Sunday, November 18, 2018

Game Dinner’s a Winner in Loving Salads


Game Dinner’s a Winner in Loving Salads.

Jason Carroll, the experienced chef/owner of Loving Salads, showed his experience and  versatility recently when producing a terrific Irish Game Dinner night at the Academy Street venue. 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Saturday, November 17, 2018

Amuse Bouche


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


from Crudo by Olivia Laing (2018). Recommended.

Thursday, November 15, 2018

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



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

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


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


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

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

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

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

Wednesday, November 14, 2018

Three Country Wine Tour with Karwig's


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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, November 13, 2018

Maryborough Food and Wine Evening. Rhone Wine Week Celebrated!


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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, November 12, 2018

Taste of the Week. James Whelan Rack of Roasting Bacon


Taste of the Week 
James Whelan Rack of Roasting Bacon
Three Star Bacon and Cabbage
(with orange, mustard and redcurrant sauce)

With the now well-established move to a more modern Irish cuisine, a few people were led to forget the past or at least to look down on it, and that meant putting the traditional bacon and cabbage well down the ranking as if it were something to boot out of the Irish kitchen.

Thankfully many, including a few leading chefs, knew that the past had many lessons for the future. Bacon and cabbage devotees meanwhile stuck with their favourite and are now reaping the rewards. Take the James Whelan Rack of Roasting Bacon for example.

Here's what the Great Taste judges had to say as they gave it a coveted 3 Star Award: "An impressive looking piece of bacon, with a good layer of fat, well caramelised. There is a good amount of juice when cut into, and it cut quite easily. The meat was succulent and soft, and there was a great piggy flavour and subtle smokiness. The flavours of the meat were superb and very well balanced through the curing. Clearly a quality piece of pork, and well looked after”

This Taste of the Week is all that and more. We tried it out recently. I’m a long time bacon and cabbage devotee and I have to say that this is the best bacon dish ever. Big thanks to three: James Whelan of course, Bord Bia for the fantastic recipe  (including that amazing orange, mustard and redcurrant sauce) and finally to the official Blog Chef herself.

A superb treat that could well make the turkey redundant this Christmas!

Sunday, November 11, 2018

Wonky Donkey's Night Out With A Difference. Holy Smoke. Unholy Jokes


Wonky Donkey's Night Out With A Difference. 
Holy Smoke. Unholy Jokes 

Like some food? Drink? Lots of laughs? All under the one venue? The simple answer is to head to Mardyke Entertainment Complex, enjoy a meal at Holy Smoke, then head into the Cellar Theatre for a drink and a comedy show by Wonky Donkey. And to make it easier for you, you need just the one ticket. There are couple of combined food and show options available and you may check them out here.

Food comes first for us, of course, and we were looking forward to the Holy Smoke visit. We weren’t disappointed - far from it. There is a special Pre-Show Menu on Friday and Saturday nights (the only nights that Wonky Donkey operates - so far!). And it is a menu that contains quite a lot of choices and a good variety as well.

There are a bunch of sharing plates to start with - you don’t have to share! We got two contrasting ones, both very impressive. The Whole fire-grilled prawns in a chilli, lime and coriander butter was CL’s choice while mine was the Ox cheek with fire roasted carrot & marrow gravy. And yes, we did share!

The pork here is “handsome” and, since she likes handsome fellas, CL choose the Pulled Pork (Pork shoulder, cooked low n’ slow and smoked for 14 hours over oak, hand pulled & mixed with Holy Smoke BBQ sauce. Served with slaw and corn bread). As always, the smoked meat was full of flavour, enhanced by their own barbecue sauce.
The cheek of it

Meanwhile I was meeting up with Juicy Lucy, a 6oz beef burger with a Monterrey Jack cheese core, topped with Monterrey Jack cheese, grilled onions, lettuce, beef tomato and Alabama sauce. Sweet home Alabama! Next time I’m in, I’m going to make the acquaintance of Dirty Lucy!

By the way, if you haven’t been to Holy Smoke in a while, I'd advise you to check their general menu. There are now more choices than ever for all kinds of eaters, including vegetarian and fish. For instance, there are no less than 13 starter/small plate options. Check the general menus here 
Pull the other one

Quite a few local beers in bottle but just one, Rebel Red, on draught. That was one of our choices and the other was the Punk IPA from Brew Dog. There’s a bigger choice once you enter the Cellar for the comedy and here I switched to Franciscan Well’s Chieftain. Not too many tables in there though for your drinks and the arched rows of seats in front of the stage are close enough to one another.

There was a bit of a delay in starting the show but then it was non-stop. I don’t know how they do, up there on stage, joke after joke, funny story after funny story and not a note in sight.

Mike Morgan, one of the men behind the Wonky, introduced the show and gave us a taste of what was to come with laugh a minute routine of his own, and had us in stitches with his tales of greyhound walking and bingo playing (apparently he is the Mallow champion in both disciplines) and then there was mother-in-law or was she just a random shopper? You never know with these guys.

Ross Browne, another Wonky mainstay, was bigger and noisier than Mike. Both were well dressed though, sharp suits, shiny shoes, a bit like the Sky Sport’s soccer presenters. Irish comedy has changed a lot since Hal Roach (though he also dressed well) ruled the roost. Lots of language and not of the foreign variety, though Mike did essay a few words of French. 

And it’s kind of head on challenging. I think Dan Martin, one of the two lead stars of the “Rowan and Martin Laugh-in”, a hit comedy show of the 60s and 70s, would approve. “People are basically irreverent,” Mr. Martin said in 1968, explaining the appeal of the show. “They want to see sacred cows kicked over.” 

One of the catchphrases of Laugh-in was Sock it to me!  Browne and company do just that. He said he was looking at a crowd of turnip heads, though he seemed to include his own in that assessment of the Irish noggin. 

He probably wouldn’t go down too well in Listowel. He said nobody ever goes to that town except by accident, maybe after turning off the Sat-Nav and taking four wrong turns. I presume when he’s performing in that Kerry town, he takes the mick out of Cecilstown (ask Mike about that place).

And that was only half the show. After the interval, Micky Bartlett and Mark O’Keeffe entertained the packed house, the Wonky Donkey’s fourth sell-out in a row. There’s sure to be a big demand for tickets for next Friday and Saturday so get online now and book the food and comedy option that suits you. The line-up over the coming weekend includes Fred Cooke, Naomi McDonald, Brian Gallagher, Ross Browne and Mike Morgan.