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

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

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 or  Project Coordinator, Francis Nesbitt 087 236 8555

Thursday, October 6, 2011


Tease your taste buds 
& challenge your senses with a 
Dark Dining Feast in the Club House Hotel Kilkenny

Ian Brennan, General Manager of Kilkenny's Club House Hotel, gives us the lowdown on dining in the dark.

Sensory Dining was first introduced to Kilkenny last year by The Club House Hotel, on Patrick Street in the city, in conjunction with the 5th annual Savour Kilkenny Food Festival. The event was such a success and feedback so good that the management and chefs at the Club House have set about designing another tantalising menu for this year’s event, which will take place on Saturday 29th October 2011 kicking off with a drinks reception from 7.30pm.

Throughout the evening guests will be blind folded and will have no prior knowledge of the beverages or dishes on the menu. This is a dining experience of a lifetime designed to heighten the diner’s awareness of the meals flavours, texture and smells by removing your sight- the sense we rely on most.
A journey of the senses will begin with a drinks reception outside of the dining room where the host for the evening will talk through the evening’s events, explaining the restaurant’s layout, set up and guidelines for the evening. After this the guests will be brought to their tables where a blind fold will await! And from this moment onwards the blindfolds will be worn for the entire meal.

“This is a truly unique dining experience like no other. When you eat without the use of your sight you rely on your other senses to smell and taste of the food. Even the simplest of dishes can take on a new culinary flair and you will be amazed the things you may not be able to recognise. The night is great fun and people need not be apprehensive of how and what they are going to eat, the dishes are all designed to be easy to eat and there is nothing too unusual on the menu.”

From the first taste the non-visual senses will take over, as you try to distinguish and identify the flavours that make up each carefully crafted course – a feat much more difficult than it sounds. Each course will be accompanied by a selection of drinks that have been selected to match the sensory dining menu.

The Sensory Dining event takes place on Saturday night the 29th of October in the unique setting of the Georgian Dining Room of the Club House Hotel. An evening of fun relaxation, excitement, and discovery will be enjoyed by all in the company of the Club House staff who are renowned for their fun relaxed style of service with a touch of professionalism. This is the perfect night out for a romantic dinner, a feast of fun with family and friends, or a perfect gift for a foodie.

Friday, March 13, 2009


The Tholsel, with Fleva (and Bridgestones) close by.
For more on Kilkenny go to:


Historic Kilkenny is a short enough trip from Cork.

Highlight is the gallery in Kilkenny Castle, a must visit, but you can take or leave the tower (don't think you’d get planning permission for it nowadays).

Countryside is pleasant with some fine ruins (Jerpoint Abbey for example, a much better visit than the remaining bits and pieces of Duiske). Some lovely villages too within a short distance of the city, particularly Inistioge (Don't forget a visit to nearby Woodstock) and Graiguenamanagh (on the Barrow).

Arriving in the town, had lunch at the hotel, the Kilkenny Inn (a mid range decent enough three star, quite close to the small town centre). Lunch was a Cajun chicken in a tortilla, with chips and salad, all for less than a tenner. Nicely done and good value.

Kilkenny seems to be a favourite trip to for the Dublin food critics (also hen and stag nights - check that out when booking your hotel). You could fall over the many awards around the place. The door at Fleva (High Street) is loaded with Bridgestones. It is well worth a visit. I had a three course early bird there for €26.00. Mains was Pork with cheese and a mustard jus and the desert, bread and butter pudding with whisky soaked raisins, looked and tasted amazing, should have taken a photo.

For a couple of Euro less, you get a three course at Lautrec Bistro (St Kieran’s Street). Portions are probably bigger here (not that they are small in Flevas) but quality is high. I enjoyed my braised lamb and the unusual dessert of orange tasting semolina with blueberries. They also do a Plat du jour for €21.00.

Wines at each establishment started around €5.75 per glass but the best glass of wine I had was at the big Left Bank Bar, down by the Castle. Most of the bars here are small but this highly decorated bright place has soft sofas and a roaring fire and bamboo plants growing to the high ceiling. I took my six euro glass of Merlot over to one of the sofas and didn't leave for an hour, a very enjoyable hour indeed.

It was a quick and enjoyable visit to the place that bills itself as Ireland’s Medieval City – not quite true. Officially it may well be a city but many towns are as big and you do have to work to find the medieval bits. The population is about 22,000, not much more than that of Douglas. It is about the same as the non city of Tralee and much less than non city Dundalk (35,000)! But obviously the Cats won the argument some time ago! Same as they’ve won so many hurling titles – now you can’t take that away from them!

For more on Kilkenny go to: