Showing posts with label Wexford. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Wexford. Show all posts

Monday, January 2, 2017

2016: Best Places to Stay

Best Places to Stay 2016

Stayed in quite a few places this year. From Kerry to Meath, from Donegal to Dublin, from Limerick to Waterford,  from West Cork to Wexford. These were the best. Suggestions for 2017 welcome! 

 Screebe House, Connemara

Killiane Castle, Co. Wexford
Anyone for croquet at Killiane?

Cahernane House Hotel, Killarney.
Cork Recommendations
East Cork
Garryvoe Hotel, East Cork
Samphire Restaurant, Garryvoe Hotel
West Cork
 Celtic Ross Hotel, West Cork
Warren Beach, Rosscarbery

2016 Reviews - see also
Cafes by the side of the road.
Best Hotel Dining Rooms
Meals with a difference

Best Steaks & 3 Best non-Cork Restaurants 2016

Thursday, September 8, 2016

Cistín Eile. Slí Eile

Cistín Eile. Slí Eile


Cistín in the title of this narrow-fronted restaurant in a narrow Wexford street hints at bacon and cabbage and beef galore. And that is confirmed when you study the menu. But here, the bacon and the beef, and much more besides, is done in a different and delightful way, slí eile. Here, in this narrow-in-space but broad-in-mind place, your top local produce is stamped with the Warren Gillen imprint.

That long narrow space, divided into three rooms, each just a step or two up from its neighbour, has tables dressed in various colourful materials, mainly muted shades. Service too is calm and attentive without ever being in your face. A time and a place to relax.

And relax with a local beer from Cleverman, an amber or a pale ale, a Smoked Turf stout or a smooth light lager. You can also choose from the White Gypsy large bottle range: American Style Pale Ale, Russian Style Imperial Stout or a German Style Doppelbock. A pretty good, if short, wine list, includes a contribution from one of the modern Wine Geese, Wexford’s own Pat Neville who farms in the Languedoc.

Cleverman beers

Menus, water and breads soon arrive at the table. And one of those breads is dark and delicious and is made with the Clever Man stout and black treacle. A good start!

And starters? You’ll have quite a choice from the new Autumn menu that started its run on the first of September. Some stout too in my choice: The Glazed Pork-belly Salad (with stout and spices, red cabbage, curry and buttermilk). This was a delightful dish, great colour, texture and flavour, a great use of the popular Pork-belly.

Goats cheese is always popular on Irish menus. Gillen uses Bluebell Falls from Newtownshandrum in North Cork. It appears on the menu as Fried Bluebell Goats Cheese (with beetroot slaw, pear and hazelnuts). And appears on the plate as a delightful invitation to come and get me. And soon disappears with sighs of appreciation for yet another well constructed, well balanced combination. Each of the two starters costs 9 euro but the average price is eight.

Mighty mains.

And the same high standard continues into the mains, where the Bacon and Cabbage (Cistín Eile style) appears. He gets his beef from Doyle’s, a nearby butchers. It is a favourite here and Slow-cooked (10 hours) Doyle’s beef (with onion fondue, champ, carrot, and peppered cream) was my choice (17.00). It had been strongly recommended by the folks at our lodgings in Killiane Castle and so I was glad to be able to go back and report that it was absolutely brilliant, as they knew!

Cistín Eile is well known too for its fish dishes, the fish coming fresh from nearby Kilmore Quay. There was a special (18.00) on and CL went for it: Lemon Sole (with choucroute, rocket, home-fries, broccoli, citrus and herb aioli). Well cooked, well presented.

There are six desserts on the new menu, priced between seven and eight euro. We decided to share and agreed on the Gingercake, spiced caramel, rum and raisin ice-cream, rhubarb and chamomile. The agreement nearly ended when it arrived!  Let’s say the cake vanished quickly. A lovely finalé to a lovely meal. Very Highly Recommended. Recommended too to book in advance. Wonder if we could persuade Warren to move to Cork?
Cistín Eile
80 South Main Street
(053) 912 1616
Opening Hours
Mon-Tue: 12:00 pm - 3:00 pm
Wed-Sat: 12:00 pm - 3:00 pm. 6:00 pm - 9:00 pm

See also:
The Hook Lighthouse. Ireland’s Ancient East
Johnstown Castle
The Archways. More than a B&B
24 Hours in Wexford Ancient Castle to Oldest Lighthouse
Mr Jeffares Blackcurrants

Monday, August 10, 2015

Wexford's Johnstown Castle. Agricultural Museum. So Much More

Wexford's Johnstown Castle.

Agricultural Museum. So Much More
Wexford’s Johnstown Castle  is a must visit. I enjoyed my first trip there more than a decade ago and it was even better second time around. It is the home of the Irish Agricultural Museum and current highlights include a Country Kitchens exhibition and a very informative Great Famine exhibition.

Barrel-top caravan and Horse-drawn bread delivery wagon.
The castle itself is not open to the public but you can take a walk around the grounds as well, see the lakes, the walled garden and the sunken garden and there is a Tearoom and Shop in the museum area. Today Teagasc, the Agricultural and Food Development Authority, is the owner of the Johnstown Castle estate and has a research facility on site.

The museum is divided into 18 exhibition areas. And the first section that caught my eye last month was the Transport area, in particular, the brightly painted bread delivery van, a horse drawn one. There are other horse drawn vehicles, carts and traps and a reaper, and more on display here.
Horse-drawn hay cutter and Ford Model 8 Nan Tractor (1947-52)
There is a Tractor Room, a Garden Machine Room, a display of Power-Driven Barn Machines. Poultry Keeping and Country Furniture also have their displays. Checked them all out and I also enjoyed a browse around the Dairy Exhibition.  Dairying is one of the timeless industries, producing the same product as it has done for thousands of years. This exhibition traces developments in dairying from hand milking to mechanical milking machines. The traditional methods of butter-making are also explored here.

It is also worth lingering by the Bicycle display which exhibits a variety of bikes, dating from 1885 – 1965, including one with a solid tyre (marketed as a safety bicycle) and a garda cycle. This room also includes bicycles made by Pierce of Wexford who were primarily farm machinery manufacturers and who indeed are well represented in the various machine areas.
Must say that I enjoyed the Country Kitchens area as much as any other. This, and the Famine area, are designed for the younger folk but I had no hesitation in picking up the information leaflets, full of facts and well laid out.

The Kitchens Display includes an Early 19th Century Kitchen, two from the 20th century, an account of Rural Electrification and a display on Laundry (washing, soap, drying and ironing). Lots of artefacts on display to help understand the way we were.
An outdoor larder and Hand Wringer
The Great Famine Exhibition, is probably one of the best I’ve come across on the subject and, with words and artefacts, it covers Pre Famine Ireland, the Arrival of Blight, The Famine 1845-49, The Soup Kitchen, The Workhouse, Emmigration, Post Famine, Potatoes Today and the Lessons of the Famine.

A chart on the display says the Irish male was consuming 6.4kgs (14 lbs) of potatoes per day in pre-famine times. After the famine, people made sure they never became so dependant on the potato again.

See also: Wexford's Archways, so much more than a B&B
Mr Jeffares Blackcurrants
Used this "machine", on right, myself
to spray against blight.

Sunday, August 9, 2015

Wexford’s Archways. More Than A B & B

Wexford’s Archways. 
More Than a B & B.

Piggies in the wood
About four miles before Rosslare Harbour on the main road (N25), you’ll pass a B&B on your left. It is called the Archways and it is much more than your normal B&B. Certainly they get many customers from the ferries, some coming, some going, some both ways (people come back). But it is well worth a call even if you’re not heading to a ferry.

Okay, let us start with the usual B&B. The welcome from Eileen and Chris Hadlington is warm, the place is comfortable, the rooms are spacious, the bathrooms excellent, you have TV in your room and satellite TV in the lounge. And the breakfast is something else and was awarded the Best B&B Breakfast in the 2013 Georgina Campbell Awards.

It is a smallish B&B, six bedrooms, but the breakfast choice is huge and the quality is even more impressive. Where else would you get their own sausages, made from their own pigs? Add in Pat O’Neil’s dry cure bacon, Jimmy Meyler’s smoked fish and you get the idea. Of course, there is orange juice and a choice of cereals, lots of egg dishes too. You’ll be well fed here.
And even better fed if you book dinner. It is, of course, a Table d'Hote dinner, and you eat with the other guests, sharing travel experiences as you enjoy the fabulous food. Chris had been a chef for over forty years and just can't stop cooking.

Take our dinner last week. Starter was Meyler's smoked haddock with linguini and a watercress pesto. And where did that watercress come from? From their own garden, of course, where they have installed a aquaponic system.

Main course was loin of bacon (O’Neil’s of course) with a pineapple salsa and an excellent selection of vegetables including black kale, kohlrabi, parsnips, beetroot and potatoes, all grown locally by neighbour Karl.
Dessert was a Blackcurrant soufflé, the blackcurrants from Jeffares up the road. And the cream? Well Chris doesn't rate the cream sold these days and so he separates his own. Good stuff too. You may bring your own wine (no corkage) or purchase a glass or two from Eileen’s selection.

In the morning, we couldn’t leave without visiting the small herd of pigs in a nearby wood. The pigs, Saddleback Large White Cross, are usually kept from early Spring until late Autumn. In conjunction with two local farmers, they have a Hereford and Limousin in calf to a Wagyu and future customers can look forward to “some really fine beef”.

As I say, not your normal B&B.

See also: Johnstown Castle. Agricultural Museum and so much more!
Mr Jeffares Blackcurrants

Thursday, July 30, 2015

Mr Jeffares Talks Blackcurrants. And Des Walks The Walk!

Mr Jeffares Talks Blackcurrants.
And Des Walks The Walk!
The harvesting machine moves slowly through the rows, a crew of five in attendance. It towers above the plants. But it is a gentle giant.

We were in the blackcurrant fields of the Jeffares in County Wexford watching this amazing mechanical harvest, amazing to those of us who, many moons ago, picked the crop by hand, accompanied by mothers and siblings and neighbours. The younger kids often got the worst job, going through the bushes for the paltry remains after the main picks had been done a few days earlier.

Des Jeffares reckons the machine is kinder to the bushes than the humans! Of course, back then the bushes were separate entities with their own space, so the pickers could access the fruit from all sides. Nowadays they are planted in “drills”, the only space is between the drills, none between the mature plants. But when the machine is finished with a row, you notice hardly the difference between it and one that has yet to be harvested, expect of course the absence of fruit.

The big machine handles the plants very gently as it pushes through the row and picks, any leaves and debris gathered are directed off to the side and the fruit comes out the back where the crew watch it loading onto the boxes. Mechanised or not, it is still quite a slow process and they are lucky to get two to three acres picked in a good day.
Des Jeffares
Des has seen it all. The family have been growing blackcurrants here since 1955 but it is only now that they have taken full control of the process after the harvest. The first product was on show at Ballykelly Farm last Tuesday. And that Mr Jeffares Blackcurrant Cordial is fabulous.

I had tasted a couple of the currants in the field and the cordial is a true expression of the fruit, a great purple colour with fresh and vibrant flavours, a refreshing thirst quencher at any time. The fruit is respected and they do not add any artificial colour, flavour or preservative.

Cut it with water and it is fine, mix in some sparkling water and you'll have a thirst quencher supreme. But don't rush, at least not always. Sit back and enjoy it mixed with apple juice, perhaps something stronger such as gin or even stout. Check out all the amazing drinks on their website.

Many of the drinks were available in the marquee at Ballykelly and we were well fed too and blackcurrants featured there as well. It was added to a salad dressing, featured on some roasts, and was especially attractive in the desserts, just take a look at the pics! Amazing stuff! I’ve often said that producers should add recipes to their site and the Jeffares have done that and more. Please check it out and make the best possible use of their amazing product which is widely available at these stockists.

Des and Margaret Jeffares have put a lot of thought and work into this. In the same way that craft brewers are opening new doors to flavoursome drinks, so the Jeffares are at the cutting edge of what could be a new wave of Irish fruit based drinks. A fruit drink for adults, someone said. No denying that but the kids in the marquee were enjoying it too.

Let us get behind Ballykelly, and make it a success that can be emulated by others around the country. Make the best use of the fruits that grow here: apples, strawberries and blackberries to gooseberries, loganberries and raspberries.

It is not an easy route, patience and capital are required. You won't get a decent crop from your blackcurrant bushes until they are four years old and they'll have to be replaced every fifteen years (or earlier if disease strikes). Pruning is a major annual task. And then, like the wine and cider maker, you get just the one chance per annum to get it right.

But, it can be a very sustainable way of farming. Des: “We try and work as best we can with nature. We allow for the birds to take a share. Indeed, these sheltering trees around the fields help the birds and we also have many nesting boxes, 70 or 80 per cent used, placed around the farm. We also have some bird scarers in place!”

Big attendance
 He explained that they encourage the local hawk population, to keep a natural balance. And they also have hedgehog habitats scattered around the 100 acres farm. Lots of grass cover in the fruit fields and under it their biggest pest, the vine weevil, can flourish. But so too does a certain predatory beetle that feeds on the weevil. Birds and hedgehogs also fancy the weevil. Nature at work!

Not all the one hundred acres is under fruit. There has to be crop rotation and we saw quite a bit of barley. Des says that Mustard is a great crop to plant in the rotation and is very excited about it.
The Blackcurrant fruit is hard won. And immediately after the picking, the priority is to “ice it and juice it”. It takes three quarters of a kilo to produce your 50 cl bottle of cordial.

It all seemed worth it in the sunshine at Ballykelly this week. Great to see people from all over the country there to support the pioneering Jeffares on these early steps of the journey. Best of luck to Des and Margaret and all the family.

See also: Wexford's Archways, so much more than a B&B
Johnstown Castle. Agricultural Museum and so much more!

At the rear of the harvester.