Showing posts with label Ireland. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Ireland. Show all posts

Thursday, July 6, 2017

Glendalough Gin. The Wild One


Glendalough Gin. The Wild One
Gary (centre), with a St Kevin's pose, welcomes us to Glendalough

Glendalough Distillery who, like St Kevin, are soon (well maybe within a year or two) about to move to a permanent home with a great view over the area, use foraged botanicals in their core gin, the Wild Botanical Gin, know all about timing.

Whether in the wood or the mountain or in the distillery itself, timing and that personal know-how is crucial. Both their forager Geraldine Kavanagh and their still-man Rowdy Rooney have that know-how in spades as we found out during a mid-week visit.

One of the founders, Gary McLoughlin, greeted us and introduced us to Geraldine who already had a car load of foraged stuff. She would lead us on a walk through the wooded Glendalough estate and we filled our baskets. Soon, I knew I was in the “wild” when a doctor fly - haven't seen one in years - bit me. Saw quite a few after that but no more surprises.
The still-man

We passed a few beech trees and were interested having been earlier introduced to their Beech Leaf Gin. It is a limited edition with a “beautiful colour” said Gary. Geraldine: “There is just a small window between late Spring and early Summer when the leaf is at its best, when they are soft and good.” 

No point in adding them to our baskets now. But we did add wood sorrel, honey suckle also known as woodbine, and wild blueberries (also known as bilberries or fraughan). Timing again came in to with the latter as their season is just starting and we didn't get that many. On the other hand, the elderflowers are at the end of their season and the wait is on for the berries.

By the way, the sorrel is from the same family as the shamrock. And another note: the Booze Travellers, who visited Glendalough, had a lot of fun with the fraughan (with the word, that is) and you can see it on video here
Geraldine leads us out

Geraldine was “always an outdoor girl, always into wild food from the hedgerows. Wild plants have a better immune system.” After a wild food hunt in May 2011, a bountiful summer, she started doing tours in season and that led to her starting her wild food business. Soon she moved to alcohol finding it “a lazy though interesting way of preserving.

A few years later, Gary and his partners bought a still and started making poitín. “We always had whiskey in mind as well and gin of course. But we always wanted to do something different, something interesting. Why not use the bounty of Wicklow, we thought”. And that was how they linked up with Geraldine.

All four partners, though from differing business backgrounds, “have a great passion for the industry” and now all are full-time with the distillery. “It’s been an exciting journey,’ said Gary. “We are now into 36 countries and growing. Our Irish foraged gin opened doors and it’s just go, go, go.”

 One of the aims of the distillery is “staying true to the tradition and heritage of our ancestors”. The most famous of those was St Kevin who features on the bottle. Kathleen of the Spirits figures somewhere in the legends of Kevin and no surprise that distiller Rowdy named his still after her.


“It is a hybrid,” he told us. “It combines pot and column, a wonderful piece of kit, functional, versatile and pretty!” The initial spirit is made from Irish grain and most of the botanicals, including many of the foraged ones, are added as the process begins. The more delicate botanicals, such as rose petals, have their own later place in the process, and their aromas and flavours are gently extracted by vapour.

The main botanicals in gin are pretty well-known. Glendalough’s juniper is foraged and comes from Macedonia. Their high quality coriander is farmed in Bulgaria. The third main ingredient is Angelica Root from Poland; it has a flavour binding quality (not scientifically proven!) and adds its own natural earthy flavour. Orris root is another common ingredient, dried in the Morrocan sun for five years, and is “very expensive!”.
And as the process comes to an end, the importance of timing features. Rowdy uses his experience plus his smelling and tasting skills to determine when to divert the heads and the tails and leave the liquid he’ll use in the main receptor. “Unlike some, we don't reuse heads and tails. It’s a no brainer for a premium product.”

Rowdy told us he was looking forward to the day when they set up on their new site, a hillside that we would see after lunch. He can't wait for their new garden where himself and Geraldine will grow lots of wild things, “including juniper”. Garry and his partners have indeed very exciting plans for the site and the excitement is building even though its early days. But 2014 was early days too!


Before a lovely lunch at the Wicklow Heather, we enjoyed a gin tasting, going through the four seasonals. The refreshing Spring with gorse (lovely aromas and flavours) and other ingredients (including dandelion). Summer with elderflower predominant, pine, roses, woodruff, lemon verbena and fresh lemon. Get the picture!
Kathleen of the Spirit

In Autumn it is berries, heather, rose-hip, yarrow and crab apples. Seasonal for sure. Winter is earthier, sloes, haws and a little warming spice, a great cocktail gin!

And then we had the pride of Glendalough, the Wild Botanicals Gin, “a gin for all seasons” according to Gary. “Its nose has the freshness of spring, on the palate you have summer flowers and autumn fruits and then the winter spice. Try it with Poachers Tonic.” We did and we could see why it is going down so well at home and abroad. But Glendalough won't abandon the seasons series. “Seasons are brilliant and we will always do them.”
Tasting the seasons

St Kevin's gaff;
the small one!
Their gin range has a few more. I earlier mentioned the Beech Leaf but Gary obliged us also with tastings from their Dillisk Gin and their Sloe Gin. The sloe had remarkable aromas and Garry advised trying it with a little apple juice.

So lots of fun and enthusiasm at Glendalough but lots of know-how as well. Let the journey continue, the story spreading from the lovely hills and lakes of Wicklow to wherever the spirit leads them next. 

The picture on the left shows where St Kevin retreated when his original site became too crowded with fans. He lived in a cave here, the small one, not the large one. 


Monday, June 5, 2017

Calm, comfortable and courteous place. Carrig House Stay

Calm, Comfortable and Courteous Place

Carrig House Stay

It is breakfast time. Outside, there are blue skies and the lake water is blue as well. Caragh Lake is a big and beautiful body of water and I’m staying in Carrig House on the shore. Carrig, by the way, serves one of the best breakfasts in Ireland, so all in all it is rather a perfect morning. And would still be a very good one even if, as sometimes happens, the sun doesn't shine!


With breakfast behind us, we are well placed to take in the local sights of this part of south west Kerry, known as the Iveragh Peninsula. It is the largest peninsula in southwestern Ireland. The Macgillycuddy's Reeks, with Carrauntuohill the highest point, lies in the centre of the peninsula. And not too far away is Killorglin, Cahersiveen, Valentia Island, the Skelligs, the Skellig Ring, Ballinskelligs, Waterville and many other places worth a visit.
Good morning. What would you like for breakfast?
We were here for three nights. Carrig, with its 17 guest rooms, doesn't come cheap but a gift of a Blue Book Voucher eases the hit on the wallet as does everything else here: the comfort, the welcome, the gardens, the courtesy, the chat, the private pier onto the lake, and the food.


Fish of course is a regular on the menu and we concentrated on it for one of our dinners. Roasted West Coast Cod Fillet topped with fresh Dingle Bay crab and prawns, fresh tagliatelle, morel mushroom velouté was my choice and it was delicious all the way. Our other mains was the Steamed Atlantic Stone-bass with asparagus three ways (seared, marinated, and crumb-coated), vinaigrette on a Cooleeny crème swish, balsamic pearls.


After a lovely amuse bouche by the fire in one of the drawing rooms, we had each started with Warm Spice Infused Quail, Beluga lentil Mung Bean jus and pickled onions. Not the easiest meat to pick off the small bones but it came with a big flavour, enhanced no end by the lentils and the onions. 

My dessert was another Carrig House gem, Rich Vanilla Crème Brûlée, cherry and hazelnut financier, and fruit tuile while CL indulged in the Passionfruit Marshmallow with roasted pineapple chiboust, pineapple parcels, and liquorice caramel.
Not always blue here.
The rooms are superb here, spacious and ultra comfortable. Ours had a view of the gardens but you can also get some with lake views. Wi-Fi is pretty good but the network service for mobiles is not. 

And don’t be put off if you see a brown tint in the water - the reservoir is in bogland - and the water is perfectly safe for washing yourself. And they do provide bottled water in the rooms. The bathroom, at least in our case, was spacious and well equipped with toiletries and towels (best bring your own face cloths, a general rule) and you do have a full sized bath as well as the shower.

The decor is beautiful all through the house. Newspapers are in good supply too if you want to sit by the fire and take it easy until that shower passes. Then again, if the sun is out, you’ll find it hard to resist taking a stroll around the colourful gardens, maybe an amble down to the lake.

Amuse Bouche in the cosy drawing room
Then, when you (don’t mind those fishermen who headed off early) are good and ready, you can head out for the day. The coast? The mountains? The choice is yours. And remember you'll have a stunning dinner to come back to!


Carrig House was built originally about 1850 as a hunting lodge. Frank and Mary Slattery, the current owners, purchased Carrig in 1996. They are the first Irish owners since it was originally built and have renovated  and meticulously restored the Victorian residence to its former glory. The atmosphere, they say, is friendly, warm and one of total relaxation. It certainly is!
Cod

See also: Visiting Valentia Island

Sunday, May 28, 2017

Dinner and Movies. Great Views too. Montenotte Hotel's Panorama Bistro

Dinner and Movies. Great Views too.
Montenotte Hotel’s Panorama Bistro
Dine with Rosanna next month

The restaurant at the revamped Hotel Montenotte is called The Panorama and the spacious and comfortable bistro and bar certainly lives up to the name. From most of room and from the terrace outside you have a great view over the river and much of the city.

And the revamp isn't confined to the inside. Below the level of the restaurant and out in front, a lovely new “formal” garden is rapidly taking shape. The rectangular centrepiece is divided into quadrants and the matching plants in the four areas are about to burst into bloom. 

And a feature inside, an unusual one, is the hotel’s very own cinema, The Cameo. And it is quite a luxurious room as we found out after dinner in the bistro last week.

When you enter through the door your cinema experience immediately begins with curtained walls, cinema lighting, large projection screen, luxurious tiered seating, surround sound and the latest in cinema technology, you will not have an experience elsewhere like it. They offer themed film nights from Comedy to International; there is something for everyone. And the venue is for hire.

The hotel caters for quite a few events and next month will start a series called “An Evening With…”.  Author, model and nutritionist, Rosanna Davison, starts the ball rolling on June 14th. Among her accolades, Rosanna has been crowned Miss World, qualified as nutritionist, and is a successful top model and most recently she is author of two bestselling health, nutrition and fitness books ‘Eat Yourself Fit’ and ‘Eat Yourself Beautiful’. 

Ticket cost is €100 per person and includes the reception, evening meal with Rosanna, and a donation to the hotel’s charity the Daisy Chain Foundation More details here
Work in progress

There is a new chef Adrian Hillgrove in charge. He has wide experience including working at Rick Stein’s flagship eatery in Cornwall. He has a love of seafood and fish and you'll see some of his fishes dishes on the A La Carte for the Panorama here.  

Brian Bowler, General Manager at The Montenotte Hotel, is delighted that Hillgrove has joined them: “He has a wonderful way with flavours, and his creativity and use of only of the finest in-season produce from the region ensures that our menus will delight those who visit and who stay with us.”
Salmon

There is a separate three course menu for the Movie Evening and we enjoyed that the other night.   The place was busy but the staff were on the ball and there was no delay in getting us sorted, the menus, water and some very tasty bread on the table without fuss.

Having read the chef's background, I started with the Chowder. I wasn't disappointed. The creamy bowlful was chock-a-block with red, smoked and white fish and a few mussels lurking there too for good measure. And CL was well pleased with a Watermelon and Feta Salad with chicken and orange and rocket.

Off to a good start. And so it continued. Sirloin Steak and Traditional Fish and Chips were featured on the Mains but I liked the sound of the Fillet of Salmon with Asparagus and Rocket; this had a fresh herb crust pesto, parmesan cheese, pink peppercorns and beurre blanc sauce. I liked the look and flavours of this excellent combination, loved the cheese and the pesto. Fairly simple and nothing over the top but a nice way of presenting the salmon.

Across the table, the Pan Fried Chicken Supreme went down well. A highlight here was a lovely Jameson and Wild Mushroom Sauce. The celeriac mash was excellent too as were our side dishes of vegetables.

The dessert list was short, with the usual suspects. But I was in for a delightful surprise as my Tiramisu was one of the best that I've come across in a while.

It was billed as a classic Italian dish, layered soaked biscotti and mascarpone cream, chocolate shavings. Plenty of sponge there to soak up all the sweet stuff! CL’s wasn't quite of the same class but not bad either. She had the Lemon Posset, poached winter berries, white wine stock syrup, blackberries, raspberries and ginger-nut crust. The berries were a little scarce but overall the lemon came through well. Two generous desserts, by the way and, on the A La Carte, each costs €6.95.

After then it was time to head the Cameo, just a few steps away, and the movie! Lights out.

Sit back and relax!
Movie Latest: Agents & Heroes @ The Cameo Cinema for the Month of June.

2 course meal €24.95 per person, 3 course meal €29.95 per person.

For bookings, call us on 021 453 0050






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

Sunday, April 2, 2017

My Favourite: Powers John's Lane Release. plus Cork Whiskey Festival details.

Powers John's Lane Release Whiskey
Cork Whiskey Festival.

From the uncountable volumes written about whiskey, this is the line I always remember: “It makes me sick when I am well, it makes me well when I am sick”. Something of a generalisation, no doubt, and some truth there too.

So, which whiskey - and with an “e”, I’m talking Irish here -  do you want as your cure, as your first choice, as your final choice?

Once upon a time, I thought Paddy was your man, your one and only man. But then I found many more including Powers, Bushmills, Hewitt’s, and Dunphy's, most of them that little bit gentler than Paddy.

But around the same time, it became clear that Irish whiskey was dying. Three white-as-a-sheet bodies got into bed in Midleton as death beckoned. Somehow the last-gasp trio survived. And, thanks to a French kiss, thrived. And, now whole and healthy, continue to thrive. Viva Irish Distillers.

So, now which whiskey would I prefer when an póg beatha is required. It’s got to be that reviving rush, that generous warming wave that reaches the parched shore, that rich and rare one, “droplets of pure pleasure” as one of our greatest bards put it, it’s got to be the magnificent Powers John’s Lane Release Single Pot Still.


Love my Jameson, in all its marvellous manifestations, my Redbreast in all its glorious hues and aromas, the various coloured “spots” of Powers but, when it’s a matter of life and death, John’s Lane’s your only man. Slainte! 

Widely available, including in Bradley's of Cork, and Very Highly Recommended.

The Cork Whiskey Festival begins Monday April 3rd. Get the details of the week-long fest here.


Monday, November 28, 2016

Franciscan Well's Shane Long: Now, we can!

Franciscan Well's Shane Long: Now, we can!


Shane Long at the launch

No shortage of craic in the Franciscan Well pub on the North Mall last week when the local brewer officially launched their new can range in Cork. Three of their favourites, all tried and tested, are available in the new format: Friar Weisse, Chieftain Pale Ale and Ireland’s number one* craft beer Franciscan Well Rebel Red

The announcement marks the first time Franciscan Well, which is brewed in Cork, has canned any of its beers and also the first time that Friar Weisse or Chieftain IPA will be available for purchase in off-licenses.

Founder of Franciscan Well, Shane Long (right): "The decision to move to a canned format reflects the growing trend internationally, whereby more and more craft beers are sold in 330ml can format. This is something that has been prevalent in the U.S. and has proven extremely popular. We are confident this will be the case as we roll out craft in a can for beer-lovers here in Ireland, making our award-winning range of beers even more accessible and readily available.” The new cans also chill quickly and are recyclable.

All brewing and canning will take place at Franciscan Well’s new brewery in Cork City. The brewery opened last year, allowing for operational growth and further expansion for Ireland’s leading craft beer brand, while staying true to Franciscan Well’s proud history and identity as one of Ireland and Cork’s favourite craft beers. The nearby North Mall brew-pub and home of Franciscan Well will be used an innovation centre, while remaining a popular destination for tourists and locals alike.

There was a pre-Christmas feel to the bar as we walked in to be welcomed with a choice of cans, of course. Must admit we both picked the Chieftain, a favourite here since it was launched. And later, I switched to draught and again couldn't resist that Chieftain! Next time, though I renewed acquaintance with the wheat beer, Friar Weisse, with is distinctive colour, aroma and flavour. The Friar (left) was one of my early Well favourites and, after the other night, it is going back on my short list.

It wasn't just beer on the night. The place was packed and there was music galore and no shortage of pizza either. Pompeii Pizza have a permanent place here and I saw why when I ordered one of their offerings, with  Chorizo and Mushroom toppings (€11.00). Enjoyed every little bit.

Check out the pizza, the music (including trad sessions), the tours and tastings on the website here. The new cans also chill quickly and are recyclable. And keep up to date on their Facebook place.




*AC Nielsen ROI On-Trade MAT to end August 2016

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Spirits of the Islands. Top drops from Ireland & Islay

Spirits of the Islands
Top drops from Ireland & Islay

Had a significant birthday recently - they are all significant now! - and treated myself to these significant spirits. Quite expensive when you consider that you can get a bottle of excellent Jameson for about thirty euro. But I must say, I am really enjoying these. And, just to let you know, there is a significant gift-giving occasion on the horizon!

Writer’s Tears Copper Pot Irish Whiskey, 40%, €45.99 Bradley’s, Cork

This single pot still, plus single malt, is fast becoming a favourite with me for its complex flavours and amazing smoothness. The name, according to Walsh Distillers, is because a whiskey such as this was enjoyed by famous Irish writers in the good old days.

Don't stick your nose in to get the aromas - a "mistake" wine aficionados make with spirits - just hover above the glass and they’ll come to you, apple and honey in this case. The attractive soft whiskey has been matured in charred Bourbon barrels and there are notes of the wood on the gentle palate, also a sweet spice, some toffee too in a gorgeous mix. And the finish is smooth, elegant and long. Quite the foxy lady and worth exploring. Very Highly Recommended.
  • Writer’s Tears won the award of Best Irish Blend Under €50.00 in the 2013 Irish Whiskey Awards.

The Botanist, Islay Dry Gin, 46%, €59.95 Bradley’s, Cork
Lots of hype around this gin but what is undeniable is that it is a very very good one. The usual suspects are among the botanicals but there are no less than 22 local botanicals as well - Islay must be denuded. Undeniable too is the website claim that the foraged 22 are “unbuyable flavors” - amazing how the US English spellchecker takes over, even in Islay.

“You’re getting uncommon things”, they say and no denying Islay is producing an uncommon gin, one of the best.

On the complex nose, you meet the usual indispensable suspects (including juniper, orange and lemon peel) and, from Islay itself, come apple mint, thistle, summer flowers, gorse and other “unbuyable flavors”. On the palate this smooth Scotch gin seduces, its strength cloaked with its rich and mellow taste, its fresh and stimulating flavours, its warm and lingering finish. Very Highly Recommended.


By the way, if your Latin is up to scratch, you’ll recognise the local botanical names which are embossed on the bottle: Galium Verum  (Lady’s Bedstraw) and Cirsium Arvense  (Creeping Thistle) are two examples.

Friday, January 11, 2013

A twinning proposition: Timoleague and Samaniego

A twinning proposition: Timoleague and Samaniego
Timoleague (above) and Samaniego



Let us twin the ancient villages of Timoleague (West Cork) and Samaniego (La Rioja). Maybe I can’t pull that off but I sure can get Ummera and Baigorri together. Ummera is a famous state of the art smokehouse in Timoleague while Baigorri is a renowned state of the art winery in La Rioja.

Indeed, I have already brought them together, stumbling on a fantastic wine food pairing, as an unforeseen postscript when I recently opened a bottle of Baigorri Garnacha that I had purchased in Samaniego last summer.

Approaching the end of this bottle, I remembered that I had a few slices of the fantastic Ummera smoked duck to be finished off. Thought to myself that they might make a match.

For once, heaven agreed with me. Chewed a sliver of the duck and added a little wine. Eureka! The "chemistry"  revealed depths of smoky flavour, hitherto unsuspected. Amazingly, products from two ancient villages met on my palate and turned it into a flavour filled paradise.

Baigorri Garnacha, Rioja 2009, 14.5%, €19.54 at the winery in Haro.

Baigorri tend to experiment a bit and they even have a “garage” wine. This Garnacha has been influenced by the winemakers, a vin de l'auteur they call it. A well made wine for sure and highly recommended (very highly recommended if you add the smoked duck!) but a little pricey in comparison with their excellent Tempranillo Reserva.

Quite a dry introduction and then a bubbly rush of fruits. A flavoursome wine then with a stirring persistence. It has a rich red colour with calm fruity aromas, especially plum, plus hints of spice. Overall, the experience in the mouth echoes that of the bouquet.

Monday, September 10, 2012

Three Clare champions at Ballymaloe

Three Clare champions at Ballymaloe

Birgitta

Fit for a queen
Met three champions from Clare at Ballymaloe last evening. The first, Skillogalee founder Dave Palmer, comes for the Clare Valley in Australia, while the other two, Birgitta Curtin of the Burren Smokehouse and Siobhan Ni Ghairbhith of St Tola, come from our own County Clare, after which the Australian valley is named. It was a promising line-up and they delivered big time.


Colm McCan of Ballymaloe greeted us all with a Skillogalee Sparkling Riesling. “A very unusual wine, only four or five are made in Oz,” said Dave. “It is light, dry and refreshing and aromatic. It is a properly made sparkler, bottle fermented and aged on its lees.” Great start.


Siobhan
Hard
Ash




Dave then took to the stage at the Grain Store to introduce his two whites for the evening: the Riesling 2011 and the Gewurztraminer 2011. “These are cold climate wines. We pick pristine fruit and try to preserve it all the way through”. These were matched with the soft goats cheeses and the smoked salmon. “Matches made in heaven,” according to Dave. “I think the lemon and lime flavours in the wine is one of the reasons.”

Next on the wine list was the Rosé (a Cabernet Malbec blend) 2011, a rosé “with attitude..brings out the summer berry characters”. Delightful all the way through from its initial beautiful strawberry bouquet.

Two Gold medal winning reds followed as the high standard was maintained: The Cabernets 2007 and the Shiraz 2008. Quality control is vital in Skillogalee and you won’t find The Cabernets 2008. They didn’t make it as the fruit wasn't good enough.

The reds were matched with the St Tola Hard Cheese, just three months old. Very good now, like Gouda, but Siobhan promised it will get better as it matures (more like Parmesan in the end).

Dave
Quite often, the language of wine maker and food producer is the same. They are one and all affected by factors outside their control including the obvious one of the weather. They are one and all dependent on their terroir. Siobhan knows that if she were to transport her 200 plus goats to an inland county that the cheese flavours would be different.

“We have a peaty soil near the Atlantic. The St Tola Log cheese is quite natural, a little fruity, hints of the peat and undertones of salt. The St Tola Ash is made in the same way but in smaller log and is rolled in a food grade charcoal to produce the Ash rim. The Ash makes it stand out on the cheeseboard and keeps it fresh.”

The hard cheese is weather dependent, made only in summer with surplus milk. In a good year, St Tola make it from May to July/August but this bad summer they were curtailed to making it from June to mid July.

It soon became obvious that you really need to know what you are doing with hard cheese. “Timing is very important. If done wrongly, it can even explode!” With its beautiful taste and texture and creaminess, it proved a great match for the Cabernets.

Just like Dave and Diane Palmer, Birgitta and Peter started their Clare business about 23 years ago. Now the Burren Smokehouse is internationally recognised and its products are stocked in speciality food shops in places such as London, US and Kuwait. They too set high standards and their excellence has been regularly recognised and many awards have come their way.

They love their location but even here there are challenges, like the scarcity of wild salmon. She told us the wild salmon is a little drier and the flavour lingers a little longer. They get theirs from a fisherman on the Nore and it ends up in the most unexpected places. Like the Queen’s table, for example. Last year, during the Queen's visit, Ross Lewis choose Burren Smokehouse Wild Salmon for the state banquet. Another honour for Birgitta and company!

Birgitta is Swedish and explained that hot smoking is prevalent in her home country while cold smoking is more common in Ireland. She showed a selection at Ballymaloe, including the Donegal Silver (fresh, sweet and full of Omega3) and the slightly paler Clare Island.

Her Hot Smoked Organic Salmon “is slightly spiced, fully cooked and more meaty.” Birgitta suggested it is a good way to get young people interested in smoked fish though she suspected that “the real fish eaters might prefer cold smoked”.

The Burren Smokehouse is quite a tourist attraction. “Some 30,000 people visit us each year, 10,000 of them from France. Please call in!”

A terrific entertaining and informative evening was drawing to a close but, with Dave Palmer on hand, there was to be a sweet ending, a tasting of the famous Skillogalee Liqueur Muscat, made like a Tawny Port, the fermentation stopped at the right point (the tricky part) leaving a 25% sugar content. Great nose and great flavours, not at all cloying and with a long lingering finale.

Thanks to Dave and Dianne Palmer, to Birgitta and Siobhan and indeed to Colm and all at Ballymaloe.