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

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.
video

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


Thursday, June 2, 2016

Casa Silva Wines Impress At Jacques

Casa Silva Wines Impress At Jacques
No water? No problem to Casa Silva at Paredones 


Don’t particularly want to be anywhere else during this current spell of warm sunny weather but offer me a stay at the guesthouse in the Chilean winemaker Casa Silva and I wouldn't hesitate.

It is best best known for its Carmenere, Cabernet Sauvignon and Sauvignon Blanc but, having sampled five of their wines in Jacques in a very convivial tasting last Tuesday, I'll be adding Chardonnay and Pinot Noir to the list!

David Prentice, Casa Silva’s European Commercial Director, was our host at Jacques and we soon had their delicious unoaked Chardonnay in hand. It may be their “entry level Chardonnay” but this comes from one of the country’s top producers and is well worth seeking out. You may get it for €12.50 at www.winesoftheworld.ie.
Two Cool from Paredones

David said: “We prefer to make the wine mainly in the vineyard. No oak here as there’s no need for it. The vineyard is 25km from the coast, cool at night and there is a short hot spike during the day, ideal conditions. Yield here is very close to that of Chablis.”

Five generations - a 6th on the way - show that Casa Silva is a family affair. “The first generation brought their vines from Bordeaux, in 1892! And the aim is to keep the business within the family. Seventy year old Mario Silva has dedicated much of his life to recovering the old vineyards and wine cellar and has acquired a unique understanding of the terroir in the Colchagua Valley.  He still works every day, still checking, still tasting.”

In Chile, you can find a micro-climate for virtually any grape. The long narrow country has the Andes to the east and the ocean to the west, desert to the north, ice to the south and, in between, there is a great diversity of soils and climate.

 Our next wine was the Sauvignon Blanc 2015 reserva and that went down very well indeed. By the way, David emphasised that they use natural local yeast in the majority of their wines.

They are not afraid to be brave. The grapes for the second Sauvignon Blanc, the terrific Cool Coast 2013, came from the Paredones vineyard, in an area where no vines had been grown previously due to lack of water. But Casa Silva pumped the water up from the river (filled by winter rains) and that storage “lake” is the centerpoint of the beautiful vineyard, now earning quite a reputation.

Here there is “granite, older than the Andes” and this Sauvignon is “more chiselled”, “more friendly than New Zealand counterparts, intense aromas, refreshing acidity. Paredones is very interesting,  has a great terroir, ideal temperature range (23 by day, 8 by night).”

And there was further proof of that with the next bottle, the Cool Coast Pinot Noir with its red robe that bit deeper than you’d expect, its inviting aromas of raspberry and strawberry, excellent balancing acidity, refreshing flavours and long finish. Very impressive indeed.

Such has been the success of this new vineyard that one or two other wine producers are now moving into the area. Los Lignes is another famous Casa Silva vineyard and the source of our final wine, a top notch 2013 Cabernet Sauvignon. “The Carmenere and Cabernet Sauvignon planted here reach extremely high quality with unique character.” We could see that in our glass! Superb. The Carmenere is now on the wish list.
David Prentice (left) with Yours Truly

And with all that acidity and freshness calling out for food, the kitchen in Jacques stepped up to the plate, as they always do. Our first dish was Goats Cheese with Rhubarb and Orange on Toast, the second Fresh Crab and apple in lettuce, the finalé a terrific slice of rare beef, complete with potato, horseradish cream and a surprising smoked tomato!

So thanks to Casa Silva, to David, to Kate Barry and her crew from Barry Fitzwilliam and to the 38 year old Cork restaurant for a very informative and relaxing evening of good wine and food. Don't forget to check out the Casa Silva wines at www.winesoftheworld.ie, in your local restaurant and in selected off licences

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Wines Of The Marques de Caceres. For Food, And Afterwards!

Wines Of The Marques de Caceres.
For Food, And Afterwards!

In Jacques Restaurant on Wednesday evening, a Frenchman told us the story of the Spanish family that employs him, before we got down to tasting a series of their gorgeous wines. 


The Forner family had been involved in wine for decades before having to flee to France during the Spanish Civil War (1936-39), having “lost everything”.


Eventually, they began making wine in Bordeaux before, many years later, finding their way back to Spain to begin a winery in Rioja. Forner are better known to us as Marques de Caceres and the Frenchman, Florent Thibaut, is their Export Sales Manager. Florent was introduced to the attendance in Jacques by Dave Buckley of Cassidy Wines.

Florent started us off with a gorgeous Verdejo, saying that in fairly recent times, Marques de Caceres had began to make white wines in Rueda and Rias Baixas. “This grape is local in Rueda, giving a dry but aromatic wine, very pleasant on its own or with food (fish, salad).” It certainly was vibrant and fresh in the mouth with a delightful bouquet.
Next up was another white, their Albarino from Rias Baixas in Galicia. Think he said Galicia means mother earth, and he mentioned that the name of the wine indicated that it came, possibly via the Santiago de Compostella route,  from the Rhine (-rino) and was brought by a  monk (of course!).
He highlighted its minerality and said it is a great match with seafood, especially oysters. Jacques, who know a thing or two about matching food and wine, came up with some excellent pairings and the first was their Salted Cod Croquettes, a good match with the two whites.


Florent had excellent English and well able to hold his own in the banter that broke out from time to time. On being asked about the contribution of the Riedel glass to the wine, he said: “The glass is to the wine like the dress is to the lady!” Another quote, not from Florent, came to mind: Rioja wines are voluptuous; they  are round and full and rich. They are not Audrey Hepburn; they are more Marilyn Monroe.
So now we were on to those voluptuous reds, all from Rioja, starting with a very highly rated Crianza, which is for restaurants. “It is one hundred per cent Tempranillo from older vineyards.. with typical pepper, spice, a great choice with charcuterie, chorizo.., very much a wine for food… very pleasant but a serious wine.” Indeed, Excellens is a wine with great character and was quite a hit in the room.
And speaking of chorizo! As the reds were being tasted, Jacques served up a tasty dish of Basmati Rice, chorizo, peppers and chilli. Oddly enough, the Reserva didn't go down as well as the Crianza! Maybe, it was because “the nose was less expressive”. Florent went on to say that the Crianza “was more full-bodied, more tannic...for food.. Matches well with lamb”. And on cue, Jacques had some delicious lamb chops on the table!
In time too for the Gran Reserva which, Dave Buckley, told us “is not made every year”, only when  the fruit is very very good. ”Florent enthused: “And this eight year wine is very good indeed, from older vineyards. Very gentle, with smooth tannins. See that fresh colour…. Very fruit-driven, dark fruits.. Blackcurrant...that pepper and spice (from the oak) is there too..balsamic. For food, and for relaxing afterwards.”

Speaking further on this Gran Reserva, Florent noted its complexity and elegance. “Wine doesn't always have to be easy… sometimes you have to travel towards the wine.. From Cork to Rioja!” Reckon he had a busful of volunteers at that stage!

  • Most Rioja reds will have spent some time in oak. Check out the various designations below:
The green label (cosecha) indicates less than one year in oak, less than one in bottle.
The red label (crianza) indicates 1 year in oak, 1 in bottle.
The burgundy (reserva) indicates 1 year in oak, 2 in bottle.
The royal blue (gran reserva) indicates 2 years in oak, three years in bottle.