Monday, July 22, 2019

Four of the Best from O’Brien’s Summer Promotion


Four of the Best from O’Brien’s Summer Promotion
 -22nd July to 1st September-
The O’Brien’s Summer Promotion began this week and runs until 1st September. Over 100 wines are on offer, with discounts ranging from 6% to 42%. I think I've been lucky with the examples I've picked (below),  all red as it turned out.

But there is so much more in the promotion. Anyone for rosé? Why not try L'Ostal Caze from the many on offer. Whites to consider include the Château-Fuissé Saint-Veran  and the outstanding Robert Weil Riesling trocken. Having a little get-together out-the-back? There are two Rizzardi proseccos reduced and no shortage of cava or champagne either. Enjoy the summer! Responsibly, of course. Regular price in brackets.

Vaglio "Chango" Red Blend 2015 Argentina, 14.5%, 15.95 (18.95)

An expressive and pleasant wine according to the man who produced it: José Lovaglio Balbo, from Mendoza. Vaglio is a new micro-winery located in Tupungato created by José. He produces four single vineyard wines that all focus on micro-climates and minimal winemaking. José is a young winemaker at the well known Dominio del Plata and the son of renowned winemaker Susana Balbo. Each of his wines represent a unique terroir as well as different stages of his life. 

The fruit comes from different vineyards, the Malbec (65%) and Cabernet Sauvignon (15%) are from Altamira and the Tannat (20%) is from Cafayate. It has spent 11 months in oak (2nd/3rd use barrels).

Colour is close to a dark ruby. Bruised red fruit on the nose, a touch of orange peel too, slightest hints of vanilla emerge also. Palate is soft, full of that red fruit flavour, then the long-lasting finish, with tannins that are not yet quite smooth. A really well-made wine from Mendoza, an amazing amalgam of the grapes and the terroir conducted by the young wine-maker. He does ask for your feedback on the bottle! Very Highly Recommended. Chapeau, José. @joselovaglio


Tandem, at the foot of the Camino de Santiago in the Yerri Valley, is a cool micro-climate where they practice sustainable farming and minimal intervention. Built north-facing and partially underground to use a gravity system, they have the finest natural conditions to age the wines.

Owner José María Fraile was in Cork last year and told us  the vineyard is quite close to Pamplona and on the northern edge of the Navarra wine region. “We like freshness and elegance and luckily we’re in the coolest part of the appellation. It is super green where we are, a big contrast with the desert in the south. The Atlantic influence, the cool summer nights and picking late in the season is good for the grapes and we get that natural acidity.” We would soon see how that acidity helped with the food pairings at 12 Tables.

Inmune (Spanish for immune) was one of the wines on the night, a 100% Garnacha paired with Gubbeen Chorizo, Ardsallagh Feta, Olive Tapenade, Romesco, Physalis and Avocado Oil. “Immune, to failure, to critics!”, joked José. “This is a powerful expression of the Garnacha (the vines are 70 years old and more); great depth and structure, a stunning wine that fills the palate.”

“We aimed to make a powerful, deep and concentrated wine, with nice weight and tannins in which the purity of the fruit garnacha would shine.” Reckon Tandem got it spot-on. Very Highly Recommended.



Leyda, 12 km from the Pacific is an ideal spot for viticulture. The maritime influenced cool conditions makes it an extraordinary area for the development of Pinot Noir. Vineyards are all on slopes, planted on the least fertile soils and they are managed in order to keep low yields. 

Light to mid ruby is the colour. Summer berries combine for an intense aroma.  Rich rounded palate of ripe red fruit (cherries prominent), a lively acidity, smooth tannins and a long and pleasing finish. An excellent Pinot Noir, Very Highly Recommended. Good value too, even at the original price.

Leyda, founded in 1997, are best known for their Pinot Noir (notably Lot 21), Sauvignon Blanc, and Syrah (according to Wines of South America). This wine was aged in French oak barrels for ten months and pairs well with cold meats/pâtés, Duck, Pheasant/Pigeon, Pork Belly, Slow roast Pork loin.


Words of wine wisdom from the Contessa (below) encourage us to drink with emotion rather than a data sheet, passion rather than intellect.

Mid to dark ruby is the colour of this light Munus from the Lake Garda area. Aromas are intensely fruity, a hint of spice there too. Flavours are quite concentrated, acidity is excellent, hints of that sweet spice too, and a good finish to boot. 

All that acidity means it's meant for food. I’m thinking: Bring on the lamb! The producer says: “Superb with pork and poultry dishes and lighter game such as partridge and quail. Also porcini mushroom risotto.” Another note from the vineyard recommends it to be served (16° C or 60° F) with pork roast, spicy dishes or casseroles. Quite versatile apparently!

A wine that belies its youth.  Very Highly Recommended.

Lots of history behind Rizzardi and Munus which is produced mainly from Corvina, Merlot and Ancellotta grapes from their vineyards. 

Created to celebrate the Contessa Loredan Rizzardi, a descendant of the Loredan Doges of Venice and she has been quoted as saying that this is her favourite wine, adding You have a perfect marriage of grapes when one grape is not prevailing over another. ….But I drink with passion, and without brains. 

The label bears the word Munus - a gift - which was engraved on the silver coins given by the Doge on special occasions. It is part aged in large oak barrels. Serve at 16-18 degrees. Estate grown and bottled.

You may be wondering about the Ancellotta grape. Wine-searcher: Ancellotta is a dark-colored grape variety that originated in Italy. It is most often used as a blending component in sparkling red Lambrusco wines, but varietal examples can be found in BrazilArgentina and Switzerland.







Sunday, July 21, 2019

Springboard into Summer at the Kingsley Hotel


Springboard into Summer at the Kingsley Hotel
Pork Belly

Springboard, the relaxed bistro in the Kingsley Hotel, the one with the large windows that look out at the River Lee, has quite a lovely summertime menu as I enjoyably discovered last week. 

We arrived just as the only shower of the day finished up; three courses later we were singing the praises of the restaurant, named for a prominent part of the old Lee Baths that once stood here, the only downside being the fact that the sun never re-appeared to enhance the view of the river, the strollers, the runners and the kayakers.
View. Wine. Prosciutto & Ricotta starter

And it wasn’t just the food that was good. So too was the comfort here and, more importantly, the service: smooth, friendly, helpful, without ever being overly attentive. The menu is quite extensive, takes a bit of reading! Starters include everything from Olives to Chowder to a grilled mojo chicken Cobb salad, about a dozen items in all.  The mains is even more expansive, featuring beef, chicken, and pork dishes, a Thai curry, vegetarian options, even a Pizza list.

No shortage of desserts either and there’s also an Irish Farmhouse Cheeseboard. Plenty of wines to choose from as well; our pick was the aromatic and crisp Markus Huber Grüner Veltliner. And, of course, there are lots of whiskies and gins and other spirits and, if you’re driving, they can offer you a choice of non-alcoholic cocktails. Good to see the local Cotton Ball beers also well represented on the list.
Fish Cakes special

So, with the wine sorted and the breads enjoyed, we made a start, an excellent one. Lots of local produce here and CL’s salad included Toonsbridge Ricotta, with Prosciutto, fig and honey crostini and baby leaves. She enjoyed that. My soya glazed pork belly with black pudding bon bon, cos leaves, mango relish was another beauty. Both, by the way, were quite substantial yet two empty plates went back.

You don’t get trout out that often so I was delighted to try the Pan-seared fillet of sea-trout with smoked haddock, pea and saffron risotto, pine nut pesto, delighted that I did as it was a superb combination, appetising on the plate and totally pleasing on the palate.

CL had spotted the special and, with some encouragement from our server, choose the Pan-fried Fish Cakes with dressed summer salad, sweet potato fries, garlic and saffron aioli, lemon mayo. All the salads here by the way were well dressed. Again the dish was superb, full of flavour and textures. Another clean plate, another vote of confidence in the kitchen team.
Trout
The dessert menu was laced with temptation and we were pointed in the direction of the Glazed chocolate and caramel dome. But, after two excellent courses, space was limited and we opted for the lighter Lemon meringue éclair (choux pastry éclair, lemon curd filling, Italian meringue, mango sorbet) to share. It was served in the “neutral territory” on the table and provided a very pleasant end to a very pleasant evening as guests of the restaurant. 
Dessert

Check out the full Springboard menu here

The Springboard details   
OPENING TIMES
  • Monday - Friday 17.00 - 21.00
  • Saturday & Sunday 12.30 - 21.00 (Sunday lunch from 12.30 - 17.00)
CONTACT INFORMATION

Saturday, July 20, 2019

Amuse Bouche

Battenberg by Henrycooksey https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Battenbergcake.jpg

And she said, ‘…. And what about Battenberg?’ 
And I said, ‘I don’t know because I don’t know what Battenberg is.’
She said, “It’s a kind of cake. It has four pink and yellow squares in the middle and it has marzipan icing round the edge.’
And I said, ‘Is it a long cake with a square cross-section which is divided into equally-sized, alternatively coloured squares?’
And she said, ‘I think you could probably describe it like that.’

from The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time by Mark Haddon (2003). Highly Recommended.



Thursday, July 18, 2019

Ballycotton's Pier 26. A Natural for Fish!

Ballycotton's Pier 26. A Natural for Fish!
These delicious Crab Claws came with Garlic Butter and Organic Leaves. I think I've have preferred it if the claws hadn't been released from the shell. But they had and I missed that little bit of a tussle! Better outcome though than last year in a West Cork dining room when they came entire and I was presented with a plastic hammer!

In Ballycotton's excellent Pier 26 restaurant, head chef Colin Hennessy can't write the menu (at least the fish part) until the boats come in at the pier below. Only then does he know what he has to work with and that is why you'll find most of the fish dishes on the Specials Board. There is a lovely bar alongside, even a handful of rooms, all now under the Pier 26 name.

We were there recently - be sure and book before you go - and enjoyed our meal from start to finish. Fish, of course dominated, at least until the desserts!



We started with a couple of aperitifs. I enjoyed my Kir as I looked out the large window in front of me towards the island and its lighthouse. If you are in the inner room, you'll miss that view. CL had her back to the water as she concentrated on her Pimm's (left).



Fresh Crab with pickled gooseberries and organic leaves. An unusual combination but another excellent starter.

Roast Fillet of Hake, summer greens and pickled fennel. Just perfect. By the way, you get some fabulous sides here as well including Buttered Mash, Skinny Fries,  Buttered Summer Greens, John Kennefick's British Queens, Truffle Aioli and Parmesan Fries...

John Dory is a favourite here. This winner is served with Purple Broccoli, Heritage tomatoes and the combination with that seafood bisque is hard to beat.


No fishy dessert, that I know of. This flower enhanced Pavlova with fresh strawberries, blackberries, poached apricots and Chantilly Cream (and a bit of rhubarb too) was a beauty while the Raspberry Soufflé with white chocolate ice cream (below) was just the ticket to finish off an excellent meal.

Next time I'm down, I may well try this Seafood Platter. What do you think?


Wednesday, July 17, 2019

Two Highly Recommended Chardonnays from California's De Loach


Two Highly Recommended Chardonnays from California's De Loach

The Boisset family, with vineyards in Burgundy, have owned De Loach in California since 2003. Jean-Charles immediately noticed the similarities with Burgundy and the potential for producing excellent Pinot Noir and Chardonnay. They dug up all the existing vineyards and replanted using biodynamic techniques and produced their first wines in 2010.

De Loach Chardonnay Russian River Valley Sonoma County 2015, 14.5%, €29.99 
Stockists: JJ O’Driscolls, Ballinlough; Searsons Wine Merchants, Monkstown; Mitchell & Son Wine Merchants; Donnybrook Fair; Clontarf Wines; Red Island Wine, Skerries; Lilac Wines, Fairview; La Touche Wines, Greystones; The Wicklow Wine Co; Grapevine;


This judiciously oaked Chardonnay is well balanced with a round mouthfeel and a lively acidity. The fruit comes from the heart of the Russian valley and the juice was fermented in a combination of stainless steel tanks (40%) and French oak barrels (60%), of which 10% were new. The barrel fermented portion of wine was aged for nine months and achieved full malolactic conversion. 

It has a light straw colour with a pleasing mix of aromas (apple, peach and lime). That almost creamy mouthfeel, flavours (citrus led) plus a vibrant acidity combine to make this a really harmonious wine, all the way through to a long gratifying finish. Highly Recommended.

This Chardonnay pairs well with a variety of light dishes and effortlessly combines the two distinct styles of crisp refinement and rich elegance.




De Loach “Heritage Collection” Chardonnay California 2017, 13.5%, €19.99 
Stockists: JJ O’Driscolls, Ballinlough; Searsons Wine Merchants, Monkstown; Mitchell & Son Wine Merchants;  Donnybrook Fair; Clontarf Wines; Baggot Street Wines; Red Island Wine, Skerries; Lilac Wines, Fairview; Blackrock Cellar; La Touche Wines 4U; The Wicklow Wine Co; Grapevine, Dalkey; Finian Sweeney;

Colour of this classy restrained Chardonnay is light to mid yellow. Honeydew melon is prominent in the bouquet. What follows is a beautiful melange of tropical flavours (with pineapple and mango in there). Rich, soft and harmonious, right to the lingering finalé. Easy drinking, delicious and Highly Recommended.

For the 'Heritage Collection' series, Russian River Valley grapes are combined with those from selected premier cool-climate growing regions in California, particularly the Central Coast, to produce an approachable, good value range. De Loach practises sustainable viticulture and minimally intrusive winemaking.

Indeed, they take great pride in their “tri-fold heritage, a family company with deep Burgundian roots, and stewards of the land that we have for future generations”.

An interesting note from the winery saying that the majority of the must was cool fermented in stainless-steel tanks at controlled temperatures, to retain the fresh fruit flavours in the finished wine. “The remaining fruit was barrel fermented, which produced a more richly textured wine. These wines were then blended together to produce a balanced, textured and fruit-forward wine.” By the way, there is two per cent Sauvignon Blanc in there too.

Tuesday, July 16, 2019

Clonakilty in 24 Hours. A July Excursion!


Clonakilty in 24 Hours.
A July Excursion!
Clonakilty Black Pudding and strawberries, delicious starter at the Emmet Hotel

Lunch on the beach at The Fish Basket
Mussels (left) and Fish Tacos on the lunch menu at The Fish Basket. Both polished off.

The sun is out as we arrive at Long Strand after the drive down from Cork city. The idea was to have lunch at the Fish Basket which has established itself in a wooden shack on the edge of the beach. But we are a little too early as lunch service doesn’t start until about 12.45am. So that gives us time to take a walk on the long and pleasant beach, taking in the splendid views of Galley Head.

When we get back, the Fish Basket crew, a friendly and efficient bunch, have turned the kitchen after a busy breakfast service and we check out the lunch menu. We went on to enjoy two delicious fish dishes, well cooked and neatly presented. There are a few dozen seats inside and as many outside. Great spot and Very Highly Recommended.

Scannell's, a Bar with a Back-Garden Buzz
Together again, in Scannell's

After lunch we headed back to a private visit to the industrial unit in Bandon where Philip O’Connor and his staff turn out those delicious Seymours Irish Biscuits. By the time we get back to Clonakilty, we agree that we deserve a drink and so we called to Scannell’s who we know, from previous visits, serve craft beer. 

Hardly anybody in the bar but the extensive beer-garden at the back is buzzing. It is the 4th of July and there are quite a few foreign accents and every French person in the area seems to be here. We get a seat at a bench (under the shade in our case) and enjoy some Blacks of Kinsale 1601 lager and also the Franciscan Well Chieftain Pale Ale.

The Friendly and Central Emmet Hotel


Fish for dinner
Our base for the night was the O’Keeffe family owned Emmet Hotel, situated in the Georgian square that also owes its name to the Irish patriot. Lots of Irish patriots honoured in the lovely flower bedecked West Cork town. There is a statue of Michael Collins in the square and nearby streets are named, Ashe, Wolfe Tone, and there are more. Indeed, you may visit the Michael Collins house right here in the square.

This is a small high-ceilinged hotel with 20 rooms, a lovely dining room, a garden room and a garden for barbecues and other events. Might be small but there’s a lot going on here. 

It was long been known as a supporter of local producers and this continues with the likes of Caherbeg Pork, Fresh Fish Deli, Irish Yogurts, Rosscarbery Recipes, ZT Fish Rosscarbery, Gloun Cross Dairy, Shannonvale Foods, Bushy’s Strawberries, Clonakilty Black-pudding, and Clona Dairy listed.
Pancakes with superb local bacon

We had our dinner and breakfast here, both very enjoyable. The Emmet is well worth checking out, a lovely friendly well-run spot right in the town centre.

After that breakfast, we strolled around the Friday Farmers Market, which now sets up in Emmet Square, before our visit to the nearby Clonakilty Distillery, the newest attraction in this lively town. And we had lunch in the distillery’s Whale’s Tail Bistro before a leisurely journey back to the city.

Also on this trip:
Clonakilty Distillery
Bandon's Seymour Biscuits

Monday, July 15, 2019

Seymour Amazing Shortbread Biscuits Travel The World


Seymour Amazing Shortbread Biscuits Travel The World
Philip and stalwart Theresa pack those shamrock shortbreads

“It can be tricky here this time of year with the humidity,” said Philip O’Connor as he greeted us at his Seymour Biscuits production facility in Bandon on a very warm 4th of July. The date is appropriate enough as the USA is one of the countries to which these delicious biscuits are exported. And the shortbread biscuits, in their distinctive shamrock shape, also find their way to the states and other countries as they are widely available in tourist frequented shops (including Dublin’s Temple Bar) and are the best seller.

Philip was working on his coating line when we arrived and we watched as the little discs were covered with chocolate. Not too long afterwards we were tasting the little beauties. Lots of butter here and combined with the chocolate it makes for a beautiful crunchy experience on the palate. And the good news is that Philip is strongly thinking of adding these to his regular products next year.

There is a little story too behind the butter. Philip’s family are farmers and their land is a few miles east of Bandon. Their milk is supplied to a local co-op and it is from here that Seymours buy their butter.

So how did a farmer’s son get involved in biscuit making? “I started working in the car industry, in marketing in Dublin. But, while in college, I always had a hankering to get involved in the food or drink industry, though on the market side.” 

The beginning was small. About 12 years ago, he began making biscuits in the family kitchen on one day a week and began to supplying locally. Then one year later, in 2008, this unit became available and “I jumped in.”

With all of the equipment having to be bought, it was a big gamble, more so as the financial crisis was unfolding. But he stuck it out and survived. Lots of changes over those few years including the demand for gluten free and zero sugar products. “Independent outlets are going off the scene much to my regret. There’s a lot of competition and it is hard to get shelf space. But I have diversified a bit and that helps keep the show on the road.”

Recently has introduced Cheese Sables and these terrific savoury biscuits, excellent as a snack, “are getting nice repeat orders”. So far, he has two versions, the original and one with garden herbs (I really enjoyed that a few weeks back). West Cork cheddar is used in both, so you don’t even have to have cheese in the house!

And he is looking at new lines for next year, maybe with lower sugar (perhaps replacing it with honey or natural sugar). He is doing more too with coffee shops and hotels, and exports are increasing.

And back to the coating line, or the “enrobing” line to give it its proper name. There are not that many of these around and his investment in it has enabled him open up a new opportunity, that of contract coating. Philip though is happy with his business model, “small and niche, high quality, lower sales maybe but with a better margin”.

You’re more than likely familiar with some of his current products. One of my favourites is the Dark Chocolate and Raspberry Bites. Then there are shortbread variations, the original Shamrock that we’ve mentioned, Shortbread Bites, Chocolate and Hazelnut, and the top of the range (usually seen round Christmas) absolutely delicious Social Circles.

And, thinking of presents for someone, home or abroad, take a look at the Spirit of Ireland Biscuit tin,  displaying the iconic Rock of Cashel on its cover, the tin features individually hand-cut round and shamrock shaped Irish butter shortbread biscuits set within a custom made cushion tray. This is a special Irish product to give and receive. No doubt the biscuits will quickly be devoured and the tin kept forever. You can get many of the Seymour products online at https://seymours.ie/6-our-handmade-irish-biscuits 


Seymours Fine Foods Ltd
2 Cloughmacsimon Business Park, Bandon, Co. Cork.

Land line: +353 21 733 1129
Mobile:       +353 86 330 9378

e-mail:  info@seymours.ie
                   
Also on this trip:
Clonakilty Distillery