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West Cork’s well established Celtic Cook-offcame to the city last Friday night to celebrate. A team of Scotch chefs visited last week and Fenn’s Quay’s Kate Lawlor, a contestant in last year’s Skibbereen showpiece, decided to join forces with the visitors and host a dinner In Celebration of the Celtic Cook-off. And weren't we lucky that she did. Great too that the West Cork Hotel and Braehead Foods came on board and joined in the fun on the night.
It was a magical meal. A terrific mix of company and a stream of fantastic food from the little kitchen at the back of the well loved restaurant on Cork’s oldest terrace. The weather outside wasn't the best but we soon warmed up with a wee dram of Scotch thanks to Neil Grant and the West Cork Hotel and a taste of Avril Allshire-Howes’ renowned black pudding bread. And then we were up and running, the chefs on song and front of house also playing a blinder.
Salsify & sauce!
Crispy Salsify with West Cork wild Alexander dipping sauce and bacon dust (Fenn’s Quay). The high standard was set here. When the Salsify was finished, people used all kind of tools and methods to get the rest of Alexander sauce out of the bottom of the little jar!
Seared Highland venison, roasted beetroot, piccalilli dressing (Joe Queen and Jim Hood, Braehead Foods) This came on a shared plate; the venison, sliced thin and enhanced by the beetroot and dressing, was a delight.
West Coast scallop baked in shell with Iasc Irish Shellfish Butter (Alan, Loch Fyne) A big shell that, once opened, revealed a memorable combined flavour of fish and that delicious butter.
Fillet of Scotch beef, truffle parfait, cured ham, stovie fondant tattie, medley of seasonal vegetables, Madeira, shallot and Arran Mustard Essence (Joe Queen and Jim Hood, Braehead Foods) This, the biggest plate of the evening,was also a highlight. The mouth-watering hunk of top notch beef came with a whole ensemble of supporting flavours, even the humble tattie more than holding its own.
Carrageen moss with blood orange and Brecon Gin Sorbet and poached rhubarb (Fenn’s Quay). Sometimes a big meal is followed by a big dessert, a step too much for many. But not here. This was light delight, a superb Carrigeen the highlight.
Mella’s Fudge (award-winning West Cork fudge). I have long been a fan of Mella’s West Cork fudge and I reckon she made a few more friends last night. Maybe, in some cases a day or two later, as quite a few pieces of the fudge ended up in handbags along with the whiskey miniatures. All the better to relive the memory of a lovely night in Fenn’s Quay when we were all winners as Ireland and Scotland played out a friendly in the kitchen.
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:Wednesday12 September 2012, 7.30 PM Location/Venue:The West Cork Hotel, Skibbereen, Co. Cork, Ireland.
The West Cork Hotel is a terrific base to visit the area, particularly Skibbereen, Baltimore and Ballydehob. The lively hotel, on the banks of the Ilen, in Skibbereen, is close to some great restaurants in the town, including Over the Moon, but serves some decent food itself.
I spent some time there earlier in the year and was quite impressed with the place, including the restaurant and the bar. And it is at the bar tables that they serve these value for money specials each night. They were on offer when I was there and I thought it was just an early season special but the unbelievably good value continues.
The West Cork Hotel in Skibbereen has a lot going for it: it is central (with its own car park), it is comfortable, gives good deals, has riverside views (where an otter, see photo, performed this weekend), an unusual extension to its very comfortable cosy bar out onto a disused railway bridge (photo), and a friendly staff.
Good deals on food also. On certain nights, you can get a pint or a glass of wine plus fish and chips for a tenner. Not bad. We have a dinner included in our deal, three courses. Starters and mains are fine but desserts, though strong on quantity, are low on quality.
We got a good bottle of wine, a Milton Park Riesling. Great refreshing lemon and line taste for just €21.50. Called to the bar earlier for a pint and a glass of beer. Cost €6.65. Cost in my local in the city is €6.30.
Breakfast was excellent, good choice and no shortage of quality, service friendly and prompt. We enjoyed our Eggs Benedict and Bacon Butty and also the Traditional Irish (especially the Rosscarbery sausages).
Reception was efficient and friendly all through. The room, pictured, was very well heated, had all you needed and was clean and comfortable with a view out over the river, see photo. The bathroom was spotless and had everything you’d expect, except for drinking glasses.
All in all, a fine base for visiting this part of West Cork.