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Thursday, November 30, 2017

Amuse Bouche


His feet started moving and he was there, in front of Mrs Powell…. He watched her slice an orange into half-circles, and she looked up and told him she hadn’t had a chance to eat breakfast that morning. I like oranges, he’d said. I like how they smell.
Instead of sending him back to his desk, she sort of laughed and held out an orange slice, and he ate it in one bite, ripped it off the rind. No one else got an orange piece, only him.
He couldn’t kill her, and maybe that was all right, but he couldn’t kill the others in front of her either.


from Fierce Kingdom by Gin Phillips (2017). Highly Recommended.

Winning Blas Producers at Bank of Ireland Food Series

Winning Blas Producers 
at Bank of Ireland Food Series
Rosscarbery producer Avril Allshire with moderator Joe McNamee

Bank of Ireland Startups, who helped get the successful Backyard feature off the ground during this year’s Blas Awards in Dingle, hosted a number of follow-up events last Tuesday, including one at their premises in Patrick Street, Cork. Joe McNamee was the moderator for the evening and the principal speakers were Artie Clifford of Blas and local chef Kate Lawlor.

Lia Boyland was involved in setting up the latest Workbench Food Series Event and she welcomed us to the Workspace at the bank, explaining that the digital progress in the banking sector has freed up the space for “events like this evening”. Work spaces are available during the day - bring your laptop - and you'd never know who you might meet.

We knew though we were going to meet Artie as not alone was he a panel member but he also launching the 4th edition of the Blas na hEireann Buyers Directory.  Artie, involved in the founding of the Dingle Food Festival eleven years ago and in setting up Blas a year later, was delighted to launch the book here.

“Thank you all for coming. Eight thousand inserts (from the 10,000 copies) will be coming with your Shelflife magazine. It makes it easy for buyers and chefs to find good Irish produce. There is no charge for inclusion - it is something we want to give back. We hope this is a useful guide for sourcing Irish products and that many of the producers listed here will become your suppliers of tomorrow.”

There is a lot of work going into the new Blas website and it will include a searchable catalogue of producers, and will be ready soon. “Next, we want to do a roadshow during the year to build on it, to talk among ourselves, producers, buyers, chefs, and to get our own solutions.”

We would soon find out more about Artie, the face of Blas, as Joe McNamee asked the questions before the discussion proper (which would include quite a few producers) began. Artie, from Dundalk, was a commercial fisherman, then a ship's engineer and a skipper. In 1992, the work was in Dingle so that was where he went, his family still in Dundalk before they eventually joined him in Kerry.

Later, Artie worked in a  fish factory, most of the output for export. When the MD retired, Artie took over and looked at adding value: smoked fish, paté, chowder and so on for the home market. But costs went up, prices didn't and eventually, in 2010, the company was sold. By then Blas was just a little baby and Artie was making a few bob at Farmers Markets.

And his future then began to take shape. He told us about the first food festival in Dingle and the start of the famous Taste Trail there. “People came back year on year. In the second year of the festival, the awards became part of it and we worked hand in hand.” 

Chef Kate Lawlor was the other main guest on the night and, like Artie, she too has had her ups and downs and is fully committed to using Irish produce. An early visit to Brussels with her CIT class inspired that commitment. They were there to promote Irish food and a belief took hold that it was as good as any. She joined Fenn's Quay in 2001 and that “amazing journey” included taking it over in 2008. 

“We built a bond with local producers. I enjoy food, it should be fun and that was why I used some of the local slang on the menu. Sad to let it go this year but the producers are still talking to me.”

Artie Clifford

After the closing down of Fenn's Quay earlier this year, she took a much needed two month break - “I had run out of ideas, though there was a sense of satisfaction as well as sadness. I enjoyed the two months off and a highlight was the weekend in Dingle. This year I had the time to relax and enjoy it.”

Immediately afterwards she joined the newly reopened Oyster Tavern and the aim is to get it back to its “iconic status”. There are great young chefs there and Kate is just the person to help them. It is right alongside the market so she is back in there buying local again. “The connection  between chef and producers in very important. It leads to personal relationships and a better understanding of the product.”

After the introductions, it was time to meet the producers and we’ll cover the interesting exchanges in the next post, now available here.

Wednesday, November 29, 2017

SuperValu Christmas Wines. Six of the Best!


SuperValu Christmas Wines
Six of the Best!


SuperValu’s wine expert Kevin O’Callaghan has brought together a great collection of wines for Christmas and the New Year. Wines from all over the world (though the six we’ve tried are from France mainly and Spain), including some Premium wines at unmissable prices. 

Kevin: “Those looking for gorgeous gift offerings won't be disappointed with our selection of market leading case deals from magnums of red wine to 6 bottle cases from Bordeaux and an organic from Spain.” There are discounts galore until the end of the year.

Pagos de Labarca AEX Rioja (DOC) 2014, 13.5%, €22.99 (€18.00 until 31/12/17) 

It won’t be all turkey over the Christmas. There’ll be beef and some good hard cheese and then you’ll be glad you have a bottle of this Rioja on hand. Maybe a bit too much for Ireland’s favourite bird but its rich fruit and spice guarantees it a welcome on the festive table. This limited edition, just over 6,000 bottles, is a big wine for a big occasion. AEX by the way stands for the Spanish Alta Expression, highest expression.

Colour is a mid to deep purple. Rich concentrated dark fruit aromas and maybe even more intense on the palate. Warm, rounded and spicy, juicy too, with excellent persistence. Quite a treat and Very Highly Recommended. I've heard Kevin O’Callaghan describe this as a blockbuster and it certainly lives up to the billing.
Rioja vineyards seen through the glass of Bai Gorri Winery

Lunatico Monastrell Jumilla (DOP) 2015, 14%, €18.99 (€14.00 until 31/12/17)

This young red wine is part of SuperValu’s Specially Sourced Signature Range and has spent 12 months in French oak. It is 100% Monastrell (probably better known to many by its French name Mourvedre). Jumilla is one of the better areas for this grape.

Kevin O'Callaghan says this is “the new favourite wine of the moment”. He also has an eye for a good label and says this the art on this one is only surpassed by the art inside, “dark and rich with no rough edges”.

Colour is medium purple with the legs slow to clear. Black berries feature in the aromas. On the palate, the rich berry flavours are enhanced by the sweet oak spice. It is rich and smooth overall with a long and pleasant finish. Highly Recommended.

Keep an eye out too for other wines from Casa de la Ermita, especially the Idílico and the Crianza.

Chateau Tour Baladoz Saint Emilion Grand Cru (AOC) 2005, 13.5%, €44.99 (€25.00 until 31/12/17)

The Bordeaux vintage of 2005 is legendary and this rich, plummy wine is just gorgeous. Merlot is the main grape here with both Cabernets also in the mix, Franc at 20%, Sauvignon at 10%.

Colour is purple and the aromas are concentrated, ripe dark fruits plus fragrant floral notes. Full bodied for sure, sublime soft fruits with great balance, tannins now very soft indeed and this well-rounded rich and splendid wine provides a beautiful lingering finish. One to take your time with, small sips recommended. The wine itself is Very Highly Recommended.

Andre Guichot Pouilly-Fuissé (AOC) 2014, 13%, €22.99 (€18.00 until 31/12/17)

Colour is a medium gold and there are aromas of citrus and white fruits among quite a medley. In the mouth, it is smooth, close to creamy, richly fruited and soft with good acidity too plus a lingering finish. An elegant wine indeed and Very Highly Recommended. Recommended with shell fish, king prawns, lobster, crab or poultry in cream sauce as well as goat’s cheese. 

Andre Guichot Meursault (AOC) 2014,13%, €44.99 (€35.00 until 31/12/17)

Colour is a greenish gold, limpid and brilliant, and here again the fruit and acidity match up in an exceptional balance. Fresh and smooth it has an excellent refined mouthfeel with a streak of minerality and a long finish that keeps giving. This is indeed excellent and Highly Recommended.

On the area’s website, I read: “Nowhere in the Côte de Beaune does the Chardonnay grape do better that its does here”. Former US president Thomas Jefferson once visited the region and reported: "..at Meursault only white wines are made, because there is too much stone for the red".  


Andre Guichot Vin Mousseux Blanc de Blancs Brut, 11.5%, €17.49 (14.00 until 31/12/17)

Andre Goichot, best known as a negociant but who is also a producer, has been here in Burgundy since 1947; watch out also for his Chablis. He is well known too for his bubbles and this Blanc de Blancs (just means it’s a white from white grapes) is a delightful way to start your evening. Bubbles in your glass will also be welcome before that Christmas lunch or at any gathering around the big day. Just serve a few nibbles with it as those bubbles go straight to the head!

And if you like it, and many of you will, Guichot promises “a perfect match with all food styles”. It is off dry, the bubbles very evident immediately after pouring. There are lovely fruit flavours before a good dry finish. Recommended for sure and good value as well. Bonne Noël!

This particular AG Collection also includes a Demi-sec and a Rosé Prestige.

Tuesday, November 28, 2017

Taste of the Week. Mella’s Salted Caramel Fudge

Taste of the Week
Mella’s Salted Caramel Fudge

Lovely to meet up with Mella and her utterly delicious fudge at the recent Cork Kerry Food Fair in the City Hall. Lots of tastings going on and I got a few bars.

One was (note the past tense) the Salted Caramel Fudge, our Taste of the Week. 

This is a deeply caramel flavoured fudge combined with O’Neill’s Irish Atlantic Sea Salt. And, yes, like all her fudge, this just melts in the mouth - no effort required - and the top notch salt adds an extra note or two to the combination.  Another symphony from the fudge maestro!


Widely available and also at Mella’s on-line shop 

Monday, November 27, 2017

At Benchspace. Making a Wine Valet. Teaching An Old Dog New Tricks

At Benchspace Making a Wine Valet. 
Teaching An Old Dog New Tricks


It seems you can, after all, teach an old dog new tricks. 

Thanks to Martin Horgan and his colleagues at Benchspace, I learned something about woodworking in a couple of hours last Saturday. I also met The Dog (a tool for holding your piece) and the Shooting Board (used with the plane to help smooth and straighten edges).

But what is Benchspace? You may well be asking. 
Benchspace Cork provides space and equipment for independent craftsmen and hobbyists alike in woodworking. Cork and Ireland's first shared-access Woodwork Workshop is located in the Marina Commercial Park. They provide industry standard machinery, dedicated maker-spaces, communal workbenches and classes. And you can become a part of The Capital of Making.

It is a not-for-profit shared workshop and the aim is to provide affordable access to work benches and professional standard machinery to local furniture makers and designers, particularly to graduates and early career professionals. 

David Scannell, who invited me, and a few others, to the Saturday session, says they also actively encourage collaboration and co-working to stimulate creativity and innovation in the areas of craft and design, and aim to build links with other creative and manufacturing organisations to make this happen. It is also a place where the public, individually or in groups, are welcome to come and build their ideas.

“This is in line with our vision of Cork as a creative hub, where entrepreneurs, artists, designers, makers, creatives and techies, work together as part of a vibrant, productive and invigorating creative economy.”
Drilling

So what did we do? Well, after a welcome and a briefing, I choose my little piece of lumber and was guided into turning it into a drinks valet. Sponsors Kinsale Gin was the chosen bottle and there were two glasses as well to be accommodated in the valet.
Not bad! My finished valet.

Martin led us in practising our measuring and sawing skills. I even got to use an amazing, I thought so anyhow, Japanese saw. Most of the morning was spent in getting the length (mainly) and width correct. Martin then put them all in a large saw so that we were all more or less level. Time then for coffee, tea and cakes!
Hands on for Evin

After  a hectic six months of preparation, an online Fundit campaign and building, Benchspace Cork got up and running last month. The project received massive support from “our crowd funders, our night class makers, our volunteers and our full time makers”.
Marking

Have a project in mind that you’d like to build yourself? Then a Maker Session might just be the answer. Guided Maker sessions allow you to build your own woodwork project with the help and advice of an experienced furniture maker using the facilities of the Benchspace workshop. You supply your own materials and they will supply the tools, advice and coffee.

Tools
So back to Saturday and the second half of our session. More measuring now as we lined up our three holes, one for the bottle and one for each of the stems of the glasses. 

Precision was required here and not always supplied. I needed Martin’s help,again as we lined them up, along with the access for the stems. But, with Martin supplying a neat finish with the chisel, we got there. The drills came into play here and there was a smell of burning timber (ease back, and go again) as the holes were made. 
Now we were able to try out the valet and bingo it worked! But we weren’t finished yet. Martin applied a round finish (there were other choices) to my edges. David then used the sanding machine and I used a little piece of sandpaper to smooth any little rough edges before getting my hands on a rag and a little oil to bring up the final finish. 

Happy out! And even happier when we were each presented with a bottle of Kinsale Gin to take home! A big big thanks to the Benchspace team for their patience, skill and hospitality over the four hours in the workshop. I’m certain others will make even better use of the place and I'm glad to help get the work out and about.
An unnamed instrument, by Brian Leach.
Update: Now named as a Lap Harp
If you’d like an easy start then how about their Christmas Bites classes next Saturday and the following Saturday. Join them in the workshop for some hand planing, sawing and Christmas music. 

Benchspace Bites are a great chance to try your hand at woodwork with no experience necessary. The valuable skills learned during the class can be applied to almost any future woodwork project. Benchspace Bites are short introductory sessions where you can make your very own piece in a single class.

David: “We have two sessions 10am-1pm & 2pm-5pm on both the 2nd and 9th of December. For more info and tickets click here
Martin Horgan
This is a great festive way to learn some basic woodworking skills as well as make some decorations you can proudly hang on your Christmas tree. We’re kicking off Christmas early in the workshop. Join us and learn how to hand make beautiful Scandinavian Wood Shaving Christmas Decorations...and a few surprises.”


“We'll also be doing more Saturday morning classes next year, starting on the first week of January. Details will be up on our Facebook page soon.”

“We will also include a ‘maker clinic’ for new projects, where you can get advice on how best to approach your project, where to find materials, what equipment you might need to use and how long it might take.”

As part of Cork’s exciting new maker space, you will meet other makers, and share their knowledge and experience. There are opportunities for collaboration, inspiration, sharing of costs, networking and just staying in touch. 

Most importantly, membership fees support the Benchspace dream, to make Cork a capital of making, to support makers as they launch their careers. Membership fees (€50.00 for 12 months) are an important source of income for Benchspace Cork, which is a not-for-profit organisation.




Sunday, November 26, 2017

Good Food Features at Cork Craft Fair


Good Food Features at Cork Craft Fair
Brett and Pamela of Wicklow Way Wines

Over 100 of “Ireland’s best makers, designers and artisan food producers” were on show at the Cork City Hall Craft Fair over the weekend. I took an opportunity to call in there on Friday and, surprise, surprise, I spent most of my time at the food section where I met some old friends and some new.

The gorgeous packaging of the Lismore Food Company was certainly an eye-catcher but the biscuits inside proved they had substance as well as style. They come in both savoury and sweet, an Irish Digestive with Wild Atlantic Sea Salt and Caraway with Irish Seaweed among the savoury, Hazelnut, Cinnamon and Raisin along with an all Butter Irish Shortbread among the latter.

All in colourful round boxes, ideal as gifts. But do watch out for the larger blue rectangular box. Inside you'll find “divine crisp apple thins wrapped in the finest dark Belgian chocolate...an epicurean delight”. We tasted those Dark Chocolate and Apple Crisp Thins and they became an immediate favourite. You could take these anywhere! Think I’ll keep mine at home though.

They’re widely available and you can purchase at their online shop as well.

There was a warm welcome from Julie of Highbank Orchards at the Kilkenny corner. She had her full range of organic drinks here, both non alcoholic (syrup, treacle) and alcoholic (gins, vodka, cider and a delicious Highbank Organic Sack). 

Our favourite on the day was perhaps the Organic Apple Cider Vinegar with the Mother*. Bought a bottle so we’ll be giving that a longer test! Julie suggested serving it with warm water at breakfast or as a wonderful addition to a salad dressing. Meant to get back here to have a chat with Helen of Mooncoin Beetroot but slipped up. Next time!
Preserves by Wild Irish Foragers & Preservers

More drinks then and a very pleasant surprise at the Wicklow Way Wines stand. They produce Móinéir Wines from Irish fruit. Móinéir is the Irish word for meadows. 

Their flagship Strawberry Wine is created from hand-picked Irish strawberries, with around one hundred and fifty small strawberries in each bottle. We had a wee taste of this alluring wine. You expect the slight sweetness of the fruit but not the dry finalé.  The Blackberry wine (some elderberry in there too) had a deeper flavour, another excellent drop from nature’s bounty. Both have an ABV of 11.00%.

Kate and Denis Dempsey are really working hard at getting the mead message across and they too were in the City Hall, showing their Wild Red and Atlantic Dry White meads. Find out more about this ancient drink, now being given a new lease of life in Kinsale, here 

You may drink it like wine (abv of 12%) or use it in a cocktail. Here is a recipe for their Wild Red Sour from their Facebook page: This tasty tipple consists of our Wild Red Mead, Blacks Brewery Gin, Orange Blossom Honey Syrup, Lemon, Egg White, Cherry Bitters and is garnished with shavings of Skelligs Chocolates Irish Sea Salt Dark Chocolate and an orange twist.
Fran from Newgrange Gold

And next we were on to a product based on an ancient seed called Camelina Sativa, better known in English as Wild Flax. Newgrange Gold from County Meath grow it. When grown it is cold pressed and bottled in the Boyne Valley. We did buy a bottle of this Camelina Oil. It is, we’re told, very high in Omega 3 “and has a much desired 2:1 balance of Omega 3 to Omega 6. Low in saturated fat and high in essential fatty acids, Camelina is a very healthy oil.” Try a teaspoon a day! Can also be used for stir frying, baking, salads. 

At this point, we had gathered a nice selection of food and drink and the bags were getting a little heavy so time to head off and begin to enjoy. The biscuits will probably the first to go!

* Read more about the mother here .





Saturday, November 25, 2017

Amuse Bouche

The Russians had dinner with Shadrin at Piscatory, a family-run Italian fish restaurant in Dover Street. Lugovoi enjoyed the finer things in life. The bill shows the party ordered oysters, a grilled lobster, two tuna steaks (very rare), with grappa and espresso to finish. According to Shadrin, Lugovoi …insisted on picking up the £214.20 bill. He told Shadrin that since he was ‘pitching for business’, he would get the tab. Radiation was found here too: at their table, on cushions, in the gents’.


from A Very Expensive Poison by Luke Harding (2016). Highly Recommended.

Thursday, November 23, 2017

In The Maryborough Drawing Room. Afternoon Tea’s Different Class

In The Maryborough Drawing Room

Afternoon Tea’s Different Class

Crème Brûlée

Butternut Squash Pannacotta
Cold and wet outside but in the Drawing Room of the Maryborough Hotel, there was a warm welcome to Afternoon Tea. The hotel’s dedicated afternoon tea room was opened earlier this month and you do get one of the best experience around in a beautifully appointed room, part of the Newenham suite, in the original 17th century house.  

The old world charm has been retained and you’ll relax under the high ceiling and take in the Georgian décor with plush lounge seating, listening to baroque (rather than rock) and, when you’re ready, let your concentration focus on the three tiers of deliciousness that the butler has just delivered to the table. 

Tea, of course, is an integral part of the event and you’ll have been helped make your choice from an impressive list of over a dozen, including well known ones such as Earl Grey, “safe” choices like Irish Breakfast, and the exotic Bi Lo Chun. In all, I tried three and my favourite was the Rooibos & Caramel (Relaxing - Full-bodied Rooibos sweetened with the delicate, sensual notes of caramel deliver a nicely rounded, sweet and mellow finish). Could be a great one for Christmas. 
House Cured Salmon

CL”s favourite was Ginger & Lemongrass (Uplifting - Green Tea from China with spicy ginger and the fresh delicate citrus notes of asian lemongrass). I hadn't heard of the Bi Lo Chun before. Maybe you haven't either? Its description is: Boasting a stunning sweet, slightly fruity and floral taste with a delicious lingering finish. 

There is also a full list of coffee options, from Espresso to Cappuccino. I think Hot Chocolate was also mentioned. We were guests for the occasion. Thirty five euro is the regular cost; add Prosecco (€43.00), Champagne (50.00). 

The savoury offerings looked great and tasted even better, a very strong line-up indeed, quite innovative too. This was our running order. I enjoyed them all and would be hard-pressed to find a winner, other than myself! Indeed, I was most surprised with the #3 and #4 as I didn't think they'd be as good as they were.

The second half was sweet indeed. All the items were excellent and again hard to pick a winner. The Crème Brûlée was a joint favourite. But when we finished up with the Grand Marnier Trifle, the heads were nodding in agreement that this was the one, thanks mainly to the fact that there was no shortage of the orange-flavoured Cognac based liqueur in the trifle sponge! Cold and wet outside but warm inside as we left.
Eclair


Savoury

1: Boa Bun filled with a Turmeric and Fermented Chilli Marinated Chicken, Carrot Slaw, Miso Aioli. 
2: House Cured Salmon, Wakame Seaweed, Cucumber Gel, Squid Ink Emulsion, and Toasted Rye Bread. 
3: Butternut Squash Pannacotta filled with West Cork Bluebell Falls Goat Cheese, Honey-ied Walnut, and Balsamic Pearls. 
4: Saffron and Basil Polenta Cake, Hummus and Heritage Tomato Salsa
Choc. Trifle
Apple, Coffee and Cinnamon Cake


Sweet

A: Caramelised Apple, Coffee and Cinnamon Cake. 
B: Chocolate and Grand Marnier Trifle. 
C: Chestnut and Pear Crème Brulée. 
D: Eclair filled with Pistachio and Hazelnut Praline. 
E: Warm Cranberry Scones served with House Preserves and Clotted Cream.

Two (of three) tiers.




Wednesday, November 22, 2017

Three cracking reds

Marco Real Colection Privado Crianza Navarra (DOC) 2013, 14.5%, €17.40 Karwig

The wines of Navarra are not as prominent in the Irish market as those of Rioja, its next door neighbour in Spain's North West. But this impressive amalgam of Merlot, Tempranillo and Syrah, illustrates well why it should be taken more seriously. 

The grapes are hand-picked and sorted twice on arrival at the winery. Twelve months in new French oak barrels is followed by 12 months in bottle and that earns it the Crianza sticker (on the back of the bottle).

The legs here, as you might expect, are slow to clear; colour is a deep ruby. There is an attractive mix of aromas (mainly ripe red fruits) plus hints of oak. Silky, Fruity. Spicy. Tannins are more or less totally integrated as is the oak. This full-bodied intense wine has a persistent finish and is Very Highly Recommended. Good value as well.




Casa de la Ermita Idílico Jumilla (DOP) 2012, 14.5%, €19.99 (€15.00 on offer from 23/11 to 1/3) SuperValu

A blend of Petit Verdot and Monastrell, this Crianza comes from old vines grown at 700 metres above sea-level.

It has an intense garnet colour, the legs slow to clear as you'd expect. Intense aromas too: darker fruits, plum prominent, hints of mint too. Rich on the palate, full of concentrated fruit flavours, spice too and close-to-smooth tannins. Excellent finish also, leaving you with that second glass feeling. This newcomer to SuperValu is very welcome and Highly Recommended.

Koha (Merlot, Cabernet Franc) Hawkes Bay (New Zealand) 2016, 13%, €14.00 Marks and Spencer
As you can see, this is a blend of Merlot (80%) and Cabernet Franc. It won Platinum for the producers, the Giesen family, in the recent Decanter awards and it is exclusive to Marks and Spencer. The sunny region of Hawkes Bay is perfect for Merlot. Just noticed that the Giesens produce an unusual style “blend” of hard apple cider and white wine, in a can!

Back to our smooth and fruity wine with its deep purple colour. Warm dark fruits prominent in a lovely mix of aromas.  Plums and berries on the juicy palate, oak in the background. Fresh and vibrant, this smooth engaging young wine, medium to full-bodied, is worth getting to know. Highly Recommended. Pretty good value too. Match with roasts and BBQ.

The Koha, by the way, is a long tailed cuckoo, a summer visitor to New Zealand.

Tuesday, November 21, 2017

Taste of the Week. Spice O’Life Curry Sauce

Taste of the Week
Spice O’Life Curry Sauce

Picked up a can of this Curry Sauce (it is made in Dunmanway by Spice O’Life) at the new O’Connor’s Butcher Food Hall in Mayfield that features some other artisan products as well.

There are some basic curry instructions on the side but no harm in adding carrots, mushrooms, onions, peppers, whatever you've handy, to the mix. And of course, you’ll have rice as well.

When cooked, just pour the sauce over the lot and fold in. That's what we did and were pleasantly surprised at the result. This sauce is excellent, our Taste of the Week.

The West Cork company “develop, create, and manufacture the solution to your sauce, marinades, dressings,  spice, seasoning and new product development needs” and their other brands include Dip!t, Marinade Me, Insanely Good and Presto! 


O’Connor’s, by the way, have a large bright building where the old Permanent TSB were and also a busy café called, appropriately enough, the Old Bank.

Monday, November 20, 2017

Long, Lazy Sunday at Ballymaloe

Garden to Plate at Ballymaloe.
Superb Craft Fair Too.


There were gasp when Ballymaloe House gardener Mags Coughlan told us she grows 4,500 leeks here each year. Soon we would see some of them on our plates as we enjoyed lunch in the house. The garden tour, a mead tasting, a long leisurely lunch and a visit to the ever increasing craft fair in the Grainstore and Big Shed, were all part of a lovely day that brought the curtain down on the Munster Wine and Dine activities for 2017. A good day. A good year.
Here's where we get our hazelnuts

Hazel Allen introduced the fifty or so of us to Mags who told us the aim here in the walled garden and surrounding area is to grow “seasonal and unusual”. Even with Mags working flat out, there is no way the garden could fully supply the house, so Ballymaloe gets much of its regular plant and vegetables supplies from local growers, a traditional relationship maintained.


That leaves the gardener, in consultation with the chefs of course, to concentrate on something different, a crop of sea-kale for example, followed in turn by asparagus and artichoke. And then there are also edible flowers and flowers for decoration. One of the specialities of the walled garden, taking advantage of a south-facing wall, are peaches. Lots of herbs here too, of course.

All is grown from seed so that means glasshouses and we walked through there admiring the lines of harvested pumpkins (also on the day’s menu). We were then shown the relatively new cider apple orchard; varieties here include Dabinett and Bramley. Here too we saw the hazel bushes which provide quite a harvest and have a bit of growing to do yet!

All had been quite in the fields where the pigs are kept until the arrival of our group. Then little groups of the younger pigs came rushing out to greet the visitors. They may not have been so eager had they known that the same people would be eating their older siblings later on.

Back then to the conservatory room in the house for an aperitif, thanks to Kate Dempsey of the Kinsale Mead Co. We sampled her Atlantic Dry Mead and also Wild Red Mead  – and then she made some delicious cocktails using her mead (and also the new Beara Gin). Quite a few were very impressed by the mead. Both meads are honey based and are rapidly becoming widely available in Supervalu’s and speciality shops such as URRU in Bandon and Bradley’s in the city's North Main Street.

Kate and her meads
Time now for lunch, the main event. A good start is half the battle. And so it was here with a delicious warming bowl of Garden Pumpkin Soup with Chilli and Parsley Oil. More simple food followed, simply delicious Ballycotton Crab Paté with cucumber and dill salad.

We had a choice for the main course. CL chose the Poached Ballycotton Monkfish with Chive Butter Sauce served with Leeks and Romanesco while mine was the Roast Ballymaloe Farm Pork with red cabbage and Bramley Apple Sauce. Each, with Pommes Duchesse and Glazed Carrots on the side, was superb.

The temptation levels then soared with the arrival of the famous Ballymaloe Dessert trolley. We were like the little piggies! Pavlova, poached pears, chocolate cake (and sauce), and so much more, all washed down with little sips of sweet Jurançon. Pratsch Gruner Veltliner and Solstice Rhone Valley were the earlier wines.

After the tea or coffee, or a garden infusion, there was a quick review of 2017, a raffle for foodie prizes and an announcement that Munster Wine and Dine had decided to donate €300.00 to Penny Dinners.
Crab

Some of us then took a walk around the annual craft fair. The opening day, Saturday, had been busy but one stall holder told me Sunday, the day of our visit, was even busier and she was looking to getting her feet up for the night! There were some gorgeous crafts here but, looking for a particular item with certain restrictions as to material, size and colour, proved mission impossible for me! The search begins again next week at the big Craft Fair in the City Hall and the smaller one at Franciscan Well Brew Pub.
Sweet stuff



Darkness had now settled on this amazing East Cork farm and our bus had arrived. A very satisfied group headed back to the city, bang on schedule. Here’s to another great Munster Wine and Dine season in 2018. Happy Christmas everyone from Eithne, Richie, Colm, Beverly, Michael, Stuart, and yours truly.
Craft Fair