Showing posts with label Gubbeen. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Gubbeen. Show all posts

Wednesday, October 4, 2017

Out of the Blue. And only out of the blue!

Out of the Blue

And only out of the blue!

Out of the Blue, the restaurant with the colourful beach-hut style frontage on Dingle’s waterfront, is a fish restaurant. Nothing else. So, if there’s no fresh fish, there is no opening. They have a few sample menus on their tidy website but you won't know what is really on offer until you get there, indeed, they themselves profess not to know until the boats come in. So it is always something of a surprise, but never a let-down.

Do book in advance though especially when there is a festival in town. We were there last weekend and reserved a table for Friday night, the night that the Food Festival launched. You don't get a menu in your hand. A large blackboard is positioned on a nearby chair and you are given plenty of time to consider the long list, everything from mussels to lobster, from pollack to black sole. We made our choices as we sipped a glass of cool prosecco.
Curried plaice

If the outside looks like a hut, the inside is solid and comfortable, lots of paintings hanging there, including a lovely Currach by local artist Liam O'Neill. We had time to look around before the starters arrived.

Pan fried curried plaice fillet with mango salsa was CL’s choice. And mine was the Duo of home cured and smoked salmon with citrus dressing. Indeed, it was an agreed choice and we went half and half. Both were excellent, the salmon smooth and easy, the plaice enhanced by the mild curry treatment.
Salmon

Jean Marie Vaireaux has been chef here for the past ten years - he has been in Dingle for much longer - and we noticed that was demoing his Scallops flambéed with Calvados on the following day. We didn't pick that as a mains as we thought we’d catch him at St Jame’s Church, the demo venue for the festival. But we got side-tracked by the Taste Trail!

Back to Out of the Blue and the mains, where there were many choices. Mine was the Char-grilled Halibut fillet with garlic butter. An excellent dish, superbly cooked and delivered to the table.
Halibut

I enjoyed that and CL was very happy indeed with her Pan fried Plaice fillet with Ratatouille Provençal, another simple dish, superbly executed.

Oh, almost forgot, We have wine. The list is large enough to cover most tastes and the majority of the wines are European.  Not a great fan of Picpoul de Pinet but the Cave L’Ormarine Preambule from the Languedoc could change my mind! Crisp, smooth, fruity, and mouth-watering, it proved an excellent match all through.

Dessert? Tempted yes, but in the end settled on a share of the cheese offering that featured Gubbeen and Crozier Blue and we finished off with that and a glass of port. Delicious end to a lovely evening and then a short stroll back to the hotel.


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Sunday, September 10, 2017

FEAST. On the Street. The Main Event

FEAST. On the Street

The Main Event
Family day out. Busy side-street.

From the outset of the rebranded FEAST, Saturday had been billed as The Main Event. And the crowds of people up and down Midleton’s Main Street and side streets and in the Farmer’s Market, demonstrated just that. And, once again, the weather played its part, the odd shower no deterrent at all to those strolling and snacking, and those eating a tad more seriously at the long outdoor table opposite the Restaurant Tent where some eleven restaurants were selling delicious small plates at a fiver each.
Ethiopian stall

But is wasn't just the restaurants. Lots of other food (Green Saffron were busy, as always) available as well under the mainly blue sky. Great too to see the local butchers, including Jim Crowley and Frank Murphy, on the street, bakers too and coffee makers. No shortage of sweet stuff as you made your way between the various hot-spots.
The Granary Crew

The Demo Marquee was a magnet as Bertha’s Revenge Gin, Patrick Ryan’s sourdough, and various chefs, including Ciaran Scully, Lilly Higgins, Kevin Aherne and Martin Shanahan kept the punters entertained. Down in the Distillery, you could enjoy a premium whiskey tasting and Carol Quinn’s talk on the  history of whiskey here for a tenner.

Opposite the restaurant area was where the long table was situated and just beyond there was a packed children's zone with music shows, puppet shows, and amusements. The siting of the table and the amusement space close together was great for parents and I saw more than a few taking turns at the table and then relieving the partner on child duty!

The regular Farmer’s Market was also buzzing. Maybe one day, all will be accommodated on Main Street but on Saturday the traders were doing well. Had a friendly word with the Lobsterman who I’d met in Rostellan the evening before. Baker Declan Ryan was, as ever, on duty at Arbutus stall while Noreen Conroy was as busy and as friendly as ever at Woodside Farm. Nearby, at the Courthouse, the friendly GIY folk were dishing out advice on what to grown, how to grow it and when.
Monkfish, chorizo, flatbread by Samphire (at Garryvoe Hotel)

New!
Back on Main Street, it was hard to make choices. Would have been a gargantuan feat to sample something from all eleven restaurants! And that would leave out all the others. Tough. I had heard on the Twitter that Farmgate’s Chowder was a thing of splendour but by then I had had my fill.

One of the highlights was the Monkfish and chorizo flatbread served by head chef Kevin at the Samphire (Garryvoe Hotel) stand. The crab beignet by Pier 26 went down well. Jack and his team at the Granary Cafe stand were busy and their massive baked Rooster (with Ballinrostig nettle and  cream cheese and Gubbeen chorizo) was quite a treat and I also got a few pastries here to bring home.
Garlic selection

Indeed, that bag for home filled rapidly. Included were the Mango, Peach and habanero chutney a new product from the Rebel Chilli lads, some garlic (including Avram, Lautrec, and Pink Marble) from West Cork Garlic, a bag of Honduran coffee beans from  Badger & Dodo and 30-day aged beef from Woodside. Happy out, as we headed west from F-EAST! Here’s to next year.
Busy butcher Jim Crowley
See other posts from FEAST 2017

Monday, July 10, 2017

The Fergusons. And the Gubbeen Bug. The Family That Farms Together

The Fergusons. And the Gubbeen Bug. 

The Family That Farms Together

Cheese in brine
Farming at Gubbeen is a family affair with father and mother Tom and Gianna Ferguson and their son Fingal and daughter Clovisse the key figures. 



But, for a long time now, they've had the help of an unseen bug, officially known as Microbacterium gubbeenense, a unique strain (hence its own name) of lactic acid producing bacteria. Gianna, the cheesemaker, was thrilled when informed about the bug back around 2001. She told us during last Friday's Munster Wine and Dine Tour: “Gubbeen’s own bug. I was totally delighted with that. I have three children, and a bug!”
Munster Wine & Dine at Gubbeen

Tom
“Our cheese story begins out on the land.” She praised Tom’s herd, mostly Friesian, a few other breeds too including a few Jerseys "for their cream!" The cheese took off well and since then “everything seems to have dovetailed together”. Here, she was talking about the smokehouse charcuterie (and smoked cheese of course) by Fingal along with the gardening skills of Clovisse, not that either are confined to just one skill, far from it.

She said Irish cheese regulation is geared towards cheddar cheese production. “But my tradition is based on the practices of small farms in France and Spain. We in Gubbeen use the traditional rennet, made from an enzyme that grows in a calf’s stomach. We tried it vegetarian rennet but it didn't work for us.”
Once the cheese is made into wheels, not very big ones in Gubbeen’s case, the bacteria is inoculated by hand into each and every one four times. The rind is known as washed rind because, it it comes from regular washing (water yes but also white wine!) of the individual wheels. “It is edible,” she said. “But it is a different texture and I respect why people may not eat it.”

Gubbeen basically make one cheese type but you may buy it young or more mature or smoked and in different sizes. Read all about the variations here on the Gubbeen cheese page  .

Fingal shows his knives

The Gubbeen smokehouse story begins with a neighbour. “In my early teens I would drive over to the village of Goleen to bring our cheeses to Chris Jepson to be smoked in his Smokehouse,” Fingal told us as he took us around the new (the 2nd) smoke house. After the cheese, they did meat. “Then the salamis really took off, helped by the fact that our name was appearing in top restaurants such as Chapter One.”

Like his mother, Fingal too pointed “to the care of the land” as key. “Milk is vital to cheese. The quality of pig is vital to us. We have embraced with locals via the Piggy Coop. We stress the husbandry and the breed, mostly outdoor reared. You pay more but it is worth it.” By the way, there are 25 employed (including family members) in Gubbeen.
Welcome to the smokehouse

He showed us how he heats his kilns, “important to get the correct balance of air and smoke. Different temperatures create different flavours”. And, wouldn't you know it, they use local timbers, local windfall timber. A fair bit of work in chopping up a big tree but father Tom takes no excuses: “The man who cuts his own timber warms himself twice!”

Fingal spoke of salting and brining. “The brine is traditional Irish, herbs jazz it up.” He uses natural casings, “more expensive but a better result”. “These smoked products are not overly sterilised but good for your gut and more interesting in terms of flavour.” Read all about the smoke house, including the fabulous salamis and chorizos here

Just a hint of the Superb Lunch from Clovisse

And when Fingal has time, he crafts the most amazing knifes for cooks and butchers but don’t rush down to buy one; there is a waiting list of close to 800 for these beauties. Heat treating and quality of steel are key in making a good knife. “The tempering cycle, well done, can change the properties of the steel to enhance its eventual role, including durability.” His attractive handles are made “of everything from old bog oak to weird and wonderful materials.”

Then he took us on a walk around the yard and here we met some baby animals, including calves and bonhams, also a big turkey and a mighty cockerel that almost matched him.

Then it was the turn of Clovisse to feed us. And, using the cheese, the smokehouse meats, and herbs, vegetables and leaves from her own garden just outside the dining room window, she put together a feast of Gubbeen. Nothing much to be added, though the organic wines from Le Caveau, the Gran Cedro Tempranillo and the Meyer-Fonné Pinot Blanc, were entirely appropriate and excellent matches.

Her garden is completely chemical free with a strong emphasis on keeping the soil clean and healthy.  Many of the herbs are used in the sausage recipes and meat cures. Gianna used the word dovetail earlier to describe how the different elements of Gubbeen have come together and the Gubbeen greens are becoming an increasing element of the great family story. Read all about them here
Back to the garden
See also:

Tapas at Schull’s Casa Diego. And Farewell to lovely Stanley House




Thursday, July 6, 2017

Four brewers: "What we're doing now!" Superb Food at Malt & Music Festival.

Four brewers: "What we're doing now!"
Superb Food at Malt & Music Festival.
Colm, Eoin, Claire, Phil, and Michael

The Malt and Music Festival at Ballymaloe had its inaugural outing at the weekend. A few great nights were enjoyed. I’m told. Not a night owl these times so I turned up on Sunday afternoon to enjoy some beer, some food and eine kleine Tagmusik!*

Amazing how that Big Shed has been transformed, again. The things they use! Hanging (and flashing) high up in front of the stage was, believe it or not, a Honda 50. If you had one of those in its heyday, you'd get a lady, an ex-worker and now guide at the Arigna Mines once told me!

It was about lunch time when we arrived and we were spoiled for choice. One stall, Buena Vida Taco, made out of surfboards, caught my eye. They were also trumpeting their Crazy Bastard sauce. The Baja Fish Taco was our pick here: crispy battered haddock, pickled red onion, Mexican slaw, fresh coriander and chipotle aioli. Plus the saucy sauce, of course!

Quite a bite. Yet there was better to come, from Gubbeen. Their Reuben contained Pastrami, Emmental cheese, pickles, sauerkraut, and mustard. No rush job either. A superb sandwich, sandwich of the year maybe! No shortage of beers around the place but we didn't travel very far for ours, enjoying a glass of the Cotton Ball’s Indian Summer and one of the Cascade.

Eoin Lynch of the Cotton Ball Brewing Company was one of the four speakers in the Drinks Theatre in mid afternoon; the others were Claire Dalton of Dungarvan, Phil Cullen of Mountain Man and Michael Cowan of Manor Brewing (Wicklow). Colm McCan asked the questions and kept the flow going.

Claire told us about the family effort that led to Dungarvan getting off the ground. So what are they doing now? Well, their latest is “a sunny day beer” called Turning Tide. Light of body, Turning Tide, a lemon wheat beer, is the perfect accompaniment to a summery day, whether beach or BBQ! Moules Frites anyone?

Taco!
Eoin Lynch gave up his job and had some sleepless night after setting up the Cotton Ball Brewing in the family pub in 2013. But it developed quickly, started with 800 litres, now at 2,500 litres. Less sleepless nights now. He had the Indian Summer on show, a seasonal that was so good they couldn't let it go. It is a light hybrid beer (elements of both ale and lager), notes of citrus and pineapple and it was well received in Ballymaloe.

Michael Cowan of Mont said they are a dedicated lager brewery. “With the very soft Wicklow water we have, our super-premium lager is better than the main stream piss and we are trying to improve lager’s image with a big concentration on packaging.”

He surprised us with a very dark lager called Black is the New Orange. It includes chocolate malt and orange and is clean and dry; good finish too. And he introduced Bigger than Ben Hur, a 9.2% Imperial IPA, with “a hopping regime of biblical proportions”! Pretty well balanced though, despite that big ABV. Shows that Mont do make more than lager.

May not look much. But this Reuben is the greatest!
Like the Cotton Ball, Phil and his wife started Mountain Man in 2013. He also told us that one of their core beers, that Hairy Goat, could well have reached the shelves as the Itchy Cow!

We got to taste his latest, the Vincent Van Coff (the name the result of a competition). What was the secret ingredient? Not too many detected the aroma but quite a few got the flavour of… coconut! It is a red ale with vanilla, chocolate and coffee. The point Phil was making was that the ability to recognise aromas and flavours can vary from person to person. “I didn't get the coconut…people starting telling me about it.. So, if you don't get it, you’re not on your own!”

As you gather, this was a rather informal session. And all the better and more enjoyable for it.

Wednesday, June 28, 2017

A Taste of West Cork Guide. Kate Brings It All Together

A Taste of West Cork Guide

Kate Brings It All Together
Ross with Sally Barnes
In West Cork, there are scores of good food producers, one down every lane, up every boreen. But which road, which village? Where do you find them when you want them? The answer is now quite simple: buy a copy of the Artisan Food Guide, just published by A Taste of West Cork Food Festival. 

The 80-page guide, edited by Kate Ryan, was launched by Michelin chef Ross Lewis (Chapter One) in Vertigo, the top floor of the County Hall, last week. Ross said good cooking begins with good shopping and this guide will help you do some great shopping.

And indeed, guests arriving in Vertigo were able to sample some of the produce from the likes of Ummera, Rosscarberry Recipes, Durrus Cheese, Hungry Crow Chocolates, Sally Barnes (Woodcock Smokery), Glenilen, Skeaghanore, Gubbeen, West Cork Pies, and West Cork Olives.

Helen Collins, chairperson of the A Taste of West Cork Festival for the past four years, welcomed the guests and other speakers. She extended a big thanks you to Tim Lucey, Chief Executive Cork County Council for his unwavering support, to outgoing Mayor of Cork County Seamus McGrath, another great supporter.

And, of course, she had a huge welcome for Ross Lewis, the chef who grew up in the area around the County Hall itself. Ross has dined in some of the world's finest restaurants but that doesn't stop him from enjoying the best of local (he had earlier lunched on lamb stew and floury potatoes in The Farmgate). He repeated his high regard for artisan producers - they are not in for the money - and that regard is well documented in his book "Chapter One- An Irish Food Story”.

Helen told us that the guide author Kate Ryan is Bristol born but has been living in Clonakilty for the past ten years. She is well known on the food scene through her blog flavour.ie, through her Clonakilty Walking Food Tour  (Failte Ireland approved, by the way!) and her willingness to get involved in local endeavours.

Clockwise from top left: Mayor Seamus McGrath, Helen Collins,
Ross Lewis and Tim Lucey

Another Ummera product
The book could easily have been just a list of the producers but is much more than that. West Cork is a big place so Kate decided to use some natural divisions, eg The Beara Peninsula, as chapter headings. So yes, of course, the producers are listed with some detail (including contacts and if visits are possible). Listed also are specialist food shops and local farmers markets. And, importantly, from a tourist point of view, she suggests itineraries to follow.

Let us illustrate her “scheme” by using the Clonakilty section as an example. So, you're an English or French foodie and newly arrived. Where to start? Spend a fiver on this book and you’ll see Clonakilty and its neighbours Timoleague, Dunworley and Rosscarberry.
Hungry Crow Chocolates, the bigger ones have dates and figs inside!

There are no less than 21 local food producers here including well known ones such as Ummera and Rosscarberry Recipes, lesser known such as Clonakilty Homemade Ice-cream and Devoy’s Organic Farm.

You can read which places are open to visitors and plan your own food journey. Or perhaps you’d like to rely on Kate's suggestions which starts with Ummera in Timoleague and ends with Bushy’s Strawberries in Rosscarberry. In between, you’ll visit The Baking Emporium, Camus Farm and Clonakilty Chocolate and more, maybe even a tour with Kate herself. After all that, you may well make Dunworley Cottage your overnight stay. And that's just one section!

The book will be an ideal "guide" to the Festival itself which takes place this year from 8th-17th September, with over 180 culinary and adventure events taking place across the region’s 33 towns and villages and 9 islands.  Visitors will find a foodie’s paradise, with several national and international chefs preparing culinary-themed feasts in local restaurants, food tastings al fresco, foraging walks, open-air markets, seminars, cook-offs, masterclasses and intimate evenings with local artisan food producers imparting their culinary wisdom.

As I said, West Cork is a large area, so much to see and do, so much good stuff to eat and drink!



Thursday, April 6, 2017

Kernel Kilkenny. Maria’s Up and Running

Kernel Kilkenny

Maria’s Up and Running
Salmon
So here you are in the kitchen with this lot in front of you: Salmon, sugar snaps, mint, new potatoes, Toonsbridge feta, butternut squash, lime dressing. What to do? Well, check with Maria Raftery, the owner-chef at Kernel, Kilkenny’s newest restaurant. She grilled the salmon and put all the other ingredients together in a magical manner to produce one of the best salmon dishes you're likely to come across.

It is one of the main dishes on the new menu at the restaurant which has taken up most of the front of the Kilkenny Inn on Vicar Street. And the dish, and others, amply illustrate that Maria has lost none of her innovative qualities that shone through over 17 years at Zuni, also in Kilkenny.
Goatsbridge trout
 Kernel Restaurant and Bar, to give it its full title, will be running hand in hand with the hotel and is providing the breakfast for the lucky patrons. Brunch and dinner is also available, even afternoon teas for both ladies and gents!


Back to our visit. While CL was finishing off the salmon and singing its praises, I was tucking into something a little less complicated: the Kernel Angus Beef Burger, smoked Gubbeen, burger sauce, pickle-slaw, house fries. Less complicated maybe but still a perfect combination of textures and flavours.
Ham Hock Scotch Egg
CL had started the meal with Goatsbridge Trout Ceviche, Nori Seaweed, Smoked Trout Mousse, Roe Dressing. Hard to beat that. You’ll notice that Kernel has started by supporting local producers and Goatsbridge Trout Farm is one of the best.

I didn't do too badly either with my Ham Hock Scotch Egg, Piccalilli. Lacked nothing in either quantity or quality, full of good flavour and a really satisfying opening to my visit to Kernel.
 The dessert list is short but still left us puzzled, a puzzle we solved by ordering the Assiette of Desserts, a sweet solution.


They’ve got a pretty good wine list, three suppliers contributing to a good balance overall. We made a bit of a compromise, an enjoyable one, on the Cantina Frentana, Montepulciano D’Abbruzo, fruity and smooth, and twenty five euro the bottle.
Dessert - for sharing!
Had noticed a few (quite a few actually) craft beers on the list including Franciscan Well, Costello’s, O’Hara’s, Free Bird and Hop Adventure (both from Carlow) and Falling Apple Cider (also Carlow). The taps on the bar heralded the three variations of Smithwick's (Red Ale, Pale Ale and the Blonde) but I'm sorry I missed out on the tap for O’Sullivan’s Malted Red Ale, a local beer (now revived) that was produced before Smithwick started in 1710. Next time!
See also

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