Showing posts with label Munster Wine & Dine Circle. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Munster Wine & Dine Circle. Show all posts

Monday, November 20, 2017

Long, Lazy Sunday at Ballymaloe

Garden to Plate at Ballymaloe.
Superb Craft Fair Too.


There were gasp when Ballymaloe House gardener Mags Coughlan told us she grows 4,500 leeks here each year. Soon we would see some of them on our plates as we enjoyed lunch in the house. The garden tour, a mead tasting, a long leisurely lunch and a visit to the ever increasing craft fair in the Grainstore and Big Shed, were all part of a lovely day that brought the curtain down on the Munster Wine and Dine activities for 2017. A good day. A good year.
Here's where we get our hazelnuts

Hazel Allen introduced the fifty or so of us to Mags who told us the aim here in the walled garden and surrounding area is to grow “seasonal and unusual”. Even with Mags working flat out, there is no way the garden could fully supply the house, so Ballymaloe gets much of its regular plant and vegetables supplies from local growers, a traditional relationship maintained.


That leaves the gardener, in consultation with the chefs of course, to concentrate on something different, a crop of sea-kale for example, followed in turn by asparagus and artichoke. And then there are also edible flowers and flowers for decoration. One of the specialities of the walled garden, taking advantage of a south-facing wall, are peaches. Lots of herbs here too, of course.

All is grown from seed so that means glasshouses and we walked through there admiring the lines of harvested pumpkins (also on the day’s menu). We were then shown the relatively new cider apple orchard; varieties here include Dabinett and Bramley. Here too we saw the hazel bushes which provide quite a harvest and have a bit of growing to do yet!

All had been quite in the fields where the pigs are kept until the arrival of our group. Then little groups of the younger pigs came rushing out to greet the visitors. They may not have been so eager had they known that the same people would be eating their older siblings later on.

Back then to the conservatory room in the house for an aperitif, thanks to Kate Dempsey of the Kinsale Mead Co. We sampled her Atlantic Dry Mead and also Wild Red Mead  – and then she made some delicious cocktails using her mead (and also the new Beara Gin). Quite a few were very impressed by the mead. Both meads are honey based and are rapidly becoming widely available in Supervalu’s and speciality shops such as URRU in Bandon and Bradley’s in the city's North Main Street.

Kate and her meads
Time now for lunch, the main event. A good start is half the battle. And so it was here with a delicious warming bowl of Garden Pumpkin Soup with Chilli and Parsley Oil. More simple food followed, simply delicious Ballycotton Crab Paté with cucumber and dill salad.

We had a choice for the main course. CL chose the Poached Ballycotton Monkfish with Chive Butter Sauce served with Leeks and Romanesco while mine was the Roast Ballymaloe Farm Pork with red cabbage and Bramley Apple Sauce. Each, with Pommes Duchesse and Glazed Carrots on the side, was superb.

The temptation levels then soared with the arrival of the famous Ballymaloe Dessert trolley. We were like the little piggies! Pavlova, poached pears, chocolate cake (and sauce), and so much more, all washed down with little sips of sweet Jurançon. Pratsch Gruner Veltliner and Solstice Rhone Valley were the earlier wines.

After the tea or coffee, or a garden infusion, there was a quick review of 2017, a raffle for foodie prizes and an announcement that Munster Wine and Dine had decided to donate €300.00 to Penny Dinners.
Crab

Some of us then took a walk around the annual craft fair. The opening day, Saturday, had been busy but one stall holder told me Sunday, the day of our visit, was even busier and she was looking to getting her feet up for the night! There were some gorgeous crafts here but, looking for a particular item with certain restrictions as to material, size and colour, proved mission impossible for me! The search begins again next week at the big Craft Fair in the City Hall and the smaller one at Franciscan Well Brew Pub.
Sweet stuff



Darkness had now settled on this amazing East Cork farm and our bus had arrived. A very satisfied group headed back to the city, bang on schedule. Here’s to another great Munster Wine and Dine season in 2018. Happy Christmas everyone from Eithne, Richie, Colm, Beverly, Michael, Stuart, and yours truly.
Craft Fair

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


Monday, July 10, 2017

The Fergusons. And the Gubbeen Bug. The Family That Farms Together

The Fergusons. And the Gubbeen Bug. 

The Family That Farms Together

Cheese in brine
Farming at Gubbeen is a family affair with father and mother Tom and Gianna Ferguson and their son Fingal and daughter Clovisse the key figures. 



But, for a long time now, they've had the help of an unseen bug, officially known as Microbacterium gubbeenense, a unique strain (hence its own name) of lactic acid producing bacteria. Gianna, the cheesemaker, was thrilled when informed about the bug back around 2001. She told us during last Friday's Munster Wine and Dine Tour: “Gubbeen’s own bug. I was totally delighted with that. I have three children, and a bug!”
Munster Wine & Dine at Gubbeen

Tom
“Our cheese story begins out on the land.” She praised Tom’s herd, mostly Friesian, a few other breeds too including a few Jerseys "for their cream!" The cheese took off well and since then “everything seems to have dovetailed together”. Here, she was talking about the smokehouse charcuterie (and smoked cheese of course) by Fingal along with the gardening skills of Clovisse, not that either are confined to just one skill, far from it.

She said Irish cheese regulation is geared towards cheddar cheese production. “But my tradition is based on the practices of small farms in France and Spain. We in Gubbeen use the traditional rennet, made from an enzyme that grows in a calf’s stomach. We tried it vegetarian rennet but it didn't work for us.”
Once the cheese is made into wheels, not very big ones in Gubbeen’s case, the bacteria is inoculated by hand into each and every one four times. The rind is known as washed rind because, it it comes from regular washing (water yes but also white wine!) of the individual wheels. “It is edible,” she said. “But it is a different texture and I respect why people may not eat it.”

Gubbeen basically make one cheese type but you may buy it young or more mature or smoked and in different sizes. Read all about the variations here on the Gubbeen cheese page  .

Fingal shows his knives

The Gubbeen smokehouse story begins with a neighbour. “In my early teens I would drive over to the village of Goleen to bring our cheeses to Chris Jepson to be smoked in his Smokehouse,” Fingal told us as he took us around the new (the 2nd) smoke house. After the cheese, they did meat. “Then the salamis really took off, helped by the fact that our name was appearing in top restaurants such as Chapter One.”

Like his mother, Fingal too pointed “to the care of the land” as key. “Milk is vital to cheese. The quality of pig is vital to us. We have embraced with locals via the Piggy Coop. We stress the husbandry and the breed, mostly outdoor reared. You pay more but it is worth it.” By the way, there are 25 employed (including family members) in Gubbeen.
Welcome to the smokehouse

He showed us how he heats his kilns, “important to get the correct balance of air and smoke. Different temperatures create different flavours”. And, wouldn't you know it, they use local timbers, local windfall timber. A fair bit of work in chopping up a big tree but father Tom takes no excuses: “The man who cuts his own timber warms himself twice!”

Fingal spoke of salting and brining. “The brine is traditional Irish, herbs jazz it up.” He uses natural casings, “more expensive but a better result”. “These smoked products are not overly sterilised but good for your gut and more interesting in terms of flavour.” Read all about the smoke house, including the fabulous salamis and chorizos here

Just a hint of the Superb Lunch from Clovisse

And when Fingal has time, he crafts the most amazing knifes for cooks and butchers but don’t rush down to buy one; there is a waiting list of close to 800 for these beauties. Heat treating and quality of steel are key in making a good knife. “The tempering cycle, well done, can change the properties of the steel to enhance its eventual role, including durability.” His attractive handles are made “of everything from old bog oak to weird and wonderful materials.”

Then he took us on a walk around the yard and here we met some baby animals, including calves and bonhams, also a big turkey and a mighty cockerel that almost matched him.

Then it was the turn of Clovisse to feed us. And, using the cheese, the smokehouse meats, and herbs, vegetables and leaves from her own garden just outside the dining room window, she put together a feast of Gubbeen. Nothing much to be added, though the organic wines from Le Caveau, the Gran Cedro Tempranillo and the Meyer-Fonné Pinot Blanc, were entirely appropriate and excellent matches.

Her garden is completely chemical free with a strong emphasis on keeping the soil clean and healthy.  Many of the herbs are used in the sausage recipes and meat cures. Gianna used the word dovetail earlier to describe how the different elements of Gubbeen have come together and the Gubbeen greens are becoming an increasing element of the great family story. Read all about them here
Back to the garden
See also:

Tapas at Schull’s Casa Diego. And Farewell to lovely Stanley House




Sunday, April 23, 2017

Black's and Man Friday Highlights of Kinsale Day. Munster Wine & Dine On Tour

Black's and Man Friday Highlights of Kinsale Day

Munster Wine & Dine On Tour
The sun came too as the Munster Wine and Dine members headed for Kinsale last Friday. The major calls were to Black’s Brewery (and Distillery now) for a tasting and tour and, after a drink at The Spaniard, dinner at the Man Friday (long established but with a new kid on the block).

The Blacks have been making gin for the past two years or so and there were many versions before Maudeline felt happy with it. Think we all felt happy with it, after the on-site tasting on Friday. “Angelica and orris root combine with liquorice, juniper and coriander whilst distinctly citrus notes linger at the end to enhance a dry finish” is the official tasting note.It is available in Dunnes Stores and at many independents as well.
Maudeline, who instigated the gin-making, and husband Sam have quite a range of beers but the 1601, named after the famous local battle that had national implications to say the least, is their first lager. Sam explained a few things about lager as we sipped the flavoursome drink. “A different type of yeast is used, it is cold fermented, takes longer to mature and this one is also gluten free”.

Sam then took us around the brewery - the gin is in the same building but in a separate compartment which we saw a little later. We would also sample their best seller, the Kinsale Pale Ale. “Hops add flavour here and also counteract the sweetness of the barley”.
Sam Black
As the tour went on he answered questions on the functions of the various tanks and so on. People wanted to see the bottling but that is contracted out. Canning though is done on a regular basis by a mobile canning machine that calls to the site.

He acknowledged that the craft scene is a nice industry where everyone gets on quite well together. He is pretty confident about the future. “The rebate we craft brewers get allows us to compete and if the proposed legislation enabling small brewers to sell their beers direct to on-site visitors gets through, that will be a good thing. We employ six here and we’ll have one extra for the summer.”

Heather and verbena may be among the local botanicals in the gin, he hinted when we reached the distillery. “Each batch may be that little bit different but it is always good,” he promised. By the way, his alcohol is whey based and comes from Carbery in West Cork.

Not too sure he promised wife Maudeline that he’d stop taking kit from the kitchen. The hair-drier has been used to heat surfaces so that labels can be applied to the gin bottles and a food mixer had also been pressed into use. He did promise that we’d be drinking his rum in three years time! And that is just one development that this inventive and busy couple have up their sleeves!
We gathered outside the gable end of The Spaniard ahead of crossing the road into Man Friday where son Daniel is continuing his take-over in the kitchens. There is a great view from the part of the dining room where our group of thirty plus were seated but soon all eyes were on the plates.

We nibbled away on some very tasty charcuterie as we studied the menu and sipped the wines. My starter was the New Season Asparagus with Stonewell Cider Hollandaise and edible flowers. All eminently edible! Also enjoyed around me were Sea Bass Carpaccio with mango, baby coriander & lime and the Bruschetta with Macroom Mozzarella n’duja, courgette, rocket and fennel.

The high standard continued with the main course where my pick was the Local Cod with cauliflower purée, shaved asparagus, fennel, radish, peas, chilli oil and a beurre blanc. Great reports on the Slow Cooked new season shoulder of lamb with wilted spinach, roast Jerusalem artichoke, agresto and crème fraiche.

The finalé was the Almond and Rhubarb Tart with vanilla ice-cream and then Daniel was persuaded to make an appearance to take a well deserved round of applause.

Sam, with MW&D member Richard (right)
The next event on the calendar will be the Super-Valu Wine Selection Panel in L'Atitude 51 on Wednesday May 24th.
Cod at Man Friday

Thursday, February 16, 2017

Munster Wine & Dine 2017 Launch at Club Brasserie

Munster Wine & Dine 2017 Launch at Club Brasserie


An amazing series of tapas style dishes, prepared by hosts Club Brasserie, heralded the start of the 2017 season for the Munster Wine and Dine Circle. Each dish was accompanied by news of an event already confirmed in the calendar for this local group, who love their food and drink and love also promoting local produce.
After a welcome prosecco, thanks to Gary O’Donovan, we had a short and interesting presentation by Cal McCarthy, Senior Sales Manager at Clonakilty Black Pudding. He told us the success of the company was down to the passion of the people involved, especially founders Eddie (RIP) and Collette. “It is available in the UK, Australia, the United Arab Emirates… we must be doing something right.” And he also told us about the right way to cook it: “..on its own, in the oven”. By the way, they also do gluten free black and white pudding and sausages.
Clonakilty Black Pudding
Beth and Harold and their staff in the Club Brasserie then began their superb service, starting with that iconic black pudding and Beth confirmed the tasty dish was indeed cooked in the oven. New committee member Stuart Musgrave then outlined the first event. In March, a group will visit Barry’s Tea, another iconic Cork producer, and the “best tea blender on the world” according to one time rival Stewert.

By now, another dish had arrived from the busy kitchen, a presentation of mushrooms from the folks at Ballyhoura and mixed in were some of their new smoked oyster and shiitake, “very tasty” according to Beth. MWD secretary Beverley Mathews was then on her feet, outlining the April event. “This will give you the chance to stand in the shoes of a large scale wine buyer.” Supervalu's top buyer, Kevin OCallaghan, will be present for a tasting of some of their wines in L’Atitude in what should be a fun evening.

Ballyhoura mushrooms
I’m not sure that there was an event for every dish and we were on to the mussels when chairperson Eithne Barry enthused about the next event, a May trip to Kinsale. She fleshed it out. A bus from the City Hall with the first stop at Black’s Brewery in Kinsale for craft beer and gin. Next stop at The Spaniard for a glass (of water?!). And finally, dinner at Man Friday, a dinner to be cooked by the younger generation in the long-established restaurant!

Soon Eithne was telling us about the summer’s premium event, a day out in West Cork. The bus will take us direct to Gubbeen where our hosts will be Fingal and his sister Clovis. Fingal will give a tour of the farm, telling us all about the cheese, about his very special smokehouse (where he produces the most divine Chorizo and Salami and more) and about his knife-making for which he is rather well-known. Over then to Clovis who will feed us all as the July evening unfolds.

Lamb
 Speaking of premium, Harold and Beth brought out a very special dish, their lovely East Cork Lamb, with their own harissa oil and spiced chickpea, small and beautiful. Speaking of East Cork, one of the earlier plates featured Ardsallagh goats cheese.

The MWD speaker now was yours truly and my task, on Saturday September 15th, is to take a group on a short walk, focussing on the Coal Quay and Shandon, areas long associated with Cork food. Back down to the city centre then for a late leisurely lunch in Jacques where no doubt there will be a reminder, maybe even a replica, of a dish from the good old days (but we'll leave the details up to the Barrys!).

Crab
 West Cork Crab was now on the menu, served with a lime chilli mayonnaise. And MWD treasurer Richard Scott took the floor to highlight the final event of the year on the 3rd Sunday of November. Lunchtime visits to Longueville House (2015) and to Ballyvolane House (2016) have proved highly successful. If it works, why change it., So this year, we are off to the Long Room in Ballymaloe where fifty happy visitors will be seated. Before the lunch, a local producer or two will be on hand to give a  presentation.

Looks like a great finalé to what should be a varied and entertaining programme.

* The membership list is very close to its upper limit. If you are interested, please email mwdcircle@gmail.com. Fees are €30.00 single, €50.00 double.

Chocolate mousse

Saturday, September 10, 2016

Autumn Treats from Munster Wine & Dine

AUTUMN TREATS
from Munster Wine & Dine

As Summer fades and our trip to Cashel Blue and Ballinwillin House seems like a distant memorywe're delighted to bring you news of some great events to look forward to in the Autumn. 

Placeholder Event: 
Spacial MWDC Tour & Tasting of Midleton Distillery followed by dinner in a well-known Midleton eatery
Full details, price and date to be announced in the next week, but the placeholder date is Wednesday 19th October late afternoon/early evening.   

Sunday 20th November 
Sunday Lunch in Ballyvolane House, Castlelyons with Tour and Tasting at Bertha's Revenge Gin Distillery 
Ballyvolane House is a beautiful historic Irish country house set in the stunning Blackwater Valley amongst woods, vast gardens and parkland. Run by Justin and Jenny Green, it is renowned for its delicious home-cooking using ingredients grown in Ballyvolane’s own walled garden, reared on the farm and sourced from local artisan producers. It is also home to Bertha's Revenge Gin Distillery which produces Ireland's only milk gin made from distilled whey. This is a fantastic opportunity to visit one of Ireland's most magical country houses and experience a day of life on the estate! 

Depart Cork City Hall 11.45am  
€40pp for members includes transportation to and from Ballyvolane House, tour of the distillery & tasting, and 3 course set lunch. 
Please advise of any dietary requirements (such as vegetarian, coeliac, allergies, etc ) when booking.  

Send an email to mwdcircle@gmail.com if you’d like to attend. RSVP by Friday 4th November
Cheques can be made payable to MWDC.


For those of you who missed the Summer outing, it was a really enjoyable day-out with lots of good food and wine and great company (there was even a sing-song to cap it all off!) Our hosts in both Cashel Blue and Ballinwillin House couldn't have been nicer and the passion for what they do was infectious. We'd like to thank Sarah and all the team at Cashel Blue for lending us so much of their precious time to show us around and to Patrick and Miriam of Ballinwillin who were charming and welcoming hosts who really made us feel at home. Cork Billy has summed up both visits really nicely here: http://www.corkbilly.com/search/label/Cashel%20Blue http://www.corkbilly.com/2016/05/ballinwillin-house-farm-where-deer-and.html      

We look forward to seeing you on one or both of our Autumn events! 

All the best