Tuesday, December 27, 2011

MY TOP LOCAL RESTAURANTS


MY THIRTY ONE

Sticking to a list of 31 favourite restaurants again this year. Early on, thought I might well reach the next prime number up but there were a couple of disappointments and then a few favourites, including Nautilus and the Silk Purse, who shut their doors.

It wasn’t all doom and gloom: the 2010 baby Electric has gone from strength to strength and La Dolce Vita has taken up the vacancy in Proby’s Quay. And in addition, L’Atitude has just given us our first wine café.

I have been to all 31 (and others) over the past 12 months and have been happy enough with the results. Huge differences, of course, in styles and comfort over the range but I'd have no problem in going back to any of them. The list below, while roughly alphabetical, is in no particular order. Just be aware also that there are some really good ones that I haven't been to in 2011. You may see reviews for all of the 31 in this blog.

Made a bit of a resolution to get out into the county more often for 2011 and included Kinsale, Midleton and Clonakilty as targets. Got to Midleton a bit (enjoyed Sage) and Clonakilty too, not forgetting Timoleague (and Dillon’s). Still haven’t explored Kinsale to any great degree and, for 2012, now must include it and must also look north, to Mallow and Fermoy for example.

MY 31
(In no particular order)

1 Augustine’s
2 Annie’s
3 Blair’s Inn
4 Ballymaloe
5 Bramley Lodge
6 Cornstore
7 Costello’s Malthouse
8 Dillon’s
9 Electric
10 Fenn’s Quay
11 Fota Island Resort
12 Greene’s
13 Hayfield Manor
14 Isaac’s
15 Jacque’s
16 Jacobs on the Mall
17 La Dolce Vita
18 Les Gourmandises
19 Liberty Grill
20 Market Lane
21 Mabel Crawford’s
22 Nash 19
23 Richy’s Bistro
24 Rising Tide
25 Sage
26 Star Anise
27 The Farmgate
28 The Spinning Wheel
29 The Bosun
30 The Castle
31 The Pantry

Amuse Bouche


“Years ago, I spent a week reporting from the European parliament in Strasbourg. One evening, a group of MEPs asked if I would join them for dinner….. The meal exquisite – one superlative dish followed another – though I could scarcely enjoy it, since I knew that my paper…would be deeply unhappy about refunding the monstrous bill I could expect. Finally it arrived and I started to search for a credit card. This was greeted by looks of incredulous astonishment, as if I had stumbled into a Bateman cartoon – ‘the man who thought he had to buy his own dinner in Strasbourg’. ‘My dear fellow,’ said one of the MEPs, ‘you are a guest of the European Socialist group!’”. From Life’s Too Short to Drink Bad Wine by Simon Hoggart.

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Midleton Farmers Market

Midleton Market this morning.
Happy Christmas to all the stallholders at Midleton, Mahon and elsewhere.
It has been a pleasure meeting you over the past 12 months - see you all again in 2012.
Click on image to enlarge

Friday, December 23, 2011

HAPPY CHRISTMAS FOLKS!

HAPPY CHRISTMAS FOLKS! DON'T BURN ALLTHE ALCOHOL!
You can check out the recipe here
Thanks to Stumbleupon

Thursday, December 22, 2011

NASH 19 CHRISTMAS CRACKER




NASH 19 CHRISTMAS CRACKER


Nash 19 was buzzing when I arrived at lunch-time yesterday. Staff were flying but still had time for their usual friendliness, courtesy and top notch service.

My main course was also top drawer: Crowe’s Fillet of Pork Stroganoff with Wild Rice (above). The Pork and mushrooms, in a gorgeous sauce, were magnificent, served in their own bowl. A well dressed salad, including a lively pickled cucumber, was on the plate along with a generous cone of white and black rice, all in all a great match with the Pork. All for €14.50.

While waiting for the main dish, we were served with some breads and their well known olive oil. Both plates were cleaned. And then followed a wee cup of soup: Parsnip, Apple and Chorizo (right). Quite a surprise and a very tasty one indeed.

If you are in Nash 19 at Christmas you just have to try the house Christmas pudding and mince pie. We did and both are excellent, especially the pudding made from an old Nash family recipe. Superb.

Had a glass of Albarino, the Terras Guada O Rosal. Complex and seductive (not too sure about the latter on a winter day’s midday, maybe later!), it went down well. Quite a classy drink at any time of the day.

So two happy customers stepped out into Princes Street and, before I go further, may I wish Happy Christmas to all the folks in Nash 19 and indeed to all the Cork restaurants who have fed us some great dishes these last 12 months. Keep cooking up a storm in 2012!

Monday, December 19, 2011

NO SHOWS HAVE A COST


No Shows in Irish Restaurants Costing Businesses.
Irish Restaurants are reporting a dramatic increase in diners making bookings and not showing up this

WINE IN A BEER BOTTLE? ON TAP?


A FESTIVE WINE MIX
WINE IN A BEER BOTTLE! WHATEVER NEXT? ON TAP, OF COURSE.


Innocent Bystander, Victoria, 2010 Moscato, 5.5% (Bradley’s Off Licence)


According to Chris Pfeiffer, the Australian wine-maker who was in town recently, this wine is taking Australia by storm and it certainly went down well at the Australian Stickie Tasting in the Hayfield. The Moscato is imported by Liberty Wines and is on sale in 375ml bottles with a beer crown.


One of its big attractions of this Innocent Bystander  product  is the fact that the ABV is just 5.5% and it is naturally effervescent, a really tasty lively mouthful. Thought it might be handy around the Christmas and got a few bottles in Bradley’s, one of many stockists.


Surprised at the beer bottle top? There are more surprises to come. Just picked this straight from the Innocent Bystander website: Our Moscato is made from 100% Muscat grapes sourced from old vines, naturally effervescent and naturally pink. Perfectly balanced in sweetness and acidity, this wine has become such big phenomenon that it is available in selected venues nationally on tap.


It is quite versatile and makes an interesting aperitif. But if you want to stick with something more traditional then I’d suggest the Mont Marcal Extremarium Cava, that I really enjoyed at the recent CuriousWines Fair.


Want another talking point on your table this Christmas? Then why not try the popular Jip Jip Rocks Sparkling Shiraz .   
This is what the company says: This non vintage wine sparkles to the tune of a well balanced blend; predominantly 3 year old Shiraz aged in old French oak barrels allowing wonderful smooth integration of fruit and a rich weighty texture across the palate. This is blended with a touch of younger vintage Shiraz to bring ripe juicy varietal fruit characters to the finished wine.


I first tasted it a few months back when winemaker Brad Rey visited Karwig Wines where it is on sale. Must say I really enjoyed it and it is quite versatile and Brad indicated you could use it in any situation where you would use a Pinot Noir. Talking point yes but no joke.


Need a white to go with the red for the Christmas dinner? How about one that has been aged in oak from seven different countries? Well since you’re in Karwig’s why not try their De Muller 2010 Chardonnay from Tarragona. It is a bright light gold in colour with a rather intense fruit nose. On the palate it is very smooth, almost creamy, and well balanced between fruit and acidity. Has also been on the lees for a spell.

The winery’s notes: A sumptuous white wine elaborated with our rich Mediterranean vines of Chardonnay, of great character and personality. The latter comes from its fermentation and ageing in French, American, Hungarian, Russian, Rumanian, Slovakian and German oak barrels and posterior and adequate batonnage. The process of fermentation and the time our Chardonnay has spent in barrels conveys the crystalline, shining and slightly golden yellow colour.

Port is a traditional post dinner drink. The Australians make quite a few of this type but can’t call it port. They usually end up with a long winded title such as Hamilton Ewell Fortified Red Wine, not too long really at least in this case. This is available from Bubble Brothers for about €18.00.


In the Hayfield, this didn’t appear on the Stickie list though there were one or two fairly similar. There, Chris Pfeiffer said that the Oz “ports” tend to be sweeter than the Douro, But this Hamilton Ewell effort, which has its hints of brown sugar and raisins, is not that sweet. It has “aged gracefully” in old oak barrels and, indeed, it could well pass for the Portuguese equivalent. Might be worth a try if you’re passing the Bubbles Bros outlet in the English Market during the week.

Cooking turkey to perfection


Cooking turkey to perfection

Cooking turkey 
Ensure your bird is succulent, moist and roasted to perfection with our turkey how to guide. Complete with cooking times, it eliminates the guesswork on Christmas Day!

How do you prepare your turkey?

More tips and recipes

Saturday, December 17, 2011

NEW HANDS ON THE BRICK OVEN


Click on image to enlarge

LA DOLCE VITA

There is a new kid on the brick. On the brick oven that is, once part of the Proby’s Quay restaurant of the same name. It has been taken over by an Italian-Chinese combo and they sure know how to work that brick oven, an essential for top class pizzas and lacking in many pizzerias even in Italy.
The two principals of the newly opened La Dolce Vita are Paolo Perrone from Sciacca, Italy and Jacky Sen Wang from Dahiam, China. They also have a brilliant staff, alert, friendly and informative. The fire was blazing when we stepped in from the bitter cold last night and, of course, that centre-piece oven helps heat the place as well.
Had every intention of ordering a pizza but that will have to wait, after a big change of mind. But let us start at the start which was an Antipasto Misto (15.95) to be shared between two: a massive plate-ful (photo) of meats, cheeses and vegetables, really well dressed and accompanied by another large plate, full of foccacia and a dish of mainly olives. So simple yet so tasty.
 And the same applies to my main course: Baked Sea Bream with lemon dill fresh tomato (16.95). “Lovely woods fried oven baked fish drizzles with olive oil.” A terrific full fish (see photo), soft and juicy. Just gorgeous. Loved the effect of the oven here.
 And that oven was also used in the other main dish. CL decided to go for an Italian favourite:  Pollo cacciatore (16.95), chicken supreme with mix vegetable in tomato sauce. There must be about 2000 versions of this Italian classic and this was another. But no complaints. A terrific simple dish at a very good price again.
Desserts were also well priced and we decided to share the Fresh Strawberry with crema di aceto balsamic and vanilla ice cream (4.95). It was quite a bowlful with the strawberries at the bottom. A lovely way to finish off a gorgeous meal. Maybe next time I’ll go for that pizza!
We had the Sicilian Njiro IGT 2009 Nero d’Avola (Per Bottle €17.90, Per Glass €4.50) and also the Verdicchio (Per Bottle €18.90, Per Glass €4.90), and found both more than fit for purpose and, again, well priced.
 So all in all it was two happy campers that, after a warm farewell from the LDV crew, that stepped to into the night. For some reason, it didn’t seem as cold as it was earlier! Maybe that kick ass double espresso (€2.50) had something to do with that! Ciao for a while.

Friday, December 16, 2011

WINES 2011: IT WAS A GOOD YEAR (for me!)


MY BEST OF 2011
Chateuneuf

Have to say, I really enjoyed my wines this year, both at home and abroad and at a series of superb tastings. Only the wines consumed at home (Dec ’10 to Nov ’11) and available in Ireland were considered for this list.

And that means that my precious haul from the holiday in Provence is out. Had some fantastic ones on that trip and perhaps my favourite (there are still a few to try!) was the Rasteau Côtes du Rhône Villages Tradition.

There were wine tastings galore in Cork, with regions from as far west as California to as far east as New Zealand displaying their wares. Pretty hard to pick one from so many superb showings but the Pfeiffer Grand Muscat, from the recent Australia Stickie event in the Hayfield, was outstanding. Unfortunately, the Grand is not available here but Karwig Wines have both the Pfeiffer Topaque and the Pfeiffer Muscat, each a delicious sweet wine.

I'm certain I've left some good ones of of this list. What wines would you add?   Use the comment facility below and remember it must be on sale in Ireland.





REDS


Domaine de la Citadelle, Cotes du Luberon 2004 (Gouverneur Saint Auban) 14.5% (The Wine Store)

Cat Walk Cabernet Sauvignon 2008 Barossa (Australia), 14.5%, €16.99 RRP, stockists,

Émigré 2002, Barossa Valley, Australia, 15.5%,

Little Beauty Pinot Noir 2009 (Marlborough, New Zealand), 14%, €23.99,

Quinta Do Judeu’s Vinho Tinto, Douro 2007, 14.5% Abv, €21-23, Stockists,

Finca Museum Vinea Reserva, Tempranillo 2005, Cigales, 14%, €8.00 Tesco,

Corona d’Aragon Garnacha / Cariñena, 2008, Spain, ABV: 13.5%, €13.99 stockists

Beso de Vino Seleccion 2009 Cariñena Spain Syrah (85%) and Garnacha 13.5% €9.99

Fontanario de Pegoes Palmela DO Reserva 2007 (Portugal), 14%, €16.99,

Domaine des Anges “Archange”, Cotes de Ventoux, 2006, 14%, €19.20, Karwig Wines,




WHITES


Little Beauty Sauvignon Blanc Limited Edition 2009, New Zealand, 13.5%, €15.99,

Kangarilla Road, McLaren Vale, Chardonnay 2009, 13.5%, €16.99, stockists

Kerpen Riesling Blauchiefer Trocken 2010, 11.5%, €12.69 (Karwig Wines),

McWilliams Mount Pleasant Elizabeth Semillon 2005, Hunter Valley Australia, 12%, €10.00 Tesco,

Chateau Miraval Terre Blanche, Côtes de Provence, 2009, 15%, Curious Wines (€22.00),

Langmeil Eden Valley Chardonnay 2010 13%, Curious Wines €11.99,




SWEET-SPARKLING-FORTIFIED



Mont Marcal Extremarium Cava (Curious Wines)

Dexheimer Heimersheimer Sonnenberg Scheurebe, Riesling Eiswein, 2004, ABV 9%, Karwig Wines (€20.18 for 37.5cl).

Sherry Amontillado: Gonzalez Byass Del Duque Amontillado Vejo (aged 30 years in oak), available at Bradley's North Main Street, Cork

Taylor’s Chip Dry Extra Dry White Port, 20%, (Bradleys, North Main Street)

Sherry Oloroso: Lustau Solera Reserva Dry Oloroso Don Nuno (Bradley's, North Main Street)

Sherry PX: Lustao Solera Reserva San Emilio Dulce (Bradley's, North Main Street)

Grant Burge 10 Year Old Tawny, Barossa Valley. O'Donovan's Cork and Sweeney's Glasnevin.

Hamilton Ewell VAT 50 Fortified Red Wine, South Australia (Bubble Brothers)

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

VOUCHERS FOR EVERY FOODIE

GOOD FOOD IRELAND'S VERSATILE VOUCHERS



The Perfect Gift for Food Lovers for any Occasion 

Good Food Ireland, Ireland’s All-Ireland food tourism group, are delighted to announce the launch of their Christmas gift vouchers. These unique vouchers can be used at over 350 Good Food Ireland members throughout Ireland for accommodation, cookery courses or meals out in one of the many Good Food Ireland recommended places around the country.

Select from the fabulous range of Good Food Ireland 5 star hotels, restaurants, cookery schools, cafes, pubs and shops this festive season and experience the very best in Irish cuisine and hospitality.

Whether you are looking for a relaxing spa weekend, or dinner in a famous Irish eatery, a Good Food Ireland gift voucher is the perfect gift this Christmas. Spoil the one you love or simply say thank you with a thoughtful treat or break away this season.

 A gift voucher from Good Food Ireland is the ideal gift for anyone who simply loves good Irish food!

Gift vouchers are available from €10. These vouchers will be available for purchase on the Good Food Ireland website and also by contacting the main head office. Log onto www.goodfoodireland.ie for further information.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

THE CLASSY CORONA COLLECTION


THE CLASSY CORONA COLLECTION


Importers Wine Alliance have added to their Corona de Aragón portfolio with a classic trio: Crianza, Reserva and Gran Reserva. The three recently imported have all spent time in oak: 8 months for the Crianza, 14 months for the Reserva and 24 months in the case of the Gran Reserva.

All three are made from the same four grapes. It is mainly Tempranillo and Cabernet Sauvignon but while the handpicked old vine Garnacha and Cariñena (Carignan), over 40 years old in each case, may be the minority grapes, they play a big role.

I don’t want to go on with too much detail but I do find it quite fascinating and if you want to follow it up you’ll find much more on the Corona wines at their excellent site here.  All in all, Corona take their wines seriously and this trio underlines it.

Corona de Aragón Crianza 2008, Cariñena Spain, 13%. Stockists, €12-14, recommended.

This is a medium red with red fruit on the nose. It is fruity and easy drinking and comfortably spicy. You can more easily determine these characteristics by agitating the wine in the glass but your best bet is to fill the glass, sit back and enjoy.

Corona de Aragón Reserva 2006, Cariñena Spain, 13%. Stockists, €14-16, highly recommended. 

This has quite a fruity nose, mainly ripe plum for me. On the palate, it is intense, fruity, spicy and dry. This was a good year in the area and this is a very good wine indeed with a long lasting finish.

One other good thing about this smooth beauty is that you may keep it until 2018. I won’t be taking that chance!

Corona de Aragón Gran Reserva 2004, Cariñena Spain, 13%. Stockists, €19-21. Very highly recommended. 

The Gran Reserva has a terrific bouquet of ripe fruit aromas plus spice notes. In the mouth, it is smooth and elegant, so well balanced with rounded off fruit and spice, a terrific mouthfeel and, again, long lasting at the end.

Undoubtedly, this superb wine is the best of the three. Undoubtedly also, all three are good and each is value for money.

*****

Corona de Aragón Disparates Tempranillo 2010, Cariñena Spain, 13.5%. Stockists, €12-14. recommended 


And now for something different. This Tempranillo is produced as part of a “special and limited collection of varietals” under the Disparates de Goya label. Goya’s homeland is nearby. The label on this bottle is by Mariano Rubio and is titled “Only Goya, Goya alone”.

But what is in the bottle? Well, quite a good wine indeed. Colour is dark red with black fruit and spice hints on the nose. You meet that dark fruitiness again on the palate. The wine is quite peppery and dry and quite smooth and silky with an excellent finish.

There is much more info on the wine varietals and the associated art and it is really nicely laid out and, I think, well worth a visit at their site here.


Monday, December 12, 2011

Amuse Bouche


Pick a pen and a brush and write, sing, paint and shout. You must do, exist and interfere. You must live. – used on the bottle labels by Quinta do Judea (Douro, Portugal)

Good Food Ireland to feature on SKY TV


Good Food Ireland to feature on SKY TV
Darina Allen

Scrumptious, savoury and seasonal food from around Ireland with Good Food Ireland will feature on SKY TV channel 201 and IRISHTV.ie at 9pm this coming Thursday, December 15th in a special one hour programme showcasing all that is good about an Irish food experience.

The tasty programme ingredients include insightful interviews with passionate food producers, restaurateurs and hoteliers who rely on the quality of their produce to entice customers and visitors to Ireland from all over the world. The main course of the programme will be served up with some delightful treats from around the country as the IRISH TV film crew follow the food producers’ quest for perfection.

“The passion these people have for food is phenomenal. I was amazed by their commitment to quality and attention to detail. The people we spoke to have wonderful stories to tell from small beginnings in country kitchens to the crème de la crème of the international culinary market,” commented programme presenter Pierce O’Reilly.

The programme this week on SKY TV and IRISHTV.ie concludes with some tasty treats and delicious desserts.  Taoiseach Enda Kenny, Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport Leo Varadkar, celebrity cook Darina Allen, Farmer’s Journal editor Matt Dempsey and travel writer extraordinaire Manchan Magan all give their views on the future and importance of the Irish food industry and the critical role that Good Food Ireland plays in its promotion at home and abroad.

The Good Food Ireland Special can be viewed on SKY TV channel 201 and on www.irishtv.ie this coming Thursday, December 15th at 9pm. The programme is repeated on Sunday at 10pm and Monday at 11pm.

Christmas dinner menu ideas


Christmas dinner menu ideas

Christmas dinner menu ideas 
Whether you’re going traditional or vegetarian, we have Christmas dinner menu ideas to help you choose everything from the starter to dessert. Everyone should check out our Make−ahead Christmas dinner menu, which will help you to prepare in advance so you can relax on the big day!

What’s on your menu?

Menus for everyone

Sunday, December 11, 2011

“Why don't we get it more often?”


KERPEN RIESLING BLAUCHIEFER TROCKEN 2010, 11.5%, €12.69 (Karwig Wines) ****



This is bright and clean with a light honey colour and a pleasant aromatic nose. On the palate it is lively, fruity and dry. A very promising initial contact, the promise maintained with an excellent finish.

I like this tangy fresh young Riesling as I liked the older sister last year. Quite an elegant easy drinking wine though not altogether a simple one. The excellent balance between fruit (Citrus, Apples) and the acidity make it a good companion for fish, salads or on its own in the garden on a summer’s day, even in the living room in mid-winter!

Must add that the good companion here also rated it highly: “Why don't we get it more often?” I'll be very happy to oblige!

Mosel is one the 13 German regions for quality wines, perhaps the most famous and it is the 3rd largest in terms of production.

This Christmas Cake kit works!

This worked for me!
The Odlum's Christmas Cake kit, with an excellent recipe booklet, is widely available at about the €12.00 mark. I got one to try and yes it works. Very easy to follow, and voila, a few hours later, you have a lovely light cake for the Christmas.


Saturday, December 10, 2011

THE COFFEE CLUB


THE COFFEE CLUB


Just rejoined the club. No. Not the Sports Club!

My first renewal for 2012 is the Robert Roberts Connoisseur Club. Cost has gone up a bit to €59.00 but it is still very competitive. I’ve seen another one being pushed on the net for close to double the price.

Delighted with the way Robert Roberts, a long established Irish company, ran the club last year and delighted with the selection of excellent coffees. Master Blender Gareth Scully took us on a world trip: from Brazil to Malawi to India to Columbia.

Not a bad choice among the 12. The really strong ones wouldn’t have been among the favourites but they weren’t too many. Indeed, one of the strongest ones I came across was outside the club: a summer sample from Roberts called New York Roast #6.

This was strong, like a yellow cab engine powering away from the kerb. Come tumbling down in the morning, mumbling and grumbling and this one would growl back at you: get up, get out and get on with it, wimp!

My favourites? Well, the current one, a Honduran Pacamara from the family owned Finca Santa Maria, is going down very well indeed. I also liked the co-op coffee called Malawi Mzuzu AAA, the organic Ethiopian Yiracheffe was another favourite, as was the Organic Peruvian Cecovesa (another co-op, Fair-trade, organic and Rainforest approved!),

The Bastilla Farm in Nicaragua has been certified by the Rainforest Alliance and supplied the August offering, the well liked Finca la Bastilla. Guatemala’s Los Volcanes was a bit stronger but excellent and I also liked the full bodied Kenyan AA Mwiega Estate offering.

All in all, it was a very good performance by the Coffee Club and I’m sure Gareth and company will be doing the same for us in 2012. Looking forward to it already.

Friday, December 9, 2011

PARADISE IN NORTH MAIN STREET


PARADISE IN NORTH MAIN STREET


Hennessy’s in Cognac have a room that they call Paradise as it contains much of their very old brandies. I reckon the title could easily be applied to Bradley’s Off License in North Main Street. Here, they stock virtually every drink you can call for and, besides, are great supporters of the local craft brewing movement.

Take cider for instance. They are one of the few, if not the only store, to stock the relatively new Stonewell Cider which has taken off very well indeed. The Stonewell is made by Daniel Emerson in Novohal and now has a rival from Mallow, from William O’Callaghan of Longueville House.

I’ll let apple expert Con Traas, owner of the Cahir Apple Farm, talk on the subject he knows so well. “Both make excellent ciders. William’s is full of traditional cider apples, which makes it a real West Country type cider, as it would be known in the UK. Daniel’s is less tannic, but also excellent. If you get the chance to try either, I would highly recommend them.”

And if it is beer that you’re after, then Bradley’s is the place. There is a wall of beer here, over one hundred craft beers from these islands and further afield, including local notables such as Eight Degrees Brewing and Dungarvan Brewing and sometimes including the limited run specials (such as that fantastic Shandon Century Extra Stout) from the Franciscan Well just across the river.

All kinds of wines on sale here also and you are sure to find something you like. Maybe the NV Innocent Bystander Pink Moscato, the low alcohol wine that is taking Australia by storm. If you fancy a sherry, I can recommend the Lustau range, everything from Amontillado to Oloroso to PX.

And then there are the spirits. No, the place is not haunted, though it was established in 1850. I was in there recently, looking for a gin. I was shown quite a few but, in the end, settled for Bombay Sapphire, my old reliable.

And here’s a neat one. After purchasing the gin, I was presented with a tonic, made especially for gin and containing some of the same botanicals as the spirit. The jury is out as far as I am concerned but if you want to try it, it is called Fentiman’s, available in Bradley’s. Of course!
There is something of a study on the best tonic for gin here.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

PHEASANT WELCOME AT BLAIR'S INN

BLAIR’S INN


The game season is well underway and Blair’s Inn  is the place to be. Very enjoyable lunch there yesterday. 


After a warm welcome from Duncan – he sat us by the fire – we had a big choice to make between their famous venison casserole and the pheasant. In the end, I plumped for the bird. Oh, by the way, there are many other choices on the menu. 


This was the menu description for my mains: Half braised wild Wicklow pheasant on a chestnut stuffing, served with a wild mushroom and red wine sauce (€17.75). Must say this was a top drawer dish and I was delighted with it. 

The pheasant was perfectly cooked and the stuffing was delicious and all set up by a luxurious sauce with the mushroom pleasantly evident with excellent vegetables, including potatoes, also served separately. Five out of five for this one. And top marks too for the gluten free dessert, an Apple and Pear Cobbler with almonds and ice-cream. 

And the wine? No wine today. Just a smashing pint (€4.15) of the Dungarvan Brewing Company’s Coffee and Oatmeal Stout. Duncan told me: “Delighted you enjoyed the Coffee & Oatmeal. We are honoured to be one of the two pubs in the country (indeed, the only one outside of Dublin) to get hold of this very limited special brew. We are very lucky to have it. It is seriously good.” 

Just as well I had it as Tom Dalton, Sales and Distribution Manager with the Waterford company, was in the house. Duncan brought him to the table and we enjoyed our brief chat. Great to get the chance to say well done and keep up the good work! 


And well done too to Duncan and all the team at Blair’s Inn.



Wednesday, December 7, 2011

CHRIS PFEIFFER: SUPERB ON STICKIES


CHRIS PFEIFFER: SUPERB ON STICKIES
Stickie wicket

Yet another lovely wine evening in Cork, thanks mainly to a superb contribution by Australian Chris Pfeiffer. The renowned and deservedly much honoured Rutherglen winemaker was on his favourite subject: Australian stickies (fortified and dessert wines), and the Vine Wine Cellar in the Hayfield Manor was an excellent venue for the tasting, delivered with an abundance of intimate knowledge and no little humour.

Chris, as is his wont, was representing his neighbours’ as well as his own wines, and started us off with a NV Innocent Bystander Pink Moscato. This inviting 5.5% ABV carbonated effort “is taking the country (Australia) by storm” and certainly went down well at our table. Distributed by Liberty Wines, it is widely available here.

Then came the 2010 Brown Brothers Orange Muscat and Flora, weighing in at 11.5% or so, and also widely available. The Brown family are neighbours of Chris: “Forty five miles away but that’s neighbours in Australia. It is easy drinking, full of flavour and freshness and simple to enjoy.”

Now for the first of the true stickies: a 2009 Pete Lehmann Botrytis Semillon (Barossa Valley). This was the “..more classic, European style..complex..more persistent..with a delicious lusciousness on the middle palate..” Available from O’Donovan’s, Molloys and independent Off Licences.

Chris Pfeiffer

“Grant Burge is passionate about fortified wines” said Chris as he introduced the 10 Year Old Tawny (Barossa Valley). “The brandy spirit here plays an important additional role by adding flavour. Australian wines tend to be sweeter than the Douro.” This beauty, available from O’Donovan’s, Cellars, and Sweeney’s of Glasnevin, went down well.

I preferred the Tawny as did quite a few but the next wine, available through and at Curious Wines, also had many advocates including John McDonnell of Wine Australia Ireland who was helping Chris on the night. This was the 2006 Woodstock Vintage Shiraz from the McLaren Vale, “plum pudding and mince in a glass”.

Chris had lots of anecdotes about the wine industry and  let us know at this point that the table wines “pay” for the fortified wines which are regarded as “an accountant’s nightmare, because they tie up so much capital”. Fortunately, thanks to people like Chris, the accountants don't always have their way. “Fortified wines are undervalued...they deliver great punch for your pound!”

The next three wines were all by Chris, all from Rutherglen. The first was the Pfeiffer Topaque (previously called Tokay). “This is 100% Moscatel. No Botrytis here but it is well ripened and the last grape we pick (in June). There is plenty of accumulated sugar but we don't lose the fruit.” And this luscious flavour-full wine was well liked at our table.

Like the Topaque, the Pfeiffer Muscat spends five years in wood. The grapes have been harvested at high sugar levels and then the different parcels are blended to produce a youthful fresh wine. Sweet yes, Christmas pudding was mentioned, but not cloying.

Then we had the most fantastic bonus: Pfeiffer Grand Muscat. This expensive wine is not available in Ireland so I made the most of our taster, taking it tiny sip by tiny sip. It is twenty years old and has spent most of that time in barrel. “It is a very special occasion wine (like old Cognac). It is very complex and you don't need much.”

Ballymaloe's Colm McCan and yours truly

Yes indeed. And, believe it or not, Pfeiffer also do a Rare Muscat, four years older than the Grand. Like to get a  sip or two of that sometime.

And so this lovely stickie tasting came to an end but we weren't quite finished yet as Chris also had some of his bread and butter table wines to show us. Indeed, we had started on entry with a very attractive 2008 Pfeiffer Carlyle Chardonnay Marsanne. Up to 45% is Marsanne and 6 months contact with the lees also helps round it off. As the evening closed, we had some very tasty nibbles from the Hayfield and sampled two excellent easy drinking reds: the 2008 Carlyle Shiraz and the 2008 Carlyle Cabernet Sauvignon.

The Rutherglen wines, table, fortified and dessert, are available at and distributed by Karwig Wines. Worth a  call before Christmas!

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

THE APPLE FARMER


THE APPLE FARMER


Driving along the tree lined avenue to the Apple Farm in Moorstown (near Cahir) on the last day of November, I was expecting everything to be very quiet. Instead, it was quietly busy.

Con, with a fairly mature plum tree
The fruit trees, mainly apple and plum, may be more or less dormant but the maintenance work goes on. That was especially evident in the strawberry beds, raised on metal supports, where the dying vegetation was being trimmed back, leaving the crowns.

Technique and timing are each important in the out of season work, especially in the pruning of the trees, and owner Con Traas is confident in the skills of his crew.

Con, whose family came here from Holland in the late 60s, was at his desk, working on the winter edition of The Apple Club Newsletter. Typical of the man, the 1500 copies are printed on recycled paper.

He plays a leading role in the food community in Tipperary, always keen to promote a good product (not just from Tipp) and always keeping an eye on the big supermarkets, especially on their “special” offers.

Con may be vastly experienced in fruit farming but is always willing to learn. He had a PhD student in during the summer studying the bumble bees on the farm and Con learned that he had five species. The student learned a lot and so did Con: “I now know for sure that, if I want plenty of bees to be there to pollinate my apple trees, that I must do my utmost to ensure…plenty of flowering plants to feed my bees when the apples themselves are not in flower.”

Con took time off from the computer to take us on a tour, starting in the shop which is so well stocked with fruit, jams and juices. Then we saw his new processing shed, white and bright and nearing completion. While much of the work in the fields is manual, processing is largely mechanical as we saw when we visited the sorting and juicing areas.

Apple Storage too is pretty high-tech as they are kept in a Controlled Atmosphere within the containers. The amount of oxygen, controlled within the container, plays a big role here in keeping the apples nice and fresh and crispy for you when you need them, even a few months from now.

Then, back to the shop to fill the bags with loads of juice, including my favourite, The Sparkling Irish Apple Juice, fruit (eating and cooking apples) and also lots of jam (mainly the plum, another favourite).

Monday, December 5, 2011

Calling all small food and drink producers!


Calling all small food and drink producers!

Bord Bia Small Business Open Day

'Delivering insights for success in 2012'

Bord Bia will hold a Small Business Open Day for small food and drink producers on the 18th January, 2012 between 9.00am and 2.30pm at the Crowne Plaza Hotel in Blanchardstown, Dublin 15.

The Bord Bia Small Business Open Day will provide an opportunity for small food and drink producers to access the range of programmes and services available to support business success in 2012. The event, entitled ‘Delivering insights for success in 2012’, will showcase the wide range of services on offer from Bord Bia and other support agencies and organisations to assist companies in planning for growth and business development. The Open Day will also provide delegates with an opportunity to network with other food and drink producers.

PERIscope 6, the latest research findings on Irish consumer behavior and attitudes towards food, shopping and cooking, will be presented by Bord Bia. A case study will explore new and innovative ways of developing a successful brand. There will also be a presentation of recommendations on how to develop an Online Marketing Strategy. Tips will also be provided on how to conduct a financial health check for businesses in 2012.

The event is free of charge to attend. To secure your place at the Bord Bia Small Business Open Day, please contact Rebecca Moore by email at rebecca.moore@bordbia.ie or by phone at (01) 6142204. For further information or to book online, please visit www.bordbiavantage.ie.

BARRY'S TEA WINNERS

Congrats to the winners of the special Barry's Tea Santa packs.

Emma Lynch (Cork)
Ger Ring (Cork);
Mary Horgan (Cork);
Sean Hegarty (Cork);
Belinda Daly (Dublin);
Ivan Bevan (Cork);
Isabel Ann Jones (Cork);
Josephine Battye (Waterford);
Lorraine Ni Bhealatuin (Laois);
Donal Riordan (Cork).


Amuse Bouche


“To accompany my mother to a restaurant is a mortifying experience. When we go in, she looks over the tables, checking what other people are eating, sometimes so closely that she alarms the diners. She reads the menu with excessive attention and torments the waiter with malicious questions that force him to go to the kitchen and return with written answers. Then she urges us all to order something different, and when the food arrives she takes photos…  The rest is easy; she takes a bite from each plate and with that taste knows how to interpret it later at home…” From Aphrodite by Isabel Allende.

YALI MERLOT FROM CHILE


YALI NATIONAL RESERVA, MERLOT, MAIPA VALLEY, CHILE, 2010, 13.5%, €12.99 TESCO, €9.99 COSTCUTTERS AND CARRY OUT.


This is a darkish red with a healthy sheen. On the nose, there are red and black fruits, including plum, and also a hint of vanilla. It is full flavoured with an immediate impact on the sensors, fresh and medium bodied, dry and well balanced with a pleasant spicy finish.

Ideal at 16-18°C, this wine is a perfect match for semi-mature cheeses, pasta and grilled meats.

Quite likeable, in fact. And the distributors list other considerations that you may like. Vina Ventisquero are committed to good environmental practices. The bottle is lightweight; transport emissions are offset via Climate Care and Yali, named after nearly conservation area, have a partnership with Birdwatch Ireland.

If you want to give it a go at a bargain price, you’ll find it as part of the December Meal Deal in Tesco which means you’ll get main course, side dish and dessert plus a bottle of Yali from €12.00. Sales Director Americo Hernandez is very pleased with the success of Yali here: “There are five wines n the range, all single varietals: Cabernet Sauvignon, Carménère and Chardonnay, available at Carry Out and Costcutters, plus Merlot and Sauvignon Blanc which are also stocked by Tesco. In line with Vino Ventisqueros objectives, Yali wines trend towards lower alcohol. This allows the fruit potential to be more fully expressed in fresh, exceptionally well balanced wines, honest to their varieties.”

Sunday, December 4, 2011

CURIOUS WINES TREASURE TROVE

Mont Marcal's Gareth York (right) with Clare and myself and that gorgeous good value Cava!
Pic by Ger McCarthy

CURIOUS WINES TREASURE TROVE


When most people go to Curious Wines, they leave with wine, naturally enough. Me? I leave with a recipe, thanks to Gareth York of Mont Marcal Vinicola Penedes (Spain).

But I must admit I did get through quite a bit of tasting before I got to Gareth! All you Curious fans, and there are quite a few of you, will know that the brothers Kane have a massive selection and, in fairness, had dozens of bottles open during their Wine Fair in aid of the Guide Dogs last weekend. And the good news is that they have plenty left to sell between now and Christmas.

I’ve often heard and read the brothers talking up the Ned Sauvignon Blanc from New Zealand and now I’ve have to join them. It is top class but they’ve got some other cracking SBs from down, under including the Ant Moore and the Kings Favor.

Others whites that impressed on Friday evening were the Chartron & Trebuchet Mâcon-Villages Chardonnay 2010 and the Pellehaut Ampelomeryx 2009.

I’ll leave the Spanish, and Gareth’s stand, ‘til later. Started the reds with a Crane Lane Pinot Noir 2009 (8.49) from California but that was soon outmatched by The Ned 2010 (19.99) and another Kiwi The Kings Wrath 2009 (22.00).

Liked the Gregorina Sangiovese Superiore 2010 on sale at 9.99, even though it was a bit on the cold side, and then moved on to the Spanish.

Well, I had already tasted a pretty good Valdamor Albarino 2008 here at €16.99 and also a nice fruity Mont Marcal Blanco 2010 at a very reasonable €7.99. The Red will cost you the same. These two would be quite acceptable at the Christmas party, or indeed, at any party.

They had two excellent Riojas here. First was the more basic Vallobera Pago Malarina 2008, on sale at €8.99, and then the Vallobera Crianza at €11.99.

It was while we were quaffing the Cava, especially the Mont Marcal Extremarium, that I got really chatting with Gareth who is based in Barcelona with the company.

Gareth is a big fan of Café Paradiso’s Denis Cotter and of US food writer Coleman Andrews. He didn’t know about the US writer’s Irish book but highly recommended his Catalan Cuisine.

Gareth likes to play his music when he is in the kitchen and this recipe is one of his favourites to accompany the Cava. I’m not sure if it comes from the Andrews book. Maybe not.

Basically, you’ll need to toast some good quality bread and use your Iberico ham at room temperature (not straight from the fridge). Iberico ham (“the one with the acorns”) is best but you may use Serrano. You will also need really ripe tomatoes. “If hard, grate them and make a puree to which you add olive oil and salt”.

Then you pile your ham and the purée on to your toast. Pour a glass of Cava, probably your second one, and away you go!

Christmas parties made easy


Christmas parties made easy

New video: three ways with smoked salmon! 
Hosting parties this festive season just got easier with our simple but impressive recipes. We have a whole collection of Make−ahead dinner party recipes, as well as anew video showing three easy and tasty ways with smoked salmon.

What’s your best party recipe?

All you need for a perfect party