Thursday, December 31, 2020

Festival Food & Drink Favourites #4. Barre Infernale Pistache

 Festival Food & Drink Favourites #4. Barre Infernale Pistache

Just before Christmas I bought a small bag of goodies, including a lovely bar of the local Wilkie's chocolate, from the Chocolate Shop in the English Market. It was Click and Collect and as I was browsing their list online I spotted this creation by François Pralus. A bit expensive, I thought to myself.  Than again I said, go for it, this is Christmas. Minutes later, I sent off the order. And, hardly an hour later, got a message saying it was ready. Called in the following morning and picked it up. Great service.

I took my time getting to the big one, enjoying the other bars and also some lovely hot chocolate, the powder mix, called Cacao Show, also produced by M. Pralus. Then it was time to try the most expensive bar of chocolate that I had even bought. When I looked closely at it I saw that it weights some 160g, more than double most of the other bars available and so the €14.95 didn't seem that extravagant after all. Funny how you can justify these things!

They say: A dark chocolate praline bar with roasted almonds. Deliciously divine thick chocolate encasing a delectable dark praline studded with crisp fresh nuts. in a class of its own! Ingredients Praline (roasted hazelnuts, almonds, sugar, 75% chocolate, vanilla), pure cocoa butter, GMO-free soy lecithin.

It is a large slab of deliciousness, no squares delineated, just the Pralus name embossed. As I cut it with a sharp knife, a little crumb of chocolate fell to the table. Picked it up and put it you know where and instantly realised that I was on to a winner, courtesy of Madagascar and the marvellous French chocolatier. And more deliciousness enclosed in the dark outside, a delightful paté of pistachio nuts. 

Everything they say above is true! Do try it. I'll be ordering again. Pralus also produce other similar bars, including one nougat. Indeed, they have some 15 products list in the Chocolate Shop, including my hot chocolate mix.

Festival Food & Drink Favourites #3 Bodegas Robles Vermouth VRMT
Festival Food & Drink Favourites #2 8-Degrees "Devil’s Ladder: Belgian Tripel
Festival Food & Drink Favourites #1FabFestive Feast from Glass Curtain

English Market


Wednesday, December 30, 2020

Festival Food & Drink Favourites #3: Bodegas Robles Vermouth VRMT

Festival Food & Drink Favourites #3

Bodegas Robles Vermouth VRMT, Recetta Andalusi, 15%,

€28.00 (1 litre) Mary Pawle Wines  Available also from URRU in Bandon and there may still be some in Toons Bridge in Dublin. 

A Sensational Vermouth That Has Been A Long Time In The Making.

Based on sherry wines that are aged eight years in oak barrels and enhanced by aromas and memories of the Andalusi cuisine (from Al-Andalus period, 8th to 15th centuries), this Vermouth is superb.

Thanks to Bodegas Robles and Michelin Star Chef Paco Morales who have recovered “the tradition of vermouth macerated by time and the work of our winemaking team who enjoy researching their own path and creating new sensation”. 

Its balance between sweet, bitter and acid allows a prolonged presence on the palate. The clove and cinnamon are the main spices responsible for the warm Andalusian aroma characteristic of this vermouth. This is a must try and one of our favourites over the festive season. It is imported by Mary Pawle Wines and comes in a 1L size bottle.

The base of VRMT Robles is organic Oloroso wine that has aged for eight years in oak barrels. A light touch of Pedro Ximénez wine displays a wide range of aromas of quince jelly and honey tones. The intriguing “solera” system mixes very old wines with younger wines thus mothering the young wines. A unique experience of maturity and freshness.

Bodegas Robles’ vineyards have the air of a wildly romantic garden, overrun by a layer of lavender, poppies, clover and wild plants, buzzing with bees and other insects. VRMT Robles is macerated with ten of these aromatic plants in an attempt to translate a real sense of our terroir into the vermouth

The study of Andalusi spices has been fundamental, following the indications of an anonymous manuscript of the thirteenth century: “The knowledge of the use of spices is the main basis of the cuisine, because they are the foundation of cooking and it is built on that basis.” The clove and cinnamon are the main responsible for the warm Andalusi aroma characteristic of our vermouth.

Pairings recommended by the producers are:

A good pairing for nuts, fruits such as orange or lemon, a cheese and raspberry cake., Any sea food and all kinds of fish: tuna, cod, salmon, anchovies., It's perfect with sweet flavours, especially those with more sweet and dark flavor. Olives, cheeses, ham, sausages, smoked meats, mussels, clams.

Very versatile, as you can see. But enjoy it too as an aperitif, 40ml or so over ice, is a lovely introduction before sipping it neat with any of the above. I also found it makes a superb Negroni with the usual suspects Gin and Campari, each accounting for a third of the drink. Still experimenting - just as well it comes in a one litre bottle!

Festival Food & Drink Favourites #1Fabulous Festive Feast from The Glass Curtain

Tuesday, December 29, 2020

Festival Food & Drink Favourites #2. Eight Degrees "Devil’s Ladder" Belgian Tripel

 Eight Degrees Devil’s Ladder Belgian Tripel 11.5%

Of all these high ABV specials, of this and years past, some have promised much.  And now, at the end of this annus horribilis of 2020, I’ve found it, the nectar. Not perhaps the nectar of the gods - such a rambunctious bunch and not at all suited to social distancing - but the sweet nectar of the sweet angels. Ironically, it is called Devil’s Ladder. Luckily this ladder goes up.

It is a very special beer from Eight Degrees, a special that transcends the boundaries of the humble drink, because of the ingredients and the skill with which they are managed. This is one of best drinks, of any kind (wine, beer or spirit), that I’ve come across and one that could, in moderation of course, turn 2021 into an annus mirabilis.

They say: The beer is pale gold with a gentle Belgian yeast profile. Think soft banana esters, cloves and spice. We finish it in sherry oak butts, which add sweet vanilla, dried fruit and Christmas cake notes to this beautiful beast of a beer.

With Eight Degrees, there are, unfailingly, food pairing suggestions and we took serious notice on the big day and the Belgian Tripel straddled both sides of the Christmas meal. We began with a small serving in Sherry glasses with a selection of nibbles, most notably beautiful buttery low-sodium olives Snocciolate by Ponti and succulent dried tomatoes in extra virgin olive oil by Frantoio Bianco (both imported by Little Italy in Dublin). 

Good then but the beer, in slightly bigger but still small glasses, really came into its full glory with the Barnabrow House pudding. An absolutely amazing pairing. I could hear those angels humming as I sipped the exquisite liquid. Euphoria. Until someone stood on the dog's paw!

Festival Food & Drink Favourites #1: 

Fabulous Festive Feast from The Glass Curtain. "Deck The Halls" A Christmas Highlight

Fabulous Festive Feast from The Glass Curtain. "Deck The Halls" A Christmas Highlight

Fabulous Festive Feast from The Glass Curtain

"Deck The Halls" A Christmas Highlight.

Christmas bubbles!

When we picked up our "Deck The Halls" feast from the Glass Curtain just before Christmas, we knew we were onto a good thing. Just how good, we'd discover over the next few hours. It came in their own specially designed tote and they packed the very best into it, including a bottle of the excellent Piper Heidsieck champagne.

We didn't get around to everything on the first night and not everything is included in the photos here. One of our starters was a beautifully presented, in a jar, Duck Liver Paté topped with a mulled wine jelly. There were two cheeses also included: a small round of Ballylisk Triple Cream Brie and a hefty chunk of Aged Ballinrostig Gouda. There was even a Mulled Wine Spice Bag. 

The GC tote bag was designed "so all your savoury items complement each other and are a perfect selection to share around the table". All very true indeed. And there was little or no cooking required. The instructions were simple: Unpack your items and let come to room temperature, warm your buns, bake your cookies and pop your bubbles on ice. Even I could do that!

It was by far the best "take-out" of this strange year. Imagine how I feel now though, having just missed out on their New Year's Eve offering! The offer came through by email yesterday. I didn't see it immediately and when I tried to get through, I failed, and failed. When I did succeed in connecting, all I saw was the Sold Out sticker. Damn! Still glad I got that Christmas one though. And the good news is, that after a short and deserved break, Brian Murray and his team "will be thinking up some new and exciting menus to bring to you at home in the next couple of weeks".
Milk buns (with Chicken Schmaltz)

Venison and black truffle hand-raised Pie, (with pickled walnut relish).
From this hearty pie to light snacks (like the popcorn below)
The Glass Curtain came up trumps every single bite!

House cured salmon pastrami (and herbed Crème Fraiche)

Chocolate chip cookies (with Salted Caramel sauce)
and below Mince Pies

Popcorn: Caramel Crunch/white chocolate & Macadamia nuts/
dark chocolate & chilli.

for the cookies, just one of a series of
super relishes and sauces.

Festival Food & Drink Favourites #2. Eight Degrees "Devil’s Ladder: Belgian Tripel

Thursday, December 24, 2020

Happy Christmas


The Choctaw Monument in Midleton, Co. Cork. It is called Kindred Spirits
and is a sign of togetherness in times of trouble, respect and gratitude.
Thought it appropriate for the end of 2020 and probably well into next year
 as well. Artist: Alex Pentek
Happy Christmas to one and all. Peace to the people.

Parked up for another year (at Vienna Woods Hotel, Glanmire, Co. Cork). Happy Christmas!

Cobh, Co. Cork

Cork, the city by the Lee, with Shandon in centre of pic.

Wednesday, December 23, 2020






International hospitality company, PREM Group is well into the second phase of its ambitious renovation plans at the 4-star, Tulfarris Hotel and Golf Resort in Blessington Co. Wicklow.   The group purchased the 90-bedroom hotel in 2016 and by the end of 2019 had already spent over €6 million on the property in a bid to return the luxury hotel, golf course and 18th century Manor House to its former glory.  Initial works included the addition of a contemporary clubhouse, all the bunkers were refurbished, two new championship tee boxes were added to the 1st and 16th holes and all of the greens were reseeded. In addition, 16 bedrooms were added to the hotel and all of the original bedrooms were upgraded. Meanwhile, a new lobby and new hotel bar were added while several grand reception rooms in the original Manor House were sympathetically restored.

The second phase of the renovation project continued throughout 2020 bringing the total investment figure in the property to €7.4 million.  In spring of this year, the spectacular new restaurant, ‘Fia Rua,’ a stylish and effortlessly chic bistro style eatery overlooking the 18th green was created.  The work on the restaurant was completed by interior designer, Julie Goggin in March before PREM Group commenced the redesign and renovation of the ‘Russborough Suite’, the ballroom at the hotel. The ballroom renovation, which is now completed, was also overseen by Julie who sought to create a bright, contemporary and elegant space which could be used for weddings, gala dinners or events.

 “The previous space had created many happy memories and hosted a lot of special occasions, however PREM Group wanted to completely revamp the space in order for it to become more attractive, particularly for wedding couples,” said Julie.   “We wanted the space to feel light, luxurious and timeless and created bespoke panelling with inset mirrors to reflect light and add luxury to the room.  The panelling takes its inspiration from the Manor House at Tulfarris and from the nearby, Palladian mansion Russborough House. Essentially, the design is a modern interpretation of a classical ballroom”, said Julie.  “The colours throughout have been kept very pale and soft.  Warm white provides the main backdrop for the scheme while tones of blue provide the accent colours.”

Highly decorative crystal pendant chandeliers bring exemplary focal points to the ballroom and are complemented by hidden uplighters which bathe the bow shaped ceiling in swaths of warm white.

There is a large bar and seating area adjacent to the Russborough Suite which can be partitioned off from the ballroom or couples may opt to have it left entirely open. Here there is a balance between comfortable sofa seating with stone topped cocktail tables, traditional buttoned banquette seating and high bar tables paired with leather clad stools. The bar itself is painted in a deep midnight blue and is topped with natural stone.  Stylish panelling, crystal ceiling and wall lights and bevelled mirrors complete the look to stunning effect.

The new ballroom can comfortably hold 250 guests for dinner on round tables or 320 people theatre style.  A movable stage means wedding or event planners have more flexibility while wedding couples will love the easy and direct access the room has to the stunning gardens and courtyard. 

The redevelopment of the ballroom is aimed at attracting clientele from the wedding and special occasion markets, while the presence of the one AA Rosette award winning Fia Rua restaurant ensures that visitors to the hotel enjoy the finest cuisine served up by Executive Head Chef, Eddie McDermott. All ingredients are sourced locally from Irish farmers and suppliers where possible.

Darren Byrne, General Manager of Tulfarris Hotel and Golf Resort, said, “We are delighted with all of the works that have taken place here to date.  The aim is to continually innovate, renovate and improve our offering so that our discerning guests and wedding couples can have a memorable experience. The new ballroom is very elegant, and we are looking forward to hosting many special days here in the coming months and years.  We can also host civil ceremonies and humanist celebrations on the resort. The exterior grounds of the resort provide plenty of great locations for outdoor weddings and blessings.”

Jim Murphy, CEO of PREM Group said, “Although 2020 has been a challenging year for our industry we are committed to our plans to redevelop and add to the facilities at Tulfarris.  In 2021 we plan to add a light filled atrium lounge which will connect the original Manor House to the banqueting and conference areas.  We already completely redesigned the Bridal Suite in the Manor House and plan to redesign the remaining bedrooms in the early part of the next year.”

Tulfarris Hotel and Golf Resort is located just 40 minutes from Dublin and is set against the spectacular backdrop of the Blessington Lakes and Wicklow Mountains. The resort covers 220 acres and includes a luxury 4-star hotel, 18-hole championship golf course, clubhouse, conference centre, banqueting suites, a restaurant and bar and self-catering holiday homes. Set across three peninsulas around the lake shores, the stunning 18-hole championship golf course is a golfer’s paradise and is definitely an exhilarating test for both amateur and pro golfers. The 18th century Manor House sits at the heart of the resort and its classic design and elegant proportions are typical of the 18th century architecture of the time.

For more information on Tulfarris Hotel and Golf Resort or to make a booking see

press release

Tuesday, December 22, 2020

A Quart of Ale± #26A. Moving on over to craft. A Variety of Lagers.

A Quart of Ale
± #26A

Moving on over to craft

A Variety of Lagers

Hope Underdog Hoppy Lager 4.8%, 440ml can via Ardkeen QFS

This modern hybrid style lager has a hazy gold colour, lots of bubbles on show, with a delicate quickly fading white head. Hops make their presence known in the nose. Very impressive introduction on the palate, with a terrific mouthfeel, malt sweetness and hop bitterness get along very well indeed. It is deeply refreshing, full of flavour and persistent. A big and pleasant surprise for me and one to note for sure.

They say: The malts and the yeast we use are traditional, but the hops are not. We use lager malt and other European malt such as Munich malt for flavour, and we use a classic German lager yeast: a strain originally isolated from the oldest brewery in the world. We also use modern American hops for flavour, such as Citra, El Dorado, and Mosaic, furthermore we use the dry hopping technique which is associated with IPAs rather than lager. Underdog hoppy lager is the result.

When it comes to food pairing it’s a brilliant all-rounder, great with BBQs, pizza, spicy foods like curries and for anybody who doesn’t like wine with their food.

Malts: Lager, Munich, Melanoidin, Carapils, Acidulated.

Hops: Magnum, El Dorado, Mosaic 

Yeast: German Lager

IBU 25

The Brewery: Hope Beer started out in 2015 when the brewery was founded by four friends with a passion for beer and business. What began as a series of late-night kitchen table discussions is now a state-of-the-art brewery, producing an extensive range of award-winning premium craft beers. All Hope beers are brewed, bottled, canned and kegged at Howth Junction on Dublin’s Northside and are crafted to be the perfect accompaniment to food.

The Story: During the American invasion of Mexico in 1846, Irishman John Riley came to the aid of the Mexicans in their hour of need. He formed the famous San Patricios Battalion and willingly joined the underdog by fighting against the odds. Ok, they lost, but they became Mexican heroes, remembered especially on St. Patrick’s Day, and on every other day of the year by their nickname: Greengo’s.

Duvel-Moortgat “Vedett Extra Blond” 5.2%, 330ml bottle Bradley’s of Cork

Thought I was buying a golden or blond ale here but turns out this one is more of a lager, a bottom fermented beer, a speciality of the Belgian brewery.

It is straw coloured, lots of bubbles rising, and a fluffy white head that diminishes slowly.  The “extra” here is because of the higher than usual abv. There is a moderate hoppy element in the aromas and on the palate, you immediately realise you have a thirst-quencher in your hand, dry and smooth with a finely balanced hoppiness and a subtle bitterness towards the finalé, always with a mild malt character in the background.

They say: An excellent companion for mushrooms, asparagus, mussels, sushi (with a hint of spiciness), fried chicken breast, calves’ liver, noodle and rice dishes, lemon grass, coconut milk, creamy cottage cheese or a goat’s cheese made with unpasteurised milk. Best served at 3 – 6 °C. 

This Vedett has been in production since the 1940s and was “refreshed” and re-launched in 2003. Brewed with 100 % natural ingredients: water, yeast, pale barley malt, rice. Saaz-Saaz and Styrian Golding hops.

Cotton Ball Indian Summer 4.7%, 500ml bottle and on draught, Cotton Ball Off-licence

Fancy the freshness of a lager, the flavours of an ale? Then check out the Cotton Ball’s Indian Summer.

I was reminded of the qualities of the Cotton Ball’s Indian Summer, produced first as a seasonal but now very much a core beer, during a visit to one of Cork’s newest restaurants in MacCurtain Street. 

A delicious pint (left). The brewery indicate Indian Summer is “a hybrid beer made with lager and crystal malts but with an ale yeast and is an excellent thirst quencher….  great with an Indian Friday night take away.” 

I had my pint in the new Thompsons restaurant (where the Cotton have a micro brewery) and it paired very well indeed with a Nduja pizza. The recipe for this hybrid may be somewhat unusual but it has impressive character, giving the drinker the best of both worlds.

They say: Our Pale Ale made with Irish lager malt, crystal malt and ale yeast while being delicately bittered using three new world hops. 

This beer gives a citrusy aroma with a light clean palate and a lingering hoppy bitterness. This beer is for sure a thirst quencher! 

Metalman Equinox Wheat Lager 4.6%, 330ml can Ardkeen QFS

A beer for a sunny day! Even if that sunny day was just above freezing as winter sneaked in.

It’s a hazy mid-gold colour with a myriad of little bubbles rising towards a white head that doesn’t hang about. Orange and lemon peel have been added for a burst of citrus, along with some ground coriander to give a hint of spice at the end. It seems to have worked well as the wheat lager is very refreshing, full of flavour and totally quaffable with a clove-y hint there too. Nice finish also.

Very satisfactory overall and good too that you are able to get it in keg, cask and can.

Pearse Lyons Brown Bear India Pale Lager 5.2%, Aldi

Something of a hybrid like the Cotton Ball’s Indian Summer. A more serious beer than I first thought and quite a satisfactory one as well. Not a big fan of the discounts but credit where credit is due, so a big thumbs up for this particular Brown Bear. Colour is more amber than gold, the aromas are hoppy and the fruity finalé is more ale than lager.

Monday, December 21, 2020

Cork Cancer Survivors working in the food industry sought for new initiative


Cork Cancer Survivors working in the food industry sought for new initiative

Breakthrough Cancer Research, Ireland’s leading cancer research charity, is embarking on an exciting new awareness campaign that will launch early in The New Year.

The charity is looking for Cork based cancer survivors working in any capacity in the food and hospitality industry, to get involved with the initiative which will help raise awareness of the importance of cancer research.

They could be a producer, a jam maker, a chef, a waiter, a baker, a food supplier, a cheese maker or food packaging and distribution staff.

If you or anyone you know working in the food or hospitality industry has survived cancer, Breakthrough wants to hear from you.

This initiative will be a follow up to the multi-award-winning Shop That Nearly Wasn’t – the world’s first shop 100% stocked and staffed by cancer survivors. Featuring craft and art producers, creatives and entrepreneurs the pop up shop opened in Dublin’s Temple Bar on World Cancer Day 2020 and continues to operate online at .

Anyone interested should contact or telephone 021 4226655.



 Blacks Brewery & Distillery Celebrate Prestigious International Beer & Spirit Award Wins  


Blacks Sour Sailor Cocktail


While this year has been challenging, Blacks, Ireland’s first co-located brewery & distillery, proved unstoppable, receiving international awards as a mark of their passion and dedication to their craft.


Maudeline and Sam

Located on the Wild Atlantic Way in Kinsale, Blacks have one simple mission, to escape the mundane of the mass market by producing beers with passion, personality and lots of hops, while also pushing the boundaries of flavour when crafting their range of spirits. Having just been announced as winners for two prestigious competitions - USA Spirit Ratings & the European Beer Challenge, Blacks are proving their mission complete.


A USA Spirit Ratings medal is the ultimate seal of approval in the global spirits industry. Blacks took home the coveted Gold medal for their Blacks Irish Gin, one of only two Irish gins to receive this accolade, and Silver for their Blacks Golden Rum at this renowned competition. The USA Spirits Ratings looks to recognise, reward and help promote spirit brands that have successfully been created to identify with and target a specific spirit drinker. These awards shine a spotlight on the spirit brands that consumers really want to buy and have a clear market value for trade buyers.


Spirits were judged in three categories; Quality, Value and Packaging. Only those spirits who scored consistently high across each of the three criteria were awarded medals. To receive Gold Blacks Irish Gin was awarded an impressive score of 90 - 100 points, with Blacks Golden Rum coming away with its Silver medal and 80 - 89 points.


Continuing this winning streak, Blacks, founded by husband and wife duo, Sam & Maudeline Black, were honoured to accept Double Gold at the European Beer Challenge for their innovative Maui Wowie High P.A. and also their World's End Imperial Stout. This unstoppable pair also proudly accepted silver for their flagship beer, Kinsale Pale Ale (KPA).


The annual European Beer Challenge brings together Europe’s leading beer buyers and top beers from across the globe against the backdrop of the dynamic and strategically important EU & UK beer market. This year thousands of samples from 39 countries fought head-to-head, with Blacks coming out on top not once, but three times. During the European Beer Challenge judging session each product is subjected to a rigorous blind tasting process which allows newcomers to compete fairly against the world’s leading brands. This is the highest level of recognition in the industry - the Oscars of the Beer World.


The award winning Blacks

Speaking with pride in relation to their award wins Blacks Brewery & Distillery Co-Founder, Sam Black commented, “This has been an amazing year for us at our Brewery & Distillery in Kinsale. While the global Covid19 pandemic threw a lot of challenges our way, the entire team rose to the test and we continued to produce exciting craft beers and spirits. To receive Double Gold, Gold and Silver medals for both our craft beers and spirits is recognition for the passion we have for our craft. It is a testament to the time and talent invested by all of our team in Kinsale, and to receive this acknowledgment on a global scale, especially when up against such long standing and established brands it was just phenomenal.’


Fancy sampling Blacks Gold winning Irish Gin over this festive season? It is delicious served neat over ice, or as a tall drink with a premium mixer, but if you like your spirits shaken not stirred why not try this Blacks’ signature Gin cocktail:



Blacks Sour Sailor




·      60ml Blacks Irish Gin

·      30 ml Fresh Grapefruit Juice

·      15ml Fresh Lemon Juice

·      10ml Simple Sugar Syrup (This can be easily made at home by mixing sugar with water - 1:1 ratio Sugar : Water)

·      1/2 Egg White

·      Dash of Angostura Bitters




1.    Add all your ingredients, except the bitters, into a cocktail shaker

2.    Dry shake all ingredients for 10 seconds

3.    Add ice and shake again for a further 10 seconds

4.    Fine strain into a chilled martini glass

5.    Add a dash of Angostura Bitters

6.    Sip & enjoy


To find out more about Blacks award-winning Blacks Irish Gin, Blacks Golden Rum and craft beers visit, or stay connected online at Instagram/blacksbrewery, Twitter @BlacksBrewery or Facebook/BlacksOfKinsale

press release