Showing posts with label Toons Bridge. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Toons Bridge. Show all posts

Thursday, April 6, 2017

Kernel Kilkenny. Maria’s Up and Running

Kernel Kilkenny

Maria’s Up and Running
Salmon
So here you are in the kitchen with this lot in front of you: Salmon, sugar snaps, mint, new potatoes, Toonsbridge feta, butternut squash, lime dressing. What to do? Well, check with Maria Raftery, the owner-chef at Kernel, Kilkenny’s newest restaurant. She grilled the salmon and put all the other ingredients together in a magical manner to produce one of the best salmon dishes you're likely to come across.

It is one of the main dishes on the new menu at the restaurant which has taken up most of the front of the Kilkenny Inn on Vicar Street. And the dish, and others, amply illustrate that Maria has lost none of her innovative qualities that shone through over 17 years at Zuni, also in Kilkenny.
Goatsbridge trout
 Kernel Restaurant and Bar, to give it its full title, will be running hand in hand with the hotel and is providing the breakfast for the lucky patrons. Brunch and dinner is also available, even afternoon teas for both ladies and gents!


Back to our visit. While CL was finishing off the salmon and singing its praises, I was tucking into something a little less complicated: the Kernel Angus Beef Burger, smoked Gubbeen, burger sauce, pickle-slaw, house fries. Less complicated maybe but still a perfect combination of textures and flavours.
Ham Hock Scotch Egg
CL had started the meal with Goatsbridge Trout Ceviche, Nori Seaweed, Smoked Trout Mousse, Roe Dressing. Hard to beat that. You’ll notice that Kernel has started by supporting local producers and Goatsbridge Trout Farm is one of the best.

I didn't do too badly either with my Ham Hock Scotch Egg, Piccalilli. Lacked nothing in either quantity or quality, full of good flavour and a really satisfying opening to my visit to Kernel.
 The dessert list is short but still left us puzzled, a puzzle we solved by ordering the Assiette of Desserts, a sweet solution.


They’ve got a pretty good wine list, three suppliers contributing to a good balance overall. We made a bit of a compromise, an enjoyable one, on the Cantina Frentana, Montepulciano D’Abbruzo, fruity and smooth, and twenty five euro the bottle.
Dessert - for sharing!
Had noticed a few (quite a few actually) craft beers on the list including Franciscan Well, Costello’s, O’Hara’s, Free Bird and Hop Adventure (both from Carlow) and Falling Apple Cider (also Carlow). The taps on the bar heralded the three variations of Smithwick's (Red Ale, Pale Ale and the Blonde) but I'm sorry I missed out on the tap for O’Sullivan’s Malted Red Ale, a local beer (now revived) that was produced before Smithwick started in 1710. Next time!
See also

Thursday, December 1, 2016

Club Brasserie. Out of the ordinary

Club Brasserie. Out of the ordinary
The Club Brasserie must be the most stylish dining room in Cork. Mirrors, chandeliers, flowers, the lighting and more, all brought to a perfect harmony by co-owner and front of house Beth Haughton.  All is in perfect balance then and much the same could be said about the cooking of Harold Lynch. 

Harold and Beth were well experienced together before they opened the Lapps Quay venue in 2007 and the fact that they are still going strong, when the neighbouring Oysters and Boardwalk have closed, speaks volumes for their offering.

And the offering? They are both chefs and known for their commitment to quality ingredients, sourced locally where possible – and for cooking unfussy food with style. Our menus offer a zesty take on a range of modern classics and many dishes are well-suited to appearing under various guises at different times of day.

Outside view

We called in for dinner last weekend after visiting a wine fair in the adjoining Clarion. The welcome was warm as always and the service was very friendly indeed and on the ball too. The regular menu is supplemented by a strong list of specials and we were soon going through the options. They have an excellent wine list too but, after close to three hours at the fair, we had to “be good”.

CL started with a Warm salad of roasted pear, crispy pancetta and Cashel Blue cheese (€10.00). Perfection, a terrific combination, enhanced hugely by the pear and the pancetta.
The bar

There were four starters on the Specials and my pick was the Chargrilled spicy chicken salad, toasted almonds, roasted harissa oil, lambs lettuce, avocado and mint dressing (10.00). Another gem, with the oil and dressing lifting it well out of the ordinary.

CL likes the duck here and so it was no surprise when she choose the Crispy Duck Confit, with creamy flageolet beans, green beens and a wine sauce (19.00). Another perfect little creation from the Brasserie kitchen.

I went off piste a little with Baked Risotto, wild and fresh mushrooms, spinach, Toonsbridge Mozzarella and Parmesan cheese. This is a regular on the menu and a high-scoring one at that. Delicious.

Two happy customers at that point. No thought of dessert but, after the gentlest of persuasion, we surrendered and shared Ice-cream with rum and chocolate chips (70%). Not declared on the specials but it was rather special. Chocolate and rum = yum!
Dessert. My pic, others by Club Brasserie



Club Brasserie
City Quarter, Lapps Quay, Cork.
(021) 427 3987
Email: beth.theclubbrasserie@hotmail.com
Facebook: The Club Brasserie

Twitter: @clubbrasserie

Thursday, November 17, 2016

Veronica Steele. Pioneer in Irish cheese. Focus too on County Cork in new Oxford Companion to cheese.

Veronica Steele. Pioneer in Irish cheese.
Focus too on County Cork in new Oxford Companion to cheese.
A buffalo on Johnny Lynch's farm, near Macroom
Pioneer cheesemaker Veronica Steele is credited with the development of modern Irish artisanal cheese and County Cork cheese in general gets a section to itself in the The Oxford Companion to Cheese, due to be published on December 1st. 


The 1084 page book, edited by Dr Catherine Donnelly, is the first major reference work dedicated to cheese and contains 855 A-Z entries in cheese history, culture, science and production. 

In the early 1970s, Steele and her husband, Norman, a lecturer in philosophy at Trinity College Dublin, decided to leave the city and the academic life in favour of raising a family on a small farm. 

Veronica first experimented to provide an alternative to processed cheese for her family and to preserve the excess milk from their one cow. She eventually evolved a soft and pungent washed rind cheese called Milleens. It was a great success and by 1981 was selling in shops and restaurants throughout Ireland and as far away as London and Paris. 

Steele was also inspired by cheesemaking as a route to viability for a rural area struggling with high unemployment. Today, Veronica and Norman’s son Quinlan carry on the tradition of making Milleens, but the book says that all of Ireland owes Veronica Steele a debt of gratitude for her vision and generosity of spirit. 

The big breakthrough for Milleens came when Declan Ryan and Myrtle Allen tasted her cheese and enthusiastically featured their discovery on the cheese boards of two of Ireland’s most renowned restaurants, Arbutus Lodge and Ballymaloe House.

The West Cork washed-rind cheeses Milleens, Durrus, Gubbeen, and North Cork’s Ardrahan, each has an international reputation, and were all created by remarkable, spirited women, most inspired by Veronica. The flavour of Milleens is reminiscent of Munster (not the local Munster!).

Jeffa Gill started to make her semi-soft, washed-rind Durrus cheese on her hillside farm in Coomkeen on the Sheep’s Head Peninsula in 1979. She too was one of the first generation of Irish farmhouse cheese-makers. Using artisanal methods, Jeffa and her team, gently and slowly craft a cheese that is closely linked to the land and the mild and humid climate.

Gubbeen farmhouse cheese is made from the milk of Tom and Giana Ferguson’s herd of Friesian, Jersey, Simmental, and Kerry cows. One of the distinguishing characteristics of Gubbeen cheese is the unique type of microflora on the rind, which has now been identified and given the name Microbacterium gubbeenense.

Ardrahan, made by Mary Burns near Kanturk in North Cork since 1983, is possibly the feistiest and most pungent of all the washed-rind cheeses of County Cork.

Although the washed-rind cows milk cheeses have the highest profile they are by no means the whole cheese story of County Cork. Other fine cheeses, made from both cows milk and goats milk and now buffalo, round out Cork’s contribution to cheesemaking. 
Coolea

Dick and Helene Willems started making Coolea cheese in 1979 as a way to use up excess raw milk from their own herd of cattle and to provide the Gouda cheese that they were craving from their native Netherlands. Their son Dicky continues to make the superb cheese using milk from two local herds. 

Dicky told me an interesting story on a recent visit. Their cheese was to be called Milleens after the local townland but that was knocked on the head as the Steeles, further west, on the Beara peninsula, and living in a townland of the same name, had just started making a cheese called Milleens. And so the Coolea brand was born.
St Gall, by Fermoy
Frank Shinnick and his German wife, Gudrun, began making raw-milk cheese in 1996 from their own dairy herd outside Fermoy, in North Cork. The cheeses are made in a 396-gallon (1,500-litre) copper vat procured at considerable effort from Switzerland. Fermoy cheeses are part of the Slow Food raw-milk cheese presidium. 

There are many other cheesemakers in the Cork area, such as the O’Farrells in Carrigaline and the Hegartys in Whitechurch, both well established. 

“I love the smoked cheese”, declared Padraig O’Farrell during a visit. “It is indigenous to Carrigaline. The milk is local, and the wood, old beech, is local. And we smoke it out the back.”

Hegarty’s make cheddar and their more mature versions are in great demand. The oldest is indeed the more popular though, according to Dan Hegarty, his bank manager would prefer if the youngest was in top position!



Goats Milk Cheeses 


Jane Murphy

Jane Murphy, a microbiologist by profession, is perhaps the queen of goats milk cheese in County Cork, having started to make cheese on the Ardsallagh farm in 1980. At the other side of the city, Orchard Cottage thrives as does Blue Bells Falls in Newtownshandrum in North Cork.  



In Kilmichael, you’ve got the Sunview goats. Further west, on Cape Clear Island off West Cork, the remarkable blind cheesemaker Ed Harper makes small quantities of cheese from the milk of British Alpine goats that graze on his beautiful rocky farmland.

New Cheesemakers

Franco, cheesemaker at Toons Bridge Dairy, near Macroom
A few years back, neighbours Toby Simmonds and Johnny Lynch imported water buffalo and began making Toons Bridge mozzarella. A “parting” saw Johnny continue to make and sell the cheese, but now under the Macroom label.

There followed a burst of creativity at Toby’s Toons Bridge dairy and a few interesting Italian style cheeses emerged, including Cacio Cavallo (traditionally tied in pairs and transported to market by pack horse). And thanks to an Italian living near by, who has a small herd of sheep, Toons Bridge also began to make Vicenza’s Pecorino.
Cacio Cavallo (mainly) in Toons Bridge
And two new cheesemakers have emerged in East Cork this year. You’ll find the cheddar style cheese from the farm of Bó Rua used in the 12 mile menu at Midleton’s Sage Restaurant and on sale generally. Not too far away, Stephen Bender produces a delicious Gouda style cheese called Ballinrostig.

Looks like there’s no end to what Veronica Steele started!

The Oxford companion, the most comprehensive work on cheese available, has drawn on an astonishing 325 authors (from 35 countries), from cheesemakers and cheese retailers to dairy scientists, microbiologists, historians and anthropologists. 

It is a landmark encyclopaedia, the most wide-ranging, comprehensive, and reliable reference work on cheese available, suitable for both novices and industry insiders alike.

* Cork has a butter museum. Time now for a cheese museum?

See also:
Cashel Blue featured in new Oxford Companion to Cheese




Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Taste of the Week. Pecorino Vincenzo

Taste of the Week
Pecorino Vincenzo
I love my sheep’s cheese, from the Cratloe Hills of County Clare to the heights of Ossau Irraty in the Pyrenees, not forgetting the superb Crozier Blue. Now I’ve got a new love all the way from the banks of the River Toon in County Cork.

I’ve had a few brief encounters with this Pecorino Vincenzo over the past few weeks and liked it. But the affair got serious when we met again at a stall in Mahon Point Farmers Market last week. This time, I got really stuck in to this amazing hard cheese, our Taste of the Week.

Pecorino is the general name for sheep’s cheese in Italy. But this beguiling Pecorino is made in Toons Bridge by Vincenzo to a family recipe from his native Marche region and is one of a brilliant bunch of cheeses, including Cacio Cavallo and Scamorza, coming from this little country crossroads not too far from Macroom. Vincenzo has a small herd of sheep nearby.

This is the official dairy description: Pecorino Vincenzo is made from raw milk and is a dry cheese suitable for the table and grating. It is sweet and has a little piccante when aged to its limit. It is best around 6 weeks, but this also depends on the size of the wheel.

All a bit mundane really for a cheese with such complex flavours. This is really classy (and priced accordingly).

These cheeses are generally suitable for grating and cooking and, according to the Retailers Guide to the Fine Cheeses of Europe, are particularly good for fondues, omelettes, sauces, soups and sprinkling over savour dishes. I’m finding it irresistible on its own though.

Toons Bridge
Macroom
County Cork
Twitter: @ToonsBridge
Tel: 087 3457790 (opening hours only)
Cafe: Fri-Sat 12.30-4.00; Sun 12.30-6.00.
Shop: Fri-Sat 11.00-9.00; Sun 11.00-7.00

Monday, June 6, 2016

Cheesemaking Buzz at Toons Bridge. Café And Shop. And A Pizza Oven

Cheesemaking Buzz at Toons Bridge
Café And Shop. And A Pizza Oven
Franco, the maestro, ready to rock 'n roll
It is around noon on Friday and Franco gives the signal. No big noise then but you can feel the creative buzz as the three-man crew swing into action making Mozzarella in the gleaming Toons Bridge Dairy. Amazing to see the trio work from the big floppy cubes of curd.

First the cubes are mechanically diced, then Franco gets his hands on it - the skilled hands of a fourth generation Italian cheesemaker who’s been making cheese since he was eleven - manipulating the curd in
a steaming vat (hot water is being piped in), stretching it to almost unimaginable elastic proportions, then after a little draining off, he hands it on and soon from the little machine opposite emerge those gorgeous little balls.
Awaiting their turn to get to market - Cacio Cavallo mainly.

We are offered a taste. We chew the sample; it is like a milky “meat”! No salt yet. Brineing, a strong one for a short spell (an hour or so), and then it goes into its “transport brine”, the one you’ll see in the stalls the very next day. Toons Bridge Mozzarella is the freshest in Ireland,” says our guide Ronan. “Made today, on sale tomorrow.” Indeed, if you call to their cafe next door, you could well be eating your freshest ever! Some of the whey, by the way, is retained in the dairy and used as a starter for the next batch

We’ll get to the café soon but first there’s much more cheese to be seen and tasted. With no fresh buffalo milk available to them anymore, Toons Bridge have creatively filled the gap by adding a string of gorgeous Italian style cheeses to their range.
Cacio Cavallo
Recently, we featured their Cacio Cavallo as Taste of the Week. They actually make four versions of this cow's milk cheese. Cacio Cavallo can age marvellously, turning the soft, rubbery paste hard and flinty that it needs to be broken in shards. The flavours can be huge, as they harness all of the various raw milk bacteria to ripen the curd.

Franco tolds me that they use a kid rennet (in a paste form) for the Piccante version and also in their Pecorino (we’ll get to that later). He reckons it enhances the fermentation, leading to better flavours. They also do a Mesophilic version. No starter culture at all is used, just a natural slow fermentation of the milk. The result is reminiscent of traditional English cheese such as Caerphilly or Cheshire.
The curd, before it is diced into much smaller pieces
Lots of new words to be learned around here. Another is Scamorza which is a simple stretched curd cheese that is hung (you can see the mark of the string) for a short period of time to air dry. It is similar to mozzarella and melts well. It is sweet and delicate. They do both smoked and unsmoked versions and I must say I enjoy the smoked one (great when stuffing those big flat mushrooms). Pier 26 in Ballycotton have it on their cheese plate.

They also do Halloumi and Ricotta (try with Highbank Orchard Syrup). And then there’s the Pecorino Vincenzo.  Pecorino is the general name for sheep’s cheese in Italy. This pecorino is made in Toons Bridge by Vincenzo to a family recipe from his native Marche region.  Vincenzo has a small flock of sheep nearby and they make this gorgeous Pecorino right here. Another must try from this rural hub of creativity. If you want more details on the cheeses, please click here.
Pecorino
 Time now for lunch in the sun. After all the cheese tasting, we decided on something different.  Most of the staff were getting their pizzas, topped with Toons Bridge cheese of course! Friday is a nice relaxing day here.  Both of us started with a Hummus Plate (two types of hummus, with basil pesto, olives and flat breads from the pizza oven). Substantial and delicious.

The counter was lined with attractive colourful salads (quite a few in the shop for takeaway as well) including Pearled barley, harissa, carrot and dill; pesto, potato and pea; beetroot, quinoa and chickpea, with balsamic dressing; two potato and mint. You could pick any three plus salad leaves for nine euro. We each did just that and enjoyed them in the sun in the garden. Meat Boards and Tapas Plates were also available as were of course the pizzas. Lots of soft drinks too, including my Elderflower cordial, wines by the glass and local beers.

The old stumps - there are 100s-
in The Gearagh
It was a delightful interlude, the lunch well earned we thought! Earlier, after the short drive down from the city we took the familiar R584. This is quite a road if you have time on your hands. Even in a short space, you can call to the Prince August Toy Soldier Factory (a must if you have kids), The Gearagh and Toons Bridge.

Our first stop was at the nearby Gearagh, the only ancient post glacial alluvial forest in Western Europe, a beautiful spot, great for a walk through bushes and trees and wild-flowers and the stump-strewn waters on both sides of your path. Click here for the Discover Ireland listing and a short paragraph of info on this remarkable place.
Looking into the cafe, from our table in the garden;
we were early, the place would soon be full.
 If you want to continue on the R584, there are many more stops to make (including Gougane Barra, Keimaneigh, and Carrigass Castle) before you get to Ballylicky and a stop for refreshments at Manning’s Emporium. For more on the R584, check my post The Many Attractions of Driving the R584


But last Friday, we settled for The Gearagh and Toons Bridge Dairy and Cafe. Well educated and well fed, we headed for home and a sunny afternoon in the back garden!

Hummus

Three salads


The Gearagh

Walk through The Gearagh

Take a break!

Thursday, June 2, 2016

Get Your Fish. At Pier 26


Get Your Fish At Pier 26
Plaice and crab..
It’s a sunny Sunday, the final one in May; the beauty of Ballycotton is enhanced. And a delicious lunch awaits in friendly Pier 26.

But first a little walk, down the steps to the bottom of the cliffs, a sun trap and a great view of the cliffs themselves, of the nearby island and the lighthouse. All this, right on our doorstep.

Just as well we had booked ahead as most of the restaurant has been block booked by  a christening party. A warm welcome and soon we were studying the menu and a packed specials board. We had expected fish and that board was full of it: John Dory, Haddock, Hake, Plaice, Scallops, Squid, and Gurnard.
Vanilla roasted peaches
CL picked the Pan fried John Dory, carrot purée, tender stem broccoli, garlic and thyme roast potatoes, seaweed butter. An excellent dish, even if the carrot was missing, its absence noted about halfway through!

How many people check their dishes as they arrive to see if every element is present? In any case, we go out to enjoy the food as a whole, not to study every little detail. I fully agree with the well known Rhone winemaker who has said: “Two people talk about love, the poet and the gynaecologist. I prefer the poet.”

And enjoyment was also the operative word as I tucked in to my Poached Plaice, organic spinach, crab, fondant potato, sea vegetable cream (they do a fair bit of foraging here!). An superb combination, so well presented and enthusiastically dispatched, along with a glass of the rare Pazos De Ulloa blend of Torrontes, Treixadura and Palomino. Our other glass was from Australia, Berri Estates unoaked Chardonnay, another refreshing wine.

Top cheese
The dessert list is short enough but full of quality and we got two very good ones indeed. One was the divine Vanilla roasted peaches, Elderflower syrup, lemon Thyme, Madagascar Vanilla ice-cream, Almond brittle.

And the cheeseboard was highly impressive, billed simply as Selection of Irish Artisan cheese, Honey, oatmeal biscuits, Cockburns aged port. The drop of port and the little jug of honey were accompanied by Gubbeen, Toons Bridge smoked Scamorza, Bandon Vale Cheddar and the creamy Cashel Blue and those biscuits were quite a treat as well.

Took our time with that lot. And then it was out of the shade and into the sunny paradise outside, a short stroll down to the pier itself to get a different view of the lighthouse and take in the activity (not too much of that, aside from a few swimmers) on the pier. It will be much different this coming Sunday when the annual Seafood & Shanty festival takes place!

Ballycotton
County Cork
Tel: (021) 206 1449
Twitter: @Pier26cork
Hours
Wed-Thu:
5:30 pm - 8:30 pm
Fri-Sat:
5:30 pm - 9:00 pm
Sun:
12:30 pm - 7:30 pm