Showing posts with label West Waterford Festival of Food. Show all posts
Showing posts with label West Waterford Festival of Food. Show all posts

Friday, April 17, 2015

Dungarvan Wrap-Up. West Waterford Festival of Food

Dungarvan Market Wrap-Up
West Waterford Festival of Food
Pesky wind!
The wind was rising and bringing with it reminders that rain was not too far away. Yet the hardy market stall holders were setting up in Grattan Square, Dungarvan, last Sunday morning for the final big event of the marvellous West Waterford Festival of Food. I was up early(-ish!) and took a walk around as the likes of Badger & Dodo and Boeuf A Lolo prepared for the long day ahead.

We had met some of the West Waterford producers on a Bus Bia tour on Saturday morning and met a few more in the Emerging Producers Tent that afternoon. Here we got some lovely honey from Glenmore organic farm and enjoyed a taste of the various apple juices - they had different sweet/sour make-ups - from Crinnaghtaun, whose orchards are in the Cappoquin Estate.
The people will be fed!
The shopping bags were with us again on Sunday as we left our excellent centrally located base at Lawlor's Hotel and we made our rounds - no point in going to a market unless you bring bags! Great to meet up again with Joe and Sandra Burns from East Cork who were selling their innovative vegetable crisps.
Is it shelter or that excellent coffee they want?

The couple have a vegetable stall at Mahon Point and indeed there were quite a few from Mahon in Dungarvan including Cloud Confectionary with their big selection of delicious mallows. Local drinks, gin and beer, were included in some but my favourites were the Blueberry & Lemon and the Strawberry & Champagne.

Have often seen Annie’s Roasts at markets and festivals but this time we had a chat as we waited for a couple of her delicious burgers. While we spoke, her ten year old daughter took over the stall and took it over impressively! We carried the burgers to the big tent where we found a seat and we enjoyed our lunch!

It wasn't all for immediate consumption of course. Picked up a tasty sourdough and a cake or two from the excellent Seagull Bakery stand. Great then to meet up with the lads from Piedmontese Beef. We had enjoyed one of their steaks in the Fairways (near Nenagh) not so long ago, so were glad to be able to bring a couple of the steaks home for Sunday dinner. And a delicious dinner it was!

Happy Nuns.
Neither was the market all about food. There was a big stage and entertainment galore. Some hardy entertainers too, though I suppose the lively Sister Act were well wrapped up in their habits and also kept themselves warm with their all action style. Felt sorry though for the solo singer that followed. She can't have been that warm, Still, the show went on.

And not just in the square. Talks and discussions on food topics were being held in venues all around the town, just as had been the case over the previous days. It is overall a marvellous festival, well run and with something for everyone! Take a note for next year.

Great beef! Healthy fast food.

Thursday, April 16, 2015

From Power With Love. A Persian Dinner. Gorgeous. Generous

From Power With Love

A Persian Dinner. Gorgeous. Generous
Chicken Pastilla

From Persia With Love was the title for a magnificent dinner by local internationally known chef Eunice Power in the Tennis Club (Dungarvan) at the weekend and it turned out to be one of the highlights of the West Waterford Festival of Food.

The Saturday event was sold out very quickly and luckily I had booked my two tickets early on. Tables were communal. We didn't know anyone of the other eight at our table but, by the end, we knew them all and indeed found a relationship with one of families!

But back to the food, all from the Middle East. How would this pan out? Which starter to pick? Which mains to choose? That was no problem - you got them all! All the plates were for sharing and Eunice erred on the side of generosity so there was plenty to go around. Just as well, as every little bit was delicious! Besides, some well priced wine, by the local Wine Buff, helped the food go down and inhibitions go away.
Lavash Bread at the bottom and, on top, Lebanese Sausages (left) and Turkish Cheese Cake.
Let us start at the start, the Spring Mezze in three variations. Firstly, crispy Lavash Bread served with Tabbouleh, Hummus, and Moutabel. We were up and running. Then came the Turkish Cheese Cake, one of the highlights of this stage. This was made with goat and sheep cheese with tomatoes and pine nuts.

And another highlight soon joined the table: the slightly spicy rustic Lebanese Sausages, with pomegranate molasses and sesame seeds. Time now for a break and Eunice had wisely allowed for a good one.
Courgette, mint, and crumbled feta salad
The mains were all outstanding, all arriving more or less together, just like the starters. My early favourite was the Monkfish with Saffron Rice. But another soon emerged as I tucked into the Lamb Sinah, spiced lamb and cauliflower baked in tahini and yogurt crust.

And then I got around to another delicious offering: Chicken Pastilla, chicken in filo pastry. And alongside all three there were bowls of Fattoush with spring tomatoes, crispy pita, and also courgette, mint, crumbled feta salad. So much, so very very good.

Another sos (break) followed. There was no humming and hawing about dessert on this occasion. We all wanted it! And what we got was Pistachio Ice cream and Date Cake, each a treat in its own right but put the two together in your mouth and you had palate paradiso!

Monkfish with saffron rice
Lamb Sinah

 Finished off with an impressive Cardamom Coffee; always a little wary of coffees and teas from the Maghreb and Levant (not that I have that much experience) but this was excellent. Time then to say goodbye to our new found friends, all of us still talking about the fabulous feast we had just enjoyed together. Think we’ll be talking about it for some time to come!

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Craft Cider’s Challenges. More Like Wine Than Beer

Craft Cider’s Challenges.

More Like Wine Than Beer
You can see the lone Elstar is bigger and better looking than the surrounding Dabinett!

Gin, Whiskey and Cider were among the tipples highlighted in a drinks series at Merry’s Pub in Dungarvan as part of the West Waterford Food Festival. Simon Tyrrell spoke on Craft Cider on Saturday and gave us an idea of the challenges, both natural (weather, terroir) and regulatory (punitive duty), facing the new wave of producers.

Simon, a winemaker in the Rhone, makes Craigie's Cider in County Wicklow, where his partners are Angus Craigie, Ralf Högger, Emma Tyrrell and Alan Garrioch.  Sourcing good apples can be a problem; Simon is convinced that Ireland produces some of the best apples in the world “but difficult to find”.

Dabinett and Michelin are perhaps the best known cider apples in Ireland. Simon works a lot with Dabinett. “It looks awful, gnarled, small. The flesh is woody and it has tannins.” But these tannins give structure and also help the cider age and eventually helps the interaction between cider and food.

Cider makers only get one chance a year to get it right - a major difference with the making of beer! “We only make vintage cider, “ he said, as he introduced us to Craigie’s Dalliance 2012. “No blends from different years. Cider should taste different from year to year.” Cider looks to express the best qualities of the fruit, show where the nuances lie.
The apples used in 2012 were from the Cappoquin Estate. Elstar is a favourite with Simon: “the finest eating apple” accounts for fifty per cent of the blend. The varieties, the other is Falstaff, were fermented separately “because they ripened separately” and are then allowed sit on the lees for 15 months.

“You have pear and apple like flavours and a natural freshness. The PH, at 2.9, is very low and this helps protect the emerging cider”.

Next up for tasting was the Dalliance 2013 and there were differences, some down to the weather which was better for this one. June and July were very good months and September was above average.

“This is a different drinking experience. It is drier, has a less complex flavour profile but not the concentration of the 2012. Might get there but not sure!”

If the Dalliance illustrated the effect of the weather, the next cider, the Ballyhook Flyer, showed the way soil can impact on the cider. The Flyer is their “principal” cider and is made from 80% Dabinett (availability of this type is increasing) and also some Katy (desert) and Bramley. As he talked  us through the Flyer 2012, we could see that the “dry” sensation is more prominent than in the Dalliance. “Because the PH is higher.”

An extra orchard, near Carrick on Suir, was used for Dabinett in 2013. Here, a slight change in the soil type gave the cider more body, more tannin, and Simon is thinking of using barrel aging in future vintages of the Flyer to “help polish the tannins”. The aromas at this stage are less expressive. It has some of same characteristics as the 2012 but the style is “more gripping” because of the new source for the Dabinett.
Get the best of Irish drink in Merry's: beer, cider, spirits.

And if the problems posed by the weather and the terroir weren't enough of a challenge, you have the punitive tax imposed by the government if the ABV (alcohol by volume, expressed as a percentage) is higher than six per cent and remember that higher ABV could be a natural outcome of the harvest. Luckily EU law allows variations but generally Irish law on the subject does not cater for variations of nature and this can encourage people to water it down. Not what we want at all. And certainly not what any craft cider maker wants.

Happily, we have dedicated people like Simon leading this new wave of cider makers and they should be supported in their efforts. You can see the list of makers here at Cider Ireland. The best way that we can support them is buy local Irish craft cider. And there are some excellent ciders out there as was so ably illustrated in Merry’s.
See also: A Tour of West Waterford Producers on the Bus Bia
See also: The Tannery Kitchen Supper.
See also:

Dungarvan Wrap-Up. West Waterford Festival of Food

See Also: 

From Power With Love. A Persian Dinner. Gorgeous. Generous

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Tannery Kitchen Supper

Tannery Kitchen Supper.
Superb Food And Company.
The Kitchen Supper in the Tannery Cookery School was the highlight of our first day at the West Waterford Festival of Food. Paul Flynn’s “festival” was confined to four courses but flavours, textures and colours were unconfined. The  large group at the table certainly enjoyed the meal and the friendly input of hosts Maíre and Paul.

We had taken the long route to Dungarvan, heading up the main Dublin Road before breaking east in Mitchelstown towards Ballyporeen and Clogheen and eventually the heights of the Vee. I like that road through Tipperary, the mountains to the right and, all along the road, well kept cottages and farm-houses, even the roadside grass outside the gate is cut.

It was bright but cold high up on the Vee and we didn't linger too long but had a few stops to watch the newly born lambs and their mothers on the roadside. After checking in to Lawlor’s in Dungarvan, we took a stroll around the town and ended up in Merry’s, a lively busy pub that sells lots of craft beer and increasingly craft spirits. They also do food but we held off for the Tannery event! Beers enjoyed included the Wicklow Wolf Brewery’s American Amber and Franciscan Well’s Chieftain Ale.

Perhaps the main ingredient for the convivial evening at The Tannery Cookery School was a common interest in good food. And in addition we were, of course, in the right hands and in the right place. And it all led to a relaxed well paced evening, as is usually the case with good food and good company.
This was a set menu and the starter was Pea and Wild Garlic with Crab Cream, seasonal, local and delicious.
The humble carrot played a leading role in the main course, at least I thought so. Of course, the ensemble of Silver Hill duck leg, the McCarthy Black Pudding, with Colcannon sauce, that superb glazed carrot, and Star Anise, was a delight, a marvellous mix of flavour and texture.

Rhubarb is absolutely superb at the moment and was included in the dessert: Orange and yogurt panna cotta with rhubarb and sticky orange cake (these last two really combined superbly). The cheese course, two Waterford cheeses including Brewer’s Gold (a favourite of mine), made for an excellent finalé to a lovely meal, to a lovely occasion at The Tannery.

Monday, April 13, 2015

On The Bus Bia Tour

On The Bus Bia Tour
Cheese, Ice-Cream, Bread
Wheels of fresh cheese, waiting to be stored.

It is ten o’clock on an April Saturday morning and we’re on the Bus Bia, heading into the countryside north of Dungarvan. The Bus Bia (Food Bus) is just one element in a packed weekend of activities organised by the West Waterford Festival of Food. We’re on the Blackwater tour and there are two other tours to different areas.
In the sunshine, we pass the house of famous local chef Eunice Power and the memorial to the renowned racing greyhound Master McGrath. Soon we are in Cappoquin. For a while we follow the spectacular Blackwater River, its big houses Dromana and Camphire standing proud, before cutting off deeper into the countryside for the farming area known as Knockanore. 
Bus passengers at Knockanore Cheese

First call is to the Knockanore Cheese company where we are greeted by Donal. They have 120 cows milking here. The milk is left unpasteurized and none is bought in. He tells us they make cheese in six flavours. The most popular is their Smoked version though the Black Pepper Cheese is well up there as well. They smoke it themselves, two weeks with oak-wood.
It is a long day in the dairy, from about 6.30am to 4.30pm. They process over twelve hundred gallons three times a week, producing about 190 wheels a batch. Each wheel weighs 2.8 kilograms. The cheese is then stored for around six months before being sold on at home and abroad (including Denmark, California and New York).
Tom Baldwin

They have grown the business gradually but now are in the throes of expanding their facilities at Knockanore, concentrating on more refrigeration and a bigger cutting area. Around six people are involved in the operation that was started in 1987 by Eamonn Lonergan who is still at the helm. The range is widely available and is stocked in SuperValu shops.

Baldwins are neighbours of the Lonergans and here we were greeted by Tom. Tom found himself with a conundrum in around 2005, whether to move from farming or whether to add on an enterprise to the existing farm which was being smoothly run by the family in any case. Inspired by Eamonn Lonergan he took a course in ice-cream making and started the Baldwin Ice-Cream business.

“We make ice-cream the traditional way. Sarah (who plays a similar role at Lonergan’s) does production for me two days a week. The eggs used are free-range, and all ingredients are natural. We sell to cafes, restaurants, hotels, retail. We pride ourselves on the unique quality and that comes out in the product.”

It is all manual work “at the moment”. “It suits me, is very flexible. For instance, if a chef wants a particular small order, we can do that special.”

Esther Barron
 The ice-cream enterprise has seen the dairy herd grow from 50 cows to some 100 plus. He still delivers direct to the customers: “We have no central distributor. I’m happy the way I'm going as it is a sustainable model. Most of our customers are in Waterford and Cork and we have built a good reputation.”

Back then to the bus and we retraced our journey to Cappoquin. Here we stopped at Barron’s Bakery which has been operating for five generations, serving only the local community (up to an 11 mile radius) for all those years. Esther Barron was our passionate host at the oldest bakery in Ireland and she underlined the importance of spending locally.

Oven closed
 They have 12 employed nowadays and bake during the night, using the amazing old-fashion Scotch Brick ovens. Bread-making here is a slow process but the bread is all the better for it. The bread is two hours in the making before it even gets to the oven whereas a factory process take only 20 minutes. “Hand-moulded bread is always more flavoursome. The bread can't be rushed. My father used to say ‘the art of bread-making is beyond science’”.

The bakery was established in 1887 and is one of the last bakeries in Ireland that still uses the Scotch Brick ovens. These give the bread an unique taste, flavour and crust as we found out for ourselves thanks to a parting gift of a Waterford bla from Esther and Joe.
A great half day on the bus, all for 15 euro. Put it in your diary for next year!

Oven open, like a small room inside