Showing posts with label Kilkenny. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Kilkenny. Show all posts

Monday, March 27, 2017

Good Food is no Illusion at Royal Spice


Good Food is no Illusion at Royal Spice 

Murg Tikka

There is music playing, the pleasant hum of people talking close by. Soft lights and, over your table, hangs one of many similar big red shades guiding illumination down to where you want it. It is a colourful place - you spot garlands hanging and balloons in a row. 

You begin to think that this, the Royal Spice in Kilkenny, must be a big place. But it is not - mirrors make it appear that way. It is something of an illusion. 
Samosas
 But nothing illusionary about the food on your plate. A bit of oriental magic maybe, worked on splendid local produce, but no illusion whatsoever. Just excellent Indian dishes for you and the twenty plus around you (yes, this room doesn't take much more than thirty) to enjoy.


This is one of the better Indian restaurants and one suspects that it is their desire, a desire they daily put into practice, to support local producers that helps it stand out from the crowd. As well as their own expertise in the kitchen. Not everything is Irish, of course; black tiger prawns, for instance, are imported.

Chicken Shashlik
 After the customary poppadoms and dips, the starters arrive. There is a terrific choice here. My selection is Murg Tikka, fresh Irish chicken marinated overnight with mixed ground spices, yoghurt, garlic and ginger, delicately grilled in their tandoori oven served with their authentic dohi chutney. Top quality and absolutely delicious.


Good reports too from the other side of the table where the superb crispy Samosas filled with mixed vegetables and served with their homemade beetroot chutney is going down well.

 Lassai Gosht

I take a few sips of my local beer, the lovely Costello’s Red, as we sit back and await the mains. Soon my Lassai Gosht, fresh Irish lamb pan-cooked with sliced garlic, onion, coriander seed, peppercorn and yoghurt served with the chef’s own special sauce and garnished with chilli arrives. Something that little bit lighter about the Indian dishes here and this is another delight.

Not quite as spectacular though as CL’s Chicken Shashlik. This consists of fresh chunks of marinated chicken with pieces of onion, peppers, tomatoes, cooked in a clay oven with tandoori mixed spices, served sizzling on cast iron. It makes a hissing smoking entrance and the substance lives up to the showy part. Another brilliant dish.
We are very happy with the meal, with the friendly welcome and service and the immaculate cooking. Well worth a visit if you are in the area.

Royal Spice
Watergate Street
Kilkenny
056 7786010
Facebook: @royalspice
Twitter @royalspice
Opening Times: Monday - Thursday 5:00 PM – 10:00 PM
Friday & Saturday 5:00 PM – 11:00 PM
Sunday 2:00 PM – 9:00 PM

Sunday, March 26, 2017

At the home of Ireland’s Oldest Beer. The Smithwick’s Experience, Kilkenny.

At the home of Ireland’s Oldest Beer.

The Smithwick’s Experience, Kilkenny
 Smithwick’s, our guide tells us at the start of our tour in its Kilkenny home, is the oldest beer in Ireland, first produced here in 1710. The 307 years impress our group, which includes a few Americans. But we are told it is entirely possible that beer was made here by Franciscan monks as far back as 1231. 


In 2012, the Kilkenny People headlined: Profitable brewery closed. The tradition ended in 2014 when the brewery closed and the beer is now brewed in Dublin, at Guinness.
Smithwick family was first to have running water in Kilkenny, 
hence the bath-tubs as seats for tour visitors.
 We were introduced to the family behind the name, eight generations of them, including John Smithwick who originally leased the building. John was a budding entrepreneur and the twenty year old soon started the brewing business. 


But then the penal laws hit - Catholics weren't allowed own businesses. The crafty Smithwick found a loophole and Protestant Richard Cole became his frontman, an early example of eucenmism. 
 That block on Catholic ownership lasted for an incredible 117 years. And the fact that the Smithwicks weren't the legal owners meant they could only operate locally so the business was hindered - going outside of the locality would put the “arrangement” at risk. 


Finally, it was John's great-grandson Edmund who got the legal right to run the brewery in his own name and celebrated by putting the name over the the gate (that we had entered a few minutes earlier). At this stage too, the family were very close with Daniel O’Connell, the Great Liberator.
Smell the hops
 Roads weren't great at the time so Edmund started using the rivers to distribute Smithwick’s. Expansion followed and soon it became a national brand. We would meet all the key family members, or at least their talking portraits, as we made our way through the house. And the centuries.


In the 1930s, Walter brought a more modern outlook. He introduced their first logo, the No.1, and also started a commission scheme for the salesmen. By 1950, the brand was becoming known outside of Ireland and in January of that year, they attempted their first export to Boston. It landed in Boston - that much is known - but then it appears that every bottle was stolen! Nowadays, Smithwicks is exported to the US, Canada, France and South Korea.
 The guide went on to introduce us to the ingredients and the process. We had a good sniff of the various hops used in the beer, now made in three versions: the traditional red ale, the pale ale and the blonde. Hops sniffed included the American pair of Amarillo and Cascade.


By the way, if you ask for a Smithwick anywhere in Ireland, especially in Kilkenny, you’ll almost certainly get the traditional red. Our final call was to the bar to sample the wares. The basic tour entitles you to a pint of the red ale. A few euro more and you can have a paddle with half-pints of the three different beers. 
Waiting for the missing blonde! The red in middle, pale ale on right.
My paddle and few others, including that of a couple of Californians, didn't work out too well. We got the red and the excellent pale ale but the blonde tap ran out. 

We were told we’d have our blonde in a few minutes but the guide was called away (presumably to lead another group), there was no other employee left at the bar and we never got the blonde. Ourselves and the Californians and a few more left without tasting it and that put a bit of a downer on an otherwise interesting tour.

Friday, June 19, 2015

The Brooklodge Hotel. Excellent Base for Wicklow.

The Brooklodge Hotel at Macreddin Village
Excellent Base for Wicklow Attractions
The saints of Ireland invariably seemed to end up in the most beautiful locations. St Kevin of Glendalough fame found another beauty spot not too far away in Macreddin, the present day location of the gorgeous Brooklodge Hotel.

Macreddin was important in the history of the area for a long time afterwards but then fell into decline, revived only by a band of brothers, the Doyles, who reimagined it and rebuilt the little village. Here, in the heart of the Wicklow countryside, they have everything you need to get away from it all in the 21st century.

Then again, there are not too many hermits nowadays and you may need a little company, maybe a lot of it!. So, you can have birthday party here. Or indeed a full scale wedding - they even have their own village church! Kevin may have come for the food, wild and organic, and that was why I visited a few weeks back. More precisely, I was there to try out their splendid Wild and Organic Tasting Menu.
That menu was served up in the Strawberry Tree, the premium restaurant in the village. But there is another one called the La Taverna Armento, which features a full Southern Italian menu. There is a bar in the hotel and another in the village. Oh, there’s lots more including a spa, conference  suites, an equestrian centre, a food store, and a golf club. Reckon if Kevin came back, he'd stay around for a long while. Might even buy his food at the very popular Macreddin monthly farmers market.

I was there for just the one night and was very impressed. Took a walk around - there are quite a series of rambles, some long, some short. Mine was just around the green, saying hello to the hens of course, glad of the organic message their presence indicates. And I was friendly towards them. After all, they were supplying the eggs for breakfast.

And that breakfast, served in a beautiful room (you may also have it in your bedroom), was indeed a delicious affair. No shortage of juices and also the Macreddin Village Smoothie. All the cereals, also fresh fruit, yogurts and my pick which was the Porridge with Honey and Cream.
The main event was Poached Eggs on Irish Potato Cake and I could also have had had their version of the full Irish, also pancakes with Highbank Apple Syrup or Grilled Wild Fish. No shortage of lovely breads, their own of course, and organic tea and coffee to wash it all down.

Our room was excellent, very well heated and that is another story. Comfort was top class and no shortage of space either. The bedroom was on a spacious glass-walled mezzanine with its own bath. The main TV was downstairs but there was also a mini-one above. Shower and toilets were downstairs.

Staff were excellent throughout, at reception, in the restaurant, in the bar, everywhere, and helped make it a stay to remember in a place to remember.

Friday, May 29, 2015

Highbank Organic Orchards. Hundreds of Apple Trees. Billions of Microbes

Highbank Organic Orchards

Hundreds of Apple Trees. Billions of Microbes
I’m walking through long rows of apple trees, all in blossom, pink and white abound. The grass between is ankle height, lush and liberally populated with white daisies. Lush, but recently topped. Had I been there a week earlier, I would have seen battalions of dandelions.

I am in Kilkenny, in the healthy heart of Highbank Orchards, an organic farm owned and managed by Rod and Julie Calder-Potts.  This is excellent land for farming, recognised as such for many centuries - even the Normans had their eyes on it.  The farm-yard is 17th century, the house is 19th, and the distillery (which I've come to see) is 21st.  

Rod in the new distillery
Now though, on a lovely May evening, all is calm as Rod takes us through the orchard, though not through all its twenty acres. Fourteen of these are mature, planted with quite a few varieties, including Dabinett, Blusher, Bramley and, scattered in among the others, that lovely juicy Katy. Katy is an early apple and has lost its blossoms.

Nothing has been sprayed here for twenty years. It is not that nothing ever threatens the apple trees but they are essentially healthy and can look after themselves. And Rod reckons much of that is down to the microbes in the soil, billions of them, all "working", not necessarily together - some eat one another - but combining to preserve the habitat. They are not disturbed, not traumatized by chemicals, and so the orchards live on and thrive. “Soil health depends on a thriving population of organisms”, says Dan Barber in The Third Plate.
Orchard spirit!
The next big occasion for the orchard is, of course, the harvest. The Calder-Potts keep the apples on the trees for as long as possible, indeed they allow them fall off naturally when fully ripe. Then they are swept up and taken to the nearby yard.

They are transferred then to the apple press, an expensive piece of kit, and the juice is extracted to be used in the delicious products that Highbank now produces: Apple Juice, Apple Juice with Organic Mulled Spices, their famous Orchard Syrup (Ireland's answer to maple syrup and launched in 2010), Highbank Drivers Cider (a delicious, sparkling refreshing non-alcoholic drink), Highbank Proper Cider, and a honeyed Medieval Cider.
Proper cider!
Recently they have moved up the ABV scale with the installation of their little distillery and are making Gins, Pink Flamingo Gin and the premium Crystal Gin. And there’ll be more! We enjoyed the tour of the bright new distillery. It is small. The operation is small-scale, bottling is done by hand. Small yes, but these are top class products.


Highbank is the setting for many events but most notably, from a food point of view, they have hosted the Keith Bohanna Bia Beag series with subjects such as artisan bread, locally roasted coffee, bean to bar chocolate. And, of course, there is the Highbank Christmas Food and Craft Fair.
They are a busy couple and you’ll see them at markets and food festivals all over the country, including most recently, Sheridan’s and Ballymaloe LitFest. Besides, they are involved in promoting good food generally. Kilkenny too is naturally close to their hearts and so we couldn't have had a better guide on a quick Saturday morning run through the marble city than Julie.

She showed us, with pride, restaurants such as Zuni and the Salt Yard, Slice of Heaven and its newly opened cookery school, the food hall at the Kilkenny Design Centre. Then you need something to serve your food in so off we went to Nicholas Mosse in Bennettsbridge, you need some nice lighting while dining and we got that at nearby Moth to a Flame (Larry Kinsella’s hand-made candles) and you also need something nice to look at on your walls and shelves and we found plenty of that at the Bridge Pottery.
Needless to say, the credit card took a bit of a hammering. On the previous afternoon, left to my own devices, I was on the drinks trail! Called to Billy Byrne’s Pub (the Bula Bus and its excellent onboard restaurant is parked in the back) and sipped some nice local beer by Ger Costello and a pale ale from 12 acres.

Of course, I couldn't leave Kilkenny without calling to Le Caveau. Pascal himself was busy on the road but we did take advantage of the reductions for Real Wine Month and went off happy with a couple of his organic wines.

And it was the drink that brought us to Kilkenny in the first place! In Highbank's internet competition earlier in the year, I won a meal at The Strawberry Tree and, in addition, I also won a bottle of Highbank's new Crystal Gin and that was in the car with us as we said au revoir to the Marble City and to two of its outstanding citizens, the Calder-Potts.
Le Caveau (left) and Bennettsbridge (from the Nicholas Mosse pottery)

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Kilkenny Dinner, in Cork


Kilkenny Dinner, in Cork
Goatsbridge smoked trout

Zwartbles lamb chops were the highlight of a weekend dinner here in Cork. Other Kilkenny products to feature were Goatsbridge Smoked Trout and Knockdrinna Cream cheese with a pesto topping.
The lamp chops (gigot) were a present from Suzanna at her Zwartbles farm near Bennettsbridge when a group of bloggers visited recently. Not alone did she provide the meat but she also came up with the other main ingredients, Catillac pears and Newtown Wonder Apples. And she didn’t to stop there as she also gave us the recipe.

Carrots, butternut squash, red onions and more were added to the old Creuset and the stew was ready about five or six hours later. Suzanna is a slow cook advocate! It was well worth the wait. The pears and apples mixed so well with the gorgeous lamb while the other ingredients all added to the delightful flavours. A superb main course, a rare treat indeed, polished off appropriately, with a glass of Riscal Gran Reserva 2001 (the 150th anniversary edition).

Zwartbles lamb
Eat Trout is the marketing slogan - you’ll notice it on their packaging - for the marvellous Goatsbridge Trout Farm in Thomastown, Kilkenny. It is now appearing on their Canned Smoked Trout. We opened up the tin and added a fairly simple salad, leaves and some potato. Great flavours from the smoked finish, and pleasing texture too.

And the cream cheese from Knockdrinna, also Thomastown, is also a new product, The cheese is also excellent on crackers (try Carrigaline or Sheridan’s). That pesto topping is a terrific idea. We served this as a simple bruschetta, tomatoes and the cheese on a slice of toasted Arbutus sourdough (had to get at least one Cork product in!).

To tell you the truth, I don't particularly like the points scoring that goes on between the different counties (e.g. that Tipp food is better than Kerry food). We have some magnificent producers, some large, many small, spread across the country. Just go out and support them. Wherever you find them. 
Cream cheese, with pesto, from Knockdrinna
 The Zwartbles flock is not very large, so the availability of the meat is very limited. You may have to start a flock yourself! Goatsbridge and Knockdrinna products are widely available. Check the websites.

see also

Monday, November 3, 2014

Zuni. Zuni. Zuni. So Good, I Named it Thrice!

Zuni. Zuni. Zuni.
So Good, I Named it Thrice!
Roast cod in Kilkenny
Zuni restaurant is good, easy to find. So good, so easy, it can be hard to get a table. Especially on the Saturday of the Savour Kilkenny Food Festival. But I did book a few days in advance. And very glad that I did.

So out of the dark and into the buzz of the bar. And that buzz is even more concentrated in the large restaurant, the space expertly broken up into little rectangles by some moderately high dividers. There’s no stopping the noise in this packed area. But it’s a happy noise, people enjoying themselves.  Hardly even noticed the open kitchen, where Maria Rafferty heads the team, as we were walked to our table.

It is busy in there and packed outfront but the service is warm, friendly, efficient and on the ball. I was going to say pro-active but I think, in Kilkenny, on the ball is better! And a last word on the buzz. There is something about the acoustics here that, despite the noises, you can still comfortably converse in a normal voice.

Down to business now and a look at the menu. Salmon Rillettes and Slow Cooked Oxtail are on the promising starter list. On the well balanced mains list, there is Roast Monkfish, Pork Belly and Scallops and a risotto featuring Pumpkin.

Good variety too in the wine list, many by the glass. CL starts, and finishes, with the 2012 Huia Sauvignon Blanc from Marlborough at €7.95 a glass. I open with a Bordeaux style 2011 Cabernet Sauvignon, Reserva Legado De Martino from Chile at €8.25 a glass and finish with a 2012 Cotes du Rhone Chaume Arnaud at €8.50. Very happy with the wines and especially with the finalé, a wee drop of Port, Warre’s LBV 2002 (€6.85).

Venison on top. Bottom: trout (left) and duck.
Both starters were excellent. CL absolutely enjoyed her Goatsbridge Smoked Trout Bon Bons, fennel purée, and trout roe vinaigrette. I went for the duck and it was terrific, well cooked, well presented, a terrific mix of textures and flavours. The description: Pan Fried confit duck, plum sauce, pickled carrot, and pickled cucumber, and coriander.

On then to the mains with much anticipation. I just couldn't resist the venison. Pink they said and pink I got, a great big hearty dish begging to be put away on an Autumn night; an extra hour in this day, so no hurry. The venison came with parsnip gratin, pumpkin purée, port wine jus (more alcohol!), spiced pear and pear gel. What’s not to like here?

CL, the fish specialist, was in her element with the Cod Fillet, cauliflower gratin (beautiful), cauliflower purée, and almond gremolata. What a fantastic combination, again well cooked, well presented. And well appreciated!

Desserts tempted. We hummed and hawed before settling for a liquid one, that delicious LBV. Suitably fortified, we headed off into the night, admiring the reflection of the Castle as we strolled back to our lovely friendly base at Rosquil House.

Zuni Restaurant/Bar and Hotel
26 Patrick Street, Kilkenny.

Phone(056) 772 3999
Emailinfo@zuni.ie
Websitehttp://www.zuni.ie

see also
Kilkenny Dinner, in Cork
Bloggers On Thomastown Tour

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Kilkenny’s Night of a 1000 Feasts.

Kilkenny’s Night of a 1000 Feasts
Town of Food a Step Closer
Hazel, top left, with just some of her guests at the Feast.
On Sunday evening we left our lovely base at Rosquil House to head to our Feast, part of the Night of a 1000 Feasts in Kilkenny. Our Feast, one of about two thousand registered as it turned out, was quite close and at about 7.00pm we were warmly greeted by Hazel and three generations of her family, all celebrating the 76th birthday of her father.

Hazel is a fabulous cook and really loves to bake and the tables were groaning under the weight of a very colourful and tasty feast. The conversation flowed, not least because there were some relations home from Canada. We had a lovely evening with the family and a big thank you to Hazel and husband Richard.

The 1000 Feasts project, while obviously having a huge social element, was also designed as a fund-raiser  towards the Town of Food Project. This is a huge Leader funded project that is located in Thomastown but the local people had to raise some €180,000 themselves. It was down to about €25,000 before the weekend and hopefully a good bit less at this stage. Read all about the project here.
Happy Birthday!
Our group were brought to see the project on Monday afternoon and met Francis Nesbitt, the co-ordinator. He told us it is based in the old school (built 1947) and that the builders had been in since mid-July and will finish in about six weeks.

There will be a lot of community involvement, at all levels, including gardening and cooking. There will be a community kitchen club to benefit many, including fledgling food producers who won't have to kit out their own kitchens to make a start. There will also be a training kitchen. This will be state of the art, as no less than €105,000 has been spent on equipment. “Everything you could think of.”

There will of course be all kinds of cooking courses going on here but don't run away with the idea that this will be for amateurs only. Thomastown won this project in a competition with other towns so there will be some serious education going on here, including chef training.

“We want motivated people here….We want to create a pipeline of kitchen-ready chefs..their learning will be one half here, the other half in restaurants.” This is a fantastic project and the few paragraphs above only give you a hint of what's in store. Please check it out on the website.

Francis (left) meets the Town of Food bloggers.
The day of a “1000 Feasts” began for me with a bloggers meet-up at the main gate of the castle. After the introductions, we made our way to the National Craft Gallery, the venue for one of Jim Carroll’s Banter on Food series, this episode entitled War Stories from the Kitchen.

Pichet’s Denise was among the panelists and she said you have to be a little bit crazy and one hundred per cent passionate to open your doors to public scrutiny. John Healy agreed that the industry is “addictive”. One big danger is that people go into it for the love of food and with no idea about the business side. Overall though the panel agreed that standard has “gone away up” over  the last ten to fifteen years.

Carroll then steered the discussion, mentioning Anthony Bourdain’s rather ancient book Kitchen Confidential, to the war in the kitchen! But no big news there really. Yes, flare-ups are inevitable and management has to be ready for it, “people skills required”.

By now it was time for lunch so the group (about 14 strong) headed off to the Podge Meade’s Bula Bus, a former unit of the fleet in Manchester city but now parked up at the back of Billy Byrne’s pub. The kitchen is downstairs and the upper deck is laid out as a restaurant, serving wild and foraged street food. Venison, mushroom and rabbit (which I enjoyed) featured on the menu last Sunday.

We had some time to ourselves after lunch and I headed back around the many market stalls on the Parade and enjoyed a glass of Costello’s Red Ale in company with Colm McCann and Pascal Rossignol who had just finished their second Wine v Beer show, a show that also featured Caroline Hennessy.

We would meet Gabriella of Costello’s again in our last group engagement here. This was in the Leader tent where we chatted with some emerging producers including Eadaoin's Kitchen, Bob and Joan’s Jams, Butterfly Valley (Cookie Mixes), Richie O’Brien (Honey) and Inistioge Food (Marinades). Our bag included some of those marinades and we’re looking forward to trying them soon, so watch this space!

See also:


Rabbit at the Bula Bus



Friday, October 17, 2014

Come Savour The Night of 1000 Feasts in Kilkenny!

Come Savour The Night of 1000 Feasts in Kilkenny!

Next Sunday week, I’ll be having an evening meal in Kilkenny. But I have no idea as to the venue. If you'd like to know more, read on …. 
Kilkenny will be cooking up a storm as hundreds of homes in the City and County throw open their doors for a mouth-watering Night of 1000 Feasts on October 26th.
A major appeal has been issued to food lovers to organise a feast at home, on their streets, in their local community centres, in local restaurants or hotels to raise funds for the Town of Food project.
“Whether it is simple or extravagant it doesn't matter.  We want everyone in Kilkenny feasting on Sunday 26th October, during the Savour Kilkenny Festival, to celebrate good food, friendship and to support this very important project at the same time”, according to project coordinator Francis Nesbitt.
Nesbitt said that this is the first time an event like this, where hundreds of people are feasting in their homes at the same time for a common cause has been tried in Ireland.
 He added: “Kilkenny is one of Ireland’s top food destinations with World class artisan producers, chefs and restaurants. The Night of 1000 Feasts will be a major celebration of our food culture. Nothing like this has been tried in Ireland before but we feel it perfectly captures our love of good food and the community based nature of the Town of Food project.”
Organised as part of the Savour Kilkenny Food Festival, which is on from October 24th – 27th, the Night of 1000 Feasts may be enjoyed by some far from the Marble City. “We will be reaching out to the Kilkenny Diaspora to take part, register their Feast on our website and tell us all about their Feast online”, promises Nesbitt.
 Town of Food Chairman, John O’Connor suggests that in this fast moving World people don’t take the proper time to prepare, cook and appreciate food with their loved ones. “This is the perfect opportunity to gather friends and to make a great night of it.” 
Those hosting meals are asked to register their feast on the Town of Food website and friends attending can make a financial contribution to the project. Registered hosts will be entered into a draw to win a major prize.
“Well known Food Bloggers from all over Ireland will be heading to Kilkenny to join in and report on the Feasts. We’re sure that the live-tweeting of photos from some of the Feasts are sure to have everyone salivating”, Susan FitzGerald, one half of ‘Green and Vibrant’ who are organizing the Bloggers' visit, said. "Savour Kilkenny is already one of the most mouth-watering events in the Irish festival calendar. The Night of 1000 Feasts will bring that fun, tasty buzz right into peoples’ homes, and via the Bloggers' live tweeting people around the world can join in with the Kilkenny craic! Keep your eye on the hashtag #1000Feasts to follow the fun!"
Town of Food is a community led initiative aimed at promoting Kilkenny as an important food destination. It aims to support the production and promotion of local, quality food ingredients and to develop an educational food hub to attract professional and amateur cookery students.
The project will be based in a custom developed Food Education and Incubation centre in the former Boy’s National School in Thomastown, Co. Kilkenny. A training garden and community space will also be developed there.
Thomastown is an established tourism and food destination nestled on the River Nore and home to the renowned Mount Juliet estate which boasts the Michelin Star rated restaurant Lady Helen.
Under the EU Rural Development Programme, LEADER will provide funding to Town of Food of up to €750,000 for Building works, marketing and training to the end of 2015. In order to access these funds, Town of Food must raise €182,000 in ‘matched funding’ through donations, fundraising and sponsorship.
For more information contact: Mag Kirwan 086-8188340 mag@goatsbridgetrout.ie or  Project Coordinator, Francis Nesbitt 087 236 8555 francis.nesbitt@townoffood.com