Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Saturday is Cabernet Day. Two to enjoy!

Saturday is Cabernet Day
Cabernet Sauvignon accounts for nearly 65% of the vines planted in the Margaux appellation. “It gives wine structure, bouquet, and a potential to age.”

The related Cabernets, Franc and Sauvignon, celebrate their day this coming Saturday (September 3rd).

Cabernet Sauvignon is the most famous red wine grape. It is highly adaptable, will grow in different climates and soils. So expect good quality examples from many countries, especially from France (mainly Bordeaux), USA (California), Australia (below) and Chile (Cono Sur’s Silencio is a prime example, if an expensive one). Good Cabernet Sauvignon can pop in from anywhere, including from Craggy Range in New Zealand and Ernie Els in South Africa.

It is also a very well-known variety so its name on a bottle means that the customer has a familiarity with it and that gives the marketing people an immediate edge. No wonder it  sells well in so many countries.

But you still have to be careful. It is a high-yielding vine and that means producers can go for quantity over quality! So the words Cabernet Sauvignon on the label are not a guarantee of a good bottle. The two below though are good!

Cabernet Sauvignon originated in Bordeaux and is grown all around the region, invariably blended (though there is no universal formula for the mix). Regular blend partners are Merlot and Cabernet Franc and sometimes a little Petit Verdot is added.

DNA profiling (should we all get it done? Maybe not!) has confirmed Cabernet Franc is the daddy of Cabernet Sauvignon and that Sauvignon Blanc is the mammy.

Tahbilk Cabernet Sauvignon 2012, Victoria (AUS), 13.5%, €18.25 Wines Direct

For decades now, Australian has been associated with top class Cabernet Sauvignon. Margaret River in the west has outstanding examples. Our excellent example comes from the east, from the Nagambie Lakes region of central Victoria, one of the nation’s premier viticultural areas. Since 2012, Tahbilk Winery has been certified Carbon Neutral.

Nothing neutral about this violet beauty though. Blackcurrants, and some spice, feature in the pleasant aromas. Some serious flavours on a well rounded palate, tannins are fine and the finish is good. A excellent example indeed and Very Highly Recommended.

Lalaurie T’Wines Cabernet Sauvignon - Syrah, Pays d’Oc (IGT), 2015, 13.5%, €11.75 Wines Direct

Once upon a time, according to Grapes and Wine (2015), the classic Bordeaux blend included Syrah. This blend is very popular nowadays in Australia but the one we’ve got comes from much nearer home, from the Languedoc.

Bit wary of these funny wine names, this one coming because the two leading women in the winery are twins (and one is a marketing expert!). But I needn’t have worried. This is a very engaging wine and good value to boot.

It has a bright ruby colour and the aromas are mainly of blackcurrant. It is very approachable, medium bodied, well balanced between fruit and acidity, minimum tannin presence. Not the longest but a decent finish nonetheless. Easy drinking and easy to Recommend!

EAT Waterford at Harvest Festival 2016

The EAT Waterford Taste Experience was a highlight of the Harvest Festival last year and is back. 

EAT Waterford at Harvest Festival 2016
A fusion of taste offered by eight Waterford restaurants
Following on from the success of last year’s debut at Waterford Harvest Festival, the EAT Waterford Taste Experience is back for 2016. 

As part of the three day, jam packed food festival (September 9th to 11th), the EAT Waterford Taste experience, a collaboration between eight local restaurants, will create a five course taste extravaganza, served in one of Waterford’s finest cultural hubs, Greyfriars Church, in the Viking Triangle.

The restaurants behind the initiative, Bellissimo, Momo, The Olive Tree, Sabai, The Bistro at the Tower Hotel, Loko, Zak’s at Athenauem House Hotel and l’Atmosphere, are ardent supporters of local produce and will create the dishes using fresh, seasonal and locally sourced ingredients.

Stan Leslie, Proprietor of Loko is looking forward to the event.  “We had a fantastic experience last year.  All our sittings were sold out and I think the public really enjoyed the different elements brought to the courses by the different chefs.  Despite each chef having a unique style and personality, the overall result was that it gelled well and, most importantly, presented a very vibrant food scene in our great City.”

“This year, we have added some new restaurants to the mix and we’re excited about the new dynamic.  Waterford has a broad range of award winning restaurants, all punching above their weight.  By coming together for this taste experience, not only can we showcase the breadth of great produce on our doorstep, but also the talent, commitment and enthusiasm that thrives in restaurants and their kitchens throughout the city.”

The EAT Waterford Taste Experience takes place at 8pm on Friday, September 9th and Saturday 10th and at 2pm on Sunday, September 11th.  

Catherine Heffernan of Sabai is also happy to be involved in the Eat Waterford showcase event. “This year we have also added a casual lunch to the schedule.  The Flavour Experience will be served on Saturday, September 10th at 2pm.  This lunch will give diners the opportunity to enjoy even more food styles that our diverse local food scene has to offer whilst soaking up the atmosphere of the festival.”

“Added to the mix is the fantastic setting of Greyfriars Church.  It’s bright, spacious, atmospheric and brimming with charm and we really do believe that it is going to bring an extra dimension to the whole dining experience.”

Tickets for both EAT Waterford events, the five course taste experience and the Flavour Experience (casual lunch) are €39 and €19 respectively and are available from the Theatre Royal Box Office on 051 874402 or online at

The 8th Waterford Harvest Festival takes place from Friday, September 9th to Sunday, September 11th and promises an exciting, eclectic three - day food and fun filled festival with over 100 events for all the family to enjoy.

To find out more the Waterford Harvest Festival full programme of events is available on Be sure to keep up to date on all things Harvest Fest by checking it out on Facebook and Twitter #Harvestfest16

Some more highlights
New ingredients added to festival favourites!

Now in its eight year, Waterford Harvest Festival makes a colourful, tasty and aromatic return to the streets of Waterford from September 9th to September 11th.

As a city and county that takes huge pride in its food producers, this year’s festival will shine the spotlight on its “food heroes”, the people who grow, cultivate, harvest, produce, prepare, promote and serve some of the country’s best food.

Waterford, Ireland’s oldest city, boasts 1100 years of food heritage and will pay homage to that proud tradition with festival markets, harvest kitchens, a health and wellness showcase, pop-up restaurants, baking competitions, enterprising food start-ups, a celebration of Irish whiskeys, a GIY oasis, an opportunity to meet the makers and so much more!

New to this year’s festival are the Harvest Fit Food and Wellness area, the Harvest Blaa Eating World Championships, Sunset Seaweed Foraging, Tapas River tours, Iyer’s Pop-up restaurant and the Flahavan’s Harvest brunch, along with the firm festival favourites that never fail to thrill!

Ballybricken, affectionately known as the ‘top of the town’, was traditionally the hub of Waterford’s livestock and bacon curing industries. The area will enjoy a broader portfolio of events this year and be shrouded in the tantalising sights, smells and sounds of the Ballybricken Fair, Junior HQ and Farm to Fork.

There are over 100 fun, family and food- fueled events taking place, with 80 of those free for the young and young at heart to enjoy.  Some of the highlights this year include:

Harvest Festival Market:
The Festival Market is all about local, quality produce and their dedicated producers and Waterford’s Viking Triangle is transformed into a feaster’s fantasy with a weekend of taste bud tempting events! The Mall will be stuffed with producers showcasing mouth-watering food and beverages. It’s a veritable bounty of Waterford’s best Harvest.

EnterpRISING Food Village:
From the traditional and famous Blaa to exotic seaweed based breads, the return of hand roasting coffee in the region to locally famous ice cream makers, these and more local food producers will be pitching their tents in Cathedral Square, Waterford City and creating the EnterpRISING Food Village!

EAT Waterford Taste experience:
An exciting collaboration between eight local restaurants, which will create a five course taste extravaganza, served in one of Waterford’s finest cultural hubs, Greyfriars Church, in the Viking Triangle.
The Flavour experience, a more casual affair…a semi-formal lunch will give diners the opportunity to enjoy a more tapas taste experience, whilst still enjoying the best of local produce from an eight- strong restaurant team.

Blaa Eating World Championship:
The story of the Blaa goes back to the 1690’s, when the French Huguenots arrived in Ireland introducing white flour and their baking skills. Over 300 years later, it remains a firm staple, not just of the Waterford diet, but of thousands of Irish diaspora scattered throughout the world.  A proud Waterford foodstuff and a Protected Geographical Indication (PGI) product.

Put your competitive hat on and come and sample a range of competitions at Blaa Fest! Teams and individuals welcome to compete for some great prizes including a cash prize.  Or just pop down and watch those who are brave enough to participate. 

Flahavan’s Harvest Brunch:
A celebration of Waterford food producers, with a buffet style brunch in the company of John McKenna of John and Sally McKennas’ Guides. There will be a veritable feast of local produce on hand and the producers will also be there to tell their stories and pass on their passion for their food. Hosted by The Granary, recent award winners of Munster’s Best Cafe, at the Irish Restaurant Awards, there’ll also be live jazz accompaniment.

Harvest Fit Food and Wellness Area at the Millennium Plaza:
An area dedicated to health, well - being and mindfulness. Featured will be the Community Garden Competition where Three Waterford community groups have designed and planted their own micro garden! Ballybeg Greens will show you how to grow your own, with a particular focus on late crops, as we approach Autumn.

You won’t want to miss the great line up of two days of talk shops about Kangoo jumping, Living and foraging from the sea, baking “good” bread, raw food, community gardens competition, the power of juice, yoga, sports nutrition, healing herbs, Zumba, meditation, meditation drumming and fermented drinks.

Tapas River Tour:
A pop up restaurant from Waterford’s popular tapas venue and wine bar, The Olive Tree, on board the Brian Boru, a traditional gaff rigged wooden sailing ketch, on the River Suir. Enjoy Waterford’s best tapas and amazing wine, while taking a 90-minute tour downriver.

The SuperValu Food Academy Village:
Located adjacent to Waterford Crystal Visitor Centre on the Mall, the SuperValu Food Academy Village features the very best of Irish artisan food producers who have taken part in the SuperValu Food Academy.

Viking Rocks Craft Beer Fest:
This hugely popular event returns to Baileys New Street once again and promises to be one of the top attractions at this year’s Harvest Festival. Hosted by The Reg and The Munster Bar, sample a choice of Irish Craft Beers from Metalman Brewery (Home of the Blaager) and Cork’s Franciscan Well Brewery.
Cider Wasps headline on Saturday night with Papa Zitas wrapping Harvest up in style on Sunday evening.
GIY at Palace Square:
GIY brings their enthusiasm and love of food to the Harvest Festival every year. This year will be no different with the GIY patch promising to be an oasis in the city. Wander among the fragrant herbs, chat to the growers and stock up on all your food growing necessities. Relax on the pallet benches and learn how to create your own edible nirvana at home in any space.

Iyer’s Pop Up restaurant at La Boheme:
The award winning chef-proprietor of Iyer’s Restaurant in Cork, Gautham Iyer, will bring his Brahmin culinary philosophy to Waterford’s La Boheme Restaurant on Sunday, September 11th as part of the Waterford Harvest Festival menu.

Whiskey tasting at Revolution:
Enjoy a celebration of Single Pot Still Irish Whiskey with Gerard Garland, Irish Whiskey Ambassador for Midleton Distillery. On the night taste four of Ireland’s quintessential and finest Whiskey’s. The Whiskeys are Greenspot Leoville-Barton, Powers Johns Lane 12 Year Old, Redbreast 21 Year Old and Midleton Dair Ghaelach.

100% of the Barley (Malted and Unmalted) used in the production of these four Single Pot Still Irish Whiskey’s is grown by Irish farmers in the south east of Ireland.
In association with Irish Distillers Pernod-Ricard and World Wide Wines.

Just some of the highlights of the 8th Waterford Harvest Festival from Friday, September 9th to Sunday, September 11th.  

To find out more the Waterford Harvest Festival full programme of events is available on Be sure to keep up to date on all things Harvest Fest by checking it out on Facebook and Twitter #Harvestfest16

Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Castle, Crafts and Super Food. A Taste of Donegal Day 2

Castle, Crafts and Super Food
A Taste of Donegal Day 2
Le Fournil

It is late evening in Donegal town, the tide is out and the crows have wheeled away en masse to their night perches. The marquees in the food village are quiet, the stallholders taking a well deserved break. But it's entirely quiet! A few pink shirted ladies, with Mary right there in the middle, are hard at work near the entrance, sweeping up and making sure everything is ready for the Sunday. Volunteers in uncomplaining action. What would A Taste of Donegal do without them? What would Ireland do without them?

Our day started with another visit to the Food Festival to link up with Eve Anne of the Local Enterprise Office. I was giving a hand with judging the best stall and that gave us another chance to do the rounds, sample some more food and drinks, everything from ice-cream to coffee to beer to various bits of meat to cheese, all the time looking for that little bit extra that would put a stand on the shortlist.
Donegal Castle

We did our bit and met up with Eve Anne to compare notes. The decision was announced on the following day (we were in Mayo by then) and the winners were Le Fournil. This is a French bakery in Donegal town run by Franck Pasquier and they had a terrific display of their aromatic and tasty produce.

It was a fine morning and the crowds kept coming, difficult enough to get parking. If you are going next year, do check the website as they have a long list of parking sites and once you have that info, you’ll be fine.

Fireplace detail in Castle

So after “grazing” our way through the stalls for lunch, we walked the short distance to Donegal Castle and paid the small entrance fee. The castle was built in 1474 by Hugh O’Donnell and destroyed in 1595 by Red Hugh O‘Donnell to prevent its seizure by the British. It was rebuilt around 1614 by Sir Basil Brooke.

For most of the 19th and 20th centuries the majority of the buildings were in ruins but it was almost fully restored in the 1990s and was visited last May by The Prince of Wales and The Duchess of Cornwall, during their official visit to County Donegal. It is an interesting small castle with a number of artefacts in position.

Taste temptations

Perhaps the highlight is the large ornate stone chimney piece in the great hall, installed by Brooke and including the coats of arms of his family and that of his wife’s family. The castle is next door to Magee’s, another Donegal icon. Magee’s are best known for their tweeds and you’ll see some great examples here for both men and women. It is a high quality upmarket store with various departments and brands e.g. Newbridge and Kiltrea.

Out on the Diamond, the sun was shining and the music playing as the kids gathered round for their entertainment, all nice and relaxed with parents and grandparents taking it all in. Indeed, we watched and listened for a a good few minutes - the long queue at the ATM was slow-moving!

McGonigle Glass Studio

Cash in hand, it was time to to collect the car and head a mile or two out of town to the Donegal Craft Village and do some purchasing. There are seven craft shops here, including hand-weaving, Paper Craft, Jewellery/Sculpture, artist, hand felted landscapes. One or two were closed.  One that caught my eye were Michael Griffin’s RAW studio (pieces from ancient boxwoods, very impressive pieces).

Another was the McGonigle Glass Art and Jewellry Studio, and not because it is run by three sisters! “We love colour and we hope this shows in our work!”. It certainly does and it was here that we bought a few of the smaller pieces. This village is well worth a visit and another craft village that we like to visit is the one in Spiddal in Connemara.

Village Tavern, Mountcharles

And, like Spiddal, there is a also a coffee shop here in Donegal. It is called Aroma and is quite popular. We enjoyed our coffees here. On going in to pay, a twenty euro note was the smallest I had in the wallet but their machine was acting up and the man said, rather than holding us up, that we could have the coffee for free. Very nice of him, But not fair to him. So I went back out to our seat and searched through bags and pockets and got the five euro and paid up. He was delighted and we were happy too. Smiles are worth more than euros.

On the way back to our lodgings, we called to Mountcharles to have a drink at the Village Tavern. A couple of bottles of local beer, Kinnegar Devil’s Backbone Amber ale and the Ballyshannon based Donegal Brewery's Blonde, a refreshing drink, quenched the thirsts for us.

Room with a view, Ceol na Mara

Did I tell that our accommodation, Ceol na Mara in Summerhill, has lovely views over the bay. We were back there late in the afternoon and took a walk along by the calm water just as the packed Donegal Bay Waterbus was starting its tour. We could hear the commentary on the shore as it gently headed out with a shadowy Ben Bulben in the background.

We were back in town, alongside the castle, for dinner that evening in the Olde Castle. This is a busy spot but we were comfortable upstairs in the restaurant and I enjoyed my lobster before finishing off a pleasant day, a pleasant stay indeed, with a pint of their own Red Hugh Ale, bottled specially for them in Ballyshannon.

It was off to Ballina, County Mayo, the following morning, after another lovely breakfast at Ceol na Mara.
See also: Food Festival and Amazing Cliffs. Donegal Day 1

Donegal Bay Waterbus

Monday, August 29, 2016

Food Festival and Amazing Cliffs. Donegal Day 1

Food Festival and Amazing Cliffs
Donegal Day 1
The cliffs
Early last Friday - well, about 8.00am,- we leave Cork on a five hour spin to Donegal, an uncertain forecast on the horizon. The trip, via Gort and Tuam, goes well and we land in Donegal at 1.00pm, on schedule. Just touchdown though as the weather is pretty good and we decide to continue to Slieve League, the highest cliffs in Ireland and less than an hour west of Donegal.

Soon, we pass the famous fishing town of Killybegs and close in on the cliffs. A cup of coffee and a scone at the Tí Linn Café boosted us as we headed for the cliffs. You come to a car park and, if you can walk at all, leave the car here and enjoy the walk up and down (timed it down at 25 minutes).
Higher & higher. Many walks near the cliffs.
If time is short or the legs aren't what they used to be, open the gate at the end of the car park (it opens down the slope towards you), drive through and close the gate and drive carefully (road is comfortably wide enough) to the viewing point. Plenty of room to park up there.

The viewpoint itself is at quite a height, so much so that you don't really hear the waves crashing in below. The cliffs, part of Slieve League mountain sweeping down into the Atlantic, are, at 609m (1,998 feet), nearly three times as high as those at Moher. They are the highest in Ireland and, according to Wikipedia, among the highest three in Europe. Spectacular.

Painting of wall
of a Killbegs cafe.
 There are many walks in the area. And I was told time and time again that the best way to see the cliffs is by boat and that can arranged locally, as can a local guide for some of the walks.

After the exhilaration of the fantastic cliffs, we drove back to Donegal town, stopping to check out the huge fishing trawlers in Killybegs, the only place we got rained on during our stay but that heavy shower was over in a few minutes.

Checked in then to our gorgeous, if relatively expensive, accommodation at Ceol na Mara in Summerhill, about two miles from the centre of Donegal Town, quite a small town indeed but packed because of its famous annual festival, A Taste of Donegal.

We checked the festival website for parking areas and soon found one to suit us. Then it was off on foot to find our restaurant, The Harbour on Quay Street. It is an excellent restaurant, serving local food and craft beer. Highlight was perhaps their Aubrac Steak. By the way, The Harbour changed hands on Sunday, taken over by current chefs Patrick and Mary. Debbie and Jo, behind The Harbour for the past 15 years, are moving this week, with "the same food and the same crew", to a spanking new restaurant further up the street called Quay West.
Aran Islands Goats Cheese by Gabriel Flaherty is delicious!
 With our early dinner finished, we walked across to the busy Festival site. They had opened at four and, by seven, the place was abuzz, with top chefs demo-ing and crowds sampling the food from dozens and dozens of stalls. Fast food (Bad Boys BBQ were prominent - just follow the smoke!) at the start for those who hadn't been to the Harbour!

Some amazing displays in the stalls, including one from Eddie Walsh, the local butcher who supplies the Aubrac steaks to The Harbour. We enjoyed roasted marshmallows, Aran Island Goats Cheese, Roscommon Chocolate, and much more. Lots to drink too, beers and ciders (including a limited edition from Longmeadow that has been matured in oak barrels).

Flavoursome Aubrac Steak!
And we enjoyed a drop or two of Coole Swan and a chat with Kenny Maguire who had also dropped in and we also had a chat and a laugh with Melanie Harty, up all the way from Kerry with her spicy jellies! Couldn't get near the folks in Ballymaloe Relish, they were so busy.

Another familiar face, up by the demo marquee, (where he would do his stuff on Sunday morning) was chef Zack Gallagher, well known to most of you as the Irish Food Guide on Twitter. He introduced us to Brian McDermott (The No Salt Chef) and Kevin Dundon, all enjoying their busman's holiday.
Bad Boys
 The local hotels were out in force as well with competitions and samples to beat the band. Perhaps the most impressive sample came from the nearby Harvey’s Point, a pancake with a most delicious apple and cinnamon filling.

The darkness, not long fallen, was banished for a while with a spectacular firework display over the tented festival village and the harbour alongside. Time for us then to head back to Ceol na Mara and get ready for the second day of this friendly festival.

See also:

Castle, Crafts and Super Food. A Taste of Donegal Day 2

Eddie Walsh butchers

Sunday, August 28, 2016

Afternoon Tea at the Kingsley Hotel

Afternoon Tea at the Kingsley Hotel
The Sweet Top
We arrive at the K Lounge in the Kingsley Hotel just as a busy lunch service is starting to wind down. But we are far from the first arrivals for their “classic Afternoon Tea”.

A little bit of luck has brought us here. Back at the Cork Summer Show, we bought a lovely snack at the Kingsley stand and filled up a coupon and that very coupon was the lucky one, earning the two of us this gorgeous and rather well balanced treat.

We started off with the savoury pieces, off the bottom of three tiered plates. These included Egg and Mayonnaise sandwiches, a  very tasty Cheese, Ham, and Relish sandwich, a Tuna wrap and Smoked Salmon on brown bread.
Had begun with tea and continued with it as we moved to the middle plate. Here we had superb Scones, a delicious Carrot Cake and their own sweet Tea Cake. Lovely stuff and time now for a pause in the very comfortable chairs as we switched from tea to coffee for the final part of the treat and took in the view of the river flowing by outside. Indeed, we might well have been outside had the weather been as hot as it had been a few days earlier.

So now, so sweet! I started with the Lemon Meringue and finished with the chocolate mousse. In between, the pleasure was uninterrupted as I introduced my palate to Shortbread biscuit, Orange Macaroon and Coffee Cake (perhaps my favorite).

 All Afternoon Teas here are served with home-made jam, Kerry butter and whipped cream.

And the menu changes and might include some scrumptious raspberry tartlets and coffee and chocolate opera cakes; a selection of freshly baked plain and fruit scones; smoked salmon and capers mille-feuille and goat cheese and sun blush tomato tartlet. And there is also a Gluten Free Afternoon Tea option available.

Much as we enjoyed our visit, I wouldn't be taking Afternoon Tea every day. Indeed, next time, I could well go for the lunch as that menu continues to be available until 5.00pm. Some tempting items listed, among them Crispy Skeaghanore Duck Breast Salad and a very impressive list of Munster Farmhouse cheeses featuring favourites such as Cashel Blue, Gubbeen Smoked, Milleens, Coolea and Cooleeny. The K Lounge, by the way, is just one of a number of dining options here.


The Kingsley Hotel
Victoria Cross
+353 21 480 0555

Twitter: @KingsleyHotel