Showing posts with label Rosscarbery Recipes. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Rosscarbery Recipes. Show all posts

Monday, December 4, 2017

Taste of the Week Special from On The Pig's Back. Celebrating Spiced Beef

Taste of the Week Special from On The Pig's Back

A Celebration of Spiced Beef in Cork Cafés


Popped across the city to On the Pig’s Back in Douglas to start the Spiced Beef Week in Cork’s Character Cafes. Warm welcome and soon we were sitting at the table with two menus, the regular and the specials. The regular is packed with good things: Paté Plate; Charcuterie and Cheese Board; and a Terrine Plate. Quiche, Fish and Brisket all featured on the specials  (see below). 

Great choices indeed but where was that spiced beef, I'd come for? It turned out it was on the Sandwich Menu, the one we hadn't been offered. The spiced beef was fresh in from Jack McCarthy in Kanturk and is a regular on the menu here. It comes with perfectly matured fruity milky Brie de Meaux Nugier and is packed into delicious Arbutus Wholemeal slices, big but tender. 

The whole combination, they don't reveal all the ingredients (super secret, I'm told), was absolutely perfect. There was a wee bowl of extras including broccoli florets, Feta cubes, sun-dried tomatoes, nuts etc and, all in all, it was five star food, dressed in humble garb, not that there was anything untidy at all about the presentation. Just goes to show that once the ingredients are fresh and when they are well handled and matched, that you can dine like a king for a fair price (€8.95 in this case).

And the same price too for our other sandwich: Chicken and Harissa Mayo with salad and roasted peppers, again on that magnificent Arbutus Wholemeal sourdough. Another excellent lunch. A top class munch. Other city restaurant participating in the Spiced Beef Week are Idaho Café and Nash 19. In Nash 19, they have great time for Derek McCarthy’s spiced beef.

Monday's specials at On the Pig's Back whose store in
the English Market is celebrating 25 years in business. Well done!
Over 12 cafés are supporting the week so those south and west of the city won't be short of spiced beef choices either. Check out the Lemon Leaf Café in Kinsale, the award winning Kalbo’s in Skibbereen, the Riverside also in Skibb, the Stuffed Olive in Bantry and URRU on the banks of the river in Bandon. 

Well done to Failte Ireland food champion Ruth of URRU who has organised this (and previous) themed week. URRU serve Allshire's spiced beef and Ruth says that Maurice, producer of Rosscarbery Biltong, “is going to do something very special with it for us for the week".

Many of the Cork cafés will be using the Spiced Beef from the Chicken Inn in the English Market. They have been producing the famous beef for over fifty years now and Tim Mulcahy tells me they supply some of Cork’s finest independent cafés.

That list includes Idaho where the Quesadilla will be filled with Tim’s spiced beef, Monterey Jack cheese, pickles and French's mustard. “It's like a crispy New York deli taste, but using a spiced beef that is produced in Cork. Idaho Café love Tim Mulcahy's beef, moist, lightly but firmly spiced and evocative of Christmas and a proud history of food production in this city. €9 on the menu for that week!” Beat that boy!



Saturday, December 2, 2017

Meet The Producers. All Winners at Blas2017 in Dingle

Meet The Producers
All Winners at Blas2017 in Dingle

(This is Part Two on the evening in the bank. See Part One here.)
Aoife of Galtee Honey

Bank of Ireland Startups, who helped get the successful Backyard feature off the ground during this year’s Blas Awards in Dingle, hosted a number of follow-up events last Tuesday, including one at their premises in Patrick Street, Cork. Joe McNamee was the moderator for the evening and the principal speakers were Artie Clifford of Blas and local chef Kate Lawlor. After the welcome and introductions, Joe asked Aoife of Galtee Honey Farm  to tell her story.

Aoife was brought into bee-keeping by her father and she said provenance was very important. “Genuine Irish honey has great flavour and complexity. It is because of our great bio-diversity, different flowers, different flavours. The native Irish black bees are under threat and we as a group are trying to preserve them”.

“Labelling is a problem, the public can be misled quite easily. Do check the label. Blas can help with awareness. Quality will cost more so Irish will cost more. This summer was great, we won't be running out of honey before the next harvest.”

Francis, a West Cork man, is with North Cork Creameries. “It is a small co-op, one of the originals. We sell milk and butter under our Kanturk brand and we also supply Supervalu. The butter is available in the Kanturk area and in Supervalus in the region generally.” Joe added that a lot of the milk in the supermarkets is not coming from the cattle you see grazing in the Republic’s fields but from indoor herds across the border.
Francis of North Cork Creameries


All of the producer speakers were winners at Blas 2017 and Avril, representing Caherbeg Pork, Ross-carbery Recipes,  and, most recently, Rosscarbery Biltong, is no stranger to Blas awards. 

Son Maurice is following in her footsteps with the Biltong, a dried beef product of African origin. Indeed, the machines used in West Cork are from Africa. Both Maurice and brother William are big into fitness and that inspired the move. He wouldn't be an Allshire if he didn't focus on quality and he does. Had a taste the other evening and no wonder it won a silver in Dingle. Seaweed and spice have been added and it is a handy and well priced packet.
Avril (Rosscarbery Recipes) and, right, Kate Lawlor

Avril just loves Blas and Dingle: “Food is at the core of it but the people make it. You are never on your own.”

More butter, but with a twist, as Mary and Billy from Waterford took to the stage with their Irish Gourmet Butter. They are in the early stages of development but still advanced enough to feature in Dingle where their Garlic & Herb stood out. Their butter is flavoured: cranberry and orange and Cointreau (have it with the Christmas pud) and cinnamon and honey (ideal on French Toast) are two examples. They are building on a long family tradition as Granny was an All-Ireland Butter Champion so food is in the family.
Artie and Tom Durcan (right)

Tom Durcan is a spice beef master and the Corkman is a huge supporter of the Blas Awards. “When I won in Blas, I milked it, got great contracts from it. It is definitely the most honest food competition going. To win, or even to be a finalist, opens doors. Do something, do it right, the world’s your oyster. Blas is a fantastic road for anyone in food to take. Great help available there. Thanks to Artie and to everyone involved.”

Sarah from Nut Case hasn't got quite the long experience of Tom but she too acknowledged the value of Blas. Their nut burger won gold this year. “It makes such a difference to us when we call to the shops.” We is Sarah and husband Mick who, in 2006, was made redundant. But he then took the 12-week course in Ballymaloe and they began checking their aunt’s nut business in the UK.
Sarah of Nut Case

They started Nut Case with a Nut Roast but after entering the SuperValu Academy found that their burger was outselling the roast. So they concentrated on the burger and their judgement was confirmed with that gold in Dingle. It is popular and they have many repeat customers. They place great value too on Farmers Markets, learning from the feed back.

“It is still early days, still doing it all by hand. Very time consuming but very satisfying. We are now included on the Body Chef menu so it’s a good success story for us”.

Joe McNamee then asked Kate Lawlor if she had any concerns for the Irish food story and she pointed to misleading labels and Artie agreed. They both hope that education in food, from an early age, can help counter this problem. And both agreed that if your product is being misrepresented, that you are fully entitled to shout long and loud about it.

Mary and Billy of Gourmet Butter
talk to Joe McNamee (left)
But McNamee wanted to finish on a positive note and prompted the main pair. Kate: “We are getting known for our food culture. We are value for money. We need to keep the small suppliers going. It is an exciting time.”

Artie: “I’d like to see it continue as it’s going, state agencies and producer groups pulling together. We have the raw ingredients and they are now being better used, the freshest, the best, all driven by passion, our biggest selling point. From bar food to silver service, the quality of Irish food is high and can improve even further.”

Reckon Joe got his wish there. And we had all seen the passion from the producers on the night. Consumers are key too. Check that label and buy local, fresh and fair. The more we pull together the further we can go.

This is Part Two on the evening in the bank. See Part One here.

Thursday, November 30, 2017

Winning Blas Producers at Bank of Ireland Food Series

Winning Blas Producers 
at Bank of Ireland Food Series
Rosscarbery producer Avril Allshire with moderator Joe McNamee

Bank of Ireland Startups, who helped get the successful Backyard feature off the ground during this year’s Blas Awards in Dingle, hosted a number of follow-up events last Tuesday, including one at their premises in Patrick Street, Cork. Joe McNamee was the moderator for the evening and the principal speakers were Artie Clifford of Blas and local chef Kate Lawlor.

Lia Boyland was involved in setting up the latest Workbench Food Series Event and she welcomed us to the Workspace at the bank, explaining that the digital progress in the banking sector has freed up the space for “events like this evening”. Work spaces are available during the day - bring your laptop - and you'd never know who you might meet.

We knew though we were going to meet Artie as not alone was he a panel member but he also launching the 4th edition of the Blas na hEireann Buyers Directory.  Artie, involved in the founding of the Dingle Food Festival eleven years ago and in setting up Blas a year later, was delighted to launch the book here.

“Thank you all for coming. Eight thousand inserts (from the 10,000 copies) will be coming with your Shelflife magazine. It makes it easy for buyers and chefs to find good Irish produce. There is no charge for inclusion - it is something we want to give back. We hope this is a useful guide for sourcing Irish products and that many of the producers listed here will become your suppliers of tomorrow.”

There is a lot of work going into the new Blas website and it will include a searchable catalogue of producers, and will be ready soon. “Next, we want to do a roadshow during the year to build on it, to talk among ourselves, producers, buyers, chefs, and to get our own solutions.”

We would soon find out more about Artie, the face of Blas, as Joe McNamee asked the questions before the discussion proper (which would include quite a few producers) began. Artie, from Dundalk, was a commercial fisherman, then a ship's engineer and a skipper. In 1992, the work was in Dingle so that was where he went, his family still in Dundalk before they eventually joined him in Kerry.

Later, Artie worked in a  fish factory, most of the output for export. When the MD retired, Artie took over and looked at adding value: smoked fish, paté, chowder and so on for the home market. But costs went up, prices didn't and eventually, in 2010, the company was sold. By then Blas was just a little baby and Artie was making a few bob at Farmers Markets.

And his future then began to take shape. He told us about the first food festival in Dingle and the start of the famous Taste Trail there. “People came back year on year. In the second year of the festival, the awards became part of it and we worked hand in hand.” 

Chef Kate Lawlor was the other main guest on the night and, like Artie, she too has had her ups and downs and is fully committed to using Irish produce. An early visit to Brussels with her CIT class inspired that commitment. They were there to promote Irish food and a belief took hold that it was as good as any. She joined Fenn's Quay in 2001 and that “amazing journey” included taking it over in 2008. 

“We built a bond with local producers. I enjoy food, it should be fun and that was why I used some of the local slang on the menu. Sad to let it go this year but the producers are still talking to me.”

Artie Clifford

After the closing down of Fenn's Quay earlier this year, she took a much needed two month break - “I had run out of ideas, though there was a sense of satisfaction as well as sadness. I enjoyed the two months off and a highlight was the weekend in Dingle. This year I had the time to relax and enjoy it.”

Immediately afterwards she joined the newly reopened Oyster Tavern and the aim is to get it back to its “iconic status”. There are great young chefs there and Kate is just the person to help them. It is right alongside the market so she is back in there buying local again. “The connection  between chef and producers in very important. It leads to personal relationships and a better understanding of the product.”

After the introductions, it was time to meet the producers and we’ll cover the interesting exchanges in the next post, now available here.

Wednesday, June 28, 2017

A Taste of West Cork Guide. Kate Brings It All Together

A Taste of West Cork Guide

Kate Brings It All Together
Ross with Sally Barnes
In West Cork, there are scores of good food producers, one down every lane, up every boreen. But which road, which village? Where do you find them when you want them? The answer is now quite simple: buy a copy of the Artisan Food Guide, just published by A Taste of West Cork Food Festival. 

The 80-page guide, edited by Kate Ryan, was launched by Michelin chef Ross Lewis (Chapter One) in Vertigo, the top floor of the County Hall, last week. Ross said good cooking begins with good shopping and this guide will help you do some great shopping.

And indeed, guests arriving in Vertigo were able to sample some of the produce from the likes of Ummera, Rosscarberry Recipes, Durrus Cheese, Hungry Crow Chocolates, Sally Barnes (Woodcock Smokery), Glenilen, Skeaghanore, Gubbeen, West Cork Pies, and West Cork Olives.

Helen Collins, chairperson of the A Taste of West Cork Festival for the past four years, welcomed the guests and other speakers. She extended a big thanks you to Tim Lucey, Chief Executive Cork County Council for his unwavering support, to outgoing Mayor of Cork County Seamus McGrath, another great supporter.

And, of course, she had a huge welcome for Ross Lewis, the chef who grew up in the area around the County Hall itself. Ross has dined in some of the world's finest restaurants but that doesn't stop him from enjoying the best of local (he had earlier lunched on lamb stew and floury potatoes in The Farmgate). He repeated his high regard for artisan producers - they are not in for the money - and that regard is well documented in his book "Chapter One- An Irish Food Story”.

Helen told us that the guide author Kate Ryan is Bristol born but has been living in Clonakilty for the past ten years. She is well known on the food scene through her blog flavour.ie, through her Clonakilty Walking Food Tour  (Failte Ireland approved, by the way!) and her willingness to get involved in local endeavours.

Clockwise from top left: Mayor Seamus McGrath, Helen Collins,
Ross Lewis and Tim Lucey

Another Ummera product
The book could easily have been just a list of the producers but is much more than that. West Cork is a big place so Kate decided to use some natural divisions, eg The Beara Peninsula, as chapter headings. So yes, of course, the producers are listed with some detail (including contacts and if visits are possible). Listed also are specialist food shops and local farmers markets. And, importantly, from a tourist point of view, she suggests itineraries to follow.

Let us illustrate her “scheme” by using the Clonakilty section as an example. So, you're an English or French foodie and newly arrived. Where to start? Spend a fiver on this book and you’ll see Clonakilty and its neighbours Timoleague, Dunworley and Rosscarberry.
Hungry Crow Chocolates, the bigger ones have dates and figs inside!

There are no less than 21 local food producers here including well known ones such as Ummera and Rosscarberry Recipes, lesser known such as Clonakilty Homemade Ice-cream and Devoy’s Organic Farm.

You can read which places are open to visitors and plan your own food journey. Or perhaps you’d like to rely on Kate's suggestions which starts with Ummera in Timoleague and ends with Bushy’s Strawberries in Rosscarberry. In between, you’ll visit The Baking Emporium, Camus Farm and Clonakilty Chocolate and more, maybe even a tour with Kate herself. After all that, you may well make Dunworley Cottage your overnight stay. And that's just one section!

The book will be an ideal "guide" to the Festival itself which takes place this year from 8th-17th September, with over 180 culinary and adventure events taking place across the region’s 33 towns and villages and 9 islands.  Visitors will find a foodie’s paradise, with several national and international chefs preparing culinary-themed feasts in local restaurants, food tastings al fresco, foraging walks, open-air markets, seminars, cook-offs, masterclasses and intimate evenings with local artisan food producers imparting their culinary wisdom.

As I said, West Cork is a large area, so much to see and do, so much good stuff to eat and drink!



Sunday, June 11, 2017

Stellar Food and Crew at the Castle Cafe


Stellar Food and Crew at the Castle Cafe
Some go to Blackrock Castle to learn about the Universe, extreme life forms on Planet Earth and to explore life in outer space! Some go to explore the local food on their plate in the Castle CafeAnd it is very good food indeed as we discovered on last week’s visit where we enjoyed a delicious meal in a delightful venue.

The  iconic Cork landmark dates back to the 16th century but the Caste Cafe is much younger than that. Indeed, the Market Lane group (which includes the cafe, Market Lane itself, Elbow Lane and ORSO) is celebrating ten years in business. And congratulations are in order!

It may be in a castle but the café is an easy-going informal place catering to locals and visitors alike. Service is friendly but very much on the ball. You have quite a selection of menus to choose from including  A La Carte, Early Evening Offer, Set Lunch, Set Dinner, Children's Menu.

We were on the A La Carte, with quite a lot of choices. For the mains, I skipped the normal courses and the selection of salads and, for a change, went for a pizza.

From five, I picked the Goats Cheese, charred aubergine, soft egg, pecorino, spinach and truffle oil. Each and every element, even the baby spinach that had been added at the last minute, looked well and tasted well. And it was excellent overall.

CL’s choice was the Lamb tagine, sweet potato, pearl couscous, tzatziki and homemade flat bread. It was another excellent combination and she loved it but the portion was very large indeed.
 One good thing about the cafe is that they have their own Elbow Lane beers and I enjoyed a pint of the Wisdom Lane Pale Ale. No shortage of wine either and plenty of soft drinks too, including home-made lemonades.


We enjoyed two excellent starterss. CL especially loved the broth that came with her mussels, full description: Local Mussels, Rosscarberry Black Pudding, shallot, cider and cream broth.

Mine was the Bresaola, olive and anise tapenade, Gorgonzola and pickled kohlrabi. Delightful mix of textures and flavours, especially the kohlrabi.
Just room for a shared dessert: Mango and passionfruit sorbet with fresh fruits. It was a lovely finalé, not least because of the excellent mix of fruit. So it was two happy diners who took a lingering look at the castle as we strolled down to the nearby public car-park.

Opening times:
Monday: 9:30am—4:00pm
Tuesday: 9:30am—9:00pm
Wednesday: 9:30am—9:00pm
Thursday: 9:30am—9:00pm
Friday: 9:30am—9:30pm
Saturday: 9:30am—9:30pm
Sunday: 9:30am—8:00pm

More info on the Castle Cafe website here.  




Tuesday, November 29, 2016

O’Donovan’s 14th Cork Wine and Craft Beer Fair. Some Superb Spirits too.

O’Donovan’s 14th Cork Wine and Craft Beer Fair
Some Superb Spirits too
Mary Pawle

I must say I really enjoyed the variety around the room at the 14th Cork Wine Fair, mounted by O'Donovan Off Licences, in the Clarion last weekend. There were more than a few excellent wines, as you might expect. No shortage of good craft beer and some delightful Irish spirits. Not to mention the local food stalls.

Traffic problems delayed some exhibitors and pundits but Mary Pawle, all the way from Kenmare, was one of the first to set up and my first visit. And her first offering was the biodynamic Dominio e Punctum Viognier 2015. Well balanced, great acidity and she suggests trying it with Asian Cuisine. Should have had toddled over to the Green Saffron stall!

Grüner Veltliner is a favourite of mine and Mary has a good one in the Diwald Grossriedenthaler 2015, dry and rich, with great length.

Time then to touch base with Padraig from Carrigaline Cheese, one of the Cork cheesemakers featured in the Oxford University Press Companion to Cheese, due to be published this Thursday. 

Avril of Rosscarberry Recipes had her problems with the traffic but she arrived with lots of samples, including a new one by son Maurice who has been working on an unsmoked Angus Biltong, a delicious product with lovely texture and flavour. Early days yet but this could be another winner from the Rosscarberry farm.
Padraig from Carrigaline Cheese

Then I got side-tracked by some spirits, including Kalak the Celtic queen of winter. If people tell you that Vodka has no character, then give them a drop of Kalak. “We are very proud of this,” said Damien on the Tindal stand. “Enjoy it in a whiskey glass with a lump of ice. It is made from a single ingredient (malted barley) in a single distillery (West Cork) and only one of six vodkas in the world to be so made and recognised.” It is being sold in all the best places - the Germans love it and is going down well in the US.

Tindal’s were also tasting the Blackwater No 5 Gin. But my eyes were on their Juniper Cask Gin. I remember seeing those small juniper casks before they were filled but had never tasted the result. Damien fixed that. As many of you know by now it is a delight, amazing aromas and flavours.
Damien (Tindal) with two top drops

There were some very enthusiastic people behind the stands. Jamie Winters of Irish Distiller was one and he treated me to a Jameson masterclass that included Blender’s Dog, Cooper’s Croze ad Distiller’s Safe. Each is made by a senior person in Midleton and each has the fingerprint on the bottles. Indeed, I’m told there’s quite keen competition between the three.

My first sip came from the Distiller’s Safe by Head Distiller Brian Nation. His aim was to show the character of the distillate. Despite the wood that follows, the pot still has the first say and it certainly does here in a light and zesty, gentle sophisticated whiskey.

Head Cooper Ger Buckley was on the darker side, revealing the flavour of the wood so skilfully crafted. Not just the flavour. There is more colour here too and a great mix of fruit, spice and oak with a long and pleasant finish.
Three of the best!

That left it up to Head Blender Billy Leighton to bring it all together, the spirit, the oak and time. And he surely got the balance spot-on. Superbly balanced, sweetness and spice. Time and patience pays off for Billy. It is rich and round, the gorgeous fruit slow to fade in the final.

Major enthusiasm too at the Vineyard stand where we got stuck into the Malbecs! It was Argentina all the way and first up was the Pascual Toso 2014, a “sincere” and satisfactory example. But that was soon eclipsed by the Reserva 2014, super ripe with lots of complexity, very very good indeed.

Next thing we knew, our man vanished and returned quickly with another Malbec, this the Luigi Bosca Signature Malbec Reserva 2012. Like all the previous Malbecs this had a lighter colour than you’d normally find in Cahors. It was smooth and silky and with a great finish. “Magic!” according to our man. Magic Malbec indeed. This had come from the Barry & Fitzwilliam display where we’d earlier been sipping beers by Bo Bristle and Mountain Man.
Pat (O'Donovan's)
pouring a sample.

He went missing again and was back in a flash with a sample of the amazing Zenato Ripasso (from the Tindal stand). I’m a Ripasso fan and have tasted quite a few but this Zenato Ripassa della Valpolicella Superiore 2012 is silky smooth, with amazing concentration and a long long finish. “Dangerously easy to drink,” said Damien when we returned to the Tindal stand. Damien is a huge fan of the wine and the man behind it.

And he had a suggestion for the Christmas dinner: the Zenato Valpolicella Superiore 2014, full of character and flavour and easily able to stand up to most the variations on the Christmas table. And we finished here with a sip of the Cotes du Rhône Les Deux Cols “Cuvée d’Alize” made by Simon Tyrrell. A blend of Grenache, Syrah and Cinsault, it was made for easy drinking and, with its rich fruit aromas and flavours, it certainly hits the mark.

And we just had to try the Beefsteak Meaty Malbec 2015 at the United Wines stand. Well we were under orders! This vibrant Malbec, spicy and juicy, rich from the oak, is ideal - you’ve guessed it - for juicy steaks. And believe it or not you can join the Beefsteak club  online!

Pat, well known to patrons of O’Donovan’s in Mayfield, is a big red wine man and he showed us two of his favourites. First up was the Famila Castano ‘Hecula’ Monastrell 2014, a Gold Star winner (under €15.00) at the Irish Wine Show. “Deliciously ripe and opulent, a steal” said the judges.

Catalan design
And I was very impressed with the next one: San Alejandro ‘Las Rocas’ Vinas Viejas 2013 from Calatayud. This won the Gold Star for reds priced under €20.00. And speaking of this old vine wine, the judges said: “..blackberry and mocha fruits with a side order of toast!”.

We finished where we started, back with Mary Pawle. We enjoyed the Stellar Running Duck Cabernet Sauvignon from South Africa and a young unoaked Rioja Osoti 2015. Osoti by the way means pigeon in Basque so maybe that’s a matching hint. And she also had a young Côtes du Rhone, the Contrefort du Delta 2014, very pleasing aromas and palate, soft and smooth, and described as “a good all rounder”.

All three were very good but my favourite of her reds was the Jean Bousquet Malbec 2015 with its intense aromas and flavours, soft and supple and with excellent length. Malbec again! Looks like it was the number one grape at the Fair, a very enjoyable few hours indeed.

Sunday, November 20, 2016

Neil McGuigan in Kinsale. Where Everybody Knows Your Wine

Neil McGuigan in Kinsale
Where Everybody Knows Your Wine

  

Neil McGuigan of Australia’s McGuigan Wines was delighted to be back in Ireland - where people pronounce his name correctly. It had been a busy week for the Chief Winemaker, with engagements in Dubai and Malta and then time out in London to celebrate the company being named International Winemaker of the Year for a record fourth time.

Twenty four hours after collecting the trophy, Neil was speaking at Friday's wine dinner in the Pier One Restaurant in the Trident Hotel, with the bow of an ocean-going freighter about 25 yards behind him (it was tied up!). Carole Norman welcomed him on behalf of the Order of the Wine Geese and also introduced Michael Barry of Barry and Fitzwilliam who import the wines.

Neil lauded the involvement with Barry’s saying it is much more than commercial at this stage. “We got Kate (Barry) out to Australia to do a vintage and we sent son Matthew over to Ireland. I reckon we got the better deal!”, he joked.
Frizzante!
They are well known for their Black Label series and are building on that with the intention to go “iconic”. He acknowledged James Busby as “the father of the Australian wine industry”. And he listed other pioneers including Penfolds in 1844 and, joking again, McGuigan in 1992! The early winemakers concentrated on making fortified wines, helping the government get drinkers off the much stronger rum that was then popular.

“Table wine was a late starter and it was only in the 1970s that it took off. Before that we had no idea that we could make wine.” And he pointed to the fact that they started putting the variety on the label and that proved to be their toe-in-the-door of the international market. “We made it simple for consumers and the move helped Australia go forward to Europe and the world.”
My favourite on the night

Then he paid tribute to his family, recalling how his grandfather “got us involved”. His father worked with Penfolds for decades and “we got him to one hundred and he was a wonderful guidance to us”. Neil's brother Brian established the brand “giving me a vehicle to drive”.

“I run a wine company and it is all about the wine. We want to over-deliver on quality at every price point. Purity of fruit is our aim, to see the grape reflected in every bottle. Awards are all well and good but innovation is very important.”

And that had been illustrated as we came in. Our welcome drink was a McGuigan Frizzante (Neil loved pronouncing that one!) and it comes in a resealable bottle. Produced from Semillon grapes, it is “easy drinking, for everyday”. 
The beef, tender and delicious

Yours truly with Neil McGuigan (left)
The Trident kitchen were in top form and our first plate was a delicious Smoked Duck, caramelised plum and celeriac remoulade and the wine here was Tempus Two Silver Series Pinot Gris. Tempus is a “boutique winery” in McGuigan and the wine was “French style, pears on nose, richness on the palate”.

Next plate was a delightful soup with a crunch: Wild Mushroom, Truffle Oil and Hazelnut Soup. And the wine was a killer, perhaps the best of the night, for me anyhow. Any remaining prejudice against Australian Chardonnay will be blown away by one sip of the McGuigan Founders Series. 

“Chardonnay is the prince of white grape varieties. We may have put people off but we have brought the pendulum back. Grapes are no longer over-ripe; these come from the cool climate of the Adelaide Hills.”

It is lovely, elegant and refreshing, an outstanding example of the grape. Neil told me that it is well oaked but you hardly notice it as the freshness is amazing. “Getting the pH right in the vineyard is key”, he emphasised.

After that, we enjoyed the Brioche crumbed scallops, Rosscarbery black pudding, pear and cauliflower puree. While I was really enjoying the Chardonnay, I found the Pinot Gris a better match with this dish!

There was a choice of mains: Port Wine Braised Jacobs Ladder (beef), Brussels sprouts and chestnut potato or Grilled fillet of sea-bream, pumpkin and cumin mashed potato, chilli and coriander butter.

Their 2013 Cabernet, part of the Founders Series, had great balance and was very approachable, just the job for the beef. “We find the Cabernet has lots of early flavour and then tannic at the end but has a hole in the middle! We fill that hole with richness from the oak. Coonawarra is great for Cabernet”.

The wine suggested for the Sea Bream was a Rhone style blend, their Tempus Two Silver Series Grenache (75%), Shiraz and Mourvedre. Rich, vibrant and full bodied, it was soft and rounded and absolutely spot-on with the fish.
Frizzante!

And that Founder Series Cabernet was very much in evidence again as we finished off a superb evening of food and wine and no little chat with a delicious Munster Cheese plate. Neil was on his feet for one final time, extending thanks to the Trident kitchen and staff. 

And he re-affirmed that special relationship with the Barry family. “Ireland is special to us and we will continue working with the Barry family. We are excited, tirelessly seeking new things, new varieties, new styles.” 

A few hours later, he was on his way to catch a flight from Dublin to Dubai, hoping to be back in Australia on Sunday evening. Such is the life of a wine-maker. You can make all the wines you want but someone must get out and sell them! Bon voyage and see you next time.


* McGuigan cultivates grapes in the Lower and Upper Hunter, Mudgee, Cowra, Adelaide Plain and Adelaide Hills, Murray Valley, Barossa and the Limestone Coast and processes in three operating wineries. No wonder they claim to be "The Flavour of Australia".

This fisherman, sculpted by Graham Brett and seated in the
forecourt of The Trident, endured a frosty night.