Monday, June 24, 2019

Karwig Wines To Close

Karwig Wines to Close.
Joe Karwig (RIP) and yours truly a few years back.

Not the kind of news, I'd prefer to highlight, but many of you will already know that the Karwig family are in the process of closing their wine business in Carrigaline. You may have seen this statement from Betty and Jurgen:

To all our Karwig Wines supporters,

We would like to announce that after 40 years of business, we will be closing Karwig Wines later this year. Karwig Wines has solidified its reputation for quality wines and personalised service throughout the years. We are proud of what we have achieved as a family business and are thankful for the opportunity to finish well.

There are many people we could pay tribute to for this. We would like to thank our dedicated staff for their work and to our suppliers for entrusting us with their wines. Most importantly, we would like to thank our customers. We could not have achieved any of this without your business and loyalty to us throughout the years.

It has been a memorable journey with you all and we think Joe would be proud of the legacy he has left behind.
All of our wines are now being sold at a reduced price in our shop until closure. We look forward to seeing you all in the coming weeks.

************

Dr Wagner Ockfener Bockstein Riesling Kabinett 2016, 8%, €19.95 Karwig Wine

Two things you should know about this lovely wine from near where the Saar River joins the better known Mosel. It has an ABV of just 8% and it is on the sweet side. Not overly sweet by the way, fairly close to what the French label as Moelleux.

It is a very pleasant aperitif and Karwig’s suggest pairing it with fruity desserts, creamy cheese varieties, chutneys of pineapple and fig, vanilla ice-cream with red vineyard peaches, shrimp steaks with fruity and spicy sauces as well as the general Asian cuisine.

It has a very light straw colour. White fruit (peach, citrus) in the aromas, along with a hint of diesel (that more or less vanishes as you sip). Sweet-ish on the attack but finish is good and dry. In between, enjoy the balance of fruit and acidity in this light white. Juicy and refreshing, it is indeed a very pleasant wine to sip and is definitely Recommended.



Chatelard “Cuvée Les Pentes” Brouilly (AOC) 2015, 13%, €19.25 Karwig Wines

Brouilly is the largest and most southerly of the Beaujolais crus and this bottle, from plots located at the heart of the appellation, has quite a lot going for it. 

Colour, a mid to dark ruby, is a bit darker than some other Beaujolais wines. In the aromas you’ll find ripe red fruits (berries and plums), typical of the region. Really vibrant flavours, tannins close to smooth, good acidity too and a long dry finish. Highly Recommended. Karwig Wines have relied on Chateau du Chatelard for years now and I’ve always liked this Brouilly, an excellent expression of the Gamay grape, the dominant one in Beaujolais.

* The prices quoted above come from a month or two back, so it's probable that you'll get a reduction if you call to Karwig's over the coming weeks.

Sunday, June 23, 2019

Isaac’s: Steady as she goes. And she goes well.


Isaac’s: Steady as she goes.
And she goes well.
Brie starter

Steady as she goes may well sum up Isaac’s Restaurant in McCurtain Street, an essential part of the Cork City dining scene for over 25 years now. And since Michael and Catherine Ryan and Canice Sharkey got it up and running way back when, it has been going steady and going well. And, day or evening (they are one of the few places offering dinner seven nights a week), you can visit with confidence as we confirmed once again at the weekend.

We had been looking at doing a late lunch in the city centre but that didn't quite work out so in the end we called to Isaac’s and enjoyed their early bird. The Early Bird hadn’t been our intention but once we noticed that two chosen mains were on that menu we stuck with it. It is excellent food and, at €25.00 for two courses, €27.50 for three, is superb value too.
Chicken starter

They have quite a few regular dishes here on the main menu but it is always freshened up with an impressive list of specials. There were no less than eight last Friday and they included a Fresh Wild Atlantic Crab Salad, a Fritto Misto (Monkfish, Cod and Scallop), Pan Fried John Dory, Pan Fried Cod and a Warm Flourless Chocolate Cake, among others.

So no shortage of choice. No shortage of wines either, regular beers and also craft beer from Eight Degrees and local cider by Stonewell. And local producers are also supported in the kitchen. Service is friendly, helpful and smoothly efficient here.
Lamb Curry

Both our starters were on the traditional side. I must say it is a long long time since I’ve seen Crispy Fried Brie on a menu anywhere. I was delighted to reacquaint myself with this treat served with tomato, chilli jam and mixed leaves. A lovely mix, the softness and flavour of the warm cheese inside, the sweetness of the jam and the fresh crispness of the leaves. Thumbs up.

And thumbs up too from the other side of the table. Here the dish was a Warm Chicken Salad with rustic potatoes and crispy bacon. A bit more robust than the Brie but full of texture and flavour and very much appreciated (though I did manage to get a mouthful, on a barter basis of course!).
Chicken mains

Our table, by the way, was right under the impressive collection (39 in all, I think) of Patrick Scott’s famous Christmas Cards. The Kilbrittain born artist was in the habit of sending these to his friends and you can see the series right here in Isaac’s (itself situated in an 18th century warehouse).

The Early Bird offered four starters and six mains. CL went for the Mild Madras Lamb Curry with Basmati rice and side dishes. We’ve always enjoyed the curry here (their vegetarian curry included) and this was no exception. It was big on quality and not shy on quantity either!

Breast of chicken with buttered spinach and a wild forest mushroom cream sauce was my choice and again this, coming with a side of seasonal vegetables, hit the quality and quantity buttons. Chicken full of flavour, the spinach superb and all enhanced by the sauce. Happy out as we say around here.
Dessert

We weren’t out yet though. Dessert was to come and from a choice of three we decided on the Bread and Butter Pudding with Creme Anglaise (or custard as we say around here!). This was for sharing though and that proved a small problem as the bread slices were folded over one another and not cut into fingers but it was delicious and worth the effort to cut it down to bite size pieces!

So that was it, just the €52.50 bill to be shared (of course), and off with us into the evening sun.

48 MacCurtain Street,
Cork
+353 (0)21 450 3805
 isaacs@iol.ie







Saturday, June 22, 2019

Amuse Bouche


She wound up at La Rotonde, the place Aunt Nora used to talk about, the place if Fiona remembered right, where Ranko Novak lost his mind. Or was it Modigliani? In any case, she sat inside where it was warm, and she ordered soup à l’oignon gratinée and wished she weren’t surrounded by so many English-speakers. There was no scruffy, drunk artists, no absinthe-drinking models, no great expat poets.
Well, how would she know? Maybe that table in the corner was full of them.
She’d asked Nora once if she ever met Hemingway, and Nora had said, “If I did, he didn’t make an impression.”

from The Great Believers by Rebecca Makkai (2018). Very Highly Recommended.

Thursday, June 20, 2019

Bobo Café at the Glucksman


Bobo Café at the Glucksman
Cajun Pork

For over a year now, Bobo, the café in the Glucksman Gallery in UCC, has been serving breakfast, lunch, weekend brunch, while all the time superb coffee by local roaster Golden Bean, along with a tempting host of baked delights, are available.
Miso

About time I called, I said to myself the other day. And off we went - by bus. The number 8, sorry 208, takes you to the Western Road entrance, just a few steps away from the gallery.

Bobo is also the venue for food related events, once a month. Recently, they held a cheese and also a fermentation workshop. And, if you’re in for brunch on Sunday, you’ll more than likely have live music to add to the atmosphere.
Risotto
The breakfast menu is very tempting but, on this particular day, lunch suited us better. The menu is not the longest but choices are good, usually with a few to suit vegetarians.

Last week, they had two soups on offer. Miso (4.50), with toasted sesame and seaweed, was my choice while CL enjoyed her daily special, carrot, ginger and squash (5.50) with an excellent brown bread. By the way, a few crackers came with mine.

There were five main courses on offer, one with fish, another with meat. CL chose Cajun pork fillet, butternut squash purée and mango salsa (13.50). This was well Cajun-ed! Well cooked actually and a lovely dish, good flavour, colour and texture.
Dodger

Glucksman. Bobo is bottom right.
My Shiitake mushroom and Artichoke Heart Risotto (12.50) with an olive tapenade mightn’t have looked so well - it was tidily presented - but it was another very enjoyable dish. The main ingredients, the mushroom and the artichoke, could well have turned this into a bowl of blandness but the tapenade and the salad helped to balance it.

They do have a short wine-list, most available by the glass, and a few craft beers but we stuck with water on this occasion. Had some of that excellent Golden Bean coffee though with our dessert.

Very few desserts on the menu, but there’s quite a spread of sweet things on the counter. Hard to choose! But we did enjoy our Jammy Dodger (coconut and raspberry compote) and Warm Apple Cake with Vanilla Ice cream (6.00).

They are very much into supporting local producers here and you’ll see some mentioned on the menu. A blackboard lists O’Mahony’s English Market (meat), Ballycotton Seafood (fish, seafood), Colin Woulfe  Macroom (eggs) Greenfields Farm (leaves, veg) and My Goodness (kefir and vegan treats).
Bobo 
at The Glucksman
Lower Grounds, UCC,
Western Road, Cork
(021) 490 1848
Hours: 10am - 5pm, Tuesday to Saturday;12pm - 5pm, Sundays

Wednesday, June 19, 2019

Whites Shine in O'Brien's Summer Promotion


Whites Shine in O'Brien's Summer Promotion

There's a whole world of white wine out there aside from the big names such as Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay, Pinot Grigio. The O'Brien's Summer Promotion, now in full swing (until July 21st), gives you the chance to try something new. I took advantage myself as I sampled a few, including a gorgeous Verdejo from Spain, a fresh and fruity Verdicchio from Italy, a Grüner Veltliner (a long-time favourite of mine) from Austria, and a top notch Chenin Blanc from South Africa. Terrific wines and now at very attractive prices. While I did concentrate on the whites, the reds too are excellent and that Sicilian Appassimento will go down well at most tables.

De Alberto Organic Verdejo Rueda (DO) 13.5%, on offer 12.95 (was 14.95). New at O’Brien’s


The more I drink Spanish whites, like this Verdejo (new to O'Brien's), the more I begin to appreciate them. This organic wine, by De Alberto, is refreshing and quite intense (with citrus to the fore) and is Very Highly Recommended.

Colour is a light straw, clean and bright, with a green tint. Ripe white fruit, herby notes too in the aromas. Superb fruit flavours make their presence felt instantly, a lively citrus-y acidity too, lips a tingle and a persistent and very pleasing finish. Enjoy with poultry, fish and seafood

The 2018 vintage enjoyed good weather conditions, no extremes at all, and this meant the grape stayed healthy and reached an optimum state of maturity.

Verdejo, which may not be familiar to us as Sauvignon Blanc or Chardonnay, is an aromatic grape variety behind the crisp white wines of Rueda, its undisputed home in central Spain. Wine-Searcher says that full-bodied Verdejo wines are held in high regard, displaying herbaceous, nutty characters with balanced acidity and some cellaring potential.

Marotti “Albiano” Verdicchio dei Castelli di Jesi (DOC) Classico 2018, 13%, €11.95 on offer, was 14.95. O’Brien’s

I’m a big fan of Verdicchio, whether it is from Castelli di Jesi or from Matelica (a bit further inland). Both are in the Marche in the central eastern part of Italy. And this typically refreshingly crisp Albiano is as good an example as you are likely to come across.

It comes in a light straw colour, greenish tinges, lots of micro-bubbles clinging to the sides of the glass. There’s a pleasant aromatic mix of floral and white fruit, moderate rather than intense. Bright and lively palate, citrus led flavours with a barely noticeable herbaceousness, and that typical zesty acidity. 

Unoaked, there is nothing overly complex here, dry, fresh, fruity. Good finish too and this well-made wine is Very Highly Recommended, a good one to start your relationship with this grape if you haven’t already done so!

I enjoyed this as an aperitif but I’ve read that it goes well with Brodetto di Pesce, a rich seafood stew made locally in the Marche. You may not be able to get that here and other recommendations include seared scallops, Linguini with clams, other shellfish, with pasta and rice dishes, and salads, even pecorino cheese. It is suitable for vegetarians and vegans.

Rabl Grüner Veltliner Löss Kamptal (DAC) 2018, 11.5%, €14.95 (was 18.95). O’Brien’s

From peachy attack to citrus finish, this Grüner Veltliner goes the delicious distance. The Grüner Veltliner grape, known for its aromatic fruity wines, gets on very well with the local Löss soil.

Colour is light gold. There is a fresh bouquet of white and yellow fruit, a touch of white pepper. Peach and citrus mingle well in the tingly palate. Mineral notes too plus excellent acidity. All followed by a lip-smacking dry finish. Fresh, crisp and zesty, a refreshing experience and Highly Recommended.

The Rabl Winery in Langenlois has three guiding principles: 1. Only perfect grapes can yield a top wine. 2. Must from perfect grapes allows minimal intervention. 3. No fear of powerful wines! Rabl are well regarded and they recommend pairing this generous and refreshing wine with light starters or as an aperitif. Should go well too with simple fish dishes, fresh shellfish and salads.





This is new to O’Brien’s and worth keeping an eye out for. The fruits are hand-harvested with careful selection, barrel and tank fermented and the wine is further barrel matured for a rounded complexity. Ideal, according to the label, with seafood and shellfish, also with mildly spiced curries and lovely with saffron.



This ia regular award winner over recent years and comes in light gold colour. White fruit and honey notes in moderately intense aromas. A good depth of flavour follows: apricot, melon, plus touch of vanilla. No shortage of acidity either. Quite a mouthfeel too - it has spent some 9 months on lees. It is harmonious all the way through to a very satisfying finalé. Another ace Chenin Blanc from Forrester and this rich and ripe wine is Very Highly Recommended.


Fonte do Ouro Branco DÃO (DOC) 2018, 13%, on offer 13.95, was 16.95. O’Brien’s




Portuguese wines can often be a hard sell because of the unfamiliar names of the grapes but don’t let that put you off. You could be missing out on some real gems such as this white blend of Arinto and Encruzado, ideal with starters, seafood and fish when served at 10 degrees. Like the way Boas Quintas (the producers) sum it up on the label: green colour, apple, pear, and tropical fruit aromas, good structure, fresh and mineral.


Pretty accurate too, I’d have to say. Colour is a light straw with a pronounced green influence. You’ll find peach, apple, pear and more exotic notes too in the aromas. A very pleasant melange of flavours on the palate, mouthfeel also impressive, fresh too with minerality, and acidity enough to balance. Finish is persistent. Highly Recommended.

Fonte do Ouro Tinto DÃO (DOC) 2017, 13%, on offer 13.95, was 16.95. O’Brien’s
And here's another good one from the same stable, a blend of Touriga Nacional, Alfrocheiro and Jaen. This fresh and smooth wine has spent six months in oak and should be served at 16 to 18 degrees and will go well with red meats.

It has a dark ruby colour. Fairly rich aromas of blackcurrant and cherry. I see lots of references to Earl Grey Tea but must admit I didn't pick it up in the nose. There’s a great mix of those fruit flavours on the palate, fresh, with a touch of spice, smooth tannins and a very satisfying finish. Highly Recommended.

All three grapes are popular in the region. The Alfrocheiro adds depth of colour, Touriga Nacional is considered to be the country’s finest, while Jaen is the local name for the what the Spanish call Mencía.



Colpasso Nero D’Avola Appassimento Sicily (DOC) 2018, 14%, on offer at €12.95 (was 15.95). New to O’Brien’s.

Appassimento? You may well ask. If you ask Wine Spectator, they’ll tell you it is the Italian term for drying harvested grapes, traditionally on bamboo racks or straw mats, for a few weeks up to several months, to concentrate the sugars and flavors. 

Appassimento is most associated with northern Italy but there are many examples in the south and this Colpasso is one. Here they make a careful selection of the very best Nero D’Avola grape in the Sicilian area of Agrigento and Vittoria. Some of the grapes are partially dried prior to vinification “giving the wine an incredible intense flavour”. You’ll note that intensity at your very first sip.

Colour is a dark ruby. Those rich red fruit are noticeable in the aromas, immediately. And the flavours are indeed rich and intense, the main feature of the velvety palate, some spice there too, and a hint of sweetness. A good example of appassimento, easy drinking and Highly Recommended.

Check out my post on a few of the O'Brien rosés here




Tuesday, June 18, 2019

Taste of the Week. Award-winning Longueville House Cider


Taste of the Week
Award-winning Longueville House Cider

Longueville House Cider 5.5%, widely available in 500ml bottle

The big thing you notice, aside from the golden colour of this medium-dry cider and the rich aromas of the autumn in the 24-year old orchard, is that the flavour is long and deep, like the mighty Blackwater that flows by the Longueville Estate near Mallow, Co. Cork. 

The balance, between the estate grown fruit (25 acres) and the acidity, is remarkable, hinting that the production process is precise. But this is not measured, not weighed, at least not in any industrial sense. Remember this is all comes together in an old bare-walled farm shed, using “machinery”, for the apple brandy in particular, that is just as likely to be seen in a folk museum or come across in a secondhand sale.

Two varieties of apple, Michelin and Dabinett, are grown in Longueville. The amount of each variety is not measured. They are gathered up together and go into the old oak press together. Nothing is added. Irish Distillers ace cooper Ger Buckley told me recently that, when reassembling a barrel, he judges everything by eye. Cider making in Longueville is something similar: by eye, by smell, by touch, by intuition, the basic tools of an artisan honed by years of experience.

Put them all together as they have in this North Cork estate (a proud member of the Old Butter Roads Food Trails) and the result is this superb cider, yours to savour, the pleasing sensation of the orchard fruit, long and deep on the palate and its refeeshing finalé. With no artificial sweeteners, additives, colourings, preservatives or added sulphites, this is a true craft cider. 

Do not spoil the effort of the land and the human hand with ice. Longueville’s Rubert Atkinson (pictured above) advises: “No ice! It waters down the flavours and kills the carbon. Enjoy this like a wine, in a wine glass.” Chill it well and pair with fish, meat (especially pork), cheese, charcuterie or simply on its own.

* Back in the mists of time, these Longueville lands were owned by a Daniel O’Callaghan but, after the collapse of the 1641 rebellion, O’Callaghan’s lands went to Cromwell. Amazingly, the wheel came full circle in 1938 when the present owner’s grandfather Senator William O’Callaghan bought the property, restoring it to the same family clan of O’Callaghans. You may read all about the centuries in between in a leaflet they hand out at the house and, on the back, is a map of the many and varied walks on the estate! Info also on the website here.

Monday, June 17, 2019

Walk The Long and Local Table


Walk The Long and Local Table
You'll Never Eat Alone
G&T for the gang in Electric Fish Bar
Welcome to Ali's
Why not start a very fine event with a very fine perry? That’s exactly what happened when we joined a group to Walk the Long Table at Ali’s Kitchen. Ali herself would be our guide for the afternoon (and well into the evening) and, as she told us what to expect, she served a glass of the gorgeous Killahora Poiré. The event is all about local produce and the Glounthaune produced perry set the tone along with some delicious and potato bread with home-made butter.

A big welcome next at The Farmgate Cafe where our plate was based on produce from the Olive Stall in the market. The dish featured Toonsbridge Mozzarella with tomato and tarragon salad and crispy kale. Here we also enjoyed a glass of Elderflower/Prosecco and a shot of Gazpacho.
Farmgate

Nash 19
Next stop was in Nash 19, 27 years in business and involved in the Long Table from the very start. A very tasty dish here: Cod from Pat O’Connell in the English Market, in a light crispy batter featuring Longueville House cider. Longueville’s Rubert told us, as he filled our glasses, that the cider is made from their own apples and that nothing is added. “Should pair well with the fish,” he said. It was indeed a winning match.

Claire Nash emphasised that their menu is local and seasonal driven. And she credited the Long Table with enhancing the cooperation between the local restaurants. “It is raising the standard, “ she said and Rubert agreed.

A few minutes later we in were in Fish Bar at Electric where oysters were on the menu. At least one of the group tried one for the first time! There was one for everyone in the audience and a generous glass too of Kinsale Gin.
Perfect serve (gin & oysters) at Electric

A short walk took us to Jacob’s On the Mall where Michelle was on the street to welcome us in and tell us a bit about the fascinating venue. And they had quite a dish for us, all local of course. A generous slice of Jack McCarthy's famous Queen’s Pudding and a few fritters featuring Cashel Blue cheese went down very well indeed with a glass of wine.
Jacobs on the Mall

Ali then found the shortest way to reach Crawford and Co on Anglesea Street. Sarah told us all about the changes here and was full of praise for Eoin O’Mahony, the well-known butcher in the English Market. The informal and enjoyable atmosphere continued here as we sipped our Beamish and tucked into the superb fillet of beef from Eoin.
Tender stuff at Crawford & Co

Time for something sweet now and Beth at Dockland had just the job: Bushby strawberries, marshmallow meringue, lime, vanilla + basil cream, strawberry daquiri sauce with, for good measure, a glass of prosecco, pomegranate, passion fruit + mint spritz. Think she mentioned there was a drop of Kinsale gin in there too!
Dockland

Beth and Harold have been in this location over 11 years, thanks to her "amazing customers". About 18 months ago, they closed the old Club Brasserie and a few hard weeks later opened up on the same spot as Dockland! The customers loved it and why not. Here you enjoy a a great variety of local produce.”We love local, our food is not fussy, just tasty good food.” The menu is quite large and has something for virtually every taste and budget.
Dockland

The finalé was close at hand and we were welcomed to the 200 years old Imperial Hotel (Charles Dickens and Michael Collins have been guests) by new manager Bastian who guided us to their Whiskey Experience, three local bottles paired with pastries cooked by the hotel’s pastry chefs.

Bastian
Alan took over for the tasting in the lovely Lafayette’s, introducing the West Cork Bourbon Barrel, the Jameson Black Barrel and the well known Paddy. The Jameson seemed to be the favourite whiskey and was also my pick of the three. But the best pairing, I thought was, surprisingly, the Paddy and a Milk Chocolate Fudge. Even better with a hot Paddy according to the ebullient Alan. 

So a very fine start at Ali’s and now a very fine ending in Lafayette’s as we reflected, with a Cosmopolitan cocktail in hand, on the happy hours we had passed as a group. Until the next time! Cheers and well done to all the restaurants involved. Walk the Long Table is a tour through a string of Cork's best restaurants. It continues this week with two walks each of Wednesday, Thursday and Friday. They are all booked out but, just in case a few become available (as happened last week), do keep an eye on  and @CorksLongTable. Website: https://www.corkmidsummer.com/programme/event/walk-the-long-table1  
Alan takes us through the whiskey!