Sunday, September 30, 2018

Cork Cheese Fair. Amazing New Cheeses.


Vincenzo

Cork Cheese Fair
Old Favourites; Superb New Cheeses
Part One: Italy’s Oldest Cheese, from Mid Cork

Many of you will know of Vincenzo, the Italian shepherd best known for his Pecorino which is on sale at the Toons Bridge Market stalls.That was his first cheese here in Ireland but he has quite a variety now including a stunning new one called Conciato Romano. 

While there were quite a few old favourites, such as the classic Coolea and the outstanding St Tola, showing at the weekend’s Cork Cheese Fair in Cork Airport, there were quite a few new or at least relatively new ones, including Vincenzo’s, Cashel Blue’s Organic version, the aromatic Italian Truffle Cheese from Carrigaline Farmhouse, Rockfield (a hard sheeps cheese from Velvet Cloud of Claremorris) and Hegarty’s Templegall. 

The Little Milk Company also had a beautiful Mild Organic Irish Cheddar. Jessica told me it is flying in Germany and Denmark and should be on the home market soon - so watch out for that!

The Conciato Romano is an ancient Italian cheese, indeed many believe it is the country’s oldest, and its production is being encouraged by the Italian Slow Food Foundation. 

Vincenzo’s is made from sheeps milk but goats or cows may also be used. After being pressed by hand the forms are cured and dressed with olive oil and vinegar and herbs before being packed in a sealed jar (or amphora) and matured. “It sells well in the markets,” he told me and, for the moment, you’ll probably have to travel to Skibbereen where he has a stall every Saturday to get it (and his other very interesting variations).

Always a fair bit of variety in the Carrigaline Cheese portfolio and now there’s a new one, an Italian Summer Truffle. “A small piece goes a long way,” says producer Padraig O’Farrell who is delighted with the way it has turned out. For the moment, you cannot buy it in the shops but watch out for it in restaurants (it is available to chefs via Pallas Foods). Reckon there will be some beautifully aromatic dishes created using this one! 

Aisling and Michael (above), the duo behind Mayo’s Velvet Cloud, have become well-known because of their yogurts but now their Rockfield cheese is getting very popular as we found out during the Cheese Dinner that preceded the fair. 

It is creamy and buttery in the mouth with slightly sweet and nutty undertones. The cream coloured interior of this cheese becomes firmer and darker as the maturing period is extended and the flavour becomes nuttier. Supply of this lovely new product is fairly limited this year and Cork buyers can find it in On the Pigs Back. Should be more of it available next year and probably more stockists as well.

Hegarty’s Templegall comes in a big wheel and is a gorgeous delicious Comté style cheese. Dan Hegarty and Jean-Baptise Enjelvin (from Bordeaux but very much enjoying the “craic” in Cork) are rightly proud of this magnificent effort from the Hegarty’s Whitechurch farm. 
Hegarty's cheddar (top) and
new Comté style cheese

It has been earning plaudits for the past few months. It is available in cheese shops such as On the Pigs Back and you’ll also come across it in restaurants. And don’t forget that Hegarty's are famous for their cheddars.

Cashel Blue is also very famous and their newish Cashel Blue organic is a another gem. “More mature than the original,” PJ Ryan told me on Saturday. “More of a hit to it but the same creaminess.” You can get this in cheese shops, including Iago. 

Also tasted their lesser known Shepherd’s Store, a traditional, European style semi-hard cheese. As a seasonal product, it is made only between the months of February and September, and is aged for a minimum of six months. Try it out at On the Pigs Back.

See Also: The Cork Cheese Dinner
Cork Cheese Week Part 2

Saturday, September 29, 2018

Cork Cheese Dinner. Amazing Variety of Irish Cheese.


Cork Cheese Dinner
Amazing Variety of Irish Cheese.
Carrigaline's Padraig O'Farrell (left) and Coolea's Helene Willems
with yours truly at last night's dinner in Cork Airport Hotel

We are used to the cheese course at the end of the meal. But this one came at the end of a meal in Olivo, the restaurant at the Cork Airport Hotel, the host venue for the inaugural Cork Cheese Week, a meal in which all the previous four courses had been based on cheese. Were we stuffed? No. Our four local chefs got the quality and the quantity just right and we enjoyed a delightful meal that brilliantly illustrated the variety of texture and flavour available in Irish cheese today.

Delighted too to share this meal with Helene Willems. Helene with her husband Dicky were among the pioneering Irish cheesemakers, setting up in Coolea about 40 years ago. Now the second generation carry on the business at the same high standard, leaving Helene and Dicky plenty of time to enjoy life on the road in their beloved camper-van! 

Stracciatella

Appropriate that Helene was with us at the Gouda table! As was another superb Cork cheesemaker Padraig O’Farrell of Carrigaline Farmhouse whose mother and father started their cheese-making business over 30 years ago.

The innovative Toons Bridge Dairy featured in our Amuse Bouche, a delicious Stracciatella with picked cherries and candied walnuts by Fran Jara who has just completed a six month course at the famous Basque Culinary Centre in San Sebastian, “well worth every cent,” she told me as we sipped some lovely bubbles as the guests gathered.
Soufflé

Quite a few were associating cheese meals and heaviness but the opposite was the case with our lovely starter by Kate Lawlor, a soft and delicious Twice Baked Bluebell Falls goats cheese soufflé with a Hegarty’s Cheddar glaze with beetroot carpaccio. 

Pam Kelly’s main course was naturally more substantial, quite a tour de force actually. The Gubbeen pork was the star of the plate of course which also featured Coolea and Rockfield (sheep) cheeses with an excellent apple and parsnip sauce.

Our chefs were rocking it and the dance continued with a flower bedecked dessert from pastry ace Christine Girault, now dividing her time between Cork and Paris. Her “tarte aux fruits” looked well and tasted even better.

Pork

By now, the generous servings of wine were being replaced by coffee though not before we sampled the cheese board with Coolea, Cashel Blue, Carrigaline, Hegarty’s Smoked Cheddar and Gubbeen all featuring. And the hotel continued to spoil us with a selection of petit fours! Quite a night ahead of two working days for the cheese makers as they were due to meet the punters for tastings and workshops on today Saturday and Sunday, starting at 11.00am each day. Details here.

The Cheese Week at Airport Hotel
Part One, mainly new cheeses
Part Two, mainly the classics









Friday, September 28, 2018

Amuse Bouche


“Before you take wine into you,” Gocha said, “before you put wine on its feet, caressing it is necessary. Something so sacred, divine, and godly should become the core of your being. Making and drinking wine is a process of gratitude. When a person is full of love, that love becomes more intense because of wine. The drink is not merely an alcoholic beverage. It is the means for deep communication with other people. And in this way, life and wine need caressing.”

from For The Love Of Wine by Alice Feiring (2016). Very Highly Recommended.

Friends, music and a bottle of Fado!


Continuing our look at the new wines in SuperValu highlighting the Fado Reserva, the current wine of the month.


Paço das Côrtes Friendship FADO Reserva (Vinho Regional Lisbon) 2016, 13.5%, €13.99 (down to ten euro until October 10th)

Paço das Côrtes is a Portuguese family-based wine company especially dedicated to producing fine wines, with a modern style, from the vineyards of the Lisbon Region and are focused on the international markets. This Fado is a blend of Tinta Roriz (40%), Alicante Bouschet (30) and Syrah (30) and has been aged for 4 months in French oak.

Colour is a dark ruby and there are aromas of ripe red fruits plus balsamic notes. Smooth, fruity and spicy, this warmly introduces itself on the palate. Quite intense all through but with good acidity and a persistent finish. 

Nice and satisfying with approachable ripe fruit, this ticks a lot of boxes and well worth looking out for on the SuperValu shelves. And, with that spectacular (trade-marked) label you should find it easily enough! 

Kevin O’Callaghan, Head of SuperValu Wine, is a big fan: “The Fado is one of the best at that price position I’ve seen in a while….. This is a no-brainer for me.”

Where did the name come from? Fado music is a form of Portuguese singing that is often associated with pubs, cafés and restaurants. It is often profoundly melancholic, a European form of the blues. 

Still, Fado and friends and a bottle of good wine make for a great night out. The colourful label shows a couple sharing a bottle of wine while listening to a Fado performer, perhaps singing of lost love or exile (there is a caravel sailing away in the distance), subjects familiar to an Irish audience.

FOUR IRISH RESTAURANTS AWARDED MICHELIN BIB GOURMAND STATUS

FOUR IRISH RESTAURANTS AWARDED MICHELIN BIB GOURMAND STATUS
Bastion Kinsale

Ireland records four new names amongst 24 Bib Gourmand recipients in 2019 Michelin Guide Great Britain & Ireland


Northern Ireland has one new name amongst seven Bib Gourmand recipients  

Four Irish restaurants join the list of 24 Bib Gourmand recipients whose names feature in the 2019 Michelin Guide Great Britain & Ireland.

Michelin Bib Gourmand awards recognise those establishments offering good food at affordable prices of EUR40 or less for a three-course meal.

The four newcomers are: Clanbrassil House (Clanbrassil Street, Dublin); Tartare Café & Wine Bar (Galway City); Brownes (Tuam) and Dillon’s (Timoleague, Cork).

Others, all of which retain Bib Gourmand status from earlier years, are 1826 Adare (Adare); Aldridge Lodge (Duncannon); Bastion (Kinsale); Chart House (Dingle); Copper Hen (Tramore); The Courthouse (Carrickmacross); Giovannelli (Killorglin); Kai (Galway City); Morrissey’s (Doonbeg); Sha-Roe Bistro (Clonegal) and TwoCooks (Sallins).

In Dublin City, Bastible (South Circular Road); Craft (Terenure); Delahunt (Camden Street); Etto (Merrion Row); Pichet (Trinity Street); Pigeon House (Clontarf); Pig’s Ear (Nassau Street); Forest & Marcy (Ranelagh) and Richmond (Portobello) retain their Bib Gourmand status.

Northern Ireland – seven Bib Gourmand awards
In Northern Ireland, Clenaghans Restaurant, near Aghalee, Co. Antrim joins the list of seven Michelin Bib Gourmand establishments in the province.

Retaining their awards from last year are Fontana and Noble (both Holywood); Wine & Brine (Moira); Belfast’s Deanes at Queen’s, Bar+Grill at James’ Street South, and Home in Wellington Place.

Priced at EUR18.99, the Great Britain & Ireland 2019 Guide will be will published on Monday, 1st October by tyre manufacturer Michelin and will be available athttp://travel.michelin.co.uk/ and in bookshops from Thursday, October 4th.


Thursday, September 27, 2018

Bastion. Playing in the Irish Top Rank.


Bastion. Playing in the Irish Top Rank.
Salmon

The summer was back as we headed towards Bastion in Kinsale on Wednesday last. Late in the season, but the town was still busy, tourists walking around and checking the menus. With the water sparkling and the colourful marina packed, it could have been the Med. What we ate in the Bastion could sit easily on Europe’s top tables. And that puts it in the top rank here.

We even have a window table (good light for the pics!) so the signs are good from the start. And it continues that way with the two breads, a hard to match sourdough and a matchless Brioche. Hard to decide then between the Treacle Butter and the Olive Oil with Balsamic. But no decision necessary - enough to share!

There is a mega wine-list here. Take the reds for example. You may start with a €27.00 bottle, a very nice Vina Albergada for example, and go right up to the famous Penfold’s Grange. The Grange will set you back nine hundred euro or €180.50 per glass. They use the Coravin here so you can indeed sample some of the more expensive wines by the glass.

They have Prosecco on tap and some very interesting Prosecco based cocktails. The Kir Royale (cassis and prosecco) is a superb example of its kind while I was absolutely delighted with my Pisco (elderflower, orange bitters and Prosecco).

By now, the first of our five courses, from the Early Bird Tasting Menu, had arrived. A local oyster, from Oysterhaven; served with apple yogurt, purée and jelly and pickled fennel, this bracing delight of the sea had the taste buds standing up.

The Celeriac Velouté was next, an unctuous sauce in its own container, and, on a little dish, pickled giroles, apple, celeriac mousse and hazelnut oil. Now those taste buds were on full alert.

And their reward was a gorgeous Smoked and Cured Organic Salmon dish. That salmon was superb but the accompaniments, especially the soft goats cheese and the salt-baked beetroot, were also outstanding and the candy walnuts got into this tasty act as well.

The main event was now at hand: Lamb rump, with peas, turnip and preserved lemon. The peas were good but the turnip was something else and there were some pickled rounds of it also. Needless to say, the lamb from the Kerry hills, in its two manifestations (roast and slow-cooked), was spot on.

Desserts, occasionally, don’t match the rest of the meal. Not the case here! Our White Chocolate Panna Cotta, with Pistachio Sponge, cherry sorbet and cherry granola, was a delightful finalé, served in an eye-catching fine china cup.

This superb restaurant, which has gone from strength to strength over the past three years under Helen (front of house) and Paul (Head Chef), supports local producers. In this menu alone, suppliers include Horizon Farm, Padraig O’Donovan fish, while the cheese, the beef and the lamb are all Irish. 

It holds the only Michelin bib in Cork city and county and everything you eat here, from the bread to the sweet treat with your coffee, is made in-house. While Bastion faces the same challenges as most other restaurants and cafes in staff recruitment, their service is friendly and attentive (without ever being in your face).

As we walked earlier in the warming September sun towards town centre Bastion, we spotted, in the backwater under Man Friday, a quartet of herons in different trees, all on the alert. There were fish jumping, seemingly without a care in the world. On our return, there were no fish jumping. And the herons looked well satisfied. Like us, they had enjoyed a very good meal!


Wednesday, September 26, 2018

Three Highly Recommended Whites from across Europe


Gitton de la Vigne du Taureau Sauvignon Blanc Couteaux du Giennois (AC) 2014, 12.5%, €19.50 Karwig Wines

Giennois is one of the lesser-known appellations in the Loire area, but it is just a few kilometres north of Sancerre and Pouilly-Fumé. This crisp Sauvignon Blanc doesn’t let the neighbours down, far from it. It suits perfectly seafood and grilled fish, goats cheese too.

Colour is a light straw with green tints. It is moderately aromatic, white fruit, floral notes too and minerality. That distinctive minerality is immediately obvious on the palate where the excellent white fruit flavours (citrus prominent) combine well with a super acidity for a refreshing drop that also finishes well. Highly Recommended.


Diwald Fucksentanz Riesling Wagram (Austria) 2016, 12%, €18.30 Mary Pawle Wines

Diwald are regarded as pioneers of organic wine in the Wagram region and they interfere as little as possible in the cellar. Winemaker Martin Diwald has called this wine “a typical cheeky Riesling of the Wagram region". Just in case you were wondering, Fucksentanz, the name of the wine, translates as fox dance.

Colour is a light gold, bright and clear. There are rich and fairly complex aromas: pear and peach, notes of honey, floral too. There is a tingly sensation on introduction to the palate. The fruit is pure, outstandingly fresh with exuberant acidity, exquisite balance with a long lip-smacking finalé. Minerality and character help make this Highly Recommended.

Amastuola Bianco Salento Italy (IGP) 2015, 12.5%, €13.69 Mary Pawle Wines

Fiano and Malvasia are the grapes used to make this Italian white. Production is organic with “a strong propensity for innovation, sensitive to the environment, culture and knowledge” The wine has been vinified and aged in stainless steel.

Light straw is the colour. There is an interesting melange of scents, white fruit combined with herb and floral notes. It is smooth and fresh, excellent mouthfeel, superbly balanced and with a persistent finish, the fruit still going strong. Highly Recommended and good value too by the way.

Tuesday, September 25, 2018

Taste of the Week. Roscoff Onion Soup

Taste of the Week.
French Onion Soup
with Roscoff Onions from West Cork Garlic
Le Yumion Soup
Don't think this has happened before but when something is this good you just got to go with the flow. For the second week running, unprecedented, the source for my Taste of the Week is the same supplier: West Cork Garlic.

Garlic was, as you might well think, was our main target when we called to see Bryn at the Bantry Market. And we did indeed buy a few varieties for planting. But Karen Coakley (of Kenmare Foodies fame) had tipped us off about these sweet melt-in-the-mouth Roscoff Onions.

Like Karen, we are Francophiles, and so we had no hesitation in buying a bagful. Three were put to use this week in  this magnificent French Onion Soup, a potage packed with tempting aromas and very satisfying flavours, and topped with baguettes slices weighed with Gruyere. I know Karen has her own recipe up online (couldn't find it at the time) but this is a mix of a Nigel Slater recipe and one from an undated cookbook titled Le French (A Taste of France).

If you can't make it to the West Cork Garlic stall at Bantry or Skibbereen Farmers Markets (Friday and Saturday respectively), you may order online.

Bryn Perrin
Coolmountain West, 
Dunmanway, West Cork, Ireland
Tel 087 133 3751, Email bryn@westcorkgarlic.com

Monday, September 24, 2018

SuperValu Freshen Up Wine Offering. Two Whites and a Super Red


SuperValu Freshen Up Wine Offering
Two Whites and a Superb Red

Regular wine shoppers at SuperValu will have noticed many new “faces” on the wine shelves. Quite a few have eye-catching labels and Kevin O’Callaghan, Head of SuperValu Wine, while well aware that you cannot always judge a book by its cover, likes “the label to sing or depict an essence or style in the very wine they are producing. …” He reckons" the art of storytelling will be the next consumer motivator.”

So let us start with a look at three wines, including two whites, from Carcassonne wine exporters LGI Wines.

Duo de Mers Sauvignon Blanc Viognier (Vin de France) 2017, 12%, €11.99

The label here sees two fish, one heading in a directly opposite direction to the other, one darker. So what’s the story? The wine goes with fish. True. But look at the wine’s name, referring to two seas. The Sauvignon comes from Atlantic influenced Gascony while the Viognier is sourced in Mediterranean Languedoc. Similarities to Australia here with the fruit coming from different regions.

Sauvignon accounts for 70% of the blend in this pleasant easy drinking light coloured wine; the Viognier adds to the white fruit elements in the aromas. On the palate, the blend is fresh, fruity and smooth. Good value and great for a party. Try it on its own as an aperitif or with shellfish, fish, and salads.

Combeval SCG Grand Cuvée Côtes de Gascogne (IGP) 2017, 11.5%, €11.99 

A relatively plain label on this one, just a selection of curved lines indicating little hills and a few words confirming that it is from the sunny slopes of the south of France. All the fruit - Sauvignon Blanc 60%, Columbard 20% and Gros Manseng 20% - comes from Gascony. Gascony may not often pop up in the wine conversation but it is a producer of lovely fresh white wines and there are many vineyards here and much of the fruit (including Columbard) is used to produce the well-known Armagnac spirit, Gascony’s worthy answer to the Charente’s Cognac.

Colour is light straw and the aromas here are mainly those you’d expect of Sauvignon, herbaceous with fruits (e.g. gooseberry, apple). On the palate, it is well endowed, thanks in part to time on both big and fine lees, a tingly touch too and a good finish, somewhat longer than the Duo above. Again pair with fish and salads and treat yourself to a glass beforehand!

The SCG is a play on the well known GSM of the Rhone and neighbouring areas. Indeed, Supervalu have the Combeval GSM and the red grapes in the blend are Grenache, Syrah and Mourvedre. Should be worth a try also.

Dark Apparition Alicante Bouschet Pays D’Oc (IGP) 2017, 12.5%, €12.99

The label shows an ectoplasmic figure trying to break out of its containment unit. The monochrome ghost is, according to the online blurb, apparently trying to express the full body and power of the wine. Really?

Let us move on to the grape itself. Unlike many grapes, this one has a precise birthday. In 1855, Henri Bouschet crossed Grenache Noir with Cabernet Sauvignon and this baby was born and has gone on to prove quite popular, especially in the south of France. Unusually, its pulp is red which enhances the colour. It also provides fatness to the wine. Put it all together and you have a Dark Red Apparition! Really?

Let us move on to the wine itself, let the Alicante materialise! At harvest, the fruit is divided into two sections. Some fruit goes through the modern process of thermal maceration, most is traditionally fermented on skins for three weeks and is then aged for six months with French oak which “adds complexity” providing a full-bodied cuvée when both parts regroup.

Colour is indeed a dark red. Quite a concentrated melange of scents, ripe fruit, floral and vanilla. Smooth and juicy on the palate, concentrated too with initially a slight sweetness, always the merest trace of vanilla, smooth tannins (on the lips), a good dry finish. The Alicante is well and truly out of the bottle and it is an excellent drink. Really!

Sunday, September 23, 2018

The Best Pilgrim’s Meal? Rosscarbery. Not Roncesvalles.


The Best Pilgrim’s Meal?
Rosscarbery. Not Roncesvalles.
Tomatoes with Toonsbridge Burrata. And much more!
If you’re on the Camino, on the way to Santiago di Compostela, you will enjoy a Pilgrim’s Meal or two. But no need to go so far. 


Just get down to Rosscarbery to the Pilgrim’s Restaurant in the West Cork village, and you’ll enjoy one of the best meals ever. That has been my experience on a couple of occasions now. The dinner here in this modest 35 seater is superb, the produce sourced and cooked by Mark Jennings, brought together in a splendid serving, is more enjoyable than many highly touted tasting menus.

I know many of us love to check out the menus before we go. Not possible here! They wait until the day, to see what’s best from the fields and hedges, what has come in on the fishing boats, before posting the menu on the restaurant windows shortly ahead of opening. Still, if you check the website here, you will be able to see one or two recent menus and that will give you a good idea.

Roast aubergine, lamb's liver......



Provenance is hugely important here. There are dozens of suppliers listed on the back of the menu, some of them well known such as the local Bushy’s strawberries and Toonsbridge Dairy, others you’ve probably never heard of like Radical Roots from Leap and Ardfield Mountain Honey.

The menu is not long, about three choices under each of the usual headings. Usual headings but not usual dishes. How about a “nibble” of Tatsuta age, ponzu? We enjoyed that, a Japanese style chicken dish, the chicken moist under the crispy coating. Don’t worry if you aren’t familiar with some of the ingredients - they will proactively explain everything to you in a gentle courteous way, without any fuss at all.

After sharing that delicious chicken, we moved on and shared everything else as well! One starter was Roast aubergine, lamb’s liver and tongue, flat bean, cabbage, radish and chilli-sesame oil, basil. Well used to lamb’s liver here but never anything like this in an outstanding ensemble of flavour and texture.



Hake stuffed squash flowers

And on it went. The other starter, if along more expected lines, was also a gem and consisted of Mike’s tomatoes, Toonsbridge burrata, cucumber, brined summer pickles, bay oil, and kale crisp.

They have some gorgeous European wines here. We were wondering what would go best especially since we were sharing. We settled on the Austrian Diwald Grossridenthaler Löss Grüner Veltliner. I always find the GV a very versatile wine indeed and so it proved once again. Most wines here, if not all, are organic.

Time now for the mains. The most spectacular was probably the Battered Hake stuffed squash flowers, prawns, tomato lemon verbena broth, and flat beans. Looked well but tasted even better.


Pudding

Our other mains was the equally satisfying 12-hour Pork belly, wilted greens, potato mash, pickled apple, blackberry, and crackling salt.

Tatsuta age, a nibble
Choices for the finalé include Ices, Puddings, and Cheese. That cheese by the way was the Baked Corleggy Cavanbert. Tempted yes but we left it for another day.

Instead we picked one from Ices: the Macroom Buffalo ricotta ice-cream, Red Star Espresso, Salted Honeycomb. Very enjoyable and our second was rather special, a pudding consisting of Salt Caramel set custard, black pepper chocolate grenache, whipped crème fraiche, and cacao nut crumble sound magnificent.

* Roncesvalles is a Spanish town in the Pyrenees just over the border from France and on the Camino (Santiago is still over 700 kms away).  I drove in there a few years ago from Saint-Jean-Pied-de-Port and asked for the Pilgrim’s Meal. But I was a few hours too early - they serve it only in the evening - and had to settle for a sandwich.




Pilgrim’s Restaurant
South Square
Rosscarberry
Co. Cork

Bookings by telephone only: (023) 88 31796


Friday, September 21, 2018

Amuse Bouche


Tonight, after all the week in Crete had demanded of him… drinking the smallest amount of wine would knock him under one of the Czar’s tables. He hung on to a half-filled glass of Dafni for dear life. “What is it, Kapitan, you don’t like the wine? You’re not drinking.”
..
“Mr Deputy Chairman, the wine is excellent.”
“Then drink it. You travelled nearly four thousand miles to secure it, did you not? Do justice to this fine vintage.”

from The Road to Ithaca by Ben Pastor  (2014). Recommended.

Thursday, September 20, 2018

L’Atitude Scales New Altitude. Filling Me Softly With Her Food


L’Atitude Scales New Altitude
Filling Me Softly With Her Food
Stracciatella. Multo Bella.
No secret that Cork’s L’Atitude 51 is one of the best wine-bars around. That’s been confirmed by awards, both local and national. But did you know they have a lovely food offering too? Number One Union Quay is certainly a place to take it easy, easy drinking and also easy eating, sometimes easy listening as well.

Here you can go from aperitifs to small plates to large plates and have a lot of fun doing so. No shortage of variety here with a range of dishes that distinguishes L’Atitude from the mainstream. Who, for instance, is doing Toonsbridge Stracciatella?

But, I’m getting ahead of myself. There is a huge wine menu here, page after page of organic and natural wines, and that is what we looked at first. Many are available by the 125ml and 175ml glass, a 250ml carafe and by the bottle. Some, the more expensive ones, are available by bottle only! Since we were in, we were going to try a few so the glass was our vessel choice for the evening. 
Tapas Plate

And we started with the Crisp with Attitude Page, featuring wines that are lively, racy and mineral. CL made a very good pick: the Secateurs Chenin Blanc from the Badenhorst estate in South Africa while I enjoyed the Wines Direct import, the Paddy Borthwick Riesling from New Zealand. Sipped those as we tucked into a bowl of mixed olives. 

The menu here is “less formal”, encouraging you to share as the dishes arrive from the kitchen. Oh, they also do a Plat du Jour. You’ll see that on the blackboard. On the night of our visit it was Tagliatelle with a lamb ragu and they coupled that with a glass of wine, all for around fifteen euro (if I remember rightly). And they also do lunch daily.

And soon we were sharing another dish, a much bigger one; the Tapas, at €18.50, is one of the more expensive ones on the menu, but a very impressive platter indeed, well assembled and well presented. It contains Coppa, Jamon, Pecorino, Toonsbridge Mozzarella, Charred Aubergine, Artichokes, Roasted Red Pepper and Caponata was irresistible and easily and lazily dispatched.
Duck x 3.
At this point, the wines had changed. I was on to the orange wine (lots of skin contact and yet a good introduction to the style for beginners) from Sicily, the cloudy Rallo Baglio with a fantastic concentration of the flavours. CL meanwhile was on safer ground with the Madregale Rosso, one of the best house wines around these parts.

Now with the Tapas and the basket of bread finished we sipped the wines and waited for the next batch of food! And that’s where the eye-catching palate pleasing Stracciatella comes in. Even though the two dishes came together, there was a duel around this beauty. It is the creamy filling you’ll find in Burrata (another Toonsbridge cheese). It is soft and fresh, it has to be. Presented on a  bed of grilled aubergine and topped with Dukkah, it was temptation from the first bite, especially when spooned into the “pocket” breads that came with it.

The sharing continued with the Duck 3 Ways: Ummera Smoked Duck, Duck and Port Paté, and Potatoes sautéed in Duck Fat. Well, you know that Ummera’s Smoked Duck is a gem of southern cuisine yet the combination here somehow managed to put an extra shine on an already excellent product. Superb.


We were on to our final wines by now, both of us on the red. CL picked from the “Fruity with Attitude” section and came up trumps with a classic Pinot Noir by Regnaudot (Burgundy) while my final tipple was the Blaufrankisch by Austria’s Judith Beck, a winemaker that seems to be appearing more and more in this country. The plush Blaufrankisch, with generous fruit, is biodynamically produced and worth seeking out.

And L’Atitude itself, with its friendly service and informal style, is also worth seeking out either for wine or food or both!

1 Union Quay (corner opposite City Hall)
Cork
021 239019





Wednesday, September 19, 2018

A Couple of Portuguese White Stars, including an Alvarinho Vinho Verde


Portuguese wines are on the rise. 

And not just the red ones. The whites too can be remarkable and we have two gems for you to try including a Vinho Verde - remember that little sparkler? I've noticed these excellent wines coming more and more onto the shelves over the past five or six years. I'm not the only one - check out the quotes below. Very good value a few years ago. That could be changing, but still good value. Buy now and try! 

Vinho Verde is one of Portugal’s most distinctive wines. Jancis Robinson. More here.

It's high time Portuguese wines were given the same respect we grant French, Spanish and Italian ones. The Guardian here.

Wines from Portugal have been enjoying impressive growth worldwide thanks to improvements in both the quality and range of wines over recent years. The Buyer Here

Morgadio da Torre Alvarinho Vinho Verde (DOC) 2015, 12.5%, €24.99 Bradley’s Cork; wineonline.ie

Did you drink Vinho Verde back in the day? It had a little bit of fizz and was low in alcohol. Then, when we were also drinking Blue Nun and Black Tower and dipping our tongues in hostile foreign languages, we thought Vinho Verde meant green wine; it means young wine. 

And there is no spritziness here, natural or induced, but its absence is no loss at all. This Morgadio da Torre is far from the simple sparkler of our experience. More than likely that earlier Vinho Verde wasn’t made from Alvarinho (Albarino in Spain) as this one is.  

Alvarinho, often compared to Riesling, is one of seven grapes permitted in the DO; they regard it as “the most noble” grape of the region and is usually that bit more expensive. Other grapes that may be used are Arinto, Avesso, Azal, Batoca, Loureiro, and Trajadura. 

This dry aromatic Morgadio is certainly a wine of distinction, very enjoyable with fish and seafood and also as an aperitif. Colour is a light straw, very clear. There are fairly intense tropical fruit aromas. Fruity, fresh, mineral, are the first sensations noted on the palate. The fruit is pure and persistent, vibrant notes of lime and citrus prominent, the aromas at play all the way through to the very dry finish. The fact that it was a very good year in the area helped and this is Very Highly Recommended.


Casa Ferreirinha “Papa Figos” Vinho Branco Douro (DOC) 2016, 12.5%, €18.99 winesonline.ie 

Lots of different grapes in most Portuguese blends and this is no exception with Rabigato (55%), Viosinho (15), Arinto/Pedernã (15), Códega (10), and Moscatel (5) all in the mix here.

It has a pale straw colour. Attractive aromas, yellow fruit and floral notes. That attractive tropical fruit again features on the palate and is persistent, good acidity too. And an excellent finish as well on this fresh and vibrant wine. Very Highly Recommended.

After fermentation, roughly 20% of the batch was matured in used French oak barrels for three months; the remaining 80% was kept in stainless steel tanks. The wine went through careful fining and filtering before bottling to preserve the fresh fruit character.


Tuesday, September 18, 2018

Taste of the Week. West Cork Garlic


Taste of the Week
West Cork Garlic
Bryn of West Cork Garlic in Bantry last Friday.

Probably more like Taste of the Year as the garlic I bought from Bryn Perrin in last Friday’s market in Bantry were bulbs for sowing now and eating from next summer on. Though I did also get some of his Roscoff onions and am very much looking forward to tasting these over the next few days.

But back to the garlic. Bryn, who took over the business from pioneers Axel & Marye Miret (who founded the company in 2010), is quite happy to share his expertise on the subject and will give you lots of advice on planting, growing and harvesting. 
Ready to plant

The first thing to know right now is don’t wait until the spring as most garlic is planted in late autumn and early winter, some varieties as early as September! We bought a few Lautrec and a few Grey Shallot garlics for planting and another one, the Chesnok ­(Hardneck). Already in the ground. Fingers crossed for summer 2019!

If you don’t have the chance to meet Bryn at the markets (he also does Skibbereen Saturdays), do by all means check out the website as they sell garlic bulbs for kitchen and medicinal purposes - and cloves for planting so you can grow your own - all available in handy packs, delivered straight to your door. And there is a page with loads of hints on how to grow your own. And much more, including recipes and garlic gadgets!

Bryn Perrin
Coolmountain West, 
Dunmanway, West Cork, Ireland
Tel 087 133 3751, Email bryn@westcorkgarlic.com