Showing posts with label Durrus. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Durrus. Show all posts

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Taste of the Week. Double Delight from Iago

Taste of the Week

Double Delight from Iago
Doubly Delicious

Taste of the Week is another double, this time from Iago in Cork.

I was in there to get some of their renowned fresh pasta and, while waiting, had a look at the well stocked cheese counter. The Durrus caught my eye and, on the counter top, they had various suggested accompaniments for cheese including a Fig and Almond Slice.

I bought some of each and it was a match, a heavenly one, even if introduced in Princes Street, Cork, just across the way from the English Market.

The rich creaminess of the famous cheese from West Cork, made there by Jeffa Gill since 1979, is a well-appreciated delight, as is the salty tang at the finish, but the soft-grain sweetness of the figs and the crumbly crunch of the nuts enhances the experience no end. And, by the way, they have many other excellent products in Iago’s.

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

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




Friday, May 15, 2015

Staying at Blairscove House. A Perfect Place.

Staying at Blairscove House

A Perfect Place.
West Cork’s Sheep’s Head Peninsula is a special place to visit and in Blairscove House (above) you have a rather special place to stay.

And being in Durrus, it  is a convenient location not just for Sheep’s Head but also for Mizen Head, Bantry, Glengarriff, and the Ring of Beara including the stunning Healy Pass. So much, so close.

Blairscove House is discreetly situated on a small hill overlooking Dunmanus Bay. No nightclubs in the immediate vicinity but if it's peace and quiet you want after a meal at the beautiful restaurant, you’ll get it, maybe sipping a final glass as the sun goes down in front of you.
Above & below: Views from the Loft
There is a choice of accommodation, for couples and families. The owners themselves live in the big blue house which also contains the reservation office. Some of the apartments have views both to the sea and to the landscaped courtyard that often serves as the centerpiece for weddings here.


On our recent visit, we stayed in the Loft, ideal for a couple. It is part of the core complex, sea out front, courtyard at the other side. And, very conveniently, it is just a short flight of steps down to the restaurant! Like all the units, it is very modern, and is fully equipped for self catering and for B & B. We were there for just one night but could have stayed a lot longer!

No shortage of equipment here - we could have done all our own cooking! There was a welcome complimentary drink of sherry. In addition, champagne and white wine were in the fridge and a red in the cupboard; water and milk too!

Breakfast is part of the deal at The Loft as it is in some of the other rentals. The menu is there for you, so you choose one from each of four groups (juice, cereal, “main course”, and tea or coffee), leave it in the restaurant or post in the Cow postbox in the evening, giving the time you want it at.

In the morning, the phone will ring and the breakfast lady arrives. She sets your table, lays out the dishes and your food and then you tuck in. All very convenient indeed. 

The names of the other accomodations are The Piggery, The Coach House, The Smokehouse, Blairscove Cottage and Dunmanus Pier (not adjacent to the main house). Check out the details here.

The house at Dumanus Pier has indeed a rather special situation but don't expect breakfast here as it is some eight miles away. It has its compensations as there are fantastic beaches nearby including Barley Cove and the lively village of Schull is just down the road.
Breakfast is served, top right.
Top left: Porridge, bananas, honey and cream.
Bottom left: Scrambled duck egg with Gubbeen sausage and tomato.
Bottom right: Crumpet, crushed avocado, poached egg and bacon.
The various properties are pristine today but that wasn't the case when the De Mey family took them over in the early 80s. Great credit is due to them as they have created something of a calm paradise here, an oasis in Durrus (which, with Durrus Cheese and the Good Things Cafe), is quite a food hub.


Even in paradise, and even after a hefty breakfast, man must eat of course and all the more so if you have been taking one of the many gorgeous walks on the peninsula, as we did here. And your first stop just has to be their restaurant and bar. We had the most fantastic evening meal there during our all too short stay. The end of a perfect day in a perfect place.


See also (from this trip): Dinner of Delights at Blairscove House

Monday, May 11, 2015

De Mey Magic at Blairscove House. Dinner of Delights

De Mey Magic at Blairscove House

Dinner of Delights

At dinner in Blairscove House in Durrus, you are very likely to meet owners the De Mey family: parents Philippe and Sabine De Mey along with daughter Ann and husband Chris Woodward. Head Chef Ronald Klotzer is Sabine’s brother.

The friendly family do most of the serving themselves, starting in the well stocked bar. This has beers on draught along with craft beer in bottle and virtually every spirit you can think of. There is a long and very interesting wine list and they also take pride in their cocktails.

Our apartment was overhead, so this was probably the shortest walk I ever made to a restaurant, though there was a pause on the stairs to take in the stunning sunset views over Dunmanus Bay.
Hadn't tried the Mountain Man’s Sneaky Owl beer previously so I was quite happy to take up the suggestion and happier again as I sipped the dark liquid. CL got quite a surprise when her Woodward Rose cocktail arrived in a teapot. During the days of prohibition in the US, people took all kinds of measure to disguise their alcohol, hence the teapot.

Quite a few of the wines are available by the glass and also some by the half bottle. We went half and half as our main courses were so different. I must say I was very happy with the El Coto Rioja Crianza (2010) but that was as nothing compared to CL's enthusiasm for the Rochebin Macon Lugny Chardonnay (2012).
I had to check that out and indeed, through a series of hard-won sips, found it was an gem from the home of the grape, an organic one at that. Nose is intense, it is balanced and fine on the palate, refreshing at all stages, especially in the finish.

The restaurant is located in a former barn. It is high, like a church, and the tall windows overlooking Dunmanus Bay were recesses through which the hay was pushed down to the animals from the loft above. Now, the loft is removed and they feed the hungry humans there in five star comfort. And they don’t throw it in through the windows!
Some starter options
There is a staggering array of starter options, decoratively displayed on a table, and you get all the help and information you need to make your choices. Basically, aside from the unusual smoked egg (one of the breads was smoked sourdough), I went fishy: a few oysters, cooked salmon and some salmon gravadlax. You could be tempted to overdo it here but restrain yourself, there is so much more to come. CL’s choices included curried quinoa with raisins and pomegranate seeds and the same salmon dishes as mine.


My main course, and there is an excellent choice (with a couple of specials thrown in), was the Grilled Rack of West Cork Lamb with Aubergine cheesecake and wilted spinach, served with the lamb jus and garlic cream.The presentation was deceptively simple, understating the pleasure ahead. The soft fat quivered like jelly. The blushing meat (no less tender) opened easily to the probing of the knife. Add in the accompaniments and I had paradise on the palate.



More starter options
What a splendid line-up CL had on her plate: Poached Breast of Guinea Fowl, tea soaked prunes and Savoy cabbage, Jerusalem artichoke purée and smoked bacon emulsion. Again the presentation was simple but it was flawlessly cooked and bite after bite of exquisite delight. Just to mention, the potato and vegetable sides were also spot-on.

Desserts (and cheese, including the local Durrus) are displayed on the Grand Piano. You are given a good sized plate before you are guided through the stunning selection of cakes and pots and other enticing options. I’m sure they are all gorgeous but I enjoyed my selection, especially the Tiramisu while CL, who likes her citrus, thoroughly enjoyed her Orange Cake and Lemon Tart.

So then we sipped our coffee from an elegant pot before making our way back up the steps outside to our apartment. Convenient or what?

See also: Walking on the Sheep's Head Peninsula
Taste of the Week. Cocktail in a Tea Pot
Castlefreke and Rathbarry, The Castles And The Wood

Staying at Blairscove House. A Perfect Place

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Brown Thomas Launch Food Emporium

Brown Thomas Food Emporium
Birgitta Curtin
Cork’s Brown Thomas  launched their Food Emporium with music, wine and, of course, food in the store last evening. And it turned out to be a very enjoyable occasion.

Cheese producers were there in force. Great to meet, however briefly, Padraig O’Farrell of CarrigalineCheese  but we’ll see him again next week on their open day. Also there were Cooleeney,  Durrus and Gubbeen, the latter with their cheese and impressive Cheese Oatcakes.

Arun Kapil
Got a glass of wine on the way in and was soon comparing it in various glasses under guidance from Martin Turner of Riedel, in town especially for the event. The proper glass sure makes a difference – you can take that from an ex-sceptic! And the experience was repeated later with a lovely Pinot Noir (innocent Bystander) from Ballymaloe Wines , who have been in the Emporium for the past few months.

Ballymaloe  indeed strongly supported the event last evening and there was a sweet finish with their pastry chef JR Ryall  providing us with some gorgeous chocolate truffles to match with the dessert wine.  
But before that we had some great tastings. The Castlemartyr Resort even had a menu of good things to try and there was no shortage of volunteers. Tom Durcan, delighted with his Gold at the Blas as the weekend, had his corned and spiced beef on show.

Met Burren Smokehouse's Birgitta Curtin again, after the Blas Awards in Dingle, and this time got to taste her glorious smoked salmon. There too was Arun from Green Saffron  dishing out a perfect Chicken Korma. By the way, look out for his new Spice Blends and those luxurious Cook-in Sauces, so easy, so good.
Gubbeen
It is a busy time too for Timoleague’s Anthony Creswell of Ummera Smokehouse. He smokes salmon, duck, bacon and chicken, all terrific and regulars on menus on top restaurants, now at the Emporium and also available online. And then we had Una’s Pies, a really top product as her regular awards at Blas Na hEireann underline. Una is also a regular at Mahon Point Farmers Market.
Ummera
And from the kingdom itself came Sam of Cloudberry Bakery who make artisan cakes and desserts - anything from colourful cake pops and cupcakes to show-stopping wedding cakes. Cloudberry was a  Blas winner in 2012. So pop into the Emporium and treat yourself.

Very good but better in Riedel
We were very well treated last night – even got my pic taken with Rachel Allen – and there was a bonus of a goodie bag on exit. Well done to the folks at Brown Thomas and best of luck for the Christmas season.
Sweet finish!







Sunday, January 2, 2011

TOP IRISH CHEESES

HAPPY NEW CHEESE

So many Irish cheeses around these days, you could buy a different one for each and every day of 2011.

Started on the local track, not that I ever strayed too far off it, at our New