Showing posts with label Bluebell Falls. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Bluebell Falls. Show all posts

Thursday, December 28, 2017

Game On at Blairs Inn


Game On at Blairs Inn
Venison casserole

The crew in Blairs Inn in Cloghroe are always game for a laugh, summer or winter. But this time of year, four-legged and feathered game is in season and is served up in many delicious ways by the kitchen of this renowned country pub, a few miles from Cork City and Blarney.

A laugh and a smile are guaranteed here, directions too if you’re a tourist seeking the next beauty spot or watering hole; they’ve even been known to change a wheel for a customer. 
Pheasant

Not that you’ll ever be in a hurry to leave the pub. In winter, the fires are burning and the company's good. You’ll get the same company in the summer in the garden by the little Sheep River. And it’s also a terrific place for craft beer, one of the first places in Ireland where I was given a multi-page craft beer menu to choose from.

The craft beer is still going strong here and, indeed, the beer I had for lunch was something special. It is a Gluten Free stout, Stag Saor*, and is on draught, Ireland's first. 

GF and on draught
Richard Blair, one of two brothers now running the pub, told me of a satisfied customer of a few days earlier. A coeliac, the man hadn’t drunk stout, his favourite tipple, for twenty years but, having sampled the Star Saor, left Blair's Inn with tears of gratitude.

I had noticed they were using the Ballyvourney stout in my Venison Casserole so, of course, I ordered a pint. And it proved a great match for the rich casserole of Wicklow venison (16.95) which was served with a side dish of root vegetables, some broccoli too and a big baked potato! Great stuff.

CL was eagerly tucking into her Wild Irish Pheasant (half!), with aromatic gin and juniper stuffing, mushrooms and a red wine sauce (16.50). Another superb dish. Thought she might have had a G & T with this but no she settled, quite happily as it turned out, for the Scarlet Pimpernel by Killarney Brewing.

Lots of choice here, including the corned beef dish for which the Blairs are well known. Meat features strongly but, in fairness, they have no less then three fish dishes in the mains as well. Beside, they have one-plates meals (including a massive Wagyu beef burger), and there are salads, baps and open sandwiches.
Bluebell goats

Good choice of starters too though both of us went for cheese based dishes. Having tried, unsuccessfully, to milk one of their goats earlier in 2017, CL has a soft spot for Bluebell Falls so no surprise that she picked a warm tartlet of the cheese, with creamed leeks and smoked salmon, a terrific flavoursome dish for €8.65.
Gubbeen

For the same money, I enjoyed a lovely salad of Gubbeen and seasonal leaves. Very pleased with that one. Indeed, very pleased with the meal overall as is consistently the case here.

* Saor is Irish for free and producers, 9 White Deer from Ballyvourney, already have a full set of Gluten Free beers in bottle.
Another venison dish, this from the evening menu.
Cloghroe
Blarney
Co. Cork
Tel: (021) 438 1470



Thursday, November 23, 2017

In The Maryborough Drawing Room. Afternoon Tea’s Different Class

In The Maryborough Drawing Room

Afternoon Tea’s Different Class

Crème Brûlée

Butternut Squash Pannacotta
Cold and wet outside but in the Drawing Room of the Maryborough Hotel, there was a warm welcome to Afternoon Tea. The hotel’s dedicated afternoon tea room was opened earlier this month and you do get one of the best experience around in a beautifully appointed room, part of the Newenham suite, in the original 17th century house.  

The old world charm has been retained and you’ll relax under the high ceiling and take in the Georgian décor with plush lounge seating, listening to baroque (rather than rock) and, when you’re ready, let your concentration focus on the three tiers of deliciousness that the butler has just delivered to the table. 

Tea, of course, is an integral part of the event and you’ll have been helped make your choice from an impressive list of over a dozen, including well known ones such as Earl Grey, “safe” choices like Irish Breakfast, and the exotic Bi Lo Chun. In all, I tried three and my favourite was the Rooibos & Caramel (Relaxing - Full-bodied Rooibos sweetened with the delicate, sensual notes of caramel deliver a nicely rounded, sweet and mellow finish). Could be a great one for Christmas. 
House Cured Salmon

CL”s favourite was Ginger & Lemongrass (Uplifting - Green Tea from China with spicy ginger and the fresh delicate citrus notes of asian lemongrass). I hadn't heard of the Bi Lo Chun before. Maybe you haven't either? Its description is: Boasting a stunning sweet, slightly fruity and floral taste with a delicious lingering finish. 

There is also a full list of coffee options, from Espresso to Cappuccino. I think Hot Chocolate was also mentioned. We were guests for the occasion. Thirty five euro is the regular cost; add Prosecco (€43.00), Champagne (50.00). 

The savoury offerings looked great and tasted even better, a very strong line-up indeed, quite innovative too. This was our running order. I enjoyed them all and would be hard-pressed to find a winner, other than myself! Indeed, I was most surprised with the #3 and #4 as I didn't think they'd be as good as they were.

The second half was sweet indeed. All the items were excellent and again hard to pick a winner. The Crème Brûlée was a joint favourite. But when we finished up with the Grand Marnier Trifle, the heads were nodding in agreement that this was the one, thanks mainly to the fact that there was no shortage of the orange-flavoured Cognac based liqueur in the trifle sponge! Cold and wet outside but warm inside as we left.
Eclair


Savoury

1: Boa Bun filled with a Turmeric and Fermented Chilli Marinated Chicken, Carrot Slaw, Miso Aioli. 
2: House Cured Salmon, Wakame Seaweed, Cucumber Gel, Squid Ink Emulsion, and Toasted Rye Bread. 
3: Butternut Squash Pannacotta filled with West Cork Bluebell Falls Goat Cheese, Honey-ied Walnut, and Balsamic Pearls. 
4: Saffron and Basil Polenta Cake, Hummus and Heritage Tomato Salsa
Choc. Trifle
Apple, Coffee and Cinnamon Cake


Sweet

A: Caramelised Apple, Coffee and Cinnamon Cake. 
B: Chocolate and Grand Marnier Trifle. 
C: Chestnut and Pear Crème Brulée. 
D: Eclair filled with Pistachio and Hazelnut Praline. 
E: Warm Cranberry Scones served with House Preserves and Clotted Cream.

Two (of three) tiers.




Tuesday, August 8, 2017

My North Cork Collection. Including the Old Butter Roads Food Trail

My "North Cork" Collection
Including the Old Butter Roads Food Trail
Corrin Hill, one of many walks in North Cork area.

The Old Butter Roads Food Trail, launched earlier this year, is a cooperative effort between restaurants, producers and accommodation and activity providers in the North Cork area. 


North Cork is not an administrative area but then neither is West Cork. The boundaries are a bit flexible. The Food Trail organisers often refer to the three baronies of Duhallow, Muskerry and Avondhu (again none are administrative areas (except for GAA purposes!)) as being their constituent parts.

Blarney Castle

I have been visiting various restaurants and producers in the area over the past few years as you can see from the links below. Not all the places I've visited are necessarily members of  the Old Butter Roads Food Trail. If they are, you'll see the churn symbol displayed at the entrance or in their literature. Where there's a link below, it means that I have eaten, drank, visited or slept, maybe all four, at that place.

Glamping option at Ballyvolane House

So okay, just suppose you've landed in Blarney. Where to eat? Easy. Head to the The Square Table, Blarney in the evening. Just a few miles outside the village, you will find the boys of  Blairs Inn who'll feed you all day long (great place too for craft beer!). 
If you keep heading west, you may well end up in Macroom. Why not dine and stay the night in the Castle Hotel
Rainbow in Macroom

But perhaps you decide to head to the northeast. Lucky you will have much to choose from. Perhaps a day-time call to the Thatch and Thyme Café in Kildorrery. In the evening, visit the white deer at Mallow Castle and then call to the lovely and popular Peppers, Mallow for dinner. There are two cafes in Doneraile and, of course, the 166 hectare park with long and short walks that take you by the Awbeg River and herds of deer.

Deer in Doneraile Park

Lots of quality accommodation in the general area. Each of the three big houses below have an added attraction! Ballyvolane House near Castlelyons is the home of the renowned Bertha's Revenge gin. At Longueville House, enjoy the food and their very own cider, and don't forget their award winning Apple Brandy (as good as any from Normandy!).

Dinner is on. Longueville House

There's always a big welcome at Ballinwillin House & Farm and a tour of the farm where you'll see their Wild Boar and Deer. And the drink here is the wine, Chateau Mulcahy, from their very own vineyard in Hungary and the tasting is in a Hungarian style room. Cheers!

Wild Boar at Ballinwillin

And if you're a beer lover, then head west to the 9 White Deer micro-brewery in Ballyvourney.

He can talk and he can sing: Jack of McCarthy Butchers in Kanturk.

Looking for world class black-pudding and more? Then put McCarthy Butchers Kanturk on your list. You'll enjoy the produce and the chat. Close by, in Newtownshandrum you find the lovely Bluebell Falls Goats Cheese




Bluebell goat

Over in the Mallow direction, you'll come across Old Millbank Smoked Salmon. In the Blarney area, Hydro Farm Allotments and Blarney Chocolate are worth a check.
Toons Bridge

For great cheese and all things cheese related, Toons Bridge Dairy near Macroom is a must stop. Here too they have a café with lovely snacks and lunches, wine, even their own pizza oven.


View from Griffin's at lunch-time. Water-skier not guaranteed!
 A great place to sample what the area has to offer is the Killavullen Farmers Market. Lots of people like the garden centre and café double and you can score a good one at Griffin's Dripsey. Garden Centre & Restaurant.
Killavullen Farmers Market

If you venture into the Shandon area of the city, you'll find the place where all these old butter roads ended. While there, why not visit the Butter Museum (you might even see them making butter) and then ring the bells at St Anne's. Blarney Castle, right in the village, draws tourists from all over the world.

View of Firkin Crane from St Anne's Shandon

If you don't fancy sitting down, eating and drinking all day and need to stretch those legs then check out Blarney based Activity Days, with lots of choice for kids and adults. If you just have enough time for a short walk, there are a couple in Blarney, including the Blarney to Waterloo Loop. You'll enjoy your dinner, and the rest, that night!

Peppers in Mallow

Some other Butter Roads Food Trail members:

Annabelle Farm;
Follain, Baile Bhuirne;
Hegarty’s Cheese, Whitechurch;
O'Brien’s Free Range Eggs, Whitechurch;
Osbourne’s Butchers, Blarney;
Real Meat Co-op, Boherbue, Mallow;;
Twomey’s Buchers, Macroom;
Castle Hotel, Blarney;
Nibbles Cafe, Milstreet;
O Callaghan’s Delicatessen & Restau- rant, Mitchelstown;
Old Post Office Cafe, Blarney;
Praline Pastry Shop, Mitchelstown;
THe Farm Grenagh;
Old Post Office Cafe, Blarney






Thursday, June 1, 2017

These Ladies Like to be Out and About. Bluebell Falls Goats Cheese

These Ladies Like to be Out and About

Bluebell Falls Goats Cheese

“Our goats are outside all the time. They have the use of the shed but seem to prefer the outdoors, even when it’s wet,” said Victor O’Sullivan to me when I visited his Bluebell Falls goats, all four hundred of them, last week. “It makes a definite difference to the cheese.”

Victor and his cheesemaker wife Breda have a mix of three breeds on the farm, just outside Newtownshandrum in North Cork “Why the mix?”, I asked. “They each have different characteristics and, with the three, we get a more balanced type of milk.” 
Milking lessons!
Two of the breeds here are originally Swiss. The Saanen goats are a white or cream-coloured goat breed, named for the Saanen valley in Switzerland. The Toggenburg goat, is a breed of milk goat, named after the region in Switzerland where the breed originated, the Toggenburg valley in the Canton of St. Gallen. The British Alpine is a high-producer of quality goats' milk, and the breed can be found in many goat dairies.

They’ve had goats here since the middle of the last decade and the herd was up to the 400 mark by 2007, the milk being sold on to dairies. They took the big step in 2013 when they bought out Bluebell Falls (then in County Clare). Breda and Victor did cheesemaking courses under Eddie O'Neill at Moorepark (near Fermoy) and, very importantly, Paul Keane of the original Bluebell gave them a solid grounding in the business over a three month period. 
By 2014, they were retailing their own cheese. And, continuing “the same system as Bluebell”, have expanded each year since and are proud of their BRC accreditation, the global standard for food safety.

Their long oval packages have becoming well known to cheese lovers at markets, festivals and in the aisles of supermarket such as Dunnes and Tesco. Varieties such as the Original, the Honey and Garlic, the Cranberry, the Pepper, Mixed herbs and Garlic, and the Caramelised Onion and Caraway seeds, will be familiar to many of you.

I met Victor at the recent Mallow Garden festival and he showed me the original and the cranberry in a newer different “tub” packaging. As tasty as ever but looking well. 

And right along them were the new products, not made from goats milk but from cows. Not any cows either. He uses gorgeous creamy milk from a herd of pedigree Jersey cows on a farm in nearby Dromcollogher. And the two new products, the Jersey Cream Cheese Original and the Jersey Cream Pesto  are absolutely superb, well worth seeking out.
After that chat, it was time to get out and do a bit of farm work. Victor took us through the long grass where a big group from the herd were grazing and soon, with the promise of food, we were surrounded.

“How about giving a hand with the milking?” was the surprise question. Both of us put the hand up. Soon, he had a hold of one of the goats and CL was taking instructions, trying to concentrate and avoid the odd stray leg flying out. A second goat was more steady and the milk flowed, well flow may not be an exact description but she was getting the hang of it as I did later.
One of the young ones
Luckily, Victor doesn't have to rely on city visitors to do the milking of the large herd. He has a mechanical set-up that milks them twice daily. Then of course the cheese making starts. 

And when it is made, you must sell it. And that too takes time. Last weekend, Victor was at both the Mallow Festival and at The Sheridan's Irish Food Festival in Co. Meath. This week, it is five days at Bloom in Dublin, not counting the coming and the going. Tough going really but he gets great satisfaction from making a top class product and getting it out to the public. He is rightly proud of Bluebell Falls cheese and we consumers are lucky to have him on our Irish doorstep. Bluebell Falls is another reason why I'm happy to buy local!
Victor at the Mallow Show
The multi-award winning soft cheese is supplied to top end  hotels, restaurants and food service. It is distributed by, among others, Pallas Foods, La Rousse Foods, and Plassey Foods. Also available in all major retailers and good health stores.

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, August 4, 2016

Bellini’s at the Maryborough. Just one look. Hooked.

Bellini’s at the Maryborough
Just one look. Hooked.
Just one look at the list of their suppliers and I'm encouraged as I take my comfortable seat in Bellini’s Restaurant in the Maryborough Hotel. Two hours later, having seen and tasted what Head Chef Gemma Murphy can so with that very produce and I’m full, full of delight. The dishes on this new menu are tempting to look at and all you have to do is yield. I'm not the only one impressed. The Cork city hotel has just been awarded a second AA Rosette.

Quite a few starters to choose from including Warm Chicken Salad, House Cured Salmon with Goatsbridge Roe, Textures of Bluebell Falls Goat cheese, Pan seared Fresh Atlantic Scallops and Soup of the Day.

CL picked the Melon Soup (Compressed Melon, Peach Schnapps and Grapefruit Jelly with Feta Snow). Quite a display here as the liquid was added to the other ingredients at the table. An outstanding starter.
And so was my Boneless Roasted Baby Quail, soft herb mousseline, caramelised peaches and Micro Basil. Beautifully presented and so tender, a marvellous combination of flavours and textures. At this stage we were really settling in, feeling very much at home. Excellent food so far and great service too.

And that’s the way the evening continued. Oh, I almost forgot to mention the breads, the lovely amuse bouche (based on a mackerel pate) and the Mango and Passionfruit Sorbet.

The white wines cover a broad range; you may have anything from an Argentinian Torrontes to a Pouilly Fuisse. The reds range includes Club Privado Rioja (my choice) to a Walnut Block Pinot Noir (one of the Collectibles). No shortage of drinks here, everything from beer to the best of bubbles, as the bar is just alongside.
Melon soup
So on to the mains. Again plenty to choose from including Hereford Steak, Slaney Valley Lamb, Chicken Supreme, Wild Atlantic Hake, Orzo pasta. And check out that list of sides, including a Rocket and Parmesan Salad with Heirloom Cherry Tomatoes. Indeed, the advice is to go beyond the headline and check out the details in each dish.

Take CL’s choice: Pan Seared Sea Bass Fillets. You’ll see that heading in lots of places but here it is served with Broccoli and Yuzu Purée, Steamed Prawn Dumpling and a Prawn Bisque. Magnifique!

I went for a favourite meat, the Skeaghanore West Cork Duck Breast, and got another amazing plateful. The duck, cooked to  perfection, came with a Rhubarb Purée, Walnut Granola, Carrot Textures, Braised Beluga Lentils, Five spice and Balsamic Jus. Another five star dish, every element on the plate playing a role. My side here was the Steamed Market Greens, soy, sesame and Mirin Glaze. Could have eaten a bowl of that on its own, particularly the mange tout and sugar snaps!
Quail
After all that we knew the desserts were going to be good too so there was no hesitation, no talk about sharing one this time. I finished off in style with the Dark Chocolate Cremeux with Griotte Cherries (the one they soak in booze!) and Pistachio Ice-cream while CL enjoyed her Strawberry baked Alaska with Prosecco Foam (more booze) Strawberry and Basil Salsa. Superb.

What an evening in a busy Bellini’s. What a meal. Very Highly Recommended.

  • Their suppliers include Macroom Buffalo, Bluebells Falls, Goatsbridge Roe, Skeaghanore Duck, Larousse Fine Foods, Wild Atlantic Way Seafoods, Keelings Fruit and Vegetables, Matt O’Connell Seafood, PJ Sheehan and Co Poultry and the English Market.
Amuse Bouche and desserts
Maryborough Hill, Douglas, Cork, Ireland, T12 XR12
Tel +353 21 436 5555 | Fax +353 21 436 5662 | Email: info@maryborough.ie