Saturday, July 20, 2019

Amuse Bouche

Battenberg by Henrycooksey https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Battenbergcake.jpg

And she said, ‘…. And what about Battenberg?’ 
And I said, ‘I don’t know because I don’t know what Battenberg is.’
She said, “It’s a kind of cake. It has four pink and yellow squares in the middle and it has marzipan icing round the edge.’
And I said, ‘Is it a long cake with a square cross-section which is divided into equally-sized, alternatively coloured squares?’
And she said, ‘I think you could probably describe it like that.’

from The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time by Mark Haddon (2003). Highly Recommended.



Thursday, July 18, 2019

Ballycotton's Pier 26. A Natural for Fish!

Ballycotton's Pier 26. A Natural for Fish!
These delicious Crab Claws came with Garlic Butter and Organic Leaves. I think I've have preferred it if the claws hadn't been released from the shell. But they had and I missed that little bit of a tussle! Better outcome though than last year in a West Cork dining room when they came entire and I was presented with a plastic hammer!

In Ballycotton's excellent Pier 26 restaurant, head chef Colin Hennessy can't write the menu (at least the fish part) until the boats come in at the pier below. Only then does he know what he has to work with and that is why you'll find most of the fish dishes on the Specials Board. There is a lovely bar alongside, even a handful of rooms, all now under the Pier 26 name.

We were there recently - be sure and book before you go - and enjoyed our meal from start to finish. Fish, of course dominated, at least until the desserts!



We started with a couple of aperitifs. I enjoyed my Kir as I looked out the large window in front of me towards the island and its lighthouse. If you are in the inner room, you'll miss that view. CL had her back to the water as she concentrated on her Pimm's (left).



Fresh Crab with pickled gooseberries and organic leaves. An unusual combination but another excellent starter.

Roast Fillet of Hake, summer greens and pickled fennel. Just perfect. By the way, you get some fabulous sides here as well including Buttered Mash, Skinny Fries,  Buttered Summer Greens, John Kennefick's British Queens, Truffle Aioli and Parmesan Fries...

John Dory is a favourite here. This winner is served with Purple Broccoli, Heritage tomatoes and the combination with that seafood bisque is hard to beat.


No fishy dessert, that I know of. This flower enhanced Pavlova with fresh strawberries, blackberries, poached apricots and Chantilly Cream (and a bit of rhubarb too) was a beauty while the Raspberry Soufflé with white chocolate ice cream (below) was just the ticket to finish off an excellent meal.

Next time I'm down, I may well try this Seafood Platter. What do you think?


Wednesday, July 17, 2019

Two Highly Recommended Chardonnays from California's De Loach


Two Highly Recommended Chardonnays from California's De Loach

The Boisset family, with vineyards in Burgundy, have owned De Loach in California since 2003. Jean-Charles immediately noticed the similarities with Burgundy and the potential for producing excellent Pinot Noir and Chardonnay. They dug up all the existing vineyards and replanted using biodynamic techniques and produced their first wines in 2010.

De Loach Chardonnay Russian River Valley Sonoma County 2015, 14.5%, €29.99 
Stockists: JJ O’Driscolls, Ballinlough; Searsons Wine Merchants, Monkstown; Mitchell & Son Wine Merchants; Donnybrook Fair; Clontarf Wines; Red Island Wine, Skerries; Lilac Wines, Fairview; La Touche Wines, Greystones; The Wicklow Wine Co; Grapevine;


This judiciously oaked Chardonnay is well balanced with a round mouthfeel and a lively acidity. The fruit comes from the heart of the Russian valley and the juice was fermented in a combination of stainless steel tanks (40%) and French oak barrels (60%), of which 10% were new. The barrel fermented portion of wine was aged for nine months and achieved full malolactic conversion. 

It has a light straw colour with a pleasing mix of aromas (apple, peach and lime). That almost creamy mouthfeel, flavours (citrus led) plus a vibrant acidity combine to make this a really harmonious wine, all the way through to a long gratifying finish. Highly Recommended.

This Chardonnay pairs well with a variety of light dishes and effortlessly combines the two distinct styles of crisp refinement and rich elegance.




De Loach “Heritage Collection” Chardonnay California 2017, 13.5%, €19.99 
Stockists: JJ O’Driscolls, Ballinlough; Searsons Wine Merchants, Monkstown; Mitchell & Son Wine Merchants;  Donnybrook Fair; Clontarf Wines; Baggot Street Wines; Red Island Wine, Skerries; Lilac Wines, Fairview; Blackrock Cellar; La Touche Wines 4U; The Wicklow Wine Co; Grapevine, Dalkey; Finian Sweeney;

Colour of this classy restrained Chardonnay is light to mid yellow. Honeydew melon is prominent in the bouquet. What follows is a beautiful melange of tropical flavours (with pineapple and mango in there). Rich, soft and harmonious, right to the lingering finalé. Easy drinking, delicious and Highly Recommended.

For the 'Heritage Collection' series, Russian River Valley grapes are combined with those from selected premier cool-climate growing regions in California, particularly the Central Coast, to produce an approachable, good value range. De Loach practises sustainable viticulture and minimally intrusive winemaking.

Indeed, they take great pride in their “tri-fold heritage, a family company with deep Burgundian roots, and stewards of the land that we have for future generations”.

An interesting note from the winery saying that the majority of the must was cool fermented in stainless-steel tanks at controlled temperatures, to retain the fresh fruit flavours in the finished wine. “The remaining fruit was barrel fermented, which produced a more richly textured wine. These wines were then blended together to produce a balanced, textured and fruit-forward wine.” By the way, there is two per cent Sauvignon Blanc in there too.

Tuesday, July 16, 2019

Clonakilty in 24 Hours. A July Excursion!


Clonakilty in 24 Hours.
A July Excursion!
Clonakilty Black Pudding and strawberries, delicious starter at the Emmet Hotel

Lunch on the beach at The Fish Basket
Mussels (left) and Fish Tacos on the lunch menu at The Fish Basket. Both polished off.

The sun is out as we arrive at Long Strand after the drive down from Cork city. The idea was to have lunch at the Fish Basket which has established itself in a wooden shack on the edge of the beach. But we are a little too early as lunch service doesn’t start until about 12.45am. So that gives us time to take a walk on the long and pleasant beach, taking in the splendid views of Galley Head.

When we get back, the Fish Basket crew, a friendly and efficient bunch, have turned the kitchen after a busy breakfast service and we check out the lunch menu. We went on to enjoy two delicious fish dishes, well cooked and neatly presented. There are a few dozen seats inside and as many outside. Great spot and Very Highly Recommended.

Scannell's, a Bar with a Back-Garden Buzz
Together again, in Scannell's

After lunch we headed back to a private visit to the industrial unit in Bandon where Philip O’Connor and his staff turn out those delicious Seymours Irish Biscuits. By the time we get back to Clonakilty, we agree that we deserve a drink and so we called to Scannell’s who we know, from previous visits, serve craft beer. 

Hardly anybody in the bar but the extensive beer-garden at the back is buzzing. It is the 4th of July and there are quite a few foreign accents and every French person in the area seems to be here. We get a seat at a bench (under the shade in our case) and enjoy some Blacks of Kinsale 1601 lager and also the Franciscan Well Chieftain Pale Ale.

The Friendly and Central Emmet Hotel


Fish for dinner
Our base for the night was the O’Keeffe family owned Emmet Hotel, situated in the Georgian square that also owes its name to the Irish patriot. Lots of Irish patriots honoured in the lovely flower bedecked West Cork town. There is a statue of Michael Collins in the square and nearby streets are named, Ashe, Wolfe Tone, and there are more. Indeed, you may visit the Michael Collins house right here in the square.

This is a small high-ceilinged hotel with 20 rooms, a lovely dining room, a garden room and a garden for barbecues and other events. Might be small but there’s a lot going on here. 

It was long been known as a supporter of local producers and this continues with the likes of Caherbeg Pork, Fresh Fish Deli, Irish Yogurts, Rosscarbery Recipes, ZT Fish Rosscarbery, Gloun Cross Dairy, Shannonvale Foods, Bushy’s Strawberries, Clonakilty Black-pudding, and Clona Dairy listed.
Pancakes with superb local bacon

We had our dinner and breakfast here, both very enjoyable. The Emmet is well worth checking out, a lovely friendly well-run spot right in the town centre.

After that breakfast, we strolled around the Friday Farmers Market, which now sets up in Emmet Square, before our visit to the nearby Clonakilty Distillery, the newest attraction in this lively town. And we had lunch in the distillery’s Whale’s Tail Bistro before a leisurely journey back to the city.

Also on this trip:
Clonakilty Distillery
Bandon's Seymour Biscuits

Monday, July 15, 2019

Seymour Amazing Shortbread Biscuits Travel The World


Seymour Amazing Shortbread Biscuits Travel The World
Philip and stalwart Theresa pack those shamrock shortbreads

“It can be tricky here this time of year with the humidity,” said Philip O’Connor as he greeted us at his Seymour Biscuits production facility in Bandon on a very warm 4th of July. The date is appropriate enough as the USA is one of the countries to which these delicious biscuits are exported. And the shortbread biscuits, in their distinctive shamrock shape, also find their way to the states and other countries as they are widely available in tourist frequented shops (including Dublin’s Temple Bar) and are the best seller.

Philip was working on his coating line when we arrived and we watched as the little discs were covered with chocolate. Not too long afterwards we were tasting the little beauties. Lots of butter here and combined with the chocolate it makes for a beautiful crunchy experience on the palate. And the good news is that Philip is strongly thinking of adding these to his regular products next year.

There is a little story too behind the butter. Philip’s family are farmers and their land is a few miles east of Bandon. Their milk is supplied to a local co-op and it is from here that Seymours buy their butter.

So how did a farmer’s son get involved in biscuit making? “I started working in the car industry, in marketing in Dublin. But, while in college, I always had a hankering to get involved in the food or drink industry, though on the market side.” 

The beginning was small. About 12 years ago, he began making biscuits in the family kitchen on one day a week and began to supplying locally. Then one year later, in 2008, this unit became available and “I jumped in.”

With all of the equipment having to be bought, it was a big gamble, more so as the financial crisis was unfolding. But he stuck it out and survived. Lots of changes over those few years including the demand for gluten free and zero sugar products. “Independent outlets are going off the scene much to my regret. There’s a lot of competition and it is hard to get shelf space. But I have diversified a bit and that helps keep the show on the road.”

Recently has introduced Cheese Sables and these terrific savoury biscuits, excellent as a snack, “are getting nice repeat orders”. So far, he has two versions, the original and one with garden herbs (I really enjoyed that a few weeks back). West Cork cheddar is used in both, so you don’t even have to have cheese in the house!

And he is looking at new lines for next year, maybe with lower sugar (perhaps replacing it with honey or natural sugar). He is doing more too with coffee shops and hotels, and exports are increasing.

And back to the coating line, or the “enrobing” line to give it its proper name. There are not that many of these around and his investment in it has enabled him open up a new opportunity, that of contract coating. Philip though is happy with his business model, “small and niche, high quality, lower sales maybe but with a better margin”.

You’re more than likely familiar with some of his current products. One of my favourites is the Dark Chocolate and Raspberry Bites. Then there are shortbread variations, the original Shamrock that we’ve mentioned, Shortbread Bites, Chocolate and Hazelnut, and the top of the range (usually seen round Christmas) absolutely delicious Social Circles.

And, thinking of presents for someone, home or abroad, take a look at the Spirit of Ireland Biscuit tin,  displaying the iconic Rock of Cashel on its cover, the tin features individually hand-cut round and shamrock shaped Irish butter shortbread biscuits set within a custom made cushion tray. This is a special Irish product to give and receive. No doubt the biscuits will quickly be devoured and the tin kept forever. You can get many of the Seymour products online at https://seymours.ie/6-our-handmade-irish-biscuits 


Seymours Fine Foods Ltd
2 Cloughmacsimon Business Park, Bandon, Co. Cork.

Land line: +353 21 733 1129
Mobile:       +353 86 330 9378

e-mail:  info@seymours.ie
                   
Also on this trip:
Clonakilty Distillery

Sunday, July 14, 2019

Clonakilty Distillery. A New West Cork Landmark.


Clonakilty Distillery. A New West Cork Landmark


The spanking new Clonakilty Distillery, so conveniently situated on the N71 (the main road from the city to West Cork), is well worth a visit as I found out on July 5th. It has its own car park (tour buses accommodated) but we just strolled in from the town - we had booked online a few days earlier. Like most distilleries, there are a number of tour options; basically, the more you pay, the better you taste!
Checking the lauter tun, Paddy (left) and Pedro

Our guide, Paddy Hodnett (the visitor centre supervisor), was in top form as he welcomed up and took us upstairs to begin in a room that displayed the town’s drinks heritage and much more. The display, reinforced from time to time by Paddy, told us of the great brewing companies, including Deasy’s. You need barley for beer (and whiskey) and the climate here, mild and damp, is ideal for the crop. And, uniquely, they had a special sea manure, a mix of seaweed and silt available through frequent clearing of the area’s sea access.

Anyone for Gin School?


Next we were on a mezzanine (railed!) that gave us a great view of the three large stills below. Photos taken, we headed on down to the base of the stills and were filled in on purposes of the various tanks around the place, all part of the process, and were told that Clonakilty use 50% malted and 50% unmalted. 

The distillery’s gin, Minke (named after the whale), is also made here in a much smaller set-up compared to the whiskey stills. Interestingly, two local botanicals  (Sea Pink and Rock Samphire), are used. No less than five separate distillations are required to ensure that the best is extracted from each botanical. Then all five are blended together. “It’s an expensive way to make it but the best way,” said Paddy. The process ensures that the likes of the Sea Pink (with its two week window) is at its freshest best and the use of fresh citrus (rather than dried) gives the Minke an edge as well.

While the gin is selling well you, and distiller Paul Corbett, will have to wait up to two and a half years for the whiskey. They are looking forward to seeing how their own Heritage Barley - the owners, the Scully family, have been farming in the area for hundreds of years - works out. In the meantime, they have finished off whiskey that was sourced elsewhere and we would taste some of those with Paddy guiding us through.
The big three

We started our threesome with the Single Batch, a light to medium bodied spirit finished in a refurbished wine cask. Then a definite step up as we enjoyed the same whiskey but this one finished in a Cognac cask. He kept the best until last. The 15 year old Single Malt was exquisite, rounded, smooth, not too many words needed (just lots of euro!). All the tasting was carried out in the bar, the Speakeasy.
My tasting

Just before, we had seen a film, showing the warehouse on the Scully family farm, out towards the spectacular Galley Head, “perfect to mature fine whiskey”. “We use Country Connections to source the best casks worldwide,” Paddy continued. “though the majority are Bourbon. So our whiskey gets the best possible start. There is minimum filtration…, our commitment to quality is ongoing.”

Clonakilty Distillery founders, the Scully family, have patiently farmed by this coastal land for eight successive generations. And their promise is to use that same patience and attention to detail in the distillery. We wish Helen and Michael all the best in this new venture.
West Cork Crab Salad

After the tour, we called to the shop and bought a bottle of the gin to try at home. By the way, they run a popular Gin School  here with the help of a row of mini-stills. It is a great group experience. So team-building or a stag or hen, why not book in and have loads of fun while making your own gin (you’ll also enjoy a Minke G&T) and then take home your own bottle.

The whale’s tail is a symbol of the distillery and is also the name of its bistro. We called there too - it was lunchtime. And here we found a non-alcoholic gin: the Seedlip Garden Gin with Fevertree Elderflower Tonic, a lovely aperitif.
Gin distillery

This is a large and comfortable restaurant serving lunch, dinner (including Early Bird) and Sunday lunch. It was a gorgeous day outside (they also have an outdoor area for dining) so I was thinking of something light and picked the delicious Cork Summer Crab Salad with mixed leaves, pickled cucumber, croutons and tomatoes. CL enjoyed her Cod Fishcake with pickled cucumber and aioli is typical. 

You’ll see local producers named on the menu and all their beef, chicken and fish is locally sourced. Of course, their own whiskey and gin is here, along with a good wine offering and, again, craft beer from the local brewery. Great to see that support for local. The more we pull together, the further we will go.

Clonakilty Distillery     
Fish cake starter in the Whale's Tail Bistro
The Waterfront
Clonakilty
West Cork
Ireland
51 37`17.21 N
8 53`10.37 W
T: +353 23 884 0635
E: info@clonakiltydistillery.ie

Also on this trip:
Bandon's Seymour Biscuits

Saturday, July 13, 2019

Amuse Bouche


Falk felt the tension in his shoulders finally start to lift around the time Gretchen poured the third glass of red… He could feel muscles in his neck loosen. He took a mouthful of wine and enjoyed the sensation as his cluttered head gave way to a more pleasant type of fog.
The kitchen was now dark, the remains of the dinner cleared… A lamb stew. Her own, she’d said. Animal, not the recipe.

from The Dry by Jane Harper (2016). Highly Recommended

Thursday, July 11, 2019

Impressive New Lunch Menu at New Yorker in Cork International Hotel


New Menu at New Yorker in Cork International Hotel
Flatbread plus!

No shortage of choice in the new lunch menu at the New Yorker, the cool and comfortable bar at the Cork International Hotel. And there’s a good choice too for the vegetarian. And it’s not just choice - quality is excellent also as we found out during a mid-week visit to check out the new menu, available from 12 noon until 5.00pm.

Of course, this is also a bar, so you’ll also have a great choice of drinks and many are detailed on the back of the menu. If you’re on fish or vegetarian, you might fancy the Contrapunto Albariño. Dona Paula is a quality Argentinian producer and their Malbec would be a good red choice. But most grape varieties are covered here and you’ll find something to suit. Prosecco and Champagne are also available. 

Lots of cocktails too. Fancy a Rebel Cooler (Jameson, Lemon Juice, Bitters, Simple Syrup, Soda Water)? There’s no shortage of Irish whiskies, gins galore (including quite a few Irish ones). And of course, there are beers, draught and bottle. Craft producers also figure on the list, Stonewell for cider, Eight Degrees for beer.
Chicken, moist and delicious

It takes a while to read it through the large menu (it is available online, so you can prepare!). I was looking at the International Seafood Open Sandwich with Kinsale gin cured salmon, smoked salmon, crab & shrimp salad, house brown bread. Also at the Tagliatelle Bolognese  (an Irish lamb Bolognese, fresh egg pasta tagliatelle, rocket and parmesan). 

Finally, I picked the Stone Baked Italian Flatbread - Parma Ham, Toonsbridge Burrata Cheese and Cherry Tomato, Olive Oil, Shoestring fries. Quite substantial but also quite a delicious and satisfying dish, full of flavour on an excellent base.

The Crispy Daily Fresh Fish Soft Taco with Hot sauce, pineapple salsa, soft shell taco, sweet potato fries made CL's short list as did the Crispy Vegetable Taco (Hot sauce, tomato salsa, soft shell taco, French Fries ) from the Vegetarian menu.

In the end, her choice was the Chargrilled Lemongrass and Ginger Sweet Chicken Tortilla Wrap with Buffalo Sauce, Crème Fraiche, Tomato, Watercress, French Fries.  She enjoyed that one, the chicken was superb and well cooked and, all in all, it was a terrific combination. 
Cheese

Also on the main menu, you’ll find  curries and sandwiches, including the West Cork  Sandwich (Gubbeen Chorizo, Toonsbridge Mozzarella, Oven Roast Tomato, Sourdough, Herb Pesto) and, from the Vegetarian, you may fancy Sameera's Columbo Yellow Curry or the International Veggie Burger (Tomato, Gherkin, Rocket, Brioche Bun, Coleslaw, Sweet Potato Fries).


Probably a bit easier to make up your mind when it comes to desserts. I was inclined to go for the Strawberry and Death by Chocolate Fool or the Sweet Pancake with ice cream. But it was the excellent Cork (captained by Gubbeen) v Tipperary cheese (skippered by Cashel) that got the nod. Fruit and crackers came along too, as well as an outstanding spicy apple compôte. Who won? With our host, the Tipperary hotel manager, in the wings, we needed to be diplomatic and called it a draw!

Overall though a visit here to the New Yorker, where manager Justin and his crew will take good care of you, is a win win.

Our lunch was part of a media visit and the New Yorker is open for 12:00 – 14:00 Artisan Deli (Mon – Fri); 12:00 – 17:00 Lunch Menu (Daily); 17.00 – 22:00 Full Dinner Menu (Daily). All the menus and more details here

Wednesday, July 10, 2019

A Couple of Excellent Whites, Both Organic. Three to watch in Karwig's Sale.


A Couple of Excellent Whites, Both Organic

Diwald Grüner Veltliner “Goldberg” Wagram (Austria) 2015, 13%, €20.75 Mary Pawle

The loess soils of the Wagram are particularly favourable to Grüner Veltliner and this is another excellent example by Diwald. Very Highly Recommended.

This is a light gold colour, and bright. Aromas led by citrus, a touch of pepper. Zesty too on the palate as this light and lively wine spreads around. Light and thirst quenching yet also quite assertive. It has spent 8 months on lees.

Generally GrüVe is well paired with salads and vegetables and makes for a mouthwatering aperitif and importer Mary Pawle recommends serving this Diwald with scallops. 

But the grape is very versatile. Terry Theise, in Reading Between the Wines, says GrüVe is a hugely important variety “both for its flavour and also for its usefulness”. It is “by far the most flexible dry white wine in the world at the table”. He concludes: “..once you encounter it, you may not be able to imagine life without it”. High praise indeed.

The Diwalds, long-time practitioners of organic wine-making, say Goldberg is one of the best single vineyards in the village. Terraces and hills which slope towards the Danube Valley and mighty loess ground build the foundation for the Goldberg wines. According to Martin Diwald, the goal is “to produce cheerful wines, in which the zest of the region and the philosophy of the vintner are united.” Reckon he scores with this one! As do his customers.

Jacques Frelin Pouilly-Fumé (AOP) 2017, 13%, €26.60 Mary Pawle

Minerality and elegance are head-lined on the back label of this organic Sauvignon Blanc from the Loire and they are indeed a notable part of the very pleasant experience.

Colour is a very light straw. Intense aromas (melon, pear/apple, honeysuckle notes). Lively fruit, the classic citrus in there too, lively acidity, that minerality and elegance, very refreshing and a good dry finish. Well made, well balanced. Excellent and Very Highly Recommended.

No need to say too much more. Mary Pawle recommends trying it with trout or salmon and also goat’s cheese. I’ve seen recommendations for pairing it with shellfish, spicy food, salads, pork, and light pasta dishes.

Karwig's Closing Down Sale Continues
Three to look out for!


Rochebin Macon Lugny (AOP) Chardonnay 2018, 12.5%, Karwig Wines was 15.85, now 10.30…

Colour is a mid gold. Aromas of white fruit, floral notes too. Soft and rich on the palate, peach and melon flavours, rounded mouthfeel, fresh acidity too and a good finish. Very quaffable on its own and pairs well with: spiced tapas, charcuterie, white meats (chicken, veal) or seafood platters. Treat yourself - Highly Recommended.

Machard De Gramont “Dom. De La Vierge Romaine” Pinot Noir Bourgogne (AOC) 2017, 13%, €19.95 (prior to closing down sale) Karwigs

Aged in old oak for 13 months, this is an excellent Pinot Noir, full of character and well-priced even before news of Karwig’s closing-down sale broke.

Mid-ruby is the colour and it has a bright sheen. Aromas, with berries and cherries in the mix, are light and lovely. On the palate it is deliciously fruity, the merest touch of sweet spice, acidity enough, tannins barely noticeable with a decent finish. Elegant and fresh and Highly Recommended.



Georg Müller Stiftung Hattenheimer Hassel Riesling Kabinett Trocken Rheingau 2012, 11.5%, €20.50 (now 12.30) Karwig Wines.

This has the VDP eagle displayed on the neck, “a guarantee of pure wine pleasure”, not a bad start. For many years the winery was a foundation for the benefit of the town of Eltville in the Hattenheim region. In 2003, it came back into private ownership.

Colour is a light straw with green tints. Citrus aromas with a touch of diesel. Lively and fruity on the palate, fading slowly to a dry finish. Highly Recommended.

Tuesday, July 9, 2019

Taste of the Week. Burren Smokehouse Hot Smoked Salmon

Taste of the Week.
Burren Smokehouse Hot Smoked Salmon

Visited Lisdoonvarna earlier this year and called to the Burren Smokehouse. Always do when I'm in the area. Among my purchases was this hot smoked Irish organic salmon, smoked over oak with honey, lemon and pepper, by Birgitta Curtin. By the way, all visitors have the chance to see a short video on how they produce their famous smoked salmon and you also get a tasting or two!

Got our Hot Smoked out of the fridge the other day and enjoyed it, our current Taste of the Week, with a simple garden salad. Superb.

The farmed salmon comes from the clear turbulent waters off the west coast of Ireland, from locations such as Clare Island (Westport). Here, "lean muscular fish are naturally high in Omega 3 & 6 oil".  The smokery adds "only the purest natural ingredients, sea salt, natural oak smoke, locally grown herbs, and wild seaweed foraged in West Clare".

Burren Smokehouse  
Lisdoonvarna
Co. Clare 
Tel: 065 7074432
Email: info@burrensmokehouse.ie

Also in Clare recently:
Bunratty Castle & Folk Park
Hazel Mountain Chocolate
The Burren Brewery
A Tour of Clare
St Tola Goats Cheese visit
Henry's Bistro & Wine Bar Ennis
Burren Gold Cheese
Red Cliff Lodge Restaurant Spanish Point
Oar Doolin
Noel's Restaurant at Bunratty Manor

Monday, July 8, 2019

Plum Wine. Sparkling Apple Juice. The Butler and The Queen. Fruit Cakes and Steeplechasers. All in a Tipp Day-trip


Plum Wine. Sparkling Apple Juice. The Butler and His Queen. Fruit Cake.  Steeplechasers. 
All in a Tipp Day-trip.
Ormond Castle


Shopping at Dove Hill
The Butlers may have moved all the best bits to their castle in Kilkenny when they were forced to downsize but that means you get to see more of the basics when you visit their ruined castle and restored manor house in Carrick on Suir. You get the impression from the Ormond Castle guides that they’d prefer to have some of those paintings and tapestries back from Kilkenny. Yet there is much to be seen in the castle and house on the banks of the Suir. 
At the Apple Farm

The Butlers (original family name was Walter), by the way, did start off as royal butlers, and their initial land here was a gift from the crown. But, well known to the crown and related to Elizabeth 1, they got more and more as time went by and eventually held sway over large areas of Kilkenny, Carlow and Tipperary, castles all over including substantial ones, as in Cahir, and small ones like that at Farney. Indeed that Farney building has a butler’s pantry “hidden” in the 12 foot thick walls. Clonmel's Main Guard is another Butler building.

Situated in the middle of Carrick, Ormond Castle is the best example of an Elizabethan manor house in Ireland. It, along with extensive gardens, was built by Thomas, the 10th Earl of Ormond in the 1560s. Closely integrated into the manor house are two 15th century towers. It is the country's only major unfortified dwelling from that turbulent period. The state rooms contain some of the finest decorative plasterwork in the country, including plasterwork portraits.
Clonmel's splendid Main Guard

The above paragraph is a direct quote from the Heritage Ireland entry. The Butlers abandoned the home after James' death in 1688. It remained a possession of the family until the middle of the 20th century. In 1947 the house was given over to state agencies who restored the historic structures. The restoration continues.

Admission to the site is by guided tour only and there is a small fee. There is a video show detailing the history of the Butlers and you can see that before or after your tour. As you walk between the walls of the derelict castle, you’ll note that there was a large arched door ahead of you. This opened directly on to the River Suir, the main source of traffic at the time. Indeed, Queen Elizabeth was expected to walk through here but died before she could fulfil the promise of a visit to her cousin (rumours, continued within these walls to this day suggest the relationship was more than innocently familial). 
Clonmel mural

The house is the “star” of the visit, and the long room is the highlight. Much of the plasterwork is original and is indeed very impressive. The timber, much of it original (dating back hundreds of years), is amazing. You get a great view of it up in the attic, all held together without nails, the kind of basics view you don’t get in Kilkenny. Outstanding workmanship from the 16th century and the OPW guys of more recent times don’t come out of it too badly either! 

After a slow walk up the river by the small marina and a quick cuppa in the town we headed west towards the Dove Hill Design Centre on the Clonmel Road. Disappointed to find the large garden centre has closed but we did get some shopping done, mostly kitchen gear (from Meadows and Byrne) and food. The latter included Flahavan’s Hi8 muesli and Lismore Food Company’s Dark Chocolate Apple Crisp Thins (delicious!) from  the Ardkeen shop there, Skellig’s Chocolate and more from the Blarney Woollen Mills’ large selection.
Hotel Minella, a friendly place.

Time then to check in at the Minella Hotel, splendidly sited on the south bank of the Suir in Clonmel. We also got a splendid welcome here and were soon relaxing with tea and cake! While seemingly isolated on its own extensive grounds, the hotel is within 15 minutes walk of the town centre and we checked that on our way for an evening meal at the Kyoto Asian Street Food restaurant in Parnell Street but not before we had a look at the Main Guard, a distinctive and nicely restored 17th century building.

Kyoto, upstairs over Boyle’s bookmakers, is popular and was busy. The menu is wide-ranging with options under various headings such as Sushi, Curries, Donburi, Noodles, and Wok. There was even dessert, an interesting one. We hadn’t come across Banana Katsu (with ice cream) before so we shared it and the deep-fried crumbed banana (4.95) was delicious. Also delicious was the plum wine (5.50). I took the wine instead of the sake (6.00).

Back then to the hotel for a pint in the bar. After a good breakfast we said our goodbyes and the friendly folks at the front desk didn’t allow us go empty-handed, gifting us a top class fruit cake on exit, one that we still enjoying!
The Full Irish, local produce, at the Minella

Later, on their website, I noted that the Minella is well known for its cake baking. It is also well-known for its association with horse-racing and all their runners (most if not all over fences) have Minella in the name.

We were heading home now in the sun but had one final call to make. You really shouldn’t drive the Clonmel-Cahir road without making a stop at the Apple Farm, owned and run by Con Traas, just be careful entering and exiting as this is quite a fast road (well, let me say there are fast drivers on it).
Sunset in Clonmel

The farm is beautifully kept; even the shed where the shop is situated is brightened up with some thriving roses. You may pick your own strawberries here but we took the easy option and bought a few punnets of the beauties. Also came away with lots of bottles of juices (some of cider too!), jars of jams and packets of his apple crisps (yet to be tried). 
The Apple Farm

I have often mentioned his sparkling apple juice here and it is still a lovely product. But my new favourite is the Apple and Raspberry juice, an ideal summer-time drink. Thanks Con. Cheers.

On this trip:
Enjoyable lunch at historic Barron's Bakery

Sunday, July 7, 2019

A Can of Bass and A Swallow in a Country Pub. My Nire Gap Walk. Thirsty Work


A Can of Bass and A Swallow in a Country Pub
My Nire Gap Walk. Thirsty Work.
Paint the town red?

We saw a swallow in a country pub. Well, you would wouldn’t you, lots of them! Sorry, not that kind of swallow. It was the one that can fly!

Let me start at the beginning, that very morning when I,  as fresh as a daisy, left Cork; I was heading for the Nire Valley in West Waterford with a plan to walk the Nire Valley Gap. 

First call though was to Lismore, a lovely town with many attractions including the castle, the cathedral, the park, its location on the Blackwater River, its cafés (even without the much lamented Chop House) and its hotels (including Ireland first purpose built hotel).

What attracted me most this morning though was the frontage of Biddy Greehy’s Public House and Grocery. This famous pub lasted from 1952 to 2003 and the current owners maintain the window displays – now part of their home – as they would have appeared in the middle of the previous century: all manner of wine and beer containers (including a can of Bass that looks more like a can of paint), tobacco boxes, shoe polish tins, snuff and wine corks and so much more. 

After a “considerable” delay there looking at the old curiosities, we headed to nearby Cappoquin and enjoyed a delicious lunch at Barron’s Bakery (one of the oldest if not the oldest in Ireland). 

About 30 minutes later, having passed through Ballymacarbry and passed Hanora’s guesthouse, we arrived at the Nire Valley Car Park, the Sat Nav lady working very well indeed on this occasion. It was a warmish but grey day. I'd have preferred a bit more light for the photos but locals said later we were lucky the sun wasn’t out as it would have made the trek very difficult.
Movin' on up!

Anyway, we changed the footwear, sorted out what to carry (water, for sure), picked up our sticks and headed into the hills. A few walks, mainly big loops begin here, but we only had eyes for the Gap Walk, the shortest and most straightforward one. The opening stretch was perhaps the toughest and we rose rapidly with our view expanding all the time, the car park quickly becoming a dot below.

Once we went through a stile, the walk through the Comeraghs became easier as we were now walking across the slope, mainly on a grass surface with lots of sheep and those Comeragh lambs around us, red splotches of paint marking them now (they had been blue before the stile). Lots of stops for photos and we were delayed by having to skirt around some boggy bits (there had been very heavy rain two days earlier). Some watery bits had permanent timber platforms across to help the walker.

Cheeky chappy
In the mountains, of course, you think you are near your destination, that the height ahead is the final one. But that is seldom the case. We were wondering were we ever going to get to the gap! 

Then we met a small group who promised us that the cafe at the top was excellent! We checked the remaining distance and they said about 20 minutes. Not very encouraging but, being so close, we kept going and indeed got to that magnificent view out the other side, over the lowlands where the village of Rathgormack is situated.

If you are up to it, you can now go to the left or the right and head off on a loop that will take you back to the car park. But we were just about fit enough to make it back the way we had come and that was the plan in any case. 
Rathgormack is down there somewhere!

Two mile walk
Of course, the sun began to peep out every now and then and give us a tempting glimpse as to what the lovely area would look like when the sky is clear. So on we went, slowly but surely and we did manage to make it back about 15 minutes outside the maximum of two hours indicated in various sources (the minimum is 90 minutes). But we certainly enjoyed it and I promised myself I'd be back once the weather is guaranteed!

Back to Ballymacarbry now and soon we found our Glasha Guesthouse, a splendid place with the splendid Olive in good form, tea and cake at the ready and we soaked up the now well-established sun in the well kept enclosed garden with the fountain running. Later, she served us an excellent dish of salmon and we washed that down with very nice organic Verdejo from her short list. Not every guesthouse can offer such a service!
Glasha sunset

Large Bottle
Then she suggested a visit to the pub (three minutes away) but said a drink would only be deserved if we competed another walk, a two mile loop around the country roads. We did that as the sun began to go down and eventually headed to Lonergan’s pub across the bridge. 

No big selection on tap here  as you might expect and so I ordered the large bottle as the locals do. Indeed, I had a works colleague once, from this area, who was known as Large Bottle. Mine was a Smithwick Red Ale #1 and it is indeed a large bottle at 568 mls (and with an abv of 3.8). Very cool and enjoyable after all the walking.

It was then that the swallow flew in, past us and over the head of the only other customer who was reading his paper before circling the small area and exiting out the front door again to join his feathered colleagues in the dusk. The customer didn’t spot the bird but suggested that since it had left so quickly, it hadn’t liked what it had seen!

Anyhow that led to a chat with the customer and the barkeeper about the demise of some birds, including the corncrake. The customer, from nearby Newcastle (Co, Tipperary), said he does hear the cuckoo from time to time. 

That got us on to Old Moore’s Almanac, for some reason. I remember using that little magazine to try and pick (without success) the Grand National winner. It is still being published apparently and its latest success according to our fellow customer was in predicting that Prince Philip wouldn’t be well enough to greet President Trump. I reckon Philip was happy that that one came true!

On this trip:

Plum Wine. Sparkling Apple Juice. The Butler and The Queen. Fruit Cakes and Steeplechasers. All in a Tipp Day-trip

Enjoyable lunch at historic Barron's Bakery
Lonergan's Bar