Tuesday, November 20, 2018

James Whelan opens 8th Butcher’s Shop. Son Pat keeps his feet on the ground.


James Whelan opens 8th Butcher’s Shop
Son Pat keeps his feet on the ground.
Display at new Whelan's shop in Dunnes Stores, Bishopstown Court.

I met Pat Whelan at the original James Whelan shop in Clonmel in November 2011. He took time out to have chat about that shop and also a new one in Avoca in Monkstown (Dublin) to which he was applying the finishing touches. Now he has eight in total. Progress has been amazing. 

I met Pat again at Dunnes Stores Bishopstown Court last Friday. He was there to play a role in the weekend celebration of the extensive renovations of the popular supermarket, a weekend to highlight the newcomers to the store including Whelan’s, Sheridan’s Cheese, ABC Bread, O’Connell Fishmongers, Baxter and Greens and Café Sol. 
Part of the new food hall

Again, the Tipperary man took time out for a chat. I reminded him about our first meeting and how he enjoyed going out to the marts and farms to meet the producers. Has the expansion put a stop to that? 

I was glad to get the answer that it hadn’t, an answer that I had more or less expected from a man who stays in touch with the grassroots, staying connected to the source. He goes out weekly and told me that only the Tuesday before he had bought about 40 cattle in the Fermoy Mart but what I hadn’t expected was that his 80 year father, after whom the shops are named, was on the road with him. Respect to both!
Dunnes Kiwi chef Matthew Brownie was promising the Irish an All Black grilling ahead of the big game.
He was just joking, of course!

But some things have of course changed and not just over the last seven years. Pat was (still is) a regular visitor to the English Market in the good old days. Then he felt it “was alive” when he walked through. It certainly was in your face. The food scene began to change back in 60s and 70s. It became “sanitised”, the connection with its source fragmenting, we agreed, me thinking of sliced pan and supermarkets as being among the agents of change.
O'Connell fishmongers

People like Pat, and luckily there are quite a few of them, kept the flame alive. “Good food is an investment in your future,” he says. “Great to see the youngsters coming into it, great to see them make the connection and great to see it done right. We owe it to ourselves and to the planet to really reconnect with nature.”

“Training is important,” he emphasised in answer to my query about Whelan’s Butcher Academy. Indeed, the good work of the academy has been recognised by a counterpart in South West France. “They want to do an Erasmus exchange with us where our trainees can swap experience with their French counterparts. It’s great for us to be recognised like that and great too for the apprentices.”
Whelan's Himalayan salt aged beef, before and after (so tender!)

The eight Whelan butcher shops are in Clonmel, Dunnes Stores Cornelscourt, The Swan Centre Rathmines, Dunnes Stores Blanchardstown Centre, Pavilions Shopping Centre, Swords, Avoca in Rathcoole and Kilmacanogue as well as Dunnes Stores Bishopstown Court. Pat is very happy about the link-up (now 30 months old) with Dunnes seeing them as a family company that “is all about the customer, the Better Value is not just a slogan, and they are very warmly regarded in Cork".

And it looks as if the Whelan shop is warmly regarded as well. “We’ve had a great welcome from our fellow debutants, Pat O’Connell’s and Sheila of ABC”. Whelan will have in-house competition from Dunne’s own butchers. He knows that his produce is top class and may cost a little more. A customer may like a treat at the weekend and something good but less pricey on a Monday. “Retail is all about choice,” he says and is quite happy with that.

Earlier Donnacha, the manager of Whelan's Bishopstown shop, showed me some of that choice. The Tralee native has worked for two and half years for Pat in Dublin and jumped at that chance to get back nearer home. “We started off four weeks ago and it took off straightaway, so far so good. Now we’re setting up for Christmas.”
And where there's Dunnes, there's Simply Better

The shop has a beautiful lay-out and lighting. It is well manned with expert help at hand as you choose between the different meats and the different cuts. 

A lot of the weekend focus was on “the big reveal”, the collaboration between Pat Whelan and Peter Hannan which has resulted in the amazing Himalayan Salt Aged Beef, now on sale exclusively in Whelan’s eight shops and at their online shop.

Hannan has constructed a Salt Chamber made of rock salt bricks from the Himalayas and here the beef spends over 35 days and the final result is exceptional quality with a truly unique flavour.  More details here.  

“We got a great welcome to Cork,” said Kevin Sheridan of Sheridan's as we chatted in front of their very impressive stall. And I use the word stall deliberately as it does resemble a market display. A big stall, mind you. Space to display the many cheeses - lots of Cork produce there too - and all the little bits and pieces (crackers, relishes for example) that go with them.
Yours truly with
Kevin Sheridan.

‘We have more Cork cheese here - in Galway we would have more from Galway - and find the customers very enthusiastic. Great to be in Dunnes too, as they are part of the Cork heritage.”

“We started as a small cheese stand, and this weekend, we are celebrating the opening of the Cork Bishopstown Court location with many local producers that we are proud to call our friends. We feel so lucky to work with many quality Irish producers and are thrilled to share their amazing work all under one roof in Dunnes.”

Like Pat, Kevin emphasised the importance of training. Sheridan’s have brought some of their more experienced people from their other shops to Cork for the time being, passing on that experience, all for the benefit of the customer.

Didn’t see Pat O’Connell himself but got lots of fish there, some frozen, some fresh, and some smoked (including Goatsbridge trout produced by my friend Mag Kirwan in Kilkenny). Must go back and try that red mullet! 

Also met some regulars on the food scene: Padraig O’Farrell was showing his Carrigaline cheeses at Sheridan’s and Aoife was doing a Kinsale Bay tasting nearby while Dunne’s Kiwi chef Matthew was threatening to grill the Irish at the rugby! Could have spent the day there but time caught up with me.

  • You may see a YouTube clip of Peter Hannan’s salt chamber here.
  • And see Hannan cook those amazing steaks here. 


Monday, November 19, 2018

Taste of the Week. Joe’s Farm Mixed Potato Crisps


Taste of the Week
Joe’s Farm Mixed Potato Crisps

Many of you will be familiar with the crunchy flavoursome delicious Joe’s Farm vegetable crisps that Sandra Burns has been making at the family farm near Killeagh over the past few years. We met Sandra and son Conor at the recent Cork Kerry Food Forum in the City Hall.

For the last year or so, Sandra has also been selling Mixed Potato Crisps, again grown and handmade at the Ballycurraginny Farm. Husband Joe is not the only one to have given this delicious mix of Potato (white, pink and purple) his enthusiastic seal of approval. They certainly caught the attention of the punters at the National Ploughing Championships this year.

Nothing much is added in the process, just Sunflower Oil and Irish Sea Salt. They come in a brown bag but it is lined with foil and is also resealable. Nothing but the best for our widely available (SuperValu included) Taste of the Week!

Joe’s Farm Crisps
Ballycurraginny
Killeagh
Co. Cork

Sunday, November 18, 2018

Game Dinner’s a Winner in Loving Salads


Game Dinner’s a Winner in Loving Salads.

Jason Carroll, the experienced chef/owner of Loving Salads, showed his experience and  versatility recently when producing a terrific Irish Game Dinner night at the Academy Street venue. He had mega help from Craig Coady. Craig, like Jason, also worked with Micheal Fleming and then went off to London and worked with the Caprice Holding group in the famous Ivy restaurant as sous chef, La Caprice and also the famous J. Sheekey fish restaurant. Then he returned home and was Executive chef at the Fota Island Hotel for 9 years before coming to join LovingSalads in 2015. 

The game - partridge, pigeon and venison- came from Tom Dunne in West Waterford, from the Knockanore area where’ll you’ll also find cheesemakers (Lonergan’s Knockanore Farmhouse and also Agnes and Wolfgang Schliebitz who produce Knockalara Sheep Cheese ) and ice-cream producer Tom Baldwin.

The very pleasant evening started with a glass of prosecco and a few nibbles. Wine was also included and two that stood out were the Gevrey-Chambertin and also Saint-Julien 2003 from the Medoc in Bordeaux.

But the game was the star of the show, particularly the venison. Carroll, who has worked with some of the best chefs locally, in the UK, Europe and Australia, gave it the star treatment. It came wrapped in brioche and under that was a moist circle of mushrooms, and parma ham. Black truffles, mustard, juniper and herbs had all been used to enhance the seared saddle of venison and there were also golden and red beets on the plate and a helping of madeira jus. Absolutely superb. Shame it was just over two days last week - he may well have another special before Christmas but more than likely it will be a fish evening.

Our starter was Red-legged Partridge breast with celeriac, bread sauce and juniper jus. The description is a bit understated. Next up was Wood Pigeon which came with Prince Squash, Pea purée, and seasonal mushrooms, along with a mille feuilles liver paté. Pigeon, compared to other game, doesn’t always go down well, but Carroll’s version was another winner.

After that, and before the venison, it was time to refresh the palate and in the tarty Lemon Mousse, they had just the job. The main dessert was chocolate: 70% Madagascar chocolate delice with hazlenut praline and espresso sabayon. And we weren’t quite finished yet as a delicious and generous piece of Pistachio Nougat came with the coffee.

The extremely high standard should surprise as Carroll’s CV includes working early on with Michael Fleming of Fleming’s, then under Pierre Kofmann at La Tante Claire 3* Michelin, later worked with Phillippe Etchebest – Meilleur Ouvrier De France (voted best chef in France in 2000) at the Chateau des Reynats a Chancelade, a two star in Perigord. More experience in Australia before working with Peter Kurvita at Flying Fish Sydney 2* in 2004. 

Home for a short spell then at Sheraton Fota Island Resort & Spa before heading off to a major job as Executive Chef at the Sheraton & Westin Resort & Spa in Fiji. He was in charge of both hotels with 800 rooms, 125 chefs, 12 restaurants, banquets for more than 1,000 guests, 3 acres of farming land and farm team! Home again in 2014 and started up Loving Salads!

Watch this space. And also watch their Facebook page  https://www.facebook.com/LovingSalads/ for more Special Nights in Academy Street!

Saturday, November 17, 2018

Amuse Bouche


She’d actually given up drinking but she made an exception today. The food kept coming, white peach bellini, squid with chilli, a plate of raw sea bass scattered with pansies, rabbit pappardelle, blue beef, panna cotta like a severed breast, a hazelnut cake, white wine, red wine, espresso. They walked home, hand in hand, kissing by the swans……. You cannot be immune to downfall, loss and dirt, Kathy knew, but sometimes an afternoon is separate, its own gold sphere.


from Crudo by Olivia Laing (2018). Recommended.

Thursday, November 15, 2018

The Wine Brief. Bradley’s Host Wine Tasting as Street Lights Shine



Bradley’s Host Wine Tasting as Street Lights Shine
Bradley's celebrate the switching on of the North Main Street Christmas lights this Friday with a wine-tasting in the famous old food and drink shop. The tasting, from 5.30 to 7.30, is in conjunction with Findlaters and there'll be a selection of reds and whites. You may well get something for Christmas table.

Rioja Reserva
Looking for a really versatile, food-friendly red?  This Marqués de Murrieta Reserva 2014 Tinto could be just the job, available at O’Brien’s at a reduced price of €20.95. See review here.


Australia Day Tasting
The 2019 edition date is January 31st. All the details on the poster. Do note this is a Trade tasting.


Chateau Feely
Do you love someone enough to gift them a share in a vineyard? Yourself? Pourquoi pas?Chateau Feely in Bergerac gives you the opportunity for this and more unusual presents. Check out their “classic vine share “. To order the excellent Feely wines for delivery in Ireland or to find a stockist near you please contact Mary Pawle organic wines info@marypawlewines.com .

Chateau Minière
One of the best wine tastings I ever had was outdoors at Chateau Minière in the Bourgueil area of the Loire Valley. 

Their broad range of vine ages and of soils allows the production of delicate fruity wines to be enjoyed young, as well as more full-bodied wines with great ageing potential with tannins that become silky over time. The “Vignes Centenaires de Minière” is a unique wine, produced from their oldest vines. I bought a fair bit of that during my visit but well gone now!

The good news is that you stay here nowadays - details here.  

Wednesday, November 14, 2018

Three Country Wine Tour with Karwig's


Three European wines from Karwig's, each from a different country and each highly recommended. Take a trip!

Domaine de la Potardière Muscadet Sèvre et Maine (AOC) Sur Lie 2017, 12%, €15.95 Karwig Wine
Holiday feeling on the Loire.
Back in the 80s, and maybe earlier, many Irish motoring tourists, most having gotten lost in pre-peripherique Nantes, were venturing no further south than Brittany, and were dipping their beer trained beer stained tongues in French wine, mostly Muscadet or the even more ghostly (or should that be ghastly) Gros Plant. Muscadet at less then a punt a bottle was a great wine while on the hols but not so good when you got it home. Unless it was Sur Lie, matured on its lees.

Now we know what to ask for and with Sur Lie you do have a better chance though some other Muscadets can be fine as well. Muscadet, we thought, was the grape. It’s not. The grape is Melon of Burgundy; the Loire region (near Nantes) in which it is grown is known as the Muscadet area but apparently Muscadet is not an actual geographic place.

This bottle from Karwig’s has just the merest yellow colour, aromas of white fruit, melon prominent. It is lively and fruity on the palate - that holiday feeling - time on the lees has added a certain creaminess; it is totally fresh, a good citrusy finish, overall very engaging and easy to give it the thumbs up. Highly Recommended. Bring on those fish platters in the Relais Routiers, even a DIY selection from Pat O’Connell.

Food pairing tips  : Perfect accompaniment to oysters, seafood in general, fish, sushi.


Quinta do Valdoeiro Syrah Bairrada DOC (Portugal) 2015, 12.5%, €23.95 Karwig Wine

This is not your normal Syrah but is a very interesting one. The vineyard says it has a lot of potential and will “definitely grow in the bottle”. They point out that the striking minerality comes from the red clay (terracotta) soils, the freshness from the proximity of the Atlantic. It is naturally stabilised so sediment is a possibility and they advise serving at ten to twelve degrees. New oak has been used here.

Colour is an intense ruby. Aromas of ripe plums, cherry, also vanilla notes. On the palate it is fresh and fruity, spice, smooth with youthful power, lively acidity and persistent in the finish. Would certainly like to try it in a few years. For now, this very interesting Syrah is Highly Recommended.

Gran Passione Rosso Veneto (IGT) 2016, 14%, €13.95 Karwig Wine

This is an Amarone type wine at an un-Amarone price. It is from the area around Venice and is a blend of Merlot (60%) and Corvina. Corvina is the principal grape in red Valpolicella wines. The interesting thing here is that the grapes are naturally dried on vines for about 15 days. This process helps towards a more intense wine and that is the case here.

Colour is dark ruby. Very pleasant aromas of ripe fruits (cherry, plum), a touch of vanilla too. Velvety and concentrated black and red fruit flavours, mild spice and soft tannins, quite a long finish. Overall a rich and well-balanced palate and Highly Recommended. 

Tuesday, November 13, 2018

Maryborough Food and Wine Evening. Rhone Wine Week Celebrated!


Maryborough Food and Wine Evening
Celebrating Rhone Wine Week
Cool. Sorbet


A wine of the Rhone and some fantastic Irish venison came together in perfect harmony at the Maryborough Hotel’s Food and Wine Evening in their Bellini restaurant last week. 

But first, there was a Kir reception where the hotel’s Adrian Fitzgerald welcomed the guests on a wet and windy evening. Kir or Kir Royale (the one with the bubbles!) were part of that welcome as we sat and relaxed by the fire.

Soon we were led to our tables and then the food began to appear. First up were some lovely breads and the highlight here was the Cranberry and Garlic Butter. The kitchen team, led by the Head Chef Gemma Murphy, then sent out the starter and a delicious one it was: Torched Mackerel, Cucumber, Miso, Yuzo and Coconut. 
Breads, with that superb butter top middle

A good fresh wine was required to match the tasty oily fish and we had just the job in Chateau Pesquie’s Le Paradou 2016 from the Ventoux, from under the white head of Mount Ventoux. It is a superb Viognier, with apricot flavours, floral, fresh, and delicious. Perfect for the first half of the meal.

Now the soup appeared. Not quite. First came a bowl with a chanterelle topping a neat and small arrangement. Next the staff poured from little jugs and it all came together as Quail Consommé with chanterelle, fig and walnut. It was a gorgeous combination, even the consommé on its own was quite a pleasure.
Mackerel

Consommé
Chef Gemma always has a great touch with her sorbets and this occasion was no different. Her Mandarin Champagne and Lime Sorbet (it was in a lime skin) looked well and was a superb refresher at more or else the halfway point.

Still with me? Here comes the Sea Bass with artichoke, Savoy cabbage, Leeks and Sauternes Vinaigrette. I rarely order Sea Bass (mainly because its not Irish) but this was an exception and exceptional, beautifully done and again Le Paradou, now nicely warmed up from a rather cold start, matched up spectacularly well.

By now, the friendly and efficient staff were pouring our red, the Côtes du Rhone Cuvée d’Alize 2016. Irishman Simon Tyrrell, an unofficial ambassador of the Rhone, produced this beauty at the Les Deux Cols . It is called after a local wind. Lots of winds around here, after all Ventoux is the windy mountain. By the way, Simon is also known for making cider in County Wicklow.
Sea Bass
The blend of Grenache Syrah and Cinsault (Simon calls this the Pinot Noir of the south) was soon put to the test but, no worries, it matched well with the venison, a super dish indeed. Let me give you the full title: Venison Loin, coffee and orange glazed salsify, heritage beetroot, parsnip foam. A magnificent combination and that venison was superb, possibly the best piece of meat, of any kind, that I’ve come across this year.
Venison

Now we were ready for the finalé: It just had to be Valrhona Chocolate which is, of course, produced in the Rhone Valley and this was very much a Rhone Wine Week event! So we finished with a French flourish: Valrhona Chocolate and Praline Torte, nougatine parfait, pear emulsion and hazelnut, every element on the plate a pleasure but that chocolate is something else. Indeed, the wine dinners at the Maryborough are also something else so do keep an eye out for future events.
Chocolat!