Showing posts with label Jacques. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Jacques. Show all posts

Sunday, September 24, 2017

Oysters Galore on the Cork Gourmet Trail


Oysters Galore on the Cork Gourmet Trail
How many did you eat?


“I had nineteen oysters last night,” claimed a London visitor to the weekend’s Cork Oyster Festival. And that “last night” was just the official launch. I’m still wondering how many she managed during the Gourmet Trail on the following day. 

The trail visited five venues and some had up to three restaurants combining. There were so many opportunities to indulge in the delicious crustaceans she must surely have doubled the tally from the previous night!
Gin cocktail in a cup at Cask

And there were even more plates of the tasty oysters available at the after party as the various groups found their way back to the ballroom at the Metropole Hotel, the Festival’s headquarters. Oysters, more drinks and music. Well done to instigator/organiser Sandra Murphy and her crew.

Sandra was with our group on the trail and our be-hatted leaders were Kylie from the International Hotel and James from the Imperial. We were last to leave but our intrepid guides had us back good and early to join the after party.
Sushi at The Met

Lord Mayor Tony Fitzgerald had opened the festival on Friday night and the oyster event added to the terrific buzz around town as Culture Night drew the crowds. Guests at the launch were treated to oysters (included cooked versions) by Haven Shellfish and there was also some tempting sushi available with bubbles and wine and, of course, Murphy’s Stout from the sponsors.

On Saturday at noon, the ballroom was full but, after a Kinsale Gin and Tonic, we were divided into groups, met our leaders and headed off on the trail. More gin, part of a cocktail in a cup, at our first stop, the stunning Cask, just across the road. Lots of tasty bites here too and time also to begin to get to know our fellow trailers.
Cornstore were displaying their Himalayan salt (used to age their famous steaks).

Next stop was the Oyster Tavern, another lovely venue where I enjoyed an excellent meal recently. The oysters here were provided by the Electric Fish Bar, great spot to visit. The Oyster Tavern themselves came up with delicious sliders and bowls of chips. 

Amicus were also feeding us with Tom Durcan beef, including carpaccio and teriyaki versions, and more, though their seasonal desserts, Kitchen Garden Rhubarb Fool and the Foraged Blackberry Fool, were irresistible.

Down the stairs then and out into the lane for another group photo before winding up Patrick St and visiting the Bodega where Rachel’s and Cornstore were also lining up with their offerings. The Bodega sushi (one pickled vegetable, another was smoked salmon) went down a treat. 
Sandra rallies her troops as the rain arrives

Mike Ryan of the Cornstore - terrific dinner there recently - was the oyster “supplier” and he had a welcome variation called Angels on Horseback (the dish is typically prepared by rolling shucked oysters in bacon and baking them in an oven). 

That was excellent though I noticed quite few voicing a preference for the battered prawn version! Rachel’s had a couple (at least) of show stoppers, including a shot of Tomato Water and a shot glass packed full of lobster.

So back to the Imperial Hotel (for the second time in a  couple of days) and they had help from Jacques and Arthur Mayne’s.
Imperial desserts

Loved that Medjool Date from Jacques plus the superb desserts by the hotel itself. The savoury bites by Arthur Mayne’s (Avocado mousse with prawn, Caprese Bites, and the Chorizo and Chickpea Ragu) were outstanding.
Caprese minis by Olivo

One more stop and soon we were enjoying Margherita time at the newly opened Tequila Jacks. The drinks were eagerly awaited and easily downed. Food too, of course, hot stuff by our hosts and some cooler bits from Olivo, the Italian restaurant at the Cork Airport Hotel.
Margarita?

Tacos Mechados, Roasted Chicken taquitos and Shrimp Rellanos were among the Jacks offerings while the cool bites from Olivo included a lovely mini Caprese and also a Parma wrapped asparagus. 

More food anyone? No! A second round of Margaritas was coming to its conclusion and, suitably fortified,  it was time to brave the rain and the wind that had arrived midway though the trail and traipse back to the Metropole. 

And if you did wanted to increase you oyster headcount, there were trayfuls of opportunity to do. I did see the visiting London couple but didn't get a chance to check her final oyster tally! 

The Prosecco and wine flowed (enjoyed a Rioja blanco, well maybe two!), and then a final chat or two before saying goodbye and heading to the taxi. 
Tasty dips at Tequila Jacks

Once again, well done to Sandra and the crew and here’s to seeing you all and more in 2018!

Sunday, September 17, 2017

A slice of Cork Food History. A walk; then a superb lunch in Jacques.

A Slice Of Cork Food History

A walk; then a superb lunch in Jacques.
Firkin Crane, with Butter Exchange on right.

Saturday last was that little bit different for members of the Munster Wine and Dine. No bus needed this time. A walk through some of Cork City’s old food (and drink) sites was followed by a lunch in Jacques where the menu gave an occasional nod to food from the past.

The walk, more of a conversation on the move really, began near Seamus Murphy’s Onion Seller sculpture in Cornmarket Street and  threw up a few surprises. 

The first was the delight of some walkers who were seeing the Saturday Coal Quay Market for the first time. And another delight came up in Shandon where sweets from the local sweet factory were distributed. Gaps of anticipation as the bags of Bull’s Eyes, Clove Rock, Butter Nuggets, Pear Drops, Rhubarb & Custard and other old time favourites appeared!

There were some differences as to the highlights - one walker loved the Seamus Murphy Dog Drinking Bowl in Patrick Street where the stroll finished - but there was general agreement that the powers that be need to get their act together about the Butter Exchange area, an area packed with history, that badly needs renovation and that has the potential to be a major tourist attraction. One suggested that a good power-wash would be a start.

Certainly much more needs to be done and quickly before the Exchange and its Portico fall victim to the march of time or the match of the arsonist.
Kilbrack Farm in the market

While some of the history touched on stretched back over the centuries, some was quite recent and when we reached the site of the old Whitaker's Hatchery on Camden Quay, we had first hand knowledge passed to us by ex-employee Aoife McCan. She told us all about the day-old chicks that were dispatched by bus all over the county and beyond.

But it was her tale of the “turkey sexer" that really surprised everyone. Apparently it is not easy to tell the difference between the genders. But some people have the gift! And Whitaker's had to book their expert well in advance and get him in from England when the turkey chicks, destined for Christmas market, were being born. Nobody wanted the “tougher” male turkeys, so the “sexer’s” job was to weed them out.

The Kiln Rover once flowed past Whitaker's but that part of it is now enclosed underground. We went up towards the brewery to get a glimpse of its waters. And another walker was able to tell us that the brewery and a nearby distillery (St Johns, long closed) would have had an argument or two about their use of the Kiln River’s water.

If you missed the walk, I have published my notes for it here and you may check it out for yourself. And if you want to get some of those sweets, note that the factory is open Monday to Friday, not on Saturday.

Pickled mussels
Huge queue at Jacques as we arrived for lunch but it was at the other side of the street heading to see Cillian Murphy in Crane Lane. A welcome glass of Longueville House cider as we got to our seats and than an immediate bite from the past: pickled mussels, apple, nasturtium. The pickling was a method of preserving them.

We had a choice of starters and I picked one of the old ones: Lambs kidneys, smoked potato purée, raisins, pine kernels, red wine. A blas from the past. The Barry’s here buy quite a share of their vegetables from the Kilbrack Farm stall in the Coal Quay market - we had stopped there earlier - and the Kilbrack beetroot was featured here with Ardsallagh cheese.
Lambs kidneys

Dave Barry’s Queens turned up in my mains which was a delicious fresh Hake, with seaweed butter, those spuds, and sprouting broccoli. Also available were Confit Duck (with pearl barley), Leg of Ham (with colcannon) and more.

And dessert was largely foraged: Carrigeen mousse and in-season blackberries. As we walked out on to the street, the rain had started to fall. We didn't mind too much as it had stayed dry for the walk!
Hake
If you missed the walk, I have published my notes for it here; you may like to check it out for yourself.
Dessert


Thursday, August 17, 2017

Cork City by The Lee. Stay. Eat. Shop. See!

Cork City by The Lee. 
Stay. Eat. Shop. See!
Music city



The Firkin Crane in Shandon,
once the butter capital of the world
See: The Queen made it her number one stop in Cork so you’ve just got to see the English Market, an institution in the city since 1788. Nearby, you’ll see the spires of historic St Fin Barre’s Cathedral.

St Anne’s Church in Shandon is another landmark. Visit and don’t forget to ring the bells.  Cork was once the butter capital of the world and the Butter Museum is in the shadow of Shandon.

Staying north of the river, why not pay a call to the storied cells of the 
City GaolThe Glucksman is a lovely art gallery in the leafy grounds of the university while the well established Crawford Gallery is easily accessible in the city centre, next door to the Opera House. And don't forget Elizabeth Fort and the newly opened Nano Nagle PlaceAlways something interesting on at The Triskel, an arts venue in a converted church.

Shop: While in the English Market why not do a bit of shopping and check out local delicacies such as buttered eggs and spiced beef. The compact city centre boasts a few top notch shopping centres: Merchants Quay, Opera Lane and the new Capitol area. North Main Street has Bradley’s, founded in 1850, and famous for its wall of craft beers.

For a different experience head to 
Mahon Point Farmer’s Market every Thursday where you’ll find fantastic local cheese and meat and much more, including wild mushrooms, all within a few yards of the large shopping centre.
No shortage of farm to fork restaurants in Cork

Eat: No shortage of eating places including Greene's, JacquesLesGourmandises and Isaac's while lively lunchtime venues include the Farmgate and Nash 19Mad on meat? Try Son of a Bun, Holy Smoke, SpitJack, and many more. Exceptional Japanese at Miyazaki (just six stools though!) No meat? Then the amazing Cafe Paradiso is the one, Iyers is another. Idaho is the city centre cafe while coffee stops abound.  For a fuller list of restaurants and cafes, city and county, see my regularly updated list here. Also check the Whazon Cork listings.

A city of bridges
Drink: For something a little different try L’Atitude Wine Café close to the City Hall. The emphasis here is on quality wines and tasty local snacks with a continental touch. Electric, with its downstairs bar and upstairs fish bar, has taken the South Mall by storm since it opened in 2010.  SoHo and the Bodega are other modern bars with restaurants attached.

For something more traditional, including the music, there are quite a few with The Oliver Plunket being very central indeed.
And, if you prefer craft beers then the Franciscan Well on the North Mall is the place to go as they have a micro brewery right behind the counter. Other pubs with micro-breweries include Rising Sons (Cornmarket Street), Elbow Lane (Oliver Plunket Street, excellent food here also) and Cotton Ball (Mayfield).

Stay: With excellent food in the building and efficient and friendly service, the River Lee is a lovely place to stay in Cork. If you need something more central, the Clayton is for you. A short distance from the centre, you'll find the Ambassador and the Montenotte, each with great views over the city
Fitzgerald's Park

If you are caught for time, stay at the Metropole and explore the amazing McCurtain Street, its pubs, theatre, cafes and restaurants.

Something on the traditional side? Why not the Imperial where you’ll be wined and dined and never be short of company as the locals come and go. Like it leafy? Then the Hayfield Manor and the Maryborough near Douglas are recommended as is the Radisson in Little Island.

Making a quick getaway? The Cork International Airport Hotel is excellent. Heading north or west? Check the Commons Inn.

Walk: Cork is very compact and great for walks. Call to the tourist office and pick up the maps and info for some city centre strolls.

Like to try something more energetic? Then start at the 
North Mall and take a brisk riverside stroll through the Mardyke, into Fitzgerald’s Park, past the UCC Grounds and then onto the Lee Fields. Just remember you have to come back!

There is a very popular walk by the harbour starting at 
Blackrock Castle, another great place to visit with an excellent restaurant, the Castle Cafe. For something shorter but still interesting, do the circular walk around the Lough, a suburban lake full of swans and ducks and other wildfowl.

Ballycotton cliff walk, just east of the city
Get Out: No shortage of things to see and do on the eastern side of the city. Take a trip to Fota House and its famous gardens and arboretum. If you have kids, then the Fota Wildlife Park is at hand. Much to do in Cobh also, including a trip by boat to Spike Island, a former prison with history galore. 

Spike Island
To the south then and a highlight in Crosshaven is the coastal artillery fort of 
Camden with a wealth of history and great views. Another fort, this also being restored, is Charlesfort in Kinsale, a historic town rich in excellent eating places and with a must visit Wine Museum in Desmond Castle. Blarney is just north of the city. The castle, and its famous stone, is a busy spot. Eat at The Square Table.

Strike off to the west and take in the impressive ruins of the abbey at 
Timoleague . WestCork boasts magnificent beaches and good food producers whose products you may sample in restaurants such as the Pilgrim's (Rosscarbery),  Richy’s Bistro (Clonakilty), and Bastion (Kinsale).

For more detailed guides to the county, check out my East Cork and North Cork recommendations.

Jazz time
Listen: There is almost always a music festival on in Cork and surrounds and the big one is the Jazz, always on the final weekend of October. There is a Folk Festival at the end of September and film buffs are in town in force in November. Check them all out here.

The Choral festival dominates in the spring and summer sings with the Midsummer Festival, followed by the International Folk Dancing Festival. 
Music in the Marquee  is a big highlight. Night after summer night, the Marquee hosts top names. Bryan Adams, Cliff Richard and Elton John played this summer (2017).


Avoid: The usual big city security precautions apply. Avoid leaving anything visible in your car and so on. Not much else to avoid. Maybe the rainy days. But even those can be fun. Never know who you’ll find singing at the local bar, even on the street. It is a fun city. So enjoy!

Monday, July 24, 2017

Jacques. High Standards Since 1980.


Jacques. 
Style and High Standards Since 1980.
Kidneys

The warmest of welcomes. An evening meal of outstanding quality. An exemplary service. An evening to savour. Where? In Jacques Restaurant of course, where the Barry sisters, Jacque and Eithne, have reigned - morning, noon and evening - since 1980.

Back in the 80s, you had hair to the skies and shoulder pads not far behind and the guys had big and obvious gold chains. Those fashions have long gone but the high standard at Jacques endures.
Crab

In early 2015, after an previous outstanding meal there, I wrote: For 35 years now, Jacques has been setting the standard for restaurants in Cork. With the Barrys' unswerving commitment to local produce and high class cooking, it looks as if the calm and comfortable Phoenix Street venue will be the benchmark for years to come. No need to change an iota!

Just as well we four had booked well in advance for our Friday night out. The main restaurant was full and there was a lively buzz too coming from the new-ish tapas section which fronts onto Oliver Plunkett Street. You can access both areas from either that street or the original Phoenix Street door.

No delay in bringing the menus and water, breads too, to the table. The A La Carte is quite extensive and we were immediately filled in on the specials. Quite a choice. 

That Lambs Kidney tempted me but in the end I picked the Fresh crab mayonnaise, new potato, mint, and the Busby strawberries from West Cork. Hadn't seen that combination before and it was delicious. CL enjoyed her Roast beetroot, quinoa, Knockalara cheese, saying the caramelised walnuts included were “divine”. Got enthusiastic reports too on the Kidneys and also on the Fried Ardsallagh Goats Cheese Gnudi with cured egg yolk.
Monkfish

Some excellent wines (and craft beers too) on the list. Indeed, the wine quality is very evident in those listed as house wines including a superb Anselmann Riesling Classic 2012. A pichet of Argentinian Malbec also went down well as did a bottle of Steininger Grüner Veltliner from Austria’s Kamptal.

Now, for the main event. The Cork Lamb Cutlets were enthusiastically dispatched while the two ladies were very happy indeed with the fresh Hake, pan fried, lemon butter, crispy capers, parsley, Ballycotton queens and greens, a lovely plateful indeed. 
Lamb

I went a little exotic: Fresh monkfish, Malaysian noodles, pancetta, chilli and black pepper jam and julienne of vegetables. I think I hit the jackpot with this one. It was perfectly cooked and the fish was superbly enhanced by the accompaniments. Just like my crab and strawberry starter, I would highly recommended this one!

No big decision required for dessert as two sharing plates appeared. And soon disappeared! We four would soon head off into the city night, all talking about the marvellous meal and hospitality in a lovely place. I think we’ll be spreading the good word for a long while.

Jacques, 23 Oliver Plunkett St and 9 Phoenix Street.
"Whether you come in the front door or the back door,
you're more than welcome."
021 427 7387
Opening hours:
Mon 10am to 4.00pm
Tue-Sat 10am to 10pm.

Monday, June 19, 2017

Night of the Long Table. Four Hundred Dine Out on Cork’s South Mall

Night of the Long Table

Four Hundred Dine Out on Cork’s South Mall
Phil (standing) wishes Happy Birthday to fiancée Veronica; they get married today.
A night out to remember for the over four hundred diners who gathered on Cork’s South Mall for an outdoor dinner, the second running of Cork’s Long Table. And the sun came too, making it a glorious occasion for the organisers and their partners including Bord Bia, Failte Ireland, Cork City Council and Cork Midsummer Festival.

There was a choice of drink on the way in, anything from Prosecco to cider to beer to a cordial. The first suppliers we met were Colm McCan (what a hat) and Pascal Rossignol of Le Caveau, helping out on the night.
All calm before the service

Soon we were seated at our table, strangers to the right of us, strangers to the left. A few minutes later though and strangers no more! 

A tasty oyster signalled the start of the serving and then came the Producers Boards with Smoked mussels and mackerel, crab with lemon mayo (perhaps my favourite), black and white pudding, spiced beef, crubeens and ham hock terrine, chutney, breads, mozzarella. That got us talking and sharing and there was something for everyone!
Welcome to the Long Table from Colm(left) and Pascal of Le Caveau

The mains meanwhile were being prepared in the kitchens of the nearby Imperial Hotel and distributed to the various staging posts on the pavement. It was worth waiting for, not that we were waiting at all. The rack of lamb with pea purée, salsa verde, mixed leaf salad and loads of superb British Queens, not forgetting Glenilen butter, was totally satisfying though a few of us volunteered for seconds when the opportunity arose.

And the dessert, a very generous one indeed, was Strawberries with crushed meringue, cream and rose petal, another delight. And to finish we had cheese: Milleens to remember the late Veronica Steele and Hegarty’s Cheddar.
Starter board

All the while, the wine, the beer, the cider, whatever you fancied was being served and the brass band played. There was even a birthday surprise for Veronica, served up by fiancé Phil; all go for this couple who get married today. We wish them well!

Once announced, the Long Table Dinner sold out within hours, such was the feeling that this was going to be a good one. And once you saw the list of quality suppliers, you knew the basis was there for a terrific meal. 
Lamb

Suppliers included Frank Hederman, K. O’Connell Fish, Tim McCarthy’s, Rosscarberry Recipes, McCarthy Meats, Haven Fish, Glenilen Farm, Waterfall Farms, Bumblebee Flower Farm, Dave Barry’s Farm, Bushy Berries, On the Pig’s Back, Murphy’s,  Longueville House, 9 White Deer, Le Caveau and Counterpoint.

I've often heard chefs say they are nothing without the producers but the restaurants and chefs have a major role to play in getting the best from the produce and that certainly happened last night with Ali’s Kitchen, Electric Fishbar, The Farmgate, Fenn’s Quay, The Imperial Hotel, Isaac’s Restaurant, Jacob’s on the Mall, Jacque’s Restaurant, L’Atitude 51, Nash 19 and the Rocketman all playing important roles. Cheers to the hard-working owners and staff.

* I’m glad too that Rebel Chilli were also involved as it was in their competition that I, having been caught out by the early booking rush, won the tickets that got me to the Mall. Thanks, folks!

It's a wrap for 2017

Sunday, March 5, 2017

Chanson du Vin at Jacques. Languedoc Wine-Makers on Song

Chanson du Vin at Jacques
Languedoc Wine-Makers on Song
Francoise and Luc
 Minervois wine-maker Luc Lapeyre may have needed a little help with his spoken English but none at all when it came to singing. Francoise Taillefer, another Languedoc wine-maker, and Luc put on one of the liveliest wine-tastings ever at Jacques last Thursday. 

It was Luc’s singing that ended a very entertaining evening, his Fields of Athenry rising over the packed tables and giving stiff competition to the music from the pub across the way. Chanson du Vin.

Fionnuala Harkin of Wines Direct had accompanied the two organic winemakers on their week's trip around Ireland and Thursday was the final day. Their visit to Cork began with an afternoon masterclass in L’Atitude 51. 

Francoise, of Domaine Ollier Taillefer, started with her Les Collines. The vineyard, that she runs with her brother (also named Luc), is set in the hills around the picturesque village of Fos. The Taillefer vines are planted in the sloping schist soils of the Faugeres appellation, the smallest appellation in the Languedoc.


The soil is mainly schist, a very poor soil but “easier “for organic”. It gives this wine, a blend of Grenache (50%), Carignan and Syrah “freshness and finesse”. “It is very easy drinking, very fruity… not for long keeping..serve at 16 degrees. All the work is manual and we are the 5th generation.”

Francoise
Just twenty per cent of the wine is exported and Fionnuala said: “This is kinda special for us. It is not widely available outside of France.” She pointed out too that the same three grapes, planted in a another area of the Languedoc would have a different result. “That’s how we get individual styles from our small producers”.

The Lapeyre family's wine-growing goes back even further; Luc is 8th generation. His first big job there, in 1980, was to “change the cepage”. His first wine in “L’Atitude was his San Bres 2015, “a simple wine”, expressive of the fruit (Syrah 60%, Grenache 40%). “Drink it young”, he advised. “But it will keep a few years”.

 “I never learned agronomy or science but think I have a feeling for it. The summers are more and more hot and I prefer sometimes to pick a little early. Wine is made in the vineyard, not the cellar. If you have the best grapes, it is simple to make good wine.”

His pride and joy is the L’Amourier. The name comes from the Occitan and means a lover, not a fighter. “Make love, not war,” he said.

Both he and Fionnuala made the point that these wines are not made to win prizes. The big wines may well stand out at a tasting and are often then abandoned. Luc makes wines to “stay with for the night”.

 “L’Amourier,” Francoise told us as she helped Luc out, “takes in all the soil types and grapes that he has, including the oldest vines and the poorest soils. They then spend one year in big barrels to develop complexity, originality, personality, the aim being to keep the aromas and youthfulness of the wine.”

He admitted that his “recipe is flexible", never quite the same from vintage to vintage. This is to allow for the weather, the harvest itself, and other variables. This is where the”feeling” comes in!

By the way, Mourvedre, a small part of this blend (Grenache and Syrah are also included), is raised that bit differently, in smaller barrels “to soften the tannins”.

Every now and then, maybe once in three years, Luc finds the grapes in just one particular parcel “too powerful for L’Amourier”, so he makes “a wine to keep”. “How old is that parcel?” someone queried. “Older than me,” was the jovial reply. 

This wine, L’Amourier Les Clots (2010), spends two years in barrel. With its deep dark fruits, this smooth full-bodied beauty is “very versatile… try it with viande rouge”. 

We would meet the wines and the winemakers again later in Jacques, as part of their well-loved series of Tapas and Wines. And Eithne Barry and her team kept the Cork end up with some lovely matching dishes.



Francoise: Irish lamb is the best

Their gorgeous chicken paté was paired, and paired well, with Les Collines. “Bon appetite” all round as we enjoyed the matching of Coq au Vin with the San Bres. And then came another magic match: Lamb cassoulet and the L’Amourier before we finished on an exquisite Brie de Meaux. 

Except that we weren't exactly finished. The chansons were only beginning.
Luc