Wednesday, April 17, 2024

Taste of the Week. Carraig Beag cheese from Carrigaline

Taste of the Week. 

Carraig Beag cheese from Carrigaline

Mild and Silky from the O'Farrell family in Carrigaline.

Padraig O'Farrell is the man behind Carrigaline Farmhouse Cheese these days. The O'Farrell cheese story began  over thirty years ago when Ann and Pat, Padraig’s parents, first produced their semi-hard cow’s milk cheese from their own herd, after Pat had undertaken a six-month cheese course at UCC. Now the family processes a variety of cheeses “based on our own unique recipe for both the national and international market. All of our cheese is handmade and available all year round”.

Made with pasteurised cow's milk, Carraig Beag is a full-fat semi-hard cheese and is suitable for vegetarians. This high-quality flavoursome cheese, silky and mild as claimed, is our Taste of the Week. Carrigaline cheese is widely available and we got this one in the local Dunnes Stores.

Tuesday, April 16, 2024

Classy Cuisine in Cork’s Comfortable Cornstore. Delightful dinner and superb service in Cornmarket Street.

Classy Cuisine in Cork’s Comfortable Cornstore

Delightful dinner and superb service in Cornmarket Street.

It wasn’t the best of evenings weather-wise but that was all forgotten for an hour or two on a midweek visit to The Cornstore, one of the most comfortable dining venues in the city. And it wasn’t just the fixtures and fittings because the cooking and the service were also superb. 

The menu is extensive and they still have an emphasis on steaks, seafood and cocktails here. But there is much more and we tried something from the different sections, seafood for a start, then vegetarian and pork and then a sweet finalee. By the way, quite a few of the regular dishes are also offered on the good value Early Bird, so be sure and consider it.


We got the friendliest of welcomes from the team here, and were soon seated in those plush chairs, studying the menu (we also received copies of that Early Bird, the evening’s specials and the tempting drinks listings with cocktails included!).

Seafood appetisers included Chowder and Prawn Pil Pil and oysters of course but I already had my mind set on the Mini Lobster Rolls, with buttered brioche and the Atlantic Lobster (15). We were off to a flier here with this exquisite flavoursome combination, everything from the little brioche buns to the flavoursome lobster was spot on. Other starters included Heirloom Beetroot Carpaccio, Creamy Burrata (with Heirloom tomatoes) and Fillet Beef Churro. Something for everyone!

Lobster rolls

Choices galore also with the Main Course offering that highlighted their range of dry-aged steaks including a Chateaubriand (for two!). Also available were Braised Angus Beef Cheek Bourguinon, Citrus Half Chicken, Tuna Steak and more!

CL picked the Grilled Cauliflower Steak with vegan Café de Paris butter, grilled onion, oyster mushroom and chimichurro sauce (19.00). Quite a generous amount of cauliflower but there was nothing of it left on the plate. The accompaniments enhanced the experience and indeed that onion was a tasty surprise, reminding us of one that we enjoyed in the Michelin starred Nerua in Bilbao’s Guggenheim a few years back

Bilbao onion with cod skin.

At the other side of the happy table, I was tucking into my Slow Cooked Crispy Pork Belly Porchetta with braised red cabbage, crispy kale and a black pudding crumble (26.00), another dish that I can heartily recommend, so well executed with every element well chosen to contribute. The pork itself, “crackling” included, was packed with flavour and the red cabbage was the perfect partner.

Then our server, who were all friendly and helpful, gave us another dilemma, that of choosing something for “the best course”. Not easy. They had three Dessert Cocktails on the list plus more than a half dozen classic desserts including Vanilla Crème Brulée, Granny Smith Apple Tartan and Panna Cotta plus the Cornstore Cheeseboard.

Our choice was the traditional Sticky Toffee Pudding (right) with vanilla ice cream and an orange caramel sauce (8.00). And it more than lived up to its classic reputation, one of the best I’ve come across recently. It reminded me very much of the gem that I used to enjoy decades ago in an upstairs Emmet Place French restaurant. I cannot remember its name but Aroma is there now.

Like many restaurants, the Cornstore has been through the wringer over the past couple of years and it was great to visit and enjoy a meal that certainly confirms that they are in top form both in the kitchen and front of house!

My pic of the Pork Belly. To see how they plate it up (before the crispy kale is added), check their short Instagram video here

Monday, April 15, 2024

Fota House and Gardens in April

Fota House and Gardens in April

Pics taken 14.04.2024

Read more

EAST CORK WELCOMES BEALTAINE WITH MAY SUNDAY FESTIVAL 2024. Seed & Plant Swap included in a unique weekend in the woods


 Celtic goddess Noelle Ní Riagáin in the woods.


Seed & Plant Swap included in a unique weekend in the woods celebrating 

creativity, nature and fun for all ages


To mark the arrival of Bealtaine, the first days of summer as celebrated by our Celtic ancestors, the village of Killeagh in East Cork is hosting a very special May Sunday Festival this year.   


Running from 3rd to 6th of May, the May Sunday Festival comprises a unique schedule of creative and fun events, workshops and activities for all ages, inspired by our Celtic roots.  Embracing nature, creativity and local history, free and subsidised events include Dawn Chorus Walks in the Woods, Here comes the Sun! Morning Yoga, Cré Clay workshops, Dogsercise adventure trails for dogs, Imagination Station, children’s art workshops, wreathmaking, music and dancing, photo exhibits and lots more fun for all the family!

A delicious Vermentino by Domaine Bassac, a family estate of several generations standing

Domaine Bassac Le Vermentino de Grand Mur Parcelles Cotes de Thongue (IGT) 2021, 14% ABV

Mary Pawle Wines 

Domaine Bassac is a family estate of several generations standing

The colour of our organic Vermentino is quite a light straw, shimmering bright in the glass. Light fruity and herbal notes in the aromatics. Rich fruit flavours follow, citrus mostly with hints of tropical, and also the expected (but certainly not over the top) acidity that ensures balance. Best drunk when young, this dry and fruity wine should pair well with pasta, vegetarian dishes, poultry, lean fish, and also as an aperitif. 

Vermentino is generally associated with the Mediterranean, grown mostly in Italy (all over the country but most notably in Sardinia, check out Atzei, and Tuscany) and France (in Provence and the Languedoc-Roussillon) along with some excellent examples from Corsica where Le Bois Du Cerf  is well worth looking out for.

Our wine here, part of which has been barrel fermented, comes from the Côtes de Thongue in Languedoc-Roussillon. The vineyard is situated at Puisalicon, a small medieval village in the heart of the Languedoc not too far from Beziers, a town that rugby fans will be familiar with. Domaine Bassac is a family estate of several generations standing and much of its wine is exported. Pioneers in organic farming, current operators François Delhon (family member) and Jean-Philippe Léca have been doing it organically since 1987. 

Friday, April 12, 2024

“A truly remarkable glass of white”. Occhipinti SP68 Bianco Terre Siciliane.

Occhipinti SP68 Bianco Terre Siciliane (IGT) 2022 11.0% ABV

RRP €29.95. Stockists: 64 Wine Dublin, Bradley’s of Cork, Greenman Dublin, Le Caveau

A truly remarkable glass of white”


The colour is a deeper shade of gold than you might expect. This organic wine has spent 155 days maceration on the skins. The aromas are also quite complex, white flowers, moderate tropical fruit (think lychee, mango) and a mild spice. 

Strongly aromatic, yet this blend of two little-known Sicilian varieties, 60% Zibibbo (a regional name for Muscat of Alexandria) and Albanella, is surprisingly light on its feet as it dances across the palate, unveiling layer after layer of flavour as you sip, and meditate, to a very satisfactory finish indeed. 

It is packed with vivacious character, a drink to remember. As Le Caveau say: “A truly remarkable glass of white”. Full of juice, joy and vitality, this stellar wine is one to savour. Very Highly Recommended.

Arianna Occhipinti, the winemaker, learned the ropes as a 16-year-old from her uncle Giusto Occhipinti who is well-known for his use of Spanish amphorae at COS, a winery he founded in the area with two friends in 1980. 

Arianna has been learning well before and since launching her own winery in 2006. She has a big interest in reviving forgotten Sicilian grapes and is indeed credited by the recently published VINO with bringing Frappato back to life “almost single-handedly” and has become a “rock star in the world of natural wine.”

All the vineyards are worked using biodynamic principals and the work in the cellar is measured…not pushing the wine in any way…letting it find its own space…..natural yeasts, no temperature control, no fining or filtration and minimal SO2 at bottling.

The SP68 is the name of the main road that passes near to Arianna’s home town of Vittoria….it lies in the far south of Sicily just to the west of Ragusa. She also produces a red SP68 and you may read a recent review of it here


Her vines are grown organically, under the clear Iblean sky, with no chemical intervention. The farming system is Guyot and spurred cordon and the average age of the plants is 15 years. Harvest time is late September into early October.

Vines (via Occhipinti)

In the winery, fermentation is with indigenous yeast and it spends 155 days of maceration on the skins, then 6 months in concrete tanks, plus 1 month in bottle, and there is no filtration.

Thursday, April 11, 2024

Little Island's Carrigrennan Walk.

Little Island's Carrigrennan Walk


Fota Folly


MV Matthew, still tied up

Going straight! After a tough upbringing

Black-tailed godwit (with help from Google Picture Search)

Taste of the Week. The Grumpy Bakers Sandwiches

Taste of the Week

Massive Sandwiches by The Grumpy Bakers

Spotted the Grumpy Bakers shop/café as I crossed Washington Street by Finns Corner yesterday at lunchtime and popped in to take a look. Immediately the display of sandwiches caught my eye and I bought a couple. It is possible to eat them there (they have a few tables), they can heat them for you if you are taking them out for consumption nearby, or box and bag them if, like us, you are heading home.

The first one I spotted in the selection was their Mediterranean, a generous mix of chicken, basil mayo, sundried tomato pesto, and greens served in a sea salt focaccia. Back at base, CL claimed that though it was shared and we both enjoyed it.

My main bite though was the other purchase. The Salami, Brie, Mustard Mayo, Chilli Honey and Rocket combination was a beauty packed between two large country sourdough slices and our Taste of the Week. Spicy salami, delicious cheese and peppery rocket ensured this one took off with a whole payload of texture and flavour.

A second call is on the cards as their other sandwiches also looked inviting and of course, they have more than sandwiches to explore on the packed counter. And then there's all that top-quality bread!

Wednesday, April 10, 2024


press releases Spring24



It’s all happening on the ground floor at The Ross

There has never been a better time to plan a trip to Killarney with The Ross having  just unveiled a vibrant new layout and look for this popular town centre Boutique Hotel.

Famed for its large arched windows, flooded with natural daylight and enviable views of the vibrant town, this welcoming space has been transformed from a traditional hotel reception into an entirely new concept called Polly’s. It is set to be a hot spot for coffee lovers and those looking for delicious bites and cocktails with a side of town spice! Hotel guests can now check-in at the newly renovated reception area located in the upper level of the hotel.

Wicklow Wolf Locavore BA Farmhouse Ale with Brettanomyces. Beer of the Week. A Symphony of Sour Complexity. Beer of the Week.

Beer of the Week

Wicklow Wolf Locavore BA Farmhouse Ale with Brettanomyces, 7.2% ABV, 330 ml bottle, Bradleys

Wicklow Wolf Locavore BA Farmhouse Ale: A Symphony of Sour Complexity

Crack open a bottle of Wicklow Wolf's Locavore BA Farmhouse Ale, and you're greeted by a stunning golden hue, hazy yet still revealing a persistent stream of lively bubbles rising to a fluffy white head. The aroma is an enticing melange of grassy hops and wild yeast, complemented by a subtle yet intriguing funk with a whisper of sourness that promises a delightful adventure on the palate.

And that adventure sure arrives! The first sip explodes with a symphony of flavours. Refreshing tartness mingles with hints of barnyard funk, while subtle notes from the 16 months spent ageing in Chardonnay barrels peek through. Each sip reveals hidden layers of complexity, showcasing the brewer's patience and dedication to crafting an exceptional beer. The mouthfeel is crisp and dry, leaving a clean finish that invites another sip.

This 21st instalment in the Locavore series is a testament to Wicklow Wolf's commitment to local ingredients and innovative brewing techniques. The wild yeasts from their hop farm weave their magic in a truly unique and unforgettable sour farmhouse ale. Patience truly pays off, and this Spring 2024 release is a beer you can savour well into the summer (if the Irish weather cooperates, that is!).

With its exceptional quality and delightful complexity, the Wicklow Wolf Locavore Barrel Aged Farmhouse Ale is Very Highly Recommended for any adventurous craft beer enthusiast. This Locavore series is all about local and the quality of the individual beers has generally been very high over the years. This, our Beer of the Week, is no exception.

Geek Bits

Style: Barrel Aged Farmhouse Ale

IBUs: 35

Hops: Mosaic, Centennial

Malts: Pilsner, Wheat Malt, Munich Malt

Tuesday, April 9, 2024

Farmgate Cafe: A Cork Institution Where Market-Fresh Reigns Supreme

Farmgate Café. Pure Cork. Market-Fresh Guaranteed!

A Cork Institution Where Market-Fresh Reigns Supreme

We Irish may hold a special place in our hearts for lamb stew and potatoes, but sometimes, you crave something a little different. Thankfully, the Farmgate Cafe, nestled above the bustling English Market, offers a haven for those seeking alternative delicious and innovative dishes made with the freshest local ingredients. Still, when I saw the stew and potatoes arrive on a nearby table, I was beginning to have regrets.  

A Legacy of Quality

For decades, the Farmgate has been a cornerstone of the Cork culinary scene. I vividly remember a visit with American bloggers nearly 13 years ago, where founder Kay Harte showcased the magic of Irish cuisine. Her enthusiasm for "balls of flour" – those glorious Golden Wonder potatoes delivered from her longstanding East Cork supplier – was infectious, and the dish that arrived at a nearby table during my recent visit confirmed their enduring appeal.

While the menu was slightly reduced due to the post-holiday Tuesday lull, the quality remained exceptional. My companion opted for the Garryhinch Mushroom Vol au Vent with Walnut and Lemon Pangrattato, a delightful twist on a classic, and the verdict was a resounding "top notch."

I succumbed to the Toasted Sandwich with Loin of Bacon, Scarmorza Cheese, and Onion Marmalade. It was a medley of flavours, the smoky cheese and succulent bacon beautifully complemented by the sweetness of the marmalade. This winning combination, amplified by the equally impressive soup on the side, earned a well-deserved five stars.

Sweet Endings and Market Charm

After much deliberation, the classic Bakewell tart emerged victorious from the dessert debate. Its generous central layer of smooth and delicious plus its topping of perfectly sliced almonds, the ensemble in warm custard, provided a sweet and satisfying conclusion to the meal.

The Farmgate's post-Covid customer queueing system flowed seamlessly. Despite being close to capacity, the atmosphere was calm and convivial. The well-trained servers navigated the space with practised ease, projecting a sense of relaxed efficiency amidst the lively hum of conversation and the inherent buzz of the market itself.

More Than Just a Cafe

The Farmgate Cafe transcends the typical lunchtime haunt. It's a testament to the enduring power of fresh, seasonal ingredients and the importance of supporting local producers. It's a place where generations of Corkonians have gathered to enjoy good food and company, all within the vibrant tapestry of the English Market.

Cork may boast about its good things, and rightfully so, and the Farmgate Cafe stands out as a true gem, a market treasure offering an experience that goes far beyond "balls of flour" (though those are pretty darn good too)!

Cool station in La Boqueria St Josep, Barcelona.

We are not alone though. Quite a few well-loved cafés are located within large markets around Europe, similar to the Farmgate (but maybe without those balls of flour)! Here are a few.

La Boqueria, Barcelona, Spain: This world-famous market has several cafes lining its sides, offering everything from fresh tapas and pintxos to seafood paella and refreshing sangria.

Campo de' Fiori Market, Rome, Italy: This bustling market has several cafes and restaurants where you can grab a table and enjoy fresh pasta dishes, cured meats, and local cheeses all sourced from the market stalls.

Lisbon Mercado da Ribeira, Lisbon, Portugal: This recently renovated market offers a variety of trendy cafes and restaurants, many focussed on fresh seafood and Portuguese specialities like Pastel de Nata custard tarts.

Borough Market, London, England: This historic market is home to a few cafes serving delicious meals made with fresh, seasonal ingredients. Visitors can enjoy everything from a classic full English breakfast to lighter options like salads and sandwiches

Grand Bazaar, Istanbul, Turkey: The Grand Bazaar has numerous small eateries serving  Turkish staples like gözleme (stuffed flatbreads), kebab wraps, and refreshing glasses of Turkish tea.

These are just a few examples, and many other cafes are located within markets all over Europe. They offer a unique way to experience the sights, sounds, and flavours of a local market while enjoying a delicious meal; in that regard, Cork is as good as any.