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One 120 Top Artisan Products in the Bakestone Pantry.
No Wonder Neil is over the Moon.
Shannen and Neil
Neil is excited when he starts telling me about the new Pantry at Bakestone in the Botanic Home and Garden Centre at the Fota Retail Park near Carrigtwohill in East Cork. And with good reasons: one hundred and twenty of them. Yes 120 top quality artisan products are stocked here, displayed ever so neatly by Neil (who started this new facility here about two months ago) and by Shannen.
The come from everywhere on the island: butter from Abernethys in County Down, mushroom products from Ballyhoura on the Cork-Limerick border, fresh strawberries from Bushy's in West Cork, cheese from nearby Ballinrostig, jams from Donegal, Blackcastle drinks from County Wicklow, patés and more from On the Pig's Back in Cork City, and so much more.
And then he points to Bakestone’s own products. We’ve all known for quite some time that the Bakestone kitchen can come up with the goods in the café but now that expertise is being packaged and displayed in the Pantry. “Like any any pantry worth its name, we have jams and marmalades. All made over there in the kitchen.”
And then he shows me their own 12 hour slow-roasted Tomato ketchup and the Sriracha Sauce developed just in time for the BBQ season. And there’s also a coffee rub, which creates a delicious crust on the meat and locks in the juices. That coffee based rub is so new it hasn't got a label yet. And those labels are well designed by Coolgrey, as are all the labels here.
Neil has been busy sourcing local products and while local means Irish (he has Filligan’s jams from Donegal) he also has products from very close to their Cobh Cross/Carrigtwohill base. Take the honey for instance. “That’s Youghal honey,” Neil proudly tells me. “Robert Anthony is doing great work there on behalf of the native black bees.”
And also from Youghal comes the HOLO Kombucha, proudly organic and certified by IOFGA, the drink is the brainchild of Youghalbrewers and twin brothers Padraig & Adrian Hyde whose Munster Brewery in the town is already well-known.
The Kombucha and Kefirs displayed in the Pantry are an effort to steer people away from the big-name sugar loaded soft drinks. No added sugar, for instance, in the bottles from Dublin’s King of Kefirs, including a couple of interesting combinations: lemongrass and ginger, cucumber, mint and thyme!
But don’t worry, Neil has some alcoholic drinks here also, almost all recent entrants to the market, including Móinéir Irish Fruit Wines from Wicklow, Mead from Kinsale, and those innovative drinks from nearby Killahora Orchards.
Chocolate from Carrigaline by O'Conaill
There is also has a sweet and dessert section, everything from the delicious Wilkies chocolate to the traditional hard boiled sweets by Shandon Sweets in the heart of the city. And biscuits also, including those classy ones from Lismore Food Company, delicious and beautifully packaged and ideal as gifts. I just noticed that one of the varieties is now available in a Gluten Free version.
Coffee is a big deal here. Not surprisingly, since Neil has worked with Badger and Dodo. He is chuffed that one famous Irish-Australian loves the Pantry coffee and always pops in here for a cuppa and a discussion whenever she is home. Neil and Shannen try to help people with their coffee choices, just a little practical info, nothing too overwhelming. But, if you do wish to take it to a higher level, help is at hand here as they do run Barista Courses.
Biscuits from Lismore
They also serve coffee in the Pantry and that helps take the pressure off the queue in the cafe itself and you’ll probably see that developed a bit further in the coming months. Neil took us over to the café and stood us lunch. An excellent quiche and a couple of salads did the trick and, by the way, the salad leaves come from Derek at the Greenfield Farm a few miles away in Knockraha.
Speaking of a few miles away reminds me to mention that Bakestone have taken over the Café in Fota House for the summer months. I’m a reasonably regular visitor here to the gardens and now I have another excuse to visit.
Wild Irish Foragers
Bakestone will be offering visitors locally sourced produce and the best of each season, and they will be serving produce from the Victorian Working Garden at Fota House. They will be serving a wide variety of fabulous eats every day and promise some exciting food events in the near future.
Quiche for lunch
Fota house themselves have a number of theatrical events lined up for the season including A Midsummer’s Night’s Dream on July 20th. Bakestone will be supplementing these with a series of music events. Tickets for the very first of the “LIVE AT FOTA HOUSE” gigs featuring Martin Hayes and Dennis Cahill with special guests Swedish trio Väsen on Thursday 14th June are on sale now via the Bakestone Facebook page.
So there you are. Thanks to Neil and Shannen and others behind the scenes, there is quite a buzz and a good deal of momentum at Bakestone these days. Be sure to call in to the pantry anytime you’re passing along the N25; take the Cobh exit and you’ll be back on your journey and well fed or well stocked up or both in no time at all.