Tuesday, January 31, 2012

URRU: small, but a big reason to visit Bandon

The aim in Bandon’s URRU  is to help you enjoy shopping for food and food related items. The formula is a successful one in this bright well laid out shop.
Called there last Saturday and enjoyed the visit, the browsing, the shopping, and the chat with Ruth and the coffee. Not to mention the gorgeous Patisserie Regale Dunmanway made giant Ginger Spice Cookie that accompanied the coffee.
 Shopping for food is easy here as some of the great local names are suppliers: Glenilen, Jack McCarthy, Ummera, Arbutus, Green Saffron, Macroom Mills and many more, including the cheesemakers. Oh, and not forgetting Mella and her irresistible fudge. Ended up with quite a bagful, as usual.

There was a sale on in the kitchenware “department”, 50 per cent off on many items, and we got one or two bits and pieces. URRU also have a collection, an impressive one, of cookery books and also a good wine corner.
You won’t go short here. Vegetables? That department is now well covered too at the URRU Greengrocer which is more or less next door to this lovely not so little shop on McSwiney Quay. We had a look in there too. Lots of local vegetables and also enticing imports such as figs and hazelnuts.

A small place but a big reason to visit Bandon, which is so close to the city. Don’t by-pass. Stop for a coffee and a browse (and do bring a bag!)


Vicky Jago has been in touch with a gift idea from Good Food Ireland, a Unique Gift this Valentine's!

"If you love good food, then look no further than a Good Food Ireland gift voucher which allows you the freedom to choose from over 300 Good Food Ireland approved providers located around the island of Ireland. They promise you an experience of the very best in Irish cuisine and hospitality. 

Whether you are looking for a romantic break, an intimate meal, a relaxing spa weekend or a dinner in a famous Irish eatery or just pure food indulgence this is the ideal gift for everyone who simply loves good food!

Good Food Ireland gift vouchers starting from €10 are available to purchase through the Good Food Ireland office Tel 053 9158693 or Online www.goodfoodireland.ie"   

Monday, January 30, 2012

Ummera Smoked Chicken

One of my all time favourites, one of the brilliant products from @ummera in Timoleague

Dining Royally at The Castle Hotel


Friday last, we dined at the B’s Restaurant in the Castle Hotel in Macroom. And dined quite royally, I might add. Food and service were terrific.

Service came in the shape of AJ, the maestro of the dining room. No shortage of advice or recommendations and, if something wasn’t on the menu, then he’d get it as he did with the fruit dessert at the end. Lots of friendly chat too, “like”.

As we munched the handmade breads, from a “secret” recipe according to AJ, I was delighted to see so many local producers mentioned on the menu, reliable sources such as Jack McCarthy, Cappoquinn, Ardsallagh, Gubbeen, Milleens, Michael Twomey and quite a few others.

I started off with the Jack McCarthy Black Pudding, which was perfect, as usual, really top drawer stuff. This time, it was served with a Spiced Apple Chutney, a great match.

Local input also to the other starter with the mozzarella coming from the milk of the buffalos on the farm of local man Johnny Lynch. The full title for this starter was: Mozzarella and Roasted Vegetable Bruschetta with fire roasted pepper relish and baby leaf salad. Another good one! Peppers and Aubergine were the roasted veg and the whole thing came together very well indeed.

AJ then humourously explained, just in case we thought the meal was coming to a premature end, that the next course would not be dessert but a sorbet. And quite a tasty and colourful one it turned out to be.

Now, the palate was ready for the mains and I went for an AJ recommendation: Baked Supreme of Cappoquinn Chicken filled with Ardsallagh Goats Cheese wrapped in Parma Ham and served with a Tomato and Basil Sauce. Must say I liked this one. The cheese played a key role in the overall taste without ever threatening to dominate while the sauce – I spooned out every bit – added extra flavour and moisture.

I like it too that the sauce was served in its own little container as was the case with the other main dish: Baked West Cork hake with sundried tomato salsa and served with a light Champagne sauce. The fish was juicy, the spinach underneath was lovely and creamy while the salsa added a bit of tartness. The main dishes were also accompanied by a side plate of perfectly cooked seasonal vegetables.

Now for the real dessert. Once again AJ played a part as one of us was looking for something light. And so he got the chef to produce, without any delay, a perfectly presented plate of gorgeous fruit, as you can see from the picture.

Cheese plate
I too had a gorgeous presentation, quite a line up of local cheese, including top names such as Milleens and Gubbeen, crackers and plum chutney and some slices of plum and mango. Lapped it all up while finishing off the wine which was another treat, the real face of Chardonnay from Burgundy.

For the record it was a Champy 2009 Macon-Lugny (€26.00). It was full-bodied luscious and creamy, not a trace of oak, the real taste of one of the world’s most popular grapes. Lovely wine, lovely meal. Thanks to AJ and all the crew at the Castle.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Year of the Dragon at Ying’s Palace

Main course

The Beers

Ying’s Palace

Celebrated the coming of the Year of the Dragon, a little on the late side, with a very tasty meal indeed at Ying’s Palace in Mayfield last night. This is a really well appointed restaurant with a high degree of space and comfort and consistently good food. But, like many Chinese establishments, the take-away business outshines the sit-down!

Amazing really that Chinese cuisine, which is so well established in Ireland, has not really crossed over to our regular restaurants. We’ve got a huge French input, a substantial Italian and Spanish influence, quite a hefty contribution from the Maghreb (cous cous, tagine) but very little from the Chinese.

I was thinking that when our starter arrived. By the way, we had picked one of the set menus which included a glass of wine for a total of €22.80. They have other marginally cheaper set menus along with a four course multi-choice special offer for just €15.59, a great way to try out the place.

Getting back to last night, we started off with a plate of irresistible Prawn Crackers. Polished them off quickly and there was precious little resistance when we were offered a second plate by our very friendly hostess.

Then on to the substantial main starter: Crispy Aromatic Duck (served with strips of spring onions, cucumbers, carrots, pancakes and Hoisin Sauce). I really enjoyed this, a terrific combination and one that might catch on in mainstream restaurants! Finger wipes were supplied as standard service.

Next up was a big bowl of very warm soup: Crabmeat and sweet corn. Just what you’d need on a showery wintry evening, really excellent. By this stage, I had sipped my last drop of the free wine, a very acceptable Cabernet Sauvignon from Valle Andino (Chile). A glass would normally cost €4.90, a bottle €16.80. Good prices!

They had Chinese beer listed on the menu at €3.90 a bottle. Tsingtao is bottled in China and has the usual ingredients, except that rice is added. The rice seems to give it extra flavour and roundness and I must say I absolutely enjoyed it and wouldn’t mind getting my hands on a few. The other beer that we got was Tiger. This regular lager is brewed in Singapore and more widely available and very drinkable.

So now, we were ready for the double barrelled main course: Fillet beef with black pepper sauce and King Prawn Szechuan, both served sizzling! And accompanied by either chips or fried rice. We took one dish of each. Loved those prawns, each a soft explosion of taste redolent of the sea and complimented by the other flavours.

The beef – all their beef is Irish – was so tender I could have cut it with a spoon and so tasty. The black pepper sauce is what it says on the tin so you’d better be aware of that before you order. We enjoyed every piece.

Now we were full and had just begun to sip our coffee (included) when our hostess came to the table with a slice of homemade cheesecake, on the house!

We wished her well for the New Year, hoping the Dragon would be kind to her. “I hope he will be kind to all peoples,” she graciously replied. And so say all of us.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Thank You Mr Karwig

Thank You Mr Karwig
(and Mr Whelan)

Morambro Creek, Padthaway Australia, Shiraz 2008, 14.5%, €18.50, Karwig Wines

A big thank you to JoeKarwig  in Carrigaline who imports this excellent New World Shiraz, a terrific wine. And thanks also to that well known butcher, Pat Whelan of Clonmel, and now also of Monkstown (Dublin), as it was from Whelan’s on-line shop that I got the ever so tender lack of lamb that I matched with the Morambro Shiraz .

The dark red wine is smooth and lush from start to long finish. It has a pleasantly aromatic nose. The introduction to the palate is excellent. This is a very well made wine indeed with rounded fruit flavours and spice, all in balance, nothing overly restrained and nothing extreme. Easy to enjoy.

The know-how of five generations of the Bryson family has gone into this one and they are justly proud of their methods and of the wine itself. They also say that it is best with food and you won’t get a much better match than the one I enjoyed.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Hayfield Manor Wine Society February Dinner

February Dinner

Jean Louis Smyl of Famille Quiot in the (Rhone Valley) was the star of the evening when the Hayfield Manor Wine Society held its inaugural dinner  in the hotel last November.
At a recent Hayfield event. Sandra is pictured with
Ballymaloe's Samuel (left) and yours truly. pic: Colm McCan.

Sommelière Sandra Biret-Crowley, who did some great work behind the scenes in organising the event, will have the help of Donie O’Brien from Erne Drinks Company when the next dinner takes place on February 23rd. Donie’s visit also signals a change of country as the wines from the awarding Santa Sofia winery in Italy will take centre stage on this occasion.

Hayfield’s Paul O’Connell is rightly proud of their wines: “We view wine as a vital part of the Hayfield Manor experience, and the superb cellar kept by our Sommelière Sandra Biret - Crowley, is a source of delight for experienced wine buffs and enthusiastic amateurs alike.

Enthusiasts looking to expand their knowledge of wine, or amateurs who simply love sampling new and exciting vintages, will relish the special 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 known delights, with plenty of entertainment to be enjoyed along the way.

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.”

 This special Santa Sofia wine dinner begins at 7.00pm with aperitifs and an introduction to the wines of the estate which is in Italy’s historic Valpolicella Classico region between Venice and Verona. It includes an ancient villa dating back to 1560.

Dinner is €79.00 per person which is served from 7.30pm and includes a 5 course menu specially created by the Executive Chef, Graeme Campbell, to complement 5 different wines.
 Limited spaces are available so an early reservation is strongly recommended. 
To book please call 021-4845900 or email events@hayfieldmanor.ie

Monday, January 23, 2012


Customers make Macroom hotel their Number One
Castle Hotel Scoops Trip Advisor Travellers’ Choice Award

A delighted Lorraine Kelleher, who manages PR for the Castle Hotel, has been in touch to tell us all about the latest honour for the 4 star hotel in Macroom:

 "The Castle  beat off stiff competition and was voted best bargain hotel by Trip Advisor this week in its annual Trip Advisor Travellers’ Choice Awards.

The Castle Hotel was ranked within the top twenty five hotels in Ireland in the “bargain” hotel award category by Trip Advisor. The Castle is no stranger to Trip Advisor and last year was awarded a Certificate of Excellence for 2011.

The prestigious awards are run on an annual basis by Trip Advisor, which is the world’s largest travel community, where millions of travellers seek information on all items travel related."

Owner, Don Buckley said “We are delighted to receive such an accolade and to be voted by the travellers themselves is what it’s all about at the end of the day. Our current rating with Trip Advisor stands at 94 % and I would like to take this opportunity to thank the team at The Castle for their continued hard work in achieving this. We strive for high standards at The Castle Hotel and we value our customers’ opinions at all times. This award is a fantastic boost as the hotel enters it’s sixty first year in business”

Marketing Manager, Rachael Kohler added “Given the current economic climate, we are conscious that customers are price sensitive and are always on the hunt for value for money, hence why we aim to be innovative when it comes to creating our packages. One of our current packages which are proving extremely popular amongst the public is our two hundred euro  all in deal for two people for two nights with full Irish breakfast on both mornings. This package also includes one evening meal for two with a complimentary bottle of wine on an evening of your choice”

For further information on this exclusive deal contact The Castle Hotel on 026-41074.

Friday, January 20, 2012

Amuse Bouche: Do Not Stay Long After Eating!!!

I've been pleasantly surprised at the success of these brief food related pieces; if you want to see all eleven, click here

“...a man stood in a wooden booth surrounded by tomatoes, cucumbers, and boiled potatoes in buckets of water. High stacks of white bread and a bowl of butter on his table, he sliced the vegetables fine. A series of cardboard signs in English hung...from the ceiling.....



---  from Last Man in Tower by Aravind Adiga

Sow and Grow, grow it yourself for all ages


A few months back we did a post - it turned out to be quite a popular one - about Ailish and her marvellous Sow and Grow projectWith the winter on the wane and temperatures rising, Ailish is ready for the New Year as you can see:

"Happy new year! Sow and Grow have wonderful plans for Spring 2012, including gardening workshops for teachers, childcare providers, parents and kids and fabulous birthday party ideas. We are also working with people of all ages in communities, helping to set up and provide training in community gardens. I would love if you would have a read of our Spring newsletter, it may inspire you to get growing your own!"



Last time, I wrote about the Farmgate, I headlined the piece: Great balls of flour. The “balls of flour”, were there again today: Golden Wonders with skins intact. I cut one in half to demonstrate to my two UK guests what is meant by the phrase.

I must admit that the potatoes didn’t form part of my own dish but I did take a half, just because I couldn’t resist They are just as gorgeous now as they were last November and illustrate what the Farmgate is all about: local produce in good nick, cooked to perfection and served by a friendly and efficient crew in this busy day-time restaurant overlooking the English Market.

My main course is a regular on the menu: Old Millbank Smoked Organic Salmon (12.50), served with a cracking salad and Crème fraîche. Old Millbank are regulars at Mahon Point Farmers Market and their salmon is always top notch as indeed it was here.

The menu description of the salad wasn’t exactly spot-on but the dish itself was and I and one of my fellow diners were very happy with it. One of the visitors enjoyed the Lamb’s Liver and Bacon and the other polished off one of the specials, the Cod pie.

Two of us, myself included, went for the fruity Porter Cake with the coffee; one picked the light and tempting Lemon Tart while another choose the Fruit Crumble. Four empty plates, four happy customers.

Just wonder – didn’t check – if the Porter cake was made with the Knockmealdown Porter by the 8 Degrees Brewing Company. They sell that here but it was the same company’s Howling Gale ale that I imbibed with my main course. Must say, I’m getting to really like that after some initial ambivalence towards the Mitchelstown product.

But never any ambivalence with regard to the Farmgate. Top class.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Happy New Year, With Rosé en Primeur!

With Rosé en Primeur!

Just got a Happy New Year card from the folks at Laurent Miquel vineyard near Beziers. Dominique is one of the signatories and she explained to me previously that the French spread out the New Year Celebrations over the first few weeks. No rush there then!

But you may want to rush out for an offer that Dominique also told me about. It is one where you pay less for your Rosé rose by buying it “en primeur” via From Vineyards Direct 

 Three years ago From Vineyards Direct launched what is now a traditional  “en Primeur” release of new vintages of Pontet Bagatelle Rosé, raising a good few eyebrows by introducing pale pinks into what has often seemed to be the preserve of more ‘serious’ wines from a particular left or right bank.

Describing the rationale for selling Pontet Bagatelle rosé en Primeur, Esme Johnstone, co-founder of FromVineYardsDirect, said: “It is the best rosé from Provence, probably France, and the first 2011 rosé to be sold en Primeur. It is outstanding… We want our customers to be able to enjoy this wine without paying through the nose.”

The 2011 harvest at Château Pontet Bagatelle was ideal and, producer Garry Stephens describes the wine as The best rosé we have ever produced at Pontet Bagatelle – an appetising pale pink colour with a nose that bleeds intense but restrained summer berry fruits. Good balance, acidity and a great finish. Just about perfect  I am thrilled”

  • The wine can be purchased at the remarkable price of €51 in Bond. This is €45 less than the price of the 2010 vintage as fromVineyardsDirect have been able to purchase the majority of the harvest this year  and Garry wishes to thank FVD customers. This stunning Rosé will also be available in Magnums, Double Magnums and Imperials.   The larger bottles add a touch of drama as well as flavour to any party, reception or wedding.
The prices in bond for delivery late April/May are as follows:
Bottle    €4.25Bt or €51cs       
Magnums or €9 or €54 cs(6)
Double magnum(300cl) €25 or cs (3) €75
Imperial (6oocl) €78
Queries to info(at)fromvineyardsdirect.ie  

Monday, January 16, 2012



Germany, Alsace and the Clare and Eden Valleys in Australia are noted as great places to grow Riesling. But Western Australia can also come up with the goods as evidenced by the Tingleup below. It won Decanter magazine’s Regional Champion Award for the best Australian Riesling on sale in the UK at under £10.00 and is one of a few I've tasted recently.

Bernhard Mehrlein, 2008 Riesling Classic, Rheingau, 12%, €12.80 Karwig Wines, www.weingut-mehrlein.de

Bird in Hand Riesling 2005, Clare Valley, 12%, €19.88, Karwig Wines, www.birdinhand.com.au

Tesco Finest Tingleup Vineyard Riesling, Great Southern, Western Australia, 2010, €11.99, Tesco, http://www.howardparkwines.com.au

Karwig Wines in Carrigaline is probably the best place in Ireland for Riesling and they have some very good ones indeed, including the Kerpen Riesling Blauchiefer Trocken 2010, 11.5%, €12.69, a well priced favourite of mine.
Must try older ones like this!

I also enjoyed their Mehrlein. Nose is aromatic with a slight hint of the famous petrol. The intro to the palate is lively and fruity, crisp and fresh, lime and apples to the fore with an almost perfect balance of sweetness and acidity and it comes complete with a decent minerally finish. Perhaps practice makes perfect in this vineyard as 95% of the output is Riesling. A good wine at a good price.

The Bird in Hand has that petrol, both in the aroma and on the palate. It also has more fruit than the Rheingau but still holds a good balance. It also has more body, maybe less liveliness, and that petrol is always there. This estate grown limited release is classed as a premium wine from an area renowned for its Riesling.

The Tingleup bottle comes from an area better known for excellent Chardonnay and Cabernet Sauvignon but one can see why it won the Decanter award. It is fresh, fruity and dry with a fine long finish. Apple, pear and lime combine to give the refreshing tingle (this one is well named) and the finish echoes the introduction.

And so my Riesling education continues. At present, I have to say that I prefer the younger ones, such as the Kerpen and Tingleup. But I’ll have to get my hands on more of the older ones and see how it goes.

By the way, the Eden Valley topped the Riesling charts in Decanter for the over £10 category. The winner was Peter Lehmann’s Wigan 2005. Not too sure who sells that in Ireland.

According to both Hugh Johnson and Oz Clarke, Howard Park is one of the top producers in the Margaret River area. They make this Tingleup but you’ll need your glasses on to see their name on the label. Still, this is a top Riesling. And well priced.

Saturday, January 14, 2012



I enjoyed a lovely meal at The Barn  last evening. For over thirty years, the venue, on the Mayfield to Glanmire Road, has been a fixture on the Cork dining scene. And that kind of longevity doesn’t happen by chance.

This is a comfortable place, starting with the ante-room where you may take a seat and check the menu while sipping an aperitif. The coats are put away neatly in the cloakroom and you are led along the carpets to your comfortable chair as the live music from the piano-man fills the room (not especially for your entrance, of course).

Service too is excellent, leisurely but not laggardly. For instance, when the main course was being served to our group (4), three people, maybe four, appeared with the dishes and, within a few seconds, all four of us had our main plates, along with the side plates of veg, in front of us and the water had been refilled without our asking for it to be done. And all done with a little chat and a big smile!

But all this comfort and service, even the piano-man, would count for little unless the food is good. And it is. It has of course moved on quite a bit from the early days of The Barn and now you see words like wasabi, tapenade, hummus and pork belly on the extensive menu.

All four of us were very happy with the meal. After some nice breads, I started off with the Crispy Pork Belly with Sour Cherry and Plum Chutney and Caramelised Red Onion (about €7.50, forget the exact price). Absolutely top class, done to a T, and the chutney was so moreish (even though I got two decent scoops of it!).

Then on to the piece de résistance! This was the Tapenade crumbed Cod Fillet, with Chablis Sauce and Spiced Mango Chutney (€21.50). Quite a decent sized piece of fish and there was also a side dish of nicely done vegetables (potato, carrot and creamed broccoli). Must say I really enjoyed it, the combination on the main plate was gorgeous. Quantity and quality was spot on here and left no desire for anything else, though I did look longingly at the famous dessert trolley that we passed on our exit!

Friday, January 13, 2012


What: Beer Loves Food Series
Where: Cornstore, Cornmarket Street, Cork
When: Wednesday 18th January at 19.30
Price: €24.95 for a three course meal with beer
Contact: Cornstore for booking on 021 4274777

The ‘2012 Beer Loves Food Series’ kicks off at the Cornstore, one of Cork’s most popular restaurants to celebrate the naturalness of beer and food matching.  Beer and Food enthusiasts will be taken on a journey of beer tasting, beer history and food matching by Master Beer Sommelier, Marc Stroobandt, from Belgium. The ‘Beer Loves Food Series’ was created by Heineken Ireland to deliver on the growing global trend of beer and food matching.

Marc Stroobandt
Marc has been awarded some of the highest accolades in the global brewing industry.  He has been given an honorary knighthood by the Chevalerie du Fourquet des Brasseurs of the Confederation of Belgian Brewers and the title of Commander in the Order of De Roze Olifant. Marc hosted a similar event here in November and I found it to be a very enjoyable evening indeed as you may read here.
Beer is a natural accompaniment to food both savoury and sweet, with its ingredients of hops, barley, water and yeast. At the Cornstore, matchings like braised lamb shank with Affligem, an Abbey Ale with spicy and citrus flavours; slow roast pork belly withTiger, an Asian pilsner-style lager with hoppy flavours; and white chocolate mousse with Paulaner, a Bavarian Weissbier with fruity flavours and a crisp dry finish will reveal how beer and food complement each other to create unique and surprising taste sensations.
The ‘Beer Loves Food Series’ was created by Heineken Ireland, Ireland’s number one lager company, to deliver on the increasing demand for deeper understanding of beer and food matching.
Log on to www.thisisbeer.ie for more information.

Duck liver parfait with brioche,
Wild mushroom and brown bread dumpling,
Goat’s cheese crostini with sundried tomato pesto,
Mini white bean and bacon soup                                                                                               
With Zywiec - The malty sweetness of Zywiec compares well with the creamy parfait, while the hoppy bitter dryness can cut through the richness of the goats cheese and the soup.

OVEN ROAST HAKE with lemon and basil mash, sautéed samphire, with Cornstore red pepper relish (g)
With Heineken - The crisp, lemony slightly spicy hoppiness of Heineken blends well with the fish and uplifts all the other flavours.

CHICKEN BREAST stuffed with chorizo on crushed baby potatoes, red onion and tomato salad and tarragon infused natural yoghurt
With Zywiec - The sweetness of the chicken matches the beer and brings together the other flavours without overpowering them.

SLOW ROAST PORK BELLY with roast potatoes, sauerkraut, candied walnuts and a cider reduction (g)
With Tiger Beer  -  The richness of the dish requires the complexity of the beer and the well balanced bitter-sweetness of Tiger can handle the variety of ingredients while the spicy notes add another dimension to the dish.

BRAISED LAMB SHANK with roast orange sweet potato, celeriac and green beans (g)
With Affligem - The honey bitter sweetness of Affligem acts like a seasoning for the lamb while the light tartness of the beer cuts through  the other ingredients.

CANNELLONI OF BUTTERNUT SQUASH goats cheese, spinach and figs with sun dried tomato pesto, rocket salad (v)
With Birra Moretti - The sweetness of both the beer and the dish marry well together whilst bringing out the spicy peppery flavours of the pesto and rocket.

WHITE CHOCOLATE MOUSSE west cork strawberries and short bread biscuit
With Paulaner - The silky creamy texture of Paulaner and its honey-like sweetness with a lemony touch create a great combination bringing out the gorgeous flavours of both the mousse and the strawberries.