Tuesday, October 31, 2017

Taste of the Week. Super Kale Pesto

Taste of the Week
Super Kale Pesto

Carolanne Rushe describes herself as the Chief Sweetie on our pack of her Sweet Beat Super Kale Pesto, our current Taste of the Week.

“Our raw kale pesto harnesses the awesome power of fresh kale. We’ve also added Activated Almonds to feed your brain too.” It is gluten free, dairy free and sugar free.

And it tastes well! We used it as a spread and as a dip. But the packet says you may stir it into some pastas, soups and stews as they do in the Sweet Beat Café in Sligo.

Monday, October 30, 2017

Franciscan Well Festival. Beers from Home and Abroad

Franciscan Well Festival. Beers from Home and Abroad

 The focus during last weekend’s Franciscan Well October Beerfest was very much on premium beers from abroad. There were about two dozen excellent imported beers on tap and some of these were part of the core theme of Sour. But their own beers were not forgotten about either and there were a couple of tasting sessions in the upstairs bar to highlight these.

Our opening night visit concentrated on the sour section and you can see the details here. We were back there again on Saturday, again tasting a few of the imports, when there was a general invite, from Lisa, to join some fellow-punters upstairs.

With the “students” seated comfortably, Lisa played a short video which took us through the beer-making process: malting, milling, mashing and mash tun (sugar extracted at high heat), Lautering (clarifying the wort which is basically unfermented beer, afterwards the spent grain is taken to a farm where the cows love it!). 

At the boiling stage, hops are added to the wort for bitterness, hops added later for aroma. The wort is now pumped through a heat exchanger to the fermentation tanks.  Yeast is added to convert the sugars into alcohol. When this process is finished, the beer is ready for conditioning and filtering and finally packaging. I don’t think the Franciscan Well video is online but there is a reasonably similar English brewery one here

Many Cork drinkers will have started their craft beer journey with a pint of Rebel Red so Lisa didn't include that one in our tasting. Instead, we began with a drink of Friar Weisse, their wheat beer. “We make it as German as possible,” she said. “A German brewery Weihenstephan sources the yeast for us.” 

The Well adheres to the strict German brewing process to deliver this fantastic beer. Colour, we agreed, is a deepish gold and the beer is cloudy. There are aromas of clove and banana and the finish, the group concluded, is an average bitter. Lively carbonation reinforces a zesty light mouth feel. I am reminded why this was an early, and on-going, favourite of mine.

Soon we were on to my current favourite: Franciscan Well Chieftain IPA. This is a hugely popular IPA, and Franciscan Well’s answer to Ireland’s growing demand for IPA style beers. It is not, however, very pale. It is a medium amber with a coppery hue. It is clearer than the Friar Weisse, having been clarified with Irish Carrigeen moss.

The aromas, Lisa helped us determine, are citrus, grapefruit and orange, coming from the American hops. Lisa said it has a bitter taste “technically”. “But not very bitter, a little lower than traditional IPAs but higher than the commercial ones.” This medium bodied beer starts off hoppy on the palate before the malt begins to balance the experience and then there’s a hoppy finish.

Both of these beers are part of the Franciscan Well’s core range: the others are the Rebel Red Ale and Shandon Stout.

Back downstairs then to try more of the guest beers and I got off to a flier with Grotten Sante Brown Beer. Pierre Celis, the founder of Hoegaarden, is credited with creating Grottenbier or ‘cave beer’ many years ago and this is a cave beer, aged in limestone caves and turned weekly, champagne style. This malty fruity zesty beer, with an alcohol volume of 6.5%, is made using small quantities of exotic herbs that create a slight dryness. A very pleasant experience indeed.

The next beer came from the USA, a Brett Citrus Saison. This is a sour beer, just not in name! Denver’s Crooked Stave are known for their progressive approach to old-world brewing. This Wild Sage Brett Saison is noted for its refreshing tartness and prominent notes of sage, wild herbs and lemon. Very impressive indeed.

I had another American beer, the Left Hand Milk Stout, on my short list but it wasn't pouring until much later. I was offered the Fierce Beer Café Racer Coffee and Vanilla Porter instead and said yes. And we both kept saying yes to this one. 

It is made in Scotland but the notes indicate it is American style dark roasted coffee and vanilla porter with a hint of danger. If this is danger, I can live with it. Indeed, I am living with it as we went straight across the river to Bradley’s to stock up with a few bottles. Good stuff! And a good day in the city as we left the beer festival and headed into the heart of the jazz festival, keeping a firm grip on the brown bags!

Sunday, October 29, 2017

Jazzaday, in Cork, the city of festivals

Lamarotte Jazzband

Lord Mayor leads parade

Oh No Jazz Band

An arresting moment during Saturday's Parade

Next generation

Onboard camera. New York Brass Band

May Day Jazz Band
Well shirted, all of them!

Pat on the head for the MC

On No

Saturday, October 28, 2017

Amuse Bouche

Speaking in the Dail in 1968, the Labour TD Michael O’Leary complained that the supermarkets were using imported sweets and biscuits to draw in customers, while the money spent was now leaving the country……they were pushing British biscuits, British cheese, British confectionery….
..earlier, the Dail had debated another worrying trend… - chocolate bars were getting smaller..
The Minister agreed… but there was nothing he could do about it.

from Hopscotch and Queenie-I-O, A 1960s Irish Childhood, by Damien Corless (2016). No recommendation.

Friday, October 27, 2017

A Sour Theme! This Weekend's Franciscan Well October Festival

A Sour Theme!
This Weekend's Franciscan Well October Festival
Rodenbach cocktail

Sour is a big topic in Irish craft beer at present and indeed is the core theme at this weekend’s 17th annual Franciscan Well October Beerfest.

Beer expert Barry Fitzgerald has been involved in 16 of the 17 and was our host at an opening tasting event in their upstairs bar on Thursday evening, following a warm welcome from Marketing Manager Kate Clancy.  

Barry reckons that over a 1,000 new beers have been tasted in this festival on the North Mall, “always a new experience”. “It is the longest continuously running beer festival in the country…. it has evolved into a tasting menu, all about flavour, and this weekend’s menu reflects that.”

There are some twenty-six imported beers, all special but some very special indeed, on the menu card this time, available by the pint, the half-pint and the third-pint. Barry picked three sours, by well established breweries, for the tasting session, three that you could profitably note if calling in over the weekend (the festival continues today, Saturday and Sunday, from 1.00pm each day).

The first was from Belgium, a sour brown (8% abv) Goudenband (gold band) by Liefman in Oudenaarde; quite an experience. This is a mixed fermentation beer with re-fermentation in the bottle. “It is made by the year, is different each year, you can lay it down and it will last forever. This is the 2016, its first time in Ireland and may never be here again. We have just a small amount for the festival.”

“You notice cherry, but there is no fruit used in it, the flavour comes form the basic ingredients, the ageing and the wild yeast. It is winey, leather notes, very complex. If you like sour, this is a very good one!” 

Quite an amazing beer really, a real treat with a super balance, quite a sophisticated drink and a long long way from local sours that I've tasted recently. Much more detail on this beer here.

Next up was a UK/Norway collaboration between the Buxton and Lervig breweries, a gooseberry sour IPA at 7.00%, “brewed to celebrate friendship and a love of wild places”. The name of the beer is Trolltunga and you’ll get some detail on it here

There is fruit in this one as it’s packed with sour gooseberries, “cookers” as Barry said. And there was instant agreement as lips puckered up alarmingly around the tasting tables! This was really sour. “It is at the cutting edge of the new sours…wild yeast…open fermentation.” If you are getting in to sours, this is hardly the one to start with. As for me, I was in the minority that liked it. Then again, I sometimes get incredulous looks when I drink Campari neat. “How do you do that?”
Much different to the other two, which I also liked.

Back to Belgium then to complete the hat trick, Barry saving the best until last: The Rodenbach Gran Cru Sour red/brown at 6%, a blend of 1/3rd young beer and 2/3 of beer aged two years in large oak vats, giving fruity taste, complexity and intensity. Barry told us this Flemish Sour Ale has its own AOC. “It takes over two years to make (even the angel’s share happens here) and young beer is added to restart fermentation.”

“It is more like a traditional beer, the flavours primarily from the oak cask and the wild yeast.” It was certainly more approachable than the previous one and went down really well in the group. Lots more info on it here.  By the way, the festival list also features another outstanding beer from this brewery, the Caractere.

Upstairs at the Franciscan Well is where’ll you’ll find Ireland’s first and only brewhouse cocktail bar. Dean was ready to shake but he was determined to respect the Rodenbach which would be the base for our cocktail. For instance, even the detail of garnish was given due consideration by Dean who put aside the normal basil in favour of sage, considering the basil too aromatic for the beer.

So, to 60ml of Rodenbach, the mixologist added Tobacco and Honey rum, lime juice, Bermuda rum, Cotes du Rhone red, and ice of course. It was a superb finale to an eye-opening session in the bar which is soon to be re-named and Dean and company are determined that the cocktails will reflect what goes on in the brewhouse, getting as many as possible of their ingredients from the beer-making process. Sounds like a good plan. Here’s to checking it out, with Barry of course, during festival #18 next year!

Thursday, October 26, 2017

Electric Fish Bar On The Double At Nano Nagle Pop-up

Electric Fish Bar On The Double At Nano Nagle Pop-up

The Fishbar@Electric Presents “Plateau de fruits de mer” for One Night Only was the hook as the South Mall restaurant advertised their pop-up evening at the café in the gardens of Nano Nagle Place.The punters took the bait big-time and while it was still For One Night Only, a second sitting was arranged.

The original meal was down to start at 8.00pm on Wednesday last and the additional one, the one I attended, started at 5.30. Sell-out was the way it went these past few days at Nano Nagle as Taste Cork Week extended to meet Jazz Weekend and that augurs well for the future of the café. A permanent operator is due to be named shortly.

It was quite an occasion as Electric’s Fishbar took advantage to showcase a selection of local and seasonal shellfish and fish, served both hot and cold. There was also breads, a chowder to start with and a dessert. All that, plus a welcome drink (spirits and mixer) and music as well in a historic venue (starting a new lease of life) for a very reasonable thirty euro.

One thing about a full house is that people are closer together. And we got even nearer to the couple next door, pulling the tables closer the better to chat. And that made a lovely meal into a lovely social occasion as well. So big thanks to Margaret and Ted!

And big thanks also to Fishbar Chef Ray who put the magnificent platter together. The “platter” came in two tiers, a bit like an afternoon tea, but space was limited and the tiers was a terrific solution.

There were all kinds of delicious fish and shellfish in the display: mussels, calamari, oysters, crab-meat, salmon, prawns (both big and small), and more, enough to fill you up for sure!

Good service too, friendly and efficient, and a selection of drinks (some free) to wash it all down. Very enjoyable indeed.

Shiraz and Tempranillo. No exotic grapes this week!

Shiraz and Tempranillo. No exotic grapes this week!

Okay, so I've been pushing some unusual grapes your way in recent posts. This week though, it's back to a couple of familiar old reliables, Shiraz and Tempranillo. Both are mainstream.

Shiraz is the common New World name for the French Syrah while Tempranillo (I regularly omit the "p") is grown worldwide but synonymous with Spain, especially with Rioja and Ribera Del Douro regions. I think you'll enjoy these two very drinkable expressions.

Flores de Callejo Ribera del Duero (DO) 2015, 14%, €17.70 Karwig

This organic wine is 100% Tempranillo and has spent six months in French oak. Not overly surprising that it is an excellent one. The 2015 has been declared a “good, easy vintage for us, perhaps less tannic and less abundant than 2014, but the quality is high”. And a tip for you: the good news continued into 2016.

You’ll note the typical cherry colour on the 2015. Quite an intense aroma, berries red and black, cherry too. Fruity and spicy, rather silky, on the palate, followed by a persistent finish. All in all a bright fruit-driven wine, well crafted, well balanced and, at first meeting, highly recommended. The softness of this one grows on you though and I revised the “verdict” to Very Highly Recommended.

Mt Monster Shiraz, Limestone Coast (Australia) 2011, 14.5%, €17.35 Karwig Wines

The Mount Monster wines are produced by the Bryson family who also do the Morambro Creek and Jip Jip Rocks labels. French and American oak has been used with this particular Shiraz but sparingly, the better to ensure that “maximum fruit expression is retained in the final wine”.

Colour is a pretty deep purple. Blackberry and plum on the nose with a bit of spice too. That policy with oak has paid off and there is no shortage of fruit on the palate, a little spice too. Sweet tannins add to the softness and all elements combine in a generous finish. Highly Recommended.

When wine-maker Brad Rey visited Cork a few years back he was thrilled with the 2008 version, thrilled that the minimum oak policy had worked so well. He said it may be served slightly chilled. “It is light fruit, blueberries and raspberries and the tannins are fruit tannins. This is about balance and reminds me of the joven I used to make in Spain.”

Tuesday, October 24, 2017

Taste of the Week. Express Quinoa & Golden Veg.

Taste of the Week
Express Quinoa & Golden Veg.

I’m becoming quite a fan of quinoa. Indeed, my latest experience has been all good and this Express Quinoa with Golden Vegetables, by Mothergrain, is my current Taste of the Week. And it is express: have it cold or heat it up in 90 seconds!

Got a few samples to try out and was wondering what to pair with this one. The official Blog Chef provided the answer when she came home with Goatsbridge fresh trout in the shopping. Tried the two together and it was an excellent plateful. 

If you want to take it higher, then add a bottle of Domaine Chaume-Arnaud Côtes du Rhone blanc, available at Bradley’s or online from Le Caveau. The wine is organic as is the quinoa.

See here for quinoa availability.