Showing posts with label Skibbereen. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Skibbereen. Show all posts

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Great West Cork Distillery Tour. Beautiful Baltimore

Great West Cork Distillery Tour

Beautiful Baltimore. Bountiful Clonakilty. 

A terrific tour of the West Cork Distillery in Skibbereen was the highlight of the first part of our twenty four hours in West Cork. A twenty four hours that had some changes to the “plan”, a rather loose one admittedly.

First hiccup, if you could call it that, came on the way down when a phone call to Baltimore revealed that the two o’clock trip on the SeaSafari was off as the craft was out of the water for the afternoon and being cleaned up.

So then the Distillery tour, one o’clock start, was pencilled in. Got into Skibbereen in good time and called to a busy Apple Betty’s. Ordered a panini. That was a little slow in coming but it was gorgeous, a terrific filling of bacon, Cashel blue and a fantastic relish. Rushed it a bit and hot footed down the street to the Distillery.

John O'Connell (foreground) in the Distillery
Things didn't look good here as people were coming away rather than going in! Apparently, the Distillery weren't very happy with the time published in the "Taste of West Cork" brochure. Director John O’Connell explained they couldn't do the tour at one but would have “a good one” at three.

It worked out well, at least for us. We headed off in the sun (the weather forecast was not exactly spot-on either) to Baltimore, packed with people who seemed to know more than the forecasters. So packed, we didn't find a space in the car parks.

Off out the road we went to the Beacon and enjoyed marvellous views both on the way and during our walk up to the Baltimore landmark. Great views over the islands, Sherkin the nearest, and back to the little town. Later, we had a pause and a walk by the harbour. Hiccups yes but this day was going very well indeed.
The Beacon
So well, we nearly missed the tour or so we thought. But there was no rush as dozens and dozens of people arrived, the big numbers a surprise to John and his friendly staff. Still we were all settled, with a glass of their Drombeg, perhaps their most famous whiskey so far, and a good one too for this time of day as it is just twenty per cent abv.


John then took us on a walkabout of the distillery where the staff were still working. He took us through the process, from the malted barley coming in, and along the journey to the casks (they use sherry casks) and the bottling at the end.

Great informative stuff and more whiskey before we left, with tastings of their West Cork whiskey, the normal and the cask (57% abv!). If you like your whiskeys flavoured then Kennedy’s is the one for you. You may have it Spiced, Honied, Limed and Chillied! They also do a gin, poitin and a vodka here, under the Two Trees brand. And that’s not all.

The ferry, from Sherkin, just arrived in Baltimore
But that was it for us and we headed through the town and off to the Inchydoney Island for that evening’s magnificent nine course dinner “A Taste of West Cork”, all part of the week long food festival in the area. Read all about it here.

And there was yet more whiskey on arrival as we were pleasantly surprised with a glass of the lovely Irish Mist. Time then for a walk on the fantastic beaches here.

The Inchydoney Island Lodge and Spa is a four star hotel on the Wild Atlantic Way but I must say that the facilties and service that we enjoyed there were closer to five star. Great place with great staff. The only hiccup perhaps was a delay at breakfast but I think that was down to the many customers that all came together at about ten o’clock on the Saturday. Hard to legislate for that!

At Apple Betty's
They support local produce here obviously and I enjoyed my Scrambled Egg and Ummera Smoked Salmon before we headed off to Clonakilty in the morning mist. It had dried up by the time we arrived and we wandered through the streets looking for the Lettercollum Project shop.

We found it and it was busy, selling salads, tarts, cheese, wine, nuts, seeds, breads and so much more, much of it based on produce from their walled garden in nearby Lettercollum. We went off with enough salad (mixed beans) and bread for two delicious lunches over the weekend.

And we also found Vic and his organic Dexter beef in the market. The main market is on Friday but you’ll find some stalls operating on Thursday and Saturday. I’ll soon have a separate post up about Vic and his tasty beef but for the latest check out his Facebook page

Our twenty fours in West Cork were up and it was time to head back to the city. But we’ll return. Again and again!


Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Tapas at Skibbereen’s Riverside Café


Spanish delights in Skibbereen evening sun
Albarino, almost same colour as the olive oil behind
Having spent a day in the West Cork sun last Saturday, and having walked every step in the exhilarating MizenHead experience, I was looking forward to dinner in Majella O’Neill’s Riverside Café in Skibbereen.

Had checked out the fish specials and thought they were just what were wanted. But there was a change of plan on entry to this lovely restaurant. The lady looking after us was from Galicia and so too was the chef. We noticed the Tapas Tasting menu on a board and went for it.
Seafood Bon Bon
We were seated close to the windows with a nice view over the River Ilen. Indeed if the weather had been a degree or two warmer we’d have been sitting at an outside table. Still we enjoyed the sun inside and indeed there were times when we could have done with the sun glasses. All very Spanish as we waited for the tapas.

But first a decision had to be made on the wine. The French and Italian were on a loser here and we choose the Atlantik Albarino, Rias Baixas, Spain (of course), and priced at seven euro a glass. I liked their description: While it may slake the thirst of many a Camino pilgrim, this Albarino is far from penitential. Really enjoyed it and it had an outstanding colour almost as gold as the olive oil alongside it (see photo).

Duck Pate
We were to enjoy four tapas on the Tasting Menu that cost €18.50. First up was a Sea Food Bon Bon, served in two little shot glasses with a garlic and olive oil mix. A great mix of flavours and we were on our way to the North West of Spain.
Pig's cheek
Our second plate saw the arrival of their Homemade Duck Liver Parfait, served with salad, caramelised red onions and crostinis. That didn't last long either!

Pig’s cheek is making a comeback in these parts and we were about to get the Galician version: Pork Cheek Confit, Truffle mashed potato, Savoy Cabbage, carrot chutney and Port salsa. Pig’s head with spuds and cabbage in other words. In one word: gorgeous! In two words: super tasty.
Lamb
And the best was yet to come: Roast Rump (had lump down first!) of Lamb, served with aubergine Zaalouk and sauce of red peppers. Superb stuff indeed.
Lemon Pudding
And still room for dessert (not included in the tapas menu). We each went for the Lemon Pudding, served with chocolate cigars and meringue (€6.00). Delighted with that too and finished off with a pot of loose leaf Earl Grey before stepping out into the sunshine and a long enough walk to the car. If you do book the Riverside (and I recommend that you do visit), remember that Saturday is mass night in Skibb and, with the church very close to the Riverside, all the nearby parking will be taken.

*By the way, the Riverside is a great supporter of local produce. “Our list of suppliers changes with supply and demand but among our regular sources of products are:
Ballyburden Meats, Busby Strawberries, Caherbeg Freerange Pork, Carbery Milk Products, Clona Milk Products, Cork Coffee Roasters, John and Mary Cronin Feirm Ur Milk & Yogurt, Durrus Cheese, GlenIlen, Gubbeen Smoke House, House of Tea ,Independent Irish Healthfoods, Lorge Chocolatier , Milsean Artisan Chocolatiers , Pandora Bell, Seafood Cuisine, Shannonvale Chicken, Skeaghnore Duck, Thornhill Organic Farm,,Valleyview Freerange Eggs, Woodcock Smokery.."






Monday, April 29, 2013

Dining at Liss Ard


Dining at Liss Ard

Visited Liss Ard Estate near Skibbereen for the first time recently and decided to join a few of the other residents for dinner in the main house. Head Chef Cliona McCarthy uses lots of produce from local suppliers including Caherbeg, Gubbeen, Glenilen and Sally Barnes. The food on the table is, as they say themselves, “simple uncomplicated food bursting with freshness and flavours”.  It is also fairly priced.

We started off with two salads (7.50). My pick was the Caherbeg Crispy Bacon and Potato Salad. Some really fresh leaves here with excellent flavour from both the bacon and potato. It was much the same with CL’s Warm Chicken Salad with Glenilen Yoghurt and Mint Dressing, another very simple yet satisfactory plateful.


You don’t have a great choice here but there is no shortage of quality in the five starters and five main courses. We both settled on the same mains: Roast Union Hall Cod with Lemon Herb Butter and a Mussel Risotto (about 18/19 euro). This was as fresh as you’d expect and the risotto was really well executed.

The wine list is also rather short but appropriate to the demands on the restaurant and again there is quality there. We certainly enjoyed our Main a Main Chardonnay from the Pays d’Oc, unoaked with a gorgeous gold/yellow colour, fresh and fruity and a balancing citrus zest, all for €25.00.

The evening’s dessert was a New Season’s Rhubarb Fool with homemade shortbread (6.50). Again, quite a simple dish but delicious.

Service was excellent at dinner but more hit and miss at breakfast time (two bookable sittings 8.45 and 9.45). For instance, you do have to make your own toast. No big imposition but the toaster (and remember you can have maybe more than twenty people in the room) is your ordinary domestic two slice job and the bread slices are supplied in drips and drabs. So you may have to visit the hall more than once and then be lucky to have bread and access to the toaster at the same time.


Some of you might like to know that there is no bar here. But they do have an “honour bar” from which you may help yourself to a bottle of beer or wine and sign for it on the nearby blackboard!

The estate itself is huge with many woodlands paths that lead you to different features such as the Water Gardens and a Wild Flower Meadow, both of which will probably look better in another month or so. By the way, there is a unique long term approach at work here with the gardens as a whole  expected to reach maturity in thirty to fifty years time!

 The main feature of course is the Irish Sky Garden, also growing and developing, where you’ll experience the giant earth and stone works, The Crater, by famed artist James Turrell, with its contemplative 'Vault Purchase' or plinth (below) at its centre.
                                                    
There is also a large lake in the grounds, used for various sports including canoeing and fishing. We stayed in the Lodge that overlooks this lake. So too did a ten strong group who had exclusive access to the lounge there. If we needed to lounge (we didn’t really), we'd have had to travel up to the main house (either by car or by a pleasant short walk through the woods). You also have to "travel" for breakfast and dinner but we knew that!
 One other handicap in the Lodge (some may not regard it as such) is the lack of a decent signal for your mobile phone – even our receptionist who showed us our splendid room there had to go back to the main house to check something out because she had no reception. Needless to say, the Wi-Fi, available in the main house, doesn’t extend to the lodge. Ideal, if you want to get away from it all!

There is a lot going on in Liss Ard even though driving up the bumpy main driveway, you might be wondering what you are letting yourself in for. But there is a philosophy at work here, allowing you to experience the “beauty, wonder and tranquillity of Irish Nature”. We did see a fox running along the same driveway!

See also Stunning West Cork in yesterday's sunshine.


Tuesday, September 18, 2012

West Cork Suppliers on Show

Say cheese: Fooling around with Val Manning

West Cork Suppliers on Show



Some of the top food producers and suppliers in West Cork were gathered in the ballroom of the West Cork Hotel in Skibbereen last Wednesday as part of the week long A Taste of West Cork festival, specifically there in the morning so that the visiting chefs for the evening’s highlight, the Celtic Cook-off, could sample and choose from the produce.

Delighted to get an invite to the morning session and meet up with some old friends from the markets and also meet some new ones. Manning’s Emporium  from Ballylickey had a stand groaning with some of the best cheese around: Durrus, Coolea, Gubbeen, Fermoy etc. and Val and Andrew were in top form. More top notch cheese too at the Milleens stand where Quinlan Steele was on duty.

Frank Krawczyk, a citizen of the world who loves his West Cork home, is one of Ireland’s best known salami and sausage makers. Loved his Bresaola and his treatement of a shoulder of pork, both tasty and moist, not to mention his cured ham. Frank, based in Schull, gives regular demonstrations at Ballyvolane House and O’Brien’s Chop House.
Frank Krawczyk

Axel and Marye Miret are the couple behind West Cork Garlic  and their product was used by winning chef Garry O’Hanlon. Caroline Hennessy was on the 8 Degrees Brewing stand and she was displaying the full range of their popular beers. Saw the ale again on the Friday, on tap in Cork’s latest craft beer pub, the Hub in Anglesea Street.

Two of the four people on the Celtic Cook-off working group, Avril Allshire of Rosscarbery Recipes and Sally Barnes (“the greatest fish smoker in the country”, according to one Tom Doorley) of Woodcock Smokery were both busy at their stands.

Lingered also at the Skeaghanore West Cork Duck stand, for the conversation and also for a sample or two. Here they like to keep it simple, natural and additive free. Read all about this wonderful product here.


The chefs had been down to the coast earlier in the mornings so there was no fish stand in the ballroom but the sea wasn’t forgotten as we met Sally McKenna of Bridgestone Guides and Jim Kennedy of Atlantic Sea Kayaking.  They had a very impressive display from the sea and the shore including Dilisk, Carrageen Moss, Sea Spaghetti and Wrack and more. Tasty stuff too and Masterchef winner Tim Anderson was shopping there.

Got to most of the stands but missed out on a few, including Brown Envelope Seeds. All of the suppliers were back for the Cook-off in the evening and the stands were kept busy as hundreds of people squeezed in.

A few more producers came too, including Glenilen and Matson’s Wine and Food Store of Bandon who, with Searson’s, were supplying the matching wines for the cook-off meals. Matson’s are offering 20 per cent off on the show wines for the next while. I got a taste of one of them, the Vallado from the Douro, a terrific red, easy drinking and delicious.

All in all, a great experience that underlined once again the quantity and quality of the producers in the area. And, another thing, these are friendly folk. So why not put the festival in your diary for September 2013. You won’t regret it!

Friday, September 14, 2012

My take on the Celtic Cook-off

 
Clockwise from top left: John McKenna (MC), Stephane Delourme,  Jack Stein,  Tony Singh,
Ian Bennett ,   Butch Buttery,  Garry O'Hanlon
  

The Celtic chefs: their dishes and their thoughts
My take on the Celtic Cook-off


It looks as if all six Celtic Cook-off chefs enjoyed this week’s visit to West Cork and hopes are high that some of them will be back again, following the example of Roy Brett the 2011 champion.

Roy, whose restaurant is the Ondine in Edinburgh, was guest chef at the West Cork Hotel on Tuesday night where he displayed his talents with a fantastic meal called A Taste of Ondine, one of the highlights for the week.

But a highlight for Roy and he said as much at the Cook-off on Wednesday was the Secondary Schools Cookery Competition. “This was one of the best moments. We can learn from the children, the food is part of their blood. The winners, the Mercy Heights, were outstanding, the food was incredible. The kids here have a great knowledge of food.”

It was a sentiment echoed by Jack Stein who served up a dish of Monkfish Cheeks as his meal in the Cook-off. “Food, culture, music, all the same thing,” he said, echoing the words I heard not too long ago from Kay Harte of Cork’s Farmgate.

Interview by MC John McKenna, Stein went on to emphasise the part that these elements, food in particular, can play in improving local life and keeping the kids at home. “Good restaurants draw people in and extend the holiday season”. A point emphasised by the fact that the Stein organisation in Cornwall employs some 450 people!

Stephane Delourme (from Brittany) also works with the Stein company, at the Seafood Restaurant in Padstow. Before that he worked in Dublin and was a regular visitor to Baltimore which he loved. He has noticed a huge improvement in Irish food over the last 13 or 14 years. He served up a dish of Dover Sole with local mussels, vegetables and beans from Brittany.

There was a big welcome for Wales representative Ian Bennett (of the Welcome to Town Restaurant) and he spoke of a fairly similar food scene in his native country where his fisherman rings him from the boat and tells him what he has. “You can’t get fresher than that!” Not surprisingly, fish featured in his dish: Union Hall Turbot with mussels, parsnips and Stonewell cider. By the way, we weren't supplied with a list of ingredients for the dishes so my lists are not complete!

Garry O’Hanlon of the Viewmount House in Longford won the Cook-off with his Hill Lamb (loin), a current dish in the restaurant. Local vegetables and fried bone marrow featured in the dish as did the newish West Cork Garlic, treated with a little local honey. I liked Garry’s modus operandi: “Find the ingredients, then bounce from there.”

Tony Singh, the man who “brought cocktails to Edinburgh” is co-founder of that city’s acclaimed restaurant Oloroso. He said we had fantastic produce here and used lamb and langoustines, spicy potato and a minted herb salsa verde. MC John McKenna praised Tony for using the spices “with sympathy and knowledge”.

Baltimore seafood featured heavily in Butch Buttery’s dish. Among many other roles, Butch is chef and recipe consultant for the Manx Organic Network and Island Seafoods. Langoustines, lobster, prawns, mussels and monkfish, even Sally Barnes’ fabulous smoked haddock, not forgetting his Isle of Man scallops (each chef was allowed an ingredient from home) were all added to the Bisque type mix.

It looked well too with the langoustines attempting to escape the bowl. Butch though said that this wasn't a “dish to worship, get it in and get it down.”

‘It’s a tribute to the quality of our award-winning West Cork producers that top chefs are so willing to come to West Cork and cook with our world class food,’ said Neil Grant, manager of the West Cork Hotel. ‘All of this year’s competitors have been truly impressed by the produce available to us here and these are chefs at the top of their game, they don’t mince their words!’

“It is great festival, unbelievable the amount of voluntary work that goes into it. A massive thanks to the suppliers, sponsors, judges, to the chefs and to Roy Brett who has been a brilliant ambassador for us. Must also mention Fáilte Ireland, great backers and here in force this evening.”

Neil had praise for Clare Gallagher, chairperson of the organising committee, for Avril Allshire, and Sally Barnes and Stephen Sage, his colleagues on the Working Group. It was a very enjoyable evening, though I thought the visual delivery to the 200 plus audience in the ballroom lacked a bit but I’m told they are working on that for next year.

So onwards and upwards with the Celtic Cook-off. The more we pull together the further we will go!

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Garry O'Hanlon Tops In West Cork Test


Garry O'Hanlon Tops In West Cork Test


Donegal man Garry O’Hanlon came out in top in the Celtic Cook-off at a packed ballroom in the West Cork Hotel (Skibbereen) last night. MC John McKenna said that all six chefs were winners but Garry got the nod in a very tight contest.

Representatives from the other five Celtic territories included Jack Stein (Cornwall) son of restaurateur, chef and TV presenter Rick Stein, Ian Bennett, The Welcome to Town (Wales), Stephane Delourme, The Seafood Restaurant, Cornwall (representing Brittany), Tony Singh, who owned Oloroso Bar and restaurant for over 10 years (Scotland), and Butch Buttery, formerly of Tanroagan (Isle of Man).

The ‘Ready Steady Cook’ style cook off style event saw the master chefs split in to two groups where they each had just thirty minutes to impress the judges using West Cork artisan produce and one ingredient from their home turf. They were also assisted by three young aspiring chefs to help them with preparation and serving.

O’Hanlon’s dish of Loin of Hill Lamb, with bone marrow and wild artichoke, etc, and enhanced by, among other things, West Cork Garlic with honey, just won the favour of the judges who commended Garry on his use of Irish and local ingredients.

Speaking of the event, Neil Grant, General Manager, West Cork Hotel said “We were thrilled to host such a successful night again this year. The Celtic Cook Off has become a landmark food event for the Celtic regions of Northern Europe since its inception last year and we at The West Cork Hotel are proud to play host to the region’s finest chefs."

He continued, “The Celtic Cook Off opens new doors to local producers and extends the export potential of their products. They also have the chance to promote their fare to top international chefs and be recognised as the “go to people” for the best artisan produce in the world”.


A Taste of West Cork Food festival continues until this Sunday with a number of highlight events still to come including an intimate concert with Declan O’Rourke on Saturday night, many free cookery demonstrations throughout Skibbereen and the finale event of the harvest country fair on Sunday with more than 100 local producers exhibiting their artisan products.
We’ll have more on the event in the next few days!

Saturday, August 25, 2012

SKIBBEREEN HEATS UP

Alannah Cawley pictured at Thornhill Organic Farm, Skibbereen.

SKIBBEREEN HEATS UP FOR FOR MUNSTER’S FAVOURITE FOOD FESTIVAL   
Festival to Celebrate the Humble Spud


Summer may be almost over and we may have missed the sun but Skibbereen is beginning to heat up for its premier festival, “A Taste of West Cork”. Ireland’s longest established food festival which is now in its ninth year runs from September 9-16 with a host of events to suit every taste and budget.

A Taste of West Cork is the best opportunity hundreds of local producers have to get in front of people who are passionate about food. This year’s festival is set to be bigger and better with a real focus on Ireland’s food heritage. Special homage will be paid to the humble spud as the nation’s favourite tuber takes centre stage with a variety of events looking at the importance of the potato in Ireland including a special workshop by Eanna Ni Lamhna.

The ever popular Schools Cookery Competition will see students challenged to create unique dishes centred on the potato while restaurants around Skibbereen also create their own unique ‘spudcentric’ dishes. There will also be numerous workshops, tastings and demonstrations on all elements of international cuisine with the full calendar of events aiding the extension of West Cork’s tourist season.

Among the list of other standout events will be the traditional open air food and craft market with over 100 exhibitors, themed nights in restaurants in Skibbereen and beyond, nutritional workshops, appearances from a host of celebrity chefs, including UK Masterchef winner Tim Anderson, traditional music nights and a special performance from one of Ireland’s best singer/ songwriters, Declan O’Rourke.

This year will also see the return of the very popular Celtic Cook Off at the West Cork Hotel which will see chefs from the six Celtic territories (Scotland, Isle of Man, Ireland, Cornwall, Wales and Brittany) participate in a ‘cook off’ event in front of a live audience, whilst also aiming to impress a panel of judges.

Speaking of the festival, Clare Gallagher, Chairperson said, “West Cork has long been noted as the capital of artisan food in Ireland and we are spoiled for choice with the range of locally produced products we have on offer. We understand how important local food is to our economy and with our wealth of artisan food producers, supportive retailers, talented chefs and award winning restaurants we believe West Cork has it all. Through the hard work of our farmers and fishermen by land and sea we produce world class food and combine this with the most idyllic part of Ireland, A Taste of West Cork makes for the perfect festival for all the family. The festival is also the first step in highlighting West Cork as a top choice of holiday destination to the Irish abroad ahead of The Gathering 2013. In this we are hugely grateful to Fáilte Ireland for all of their support and encouragement.”

She continued, “From seminars on food heritage, to food demonstrations and tastings, competitions between the best chefs in Europe and West Cork, and the grand finale of the biggest harvest food and craft market staged in the Fairfield, there will be something to tempt every palette.”

Many events throughout the week are free or minimum charges apply. To view the entire list of events, times and prices please visit www.atasteofwestcork.com

Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Winner of BBC MasterChef 2011 is Celtic Cook Off Guest

Winner of BBC MasterChef 2011 is Celtic Cook Off Guest of Honour
Tim Anderson will participate over two days in 2012 Celtic Cook Off in West Cork

The
Celtic Cook Off in West Cork continues to build on the success of the inaugural event in September 2011 by attracting top chefs to take part in what is becoming one of the culinary events of the year.

The 2011 Celtic Cook Off was held as part of the
A Taste of West Cork Festival that proved very popular with the paying public, the local food producers, Fáilte Ireland, the media and all the Chefs involved. The basis of the Celtic Cook Off was to create a fun and informative Cooking Show that showcases the best of West Cork produce cooked simply with each Chef’s own interpretation and ideas.


Tim Anderson, BBC MasterChef Winner 2011, is attending the September 2012 event as Guest of Honour. During two days he will meet local artisan food producers and have a chance to both sample and cook with their produce. He will also meet the competing chefs from the Celtic regions, including Sean Hill for Wales and Jack Stein for Cornwall, before acting as one of the six judges for the Celtic Cook Off itself along with Roy Brett from Scotland and Martin Shanahan from Ireland.


Tim Anderson was born in Wisconsin, USA and raised on a balanced diet of cheeseburgers, pizza, Danish pastries, and root beer. At age 18 he relocated to Los Angeles, where he quickly became a connoisseur of regional Japanese noodles, American craft beer, and tacos sold out of trucks.


Upon graduating from college, Tim moved to Japan to indulge in the country's many hot springs and diverse local foods – in particular the unexpectedly pork-intensive and indelicate dishes of Kyushu, Japan's southernmost island. It was there that Tim fell in love with a British woman, and so he once again displaced himself, this time to London, where he developed a love for British ale, cheese, curry, game, and seafood. Along the way, he has travelled to France, Mexico, Italy, Hong Kong, Thailand, Taiwan, Burma, and Denmark, accruing new and diverse culinary influences at every opportunity.

In 2011 he wove those influences into a colourful tapestry of flavour to win the hit BBC series MasterChef at age 26, making him the youngest champion ever. He currently works as a mercenary chef, food writer, and sommelier of beer.


Date of Celtic Cook Off: Wednesday 12 September 2012, 7.30 PM
Location/Venue: The West Cork Hotel, Skibbereen, Co. Cork, Ireland.