Sunday, March 12, 2017

In Praise of East Cork. Food. People. Place. Worth a Visit!

In Praise of East Cork.
Food. People. Place. Worth a Visit!
Town crier in Youghal
Friendly people, great food, attractions on land and sea, both natural and man-made, make East Cork a gem of a place to visit. From the fantastic 13th century St Mary’s Collegiate Church in Youghal to high class Fota House Gardens and Arboretum, with Barryscourt Castle in between, all three free to enter, there is a treasure chest of places to visit in the area.
Fota Wildlife

The Cafe at Stephen Pearce Pottery

Let me take you on a trip to see part of it. We’ll also enjoy some delicious meals as East Cork is a foodie’s paradise with top notch venues including Sage and Kevin Ahern’s 12 Mile Menu,  Barnabrow (ideal for weddings and a leisurely Sunday lunch), Midleton’s pioneering Farmers Market (every Saturday) and the food mecca of Ballymaloe.
Barnabrow

Coming from the city on the main Cork-Waterford road, take the Cobh exit ramp and head for breakfast or lunch, right to Bramley Lodge, or left to The Bakestone Cafe at Ballyseedy.  Now, set up for the day, go over the nearby bridge to Fota Island and its many attractions.


If you have kids, go the Wildlife Park; if not, walk through the renowned Fota Arboretum and maybe add a tour of the Georgian House. If you like it around here, you may also try the high class  Fota Island Hotel and Golf Resort. Other top class hotels in the area include the Raddison Blu (Little Island) and the Castlemartyr Resort.
Bramley Lodge


Moving on, go over the Belvelly Bridge and you’ll soon come to Frank Hederman’s famous smokehouse. You are now on Great Island where the cathedral town of Cobh is situated. Much to do here including the Sirius Art Gallery, walking tours (including the Titanic Trail and Spike Island), harbourside bars and restaurants and of course the Cobh Heritage Centre which tells of forced deportations and also the tales of the ill fated liners, The Titanic and the Lusitania.


Fota House and arboretum; walled gardens too

Cruise liners call here regularly during the season, with a carnival atmosphere in the town on the days they are in port. And here boats take you across to newly renovated Spike and also on harbour tours. Maybe you’d just like to walk around the town; I did so recently, taking in the Holy Ground, the Titanic Garden and the Sonia O’Sullivan statue, and you may check it out here. Perhaps you'd prefer just to sit on the decking at The Titanic Bar & Grill and watch the boats go by.


Sonia



Whiskey Sour in Jameson
Time now to head out of the islands and head east to Midleton and a tour of the Jameson Experience. If you give the right answers here, you’ll end up with a certificate of proficiency in whiskey! No shortage of cafes and restaurants here, including the family friendly Granary now celebrating twenty one years in business. In the Cloyne area, the Market Cafe is another family friendly cafe.
Cork Harbour

Cobh Blues Festival

There will be detours, of course. One that I like is off the Whitegate road, out of Midleton. Look out for the signs for East Ferry and enjoy a walk by the estuary and maybe reward yourself with a well cooked meal at Murph’s, a restaurant with a lovely view.

Another suggested detour - you may need a driver here - is to head towards Ballyvolane BHouse near Castlelyons. Lots to do here, including fishing and glamping, and it is also the home of Bertha's Revenge Gin!

Sage 12 mile plate



Next stop is Ballymaloe, the home of modern Irish food. You could spend a day here. Maybe an overnight stay to sample the world renowned cooking. Call to the cafe for a mid afternoon or mid morning  coffee. Be sure to take a look at the impressive Cookery School gardens, not forgetting the Shell House. And don’t forget Golden Bean coffee roaster Marc Kingston is also based here.

The Cafe at the Stephen Pearce pottery in Shanagarry also serves Golden Bean and is now gaining quite a reputation. And, of course, there is the pottery itself!

Sculpture exhibition on lawn at Ballymaloe House

In the nearby seaside village of Ballycotton, take a stroll down to the pier and see the fishermen come and go, maybe take a boat trip to the lighthouse on the nearby island. If you feel you need to stretch the legs, then there is a spectacular walk  along the cliff tops. After all that exercise, treat yourself to a gorgeous meal at Pier 26.
Tight turn for Cobh liner

If you need to overnight, then the Garryvoe Hotel and its top notch Samphire Restaurant, with great views over the bay, is close at hand.
Ballycotton cliff walk

Youghal is the final town, on the Blackwater and just shy of the border with Waterford. On the way, you could stretch the legs in Killeagh’s Glenbower Woods one of many attractive walks in the East Cork area. In Youghal, take a boat trip on the Blackwater. If you want a mid-day salad or sandwich in the town, perhaps after visiting the recently revamped Clock Tower, then the Sage Cafe will take good care of you.

After all the activity, you deserve to rest up for the night. Enjoy a meal in the Old Imperial Hotel on Youghal's main street, maybe just a drink in its old Coachhouse bar, maybe both! Aherne’s, of course, is famous for its seafood and they too have rooms.
Samphire at Garryvoe Hotel

And do try and get your hands on the local craft beers, including Ireland's first organic Red Ale, made by the dedicated team in the town’s Munster Brewery; they also do tours.

And before leaving the area, don’t forget to visit Ballynatray House, a Blackwater gem.

If, at the end of a day's touring, you find yourself heading back towards the city, then do consider the Brook Inn near Glanmire for dinner. It is a lively buzzy place and the food is good there too.

Enjoy East Cork, the food, the place and its people!

Ballynatray House, by the Blackwater

(revised 12.03.17)
If you have a cafe, restaurant, visitor attraction, not listed here, please let me know and I will do my best to visit with a view to inclusion in next revision. You may also use the comment facility below.

Saturday, March 11, 2017

Amuse Bouche

Next time round Lily is taking no chances.

I am after sending you a parcel… it was over 15 lbs… So you must watch out for it…. It contained a chicken, 2 homemade cakes, a sweet cake in paper, 1/2 doz of apples, a box of pineapple slices, bottle of Bovril, cigarettes, chocolate. Be sure you see that everything is in it and write immediately. As we forgot about your birthday present on the 23 Oct this parcel will do in its place.


from Grandpa The Sniper, The Remarkable Story of a 1916 Volunteer, by Frank Shouldice (2015). Very Highly Recommended.

Thursday, March 9, 2017

Ballincollig’s Multi-faceted White Horse

Ballincollig’s Multi-faceted White Horse
Satay skewers
You’d like a craft beer? An Irish gin or whiskey? Live Music? A play? A Brew Club? Good Food (great choice and price)? Get them all under one roof at the outstanding White Horse at the western end (the final roundabout!) of Ballincollig. I remember, in 1966/7, seeing this as a stand-alone country pub with briars growing up around the hanging metal sign that proclaimed the name. Some changes since!

Calamari
While on a visit there during the recent Cork Burger Festival, I promised myself I'd go back and check out the general menu, everything from a steak to a Vegetable Moussaka, from a Malaysian Monkfish Curry to Bangers and Mash. Not just any old bangers either, these are by Kanturk's Jack McCarthy, one of quite a few local producers supported by the bar. 

Other suppliers include Eight Degrees and White Gypsy Brewing, Baldwin’s Ice-cream, Pana Bread, Badger & Dodo Coffee and all their burgers are made of local beef. And burgers aren't just for the festival, they have four on the regular menu including exotically named ones the General Cleburne and the Seoul Food Burger!

 It seems to be a very popular spot indeed; we called in midweek on both occasions and the place was nearly full by 6.45pm. There are about 17 main course options, not including the daily specials on the boards.

My pick this time was the Malaysian Monkfish Curry: Monkfish medallions poached in a fragrant coconut curry with pak choi, ginger and lemongrass and served with steamed basmati rice. This was a warm creamy delight, aromatic and full of contrasting textures (€16.95).
Moussaka


 CL’s Vegetable Moussaka was another warm and filling dish: layers of chargrilled Mediterranean vegetables, puy lentils and ricotta cheese steeped in a rich tomato sauce and served with pitta and hummus and a large salad with chunks of Feta as well. Took a while to get through that (12.50).

Of course, we did have two excellent starters as well, again from a big selection. Mine was the perfectly cooked Chilli Salted Calamari, “dusted delicacies with salad tossed in a Caesar dressing and roasted red pepper and tomato jam”.
Monkfish curry
 CL too was thrilled with her opener: Chicken Satay Skewer (tender strips of Satay marinated chicken with a well dressed salad of carrot strips, peppers and onions). Both starters cost €7.50. Desserts - we didn't go there! - are mainly €5.95 and include Crunchie Cheesecake (a Friday favourite!), Creme Brûlée and Sticky Toffee Pudding.

And my craft beer on the night came from Tipperary. White Gypsy’s Weiss Bier is more or  less a favourite of mine at this stage. No live music on the night - Saturday for that. But it has its own music venue upstairs with regular performances by local and visiting acts and here too you can get to see the occasional piece of theatre. Not too sure where the Brew Club hangs out in this many roomed venue - I may track them down on the next visit to this lively spot where the service is both efficient and friendly! 

Beer, cider, and theatre

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

Four from the north of Italy. Dark and Handsome

Four from the north of Italy
Dark and Handsome

The first three wines are all "related" in the sense that they come from the same three grapes: Corvina, Rondinella and Molinara. All four wines come from the north of Italy.

Fasoli Gino, La Corte del Pozzo Bardolino (DOC) 2013, 12.5%, €15.49 Mary Pawle Wines

Bardolino is the lightweight sibling of Valpolicella (made from the same three grapes: Corvina, Rondinella and Molinara). The wine is named after the village on the shore of Lake Garda. If you know the village - quite a few Irish holiday here - you probably know the wine type.

Ruby is the colour, light and bright. A hint of rose in the colour and also in the aromas, a mixture of fruity and floral. And the same elements continue to combine to deliver a good and harmonious result in the mouth. A lightweight perhaps but a rather delicious one and Highly Recommended.

It is an organic wine and the grapes are cultivated by members of the Associazione Cumunita’ dei Giovani, young adults with special needs. See review of the Gino Valpolicella from last July here.



Costa Mediane Amarone della Valpolicella (DOCG) 2012, 15%, SuperValu

This is a blend of Corvina Veronese, Corvinone, Rondinella, Molinara from the Valpolicella area of Veneto in the North East of Italy. It is “good at the table” and they recommend trying it with red meat, mature cheese. Serve between 14 – 16 °C.

It is ruby red with a slightly lighter rim and has pleasing cherry aromas. On the palate there is a concentration of fruit, some spice too, fresh and delicious with some sweetness. The high alcohol is smoothed right down in a medium to full body; it is easy drinking with a good dry finish. Highly Recommended



Sartori Valpolicella Ripasso (DOC) Superiore 2014, 13.5%, SuperValu
For centuries, Veneto winemakers have used various techniques to improve the depth and complexity of their wines. Ripasso is one method and you may see the full details here.  

This Sartori is made from a blend of local grapes and Corvina is the main one with Rondinella and Molinara also in the mix.


Aromas from this ruby red wine are of fragrant cherry, intense and persistent. On the palate, it is fruity and spicy, lively and delicious, sweet notes too, and then a long dry finish. Medium bodied and easy drinking it is Recommended.


Rovero Lajetto, Monterrato (DOC) 2001, 14%, €19.00 Mary Pawle Wines

This 100% Pinot Nero has spent 12 months in French oak and a hell of a lot longer in the bottle. So be sure and decant this Italian and let it hang for a few hours. The 15 year old will be all the better for it. It will look brighter, feel fresher and taste better.

Colour is a dark red, the rim a shade lighter. Dark and moderate fruit aromas are followed by a well-rounded palate; tannins are fine at this stage and the finish is long and dry, not bad at all for an old fellow. Not too sure it is worth waiting for all this time but it is certainly a very pleasant and decent wine and Highly Recommended.


Tuesday, March 7, 2017

Taste of the Week. Ardsallagh Cranberry Roulade

Taste of the Week
Ardsallagh Cranberry Roulade
Ardsallagh Cranberry Roulade came tops in the New Cheese Section at the Irish Cheese Awards in 2011. It is still going strong and our Taste of the Week. 


It is a soft goats cheese with cranberry: 100% handmade, 100% natural, 100% local and 100% delicious, even on its own.

Came across a striking way to use it during a meal in Jacques some time back when dessert was Medjool Date stuffed with Ardsallagh goats cheese, with Almonds and a full circle of Blood Orange. A gorgeous summer combination.

This small family run business in East Cork has grown steadily, and you can buy their products not only in local farmers markets, but also in national supermarket chains. I got mine at the Roughty Stall in Cork's English Market. Ardsallagh products can also be found on the menu of many well known restaurants across Ireland. 

The whole family contribute toward the smooth running of the farm and dairy. They use the ladle method, slowly and carefully, making a beautiful cheese that is easily digestible.

Ardsallagh Goats Products
Woodstock
Carrigtwohill
County Cork
021 4882336

Sunday, March 5, 2017

Chanson du Vin at Jacques. Languedoc Wine-Makers on Song

Chanson du Vin at Jacques
Languedoc Wine-Makers on Song
Francoise and Luc
 Minervois wine-maker Luc Lapeyre may have needed a little help with his spoken English but none at all when it came to singing. Francoise Taillefer, another Languedoc wine-maker, and Luc put on one of the liveliest wine-tastings ever at Jacques last Thursday. 

It was Luc’s singing that ended a very entertaining evening, his Fields of Athenry rising over the packed tables and giving stiff competition to the music from the pub across the way. Chanson du Vin.

Fionnuala Harkin of Wines Direct had accompanied the two organic winemakers on their week's trip around Ireland and Thursday was the final day. Their visit to Cork began with an afternoon masterclass in L’Atitude 51. 

Francoise, of Domaine Ollier Taillefer, started with her Les Collines. The vineyard, that she runs with her brother (also named Luc), is set in the hills around the picturesque village of Fos. The Taillefer vines are planted in the sloping schist soils of the Faugeres appellation, the smallest appellation in the Languedoc.


The soil is mainly schist, a very poor soil but “easier “for organic”. It gives this wine, a blend of Grenache (50%), Carignan and Syrah “freshness and finesse”. “It is very easy drinking, very fruity… not for long keeping..serve at 16 degrees. All the work is manual and we are the 5th generation.”

Francoise
Just twenty per cent of the wine is exported and Fionnuala said: “This is kinda special for us. It is not widely available outside of France.” She pointed out too that the same three grapes, planted in a another area of the Languedoc would have a different result. “That’s how we get individual styles from our small producers”.

The Lapeyre family's wine-growing goes back even further; Luc is 8th generation. His first big job there, in 1980, was to “change the cepage”. His first wine in “L’Atitude was his San Bres 2015, “a simple wine”, expressive of the fruit (Syrah 60%, Grenache 40%). “Drink it young”, he advised. “But it will keep a few years”.

 “I never learned agronomy or science but think I have a feeling for it. The summers are more and more hot and I prefer sometimes to pick a little early. Wine is made in the vineyard, not the cellar. If you have the best grapes, it is simple to make good wine.”

His pride and joy is the L’Amourier. The name comes from the Occitan and means a lover, not a fighter. “Make love, not war,” he said.

Both he and Fionnuala made the point that these wines are not made to win prizes. The big wines may well stand out at a tasting and are often then abandoned. Luc makes wines to “stay with for the night”.

 “L’Amourier,” Francoise told us as she helped Luc out, “takes in all the soil types and grapes that he has, including the oldest vines and the poorest soils. They then spend one year in big barrels to develop complexity, originality, personality, the aim being to keep the aromas and youthfulness of the wine.”

He admitted that his “recipe is flexible", never quite the same from vintage to vintage. This is to allow for the weather, the harvest itself, and other variables. This is where the”feeling” comes in!

By the way, Mourvedre, a small part of this blend (Grenache and Syrah are also included), is raised that bit differently, in smaller barrels “to soften the tannins”.

Every now and then, maybe once in three years, Luc finds the grapes in just one particular parcel “too powerful for L’Amourier”, so he makes “a wine to keep”. “How old is that parcel?” someone queried. “Older than me,” was the jovial reply. 

This wine, L’Amourier Les Clots (2010), spends two years in barrel. With its deep dark fruits, this smooth full-bodied beauty is “very versatile… try it with viande rouge”. 

We would meet the wines and the winemakers again later in Jacques, as part of their well-loved series of Tapas and Wines. And Eithne Barry and her team kept the Cork end up with some lovely matching dishes.



Francoise: Irish lamb is the best

Their gorgeous chicken paté was paired, and paired well, with Les Collines. “Bon appetite” all round as we enjoyed the matching of Coq au Vin with the San Bres. And then came another magic match: Lamb cassoulet and the L’Amourier before we finished on an exquisite Brie de Meaux. 

Except that we weren't exactly finished. The chansons were only beginning.
Luc


Saturday, March 4, 2017

Amuse Bouche

..he was Adrian Hardiman - the trenchant, pugnacious, outspoken bon viveur who could be found every weekend at the popular haunts of the chattering classes, the Unicorn Restaurant and Doheny & Nesbitt’s pub, drinking and arguing late into the night with his old group of friends from politics, journalism and his student days at UCD. Few lawyers conformed less to the stereotype of a judge as an austere and distant ascetic.


from The Supreme Court by Ruadhán Mac Cormaic 2016. Highly Recommended