Friday, February 2, 2018

Amuse Bouche

The discussions were soon focussed on launching Macron’s own movement….
In November, the team brainstormed possible names for their organisation attended by communications and marketing expert Adrien Taquet, who had also come on board. As the hours ticked by, they drank whiskey and tossed around ideas in an another intense but good-humoured session. Later on, Taquet…. had a flash of inspiration: En Marche.


from The French Exception Emmanuel Macron by Adam Plowright (2017). Highly Recommended.

Thursday, February 1, 2018

Friday Fuar Fliuch! Here’s the Fix! Bubbles. Burgers. Beers.

Friday Fuar Fliuch! Here’s the Fix! 
Bubbles. Burgers. Beers.

For burger lovers, Coqbull Cork seemed to be the place on Friday evening last. It was jammers, a great buzz, a lively racket really, music in there somewhere (I heard the odd thud, thud). 

They come in the front door. They come in the back door. And somehow they all get seated. 

No doubt, Friday is a busy evening here anyhow but the attendance and the atmosphere was enhanced by the Burger Festival (Jan 22nd to 28th). There was even a guy trying to demolish the six-burger record set earlier that day by Bandon man Colin Minihane who “who demolished 6 burgers, fries & a Coqshake in 10.32 mins yes that’s 10.32”.

One would be enough for me thanks! Coqbull provide the full experience here. You can have starters, desserts, craft beers (including their own lager), cocktails (or coqtails) and choose from a list of top gins.

Our starters were their tasty cool Nachos (with shredded beef added) and the Coqbull Wings with their Blas gold award winning Sticky Asian sauce, a delicious combination. We avoided the Hot Coq sauce though, too hot for chickens they said.

Sipping away at a glass of their lager (CL) and a can of the Metalman Wheat beer, we moved on to the main event. My choice was the most popular burger of the week, and likely to make it on to main menu sometime soon, the Bacon Bomb: double cheese, double beef bacon infused burger, caramelised onion & pickles wrapped in a potato bread bun...served with our FAT BASTARD WEDGES smothered in our new Coqbull secret seasoning. A mega feed for sure, great flavour, especially of the bacon, and that potato bread bun wasn't half-bad either.

CL’s choice was another festival favourite here, the Supreme Bull with blue cheese, bone marrow butter, portobello mushroom, truffle mayonnaise and rocket.

Another interesting one, especially on the Thursday when they had the Cork Whiskey Society in for a Scotch tasting, was The Sloppy Scot, made using the best of Haggis from Mc Carthy's of Kanturk, Beef, Ballymaloe Country Relish, rocket and a whiskey pepper sauce served with neeps and tatties. 

So that was the burger done. Earlier, we had the bubbles, as an aperitivo. Every Friday, L’Atitude 51 on Union Quay have a Friday Fizz between 4.00pm and 7.00pm, featuring a different fizz each time. Last Friday’s was La Jara Rosato Frizzante - a semi-sparkling wine made from red Raboso with a delicate pink colour and wonderfully fresh aromas of red apple and raspberry and juicy peach and pear flavours. It was every bit as delicious as they promised on Facebook, really good and good value too at €5.50 a glass. Watch out for future Fizz Fridays.

Indeed, if you like your bubbles, why not check out the Imperial Hotel too. In their Seventy Six Bar, they are offering a champagne flight, three Taittinger champagnes including a rosé, at a special price of fifteen euro.

After stuffing ourselves at Coqbull, we walked out into heavy rain, heavy enough to halt our planned walk to the beer festival at Franciscan Well. Instead we headed closer to home and, with the brolly up, made it to the new Bridge Bar in Bridge Street where the counter was full and there was live music from the O.C.D. trio. Food (charcuterie and cheese) also available here.

Great to see a long line-up of craft beers here, available on draft. We ended up comparing two ales, one from Yellow Belly, the other from Beavertown. Two excellent ales. The Wexford drink had attractive aromas and flavours and the expected hoppy finish. Beavertown is a London Brewery and their ale was possibly more focussed, a brewer’s beer maybe. Not much between them in any case. May have to go back for a replay.
Lager (left), Red Ale (right). But what's in the middle? The Bridge Bar.

May have to go back for a gin and tonic adventure too. That could take a while though. This is their long long list.

BLACKS OF KINSALE 7.25
BERTHAS REVENGE 6.50
MARTIN MILLERS 6.50
KINSALE GIN 6.70
BLACK WATER 6.10
MONKEY 47 10.10
QUINCE GIN 6.50
SHORTCROSS 6.80
BROCKMANS 6.80
GUNPOWDER 6.10
BEEFEATER 5.10
HENDRICKS 6.10
SIPSMITH 6.80
CORK DRY 4.80 
CAORUNN 7.00
BOMBAY 5.50
DINGLE 6.50
UNGAVA 6.50
JAWBOX 6.50
BLOOM 6.20
OPIHR 6.00

Wednesday, January 31, 2018

Two Splendid and Delightful Whites.

Chateau de Chatelard Beaujolais Blanc (AOP), Cuvée Secret de Chardonnay 2016, 13%, €18.30 Karwig’s

Given the Beaujolais bias toward Gamay, it is not surprising that Beaujolais Blanc is little-known. Just two per cent of the crop is Chardonnay. Chatelard do quite a few good reds also and Karwig’s have a selection.

This white has a light gold colour, clear and bright. There are fairly intense aromas, fruity and floral, all present too in an ample palate. There is a creamy texture plus a superb balance and the finish is soft with a nice length. A pleasant surprise and Very Highly Recommended. Good on its own or with seafood and fish (don't forget freshwater fish too, such as trout).

The winemakers tell us that about twenty per cent has been aged in barrels to “give more fatness and complexity”. Vintage is by hand and this is a natural product so you may find a soft and light deposit (a sign of quality!).

Meyer-Fonné Vin D’Alsace (AOC) Gentil 2015, 12.5%, €16.65 Le Caveau, Bradley's Cork
Felix Meyer makes his wines in accord with biodynamic principles and “with unmatched precision, depth, purity and expression of terroir”. This Gentil (many Alsace winemakers produce a gentil) is a blend of Muscat, Pinot blanc, Riesling and Gewürztraminer, “a perfectly balanced and serious wine”.

The denomination Gentil is reserved for AOC Alsace wines that fit within the standards of a superior quality blend. I reckon this one had no problem meeting the criteria. I have also found over the years that the Gentils are fairly priced, good quality and good value.


This has a beautiful light gold colour and bubbles tend to linger. There are intense white fruit aromas, a waft of blossom too. The palate is engagingly fruity, spice in the mix too, excellent texture and a long dry finish. Quite a gem at the price and Very Highly Recommended.

Biodynamic Pioneer in Champagne Honoured. Tribute to Erick de Sousa.

Press release

In France, some of the world’s best wine-tasters and most refined palates met in Bordeaux to honour Erick de Sousa!

Last summer, the world’s best sommeliers paid tribute to the standards and quality of the champagnes produced by the talented de Sousa Champagne house.

Erick de SOUSA, with his pioneering of biodynamics and a constant search for ways to improve the quality of his Champagnes, now heads one of the best Champagne houses.
Champagne De SOUSA

High-level gathering
Erick de Sousa is recognised by
the best sommeliers in the world!
France - last summer, some of the biggest names in oenology met up in Bordeaux during the
professional master’s programme.
In June, some of the greatest sommeliers got together for an "historic" photograph.
From left to right, there is Philippe Faure-Brac, the world's best sommelier 1992, Claire Lurton,
who hosted the event, Markus del Monego, best sommelier (Germany) 1998, Serge Dubs (France)
1989, and on the back row: Raimonds Tomsons, this year’s happy winner, best sommelier in
Europe and Africa, next to Erick de Sousa, Paolo Basso (Italy) 2013 and Giuseppe Vaccarini,
world's best sommelier in 1978.
This high-level meeting, which has now placed Erick de Sousa among the world’s biggest names in
wine tasting, shows him to be recognised as one of the world’s best Champagne producers and
winemakers.
Champagne De SOUSA: Erick De SOUSA - Ph.: +33 (0)3 26 57 53 29
The rigours of organic production for natural excellence

It was back in 1986 that Erick De SOUSA, representing the third generation, took over the reins of the family business based in Avize, in the heart of the Côte des Blancs. His vineyard of 9.5 hectares brings together the finest Grand Cru Chardonnay classified vineyards (Avize, Oger, Cramant and Le Mesnil sur Oger) but also Pinot Noir (Ay and Ambonnay). Passionate about local produce and his region, Erick De SOUSA, helped by his children, has long been engaged in organic viticulture, refusing to use pesticides and fertilizers, but favouring natural active ingredients (plants and minerals) to protect the vines. One better, this strong supporter of natural practices is a pioneer of biodynamics, working some of the vines with a horse, using rock crystal to improve soil quality. A respect for vines and the land passed from generation to generation, which leaves its mark on de SOUSA Champagne and gives it its remarkable and noticeable qualities!

A Champagne house on the move!

- end of press release.

The house of de Sousa comes in for high praise also in Wine Revolution by Jane Anson, particularly the Mycorhize Grand Cru Extra Brut NV. "I can't recommend highly enough getting hold of this 100% Chardonnay fizz - or any of the Erick de Sousa range of terroir-driven Champagnes." The Mycorhize refers to the association between mushrooms and vine roots, a healthy sign.

Tuesday, January 30, 2018

Taste of the Week. St Tola Ash Roll

Taste of the Week

St Tola Ash Roll
I know this has been mentioned here before but it is such a superb product that I just couldn't resist putting it up again. Bought half a roll recently in Iago (Princes Street, Cork) and enjoyed it no end.

It is an amazingly creamy cheese from the tough fields of St Tola in County Clare. The cheese has been rolled in traditional food grade ash when fresh. The ash slows down the development and maturation of the cheese and after a few weeks of careful handling, an elegant, smooth textured and full flavoured cheese emerges.

Take your time as you savour the special flavour and that smooth creamy texture; you might even notice the slightly grittier texture of the ash. Enjoy it on its own or pair it with either of these two delicious Irish products: Killahora Orchards Rare Apple Ice Wine or the Hot Crabapple Pot (if you don’t fancy the heat - it is mild - then try their Elderflower and Crabapple Pot) by Wild Irish Foragers and Preserves.

Gortbofearna,
Maurice Mills,
Ennistymon,
Co. Clare,
Ireland V95 XA9C.
GPS: 52.903140300  -9.178353600 

Monday, January 29, 2018

The West Cork Burger Company. Taking the humble burger to higher levels

The West Cork Burger Company

Taking the humble burger to higher levels

Smoked Shin of Beef Burger
A new entrant has arrived in Washington Street, moving comfortably into the Premier League of the Burger. The early hamburger had typical ingredients of bread, vegetables, and ground meat. It is gone well beyond that now and the West Cork Burger Company, who opened in October, are elevating its status even further.

A hamburger, beefburger or burger is a sandwich consisting of one or more cooked patties of ground meat, usually beef, placed inside a sliced bread roll or bun. The patty may be pan fried, barbecued, or flame broiled. Hamburgers are often served with cheese, lettuce, tomato, bacon, onion, pickles, or chiles; condiments such as mustard, mayonnaise, ketchup, relish, or "special sauce"; and are frequently placed on sesame seed buns. A hamburger topped with cheese is called a cheeseburger. (from Wikipedia)

Last year’s Cork Burger Fest and last week's nationwide event and the competition involved have challenged burger outlets to come up with something a little different. Probably a little early to look closely at this year but last year, with food outlets and butchers joining in the spirit, certainly led to a a lot of innovation locally before Son of a Bun were declared the winner.
Reb-Elvis

And innovation leads me neatly back to Washington Street where co-owner Henry Hegarty proudly introduced me to his line-up last week. No less than five burgers. Henry is planning a new menu in about six week’s time and it will be interesting to see which of the five is selected.

The early favourite, it was ahead on Wednesday, is the Reb-Elvis. “This burger comes with a serious health warning”, Henry said just as we started eating. Keep your finger on speed dial to the emergency department. This burger finished the King and it may just get the better of you too! We teamed up with our friends at Rebel Chilli to create this monster of a burger. We call it, The Reb Elvis! A 6oz patty, peanut butter, raspberry and jalapeno jelly, smoked streaky bacon, Irish cheddar, bacon and fig jam, gherkins and pickled chilli's. Long live the King!

I read the detail, and kept eating. What an amazing feast for a tenner! The jelly, the jam, the heat and, of course, the meat. And the bun, soaking up the juicy bits and the flavours, wasn't half-bad either. 

All local. And, for the Festival Week, sides were included.  My pick, should probably say my kick, was the Kimchi. Spot on. Shared that with CL, and got a bunch of their tasty fries in return. And I also stole some of her pickled Shiitake mushrooms.

My burger was great but we both agreed that hers probably shaded our mini-contest. And we are hoping that it will feature in the new menu. It is the Smoked Shin of Beef Burger: 6oz Patty, black garlic aioli from their friends at West Cork Garlic (great the way they support local producers), smoked chilli jam, sun dried tomato and those pickled shiitake mushrooms. Cheese too of course. This one scored big, well worth its place in the Premier League!

There is a interesting strand in the backstory here. When Henry was a young fellow (he’s not really that old yet!) and travelling with his father they often stopped here in this premises in 6 Washington Street - for a meal. It was then known as the Delphi Palace and the new operators acknowledged that with another of their Festival Five, the Delphi Palace Burger: 6 oz lamb patty, spice rub, black garlic aioli, green chilli, aubergine pickle, rocket and spinach raita.

Also featured was the Chicken Avo Burger - Marinated chicken breast, avocado, tomato, bacon & fig jam, sun dried tomato pesto, cos lettuce & garlic mayo. Back to the east for the fifth burger, the Pork Banh Mi: 6 ounce patty, Vietnamese dipping sauce, carrot and Daikon pickle, cucumber pickle, pickled chillis, coriander, mayo.

Quite a line-up!

* Pics by the West Cork Burger Company.

Sunday, January 28, 2018

Jimmy. Danny. Tony. Ninety Years Of Sweets ‘Neath Shandon’s Tower

Jimmy. Danny. Tony.
Ninety Years Of Sweets

‘Neath Shandon’s Tower
Danny Linehan

World Wars. Financial Crashes. Troubles  Galore. They’ve all come and gone since Jimmy Linehan started making boiled sweets under the famous clocks of Shandon (Cork) in 1928. 

But there were good times too and the family kept going through it all, making those still much sought after sweets in the same building (the upstairs also used for years by Fr O’Flynn and his Cork Shakespearean Society, known as The Loft). So the same building for the sweets; different faces now with Danny (Jimmy’s son) and Tony (Danny’s son) doing the hard work.
Press mould

Tony showed me some of the Shandon Sweets machinery when I visited the other day. Nothing too fancy here, just well-made mechanical machines that seem to go on forever. 

He showed me one of their original press moulds. “That’s a hundred years old at least,” he said. “We have a few of them. It is easier to switch the machine than the insert when we have a different sweet going through.” 

A sheet of the sweet-base goes through and the pressure squeezes it into the moulds. The sheet is still together when it come out the other side but the connection between each is so slight that is quite easy to shake them up and the individual sweets fall out.

And what’s in that base? Just sugar, glucose and water. It is heated in the large cylinder to 300 degrees and that reduces it down to “a molten sugar”. Check here for a video of Tony pouring it on to the work table. 
Tony and the Batch Roller

Some hard work on the table follows, about 40-45 minutes of pulling and rolling and then you have a product ready for the press-mould. 

Or maybe for the Batch Roller, a bigger machine. A large “ball” of clove sweet, for example, is put in and the machine squeezes it down to “ropes” from which they cut either the clove sweets that come in your little bag or maybe a Cork Rock. This machine is of a more recent vintage, fifties or sixties. See it in action here.  

Indeed, there is little enough modern machinery here. The muscles are relied on as most sweets are hand-made. But they do have one luxury, an electronic packing machine. “This can do the work of two,” enthused Tony. “And was very handy in the run-up to Christmas.” Then the Clove Rocks, Mixtures, Acid Drops, Apple Drops, Pear Drops, Lemon Rock, Butter Nuggets, Rhubarb & Custard, and more, were flying out the door.

The colours you see are all natural powdered food colour while the flavours come from natural oils. Tony told me that the multi-coloured sweets, the clove and the Bull’s Eyes for example, take a bit more work.
Hot Stuff

Boiled sweets are their mainstay and there’s been little or no change over the decades. “They are all natural, no preservatives, no additives, all Gluten Free.” He is often asked for sugar free sweets and did try them at one stage. They tasted quite well but the demand wasn't enough and the line wasn't continued.

I hadn't thought about it but sweets are seasonal. Tony pointed out that Cough Drops and Manuka Honey Lozenges are popular in winter while summer favourites are strawberry and pear drops and mixtures.

Then he told me that they make their own marshmallow here. And then I remembered it. It comes in its own cone, much like an ice-cream cone. And they also do fudge and toffee.


And where do they sell all these goodies? All around the country, from Cork to Donegal, both retail and wholesale. And there is also a great demand, maybe not in January but for the rest of the year, for sweets at the factory door. “When the weather picks up you could be kept going all day with it,” said Tony whose niece is called into action for that period.


By now, Tony and Danny were getting down to business. So I said goodbye and headed down John Redmond Street sucking a newly finished apple drop and wishing and hoping that the Linehans will still be going strong, still making those traditional sweets in 2028!

For more info (and pics) check their Facebook Page and the website below.



37A John Redmond Street
Shandon, Cork.
Tel: 021-4507791

Friday, January 26, 2018

Amuse Bouche


The tablecloth shows alternating concave and convex folds..… Two little serving platters have eels garnished with fruit slices. They have no obvious religious or iconographic meaning; however, river eels were popular in Italy at the time, and we know that Leonardo, although usually a vegetarian, put “eels and apricots” on at least one of his shopping lists.

All told, The Last Supper is a mix of scientific perspective and theatrical license, of intellect and fantasy, worthy of Leonardo.


from Leonardo Da Vinci by Walter Isaacson (2017). Recommended.

Thursday, January 25, 2018

Dynamic Duo At Dockland Cork

Dynamic Duo At Dockland Cork
Lamb

Dynamic duo Harold Lynch and Beth Haughton are behind the new Dockland Restaurant on the very same site where their popular Club Brasserie stood up to a few short months ago. A hectic two month conversion process (= flat-out hard work!) saw a new, brighter, deli cum restaurant emerge to cater to the new lighter and healthier eating trend that has begun to emerge in recent years.

The welcome is as warm as ever. And don't worry! Lots of small bites but If you want your full dinner here, you’ll be in for a treat. Take your time as you make your way through the delicious starters, the array of main courses and the tempting desserts. 

We had missed out on the experience before Christmas but made it Lapps Quay the other night. And, yes, we were there for the dinner! Settled in and studied the menu, starting with the Bites to Bigger Bites. Something here to suit every pocket and taste, from a Bowl of Marinated Olives (3.00), to Baked Ardsallagh Goats Cheese, red peppers, chilli flakes dip, on toasted Arbutus Bread (5.00) to Baked King Prawns, garlic, chillies, olive oil, Arbutus sourdough (13.00).

My pick was the Ballyhoura Mushrooms crostini, cream, tarragon, parmesan truffle oil (5.00). Just love the texture and flavour of this little marvel. And CL’s starter was another gem: Roasted Aubergine, Toonsbridge Mozzarella, tomato fondue, parmesan and pesto (5.00).
Aubergine

There have a list of Pizzas as well but we concentrated on the Main Plates of which there was quite a choice. Mine was the Grilled Sumac Spiced Lamb steak (with tomato, herb cucumber salad, chargrilled vegetable couscous, spiced yogurt, and toasted almonds). What a lovely dish, a perfect balance of flavours and spice, tender and delicious, all for €18.00. 

CL considered the Fish of the Day but in the end went for the regular Baked Hake (22.00). The hake came with gremolata, parmesan crust, piperade, tomatoes, black olives , cream and basil. Lots going on there but the meticulous cooking of Harold Lynch and crew in the kitchen means every little detail was spot on, as was the case with the lamb, and the whole dish was a flavoursome treat.
Something Sweet was the next heading to be considered. CL picked the Yogurt, poached vanilla mint berries, muesli, honey, pumpkin seeds (6.30). This is a new addition to their morning, brunch, lunch and evening menu and perfectly described as “a little sweet healthiness”, which it certainly was. Mine was a little more indulgent but I enjoyed every little bit of the Rolled Meringue, lime vanilla cream, poached plums and toasted almonds (6.30).
Hake

The lunch menu is even more extensive and at all times you may spend as much or as little as you with. Drop in for a pair of the small bites and a glass of wine. Maybe just a pizza. If you don’t have time to linger, then join the queue at the Deli counter for take-out. By the way, even though there are 90 seats in the restaurant, you are advised to book, particularly at the weekend. 
Plum

Front-of-House is led, as was the case with Brasserie, by Beth. She and her crew make you feel welcome from the opening smile and they are efficient also. The bar is now part of the main restaurant and you may enjoy a favourite drink before you start, a gin and tonic perhaps, maybe a Negroni? Cheers.
“a little sweet healthiness”
Dockland
City Quarter
Lapps Quay
Cork
T: 353 (0)21 427 3987




Wednesday, January 24, 2018

The Maule Family "at Forefront of Natural Wine Movement"

Maule Family "at Forefront of Natural Wine Movement" 
Francesco Maule
La Biancara was born in the end of 80s, when pizza makers Angiolino and Rosamaria Maule bought a small plot of land, about six hectares, in the hills of Gambellara. Since the beginning, they work to develop their personal idea of wine; a wine created by the exaltation of nature, without chemicals interferences in wineyard or in cellar, in order to obtain the highest expression of terroir in every bottle. 

No chemicals? How can this be done? Here’s one way. In La Biancara, there are 14 specimens of mites predators every 10 cm of shoot. Read more here

Last September, at a Veneto Masterclass in Dublin, Dario Poddana (Les Caves de Pyrene) praised the Maule family and said they were at the forefront of the natural wine movement, and not just in Italy. “It is interesting to see how classic ways are being rediscovered, a mix of extreme tradition and extreme modernism." 

Pascal of Le Caveau (who import the Maule wines to Ireland) said that this type of wine seems to have found a natural ally in the chefs that forage and said these restaurants “react well to it”.

And, in general, Francesco Maule, the son of the founders, stressed the importance of having a “very good quality grape”, otherwise there is the risk of extracting “bad things”. In the cellar, “nothing is added, nothing is removed”.

La Biancara is in Gambellara. Vino Italiano, which praises the vineyard (as does the World Atlas of Wine), says it could be argued that the (white) wines are purer expressions of Garganega than those of neighbouring Soave. Garganega is thought by some to be related to the Greco (another Mediterranean grape that I favour) of southern Italy.

Maule Garganega Masieri Veneto (IGT) 2016, 12%, €17.95 Bradley’s Cork, Le Caveau.

So here I am in deep Winter with a couple of bottles of Maule, starting with the white. Garganega is the grape from which Soave is made and here it accounts for 90% of the blend that also includes Trebbiano. The vines grow in volcanic soil. Both wines are unfiltered and no sulphites are added.

It has a strawy colour, slightly clouded. It is dry, fresh and is smooth and dewy on the palate. The year 2016 was a very hot one and the fruit benefited. The finish is lengthy with no shortage of minerality. Very Highly Recommended.

The family produce, also from the Garganega, a frizzante and a recioto. Le Caveau list the former but, sadly, not the latter!

Maule Masieri rosso Veneto (IGT) 2016, 14%, €20.95 Bradley’s Cork, Le Caveau.


In Dublin, Francesco called this their “basic red”. It is a blend of Merlot (50%), Tai Rosso (40) and Cabernet Sauvignon (10), again from the hot 2016 vintage. Tai Rosso is more or less the same grape as Grenache.


This deep ruby wine has ripe red fruit and hints of spice in the aromas. It is fresh with red fruit on the palate and that spice too. Francesco described the tannins as “a little aggressive” but, by Christmas, they have calmed down! Quality on the palate and on the finish as well. Really well-balanced and Very Highly Recommended.

Tuesday, January 23, 2018

Taste of the Week. Kinnegar’s Crossroads American Style IPA

Taste of the Week
Kinnegar’s Crossroads American Style IPA

Had a bit of an American IPA duel recently with Kinnegar's Crossroad and California’s Lagunitas (lag-goo-KNEE-tus) the protagonists, both bought from Bradley’s of Cork. 

Thanks to the US guys for the pronunciation guide. Their Indian Pale Ale was superb as was indeed their 12th of Never Pale Ale.

There were two rounds, both level going into the second. I had brought in one of Donegal diaspora for this one but my islander couldn't split them. 

That left it up to me and I gave the nod to the aromatic citrusy crisp Crossroads, our Taste of the Week, and its nicely bittered finish. Close-run thing tough. Might have to call for a replay! 

K2, Ballyraine Industrial Estate,

 Letterkenny, Co. Donegal