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

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.

 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!).

 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 Fees are €30.00 single, €50.00 double.

Chocolate mousse

Saturday, September 10, 2016

Autumn Treats from Munster Wine & Dine

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 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:      

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

All the best 

Sunday, May 29, 2016

The Grubbs And Cashel Blue. Passion. Place. Precious.

The Grubbs And Cashel Blue
Passion. Place. Precious.
When you listen to Sarah Grubb speak about cheese and particularly about the cheeses that her family produces, including the famous Cashel Blue, you hear passion (and the occasional hearty laugh). But listen carefully and you realise that the passion is built on attention to details, little and large, and on hard work, on experience of course and also on a love for the locality, their terroir, the green fields of Beechmount Farm where their “new” dairy (2010) is located.

If the planners had their way, the building that we (members of Munster Wine & Dine) visited last Friday would have been on an industrial estate. But the Grubbs (including founders Jane and Louis, Sarah’s parents) were convinced that the dairy should be on the farm, in the place where the cheese had been made since 1984 and in the very area where their own workers came from. And, with help from friends and neighbours, that is what happened.

If you’re interested in starting with sheep, you’ll need to know your breeds. Sarah told us that Dorset is best for meat but Friesland is best for milk. We actually started with a taste of sheep’s milk and then moved on to the curds which two recent visitors separately described as like “ a very good tofu”.

Blue is doing well here on a 6 week Crozier

“The French,” she's said, “call sheep's milk liquid gold”. Perhaps because it is precious - they produce so very little per ewe - and because too it is nice to work with. But you have to have patience with it. The milk contains more solids than cow's milk and so the cheese takes longer to develop.

Goat's milk, she told us, is closer to buffalo than sheep (which is creamier). And, Sarah (who like husband Sergio, another key player at Beechmount, has a wine background) emphasized that sheep’s milk is a product of its terroir. “It varies from place to place. Fascinating!” And another thing, sheep’s milk is easier to digest.

She showed us the display of wheels. “Our cheeses are not particularly large - Stilton is much larger.” The smaller size is down to practical reasons. In a small operation, smaller wheels are easier to handle and quite often it is women doing the handling. The big wheels have one advantage though: “The larger the cheese, the longer it will last.”

We had a tasting of the various cheeses. These included a young Crozier Blue. It was rather “dry” at this stage. The trademark creaminess develops with age!

Salt is the only preservative in cheese and it is essential and the mould too is extremely important to the development of the cheese. She then led us through the dairy, explaining the various parts of the process. You may check out the more important steps right here.
Some of the thousands of wheels in the Maturation Room

Small beginnings

“One sunny summer’s day my daughter Sarah and I were watching my husband, Louis, herd his cows in from pasture. What a deliciously rich and creamy milk they gave! I started to experiment. Eventually, in 1984, I created Cashel Blue, a cheese I believe truly represents the outstanding quality of Tipperary milk. I hope you will agree.”

This is Jane Grubb telling how Cashel Blue cheese came into being and we do agree, as do thousands of customers worldwide, from the US to Australia. “All areas of the market are supplied," Sarah told me on a previous visit and, on Friday, she confirmed that they don't put all their eggs into the one basket! This is a deliberate decision, as they want everyone to try their cheese, not just those that shop in elite outlets.
I should of course say cheeses as Cashel Blue has been joined by other products, including Cashel Cream Cheese, a convenient cheese in a tub for everyday use, a mix of Cashel Blue, Natural Cream cheese and 5 per cent cream. The other well known cheese is Crozier Blue, developed in 1993 from sheep’s milk. You may also come across their Shepherd’s Store, a gorgeous hard cheese, and watch out in the near future for Cashel Blue organic.

But back to Jane and those early days. She had decided to make cheese but didn’t know how. So she got herself a library book. Even that wasn't available locally and had to be obtained via the inter-library route. That book, lots of experiments and then the acquisition of a small vat, led to the famous Cashel Blue.

Over twenty years later, the new dairy was established near the original farmhouse (which had become almost overwhelmed by the success) and opened right in “one of the best fields” and locally became known as Louis’ shed. Louis is Jane’s husband and the entire family were glad to get their home back.
Main cheesemaker Geurt van den Dikkenberg, using the cheese harp

The early cheesemakers too needed encouragement as they tried to find their way. And that encouragement came in the shape of an early prize (up in Clones in County Monaghan)  and soon they were on the right path, choosing to make the blue rather than what many others were making. “We continue to specialise in blue,” Sarah told us last Friday

Cheesemaking is no easy job. Lots of muscle and hands-on work is required. Cheesemaking starts at 6.00am and work goes on everyday, though they do try and keep it that bit less demanding at weekends. Still, someone has to be there 365 days a year!

It is hard work too drawing that cheese harp through the curds and whey in large vats time after time; cheesemakers back is an occupational hazard. Not easy work at all and yes that Cheese Harp has to be re-strung from time to time.

With all that hard work, some people would be tempted to cut corners and speed up the process. But glad to say, there is no compromise here. The quality of the milk is all important and the care that it gets from the time it is piped into the vats, through to the final wheels in the Maturation Room, is hands on.

There is of course some mechanical help with placing the curd from the vats into moulds and also with the injection of the wheels to allow the blue to occur and also the turning of the wheels but nothing whatsoever to compromise the integrity of this natural product. Find out more about the Cashel way of cheese making here.
Wheels, ready for turning

The cheesemaking operation at Beechmount Farm was in good hands from the start with Jane and her husband Louis the pioneers and is in good hands now and for the future with Sarah and her husband Sergio Furno and their team.

Some Beechmount facts:

·         Fifty per cent of the cheese output is sold abroad.

·         Crozier is white while the Cashel as it matures tends to be more of a yellow colour.
·         The sheep milk, used for the Crozier, is heavier and that means more muscle needed especially while it is in the vats.
·         The wheels are salted by soaking in brine, the better to preserve it. Previously the salt was added by hand but soaking in the tanks of brine gives a more consistent result.

  • The brilliant day out ended with a visit to the Mulcahy family at Ballinwillin House, also the home of Deer, Wild Boar Pig and Hungarian wine! Great dinner too! Read all about it here.
  • If you’d like to join the fun with Munster Wine & Wine, please send email to

Thursday, April 21, 2016

The Golden Bean. Kingston Making A Mark

The Golden Bean
Kingston Making A Mark
From the opening Cascara to the closing Espresso, the Munster Wine & Dine visit to Marc Kingston’s Golden Bean Coffee roastery in East Cork was an eye-opener.

The Cascara, surprisingly low in caffeine, is made from the dried skins of the cherry of the coffee. Once regarded as waste, the cherry is now used to produce this unique drink, more like a tea than a coffee. But not quite a tea either. More a fruit tissane as suggested here.

Marc, and his assistants Blair and Ciaran, had us up and running and demo followed demo, the highlight being a roasting session on the impressive Giesen machine and then tasting the coffee from that fresh batch!

The machine may be impressive, with a high tech control panel alongside. But high tech or not, it still needs the intervention of a human, a human like Marc, who knows what he’s doing. The coffee picked for roasting was from the Dutra family owned farms in the Matas de Minas area of Brazil.
Blair (left) and Ciaran
It was also the coffee used for our Cold Brew sample. This went down very well indeed and, if you are at the Lit-Fest in Ballymaloe next month and the sun is shining, you may well find it on the coffee menu. Marc’s roastery is in the grounds of Ballymaloe House.

Lots of questions and answers throughout the entertaining evening. All Golden Bean coffees are single estate - he doesn't do blends! - and will be that bit different from year to year. Store your coffee in a cool, dark and dry place.

That gorgeous smell you get when grinding is something of a mixed blessing, as that smell means less flavour in your cup. Many people used electric mills but the blades hammer the beans. Marc reckons the manually operated mill may be best, “good and slow”. And one more tip: don't forget to stir your little cup of Espresso. It will enhance the flavours.
 On mixing other fluids with coffee, Marc is not that keen. “Alcohol kills coffee!” With milk and sugar in it, “it doesn't taste like coffee”. But he did admit to being partial to the odd Espresso Martini!  He did stress that water quality is very important. “We are lucky here in Ballymaloe to have a nice soft water. But in heavy limestone areas, best to use mineral water, a mineral water with a low mineral content.”

Blair guided us through a Colombian tasting, a Finca Camilia from the Santa Barbara Estate owned by the Echeverria family. This company is well known, up there with “the Oscars of the coffee world”. In fact, many of the farmers that Marc buys from are well established and the prices are usually higher than Fair-trade. This was a gem, “peach, toffee, molasses…”

Back to Marc then who told us that your Espresso has “far more antioxidants available” and is processed through your body much quicker, in about 30 minutes. So you can enjoy one after dinner and not be awake late into the night. And, believe it or not, a six month old baby can process Espresso, in proportion, as quickly as an adult!

If using milk, use pasteurised but not homogenised. They use Glenilen (they have a stall near them at the market) and McCarthy’s and, from the bigger names, Clona and Avonmore.

Now the roasting was coming to its climax and Marc, with notes in hand, was taking control as the cracks were heard. Finally, it was done and the now dark beans (they had started off with a light green colour) poured out into the pan before being taken over to our two baristas.

Soon, they were serving us that coffee made from those freshly roasted beans. First up was a filter sample. Excellent! But the class cup was on the way. That Espresso, with gorgeous crema, was my pick of the bunch! A marvellous cup to bring the lovely evening to a close.

So a big thank you to Marc and his assistants for their patience and knowledge and the excellent coffee. The next Wine & Dine event is scheduled for May 27th and will include a visit to Cashel Blue and a farm tour, wine tasting and dinner at Ballinwillin House. Members are requested to keep an eye on emails for updates. If you’d like to join the fun, then send an email to

Sunday, March 6, 2016

Munster Wine & Dine At Crawford Gallery Cafe

Munster Wine & Dine At Crawford Gallery Cafe
Splendid Meal In Historic Room
Main course!
Sculpture casts, local history, the hierarchy of goat herds and, above all, good food and wine featured as the members of the rapidly expanding Munster Wine & Dine gathered for their second event of the year in the Crawford Gallery Café.

The café, the city’s old custom house, is a day time café, and only rarely opens by night, only for special occasions. And this was special. Sinéad Doran and her team cooked up a memorable meal, inspired by Margot Henderson, chef patron of London's famous Rochelle Canteen, which bases its menu on seasonally-informed Mediterranean-influenced food. The dishes were served in big platters and that added to the sense of occasion and community.

First though we all met in the sculpture room among Greek and Roman sculpture casts, brought to Cork in 1818 from the Vatican Museum in Rome. It’s a long story and you may read more of it here. After gimlets, canapes and a chat we headed to the café itself where once captains of sailings ships stepped from their vessels berthed in Emmet Place and walked in to this very room to pay their dues.
Canapes and gimlets
The full house then settled down to enjoy the food and the company. First up was Brandade with Sourdough Toast. Then came the main starter: Roast Quail, lentils, Butternut squash and organic leaves. This was beautifully cooked, moist, delicious.

Soon large platters of roasted lamb appeared, plates of green beans and shallots, and salad leaves. The lamb leg had been slow roasted and served with cracked wheat. No shortage here as we helped one another fill plate after plate. Again it was perfectly cooked and I and everyone else nearby enjoyed it.

And, then at the end, came Lemon Posset (heard lots of compliments for this), chocolate pots (big and rich) and lovely shortbread. Great stuff and a great evening.
Quail (left) and Lamb (top right) with desserts
And we had some excellent wines too. The favourite around our corner came all the way from Morocco. This was the Volubilia, Domaine de la Zouina 2011. The chateau is owned by two winemakers from Bordeaux and this wine is a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon with Syrah, Mourvedre and Tempranillo. Also available were La Boussole Pinot Noir Pays d’Oc, Martinsancho Verdejo, and Framingham Sauvignon Blanc (organic) from Marlborough.

Ardsallagh’s Jane Murphy was with us and she gave us a grassroots reminder on where the food on our plates comes from.  She said that this is a great time (of the year) to buy goats cheese and milk but she was mainly talking about the kidding. The arrival of the new kids upsets the normal hierarchy among the goats and envy breaks out. “It can be serious. If you’re a new mum with a good looking kid, watch out. The others will want him or her!”

There can be sadness also as “we lose some too”. But mostly it is positive. She spoke of the approach of the more mature mothers against that of the novices. And mentioned one veteran who dropped the lot, “like a boil in the bag baby”, and bolted to the other side of the shed. Jane thought it was magical but was so mesmerised she was slow to react but then quickly opened “the bag” to release the kid and all went smoothly after that.
Jane Murphy (left). Colm McCan welcomes guests
Then she spoke of two novice mothers, each two years old and great friends. “Besties,” suggested a nearby listener. And they went on to prove just that. Jane was watching as they each dropped a kid and then Jane was distracted by something at the other side of the shed. When she came back, she found the two new mothers with five kids between them. Jane didn't know which mother owned which kid and, as far as she knew, neither did the two mothers. But it all worked out well. The two “besties” cooperated in raising the five kids and they all lived happily (I'd better not say ever after as there may have been a little puck or two among the five!).

“It is a labour of love for me,” said Jane as she reminded us to be sure and try the milk and cheese now and for the next five weeks or so. “It won't be bad after that either!” she emphasised, “but is creme de la creme now”.

So, after that, we are all looking forward to the next event. Details are close to being confirmed but it is likely to be a mid April evening visit to the Golden Bean Coffee roastery in Ballymaloe.

Crawford Gallery Café
Emmet Place, Cork
(021) 427 4415