Showing posts with label craft. Show all posts
Showing posts with label craft. Show all posts

Sunday, November 19, 2017

Davidson's Craft Butchers. Standard Bearers in Montenotte

Davidson's Craft Butchers

Standard Bearers in Montenotte
Chris (left) and Luke

I asked our local butcher Chris Davidson about his plans for the run-in to Christmas. “We’ve already started”, he said. “It's the earliest we’ve ever started but people started asking so we started taking the orders. It is our fourth Christmas here and we have great confidence in our products at this stage.”

And top of the Christmas wish list are their free-range East Ferry Turkeys. Easy Ferry also supply them with eggs and chickens. “The most popular order is the boneless Turkey Crown, now selling all year round. Spiced beef too is incredibly popular. We use the eye of the round, a very lean cut, very good.”

“We have plenty of alternatives, including duck, beef fillet, crusted lamb, and pork steak Wellington. And we also have a special: Cranberry and sausage meat stuffing balls.”

Chris, from Cobh, is a 4th generation butcher. His great grand-father was a butcher in the harbour town, followed by Chris’s grand-uncle and then by an uncle. Chris himself started learning the steps, the ones well down the ladder, as a 14 year old at the well respected Jim Crowley butcher shop in Midleton.
Crusted lamb

He worked there during the holidays, even when he started going to UCC. “I was never bored, it was always interesting.” And the thing was that Chris himself was always interested and eventually decided that it was for him.

He started work in the Montenotte premises with the previous owner in 2009 and, just about three years ago, took it over. He found it hard to get used to the paperwork but “so far, so good” is his verdict now.”Every year has been better than the previous one. The three years have flown. Now we are more comfortable, more confident, particularly over the past six months.” 

The “we” is Chris and Luke, the two full-time employees. He also had two part-time workers.
You’ll see newly installed flower boxes on the building and also notice Craft Butcher displayed over the Davidson doors. I asked Chris about that. A lot of hard study over three years by the looks of it. 
Ready to cook

“To be qualified as craft, you have to do the 8-module course. It is very comprehensive. It covers every single aspect of modern butchery. When you finish, there is nothing left to learn. You've been trained also to present your produce, to engage with and sell to the customer. All about hygiene and food safety. The qualification is all about reliability. I see it as being a standard bearer.”

Chris has put the training to good use, especially in their speciality range. They are very strong here and have won many awards at craft competitions. Davidson’s have been national runners-up with their Pork Steak Wellington and with their Home-made Meat Loaf, national champion with their absolutely delicious (personal experience) Crusted Rack of Lamb. And they have gold for quite a few specials including Steak Stir Fry, Butterflied Leg of Lamb, Chicken Pizzaiola, and Chicken Supreme stuffed with broccoli and gruyere cheese.
Stir-fry

And, looking to the future, the plan is to keep up that standard, to keep innovating. “We’re always tipping away here, trying to improve the range. We plan to increase our presence on Social Media as well. And an upgrade of machinery is also on the cards.”

And you can, of course, get more than meat here. “Arbutus Bread is a fantastic product and we also have their pastries on Saturday mornings. We stock some kitchen essentials such as bread and milk. And newspapers of course. We have Green Saffron spices and the Gran Grans Chutneys are also available here.” Well worth a visit!


Davidson's Craft Butchers
7 St Christopher's Dr, Montenotte, Cork, T23 KV96
Hours: Open Monday-Friday· 8a.m.–6:30p.m.
Saturday: 8a.m. - 6.00p.m.



Sunday, October 15, 2017

Blasket Lamb Buzz at Market Lane. Also at ORSO, Castle Cafe and Elbow Lane

Blasket Lamb Buzz at Market Lane. 
Also at ORSO, Castle Cafe and Elbow Lane



There’s always a buzz when Market Lane announces that its annual allocation of tasty Blasket Lamb has arrived! Well in case you haven’t heard, now is the time for 2017. Just a short window during which you may get it at Market Lane and its associated restaurants: ORSO, Castle Café and Elbow Lane.


Grabbed an opportunity to taste it last week, had it in both starter and mains, and enjoyed every little bit. The Oliver Plunkett Street venue was indeed buzzing as we arrived to a warm welcome and lots of info on the lamb. We had no other interest on the night, well dessert maybe, so that made it easy for our enthusiastic and well-informed server.
Starter

Time perhaps for a bit of background.
This story begins with small holder, Donnacha O Ceileachair, who raises a small flock of sheep on the Great Blasket Island. When the April-born lambs are ready, he brings them by ferry from the Island onto the mainland. Award-winning Dingle Butcher, Jerry Kennedy, selects out the premium meat for the Market Lane Group.

“The impeccable provenance of this product is reflected in its quality and flavour; we are proud to be the only restaurants in Ireland to serve it to our customers. This truly is a farm to fork experience with everybody in the supply chain really respectful and excited about the product.” – Pamela Kelly, Head Chef, Market Lane. And we met Pam on the night and delighted to be able to congratulate her  and her team on a job well done!

The starter was Spiced Blasket Lamb croquette with Velvet Cloud sheep’s yogurt, crispy mint and pomegranate. All the ingredients, including the mild spice, the chickpeas in the croquette, the smooth cooling yogurt from Mayo, each played a role in a lovely plateful.

Server Yuliyan was coming up with some excellent drink matches but we were keen to renew  acquaintance with their own Elbow Lane beers and so he recommended the Wisdom Amber Ale with the starter. He was spot-on with that as he was when suggesting the sharper Elbow lager would do well with the mains.
Dessert!

And, if the starter was five star, then the mains was all of that but even more outstanding, hors catégorie as they say in the cycling world. I’ll give you the full description: Blasket Lamb Rack and pressed lamb belly with fondant root veggies, Elbow beer vinaigrette, and buttermilk mash. This was a duo of lamb to remember, tender and tasty, perfectly cooked and served.

Would we like dessert? Well, we’ll look. Yuliyan recommended the Marmalade and vanilla bread and butter pudding. “The massive one?”, I asked (having had previous). He confirmed with a smile. We decided to share and loved it.


It is just one of about a dozen desserts here. Lots of starters too and the same applies to the mains; here you’ll see the names of local suppliers such as Coolea, Goatsbridge, St Tola, Ballinwillin, Tom Durcan, and Toonsbridge. But, at present, the Blasket Lamb is the star of the show. You’ll need to get in soon as the limited supply won't last for very long!

Thursday, October 12, 2017

Lough Gill Brewery (and Meadery!). Focus on quality and consistency.

Lough Gill Brewery (and Meadery!)
Focus on quality and consistency.


It’s a Friday evening and I am sitting in a classy new bar, Anderson’s, on the banks of the Garavogue in Sligo, on an ale "pilgrimage".

Back in the 1800s, Anderson’s Ale was the most popular beer in Connacht and the family owned three breweries in the province, one of them housed in this very building. The story makes my pint of Anderson’s Ale all the tastier!

The new Anderson’s Ale is produced by a new family micro brewery, the Lough Gill. And, that morning, James Ward told me that they  (he and wife Valerie) went back to the region’s roots to brew a traditional Irish ale that is their interpretation of what was originally produced. “It opened the door for us.”
Anderson's, once a brewery, now a smart pub

While Lough Gill’s initial beer looked to the past, their production now looks to the future and James sees that future in cans and in America. Their beers are geared towards the US market and their eye-catching can labels are designed by a US artist. Indeed, their brewer Tony Wickham is a Lakota Sioux from Montana.

You get the drift once you sample their Mac Nutty, a nut brown ale (with toasted macadamia nuts), similar to Newcastle Brown Ale that you may have seen in a one pint bottle. Mac Nutty is one of their regular beers and exported to the US where Lough Gill is established in New York State and Massachusetts.

The water, and the name, come from nearby Lough Gill and that was also the name of the old brewery. It is not the first brewery for James and wife Valerie. Their initial venture, the White Hag, was the first brewery in Sligo for the best part of a century. After a couple of years, he sold it to its investor group and launched Lough Gill, with Anderson’s Ale, just last November.



Now they make quite an array of beers, lots of bold flavours and tastes here, including their Round the Clock stout; recommended for breakfast as it has Flahavan’s Oatmeal included!

They mill everything on site here. “We crack it open, it’s fresh. Our focus is on quality and consistency.” Irish malts are used for all their basic beers while specially malts are sourced in Belgium.

He took us through the process. By the way, this is a steam operated brewery, a better boil, better beer. After the usual mash tun, kettle, the more unusual whirlpool, the cooling, it goes into the tank and fresh yeast is added. “We use live yeast, makes for a better product. When we make our Imperial Coffee Oatmeal Stout, the yeast goes crazy. At 11%, this stout is the strongest in Ireland.”
In Lough Gill with James (left) and brewer Tony (right)

Their four core beers are: the Mac Nutty nut brown ale, the Round the Clock stout, the Heinoweiser IPA, and the Thieving Bastards Pale ale; some of the names are a finger up to the bigger brands. The stout and the brown ale are both exported. In addition, there is the Rebel Stout Series, the Irish Punch Up Series (which has started with a  barley wine), and the Irish Wild Atlantic series (sours).

“Sour is huge in the US. We have a sour wheat beer, a Wild Rosé Ale, an Imperial Peach Sour and a Cherry sour is coming soon.” And coming soon too will be their Mead.

Didn't know they had a Meadery here when I arrived but enjoyed a taste from the tank and can confirm that Tony’s Mead is a very different take indeed. James told me that it is the oldest drink in the world, “made by women and the drink of legends”. Tony has made mead in the states where it is quite popular. And James reckons that the far east, especially Japan and China, will prove likely markets.

Amazing energy and innovation here. Must be in that Lough Gill water. Maybe in some other local liquid. Best of luck to the team here as they take Sligo brewing on to the world stage.

* That same evening, Lough Gill was awarded Best New Sligo Business 2017. James: “We have yet to reach our 1st anniversary brew day and we are extremely delighted to receive this award at such an early stage in our business.” Great to get honoured in your home town.

See also: Strandhill Food Festival
Sligo Cafés
Clo's Chocolates
Rugatino of Sligo
Embassy Steakhouse
The Swagman Rocks

Monday, August 28, 2017

An Ale of Two Families. Brewery Lost in a Bet.

An Ale of Two Families.

Brewery Lost in a Bet. 
L-to-r: Bridget Smithwick, Alan Smithwick and Ian Hamilton (brewer).

Deauville, a long-time magnet for Europe’s rich and famous, was all abuzz for the races in August 1918, even though the Great War was still being waged. One Irishman had set his sights on an aristocratic French fillé. He had opposition from a Venetian count. Sullivan, a gambler rather than a brewer, bet the family brewery on a horse to impress the Frenchwoman. He lost and, not fancying a duel with the count, had to settle his debts.

In Kilkenny, as a result of the wager, the Sullivan brewery (established 1702), eight years before Smithwick’s, was taken over by their rivals (“in a kind of a white knight rescue”) and the Sullivan name vanished from the enterprise. Another hundred years on and, in 2014, Diageo moved the production of Smithwick's to Dublin.
Pierce Brosnan, another Irishman whose name pops up in Deauville

But the Sullivan story has been revived over the past year or two with the emergence of a new Sullivan brewery, backed by the two intertwined families, the Sullivan’s and, yes, the Smithwick’s (keen to keep Kilkenny’s brewing tradition going). 

And, already, their Maltings Red Ale has been declared the “best Draught Ale in the World” at the International Brewing Awards, also known as the Oscars of the beer world. They are the 1st Irish Brewery ever to win this competition that hosted over 1,200 beers from 50 countries. Isn't that a nice welcome back for Sullivan’s?

Sullivan’s were represented in Cork City Hall at the weekend for the Franciscan Well Great Irish Beer Festival. Bandon educated brewer Ian Hamilton said their ale can be found in Ireland, England and Scotland. C & C is their distributor but Sullivan’s “is totally independent”. 


I had missed out on a chance to sample the ale on a recent visit to Kilkenny so was delighted to try it in the City Hall. It is a delightful refreshing beer, with a ruby tinted colour, lots of flavour, yet very well balanced with an ABV of just four per cent. Three darker malts and three hops are merged here, so there’s a lot going on. Yet, it is so well made and balanced that it is easy drinking and easy to see why the judges went for it at the International Beer Awards in the UK.

Well worth seeking out. And if you are in Kilkenny why not visit their Taproom, an outlet for the Smithwick partnership with direct descendants of the Sullivan family. Together with Ian Hamilton, one of Ireland’s most eminent contemporary master-brewers, they are bringing artisan brewing back to Kilkenny. It’s not just beer at the Taproom. You can have a pizza from their wood-fired oven and other tasty dishes as well. Prefer to eat and drink outdoors? Well, they have a fully covered outdoor, heated seating area. Details here
Ready to roll at Cork City Hall
See full account of the Beer Fest here

Sunday, August 27, 2017

Great Irish Beer Fest. Beer, Cider, Food, Music

Great Irish Beer Hall

Beer, Cider, Food, Music
Michael Cowan of award winning Mont
Headed to the City Hall at the weekend for the Great Irish beer Festival. Some twenty brewers were listed so that meant a huge choice. While each exhibitor displayed their menu, there was no overall list, such as you’d find at a wine-tasting. 

More difficult then to find a particular pathway through that amount of beer. Who had the sours? Who had the stouts? Did they bring them? Were all the recent award winners here?

It would have been made a little easier also if there was a measure smaller than the half-pint (€2.75). On the other hand, if you knew exactly what you wanted, all you needed to do was fill your glass (€5.50) to the pint mark!
Beer Hall!

I had targeted Sullivan’s from Kilkenny for my first call. That worked out well and there’ll be a separate post tomorrow on their lovely award winning red ale.

Indeed, there were award winners all over the hall, including local brewery Rising Sons who are having a great month: “August 2017 has been an incredible month for us, winning 5 Gold Medals at The World Beer Awards 2017.”

Not too far away in this bright room, with the tables and seats, was the Mont stall and they too were celebrating a World Beer Award as their lager was named the Country Winner (Ireland) for “Czech Style Pilsner Lager”. 

Michael Cowan of Manor Brewing (Wicklow) is the public face of Mont, Ireland’s “super-premium Pilsner lager”. They use pure Wicklow Mountain spring water, the finest barley malts, Hallertau, Saaz and Cascade hops.

Michael said they are a dedicated lager brewery. “With the very soft Wicklow water we have, our super-premium lager is better than the main stream piss and we are trying to improve lager’s image with a big concentration on packaging.”

Their Bohemian style Pilsner has “an Irish accent” and an ABV of 5.1%. You can quickly taste why it is picking up awards. There is quite a backbone to it, full of flavour and hop character and a superb dry finish, great balance all through. “Moreish” as they say themselves.

Just to compare, I took a token over to Eight Degrees - they were in the darkened room - and got a glass of their Barefoot Bohemian,  “an unorthodox lager with complex biscuity malt, soft rounded bitterness and a twist of spice from the noble Saaz and Hallertau hops.”  
This crisp and lovely Pilsner doesn't quite have the heft of the Mont but, at 4% ABV, is perfect for a session. And it has retained its popularity since the summer of 2012 when the Mitchelstown brewery introduced it as a seasonal beer. 

The Cotton Ball’s Indian Summer is another beer that has surprised its creators. This hybrid, “capturing the best of ale and lager” was supposed to be a seasonal but goes on and on.

After that we welcomed the Shoot the Breeze, a 4.5% ABV California Common, just introduced by the Franciscan Well. “This light hazy amber beer has a distinct fruit background as a result of our own unique twist!” I'm a big fan of the Well's core beers and the Chieftain, Friar Weisse and Rebel Red completed their line-up on the night.

Time now for stout, after all we are in Cork. And the Cotton Ball make a terrific stout, Lynch’s, in the traditional creamy style. But there’s no shortage of substance, coffee and caramel and a dry finalé, behind the silky smoothness. A pleasure indeed to sink one of these.

Two heads are better than one, according to Jameson, talking about their Caskmates, which has emerged from a collaboration between themselves and the Franciscan Well Brewery. 

First, the Well used whiskey casks to brew two beers,  Jameson Aged Stout launched in 2013 and Jameson Pale Ale launched in 2014. The stout-seasoned casks were then returned to Midleton and this whiskey is the result. It has worked well and Jameson are now engaged in similar ventures with some US breweries.

No alteration to the usual Jameson smoothness in Caskmates. Maybe there is a hint of hops there but, back in the dark room, I wasn't paying full attention as I sipped and chatted as the music played. It is a modern easy drinking fruity whisky with a long sweet finish. Quite a lovely finalé to my excellent evening in the City Hall. For the music fans, the night was only beginning, 

* My favourite beers, from the fraction that I sampled, were: the Mont Pilsner, Lynch’s Stout, and Sullivan’s Red Ale.

See also: An Ale of Two Families. Brewery Lost in a Bet.




Sunday, April 23, 2017

Black's and Man Friday Highlights of Kinsale Day. Munster Wine & Dine On Tour

Black's and Man Friday Highlights of Kinsale Day

Munster Wine & Dine On Tour
The sun came too as the Munster Wine and Dine members headed for Kinsale last Friday. The major calls were to Black’s Brewery (and Distillery now) for a tasting and tour and, after a drink at The Spaniard, dinner at the Man Friday (long established but with a new kid on the block).

The Blacks have been making gin for the past two years or so and there were many versions before Maudeline felt happy with it. Think we all felt happy with it, after the on-site tasting on Friday. “Angelica and orris root combine with liquorice, juniper and coriander whilst distinctly citrus notes linger at the end to enhance a dry finish” is the official tasting note.It is available in Dunnes Stores and at many independents as well.
Maudeline, who instigated the gin-making, and husband Sam have quite a range of beers but the 1601, named after the famous local battle that had national implications to say the least, is their first lager. Sam explained a few things about lager as we sipped the flavoursome drink. “A different type of yeast is used, it is cold fermented, takes longer to mature and this one is also gluten free”.

Sam then took us around the brewery - the gin is in the same building but in a separate compartment which we saw a little later. We would also sample their best seller, the Kinsale Pale Ale. “Hops add flavour here and also counteract the sweetness of the barley”.
Sam Black
As the tour went on he answered questions on the functions of the various tanks and so on. People wanted to see the bottling but that is contracted out. Canning though is done on a regular basis by a mobile canning machine that calls to the site.

He acknowledged that the craft scene is a nice industry where everyone gets on quite well together. He is pretty confident about the future. “The rebate we craft brewers get allows us to compete and if the proposed legislation enabling small brewers to sell their beers direct to on-site visitors gets through, that will be a good thing. We employ six here and we’ll have one extra for the summer.”

Heather and verbena may be among the local botanicals in the gin, he hinted when we reached the distillery. “Each batch may be that little bit different but it is always good,” he promised. By the way, his alcohol is whey based and comes from Carbery in West Cork.

Not too sure he promised wife Maudeline that he’d stop taking kit from the kitchen. The hair-drier has been used to heat surfaces so that labels can be applied to the gin bottles and a food mixer had also been pressed into use. He did promise that we’d be drinking his rum in three years time! And that is just one development that this inventive and busy couple have up their sleeves!
We gathered outside the gable end of The Spaniard ahead of crossing the road into Man Friday where son Daniel is continuing his take-over in the kitchens. There is a great view from the part of the dining room where our group of thirty plus were seated but soon all eyes were on the plates.

We nibbled away on some very tasty charcuterie as we studied the menu and sipped the wines. My starter was the New Season Asparagus with Stonewell Cider Hollandaise and edible flowers. All eminently edible! Also enjoyed around me were Sea Bass Carpaccio with mango, baby coriander & lime and the Bruschetta with Macroom Mozzarella n’duja, courgette, rocket and fennel.

The high standard continued with the main course where my pick was the Local Cod with cauliflower purée, shaved asparagus, fennel, radish, peas, chilli oil and a beurre blanc. Great reports on the Slow Cooked new season shoulder of lamb with wilted spinach, roast Jerusalem artichoke, agresto and crème fraiche.

The finalé was the Almond and Rhubarb Tart with vanilla ice-cream and then Daniel was persuaded to make an appearance to take a well deserved round of applause.

Sam, with MW&D member Richard (right)
The next event on the calendar will be the Super-Valu Wine Selection Panel in L'Atitude 51 on Wednesday May 24th.
Cod at Man Friday

Monday, December 5, 2016

Beer FAQ. All that’s left to know about beer.

Beer FAQ
All that’s left to know about beer.
Brewer Cormac hard at it in Dungarvan Brewery
Beer FAQ, by Jeff Cioletti, packs a lot into its 400 pages. It claims to be a no-nonsense guide to the world of beer, answering many burning questions about the diverse array of styles, ingredients, and international brewing and drinking and the traditions that drive the world’s most celebrated beverage.

And it certainly does that. Just be aware that this is an American publication so you’ll see the odd geographical faux pas, like placing the University of Sunderland in Scotland. Generally though the contribution of the old world, especially England, Belgium, Germany (he suggests that Munich is not the “beeriest city” in Germany, giving that accolade to Bamberg) and the old Czechoslovakia is handsomely acknowledged before the big statement (pretty well backed up) in which the origin of the latest wave of craft brewing is claimed for the USA.
Beer selection at recent festival in Cork's Franciscan Well

And since the US is our next parish, we do have an interest there as residents, relations, visitors, drinkers and importers. Many of the US beers - Sierra Nevada and Brooklyn Brewery - have long been favourites here.

In a chapter titled The Birth of Beer, Jeff says that beer, “for both the Romans and the Greeks, was the beverage of barbarians”. Long after the fall of the wine-drinking Roman Empire, beer “was considered an underclass drink”.

Later on, the monasteries took a hand and started to brew beer, “a central form of sustenance when you couldn't trust the water”.  Later, science and the industrial revolution would play major roles in spreading beer globally.

He delves into the history and the different types of hops, concentrating on a few including Cascade, Hallertau, Simcoe and Sorachi Ace. You can learn too about malt and yeast. And the various styles of beer.

Beer in the New World is covered in great detail, even recalling some old advertisements, many of them openly sexist. Remember “Mabel. Black Label” and the subservient doting wife. Some detailed insight too into the renaissance of American beer that was led by the craft revolution. In 1873, the number of US breweries reached 4,131. In 1941, it was down to just 857 and stayed around that mark until 1995. Now there are close to five thousand!


The breweries that were prominent in the rise of craft are detailed. Anchor Beer, Boston Brewing and Brooklyn are included. By the way, did you know that Brooklyn have partnered Carlsberg in two breweries, one in Sweden, one in Norway.

And Jeff poses the question: “but what exactly defines ‘craft beer’? That answer is a little complicated”. He gives it a few pages, pointing out that micro-breweries, by their very nature start out small and some then get large. Can a large brewery be a craft brewery? 

The author looks to his colleague John Holl who has written an editorial in the March edition of the All about Beer magazine with the title: “Craft Beer is Dead. Long Live Craft Beer!” Holl went on to write that the simple five letter word “has caused so much ‘confusion, blind passion, and confrontation’”.
Black's of Kinsale, one of the first Irish craft brewers to can.

“Most people silently agree with me,” Holl reveals. “It’s a word that’s been fraught with all kinds of baggage. It’ll continue to change. Most brewers simply are thinking of making beer of exceptional taste and quality.” 

Cioletti claims that beer is a better match with cheese than wine. “..cheese’s fat content coats the palate and beer’s carbonation scrubs the palate clean, preparing it for the next course.” In fairness he also acknowledges that sparkling wines can do the same.
Garrett Oliver at Ballymaloe LitFest

Pizza, pasta, burgers and Barbecue have been the traditional invitation to open the beer. But go that bit further, Cioletti suggests. Try a delicate beer, a Belgian wit for instance, with sushi.

And then he moves on to fish in general, including crustaceans - “stouts are a winning match with oysters”, “spicier options with crab”. Porters and stouts are “quite comfortable” with stews. “..now, if we’re talking..beef Carbonnade, which usually has a wine base, consider something on the sour side..” If you’re on a wild game stew, “the strong flavours should harmonize with something on the wilder side: perhaps a saison with brett.”
Peter Curtin in his tiny brewery over the Roadside Tavern in Clare

There are chapters on pubs in the US and around the world (just one in Ireland, Dublin’s Against the Grain, gets a mention), on beer in films and TV (think Jaws, Cheers), on containers including cans (started in 1935!), on beer cocktails, and a nod (a small one) to Kindred Spirits eg cider, mead and spirits.

Quite a tome if not quite the encyclopaedia, packed with info and insights from leading figures over the decades, something here both for the beer beginner and the expert. 
Jack Lynch in Cork's Cotton Ball brewery, under the pub of the same name

Beer FAQ is “the ultimate primer for getting better acquainted with the world’s favorite adult beverage” and is published by Backbeat Books. Available at Amazon for £17.95.