Wednesday, July 31, 2019

A Right Royal Progress Through The Kingdom


A Right Royal Progress Through The Kingdom
The view from Bray Head walk

With the best of lodgings booked, her majesty and myself headed off to the Kingdom of Kerry one sunny morning in July. The natives were friendly and we were well watered and fed in the triangle between Killarney, Valentia and Dingle.

After a superb lunch at the well-appointed and newly established Kingdom 1795 in Killorglin , we drove on south-west to the Island of Valentia. The plan was to take the spectacular walk on Bray Head. So we paid our two euro (no royal exceptions, apparently) in the car park and headed up.
On Valentia

Old Barracks, Cahersiveen
And up, and up. All the time, the views (including the Skelligs) kept improving as we, and quite a few others, took the path towards the top. We came back the same way we went up, didn't do the full loop. On the way down, just managed to stop a doctor (the fly) from biting my arm. Haven't see one of those in years.

Back on the road and next stop was the nearby town of Cahersiveen. Had a little walk around here, taking in the massive church of Daniel O’Connell (The Liberator), the impressively restored Old Barracks (must do a detailed visit next time) and the monks in a boat sculpture on the way out of town. No plaque on that sculpture and I’m not certain if it is to do with monks rowing out to the Skelligs or St Brendan and company heading to America. Anyone enlighten me?
Glenbeigh Hotel

By the time we reached Glenbeigh we were rather thirsty so called into the small Glenbeigh Hotel for a reviving drink in the dark and old-fashioned but popular bar.

Time was running out so we headed to base for the night. And what a base the Hotel Europe proved to be. Amazing space and comfort here. But we were soon on the road again, heading for a 7.00pm dinner in Malarkey’s the new stomping ground in Killarney of expert chef Seamus O'Connell (ex Ivory Tower).

Back to base, well back to the Europe’s exceptionally comfortable bar, its friendly staff and its drinks list as long as your arm. Thought I’d treat myself to a cocktail and the Brandy Alexander fitted the bill after the multi-course meal in Malarkey’s.

The hotel is huge, 180 rooms, and we saw many of the guests at breakfast in the amazing Panorama restaurant the following morning, panorama because it boasts great views of the beautiful lakes. Must be hard to cater for that many people. The Europe uses the buffet method to good effect. Good but, unlike the rest of the operation, hardly five-star.
Chocs in Crinkle Store, Dingle

Still, we were fed, and fit enough for the second leg of the progress. Off we went to Slea Head, a popular spot for us and for many many more. July may not be the best time to drive that narrow road, especially if you have Italy’s slowest driver in front of you! Thought they were all super fast. So much for stereotypes!

After that trip it was back to Dingle for lunch at the packed Boatyard on the waterfront. Not bad at all but I thought my crab claws were excessively expensive, almost 17 euro for six with a little salad, chorizo and garlic butter. A fairly basic dish by comparison with what I got in the excellent Pier 26 in Ballycotton a week before: at least 10 claws, superbly prepared and presented, for just €12.00. 
Slea Head

High Notes. Dingle
After a look at the weekly market - it was closing up at that stage - and  a little shopping around town, we headed back. We could see Inch Strand ahead, lots of activity there, so we stopped and enjoyed a good stroll, taking in all the activity on the water, on the sand, and even in the air (kite-flying). Amazing the amount of cars and vans and campers that were parked on the beach. But where else could they park?

No big rush to turn around quickly at the Europe this time. They have an fantastic display of flowering shrubs here, all the way on through the drive and then all around the various sections of the car park. Top class.
Inch Beach
Brandy cocktail Europe

Our dinner that evening was in Nick’s in Killorglin… I’m saying “nothing at all”. Back in the marvellous hotel, we had a wander through the fantastic lounge areas, areas (including the library) that are well used, before ending up with our friends in the bar. Drinks this time included a Negroni (I do rather like that cocktail), some local beers from Killarney Brewing Company and that non alcoholic cider by Cronin’s (another Kerry company).

All good things come to an end and the following morning we had to settle up but thanks to the children’s generous present (for our recent 50th) we didn’t have to dig too deep at all!

How about this? On the way back, we were in traffic on the bridge in Macroom - not as bad as it can be - when we saw a heron standing on the parapet, calmly watching the cars go by!

Also on this trip: Malarkey in Killarney
Kingdom 1795 Killorglin

Tuesday, July 30, 2019

Killorglin's Kingdom 1795. Up and Running

Killorglin's Kingdom 1795. Up and Running.

House Focaccia with Toonsbridge Mozzarella, Piquillo Pepper, Tomato and Basil.
This is Chef Damien Ring's take on the more usual Caprese salad. 
Simple and simply delicious and excellent value too at €7.85.


 Buttermilk fried chicken on a blaa, smoked tomato, Coolea cheese, harissa mayo, is another of Damien's 
lunch-time dishes, another superb combination. You don't often see a Blaa in Kerry. 
Just €8.00, again excellent value in this impressive new restaurant

Looks great outside, even better inside. You'll find it on the corner of Main Street
and Market Street. Kingdom is well worth a visit.

You'll find many variations of Tiramisu in Ireland and many will fall short against this beauty from the kitchen
 of Kingdom 1795. The building once housed the Kingdom Bar and the leasing records start in 1795.





Restaurant manager Suzi and Chef Damien are the young couple behind this impressive new restaurant in the middle of Killorglin, County Kerry. The pic (right) gives you an idea of the amazing design and you may see more here.  The food though is the main thing and the only way to check that out is to make a dinner reservation and get in there! Best of luck to the couple who honed their skills over the past three years in the lovely Screebe House in Connemara.


Kingdom 1795
Main Street
Killorglin, Co. Kerry V93XED7
Highlights info row image
(066) 979 6527


Also on this trip: Malarkey in Killarney

Monday, July 29, 2019

Two Gems from Classic French Regions


Two Gems from Classic French Regions

Chateau Vincens “Prestige” Cahors (AOC) 2013, 13%, €23.50 Vanilla Grape Kenmare

Recently, while reviewing a different bottle from this independent South of France producer, I remarked that while Argentina Malbec is popular, the expertise of centuries in Cahors has not suddenly vanished. My point, hardly original, is once again illustrated with this latest Chateau Vincens that I found on the ancient shelves (over 100 years old) of the Vanilla Grape wine and card shop in Henry Street, Kenmare. Alain was delighted that I picked this wine from his neck of the woods.

It is a blend of 80% Malbec and 20% Merlot and has been raised (70% of it) in oak casks. The producers recommended that their  award winning “well balanced wine, with the wood well integrated” be served at 17 to 18 degrees and paired with red meats and duck breasts.

In 1947, a few growers founded this cooperative in Parnac. Their goal was to revive the Malbec, the grape of Cahors. They succeeded and were still going strong a few years back when I called.
Colour is mid to dark ruby. Rich dark fruit on the nose, notes of liquorice too. On the palate it is plump and luscious, a hint of spice, great depth of flavour, smooth and elegant, and a cherry led acidity helps towards a very pleasing harmony, mellow tannins too playing a role in a long satisfying finish. Very Highly Recommended.

Cahors was famous for its “black wines” even before Bordeaux became established as a producing area. It has had its problems, including phylloxera in 1883-1885. There was a rebirth for Malbec with the founding of the Parnac Coop in 1947. But trouble again in February 1956 when frosts wiped out almost all the vineyards of the region, which thus needed to be replanted en masse. In this replanting, Malbec became more dominant than it had been before. Cahors was awarded AOC status in 1971. Most of the vineyards are planted close to the River Lot.

Parize Givry 1er Cru (AOC) “Champ Nalot” 2017, 13%, €28.30 64 Wine Dublin, Bradley’s of Cork, Greenman Dublin, Le Caveau Kilkenny

This tempting and aromatic wine is a vibrant Givry gem. A subtle and warm wine that will go wonderfully with red meats, small game, and cheeses. Or on its own. This is Very Highly Recommended. Aged in 1-year old oak barrels, Le Caveau themselves are excited: “A brilliant Pinot Noir, very expressive…”

Mid ruby is the colour. Cherry and plum in the seductive aromas. Vivacious, absolutely delicious in the mouth. Smooth rounded red fruit, superb acidity, spices too, refined tannins and an excellent lingering finish. Not too much more to be said. Just go and buy one.

Sunday, July 28, 2019

Tasting Malarkey's at Rebel O'Connell's New Kingdom Base

Tasting Malarkey's at Rebel O'Connell's New Kingdom Base. 

Amazingly substantial 6th course of Tasting menu; amazingly delicious too!

It’s hot in the kitchen at Malarkey, the Killarney restaurant just opened by chef-patron Seamus O’Connell, best known for his years of good food, fun and frustration in Cork’s Ivory Tower. 

Pilsner from 9 White Deer
Service is in full swing. Probably just as well the restaurant, with its eye-catching decor both upstairs and downstairs, is not packed. The staff are extra busy though because they are also showing their new beer garden to the trade in Killarney and serving boxty and bubbles to their many guests.

After a superb meal, I take up an invite from one of the staff to have a look out back and am surprised at the overall size of the premises that Seamus has taken on and at how much work has already been done here.

Before I go, I get a chance to saw hello and have a brief word with the man himself. And he tells me that his biggest problem in these early months is the lack of staff, especially chefs. Seamus himself just has to work harder but there is no sign of the kitchen pressure on the plates. We have just enjoyed a superb 7-course Tasting Menu.

Choices are amazing here. Our Tasting Menu (Tasting Malarkey) is €50.00 each and he has a different Tasting Menu (Fusion De Luxe) priced at €70.00. There is a set menu (with lots of choice) for what seems good value at €30.00. And if you really want choice, just take a look at the A La Carte where you’ll have to allow extra time to make decisions; there are no less than 19 starters listed, including four of boxty.

Wild Salmon cured with Alder smoked salt in herbs


Wood pigeon, with beetroot

The finalé at Killarney's Malarkey. Toffee Apple crumble with smoked treacle ice-cream.
Nettle and Knotweed Soup (duck and orange centrepiece)
Crubeens with smoky onion poitín
Halibut with lobster sauce. And it is, but there’s some delicious bits of bacon and cabbage as well.

Friday, July 26, 2019

Amuse Bouche


On Saturdays, she knows, they sometimes eat lunch at a restaurant. Mila told her that. They go to a café where the little girl is allowed order anything she wants and where Adam tries tasting a bit of mustard or lemon from the end of a spoon, under his parents’ tender gaze. Louise would like that. In a packed café… she would be less afraid of the silence. She would sit between Mila and her brother and she’d straighten the large white napkin on the little girl’s lap. She’d feed Adam, spoon after spoon. She’d listen to Paul and Myriam speak. It would all go too fast. She would feel good.

from Lullaby by Leïla Slimani  (2018). Recommended.

Tuesday, July 23, 2019

What To Drink When You’re Not Drinking.


What To Drink When You’re Not Drinking.
Taste Better Than Previous Efforts. Look Better Too!
NA Cocktail at Hotel Europe

While settling up after a recent lunch at Kingdom 1795 in Killorglin, we began talking to Suzi about non alcoholic drinks. She and chef Damien, who have put so much into this lovely new restaurant, carry a selection including Stonewell NA Cider, Seedlip and Heineken Zero.

Bradley's include
a NA Cava
I first came across Seedlip a couple of weeks back at lunch in the Whale’s Tale Bistro in Clonakilty. This was the Garden version, the company do two others: Spice 94 and Grove 42. 

So where did the name come from? Seedlip: Over three hundred years ago, it was common for physicians to distil herbal remedies using copper stills, harnessing the power of nature & alchemy to solve medical maladies. In 1651, one such physician, John French, published The Art of Distillation documenting these non-alcoholic recipes. At that same time, a family in Lincolnshire had started farming, hand sowing seeds using baskets called ‘seedlips’.

Seedlip in Clon
Today, you can find Seedlip in quite a few places and it does indeed give you a choice. The Whale’s Tail version was a substitute for gin and served in the big fashionable gin glass. I tasted it like that and it did seem a bit “vegetable” - there were a few slices of cucumber in there too. But once the Fever-Tree Elderflower was added, the magic happened and the combination was just excellent, very acceptable indeed.

In Kingdom 1795, I tasted the Spice version neat, very aromatic and you could easily see how it would be the basis for an excellent drink. Again, Suzi suggested the Fever-Tree as an ideal companion. No wonder the Seedlip company reckon they have the solution to the question “what to drink when you’re not drinking” #wtdwynd
Killorglin's Kingdom, well worth a visit

There is a Seedlip rival on the market also, marketed as a non-alcoholic gin and called Ceders. I was talking to Michael Creedon of Bradley’s (North Main Street, Cork), about things non-alcoholic and he says there is a a definite trend in that direction. He has non-alcoholic wines in stock and also the Ceders.


When we departed Kingdom 1795, we went for a superb walk in the sun on the stunning Bray Head (Valentia Island). On the way back, we called to the Glenbeigh Hotel, again looking for a non alcoholic drink. And right in front of us, on the counter of the old bar, there was a card full of suggestions (Coca Cola suggestions, I think). The driver tried one, the South African “Appletiser”, a sparkling fruit drink with carbonated water, and it went down well. We also saw the non alcoholic Cronin’s Cider (bottled in Wexford) but too late!

NA Cocktail at Cask
based on Ceders spirit
We went upmarket later on that night. In the bar of the Europe Hotel - probably the best hotel bar in the country - we checked out the offerings. They have a terrific cocktail list - I can recommend the Brandy Alexander and the Negroni - that includes a choice of non alcoholic offerings including a long and delicious apple based one with ginger and lemongrass (the name escapes me). And we were also offering a zero alcohol wine.

They also carry the Erdinger NA beer, quite a good one too. I also find the Paulaner a handy substitute from time to time. And yes they support local here with normal strength beer on draught from Killarney Brewery and bottles of the NA Cider by Kerry based Cronins.

We also tasted that cider at lunch in Dingle’s Boatyard the following day. It is refreshing, somewhat drier than their regular 4.5% offering, and not bad at all. It does come for some reason in the smaller 330 bottle.
A selection of O'Brien's zero alcohol wines

Back in town, after the Kerry break, we called to O’Brien’s in Douglas. They carry the Seedlip drinks and indeed say the non-alcoholic drinks in general are flying, so much that they have to work hard to keep on. They have quite a few non-alcoholic wines including some from Torres and three that they bring in themselves.
At The Kingsley

Just the other night, we were going through the drinks list in the Springboard Restaurant in the Kingsley Hotel and spotted a trio of non-alcoholic cocktails (not too many places are using “mocktail” these days). They have the Shirley Temple and the Fishers and the Nojito, the latter an amalgam of mint, fresh lime juice, sugar and soda water. 

So there you are. Just a sample of the many alcoholic options out there now. Now you know #wtdwynd. Enjoy.

.


This Summer's Dessert Destinations. The Sweetest Things.

 This Summer's Dessert Destinations 
The Sweetest Things.
Pier 26 Ballycotton: This flower enhanced Pavlova with fresh strawberries, blackberries, poached apricots and Chantilly Cream (and a bit of rhubarb too) was a beauty, just the ticket to finish off an excellent meal.

The finalé at Killarney's Malarkey. Toffee Apple crumble with smoked treacle ice-cream.
Might not be the best photo but a cracking dessert.
A classic at Crackpots Encore in Kinsale: Poached Pears in mulled red wine. And it was a terrific version.
 Apple and Berry Crumble wasn’t the bravest of picks but it turned out to be a gem, beautifully made and presented - apparently Tramore's Copper Hen have a bit of a reputation on this one. If you do get the chance, do order one. One each!
Friendly Henry's in Ennis served us this lovely Pear Tart with caramelised walnuts and ice-cream. 
Jammy Dodger (coconut and raspberry compote) by Bobo at The Glucksman, UCC. You don't see these too often nowadays.
 Mocha Choca Indulgent Cake at the Garden Café Truck by the Ballymaloe Cookery School.
You could say they know how to bake around here. Quality guaranteed.

From The Oar Restaurant in Doolin: Passionfruit Soufflé with a Passionfruit sorbet.

 From the Springboard Restaurant in Cork's Kingsley Hotel comes this delicious Lemon meringue éclair (choux pastry éclair, lemon curd filling, Italian meringue, mango sorbet)

Local Producers Shine as Cask Introduces Weekend Brunch

Local Producers Shine as Cask Introduces Weekend Brunch
French Toast


When Cork’s Cask recently introduced its weekend Brunch, there was no doubt that it would be local and seasonal. Head Chef Bryan McCarthy emphasised it in the notice: “For the brunch menu at Cask we wanted to keep it simple, offering no-frills brunch favourites with the focus firmly on the quality of the ingredients which we’ve sourced from some wonderful local producers. We’re delighted with how it has turned out and we think people are going to love it.

I tried it out this weekend, enjoyed it and delighted too that Killahora Orchards, a producer just about five miles east of the city, figured so much in my choice. I should say choices as there was a cocktail involved as well! Well, it was a late brunch.

The menu is short, with favourites, such as Eggs Benedict featuring. Seated by the window, we ignored the busy street scene outside and studied the options. My choice was the French Toast with the Killahora Apple Syrup and Strawberries (bananas were an alternative).
So what cocktail? You have to smile at the names here but there is something a little more serious behind the one I picked: Bee Positive. Ketel One vodka, Killahora Rare Apple Iced Wine, Suze, Borage and local honey are the ingredients. And it comes with a packet of wildflower seeds to throw and grow! Aside from the needed nod to the bees, the drink itself is delicious, nectar springs to mind! 

In any event, the drink and the superb French Toast went very well together, I’m glad to report. CL meantime was enjoying her substantial plate of Avocado, Bacon, Tomato, Rocket, and Poached Egg on toast. That too was delicious, quite a feed. I know, as we swapped halfway through.

Like an increasing number of places, Cask offer a non alcoholic cocktail. Their Shrub consists of Ceders Non Alcoholic Spirit, Seasonal Shrub, and Poachers Ginger Ale. Tonic and soda are listed as alternatives but Dan, who was looking after us, hinted that the Poachers Ginger ale was just the job and he was talking to the converted as CL had recently enjoyed a cocktail with ginger ale in Kerry. This didn’t look all that spectacular, just the one flowerhead, providing colour, but it tasted very well indeed.

Cheers to the bees
Andy Ferreira, Cask bar manager and chief mixologist. “In recent years brunch as a concept has really taken off so we were excited to introduce it to Cask, but making sure to put our own unique spin on things. We’ve combined delicious food and a fun and intriguing drinks menu with the great craic that we’ve become known for - a killer combination!”

Having been asked to put it to the test, we can endorse that! Also on the menu are Eggs Benedict on Toasted Honey Spelt Bread; Potato, Black Pudding and Beef Hash with Baked Eggs. Lighter dining options include Granola with Natural Yogurt and Berry Compote, and Smoked Salmon with Scrambled Eggs and Chives.

Brunch is available here from 10:00am - 3:00pm every Saturday and Sunday. Cask is also open daily for lunch and dinner from 12:30pm - 10:00pm. 

48 MacCurtain Street
Cork
Tel:  (021) 450 0011



Monday, July 22, 2019

Four of the Best from O’Brien’s Summer Promotion


Four of the Best from O’Brien’s Summer Promotion
 -22nd July to 1st September-
The O’Brien’s Summer Promotion began this week and runs until 1st September. Over 100 wines are on offer, with discounts ranging from 6% to 42%. I think I've been lucky with the examples I've picked (below),  all red as it turned out.

But there is so much more in the promotion. Anyone for rosé? Why not try L'Ostal Caze from the many on offer. Whites to consider include the Château-Fuissé Saint-Veran  and the outstanding Robert Weil Riesling trocken. Having a little get-together out-the-back? There are two Rizzardi proseccos reduced and no shortage of cava or champagne either. Enjoy the summer! Responsibly, of course. Regular price in brackets.

Vaglio "Chango" Red Blend 2015 Argentina, 14.5%, 15.95 (18.95)

An expressive and pleasant wine according to the man who produced it: José Lovaglio Balbo, from Mendoza. Vaglio is a new micro-winery located in Tupungato created by José. He produces four single vineyard wines that all focus on micro-climates and minimal winemaking. José is a young winemaker at the well known Dominio del Plata and the son of renowned winemaker Susana Balbo. Each of his wines represent a unique terroir as well as different stages of his life. 

The fruit comes from different vineyards, the Malbec (65%) and Cabernet Sauvignon (15%) are from Altamira and the Tannat (20%) is from Cafayate. It has spent 11 months in oak (2nd/3rd use barrels).

Colour is close to a dark ruby. Bruised red fruit on the nose, a touch of orange peel too, slightest hints of vanilla emerge also. Palate is soft, full of that red fruit flavour, then the long-lasting finish, with tannins that are not yet quite smooth. A really well-made wine from Mendoza, an amazing amalgam of the grapes and the terroir conducted by the young wine-maker. He does ask for your feedback on the bottle! Very Highly Recommended. Chapeau, José. @joselovaglio


Tandem, at the foot of the Camino de Santiago in the Yerri Valley, is a cool micro-climate where they practice sustainable farming and minimal intervention. Built north-facing and partially underground to use a gravity system, they have the finest natural conditions to age the wines.

Owner José María Fraile was in Cork last year and told us  the vineyard is quite close to Pamplona and on the northern edge of the Navarra wine region. “We like freshness and elegance and luckily we’re in the coolest part of the appellation. It is super green where we are, a big contrast with the desert in the south. The Atlantic influence, the cool summer nights and picking late in the season is good for the grapes and we get that natural acidity.” We would soon see how that acidity helped with the food pairings at 12 Tables.

Inmune (Spanish for immune) was one of the wines on the night, a 100% Garnacha paired with Gubbeen Chorizo, Ardsallagh Feta, Olive Tapenade, Romesco, Physalis and Avocado Oil. “Immune, to failure, to critics!”, joked José. “This is a powerful expression of the Garnacha (the vines are 70 years old and more); great depth and structure, a stunning wine that fills the palate.”

“We aimed to make a powerful, deep and concentrated wine, with nice weight and tannins in which the purity of the fruit garnacha would shine.” Reckon Tandem got it spot-on. Very Highly Recommended.



Leyda, 12 km from the Pacific is an ideal spot for viticulture. The maritime influenced cool conditions makes it an extraordinary area for the development of Pinot Noir. Vineyards are all on slopes, planted on the least fertile soils and they are managed in order to keep low yields. 

Light to mid ruby is the colour. Summer berries combine for an intense aroma.  Rich rounded palate of ripe red fruit (cherries prominent), a lively acidity, smooth tannins and a long and pleasing finish. An excellent Pinot Noir, Very Highly Recommended. Good value too, even at the original price.

Leyda, founded in 1997, are best known for their Pinot Noir (notably Lot 21), Sauvignon Blanc, and Syrah (according to Wines of South America). This wine was aged in French oak barrels for ten months and pairs well with cold meats/pâtés, Duck, Pheasant/Pigeon, Pork Belly, Slow roast Pork loin.


Words of wine wisdom from the Contessa (below) encourage us to drink with emotion rather than a data sheet, passion rather than intellect.

Mid to dark ruby is the colour of this light Munus from the Lake Garda area. Aromas are intensely fruity, a hint of spice there too. Flavours are quite concentrated, acidity is excellent, hints of that sweet spice too, and a good finish to boot. 

All that acidity means it's meant for food. I’m thinking: Bring on the lamb! The producer says: “Superb with pork and poultry dishes and lighter game such as partridge and quail. Also porcini mushroom risotto.” Another note from the vineyard recommends it to be served (16° C or 60° F) with pork roast, spicy dishes or casseroles. Quite versatile apparently!

A wine that belies its youth.  Very Highly Recommended.

Lots of history behind Rizzardi and Munus which is produced mainly from Corvina, Merlot and Ancellotta grapes from their vineyards. 

Created to celebrate the Contessa Loredan Rizzardi, a descendant of the Loredan Doges of Venice and she has been quoted as saying that this is her favourite wine, adding You have a perfect marriage of grapes when one grape is not prevailing over another. ….But I drink with passion, and without brains. 

The label bears the word Munus - a gift - which was engraved on the silver coins given by the Doge on special occasions. It is part aged in large oak barrels. Serve at 16-18 degrees. Estate grown and bottled.

You may be wondering about the Ancellotta grape. Wine-searcher: Ancellotta is a dark-colored grape variety that originated in Italy. It is most often used as a blending component in sparkling red Lambrusco wines, but varietal examples can be found in BrazilArgentina and Switzerland.