Showing posts with label UCC. Show all posts
Showing posts with label UCC. Show all posts

Thursday, November 12, 2015

Arbutus: Five Star Bread


Arbutus: Five Star Bread
He can talk the talk

Go easy on the dough. Don’t beat the shit out of it.
That was the advice from founder and owner Declan Ryan as he welcomed a group from the UCC Fermentation Society to his Mayfield bakery, Arbutus Bread, this week. He recalled various enthusiastic people hammering the dough all over the place but gentleness is the answer. Apparently Jamie Oliver was one of those overly eager bakers, not in Mayfield though. But he took the advice and said that not only did his bread-making skills improve but so too did his love-making.

and walk the walk!

Declan has been in love with bread-making for a long time, even when he was scaling the heights of cuisine back in the day when the family’s Arbutus Hotel was the place to eat in Cork. And not just for locals, particularly after Declan was awarded Ireland's first ever Michelin star.
But then things changed for Declan. The old enthusiasm wasn't here any longer. “I got burned out…. was tired as a chef.” Retirement, he knew, wouldn't suit him and so,  he turned to his hobby which was baking.

And he began Arbutus Bread in his converted two car garage, making the deliveries himself by jeep. Now an new enthusiasm fermented and he learned more about the trade and the art from some of the very best. He tracked down a course in France and here his two tutors were two of the top bakers in France, Pierre Nury and Xavier Honorin “who were inspirational in their enthusiasm”.

You may read more about the early days of Arbutus Bread here.

Declan met us himself and showed us some early vessels associated with bread, one of a type used in the time of the Pharaohs. Spelt was the grain used at that period. Then he showed us a Greek urn from 340 BC and by now the bakers were using wheat. He had a trio of harvest masks on display including a very impressive one from Nigeria.
Harvest mask from Nigeria

Arbutus breads are based on the French artisan tradition and he uses a French wheat Bagatelle Red Label La Farine Type 65, no less than four tonnes a week to produce 2,000 to 3,000 loaves a day! You may see the full list of their breads here.
That two car garage has long been left behind. Indeed, five years after its founding, Arbutus moved to the current premises in Mayfield and, just a couple of years back, they doubled the space but stayed in the same site. Now they have 17 employees, spread across five nationalities.
The barrel sized sourdough maker and keeper,
the heart of Arbutus.

While Declan’s ingredients are limited to the traditional three or four (unlike the multiples of that seen on many commercially made breads), there are other factors that are critical to the production. One is temperature and here you have to bring all the elements to an average of 23 degrees for the dough mix. Salt too is critical, not just for taste but “for structure”.
And then there's the butter story. Arbutus do produce some sweet things, eg Brioche but especially croissants. You need butter for the latter, a special “dry” butter. Kerrygold produce it but it is not available here. It is exported to France by the container load. Then it is bought by various companies over there. One is Elle & Vire. They package it nicely, with the Eiffel Tour and the French tricolour prominent and sell it in France and some of it finds its way back to Dublin where Declan purchases it for his croissants!

And the determination that only top notch ingredients be used for Arbutus Bread is further underlined in their Pain aux Chocolat. Many would settle for ordinary chocolate but only the best, Valrhona, will do for Declan.


That sourdough culture taste is ...well....  Sour?

As the tour drew to a close, he found time to hand out great praise to a hero of his, Donal Creedon of Macroom Mills, an outstanding producer and "one of a kind". And credit also to his grandmother. The Arbutus Soda Bread recipe (with only slight alteration) came from her. And then it was time to tuck into tea, breads and some sweet stuff that he had lined up for us.
A big thank you to the UCC Fermentation Society for the invite. Other recent Society events included a Tasting Quiz, a wine basics trip to L’Atitude 51, and a visit to Rising Sons Brewery. For future events check out their Facebook page here.


Thursday, August 23, 2012

Fresco and the art of Food

Fresco and the art of Food
 Fresco, the Bistro attached to the Lewis Glucksman Art Gallery in UCC, officially launched yesterday evening with an event titled "What Does Art Taste Like?" Music, chat and, of course, food and wine, featured.
 This was the menu for the evening, a mixture of hot and cold tasters. Head Chef Prakash Sivakumar was a little nervous as the first of the guests arrived. But Kash had no need to worry as his tasters were brilliant and spectacularly presented. Hard to pick a favourite from the menu (above) but my tops were probably the Duck, the Tuna and the Sago Pudding.
Brian Casey, one of the principals at Fresco, told me that they have been open for over a year and that their Fresco Curry is the favourite main dish, never off the menu. That must be a good recommendation. I thought the favourite salad might be the stunning Nicoise Salad Grilled marinated fresh ahi tuna that we enjoyed there a few months back but Brian tells it is the Teriyaki of Salmon Salad, another excellent dish that I sampled at the recent food fest in Fitzerald's Park.

So well done to Brian, to Kash and to all the lovely and helpful staff at Fresco Bistro and best of luck for the future. Oh, by the way. What does Art Taste Like? Just brilliant is the answer!

Friday, March 30, 2012

Impressive Lunch at Fresco Bistro

Click on image to enlarge

FRESCO BISTRO


Fresco Bistro is a bright spot, almost hidden away in the tress of lower UCC and by the impressive bulk of the Glucksman Gallery directly above. But a spot worth visiting, as I found out when I called there yesterday. You walk into the Glucksman as normal and then go downstairs. This takes you to the Bistro and its floor to ceiling views of the college lawns and more importantly to some classy food.

Brian Casey, one of the principals, had invited me out to sample the meals and boy was I glad I took him up on it. Brian made another good move when serving us with soup while we waited. It was a Lamb Harira Moroccan style hearty lamb soup with chick pea, coriander, lemon, mint and tender lamb pieces (€5.00).

Eating and drinking in it as they say around this city but still light, slightly spicy, moderately aromatic and those little chucks of lamb were certainly tender. A brilliant combination even if the temperatures outside were around the 20c mark.

Quite a choice of main courses as you can see from the site but there are also a number of daily specials, marked on the blackboard.

CL choose the Nicoise Salad Grilled marinated fresh ahi tuna, on organic mixed leaf salad, tossed in a homemade tomato dressing (€8.95). Just superb, everything done to perfection. The salad, so nicely dressed, had a nice crunchy bite, but always a pleasure never a chore. Fantastic dish, fantastic price.

And I could say the same about mine: Seafood Risotto Risotto Cooked in a melange of seafood, fresh asparagus and wild mushroom €9.95. The colourful rice was packed with little pieces of fish, prawns, salmon and white fish and that fresh asparagus was a tasty contributor to the overall pleasure. Great stuff.

The good things continued with the desserts, both under a fiver. I thoroughly enjoyed my Flourless Chocolate Cake, lighter than normal. And CL was very happy with her Apple and Blackberry Tart. No mistaking the apple: real chunks by comparison with that ghastly goo that you see used in some other restaurants.

While I had heard good things about Fresco Bistro over the past few months, I must say I was surprised by the excellence of the dishes and the very competitive pricing. The location too is lovely, especially if the sun shines (there is an outdoor section). But, believe me, the food is so good, it is a place you can visit in any weather!