Saturday, March 30, 2013

Festival at Franciscan Well

The Franciscan Well Festival
Enjoyed my afternoon at the Franciscan Well Festival. Loads of choice with beers and cider from all over. The Festival continues tomorrow Sunday from 2.00pm. Get on down!
Top right: Yours truly and Caroline of 8 Degrees; bottom left: Ronan
Brennan of Galway Hooker and Daniel Emerson of Stonewell Cider.

Amuse Bouche

When night fell, all gathered together around the table, where smoked the Christmas dinner....  The roast goose, stuffed with potatoes and onions, the pig’s head, garlanded with curly cabbage, a piece of salt beef, and an abundance of potatoes was, and is, the never-changing menu in these humble, Christian households. In places where there is a little more pretension, a rice pudding, plentifully sprinkled with currants, or a plum pudding, is in much request. And then the decks are cleared for action; and the great Christmas cake, black with raisins, is surrounded and steamed by smoking tumblers of punch....

From Glenanaar by Canon PA Sheehan.
My (Amateur) Note: book published 1905, events described therein took place late 1830s

Friday, March 29, 2013

Bramley Lodge, Busy as Ever

Bramley Lodge, Busy as Ever
Made my first visit in about three years to Bramley Lodge  this week and great to see the restaurant and food store as busy as ever. Excellent food here and the prices are pretty good too.

Not to mention the service. We decided to share a dessert and our waitress diplomatically manoeuvred the dish to the exact centre of the table, giving rise to a laugh and a bit of banter. And why not? By all means take your food seriously but enjoy the eating side of it.

Virtually every time, I pass Bramley, just off on the Carrigtwohill and Cobh junction on the N25 (was supposed to be called the East Cork Parkway but that name never caught on), the car park and the restaurant looks full. Indeed, quite often the cars are lined up along the side of the roads. Make no mistake, it is a popular spot and is now open for evening meals on Friday and Saturday.

Rarely go out for breakfast, so I visited there for lunch. And there is a terrific choice here, a choice that changes daily. As is often the case I picked a fish main course: Oven Baked Hake with an Herb and Almond Crust served with vegetables and potatoes and a lemon butter sauce (€13.95). Well priced, well cooked and well presented.

And much the same could be said about the other main course at our table: Just like the Hake dish, the Marinated Supreme of Chicken is worth a try; this is served with Cashel Blue cheese and mushroom sauce, not forgetting the vegetables and potatoes (€12.95).

With an evening dinner already in preparation, there was some debate about the dessert, hence the decision to share the dessert: Bakewell Tart. This is a gem and indeed would be quite a dish for a single person. It is a very special one here as it won Bramley a Great Taste Gold Star in 2011. Not the only award winner in the stable as their Paté also came good in 2012.

As you enter the restaurant, you will see a small flock of hens in their run off to the right. This underlines the philosophy here, which is to make the best of local products. Ardsallagh Goats cheese, fish from Ballycotton seafood, eggs from Riverview and black pudding from Clonakilty (they do a mean black pudding burger, I’m told) are among the local producers supported. And you may also sample the excellent craft beers of the Dungarvan Brewing Company here.

Well worth a stop if you’re heading east (or west, of course) and worth a detour if you’re not.

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Ready. Steady. Grow!

Ready. Steady. Grow!

The food aficionados amongst you might be interested in the 2013 innocent sow & grow campaign! You can check out innocent’s ‘little greenies’ – a group of young gardeners who want to get kids their own age sowing & growing all around Ireland.

Help share the YouTube video and in turn the good, green-growing news to help get 25,000 kids around Ireland sowing & growing their own vegetables.

Many Rooms at the Mabel Crawford Bistro

Mabel Crawford Bistro
Crayfish salad

Strawberry and Raspberry Meringue Roulade


It was busy busy as we pulled into the Fitzgerald’s Vienna Woods Hotel last Saturday night for dinner at the Mabel Crawford Bistro. Cars all over the place; the main car park was full, the overflow was full and we just about found a space in the overflow to the overflow.

With such a crowd about, I was wondering what would it be like inside. No problem whatsoever. They had a wedding, a funeral and a christening but that made no impact on the restaurant as service was friendly, efficient and not lacking in any way at all.

Have you ever been to Mabel’s? It is pretty unusual in that it is a series of linked rooms, rooms of different sizes and decor. So whether you are two or twenty, they’ll find a room for you. This part of the building is over 200 years old and was the Crawford family kitchen back then, no doubt cooking up lots of local produce.

And that local element is as strong as ever under the Fitzgeralds and head chef Declan Mason. O’Connell Meats supply the beef. The fish is delivered fresh daily by Good Fish. Fruit and Vegetables are sourced locally and delivered fresh every morning from Waterfall Farm. They bake some of the breads themselves and the rest is supplied by Twomey’s Bakery. Hadn’t hear about this before but they do have a Guaranteed Irish Menu, four courses for twenty five euro.

There is a huge choice here and after much deliberation we tucked into our chosen starters. I went for the Salad of Steamed Crayfish, tossed with sautéed baby new potatoes, pineapple, red peppers and coated with a sweet chilli and coriander dressing.

It was a terrific combination of flavours and textures as was that chosen by CL: Chilled Duo of Galia & Cantaloupe Melon served with a Melody of Seasonal Fruits, and a Shot glass of tangy Red Berry Coulis. Colourful and tasty.

On then to the mains and more success. The regular menus are supplemented on a daily basis by a long list of specials. Always worth studying the specials and CL was very happy with her choice: The Grilled Fillet of Lemon Sole, served with prawn, tomatoes and parsley butter.

I spotted Tuna Steak on the regular menu and said I’d go for it even though I was a little worried it might be on the dry side. But not a bit of it. It was moist and absolutely gorgeous. The full description: The Seared Fresh Tuna Steak (Cooked to your liking), and served with Roasted Vine Cherry Tomato, Prawn & Caper Herb Butter (a lovely sauce).

So there you have it, both of us happy out as we say. And soon we were out in the cold and heading home but no sign of other bigger parties heading for their particular hills.

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

"Great first course for the wine enthusiast"

Gary O'Donovan, of O'Donovan's Off Licences, continues his busy Spring schedule with a Level 1 (Foundation) Wine Course that will take place in The Clarion Hotel on Saturday 13th April.

This is a great introductory first course for the wine enthusiast who wishes to be introduced in a structured way to wine styles, storing and
serving of wine, plus food and wine matching.   This qualification aims to provide basic product knowledge and skills in the service and retail of wine to prepare a person for their first job in hospitality or retail.

Cost €150
9.00am – 5.00pm Sat 13th April
The Clarion Hotel
Contact Deirdre on  0214296060 or to book your place.

Acton’s Return

Acton’s Return
 Lots of joy in Kinsale and surrounding areas at the return of Acton’s Hotel. Now a refurbished four star establishment, it reopened on Thursday March 14th and hit the ground running. Indeed, its value to the local business and tourist interests was underlined by the sell out figure for its first Saturday night.

On Saturday at breakfast, a proud staff member told me that the breakfast room would be so much busier on Sunday: “We have one and hundred fifty booked in.” Not bad at all for the first weekend, especially considering that the hotel had been under repair since the end of 2011.

Oh yes, that proud staff member wasn't an exception. We had received the warmest of welcomes at the impressive reception desk. Later in the bar, that friendly courtesy was very obvious.  And it continued right through to the breakfast room, another impressive facility here. Just loved it all the way.

Eggs Benedict
The Sidney dining room hadn't reopened at that point but the bar area was very busy with both food and drink. Our only food there was the breakfast and that was top notch. There is a terrific selection for both the Continental type and the Irish type, lots of quality choices.

The hotel looks very well both on the outside and inside. Our room was spacious and well equipped (the Wi-Fi worked without a hitch) and the bathroom too was excellent, big and fully equipped.

And the hotel is very central for the town itself. It is on the Pier Road and a very short stroll will take you into the middle, to the restaurant area. Places you might look out for are the Lemon Leaf (for breakfast, lunch cakes) and the newly opened Finn’s Table (a classy restaurant run by John and Julie Finn, ex Dillon’s). Janey Mac and Bruno’s were others on my list but I didn't get to them this time.

Breakfast: vegetarian option

We did make a short trip to the west though. First stop was the Old Head, all closed up at the moment, even the golf course is shut. But at least there are some fine views, both left and right, by the entrance. Then down to the beach, especially to Garrettstown for a walk and also to see the many surfers in action.

Over then to nearby Ballinspittle for a snack. Quite a snack actually, in the Diva Boutique Bakery and Cafe. Completed the round trip then by calling down to beautiful Sandycove on the way back to Kinsale.

Many reasons to visit this area and Acton’s is just the latest! Highly recommended.

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Two Excellent Reds from Spain's Big Top

Two Excellent Reds from Spain
El Circo (The Circus)

Grandes Vinos  have launched a series of wines under the El Circo label, all from the Cariñena DO. Sampled two of the reds recently – they are imported by Wine Alliance – and I found the Tempranillo (one of my favourite grapes) and the Cabernet Sauvignon excellent, really good examples of the respective fruits. Both by the way are very well priced at between €9.99 and 10.99.

El Circo Tempranillo 2011, Spain, 13%, RRP €9.99 to10.99, Stockists

Dark plum and cherry on the nose and the colour is a dark red indeed. The same fruits show on the palate, the flavours smooth and delicious, and the finish is long and dry.

Picked from vineyards over forty years old, there is no mention of oak here but this is a very good example of the variety. Indeed, I reckon the young wine is on a par with quite a few Rioja crianzas.  The firm Grandes Vinos will already be familiar to many of you through their popular Beso de Vino range. Highly recommended.

El Circo Cabernet Sauvignon 2011, Spain, 13%, RRP €9.99 to 10.99, Stockists

Colour is a dark red with dark fruits on the nose. Forthright fruit flavours, plum and blackcurrant for me, but well balanced all the way to the longish dry finish. The assertive flavours (it has spent two months in oak) should mean this young fellow matches well with red meat dishes, particularly meats from the grill.

This is a really good example of Cabernet Sauvignon at a very good price indeed. Highly recommended.

Had to make an edit here as late yesterday afternoon El Circo had some good news on their facebook page: “El Circo Contorsionista has been awarded on the gold medal in Berliner Wein Trophy.”  Contorsionista is their circus nickname for the Cabernet Sauvignon.

Monday, March 25, 2013

Fish in the City: Oysters

Fish in the City: Oysters
If you like your fish, then Oysters is the place to go in Cork City. Here, you can take your pick of the fish from the nearby Atlantic, fresh as fresh can be and superbly cooked in their excellent city centre restaurant in the Clarion Hotel.

Called in there this week to try out the €35.00 set menu. There is also an A La Carte menu and that is the next target. One thing I like about Oysters is the cloakroom. Your coats are put away and you can relax and read the menu at the spacious table and in your comfortable chair or seat, the place beautifully lit.

They had a little Amuse Bouche for us: Tomato Gazpacho, a lively little shot of it, sufficient to wake up your taste buds. By now, we had settled on our choices and there are quite a few choices even on the €35.00 euro menu. We had also picked our wine, a carafe of Zimmer Riesling 2010 (€19.00) and we were also sampling some terrific breads and butters, one a combination of Fennell Seed and Thyme, the other a magnificent mix of Blue Cheese, White Fish and Sundried Tomatoes.

Soon, we were tucking into our starter. CL’s was probably the more enticing looking of the two: Duck (Croquette, Parfait, Beetroot, Pear, Candied Walnuts, Truffled Dressing, and Brioche). Superb plateful, some great flavours there especially the Candied Walnuts.

Mine mightn’t have looked that well but it sure tasted great: Swordfish - Ceviche, Mango, Avocado, Fennel, Lime Confit, Pistachio, Frisee Lettuce, Citrus Oil. A super thinly sliced cut and my fishy night was up and running. Surprisingly, they had no oysters available on the night! It can happen, I suppose. I remember a few years back, sitting at a sunny table on the waterfront in Baltimore and they had no mussels!

Anyway, that was soon forgotten and we were onto the soup course. Mine was the Oysters Seafood Chowder- Pancetta, Samphire, Potatoes and Light Bisque. Chunky bits and pieces of fish with all the other bits combining to give a really lovely combination. And much the same could be said about CL’s choice: Turnip and Parsnip Velouté- Chestnut, Cep Dust.

A nicely judged gap followed before the mains arrived. We had both picked the same one: Hake- Cep Agnolotti, Smoked Sausage, Oyster Mushroom, Samphire, Pine Nuts. Once again a superb combination of flavours and textures and it certainly looked well also. A side dish of potatoes was also appreciated.

Desserts selection

And now again an appropriate pause before the desserts arrived, along with a couple of glasses of a dessert wine from Jurancon: Chateau Jolys 2009. Mine was Chocolate - Tart, Salted Caramel Mousse, White Chocolate & Banana Parfait, Sherry. Excellent, no shortage of chocolate but not too heavy either. CL settled for Chef’s Selection of Small Desserts, quite a winning selection indeed, especially that Champagne Sorbet.

So that was about it. Soon we had our coats on and heading out into the cool night. The restaurant, thanks to two big groups arriving in, was reasonably busy for a midweek stuck between bank holidays but bookings were flying in for the coming weekend. Popular place by the sound of it.

Saturday, March 23, 2013

Diva Boutique Bakery Cafe. Big in Ballinspittle

Diva Boutique Bakery Cafe
Big in Ballinspittle
The Diva Wrap
 No mystery about the title Diva, the name of a bakery and foodstore on one side of the main Street in Ballinspittle and, on the other side, of a village cafe. Owner and founder Shannen Keane named it after a cafe in her native Seattle.

But there is a bit more to it, methinks. After all, some of the walls and some of the tables are plastered with black and white photos of real women from the forties and fifties, maybe some from the sixties, before that decade inflicted Twiggy and a forest of lookalikes on us.

All well and handy for slipping into a mini-dress or a mini-car but hardly robust enough for the farm! Our farmers did appreciate the diva size. I always remember being in a yard one day as one of the women hauled a couple of full buckets across the square with two old fellows watching. Her skirt had been hitched up for the milking and, when she bent over to drop the buckets for a rest, even more of her legs, perhaps the pale backs of the knees (God forbid!), was exposed. “Hasn’t she a fine pair of shafts*,” exclaimed one grizzled fellow to another.

The Diva BLT

Size is important here in this little cafe in Ballinspittle. They make big cakes, big sandwiches. Called in there the other day for lunch and was surprised to see it full. But they got us room, sharing a table with a guy who was working his mobile like mad. At an nearby table, another guy was engrossed in his laptop while all around couples and trebles and groups were noisily tucking in. Welcome to village life in Ireland 2013.

Quite a selection on the blackboard, though we were told they were only operating at half power, it being so early in the season. We were too late of course for the breakfast but no shortage of lunch choices.

CL went for the BLT and got quite a surprise when she found three or four big rashers tucked in between the slices of bread. Plenty of tomato as well and a big crunchy salad, no micro this or mini that here. All for less than seven euro.

I went upmarket, a bit, as my Chicken Wrap cost all of €7.95. Again it was substantial but so tasty. No shortage of tasty chicken and I too enjoyed that rustic salad. Quantity and quality. With so much to eat, we both went for the tea. Total cost €18.40 and they knocked the forty cent off. Only in Ballinspittle!

* The horse carriage or cart, once common in the Irish farmyard, was equipped with two (timber) shafts which ran along the horse's sides.  Example here.

Friday, March 22, 2013

Amuse Bouche

Ma says the plates aren’t a problem, the blue doesn’t go on the food, she gets me to rub it with my finger to see. Also the forks and knives, the metal feels weird with no white handles but it doesn’t actually hurt. There’s a syrup that’s to put on the pancakes but I don't want mine wet. I have a bit of all the foods and everything are good except the sauce on the scrambled eggs. The chocolate one, the Easter, it’s meltedy inside. It’s double more chocolatier than the chocolates we sometimes get for Sundaytreat, it’s the best thing I ever ate.
“Oh! We forgot to say thanks to Baby Jesus,” I tell Ma.
“We’ll say it now, he doesn’t mind if we’re late.”
Then I do a huge burp.
Then we go back to sleep.
From: Room by Emma Donoghue (Unique, powerful book)

Old Friends at the new Finns' Table

Old Friends at the new Finn’s Table
Great to meet up with John and Julie Finn, back in their element, having just opened up Kinsale’s newest restaurant, Finns' Table in Main Street. The talented friendly couple who made such a success of Dillon's in Timoleague are, after a few months in the wilderness, back doing what they know best. And that is good news for restaurant customers in Kinsale and the surrounding area.

Indeed, many Kinsale people used make the short drive over to Timoleague and quite a few have already been visiting the new establishment. Obviously this is a major boost for the Finns as Julie underlined: “We'd like to thank Kinsale for being so supportive to our new chapter.”

You won’t miss Finns' on the Main Street. Beautiful colours catch the eye as do those pretty white shutters that cover the lower half of the windows. It is amazingly comfortable inside, beautifully decorated. Julie tells me she loves her flowers and she has daffodils scattered all around.

Took all that in and then started to study the menu. You may take it that there will be regular changes to the menus (they do an early bird). “We have lots of new produce coming daily like local lobsters which in turn means daily changes to both menus!” 

After a very tasty Goat Cheese Amuse Bouche and gorgeous bread, we took the plunge. Great to see so many local producers listed and I picked the Ummera Smoked Salmon and Ricotta terrine with pickled cucumber (€9.50). Loved it. CL’s choice was Marinated Toons Bridge Feta, beetroot, chestnut mushroom and rocket salad (€9.00), another smashing opener.

Lots of fish on the menu. We do eat it regularly but this time, knowing that the meat came from the Finns' family butcher shop, we made a change. Grilled Irish Sirloin Steak with Tobacco onions, lightly creamed mushrooms, black pepper sauce and steak fries (€26.00) was my choice, a massive piece of the tenderest meat. Highly recommended if you get the chance sometime.

Dessert: Rosewater Yoghurt Panna Cotta with poached Rhubarb

CL’s also cost €26.00 and that was the Roast Rack of Lamb with Roast Sweet Potato, Parsnip puree and Rosemary jus, another splendid dish, delicious and tender and so well balanced.

They have quite an extensive wine list. You may buy by the glass, by the half bottle and by the bottle.

Open Thurs thro Monday from 5.30 with an early evening menu from 5.30-6.45 and a la carte running from 5.30 till late.
Phone: 021 470 9636

Super Menu for Hayfield Manor's April Wine Event

Hayfield Manor Wine Society

Connoisseurs looking to expand their knowledge of wine, or enthusiasts who simply love sampling new and exciting vintages, will relish this special event on Thursday April 18th, part of a series of Wine Society evenings held in Hayfield Manor.

The evening will be hosted by Jane Boyce, Ireland's first female Master of Wines and wine columnist for Irish Tatler.  Wines on the night will be supplied by James Nicholson Wine Merchants which will focus on classic grape varieties and showcase various regions.

This exclusive event begins at 7.00pm with an introduction to the wines over aperitifs and canapes.  Our Executive Chef, Graeme Campbell, has created a five course gourmet menu designed to perfectly complement the selection of elegant wines chosen to be showcased on the night:

Ardsallagh Goats Cheese & Garlic Textures
Soft Goats Cheese, Black Garlic, Smoked Garlic, Wild Garlic Leaf & Garlic Espuma
Dry Reisling from Germany, Mosel, Loosen Red State 2010


Pan Seared Sea Bass
Creamed Fennel, Pickled Mash, Asian Scented Croquette & Soy Sauce Foam
Chardonnay, Burgundy 'Cuvee des Forgets' 2010 Patrick Javillier


O'Connell's Spring Lamb Duo
Slow Braised Lamb & Cabbage Cannelloni
Pinot Noir, Aoc Fixin, Burgundy, Domaine Jean Tardy & Fils 2008


Passion Fruit Mousse
With Black Pepper Pineapple, Meringue, Chilli Puree and Lemon Sorbet
Reisling Lake Harvest, New Zealand, John Forrest 2011


Platter of Irish and Continental Cheeses
Carignan Syrah Grenache, Cotes du Roussillon, Segna de Cor 2011 Roc des Anges


Tea or Coffee and Petit Fours.

For more details on our Wine Society evenings or to make a reservation for any of our future dates please call Michelle on             +353 21-4845900       or email

(Please note above menu is subject to change)

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Ballymaloe International Literary Festival of Food and Wine

Ballymaloe International Literary Festival of Food and Wine
Welcome to Ballymaloe from Chefs Rory O'Connell, Darina Allen and Rachel Allen 

Ballymaloe House and Ballymaloe Cookery School, Shanagarry, to host
the first Ballymaloe International Literary Festival of Food and Wine
from 3-6 May.

Leading figures from the world of gastronomy will converge on East
Cork for the first Ballymaloe International Literary Festival of Food
and Wine, to be held at Ballymaloe House and Ballymaloe Cookery
School, Shanagarry, Co Cork, 3-6 May.

Hosted by celebrated cook and author Darina Allen, the festival
promises to delight lovers of food and wine with a feast of over 40
events, big and small, over a three-day period. Its densely packed
programme incorporates cookery demonstrations, wine tastings, panel
discussions, garden and foraging walks, book readings and much more,
showcasing the talents of a galaxy of gastronomic stars.

Among those flying in to participate are:

Madhur Jaffrey, world-renowned for her books and television programmes
on Indian food

Claudia Roden, acclaimed expert on Middle Eastern and Spanish food

Alice Waters, trailblazing founder of the famous Californian
restaurant Chez Panisse

David Thompson, restaurateur, author and eloquent ambassador for Thai food

Stephanie Alexander, one of Australia’s best known and best loved cooks

Claus Meyer, founder of Copenhagen’s Noma, voted No 1 restaurant in the world

David Tanis, prominent American chef and New York Times cookery writer

Joanna Blythman, leading British investigative food writer and broadcaster

Stevie Parle, dynamic head chef at London’s Dock Kitchen

Jancis Robinson MW, one of the worlds’s most respected wine writers

This glittering international cast will be matched by a strong Irish
presence including cookery queen and bestselling author Rachel Allen;
restaurateur and record-breaking television chef Neven Maguire;TV
cook, food writer and blogger Donal Skehan; virtuoso vegetarian chef
Denis Cotter; authoritative food commentator John McKenna; food and
farming expert and Ear to the Ground presenter Ella McSweeney;
broadcaster and historian John Bowman; and Irish Times wine writer
John Wilson.

‘We are thrilled that the festival should attract such an exciting
line-up,’ says Darina Allen. ‘It will give lovers of food and wine an
unrivalled opportunity to meet internationally acclaimed writers in
these fields face to face – and it is sure to result in a wonderful
fusion of ideas.’

The programme for the weekend incorporates over 40 strikingly diverse
events, ranging in scale from major cookery demonstrations to intimate
tea parties. In addition to the main programme, there will be a fringe
festival in The Big Shed at Ballymaloe, offering food enthusiasts of
all ages an array of other activities. Gardeners will rub shoulders
with cooks; foragers with food historians; critics with musicians;
artisan producers with bloggers in a continuous melting pot of eating,
drinking, speaking and thinking.  It will be a place for new ideas,
inspiration, learning and fun.The Ballymaloe Literary Festival of Food
and Wine is a unique event in a very special place.

 Bord Bia, Irish Distillers, Kerrygold and
Sodexo as the Premium Sponsors for this event.

For more information and tickets please visit or call
            021 4646785      . Updates are available on or @BallymaloeLit .

Discover the Origin invite Food Professionals to taste the provenance of Parma ham & Parmigiano-Reggiano

***Discover the Origin invite Food Industry professionals to taste the provenance of Parma ham & Parmigiano-Reggiano***

Discover the Origin returns in 2013 with a series of masterclasses offering the delicatessen trade the chance to taste and learn more about these two historic European food products, both of which enjoy PDO status. The event is for food industry folk.

The masterclasses will include a comparative tasting of various aged Parma ham and Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, along with serving and wine pairing suggestions, and will arm deli staff with the information needed to help sell these unique and fully traceable products. The event is also an opportunity for some informal industry networking, with all food professionals welcome.

Discover the Origin is financed with aid from the European Union, Italy, France and Portugal to promote five key European products: Bourgogne Wines, Parma Ham, Douro Wines, Parmigiano-Reggiano Cheese and Port.

The campaign aims to enhance knowledge of the PDO (Protected Designation of Origin) scheme among consumers, distributors and food professionals across the UK and Ireland; to educate on the benefits of provenance indicator schemes and the relevant checks, controls and traceability systems that are put in place to ensure ongoing quality; and to differentiate the products and raise their profiles.

The masterclasses will be presented by food and wine writer Aoife Carrigy and will take place at a central location in the following cities:

Cork:               Monday 25th March, 7pm–8.30pm
Galway:           Monday 22nd April, 6pm–8pm
Dublin:            Monday 20th May, 6pm–8pm

Location details will be confirmed upon registration. To register for these free events, please email Aoife on, with the subject line ‘DTO Masterclass’, and indicate how many places you wish to reserve. Please include a daytime contact telephone number. Please note that spaces are limited.

To find out more about Discover the Origin, log onto or follow the campaign on Facebook and

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Euro Farmhouse Cheesemakers come to Ireland

The European Farmhouse and Artisan
 Cheesemakers Congress comes to Ireland
Pictured at the launch of Ireland’s first artisan cheese congress were Dick Willems, Coolea Cheese, Eimear O’Donnell, Bord Bia and Marion Roeleveld, Killeen Farmhouse Cheese. 

The Association of Irish Farmhouse Cheesemakers (CAIS) will host the 5th European Farmhouse and Artisan Cheesemakers Congress at University College Cork on the 26th April, where industry stakeholders from Ireland and other EU member states will come together to share knowledge and initiate collaborations across the farmhouse dairy sector.

Topics such as sustainability in farmhouse dairy and environmental impact, farmhouse production best practice, and the market opportunity for farmhouse dairy will be included on the programme. The congress is part of the Network of European Cheesemakers, an exchange of practical information among cheesemakers from France, Germany, Finland, Ireland, Italy, The Netherlands, Norway, Sweden, and Spain.

Over 60 artisan cheesemakers from these countries will visit Ireland during April to participate in the congress and experience Ireland’s unique and diverse dairy sector. For more information, visit

Thank you Mr Quinney

Thank you Mr Quinney

Just have to say a major merci to Gavin Quinney and all the crew at Chateau Bauduc for making great wines and to the guys and gals at Curious Wines for stocking them. Helped myself to a couple recently and each was superb.

Château Bauduc, Les Trois Hectares, Semillon 2010 (also known as Bordeaux blanc sec), 13% abv, €14.39 (reduced from 17.99) Curious Wines

Bordeaux for sure but with a couple of noticeable differences: the Stelvin closure and the fact that the main grape, Semillon, is named on the front label.

Colour is light gold and it is bright. Nose is aromatic and on the palate it is fresh and lively (almost fizzy) and dry. A lovely dry white, excellent texture and complexity, perhaps reflecting that the grapes used come from a seven acre vineyard of gnarled, 60 year old vines. By the way the actual blend is 80% Sémillon with 20% Sauvignon Blanc.

Just about 1400 cases were produced. The wine is listed at Gordon Ramsey ad Rick Stein, one of whom is a favourite of mine! This is a super wine, great value at Curious at the moment and is Very Highly Recommended!

Chateau Bauduc Close de Quinze, Merlot Cabernet Sauvignon 2010 (Cotes de Bordeaux), 14% abv, €13.59 (reduced from 16.99), Curious Wines

This is a very dark red, almost black, with ripe red fruit on the nose. Quite a mouthful, fruity, spicy and on then on to a terrific dry finish. “Powerful yet classic red Bordeaux.” Yes indeed and at a good price. Two thousand and ten “was a magnificent ripe vintage”. This blend of 85% Merlot and 15% Cab Sauv takes full advantage and is Very Highly Recommended.

Must say one thing I really like about Chateau Bauduc, aside from the wine of course, is the clarity on the label, lots of to-the-point info, no hype.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

The Lemon Leaf Cafe

The Lemon Leaf Cafe
 Quite a few rooms in the Lemon leaf Cafe in Kinsale. You’ll be at home in any of them, although many costumers gravitate towards the glass roofed one, so bright and airy. Pick a seat or  a sofa and study the menu.

 It is open seven days a week. You may have your breakfast here, Scrambled Eggs on their toasted artisan bread or maybe the Bagel special (local handmade sausage and smoky bacon on toasted bagel with homemade tomato and apple chutney). And much more.

Breakfast is served until 2.00pm but in mid-morning, perhaps you’d like their coffee (Ariosa from County Meath roasters) and a scone. Oh, just to mention as I know many of you, just like me, like to support local producers, that the Lemon Leaf also makes it a priority. Here you may choose meat from Lordan’s in Ballinspittle, bread from Tom’s Artisan Bakery in Kinsale, Durrus cheese, Clonakilty Black pudding, free range eggs from Beechwood Farm and Katie’s Bandon chocolates – including the very popular sticky hot chocolate. 

If you’re in for lunch, you’ll be trying some of those tasty products. Maybe a Beef Burger with Durrus cheese on toasted ciabatta or perhaps a Feuille De Brique (baked filo parcel with daily filling, served with couscous & mixed baby leaves). Soups and sandwiches also. No shortage of choice here at any time.

And this is also a family friendly place. Not alone do the kids have their own tasty looking menu, but your small one may well get his own little table, next to yours, and when he or she is finished the meal, will have a bunch of crayons or similar supplied to pass the time.

We arrived on a sunny mid-afternoon looking for something sweet. We were in the right place. They have a good selection of cakes and an even better selection of beverages. All the delicious cakes are home baked and the selection varies according to the day.

Lemon drizzle slices (€2.20) and a Lemon Cheesecake (4.50) were our choices with a pot of excellent tea. My tea was Earl Grey, made with the biggest tea bag I’ve seen in a while, a third bigger than normal I’m told! Enjoyed the visit.

By the way, if you are in a rush and can’t linger a while, you may make a visit to their on-site store and buy quite a few of the products to take home and enjoy.

Monday to Friday 8.30AM TO 4.30PM
Saturday and Sunday 8.30AM to 5PM
Call             021 4709792    

70 Main Street,
Kinsale, Co. Cork

Saturday, March 16, 2013

Loved 24 Hours in Kinsale

24 Hours in Kinsale

Arrive  2.30pm 15th March: Coffee and cake at the cool Lemon Leaf Cafe.

3.30pm Check in at Actons

4.30pm Quay side walk.

7.30pm Dinner at Finn's Table

Saturday 16th March 10.00am. Town Walk

11.00 Check out of Acton's

12noon: Garrettstown surfing

1.30pm: Lunch at the Diva (Ballinspittle)

2.30pm: Sandycove.

Friday, March 15, 2013

Fred in Fermoy. Worth a Detour!

Great Grub at Charlie Mac's in Fermoy
Take 1: Ballyhoura Mushrooms
Promise yourself a stop in Fermoy one of these days. Indeed, why not treat yourself to a visit. And go and see Fred Desormeaux. You’ll find the ex Greene’s Restaurant chef now doing business in the pub called Charlie Mac’s on the main street.

Quite a nice pub. It has big screens, racing or football, maybe even rugby. Plenty of comfortable seating. But the main attraction now, since Fred took over a couple of months back, is its outstanding food. Be warned. Fred’s pub grub is good, very very good.

Take 2: Fred's Chowder
Called in there this Thursday for lunch and here are four items that I can recommend. Indeed, there are a whole pile more. There is a terrific menu from about noon ‘til eight most days and this is supplemented by a very impressive list of daily specials. But you’ll have to check those out for yourself.

Let us start at the start. Frenchman Fred is a big fan of local producers so it was no great surprise to see Ballyhoura Mushrooms on the menu: Ballyhoura Wild Mountain Mushrooms on toast with a cream of Porcini dust (€7.95). A fantastic starter at a great price. If these mushrooms were a wine, they’d have their own AOC.

Take 3: Cod goujons
Take two. Another starter. Fred’s own Mediterranean fish and seafood Chowder (€7.50). Feckin’ hell, just 7.50. I mean this is a huge bowlful, would certainly do you as main course at lunchtime. It is super tasty, lively, a little bit spicy, quantity combined with real stand-out quality.

Okay, move on now, cautiously, to the mains. Fresh cod goujons, with warm potato salad, with sweet chilli, lime and coriander mayo (€12.95).  The cod is brilliant, the salad is massive. Underline this: portions here are generous! 

Take 4: Liver & bacon

I went for one of his classics: Pan-fried Lambs Liver, on root vegetable mash, with crispy bacon and rosemary jus (€11.50). And did I want it well done or medium? A classic dish but not a regular on pub grub menus in Ireland where your standard roast is the order of the day. This, by the way, was presented well and tasted even better.

Just another generous piece of quality in Fermoy. Worth a detour, for sure.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Amuse Bouche

This is what I do, have done. I strip off haunches arms breast buttocks calves. Slice it thin soak it in brine and dry to jerky for Jasper (the dog) for the days between. You remember the story of the rugby team in the Andes. The corpses were corpses already dead. They did it to survive. I am no different. I do it for him. I eat venison, bottom fish, rabbit, shiners. I keep his jerky in airtight buckets. He likes it the best of all his food I’m sure because of the salt. Tomorrow I will do it again but not the boy, I’ll bury him not with any tenderness or regret just in one piece with his hawk feather.
From The Dog Stars by Peter Heller.

Gardening for a healthy lifestyle

Gardening for a healthy lifestyle

Ailish Drake has been in touch about her "Gardening for a healthy lifestyle" series of workshops in Limerick. This spring, she has joined with McLysaght’s Garden Centre (The Garden Rooms) to bring you a whole host of fabulous workshops, which will get you gardening for a healthy lifestyle, by growing easy vegetables, salads, herbs and flowers. Already, Module 1, Vegetables & salads for the small garden, has taken place but you are in good time for the rest of the series.

Module 2 - 27th March, 10am - 1pm

Add a splash of colour with flowers

A beautifully scented vase of sweet pea will lift your heart. Ailish shows you how to bring colour into your garden and home by planting a range of flowers both for cutting and eating!


Module 3 - 17th April, 10am - 1pm

Vegetables & salads for the small garden 2

Ailish gives to you skills to keep your garden healthy and organic, control pests and shows you how to sow seed direct & transplant you seedlings.


Module 4 - 1st May, 10am - 1pm

Heavenly Herbs

It might surprise you how many herbs you can grow for the kitchen, the house and for medicinal uses. Ailish shows you how and gives you some tasty recipes for herb breads, dressings and dips.


Module 5 - 15th May, 10am - 1pm

Bees and butterflies in the wildlife garden

Discover the importance of creating habitats for pollinating insects in your garden with colourful nectar rich flowers.


Module 6 - 5th June, 10am - 1pm

Juicing, sprouting and micro-leaf greens

A delicious way to get the most from raw vegetables is by juicing them. Ailish shows you how, and explains what is easy to grow for your juice.


Workshops run from 10am to 1pm, cost €30 per class and include tea or coffee with delicious raspberry or pear and almond scones in the tea rooms at McLysaght’s Garden Centre, Ennis Road, Limerick,             061 452706      .

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Kindred Spirit lifts 8 Degrees to SFA Award

Eight Degrees Brewing win SFA
 Emerging New Business Award 
Limited edition release for St Patrick’s Day: barrel-aged Teeling collaboration stout
Left to right: SFA Chairman AJ Noonan. Minister for Small Business, John Perry, TD,
Scott Baigent, Cameron Wallace, Vincent Reynolds from Cavan County Enterprise Board.

Scott Baigent and Cameron Wallace of Eight Degrees Brewing were delighted to accept an SFA award for Emerging New Businesses in Dublin last Thursday, 8 March.

This category in the Small Firms’ Association National Small Business Awards recognises emerging entrepreneurs whose businesses have been established less than two years and who employ up to 50 employees.

It aims to award emerging entrepreneurs that have the potential to grow their companies into successful organisations which will be innovative, create employment and have the ability to win the SFA National Small Business Award in the future.

“We were thrilled with the award,” said Wallace. “We’re only just coming up to our second birthday and it’s great to see Irish craft beer being recognised.”

Their latest limited edition brew, a rich chocolate, coffee stout called Kindred Spirit (7.0% ABV) goes on sale from 13 March at the St Patrick’s Day Irish Craft Beer Village at the IFSC in Dublin. This smooth, velvety drop is a truly Irish experience, aged in 25-year-old whiskey barrels generously provided by Teeling Whiskey Company. An Irish stout to savour.

About: Eight Degrees Brewing is located in the beautiful Ballyhoura region of Ireland. Scott Baigent and Cameron Wallace make modern interpretations of traditional Irish ale and lager styles, with distinctive malt and hop characteristics. The results are a range of full-flavoured, tasty beers made from natural ingredients which have received rave reviews in national and international media.
Core range: Barefoot Bohemian Pilsner, Howling Gale Ale, Sunburnt Irish Red, Knockmealdown Porter

Eight Degrees products are available nationwide: Kindred Spirit will be available from select draft outlets. 087 165 4770 086 159 4855

Friday, March 8, 2013

Hayfield Wine Society - April event

Jane Boyce is back in Cork next month

Jane Boyce, who wowed the audience ar a recent wine geese event in L'Atitude 51 (right) is back in Cork next month for the April Wine Society evening of the Hayfield Manor. The evening, on Thursday, 18th April, will be hosted by Jane, Ireland's first female Master of Wines.

Jane is a wine columnist for Irish Tatler and Easy Food, as well as writing pieces for the Irish Times, Food and Wine Magazine and other publications in Ireland, the UK and abroad.

Wines on the night will be supplied by James Nicholson Wine Merchant. Jane shall focus on classic grape varieties (probably Pinot Noir and Riesling) and will showcase relevant wine regions.

This exclusive event begins at 7.00pm. To initiate proceedings, aperitifs and canapés shall be served to accompany an introduction to the wines. Dinner shall then commence at 7.30pm. Executive Chef, Graeme Campbell, has carefully created a five course menu designed to perfectly complement the selection of elegant wines chosen to be showcased on the night.

Hayfield Sommelier, Sandra Biret-Crowley, says that connoisseurs seeking to expand their knowledge of wine, or enthusiasts who simply love sampling new and exciting vintages, will relish this special event, part of a series of Wine Society evenings to be held at Hayfield Manor. Price €99 per person. Limited spaces are available, therefore an early reservation is strongly recommended.

World's best hotdog in Cork?

Chowzter is looking for nominations for world's best hotdogs. This can include any encased meats including but not limited to hotdogs, sausages, chorizo, frankfurts, etc. No chains!

Who makes the best one locally? Cork City and County, even Munster. Is it in a restaurant or at a street cart?

Send a few juicy details of your favourite to me at and I will put them into the Chowzter mix.

Some suggestions from across the world!

Mijune Pak 

It's not "the best", but it's iconic and one of Vancouver's "claim to fame" foods. The Japadog (Japanese inspired hot dog). 
Kurobuta Terimayo Japadog

I don't know if this is too "white tablecloth" for the site, but Diva at The Met in Vancouver has a $17 Diva Corn Dog made of sweetbread, bone marrow, truffle and foie gras.

I nominate the tokebi hotdog in Korea. It is a breaded and double fried hotdog encrusted with crinkled French fries.

For something different there's a great hot dog place in Iceland 

If you're ever in Bristol, try Grillstock's "hog dog" - handmade hot dogs with pit smoked pulled pork, fry sauce and jalapeños - amazing!

in Italy, in Milan, the best "hot dog" is "Mangiari di strada", a typical hot dog with Meraner Siebenforcher, sauerkraut and mustard.

Thursday, March 7, 2013

Food and Drink Spotting

Food and Drink Spotting


Did you know that Manning’s in Ballylickey have a Wines of the Month promotion, a red and white wine at a special price of €9.99.

Andrew: “This month we're going French...
White: This exotic blend of Grenache Blanc and Vermentino is unashamedly made in the style of the great white Chateauneuf du Papes. Boy, does it cut the mustard. This is a great discovery wine and a serious bargain.
Red: This easy drinking, juicy, Gamay has flavours and aromas of cherries and violets. A great and economical alternative to the Beaujolais reds.”

While you’re checking the wine, might also be worth your while to run the eye over their top gourmet olive oils from a revived Algarve estate.  The oil is pressed cold and each of the four varieties has its own characteristics and Manning’s even have a taster pack so you can try them all before choosing.
For more info click here.

Midleton Farmers Market Photo Contest
“Midleton Farmers Market are delighted to announce that we will be holding a photography competition beginning on Saturday the 16th of March and running up until Saturday the 30th of March. Come on down to the market to capture the foodie atmosphere, then upload your photo to the Midleton Farmers Market Facebook page and the photo with the most likes wins a great prize: a one-day cookery course at Ballymaloe and the runner up wins a half day course at Ballymaloe.

We also have a professional category: Photographers are asked to submit 3 photos taken at Midleton Farmers Market between 16th, 23rd or 30th of March to the panel of expert judges before the 5th of April. A gmail account will be set up and entries can be sent to this (gmail account given during registration)
Prize for this category include: Voucher for MacSweeney's Photography shop and O’Conaill’s Chocolate Surprise.
Special family entertainment on each Saturday. Keep an eye on our Facebook page for more details on this.”

RAI Chefs placement programme
“Finding chefs is still very much part of our agenda and we have two pilot schemes starting in the coming months. The Department of Social Protection have earmarked two areas with strong numbers of people on social benefits with chef experience - the Inner city in Dublin and Kilkenny city. We are currently looking for restaurants to participate in a hospitality jobs fair on Tuesday March 12th in the Ormonde Hotel Kilkenny and another on Thursday March 14th in the Ashling Hotel Dublin. If you would be interested in taking a stand free of charge please contact the RAI office on 01-6779901.

Cecina is made by curing the hind legs of beef (instead of ham). It has a delicate beef taste (like carpaccio) but a bit more savoury and with final note of smokiness. It’s considered a delicacy and in comparison with certain grades of jamon serrano, this is considered a much better option. Take a look here

Coffee Morning in aid of Diabetes Ireland.
A Diabetic Screening and coffee morning with lots of scones and cakes taking place next Friday March 8th 10am-12md. Venue: The Rising Tide. Details here

Bierhaus Cork ‏@BierhausCork
Rogue beer launch night is Thurs 21/03 from 8pm, should be a great night @BierhausCork

Real Olive Markets ‏@RealOliveMarket
Everything you ever wanted to know about buffalo but were afraid to ask, and lots more besides... 

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Speciality Nights at Chapel Steps

Speciality Nights at Chapel Steps
Rosscarbery Black Pudding
 If you haven’t been to one of the Speciality Nights at Bandon Steps, then you’re missing out on great food at a great price.

Wednesday is the night for steak lovers. You have the choice from an 8oz Fillet, a 10oz Rib-eye or 12oz Sirloin with all the trimmings for just €20 per dish ... All Night, every Wednesday Night!

 I was there recently on a Thursday and that is the night for the fish bargains. Choose from Herb Crushed Hake, Roast Fillet of Cod, Beer Battered Haddock or Kevin’s Thursday night Fish Special for only €15.00 per dish. Kevin, of course, is Head Chef Kevin O’Regan.

CL choose the fish special that evening and it was superb as was my own main course: Caramelised Duck Breast with beetroot, lavender and butternut squash.

Delicious duck
 The fish comes from the nearby coast and indeed most of the food is sourced locally. One of our starters was Pan Seared Rosscarbery Black Pudding with crubeen croquette, chilli jam & smoked pancetta. A great combination and one of their most popular starters.

Glass of Rioja
Thought my own starter had the risk of being on the salty side but not a bit of it. This was Traditional Salt Cod and Fresh Crab Fish Cake with lemon aioli, pickled cucumber & mixed leaves, also available as a main course. Had a little tangy edge for sure but overall it was well balanced and I loved it, finished every little bit.

If you like live music as you dine, then head to the Chapel Steps on Saturday. Don't forget that Sunday is family day there and they have a “fun family value menu which will include sharing and family style service dishes with all the favourites for big and small family members!”.

For all the latest, check out their website