Saturday, January 19, 2019

Amuse Bouche


…we walked around in the balmy evening, looking at menus, deciding where to eat. What a heavenly, under appreciated time that is in any day. The pleasure of choosing, the anticipation of a couple of hours with good food and better flirting.

from Maeve in America by Maeve Higgins (2018). Very Highly Recommended.

Thursday, January 17, 2019

CorkBilly’s Drinks & Social Digest. Wines, Spirits and Beers

CorkBilly’s Drinks & Social Digest
Wines, Spirits and Beers

27 Tastes of Brazil at The Friary
Happy New Year and welcome/bem vindos to the first 27 Tastes of Brazil of 2019!! :)

Brilliant Brazilian tunes by DJ Danilo, tasty Baião de Dois by Luciane Viana, and of course Caipirinhas and Caipiroskas to tickle your taste buds made by The Friary staff  :D 

Kicking off at 2:30 next Sunday, join us for a great afternoon! :)  Details 

Next month at The Friary,they move from Brazil to Brittany!
From Caipirinhas to Cider

 Let's all celebrate Brittany once again. Sat Feb 9th - 6.00pm! Details 
In a galaxy, not so far away, there is a country, proud and full of culture.
For one night, let's celebrate this wonderful land… Brittany! 

Gorgeous single estate cider and apple liqueur imported directly from Château de Lézergué, delicious salty and sweet crêpes made by the “bretonniest” of the bretons Cyril Kerboul, all of this wrapped with the best music that Bretagne can offer (and obviously with no partiality at all). [*edit DJ Arbraz*: extreme partiality intensifies]

Kentoc'h mervel eget bezan saotret…
Breizh da viken!*
Let's all celebrate Brittany once again.

The Bridge Bar for Thursday Tasting (24th)
Our tasting sessions are back @TheBridge and January is kicking off with Kinnegar Brewery on Thursday 24th January, close enough to finish up with Dry January. 

Small Brewery, Big Beers
At Kinnegar we pair brewing tradition with a contemporary sense of adventure to produce clean, crisp, full-flavoured farmhouse beers. The brewery is named after the nearby Kinnegar Beach just north of Rathmullan in County Donegal. Details here 

Kinnegar Sponsor White Horse Trad Sessions
Traditional Irish Music sessions taking place in the main bar at The White Horse from Wednesday 23rd January to Sunday 27th January, sponsored by Kinnegar Brewing, as part of The Ballincollig Winter Music Festival 2019.

23/1/2019
WEDNESDAY
Traditional Session 6,30 to 9.30 Conor O Sullivan & friends





L’Atitude WINTER WINE SERIES
MOUNTAINS, ISLANDS,
VOLCANOES & COASTS
 
Thurs Feb 7th 7.00pm
VOLCANOES

The Winter Wine Series focuses on the landscape around where grapes are grown and how it influences wine style. In this second tasting we will look at volcanoes and how volcanic soil structure creates a unique environment that influences grapes. There are many examples of interesting wines produced on volcanic soils – ranging from Etna to Santorini, Tenerife, Chile, Oregon and Madeira, to name but a few. We will present a selection we think really reflect their volcanic origin.

Join us and Pascal Rossignol of Le Caveau , Kilkenny as we taste our way though our selection of favourite “Volcanic” wines.

Tickets €20. Booking Essential



Spanish Wine Faces Up To Brexit
Some believe that Brexit might be a golden opportunity for English wine, especially after research conducted by polling firm YouGov revealed that wine has become the country’s preferred alcoholic drink. Currently, 99% of the wine consumed in the UK is imported. Read the Spanish view here https://www.spanishwinelover.com/find-356-what-could-brexit-mean-for-spanish-wine 


Richy’s BYO Offer
Clonakilty restaurant Richy’s are offering a helping hand when dining out. “Feeling the crunch after Christmas? Why not save some dosh by bringing your own wine to Richy’s! T&C's apply. Available 14th Jan - 28th Feb 2019. Corkage €5.”
Franciscan Well’s Cask Ales and Strange Brew Fest
Our favourite festival of the year....The Cask Ales and Extraordinary Brew Festival running from Jan 31st to Feb 2nd. Yellow Belly, Rising Suns, Metalman and West Cork Brewing are just some of the brewers at the festival and will compete in the Beoir Cask Competition to see who can come up with the most extraordinary beer under categories: Best lager, best "pale', best stout and best specialty. Judged by The national Beer enthusiasts club, winners will be announced on the Saturday of the festival. Live music, performances & Pompeii pizza! Admission is free

  

Flavours of New Zealand


Flavours of New Zealand


New Zealand wine-growers came in force to Dublin last Monday and the tasting at the Radisson Blu in Golden Lane was appropriately called Flavours of New Zealand. Delicious flavours both in very approachable entry level wines and even more so in the very desirable top end wines, both in red and white.

Sauvignon Blanc is THE white wine grape associated with New Zealand and, aside from the individual wineries, the event featured a SB Table. The seven wines had been picked by sommeliers who had visited New Zealand on scholarship. I noted three, beginning with the very refreshing Clos Henri Marlborough 2016, imported by Les Caves de Pyrene. We two had a bit of a contest between the Framingham F-Series and the Greywhacke Wild, both Marlborough, and the less expensive Framingham got the nod, both very very good, both distributed by Liberty Wines.
Great to see Findlater still going strong at the New Zealand tasting. They were founded in 1823.
This bike, donated by the company, is an exhibit at the Little Museum of Dublin.

New Zealand is not that well known as a Chardonnay producer. But it is grown throughout the country, reflecting the terroir and the wide regional diversity. This grape also had its own table. Two of the best ones from the eight on the table, I thought, were the Lawson’s Dry Hills Reserve (Marlborough) and the outstanding Pegasus Bay Virtuoso (North Canterbury) . Both are distributed here by Febvre.
Stunning Pinot Noir
One to keep!

Mount (Mt.) Beautiful was a winery table with a full hand of excellent well-priced wines and, like quite a few of the wineries here, they are seeking representation in the Irish market. David Teece and his wife Leigh started by purchasing four farms in 2003 and wasted no time in planting vines. We tasted three whites (Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay and Riesling) along with their Pinot Noir, all certified-sustainable and estate-grown, and all better than normal. Only eleven kilometres from the ocean, the vines are protected by Mt Beautiful and the couple, who also do conventional farming, make the best of their terroir.

We had a similar success at the multi-award winning Saint Clair Family Estate table. Luckily you can get their wines here as they are distributed by Findlater & Co. The entry level Sauvignon Blanc and Pinot Noir were very acceptable and the higher levels had that bit more going for them by way of restraint and sophistication and, yet, the price difference isn’t all that much. Watch out for Saint Clair.
Excellent!

One of the more unusual Sauvignon Blancs came from the well-known Brancott Estate (distributed here by Pernod Ricard). They are one of the vineyards trying to include naturally lower alcohol wines in their portfolio. I tasted one, the Flight 2017 (Maryborough). Just 9% but no lack of flavour at all - very encouraging, like the recent Dr John Forrest one purchased from Marks and Spencer.

Our second stroll around the tables saw us concentrate on the reds and here it was mostly about the Point Noirs! Felton Road had a strong hand as you'd expect from a vinery with a “formidable worldwide reputation for Chardonnay, Riesling and Pinot Noir”. They are very special wines and pricey.

I’d have been very happy with the first Bannockburn, a really top notch Pinot at €52.99. And then came their Block 3 Bannockburn, an even better wine, matched by the one from Block 5, each at €79.99. Pricey yes but really very special and imported by JN Wine.

Gru-Vee!
And speaking of special takes me back to Cloudy Bay, distributed here by Edward Dillon. Again there was a great start with the 2016 Pinot Noir from Marlborough (45.60). And then I spotted a Te Wahi from Central Otago. I was told excitedly that this comes from a new project and is produced to be “age-able”. 

Otago is way down south and the fruit comes from two small “very high” parcels. The intent to make it “age-able” is underlined by the use of cork as a closure - all the others on the table had screw-cap. It does however cost €87.90. Happy Birthday. Happy Christmas. Happy Anniversary. I’ll think of something.

Seifried Estate had a full range, everything from bubbles to dessert and including Sauvignon Blanc and Pinot Noir. I more or less went off piste here and came up with a handy double, from grapes normally used in Austria. Their Grüner Veltliner Nelson 2016 was a beauty (and, dare I say it, a great change from SB and Chard!). And I was equally impressed with the flavour and finish from their Zweigelt Nelson 2014. Both are distributed by Classic Drinks so do watch out for them.

Began to run out of puff (and time) at that stage and had to leave without trying all the tables. Nonetheless it was quite an afternoon of tasting, more than enough to illustrate that New Zealand is a major player and a welcome one in the Irish market, two islands from opposite ends of the world helping one another one in trade even if we knock one another out on the rugby field.

Wednesday, January 16, 2019

Oslo Bar Galway. Great Spot For Lunch and Craft Beer. And a distillery up the stairs!


Oslo Bar Galway. Great Spot For Lunch and Craft Beer
And a distillery up the stairs!
Cod Sandwich

Galway Bay has just moved its brewery from “mothership” Oslo Bar in Salthill to Ballybrit. But fear not: the bar is still serving up the iconic Galway Bay brews such as Full Sail, Bay Ale, Stormy Port, Buried at Sea, Of Foam and Fury, and Althea as we found out this week when we visited for lunch and a tour of the Micil Distillery that has replaced the brewery at the rear of the premises.

The Galway Bay website: “The Oslo was the start of Galway Bay Brewery and remains our flagship pub based in Salthill; our owners Jason O’Connell and Niall Walsh added a brewery on site in 2009, making The Oslo one of the country’s first brew pubs. Since then Galway Bay Brewery has expanded operations to 11 bars based in Galway and Dublin and have grown and re-positioned the Brewery just outside of Galway in Ballybrit.

The well positioned bar serves food, lunch and evening meals, every day of the week, mainly in the front half. The rear is more like a beer hall with a huge screen, apparently the biggest in Galway, where all kinds of sporting events are shown. Upstairs and to the rear is where you will find the Micil Distillery, producing Poitín and Gin and about to lay down their first whiskey.

After a two and half hour trip from Cork we were ready for grub when we arrived in Salthill. Parked up near the aquarium and headed around the corner to Oslo. A big warm welcome and soon we had the lunch menu in our hands.

As you might expect, there are a few burgers on the menu, also fish and chips. There is also a Spinach and Sweet Potato Salad, Beer Braised Beef Cheeks, and a kale Superfood Salad.

With a big dinner booked for the evening, we didn’t want anything major so settled for the sandwich menu. There was a Goats Cheese and Chorizo offer with all the trimmings (including chips) for €8.50. But I picked the Grilled Cod Sandwich (with creamy slaw and tartar sauce on a multiseed ciabatta). Excellent. Fish tasted as fresh as could be and good value for €9.50.

CL’s Black Wrap came in at a euro less and was also well worth it. This Spinach infused tortilla with black beans, avocado, sweetcorn, black olives, leaves, salsa, and coriander with chipotle and lime yoghurt was packed with great flavour and texture. Other sandwiches on offer included Cajun Chicken and Chorizo, Baked Ham and Smoked Gubbeen, Fried Chicken Wrap.

After that and a chat or two with the friendly and helpful staff we were good and ready for our tour of the Micil Distillery. Staying overnight? Why not try the Nox Hotel who have a great offer for January?

* We’ll have to ORSO by night sometime and get stuck into that amazing beer list

Tuesday, January 15, 2019

Taste of the Week. Big Red Kitchen’s Spiced Plum & Port Jam


Taste of the Week
Big Red Kitchen’s Spiced Plum & Port Jam

“We combine ripe plums with a hint of warming cinnamon and port in this wonderful seasonal preserve. Wonderful on bread and scones, but why not try serving it with pate or cheese?”

A big thanks to Margo Ann of the Roughty Foodie in the English Market for introducing me to this lovely jam. We had been thinking of trying it with seasonal items, such as the Christmas pudding but that wasn’t really an item!

In the meantime, Nicola (from Big Red Kitchen) had tweeted that it was a match with paté, cheese and duck. Plenty of opportunities over the Christmas to try it, although funnily enough no paté (though there is a small tin of Ostrich hanging around). Excellent with most cheeses, though I preferred a sweeter preserve (such as Fig Jam) with the blue cheeses.

But the outstanding match came when we had it with Skeaghanore Smoked Duck. Their richly flavoured smoked duck breast is a favourite here, even more so now that we have this delicious Big Red Kitchen jam - our Taste of the Week - to go with it. I’ll be in for more, Margo!

Tel: 01-6978092 
Mob: 086-1508462 
Email: nicola@bigredkitchen.ie 
Address: Simonstown Lane, Navan, Co. Meath, Ireland 

Monday, January 14, 2019

ORSO: Making a difference. Superb new 3-course menu for €19.00


ORSO: Making a difference.
Superb new 3-course menu for €19.00
Watermelon

For the past six years, tiny ORSO has been making its own distinctive mark, serving fresh and vibrant flavours, in the heart of Cork City. This is Irish food but influenced by the Mediterranean, including the Maghreb and the Levant, and places further east. The Pembroke Street venue may be small but there’s a big variety here and now it's well illustrated in a delicious new 3-course menu for just nineteen euro!

This Prix Fixe menu is available between 5.00 and 7.00pm on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays. And this is not just a January offer. It trialled in December, is now formalised and manager Dee Munnelly and her enthusiastic kitchen team hope it goes on and on. And the reaction so far indicates that it will.
Bruschetta

We were there last week to try it out and can honestly give it a very enthusiastic thumbs up as we enjoyed every bite from start to finish and a bottle of their own (ORSO are part of the Market Lane group) Elbow Lane Jawbone Pale Ale. The drinks - wines, beers and cocktails available - are not of course included in the fixed price!

They have four starters on offer including a Chicken Manti with Tomato Ragu and Toasted Seeds and also a Courgette Carpaccio with Parmesan, and sumac and saffron oil.

But it was the Seared Watermelon that caught CL’s eye. It was a great choice, a lovely tasty and warm dish, the slices of warm melon served with Goats Cheese, Gremolata and pomegranate. Gremolata? It is a chopped herb condiment usually made of lemon zest, garlic, and parsley.

Meanwhile, I was just as enthusiastic with my Sardine Bruschetta. The little silver sardine was delicious and indeed the warmed bread itself, soaked with oil and covered with tomato and onion, would have made a fine starter on its own. We were up and running and looking for more.

Hake
And that didn’t take long. Service is excellent here, friendly, helpful. Again you’ll have a choice of four mains. On the night, our quartet included a Lemon and Oregano Lamb shoulder, Feta and fennel and also a tempting Red Rice Black Bean falafel, harissa and pickled veg.

I picked the Crumbed Hake, served on spiced lentils with a poached egg on top. What a bowlful! No shortage of quantity here. And certainly no shortage of quality either. A magnificent palate-pleasing mix of textures and flavours, great for a winter’s evening.
Baklava

Chocolate Pot
And it was much the same result at the other side of the table where the Chicken Harissa Tagine went down a treat. Tasty stuff all round. And we also had a side plate with red cabbage, couscous and a cooling raita. 

Just two desserts but again two gems. I’ve never had Baklava like the fabulous ORSO version, a proper and very appropriate dessert considering the orientation of the cuisine here. And the other dessert, the Chilli Chocolate Pot, was also rich and delicious. 

Nothing but good things to say about this Prix Fixe. So, happy out, as we say around here! 

Sunday, January 13, 2019

É a ioc, é a ól, é a iompar. Spirits from the Bog by Micil Distillery.


É a ioc, é a ól, é a iompar. 
Spirits from the Bog by Galway’s Micil Distillery. 

You can take Poitín out of the bog but you can’t take the bog out of Poitín. During Tuesday’s very interesting tour of the Micil Distillery, upstairs at the Oslo Bar in Galway’s Salthill, Pádraic Ó Griallais told us that Bogbean has long been associated with Poitín and they use it as a botanical in their smooth and delicious Micil. Their gin is worth checking out too! 

The distillery and its products - there will be a whiskey in the future - are named after Pádraic’s grandfather Micil, a legend of the bog and its Poitín. Micil is ninety one now and still enjoys a bottle of the spirit every week, shared of course!

Later, Pádraic told us a yarns about Micil. We’ll call this Tús a Phota, the first of the pot. Tradition deigned that the first drop from the pot (still) would be set aside for the “others”. These others were vaguely defined, might be the little folk, maybe dead relatives. 

So normally, while operating in the middle of the bog, that first sup was left in a little container at the edge of the operation (illicit) and, normally, was never touched. But then, one night, the first offering was taken, behind Micil’s back. And so was the second. The third though was still intact as dawn broke. In the near distance, Micil saw a human form lying on the turf. Turned out to be a neighbour who had emptied the two jugs but couldn’t take the high alcohol and fell asleep before he could make good his escape.

Micil had over time "distilled" the three prerequisites of drinking: é a ioc, é a ól, é a iompar. That the drinker should be able to pay for it, able to drink it and able to hold it. The native language here at its most precise.

The Mac Chearra family trace their association with distilling back to 1848, to another Micil, Pádraic's great-great-great grandfather. Pádraic is the sixth generation and has many tales to tell, including escapades involving the Royal Irish Constabulary and the Garda Síochána. Poitín has been legal since the late 20th century and, in 2008, Irish Poitín was accorded (GI) Geographical Indicative Status by the EU.

One generation after another of Padraic’s ancestors made Poitín, illicitly! He himself doesn’t admit to anything illegal of course but does say he picked up a lot from his grandfather. By the way, Micil is the first distillery in Galway since Percy’s, whiskey producers, who last operated in 1911. Pádraic dispelled the theory that Poitín is made from the potato. Theirs, like most, is made from grain and comes in a dark bottle (like much alcohol in the good old days, it was for “medicinal purposes”!).
Pádraic and some of the old gear, plus a few sods of turf and a sack of grain

We’d been talking but also tasting, neat first, and then with ginger beer (Fever-tree) in Micil’s take on the Moscow Mule. It is amazingly smooth, much more of a body than you’d get with vodka. By the way, I’d prefer to sip the Micil on its own rather than with the ginger beer. The again, if I had all day, I might have found a happy medium!
Bogbean

Then Pádraic produced another Poitín, their Heritage Edition, the only one hundred per cent Irish peated spirit, 80% barley and 20% oats. It is quite viscous, he pointed out, the legs slow to clear, the only spirit using peated oats in the country.

The nose is earthy, spicy, lightly smoky. Much the same on the palate, the peatiness there too but not at all dominant. “Very akin to a single malt,” he said, “Very approachable.” We agreed. Do look out for this exceptional drink.

And now we were on to their Micil Gin, a complex gin. It does have the essential juniper but this is “very West of Ireland” and contains local botanicals such as heather flowers, bogbean, hawthorn berry and bog myrtle (used in previous times instead of hops). Juniper, of course, is used and other more traditional botanicals include Coriander (for its citrus), Orris Root Power and Angelica Root Powder (both for their fixative properties), orange peel, lemon peel, caraway seed, cardamon, elderflower and elderberry. The final result means that Micil is somewhat sweeter than London Dry Gin.

It is an excellent gin. You don’t need too much else in the glass with this one. “Micil does the talking itself,” says a rightly proud Pádraic. The distillery is a relatively new adventure. Indeed, up to recently, its space was the place where all the fabulous Galway Bay beers were being produced. Now Galway Bay Brewery have moved to another location in the city and Poitín and gin have moved in and, as he wrapped up the weekly bottle for Micil himself, Pádraic said whiskey will soon make it a trio of divine, if not holy, spirits. Let us pray we are all able to pay for it, are able to drink it and also able to hold it.

Read more about the Micil Distillery here.


Friday, January 11, 2019

Amuse Bouche

In Clare, de Valera had a new running mate, the GP Patrick Hillery. Hillery was a political neophyte: when De Valera told him to go to the Fianna Fail head office to sign the (party) pledge he thought he was being asked to give up drink. But he was assured that he would know all he needed to about politics after a campaign with de Valera.

from De Valera, Rule 1932-1975, by David McCullagh (2018). Recommended.