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Think I’d need a stack of superlatives to describe a recent dinner at Sage on Midleton, the home of the 12 mile menu. I could easily go over the top as Kevin Aherne’s kitchen is easily ahead of many around the country. But I’ll try and not bore you, just to say here at the start that the place, in a courtyard just off Midleton’s main street, has never ever disappointed.
Sage and its junior sister, the Greenroom, cater for a variety of tastes and budgets and the recent addition - the semi-open courtyard itself - is a lively food and drink venue and was indeed booked out on the night we visited. Sage too was full by the eight o’clock mark so the advise is to book ahead.
Then you can relax. Everything will be fine: the fresh local food, the very friendly efficient service, the drink (much of the wine is organic) and the beer is craft and local as you'd expect. You can spot the crew cooking in the kitchen as you sit back in a lovely simple room, one of whose walls honours the many suppliers from within that 12 mile radius.
We, subsidised by the last of the gift vouchers from Christmas, were on the A la Carte but I spotted much of the same menu on the Early Evening offering (three courses for thirty euro!). Breads were delivered to the table as we studied the menu. We also thought about the drink and, with steak in mind, I settled on the regular stout from O’Hara’s. Regular but excellent, a bottle for 6.00. Soon we were nibbling on the amuse bouche of Apple rings and Ardsallagh Goats cheese.
Great choice of starters, and mine was magnificent: Mackerel, oyster mushroom and samphire (10.00). It was a great combination, the warm soft flesh of the mackerel, full of flavour, perfectly complemented by the supple mushroom, the peppery crunch of the radish and the salty bite of the samphire.
Hard to guess sometimes what you are going to get on your plate when you read the brief description, as CL did: Beef cheek ravioli, horseradish, parsnip (9.00). Well, the beef was contained in one big plate-filling ravioli and the parsnip was a crisp. But it all worked so well together, another delicious interesting starter. I'm sure the other four on the list would have been of the same standard, each perhaps with a little surprise.
So, surprised and happy, we moved on to the mains. No big ambush for me: Beef Fillet (Charlie Terry), horseradish, shallots and spinach (30.00). I've long maintained that if a chef looks after the little things, that he will also come up trumps with the big items. In this case, for example, the shallots were outstanding, sweet and good and the spinach was fresh and tasty. The fillet? Add any meaty superlative you wish. As good as you’ll get and better than most.
And was the other side of the table jealous? No, not a bit of it. She loves her hake and that affair was enhanced by Sage’s: Hake, pasta, mussels, chorizo, samphire (24.00). A lot on the plate but another winning combination, well cooked, well presented and well served.
It is strawberry time in Ireland so we both finished with a Strawberry and Marshmallow Posset (8.00). The two glass bowls were well stripped, as indeed were all the previous plates, when the servers came to take them away. We like good food and there’s no shortage of that in Sage. Very Highly Recommended!
MARK MORIARTY FROM IRELANDIS THE S.PELLEGRINO YOUNG CHEF 2015
He took the glory, emerging at the end of a thrilling competition among 20 of the most talented chefs from all over the world.
The combo Maria José Jordan-Paula Cadematori, representing Latin America, won the two best Best Chef-Designer couple by the votes on Vogue.it.
Xiao Li, from China, was awarded by Vogue Italia as Best Designer.
It all started in Autumn 2014, with more than 3,000 young chefs submitting their applications together with their signature dishes on www.finedininglovers.com.
Last night in Milan, after an exciting full day of competition and a Grand Final event, young Irish chef MarkMoriarty representing the Ireland-UK region has been awarded as theS.Pellegrino Young Chef 2015. He reached the top with Celeriac Baked in Barley and Fermented Hay, Cured and Smoked Celeriac and toasted hay tea, also thanks to the support of mentor Clare Smyth MBE, who has been at his side as guide and advisor.
Mark emerged among twenty finalists, the world’s most talented young chefs, coming from different areas of the globe after a long and hard selection process.
On the stage with him, Peruvian Maria José Jordan representing Latin America, second in the list with her recipe Immortal Technique: Citrus, Rosemary, Gin, followed by Norwegian Christian André Pettersen, representing Scandinavia, with his recipe East meets West.
Winner of the S. Pellegrino Young Chef 2015, Mark Moriarty said: “I feel extremely proud to have won a competition of this size and this calibre, representing the whole of the UK and Ireland. With my signature dish, I wanted to capture the essence of Ireland and present humble, locally sourced ingredients like celeriac and barley in a unique way. Ireland has a lot of potential to be a food destination and I would like to think that I can play a part in bringing innovation and excitement to the Irish food scene as I progress in my career.”
“I’m excited about this award. I’m also delighted of having been here these days with such wonderful people. It’s great for Ireland and the UK, and in particular for Ireland, to have gained this title of S.Pellegrino Young Chef. I want to thank my mentor chef Clare Smyth for the huge support and precious suggestions she gave me” said young chef Mark.
MarkMoriarty has been elected by an extraordinary jury of seven famous international chefs, also called the Seven Sages: Gastón Acurio, Yannick Alléno, Massimo Bottura, Margot Janse, Yoshihiro Narisawa, Joan Roca and Grant Achatz.
In this extraordinary experience, S.Pellegrino had at its side a partner like ALMA, the International School of Italian Cuisine, the world’s leading educational and training center for Italian Hospitality (www.alma.scuolacucina.it), that selected the first 10 finalists for each region. Then, during the final phase in Milan, ALMA supported the young chefs and the organization with 25 Trainees, 3 Executive Chef and some of its most notable teachers, chef Giovanni Ciresa, Matteo Berti, Cristian Broglia, Piero Di Turi.
“ALMA is honored to be part of this international event that makes Milan the food&design capital – says Andrea Sinigaglia, ALMA general manager - two italian excellence that are in our school's DNA and that will mark the professional path of these young Chefs. The selection experience was amazing and involved more than 20 ALMA chefs, the organization of everything (ingredients and equipement) has been a great challenge, consistent with ALMA mission and with Expo 2015 aim”.
Thanks to the partnership with Vogue Italia, S.Pellegrino’s ally in its continuos effort to scouting and promoting talents, other important prizes have been awarded. Right before the S.Pellegrino Young Chef 2015 proclamation, two prizes for the Best Chef-Designer couplehave been assigned.
Vogue Italia matched each young chef with an emerging designer, selected through an international scouting. These designers ideated a fashion creation inspired by their partner’s signature dish, thus giving birth to an unprecedented fusion between fine food and style.
The combo Maria José Jordan-Paula Cademartori have been elected thanks to the votes of all the guests attending the event, a parterre de rois made of vips, influencers, chefs, and international journalists. Maria Jose and Paula also won the other couple award, assigned by the web community via Vogue.it, the online edition of the highly renowned and influential magazine, where all the Chefs and Designers creations have been published, enabling food and fashion lovers from around the world to vote their favourite.
Last but not least, Vogue Italia elected the Best Designer, voted by a jury led by Franca Sozzani, Editor-in-Chief of Vogue Italia, Editorial Director of Condé Nast Italia, Global Ambassador against Hunger (WFP), and composed by some of the Italian most influencial names in the field of fashion and design, like Massimo Giorgetti, Ennio Capasa, Alberta Ferretti, Sara Maino, Marlene Taschen, Giò Marconi.
During her speech, Franca Sozzani also announced that the collaboration with S.Pellegrino has been the occasion to to carry out a project to support the World Food Programmme. “We are really greateful to Franca Sozzani and S.Pellegrino for their efforts in figthing together against global hunger”declared Adele Rossetti, Director General of WFP Italia, after the announcement of the donation to WFP. “Their contribution will have a concrete impact on the life of those women - mothers, farmers, teachers and entrepreneurs - that hold the keys for a better future for themselves and their families. Women may be victims of hunger but they are also the most effective solution to combating and preventing it. Support from friends like S.Pellegrino e and Franca Sozzani is then absolutely crucial for WFP’s commitment to promote women’s empowerment.”
Finedininglovers.com, the online magazine for food enthusiasts proudly endorsed by S.Pellegrino and Acqua Panna, provided and will continue to provide foodies exclusive contents about the project, with interviews, signature dishes and other information concerning the young chefs, the fashion designers and the Grand Final in Milan.
Here are the names of the awards winners:
·S.Pellegrino Young Chef 2015: Mark Moriarty representing Ireland & UK
·Best Chef-Designer couple: Maria José Jordan-Paula Cademartori, representing Latin America
·Best Chef-Designer couple WEB: Maria José Jordan-Paula Cademartori, representing Latin America
·Best Designer: Xiao Li, from China
Special thanks to: Cantine Ferrari, Electrolux, Giblor’s, Mauviel 1830, Nespresso.
Barnabrow House, a top wedding and Sunday lunch venue, reveals its magic little by little. Driving up the tree lined lane on a dark winter’s night, you might easily imagine a band of fairies at the weak edge of the headlight beams. In the morning, no imagination required, you will see a bunch of friendly donkeys, four generations, including a couple of this year’s foals.
Climb up a little higher behind the house towards the main restaurant, where the weddings are held, and lift your head and you will see a terrific view, over the neighbours in Ballymaloe, all the way to Ballycotton on the coast and its lighthouse winking in the grey morning light.
Imagine this in the Spring and Summer. Then you begin to realise why the fairy of Cloyne based herself here, not that we did get to see the fairy fort. But there is so much else to see here, thanks to the magic, not to mention the hard work, of owner Geraldine Kidd who has been restoring and developing the ancient house and its surrounding acres over the past 16 years.
And the newest magic, and again hard work, is being supplied by recently installed head chef Stuart Bowes. His aim is to make everything on the table “as local, as organic and as fresh as possible”. We saw the motto put into super tasty reality in a stunning meal in one of the dining rooms in the house and you may read all about it here.
As part of a party of journalists and bloggers, we were welcomed warmly by Geraldine and her staff. As we sipped the mulled wine, she explained that the place had been evolving for hundreds of years. After working in London, Geraldine came to visit Ballymaloe, saw the melons growing in the greenhouse, "an epiphany moment", and signed up for a three months course.
She added to her cooking experience with a stint in the Arbutus and also worked with Denis Cotter of Café Paradiso and also in Midleton’s Farmgate. She bought it “very cheaply” in the mid 90s. It has proved very popular as a wedding venue.
After a candlelit breakfast, Geraldine and Stuart took us on a tour of the facility, which is on three levels, almost terraces. There are various accommodation units and at the top you have the large room where the weddings are held and directly in front there is a decked area from which you have the views over East Cork. It is an exclusive location and a bespoke service is offered to each bride and groom.
They can cater for up to wedding150 guests and, yes they can stay overnight, not in the house itself but in a dozen or so lodges nearby. And very impressive lodges they are. Can be used by non wedding guests as well.
All are individually furnished and very tastefully so, loads of space. The one we toured had a huge kitchen cum living room, a massive upstairs bedroom (double and 2 singles), and as much downstairs, including a four poster bed.
The rooms in the main house itself are also individually furnished with different styles from traditional to bright and airy with a Mediterranean touch. Ours had its own touches, among them some old suitcases casually on the top of the wardrobe and a packed bookcase.
Indeed, the house itself can be something of a mystery to the first timer. Which door to use? In the room where we dined, you push a door and a bookcase revolves to meet you.
In the greenhouse
On our walkabout, we were accompanied by the dogs, and saw the donkeys and the walled garden where Stuart can get his grapes, organic purples ones. His know-how and a little pectin is added and hey presto you have a delectable purple jelly! More animals on view, including a goat and also some poultry wandering around. All so natural here.
And that about sums up Barnabrow, hidden behind the trees for most of the year. Just another farmhouse you might think but there is a magic at work here, the latest supplied by the accomplished young Scottish chef. Well worth a visit. Or two. One couple with us had been married here a few years ago and enjoyed the return to Barnabrow.
Experienced Scottish chef Stuart Bowes is the new Head Chef at Barnabrow House in East Cork and owner Geraldine Kidd introduced him to the media last week. Later Stuart introduced himself with a smashing dinner.
But first we met in the smaller kitchen of the big house, Geraldine’s own kitchen! She told us Stuart spent six years training at the Michelin starred Chapter One in the UK before embarking on a trip to Australia where he broadened his experience before coming to Cork to work in the Orchids restaurant in Hayfield Manor. He joined Barnabrow last June.
While doing a little demo in the kitchen, Stuart told us that “preparation is vital...helps get consistency..whether your group is 20 or 120.”
While demoing his Rabbit dish that we would so enjoy later on, he spoke of a new experience at the wedding meals in Barnabrow, the shared platter, which we would also see later. “We give the couple the choice and so far two have taken the shared platter. The reaction has been great and we hope to do more with it.” Many see the platter as a good ice-breaker.
Having talked the talk, Stuart walked the walk, starting us off with Cork-a-leekie! That Scottish classic was given an East Cork twist by the proud Scot with Dan Aherne’s organic chicken and leeks from Barnabrow’s own walled garden.
Some of my tasty bits from the Shared Platter
Conversation was now flowing and that flow was further enhanced as the shared platter was passed around. The wines too were flowing and they also were top notch. I could go on and on with the superlatives but I think I’ll just let you have a look at rest of the menu now. Top produce and a top chef meant we were in foodie heaven for the very enjoyable candlelit evening meal.
Food to Share:
Platters of Barnabrow’s home smoked Mallard duck, Gulf stream oak smoked salmon, Rosscarbery’s free range pork, pistachio and cranberry terrine, jamon Serrano.
Barnabrow’s home grown and home pickled artichokes, roasted and marinated beetroot and garden leaves, Olive Hallinan’s Cloyne Goat Cheese accompanied by hazelnut dressing, fig puree, aged balsamic and Barnabrow basil pesto.
Homemade rosemary and onion focaccia, hot crusty bread rolls.
Wine: Domaine Emilian Gillet 2009 from Burgundy.
Bitter Sweet Sorbet:
Gin and pink grapefruit sorbet tanged with their very own organic apple jelly, married with fresh cucumber.
Loin of East Cork wild rabbit, poached and roasted, with a pithivier of rabbit leg, Cloyne quince, Barnabrow walled garden spinach and 8 Degrees Ale jus.
Wine: Paddy Borthwick Pinot Noir 2010.
Coast meets culture. Stuart’s parfait of Irish Atlantic sea salt and caramel with Green Saffron spiced marshmallows and Valrhona chocolate sabayon.
Wine: Château Joly Cuvee Jean.
One magnificent meal. Perhaps the humble rabbit provided the highlight but then I wouldn’t want to miss either the Shared Platter or the Dessert. Great stuff, thanks to Geraldine, to Stuart and their lovely staff.