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Friday, November 30, 2007

That Time Of Year

The Christmas season has started and group dining is in vogue for the next few weeks.

Reports have come from two small reunion parties, one at The Captain’s Table, the other at The Briar Rose.

The Captain’s table was commended for its decor, service and quality (particularly the rack of lamb, priced in the mid €20s). This (lower) Barrack Street venue is a bit on the pricey side but the main problem is trying to find parking in the immediate area.

The Briar Rose doesn’t have a great deal of onsite parking. A few acquaintances tried this out the other night and went for the early bird menu (€25.00).

The starters, desserts and coffee were described as quite good but the mains didn’t impress. In the first place, the choice is very limited on the early bird and one dish in particular, the so called traditional fish and chips, came in for heavy criticism, mainly because one had to go fishing in the batter to find the miserable bit of fish inside.

So now you know. If you are in the Briar Rose, it might be better to choose from the main evening menu rather than the cut price cut down early bird.

Saturday, November 24, 2007

ENGLISH MARKET


HOLIDAY BUZZ DOESN’T ALWAYS TRAVEL WELL

Once upon a time, in the last century, I read a novel in the garden of a gíte near the Breton town of Priziac. I was on holidays, relaxed. It was a terrific read.

Some months later, in the dreary deep of an Irish winter, I re-read the novel. And when I came to a particular scene, I must say I was disappointed. It wasn't quite what I had remembered. I reckon, that in my super relaxed holiday state, a glass or two sipped, I rewrote that particular scene myself.

But, of course, the book remained the same. By the way, I still have it. It is called Voss, written by the Australian Patrick White. And I can say that it is still a good read, even without my embellishments!

Books of course are not the only things changed by the holiday experience. Does the Tomme de Savoie you bought in the south of France taste the same as a similar cheese from the English market? How many times have you brought home a bottle of spirit or liquor, say Pineau de Charente or Pastis for example, and how many times have you been disappointed on opening it up and trying to enjoy it here, the two thirds full bottle often thrown out a year or two later. The experience is never quite the same.

And so it was with some trepidation that we decided some time back to try and repeat a simple but delightful dish that we had one evening in the sunny courtyard of a gite near the town of Bayeux in Normandy. This area is famous for its black pudding and we had been warned not to leave without trying the boudin noir.

The Marché in Bayeux was in full swing on a hot sunny day and we had no bother getting the pudding and we also got some free-range eggs. Amazingly you can get a massive range of fresh local produce at these markets but try the supermarkets for fresh milk and you’ll be lucky to find a few cartons, as the French seem to go for the vile tasting UHT.

We tried the dish it here, using the (supposedly) best of local black pudding but it wasn’t quite the same. The local product is usually quite salty, harder also than the imported variety.

The next best thing is to go into the Pig’s Back stall in the English Market and pick up some French Boudin Noir there (€3.00 for about a third of a ring). But you may have to try a few times as they don’t always have it. They had it recently and we tried it, again with the free range eggs, and it was splendid, though I must say we missed that sunny courtyard in Normandy.

If you are in the Market and want to make a full meal of it, you could do worse than pick up the Feta Cheese, Olive and Pepper salad they make up at the Olive stall. For dessert, I dare you to pass Heavens Cake, another nearby stall, without buying!

Friday, November 16, 2007

A BERTH FOR LUNCH



THE RISING TIDE


TIME & TIDE WAIT FOR NO MAN




You got to get to the Rising Tide in Glounthaune early to find a berth for lunch. At least that was the case on a recent Friday afternoon. The place was very busy and latecomers had to wait for a table. Book before you go would seem to be the lesson.



Another lesson. The main courses, most between €10.50 and €12.50, are quite substantial. So, unless you know you have the room and good luck to you, don't take a starter. The Soup of the Day was mushroom and both it and a well made chowder were filling.



Lamb was the roast of the day but I went for Kenmare fish cakes, served with a salad, chips and a tomato sauce . Quite substantial as already indicated but also very tasty.

Nothing out of the ordinary. Mind you, the Advisor wasn't over impressed by the menu as she had seen better choices there previously. There was a little difference about the tomato sauce dip: I thought it was quite a decent one but it didn’t have enough kick for her.



Overall though the food was good, as was the service.



Prices: Soup €4.50, Chowder €6.95, Mains as above, Desserts €6.50.

Friday, November 9, 2007

WINNING AT THE BOOTHOUSE



















FAR FROM THE MADDING CROWD


THE BOOTHOUSE


If you ever find yourself on the North Eastern outskirts of Cork city and wondering whether to brave the traffic and venture to the centre for lunch, consider this instead: a visit to the Award winning Boothouse in Whitescross.

After a long absence, I called recently and found the menu hadn't changed much at all at the thatched pub, opposite the national school in Upper Glanmire. It never really did. But then why fix it if it ain’t broke, especially their specialty, the roast breast of stuffed farmyard chicken with gravy (€11.00). It is served with vegetables (carrots and cauliflower), Grattan potato and some boiled potatoes also.

Despite the low quality of the boiled spuds, the meal was as good as previously and every piece, except for a few bones (and most of the boiled spuds on the side dish), was eaten with relish and a mouthful of a Chilean Sauvignon Blanc (€4.70 for a 1/4 bottle). Well worth the detour.

Don't take me literally when I say a mouthful with every piece. I got educated on a trip to Austria (the southern part) a few years back. The waiters there would come around to the table with a carafe of water and ask: "Vater with the vine"? So now I alternate the liquids!


We had started with a vegetable soup, another staple of the limited blackboard menu. It cost €4.00 and on a cold day it was tasty and warming. There is a choice of four starters, a few mains course (including plaice and herbs), some open sandwiches and some toasted.

The desert menu (this was a long lunch) doesn’t change much either. It must be like cooking by the number at this stage but they do get their sums right. The Rice and Jam pudding (€4.50), with a dash of cream, was delightful and the Advisor demolished (delicately, I hastily add) the Pavlova with fresh Fruit even though she reckoned that this wasn’t the true Pavlova, though it was a decent try.

Does anyone in Cork do the real thing when it comes to Pavlova? The search goes on!
Another thing about the Boothouse is the service. It is always friendly and efficient and that was even more the case on this occasion. It is a “nice” place to go and a pleasant change from the hustle and bustle of the busy city centre lunch venues.

Saturday, November 3, 2007

CHEZ ALDI







Chicken, Apple and Cider...













CHEZ ALDI


THE ALTERNATIVE VENUE

When the Irish pubs started to push up their prices on a regular basis, more and more people started to drink in the house. Could the same thing happen with eating out? Of course, it could. The alternatives are many. I tried one recently.

Could have been one of those evenings where a booking wasn’t available or where I just didn’t feel like driving into town, parking and so on. Instead, I popped over to the local Aldi. And Aldi is becoming local everywhere.

Starter was Breaded Camembert with Cranberry sauce (€1.99). Add in some leaves from a mixed pack (€0.70) and a little dressing and the cost of a very tasty starter works out at a max of €3.00 for two.

Main course was Chicken with Apple and Cider, taken from the Readers Digest 30 Minute Cookbook. Can't reproduce it here for copyright reasons but maybe it is available on their website (http://www.readersdigest.co.uk/ )


The main ingredients, all from Aldi (except the Creme fraiche) are: Chicken (2.00), Apples (0.32), Crème fraîche (2.00), Cider (a can costs 1.36, with some left over for the chef!). Allow 0.30 for bits and pieces and that brings the total for one of our favourite dishes to an incredible €6.00 for the two.

You could have a bottle of white wine. Aldi has a range from 4.99 upwards. But a pint bottle of Old Moor’s Cider from Devon (at 1.99 each) is recommended.

Dessert is no problem. Aldi has an ice-cream yoghurt with a raspberry ripple. Four pots cost €2.00. I used two along with some raspberries. Estimated cost for the two is €2.00 max.

Leaving out the wine and/or bottles of cider, the cost of dinner came to just €11.00. Of course that doesn’t include the costs of preparation and the time but overall it was very enjoyable and could well become a trend!