Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Pfeiffer’s Parish Wine Travels Well

Pfeiffer’s Parish Wine Travels Well.
So You Don’t Have To!

Pfeiffer Carlyle Chardonnay Marsanne 2011, Rutherglen (Victoria, AUS), 13%, €14.95 (reduced from 19.95) Karwig Wines .

Some two hundred kilometres north-east of Melbourne, you will find Rutherglen and, in the parish of Carlyle, among the “beautiful and tranquil surrounds of Sandy Creek”, you’ll come across the Pfeiffer winery and this gorgeous blend.

Alternatively, a few kilometers south of Cork, at the southern edge of Carrigaline, you’ll find Joe Karwig’s Wine-shop and inside, just across from the front door, you’ll see this Chardonnay Marsanne on the Australian shelf. But, hurry, there is a fiver off at present.

Marsanne is not all that well known and, according to the latest edition of the World Atlas of Wine, is a regional (rather than international) grape. But is it widely grown, not least here in the state of Victoria. Father and daughter winemaking team, Chris (below) and Jen Pfeiffer, oversee the blend.

Extended lees contact helps build a creamy texture. I have been drinking the various editions of the blend over the years and have always been impressed. This current one is no exception. It is crisp and fresh with stone fruit aromas and flavours, lightly creamy on the palate and with a clean and refreshing finish.

Just the job for the New Year celebrations!

  • Rutherford is probably best known for its stickies, the local name for sweet dessert wines. Chris Pfeiffer was in Cork three years back promoting them. See what he had to say here.

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Taste of the Week. Glenstal Abbey's Mandarin Liqueur Truffles

Taste of the Week

Mandarin Liqueur Truffles

For centuries, the monks of Europe have produced some great beer, great wines and delicious liqueurs. Now two abbeys have got together and produced our Taste of the Week, the Glenstal Abbey Mandarin Liqueur Truffles, available at Bradley's, North Main Street, Cork.

The truffles are flavoured with Mandarin Liqueur specially imported from the Abbey of Lerins off the south coast of France, an ancient monastic site where "St Patrick is said to have studied". Got a bit worried at first when I read on the French site that the liqueur is "gasoline Tangerine" but that is just a quirk of the Google translation.

More of that in the next phrase: brassy and bright orange dress.  But that's just saying it has a bright orange robe. And then you read of intense aromas of tangerine, orange peel and candied citrus. Some of that combination comes through in the truffles. Delicious!

Quite a difference in the approach of the different abbeys to the "advertising" of their products on their respective internet sites. The French are, dare I say, quite brassy, the Limerick lads much more reticent! Still I did note on the Irish site that they also do a 16 piece box of Dessert and Liqueur Chocolate Truffles, that features some of the "oldest and finest liqueurs from the monasteries of Europe, such as Chartreuse”. Might be a future Taste of the Week. Must see if Bradley's sell it as well!

Monday, December 29, 2014

Top Posts for 2014

Top Posts* for Past 12 Months
(to end of December ‘14)

Dessert at Huguenot

At the market in Schull

*Place in rankings determined by number of hits. Readers certainly give new restaurants every chance in the Cork area and they feature in five of the top seven posts. Delighted to see my own list of the top wines well entrenched in the list.

No Shortage of Sparkle at Year’s End

No Shortage of Sparkle at Year’s End
There is no shortage of sparkling wine to see out the old year and to welcome the new, anything from an expensive champagne such as Krug to the inexpensive Prosecco below. The big selection gives you a good chance to get one to suit both your palate and budget.

Champagne Pierre Darcys Brut, €20.00 at SuperValu
Cava Brut Barcino, €12.00 at Supervalu
Griffon Prosecco Frizzante, €9.00 at SuperValu

These are just three from the SuperValu range. The champagne itself was put to the test here on Christmas Day and went down very well indeed. It certainly has got the usual characteristics, is crisp and well balanced and runs out quickly!

The Cava stood into the breach then and you'd hardly notice. No shortage of small bubbles here, the typical breaded nose and again fresh and zesty. Just the job at about half the price.

Prosecco has made a huge impact, not always good, on the sparkling wine scene and this friendly Frizzante is but one of many on the market. It is made in a different way with the secondary fermentation taking place in a bulk tank rather than in the individual bottle, hence the twine on the cork, rather than the more usual more robust arrangement! It is less expensive to produce than Spumante which undergoes secondary fermentation in the bottle. Don't delay too long with your glass of Frizzante as the bubbles don't hang around.

Carl Jung Sparkling White (de-alcoholised), €5.99 widely available
Superquinn; Dunnes Stores; Joyce's of Galway; Molloy's Off-Licences, Dublin; O'Brien's; Next Door Off-Licences; Supervalu nationwide; and good independent off-licences nationwide

With a few drivers among those calling to the house at Christmas, I thought this Carl Jung might come in handy. It sure did and drew a few compliments as well, showing that sparkling celebrations may be enjoyed without the alcohol. Actually, there is quite an intense rush of bubbles and no shortage of fruit in the palate. 

Oh, by the way, if someone says he’d prefer to drink tea, you can keep the sparkle going by offering him a glass of Mariko. Cheers!

Bouvet Saphir Saumur Brut 2011

No doubt that Champagne, Cava and Prosecco are the big three in sparkling wine. But there are many more from all over the world. We enjoyed a white and a rosé from Cono Sur during the recent blogging competition final in Paris and, speaking of France, the country produces well over twenty such wines aside from the well known champagne.  This is one of them, from the Loire and made in the same way as Champagne (méthode traditionnelle). It survived the Christmas and I'm looking forward to opening it on New Year’s Eve. Happy New Year to you all.

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Amuse Bouche

Last time I was in here, it was Friday and spectacular. A cheeky chien trotted perkily down the middle of the rue with a baguette in his mouth. Champignons, wild like delicate orchids, tumbled from wooden boxes. Monsters of the deep with claws akimbo lay spread on ice. Hares hung from hooks over coils of sausage and chickens that were thick-boned from healthy life. Fromageries oozed their heady pungency. Patisseries seduced me with the sweet scent of tartes, a crumb of which could exhaust your tastebuds for a week. Today is Sunday. Rue des Martyrs is desolate.

From City-Lit Paris, edited by Heather Reyes.

Great Rhone Run Continues. Bourgogne Angels Deliver

Great Rhone Run Continues

Bourgogne Angels Deliver For Christmas
Domaine Chaume-Arnaud, Vinsobres Rhone (Fr) 2012, 14.5%, c. €21.00, Le Caveau Kilkenny.

Vinsobres (once famous for its olive groves) is a hillside village in the Southern Rhone, just to the south-east of Montelimar (famous for it nougat). It obtained its local appellation (red wine only) as recently as 2005. Minimum alcohol content, according to AOC rules, is 12.5% but that is well exceeded here. I've had a great run on the Rhone recently and this is another excellent bottle. Very Highly Recommended.

There are generous red-fruit aromas from this ruby wine, spice too with vanilla and pepper prominent. This is the Rhone, powerful and refreshing, in a glass and on a palate. Rich fruit flavours abound and no shortage of spice either. Full bodied and earthy, with fine tannins, it has a quality aftertaste. Pair it with red meat, game, cheese.

The blend is the usual Grenache, Syrah, and Mourvedre but with a splash of Cinsault. No chemical fertilisers are used and harvesting is by hand on this biodynamic vineyard run by husband and wife team Philippe and Valerie Chaume-Arnaud.

Les Couteaux Des Anges, Pinot Noir (Bourgogne) 2013, 12.5%, €10.00 SuperValu ‘til 31st Dec.

Burgundy is the place for Pinot Noir and this is a very good example. Colour is the typical light red, clean and bright and the aromas are of red cherry. There are beautiful soft fruit flavours and a lovely balancing acidity. This medium bodied wine is a real pleasure on the palate, light and fruity, and it has quite an elegant finish to boot. Don't be afraid to agitate it slightly while in the mouth - you’ll be well rewarded! Very Highly Recommended.

SuperValu recommend you try it with their Salmon Mulled Wine Christmas dinner. I think it would also go well with Scallops and Truly Irish Rashers (of which we’ve had some recent experience!) Generally though, it should match with meaty fish, mushrooms, soft cheese, poultry and cured meats.

Speaking of matching, the recently reviewed Vinha de Foral Moscatel de Setubal is a natural with mince pies!

Monday, December 22, 2014

Alcohol Free. Full Flavour.

Alcohol Free Wines From Torres
Full Flavour Maintained

Torres Natureo Free, Muscat 2013 (Spain), 0.5% abv, €7.99 widely available

Was thinking of designated drivers over Christmas and the New Year when I took an interest in this alcohol free “beverage” from Torres. Having tasted it, I think it could also have a lot of appeal on warm summer days and, at any time, would be a good base for a kir.

Should be acceptable also to some of the parents driving the family around at Christmas from one set of in-laws to another, maybe with an aunt or an uncle to be visited as well. And for the rest of us, with quite a lot of wine available over the next two weeks, a glass or two of Natureo, strategically placed between glasses of its full alcohol cousins, could well cut down the risk of a hangover!

Colour here is a very clean pale yellow and it has promising fresh floral aromas. Fresh and lively too on the palate, hints of sweetness but a terrific balancing acidity makes for quite a pleasant drop.  Torres suggest using it as an aperitif and also with fish and seafood and rice dishes. Oh yes, don't forget the kir.

Torres also sell a red version, a Syrah. In both cases, the wine may be kept in the fridge for five days after opening.

Virtually all alcohol is removed with only a trace 0.5% ABV remaining, meaning that you would have to drink three full bottles in under an hour in order to reach the limit of one standard drink!

Furthermore, the alcohol is removed by using an innovative spinning cone technique, which ensures no chemicals are used and the full flavour and antioxidant properties are maintained.

Sutter Homes Fre is another wine like the Torres and it is America’s #1 alcohol-removed wine brand. Chardonnay, Merlot and White Zinfandel are the three varieties. German company Carl Jung developed their own vacuum technique in 1908! Nowadays, they make three such wines, including a sparkling wine which could also come in very handy for the Christmas and New Year celebrations! All three companies sell these wines in Ireland and you may read a summary (including stockists) here.

Meanwhile, in California….
According to the Drinks Business website, ConeTech’s alcohol removal technology sees a portion of wine go through a spinning cone which separates all the volatile aromas compounds from the liquid, before removing the alcohol from the remaining odourless liquid. And, believe it or not, one in four bottles of Californian Pinot Noir and Chardonnay have been through the industrial alcohol removal process supplied by ConeTech in the past year. The purpose and result of this process is to reduce the alcohol content from high to normal levels, not to reduce it to close to zero. Check it out here.

But will it stop at that. Unlikely! The same technology currently being used to remove alcohol from wine could be employed to take out green flavours, or add in beneficial characters from grape pomace. Read more.

Saturday, December 20, 2014

Nash 19. Special at Christmas, and All Year Round

Nash 19. Special at Christmas, and All Year Round

Mentioned some time back that Nash19 pay attention to detail, to the small things on and off the plate. Was reminded of that last Friday when in for lunch. Two of those small things stood out: their delicious crunchy brown bread and the scrumptious roast potatoes. Roast potatoes? Yes indeed. Some establishments around town serve up roast pops that you could use for a score of bowls.

It was very busy in the Prince's Street venue, even the gallery at the back was full. But service was still top class, as efficient and friendly as ever. That, and the food of course, makes Nash 19 a top restaurant all year round.
Hederman platter
Isn't it great to take a menu in your hand and say immediately: “I could eat everything there.” Well it could take you a week or two to work your way through it. So, on the day, you have to choose. You could perhaps take the Producer Plate as a shortcut and you wouldn't go wrong with that choice.

But, on Friday, I went for the Frank Hederman Smoked Fish Plate as my starter, various versions of his famous smoked mackerel and salmon. Swapped a few pieces for a couple of large spoonfuls of CL’s Soup (Red Lentil Dahl topped with Riata). It was a fair exchange. The fish was excellent, as we’ve come to expect, and the soup was terrific, the spices provided by Green Saffron, and, all the while, the brown bread was going down well. The white bread, moistened (should really say soaked!) with their excellent olive oil, was long gone.

St Tola
Time now for the mains. The Tim McCarthy Lamb Shanks had all been eaten but there was considerable consolation in the O’Connell Spiced Beef Rump with Christmas Casseroled Red Cabbage, a perfect combination enhanced by the perfectly cooked vegetables (including those spot-on roasties).

Ten out of ten for that and CL was also thrilled with her dish: St Tola Goats Cheese Warm Salad with Spiced Almonds, and Beets two-way, and also pickled plums, a terrific blend, well thought out and well dispatched. Two empty plates went back to the kitchen.

Souped-up with Green Saffron spice
But just one dessert came out. We were getting full so decided to share the Winter Berry Tart, hot, with cream and custard. Tart and sweet, a lovely warm finalé to a hugely satisfying meal, the earlier courses washed down with Heritage des Cedre Malbec (France 2011), rich, fruity and fresh, sending out a message that Cahors is not about to roll over to Argentina in the battle on for Malbec supremacy.

The meal overall illustrated that Nash 19 is sticking to its guns, supporting local producers all the way. Suppliers, in addition to those already mentioned, include: Little Milk Company Cheese, Ummera, Waterfall Salad Leaves, Horizon Farm, Crowe’s Meats, Lismore Food Company, Hans Sloane Chocolate, Kitty Colchester Rapeseed Oil, Llewellyn’s Cider Vinegar, Arbutus Bread, Sheridan Cheese Biscuits.

Spiced Beef

Christmas Opening Hours at Nash 19

Mon 15 Dec to Fri 19 Dec 7.30 am to 4pm
Saturday 20 Dec 8.30am to 4pm
Sunday 21 Dec 12 to 5pm
Mon 22 & Tue 23rd Dec 7.30am to 4pm
Christmas Eve 7.30am till 1.30pm
Opening after Christmas on January 2nd @ 7.30am


Amuse Bouche

For this Thanksgiving, Mom had stuffed turkey with cornbread dressing. There was baked squash and Yorkshire pudding. There was home-made cranberry relish, steaming dirty rice and mashed potatoes and rolls made from scratch. She’d decorated the house and used an ironed sheet as a linen tablecloth. She’d been playing old jazz albums on the stereo, the same music she and Pop would listen to years earlier – Dave Brubeck, Gerry Mulligan and Buddy Rich.

From Townie, a memoir by Andre Dubus III.

Friday, December 19, 2014

The Year in Wine. Paris the highlight.

The Year in Wine
Paris a Personal Highlight

All aboard with the judges on the Seine: Chef Chris Carpentier (Santiago),
Jo Mansell (UK), CL, Adolfo Hurtado (Cono Sur) and Yours Truly
Without a doubt the wine highlight for me in 2014 was the trip to Paris for the final of the Cono Sur Bloggers Competition. We didn't make the trip to Chile - Finland pipped us in the decider - but we had a ball with our fellow finalists and with the crew from Cono Sur, including genial winemaker Adolfo Hurtado, not to mention Chris Carpentier, Chile’s Top Chef and MasterChef presenter.

March was a good month. Chris Forbes of Taylor’s  and cheesemaker Dan Hegarty visited Ballymaloe for a Port and Cheddar Tasting and Forbes also matched his gorgeous liquids with chocolate by Shana Wilkie. And a few days later, Sherry supremo César Saldaña gave a masterclass at the Wines of Spain tasting in the Radisson Blu in Little Island.

The second Ballymaloe LitFest had no shortage of drinks events, most of them this time held in the rustic surroundings of the Tractor Shed! Here, with some distinguished company, we enjoyed Beer and Cider  and then a session sipping Port, Sherry and Madeira.

In June, we were on holidays in France. No shortage of wine outings in Bordeaux but our top visit was to Chateau Bauduc. Here, we got a terrific welcome and tour (and tasting of course) thanks to Gavin and Angela Quinney, and the dogs!

July started well with a walk around Cork where we enjoyed the Musica and Vino on the Campo Viejo Tapas Trail. The highlight this month was undoubtedly the Krug Champagne tasting and dinner, with Nicole Brown, in Ballymaloe.

in September, memories of the WineGeese events were revived in unusual fashion at Latitude 51, when a trio of Irish winemakers appeared on a big screen via Skype to take us through a multi-national tasting. Well done to Beverly Mathews, Maurice O’Mahony and Colm McCan for organising WineGeese on the Web.

All that before the November flight to Paris and that magical finale on a boat on the Seine. Slainte to all and Happy Christmas. And here’s looking to a great 2015. Wonder where will it take us? Or indeed who’ll come to visit?

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Neven’s Cookery School. Step by Step with the Maestro

Neven’s Cookery School
Step by Step with the Maestro
One Happy Chef!
It might sound strange but Neven Maguire reminds me of Christy Ring. At least in his approach to his cookery school students. He takes it step by step, building confidence from the start and lots of discreet back-up along the way.

I remember “Ringy”, back in the day, teaching a few of us to take a sideline cut. He just didn't throw the sliotar down and order you to strike. No, he found a high sod and placed it there and, if you made a half decent connection, you hit a good sideline ball. “Hey, I can do it!” After that confidence boost, the rest came with practice.

Christy displayed the technique and dispensed good advice as did Neven in MacNean House last Saturday.

Presentation is important but getting the flavours right is even more so.

That was an early nugget from Ireland's favourite chef during our one day Christmas Cookery Course with him, in his own Cookery School in Blacklion (County Cavan). It used to be a hairdressers but there’s a different kind of style now on display here, right next door to Neven's restaurant MacNean House.
Prawn starter

The school has been open for twelve months. “It has been a great year,” said Neven. “A great year for me and a great year for my team. We are booked up every week from now until next June. But the Chef’s Table, a new venture of ours, is not too well known yet and that is not booked up.” The Chef’s Table (for 12 to 20 people) is situated here in the school and you’ll have Neven and his chefs cooking in front of you and serving you as well.

Neven always has great praise for his staff and many of them have been with him for years. His right hand people in the school are Olivia and Clare. “They keep it immaculate.”  Looking back at the year, Neven said it was a great one for him personally as he was voted Best Chef in Ireland and his new book Fast was voted best cookbook in Ireland.
As he took the varied group of students through the course, he was free with advice. He “ordered” everyone to buy a “plastic” wooden spoon, revealed that local Asian markets are “best for spices” and said that “broken walnuts are half the price of whole nuts”.  Looking for vanilla, then try Vanilla Bazaar. For Thai products look up Thai Gold in Wexford.

But Christmas Made Easy was mostly about the cooking. Everything from Mulled Wine to the Turkey was covered. The full title of the turkey lesson was: Buttermilk Brined Roast Butterfly of Turkey with Orange and Rosemary.

Cheese board

We got to make a Citrus Harissa Butter for the Turkey Crown. You can get the Harissa paste in most areas nowadays but if not available try sun-dried tomato paste instead. The Butter can also be used on grilled steak, pork chop, roast chicken and grilled fish (like hake).

We did a Pine Nut, Cranberry and Apricot Stuffing. By the way, dried cranberries are “very good in soda bread”. The other big item during the busy morning was the ham. Neven and his team were taking care of the ham itself but we got to do the Glaze and the Pineapple Salsa. Again, the glaze can also be used with Pork Chops while the Salsa goes well with grilled prawns.
Speaking of prawns, we got to make our own starter for lunch, a Prawn Cocktail with the traditional Marie Rose Sauce. To tell the truth most of it was done for us but we certainly picked up tips and hints galore. Besides, it was quite a nice starter.

But the Turkey and Ham were just fantastic, so full of flavour and the turkey so moist. Lunch was followed by a Wine and Cheese Tasting conducted by Blaithin McCabe who has been here since 2007. 

We started with La Contesse Spumante Prosecco and then a lightly oaked Potel Aviron Macon Villages 2011. The red was a Cotes du Rhone by Domaine Coste Chaude (2011) and then we enjoyed the Quinta do Noval 10 Year Old Tawny Port before sipping a MacNean Mulled Wine.

Perhaps the best match of the tasting for me was the Port and Cashel Blue cheese, made from cows milk. Also on the plate were Corleggy, a hard goats cheese from Cavan, Tipperary’s Cooleeney made from raw cows milk and Coolea (Cork) made from fresh cow milk.

Following an interesting tour of the kitchen, there were more lessons, including Chestnut, Wild Mushroom and Bacon Soup with Smoked Duck, Mulled Fruit Truffle, a Fruit Cocktail and Mulled Wine. Sadly though we had to hit the road earlier than most and missed the final session! Will have to go again in the future.