The Bloggers On Thomastown TourCaviar, Ceramics, and Cat Bodacious!
|Ger Kirwan welcomes us to Goatsbridge Trout Farm|
From Rainbow trout to Zwartble sheep, from ceramics to cheese, the Town of Food bloggers tour had a busy and every interesting day in the Thomastown area last Monday.
The first get together of the day was at Goatsbridge Trout Farm . Mag and Ger Kirwan were our hosts. After coffee and cake, we headed down to the adjacent farm where some kids and adults were already fishing from one of the ponds.
The trout farm was started by Ger’s parents, Padraig and Rita, in 1961. Padraig's father was a miller in the area and the fish tradition goes back a long way, at least back to the monks of nearby Jerpoint Abbey, who established a fishery in the 12th century.
|Trout hauled out for a quick look and the fabulous caviar.|
These Cistercians would not recognise today's Goatsbridge. The Fish Farm employs twenty people. Virtually all the fish is sold in Ireland, about 10,000 a week! Each of the holding ponds, maybe 100 square meters, holds no less than 12,000 of the trout (all rainbow, by the way).
Goatsbridge trout is sold fresh, smoked and barbecued. And there is also a paté.Their latest venture - a very delicious one indeed, and one that you can taste in many of the country’s restaurants - is trout caviar. The idea came after a chance meeting in Boston with someone who was doing it in the US. It took Goatsbridge another few years to develop it for their conditions and they married the US practice with the French way and have perfected it since. Well worth seeking out! Why not try their online shop.
Back to the cars then and off to nearby ceramicist Karen Morgan . Karen moved from Limerick to Thomastown in 2006. Originally, she operated in the town itself but has now set up a studio alongside her home in the countryside and here you can see her at work and see and buy her work. At present she produces functional kitchen items (dishwasher and microwave safe) with swirls and ripples - reckon she has been to the trout farm. She loves Thomastown: “So much going on here: craft, music, food.”
|Karen (left) and Helen|
From ceramics to glass, Jerpoint Glass the next stop. This was founded by Keith and Kathleen Leadbetter in existing farm buildings some 35 years ago and the boost they needed to get off the ground came when the Kilkenny Design Centre backed them. I have always loved the way they use the single colour. It looks delicate enough but this glass is tough stuff, largely because it is finished by hand. Mainly they make tableware that is meant to be used. Functional and aesthetic!
Then it was over the road to Stoneyford to meet Helen Finnegan who has been making Knockdrinna Cheese here for the past ten years.
“We’ve had some difficult times but are moving well now.” She started making goats cheese in the back kitchen. In more recent times she went into sheep cheese and even more recently started making cheese from cows milk for the Little Milk Company, a small group of local organic farmers. I love the Brewers Gold from this later venture and bought some of that! Helen also gives Cheesemaking Courses, so watch out for those.
There is also a little cafe at Knockdrinna but our lunch date was back in Thomastown at the Cafe Sol Bistro. Knockdrinna cheese is on the menu here too and lots of other good local produce including Goatsbridge trout. I went for the hearty Lavistown Sausages with creamy potato, root vegetables and a flavoursome thyme gravy. Well worth a lunch or dinner call if you're passing on the road to Waterford. If not, make a detour! And, by the way, they also have a cafe in Kilkenny itself.
After a call to see the Town of Food development in Thomastown, we headed to the Zwartbles farm to see Suzanna (a blanket designing shepherd!) and her unusual sheep and their cat shepherd Bodacious! She, Suzanna that is, is a Slow Food advocate and the philosophy runs through to what she does here: What you put in is what you get out.
And good things go into her Zwartble sheep. “They have a great variety of grasses and herbs and are finished off on clover and windfall apples.” Lucky sheep and lucky the customers that get the meat. It was a pity that darkness was setting in as we arrived. I didn’t get good pics but if you want to see the sheep at their best then check the site above!
We got the brightest of welcomes from the lady and her happy bouncy sheep. By the way, it is not just the meat that is in demand (you'll soon be able to get it locally at Pembroke House restaurant in Kilkenny) but also the wool, available to buy as rugs and blankets in places such as Jerpoint Glass.
We brought our bags to the orchards and filled them with pears and apples, including the Catillac pear and the Newtown Wonder apples. We even got a taste of her outdoor grapes and also got to see her alpacas who help protect the sheep by scaring off dogs and foxes.
A lovely chat then and a welcome cup of tea. And even a going away present of some lamb chops. A warm feeling then at the end of a packed day as we headed into the darkness and the road to Cork. Thanks to Kilkenny in general, to all the food producers and providers and to all the craft people that we met and to Mag Kirwan and to Dee Sewell in particular for organising.
|Better pics on their site|