Showing posts with label Cashel Blue. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Cashel Blue. Show all posts

Thursday, March 30, 2017

Cork’s Ambassador Hotel. Hitting the Heights in More Ways than One

Hitting the Heights in More Ways than One

Cork’s Ambassador Hotel
The Ambassador, with the decking to the left.

Did you know you can get one of the best views of Cork City from your balcony at the Ambassador Hotel? One hundred and eighty degrees, from beyond Páirc Uí Chaoimh in the east to beyond St Fin Barre’s to the west, other landmarks, such as the RH Hall Silos and the Elysian in between. This view emphasises their claim that the hotel is very convenient to the city and its attractions.

The view inside isn't bad either. And if you’re there on business, well they’ve been talking to you, know what you want: a station to do a bit of work with a good chair, a flexible light and, wait for it, your own Espresso machine, all in your room.
Room with a view
Staying with business, they have rooms to suit all kinds of meetings, catering for ten to 250. The biggest room, the Bellevue Suite, is quite impressive, fully equipped, Wi-Fi and Air Conditioning included.  And if you need to keep that conference going through lunch, there is a range of refreshments and food (up to a 3-course lunch) available. Bellevue, also equipped with its state of the art lighting system and a dance-floor, is ideal for weddings and other large celebrations.

Aoife Lohse, Sales and Marketing Manager, took us through the hotel the other day. It has been extensively refurbished since the McGettigan takeover just a few short years ago. But not all the old stuff has been discarded. Some beautiful furniture, stained-glass windows, even gorgeous (and efficient) radiators, are to be seen throughout the wonderful red brick Victorian building. The impressive facade gives a sense of the rich history of the St Luke’s area and a clear example of 1870’s Irish architecture at its best.
It is not all corporate here, of course. Take the family bedroom, for instance. This, with no less than three beds is big, big enough for a big family. And you and the kids will be well placed to enjoy the surrounding area, the waterside towns of Cobh (known for the regular visits of huge cruising liners) and Kinsale are not too far away. And then there’s Fota Wildlife Park. Indeed, the hotel is only minutes away from the Dunkettle junction where you can choose to go east, or south or west or north. Cork’s your oyster. 

And after a busy day enjoying yourselves (or working!), why not relax on the new south-facing decking, with large awning and its state of the art barbecue. And if the weather is not great, then indoors you have the McGettigan’s Cookhouse and Bar.
Bring the family!

Your own Espresso
And after our tour of the hotel and its facilities, including a fitness room (very busy in the morning and early evenings, according to Aoife), it was to McGettigan’s that she brought us for lunch, a very enjoyable meal indeed.

The dining room is “library” themed, very comfortable. We weren't reading the books though but a very extensive menu that caters for everyone from child to adult, everything from steaks to pizzas, from super-salads to sandwiches. The McGettigan's brand by the way is not just local; you’ll find it in locations such as Dublin City centre, Wicklow, Wexford, Limerick, Donegal, Galway, New York,  Dubai and Singapore.
Duo of fish

Even though the menu is wide-ranging, you also have have a specials board. Immediately, the Catch of the Day caught my attention: Duo of Wild Atlantic Hake and Turbot, with Clonakilty Black Pudding whipped potato, white wine and saffron sauce. Enjoyed every little bit, along with a glass of Drostdy-Hof Chenin Blanc from South Africa.

CL went for the Roast of the Day: Roast leg of lamb, with scallion whipped mashed potatoes, slow roasted beef tomato, roasties and red wine jus. Perfectly cooked down to that very tasty tomato. Wine here was the house red, a very quaffable Sangiovese from Tuscany. 
Cheeseboard

We finished off in style with a “small” version of the cheese plate. Durrus, Gubbeen, and Cashel Blue were among the cheeses featured and there were some very appropriate bits and pieces as accompaniment, including a delicious apricot chutney. A very enjoyable lunch indeed!

* The Ambassador is just one venture of the McGettigan Group, one of the country's biggest hospitality businesses, set up more than 50 years ago.
Night, night

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





Thursday, November 24, 2016

Cashel Blue Featured in new Oxford Companion to Cheese

Cashel Blue Featured in new Oxford University Press Companion to Cheese

When you listen to Sarah Grubb speak about cheese and particularly about the cheeses that her family produces, including the famous Cashel Blue, you hear passion (and the occasional hearty laugh). But listen carefully and you realise that the passion is built on attention to details, little and large, and on hard work, on experience of course and also on a love for the locality, their terroir, the green fields of Beechmount Farm where their “new” dairy (2010) is located.

If the planners had their way, the building would have been on an industrial estate. But the Grubbs (including founders Jane and Louis, Sarah’s parents) were convinced that the dairy should be on the farm, in the place where the cheese had been made since 1984 and in the very area where their own workers came from. And, with help from friends and neighbours, that is what happened.

Cashel Blue is featured in the new Oxford Companion to Cheese. The book tells us that Cashel Blue has an ivory interior when young, which gradually deepens to a warm buttery yellow as it matures. Its thin, uneven streaks of blue give it a marbled appearance. Beneath the tinfoil wrapping is an edible, sticky, blue-gray rind with some white mold, which is intrinsic to the cheese, contributing to the breakdown of the curd and adding flavor and complexity. The book is published in America, hence the gray and flavor etc.


Blue is doing well here on a 6 week Crozier
“The French,” Sarah said, “call sheep's milk liquid gold”. "Perhaps because it is precious - they produce so very little per ewe - and because too it is nice to work with. But you have to have patience with it. The milk contains more solids than cow's milk and so the cheese takes longer to develop.” 

Goat's milk, she told us, is closer to buffalo than sheep (which is creamier). And, Sarah (who like husband Sergio, another key player at Beechmount) has a wine background, emphasized that sheep’s milk is a product of its terroir. “It varies from place to place. Fascinating!” And another thing, sheep’s milk is easier to digest.
She showed us the display of wheels. “Our cheeses are not particularly large - Stilton is much larger.” The smaller size is down to practical reasons. In a small operation, smaller wheels are easier to handle and quite often it is women doing the handling. The big wheels have one advantage though: “The larger the cheese, the longer it will last.”

Some of the thousands of wheels in the Maturation Room
Small beginnings

“One sunny summer’s day my daughter Sarah and I were watching my husband, Louis, herd his cows in from pasture. What a deliciously rich and creamy milk they gave! I started to experiment. Eventually, in 1984, I created Cashel Blue, a cheese I believe truly represents the outstanding quality of Tipperary milk. I hope you will agree.”

This is Jane Grubb telling how Cashel Blue cheese came into being and we do agree, as do thousands of customers worldwide, from the US to Australia. “All areas of the market are supplied," Sarah told me they don't put all their eggs into the one basket! This is a deliberate decision, as they want everyone to try their cheese, not just those that shop in elite outlets.

I should of course say cheeses as Cashel Blue has been joined by other products, most notably Crozier Blue, developed in 1993 from sheep’s milk. 
But back to Jane and those early days. She had decided to make cheese but didn’t know how. So she got herself a library book. Even that wasn't available locally and had to be obtained via the inter-library route. That book, lots of experiments and then the acquisition of a small vat, led to the famous Cashel Blue.

Over twenty years later, the new dairy was established near the original farmhouse (which had become almost overwhelmed by the success) and opened right in “one of the best fields” and locally became known as Louis’ shed. Louis is Jane’s husband and the entire family were glad to get their home back.
Main cheesemaker Geurt van den Dikkenberg,
using the cheese harp

The early cheesemakers too needed encouragement as they tried to find their way. And that encouragement came in the shape of an early prize (up in Clones in County Monaghan)  and soon they were on the right path, choosing to make the blue rather than what many others were making.

Wheels, ready for turning

The cheesemaking operation at Beechmount Farm was in good hands from the start with Jane and her husband Louis the pioneers and is in good hands now and for the future with Sarah and her husband Sergio Furno and their team. 

The The Oxford Companion to Cheese is 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. 

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, microbiologosts, historians and anthropologists. It is a landmark encyclopedia, the most wide-ranging, comprehensive, and reliable reference work on cheese available, suitable for both novices and industry insiders alike. We'll have more on and from the impressive book in the coming weeks.


Thursday, June 2, 2016

Get Your Fish. At Pier 26


Get Your Fish At Pier 26
Plaice and crab..
It’s a sunny Sunday, the final one in May; the beauty of Ballycotton is enhanced. And a delicious lunch awaits in friendly Pier 26.

But first a little walk, down the steps to the bottom of the cliffs, a sun trap and a great view of the cliffs themselves, of the nearby island and the lighthouse. All this, right on our doorstep.

Just as well we had booked ahead as most of the restaurant has been block booked by  a christening party. A warm welcome and soon we were studying the menu and a packed specials board. We had expected fish and that board was full of it: John Dory, Haddock, Hake, Plaice, Scallops, Squid, and Gurnard.
Vanilla roasted peaches
CL picked the Pan fried John Dory, carrot purée, tender stem broccoli, garlic and thyme roast potatoes, seaweed butter. An excellent dish, even if the carrot was missing, its absence noted about halfway through!

How many people check their dishes as they arrive to see if every element is present? In any case, we go out to enjoy the food as a whole, not to study every little detail. I fully agree with the well known Rhone winemaker who has said: “Two people talk about love, the poet and the gynaecologist. I prefer the poet.”

And enjoyment was also the operative word as I tucked in to my Poached Plaice, organic spinach, crab, fondant potato, sea vegetable cream (they do a fair bit of foraging here!). An superb combination, so well presented and enthusiastically dispatched, along with a glass of the rare Pazos De Ulloa blend of Torrontes, Treixadura and Palomino. Our other glass was from Australia, Berri Estates unoaked Chardonnay, another refreshing wine.

Top cheese
The dessert list is short enough but full of quality and we got two very good ones indeed. One was the divine Vanilla roasted peaches, Elderflower syrup, lemon Thyme, Madagascar Vanilla ice-cream, Almond brittle.

And the cheeseboard was highly impressive, billed simply as Selection of Irish Artisan cheese, Honey, oatmeal biscuits, Cockburns aged port. The drop of port and the little jug of honey were accompanied by Gubbeen, Toons Bridge smoked Scamorza, Bandon Vale Cheddar and the creamy Cashel Blue and those biscuits were quite a treat as well.

Took our time with that lot. And then it was out of the shade and into the sunny paradise outside, a short stroll down to the pier itself to get a different view of the lighthouse and take in the activity (not too much of that, aside from a few swimmers) on the pier. It will be much different this coming Sunday when the annual Seafood & Shanty festival takes place!

Ballycotton
County Cork
Tel: (021) 206 1449
Twitter: @Pier26cork
Hours
Wed-Thu:
5:30 pm - 8:30 pm
Fri-Sat:
5:30 pm - 9:00 pm
Sun:
12:30 pm - 7:30 pm


Sunday, May 29, 2016

The Grubbs And Cashel Blue. Passion. Place. Precious.

The Grubbs And Cashel Blue
Passion. Place. Precious.
When you listen to Sarah Grubb speak about cheese and particularly about the cheeses that her family produces, including the famous Cashel Blue, you hear passion (and the occasional hearty laugh). But listen carefully and you realise that the passion is built on attention to details, little and large, and on hard work, on experience of course and also on a love for the locality, their terroir, the green fields of Beechmount Farm where their “new” dairy (2010) is located.

If the planners had their way, the building that we (members of Munster Wine & Dine) visited last Friday would have been on an industrial estate. But the Grubbs (including founders Jane and Louis, Sarah’s parents) were convinced that the dairy should be on the farm, in the place where the cheese had been made since 1984 and in the very area where their own workers came from. And, with help from friends and neighbours, that is what happened.

If you’re interested in starting with sheep, you’ll need to know your breeds. Sarah told us that Dorset is best for meat but Friesland is best for milk. We actually started with a taste of sheep’s milk and then moved on to the curds which two recent visitors separately described as like “ a very good tofu”.

Blue is doing well here on a 6 week Crozier



“The French,” she's said, “call sheep's milk liquid gold”. Perhaps because it is precious - they produce so very little per ewe - and because too it is nice to work with. But you have to have patience with it. The milk contains more solids than cow's milk and so the cheese takes longer to develop.

Goat's milk, she told us, is closer to buffalo than sheep (which is creamier). And, Sarah (who like husband Sergio, another key player at Beechmount, has a wine background) emphasized that sheep’s milk is a product of its terroir. “It varies from place to place. Fascinating!” And another thing, sheep’s milk is easier to digest.



She showed us the display of wheels. “Our cheeses are not particularly large - Stilton is much larger.” The smaller size is down to practical reasons. In a small operation, smaller wheels are easier to handle and quite often it is women doing the handling. The big wheels have one advantage though: “The larger the cheese, the longer it will last.”

We had a tasting of the various cheeses. These included a young Crozier Blue. It was rather “dry” at this stage. The trademark creaminess develops with age!

Salt is the only preservative in cheese and it is essential and the mould too is extremely important to the development of the cheese. She then led us through the dairy, explaining the various parts of the process. You may check out the more important steps right here.
Some of the thousands of wheels in the Maturation Room

Small beginnings

“One sunny summer’s day my daughter Sarah and I were watching my husband, Louis, herd his cows in from pasture. What a deliciously rich and creamy milk they gave! I started to experiment. Eventually, in 1984, I created Cashel Blue, a cheese I believe truly represents the outstanding quality of Tipperary milk. I hope you will agree.”

This is Jane Grubb telling how Cashel Blue cheese came into being and we do agree, as do thousands of customers worldwide, from the US to Australia. “All areas of the market are supplied," Sarah told me on a previous visit and, on Friday, she confirmed that they don't put all their eggs into the one basket! This is a deliberate decision, as they want everyone to try their cheese, not just those that shop in elite outlets.
I should of course say cheeses as Cashel Blue has been joined by other products, including Cashel Cream Cheese, a convenient cheese in a tub for everyday use, a mix of Cashel Blue, Natural Cream cheese and 5 per cent cream. The other well known cheese is Crozier Blue, developed in 1993 from sheep’s milk. You may also come across their Shepherd’s Store, a gorgeous hard cheese, and watch out in the near future for Cashel Blue organic.


But back to Jane and those early days. She had decided to make cheese but didn’t know how. So she got herself a library book. Even that wasn't available locally and had to be obtained via the inter-library route. That book, lots of experiments and then the acquisition of a small vat, led to the famous Cashel Blue.

Over twenty years later, the new dairy was established near the original farmhouse (which had become almost overwhelmed by the success) and opened right in “one of the best fields” and locally became known as Louis’ shed. Louis is Jane’s husband and the entire family were glad to get their home back.
Main cheesemaker Geurt van den Dikkenberg, using the cheese harp

The early cheesemakers too needed encouragement as they tried to find their way. And that encouragement came in the shape of an early prize (up in Clones in County Monaghan)  and soon they were on the right path, choosing to make the blue rather than what many others were making. “We continue to specialise in blue,” Sarah told us last Friday



Cheesemaking is no easy job. Lots of muscle and hands-on work is required. Cheesemaking starts at 6.00am and work goes on everyday, though they do try and keep it that bit less demanding at weekends. Still, someone has to be there 365 days a year!

It is hard work too drawing that cheese harp through the curds and whey in large vats time after time; cheesemakers back is an occupational hazard. Not easy work at all and yes that Cheese Harp has to be re-strung from time to time.

With all that hard work, some people would be tempted to cut corners and speed up the process. But glad to say, there is no compromise here. The quality of the milk is all important and the care that it gets from the time it is piped into the vats, through to the final wheels in the Maturation Room, is hands on.

There is of course some mechanical help with placing the curd from the vats into moulds and also with the injection of the wheels to allow the blue to occur and also the turning of the wheels but nothing whatsoever to compromise the integrity of this natural product. Find out more about the Cashel way of cheese making here.
Wheels, ready for turning

The cheesemaking operation at Beechmount Farm was in good hands from the start with Jane and her husband Louis the pioneers and is in good hands now and for the future with Sarah and her husband Sergio Furno and their team.

Some Beechmount facts:

·         Fifty per cent of the cheese output is sold abroad.

·         Crozier is white while the Cashel as it matures tends to be more of a yellow colour.
·         The sheep milk, used for the Crozier, is heavier and that means more muscle needed especially while it is in the vats.
·         The wheels are salted by soaking in brine, the better to preserve it. Previously the salt was added by hand but soaking in the tanks of brine gives a more consistent result.

  • The brilliant day out ended with a visit to the Mulcahy family at Ballinwillin House, also the home of Deer, Wild Boar Pig and Hungarian wine! Great dinner too! Read all about it here.
  • If you’d like to join the fun with Munster Wine & Wine, please send email to mwdcircle@gmail.com