Friday, December 30, 2016

Amuse Bouche

It was preserved in the oral history, the demise of the great Chinook spawn along the Saint Lawrence, a lifecycle disturbed by the presence of outsiders. It was carried with the natives, the memory of fish, in song and story.

What you had to do, in your most solemn appeal, was pray to the wolf, the bear and the eagle, seek alternatives, abstain and let a species recover. In so doing, you nourished the inner spirit, humanity following nature, and not the other way around.


from The Death of All Things Seen by Michael Collins (2016). Highly Recommended.

Friday, December 23, 2016

Amuse Bouche

They fell silent as the nuns moved around the table, serving the main course of veal scallopini. The meat looked rubbery, the sauce congealed. If anything forces this Conclave to a swift conclusion, thought Lomeli, it will be the food.



from Conclave by Robert Harris (2016). No Recommendation.

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Love Red? Three of the Best.

Sainte Croix Magneric, Corbieres (AC) 2012, 14.5%, Mary Pawle Wines

Fruit, spice, and power feature in this well-balanced blend of Carignan (42%), Grenache (29) and Syrah (29). The vineyard, run by an English couple, Jon and Elizabeth Bowen, has been organic since 2008 and they recommend pairing it with anything from Spiced lamb tagine to Roast venison.

This is a dark, medium to full bodied, wine with ripe dark fruit aromas to match. That fruit, spice too, on the palate, concentrated, with outstanding freshness, tannins soft and ripe and no slacking off in the long aromatic finalé. Power and elegance in the one package and Very Highly Recommended.

We had another beauty from the same vineyard a month or so back. Check out Le Fournas here

Il Grigio da San Felice Gran Selezione Chianti Classico (DOCG) 2013, 13.5%, €34.95 (27.95 in recent sale) O’Brien’s Wines.

Made from “our finest Sangiovese (80%), enriched with other ancient indigenous varieties”, the result is a superbly complex wine of great elegance and concentration. Just 40,000 bottles are produced of this particular wine which has an ageing potential of 15 years. It has been aged for 24 months in mixed oak plus 8 months in bottle. 

Sangiovese, also known as Brunello and Bonarda, is a top red grape in Italy. Tuscany is its home but it is grown all over Italy, also in the US, Australia and Argentina.

Colour is medium red and the aromas feature ripe red fruit (strawberries, cherries). There is terrific concentration in this medium-bodied gem, spice too and a superb acidity to balance and it boasts a long dry and spicy finish. Very Highly Recommended.

Matches suggested are red meat, pasta and pizza. You could also do as I did and try it with cheese. I had Carrigaline, both the original and the smoked, and all got on very well together!

Jerome Quiot Cairanne Côtes du Rhone Villages (AC) 2014, 13.5%, €18.30 Karwig Wines

The family Quiot began their wine story in the Vaucluse when they acquired a few hectares there in 1748, so the nod to tradition is to be expected. This wine is made from the traditional grapes of Grenache, Syrah, Mourvedre and old vines of Carignan. Old style vinification too in tanks and oak barrels.

Colour is a lovely ruby and there are raspberry and cherry in the aromas. On the palate, it is fruity for sure, spice also, a very good depth of flavour, nicely balanced; the tannins are close to smooth in this medium bodied wine and there is an excellent finish as well. It packs quite a punch for such a smooth wine and is Very Highly Recommended.




That noticeable acidity helps make it a good food wine, lamb, roasted meat and cheeses are recommend by the producers. I found it a terrific match with Moussaka, especially the version made using this recent recipe from Dublin's Tang Restaurant in association with Glenisk - see the details here.  

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

The Sweet Things at Nash 19

The Sweet Things at Nash 19
There’s only one way to make your exit at Nash 19 this Christmas week: with a sliver of their gorgeous Christmas pudding and a sliver of mature Crozier Blue; just to make it even more luxurious, add a shot of Stonewell Tawny. This is the suggestion of owner Claire Nash who is, and has been, a terrific supporter of local producers and suppliers and you may see the full list here

The place is full as we arrive, abuzz with music and chat, aromas wafting temptingly and festive touches (just enough!) on the menu, particularly in the dessert section where that pudding is joined by an equally luxurious (larger than normal) mince pie. Go and enjoy.
Fish and avocado

Which is what I did earlier in the week. I knew that that dessert was coming so settled for a cup, rather than a bowl, of soup. And what a soup, a spicy warming blend of Lamb Goulash, some lovely breads too.

They are very proud of their new wine list and rightly so. I spotted a few favourites there, including the Italian Madrigal (in both white and red). My first choice, the Hacienda Grimon Rioja Crianza was sold out and so I picked the beautiful Merlot and Malbec blend produced in Bergerac by Tour de Gendres while CL selected the top notch Chateau Turcaud Bordeaux Blanc Sauvignon Gris.
Pork, with apple (right), red cabbage (left)

On then to the main courses. CL’s was Poached Fish (salmon) and Avocado Salad, Marie Rose and Pickled Cucumber. Hidden in there too was a tiny bit of ginger, small but important in the overall combination which was positively top class. A little bit different but very good indeed.

I was on “safer” ground with my Roast Loin of Pork, Apple Sauce and Waterfall Farm greens. Pork and apple is quite traditional but the appearance of red cabbage among the veg also enhanced the tender meat. Happy out, as we say around here.

But we weren't quite ready to go to yet! Those sweet things had to be taken care of. And they were, every little crumb! Enjoyed the meal and the friendly service, as always. Happy Christmas to the Nash 19 crew! And to all your marvellous suppliers.

19 Princes Street
Cork
Tel: (021) 427 0880
Email: info@nash19.com
Facebook: @Nash19Cork
Twitter: @Nash19Cork
Hours
Mon-Fri: 7.30am-4.00pm
Sat: 8.30-4.00pm

Engaging Native Italian Trio

Engaging Italian Trio
All Natives!

Baglio Rosso Nero d’Avola, Terre Siciliane (IGP) 2014, 14%, €19.50 Le Caveau

This organic wine has undergone natural fermentation - without additional yeast - and is Highly Recommended. Colour is a very dark red, heading into black. Dark fruits and spice on the nose follow through to the palate, some savoury notes here too, plus excellent acidity. Fresh too, this fruity low intervention medium bodied wine is a delicious easy drinker.

Filippi “Castelcerino” Colli Scaligeri, Soave (DOC) 2014, 12.5%, €18.65 Le Caveau

This is quite an attractive wine, beginning with its medium gold colour. Aromas of fresh white fruit, hints of anise. White fruit flavours too, no shortage of minerality, elegant and fresh, quite smooth with a lingering finish, this light bodied biodynamic wine is Highly Recommended.

The main grape for Soave is Garganego, sometimes others are added. But not here. This is 100% Garganego, the fruit of 70 year old vines. It is also held on its lees for an extended period and they recommend pairing it with fish, salads, and light pasta dishes. An entry level wine but far from basic. Well worth a try.

Masi Campofiorin 2005 Rosso del Veronese (IGT), 13%, €17.50 (now at 14.95) for the 2008 version, Bradley’s Off Licence

An ageing potential of 10 to 15 years is flagged on the bottle, so I'm in pretty good time, I said to myself as I opened this gift from a friend. Colour is a ruby red and the aromas speak of warm ripe cherries. There follows a good concentration of cherries and berries, good acidity, very fine tannins and a decent finish. Highly Recommended.


This rich, smooth wine has spent 18 months in large oak barrels, is very approachable and versatile with food. It is made by re-passing (ripasso, sometimes also called double fermentation, is a method used to add more structure, body and flavour). The grapes used are Corvina, Rondinella, Molinara, all native grapes.

Monday, December 19, 2016

Top Posts 2016

Top Posts 2016
from Twisted, Kinsale


The demand for information on new restaurants is, as almost always, reflected in the most popular posts on this site. The list, by the way, is calculated on hits on posts published since 30th November 2015 and is ordered by the amount of hits. That makes the performance of Republic amazing as it was posted just a couple of weeks back. Not all newcomers though as the likes of The Farmgate Cafe and Bunnyconnellan demonstrates. And not all restaurants either as there is room too for the guerrillas of The Sharp Knife. And not all food either: Youghal's Munster Brewery makes the list.

1- Republic (Ballincollig)
2- Munster Brewery (Youghal)









3- The Mews (Kenmare)
The Mews


4- The Old Butter Road Food Trail
5- Supper Club (Kinsale)
6- The Sharp Knife
7- Twisted (Kinsale)
8- Bunnyconnellan (Crosshaven)
9- The Cafe at Stephen Pearce Pottery (Shanagarry)
10- The Old Imperial Hotel (Youghal)
11- The Farmgate (English Market)
12- La Calavera (Douglas)

Saturday, December 17, 2016

Amuse Bouche

Russian sailor
Vladimir Putin fulfilled his dream of joining the KGB in the summer of 1975…

“Let’s go,” he told his childhood friend, Viktor Borisenko, after picking him up in his car. It was clear to Borisenko that something had happened, but Vladimir would not so much as hint at what it was. They went to a Georgian restaurant near the Kazan Cathedral, the colonnaded landmark on Nevsky Prospekt, eating chicken in walnut-sauce and, to Borisenko's surprise, for his friend had never before allowed the indulgence, drinking shots of sweet liqueur. Only much later did he learn that they had been celebrating his friend’s acceptance into the KGB.

From The New Tsar by Steven Lee Myers (2015)

Thursday, December 15, 2016

Game Time at the Square Table. Cronin Sisters in Top Form

Game Time at the Square Table
Cronin Sisters in Top Form
Visited Blarney’s Square Table during the week and delighted to see venison on the menu - it is that time of year! And it would be hard to get a better dish than that served up by Chef Martina Cronin. 

The full description was Roast Loin of Venison (braised venison, parsnip purée, chestnut, smoked bacon, Brussels sprouts). The meat was tender and delicious and the vegetables and jus were also brilliant. Not to mention the sides, especially that creamy puréed turnip. Cost €26.95.
Sisters, Chef Martina (left) and Tricia

It is a small restaurant but one with a big heart and they manage to pack so many good things into a short menu list. We were warmly greeted by Tricia, Martina's sister, and she soon had us seated and studying the menus. And she also took us through the specials which was where the venison popped up.

CL started with a special. The sisters support local producers and the salad special was based on leaves from Annabella’s Farm: the leaves came with roasted and pickled carrots,  artichoke, chervil root, butternut squash, pickled Ballyhoura mushrooms, Crozier Blue cheese and Velvet Cloud yogurt (8.95). Quite a combination and a delicious one.

Crispy egg, Ballyhoura mushroom, smoked bacon and Hollandaise sauce (€8.95) all featured in my excellent starter. 

On then to my venison while CL picked the fish dish: Pan-fried fresh Hake, Jerusalem artichoke and mussel velouté, Gubbeen Chorizo (22.50). The fish was perfect and the chorizo added an extra and very tasty dimension. Superb.

They have quite a good, if shortish, list of wines here, ranging from €22.95 for the house wines to over 40 in the whites and reds. Some tempting Albarinos and Rieslings along with an organic Tempranillo and a Croze Hermitage caught the eye. 

But, with another call to be made later on, we confined ourselves to a glass each of the house. I very much enjoyed my Domaine de Bosquet (France) blend of Merlot and Cabernet Franc while CL was more than content with the Valle Andino Chardonnay from Chile. 

If you want to get an excellent idea of the top class food on offer here, why not try their Early Bird menu where you can get two courses for €24.95, three for €28.95.

* The Cronins support local and number Annabella Farm, Ballyhoura Mushrooms, Tom Durcan, Old Millbank, O'Connell's Fish, Ardsallagh Goats, The English Market, Gubbeen, Michael Twomey Butchers, East Ferry Free Range, Carrigcleena Poultry Farm, Hegarty's Cheddar, McCarthy's of Kanturk, Coolea Cheese, Macroom Mills, and more, among their suppliers.

The Square Table
5 The Square
Blarney
County Cork
Tel: (021) 438 2825
Twitter: @TheSquareTable5
Hours
Wed & Thurs: 6.00-9.00pm
Fri & Sat: 6.00-10.00pm
Sun: 12.30-4.30pm


Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Wines Direct Hit Double Top With French Pair

Wines Direct Hit Double Top With French Pair

Domaine des Corbillieres Sauvignon Blanc Touraine (AOC) 2015, 13%, €14.35 Wines Direct

Sometimes it pays to go back to the source. And, in this case, you don't have to pay all that much to get a prime bottle of Sauvignon Blanc, one the world’s favourite grapes and certainly one of its favourite wines.

This is a little known classic from the Loire. Well maybe not that little known. M. Robert Palmer has credited the winery with producing “some of the consistently finest, not to mention best value, Sauvignon Blanc on the planet.”


High praise indeed and well deserved for the organic winemakers. This Sauvignon Blanc has the classic aromas of gooseberry and pear, herbaceous and citrus elements on the palate and a strong minerality in the dry finish.  Light bodied and high quality. It may not have much colour but it has everything else. What a pleasant surprise. Very Highly Recommended.


Chateau de Cardaillan Graves (AOC) 2012, 14%, €23.15 Wines Direct



Cardaillan is a vineyard on the eastern edge of Graves, part of the better known Chateau de Malle (famous for its Sauternes). The blend here is fifty fifty between Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot and it is matured in oak for 12-18 months (depending on the vintage).

It is quite a deep red with a pronounced bouquet of ripe red fruit. The complex fruit flavours and almost velvety tannins endow this medium bodied blend with finesse and an easy drinking elegance. There is a good long finish and acidity enough for food. Wines Direct recommend T-bones but why stop at beef? Try it with lamb and venison too. Very Highly Recommended

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

Taste of the Week. Davidson’s Crusted Rack of Lamb

Taste of the Week
Davidson’s Crusted Rack of Lamb


The dog needed a walk and we needed something for Saturday’s dinner. The walk took us past Davidson’s, our local craft butchers. They are well known for their rack of lamb and that was how we came by our Taste of the Week.

The rack was crusted, the combination of Parmesan and walnut not that usual. It was a gem, the lamb tender and delicious and the crust a revelation, enhancing the meat with crunch and flavour. Oh, and there was a lovely wine to go with it: Ascheri Coste & Bricco Barolo, marked well down in O'Brien's Fine Wine Sale.

Davidson’s, the Craft Butchers’ National Champion Speciality Foods for 2016, are also very helpful and we were told how to cook it to get the best out of it: Oven roast for 40 minutes. It was a winner, a terrific Taste of the Week, set to be repeated!

Lamb with roasted veg (Carrot, butternut squash, parsnip), a winter warmer!


Davidson’s Craft Butchers
7 St Christopher’s Drive
Montenotte
Cork
Phone: 353 (0) 21 451 8184
Facebook: @davidsonscb
Twitter: @davidsonscb
Open: 8.00am - 6.00pm Monday to Saturday. Closed Sunday

Monday, December 12, 2016

ChilliShaker. New Indian Restaurant in Douglas

ChilliShaker
New Indian Restaurant in Douglas


I, and quite a few other guests, enjoyed a delicious meal as the new Indian restaurant, ChilliShaker, announced itself in Douglas last week. 

In a lovely room, hospitality was generously extended, no shortage of food or wine and no shortage of friendly faces either as ChilliShaker added to their restaurants in Swords (Dublin) and Letterkenny (Donegal).
Starters

Fine Indian Dining, they proclaim on the menu and that was exactly what we got. No sooner were we treated than a glass of bubbles was offered. And accepted! We sipped, sat back in comfort and took in the decor. 

A plate containing a selection of starters was next on the table and the chefs certainly showed their paces with different renditions of chicken, prawn and lamb.

By now, we were on to the wine and really enjoying the evening. Then we headed for the buffet where five bowls and nearly as many chefs awaited. The choices were Malabari Lamb, Three Pepper Chicken, Butter Chicken, Vegetable Hazari and Peas Pullao.

The Pullao was the rice, to go with everything else. And indeed, as far as I could see, everybody was choosing to take a little of everything. I followed suit and enjoyed the lot, especially the lamb and the Butter Chicken. But they were all excellent, even the Hazari which is a West Indian lentil and vegetable curry cooked in a tomato based sauce and finished with fresh coriander.
Jill and Aidan Foley

And as we finished the dish, seconds were offered. This time, I concentrated on that butter chicken, with rice of course. 

And what about all those chillies? No need to worry on that score, as the dishes on the menu are rated according to heat, going from nil chillis to three (for the hottest). Almost all the appetisers and many of the main courses are unmarked. 
Sandra Martin(left), Paul Woodage, Mary Rossiter

There are very few rated three. If you fancy the heat, then the Chicken Chettinad is one for you: a festive dish of the Chettiyar Clan in Tamil Nadu, it is a fiery dish made with black peppercorns, chillis, coconut ad fennel in a rich brown delicately spiced sauce!

That dish by the way costs €9.95, the same as many others. Quite a few too at €10.95. Some specials, such as Tandoori Jumbo Prawn and Jumbo Prawn Balti will cost you €14.50. Most of the appetisers are €3.95. The Hazari is one of over a dozen vegetable dishes. No shortage of sundries (sides) either, including rice, nan, popadom, even chips!
Renee and Albert Roser and Russel (R)

Watch out too for Early Bird offer, 5-7pm most evenings. And then there’s the Shaker Delight, a meal for two with mixer starters, mixed mains, rice and Nan Bread, and two beers, all for €28.99.

And if you haven't time to eat in the restaurant, they also provide a takeaway and delivery service. Delivery Times are: Mon-Thurs 6-10.30; Fri & Sat 6-11, Sun 6-10.

ChilliShaker
Douglas Village (opposite front of cinema, behind filling station)
Cork
Tel: 021 4366690
Facebook: @chillishaker
Web: http://www.chillishaker.com
Fergus and Sarah Callinan, Marie and Sean Clarke

Brewmaster muses on Beer and Cheese

Brewmaster on Real Beer and Real Food
Garrett Oliver in Oxford Companion to Cheese
Garrett Oliver

“You need real tomatoes to make tomato sauce.” 

Garrett Oliver started a Ballymaloe LitFest talk and beer tasting, with this line. Soon, he would delve into bread and cheese, including fake bread and fake cheese. 

Garrett played a key role as the brewing/culinary pairing concept reached a critical turning point in 2003, according to the newly published Beer FAQ by Jeff Cioletti. That was the year that Garrett's book, The Brewmaster's Table: Discovering the Pleasures of Real Beer with Real Food, saw its first publication. He was also the editor of the Oxford Companion to Beer.

So it no surprise to see the dapper brewmaster at the Brooklyn Brewery listed as one of the 325 contributors to the just published Oxford Companion on Cheese.

Yes, you read correctly. Three hundred and twenty five contributors! A few Irish among them, including Darina Allen (right) and Gianna Ferguson, Timothy P. Guinee (Teagasc), Alan Kelly (UCC), P.L.H McSweeney (UCC) and Colin Sage (UCC). 

But Oliver, tasked with pairing beer with cheese, is in his comfort zone. And, as in Ballymaloe, he first refers to the 20th century industrialisation of food and beverages “into nearly unrecognisable facsimiles of themselves” before craft began to restore “variety, subletly and life”.
Gianna and Fingal
Ferguson of Gubbeen
And so, in speaking of pairing, Garrett is talking craft and artisan. And he outlines the reasons why beer and cheese go so well together and, as always, he doesn't fail to boot wine down the list as a contender! In Ballymaloe, he said champagne comes in a beer bottle, not the other way round!

In quite a hefty contribution, he goes through all the types of beer, from light ales to Imperial Stouts. You’ll have to get the book to see all the possibilities but let's have a look in the middle of the list under the heading Wheat Beers and Saisons.

“Wheat beers..are slightly acidic, fruity, spritzy, and refreshing as well as low in bitterness. In contrast, the Belgian farmhouse saison style tends to add sharper bitterness, often alongside peppery notes. These beers make great matches for tangy fresh goats cheeses, and can be a great way to start off a cheese and beer tasting.”
Brewer's Gold from Ireland's Little Milk Co.
I presume some of you will remember the processed cheeses of our childhood, packaged in single serve portions, often foil-wrapped triangles. Names such as Calvita (the word apparently a mix of calcium and vitamin), Galtee, Whitethorn, come to mind. Well, the book reveals that the first such cheese (1921) was the French Laughing Cow.
In the Basque country - Brebis with black cherry jam.
At home in Ireland, I use loganberry jam.

This book is huge and is very inclusive indeed with no less than 855 entries and claims to be the most comprehensive reference work on cheese available. It is well written, well edited and both the expert and professional will find something of value. But it is not the type of book I’d read from start to finish.

It is one to dip into and that is what I’m doing here, just to give you a flavour. So if you want to look up kashkaval, you’ll find it is a hard cheese from the Balkans. Preveli is a semi-hard Croatian cheese.
Coolea
Want to get technical? Did you know that “stewing” is part of the process? That “stretching” refers to the traditional method of making Mozzarella? That “green cheese” refers not to a cheese that is green in colour but rather to a new, young, as-of-yet unaged, or underripe? That the holes in Gouda or Edam are not called holes but “eyes”?

And it is not just technical. There are many practical entries. Perhaps one that we could all read is under Home Cheese Care. Here you’ll read that the fridge may be bad for your cheese as it can be too cold for some aged styles.

And there are quite a few entries on the history of cheese around the world, including the Americas. Indeed, the book is published in the US. Was it Irish monks that first brought cheesemaking skills to St Gallen in Switzerland? Nowadays, in a possible reverse, you can get a lovely St Gall from the Fermoy Natural Cheese Company.

And how come it is only over the past forty years or so that Irish cheese is on the rise, Irish artisan cheese that is. In the Ireland entry, you read that by the 17th century, many distinctive aspects of Irish life and culture, including the Gaelic Farm economy and the native cheesemaking tradition, had been killed off by decades of oppressive English law. It took us an overly long time to recover!
Mobile Milking in Swiss mountains

Cashel Blue, as far as I can see, is the one Irish cheese to get an entry to itself. Cheeses, most of them famous, from all over the world are highlighted, including from places such as Turkey and Iran. 

Hundreds of cheeses then but here are just a few of the better known ones that you may read about: Camembert, Chabichou, Cheshire, Gorgonzola, Gouda, Gruyere, Jack, Livarot, Mont d’Or, Ossau-iraty, Parmigiana Reggiani, Pecorino, Raclette, Reblochon, Stilton, Tomme, and Wensleydale.

And, by the way, Garret Oliver didn't get the matching field to himself! There is also an entry on wine pairing by Tara Q. Thomas!

The Oxford Companion to Cheese (December 2016), is edited by Catherine Donnelly, published by the Oxford University Press. Price: £40.00.

* The book also lists cheese museums around the world. None in Ireland, yet!


See also:

Veronica Steele. Pioneer in Irish cheese. Focus too on County Cork