Friday, January 31, 2014

Finger Licking Lunch at Bakestone Café

Bakestone Café and Deli
Finger Licking Lunch
Bakestone is the bright and busy Café and Deli in the Ballyseedy Home and Garden Centre at Cobh Cross. Made a visit there this week and enjoyed a lovely lunch. They also serve breakfast.

Not the biggest of menus. Three specials featured on the board and you could also choose from various quiches and other tarts. I was there at 12.30pm and picked the Meatballs Focaccia. Minutes later, it was crossed off the board.
No wonder it is popular. The full description is Toasted Focaccia bread with pork and herb meatballs, roast onion and cheese, with a chorizo and pepper tomato sauce served with mixed leaves, all for €9.95.

Loved every little bit of it. The meatballs were excellent and the sauce was a flavoursome treat and the fresh salad was much more than a few leaves tossed together. The bread was a pleasant surprise. I'm often wary where I see bread given main billing as some places use it as a filling. But not here. It was well made and, toasted, it was a tasty integral part of the dish. Recommended. Recommend you get there early also!

Ali Honour is the chef here and her declared passion is “creating tempting dishes half healthy and half naughty”. So now it was time to be bold. Gave into the temptation of her Cherry Tiffin slice (2.50) and also ordered a flat white (2.80). Both were splendid even if the cake was almost melting on the table. It was just about ten degrees outside but it must have close to thirty inside the glass, the unhindered sun making it uncomfortable. Not a bad complaint for this time of year!

I had made a late afternoon visit here a few weeks back but was disappointed to be told that the kitchens close at 3.00pm. But is was a good time to try some of those half naughty bits! Coffee, by the way, comes via the excellent, and local, Badger and Dodo.
The cafe is part of a big shop area where Meadows and Byrne (home), Farrell and Browne (knitwear), and Ballyseedy themselves (home, artisan food store and garden centre) do business.

Ballyseedy Home & Garden Centre, Fota Retail Park, Carrigtwohill, Co. Cork

(021) 438 9001
Mon - Sat: 9:00 am - 6:00 pm
Sun: 11:00 am - 6:00 pm

Thursday, January 30, 2014

Taste of the Week

Taste of the Week
Yesterday, about ten, I was routinely sipping my cup of coffee, enjoying the sunshine coming in the south facing window when, all of a sudden, I realised I had something special in my mouth, a really good coffee. Not that I was too surprised, as this splendid Colombian, my Taste of the Week, was the opening edition from the 2014 Robert Roberts Connoisseur Club.

What make its special is that it is what they term a "microlot" coffee, one that comes from a specific area in a single coffee farm, Finca Laguna, owned by Dona Dita. Dona named this "Musicas" and, for almost 30 years, only the locals knew of it.

Garath Scully, buyer and master blender at Robert Roberts, is thrilled with this one: "  its balance and flavour and acidity..its ever so mild spice and nut background taste. The subdued yet sublime acidity really tops it off." No wonder I woke from my day dreaming.

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Bord Bia Launches Retail Guide for Small Food Businesses

Press release from Bord Bia
Bord Bia Launches Retail Guide for Small Food Businesses
 Bord Bia Small Business Open Day 2014 - 29/01/2014 - Small Irish food businesses are optimistic about their growth prospects according to the findings of a recent Bord Bia food industry survey (December 2013). Almost 70% of those surveyed stated that they expect their business to grow in 2014 and almost half claimed to have increased their turnover in 2013. The results of the survey were shared with over 170 small food businesses gathered in Dublin today for Bord Bia’s fourth annual Small Business Open Day where companies received information on the range of programmes and facilities available to support further growth and business development. Bord Bia works with over 400 small food businesses with an annual turnover of some €400 million. Approximately 3,000 people are directly employed in the sector and in 2013, 187 companies were approved a total of almost €1 million in marketing grants. Pictured at the Open Day were Aidan Cotter, Chief Executive Bord Bia, Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Simon Coveney, TD, Helena Hickey, Skeaghanore Duck Ballydehob, West Cork and Hannah O' Reilly, Improper Butter, Dublin. Photo Credit: Gary O' Neill

Bord Bia has launched a new ‘Guide to Retail for Small Food Producers’, a practical tool for small food businesses to assist them in winning and growing business in the Irish retail sector. The guide was shared with over 170 small foodbusinesses gathered in Dublin today for Bord Bia’s fourth annual Small Business Open Day, where companies received information on a range of programmes and facilities available to them. The Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Simon Coveney, was in attendance to deliver the opening address. Please see Notes to Editor for an overview of the event. According to a recent Bord Bia food industry survey (December 2013), small Irish food businesses are optimistic about their growth prospects with 67% of those surveyed expecting business to grow in 2014 while  almost half increased  turnover in 2013.

Speaking at the event, Tara McCarthy, Director of Bord Bia’s Food and Beverage Division commented, “Supporting a dynamic, profitable and growth-oriented small business sector remains central to Bord Bia’s strategic plans and programmes. The guide provides valuable insight for producers and start-ups targeting the grocery retail market and it will help companies understand buyer requirements and the trading policies of the multiple retailers and independently owned speciality stores. With a current value of approximately €9 billion, and an average spend on grocery items per household of €5,500, grocery retail in Ireland represents a key sales opportunity for food producers.

The guide aims to highlight the issues that small companies and entrepreneurs face when entering the retail market in Ireland and to outline the demands that each route to market presents. It also includes profiles of the multiple retailers, discounters and an overview of independent specialist stores as well as a sample pricing model and a glossary of retail terms.

This ‘Guide to Retail for Small Food Producers’ is part of a series of publications from Bord Bia including the ‘Guide to Distribution for Food and Drink Producers’ and the forthcoming ‘Guide to Farmer’s Markets for Small Food Producers’. The ‘Guide to Online for Small Food Producers’ and the ‘Guide to Foodservice for Small Food Producers’ will complete the series in 2015. 

Bord Bia works with over 400 small food businesses with an annual turnover of €400 million. Approximately 3,000 people are directly employed in the sector and in 2013, 187 companies were approved a total of almost €1 million in marketing grants. In 2014, many small firms will travel with Bord Bia to trade fairs across the UK, Germany and further afield.

Conference Overview

At the event themed Understanding a Changing Market’, the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Simon Coveney, T.D. delivered the opening address while Niall Harbison, Founder of Simply Zesty, CEO of PR Slides and well known food blogger, provided insight into his varied businesses and how he created successful opportunities. Other key speakers included Paula Donoghue, Bord Bia’s Insight and Brand Manager, who shared research outlining the Irish consumer’s attitudes to eating and cooking, which was complimented by David Berry of Kantar Worldpanel, who presented on the Irish and UK retail landscape. Kenneth O’Connor, Local Project Manager, Musgrave Retailer Partners Ireland, and Darragh Flynn of the Happy Pear, the Wicklow based food market, afforded insight into how small businesses can gain retail expertise through the Food Academy programme, a collaborative initiative run by the County Enterprise Boards with the support of Bord Bia and Super Valu. Barry Murphy, Fit Fuel, winner of the Innovation Award at Bord Bia’s Food and Drink Industry Awards in November 2013, discussed innovation as a requirement to meet consumer’s changing needs. Professor Damien McLoughlin, UCD delivered an interactive session on how family run businesses can learn from the experiences of other similar companies, using the example of Mutti, a premium Italian tomato processor. Padraig Brennan, Senior Business Analyst, Bord Bia, alongside Alan Kingston of Glenilen Farm, highlighted the business benefits of Origin Green, the Irish food and drink industry’s sustainability development programme, while Tara McCarthy, Director of Bord Bia’s Food and Beverages Division, concluded the seminar with an overview of Bord Bia’s wide range of services and programmes to assist food producers. There was also a showcase of services on offer from other support agencies including the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine, County Enterprise Boards, Enterprise Ireland and Teagasc.

For more information or to access the guide and presentations from the event, visit (at 5.00pm today), also 

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Bo Barrett and Bottle Shock at Ballymaloe

Bo Barrett of Chateau Montelena, Napa Valley, California, at The Grain Store at Ballymaloe House, on Friday 7th February, 7pm. €18

Colm McCann has been on to say how much Ballymaloe are looking forward to welcoming Bo and Heidi Barrett for a wine presentation and tasting,
After the wine tasting, everyone is welcome to stay on for the screening of  the movie ‘Bottle Shock’, a film made about Chateau Montelena, which will be screened on the full theatre size screen in The Grain Store. In 1976, Montelena, then a small American winery, bested the exalted French wines of the time and sent the wine industry into a tizzy - putting California wines on the map for good. 
Now, one of the world's finest estates, Chateau Montelena produced the winning white wine in that infamous 'Judgement of Paris' tasting of 1976. Now known as much for their long- lived Cabernet Sauvignon as for their Chardonnay, Chateau Montelena is undoubtedly one of Napa Valley's finest ambassadors and one of the world’s great producers.
For further information, and to reserve places, please contact Colm 086 0859034 E-mail:

Mayor Clancy Launches Cotton Ball Brewery

Cotton Ball Brewery Launch
Lord Mayor Catherine Clancy cut the ribbon to launch Mayfield’s Cotton Ball Craft Brewery at the packed pub last Saturday night. Jack Lynch and sons Humphrey and Eoin are the three men behind this venture and they were all in top form as they mingled with the guests.

The guests though had their eyes on another handsome threesome, the trio of beers that the brewery has produced so far: Lynch’s Pure Cork Stout, Mayfield Gold Lager and the Kerry Lane Pale Ale.
Those of us who live locally were already familiar with the stout and the lager and were keen to try the Kerry Lane Ale that just about made it to the party, having been put on tap earlier in the day. It was served unfiltered using natural sedimentation and proved very popular, certainly a favourite among the groups that I was with.

Humphrey’s great-grandfather, Humphrey J. Lynch, was born in Ballyvourney in 1841 and, at 15, headed for America. Some twenty years later, he fought on the Union side in the civil war (1861-1865). He returned to Ireland in the 1870s and the Cotton Ball was established in 1874 (there had been a pub on the site since the 1830s). There are reminders of his adventures on display in the pub.

Now that the brewery is up and running, there were many discussions on the night as to what direction the Cotton Ball would take. One of the more interesting took place between Jack and another micro brewer Peter Curtin from the Roadside Tavern in Lisdoonvarna who attended with his wife Birgitta. Peter had already provided some practical guidance for the Lynch team as they explored the ins and outs of setting up a brewery.
John Duffy, Humphrey Lynch (brewer) and Yours Truly
By the way, if you are in the Clare area next Sunday and looking for entertainment and craft beer, be sure and check out the Roadside where Peter has a great musical session  in store. But get there early – it starts at 4.00pm!

Before I met up with Peter and Birgitta, I had an enjoyable mini session with John Duffy, one of the team behind Beoir.   Proudly wearing the Beoir tee-shirt, John was in Cork especially for the opening. He regularly tweets on craft beer (home and away) as @thebeernut. Interestingly, his first tweet after leaving Mayfield read: The Cotton Ball is a must-copy model for ordinary neighbourhood brewpubs making top notch beer onsite. To read more, check out his blog.
Ale going well. Here with Peter and Brendan.

Monday, January 27, 2014

A Very Social South Indian Supper Club

Cork's South Indian Supper Club.

Social and Local!
Pongol, the South Indian festival for winter harvest, was celebrated in a lovely social way and with some genuine Indian cuisine, at Annam, the Indian Supper Club (and Cookery Workshop) in Cork last Friday night and I was delighted to join in with about nine others. The festival is celebrated as a community event in South India and so it was fitting that our small group entered into that spirit and that everyone enjoyed this rare (in these parts) authentic dining experience.

The green devil sits in ambush on the cocktail glass!
The Supper Club  is run by two friends, Ruth and Banu: “We will be using seasonal Irish veggies for our spin on an Indian celebration. Of course there will also be a meat option for the dedicated carnivores also!” They kept their promise.
Tiffin Platter
The yogurt for the night came from McCarthy’s Natural Dairy whose yogurt is simply fabulous and you will find them at the Douglas farmer’s market, also in Bradley’s. The veg came the local farmers markets (Douglas and Mahon) while the basics, rice, lentils and spices, all came from Dillon’s Spice shop in Ballinlough. 

A warm welcome to the home of Banu was spiced up by a “welcome cocktail”. Quite a kick to this one provided by a little green devil (chilli) sitting in ambush on the edge of the glass! The food itself though, was absolutely gorgeous. It had its spices, but nothing very extreme,  and proved very easy to eat even for the Indian novices at the table.
Sambar with spinach, part of the main course
I’ll take you through the three courses. The starter was a Tiffin Platter -Ven Pongal (Rice),Medu Vadai (white lentils parcels, see photo),Mini Uthappam (pancakes) and these were  served with Coconut chutney and Sambar.
The main course was also a mixture, consisting of a Spinach Sambar (lentil based soup), Carrot Poriyal (Carrot stir-fry), Chicken Kozhambu (spicy and flavourful chicken) and pachadi (traditional South Indian pickle used as side dish) served with Rice. The side dishes were that pickled mango and also a cooling raita type dish of cucumber and yoghurt. And the minute your plate began to empty, it was filled up again (and again!)
After that, it was time for a pause and in the interval before dessert, we were served a little bowl of watered down yoghurt, a tasty drink. It had two aims, one to cool the palate, the other to cut down on any excess of wind! It was successful in the first, not too sure about the second but, as Banu joked, there was no guarantee!
Pickled mango
Time then for dessert and this was another very pleasant dish indeed. It’s name was Chakkarai Pongal  and it is a Rice pudding cooked with Jaggery, milk and flavored with cardamom, garnished with cashew nuts.
Not your usual rice pudding!

These evenings, which take place once a month, are BYO occasions. Some brought beer,others Cava, and more brought wine. I was delighted that my wine seemed to match very well with the South Indian Cuisine as I had little to go on. Last summer in a small hail-stone hit vineyard in  Vouvray, Clos d’Epinay, I bought Cuvee Marcus 2009, a semi sweet white, called a moelleux in France, though this did not appear on the label. It was, I thought, a perfect match and would recommend it or a similar moelleux.
Indeed, thanks to our hosts, to our fellow guests and of course to the beautiful food, it was more or less a perfect match overall. If you are interested in attending the events do stay in touch with the supper club on Facebook, and on Twitter and at their website.

Saturday, January 25, 2014

Amuse Bouche

Pliny grunted and lifted the wine to the candlelight.
‘A Caecuban,’ whispered Pomponianus, in awe. ‘Forty years old and still drinking beautifully.’ He ran his tongue round his fat lips. ‘I wouldn’t mind another glass myself, Pliny.’
‘In a moment. Watch.’ Pliny waved the wine back and forth in front of them. It was thick and syrupy, the colour of honey. Attilius caught the sweet mustiness of its scent as it passed beneath his nose. ‘And now watch more closely.’ He set the glass carefully on the table.
At first the engineer did not see what point he was trying to make, but as he studied the glass more closely he saw that the surface of the wine was vibrating slightly.

from Pompeii by Robert Harris

Friday, January 24, 2014

Wine Ace Maurice is Highest Achiever in Europe

Maurice, on stage and on screen!
Wine Ace Maurice is Highest Achiever in Europe
Relaxing in the Guildhall (l to r): Tony Ambrosini,
David Bird MW and Maurice.
Those of us who have been watching the rise of wine importers Wine Alliance in recent years know that founder and director Maurice O’Mahony knows his wines.

 And that was confirmed when the Corkman successfully came through his examination for the WSET Diploma in Wines and Spirits. Maurice emerged as the highest achieving student in Europe and he was awarded the body’s prestigious Wine Australia Scholarship in a grand ceremony in London’s Guildhall this week.

The WSET is the only wine and spirit education organisation approved by the UK government as a national awarding body of vocational qualifications. 

WSET Awards also co-ordinate the annual selection of outstanding candidates to be presented with industry sponsored Scholarships. And some 600 were in the attendance as Maurice received his diploma from WSET President Jancis Robinson and his scholarship from Yvonne May of Wine Australia.

“It is a very prestigious award and I am very proud. The ninety minute ceremony was fantastic. Jancis was charming and the location was stunning,” said a delighted Maurice.

The scholarship is a two week trip to Australia, beginning in Sydney. While details for Maurice’s tour are yet to be finalised he will visit most if not all of the country's wine regions. It will be quite an experience as iconic wineries will be visited, the key personalities behind the vineyards will be on hand to talk with Maurice and he’ll get to taste their very best wines.

But is has been a tough road to get this far, to the top of the European tree, studying hard while also building his company. Minimum of 600 hours study is required and Maurice reckons he well exceeded that in the two years leading up to the Diploma exam.

They started off with a Commercial Unit and that was followed by a Viticulture and Vinification Unit. Unit 3 was on the Still Wines of the World and then followed units on Fortified, Sparkling and Spirits, all involving theory and blind tastings.

He reckons Unit 3 was the toughest. In one particular day, he had to blind taste 12 wines and then do a three hour exam on wine theory! “Five hours in all,” he recalls. “That was a killer!” But the Glanmire resident came through that and all hurdles with flying colours and deserves all the congratulations coming his way.

Guildhall, built between 1411 and 1440
You may read Maurice’s own take on the Guildhall event here and below we reprint a few questions and his answers for scholarship sponsors Wine Australia.

1.       What does this scholarship mean to you?
Winning the Wine Australia Scholarship is a dream come true. I can clearly remember one of our lecturers speaking of it in our first class a couple of years ago. The prize seemed so far away and out of reach. When I was notified that I'd won I was thrilled and when I walked on stage with Yvonne May to be presented with my prize by Jancis Robinson MW in the Guildhall at the WSET Awards Ceremony, it was a surreal moment.

2.       What do you love about Australian wine?
There’s lots to love about Australian wine and I have been a fan for many years. Australia was one of the first countries that got me interested in wine. I love the variety of Australian wines and the way that there are wines of every style, grape variety and price level. Everything is covered from entry level well made value wines to iconic wines that compete with the world’s best.

3.       What are you most excited about your visit to Australia?
I have never been to Australia so that alone will be a thrill. I am a wine obsessive so the opportunity to visit some of the world famous wine regions that I have read about and studied for many years is incredibly exciting. I always find that when I visit vineyards, it enhances my relationship with the wines and the winery. 

Really Old Vines and just about old vines! From the Loire.

Really Old Vines and just about old vines! From the Loire.

Have been doing a bit of work (drinking!) on the subject of old vines and, in general, it seems that, other things being equal, it is worthwhile paying something of a premium for the wines from the gnarled old vines. With that in mind, why not try a few and compare them with a regular wine from the same vineyard, which is often possible. I’ve been doing that over the years and have regularly come down on the side of the wine from the older plantings.

But what is old? Twenty five years, fifty years. The experienced wine commentator Mary Dowey reckons it has to be “forty years at least” and cautioned that not all varieties benefit from age. “It doesn’t do anything for Cabernet Sauvignon or Merlot but Grenache is well suited.” The main benefit is an “intensity of flavour, really concentrated”. 
Pony on left is not interested in wine!
Vignes Centenaire de Minière, Bourgueil 2009, 13.5%, €19.00 at the château.
Colour is a dark ruby and the aromas are of dark fruit. It is refreshing and concentrated, with a strong element of dark fruit flavours; it is smooth, rich with hints of spice and has an excellent dry finish.

The local pony club, at least the adults on the party, were finishing an outdoor tasting when we pulled into sunny Chateau de Minière in the heart of the Bourgueil appellation last summer. After a pleasant hour, maybe two, we finished off our tasting under the shady trees with this wine made from the local stalwart, Cabernet Franc. Loved it then and love it now.

The fruit comes from vines that average more than 100 years old and it has spent two years in oak. The grapes are hand harvested and hand sorted, all under the direction of wine-maker Eric Goujat. Belgian couple, Kathleen and Sigurd, took over the chateau a few years back and have the vineyard in conversion to organic, a process that is almost complete.

Wines that are labelled VieillesVignes (generally more than 30 years old) can command a premium. This is the château’s most expensive wine but worth it, I think. Not all  vines are suitable for long age but Cabernet Franc seems to do well on it in this area!

In the cool cellars of Montplaisir (Chinon)
Domaine de L’Abbaye Vieilles Vignes Chinon 2008, 12.5%, €7.50 at Cave Montplaisir in Chinon.

Aromas of pepper and spices and dark berries are a feature here. On the palate it is refreshing and fruity, with engaging fruit flavours and a lingering dry finish. A very Cabernet Franc and good value too, at least in France!

According to the current World Atlas of Wine, the wines of Chinon are “absurdly undervalued”. That opinion is reinforced by the quality and price of this bottle.

The vines are single varietal Cabernet Franc over 35 years old. It is aged in the cellars in oak barrels for about 12 months depending on the vintage. 

Find out more here 

Anjou Blanc Vieille Vignes 2009, €15.00 at Chateau Soucherie
A tasting at Chateau Soucherie saw us start with two classy wines, the Anjou Blanc Vielles Vignes 2009 and the more expensive Savennières Clos des Perrières 2010. Could have spent more time with these two but, on the initial tasting, put my money on the Vieilles Vignes (and even more of it on the Chaume that we came to later on).

The Vieilles Vignes was another winner  for the old vine brigade. “A unique wine from vines of more than 80 years, rich and round, delicious as an accompaniment to veal stew.”

Probably should have bought more of it as, on our way out to the car in the baking parking area, we were told that the 80 year old plants had been dug up and this was the last of the old stuff! So, if you do come across it, do buy some and include one or two for me! I have none left now and indeed I seem to have mislaid my notes on it. But it was a beautiful well balanced wine, another confirmation for me that wines from old wines are worth exploring!

You may check out the Château’s tasting notes (by Olivier Poussier, once voted the Best Sommelier in the World!) here.  

Thursday, January 23, 2014

WSET Certificate Wine Courses - Spring 2014

WSET Certificate Wine Courses

Spring 2014

Venue: Clarion Hotel, Lapp’s Quay, Cork
Lecturer: Gary O’Donovan (BA, WSET Dip.)

WSET Level 1: Foundation Wine Course (1 day)
·        Saturday 25th January 2014
·        Price: €150

          WSET Level 2: Intermediate Certificate in Wines & Spirits (9 weeks)
·        Tuesdays 7.00pm-9.00pm from 18th February – 15th April
·        Price: €395

               WSET Level 3: Advanced Certificate in Wines & Spirits (15 weeks)
·       Date to be confirmed
·        Price: €695

Full course content available on request.  Payment plan option available.

Contact Deirdre on 021 4296060 or
to register your interest and for further information.

Ideal for those with a grá for the grape, those with an interest and passion for the world of wine
and fine spirits and also for those in the hospitality industry looking for professional advancement.

uuGift Vouchers Availableuu

Please note:
·         All fees must be paid prior to course commencement.
·         Course commencement subject to minimum numbers.
·         Students must pass Level 2 before progressing to Level 3.

An extra day added!!!
WSET Level 1: Foundation Wine Course (1 day)
·        Saturday 24th May 2014
·        Price: €150