Saturday, March 31, 2012

Amuse Bouche

Nor were the passengers stinted on drink. There were 2,700 gallons of wine and 500 gallons of spirit for the captain’s table, as well as 7.000 gallons of beer and 1,000 of rum for the sailors’ grog. Nevertheless, the captain was under instructions to set his passengers ‘an example of sobriety and decorum, as he values the pleasure of the Court’.
From the Caliban Shore by Stephen Taylor.

Friday, March 30, 2012

Book Launch: Sheila’s Big Night

Sheila’s Big Night

Sheila Kiely (top) admitted to being a little nervous before her big night but she had many friends on hand to help launch her new cookery book entitled “Gimme The Recipe” at The Mill in Blarney last evening.

Sheila, a working mother of six (two sets of twins), wasn’t looking forward to the speechmaking in particular but she flew through it, thanking the crew at publishers at Mercier Press and extending many thanks also to her friends in the Irish Food Bloggers Association, on Facebook and on Twitter.

And a big thank you also to Sally McKenna (right) of the Bridgestone Guides whose food writing course at Ballymaloe put Sheila on the writing path. Ideas for the recipes came from all quarters, from jogging colleagues, from pals in the Lakewood Tennis Club, from friends and neighbours. Gimme the recipe!

The book was officially launched by Sally who paid Sheila a huge tribute when she said “she was a woman I could learn from”. That goes for most of us. A working mother of six, feeding them all, jogging, tennis, writing and, believe it not, she also did the photography for the book.

The book, as you might expect, is well organised and easy to use, practical. She knows the ropes, the compromises that have to be made within families, how to juggle the food likes and dislikes of the various members.

There are recipes for all kinds of occasions. From the time when something quick and tasty is required to the more formal dinner parties, even a section to help you through the Christmas meals.

“I hope my approach is practical not preachy. I am all for healthy eating but, as with everything in life, we all need to spoil ourselves sometimes – there is room for guilt at my table.” My kind of woman. My kind of book!

Available in Waterstone's and Eason’s, we have it a few days now and we have tried two of the recipes so far and the Chicken Soup and the Fish Pie (even without the parsnip!) have come up trumps. Some done, much more to do!

Impressive Lunch at Fresco Bistro

Click on image to enlarge


Fresco Bistro is a bright spot, almost hidden away in the tress of lower UCC and by the impressive bulk of the Glucksman Gallery directly above. But a spot worth visiting, as I found out when I called there yesterday. You walk into the Glucksman as normal and then go downstairs. This takes you to the Bistro and its floor to ceiling views of the college lawns and more importantly to some classy food.

Brian Casey, one of the principals, had invited me out to sample the meals and boy was I glad I took him up on it. Brian made another good move when serving us with soup while we waited. It was a Lamb Harira Moroccan style hearty lamb soup with chick pea, coriander, lemon, mint and tender lamb pieces (€5.00).

Eating and drinking in it as they say around this city but still light, slightly spicy, moderately aromatic and those little chucks of lamb were certainly tender. A brilliant combination even if the temperatures outside were around the 20c mark.

Quite a choice of main courses as you can see from the site but there are also a number of daily specials, marked on the blackboard.

CL choose the Nicoise Salad Grilled marinated fresh ahi tuna, on organic mixed leaf salad, tossed in a homemade tomato dressing (€8.95). Just superb, everything done to perfection. The salad, so nicely dressed, had a nice crunchy bite, but always a pleasure never a chore. Fantastic dish, fantastic price.

And I could say the same about mine: Seafood Risotto Risotto Cooked in a melange of seafood, fresh asparagus and wild mushroom €9.95. The colourful rice was packed with little pieces of fish, prawns, salmon and white fish and that fresh asparagus was a tasty contributor to the overall pleasure. Great stuff.

The good things continued with the desserts, both under a fiver. I thoroughly enjoyed my Flourless Chocolate Cake, lighter than normal. And CL was very happy with her Apple and Blackberry Tart. No mistaking the apple: real chunks by comparison with that ghastly goo that you see used in some other restaurants.

While I had heard good things about Fresco Bistro over the past few months, I must say I was surprised by the excellence of the dishes and the very competitive pricing. The location too is lovely, especially if the sun shines (there is an outdoor section). But, believe me, the food is so good, it is a place you can visit in any weather!

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Irish Foodie now open in Blackpool


The sun shone as a large attendance gathered in Blackpool on Monday night to celebrate the opening of Irish Foodie, the new cafe and food outlet, run by Teresa O’Brien and daughter Caroline. It was a very enjoyable occasion and we were well plied with goodies, teas and coffees and other drinks as the busy hostess made sure that each and every guest felt at home.

We got in fairly early and had a good look at the products on sale. There are more to come as the new outlet settles in to its new life in the old Sunbeam area where there is no shortage of parking.

Aside from the products on the collage, I spotted a great range of fudge from the Melting Pot, a bunch of products from Kinsale’s Blue Haven, bags of those tasty potato chips by Keogh’s, fruit drinks by DP Connolly and Sons, the handmade Irish chocolates by Chez Emily brought a smile to a few faces, gourmet jams by G’s, gorgeous stuff from Regale Patisserie, and much more. Will have to go back, for sure.

Top Restaurants in Ulster

Top Restaurants in Ulster Announced at Santa Rita Irish Restaurants Awards

The Ulster Regional Final for the Restaurant Awards 2012 sponsored by Santa Rita / Sunday Independent Life Magazine took place in The Merchant Hotel, Belfast Tuesday 27th March 2012.






Tuesday, March 27, 2012

White Weekend

White Weekend

Gareth York of Mont-Marcal
Mont Marcal, Penedes 2010, 12.5%, €8.49, Curious Wines.
This is a lively little gem. The initial feel is almost creamy and then you note the lively fresh citrus fruits, though with sufficient acidity. An excellent wine from the Catalonia area and so well priced. Recommended.

Use it as an aperitif or with fish and salads. Got that off the label! The labels are really well designed. They are not large but give all the necessary information (in a few languages) in a clear and precise way.

The grape varieties in this wine are Xarel-lo, Sauvignon Blanc and Chardonnay and the producer website is

Santa Digna, Fairtrade Chile, 2010 Gewurztraminer Reserve, 13.5%, €8.99, Bradley’s Off Licence.

Information on the Fairtrade bit, which I haven’t seen before on wine, is here The producer is the famous Miguel Torres and the web address is

Nose here is aromatic, floral. Quite a pleasant flavourful mouthful with an excellent dry finish. Full bodied with those tropical fruits prominent yet it finishes dry. Well balanced and fair trade to boot and a good one to start with if you haven’t tried Gewurz before.
Ideal for shellfish (particularly recommended for oysters) and most fish dishes. Good price. Recommended.

Tinpot Hut, 2010 Sauvignon Blanc, Marlborough (NZ), 13.5%, €16.99, Bradley’s Off Licence.

This superb wine has a colour of pale straw with an exotic aromatic nose. The palate says great! An immediate thumbs-up. A mouthful of fabulous flavours from the Beautiful Country, exotic to the North Atlantic palate, and blessed also with a terrific finish.

Marlborough is indisputably, I think, the top standard for New World SB and this Tinpot  is one of the best from the region. Well done to Fiona Turner (right) whom I had the pleasure of meeting in Electric a few months back. Congrats too to Liberty Wines for supplying us with such a gem. A bit pricier than the others but Highly Recommended!

Monday, March 26, 2012

Cork event. Calling budding food entrepreneurs

Cork Event looks to attract new Global Food Entrepreneurs
Food Works – New Initiative Launched to Support Next Generation Food Entrepreneurs

Are you a budding food entrepreneur? Could you create and run a successful export orientated food business?  Do you have the creativity, enthusiasm and drive to bring a new food product to the global market? If so, Food Works, a new comprehensive training and development programme launched today could be the ideal opportunity for you. Bord Bia, Enterprise Ireland and Teagasc have combined resources to design an in-depth process aimed at finding and fostering global food entrepreneurs. Successful participants will be given an invaluable range of practical business supports required to develop an initial concept into a winning food product with international appeal. The available supports will include consumer market research, business plan development, technical advice, commercial viability testing in addition to access to incubation units, research and development (R&D) facilities and possible investors.  An open call information evening will take place in UCC’s Western Gate Building on Thursday, 29th March.

Speaking at the launch today the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Simon Coveney TD said “Food Works is a unique opportunity for ambitious and determined new food entrepreneurs to build great food businesses. The Food Harvest 2020 report highlighted entrepreneurship as essential to building a truly successful indigenous food industry and the importance of developing and nurturing a culture of entrepreneurship. Our target of growing food exports by 50% to reach €12 billion before 2020 is ambitious; it requires huge commitment by private and public interests.  Food Works is an example of development agencies working together in a new way to improve the climate and opportunities for growth and I look forward to it fostering new food businesses with high potential for development.”    

Seán Sherlock T.D., Minister for Research & Innovation, added “This new collaborative programme is unique in bringing together the capabilities of Bord Bia, Enterprise Ireland and Teagasc in a way that will drive forward the growth of new entrepreneurial food companies. By combining their expertise in business development, consumer needs and market demand, and production technologies and research, the three organisations are helping to develop a new ecosystem for food with a strong focus on building strong and sustainable new food start ups that will create much needed jobs for this economy.”

Ideal Candidates
Food Works is open to all determined and energetic individuals with an interest in building an international food business in Ireland. The programme is designed for new food entrepreneurs who have ambitious scalable, ideas or export plans.  Candidates may apply on an individual basis, as part of a team or a company if it has been in existence for less than 2 years.

Five Stages
The first stage of Food Works ( is centered around three open call information evenings taking place in Tayto Park, Ashbourne, Co. Meath on Monday 26th March; Sheraton Hotel, Athlone on Wednesday 28th and finally in UCC (Western Gateway Building), Cork on Thursday 29th March. At these sessions, attendees will gain a better understanding of the programme and how to get involved; meet with representatives from Bord Bia, Enterprise Ireland and Teagasc and hear from inspirational Irish food entrepreneurs such as Ray Coyle, Largo Foods (Tayto), Mary Ann O’Brien, Lily O’Briens chocolates and Michael Carey, Chairman, Bord Bia and The Company of Food.   

In April, additional interactive workshops and information evenings will be held where Bord Bia, Enterprise Ireland and Teagasc will share their insight and expertise on how to review export markets, examine consumer trends and provide technical advice. Interested parties will then be asked to submit a detailed online application before Monday 14th May.

In June, a panel with representatives from Bord Bia, Enterprise Ireland, Teagasc and experienced food entrepreneurs will conduct one-to-one interviews to select 30 successful applicants who will receive one to one mentoring; consumer insight consultancy; R&D assistance and a €5,000 feasibility grant. All concepts and ideas will be stress-tested with consumers in Ireland and key overseas markets. Following this process, 15 participants will move forward to the final stage to develop an investor ready business plan. 

For more information on Food Works or to register for the initial information evenings, visit

Tannery chef Flynn to represent Ireland!

Paul Flynn to Represent Ireland in 2012 Celtic Cook Off in West Cork

Celtic Cook Off in West Cork continues to build on the success of the inaugural event in September 2011 by attracting top chefs from the Celtic regions to take part in what is becoming one of the landmark culinary events of the year.

The 2011 Celtic Cook Off was held as part of the
A Taste of West Cork Festival that proved very popular with the paying public, the local food producers, Fáilte Ireland, the media and all the Chefs involved. The basis of the Celtic Cook Off was to create a fun and informative Cooking Show that showcases the best of West Cork produce cooked simply with each Chef’s own interpretation and ideas.

The Tannery Restaurant in Dungarvan, Co. Waterford, has long been regarded as one of Ireland's leading restaurants. Paul and Maire Flynn opened the Tannery in 1997 in a disused leather warehouse and since then Paul and his team have been cooking in his own eclectic style. Over the years, this has evolved into rustic and earthy cooking with a few whimsical twists. Paul's cooking is always seasonal and can be inspired by what’s growing in their garden, travel and even what he is reading.

The opening of The Tannery was followed in 2005 by the opening of the boutique style Tannery Townhouse. Over a decade later, the Tannery Cookery School is now open featuring a state of the art demonstration kitchen with further adjacent guest accommodation.

Paul Flynn is regarded as one of the foremost Irish chefs, cooking exciting and modern Irish food and so the Tannery Cookery School with reflect his cooking ethos with cookery courses for everyone from the amateur home cook to the more adventurous cook and even those who might want to cook for a living.

Paul has been awarded many accolades throughout his career which include the coveted title of Georgina Campbell,
Ireland Chef of the Year 2008, The Bridgestone Guide has awarded the Icon Award to The Tannery every year since 1997, Food & Wine Magazine for the Best Restaurant in Munster, Food and Wine Magazine Munster Chef of the Year, Hospitality Ireland Magazine, Best Restaurant in Ireland. Restaurant Association of Ireland Best Chef Munster, Restaurant Association of Ireland Best Restaurant Munster and most recently Restaurant Association Ireland Cookery School of the Year for 2010 and 2011.
Other chefs taking part in the Celtic Cook Off 2012and its related activities during the Taste of West Cork Food Festival include Shaun Hill (Wales), Jack Stein (Cornwall) and Tim Anderson, 2011 MasterChef winner.
Date of Celtic Cook Off: Wednesday 12 September 2012, 7.30 PM
Location/Venue: The West Cork Hotel, Skibbereen, Co. Cork, Ireland.
For more on Paul and The Tannery, please see: 

Press release from West Cork Food

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Les Gourmandises. 1er classe!


Les Gourmandises - 1er classe

It wasn’t a full house but the chef played a blinder at Les Gourmandises on Friday night. In terms of execution, presentation, taste, creativity and innovation, this was a masterclass, a feast for the eye as much as for the mouth. Exquisite.

CL is not really a Risotto person but her starter (Tomato and Basil Risotto, goat cheese beignet, olive oil and parmesan) captured and captivated her: “one of the best starters ever”. Tomato and Basil are a terrific combination and that came through here. Looked well and tasted really well.

I picked one of the specials: Prawns (shelled) in Filo Pastry with Mango Crème Fraiche and Mango jus. I’ve often had prawns in pastry before but this was in a class of its own. Five or six juicy prawns, all perfectly cooked, stood in the “pond” of gorgeous mango, one of my favourite exotic fruits. Used my hands all through the delicious demolition.

Monkfish Beignets with aubergine puree, tomato chutney and parsnip crisp was the main course that we both ordered. Served on a slate, it looked great. And rather substantial too as you can see from the picture, with three small bowls of beignets and puree and a dish of sautéed potatoes (each not much bigger than a marble) on the side.

Substantial or not, the slate was cleaned. Again, the fish was cooked to perfection and matched so well by the aubergine. By the way, those parsnip crisps weren't just for decoration! A lovely dish.

Now on to the dessert, where we took the sharing plate (sharing slate, really): Coconut panna cotta, Mango posset, chocolate gateau and chocolate crème brûlée. Perhaps a little too much chocolate for us at the end of a gorgeous meal but all perfectly done and very enjoyable indeed.

We picked from the €45.00 menu: three courses and also tea or coffee. We could have had two courses (without tea or coffee) for €38.50. There is an excellent wine list here, dominated by French producers. Just had one glass (7.00) of an un-oaked Beaujolais Chardonnay, Domaine des Nugues. Don’t think I’ve come across it before and it went very well indeed with my monkish.

Though I wouldn’t particularly like to be seated in the middle row, Les Gourmandises is generally quite a comfortable restaurant, with decent seating and well set tables. Service is pleasant, with a smile, and also with information freely volunteered to help you make a decision with your order.

Local suppliers include: Meat - John O'Flynn's & Sons, Marlboro Street
Fish - O’Connell’s, English Market
Shellfish de la Mer - Castletownbere, West Cork
Love Fish - Ballycotton, Co Cork
Springfield Organic Vegetables - Tipperary
Cheesemongers - Iago, English Market

Friday, March 23, 2012

Friday Food & Drink Spotting

Friday Food & Drink Spotting 

Caffé Italiano Italee

If you find yourself needing a coffee at the Parnell Place end of Cork’s Oliver Plunkett Street, then you could do worse than pop into Caffé Italiano Italee, Cork’s newest Italian Caffé. I had a lovely Americano and a strawberry pastry there the other day. Both were good and the prices were reasonable, as seemed the case with their wine selection.

The website isn’t up and running yet but, aside from the pastries, they also do decent looking sandwiches and I also spotted this tempting Antipasti on Foodspotting.

ely Pastry Magician

The many Cork people that dine at ely will be delighted to know that owners Erik and Michelle Robson have managed to lure the renowned pastry chef Montacer Mansour, aka as Monto, to join the team.

Monto has already won the hearts of ely diners with his beautiful handmade truffles which are just a taster of his delights. His lightness of touch when it comes to dessert will have ely regulars salivating when combined with seasonal local produce which take his desserts into another sphere.

Blind Tasting in Fenn's Quay

Want to find out more about the Blind Tasting Event in Fenn’s Quay next month. Then click here on the Bia Sasta newsletter. 


Bradley’s in North Main Street is something of a Mecca for beer drinkers and I picked up nice presentation pack there at weekend, consisting of three bottles of Chimay Trappist beer (the Red, the Blue and the Tripel) and a proper glass (the chalice, what else). Just be aware that these are relatively strong (going from 7 to 9 per cent) and also that different serving temperatures are suggested by the good fathers of the Belgian monastery.

Bradley’s already well known for its fabulous collection of drinks is rapidly making a name for itself in the good food area. Recently, Green Saffron dropped me a bombshell when I found out they were no longer making my favourite breakfast granola, a slighty spiced one. But on a recent stop at Bradley’s I found a terrific replacement: Staple Diet’s Toasted Breakfast Cereal with fruits (pictured).

* Has anyone tried the Steak and Pint Special for €16.50 at The Lounge Bar in Silversprings Moran Hotel  . Sirloin steak, pan-fried onions, sauté mushrooms, with a pepper sauce and a complimentary ¼ bottle of wine or a pint

* Spotted what looks like a good value deal at Electric, two platefuls of food and a bottle of wine for €30.00. Check out the details here.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Tasty Array of Food Festivals

Tasty Array of Food Festivals from
Beautiful Baltimore

George Bernard Shaw once said there “there is no sincerer love than the love of food, " and there is no better place thanIreland this spring to indulge in a range of culinary delights. Waiting to be discovered in towns and cities across the country are a host of festivals and events to tantalise the tasetbuds. From prawns in Dublin to mussels in Connemara to slow food in Clare, there is something to suit all tastes and budgets. To whet your appetite, browse the menu at   

It’s a Chowder Cook Off in Co. Cork
Kinsale in Co. Cork will host the second National Chowder Cook Off on the 13th May. Chefs all over the country are perfecting their unique or traditional chowder recipes as they eagerly await the contest. Festival goers will benefit from the fruits of their labour by getting to taste the entrant’s chowder and vote for their favourite one.

Or why not journey to the very southern tip of Ireland and take in the breath taking views at the Baltimore Seafood Festivalfrom the 25th – 27th May. The festival is held in conjunction with the Baltimore Wooden Boat Festival, so as well as sampling the very best fish and shellfish from the Atlantic, you’ll experience a celebration of the traditional timber sailing boats of Ireland.

What’s cooking in Dublin?
Visitors and food lovers alike will have the chance to be wined and dined in a selection of the city’s finest restaurants at a fraction of the cost during Dine in Dublin Restaurant Week taking place from 26th March – 1st April.  Each evening, participating restaurants will offer patrons a mouth watering selection of starters, mains and desserts, coupled with in-house events like Q&A sessions with their head chefs, at a great value fixed rate.

The picturesque seaside village of Howthconsidered the home of