Sunday, September 22, 2019

City Pulls Together in Cork Gourmet Trail 2019

City Pulls Together for Cork Gourmet Trail 2019
On the way. Pic via @corkgourmettrail 

There is great cooperation between the hotels, restaurants and bars in the city. The sentiments of Aaron Mansworth of Trigon Hotels and reiterated by Mags O’Connor of the Cornstore as the Cobh Clams descended on the Bodega and as we spoke about what it takes to put an event like this Cork Gourmet Trail on the road.
Sweet. From Olivo

Better explain, the Cobh Clams were one of five large groups taking part in the 2019 edition of the Trail and the Bodega, where neighbours Cornstore also had a stand, was our first port of call. The other groups that would follow, at intervals, were Bantry Barnacles, Monkstown Mussels, Leap Lobsters, and Shanagarry Scallops.
Gallaghers Gastro Bar

The event, part of the Cork Oyster Festival based at the Metropole (one of the Trigon hotels), began at noon and ended late-ish in the Met and in between visits were made to Cask, Dwyers of Cork, Greenes, The Oyster Tavern, Electric, Soho, Tequila Jacks, The New Yorker Bar & Bistro, Olivo at the Cork Airport Hotel, the Cornstore, Gallaghers, the Bodega and Arthur Maynes. We didn’t walk out to the Airport by the way as both the New Yorker and Olivo were accommodated in the city.

So what can you expect on a Cork Gourmet Trail. Quite a lot and all quite delicious, something for everyone. The Cornstore/Coqbull menu for the event is an excellent illustration. 

Brick Prawns brick pastry & basil wrapped prawns with jalapeno mayo.
Dry Aged Beef Yorkshire puddings stuffed with dry aged roast beef, caramelised white onion, wasabi mash and stuffing.
Mini Moqbull: Mushroom umami burger with vegan truffle mayo vegan cheese and rocket.
Bloody Mary Oyster: natural oyster with bloody mary jelly.
Angels on Horseback: oysters wrapped in Parma ham, deep fried in Japanese tempura batter with lime and courgette chutney.
Tasty, from Gallaghers

Takeout desserts from Cornstore
And the welcome here was warm, a drink (red and white wine and more) offered immediately. A table top full of local and international charcuterie and cheese, including an ultra spicy Spanish blue, while alongside Bodega chef Dave had some beauties including Oysters baked in their own Grainne Ale beer and a delicious Basket Cheese Cake with whiskey among the ingredients! And if you couldn’t sample everything - nobody could! - there were some lovely takeout desserts from the Cornstore.

And that welcome and choice of food and drink set the scene for the long afternoon, replicated all the way. More wine and hospitality on offer at Dwyers in Washington Street where we stuffed ourselves into the various nooks and crannies, every now and then replenishing at the stands of Dwyers itself and the New Yorker. The New Yorker’s Chicken Croquette, home-smoked in Barry’s Tea, was one treat, while one to finish with was the Jameson and Ginger Cheesecake by our hosts.

Bodega's Dave
Next stop was Electric who treated us to oysters and a Kinsale G&T. Kinsale Gin are among the sponsors. Earlier we started as we gathered in the Vance Room in the Met with yes, a G&T and oysters, before being divided up into the various groups and being introduced to our leaders. Our guide was Ray from Trigon and he didn’t lose anyone!

After Electric, we strolled down the Mall to the lovely and lively Tequila Jacks. More wine and also some delicious Tequila based cocktails and more good food, both from our hosts (a superb taco, also delicious Pork Belly) and some savoury and sweet stuff too from Olivo (including some well presented dessert bites).
Electric oysters

MET head chef Stuart Dardis (left)
with out guide Ray Kelleher (Trigon Hotels)
Cask was next on the itinerary and here also we met Gallaghers and the MET Tavern. Gallaghers had a trio of beauties including a Beef Featherblade with a Walnut Chutney. While the Met, with Head Chef Stuart Dardis on hand, had a great selection too including a palate pleasing tuna bite. Cask shone too, supplying the drinks and lots of their interesting tapas including exquisite prawns. And all the way through, it was smiles galore and helpful people even if, by this stage, they must have been explaining their offering for the umpteenth time that afternoon. Pure Cork!

We weren’t finished yet. Next stop was the Oyster Tavern and here we met a couple of stragglers from a previous group. They had stopped to do a bit of shopping in Penneys and were now running late! So we had a chat with that English duo as we had chats all through with whoever we happened to end up with, sometimes friends, sometimes total strangers, but no strangers when the day was through.

Another glass of wine in the Oyster and excellent food also. Soho were here as well and their Pork Belly was so good I called for it twice!

The final round-up was back at the Douglas Vance room in the Metropole but some were saying their goodbyes. We were humming and hawing about it as we strolled down Patrick Street. The rain, which had been intermittent all afternoon, was now pelting down and that, plus the fact that there was a No. 208 conveniently at our bus-stop, made up our minds for us and we headed home after a terrific day in the city. Well done to all behind the Trail, the Oyster Festival itself and to one lady in particular (who we are all thinking of this weekend).

Friday, September 20, 2019

Amuse Bouche

She (Hilda) had ordered veal escalope. She sliced into it as if it caused her offence….
‘Have you talked to Mr Hawthorne about money?’ Hilda asked, chewing on her veal.
It was the question I was dreading. ‘I suggested fifty-fifty.’
‘What?’ She almost threw down her knife and fork. ‘That’s ridiculous,’ she said. ‘You’ve written forty novels. … If anything, he should be paying you…’

From The Word is Murder by Anthony Horowitz (2017). Highly Recommended.

Richy's Going Freestyle In The Kitchen. For One Night In October.

Richy's Going Freestyle In The Kitchen. 
For One Night In October.

Thursday, September 19, 2019

Two Outstanding Wines From Recovered Vineyard

Abandoned Vineyard Restored to Vitality and Outstanding Wines Result.

When Carlo Volpi acquired the La Zerba farm in 2003, it had been abandoned and his plan was to start from scratch. But the eminent oenologist Giuliano Noè convinced Carlo not to do so but instead to recover and restore it. The advice was taken and the eventual results are outstanding.

Volpi La Zerba Barbera Superiore Colli Tortonesi (DOC) 2016, 13.5%, €18.80 Mary Pawle
Colour is a mid to dark ruby. Ripe blackberries feature in the quite intense aromas. Light and lively and a little bit spicy on the palate. Dark red fruit flavours now prominent. Tannins hardly a feature. But there is terrific acidity here and that means it will be quite versatile with food. 
Importer Mary Pawle says it can pair well “with more than just antipasta. Works well with steak and duck or goose dishes”. The word from the producers is “salami hors d oeuvres, highly structured first courses, red meat and game dishes.” Versatile indeed. Very Highly Recommended.
Jancis Robinson, while acknowledging the popularity of the grape in northern Italy says Barbera is not intrinsically the most flavourful grape in the viticultural universe – “a vague blackberry quality plus tartness is about as close as one can come to the essential flavour of Barbera”.  Our Zerba more or less fits that description and, at just over 18 euro, is good value and well worth a try.
Colli Tortonesi is one of the dozens of DOC zones in Piedmonte and is very close to Lombardy. The Cantine Volpi company is located in one of the most beautiful wine areas in the province of Alessandria and in the Piedmont region in general. DOC ageing for this wine is a minimum of 1 year. This has had 13 months between stainless steel tank and bottle.

When Carlo Volpi acquired the La Zerba farm in 2003, it had been abandoned and his plan was to start from scratch. But the eminent oenologist Giuliano Noè convinced Carlo not to do so but instead to recover and restore it. The advice was taken and the eventual results are outstanding.
Volpi La Zerba Timorasso Colli Tortonesi (DOC) 2016, 13%, €21.50 Mary Pawle
Released from its very dark bottle, this Timorasso shows a very light straw colour. Delicately aromatic, mainly floral. Full bodied and dry, with melon flavours, it is immediately refreshing on the palate with a fresh and herby acidity. Highly Recommended.
Timorasso, says Mary Pawle, is one of the most exciting Italian autochthonous grape varieties to surface in recent years, from the Colli Tortonesi wine region in south east Piemonte, not far from Gavi in fact. “This ancient variety was brought from the brink of extinction having been reduced to just 120 hectares in 2010. Aromatic, full bodied with good acidity.” The grape is still a bit of a rarity.

Wednesday, September 18, 2019



Ireland’s Hotel, Restaurant, Chef, Hideaway and Pub of the Year announced at National Awards Ceremony
From Ireland’s best street, ethnic and seafood to the finest host and the most pet-friendly destination, winners of Georgina Campbell  Irish Food & Hospitality Awards 2020, in association with AIB announced
Representing the four corners of Ireland, the winners of the 2020 Georgina Campbell Irish Food & Hospitality Awards, in association with AIB, were announced on Sunday.
Celebrating 21 years in their current incarnation, the Georgina Campbell Awards recognise and honour Ireland’s standard-bearers in food and hospitality in Ireland with particular emphasis, this year, on the industry pioneers who put down quality markers a generation or more ago. For a full list of the winners and citations please click here 
Celebrating generations of standard-bearers
According to Georgina Campbell, one of Ireland’s foremost food and hospitality writers, Ireland’s success in food, tourism and hospitality is a very exciting and ever-developing story. “I have been thinking a lot about the legacy of the wonderful Myrtle Allen -  to whom the industry owes an enormous debt of gratitude and who we remember fondly at today’s event - and those of  her generation who have laid down the unshakable foundations of quality. Many of these great people are still active and working alongside their children and often their grandchildren, and they are the pioneers of the genuine hospitality, sustainable food sourcing and innovation that Ireland is gaining a reputation for today,” said Georgina Campbell.
“Equally we can marvel at the wave of talented, skilled and motivated young people who are laying down new foundations and safeguarding the future for the generations to come. It’s a challenging time to be in food and hospitality right now, but it’s also a very exciting time and, in the main, standards are increasing at every level from ground-breaking new restaurants to casual dining destinations, street food trucks, cafés and bars. So much so, in fact, that selecting the shortlists for these awards was an even more demanding task than usual.”
Georgina added, “This year, in tune with our special recognition of the pioneers in Irish food and hospitality, we have also been looking particularly at sustainable development, and especially when it takes place within a family business. The ability to recognise the need for change and act creatively and sustainably so that they can not just survive, but thrive, is what marks out many of our most successful multi-generational businesses - some of which have re-invented themselves several times in recent decades.”
for a full list of the winners and citations please click here 

Room for improvement
Whilst the awards are a celebration of our best hospitality and finest producers, Georgina Campbell did express a note of caution. “When carrying out our independent and anonymous assessments around the country, we have encountered disappointments once again, and particularly with some 4- and 5-star hotels, where there really should be no excuses. There is a worrying lack of a sense of hospitality in some cases and poor training - or indeed no apparent training at all - and it is baffling that there are still issues with standards at ‘top’ establishments every year.  Hotel prices are continuing to rise too, especially in the major cities and without any corresponding rise in standards, and it is disappointing to see us losing the competitive edge that was so hard won during the recession,” said Georgina.
Sourcing and provenance
Speaking at the awards, Georgina Campbell had praise for the improvements in sourcing policies, crediting Bord Bia’s Just Ask programme for the work it has done in this area. “Provenance is so important to consumers and establishments owe it to themselves, their suppliers and their customers to highlight the origin of the produce on the menu, thereby supporting Irish suppliers,” said Georgina.
The Awards were held in association with AIB for the first time and David McCarthy, Head of Hospitality & Tourism at AIB said: “Our message to hospitality businesses in a time of uncertainty with increased competitiveness, mounting cost pressures and slower revenue growth, is that it is now more important than ever for SMEs to focus on sustainability from a social, environmental and economic perspective.”
Amongst the many guests who attended the prestigious awards were Richard Corrigan, Darina Allen, Michael Deane, Niall McKenna and Andy McFadden, all of whom are widely recognised as leading lights in the promotion of Ireland’s thriving food and hospitality industries.
for a full list of the winners and citations please click here 
Press release

Ballymaloe House embraces excitement of Rugby World Cup with Sake Dinner

press release
Scrum-tious Sake
Ballymaloe House embraces excitement of Rugby World Cup as they present a Japanese dining experience that is not to be missed

As the excitement of the upcoming Rugby World Cup grips the country, Japan is the destination on everyone’s mind and the topic on everyone’s lips. To coincide with this momentous event, the award-winning Ballymaloe House have decided to bring a taste of Japan to their famous venue, with a dining experience that will see a carefully curated menu paired with five varieties of sake.

Taking place on Friday 11th October, the event will kick off at 6:30pm and will take guests on an educational and palatable journey through the process of sake production, from its origins in the paddy field to final presentation. Sake expert Honami, Head of Marketing for KEIGETSU, a range produced by the family owned Tosa brewery, will be on hand to guide guests through the entire taste experience as he introduces a selection of sake that varies from sparkling to cold to sweet. Ballymaloe House’s Head Chef Dervilla O’Flynn will create a tailored menu specifically suited to sake pairing, ensuring that the overall dining experience is enhanced and thoroughly enjoyed by those attending.

Created from rice through fermentation, sake is a Japanese wine, which has been brewed and manufactured by KEIGETSU since 1877. The company’s quality product is as a result of the brewers’ expertise combined with the clear waters and fresh air to be found in abundance within the Tosa-Cho region, where the brewery is based. The area is surrounded by a serene natural environment near the Sameura Lake and KEIGETSU sake is handmade in small batches using this high-quality, soft water from the locale. The creation of sake, from fermentation to production, will be explored by Honami during the upcoming event at Ballymaloe House, as he takes diners on a rare gastronomic journey they are unlikely to forget.

Tickets for the event cost 105 per person and advance booking is essential as places are limited. For more information on the event visit Tickets can be purchased by emailing or calling 021 4652 531.

Walking in Knockadoon

Walking in Knockadoon
Looking west towards Ballycotton. The tower is one of Ireland’s Napoleonic-era signal towers. There is a restored
tower near the Old Head of Kinsale. Walked here again on Wednesday 18th Sep 2019.
To get to Knockadoon and this lovely walk:
If coming from the east, via Youghal, follow the main Cork road. Turn left when you see the Ballymacoda sign and then turn left in Ballymacoda itself. If coming from Cork city, turn right when you see the Ballymacoda sign. There is an alternative when coming from the city. Turn right at the lights in Castlemartyr and then turn left in Ladysbridge - there is a sign there for Ballymacoda. Enjoy this fabulous walk in East Cork.
Still looking west. Ballycotton is in the distant haze.

The islands and lighthouse of Ballycotton


Looking east to Youghal, its lighthouse and the mouth of the Blackwater.

That old signal tower.

Bales of straw

The signal tower again

Bales of straw in the fields

Flowers have faded. Now it's all about survival. Get those seeds out there for 2020.

The sky here is often criss-crossed with jet trails. But Wednesday (18.09.2019) was so fine that the
vapour vanished quickly in the dry atmosphere; the trails didn't last long.

Nearing the end of the western part.

Sheep here (and below) graze above the cliffs

Capel Island, also below, is at the eastern side (where you start the walk)

Tuesday, September 17, 2019

Taste of the Week. Crossogue's Clementine & Limoncello Marmalade

Taste of the Week
Clementine & Limoncello Marmalade
by Crossogue Preserves

Regular winners at the World Marmalade Awards, Tipperary’s Crossogue Preserves keep coming up with new combinations. I got the latest, a Clementine & Limoncello Marmalade from Margo Ann at the Roughty Fruity Stall in the English Market and it is now our Taste of the Week.

One of the other ingredients is Lemon so there is something of a tang there along with the sweetness of the Clementine (the fruit is not as bitter as some other oranges) and the Limoncello (made from the zest rather than the more bitter fruit). Indeed, the marmalade seems to carry an almost Asian sweet and sour touch and Margo Ann suggests it may be handy around Christmas time.

I’m not waiting until then. Nor should you. Lather it over a slice of fresh sourdough and enjoy the current Taste of the Week! And don't forget all those other award winning marmalades from Crossogue!

Crossogue House
Co. Tipperary
Tel: 00 353 (0)504 54416

Monday, September 16, 2019

Kinsale's Bulman Buzzing on Misty Autumn Night

Kinsale's Bulman Buzzing
 on Misty Autumn Night

The mist had started before we set off for The Bulman in Kinsale. But when it comes to going for a walk - this from Perryville up to the Bulman - we need little encouragement to err on the silly side and that was forthcoming from our host. So off we went, on the scenic Scilly Walk. It is indeed an interesting walk with views to the harbour and the bay. And the trees sheltered us from the increasingly thick mist and we were quite dry when we entered the Bulman.

What a surprise to find the bar full (diners mostly) on this miserable Tuesday evening. We picked our way through and made our way upstairs to Toddie's, the restaurant, and that too was packed. Just as well we had booked. Soon we were seated amidst the groups, both large and small, and we went on to enjoy the buzz, the food and the drink (they have their own beer here, brewed by the nearby accomplished Black's Brewery). At the end, we asked for a cab but a lady who had served us earlier offered to drive us down - we didn't know then that she is one of the owners. Nice touch, especially after her 12 hour shift!

A few years back, I was introducing a Swedish journalist to the Kinsale area and, after visiting nearby Charlesfort, Pelle and I ended up at the Bulman for lunch. He loved the local Stonewell cider and was very impressed with the place and the food. On this occasion, it was our turn to be impressed and we have no hesitation in giving it the blog's Very Highly Recommended tag.

Oysters in the Bulman have a little section of their own on the menu. They all come from Jamie at the local Haven Shellfish. You may have them hot or cold or as Bloody Mary Shots  The cold Rock Oysters come with either Teriyaki  or a Shallot Vinaigrette.  You may have the hot with Courgette, Lime & Parmesan or, as I had above, with Leek & Gruyere. Perhaps the best hot oyster dish I've ever had.
Starters here are high on quality and are not short on quantity either.
This Irish Prawn and Avocado Salad with Marie Rose sauce and mixed leaves
is a great example, the dish loaded with the flavour-packed small local prawns. 
The Bulman's flowers enjoying the natural sprinkle.
The Hake (below) was one of the nightly specials and so was this Pan seared fillet of organic salmon, with Wasabi
mashed potatoes, broccoli and teriyaki sauce. Another winner, even if the wasabi potato wasn't finished! But they do have other side dishes, so just ask if you think you won't like an element of a dish on the menu.

The Bulman, as you might expect, are strong on fish, most from Kinsale
boats. This Oven Roasted Fillet of Hake, Ratatouille, baby new potatoes,
and broccoli, was excellent, the fish and the Ratatouille a
delicious moist combination. So good. Clean plate!  
Just one dessert but two spoons and our server diplomatically placed it in "neutral"territory!
But what a dessert! Fresh Strawberry Tartlet with Strawberry Ice Cream. Oh la la!
The Bulman
Co. Cork

Sunday, September 15, 2019

Clonakilty Blackpudding’s Sparkling New Home

Colette Twomey
Clonakilty Blackpudding’s Sparkling New Home

When the newly married Edward and Colette Twomey took over a Clonakilty butcher shop in the late 70s, blackpudding was not really one of the attractions for them. But the deal did include a secret spice recipe and the Twomeys soon realised that the pudding was very popular with their customers and quite a few of them were sending it to relatives abroad. The couple were wise enough not to ignore the market and the rest is history.

All this came back during A Taste of West Cork event in the company’s impressive new facility in their home town. The two of us and a few dozen other paying guests were given a tour of the new visitor centre before being treated to a series of blackpudding based dishes by top chef Peter Clifford.
Chef Peter Clifford

Why Peter Clifford? Well Peter’s father, Michael, was one of Ireland’s most famous chefs, holder of a Michelin star, and an early and influential supporter of the Clonakilty product. Both Peter and Colette acknowledge that his signature dish of black pudding elevated the humble breakfast staple to being acclaimed as an excellent starter. 
The new Veggie pudding in a salad with Serrano, pomegranate, and sherry dressing.

Tragically, Michael died at the age of 54 when Peter was in his mid-teens. Tragedy too for the Twomeys when Edward passed in 2005; at least he had seen and enjoyed the success, a success that would be driven even further by his widow, the only holder of that secret spice mix recipe.
Colette (left), Peter and Deirdre Clifford, with picture of the late Michael.
Pic courtesy of A Taste of West Cork.

The digitised butcher ready to chat
There is even a spice mixer on display in the inter-active visitor centre, which is not quite completed at present but getting very close indeed. And here too you may find out about Johanna O’Brien, the 19th century compiler of that magic mix! It was passed down through generations of the butcher shop owners. The original butchers were Harringtons and so the recipe was named after them.

You will also meet the digitised versions too of the butcher and the grocer and hear employees talk of their experiences with the firm. By the way, that Twomey’s shop on main street is still going strong and well worth a visit and while you’re there be sure and check out the other company products such as rashers and sausages.

Colette, chief executive and co-founder of the host company, told us that Michael Clifford grew up in Clon. “He had a great passion for food and saw the potential in the black pudding and passed that on to us.” Peter's family, including Michael’s widow Deirdre, were at the event and Colette presented them with a framed portrait of Michael.
The new Veggie Pudding, now in the shops

Peter too enjoys cooking the black pudding and went on to demonstrate five dishes including the Gateau of Clonakilty Blackpudding, his father’s special. Other dishes, and we got generous tastings of the five, included Celeriac and Pear Soup with Blackpudding, A Clonakilty Veggie Pudding salad with Serrano Ham, pomegranates and sherry (PX no less!) dressing, Clonakilty Whitepudding with a stew of wild rice, pearl barley and wild mushrooms and also a Clonakilty Blackpudding on toast with butter beans and apple.
More on Peter here 

Western Road
Co. Cork

That Veggie Pudding may surprise you as you may not have heard of it.  It was launched just the previous Monday (September 8th). Peter gave it quite an endorsement and said he loved the spice element in it. It may be used in much the same way as the others, certainly substituted for the whitepudding. No shortage of recipes on the website, for breakfast, lunch, dinner and parties. Please click here

Saturday, September 14, 2019

Amuse Bouche

The head, skin and feet of this beast (lamb) had already been removed and the first job was to deal with the innards. Hooks, a saw and a cleaver. The equipment was clean and standing by. Whether she was doing pastry or finding a lamb’s pelvic bone, or counting off the ribs with her eyes closed, Ségo operated by touch - it always seemed as if she could work blindfolded had it been required.
And when she sawed through the top of the spine, this was a thrill. Sometimes I was allowed to remove the neck but usually I wasn't allowed to do anything more than scrape the membrane from the ribs.

from One Star Awake by Andrew Meehan (2017). Recommended.