Sunday, May 19, 2019

From a Wedding Dress to a Michelin Star. Miyazaki tells the tale at DesignPOP


From a Wedding Dress to a Michelin Star.
Miyazaki tells the tale at DesignPOP

In 2012, a bride to be and her sister visit Cork to shop for a wedding dress. Six years later, her now husband’s restaurant wins a Michelin star in the city.

When Stephanie arrived back in the midlands, she was enthusiastic as she told husband-to-be Takashi: “You have to move to Cork.” So he came down and tried the place for one night. He was converted. “Two weeks later, we moved,” he told the audience at the DesignPOP event in Thompson House in MacCurtain Street last Sunday afternoon. “I was so happy.”
Conversation Piece. One of the DesignPOP pavilions in the city

And it got better. But not straight away. Takashi Miyazaki was determined to open a Japanese restaurant to show Irish people what they were missing. But he couldn’t afford a premises until 2015 when he found a tiny place at the junction of Barrack Street and Evergreen Street. It was small, very small. But he thought: “Why not start small? Take the window of opportunity.” And so Miyazaki was born. 

He gave it everything. “I had so many different things to show and share. I got great support. Was so busy.” As the tiny takeaway - it has a handful of high stools - prospered, people asked: What next? Are you coming to Dublin? “No, Cork,” I answered.
Ichigo Ichie

But he was always dreaming about a high end restaurant. “I had the experience. I had the palate from my grandmother’s food.” And so he went on to learn more and more, to enhance and fine tune what he already had.

He has quite a lot going for him, not least the ability to turn dreams into reality. When he was 18 years old, and a master of Martial Arts,  he started cooking part-time in a local café, “toast, frozen stuff”. Then he did “easy stuff” for friends. They loved it and said “You great chef. Can you cook again?”

He knew he wasn’t a great chef but loved the cooking and wanted to be a chef. His parents were not at all keen on the idea. And they also stopped him following another possible career in the graphic arts. At university he continued to cook for those lucky friends and again he decided on a career as a chef. This time, he was a man and there was no stopping him.
Miyazaki at work
His first job was in a 5-star hotel but he was a slow learner and admitted it wasn’t until he was 32 years old that he felt he had mastered it. The “slow learner” travelled the many Japanese regions and learned lots of different dishes and styles.

Even learned lots of Irish dishes, including fish and chips! Yes, while working in an Irish pub in Hiroshima, a Galway chef showed him the Irish way, including one of the best fish batters ever. While in the pub, he met Stephanie and the road to Cork started. First they moved to Offaly. He missed his Japanese food. The local sushi wasn’t up to scratch and his desire to open a Japanese restaurant was born.

There was an early setback as the restaurant that gave him his first job (in 2008) closed after just four weeks. “I was so upset. I can’t go back to Japan. What can I do?” He had sampled some Irish Japanese restaurants “but that was not Japanese food”. “I have to do something. I was dreaming, dreaming, dreaming!”
Window at Emmet Place pavilion

And that dream came true in Ichigo Ichie last year. And it wasn’t just his cooking skills that were tested. He brought his artistic skills to bear too in the plating, on the printed menus and indeed on social media.

“I had no idea about Twitter and Instagram. But my wife and friends encouraged me. Instagram gave me the opportunity to show the colour of the food, the real green, the real red.” And so he started painting. And these are the little paintings that you’ll see on the menu cards, including the wine list.

“I am still doing the food I want to do. I keep sketching for my plate. Why not a painting of the dish, so I keep drawing? So happy now, I can design, paint, sketch and cook, all on a plate. It is very unique, all my experiences, my history, my childhood memories.” And his customers are so glad that he decided to share with us.
"Stained glass" lollipops, by Banana Melon, in DesignPOP pavilion, some for sale.

But what did that Michelin star mean? Someone asked. “It was amazing. My life has changed. Bookings were slow that particular month but once the star was announced we immediately booked out. Still I want to focus on what we do.” He admitted the star was a motivating factor but promised “I won’t change too much.”


But he will change for the seasons, though he has had trouble with the Irish seasons, especially the short summer. Will he go all vegetarian? “No. The menu is a story over 12 courses. I need fish, I need meat, to make the story.”

It is indeed quite a story and you can catch all 12 chapters in Ichigo Ichie. And if you want a short story, why not pay a visit to the original Miyazaki!

Saturday, May 18, 2019

Amuse Bouche


When he looked again, the spoon had carved a well in the butter.
With her mouth full, the old woman stared at the glass top of her tea table with the fixed, unthinking gaze of a ruminant that savours her feed. Grease lined her lips, turning pink with the rouge she’d hastily layered on them upon his arrival. Only when she was satisfied with her snack did she dab her chin with a crumpled handkerchief.
….Bora choose to remain standing.
Gospozha, I do need the rest of the information I came for. As you see, I’m upfront about it.”
Without answering him, Larissa ogled the butter.



from Tin Sky by Ben Pastor (2012). Highly Recommended.

Friday, May 17, 2019

Wine, Whiskey, Beer and Pizza at Franciscan Well. With ace cooper Ger Buckley the star of the show.


Wine, Whiskey, Beer and Pizza at Franciscan Well
With ace cooper Ger Buckley the star of the show.

Ger (right) doing a bit of barrel charring! Note fire exit and hose close at hand

After the flames...
“It’s a thrill to be back ‘working’ in the North Mall,” said Irish Distillers much travelled master cooper Ger Buckley as he introduced himself at the start of an evening of wine, whiskey, beer and pizza at the buzzing Franciscan Well Bar last Thursday night. The link between the three drinks (the whiskey, the wine and the special Franciscan Well stout have all spent time in barrel) is of course the wood. Ger will tell that it accounts for more than fifty per cent of the input to the final bottle of whiskey and many distillers will agree with him.

Many years ago, Ger started his cooperage apprenticeship, with his father, in the distillery on the Mall, remembering not just the smell of the whiskey but also that of leather as there were tanneries in the area. There was quite a tradition of coopers in that part of town, and an earlier source of employment for many was the Firkin Crane in Shandon, part of the renowned butter market.

Ger still has, still uses, many of the tools, some as much as 200 years old, used by his father and ancestors including the hammer, the driver, and the adze. On the hammer he said: “Let the weight do the work.” “Hold that driver properly. My father used say you’ll pay for your mistakes, in lost finger-tips and worse.”

The adze has an amazing and long history, used by ancient ship builders and log cabin builders; it was a sacred tool in the Maori culture. “It looks clumsy, “said Ger. “But it’s great to remove excess wood and gives a great finish.” Another tool he uses is the compass. “Everything I do (measure) is by eye. The compass, a Cork tradition, is my only aid. This craft goes back 4,000 years. I don’t do much that’s different from those early coopers.” 
Sophia brings us the wine

Ger would soon show us how to use those tools, or at least, how he uses them. But now it was the turn of Sophia and the Australian introduced us to the Jacob’s Creek Double Barrel Cabernet Sauvignon, a premium wine finished in aged Irish Whiskey barrels. Blackcurrant on the nose and on the palate, smooth integrated tannins and a satisfying finish. Those charred barrels certainly played a part in this rich, deep, smooth and quite impressive wine.

The cooper returned to centre-stage and used those tools as he first demolished a barrel (see video below) and then, stave by stave, put it together again, working away with amazing precision while still keeping us entertained with yarn after yarn of his days in the North Mall. While reassembling the barrel he remarked to the incredulous audience: “It becomes second nature after a while. I know how to match the various stave sizes by eye”.
Sharp operator

In his days in the Mall, the coopers would be repairing barrels, always keeping an eye out for a few drops of whiskey in the bottom, often enough to fill a couple of bottles. But how do you fill a small container from a very large one? With great difficulty. They’d start by borrowing a tea pot from the canteen and then the fun began.
Paudie told us the
Caskmates story

“Can you two imagine langers, maybe each already half-langers, trying to hold a barrel over a tiny teapot and trying to pour the contents out of the big one and into the small one. Quite often they succeeded but there were regular failures too and broken teapots. So then the apprentice was sent down town to buy a new teapot for the lady in charge!”

He kept working and talking. “I live by Blarney, tells you why I talk so much,” he joked. And then more seriously, as he hammered a hoop into position. “Use the weight of the hammer but you must make the right contact. If you don’t, the hoop will bend - bad news!” He demo-ed that too!

Liam and Black Barrel


And then the Jameson rep Liam was introduced to tell us all about their Black Barrel whiskey, “one of the best quality whiskeys with its depth of flavour and spicy notes”.

Nowadays, Irish Distillers have some 1.5 million barrels in total stored in Midleton. But years ago, many were stored outside and weren’t in great condition when they were brought in for filling. “So they were charred to a greater degree than normal, were filled with whiskey and the result was Black Barrel.” 


He told us how to smell: “Put your nose inside the glass, open mouth slightly and breathe in that hint of vanilla sweetness and exotic fruit” We then went on to taste, getting that trademark Jameson spice (“from the unmalted barley”) and, “from the charred wood” came vanilla, butterscotch and caramel. “One of the best, pound for pound,” he concluded and there were nods all around.

Video of barrel collapse

"Here's one I un-made
earlier"
A collaboration between Jameson and Franciscan Well led to Caskmates and that was explained to us by Paudie of the Well. Firstly, the brewery made a stout in six barrels that previously held whiskey and it turned out stronger than expected due to the whiskey in the wood. Later, the returned barrels were filled with Jameson in Midleton and Liam told us an extra long finish resulted and was called Caskmates.  “It is very popular as a sipping whiskey”. We sipped and enjoyed it as we enjoyed the delicious stout. Every second sip!
Cabernet Sauvignon Pizza, boy!

Ger then talked about another tool, the Croze, “the one tool I must have” and “that’s why I named my whiskey after it”. The Cooper’s Croze is one of three relatively new products from Midleton; the others in the set are Blender’s Dog and Distiller’s Safe. 

A croze? Ger has used a croze all his working life. He uses it to cut the grove along the top of the staves to hold the head (the circular cover) in place.

“Now,” said Ger. “The pizza is ready. The best pizza in Cork to go with the best beers in Cork, in my opinion.” Pompeii Pizza are the resident producers here in the Well and they had three specials for the occasion.

We enjoyed the Cabernet Sauvignon Chorizo (tomato sauce, Gubbeen chorizo roasted in Jacob’s Creek Double Barrel Cabernet Sauvignon, black Kalamata Olives, Fior di Latte Mozzarella, Oregano).

Matching the whiskey was the Smoked Cheese and Caramelised Onion (featuring Carrigaline beech smoked cheese and Black Barrel Whiskey). For the beer lovers, Pompeii came up with the Shandon and Sausage (with Shannon Stout and Jack McCarthy’s Bramley Apple sausages in the mix).

Another brilliant night at the Franciscan Well.


Thursday, May 16, 2019

Randles Killarney. A Splendid and Friendly Stop on the Ring of Kerry.


Randles Killarney. A Relaxing 
and Friendly Stop on the Ring of Kerry.

Killarney, as you all know, is a busy spot and Randles Hotel on the Muckross Road, itself part of the famed Ring of Kerry, is one of the popular venues in the area. The Randles have been welcoming guests since 1906. 

Ready for your morning juice?
As we arrived last week, we found a champagne reception for a French touring group in progress on the terrace. The space is high above the road and looks out at the mountains which were a splendid sight in the May sunshine.

But it’s not just touring coaches that the hotel caters for. Manager Tom Randles told me that golfers are a major factor in the hotel’s business. He pointed to the location, a central location that can allow the dedicated golfer play at a string of top quality courses over the course of a few days. These include Killarney, Beaufort, Tralee, Ring of Kerry, Dooks, Ballybunion, Waterville, even the Old Head of Kinsale, all within two hours. And if you need to go further, or faster, Randles will arrange a helicopter.
Dessert in the Lounge

Walking, Hiking, Climbing, Biking & Horseriding – Make your own way or join one of the many guided experiences. But not all of us will want to be that active during a break. And here the hotel is very well placed indeed for more leisurely sightseeing with the National Park (including Torc Waterfall) and both Muckross House and Killarney House a few minutes walk away. And the racecourse is easily reached by car.
A spacious and well-equipped junior suite

And even more relaxing possibilities in the hotel itself where leisure facilities include spa treatments where guests can unwind with an extensive range of holistic, non-clinical treatments and massages available.  The Leisure Club offers you the chance to enjoy an invigorating dip in the 20m indoor pool or relax in the steam room or sauna.

Our host Tom was talking to us in the renovated lounge where we were having an evening meal. The bedrooms have also had a makeover in recent times. Tom says there’s more to be done but he’s finding it hard enough to get tradesmen. He thinks they have all gone to Cork! 
Comfy corner in the Lounge

In any event, he has quite a team of employees in the hotel here. Service was excellent from start to finish, here in the lounge, at breakfast in the morning and at the reception desk both coming and going.

That lounge, which essentially encompasses a bar and two tidy spaces, one dedicated to eating, the other to just sitting down and relaxing with cup or glass perhaps. Both are superbly fitted out and once you get to sit in one of those comfortable chairs, you won’t be in any hurry to get up. 

The hotel also has two larger restaurants but the lounge is more informal, the menu including everything from soup to nibbles (eg hummus on pitta bread) to pizza to sharing boards to salads to grill (28 day dry aged Angus fillet). 
The pool

We sampled a few dishes here including olives, Mexican Chips, a grilled chicken salad and an impressive Wagyu Burger (the beef raised locally by Jim Good). Drank some lovely wine too, most of it available by the glass, the 250 cl measure or bottle.

The high standard of food continued at breakfast which is served in The Court with its spectacular ceiling. Right along side is Checkers Restaurant with its distinctive black and white floor tiles and a classic mural all along one wall. There were quite a few at breakfast, probably a tour group included, but it made no difference. The food and the service were excellent and there was no delay at all. Practice makes perfect!
Ready to go in Checkers

The Drawing Room is there for the guests to enjoy. Sink into the comfortable sofa with a book or complimentary newspaper while the fire blazes away. Or enjoy the views to the Kerry mountains while just soaking up the atmosphere of this room filled with antiques and comfortable sofas, harking back to the days when the original house was a splendid family home. And it is here also that you can enjoy their lovely Afternoon Tea experience.

Weddings are also well catered for in Randles and General Manager Tom will personally oversee your big day ensuring that you are pampered, taken care of and spoilt as your new life journey begins. Here, the big day can be as elaborate or as simple as you wish, from a small simple private affair to taking over the whole hotel and its close to 80 rooms.
French Toast in the morning

Our own bedroom was rather splendid also, with a excellent view out towards those mountains. This Junior Suite was perfect and that luxury bed meant a great night’s sleep. They are ideal for getting work done on your laptop and tablet, and with WIFI available throughout the hotel, you will be able to catch up with family and friends through social media and email. Widescreen TV, tea-making plus Espresso machine, bathrobes, toiletries, everything you’d need. And if you have a particular request, then there’s a 24 hour room service available. And, by the way, there is a security clasp inside your door so you can check who's knocking!
Randles has quite a depth to it, that you don't notice from the front.

The family also own the adjacent Dromhall and indeed some of the facilities are shared between the two. We had strolled over the few yards to the Dromhall to enjoy a drink in the more informal Kayne’s Bar (there’s a popular bistro upstairs). Sipped a local ale here (it is produced across the road by Killarney Brewing Company, another possible visit for you!) and we could see straight away the importance of golf in this area. There was an international tournament on the screen (no sound, of course) and a few golfers checking the play while enjoying a plate of food at the bar.
Wake up to this in Randles!

Soon we were on our way, up the shortcut steps, past the champagne reception and about to make a real start to our very enjoyable short break in Randles.

Car-parking is not a problem here. There is limited room at the level of the hotel and the includes set-down. But there is a spacious underground car park as you drive in from the road. Lighting is automatic and excellent and a short set of steps takes you up to that lovely terrace and the entrance doors. And you may ring if you need help with luggage.

Wednesday, May 15, 2019

Gallagher's GastroPub Rocks


Gallaghers GastroPub Rocks

Funny how things work out. Didn’t intend to spend all of last Sunday night in the company of old rockers. But that’s what happened. Can’t really take full credit for it but it turned out to be a terrific night with a super meal in Gallagher’s GastroPub and a lively charity concert in the Everyman with Dezperado (an Eagles tribute band).

The first plan had been to call to the White Rabbit at the exact opposite end of MacCurtain Street to Gallagher’s and try something from the grill there along with a glass or two from their renowned Bourbon selection. But a block-booking at the Rabbit snared that one and so we, four of us, ended up in Gallagher’s, taking in the view (and the sun) from our window seat that also allowed a view across towards Shandon.

The reservation here had been online, made with D***a, and she was back confirming it within a few minutes. And that kind of customer service continued in the bar/restaurant when we met and chatted with R****n. Service with a smile is always a big help.


I did have a quick look at the menu online before I booked and had a good feeling. Choices looked tempting. Starters included Burnt Maple and Cider Glazed Baby vegetables, Ras el Hanout Cauliflower Purée and Dukkah and also Skeaghanore Duck Leg Confit, rolled in Parma ham, corn and thyme purée, Kale red cabbage slaw and spiced plum gel.

There are impressive sharing boards, a choice of meats and a also a choice of fish. Other mains include a Crispy pan-roasted kale and leek “Bubble and squeak” Jerusalem artichoke velouté, roasted artichoke, charred apple, Cashel Blue crumble and truffle oil. Being Sunday, you might go for their signature pie: Irish Beef and Cork’s local stout “Beamish” with root veg, topped with puff pastry and served with fries.

All very tempting but our two friends had a few tips for us. Firstly, the fish and chips is excellent and secondly be sure and study the Cork on a Fork Special. So we read that board: Hazelnut crumbed duck leg, asparagus, candied beetroot, charred baby gem, celeriac purée and duck fat potatoes (21 euro).

Three of us went for that and it was superb, not just the delicious duck but also the asparagus, the beetroot and the gem, not to mention those spuds! Gastropub is no empty title in this establishment. The fourth diner was following his Fish ’n Chips tip come what may and he too enjoyed a very satisfying mains. Described as locally sourced catch of the day (Haddock in this instance) in a Franciscan Well Chieftain IPA beer batter, fries, mushy peas and tartar sauce (18 euro).

Speaking of Franciscan Well, we enjoyed a few glasses of the Rebel Red and it was four very happy customers who said goodbye to Rock heroes Rory Gallagher (his portrait looked down on our table) and Phil Lynott (you’ll see him on your way downstairs to the toilets), and headed down the street to see the sold out Dezperado gig in aid of MS Ireland.

Veteran musicians from the Cork area formed the band - not all veterans by the way, young guitarist Sean Hegarty (playing with his dad Ray) showed enormous promise.  Lead vocalist Der O’Riordan and also Ken Healy belted out the well-known classics of the American band. Backing vocals were provided by Anita Curtin and Neasa de Baróid.

Earlier, Neasa and her band opened the evening and included her new single Rain due to be launched upstairs in the Spailpín Fánach on Friday evening (9.30 sharp). Neasa, a relation of CL's, is quite the composer and other songs enjoyed by Sunday’s audience included Mrs Murphy’s Moving On and Tabhair dom do Lamh.

Perhaps you’ve known before now that McCurtain Street, with its hotels and theatre, its classy restaurants, its world class cocktails and buzzing bars, its ethnic cafés, and its  burger & down-home BBQ joints, really rocks. Now you know for sure. Don’t know if I’ll ever need to walk southwards over Patrick's Bridge again!

Tuesday, May 14, 2019

Taste of the Week. Clogherhead Sea Salt & White Wine Vinegar Crisps


Taste of the Week
Clogherhead Sea Salt & White Wine Vinegar Crisps

This Taste of the Week comes from Glens of Antrim Potatoes with no little help from Oriel Sea Salt in County Louth. I got a tip off on this one from a friend in Clogherhead and he was spot-on.

The Antrim company have been making crisps since 2015, cooking the thickly cut, skin-on slices in small batches for maximum flavour. And that Louth salt is seen to great effect here, its hit pure and precise. Add in the lasting tang of the White Wine Vinegar and you have a melange of texture and flavours from first bite until last.

Our Taste of the Week is one of four flavours available in the series, exclusive to Simply Better at Dunnes Stores. Also available are Clogherhead Sea Salt and Sweet Potato; Spiracha Chili; and Vintage Irish Cheddar and Red Onion, all available in 125 gram bags.

Monday, May 13, 2019

Four Super Wines from Mary Pawle


Four Super Wines from Mary Pawle Wines

Maison Emmanuel Giboulot Bourgogne (AOC) 2016, 11.5%, €30.00 Mary Pawle Wines

This wine is organic and biodynamic, as are many of the wines that Mary Pawle imports. So nothing new there.

Except that, as recently as 2014, this winemaker Emmanuel Giboulot was fined and threatened with a jail term for sticking to his principles. He was convicted for refusing a government order to spray crops with pesticides, following fear over an outbreak of golden rot, only to have the decision reversed on appeal. Prison rather than poison.

This is quite a wine with a lovely light gold colour. Delicate aromas of white flowers. A velvety mouthfeel, beautiful intense fruit (stone, citrus) from start to long finish. Excellent bright minerality too. This elegant wine is superbly balanced and is Very Highly Recommended.

Emmanuel met the problem of agricultural practices and its impact on wine and human health head on and is now a prominent advocate for organic and biodynamic viticulture. His wines reflect his principles and the widely acknowledged exceptional Burgundy terroir. Enjoy this one!   As we celebrate Real Wine Month.

Maison Emmanuel Giboulot “Terres Macônnaises” Mâcon-Villages (AOC) 2016, 11.5%, €30.00 Mary Pawle

Sometimes, I have very little to say about the better wines - they speak for themselves. This is one such. It is 100% Chardonnay and biodynamic. Colour is a very bright light gold. There are appealing aromas of white fruit, blossom notes too. Superb fruit (pear and apple), a refreshing acidity, and that balanced mix takes you all the way to a long and satisfying finish. Very Highly Recommended.

Grapes are hand-picked and sorted. The whole bunch is pressed and cold settled for 24 to 48 hours. The light must is fermented in old oak tanks. Before being bottled, it is aged on fine lees for 11 months.

The Mâconnais wine region is in the south of Burgundy and takes its name from the town of Mâcon. It is best known for its Chardonnays. 



Hemingway was quite a lover of these wines as he disclosed in A Moveable Feast. On a drive up from the south of France with Scott Fitzgerald, they enjoyed a packed lunch which included truffled roast chicken and he reported that Scott was very happy when we "drank the white Maconnais at each of our stops".  Later on that day, "At Mácon I had bought four bottles...which I uncorked as we needed them." No breath-analyser in those roaring twenties.

The French World Cup winner Antoine Griezmann was born and raised in Mâcon but was deemed too small to play for Lyons so headed for Spain where he is now earning about €400,000 a week with Atletico Madrid. Since I didn’t have to say too much about the excellent wine, I thought I’d throw that in!
                   

Dit Celler “Selenita” Montsant (DO) 2008, 14.5%, €17.00 Mary Pawle Wines
Biodiversity in the vineyard
This powerful red is a blend of Garnatxa, Syrah and Cabernet Sauvignon. Mary Pawle: “If you are fond of the wines from Priorat then you should enjoy the Montsant wines from the opposite valley.”
Priorat is a region in Catalonia, Spain. The central part of the region, Priorat històric, produces the highly-regarded wines that are certified under the DOQ Priorat. Wines from elsewhere in the region are certified as DO Montsant.

So now that we know about Montsant, how about the name of the wine? The Selenita are the inhabitants of the moon and the producers infer that some of their night-time magic has been bottled. You too are free to use your imagination! While we’re on it, the winery is named after its founders Dani Sánchez (from Azul y Garanza in Navarra) and Toni Coca, so D and T (DiT).

Wine-Searcher says Montsant, an approved wine region only since 2001, has earned a reputation for its high-quality red wines. This dark ruby offering is one of them. It is lighter at the rim (still very narrow, even after ten years). The legs are certainly slow to clear, confirming the high abv. Intense dark fruit aromas (plum, cherry, cassis), toasty notes too. Powerful yet velvety on the palate, elegant, deeply flavoured and tannins by now well-integrated (you’ll get a soft reminder on the lips), smooth spice, and the long finish echoes the palate. A big hug of a wine and Very Highly Recommended.


Mas Théo Gemeaux Vin de France 2016, 13.5%, €17.20 Mary Pawle

The little-known Grignan-les-Adhémar AOC growing area lies to the south of Montélimar (a Rhone city famous for its nougat). Planted among fields of lavender and thyme or olive groves, on land long famous for its truffles, the vines soak up the scents and aromas distilled by the generous sun of the Drôme provençale and it is in the heart of this area that you’ll find Mas Théo. Mas by the way means farmhouse; Mas de la Dame near Baux de Provence is another example. This AOC is between the northern and southern Rhone and is regarded as southern.

This “delicious and crunchy” wine is a blend of Carignan (60%) and Mourvedre (40), is organic and biodynamique. Recommended serving temperature is 14%.

It has a very dark red robe and you’ll find blackberries and notes of the garrigue in the aromas. It’s nice and smooth on the palate, has excellent acidity, medium to full bodied, smooth tannins and a good finish. Highly Recommended.

Sunday, May 12, 2019

Kinsale Hotel & Spa. A Hidden Gem With Stunning Views.


Kinsale Hotel & Spa. A Hidden Gem With Stunning Views 
Room with a view

In 1837, Rathmore House, the seat of J. Thomas Cramer,  was " a handsome mansion embosomed in flourishing plantations”. The house is no longer there but the splendid Kinsale Hotel and Spa far exceeds anything that Mr Cramer would have offered his 19th century guests. Set in the midst of 90 acres of Rathmore parkland, with terrific sea views, this hotel is truly an eye-opener, a hidden gem, and one that deserves to be better known.
20 metre pool

Now, with the previous staff enlivened by a new management team, renovation is ongoing and there is a spring in the collective step, according to Aoife Lohse, Sales and Marketing Manager, as she gave me the tour starting in the spectacular lobby.

The team here are happy to cater for weddings of any size, from 40 to 240 in the magnificent Rathmore Suite. And don’t forget they have an outdoor option as well, used as recently as May 4th for a civil wedding. And remember it doesn’t have to be a wedding. Any large function, even a party, can be accommodated here.
One of the terraces, with another just above

Weddings though are well suited to the hotel. There’s a covered walkway for the bride and groom to use on arrival. And, with those 90 acres, there’s no shortage of scenic places to take those photos. “It is a one shop stop,” says Aoife.

Relax!
When you book a room in the Kinsale Hotel, you are sure of a view. On one side, you’ll wake up to the sights and sounds of running water, a beautifully landscaped area on a steep slope between the main building and the lodges (more on those later). On the other side, there are splendid views over the Oysterhaven inlet.

And the rooms are excellent, from the Classic through the Executive and Superior to those extra-spacious and supremely comfortable Suites. Something for everyone, for couples or families. The Classic sleeps up to 2 adults and 2 children and has everything you need for a truly relaxing break away. 
The woodland view

The other rooms will have more equipment, better views over the bay perhaps, but all are excellent with something in the range to suit most budgets.  Besides, the Kinsale offers Accessible Rooms giving you the same level of luxury, complete with peace of mind. These  are designed for wheelchair access and feature accessible bathrooms to ensure that you're comfortable and secure during your stay.

Spa
In addition to the hotel itself, there are some twenty self-catering lodges in the grounds, quite close to the hotel and reached by a covered walkway (you can do B&B if you prefer!). These are very family orientated, very popular for extended family gatherings and also for hen parties. The lodges are of various sizes and are being refurbished.

If the fully equipped gymnasium is not enough for you, or if you find all the gear too daunting, why not take a walk in the grounds. Lots of space in  the 90 acres of parklands and over 5 kilometres of paved walkways.


Like a swim? You’ll enjoy the amazing 20 metre pool here. It’s got a huge window running on one side with great views out over the countryside and the inlets. And the sauna and steam room are among the most generously proportioned around. The facilities here are very popular and the gym and leisure centre has some 700 members. There is also a fully equipped Elemis Spa, quite an experience, from initial contact through the various stages and finally the rest room!
Preparing for a wedding

The Rockpool Restaurant has been renovated recently. Those of you who have been there previously will be amazed with all the light streaming in from the side windows, the effect enhanced by the fact that the old partitions have been taken down. You’ll have great views as you look out those windows.

And some tasty stuff to look at on your plate also. A new dinner menu was launched just last week. Snacks include some tasty small plates ranging from a Chicken Kebab to an Oyster Bay Open Crab Sandwich. Starters include choices from Kinsale Bay Mussels to Oysterhaven Bay Scampi.
Enjoyed this lunch dish (Wild Atlantic Hake)

They offer quite a range of main dishes. The fish lover is well catered for with Wild Atlantic Fillet of Hake, Monkfish Fillet, maybe the Oysterhaven Bay Fish ’n Chips. No shortage of meat options either with Wagyu Beef Burger, rack of Irish lamb and Steak listed. You’ll also find Salads, Curry, Chicken Supreme, and a Homemade Vegan Burger.
Sautéed Chicken Salad at lunchtime

And you’ll have dessert, Of course! Pick from the Mango Banoffee Pie, the Raspberry Belgian Chocolate Ganache Tart (I’ll have that, please), the Almond and Pistachio Cake, the White Chocolate Cheesecake and the spectacular Kinsale Hotel Signature Sundae (maybe I’ll have that!). Choices galore.
Lemon posset

The corporate side is very important here and they have great relationships with local firms whether for entertaining, team-buildings (they have their own private beach) and more. They have not just one heli-pad, but two.


Lots of complimentary onsite parking for the motorist too! All the bedrooms have WiFi, Saorview TV, Tea & Coffee making facilities, Iron & Ironing Board, Elemis Spa at Home products and 32” flat screen televisions and more. 

The hotel not alone has lovely surroundings but is very well located, close to the airport and the city, on the doorstep of Kinsale and its renowned food culture, and West Cork is just a short drive away. So much to see and do in this area.

The Kinsale, as Aoife saysm, it quite a one-stop shop: Weddings, Spa, Girl's Getaway, Corporate, Family Breaks, Health Club, Active Retirement Breaks, Dining. Check it all out at www.hotelkinsale.ie 


Friday, May 10, 2019

Amuse Bouche


He’s an excellent cook. His overheated house is always smelling of something delicious. His spice rack looks like an apothecary’s shop. When he opens his refrigerator or his cupboards, there are many brand names I don’t recognize; in fact, I can’t even tell what language they’re in. We are in India. But he handles Western dishes equally well. He makes me the most zesty yet subtle macaroni and cheese I’ve ever had. And his vegetarian tacos would be the envy of all Mexico.

from Life of Pi by Yann Martel (2002). Highly Recommended.

Thursday, May 9, 2019

Izz Café On George’s Quay. Quality Food in Cork from “our mothers and grandmothers”.


Izz Café On George’s Quay
Quality Food in Cork from “our mothers and grandmothers”.

Izz Café have proved quite a hit in local farmer’s markets over the past few months. I, for one, have enjoyed their salads, their jars of good things, and their superb cakes.  Now, you don’t have to wait until Thursday in Mahon or Saturday in Douglas as the Palestinian family behind the tasty venture have opened a café at 14 George’s Quay. They will continue their market stall.

The new café is small but bright and airy and, by the way, also does takeaway, and was officially opened last week by none other than Darina Allen. I made my first visit there this week and enjoyed a lovely lunch.  The Alkarajeh family behind Izz Cafe are determined that their Cork customers will enjoy the “original quality of our mothers and grandmothers.” They’re off to a good start.

Not too sure what to order. There is no written menu yet but there will be as soon as they decide on what dishes to present. In the meantime, there is an electronic board showing all the choices: appetisers, manaeesh and desserts.

So there we were, staring at the displays until we spotted the Tasters Mix, a collection of their appetisers served with freshly baked bread (€9.50). So we absolutely enjoyed, with a glass of water (they do have soft drinks available),  a silky smooth hummus, Fattoush, Babaganoush, with olives and pomegranate seeds. That bread was just out of the oven and was a treat.

Manaeesh, the heading for the main dishes, is a popular Levantine food consisting of dough topped with thyme, cheese, or ground meat, etc. Similar to a pizza, it can be sliced or folded, and it can be served either for breakfast or lunch. Most of these are priced at €6.50.

While mostly vegetarian, you can also get chicken and beef versions on George’s Quay. But why not try the Zaatar and Cheese version? This is a mixture of Palestinian oregano, with sesame and olive oil, and a blend of white traditional cheese, spread on their traditional dough and baked together. I saw a few customers enjoying those!

Cinnamon Roll
And as the regular market-goers will know, Izz has irresistible cakes. Their Cinnamon Roll (one is enough!) had customers drooling. And that roll is also here in George’s Quay. Along with a whole lot more.

They have Bounty Cake (coconut and chocolate), Warbat (a kind of enhanced Baklava), and Saffron Cake. Even scones if you want traditional Irish! I went for the Basbooseh, a delicious melange of coconut with semolina, eggs, yogurt, sunflower oil, vanilla baking powder, rose water and sugar syrup.

Okay, so you can’t be eating large slices of cake all day long. What do you do if all you want is a cuppa? Bet you’d like a little bite to go with it. Sure you would and Izz has just the thing. It is called Maamoul and is a traditional Palestinian bite-sized dessert stuffed with walnut or date. Ideal with that mid-morning or mid-afternoon coffee (which is also excellent here).

Izz Café
14 George’s Quay
Cork
Phone: 085 149 5625
Email: info@izz.ie
Also on Facebook and Instagram.