Friday, September 30, 2011


Jane Ferrari with Maurice O'Mahony (left) and yours truly at Ballymaloe


Jane Ferrari, the roving ambassador for Yalumba Wine Company (Australia), was in Ballymaloe yesterday. Despite being in the process of recovery from a recent knee operation, the indefatigable Aussie was in top form.

Busy, busy, busy. In the afternoon she spoke to the Cookery School, early evening she conducted a wine tasting and later a full scale wine dinner. And all that after a hectic few days and nights in Dublin.

Dodgy knee or not, she kept her lively show on the road. She also writes a blog and her latest post concerned the Irish game v Australia. Obviously she likes her sport and, also obviously, her sportsmen, including current favourite Ronan O’Gara.

But back to the wines, all produced in the Barossa area by the long standing family company and available here through Cassidy Wines.

Started off with the Pewsey Vale Riesling, produced in the high country above the valley floor and costing about €13.00. “This Riesling is absolutely spot on with Mediterranean-Asian crossover food,” said Jane. “It is essential to have this well chilled,” added Ballymaloe sommelier Colm McCan.

Jane then moved on to their Barossa Eden Viognier 2009, perfumed and luscious and made from super ripe grapes, handpicked. “This means the yield is halved but the wine is pretty elegant.”

The second Viognier, the Virgilius Eden Valley 2008, comes from the same 22 acre small yield vineyard. At €30.00, it is double the price of the first one. Hints of ginger in the peachy apricot aroma, it is an “unctuous and complex its best with food....complements a wide range of flavours”.

The Barossa valley floor is too hot for Pinot Noir and the Yalumba favourite is Grenache. Jane gave the winemaker’s point of view: “Grenache is easy to get along with. If you’re looking for the Diva of grapes, it has to be Viognier.”

The first Grenache was the Barossa Eden Bush Vine 2009 (€17). The fruit comes from 14 different parcels on the valley floor, mainly river sand. “It is raspberry over rosemary, berry over herb, no heat. The Number One word with Grenache is balance and this medium weight wine is a perfect match for juicy chargrilled pork chops.”

Then we moved on to the Single Site Bowden Vineyard Moppa Block Grenache 2006, darker, more cherry, more intense. This fruit comes from a tiny vineyard and 2006 was a “stellar vintage”. This is a “cracker of a food wine, ideal with roast veal, chorizo and other Spanish, Italian dishes”. Unfortunately, this gem is not available in Ireland.

Next up was their €40.00 The Signature Cabernet Sauvignon and Shiraz 2005. “This was originally called Galway Claret and is a bit of a specialty with us. It is the old Claret style and we are trying to keep the style alive. The Cabernet dominates the nose while the long lasting palate is down to the Shiraz. This could live forever!”

Then we moved to Shiraz and “into carnivorous territory”. Stared with the €24.00 Barossa Eden Patchwork 2008, an “old school juicy fruity middle weight”.

Next came The Octavius Old Vine 2004, a “serious heavyweight, long lasting in the mouth, great length of power and the flavours remain, ideal with meat off the bone, including venison fillets and also good with vegetarian dishes such as those featuring Shitake mushrooms”.

We finished on a sweet note with the Yalumba FSW8B Botrytis Viognier, Wrattonbully 2009, €18.00. It is a gorgeous dessert wine and Jane said cheese makers and dessert chefs “are going nuts for it. It goes well too with old fashioned desserts such as apple crumble.”

A lovely end to a lovely evening with a lovely person who entertained and informed with an abundance of down to earth fact and insight and no shortage of good humour. We cheered her off the stage and I reckon she’ll be cheering for Ronan on Sunday.

Thursday, September 29, 2011


Marks and Spencer PX2010, Elqui Valley, Chile, 13%, €10.49, 4 stars

Hit the jackpot, well a small one, when I dropped into Marks and Spencer (Cork) yesterday and bought myself a bottle of their PX 2010.

I had been looking out for a half bottle, thinking the wine was a dessert type. But no, the Pedro Ximenez comes from the Elqui Valley in north of Chile and is quite a dry white. It has an ABV of 13% and costs €10.49 for a full size bottle.

The colour is a pale honey and the nose is pleasantly aromatic. It is fresh, fruity and yes dry, with an easy going mouthfeel; very refreshing with an excellent finish. Well worth the money and an instant favourite in this house. Four stars.

It won a Gold in the White section of Chile in the recently published Decanter World Wide Awards. Marks also have another Decanter regional winner: their Sauvignon Blanc from the Limari valley 2008. I also picked up a bottle but haven't tried it out yet but am looking forward to it!


Well done to all at Ardsallagh Cheese on winning gold at the Irish Cheese Awards this week. Their Ardsallagh Cranberry Roulade came tops in the New Cheese Section.Two other Cork producers also struck gold and quite a few were honoured. Well done to all. To see the full list click here

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

MATCHING CHEESE AND BEER! Bank Holiday challenge!

Irish Farmhouse Cheese & Craft Beer Weekend
Join the celebrations taking place 27th – 31st October 2011

During the October Bank Holiday Weekend, Bord Bia aims to raise awareness of the breadth of Irish farmhouse cheeses and craft beers amongst consumers by initiating the Irish Farmhouse Cheese and Craft Beer Weekend.
At present, there are approximately 50 farmhouse cheese makers in Ireland producing over 140 varieties of cheese and 17 craft brewers. Both crafts are not just about the flavour but also the people, personalities, places and stories behind them.

To celebrate this, Bord Bia is looking for producers and foodies to hold a tasting event, talk or demonstration in an effort to show that craft beer (not just wine!) is an excellent accompaniment to cheese. Events can be in cheese-houses/farms, breweries, restaurants, pubs, gastropubs, off-licences, markets and other suitable venues.

Bord Bia will provide event hosting tips, recipe ideas and PR materials in advance. For further information or to organise an event, please contact Stephanie Moe of Bord Bia by Monday, 3rd October 2011 at 01-6142254 or



“Here's a bit of a treat and a bargain to boot,” said Michal Creedon of Bradley’s (North Main Street) as he introduced his latest offer: a bottle of Taylor’s First Estate Reserve Port at €9.99.

Novice port drinkers can do no better than to begin here: First Estate is a soft and glorious mouthful. It is an outstanding vintage character blend, made at the very first property purchased by the company, Lugar das Lages, in 1744. Rich, fruity and elegant, it is aged for four years in cask and is ready for drinking immediately.

As enjoyable before a meal as after, they say. I’ve tried both ways and it is true. Really nice and a great price. But Bradley’s, who have a huge range of spirits, beers and wines, have a string of other quality wines on offer for less than a tenner. Check out this list.

Botter Prosecco €9.99
Masseria Pietrosa Salice Salentino €9.99
Louis Jadot Bourgogne Pinot Noir & Louis Jadot Macon Lugny both €9.99
Antinori Santa Cristina & Orvieto, both €8.99
Marques de Riscal Tempranillo & Rueda white, both €8.99
Curio Bay Sauvignon Blanc (New Zealand) €7.99
Montes Reserva range (Cabernet, Merlot & Chardonnay) all €6.99.

The long established North Main Street shop has recently began selling drink of another kind: loose leaf tea, just like the old days.

Black Teas include Assam, Darjeeling Singtom, Earl Grey Blue Flower and Black Chai.

Green Teas available include China Organic Mao Feng and Jasmine Superior.

Pu-erh, Rooibos, Herbal and Fruit teas are also included. For more details, check here


Gary (left) with Samuel


Gary Gubbins of Red Nose Wines has been in touch to enthusiastically fill me in on two big wine events he has coming up next month.

“Last April we had a visit from Samuel Guibert and a very momentous tasting in Hickeys Cafe in Clonmel. Ever since this tasting, I have had many people asking about a return visit. I am delighted to announce that Samuel is coming back and bringing his world famous Mas de Daumas Gassac with him. And if that’s not enough to get you all excited, then I should tell you that we are having two events.”


The first wine dinner is on Thursday evening October 20th with Samuel in fellow Tipperary Food Producers Network Inch House. Nora Egan’s Black Pudding is famous the world. Inch House is also very well known for its fine dining restaurant. This is a unique opportunity to sit down with a member of one of the iconic wine families of France and taste some of the best wines in the world. Contact Red Nose Wine on 052-6182939 or Inch House on 0504-51348 to buy tickets. Tickets are only €60 for 4 courses and a selection of wines including the Grand Cru Red & White. Places are limited.

If you can’t make Inch House, then there is a tasting the next day, Friday October 21st in one of Ireland’s iconic food destinations, Ballymaloe House. Gary: “We are co hosting the tasting with Curious Wines, our Cork friends in wine. The tasting will include a vertical tasting of the Grand Cru Mas de Daumas Gassac red, a unique opportunity to taste multiple vintages of this iconic wine. Tickets are only €15 and are available online, in the shop or also from Ballymaloe and Curious Wines.”

The seated tasting will be followed by a separate wine dinner in Ballymaloe House, at 9.00pm, where 4 courses will be served with a selection of the Daumas Gassac wines including the Mas de Daumas Gassac Red. Tickets for the wine dinner are available only from Ballymaloe House and are priced at €85, including 4 courses, tea/coffee and wine.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Symphony or cacophony? 2 Musicians 8 grapes 1 wine

Domaine Bourdic Octandre 2009, VdP Cotes de Thongue, Organic, 13.5%, €9.27 Karwig.

Christa Vogel and Hans Hürlimann came to the Midi as musicians, “and then rediscovered ourselves as wine makers. In this wonderful region of France, .., we aim to make wines that are wholly typical of the south, with a subtle character and an incomparable taste. Come and meet us ... and taste our wines.”

This Languedoc vineyard grows eight different kinds of grape and our musical duo decided to put them all together in the Octandre: Cinsault 39%, Cabernet Sauvignon 24%, Grenache 15%, Syrah 9%, Tempranillo 6%, Vermentino 4%, Roussanne 2% and merlot (1%).

Have they come up with a symphony or a cacophony? Opinions were mixed here, one of us leaning towards a little less than average, the other (liking the fact there is little or no spice notes) towards the other side.

Colour is a fairly deep red with a good nose of dark fruits, especially plum. The ripe tannins are not slow to introduce themselves on the palate and the black fruits, including blackberry, then find their way through but not in a big rush. Less full bodied than I’d expected but nicely balanced. Unusual and one you might like to try for yourself. If you do, let me know what you think.

Saturday, September 24, 2011


The English Market last night.. Click on image to enlarge.


Got the pics up early but waited for the buzz to fade a bit before putting the text together, just in case I got carried away!

Still, 36 hours later, nothing but a good feeling about Culture Night in the English Market. Met Austin, Paul and Billy at the busy Bubble Brothers wine stand and, armed with a glass of red, headed into the aisles.

First stop was the Alternative Bread Company. The shelves had been cleared of bread and instead they had a tasty small plate menu laid on. Here, I picked the Welsh Rarebit, nice and warm and decorated with some thyme flowers. Loved it and it came a good price, two for €6.00. Besides, there was a big basket of windfall apples with an open invitation to help yourself. Nice touch.

Indeed, many stalls entered into the spirit of the night, everyone relaxed, smiles and goodies all around, even candles at one. Bought some olives at the Olive Stall. They also had a tasting plate as did Iago’s and many more, including a massive cheese platter at On the Pigs Back.

O’Connell’s Fish always back this type of event and Friday night was no exception with oysters going for a euro each, a “real” prawn cocktail for four and also fish and chips. Up then past the three piece band to the entrance hall and to O’Sullivan’s Poultry in particular.

As well as “grazing”, we were doing a bit of shopping and after a discussion on quail and venison with the helpful staff we bought some of the deer for Saturday night’s dinner. And also helped ourselves to a freebie here: a decent square of bread, loaded with Durcan’s Spiced Beef and Caramelised Onion.

Aside from Bubble Brothers the biggest early queue was upstairs at the Farmgate Cafe where Abraham Phelan from the Silk Road Cafe (at the Chester Beatty) was kept busy serving up Palestinian and Lebanese food with exotic names such as Spanah Fatayer, Fil Fil Mahshy, Musken, Dagaj Bil Lemon and Patingan Mahshy.

This was a really innovative touch by the Farmgate and may well be a pointer to the future direction of the festival. If we are to prevent the feeling of same old same old, which may well build up after a few years (after all we have a limited, if large, number of cultural venues in the city), something like this injection from a different culture will become necessary on all fronts.

Perhaps we could send some of our artists across the county bounds and get up a troupe from Siamsa or swap a local music group with one from Galway or Waterford. On the restaurant front, why not have Gregans Castle come to Augustine’s and vice versa?

Going by Friday night, Abraham Phelan and his dishes would get a big welcome at any restaurant here. Presumably there are other accomplished chefs from other cultures around the country who would welcome an opportunity to showcase their country’s food. So, why not?

Why not, for example, have a Thai evening in Fenns Quay. Tripe and drisheen to Waterford; baps to Cork. Go for it. Food is a huge part of the culture, about the only party for many of us out and about in the Market on a well-fed Friday night.

Friday, September 23, 2011

Never a dull dish at Nash19


As its 19th birthday approaches, Nash19 would be forgiven for slipping into a routine. And, yet, there is a routine here: top class food and excellent and friendly service.

The ingredients are familiar, local gems such as Jack McCarthy’s beef, Crowe’s bacon and Durcan’s beef. Quality is assured by this policy and variety is ensured by the imagination of the chefs. You won't be bored with what comes out on your plate.

The policy works. Just look at the customers coming through. We were in early for lunch today (Friday) and, sure enough, the place was more or less full shortly after one and they were still coming in at two.

Started off with a couple of cups of soup (you may also get bowls). Sweet potato has really shot up the popularity charts in recent years and the Roast Sweet Potato and Cumin soup was tasty, spicy and excellent. I went for the Tomato, Bean and Bacon blend and this too hit all the right boxes, plenty of tasty bits, eating and drinking in it!

Main course for me were the Tuscan Style Meatballs (Durcan’s Beef) in a rich tomato sauce on organic spaghetti. An excellent combination of the three main ingredients, well balanced, light yet substantial.

No shortage of substance either on our other main course: Crowe’s farm reared Bacon Loin with Apricot chutney. This was a tempting combination of excellent tender meat matched by the sweet fruit though the accompanying sauce was a bit on the piquant side.

Christine was looking after our table (it isn’t every day you get served by a Master Chef contestant) and was quite proud of their new wine list. CL had a glass of the Amador Parreno Organic Tempranillo, a nice bit of spice and fruit quite typical of the grape and an attractive price of €4.50 a glass.

With my main course having an Italian slant, I picked the Masseria Pietrosa Malvasia Nera. This comes from the south of Italy and has lovely black fruits with hints of spice.

At this point, we could manage just the one dessert between us and the Strawberry Victoria Sponge with a rich vein of cream was well up to the task. Two cups of classic Bewleys coffee brought the total to a little over €57.00.

Thursday, September 22, 2011


Ballymaloe's Colm McCan, one of those who enjoyed last night's wine event in Electric, told me about their upcoming wine event....

Learn about the heritage, culture and wines of Yalumba
with Jane Ferrari, from Yalumba Wines, Barossa Valley, Australia
Thursday 29th September, 2011

The inimitable Jane Ferrari, is simply one of the of the world’s best wine speakers, reflecting her wine knowledge & experience, heartfelt infectious passion, and expansive personality, coupled with that laid back, straight talking, down to earth wit & humour, open soul Australian approach. 

Jane’s interests also include a lifelong passion for horses & racing, and she also makes her own olive oil from her treasured gum-studded block of Barossa land.

Yalumba was founded in 1849 by Samuel Smith, purchasing a 30-acre parcel of land just beyond the southern-eastern boundary of Angaston, Smith and his son began planting the first vines by moonlight. Samuel named his patch “Yalumba” – aboriginal for “all the land around”. Six generations and 160 years later Yalumba is Australia’s oldest family owned winery.

7.00pm Wine presentation and tasting in The Grain Store at Ballymaloe House. Jane will give a wine presentation and tutored tasting on various wines that are made by Yalumba. A great evening not to be missed. €10, booking advised.

8.30pm Wine dinner with Jane Ferrari at Ballymaloe House. After the wine tasting, Jane will give a wine dinner at Ballymaloe House – with the wines matched to the Ballymaloe Dinner menu. Over dinner, Jane will introduce and speak about the wines as they are served with each course. €75, booking essential.

Ballymaloe House, Shanagarry, Co. Cork, Ireland
Tel: 021 4652531
Lonely Planet Top 10 Wine Weekends
Georgina Campbell Wine Award of the Year 2010
Food & Wine Magazine Top 10 Wine Experience of the Year 2010


Aoife McCan, Gerry Gunnigan (Liberty Wines), Fiona Turner and Colm McCan (Ballymaloe) at Electric

New Zealand winemaker Fiona Turner brought her Marlborough wines to South Mall’s Electric last night and they went down a treat with the diners. The upstairs room, with a view, was full and over 70 per cent of the punters took up the offer of five half glasses for a tenner.

Fiona and yours truly
Naturally enough, both Denis O’Mullane of Electric and Fiona herself were delighted with the success. It was a first time wine and dine venture for Electric while Fiona is in the middle of a busy ten day period in Ireland and the UK.

She brought five wines, three white and two red. The aim at Tinpot Hut  is to make wines that they themselves enjoy drinking. Going by last night, quite a few other people enjoy drinking them too.

First up was the 2010 Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc (13.5%); pleasingly rich and powerful, it is well balanced with a long pleasant finish. And it is on sale at Bradley’s, North Main Street.

Their Pinot Gris 2010 was another of the whites. A very refreshing drink, medium bodied and flavoursome with an ABV of 13%.

Didn’t expect to see a Gruner Veltliner in the line-up . The Austrian grape though has travelled well and ended up in good hands and the 2010 result is a complex medium-bodied wine, a classic style and a multi-award winner to boot, including gold at the Decanter World Wine Awards 2011.

Another award winner is the Tinpot Hut’s Hawke’s Bay Syrah 2007 (13%). They called it Syrah rather than Shiraz for a reason. The pepper and spice here doesn’t invade your senses but instead contributes proportionately to the overall experience. Ruby red with an aromatic nose, I thought it a brilliant mouthful, a terrific example that brings out the true flavours, mainly plum and pepper on the palate.

The Marlborough Pinot Noir  (12.5%) was the other red. No gold or silver medals here but still a smashing wine. “Classic cherry flavours dominate the palate and are supported by hints of plum and redcurrant.” This 2008 offering benefitted from the “prolonged warm dry summer...all grapes on the vine...were able to open fully, yielding...well developed, intensely flavoured fruit.”

So there we had it, five good easy drinking wines and not a dud among them. And, listening to Fiona explaining her criteria, I don’t think Tinpot will be releasing any inferior wine while she’s around.

And the food? I started with the Crispy fried tripe with chorizo, kale & chilli, then a tender steak and finished with a sweet sweet Strawberry meringue roulade. All top notch. And you can see the full menu here

Electric has come a long way since it opened during the Jazz weekend last autumn. Already, it is a fixture in the city. But they are not sitting back. There is better to come as the Electric ensemble is being trained to be the best around. Interesting times ahead in Cork’s “Theatre of Life”
Tinpot Hut wines are distributed in Ireland by Liberty Wines

Wednesday, September 21, 2011


Hayfield Sommelier Sandra Biret - Crowley

The Rhone valley is synonymous with terrific wines and the area will feature strongly at the Hayfield Manor Wine Society Dinner in November. Enjoyed my trip down there that this summer, stopping at such iconic wine villages as Gigondas, Rasteau, Vacqueyras and at Chateauneuf de Papes itself. Now, I’m looking forward to seeing Jean Louis Smyl of Famille Quiot at the Hayfield.

And I’m not the only one. The hotel’s Paul O’Connell: “We view wine as a vital part of the Hayfield Manor experience, and the superb cellar kept by our Sommelier Sandra Biret - Crowley, is a source of delight for experienced wine buffs and enthusiastic amateurs alike.

Among the carefully selected vintages from some of the great names of the wine world you’ll also discover plenty of bottles that carry less prestige but provide their own special virtues, plus some intriguing wines you may never have encountered before.

Enthusiasts looking to expand their knowledge of wine, or amateurs who simply love sampling new and exciting vintages, will relish the specials wine events that are a regular feature in Hayfield Manor. Our exceptional suppliers regularly host events that offer an informal but informative exploration of the world of wine, especially some of its less well know delights, with plenty of entertainment to be enjoyed along the way.
Rhone vineyard

We are also happy to offer exclusive events for groups, so if you’re looking for a corporate event or employee incentive evening with a difference, here’s the solution.”

The first Hayfield Manor Wine Society evening will be held on November 10th with a program of exceptional wine dinners compiled by Sommelière Sandra Biret – Crowley and Jean Louis Smyl of Famille Quiot (Rhone Valley).

This special four course wine dinner begins at 7.00pm with aperitifs and an introduction to the region’s wines. Dinner is € 79.00 per person and includes a 5 course menu specially created by the Executive Chef, Graeme Campbell, to complement the 5 different wines. To book please call 021-4845900 or email


See my full post here
Well equipped

The game carousel

Tuesday, September 20, 2011



In you are in Athy this sunny morning for the ploughing, or indeed for any day of the event, I’ll bet you won't easily pass the stand of Amandine Confectionery. 

This Dungarvan based company makes delicious French style cakes of all shapes and sizes and all are tempting, especially the succulent Pear & Almond and Lemon Meringue Tarts that have been shortlisted for the 2011 Irish Food Awards in Dingle at the end of the month.

But you don’t have to go to Athy to get your hands on these sweet things. Amandine has a permanent stand in the mall at the Mahon Point Shopping Centre and also at the City Square Shopping Centre in Waterford.  The products are also available in Dungarvan (in (Dunnes Stores and Twomey’s Eurospar in Abbeyside) and in Midleton (Hurley's SuperValu).

Claire O'Connor is a busy person and, aside from the Ploughing Championships, you see her at various food festivals in the southern half of the country – I met here most recently at Midleton. Claire is from France, from the Var department in the region of Provence. She was educated at the Ecole superieure de commerce de Montpellier and now lives in Dungarvan

Claire, a follower of Munster rubgy, has brought a real taste of France to Ireland, her delicious selection of artisan confectionery includes cakes, tartlets, birthday and photocakes and more. Why not have a look at her Facebook page .

Monday, September 19, 2011



Took a refreshing stroll along the Mahon Estuary Walk yesterday morning and called up to the Blackrock Farmers Market before going home. A queue for coffee and hot chocolate at O’Connaill’s and some fresh vegetables in another stall from Ballycotton but no sign of the

Saturday, September 17, 2011

In Ballymaloe with Skillogalee's Dave Palmer


Wine with a smile

Clare Valley wine-maker Dave Palmer (above, right) and his wife Diana were in Ballymaloe this weekend introducing some of his wines during a top notch five course meal. The Wales born one time economist delivered his to the point information with a great deal of practical insight (as you’d expect) and also with a large measure of sparkling humour.

Of course, we did start with their

Friday, September 16, 2011


Salmon & Sweet Chili

Mediterranean Cod Gratin

Always like calling to see the folks at the Ballycotton Seafood in the English Market and also make the odd call to their shop in Midleton.

Now the good news for

Thursday, September 15, 2011


Pics from today's Spanish Wine Show in to on image to enlarge
Top:Claire Lemasney (Gilbeys); Mark McCloskey (Greenlea); Stephen Morrissey (Barry & Fitzwilliam), Paul Kiernan and Billy Forrester (Bubble Bros).
Bottom: Antonio Lorente & Rafael Salazar (Vinos Tito); Joe Karwig and Billy Lyons; Bren Smith (Mackenway) and Marcus Gates (Karwig).


“Wines from Spain: Changing Ways 2011” was the name of the big Spanish wine show that was held in the Imperial Hotel (Cork) yesterday. El Gordo (The Big One) is associated with the Spanish lottery but there was no gamble in


Think I'll head up here on Saturday morning - with the shopping bags!!
Click on image to enlarge

Wednesday, September 14, 2011



I met Kerry chocalatier Benoit Lorge for the first time at last Saturday’s Midleton Food Festival. You just couldn’t pass the range of tempting creations at his stall. And, when you study his brochure, you realise that this is only a fraction of his portfolio of chocolate goodies.

You can buy singles or boxes (with anything from two to 54 pieces). You can fill a mixed bag, like I did, 10 for €6.00. He also does chocolate bars including an award winning Praline and also Nougat (nice stuff too – I got some in Manning’s Ballylickey two months ago). His truffles - buy by the bag – are multi-awards winners, gold going to the Rum Bitter, the soft Rum and Caramel and also to the Orange and Cointreau.

I had whiskey and rum included in my selection and you may also get Baileys and other liqueurs.  But you may also avoid the

Tuesday, September 13, 2011


One week left to go before WSET Level II Wines & Spirits (Intermediate Cert) Course starts next Tuesday 20th September. Gary O'Donovan who has over 20 years experience in Wine Education & The International Wine Industry will be running this course. Please hurry - limited places available! Please contact or 021 4296060.

Roger Ravoire Wine Dinner at Donnybrook Fair

Lubernon vines with Ménerbes in background

Roger Ravoire Wine dinner at Donnybrook Fair

Olivier Ravoire (above) from Roger Ravoire will host a wine dinner on Wednesday 19th October at 7.45pm in The Restaurant @ Donnybrook Fair. Olivier will introduce a selection of wines from his family’s winery located in the heart of the

Monday, September 12, 2011


Apple & Blackberry Cobbler


It is the apple time of year, lots of them now becoming available at fruit farms and in the farmers markets. Thanks to our friends at All Recipes UK and Ireland, we’ve got no less than 482 apple recipes for you! More than an apple a day.

Find apple recipes for all of your favourites - apple cake, apple crumble, apple pie. They have savoury ways with apples, too - apple-stuffed chicken breast, apple and cheese bruschetta and more.

So get picking and peeling and click right here 

LES GOURMANDISES: Premiere classe


With recent Food & Wine kudos for both the chef and the sommelier, you’d have thought we were on a good thing when we visited Les Gourmandises at the weekend. Well, we were but we knew that even before the awards were announced as this Cook Street restaurant is, and has been for some time now, one of the very best in Cork.

Started with the Les Gourmandises tasting plate: Parsnip Soup, Black Pudding with Foie Gras and breaded John Dory with green puree. The Parsnip soup was delightful; the Black Pudding outshone the Foie Gras while the fish was spot on. A good start is half the battle.

Next up for me was the Roasted duck leg confit with confit potato and cherry. A beautiful piece of duck, so well cooked. It also looked fantastic, a tempting light colour, and it fell away from the bone at the slightest touch. Tasted as well as it looked, much better than similar efforts I ate in the Dordogne in the summer of 2010.

CL was also very happy with Fillet of Cod with Celeriac and Apple puree and mushrooms. The fish and puree combination was top class, every little bit welcomed onto the palate. We both got a side dish of sautéed potatoes, shaped into small globes, not much bigger than marbles (or glassy alleys, as we say around here).

We each had the same dessert: Red Berry Jelly and Lavender Panacotta, with a Lemon Madeleine. I’ve had some variation of this here previously. It was fresh and lively, a really smashing way to finish off a meal, the combination of sight and taste sending two happy customers on our way into the night.

We were on the Prix Fixe menu which is priced at €27.50 for two courses, €29.50 for three. Do the math and you’ll see that the dessert cost just two euro! Two glasses of Lombeline wine, one Sauvignon Blanc from the Loire, the other Syrah/Grenache from the Gard, brought the bill to €72.70.

No complaints with the wines, each was excellent. The following day, by chance, I spotted that The Wine Store sells the Sauvignon Blanc for €10.99 a bottle. The glass at Les Gourmandises is priced at €6.85. The Bridge Bar and Grill in Dublin internet site lists their glass price at €7.00, their bottle at €24.00. These would all seem to be rather large mark ups.

And the other thing about Irish restaurants selling wine by the glass is that you are rarely told how much wine is your glass, whereas in some European countries, Austria for example, you have the choice of one or two decilitres and, in some cases, the glass is marked.

Saturday, September 10, 2011


Midleton Food Festival 10.09.11. Click on image to enlarge. Post to follow...

Had really been looking forward to this year’s Midleton Food Festival and neither the food on offer nor the people offering it let me down in any way. A stroll down (and up, and down and up again) the main street this Saturday morning was a foodie pleasure.

Enjoyed my chat with Claire of Amandine who make sweet temptations from the most gorgeous French style pastries to personalised birthday cakes. Two of her pastries, Pear & Almond and Lemon Meringue Tarts, have been shortlisted for the 2011 Irish Food Awards in Dingle and they were the two we bought.

One of the pleasures of these festivals, especially if you go early, is the opportunity to chat with the stallholders and we compared notes with Claire on Provence (where she is from and where we, and she, holidayed this year). Bonne chance in Dingle, Claire.

Also had a chat with Jon Ward and Kevin Aherne from the inventive Sage Restaurant  who played a big part in the festival with a few stands out on the street as well as one in the courtyard.

Also called to the regular Farmers Market which was also running and delighted here to meet up with Noreen and son Henry from Woodside Farm  and also the busy and ever inventive Deirdre Hilliard of Cobh’s Just Food .

Back to the food now. Let’s start with the bread, a lovely sourdough (already tested) from the Granary who have a pleasant permanent position just off the main street. Three lots of cheese came back to the city: two from the Old Irish Creamery  and one from Ardsallagh .

Isabelle Sheridan was manning the On the Pig’s Back stand and here we helped ourselves to some Chicken liver pate and to a slab of Venison Terrine. Also a box of Victoria plums from the Rose Cottage Fruit farm .

At the Farmers Market, we bought the veg from Ballycurraginny Farm (regulars at Mahon Point), got some Pork and Apple Burgers from Woodside and a Muesli and pot of Ratatouille from Just Food.

Madeline from Pure Sushi told me she was delighted with her award at the Mitchelstown Festival and we treated ourselves to a six pack for this evening. Some sweet stuff too. In addition to the cakes from Amandine (who have a permanent stand in the Mahon Shopping complex), we spoiled ourselves with a bag of gorgeous mixed chocolates from Benoit Lorge .

As you know, I regularly buy Irish, buy local. But it is not always easy. Lorge has quite a reputation in the chocolate field and many of you may have seen Eve Chocolates  from Dennehys Cross highlighted in the Evening Echo during the week.

Yet last week, at the English Market, two US travel agents told me they were disappointed to find only two Irish chocolate products on sale in an otherwise well stocked chocolate shop there.

Thursday, September 8, 2011


Click to enlarge


Brad Rey, Brand Manager at Morambro Creek, the home of Jip Jip Rocks and Mt Monster, was at Karwig Wines in Carrigaline last Wednesday and oversaw one of the most fascinating tastings I’ve ever been at.

And it wasn't just because of the wines, which included a few surprises for this punter and were all of outstanding quality, that I’ll remember Brad. It was mostly for his convictions about wine and his common sense.

The Canadian born and raised Brad brought a breath of fresh Rockies air to the proceedings.
 “Most of New World concocted crap.”
“Oak shouldn't be the dominant characteristic. Wine is made from grapes and should taste of the fruit.”
“The earth is like a tea bag. All that grows in the vicinity...elephant fennel, wild rosemary..eucalyptus..finds its way in.....and ends up in the glass.”
“Don't wash your wine glass with water (fluoride in Ireland!). Wash it with wine, maybe bottled water.”

There were three sparklers on the table. A Mt Monster brut, an easy drinker, something like an “Aussie Cremant” was the first. Then came the Jip Jip Cuvee from 2009. Very pleasant indeed and again easy drinking.

Brad maintains that Aussie sparklers are on the up and up. They were up too, many moons ago. They’ve been making them since 1890s and they were extremely popular in Oz in the early 1900s, then seemed to lose their way but are now on the firmly on the way back.

And the third sparkler seemed to confirm this. It was Jip Jip Rocks Shiraz, a medium bodied mouth friendly wine. A very pleasant surprise indeed and Brad recommended using it with pork or duck or “anything you’d use Pinot Noir with”. Must try that.

After knocking much of the New World Chardonnay, Brad opened his own bottle. “I try to let the fruit speak, let Mother Nature do the job.” And this unoaked bottle spoke the fruit. Gorgeous and refreshing with a little richness added through limited contact with the lees, perhaps another lesson from the Loire which Brad knows and likes.

And France was in his mind too when making the Jip Jip 2009 Sauvignon Blanc. Citrusy and soft, fresh and clean and well balanced, made that way because Brad doesn't like high acidity.

He was delighted with his Mt Monster Shiraz of 2008. “Good, the way I want to see it. Very minimal oak. May be served slightly chilled. It is light fruit, blueberries and raspberries and the tannins are fruit tannins. This is about balance and reminds me of the joven I used to make in Spain.”

Then we moved on to a more traditional Shiraz, the 2009 Jip Jip, a multi medal winner that has spent quite a while in 2, 3 and 4 year old French oak. But the oak doesn't dominate. “Drink it on its own; it is easy drinking.”

He was quite proud of the next one also as it has been his “first go” at Morambro Creek Shiraz. This 2008 had been in 20% US oak but from now on it will be 100% French barriques. The annual spend on oak is now massive, well over a million Australian dollars. Good wine, though!

The finish was a beautiful Mt Monster Cabernet Sauvignon 2008. No oak, lovely and bright, not heavy, tannins enough and easy drinking, according to Brad who admitted to being “chuffed by that”. Remember, Brad hasn’t seen most of these wines for a while as they are long gone from Morambro.

The fennel is in here, fresh mint, cassis, blue and red fruits, all in a rich texture with velvety tannins. It has been getting a great reaction.

Morambro is certainly a name (three names really) to watch out for and to make it easier, you can get all three at Karwig Wines.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Karwig Wines: Cannonau di Sardegna

Stella & Mosca’s Cannonau di Sardegna

Cannonau di Sardegna DOC Vendemmia* 2008, 13.5%, €11.95 (Karwig), 3.5 stars.

This island wine held my interest from start to finish. Colour is a weakish medium red but this is Grenache with muscle: mouth filling, juicy, fruity, spicy, straight-up. A lovely lively wine made from the Cannonau grape, a cousin or clone of Garnacha. I’m deliberately using the Garnacha here as it was the Spanish who planted up the island  many moons ago.

This rugged island version is some distance from the smooth and polite Grenache you find on the Rhone and  none the worse for that. Variety is the spice of life and this Sardinian effort underlines it.

Cannonau di Sardegna DOC Riserva 2007, 14%, €15.25 (Karwig)

Noah, it is said, used a garnet lantern to help him steer his ark through the dark night. Garrnet is the colour of this wine and I wouldn’t mind having more of this in the dark nights to come.

It is a while since I smelled violets so I can't confirm the label’s description of the bouquet except to say it is quite a pleasant one. But the mega pleasure comes when the wine hits the palate. It is like velvet.

The basic Cannonau above may be Grenache with muscle; this Riserva doesn't lack muscle but let us say that it is extremely well toned, supple and subtle, positively smooth and altogether very attractive.

It is a beautiful mouthful, the finish long and delicious and there are subtle spices from start to end. One to note, for sure.

·         Vendemmia = Harvest or vintage.
·         The Cannonau, with a big load of flavanoids, may be good for your health. Check it out here