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Monday, March 13, 2017
Food, Blues and Brews
The Sharp Knife Ride West Again
Flavour.ie is bringing back talented street food crew The Sharp Knife from Cork City for another night of amazing food in a rural West Cork pub following their hugely successful event in October 2016!
Kate Ryan of Flavour.ie has created yet another exciting dining event to the ever curious food enthusiasts of West Cork by pairing the kings of extraordinary street food, The Sharp Knife, with Cork’s most successful craft brewery, 8 Degrees Brewing and dropping them into a sleepy West Cork village for a night that celebrates the best of West Cork produce and explores new ways with Craft Beer.
Remember last October when we took over a party barn in West Cork and turned it into a Mexican Cantina for one night only?
Well, it was epic. And now Flavour.ie are teaming up once more with The Sharp Knife to deliver another night of knock out Street Food. And this time, we've asked 8 Degrees Brewing to come along and join the party. Oh yes we did!
Hang out with Flavour.ie, The Sharp Knife and 8 Degrees Brewing at the beautiful Tots Pub in the village of Ballygurteen 10 minutes from West Cork’s premier foodie town of Clonakilty. We will be turning Tots into the only place to be seen for one night only. Think you're in a country pub in West Cork? THINK AGAIN!
Flavour.ie are bringing the hottest crew of street food chefs from Cork City, an award winning craft beer brewery, mixologists and the best local DJ talent to West Cork from across the County to bring you an event that mixes up tastes of craft brewing with a multi-course menu of street food from across the globe. Excited yet? Let me tell you more...
Each of the eight (yes, EIGHT!) courses have been specially created by The Sharp Knife. They will be taking you on global culinary journey of street food from the comfort of your dinner table with every dish. Many dishes will be cooked with craft beer as we demonstrate how versatile beer can be with cooking as well as sipping! Each dish will be expertly matched by Caroline Hennessy of 8 Degrees Brewing.
Taking place on, the team will be presenting eight courses of street food, a welcome cocktail designed by The Sharp Knife, craft beers, ciders and wines matched to each course, tea & coffee to finish plus DJ. Book your ticket with or without drinks pairings and inclusive of everything on the night. With access to a fully licenced bar, and DJ Paul Cullen spinning blues, funk, jazz and soul all night long, you’ll be in no rush to head home, so who knows when the night will end!
Kate said “Our event with The Sharp Knife in October last was absolutely brilliant. The style of street food that The Sharp Knife create is exceptional, but the dining experience itself is really relaxed and focused on fun. To be able to welcome 8 Degrees Brewing is fantastic. They are Cork’s most successful craft brewer and really helped to kick everything off for what is now a thriving and creative craft brewing industry across the whole of Cork. The welcome at Tots is legendary too, so from the moment people arrive they will be made to feel right at home. It’s not your usual dining experience, but that’s what we like to do at Flavour.ie – test the unconventional and bring something truly unique for the foodies of West Cork!”
The Menu itself is a secret and won’t be revealed until diners arrive. Diners are asked to leave any foodie inhibitions well and truly at the door and to go with whatever is put in their way!
Places are limited so pre-booking is essential. The event is €65 per head with matched drinks or €55 per head with soft drinks, includes a cocktail on arrival, 8 courses of delicious food with paired drinks, tea/coffee and live music by DJ Paul Cullen.
Book securely online via Flavour.ie at www.flavour.ie/popup or contact Kate on 086 205 9360.
Who are The Sharp Knife?
The Sharp Knife are a guerilla style street food chef crew from the city. Their chieftains are Bryan Phelan formerly of Holy Smoke and now at Rachel Allen's new Cork City eatery and Mike McGrath of outstanding Japanese restaurant, Miyazaki. They bring with them a crew that love to mix it up with street food from around the world! Everything from Middle Eastern to Louisiana Pit Smoke; South East Asian to the Californian Baja Peninsula, nothing is out of bounds. Be prepared to tear up your taste buds. Bringing Street Food to the Table. Stay Sharp...
Who is Caroline Hennessy and 8 Degrees Brewing?
Caroline Hennessy is an award winning food writer and journalist, and author of Sláinte: The Complete Guide to Irish Craft Beer & Cider. Caroline was Ireland's first true food blogger, starting "Bibliocook" in 2005 and hasn't looked back since. Her husband is the co-founder of 8 Degrees Brewery, Ireland's most established and successful craft brewery, and Caroline is heavily involved in the businesses PR and Marketing, cementing her passion for great Irish craft brewing as well as developing recipes for using beer in every day cooking.
Tots Pub has been welcoming people from all over County Cork for decades and has been more than willing to shake up the image of the sleepy country pub for years under the playful guidance of its landlady, Carmel Dullea. Easy to get to, but smuggled away - it's the perfect place for us to pop up a restaurant. It couldn't feel more exclusive!
Tuesday, May 17, 2016
West Cork in 36 HoursSo Much To Do, See, Eat!
|Busy at Inish Beg|
It’s bluebell time in Ireland and the magic flowers were a highlight of our last weekend's 36 hours in West Cork but there were also Tiger Prawns, Basking sharks, Sicilian Cauliflower, even a Mobile Sauna.
The Mobile Sauna came early on, spotted by Garrettstown beach on Sunday morning as we took the long way west. Don't think there were too many customers in the tented facility. Indeed, the weather was too fine for the Garrettstown surfers yet some of the food outlets were doing well as we headed up the hill (not to Ballinspittle) to take the coast road, passing an old creamery stand and three well weathered churns on the way.
|The Food Depot's extension|
We were taking the long way over Courtmacsherry Bay. We soon joined the R600 from Ballinspittle, went past the lovely Harbour View beach and then drove up the estuary to Timoleague and its ancient monastery, now an impressive ruin. Over the bridge then and off to Courtmacsherry. We have sometimes walked along here - think it’s about 4.5 kilometres, all on the flat (the path is over an old railway line) and arrived in Courtmac beach shortly after noon.
The queues were already starting at the Food Depot, the truck that features the amazing cooking of Diana Dodog. We parked the car, had to look hard for a space, and got our order in! Mine was the Grilled Tiger Prawns Salad Box, Garlic & Herb Oil. The Salad Box is a a bit of an understatement containing as it did, couscous, beetroot, pickled cucumber, hummus and more. It was a very tasty box, full of colours, textures and flavours, all for eight euro.
|Popular prawn dish; garnish changes from time to time|
CL's choice (the menu regularly changes) was the Grilled Cajun Chicken Wrap, Zesty Slaw, Aioli, sweet chilli, another well balanced piece, an excellent example of what a wrap should be! Well priced too at seven euro.
Our second “mission” in Courtmacsherry was a visit to the bluebells in the wood. Take a rising path that starts by the beach car park - it is part of the Seven Heads Walk (total over 40 kms, but some shorter loops as well!). Some detail on the walk here.
|Wild garlic in Courtmacsherry wood, by the sea|
The bluebells come early on in the walk, as soon as you enter the wood. Even before you get there you see the magical blue "haze". And there are as many Ramsons or Wild Garlic and I also noticed some wild mint growing in among the garlic. There is a huge bank on your right among the trees as you enter. Look. Smell. Enjoy. As you come out of the wood, you get a clear view of the ocean at and near Wood Point. And it was close to here that we spotted the fin moving swiftly through the waters below. “Basking shark,” I heard a local say.
We had turned back by then and were soon on the road again, taking the long way again, over towards Butlerstown, past the Seven Heads, past Dunworley Bay and on towards Ring where Deasy’s Pub (another well known food venue) stands. Into Clon then and time for a break from the sun and a drop of Dungarvan Pale Ale in the well known pub/restaurant called An Sugan.
Next stop would be the Celtic Ross, our base in Rosscarbery. They had a deal on for the Sunday, quite an attractive one: dinner for two, and B&B for €78.00 total. They have lots of deals, so be sure and check here How often have you been down in West Cork, wishing you could stay and couldn't get last minute accommodation? It has happened to us on a few occasions so we took up this offer and were very happy with it. The Ross is a fine friendly hotel and, between Clonakilty and Skibbereen, so well placed for exploring West Cork.
We took a walk in the sun down to Warren’s Beach to join quite a few people there, young and old, some in swimming. We were down that way again later on to get a few shots as the sun sank behind the village.
|A bank of primroses on the Seven Heads Walk|
In the meantime, we had enjoyed an excellent 3-course dinner. We had a choice of three starters and I enjoyed every little bit of the Sticky Chicken Wings, Jamaican Jerk Style, Blue cheese and sesame seeds. CL was also happy with Peter’s famous Fish Cake.
We each had the same mains: Local Hake Fillet, Sicilian cauliflower, nutmeg potato, black olive oil, Sauce Vierge, Port. This was outstanding, particularly the raisins and the pinenuts, with the cauliflower, adding a touch of texture, sweet notes too from the raisins and the Port, and the fish had obviously just jumped up from the waters outside, such was its freshness. Top notch overall.
|Galley Lighthouse, from Warren Beach in Rosscarbery|
Breakfast is served in the same area with a very friendly vibe, quite efficient too. We had a nice bit of fruit and yogurt and a variation of the full Irish (not quite a full Irish!). Checked out then and headed west through Skibbereen and out the Baltimore Road.
We were on the lookout for Inish Beg on the left, an island, but one with a bridge. It is a private estate where you may stay in various type of accommodation. There is also an indoor swimming pool (in the walled garden!). Lots to do here. You may even get married on a mini island, reached by a small bridge. Check it all out here.
But we were here to take a walk - its costs a fiver - through the gardens and the woodlands. The walled garden is in great nick. You start there and then follow your map where you’ll come across features such as Pumpkin's Puddle, Bird Hides, The Boat House, The Gypsy Retreat (where two caravans provide your accommodation), the Sunken Garden, the Bamboozle (a couple of bamboo tunnels) and the Orchard.
There is a good scattering of bluebells around the place at the moment. They seem of a slightly darker shade than those of Courtmacsherry but that is a non-scientific observation! Perhaps the best display was that under the old trees in the Orchard.
|Hake in the Celtic Ross|
It was getting close to lunchtime and so we headed for Baltimore. We had been hoping that the Glebe Cafe would be open but, being Monday, they weren't. Le Jolie Brise was though and here a big bowl of mussels and a smaller one of fries did the business.
Time was running out for us and it was with some regret that we left behind the increasing blue of the West Cork skies and headed back to the city. Glad to say the blue came too at least for this May evening.
|Inish Beg's wedding island|
Sunday, October 18, 2015
Clon’s Renaissance Man
Richy Virahsawmy is something of a renaissance man. He is a restaurant owner, a cook, a teacher, a consultant, an active contributor to the local community in Clonakilty, a TV chef, an author, and a farmer. He has cooked for you and me, for celebrities (Michael Flatley), in big houses (Castle Hyde, Castlefreke), for large crowds (World Web Summit and at the National Ploughing Championship), for Prime Ministers and their guests (in Downing Street and in his native Mauritius).
I won’t go into all the details in this post but you may read all about his background here. The Irish leg of his career began when he joined the staff of Inchydoney Lodge and his dream of opening his own restaurant became reality in 2002 when Richy’s was established in Clonakilty.
And, ten years later, worried that a restaurant that only opened a few days week might not be enough on its own, he reinforced his position in the town with the opening of the adjoining cafe, turning the operation into a multi-functional one. Now he had two types of dining room in the one premises.
|Superb chowder, with Murphy's & Walnut Brown Bread|
And Richy loves teaching children to cook and every week he has classes for a small group (eight to twelve) of kids with autism. Indeed, in an attempt to meet the threat of obesity, he plans to increase his work with schoolchildren and has earmarked an old house on his farm for that purpose, and more. Watch this space.
He, his Finnish wife Johanna, and their three children, live on the farm in nearby Rosscarbery in a cleverly converted barn! The farm is worked and they have established a market garden there with herbs, and greens, tomatoes and so on, grown for the restaurant. Richy finds it hard to understand why so many Irish farmers stopped doing this for themselves. Another bonus is that most of the restaurant waste is composted here.
Back at the restaurant, it is all go. But not with the staff. He has a good team, twenty four strong, his chefs “stay longer”. The place, the flow of work, is tidy, highly organized, everything in its place.
“Ninety per cent is made in-house. You can't go much higher than that.” And the menus rarely stand still, always a few on the specials boards, He had taken an “office day”, on the day of our visit, to work on the Spring-Summer menus for 2016. A few years back, he introduced a pizza menu and that is going strongly.
When Richy started up in 2002, he knew he wouldn't have to go far for good produce. It is all around here in Clonakilty, in the fields of the local farms, and in the nearby seas. And he makes great use of it as we found out, again, last week.
There were at least five specials on the board and I started with one of them: the West Cork Seafood Chowder, packed with little chunks of fish and a few mussels in their shells, a terrific chowder and a great starter on a cool enough day. Meanwhile, CL was warming up with the Buttersquash and Sweetcorn Soup.
Again, I found my mains on the Specials list: Tuna Nicoise Salad, boiled egg, anchovies and green beans. A superb combination of flavours (the meaty tuna and the salty anchovies), colours and textures (crunchy beans, soft eggs). And the salad, from the farm, was simply outstanding.
That well dressed salad also made an appearance in CL’s dish: Chicken, avocado and pomegranate salad, Gubbeen bacon, balsamic and extra virgin olive oil. Again, this was one to savour, take your time with, a pleasure to eat.
We would have loved a dessert and were tempted but settled for a cup of coffee, a chat with the man himself and a tour of the kitchen.
|The R Cafe (left) & the restaurant|
Wednesday, September 2, 2015
Mabel, Matriarch of Loughbeg FarmMeet Ginger & Biscuit. Black & Decker too.
|Mabel (left) and one of her possible successors.|
We are high on a hill on a farm in Lowertown, Schull, County Cork, and have a 360 degree view.
Looking out to the Atlantic we have a splendid view. It is the last day of August and here, as it often is, the sky is clear and we can see, to our right, the Sheep’s Head Peninsula and the long blue of Dunmanus Bay; Dunmanus Castle (near where there a sea urchin producer operates); we can see, to the left, all the way over to Cape Clear island. Beyond Sheep’s Head, Hungry Hill, blue/grey in the distance, rises into the sky on the Beara peninsula (where there is an abalone producer).
|Decker and her litter|
And, if we shift position a bit and head towards the pure bred Connemara ponies on a neighbouring farm, we can even spot the Fastnet Rock in the distance.
Behind us, the mountains, including Mount Gabriel, match the sweep of the sea in front of us. And immediately below and around us, lies the farm where Walter and Josephine Ryan-Purcell raise their pigs and goats, soon to be joined by a Dexter cow or two; here they grow their vegetables and do much more besides.
|Dunmanus Bay and, beyond, Sheep's Head|
In the mountains, you note the ridges of rocks crowding together like the bonhams feeding! The pattern is repeated as the rocks continue through the farm and onwards. On the farm, the gaps get a little wider, allowing some grass to flourish, but still narrow, and the gaps get a little wider (sometimes the width of a decent field) nearer the coast. There are some good fields in the vicinity but this farm is not so lucky. Still, the rough land, bushy and scrubby and sometimes marshy, is an ideal spot for the chosen animals.
|Connemara pony and Ginger and Biscuit|
Decker and her pal Black (who is due to give birth to her litter any day now) are Duroc crossed Large Black while the dad Bubba is an Gloucester Old Spot. We also met Ginger and Biscuit, a happy pair of pure Tamworth pigs.
|Waiting time. Black in the mud.|
But, for all the animals, Loughbeg is now best known for its bread, for its Oat Bread in particular. Loughbeg benefited from the Supervalu Food Academy and now you can find the hugely popular loaf all across Cork and Kerry. And maybe further afield in the near future. And if you do come across it, ask too about the delicious Oat Tea Break (soaked in tea and cider!).
Such has been the success of the Oat Loaf this year that Loughbeg now employs nine, including six full-time. Walter hasn't had as much time to concentrate on other aspects of the farm including his Loughbeg Watering System. He is developing this using drainage pipes with slots for his pots and the water in the pipes keeps the plants irrigated. He never stops! And neither does Josephine. As we were galavanting around the farm with Water and Munich based food writer (and translator) Natascha Afanasjew, Josephine was getting hundreds of loaves of bread packed.
We finished up with a lovely lunch of local produce. The bread and the brack featured, of course, as did some of their own chutneys, ham from Gubbeen, tomatoes and cucumbers from their greenhouse, and cheese, a new one, from Sean O'Brien of Ballingeary. Lovely food and good conversation.
We were joined for lunch by Bruno, here to improve his English and, like Natascha, staying in a newly built cottage on the farm. You may rent a room or rent the cottage, check it out on Airbnb, and then you can really take your time as you take in the fabulous views and indeed everything else that goes on in this remarkably productive piece of West Cork.
- Just keeping this down the bottom (maybe the little piggies won’t see it). There are plans to add to the Loughbeg Range with rashers, sausages and puddings likely to appear in the near future.
|Walter, under glass.|
Thursday, August 6, 2015
Rolf’s in BaltimoreLocal Produce. Continental Touch.
|Quail and apricots|
Lots of eating places in Baltimore. I’ve been to a few but last month’s visit was my first to Rolf’s Country House and it was an excellent meal in a lovely room with a friendly and efficient service all through.
Some rich fare on offer here, cream sauces feature in many dishes, and there is quite a middle European touch to the desserts. Here you can find (not necessarily all together) a Flemish Apple Tart, a Black Forest Gateau, Frederike’s Chocolate orange cake and do watch out for the Swiss Chocolate Tart.
Not all heavy though! My starter was the Fresh Brown Crab, served with salad and Marie Rose sauce (10.50). An excellent dish, flavour from the waters from the nearby ocean well matched with the classic sauce. CL too got off to a tasty start: West Cork Black Pudding, on a bed of caramelised apple and served with pan-fried quail eggs (9.50).
|Starters and sunset|
Quite a good wine choice at Rolf’s. Indeed, they have a wine-bar as well. But would we have red or white? In the end, we settled on the Vier Jahreszeiten Spatburgunder (31.00). This velvety Pinot Noir with its excellent aromas and flavour was a decent match for the various dishes.
Mains for me was the arresting 2 Quails Deboned, flambéed with cognac, and served with apricots and a cream sauce (24.00). This was dispatched, with delight. The sides of potatoes and vegetables were also cooked to perfection and CL got rice with her classic Beef Stroganoff, flambéd with vodka and served with onions and mushrooms and, yes, enriched with a cream sauce (24.50).
Desserts (6.50) were not going to be ignored on this occasion! If you are giving into temptation, you might as well go all the way. More cream with CL’s delicious strawberries, vanilla ice cream and shortbread biscuits. And mine? Well that was Gertrud’s Dark Swiss Chocolate Tart, a sumptuous treat (including cream!). For the finalé, I did very much enjoy a glass of superb Warre’s Otima 10 year old tawny.
After all that, I had to “race” the mile down to the seafront to get a few photos of the spectacular sunset. Just about made it!
Aside from the restaurant and all day cafe, Rolf's also have The Private Dining Room, now available for parties of 10-14 people.
Aside from the restaurant and all day cafe, Rolf's also have The Private Dining Room, now available for parties of 10-14 people.
Rolf’s Country House
Baltimore Hill, Baltimore, Co. Cork
Phone: +353 (0)28 20289
email : info@Rolfsholidays.eu
Thursday, July 30, 2015
Hyde No. 1 President's Whiskey
Reaches Maturity In The Mild West
Reaches Maturity In The Mild West
“Casks have to be treated with care, almost like plants,” said Conor Hyde MD of Skibbereen based Hyde Whiskey.
The Hydes (Conor, his brother Alan and nephew Peter) have been getting used to handling used Oloroso casks over the past few years. “There is still some sherry inside when we get them. And then we have to water the empty casks every few days, so that they won't dry out and fall apart. You don't want that happening as they are expensive.”
And he told me that the casks can be dangerous too. You need to be careful extracting the bung, especially on hot days as it could shoot out and do damage!
Their first whiskey, the double distilled President’s No. 1 Cask Single Malt, is based on a ten year old Cooney whiskey (aged in Bourbon casks), and is aged further by Hyde. “The ten year old is a very good base and our intervention improves it and gives it an extra twist”.
The Hydes had no previous whiskey experience when they formed the company three years back. Following a pattern of other start-up whiskey producers, they are buying in in the early days with the aim of establishing their own distillery in the near future.
In the meantime, they are concentrating on building a brand and reputation through adding their own touch. Plans at present include a Rum cask finished whiskey in September, a gin in January and a six year old Single Grain Whiskey is planned for 2016.
They have got off to a terrific start with the President’s, finished in the Oloroso casks in their facility in Skibbereen and distributed by Classic Drinks. “There has been a big thumbs-up from those who have tasted it over the last two months or so. We try to be innovative and we do not use chill filtering.”
He explained that chill filtering can degrade the whiskey. The barley has oils and these oils tend to be lost, to be taken out, by chill filtering. But that is not the case with Hyde and it is appreciated by the connoisseurs. ”You are tasting the true whiskey.”
|The President's Men (l to r): Alan, Peter, Conor|
Whiskey from the cask can be very strong in alcohol and to get it down to acceptable levels (46% in the case of the President’s) water is added. This is known as “cutting” and Hyde’s cut with West Cork spring water, “no messing, no additives”.
He is delighted with the way sales are going at the moment. “The Germans love it for a combination of factors, including the non-use of chill filtering. They are our best market.” The number of countries taking it is rapidly rising towards the twenty mark and includes New Zealand, USA, UK, Australia and Belgium.
It is available in quite a few places locally, including The Oliver Plunkett, Soho Bar and Bradley’s Off Licence. And Cork Airport spontaneously quadrupled the size of their initial order when placing the second. Quite a vote of confidence for the President’s.
So what is all the excitement about? Take a look at it in the glass and you’ll see some additional colour, from its extra time in the sherry casks. The aromas are complex, vanilla, some fruit, spice too. As you'd expect, after all the ageing, it is smooth and well rounded on the palate, creamy almost, the long finish rich and spicy. Overall, it compares very well indeed with other Premium Irish whiskeys. One of this limited edition of 5,000 bottles would sit very well in any Presidential drinks cabinet.
Monday, July 27, 2015
36 Hours in West CorkNot that I was counting!
I was thinking of Garrett Oliver, master brewer at New York’s Brooklyn Brewery, while I was eating lunch at Union Hall’s Coffee Shop last Thursday. Garrett related at the Ballymaloe LitFest how people, on first drinking one of his beers, tell him that it is so good it doesn't taste like beer. Garrett tells them, with some satisfaction, that what they have been drinking before is not real beer.
Well, here in Union Hall, our first call on our most recent trip to West Cork, I was eating real panini. I’m sure there are other good paninis out there but it is superb here, like nothing I've ever tasted before. It was packed with chicken, brie and pesto, all adding up to great flavours and terrific textures.
Having been in West Cork regularly, particularly this year, I were looking for one or two different things to see and do. West Cork obliged. Big time.
|Graveyard on Myross Island|
We got some great views of it as we took the narrow road, rising up above the water, heading for a bridge that would take us to the other side and down to the peace and calm of Castletownsend with its distinguishing tree in the middle of the street, acting as a roundabout.
|On the road above Reen Pier|
After all that activity, I felt we deserved a drink and knew just where to get it. On the way into Baltimore, we stopped at Casey’s Hotel. They have recently opened a microbrewery here and some of their Sherkin Lass Pale Ale went down a treat in the beautiful beer garden that overlooks the waters of Baltimore. They also do a red ale.
|Rolling hills of West Cork|
In the morning, we were down on the pier, hoping to get a place on one of the boats going out to see the dolphins and, hopefully, a whale or two. But we had no luck. The lesson here is to book in advance.
Down then to Old Creamery Cafe in Kilcrohane. This is a spanking clean spot with a menu of sandwiches, paninis, and salads and some home baking. We went for tea and some of that baking. I picked a Raspberry and Lemon Curd Sponge and those raspberries, fresh from the garden, were spectacularly juicy.
|Courtyard garden at Rolf's|
Refreshed now, we drove up the other side of this spectacular peninsula, heading for Durrus. Our stop though was at Ahakista to pay our respects to the three hundred plus victims of the Air India bombing disaster twenty years ago. Quite a few mementos, mainly wreaths, scattered here since the commemoration last June. Such a waste of life, such sadness.
|Megalithic tomb on Sheep's Head|
|Sweet! Old Creamery Cafe|
|Ahakista's Air India memorial|
See also: Pilgrim's Restaurant in Rosscarbery