Showing posts with label Ballymaloe. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Ballymaloe. Show all posts

Monday, December 12, 2016

Brewmaster muses on Beer and Cheese

Brewmaster on Real Beer and Real Food
Garrett Oliver in Oxford Companion to Cheese
Garrett Oliver

“You need real tomatoes to make tomato sauce.” 

Garrett Oliver started a Ballymaloe LitFest talk and beer tasting, with this line. Soon, he would delve into bread and cheese, including fake bread and fake cheese. 

Garrett played a key role as the brewing/culinary pairing concept reached a critical turning point in 2003, according to the newly published Beer FAQ by Jeff Cioletti. That was the year that Garrett's book, The Brewmaster's Table: Discovering the Pleasures of Real Beer with Real Food, saw its first publication. He was also the editor of the Oxford Companion to Beer.

So it no surprise to see the dapper brewmaster at the Brooklyn Brewery listed as one of the 325 contributors to the just published Oxford Companion on Cheese.

Yes, you read correctly. Three hundred and twenty five contributors! A few Irish among them, including Darina Allen (right) and Gianna Ferguson, Timothy P. Guinee (Teagasc), Alan Kelly (UCC), P.L.H McSweeney (UCC) and Colin Sage (UCC). 

But Oliver, tasked with pairing beer with cheese, is in his comfort zone. And, as in Ballymaloe, he first refers to the 20th century industrialisation of food and beverages “into nearly unrecognisable facsimiles of themselves” before craft began to restore “variety, subletly and life”.
Gianna and Fingal
Ferguson of Gubbeen
And so, in speaking of pairing, Garrett is talking craft and artisan. And he outlines the reasons why beer and cheese go so well together and, as always, he doesn't fail to boot wine down the list as a contender! In Ballymaloe, he said champagne comes in a beer bottle, not the other way round!

In quite a hefty contribution, he goes through all the types of beer, from light ales to Imperial Stouts. You’ll have to get the book to see all the possibilities but let's have a look in the middle of the list under the heading Wheat Beers and Saisons.

“Wheat beers..are slightly acidic, fruity, spritzy, and refreshing as well as low in bitterness. In contrast, the Belgian farmhouse saison style tends to add sharper bitterness, often alongside peppery notes. These beers make great matches for tangy fresh goats cheeses, and can be a great way to start off a cheese and beer tasting.”
Brewer's Gold from Ireland's Little Milk Co.
I presume some of you will remember the processed cheeses of our childhood, packaged in single serve portions, often foil-wrapped triangles. Names such as Calvita (the word apparently a mix of calcium and vitamin), Galtee, Whitethorn, come to mind. Well, the book reveals that the first such cheese (1921) was the French Laughing Cow.
In the Basque country - Brebis with black cherry jam.
At home in Ireland, I use loganberry jam.

This book is huge and is very inclusive indeed with no less than 855 entries and claims to be the most comprehensive reference work on cheese available. It is well written, well edited and both the expert and professional will find something of value. But it is not the type of book I’d read from start to finish.

It is one to dip into and that is what I’m doing here, just to give you a flavour. So if you want to look up kashkaval, you’ll find it is a hard cheese from the Balkans. Preveli is a semi-hard Croatian cheese.
Coolea
Want to get technical? Did you know that “stewing” is part of the process? That “stretching” refers to the traditional method of making Mozzarella? That “green cheese” refers not to a cheese that is green in colour but rather to a new, young, as-of-yet unaged, or underripe? That the holes in Gouda or Edam are not called holes but “eyes”?

And it is not just technical. There are many practical entries. Perhaps one that we could all read is under Home Cheese Care. Here you’ll read that the fridge may be bad for your cheese as it can be too cold for some aged styles.

And there are quite a few entries on the history of cheese around the world, including the Americas. Indeed, the book is published in the US. Was it Irish monks that first brought cheesemaking skills to St Gallen in Switzerland? Nowadays, in a possible reverse, you can get a lovely St Gall from the Fermoy Natural Cheese Company.

And how come it is only over the past forty years or so that Irish cheese is on the rise, Irish artisan cheese that is. In the Ireland entry, you read that by the 17th century, many distinctive aspects of Irish life and culture, including the Gaelic Farm economy and the native cheesemaking tradition, had been killed off by decades of oppressive English law. It took us an overly long time to recover!
Mobile Milking in Swiss mountains

Cashel Blue, as far as I can see, is the one Irish cheese to get an entry to itself. Cheeses, most of them famous, from all over the world are highlighted, including from places such as Turkey and Iran. 

Hundreds of cheeses then but here are just a few of the better known ones that you may read about: Camembert, Chabichou, Cheshire, Gorgonzola, Gouda, Gruyere, Jack, Livarot, Mont d’Or, Ossau-iraty, Parmigiana Reggiani, Pecorino, Raclette, Reblochon, Stilton, Tomme, and Wensleydale.

And, by the way, Garret Oliver didn't get the matching field to himself! There is also an entry on wine pairing by Tara Q. Thomas!

The Oxford Companion to Cheese (December 2016), is edited by Catherine Donnelly, published by the Oxford University Press. Price: £40.00.

* The book also lists cheese museums around the world. None in Ireland, yet!


See also:

Veronica Steele. Pioneer in Irish cheese. Focus too on County Cork





Sunday, July 17, 2016

In Praise of East Cork. Food. People. Place. Worth a Visit!

In Praise of East Cork.
Food. People. Place. Worth a Visit!
Peaceful evening 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, with Barryscourt Castle in between, all three free to enter, there is a treasure chest of places to visit in the area.
The Cafe at Stephen Pearce Pottery



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 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.
Bramley Lodge



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.
Fota House and gardens


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 newly renovated 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

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, including the family friendly Granary now celebrating twenty years in business.
Cobh traffic jam!

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.
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 don’t forget Golden Bean coffee roaster Marc Kingston is also based here.

The Cafe at the Stephen Pearse pottery in Shanagarry also serves Golden Bean and is now gaining quite a reputation. And, of course, there is the pottery itself!

Sculpture exhibition on lawn at Ballymaloe House

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.
Cobh's Titanic Bar & Grill. Al Fresco

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.
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.

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.

And before leaving the area, don’t forget to visit Ballynatray House, a Blackwater gem.

Enjoy East Cork, the food, the place and its people!

Ballynatray House, by the Blackwater


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Thursday, April 21, 2016

The Golden Bean. Kingston Making A Mark

The Golden Bean
Kingston Making A Mark
From the opening Cascara to the closing Espresso, the Munster Wine & Dine visit to Marc Kingston’s Golden Bean Coffee roastery in East Cork was an eye-opener.

The Cascara, surprisingly low in caffeine, is made from the dried skins of the cherry of the coffee. Once regarded as waste, the cherry is now used to produce this unique drink, more like a tea than a coffee. But not quite a tea either. More a fruit tissane as suggested here.

Marc, and his assistants Blair and Ciaran, had us up and running and demo followed demo, the highlight being a roasting session on the impressive Giesen machine and then tasting the coffee from that fresh batch!

The machine may be impressive, with a high tech control panel alongside. But high tech or not, it still needs the intervention of a human, a human like Marc, who knows what he’s doing. The coffee picked for roasting was from the Dutra family owned farms in the Matas de Minas area of Brazil.
Blair (left) and Ciaran
It was also the coffee used for our Cold Brew sample. This went down very well indeed and, if you are at the Lit-Fest in Ballymaloe next month and the sun is shining, you may well find it on the coffee menu. Marc’s roastery is in the grounds of Ballymaloe House.

Lots of questions and answers throughout the entertaining evening. All Golden Bean coffees are single estate - he doesn't do blends! - and will be that bit different from year to year. Store your coffee in a cool, dark and dry place.

That gorgeous smell you get when grinding is something of a mixed blessing, as that smell means less flavour in your cup. Many people used electric mills but the blades hammer the beans. Marc reckons the manually operated mill may be best, “good and slow”. And one more tip: don't forget to stir your little cup of Espresso. It will enhance the flavours.
 On mixing other fluids with coffee, Marc is not that keen. “Alcohol kills coffee!” With milk and sugar in it, “it doesn't taste like coffee”. But he did admit to being partial to the odd Espresso Martini!  He did stress that water quality is very important. “We are lucky here in Ballymaloe to have a nice soft water. But in heavy limestone areas, best to use mineral water, a mineral water with a low mineral content.”

Blair guided us through a Colombian tasting, a Finca Camilia from the Santa Barbara Estate owned by the Echeverria family. This company is well known, up there with “the Oscars of the coffee world”. In fact, many of the farmers that Marc buys from are well established and the prices are usually higher than Fair-trade. This was a gem, “peach, toffee, molasses…”

Back to Marc then who told us that your Espresso has “far more antioxidants available” and is processed through your body much quicker, in about 30 minutes. So you can enjoy one after dinner and not be awake late into the night. And, believe it or not, a six month old baby can process Espresso, in proportion, as quickly as an adult!

If using milk, use pasteurised but not homogenised. They use Glenilen (they have a stall near them at the market) and McCarthy’s and, from the bigger names, Clona and Avonmore.


Now the roasting was coming to its climax and Marc, with notes in hand, was taking control as the cracks were heard. Finally, it was done and the now dark beans (they had started off with a light green colour) poured out into the pan before being taken over to our two baristas.

Soon, they were serving us that coffee made from those freshly roasted beans. First up was a filter sample. Excellent! But the class cup was on the way. That Espresso, with gorgeous crema, was my pick of the bunch! A marvellous cup to bring the lovely evening to a close.

So a big thank you to Marc and his assistants for their patience and knowledge and the excellent coffee. The next Wine & Dine event is scheduled for May 27th and will include a visit to Cashel Blue and a farm tour, wine tasting and dinner at Ballinwillin House. Members are requested to keep an eye on emails for updates. If you’d like to join the fun, then send an email to mwdcircle@gmail.com.

Sunday, March 13, 2016

California Wines at Ballymaloe. Variety Under The Sun

California Wines at Ballymaloe
Variety Under The Sun

 No less than eight grape varieties featured as Liam Campbell, in association with Wines of California, presented a very interesting and high quality tasting at the Grainstore in Ballymaloe last Wednesday.


The big “spread” was no accident as Liam deliberately chose to show that the Sunshine State can grow any variety under the sun. “No matter what variety, you can be sure that someone in California is experimenting with it.”
When you think of California, you bring up some lovely images: “Tee-shorts, shorts, flip-flops, beach, laid-back, easy-going. And the producers embrace that friendly attitude and praise one another’s wine.”

He started the whites with Paul Dolan’s 2012 organic Chardonnay from Mendocino. Classic Drinks are the importers and rrp is €26.99. The Dolan family has a Waterford connection. This “is totally dry but fruity with medium acidity”. It is full-bodied, with a persistent finish. Dolan is a leading proponent of biodynamic and organic grape farming, according to Wines of California (2014). This was my favourite of the three whites.


The Benziger 2012 Sauvignon blanc, imported by Febvre (rrp €24.99), “has quite a European accent”, according to Liam. “Great acidity with lemon, lime and apple characteristics, a very versatile food wine”. It certainly went well with the St Tola Ash Goat Cheese.

Benziger, not to be confused with the Beringers, are another vineyard that use natural farming methods and to quote from Wines of California: “The rolling hills of their Glen Ellen estate are home...to..sheep, cattle, and a host of bugs and birds that keep the vineyard in balance."

In between the whites and the reds, Liam spoke about the Morgan Bay 2014 Zinfandel Rose that we had started with as we took our seats in the grainstore. At 10% abv it is a light drink, also a little bit sweet. “But like Blue Nun, it gets people into wine; it is fresh and fruity and a great cheese partner.” Now it was time “to move on to the dark side”.

The reds started with a Pinot Noir, the La Crema (Monterey) 2012, imported by Celtic Whiskey & Wines with an rrp of €31.99. Liam praised it for its high acidity, a great summer wine, versatile and very good with food, not just red meats but may be served cool with poultry, fish and so on. Again, the vineyard is sustainably farmed. 

Wines are produced in four quality levels. We had an excellent example in Ballymaloe but apparently the Point Noir to watch out for is the third tier Russian River Valley 2011 from the Appellation series.

Liam continued his exploration of the many varieties when he next introduced the Barbera 2010 from Montevino (Spanish for mountain wine). “It has  a gentle ruby colour, looks very young for a 2010, plummy aromas now..mouth-watering, gentle tannins, high acidity that cuts the fat in your chorizo!” Sure did. It is imported by Findlaters and rrp is €14.50.

Wouldn't be a Californian tasting without a good red Zinfandel and our example was a Bonterra 2013, with a big abv of 15%, imported by Richmond Market, rrp €18.00. This has a pale-ish ruby colour with black fruits and gentle tannins and was a perfect match with that delicious Mossfield cheese. Bonterra, well known for their Merlot, are the leading producer of organic wines in California.

The Delicato Vineyards are one of the leading family vineyards in the US and produce under a variety of labels including Gnarly Head that you will see in Ireland. We enjoyed their First Press 2010 Cabernet Sauvignon, imported by Cassidy Wines and with an rrp of €26.99 .This is ageing well, “a perfect ruby to the edge” and went down well. Liam’s tip here was to decant!


We finished on a high note with a Syrah, the Tepusquet 2013 from Cambria. You'll find it in O'Brien’s at €24.99. The Tepusquet vineyard has been replanted over the past 20 years. Liam: “The nose is subdued but there is a deep mine of flavour, black fruit characteristics and great acidity. Great with steak… but try it with fried calamari! The temptation is to use it now but it will age well.”

It was quite a tasting with nine wines in all. Thanks to Liam, Justine Adams from Wines of California and to Colm McCan of Ballymaloe. Thanks too to Ballymaloe for their terrific matching bites all through.

Some very recent post on California and its wines.
1 - California Trio. Zin, Zin and PN.
2 -Wines from California. Serious. Cheeky and Over Here