Sunday, August 31, 2014

Amuse Bouche

‘What will you do first?’ said Oswy.
‘Drink some of my own beer,’ said Wilfrid without any hesitation. ‘God! Get below the Trent and they have no idea what beer is. The stuff we have been putting up with for all those weeks. Bilgewater - straight out of a Grimsby collier.’
Oswy eased his horse round a pothole. ‘I think I shall go for a good roast. …. I have not had a good Lincolnshire roast since November.’

from The Last Viking by Berwick Coates

Saturday, August 30, 2014

Ballymaloe Garden Fest Blessed by the Sun

Ballymaloe Garden Fest Blessed by the Sun
On Again Tomorrow
The sun came out today and I followed it to the Ballymaloe Garden Festival. It was lunchtime and the question came: Where is the food? In the Big Shed, of course.

No shortage of options here but we stopped at the stall where Frenchman Laurent and his bubbly crew were dishing up the galettes. Mine was packed with Poached Ballycotton Salmon, Homemade White Wine Hollandaise, Chard, Tomatoes and Garden Leaves.

That deliciously satisfied the hunger pains. Well, almost. Just couldn’t resist stopping at the Yum Gelato ice-cream stall and helping myself to a double scoop. Superb, especially the mixed fruit element.

 Before we left the shed, we enjoyed a lovely conversation with Julie Calder-Potts of Highbank Orchards in Kilkenny and got lots of tips on using their famous and delicious Orchard Syrup. Julie tells me they’ll have Ireland’s “smallest legal distillery” up and running by October and will produce a limited run of Apple Spirit! Get your orders in.

We then took a stroll around, starting with the Walled Garden where a new garden has been laid out to celebrate fifty years of Ballymaloe. Lots of veg and flowers in this large enclosure including an amazing amount of rhubarb!

Irish Bees
 Garden stalls galore around  the sunny place today, everything from tiny pot plants to trees  and including some amazing furniture from Beara, the highlight being the picnic table that folds back into a seat or maybe the seat that folds out into a table!

Lots of talks and demos on as well and they'll do it all again tomorrow. Look out for Caroline Robinson, busy on the Coal Quay every Saturday, who will share her wealth of experience of running a small market garden enterprise, for Johann and Tom Doorley who will concentrate on the uses of edible flowers, and Michael Kelly who will present “A GIY guide to growing your own food”. Many more as well, plus all the stalls again (don't forget the food!) and you can see all the details, including times, here.


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

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

Very little change this month but delighted to see the Top 2014 Wines scrape in, just reaching the minimum 700 hits. Take a look if you have a chance, some decent wines there, mainly between twelve and twenty two euro.

Friday, August 29, 2014

Loughbeg Farm Ice-cream. So Creamy. Amazing Flavours

Loughbeg Farm Ice-Cream
So Creamy. Amazing Flavours

World Champions?

San Gimignano in Italy regards itself as a great ice-cream centre and, indeed, when I visited a few years back, boasted the World Champion among its narrow streets. The ice-cream there, fresh and full of fruit, is gorgeous (my cappuccino was not!) but I reckon Loughbeg Farm from Schull, in County Cork, has come up with a few world class contenders.
The farm is well known for its goats, under the care of Josephine (mainly!) and Walter Ryan-Purcell, and this ice-cream is based on goat’s milk but it also contains cow’s cream, along with sugar and egg yolk.

First came across these at the Schull Sunday Market a while back but now they are ready for public consumption and on sale at the Fresh From West Cork Stall in the English Market. Very Highly Recommended. Watch out San Gimignano!
Watch out San Gimignano!
My first tasting this week came from the Strawberry pot. I thought it was absolutely amazing, a great mix of milk, cream and fruit, more like a high class sorbet than a mere ice-cream.

Next up was the Banana! A total surprise, a delicious one. I thought the strawberry was good but this was magnificent, the true banana flavours shining through.

Anticipation was keen as I spooned out the Vanilla. But I needn't have worried! This is yet another beauty, a creamy flavoursome classic. Didn't get to sample the Chocolate but I'd bet my house on it, bet it is every bit as tasty as the others in the range.

This gorgeous range is really worth a try and I’m sure there are some chefs out there who could turn out fabulous desserts with it. Over to you!

Also available at Hegarty's Centra, Schull, and Field's SuperValu, Skibbereen

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Winning Grenache from a Solera in Gigondas

Winning Grenache from a Solera in Gigondas
Saint Cosme Little James Basket Press, Non Vintage Red (Vin de France), 13%, €15.99 (12.79 August) at Curious Wines

The Rhone cased Chateau de Saint Cosme (est. 1570), a negociant-vigneron, uses the Solera blending technique, usually associated with sherry, to produce this excellent non vintage Grenache.

Unlike a vintage wine, Little James “is a permanent creation of a solera, which gets more and more complex every year with an irresistible crunchy fruit”. The typical bottle has fifty per cent of the current vintage and fifty per cent from wines of the previous decade.

There are aromas of darker fruits (plum and cherry for me) and some pepper in this dark red wine. On the palate, you'll find lots of fruit and that pepper again and great flavours all the way through the long finish. “A winner” according to Robert Parker. Very interesting and Very Highly Recommended.

Happy Day! Dining in Gigondas

East Meets West

East Meets West.
And spices up the cheddar!
Part 1
East meets West in Kerry and the results are good, very good. From a mountain village in the Philippines to a coastal village in North Kerry comes Leah. She met husband Billy in London and together in Littor Strand they’ve put their respective food experiences and traditions in the mix and now you can sample some very interesting products indeed.

Billy’s  grandfather William T. Sweeney founded Shannon Vale Creamery in the 1900’s; his father, Rory (Bill), was the General Manager of Cadbury’s Chocolate Factory in Rathmore, Co. Kerry before taking over as General Manager of Rattoo Creamery.  

So dairying and cheese was very much part of Billy’s background and it is not so surprising that cheese is one of the products now produced by Leah’s Gourmet Foods. But cheese with a twist, as Leah has added a touch from the Phillipines, a spicy one!

Leah’s Gourmet Cheese sees the traditional Irish Farm Cheddar get an “injection” of red chillies, garlic and ginger. The initial attack could take you by surprise but you do get used to it quickly.

Many of us Irish look for a cool way to counter the heat of the spices and I’ve got one. Had tried a few relishes, including a Mango (a pretty good match). But the best pairing I came across was with a beautiful jar of red currant jelly made by Toni’s Homemade and bought at Bandon Market. A perfect match between Cork and Kerry.

Next time, we’ll tell you all about Leah’s Black and White puddings. They also do other products including Irish organic smoked salmon and a lovely line of boards and slates.

Just seen that Leah’s Gourmet Foods have been chosen as an "InterTradeIreland Business Ambassador" and have been invited to The Mansion House & Áras an Uachtaráin to meet President Michael D. Higgins, Minister Richard Bruton along with many other TDs & senators, VIPs and leaders of the business community in Ireland.

“We're so looking forward to this event at the beginning of October and so we'll have to dust down the tuxedo's and fancy gowns to get ourselves ready to meet with the great and the good of Ireland's business world!”

Part 2 next week!

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Taste of the Week

Taste of the Week
Skeaghanore Smoked Duck

Many of you will be familiar with the award winning Skeaghanore West Cork Duck, produced by Eugene and Helena Hickey near Ballydehob.  Recently, I spotted a pack of their Smoked Breast of Duck at the Fresh from West Cork stall in the English Market. I could see the duck through a "window" in the pack and couldn't resist. Traditionally smoked with oak, it is fully cooked and ready to eat. It is absolutely delicious, a really top notch product, tender and succulent and naturally plump but, in this case at least, with a lot less fat than you'll see on similar products. The 220 gram pack costs nine euro and is our Taste of the Week.

* A few weeks back, I highlighted a trio of quality ready to use dishes by Yumm! Since then, they have come up with another gem, called Lisheen Lasagne, also available at the Fresh from West Cork stall.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Chance to Win a Box of Wine

Chance to Win a Box of Wine

Hard to believe but I've a recipe in the Irish final of a Cono Sur competition. The public can vote on it, so I'm asking you all to please go to this link (you don't have to join anything) and vote for our Scallops and Bacon
Please pass this message on.
By the way, thanks to Cono Sur, one lucky voter will win a box of wine.

An Exquisite Riesling and a Curious Duo

Exquisite Riesling
from the steep slopes of Nahe

Mathern 2012 Niederhäuser Riesling Trocken, Nahe (Germany), 12.5%, €16.90 Karwig Wines

This Riesling, from the Nahe village of Niederhäuser, speaks for itself. It is simply superb and Very Highly Recommended.

Colour is a very pale honey with hints of green. On the palate, it is tangy and lively, green apples for sure, and with a good dry finish. Nothing at all complex here. Well made. Excellent. Buy it and try it!

Curious Duo

Chateau Saint Louis La Perdrix, Costieres de Nimes blanc 2011, 13%, €13.99 (11.19 for August)
Moulin de Gassac Merlot, Pays D’Herault 2013, 13.5%, €12.49 (9.99 for August).

There is a French sale at Curious Wines this month and you get 20% off when you but two French wines at €25.00 or under. These are two of the cheaper wines, both from the South of France, and two that I enjoyed.

Nimes is where denim comes from (de Nimes) and also where this white originates. The fact that it was made mainly from the Roussane grape caught my attention. I like the Roussane and liked this bottle, fresh and fruity and easy to drink.

Moulin de Gassac, farmed organically, overlooks the Med near Sete in the Languedoc and “offer a collection of wines highlighting the special characteristics of each grape varietal”. This medium bodied Merlot is one of the series, a rather friendly one, easy drinking and great value, especially at the moment.

Monday, August 25, 2014

Shawlies Swing on Coal Quay Stage. The Bonded Warehouse: the future?

Shawlies Swing on Coal Quay Stage
The Bonded Warehouse: the future?
A lively bunch of shawl clad women got the 2014 Coal Quay Family Festival off to a swinging start as they took to the stage for a couple of songs. The stage would be busy for a few hours after that with all types of musical groups in action. All part of the Cork Heritage Day and a very appropriate time to remember the past in the heart of the city, politicians (at least one) and priests present as the original shawlies and their families were remembered in song and prayer, and pigeons released in memory of the past and in hope for the future of this vibrant area.
Busy at Coal Quay Farmers Market
And much of the vibrancy is provided by the relatively new businesses in the famous street. The likes of the Cornstore and the Bodega and the spanking new Rising Sons Brew Bar played key roles on Saturday. And then you had the buzz of the Farmers Market, a very genuine market, probably underrated market, where most of the stall holders are actual farmers and producers. I made some tasty purchases here, particularly from Ballyhoura Mushrooms, Caroline and Orchard Cottage Dairy.

The Cornstore's Mags O'Connor dishing out crubeens galore.
And indeed it was here, at the food shop (open Thu-Sat), that I had my first drink of the day, a complimentary glass of wine. And I wasn't the only one enjoying the vino as the sweet voice of mezzo soprano Amanda Neary spilt over the sunny street.

The Bodega were serving free bodice but the queue was massive and I couldn't get near but I did avail of a sample of the smooth and gorgeous Mi Daza stout, courtesy of the Rising Sons stall. And more food at the Cornstore. Out on the street, Mags O’Connor and her merry helpers were dishing out tasty crubeens and a terrific lamb stew (with pearl barley).

Read more about the Coal Quay and the hard-working people behind the annual festival here .

Inside and outside the bond. The vault on the left was the regular store for Hennessy's brandy for decades.
The Bonded Warehouse  (perhaps best known as the bond) also has a long past but what of its future? Later on Saturday afternoon, along with a few dozen more and under the expert guidance of Harry Golden, I visited the ancient building which has been a bonded warehouse for wines and spirits for over 200 years. Temperature (about 12 degrees) never varies and is perfect for the storage of wine.

But not for much longer. A new purpose built bond is now operating in Little lsland and the holdings here in Custom House Quay are being run down. So this public tour, only the second ever, could well be the last and it was with some nostalgia that Harry showed us around. What will become of it in the future? Harry sees huge potential here - there are after all about five acres on this last triangle of land where the two channels of the River Lee meet.
In the bond: Harry Golden (centre) talks of the past and of the future.
It is a listed building but still there is enormous potential in this magnificent location. Just hope the dreams don't become choked with red tape.

Some of Saturday's visitors were half hoping to find a dusty bottle of wine or brandy in the vaults but the ones we visited were empty! Though hopes rose briefly when glass was spotted in a hole in the wall. Just an old light bulb!
In the Coal Quay
One of the vaults visited was Number B17 and that had a long association with Hennessy’s Brandy of Cognac. The Hennessy family originally came from North Cork and, over many decades, their brandy was unloaded at the quay and sent down a line of rollers in the vault to be stored in the bond until the importing merchant paid the due tax.

Beverly Mathews, Maurice O’Mahony and Colm McCan, the trio who organised the Wine Geese series last year,  had organised the bond visit, with help from Harry of course. And later Beverly invited us back to L’Atitude, the lovely wine bar on Union Quay that she runs with Emma Lagrande.

Ladies of the Coal Quay

And here we heard of another of the more recent Wine Geese. Colm McCan told us that Marian Smith grew up in Ballyjamesduff and now runs the Elgin Ridge Winery  (it is 282 metres above sea level) in South Africa. And the generous L’Atitude gave us all a glass of the 282 Sauvignon Blanc, a lovely fresh wine. It is an organic operation and interestingly Dexter cattle help keep the vineyard clean!

Before we started the bond tour, we had a look at the interior of the Custom House, open all day for the Heritage event. Highlight here is the 1906 boardroom (especially the delicately patterned ceiling). If you didn't get there this year, put it on your list for next year. Must say, I’m looking forward to Heritage Day 2015 already.

Deputy Lord Mayor Kenneth O'Flynn finds a spot on stage for a young lady. Dishing out Mi Daza stout; and the pram, an essential on the old Cold Quay!

Saturday, August 23, 2014

Amuse Bouche

Albion Football Club
Dinner given in honour of the Belgrano Athletic Club
On Sunday June 23 est. 1901

Hors D’Oeuvre
Assortis  à la Bienvenue// Canape d’Anchois à la Bonne Amité
Tortue Americaine à la Belgrano
Brotola Normande <<Aux Vainqueurs>>
Petits pâtes de foie gras Au Xme. Anniversaire//
Filet Durandaux, Cresson au Football for ever//
Bécassines bandées a la Referee
Poulets santés Lyonnaise a l’Albion
Petits Pois à l'anglaise à la Prensa Uruguaya
Boudin al Kirsch à l’Argentine
Fruits de saison à l’Uruguayenne
Sauternes - Chàteau Margot - Médoc
Café à la Bresilienne - Liqueurs à la Parisienne
Cigars à la Cubaine
7.30pm Rotisserie Severi
from ¡Goalazo! by Andreas Campomar

Friday, August 22, 2014

The Workshop. Pairing Teas and Desserts!

The Workshop

Pairing Teas and Desserts!

Had an unusual pairing exercise at the lovely Workshop Tea Rooms near Cork Airport on Tuesday. In the “gap” after the mains, I was trying to match teas with desserts. That's a new one! It worked out well though and indeed the excursion into the narrow country road at the rear of the airport proved well worthwhile overall.

The Workshop itself, in an old carpentry workshop, is a little bit unusual. True, it is a restaurant, tea rooms and coffee shop but it is also a display of vintage and antiques, everything from old style cups and saucers to a cart full of flowers, writing boxes to antique chairs, even including a large poster of Bertie Ahern. Everything, or almost everything, is for sale here!

Having passed the old family pram on the way in, you’ll have a warm greeting and then realise that that is really a record player in the corner playing some old style music. As you visit the bathroom (do, whether you need to or not) you’ll enter through a pair of haberdashery doors (from East Cork in the 1820s) and you’ll wash your hands in an old ship’s sink. And do check in the vampire mirror before you exit!
The Workshop, just a year on the go, is busy for lunch and soon we see why. Some great sandwiches here and you may get a cup of soup and and a sandwich for just €7.50.

We ventured a little upmarket! I went for the special of the day, a chicken pie (8.50) while CL took their Tapas, really a chicken salad (8.00). The Pie was top notch, lots of very flavoursome chunky chicken pieces topped with creamy potato and a couple of slices of Arbutus bread on the side. Arbutus too with the excellent chicken salad, another very attractive dish.

Coffee is by Badger & Dodo, so that spells quality. They have a lovely list of teas and, as I hinted above, we took our time picking ours. Mine was the Workshop Cream (roast coffee beans, jasmine flowers and natural aroma). “It’s creamy,” they say, “with a pleasant coffee/Bailey’s taste.” In any event, it went very well indeed with my perfect slice of Coffee and Walnut cake.
And the second match was also spot-on! The tea here was the Rain Forrest (named after their mom's family). It poured red, and exotic flavours were provided by hibiscus, apple pieces, currant, candied mango, pineapple and banana chips. A superb drink and went ever so well with the really well made Apple Crumble, complete with real fruit chunks and real crumble.

Desserts costs €4.50 each and the teas came in at €3.50 for a large pot each. We thought we were getting a cup each so I'm afraid we left a lot of tea behind. We’ll know better the next time. And there will be a next time as we very much enjoyed the whole experience, including the unusual setting and friendly service.

The Workshop
Lios Cross
Co. Cork

Call 021 2373033 or text 085 7666755

Tue - Sat: 10:00 am - 5:30 pm
Sun: 11:00 am - 5:30 pm

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Make Friends with Karwig’s Gru-Vee!

Make Friends with Karwig’s Gru-Vee!
In the vineyard: Das Grüne Heupferd

Winzer Krems, Kremser Goldberg Kellermeister Privat, Kremstal DAC

Vintage: 2013, Grüner Veltliner, 12.5%, €18.10, Karwig Wines

It is always worth a call to Karwig Wines in Carrigaline. Even more so when they have new Austrian wines in, as they have now. Picked up a few the other day and this Grüner Veltliner is my standout favourite. 

Colour is a pale honey, micro bubbles clinging to the glass. There are aromas of white peaches with some floral elements. On the palate, is fresh and lively (those bubbles?) with lovely fruit flavours, the slightest traces of sweetness yet well balanced all the way through the lingering finish. Very Highly Recommended.

By the way, don't worry if you over-buy. The winery says it is excellent to drink now (and I'd concur) “but has a storage capacity of 3-10 years, at ideal storage conditions even longer.” So now you know!

If you are in Karwig’s and looking for a red, here is one I can heartily recommended. It is the Caldora Sangiovese Vendemmia 2012, an IGT from Italy. This gives you an intensely fruity welcome, really easy-drinking and excellent value at €13.00! Caldora is the second label at the famous Farnese.