Friday, March 22, 2019

Amuse Bouche


Gibianca slice
Guests weren’t allowed in the crowded maternity ward, for health and hygiene reasons, but my mother couldn’t stand the hospital food and she was starving. She was waiting at the open window for the gibanica: a feta cheese and phyllo pastry pie, and “reform torte”, a nutty creamy dessert — both made by her mother, at her request. Dad spotted her and threw the ball of twine… She didn’t catch it….
He threw it again and she caught it.
“If you’d thrown it like that the first time, I would have caught it,” she said, hauling the basket up, eager to have the last word.

from Miss Ex-Yugoslavia by Sofia Stefanovic (2018). Highly Recommended.

Photo: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Gibanica_single_slice_with_full_pie_in_background.jpg. Attribution: Cyrus Roepers

Thursday, March 21, 2019

Getting Curried Away in Clonakilty. Richy's Indian Foodesessy


Getting Curried Away in Clonakilty
Richy's Indian Foodesessy 
Food galore from Bangalore
Last week, we were in Bangalore, enjoying the local cuisine, including Sagu and Alulugedda. Not really in Bangalore! But in Richy’s in Clonakilty at Week 3 of an 18-month culinary journey around the states of India, courtesy of  Head Chef Meeran Gani Manzoor.

Meeran, an accomplished chef with very high-level experience, is from the state of Chennai in the south-west and that city, capital of the state of Tamil Nadu, was featured on the opening night of the Curry Club with Beef Madras taking pride of place on the Thali* that also included Carrot Cauliflower Pickle, Lemon Rice and Dosa. On Thursday 26th Feb, the food was from Kerala, India. Malabar Fish Moilee, Coconut rice and other local dishes featured.

Richy told me this tasting tour around India with the Curry Club, takes place every 2nd and 4th Thursday of every month, for the next 18 months or so! “We will travel up the coast, showcasing authentic dishes from each state each time. Including a cooking demonstration and food presented in theatre-style, a real sense of community can be felt. Come and join us for a night like no other!”

Bangalore (also known as Bengaluru) as you may know is the technology capital of India. It is the capital city of Karnataka, the largest state with a population of over 12 million. Last Thursday’s curry was presented on a Thali with a circle of small bowls.

The main feature was perhaps the Korri Gassi, the chicken curry. There was also a Pudhina Chutney (a mint chutney), a very tasty Sagu (a mixed vegetable curry), Alulugedda (spuds!) and a Bisi Beli Bath (a traditional Indian rice lentil dish). So quite a bit of curry but all moderate, used more for flavour than spice. The only “jarring” note came from the Lemon Pickle and then only if you tried it on its own. Mix it in with some of the others and it became part of a delicious harmony of flavours and textures. 

And we even had dessert on the Thali. It was called Kesari, a Millet pudding with cream, cardamom, cloves, pumpkin seeds, cashew nut, and raisins. It’s not very photogenic but is deliciously sweet and not at all cloying. Quite a way to finish off this leg of the curry club trail that is going down very well indeed with Richy's customers.

Next stop on the Curry Club trek comes on March 28th with the spotlight on Andhra Pradesh. No menu available yet but the state is known for Chicken Biryani, spicy Tamarind rice, Fish Curry, with the light and delicious Curd Rice as dessert. No doubt Chef Meeran will come up with another superb selection on the night. Well worth the twenty euro!

Meeran Gani Manzoor, Head Chef at Richy’s Restaurant in Clonakilty since last year, is a graduate in Culinary Arts Management from the University of West London. His broad international experience has been acquired while working around the globe, in countries such as Belgium, UK and USA.

* Thali simply means plate and indeed, there is a friendly Nepalese restaurant, on Pope’s Quay, called Thali.

Wednesday, March 20, 2019

Excellent wines from uncommon grapes: Loureiro and Treixadura


Excellent wines from uncommon grapes: Loureiro and Treixadura

Antonio Lopes Ribeiro Vinho Verde (DOC) 2015, 9%, €17.96 Mary Pawle Wines

One variety, one river. It says on the label. Better tell you about the variety as I had to look it up myself.  It is 100% Loureiro. Wine-Searcher says it is a thin skinned white grape variety native to northern Portugal and used to make the ever trendy Vinho Verde wines. Taking its name from the laurel or bay-leaf plant for its resembling aroma, Loureiro wines are refreshing with a slight effervescence. They have fresh acidity and are low in alcohol making them a perfect wine to enjoy on its own or with light meals.

Many of you will be familiar with Vinho Verde wines from the north west coast of Portugal which has a relatively cool climate, perfect for growing vines. Quite often Loureiro is used in a blend. Food pairings suggested include with canapés or seafood. It also pairs raw fish in a flawless fashion (sushi, sashimi) and dishes of strong and exotic flavor (especially oriental food).

This organic crisp and dry wine, from Casa de Mouraz, has a light straw colour. Aromas of peach and apricot, orange blossom too. It doesn’t have the obvious petillance that you sometimes get in Vinho Verde but there is a quite a tingle on the palate. Fruit is light and lively and the high acidity reinforces its refreshing nature. This low alcohol Vinho Verde, even without the bubbles, is Highly Recommended.


“La Flor de Margot” Treixadura Ribeiro (DO) 2016, 12.5%, €18.30 Karwig Wines

A grape name that is not very familiar on Irish shelves features in this white from the north west of Spain. Treixadura is grown mainly in Spain and in Portugal where they call it Trajadura. It is usually blended. This one though is 100% Treixadura and has been aged on its lees.

It boast an attractive light gold colour, lots of tiny bubbles cling to the glass. Aromas are fresh, both fruity and floral. Flavours of peach and apricot mainly, also citrus; it has a lovely mouthfeel and the citrus is more in play through to the long finish. Wouldn’t mind a few examples of this one, Highly Recommended.

Seafood is widely considered a match, eg clams in tomato sauce, seared scallops with herb salad. Red peppers stuffed with cheese is also recommended.

Tuesday, March 19, 2019

Taste of the Week. Rosscarbery Irish Biltong


Taste of the Week
Rosscarbery Irish Biltong


You’re a person on the go. Playing stamina sapping games. Surfing. Climbing. Hill Climbing. Farming. Maybe you’re just hovering the stairs carpet. And you need a quick snack to boost those energy levels. Well, our latest Taste of the Week might interest you. The Irish Biltong by Rosscarbery Recipes is naturally high in protein, a great on the go snack made from 100% Angus beef. Just sea salt, organic raw cane sugar, toasted coriander, ground black pepper, onion powder, garlic powder, and dried Irish seaweed have been added to the beef.

The Allshires, the family behind Rosscarbery and Caherbeg Pork, are well known in West Cork and beyond and it was one of the younger members, son Maurice, who developed this product. Initially is was for himself. 

An active young man, he was unimpressed with the snacks available, certainly with those long lists of strange ingredients. “I needed something tasty, something that I could rely on with an ingredient list that a toddler could read.” And so he developed Rosscarbery Biltong around his own lifestyle. It took a while though but now it is widely available.

The beef has been cured and air dried and cut into small strips and the product comes ready to eat in a pocketable pack. Just put a piece on your tongue and allow the juices in your mouth to work their magic. The beef softens and you can chew away to your heart’s content. Another  strip or two and you’re ready to move that mountain, well climb that hill!

Caherbeg
Rosscarbery
Co. Cork

Monday, March 18, 2019

Cafe Paradiso. World Champion Farm-to-Plate


Cafe Paradiso. World Champion Farm-to-Plate
Aubergine parcels (Paradiso pic)

If I put my all too infrequent visits to Café Paradiso together, the common carrot would be the common thread. 

Maybe I shouldn’t say the common carrot as there is nothing common about the way the vegetable is treated here. You can get it in any state from raw baby (with leaves attached) to roasted as we did last Friday evening. Besides, these carrots come from Gort na Nain Farm and the long-standing combination of that farm and this leading Irish restaurant has seen Denis Cotter of Paradiso and Ultan Walsh of Gort na Nain win the Collaboration of the Year prize at the recent World Restaurant Awards in Paris.
Baby carrots (2013)

I think my first carrot experience on Lancaster Quay was  Baby Carrots with buttermilk yoghurt and the kombu. Last Friday’s was Roast carrots, Macroom buffalo mozzarella, burnt aubergine, honey, pickled fennel, ras-el-hanout crumb. Being a country boy, I’m partial to carrot, have grown and eaten a lot of them, but this was exceptional, soft and sweet and so well enhanced by the other bits and pieces.

That was one of our starters - we were sharing them as it’s a great way to extend the excellent experience here in this busy, buzzy room, a very popular place even before world recognition! 
Roast carrots (2019)

Our other opener was Kohlrabi, asparagus and daikon salad, pickled rhubarb and radish, lamb’s lettuce, black garlic, hazelnut, sheep’s milk labneh. An entirely different dish, more colourful, full of crunchy texture, one to crunch and savour each delicious biteful. Just as with the carrot, you can feel the freshness. 

These vegetables haven’t travelled far! Just from the farm in Nohoval - by the way, their vegetable stall was due to open this month. Check the Gort-na-Nain facebook for updates here.

Paradiso has a superb wine list. The lower end and the slow-moving higher end were chopped from the list about three years ago and what remains is packed with quality, great choices, between approximately thirty and fifty five euro a bottle. By the way, all the wines are available by the glass, by 250ml (quartino) and 500ml (mezzo) carafe and by the bottle.
Corn pancakes

We had started with the Domaine Séguinot Bordet Chablis 1er Cru 2016, bright and vivacious, harmonious from start to finish. And our second wine - we knew we had to have this even before we left home - was the superb Jean Foillard Morgon ‘Cote du Py’, 2016. This natural wine, intense and soft, from Beaujolais is one the very best expressions of the Gamay grape you are likely to come across. 
Kohlrabi


Corn pancakes of leek, parsnip and Dunmanus cheese (by Durrus), potato-wild garlic terrine, fennel-caper salsa, smoked tomato is a delightful main dish, very highly recommended if you get an opportunity to call in.

Again we were sharing and we both enjoyed the Aubergine parcels of spinach and Knockalara sheep’s cheese, miso gravy, walnut crumb, beluga lentils, broad beans, purple potato. Thought that the potato was beetroot at first - all those coloured vegetables nowadays makes it hard to keep up!

One of my friends, who travels widely in the hospitality industry, told me a few years back: "It is not alone the best vegetarian restaurant in Ireland, it is probably the best restaurant in Ireland”. I wonder has the Michelin man ever called to Lancaster Quay.


16 Lancaster Quay
Cork
Tel: +353 21 4277 939
Opening Hours: Monday - Saturday, 17:30 - 21.30

Sunday, March 17, 2019

Amuse Bouche - Bank Holiday Special


It was just me and the other guy. The blue kite.
The tension in the air was as taut as the glass string I was tugging with my bloody hands. People were stomping their feet, clapping, whistling chanting, “Boboresh! Boboresh!” Cut him! Cut him! I wondered if Baba’s voice was one of them. Music blasted. The smell of steamed mantu and fried pakora drifted from rooftops and open doors.
But all I heard - all I willed myself to hear - was the thudding of blood in my head. All I saw was the blue kite. All I smelled was victory.

from The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini (2003). Very Highly Recommended.

Saturday, March 16, 2019

Amuse Bouche



The staff lunch is a daily ritual that serves as a tasting forum and often draws guests who just happen to show up around twelve thirty. “We see these heads in the window,” says Beckey, “which is terrific, because Russell is incapable of cooking for less than twelve.” 

Clearly a man of large appetites and enthusiasms, he can take no credit for his towering height, but his Falstaffian girth is presumably his own accomplishment. He is also widely reputed to have both an excellent palate and an extraordinary memory for older vintages.

from The Juice, Vinous Veritas, by Jay McInerney (2012). Highly Recommended.

Thursday, March 14, 2019

Seasalt’s Good Start in Cobh


Seasalt’s Good Start in Cobh
Tart with two salads

If a good start is half the battle, then Cobh’s new café Seasalt is already winning. Jacqui O’Dea’s Casement Square daytime restaurant (9.00 to 5.00) has hit the ground running. And you’d better get a move on too as they are popular and busy. We were there on a bitterly cold and showery midweek day and it was packed at lunchtime, with some potential customers turned away.

So what’s it all about? It’s about good fresh food, sourced locally and cooked well by the Ballymaloe trained chef Jacqui. Amazingly, for the first time ever, a Cobh chef is offering the smoked salmon of Frank Hederman even though he is just out the road and has been supplying some of the world’s best outlets for 38 years! You may have the salmon in the morning and at midday, as Seasalt offer tempting Brunch and Lunch menus.
Hederman

And while Seasalt have lots of salads and veg on the menus, they have the Full Irish too, well at least the Rosscarbery Irish: two sausages, rashers, black pudding, sautéed spuds, roast tomato, two organic fried eggs and sourdough toast! Impressive.

And Frank Hederman’s salmon features on their Eggs Royale with two poached organic eggs and Hollandaise sauce on toasted Pana sourdough.
Window view

Having just escaped a heavy shower, we settled in for lunch and thought we’d warm up with their Mushroom Soup. It came in a colourful pot but I didn’t bother with a photo as the soup was so dark, not at all photogenic! But don’t judge a book by its cover! This was a splendid thick soup, a power-packed shot across the bows of the cold weather and probably the very best mushroom soup that we’ve ever tasted.

Orange Polenta
The menu changes weekly here, partly so regulars won’t get bored! I had been looking at the Cork Reuben as my main course. This consists of McCarthy’s Pastrami, house sauerkraut, pickles, with Edam cheese on Pana sourdough. 

In the end though I picked the Hederman Smoked Salmon that came with a salad, plus a helping of apple and fennel, all on a base of their own very tasty brown bread. Very happy with that, the crunch of the bread, the apple and the smoothness and precision of the smoked fish, just perfect.

CL meanwhile was enjoying her Tart of the Day with two salads, a puff pastry base loaded with roasted vegetables (aubergine and courgette) and much the same salads that I had. Another good mix of textures and flavours, not to mention the attractive colours. These were both specials. Aside from the Pastrami, they also had Croque Madame, a Cauliflower Dahl, and a Macroom Halloumi Salad to choose from.

Would we have dessert? Hummed and hawed a bit but once we took a closer look at the counter, all resistance faded. And, along with a couple of cups of the Badger and Dodo coffee, we enjoyed an Orange and Polenta Cake and also a Lemon Slice. 

The sun has been shining while we ate and for a few minutes after we left. But soon we had to pick up “speed” as another shower coming from the city threatened. Just made it back to the Five Foot Walk car park.

17 Casement Square
Cobh.
Call: 086 085 1650

Wednesday, March 13, 2019

Taste of the Week. Cohiba “Atmosphere” Cuban Coffee


Taste of the Week
Cohiba “Atmosphere” Cuban Coffee

I keep an eye on the offerings at Dublin’s FIXX coffee and glad that I do when I can get my hands on a coffee as good as this Cohiba “Atmosphere”.

The beans are sourced from The Isabelica Plantation of Gran Piedra, a UNESCO World Heritage Site (one of only two coffee plantations in the world to receive this accolade).

At over 1,000 meters above sea level and surrounded by hardwood trees, the coffee plants develop under the shade of the leafy trees. A natural refuge for rare birds making the almost inaccessible region into a Biosphere Reserve. The exceptional conditions found in this small area ensure that we are getting something very rare with these bird-friendly gourmet coffees.


This is a superb coffee, intense rather than strong, excellent body with the hint of cocoa undertones. A knockout premium coffee, something of a fist in a velvet glove. It is 100% Arabica and is expensive but quite a treat.

Fixx 
Unit 9, Naas Road Business Park, Muirfield Drive, Naas Road , Dublin, D12 X3H7

Tuesday, March 12, 2019

Nigel Cotter. His Butcher to Chef Story


Nigel Cotter. His Butcher to Chef Story

Nigel Cotter, the Douglas man who was recently awarded the Market Lane Culinary Scholarship with CIT, has taken a long road to cheffing. He is a qualified butcher and has spent over ten years in the trade.

And it was while working as a butcher that he began to appreciate quality of produce. He credits an early mentor, Flor Kent, with giving him a good all-round picture, of the trade, of food and of life. And that butcher background is now a massive plus as he studies to be a chef.

But cheffing had always been somewhere in his mind and that has much to do with his mother who was a farmer’s daughter. Her roasts were spectacular, memorable. But with a whole animal from the family farm available, she had to use all the cuts and they had meat, stews and steaks and so on, all the year round variety.

Nigel still appreciates the meat of course but nowadays tends to cook a lot of fish at home. “We are an island nation, we should be using more fish.”

And it is not just at home that Nigel cooks these days. As part of his CIT course, he had to find a restaurant that would give him 400 hours placement. Luckily, Brendan Cashman’s Gallo and Galetti, where both Nigel and his wife enjoy eating, took him on and now that 400 hours requirement has been well and truly exceeded.

He was delighted to accept the scholarship that will help him extend and enhance his culinary education, “It is an incredible opportunity for me.” Nigel, who is currently studying for a Certificate in Culinary Skills, will use the bursary to progress to the National Chef De Partie Apprenticeship Programme at CIT, which will set him on a fast-track to becoming a fully qualified chef with access to the best kitchens in the country.

He is an obviously determined young man. His studies currently take up two full days each week and then he works around that commitment. Does he get a chance to relax? He does indeed. He loves watching Rugby and American football. For the past seven or eight years, he has been playing Five-a-Side football out in Ballincollig, enjoying the exercise and the craic. Music is another big interest of his and indeed he “used to play for a few bands”.

He has been strong on getting local producers recognised and his thoughts on the subject were taken on board by Conrad Howard of Market Lane who will be including profiles on their menu in the coming weeks, introducing their diners to the fantastic, passionate producers that supply the restaurant with their produce. 
Nigel, with Dr Noel Murray(left) of CIT and Conrad Howard of Market Lane Group.

Nigel’s interest in local producers was reinforced by Avril Allshire of Rosscarbery Recipes and Caherbeg Pork when she spoke to his group at CIT. “Avril gave us a great talk and very unselfishly promoted other producers as well.”

He is all for diversity and balance in diet. “We should eat better quality meat, but less of it, and definitely eat more fish and vegetables.

Has he a favourite chef? “Marco Pierre White, a working class man who shot for the stars. Also the Roux brothers, Albert and Michel, French-born restaurateurs and chefs in Britain. And I’m sure there are more!”

Nigel is a patient fellow. It has taken him a long while to get to this point but he is not jumping too far ahead. “Of course, it’s in the back of every chef’s mind to have his or her own kitchen and to run the show to his or her own standards. But I’m only at stage one. You’ve got to serve your time, got to learn, then find your niche.”



Monday, March 11, 2019

Le Caveau Tasting in the 'Hood. Port Shines in Old Apple Market


Le Caveau Tasting in the 'Hood.
Port Shines in Old Apple Market.

Chef Takashi Miyazaki (left) with Pascal Rossignol of Le Caveau in the Old Apple Market
Chris Forbes is a man on the move. Chris, export manager at The Fladgate Partnership, representing Port wines from Taylor Fladgate, Fonseca and Croft, spent close to six months on the road, on the train, and in the air, traversing the globe last year and expects this year to be much the same. Port keeps him on the move and he was in Cork last Thursday for the Le Caveau Portfolio Tasting in the Old Apple Market in Barrack Street.

The demand for the Portuguese wine - Port is a wine, a good one and a good value one too - may be surprising to some of us here. The fortified drink may be hundreds of years old but you’ll still find it in the best of places. Chris hosted a Boston dinner in January ($135 Per Person, not including tax and gratuity) and, at the recent Oscars, Taylor’s Ruby Port was used in a classic Paloma cocktail!


Nearer to home, I’ve come across the Taylor’s Chip Dry White Port (introduced in 1934, so a relative youngster) in cocktails at Cask and also in what is cheekily called an Irish G&T in a Wexford restaurant (Aldridge Lodge) where the port takes the place of the gin as they don’t have a spirits licence.

And it was with a sip of that Chip Dry that I started my amble around the many wines, most of them organic, many of them natural, at the very interesting portfolio tasting. It is delightful as an aperitif, may also be used, one to two, with tonic water, and of course in those cocktails.




Le Caveau are well-known for their excellent house wine range and quite a few were on display including the Cantina Tollo pair of Madregale and Ciello (check out their reds too) and also the Menade Verdejo. The Burgundy whites impressed, of course, the Ambroise, two by Larue (St Aubin 1er cru and Chassagne-Montrachet) and also the Bachey-Legros Puligny Montrachet.

On the Loire side, I very much liked the “Mademoiselle M” by Alexandre Bain and Sauvignon Blanc from Frantz Saumon, cheekily titled Vin de Frantz! Meyer-Fonné seldom disappoints and his Alsace Pinot Blanc Vieilles Vignes is a gem. Another beauty was the Rhone white by Dard et Ribo from Croze-Hermitage.



Stepped on the gas then and headed for Italy and the excellent Semplicemente, a 100% Cortese from the late Stefano Bellotti’s winery. I’ve been working my way through the Judith Beck wines from Austria and added another to my to-do list when I tasted her Koreaa. Further afield I recruited another three for my shortlist: the Iago Chinuri from Georgia, the Pebble Dew Sauvignon Blanc from New Zealand and the Radford Dale Chardonnay from South Africa.

Lots of lovely wines in the less expensive reds section including old friends like the Tour de Gendres “Le Classique” and Chateau de Cedre “Heritage de Cedre” from Bergerac. Also fancied the Antica Enotria Rosso from this bunch.

Then crossed the room and really struck it rich on the Burgundy shelf. Started well with the Ambroise Pinot Noir “Lettre d’Eloise” and moved up a notch with Bachey-Legros Santenay 1er cru. Thought it couldn’t get any better than the Regnaudot Maranges 1er cru “Fussieres. It didn’t but the Parize Givry 1er cru “Champ Nalot” matched it!



The three Beaujolais, including Foillard’s Morgan Classique, matched my high expectations and I found the Bornard Ploussard Point Barre very interesting and will have to explore it further and the same note was made about the Nicolas Reau Anjou Cabernet Franc “Pompois”.

Despite a recent tip from Jean-Frédéric Hugel during the recent Findlater Tasting in the Montenotte Hotel, I was still very much surprised by the Binner Pinot Noir “Beatrice” from Alsace. M. Hugel told me of a huge improvement in Alsace Pinot Noir over the past twenty years and this is another outstanding example. If I must ever chose just one wine for the desert island, this will certainly be on the shortlist. As Rex Pickett wrote in Sideways I "was vertiginously winched up to a more rarefied plateau".

Always worth keeping an eye on is Beauregard-Mirouze from Corbieres in the South of France for well made wines at attractive prices and their “Ciel de Sud” is certainly one. And, in the same category, check out Maule’s “Masieri Rosso” from Italy. Other Italians to note are the Foradori IGT Vigneti delle Dolomiti and the Ampeleia Coste Toscana IGT.


Spain didn’t disappoint either. The Peza do Rei Tinto Ribera Sacra is worth checking out and so too is the Alfred Maestro El Marciano Garnacha (just note the 15% abv!). The New Zealand Pebble Dew Pinot Noir hit the spot too, just like its Sauvignon Blanc earlier. I’m something of a Gamay fan but have never seen one as light-coloured as the Radford Dale “Thirst”. Interesting also was their Syrah “Nudity”. Just might be buying a bottle of each.

My finalé to a very pleasant couple of hours - we had some lovely local producer bites provided by Jack Crotty who has made this old building the base for Neighbourfood - was another drop of port and another chat with Chris. The finalé, sweet and conversation stopping delicious, was provided by the 2013 Late Bottled Vintage. I hadn’t had a drop of Port since Christmas and this reminded me in the nicest possible way of what I had been missing. If you’ve not been sipping Port lately, why not give it a try. It is just too good to leave out of your personal portfolio!



Port galore. Chris (right) with Colm (Le Caveau, Dublin)

You can get quite a lot of very interesting information on port here.
And you can see Chris on video here at the Californian Wine of the Month Club.

Sunday, March 10, 2019

Fine turnout for the latest Wine Dinner at Maryborough Hotel


Blackwater Gin

Maryborough Wine Dinner Excels
Superb Food from the Bellini Kitchen

Quite a turnout for the latest Wine Dinner in Bellini’s at the Maryborough Hotel. And quite a tour-de-force also by Head Chef Gemma Murphy, every dish of this multi-course meal a delicious delight.

The reception of the hotel wine events provides an easy and pleasant prelude to the night ahead. And last Friday’s was no exception with the excellent Blackwater Gin and Poacher’s tonics, both from the sunny south-east, easing the way and helping the friendly hotel staff and management get to know their guests.

After that relaxing start we were shown to our tables in the restaurant and soon we were enjoying the breads - the treacle butter was perhaps the highlight here! And then they poured our white wine, the Domaine a Deux Sauvignon Blanc (Touraine). This very quaffable white from the Loire, vibrant and dry, with citrus led fruit flavours, provided an excellent match for the opening rounds.
Langoustine

Not least with course number one, the Crisp Fried Langoustine in a delicious Tonkotsu sauce. The second offering was even better: Kombo and Sake Cured Salmon, Tapioca, Edamame and cucumber, and blood orange. What a delightful combination of textures, colours and flavours.
Salmon

Sorbet
Time then for the Green Apple Sorbet with Rosehip Gel, a pleasant palate-cleanser, eye-catching too. Now for the fish course: Halibut Fillet, Fregola Pasta, Cep Mushroom, Asparagus Tips, Morteaux Sauce, and Roast Chicken broth. Another outstanding mix: the fish perfectly cooked, that Morteaux a superb contrast and that broth brought them all together.

Now the staff were introducing the red wine. Oh by the way, they have no hard and fast rule here. If you prefer red all the way through, then that’s what you’ll get! Chateau Siran is well known in Margaux and beyond through its first wine of the same name. Its second wine is S de Siran, also bearing the Margaux AOC. Next comes our red, the Saint Jacques de Siran 2015, a Bordeaux Superieure (AOC), an blend of 42% Merlot, 29% each of Cabernet Franc and Cabernet Sauvignon (though the amount can vary from vintage to vintage). In any event, ours was smooth, soft and complex and paired perfectly with the lamb in the main course.
Halibut

That duo of lamb was yet another illustration of the expertise in the Bellini  kitchen. We got Marinated Rump, Parmesan and Tarragon crumbled shoulder, smoked parsnip, Cannellini Bean, Pardon Pepper, Black Garlic Infused Lamb jus. Both the lamb treatments were top notch and the black garlic jus was an amazing factor as well.
Lamb

Gemma eased us out with a delightful easy to eat dessert. The Velvet Cloud Sheep’s Yogurt from County Mayo has been earning plaudits all over the country for the past year or so. Gemma and the Square Table’s chef Martina Cronin soon realised its potential and have been using it for quite a while. I fancy Michael and Aisling, the Mayo couple behind it, would have been well pleased with our Baked Velvet Cloud Yogurt, poached rhubarb, confit orange and ginger biscuit. Soft and delicious!
Dessert

There were still some petit fours to negotiate but, wisely, the staff had these little gems served in a little box. You could eat them there and then or, as we did, tie the ribbon and take them home. And, no, we didn’t eat them in the taxi; the denouement came at morning coffee on the Saturday as we recalled the pleasures of the night before. 

This was probably the best of the recent wine events here at the Maryborough, so do keep an eye on the hotel’s social media and on this blog as well for future events.

Saturday, March 9, 2019

Amuse Bouche


The serious-looking waiter set more new glistening stemware in front of us. We were refreshed all around with the Comte Armand. As the wine rose to our lips, we were vertiginously winched up to a more rarefied plateau. It was as if we had just left the harbour and entered the sea, as if the clouds had parted and the sky had turned lavender and wraithlike little sprites were dancing on the surface of the water.
“Now this is Pinot Noir, “I said.

from Sideways by Rex Pickett (2004). Highly Recommended.

Thursday, March 7, 2019

Happy Tapas Time at Lola’s

Crema Catalana

Happy Tapas Time at Lola’s

As you round the corner and see the lively queue outside and note too through the glass the tightly packed tables at the front, you guess this visit to Las Tapas de Lola in Dublin’s Wexford Street is going to be a good one. And that feeling gets better with the warm unhurried greeting and chat at the door. And it just gets better and better as the evening goes on.

We are soon seated in the main part of the restaurant, taking in the buzz and the decor in the interior where there is a little more space between the tables. The menus are already on the table. We have about fifty tapas to choose from. Just as well we had done a little homework online.

Another little chat as we settle in and a welcome complimentary drink of lemon, red wine and ice. Cheers! Lots of drinks to choose from, wines (Spanish of course), Spanish beers too but we start with the Sangria!

We order four tapas, for a start. The first is soon delivered. The Chicharrones is Marinated pork belly, slow-cooked and flash-fried until crispy. And delicious.
Chicharrones

The next three more or less arrive together. Very impressed with the Chorizo frito y morcilla (Chorizo & Spanish black pudding). Albondigas is the Spanish for Meatballs which arrive in their rich house tomato sauce. Completing the “awesome threesome” is Higado al ajillo (Sautéed lamb liver with garlic & parsley).
Chorizo & Spanish black pudding

So it is half-time and what will we have for the second half? We do change from the Sangria to their Estrella beer, available on tap. About time we had some fish (the menu is divided into sections) and spot “a creamy Gratin of scallops & white fish” called Vieiras gratinadas. It is creamy for sure and excellent.

Liver
Something healthy perhaps? Why not Traditional Catalan grilled vegetables? Our server says this is served cold. No problem, we say. And it’s not, the Escalivada is different and again delicious.

We are about to hit the wall here, so settle on a shared dessert - well we’ve been sharing everything else in the round terracotta plates. The Crema Catalana is the perfect finish. 
Grattin

If you intend to visit Las Tapas de Lola, do check the menu online before you go. Not alone will you see what is on offer but you can also find background information on how they came to select it and even where you can get the very best of that particular tapa in and around Barcelona. 

Take the popular Churros for instance. Did you know that tradition dictates that churros are eaten early morning either on the way home from a night out or for breakfast? Check out the menus and opening times here

Service had been friendly and efficient all through, always time for a quick chat, and the send-off was just as warm as the welcome. Very Highly Recommended.

Wednesday, March 6, 2019

A South African to Savour and Sweet from Spain.

This is a very young estate, the first vines planted by owners Brian and Marion Smith in 2007; it is now certified biodynamic. Marion is from Ballyjamesduff and they set up in Elgin having sold their IT business in London to pursue their dream of farming organically. The farm had lain idle for some time and that made it easier to go organic. Marion: “We are living the dream and have wonderful workers here.” 
It is not just vines. Marion is the largest breeder of Dexter cattle (the native Irish breed) in the Western Cape. Sheep “mow” the grass between the vines. Their ducks also help. “These are hatched on our farm and trained to eat pests daily.” Lots of eggs too from the ducks and the chickens.

What does she miss about County Cavan? “I miss the long bright evenings sitting out in Ireland”. Darkness falls rapidly here. Be sure and take a look at the website. Elgin Ridge is a gorgeous place, so many animals.

The name comes from the fact that the vines grow at 282 metres, “the ideal height to create cool climate Sauvignon Blanc in the Elgin Valley. Organic farming gives the wine its elegant and unique flavour”. The vines benefit from the cool afternoon breeze and the proximity of the ocean.

Colour is a very pale yellow. Aromas of peach and apricot, gooseberry too. A vibrant wine, with a beautiful freshness, savoury yet full of ripe fruit. That palate also carries a classic mineral counterpunch and there is a satisfying lip-smacking finish. Highly Recommended.

It is a good food wine, a great match with our local Ardsallagh Ash Pyramid Goats Cheese. Fish (including scallop and squid) and pasta are also recommended.

Heredad de Emina Moscatel Castilla y Leon (Vino de la Tierra), 12%, Heart of Spain (Cork).
This is a sweet wine, not all-out sweet by the way. It is produced from the Muscatel grape; fermentation is halted to leave a natural sweetness; no spirit is added so ABV is in the normal range. It is ideal with desserts and snacks.
Colour is a light straw. Aromas hint at blossom and citrus. Excellent body, white and yellow fruit flavours and the natural acidity kicks in to balance. Use as they recommend (lighter desserts, though) and a glass is excellent too as an aperitif. A lovely little number and Recommended.
  • Didn’t keep the receipt and it is not listed on their website but I think it is priced in the low to mid teens.

Tuesday, March 5, 2019

Taste of the Week. Ballinrostig Gold Cheese


Taste of the Week
Ballinrostig Gold Cheese
Pic from Ballinrostig Facebook
Just finished a piece of Ballinrostig Organic Gold cheese, a Gouda style cheese mainly made from Jersey Milk, and it’s a beauty! Hand-crafted and packed full of flavour, this high-quality creamy cheese with a rich colour from the Jersey milk is a gem from East Cork and is our Taste of the Week.

Ballinrostig Cheese is owned and run by husband and wife team, Stephen Bender and Michele Cashman, in the small village of the same name.

They’ve been making cheese since 2015. Last year they converted their entire range to organic.  Their basic product is a Gouda style cheese.  The signature cheese is the Gold and our Taste of the Week is a beauty! The Gouda style herb cheese range includes Nettle, Cumin and Red Pepper and Garlic.  In addition they produce an Organic Cream Cheese with Nettle and Garlic, and a Halloumi and a Bán (Feta) cheese.  
I got my Jersey gold in Bradley’s Cork (€4.95 for a good sized wedge) and other outlets are listed here.  

Ballinrostig Cheese
Ballinrostig
Whitegate
Co. Cork
Tel: 087 2773141
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/corkcheese/