Showing posts with label Ardsallagh. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Ardsallagh. Show all posts

Thursday, February 9, 2017

El Vino. Top Tapas. And Much More.

El Vino. Top Tapas.
And Much More.
Monkfish & Serrano
It was cold outside but that was soon forgotten as we joined the diners in the packed downstairs section of the El Vino restaurant at the Elysian in Cork last weekend. Mentioned the Elysian there as they also operate an El Vino in Douglas.

Great buzz downstairs. We were offered a table upstairs too but went with the happy noises. Upstairs would soon fill too. We were quickly seated and studying the menus. Lots of tapas here and they also double as starters but you may, of course, stick with tapas for the evening. We may well do that another time but some dishes on the mains section caught our eye.

Piquillo peppers
 Not easy to pick just two from the tapas list but we did manage it. My choice was the Crispy Fried Calamari, Arrocina Bean Stew, Chorizo, Squid Ink Emulsion (8.95). Delighted wth it. The squid was cooked to perfection and that bean mix (great texture, slightly nutty flavour) with the little bits of chorizo was a very tasty accompaniment. 

You come across these Roast Piquillo Peppers a lot in the Basque country and they were CL’s pick. Hers were stuffed with Goats Cheese, Chorizo, Bread Crumbs & Herbs, Rocket Salad & Toasted Almonds (7.95). We did share, of course, and it was  another perfect dish. And I'm sure there are quite a few more on that extensive list. Check it out here
Calamari
Time then for the main event, fish for me, chicken for her. Steak, Pork Belly, Hake and salads were also on the menu. CL’s Pan Fried Chicken Breast  was stuffed with Sun-dried Tomatoes, Mozzarella & Basil, and came with Mediterranean Vegetables, Ratatouille, Tomato & Pesto (17.95). The chicken was top drawer, delicious and moist and the Ratatouille was excellent in its own right as well as being a great match for the poultry.

Pan Fried Monkfish Wrapped in Serrano Ham, Crushed Baby Potatoes, Chargrilled Courgettes, Samphire & Romesco (nut and red pepper based) Sauce (25.95) was my pick, quite an epic dish, beautifully cooked (the ham spot on, moist and tender) and so well presented, probably the best dish of its type in a long time.

CL got those Crushed Baby Potatoes as well and we also got an included side dish of vegetables (including broccoli, carrot and sugar snap), again perfectly cooked. If the kitchen takes care of the minor things, then there’s a great chance that the bigger dishes will be good as well and that was certainly the case here.



Chicken & Ratatouille
 All the while we were sipping our white wines, a Pinot Grigio and an Albarino, and having the odd chat with our servers who were, without exception, friendly and efficient, all adding to the experience here.

We were each nearing the limit at this stage but couldn't resist sharing a dessert, the El Vino Baked Alaska (6.50). Glad we did as it provided a sweet end to a lovely evening.

Good too to see they they support local and include Brian St Ledger Fruit & Veg, Tom Durcan, The Chicken Inn, Kay O’Connell Fish, The Real Olive, Clona Dairy and Ardsallagh Cheese, among their suppliers. Very Highly Recommended.  

Baked Alaska

El Vino
The Elysian 
Eglinton Street  
Cork
Telephone: 0214318530

Monday, January 30, 2017

Café Velo. Take Time-out to Slow Down

Café Velo
Take Time-out to Slow Down
Crispy Fish Burger
 I joined the peloton at Café Velo the other day. No musette or bidon needed but lots of food and super service in this large bright feeding station on George’s Quay (Cork), which includes pictures of cycling aces and events as part of the decor. 

Local food heroes such as Jack McCarthy Kanturk, Ballymaloe Relish, and Ardsallagh Cheese, are among those mentioned on the menus. Menus? Well aside from lunch, they also do breakfast and then there’s brunch at the weekend.

You can check out the menus here . But, when in-house, be sure and check out the daily specials board. Service is very good and they’ll more than likely make you aware of the specials in any case.

Soup is on every day at lunch-time. But which one? Just check the board. We did - there was a choice - and both of us settled on the Roast Tomato and Fennel Soup (4.90 a bowl or 2.50 a cup). Very tasty indeed and a good start to the meal.

Broadly speaking, the lunch menu is divided into two categories: various types of sandwiches (and very good they looked too as they passed our table) and another section under “From the kitchen”. The sandwiches generally cost 7.90 or 8.90.

CL picked her dish from The Kitchen: Tandoori roast chicken burger with herb and lemon aioli, red onion, plum tomato, leaves and brioche bun served with Shoestring Fries (10.90). She enjoyed that. Good for the athletes among you; by coincidence, I spotted this on an on-line cycling magazine: If you choose dishes baked in a tandoor and avoid those with sauces, then it can be one of the better meal options.

Not too sure about all the French fries though and I got a big helping of those same chips with my dish. I'd been tempted by the description of the Velo Crispy Fish Sandwich on the board: Crispy Cod with a Brioche Bun, beef tomato, red onion, gem lettuce, homemade tartar sauce and fries (12.90). No shortage of those chips but no shortage of the excellent cod either. The tartar, by the way, was replaced by a tomato sauce.

We had arrived about 12.30pm and by now the place was full, a testament to its popularity. By the way, if you’re in a rush and chasing the pace setters in the office, Velo do take out as well

Café Velo
3 George’s Quay
Cork
Tel: 021 4323044  
Twitter: @velo_cork
Hours:
Mon - Fri: 7:30 am - 5:00 pm 
Saturday: 8:00 am - 4:00 pm 
Sunday: 9:00 am - 4:00 pm

Thursday, November 17, 2016

Veronica Steele. Pioneer in Irish cheese. Focus too on County Cork in new Oxford Companion to cheese.

Veronica Steele. Pioneer in Irish cheese.
Focus too on County Cork in new Oxford Companion to cheese.
A buffalo on Johnny Lynch's farm, near Macroom
Pioneer cheesemaker Veronica Steele is credited with the development of modern Irish artisanal cheese and County Cork cheese in general gets a section to itself in the The Oxford Companion to Cheese, due to be published on December 1st. 


The 1084 page book, edited by Dr Catherine Donnelly, is the first major reference work dedicated to cheese and contains 855 A-Z entries in cheese history, culture, science and production. 

In the early 1970s, Steele and her husband, Norman, a lecturer in philosophy at Trinity College Dublin, decided to leave the city and the academic life in favour of raising a family on a small farm. 

Veronica first experimented to provide an alternative to processed cheese for her family and to preserve the excess milk from their one cow. She eventually evolved a soft and pungent washed rind cheese called Milleens. It was a great success and by 1981 was selling in shops and restaurants throughout Ireland and as far away as London and Paris. 

Steele was also inspired by cheesemaking as a route to viability for a rural area struggling with high unemployment. Today, Veronica and Norman’s son Quinlan carry on the tradition of making Milleens, but the book says that all of Ireland owes Veronica Steele a debt of gratitude for her vision and generosity of spirit. 

The big breakthrough for Milleens came when Declan Ryan and Myrtle Allen tasted her cheese and enthusiastically featured their discovery on the cheese boards of two of Ireland’s most renowned restaurants, Arbutus Lodge and Ballymaloe House.

The West Cork washed-rind cheeses Milleens, Durrus, Gubbeen, and North Cork’s Ardrahan, each has an international reputation, and were all created by remarkable, spirited women, most inspired by Veronica. The flavour of Milleens is reminiscent of Munster (not the local Munster!).

Jeffa Gill started to make her semi-soft, washed-rind Durrus cheese on her hillside farm in Coomkeen on the Sheep’s Head Peninsula in 1979. She too was one of the first generation of Irish farmhouse cheese-makers. Using artisanal methods, Jeffa and her team, gently and slowly craft a cheese that is closely linked to the land and the mild and humid climate.

Gubbeen farmhouse cheese is made from the milk of Tom and Giana Ferguson’s herd of Friesian, Jersey, Simmental, and Kerry cows. One of the distinguishing characteristics of Gubbeen cheese is the unique type of microflora on the rind, which has now been identified and given the name Microbacterium gubbeenense.

Ardrahan, made by Mary Burns near Kanturk in North Cork since 1983, is possibly the feistiest and most pungent of all the washed-rind cheeses of County Cork.

Although the washed-rind cows milk cheeses have the highest profile they are by no means the whole cheese story of County Cork. Other fine cheeses, made from both cows milk and goats milk and now buffalo, round out Cork’s contribution to cheesemaking. 
Coolea

Dick and Helene Willems started making Coolea cheese in 1979 as a way to use up excess raw milk from their own herd of cattle and to provide the Gouda cheese that they were craving from their native Netherlands. Their son Dicky continues to make the superb cheese using milk from two local herds. 

Dicky told me an interesting story on a recent visit. Their cheese was to be called Milleens after the local townland but that was knocked on the head as the Steeles, further west, on the Beara peninsula, and living in a townland of the same name, had just started making a cheese called Milleens. And so the Coolea brand was born.
St Gall, by Fermoy
Frank Shinnick and his German wife, Gudrun, began making raw-milk cheese in 1996 from their own dairy herd outside Fermoy, in North Cork. The cheeses are made in a 396-gallon (1,500-litre) copper vat procured at considerable effort from Switzerland. Fermoy cheeses are part of the Slow Food raw-milk cheese presidium. 

There are many other cheesemakers in the Cork area, such as the O’Farrells in Carrigaline and the Hegartys in Whitechurch, both well established. 

“I love the smoked cheese”, declared Padraig O’Farrell during a visit. “It is indigenous to Carrigaline. The milk is local, and the wood, old beech, is local. And we smoke it out the back.”

Hegarty’s make cheddar and their more mature versions are in great demand. The oldest is indeed the more popular though, according to Dan Hegarty, his bank manager would prefer if the youngest was in top position!



Goats Milk Cheeses 


Jane Murphy

Jane Murphy, a microbiologist by profession, is perhaps the queen of goats milk cheese in County Cork, having started to make cheese on the Ardsallagh farm in 1980. At the other side of the city, Orchard Cottage thrives as does Blue Bells Falls in Newtownshandrum in North Cork.  



In Kilmichael, you’ve got the Sunview goats. Further west, on Cape Clear Island off West Cork, the remarkable blind cheesemaker Ed Harper makes small quantities of cheese from the milk of British Alpine goats that graze on his beautiful rocky farmland.

New Cheesemakers

Franco, cheesemaker at Toons Bridge Dairy, near Macroom
A few years back, neighbours Toby Simmonds and Johnny Lynch imported water buffalo and began making Toons Bridge mozzarella. A “parting” saw Johnny continue to make and sell the cheese, but now under the Macroom label.

There followed a burst of creativity at Toby’s Toons Bridge dairy and a few interesting Italian style cheeses emerged, including Cacio Cavallo (traditionally tied in pairs and transported to market by pack horse). And thanks to an Italian living near by, who has a small herd of sheep, Toons Bridge also began to make Vicenza’s Pecorino.
Cacio Cavallo (mainly) in Toons Bridge
And two new cheesemakers have emerged in East Cork this year. You’ll find the cheddar style cheese from the farm of Bó Rua used in the 12 mile menu at Midleton’s Sage Restaurant and on sale generally. Not too far away, Stephen Bender produces a delicious Gouda style cheese called Ballinrostig.

Looks like there’s no end to what Veronica Steele started!

The Oxford companion, the most comprehensive work on cheese available, has drawn on an astonishing 325 authors (from 35 countries), from cheesemakers and cheese retailers to dairy scientists, microbiologists, historians and anthropologists. 

It is a landmark encyclopaedia, the most wide-ranging, comprehensive, and reliable reference work on cheese available, suitable for both novices and industry insiders alike.

* Cork has a butter museum. Time now for a cheese museum?

See also:
Cashel Blue featured in new Oxford Companion to Cheese




Thursday, July 7, 2016

Beautiful Barnabrow. An East Cork Hideaway

Beautiful Barnabrow
An East Cork Hideaway
We came in off the narrow twisting road and drove up an even narrower lane, where trees meet overhead, donkeys and ducks in the small fields. The sun was shining brightly as we approached the inviting restaurant, set in trees with parasols and tables outside. We could well have been on the continent but were in one of East Cork’s delightful venues.

Barnabrow, twenty years in business under Geraldine Kitt, is renowned as a wedding venue. But we were here for Sunday lunch and, as always, chef Stuart Bowes delivered, much of the produce coming from the nearby walled garden.
Starters
The restaurant is also rather special inside. It is here in in this spacious lovingly decorated room that the wedding feasts take place. With its pointed arch windows there is a semi-religious look to it. And your servers come and go into and from what looks like a confessional.

We nibbled on fresh and delicious sourdough (with Glenilen butter) as we studied the menu, two courses for 23.50, three for 27.00. Children may have half adult portions (though various goujons are available too) for 13.50.
Kilmore Quay Hake, soft potato puree, Fennel, Olive & Citrus salsa, Port reduction.
This was our other main dish. Superb. Empty plate went back!
Creamed celeriac, truffle and toasted almonds were the ingredients of the soup but, with the day being so warm, we decided on something else. CL went for the Clonakilty Black Pudding Salad, Crispy Potatoes Alsace, Feta, Apple and Tomato dressing. Quite a substantial starter but full of great flavor and texture.

I had been looking at the Ardsallagh Goats Cheese with confit red onion and hazelnut dressing but picked the Salmon Rillette, Cream Cheese, garden beetroot, and poppy seed dorito. With contrast provided by the dorito, this was a smooth and rich delight.

Lamp, stuffed pepper on right.
There was beef (with Ragu of Ballyhoura mushrooms) and lamb on the mains. I had enjoyed the beef on  a previous occasion so this time choose the Roast Leg of Kildare Lamb, Stuffed Piquillo pepper, Apple and Garden Mint Relish. A superb combination, every bit playing a part, and, for sharing, the sides (especially the full-of-flavour carrots) were just brilliant, looked well, tasted even better.

We were thinking of sharing a dessert but, under some gentle persuasion, went for broke! The deciding factor here was Mum's shortbread, Stuart’s Mum that is! And that shortbread came with the gorgeous Lemon Posset with crushed raspberries, a major step-up on the little jars you often get. And, yes, Mum’s shortbread was class.
Vegetable side dish
The other dessert enjoyed was the Iced Parfait of sea salt and caramel with marshmallows and strawberry sauce. I had a idea this was going to be excellent and it was. Just the job before we headed off into the East Cork sunlight for a stroll around the grounds which boasts a view out towards Ballycotton Bay and the lighthouse.

With all the different buildings, the various sheltered outdoor nooks and corners, one with a good area of decking with seating, the trees and flowers, the animals, the walled garden, it is a great location for a wedding and this is the heart of the business. There is even an adjoining accommodation “village”.
Dessert
In addition, the house (with is many different sized rooms) and grounds accommodates quite a few corporate functions, some serious, some fun. And do watch out too for special events, such as a Valentine’s weekend getaway.

Well done to Geraldine and her team on the twenty years and here’s to another twenty!
I confess, I ate well
Barnabrow House
Cloyne, Midleton
County Cork
Tel: +353 21 4652534
Twitter: @barnabrowhouse

Monday, July 4, 2016

The Café At Stephen Pearce Pottery.

The Café At Stephen Pearce Pottery
At The End Of The Lane
I was sitting in the Cafe at Stephen Pearce Pottery when I heard them. I looked up at the sloping ceiling, up beyond the many paintings of fruits and vegetables, expecting to see a swallow or two. But, no. The bird sounds were coming from the room next door, from a couple of lovebirds.


There were other happy sounds from that quarter too, from children playing with a lump of clay on a worktop with a wall in front decorated with the prints of lots of little hands. So here the kids are engaged while mum and dad enjoy the food and drink next door.


And if the weather is fine, you will hear the birds and other little creatures as you sit and dine in one of the two quite attractive outdoor areas, each surrounded by wind-stopping trees and bushes.

But all these desirable extras aside, it is the food you come from. Chef Christine Crowley won't let you down, whether you've come for brunch or lunch or just a cup of the Golden Bean coffee and one of her delicious cakes. Actually, if you're going to confine yourself to just one cake, make it the absolutely delicious Carrot and Walnut. Then again…..
We were there for lunch recently, arriving just as they changed the boards. That gave us a chance to see the Brunch Menu and that too is very tempting. Lots of drinks here too, teas and coffees, waters and juices. And a short wine list that includes Cremant d’Alsace to add a little sparkle to your visit.

I had heard good mention of the Steak Sandwich (€10.00) so I picked that. It was one of the best of its type I’ve come across. The ingredients are simply stated: sourdough, steak, caramelised onions, garlic mayonnaise and dressed leaves. Simply delicious, as someone famous down Shanagarry way would say!
Virtually everything on your plate is local. The sourdough is by Pana, the steak from Frank Murphy Butchers. Other names on the list include fish smoker Bill Casey (a next door neighbour), The Village Green Grocer in Castlemartyr, Rosscarbery Recipes, Jack McCarthy Kanturk, Ardsallagh Goats Cheese, East Ferry Farm, Darren’s Eggs Ballymaloe, Wilkie’s Organic Hot Chocolate and Golden Bean Coffee.

CL’s pick was the Bruschetta with roasted red peppers, hummus, grilled gourgette, served with dressed leaves. This eye-catching palate-pleasing plateful cost just €8.50. Excellent eating, excellent value.

Then it was time for coffee and that Carrot and Walnut cake! If a whole flock of swallows had flown in at that moment, I wouldn’t have heard them, such was my concentration on that superb wedge of moist sweetness in the lovely café at the end of a Shanagarry boreen.
The Café at Stephen Pearce Pottery
Shanagarry
County Cork
Tel: 086 199 6934
Email: thecafeatspp@gmail.com
Twitter: Twitter @TheCafe_SPP

Thursday, June 30, 2016

Samphire by Ballycotton Bay. Of Tropics and Turnips

Samphire by Ballycotton Bay
Of Tropics and Turnips
Tropics for two
Let’s start at the end. Because the end of the superb meal in Samphire, the new restaurant in Garryvoe Hotel, was rather spectacular.

That sweet ending was called Tropics for Two. We shared: Pineapple with white chocolate mousse, coconut, lime and coriander jelly, and passionfruit (16.00 for two). The flesh is removed and cut into in cubes which are then presented on skewers; the shell is then filled with the mousse and topped with the jelly. The coconut is the base for the little “biscuits” that are scattered around. What a delicious combination, meant to be shared!
Scallops
And what of the humble turnip? These rarely appear on Irish menus but the side dish, Confit New Season Turnip, was a delight and this commonly overlooked vegetable, herbed and oiled, emerged as a serious rival to the ubiquitous Butternut Squash. The side dishes are listed on the menu; you get one included with your mains and the others will cost you three euro each.

The food is not the only spectacular element at Samphire. There is a stunning view out over the bay. From my table, I could see the island by Ballycotton, the lighthouse and that path up to the lighthouse. It is also a very comfortable place with a lovely bar in the round taking up about a third of the floor.
Goats cheese
And at this bar, they mix some serious cocktails. One of ours was the Dirty Martini with Dingle gin as the main base. Gins too are featured, some local, some not local. Buy local is my motto and so I went for the Blackwater No. 5 and the tonic was Fever Tree (they haven’t got Poacher’s, yet). Enjoyed that!

You may start with something from their nibbles menu, perhaps Spicy Chorizo al Vino (3.50) or maybe Local Naked Oysters from the Bay at €1.50 each.
Chicken
There’s a good choice of starters too including my choice: Seared King Scallops, Heirloom Tomato Salad, Samphire, Wasabi and Courgette (9.50). Great flavors, textures, very happy with that. CL went for the local cheese, in a starter called All About the Goat: Ardsallagh Beignet, Thyme and Honey Mousse, Lime, Apple, Tomato and Ben’s Brioche, another delightful combination.

We got a lovely welcome at reception and in the restaurant and the service was nice and friendly with a check every now and then to make sure everything was alright. And it was, all through.
The Cod
The local input continued through the mains. CL picked a beauty: East Ferry Chicken char-grilled with gremolata, peperonata, chilli aioli, tender-stem broccoli (20.00), including a lovely side of cous cous. My turnip came with the Cod from the Pond, served with roasted cauliflower (mini-florets) and a Goan spiced cream (19.00). Both plates went back empty, not a scrap left on either, a vote of confidence!

And then it was time for that gorgeous finalé. Not local but we weren't to be denied a touch of the tropics on a rather coolish summer’s evening. Very Highly Recommended Dish in a Very Highly Recommended Restaurant.
Blackwater G&T and Dingle Gin Dirty Martini

Contact details below
Samphire at Garryvoe Hotel
Ballycotton Bay
County Cork
Open from 6.00pm Wed to Sun.
Phone: 021 4646728
Twitter: @Garryvoehotel

Sunday, March 6, 2016

Munster Wine & Dine At Crawford Gallery Cafe

Munster Wine & Dine At Crawford Gallery Cafe
Splendid Meal In Historic Room
Main course!
Sculpture casts, local history, the hierarchy of goat herds and, above all, good food and wine featured as the members of the rapidly expanding Munster Wine & Dine gathered for their second event of the year in the Crawford Gallery Café.


The café, the city’s old custom house, is a day time café, and only rarely opens by night, only for special occasions. And this was special. Sinéad Doran and her team cooked up a memorable meal, inspired by Margot Henderson, chef patron of London's famous Rochelle Canteen, which bases its menu on seasonally-informed Mediterranean-influenced food. The dishes were served in big platters and that added to the sense of occasion and community.

First though we all met in the sculpture room among Greek and Roman sculpture casts, brought to Cork in 1818 from the Vatican Museum in Rome. It’s a long story and you may read more of it here. After gimlets, canapes and a chat we headed to the café itself where once captains of sailings ships stepped from their vessels berthed in Emmet Place and walked in to this very room to pay their dues.
Canapes and gimlets
The full house then settled down to enjoy the food and the company. First up was Brandade with Sourdough Toast. Then came the main starter: Roast Quail, lentils, Butternut squash and organic leaves. This was beautifully cooked, moist, delicious.

Soon large platters of roasted lamb appeared, plates of green beans and shallots, and salad leaves. The lamb leg had been slow roasted and served with cracked wheat. No shortage here as we helped one another fill plate after plate. Again it was perfectly cooked and I and everyone else nearby enjoyed it.

And, then at the end, came Lemon Posset (heard lots of compliments for this), chocolate pots (big and rich) and lovely shortbread. Great stuff and a great evening.
Quail (left) and Lamb (top right) with desserts
And we had some excellent wines too. The favourite around our corner came all the way from Morocco. This was the Volubilia, Domaine de la Zouina 2011. The chateau is owned by two winemakers from Bordeaux and this wine is a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon with Syrah, Mourvedre and Tempranillo. Also available were La Boussole Pinot Noir Pays d’Oc, Martinsancho Verdejo, and Framingham Sauvignon Blanc (organic) from Marlborough.

Ardsallagh’s Jane Murphy was with us and she gave us a grassroots reminder on where the food on our plates comes from.  She said that this is a great time (of the year) to buy goats cheese and milk but she was mainly talking about the kidding. The arrival of the new kids upsets the normal hierarchy among the goats and envy breaks out. “It can be serious. If you’re a new mum with a good looking kid, watch out. The others will want him or her!”

There can be sadness also as “we lose some too”. But mostly it is positive. She spoke of the approach of the more mature mothers against that of the novices. And mentioned one veteran who dropped the lot, “like a boil in the bag baby”, and bolted to the other side of the shed. Jane thought it was magical but was so mesmerised she was slow to react but then quickly opened “the bag” to release the kid and all went smoothly after that.
Jane Murphy (left). Colm McCan welcomes guests
Then she spoke of two novice mothers, each two years old and great friends. “Besties,” suggested a nearby listener. And they went on to prove just that. Jane was watching as they each dropped a kid and then Jane was distracted by something at the other side of the shed. When she came back, she found the two new mothers with five kids between them. Jane didn't know which mother owned which kid and, as far as she knew, neither did the two mothers. But it all worked out well. The two “besties” cooperated in raising the five kids and they all lived happily (I'd better not say ever after as there may have been a little puck or two among the five!).


“It is a labour of love for me,” said Jane as she reminded us to be sure and try the milk and cheese now and for the next five weeks or so. “It won't be bad after that either!” she emphasised, “but is creme de la creme now”.

So, after that, we are all looking forward to the next event. Details are close to being confirmed but it is likely to be a mid April evening visit to the Golden Bean Coffee roastery in Ballymaloe.

Crawford Gallery Café
Emmet Place, Cork
(021) 427 4415