Good Things Cafe
Good Food, Wine, Company
When we think of international, we think of country: Ireland v Italy in football, New Zealand v Australia in rugby, and so on. In food though, it struck me during an “international” meal in Good Things Cafe, in its sparkling new Skibbereen location, that we should be thinking more in terms of the individuals.
The Colombian farmer who grows your coffee beans, the Irish farmer who raises your free range pigs, the Indian who produces your spices and rices, the organic grower who sends us delicious clean wines and so on. The world is becoming to some small degree a collection of like-minded individuals, a collection of local producers, working hand to hand across the world, and not depending on some giant distributor who’d prefer to have the same food “from Nigeria to Iceland”.*
The conversation though wasn't anywhere near as serious as that. Carmel Somers, the owner of Good Things, got us off to a good start. “One of our growers has just delivered some asparagus. We are serving it with Coolea Cheese and some balsamic. Would you like that?” There was instant international accord.
“This Coolea Cheese? Is that from here?” Italian winemaker Elena Pantaleoni asked me. I had just met the lady from the famous organic vineyard of La Stoppa and she was delighted to hear that Coolea was very local indeed. Among those at the table were Pascal Rossignol, the Frenchman (now well seasoned with Irishness) who runs Le Caveau, and Sally Barnes renowned for her Woodcock Smokery in Castletownsend.
|Many tongues, one language|
Left to right: Clare, Elena, Billy, Nico, Pascal, Sally, Colm.
Elena’s Trebbiano was already in our glasses and she told me that they also make a sparkling version, “for food”. It is sold mainly in the local area and is great in summer, served a little chilled.
The delicious asparagus was now at the table along with a Mezze plate along with La Stoppa Macchiona 2007. “It is made from the same grapes, Barbera and Bonarda, as the Trebbiano but has spent two years in big barrels. This is the current vintage, it is warm, more powerful, more fruity,” said Elena.
|Spectacular seasonal salad|
The dishes and the wines, all exquisite, continued to come. Pascal asked Eleana for the story behind the names. Trebbiano is a valley, Macchiona is a very small village, and Agento is the name of the founder of the vineyard, a man from Genoa. The Agento is an amazing wine and not just because of its bright orange colour. The colour, and the extra tannin, come from three months skin contact. "The first Agento was first produced in 2002 so we do not have a long experience of this wine,” said Elena and she recommended serving it at 15 degrees.
By now we were on to our main course. I was very much enjoying my Crab Tart, Salad leaves and a Soda Scone. And that was just one of the many tempting dishes on the menu. Pascal pointed out: “The Agento is very versatile at the table, a wine for sharing!” And Elena echoed that sentiment.
|Carmel & Elena|
Desserts, like other courses, are somewhat different here at this very highly recommended spot who make a “priority of sourcing locally”. Mine, and it was superb, was an Orange and Rhubarb Salad, with a Coconut and Pomegranate Praline. Finished off the Agento and then moved on to a delightful Malvasia Frizzante! Coffee by the Golden Bean set us up for a trip to sample the fresh Atlantic air at the Woodcock Smokery.
Sally's operation has been going since 1981. She pulled out some kippers, smoked with no dyes, no additives. But she wasn't very happy: “Not a great batch. Herrings can live up to twenty years but there is now a poor population due to intervention on the market by the EU a few decades ago.”
|Sally and kippers|
Sally, who travels quite a deal in her role in the Slow Food movement, specialises in products from slow-smoked, “fresh wild-caught fish devoid of any artificial additives or preservatives. We don’t use farmed fish; the fish we buy in is caught locally and from sustainable sources.”
She wasn't too happy with bureaucrats in general though she did acknowledge a big improvement in the bluefin tuna population. It’s been a tough enough battle for Sally over the years and no surprise that she and Elena (who also had her battle as detailed in the film Natural Resistance, shown in Cork last week) are friends. Individuals are key, locally and internationally, not countries, not big companies.
- A quote from the film Natural Resistance. See trailer here