing posts with label A Taste of Donegal. Show all posts

Wednesday, October 5, 2016

Taste of the Week. Aran Islands Goats Cheese

Taste of the Week
Aran Islands Goats Cheese
Gabriel in Donegal
I found this Taste of the Week at A Taste of Donegal where Gabriel (you might know him, as he also does bus tours on Inis Mor, the largest of the islands) had a stand and was handing out samples of his Aran Islands Goats Cheese.

I tasted three in all: the soft cheese, the same soft cheese with Dillisk added, and a Greek Style cheese (not unlike Feta). Each was delicious and I came away with a container of each. These are just some of the range from his herd of Nubian and Saanen goats that graze on the unique pastures of the island.
From Gabriel's gallery

The climate is perfect for the grass and herbs as the island is warmed by the Gulf Stream. The diet of the goats gives the cheese its unique, delicious flavour with a beautiful tang and a gorgeous soft and creamy texture.

Already top chefs from the likes of the Twelve Restaurant in Barna, The Lodge at Ashford, The Ardilaun Hotel Galway, and The Strand Hotel, are using the cheeses. For stockists, check here

Aran Islands Goats Cheese
Aran Islands.
Co. Galway
Tel: (087) 2226776 or (087) 8635327

Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Castle, Crafts and Super Food. A Taste of Donegal Day 2

Castle, Crafts and Super Food
A Taste of Donegal Day 2
Le Fournil

It is late evening in Donegal town, the tide is out and the crows have wheeled away en masse to their night perches. The marquees in the food village are quiet, the stallholders taking a well deserved break. But it's entirely quiet! A few pink shirted ladies, with Mary right there in the middle, are hard at work near the entrance, sweeping up and making sure everything is ready for the Sunday. Volunteers in uncomplaining action. What would A Taste of Donegal do without them? What would Ireland do without them?

Our day started with another visit to the Food Festival to link up with Eve Anne of the Local Enterprise Office. I was giving a hand with judging the best stall and that gave us another chance to do the rounds, sample some more food and drinks, everything from ice-cream to coffee to beer to various bits of meat to cheese, all the time looking for that little bit extra that would put a stand on the shortlist.
Donegal Castle

We did our bit and met up with Eve Anne to compare notes. The decision was announced on the following day (we were in Mayo by then) and the winners were Le Fournil. This is a French bakery in Donegal town run by Franck Pasquier and they had a terrific display of their aromatic and tasty produce.

It was a fine morning and the crowds kept coming, difficult enough to get parking. If you are going next year, do check the website as they have a long list of parking sites and once you have that info, you’ll be fine.

Fireplace detail in Castle

So after “grazing” our way through the stalls for lunch, we walked the short distance to Donegal Castle and paid the small entrance fee. The castle was built in 1474 by Hugh O’Donnell and destroyed in 1595 by Red Hugh O‘Donnell to prevent its seizure by the British. It was rebuilt around 1614 by Sir Basil Brooke.

For most of the 19th and 20th centuries the majority of the buildings were in ruins but it was almost fully restored in the 1990s and was visited last May by The Prince of Wales and The Duchess of Cornwall, during their official visit to County Donegal. It is an interesting small castle with a number of artefacts in position.

Taste temptations

Perhaps the highlight is the large ornate stone chimney piece in the great hall, installed by Brooke and including the coats of arms of his family and that of his wife’s family. The castle is next door to Magee’s, another Donegal icon. Magee’s are best known for their tweeds and you’ll see some great examples here for both men and women. It is a high quality upmarket store with various departments and brands e.g. Newbridge and Kiltrea.

Out on the Diamond, the sun was shining and the music playing as the kids gathered round for their entertainment, all nice and relaxed with parents and grandparents taking it all in. Indeed, we watched and listened for a a good few minutes - the long queue at the ATM was slow-moving!

McGonigle Glass Studio

Cash in hand, it was time to to collect the car and head a mile or two out of town to the Donegal Craft Village and do some purchasing. There are seven craft shops here, including hand-weaving, Paper Craft, Jewellery/Sculpture, artist, hand felted landscapes. One or two were closed.  One that caught my eye were Michael Griffin’s RAW studio (pieces from ancient boxwoods, very impressive pieces).

Another was the McGonigle Glass Art and Jewellry Studio, and not because it is run by three sisters! “We love colour and we hope this shows in our work!”. It certainly does and it was here that we bought a few of the smaller pieces. This village is well worth a visit and another craft village that we like to visit is the one in Spiddal in Connemara.

Village Tavern, Mountcharles

And, like Spiddal, there is a also a coffee shop here in Donegal. It is called Aroma and is quite popular. We enjoyed our coffees here. On going in to pay, a twenty euro note was the smallest I had in the wallet but their machine was acting up and the man said, rather than holding us up, that we could have the coffee for free. Very nice of him, But not fair to him. So I went back out to our seat and searched through bags and pockets and got the five euro and paid up. He was delighted and we were happy too. Smiles are worth more than euros.

On the way back to our lodgings, we called to Mountcharles to have a drink at the Village Tavern. A couple of bottles of local beer, Kinnegar Devil’s Backbone Amber ale and the Ballyshannon based Donegal Brewery's Blonde, a refreshing drink, quenched the thirsts for us.

Room with a view, Ceol na Mara

Did I tell that our accommodation, Ceol na Mara in Summerhill, has lovely views over the bay. We were back there late in the afternoon and took a walk along by the calm water just as the packed Donegal Bay Waterbus was starting its tour. We could hear the commentary on the shore as it gently headed out with a shadowy Ben Bulben in the background.

We were back in town, alongside the castle, for dinner that evening in the Olde Castle. This is a busy spot but we were comfortable upstairs in the restaurant and I enjoyed my lobster before finishing off a pleasant day, a pleasant stay indeed, with a pint of their own Red Hugh Ale, bottled specially for them in Ballyshannon.

It was off to Ballina, County Mayo, the following morning, after another lovely breakfast at Ceol na Mara.
See also: Food Festival and Amazing Cliffs. Donegal Day 1

Donegal Bay Waterbus

Monday, August 29, 2016

Food Festival and Amazing Cliffs. Donegal Day 1

Food Festival and Amazing Cliffs
Donegal Day 1
The cliffs
Early last Friday - well, about 8.00am,- we leave Cork on a five hour spin to Donegal, an uncertain forecast on the horizon. The trip, via Gort and Tuam, goes well and we land in Donegal at 1.00pm, on schedule. Just touchdown though as the weather is pretty good and we decide to continue to Slieve League, the highest cliffs in Ireland and less than an hour west of Donegal.

Soon, we pass the famous fishing town of Killybegs and close in on the cliffs. A cup of coffee and a scone at the Tí Linn Café boosted us as we headed for the cliffs. You come to a car park and, if you can walk at all, leave the car here and enjoy the walk up and down (timed it down at 25 minutes).
Higher & higher. Many walks near the cliffs.
If time is short or the legs aren't what they used to be, open the gate at the end of the car park (it opens down the slope towards you), drive through and close the gate and drive carefully (road is comfortably wide enough) to the viewing point. Plenty of room to park up there.

The viewpoint itself is at quite a height, so much so that you don't really hear the waves crashing in below. The cliffs, part of Slieve League mountain sweeping down into the Atlantic, are, at 609m (1,998 feet), nearly three times as high as those at Moher. They are the highest in Ireland and, according to Wikipedia, among the highest three in Europe. Spectacular.

Painting of wall
of a Killbegs cafe.
 There are many walks in the area. And I was told time and time again that the best way to see the cliffs is by boat and that can arranged locally, as can a local guide for some of the walks.

After the exhilaration of the fantastic cliffs, we drove back to Donegal town, stopping to check out the huge fishing trawlers in Killybegs, the only place we got rained on during our stay but that heavy shower was over in a few minutes.

Checked in then to our gorgeous, if relatively expensive, accommodation at Ceol na Mara in Summerhill, about two miles from the centre of Donegal Town, quite a small town indeed but packed because of its famous annual festival, A Taste of Donegal.

We checked the festival website for parking areas and soon found one to suit us. Then it was off on foot to find our restaurant, The Harbour on Quay Street. It is an excellent restaurant, serving local food and craft beer. Highlight was perhaps their Aubrac Steak. By the way, The Harbour changed hands on Sunday, taken over by current chefs Patrick and Mary. Debbie and Jo, behind The Harbour for the past 15 years, are moving this week, with "the same food and the same crew", to a spanking new restaurant further up the street called Quay West.
Aran Islands Goats Cheese by Gabriel Flaherty is delicious!
 With our early dinner finished, we walked across to the busy Festival site. They had opened at four and, by seven, the place was abuzz, with top chefs demo-ing and crowds sampling the food from dozens and dozens of stalls. Fast food (Bad Boys BBQ were prominent - just follow the smoke!) at the start for those who hadn't been to the Harbour!

Some amazing displays in the stalls, including one from Eddie Walsh, the local butcher who supplies the Aubrac steaks to The Harbour. We enjoyed roasted marshmallows, Aran Island Goats Cheese, Roscommon Chocolate, and much more. Lots to drink too, beers and ciders (including a limited edition from Longmeadow that has been matured in oak barrels).

Flavoursome Aubrac Steak!
And we enjoyed a drop or two of Coole Swan and a chat with Kenny Maguire who had also dropped in and we also had a chat and a laugh with Melanie Harty, up all the way from Kerry with her spicy jellies! Couldn't get near the folks in Ballymaloe Relish, they were so busy.

Another familiar face, up by the demo marquee, (where he would do his stuff on Sunday morning) was chef Zack Gallagher, well known to most of you as the Irish Food Guide on Twitter. He introduced us to Brian McDermott (The No Salt Chef) and Kevin Dundon, all enjoying their busman's holiday.
Bad Boys
 The local hotels were out in force as well with competitions and samples to beat the band. Perhaps the most impressive sample came from the nearby Harvey’s Point, a pancake with a most delicious apple and cinnamon filling.

The darkness, not long fallen, was banished for a while with a spectacular firework display over the tented festival village and the harbour alongside. Time for us then to head back to Ceol na Mara and get ready for the second day of this friendly festival.

See also:

Castle, Crafts and Super Food. A Taste of Donegal Day 2

Eddie Walsh butchers