Friday, May 24, 2019

Amuse Bouche


Marianne brings a cold bottle of sparkling wine out… and asks Niall to open it….. A crest of white spills over the lip of the bottle and Niall pours the wine into Elaine’s glass. The glasses are broad and narrow like saucers. Jamie..says: Do we not have proper champagne glasses?
These are champagne glasses, says Peggy.
No, I mean the tall ones, Jamie says.
You’re thinking of flutes, says Peggy. These are coupes.

from Normal People by Sally Rooney (2018). No Recommendation.

Henry's Will Have You Smiling in Ennis

Henry's Will Have You Smiling in Ennis

Looking for a good meal in Ennis? Why not try the recently opened Henry's on Market Street? Here you get a royal Déise welcome from Dermot Fetton and some excellent dishes based on superb Banner produce. Nothing overly fancy here mind you, though cooking and presentation is excellent. Dermot, for so long the main man at the Cloister, gives his customers what they want, not what the chef thinks they should have.

Dermot and the team have moved to this new venue in recent months and it was abuzz on the April night that we visited and the man himself is very happy with the new venue (including its smaller more manageable size). I had forgotten my reading glasses and my host had a few pairs to try (including his own!). Where would you get that kind of service? By the way, they also do lunch here.

Starters




Once back with the glasses, I began to study the menu. My pick was the Slow Roast Pork Belly, Kale, Wine Jus. Excellent and a generous portion. Other starters included Sautéed Mushrooms and Spinach, Poached Pear and Blue Cheese Salad, Goats Cheese and Caramelised Onion Tart, Chowder and Soup. CL was very happy with her pick: Henry's Fishcakes, Leek and Smoked Bacon Fondue. As you can see from the picture, there was a dollop of cream in that. And you will see more cream in the menu!


Mains




The regular wine list contains the more popular types with seven of both white and red available by the glass. There is also another list with a step up in quality, and price. And, on the night we were in, there was also an offer list containing bin ends. And there is also a selection of Champagne, Dessert and Sparkling Wines. And, if you are in for a drink, Henry's has a separate wine bar with tall tables and seats, on the other side of the entrance, that can also be used as a waiting area or overflow from the restaurant itself. 

More cream again as my mains, one of the evening's specials, arrived. The John Dory came with a basil cream sauce. It was a lovely dish, with both the vegetables on the plate and on the side cooked to perfection, providing a tasty crunch to the delicious fish. CL's Duck Leg Confit came with a Lentil and Vegetable Ragout. The duck was perfect though the ragout seemed to have taken a touch too much wine!

You'll have quite a choice of mains here, eight or nine on the night we were in. The ten ounce
10oz Hereford Ribeye is always popular. There's also a braised daube of beef with a wine jus. A Lamb Shank with an unusual rosemary jus. The Chicken Breast Burger always goes down well. There's Fish 'n Chips of course, another popular choice; haddock is the usual fish. There’s the Roasted Salmon Fillet with Ratatouille and another fish offering is Hake with cauliflower and broccoli.

FINALÉ


There's no shortage of desserts at Henry's. The list includes favourites such as Chocolate Cake, Bread and Butter Pudding, and Apple Tart-Tatin. You may also try Eton Mess, Glenown Farm Ice-Cream, or a Profiterole Sundae. And he could well have a special on offer as he had for our visit. We struck it lucky with a lovely Pear Tart served with caramelised walnuts and ice-cream. 

Prices are pretty keen here also and in the evenings watch out for the attractively priced two and three course offers. These are served all evening Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, Sunday and until 6:00pm Saturdays and are priced at €21.50 and €25.00. And, with Dermot leading the front of house, service is friendly and helpful here.

Henry's
Upper Market Street
Ennis
Co. Clare.
TEL: 065-6899393
Also in Clare recently:
Bunratty Castle & Folk Park
Hazel Mountain Chocolate
The Burren Brewery
A Tour of Clare
St Tola Goats Cheese visit
Burren Gold Cheese

Thursday, May 23, 2019

A Tasty Morning With Karen Coakley On Kenmare Foodies Tour.


A Tasty Morning With Karen Coakley
On Kenmare Foodies Tour.
Enthusiastic Emma at Maison Gourmet
Henry Street is abuzz this sunny mid-May morning. Shoppers out and about, drivers trying to find parking. All kinds of small shops here, cafés and bars too. But we’re in a back lane watching bakers at work. We’re privileged because we’re with Karen Coakley, the Kenmare Foodie herself, and her Kenmare Foodie Tour takes you to places you won’t get to on your own, allows you see what goes on behind the scenes (away from the bustling street and the busy counters) and in most places you get to chat with the person or persons who started the food (or drink) business.

Margaret of Kenmare Ice Cream is one of those protagonists. Rose also plays a key role but she has to leave on business and it is Margaret that tells us the story. Both are Ballymaloe trained and were looking to start something in 2007. A gourmet deli was the first aim and they did much work on that before a discouraging coffee stop in Adare put them off. By the time they got back to Kenmare the ice cream idea was born but not yet taken seriously!

Margaret at Kenmare Ice Cream
But after research, it quickly gathered momentum and they got some equipment. How do we sell? They bought a tricycle, added three planks, and Margaret went off selling while Rose made the ice-cream. By the end of that summer, with over 11,000 scoops sold, they knew they were on to something.

Soon they had to scale up. They found “proper equipment” , including a 24 flavour cabinet, and a UK expert came over to give them two days training. They had  started making French style ice cream but now switched to the Italian style. “Because it’s all about flavour,” said Margaret. “More so than the richer (egg based) French style. Raspberry Ripple was our first flavour, and still my favourite. We stay as clean and green as we can. Four years ago, we started making whipped ice cream and that is now a big success. We do high quality but at a good price.”

Their Bia Bia is a full scale cafe, including ice-cream of course, in Railway Street while Kenmare Ice Cream, where we visited, can be found on Henry Street (open 11.00am to 11.00pm in season when Margaret and Rose have 22 people employed). Oh yes, you may still see that tricycle around Kenmare on special occasions but their famous cow, Moodini, is parked up for a while, awaiting a suitable grazing spot!
Patrick and Emma talk sourdough
If you’re arriving in Kenmare from the West Cork side, you’ll spot Maison Gourmet on top of Henry Street on your left. It was here, on the terrace at the rear that we joined up with Karen and her group. Soon, we met Emma, the French lady behind the bakery/café. And she took us out the back, to the lane where the bakery is and where we got our hands on the dough and fashioned our little baguettes (which we would collect, nicely baked, at the end of the tour).

Here they use a rather special butter, the Isigny AOC (now AOP). They can’t use Irish butter. It is good but it doesn’t have the same elasticity as the Isigny. Emma, having been part of large bakeries in Carcassonne and Toulouse, is delighted to be in Kenmare and you can see that Kenmare is delighted to have her and her bakery. Amazing too how many French visitors find their way to Maison Gourmet. Maybe it's that tempting smell of the breads, cakes and Java coffee.

Thirty years ago, she met Patrick who was already a baker, fell in love with the baking and the baker. Emma has “flirted” with Ireland since she came here as an au pair when she was twenty. Then, 3 years ago, she and husband Patrick “took the path of our dream and we opened a bakery in Kenmare. That was the best idea that we ever had.”
Beara Gin truffles at Lorge

Their butter and flour may be imported from France but they also use lots of high quality Irish produce in the busy café. But it is the breads (including sourdough) and pastries that attract me, all those classics from butter croissants to pain au chocolat (again the very best of chocolate is used) to Macarons to Mille Feuille, strawberry tartlets and more.
Olivier (On the Wild Side)

More chocolate down the street where’ll you find the Lorge shop. Hard to believe he started making chocolate by accident. His “factory” at nearby Bonane is housed in the old post office and is now a thriving business. Karen told us he is currently working with Beara Gin and indeed we sampled some of those delicious white chocolate truffles and, later, bought some bars and a bag of his marshmallow.
Alain knows his wines

Soon we found ourselves down by the town park where the weekly market was in progress. As we walked, Karen was dispensing food and recipe ideas, lots of tips all the way through the morning. 

At the market, we sampled the cured meats (including a beetroot and pork saucisson and a delicious chorizo) by Olivier of On the Wild Side. Later we called back to get some of his paté and also those Merguez Lamb Sausages. Cheese samples then, including Milleens and Coolea, from Christian’s cheese stall where he had many choices for his customers.

“How about a glass of wine?,” said Karen. Oh yes was the answer. We headed for the Vanilla Grape, a wine and card shop owned by Alain and Christine. “We are here 15 years now,” said Christine. “though those shelves are over 100 years old.” Frenchman Alain is always on the lookout to give his customers wine at a good price, not easy though considering we “had two tax hikes since the recession”.

But he did have just the job for us, a Cà Vittoria apassimento style, not from the Veneto but from Puglia, and well priced at €19.50. As we sipped the Nero D’Avola, we discussed serving temperatures with Alain saying the fridge is not a friend of wine. Had another chat with him later in the afternoon and bought myself a bottle of Chateau Vincen from Cahors much to the delight of Alain who himself is from the area (Figeac).
Making coffee with the Syphon

Alexa and Dave are the duo behind Babors Beans at the Brewhouse in the Square. Here they are serving top quality coffees, sharing bites, monstrous burgers and zesty cocktails to brighten up your day. But we’re here for the coffee that they roast themselves.

Dave told me they have eight single origins and five blends. He has to keep an eye on the price. “You have to watch the market as the price changes every day. It is too expensive to buy from the individual farmers. I get mine from Inter America Company. 

He is, of course a passionate enthusiast. “You can drink 10 to 15 cups a day and it’ll do no harm if you drink a lot of water as well!” He showed us two ways of making coffee, with the Syphon (which I preferred) and with the Chemex. We also enjoyed an espresso. By the way, not alone can you buy 250 grm bags of the various coffees here but you can also get the implements including the Syphon and Chemex. The new roastery is close to being ready and then he’ll be doing classes and demos and no doubt Karen will have that on her tours as well!

After all that, it was back up to Maison Gourmet to collect our loaves and say goodbye to one another. The tour takes about three hours but it was so enjoyable, with so many different and informative chats, that the time flew.
Christian and his cheeses

Get all the info on Kenmare Foodie Tours here.   Karen is always working on varying the tour and soon there’ll be a fish call.

Wednesday, May 22, 2019

CB+V and Zin. Star Wines from the Sunshine State.


CB+V and Zin. Star Wines from the Sunshine State.

Pine Ridge Chenin Blanc + Viognier White Blend (California) 2016, 12.5%,  €24.99
JJ O’Driscolls, Ballinlough, Baggot Street Wines, Terroirs, La Touche Wines, Greystones, Martins Off Licence, www.wineonline.ie

You’ll see CB+V on top of the screw cap and you’ll be wondering. The label will soon make it clear. This is a distinctive white blend of Chenin Blanc (80%) and Viognier (20%). Quite a versatile wine as it turns out. Enjoy a glass on its own or try it alongside your favourite seafood or spicy dish.

Colour is a light to mid gold with tints of green. Aromatic, with blossom notes, citrus and tropical fruit. Lime and grapefruit among the flavours in the palate which is crisp and bright, with a slight mineral accent in there too, plus a balancing acidity taking it through to a gentle and refreshing finish.

The crisp fruit of the Chenin and the softer notes of the Viognier marry well here. A lush, versatile and delicious wine, and I feel no compulsion at all to argue with that. Highly Recommended. 

The Chenin Blanc/Viognier is made from fruit grown in Clarksburg in the Sacramento river delta. The climate here is warm but there is an almost constant breeze, which helps to retain freshness and acidity in the grapes. Rhône varieties like Viognier adapt well in this exciting appellation. 

By the way, Pine Ridge say the original blending was just an experiment. They are very happy with the result: “.. we tasted it and realized we had created a masterpiece. Together, they deliver a unique tapestry of flavors and aromas that are elegant and easy to enjoy.”

Seghesio Sonoma County Zinfandel 2015, 15%, €37.99
Thomas Woodberry’s, Galway; Jus de Vine, Portmarnock; Redmond of Ranelagh; Red Island Wine, Skerries; Lilac Wines, Fairview; The Corkscrew, Dublin 2; Power & Co Fine Wines, Lucan;  www.wineonline.ie

In 1895, Italian emigrant Edoardo Seghesio planted his first Alexander Vineyard in California. Over 120 years later, though now part of the Crimson Wine Group, the family still farms 300 acres of Zin and Italian varietals in Dry Creek, Alexander and Russian River valleys. And their Zinfandels are regular winners in Decanter and International Wine Challenge.

Colour is a dark ruby. It is not all Zinfandel by the way as a “small amount of Petite Sirah is added to honour century old traditions”. It is aromatic, ripe red fruits, some from the garden, some from woods. A youthful juicy wine from old vines with a touch of spice among that melange of fruit. Big and bold and full to the brim with fruit, amazing concentration, yet the power is well harnessed and the balance spot-on, the finish long and satisfying. This is balanced, fresh, elegant and approachable - qualities not always noticeable in Zinfandel - this is Very Highly Recommended.



Tuesday, May 21, 2019

The Copper Hen Adds a Royal Touch to Tramore Food Scene.


The Copper Hen Adds a Royal Touch
 to Tramore Food Scene.

The Copper Hen has flown its original home at Fenor and has perched in Queen Street, Tramore. And here, in a beautifully decorated building, you may now enjoy the superb food produced by owner-chef Eugene Long and his team. There are no less than three dining rooms in this long town centre building and, when the sun comes out, there’ll be al fresco dining in the garden patio as well.

They seem to have hit the ground running. Despite being newly opened, there were no hitches the other day when we called for lunch. Quite the contrary - everything was perfect, the food and service top notch.

Lunch is offered on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays while dinner’s available Wednesdays to Saturdays (from 5.30pm). You can expect extended opening hours when the holiday season kicks off in earnest. While the quality is very high here, the prices are not. And you can get even better value with the evening Early Bird offer, two courses for €24.00, three for €29.00.

We had spent the previous evening and indeed some of the morning at the West Waterford Food Festival, so weren’t exactly starving when we arrived in sunny Tramore. 

There was a soup on offer but we went straight to the mains. From a good choice we picked what turned out to be two gems. I thought the Beer Battered Cod with lemon mayonnaise and handout chips (€14.00) would be good but the prospect looked even better when the cod ran out and I was “upgraded” to John Dory. Probably, the best fish and chips ever!

We were enjoying the food and the service and a lovely glass of wine. This was the Atlantik Albarino (7.95), aromatic and full of flavour and ideal for fish. The wine list here may not be the longest but it is very interesting (as you’d expect with Wines Direct as suppliers). All are available by the glass, by the way, which is great for the customers. For instance, if you start with mussels and a white, you can order a glass of red for your meat course.

Anyhow, that Albarino was superb with the John Dory and also with CL’s choice: Tiger Prawns tossed with garlic, Gubbeen chorizo and herb butter served with Seagull Sourdough (11.00). Another excellent and very enjoyable dish.

The Copper Hen is a terrific supporter of local produce and you’ll hardly get more local than the sourdough as it is made around the corner in the well-known Seagull Bakery, a very impressive bakery indeed. The Copper Hen make their own brown bread and that went down a treat, not least with a group of American ladies at another table.

Would we have dessert? Yes was the answer, but just the one, to be shared. There was a choice of five, all at €7.50. On the face of it, our Apple and Berry Crumble wasn’t the bravest of picks but it turned out to be a gem, beautifully made and presented - apparently they have a bit of a reputation on this one. If you do get the chance, do order one. One each!

20 Queen Street
Tramore
Co. Waterford
Tel: 051 330179








Taste of the Week. Crab Claws at Naughton’s Kilkee


Taste of the Week
Crab Claws at Naughton’s Kilkee

Naughton’s, a pub dating back to 1856 on O’Curry Street in Kilkee, Co. Clare, is very popular and is noted for its seafood and fish. It was here that I found my latest Taste of the Week: West Clare crab claws.

They are cooked in garlic and wine served with a tossed leaves salad. The delicious dish is available both as mains and starter. If you’re having it as mains, you’ll also get a large serving, a bucket, of their excellent fries. Portions are generous here. But hard to get enough of those exquisite claws! Washed them down with a bottle of craft beer from Western Herd in Ennis.

While they also do meat dishes, the bounty of the Atlantic is the main draw here. 

Also in Clare recently:
Bunratty Castle & Folk Park
Hazel Mountain Chocolate
The Burren Brewery
A Tour of Clare
St Tola Goats Cheese visit
Burren Gold Cheese
Henry's Bistro & Wine Bar Ennis

Monday, May 20, 2019

A couple of French classics that unexpectedly landed on my table

A couple of French classics that unexpectedly landed on my table


Château Vincens “Les Graves de Paul” Cahors (AOC) 2009, 15%, 

A village, on the River Lot, in the Cahors area
I needed a Malbec to go with a steak in winter and pulled out this one from Cahors, a gift from a friend, from his own stock. If you use wine-searcher.com I’m pretty sure you’ll find an Irish supplier, and the search will be well worth your time for, while Argentina Malbec is popular, the expertise of centuries in Cahors has not suddenly vanished, a point well illustrated in this bottle.
Hard at work in a Cahors vineyard


Chateau Vincens is in the heart of the region and Les Graves, aged from 20 to 22 months in new oak barrels, is Very Highly Recommended. Old vines from the best low yielding (gravelly) parcels of the estate are the basis for this intense concentrated gem.

Colour is a deep red, almost black. Intense dark fruit aromas, vanilla too. Harmony is perhaps the word for this, now that it has survived to 2019. Harmony of fruit and oak as this powerful wine purrs over the highways and byways of the palate, tannins close to smooth, the final stretch long and very satisfying indeed.

While a glass went down well with the steak, the winery suggests pairing it “with a duck with figs or a tagine of lamb with prunes”.








Joseph Domaine de Bellecours Sancerre (AOC) 2016, 13%, imported by Longueville Wines

This is Sauvignon Blanc from the quiet country hills of Sancerre. No salty aromas here from where ocean meets land, though the ocean has been here, twice, in ages past. No ocean spray here now, no high grass bent by the fresh wind, sun yes but nothing blinding in the calm countryside, just the calm of centuries of crafting the vine and its fruit. Une vieille verité dans le verre.

Since 1513, the Mellot family have worked in the vines and cellars here. Once, one of them was wine adviser to the King of France himself. Their customers now, in forty countries worldwide, are somewhat more modest (presumably!), especially for this young wine with its light straw colour and aromas of pears and peach. The palate of fruit and freshness has brio and balance. Highly Recommended. Their Cuvée Pierre Etienne 2015 would be Very Highly Recommended.

Food pairings. Shellfish (Oysterhaven mussels) and a Seafood Bourride  (the Provençal bouillabaisse) have worked well for me. The producers recommend Grilled sole, fried langoustines, scallop terrine or goat's cheese.


Bunratty Castle & Folk Park. Banquets. HB Ice Cream. Cahill’s Grocery. The Doctor and The Pawnbroker.

Bunratty Castle & Folk Park.
Banquets. HB Ice Cream. Cahill’s Grocery. The Doctor and The Pawnbroker.
Banquet Hall

Banquets. HB Ice Cream. Cahill’s Grocery. The Doctor and The Pawnbroker. You’ll come across all this and so much more on a visit to the Bunratty Castle and Folk Park.

I’ve passed this County Clare attraction scores of times on my way up to Mayo, Galway, Sligo and Donegal, and to Clare itself. Never called. But remedied that recently with a deliberately planned visit.
Pygmy Goat

Didn’t plan to visit the doctor though. But that happens when you stroll through the “Village Street”, a street as it was over a hundred years ago. The doctor was checking the herbs in his garden and invited us, and some French visitors, into his parlour cum surgery. He showed us all his dangerous looking implements but it was too much for some of the French when he pulled his amputation saw out of a drawer and he emphasised the shock by saying no anaesthetic!

Bunratty is probably best known for its banquets. They are held all year round, twice nightly!  And that room was one of the first we visited when we reached the castle. The earlier Kings and Earls (of the O’Brien family) though dined in the Great Hall, also a place of judgement. Many other rooms, including the dungeon, to see in the restored castle and, when you reach the top, you have marvellous views over the countryside, including the Shannon.

Ardcroney Church
So out and about then to the park, with all kinds of old buildings, from a Weaver’s Shed to a Blacksmith’s Forge, from the one-roomed Bothán Saor to the late Georgian Bunratty House. Some of the buildings have been removed en bloc(k!) from different locations. The Shannon Farmhouse, for instance once stood on the site of the main runway at Shannon. The Ardcroney Church was moved, stone by numbered stone, from the village of that name in Tipperary.

All the walking around can make you hungry. And aromas of baking draw you in to the well-appointed Golden Vale Farmhouse where herself is baking a delicious looking apple-tart. To get yourself a slice, stroll over to the Tea Room and enjoy. You can also call to Mac’s Pub in the village for soup and sandwiches, an Irish Coffee, or a full lunch.

Hungry Piggies
It was also feeding time for some of the animals as we got to that part of the park. The pigs were really anxious, squealing with anticipation, as they saw the hens getting fed nearby. Their turn came soon enough. You’ll also see the hens around the place, some pygmy goats, some strange-looking sheep on your walk. And you’ll also spot a couple of impressive and friendly wolfhounds, either in their compound or being walked around the grounds.

You’ll see a collection of farming tools and machines in the Talbot Collection, small scale yet well constructed engineering works such as the working vertical and horizontal mills. There’s a Regency Walled Garden. The Village Street has a Post Office (with red post box), a hardware store, a printworks and a grocery etc.

And in that grocery, and also in a few other places, you’ll spot “foodie” reminders of the past like Irel Coffee and Chicory, Harrington’s and Browne’s Mustard, Daniel Dunne’s Teas, OXO cubes, Seven Seas Cod Liver Oil, Carnation Evaporated Milk, Riley’s Toffee Rolls. Not all household names but I do recognise a few of them. I also spotted a can of liquid Cardinal Red floor polish - I’ve been told that I once ate a tin of the solid version. Don’t remember it though. Or the resultant napkins!

There are a couple of large houses on the walk  including Hazelbrook House. Built in 1898, this was the home to the Hughes Brothers who started a dairy industry in the 1800s and later produced HB Ice Cream which went on to become a household name.
Hazelbrook House, home of HB Ice Cream

It is quite a park, especially with all those steps and stairs in the castle included. It has something for everyone and you’ll get three or four hours of interest here and while the €16.95 entry fee may seem a bit steep at first, you will get value.

After all that, you may feel you deserve a drink and Durty Nelly’s, the well-known pub outside the gate, has that for you. Always busy here methinks and had to inch my way to the counter for a couple of ales which were thoroughly enjoyed on the wooden table and benches in the sun outside. By the way, if you are feeling peckish on arrival, you can get some decent snacks at Mr O’Regan’s café at the entrance to the castle before you get your ticket. There is a also a large souvenir shop here.
Also in Clare recently:
Bunratty Castle & Folk Park
Hazel Mountain Chocolate
The Burren Brewery
A Tour of Clare
St Tola Goats Cheese visit
Burren Gold Cheese
Henry's Bistro & Wine Bar Ennis




Sunday, May 19, 2019

Wine, Whiskey, Beer and Pizza at Franciscan Well. With ace cooper Ger Buckley the star of the show.


Wine, Whiskey, Beer and Pizza at Franciscan Well
With ace cooper Ger Buckley the star of the show.

Ger (right) doing a bit of barrel charring! Note fire exit and hose close at hand

After the flames...
“It’s a thrill to be back ‘working’ in the North Mall,” said Irish Distillers much travelled master cooper Ger Buckley as he introduced himself at the start of an evening of wine, whiskey, beer and pizza at the buzzing Franciscan Well Bar last Thursday night. The link between the three drinks (the whiskey, the wine and the special Franciscan Well stout have all spent time in barrel) is of course the wood. Ger will tell that it accounts for more than fifty per cent of the input to the final bottle of whiskey and many distillers will agree with him.

Many years ago, Ger started his cooperage apprenticeship, with his father, in the distillery on the Mall, remembering not just the smell of the whiskey but also that of leather as there were tanneries in the area. There was quite a tradition of coopers in that part of town, and an earlier source of employment for many was the Firkin Crane in Shandon, part of the renowned butter market.

Ger still has, still uses, many of the tools, some as much as 200 years old, used by his father and ancestors including the hammer, the driver, and the adze. On the hammer he said: “Let the weight do the work.” “Hold that driver properly. My father used say you’ll pay for your mistakes, in lost finger-tips and worse.”

The adze has an amazing and long history, used by ancient ship builders and log cabin builders; it was a sacred tool in the Maori culture. “It looks clumsy, “said Ger. “But it’s great to remove excess wood and gives a great finish.” Another tool he uses is the compass. “Everything I do (measure) is by eye. The compass, a Cork tradition, is my only aid. This craft goes back 4,000 years. I don’t do much that’s different from those early coopers.” 
Sophia brings us the wine

Ger would soon show us how to use those tools, or at least, how he uses them. But now it was the turn of Sophia and the Australian introduced us to the Jacob’s Creek Double Barrel Cabernet Sauvignon, a premium wine finished in aged Irish Whiskey barrels. Blackcurrant on the nose and on the palate, smooth integrated tannins and a satisfying finish. Those charred barrels certainly played a part in this rich, deep, smooth and quite impressive wine.

The cooper returned to centre-stage and used those tools as he first demolished a barrel (see video below) and then, stave by stave, put it together again, working away with amazing precision while still keeping us entertained with yarn after yarn of his days in the North Mall. While reassembling the barrel he remarked to the incredulous audience: “It becomes second nature after a while. I know how to match the various stave sizes by eye”.
Sharp operator

In his days in the Mall, the coopers would be repairing barrels, always keeping an eye out for a few drops of whiskey in the bottom, often enough to fill a couple of bottles. But how do you fill a small container from a very large one? With great difficulty. They’d start by borrowing a tea pot from the canteen and then the fun began.
Paudie told us the
Caskmates story

“Can you two imagine langers, maybe each already half-langers, trying to hold a barrel over a tiny teapot and trying to pour the contents out of the big one and into the small one. Quite often they succeeded but there were regular failures too and broken teapots. So then the apprentice was sent down town to buy a new teapot for the lady in charge!”

He kept working and talking. “I live by Blarney, tells you why I talk so much,” he joked. And then more seriously, as he hammered a hoop into position. “Use the weight of the hammer but you must make the right contact. If you don’t, the hoop will bend - bad news!” He demo-ed that too!

Liam and Black Barrel


And then the Jameson rep Liam was introduced to tell us all about their Black Barrel whiskey, “one of the best quality whiskeys with its depth of flavour and spicy notes”.

Nowadays, Irish Distillers have some 1.5 million barrels in total stored in Midleton. But years ago, many were stored outside and weren’t in great condition when they were brought in for filling. “So they were charred to a greater degree than normal, were filled with whiskey and the result was Black Barrel.” 


He told us how to smell: “Put your nose inside the glass, open mouth slightly and breathe in that hint of vanilla sweetness and exotic fruit” We then went on to taste, getting that trademark Jameson spice (“from the unmalted barley”) and, “from the charred wood” came vanilla, butterscotch and caramel. “One of the best, pound for pound,” he concluded and there were nods all around.

Video of barrel collapse

"Here's one I un-made
earlier"
A collaboration between Jameson and Franciscan Well led to Caskmates and that was explained to us by Paudie of the Well. Firstly, the brewery made a stout in six barrels that previously held whiskey and it turned out stronger than expected due to the whiskey in the wood. Later, the returned barrels were filled with Jameson in Midleton and Liam told us an extra long finish resulted and was called Caskmates.  “It is very popular as a sipping whiskey”. We sipped and enjoyed it as we enjoyed the delicious stout. Every second sip!
Cabernet Sauvignon Pizza, boy!

Ger then talked about another tool, the Croze, “the one tool I must have” and “that’s why I named my whiskey after it”. The Cooper’s Croze is one of three relatively new products from Midleton; the others in the set are Blender’s Dog and Distiller’s Safe. 

A croze? Ger has used a croze all his working life. He uses it to cut the grove along the top of the staves to hold the head (the circular cover) in place.

“Now,” said Ger. “The pizza is ready. The best pizza in Cork to go with the best beers in Cork, in my opinion.” Pompeii Pizza are the resident producers here in the Well and they had three specials for the occasion.

We enjoyed the Cabernet Sauvignon Chorizo (tomato sauce, Gubbeen chorizo roasted in Jacob’s Creek Double Barrel Cabernet Sauvignon, black Kalamata Olives, Fior di Latte Mozzarella, Oregano).

Matching the whiskey was the Smoked Cheese and Caramelised Onion (featuring Carrigaline beech smoked cheese and Black Barrel Whiskey). For the beer lovers, Pompeii came up with the Shandon and Sausage (with Shannon Stout and Jack McCarthy’s Bramley Apple sausages in the mix).

Another brilliant night at the Franciscan Well.


From a Wedding Dress to a Michelin Star. Miyazaki tells the tale at DesignPOP


From a Wedding Dress to a Michelin Star.
Miyazaki tells the tale at DesignPOP

In 2012, a bride to be and her sister visit Cork to shop for a wedding dress. Six years later, her now husband’s restaurant wins a Michelin star in the city.

When Stephanie arrived back in the midlands, she was enthusiastic as she told husband-to-be Takashi: “You have to move to Cork.” So he came down and tried the place for one night. He was converted. “Two weeks later, we moved,” he told the audience at the DesignPOP event in Thompson House in MacCurtain Street last Sunday afternoon. “I was so happy.”
Conversation Piece. One of the DesignPOP pavilions in the city

And it got better. But not straight away. Takashi Miyazaki was determined to open a Japanese restaurant to show Irish people what they were missing. But he couldn’t afford a premises until 2015 when he found a tiny place at the junction of Barrack Street and Evergreen Street. It was small, very small. But he thought: “Why not start small? Take the window of opportunity.” And so Miyazaki was born. 

He gave it everything. “I had so many different things to show and share. I got great support. Was so busy.” As the tiny takeaway - it has a handful of high stools - prospered, people asked: What next? Are you coming to Dublin? “No, Cork,” I answered.
Ichigo Ichie

But he was always dreaming about a high end restaurant. “I had the experience. I had the palate from my grandmother’s food.” And so he went on to learn more and more, to enhance and fine tune what he already had.

He has quite a lot going for him, not least the ability to turn dreams into reality. When he was 18 years old, and a master of Martial Arts,  he started cooking part-time in a local café, “toast, frozen stuff”. Then he did “easy stuff” for friends. They loved it and said “You great chef. Can you cook again?”

He knew he wasn’t a great chef but loved the cooking and wanted to be a chef. His parents were not at all keen on the idea. And they also stopped him following another possible career in the graphic arts. At university he continued to cook for those lucky friends and again he decided on a career as a chef. This time, he was a man and there was no stopping him.
Miyazaki at work
His first job was in a 5-star hotel but he was a slow learner and admitted it wasn’t until he was 32 years old that he felt he had mastered it. The “slow learner” travelled the many Japanese regions and learned lots of different dishes and styles.

Even learned lots of Irish dishes, including fish and chips! Yes, while working in an Irish pub in Hiroshima, a Galway chef showed him the Irish way, including one of the best fish batters ever. While in the pub, he met Stephanie and the road to Cork started. First they moved to Offaly. He missed his Japanese food. The local sushi wasn’t up to scratch and his desire to open a Japanese restaurant was born.

There was an early setback as the restaurant that gave him his first job (in 2008) closed after just four weeks. “I was so upset. I can’t go back to Japan. What can I do?” He had sampled some Irish Japanese restaurants “but that was not Japanese food”. “I have to do something. I was dreaming, dreaming, dreaming!”
Window at Emmet Place pavilion

And that dream came true in Ichigo Ichie last year. And it wasn’t just his cooking skills that were tested. He brought his artistic skills to bear too in the plating, on the printed menus and indeed on social media.

“I had no idea about Twitter and Instagram. But my wife and friends encouraged me. Instagram gave me the opportunity to show the colour of the food, the real green, the real red.” And so he started painting. And these are the little paintings that you’ll see on the menu cards, including the wine list.

“I am still doing the food I want to do. I keep sketching for my plate. Why not a painting of the dish, so I keep drawing? So happy now, I can design, paint, sketch and cook, all on a plate. It is very unique, all my experiences, my history, my childhood memories.” And his customers are so glad that he decided to share with us.
"Stained glass" lollipops, by Banana Melon, in DesignPOP pavilion, some for sale.

But what did that Michelin star mean? Someone asked. “It was amazing. My life has changed. Bookings were slow that particular month but once the star was announced we immediately booked out. Still I want to focus on what we do.” He admitted the star was a motivating factor but promised “I won’t change too much.”


But he will change for the seasons, though he has had trouble with the Irish seasons, especially the short summer. Will he go all vegetarian? “No. The menu is a story over 12 courses. I need fish, I need meat, to make the story.”

It is indeed quite a story and you can catch all 12 chapters in Ichigo Ichie. And if you want a short story, why not pay a visit to the original Miyazaki!