Saturday, February 29, 2020

Amuse Bouche

Cocaine, it turned out, was as widely available in Dublin as London, and I didn’t have to travel far to get it. I grew up watching films depicting drug dealers as dodgy types, but in 2007 drug dealers in Dublin were lads like me. A few lines went hand in hand with having a few pints. If there were pills or MDMA knocking about, all the better. I was conscientious enough to keep it away from work, which was evidence to me that I didn’t have a problem.
My parents’ divorce went through the year, another unsettling episode I now had to ignore.

from Recovering by Richie Sadlier (2019). Very Highly Recommended.

Thursday, February 27, 2020

St. Colman’s Church and Schoolhouse in Ballycotton Opens as New Music and Events Venue and Architecturally Designed Restaurant

St. Colman’s Church and Schoolhouse in Ballycotton Opens as New  Music and Events Venue and Architecturally Designed Restaurant

Sea Church in Ballycotton, East Cork will open this weekend as an intimate music and events venue and architecturally designed restaurant overlooking the rugged coastline.   

Following a multi-million euro restoration by local entrepreneur Pearse Flynn, the church will function as a music venue with a capacity of 120. It opens this weekend with The Frank and Walters performing on Friday the 28th of February and Lisa Hannigan performing on Saturday the 29th of February and Sunday the 1st March. Other artists lined up over the coming months include John Spillane, Jack O’Rourke and Mary Counghlan. 

Mr. Flynn purchased St Coleman’s Church in 2018 and has worked closely with architects, interior designers, restoration experts and specialist builders to create the unique venue and return the building to its former glory. The project took two years to complete with original features such as oak panels, wrought iron gates and pointed arch stained-glass windows painstakingly preserved, while the bell tower and timber staircase are restored to their original specification. 

The restoration plans were drawn up by Paul Haffey Interior Design, and Rose Construction managed the build. The overall project includes the restoration of the old schoolhouse behind the church, which has been developed into Sea Church Restaurant due to open on the 5th of March, and a car park and community playground across the road which is due to be finished later this Spring.  

Speaking about the project, Pearse Flynn said Ballycotton and the surrounding area has enormous potential. It is so beautiful and unspoiled. The trick to the Sea Church development was to get the balance right and to retain its original charm. The design of the restaurant had to come from the surrounding beauty. We wanted to maintain the harmony of life and give a modern maritime feel inside the restaurant while steering away from the traditional. I believe we have achieved a look that is fresh and contemporary while paying homage to the beauty of the surrounding countryside.”

Sea Church is equipped with a high-end audio system and full in-house DJ equipment. The unique venue, which includes a large outdoor terrace with unparalleled views, is available for private events and ceremonies making it perfect for special events, exhibitions and functions. Sea Church is also an approved venue for civil ceremonies and can cater for weddings of between 100 and 150 guests, with a dedicated events team in place who work with the best local suppliers to customise each event.

Keep up to date with the latest news by following Sea Church on social @seachurchballycotton.

The Oldest Papal Vineyard in France. And it’s not where I thought.

The Oldest Papal Vineyard in France
And it’s not where I thought.

The oldest papal vineyard in France is not where I thought*. Not in Châteauneuf but near Malaucene in the Vaucluse département of Provence, about 40 minutes to the north-east of the former papal city of Avignon. 

Pope Clement V was elected pope in 1305 and his coronation was in Lyons, not in Rome. In 1309, he moved the papal throne to Avignon (on the Rhone) and also planted this vineyard in the Abbey of Le Barroux under the stern gaze of Mont Ventoux, not too far from the famous Dentelles, in an area where you’ll also find the more famous vines of Beaumes de Venise.

The entire vineyard is, as you might expect, mountainous in nature. Lots of hard work on the slopes including the vintage by hand. On their estate, the monks and nuns have raised their cultivation methods to high levels. “More than a motto, Garde et Service (custody and service) of nature are the two main lines of our conscientious cultural approach, in order to make it possible for our vineyards, for Provençal agriculture and the the heart of men to bear their fruit in due course - today and tomorrow.”

And, thanks to the presence of Gabriel Teissier, Directeur du Developpment at Via Caritatis, at last week’s Liberty Wines Portfolio tasting in Dublin, I got a brief history and also got to taste three of the wines: the Vox Domini Blanc, the Vox Caritas Rouge and the Lux in Domino Rouge.
Gabriel Teissier at Liberty Wines Tasting

The Vox Blanc is a blend of Clairette (90%) with Roussanne and Grenache blanc. They have two Clairette plots, one 40 years old, the other just 11 and it is from this second that the outstanding freshness comes. Soft pressing in the winery is followed by a slow fermentation, and the wine is “then rested on lees for six months, giving a lovely texture to the finished wine.” Very impressive, with excellent acidity as well.

The Grenache (90%) led Vox Rouge is expressive with ripe raspberry and blackberry fruit. On the palate, the wine is ample, powerful and well balanced. Again you’ll note the acidity. The flavours are concentrated and layered with notes of spice and liquorice which linger on the finish.

The grapes were hand harvested and subject to a rigorous sorting process upon arrival at the winery. Fermentation took place in concrete vats which are also used for the Lux rouge below. After malolactic fermentation, the wine rested in concrete tanks for nine months before bottling. Another impressive wine.

The outstanding Lux Rouge comes in a deep red. The nose boasts aromas of ripe black fruits  and a touch of liquorice from the oak hint at excellence to come. And it comes. On the palate, the wine has a rich mouth feel, with silky and opulent tannins, powerful but well-balanced with bright acidity. 

This is one to lay down as the concentration of flavours as well as the excellent structure of the Lux Rouge, along with the “thousand and one skills of the art of wine making” will see it age and develop over the next ten years. Fermentation takes place in concrete tanks and then the wine is aged for 18 months, 80% in concrete tanks and 20% in 500L new oak barrels before blending and bottling.
The day I got to the top of Ventoux! But it was warm and sunny down below.

The history of wine in Europe is deeply connected with monastic life. In 2015, united by a wish to revive their region’s winemaking history and support local winemakers, the monks of the Abbey Sainte-Madeleine du Barroux and the local cooperative, Beaumont de Ventoux, joined forces to create a range of wines from their combined 30 hectares of vineyards. The quality of the grapes and the impressive community partnership attracted the attention of illustrious Rhône oenologist Philippe Cambie, who has since become consultant winemaker for Via Caritatis.
The Dentelles. Sunny here, having come down from foggy Ventoux earlier

The men and women of Via Caritatis (the way of charity) are determined that their terroir will produce beautiful wines for hundreds of years to come. Lots of stirring stiff in their brochure but I’ll leave you with just one line by Max Philipe Delavouët. 

“.. We just need to plant trees, in turn: one day they will bear plenty of fruit for those hands already raised in the mists of time…. Let us go, we will never be rich enough, we who are passing, like those who are coming, to let anything be lost.” Garde et Service!

Read all about the excellent Liberty Wine Portfolio Tasting here

* The first pontifical vineyard  was exactly settled in the place-name "Groseau" ( which used to be a benedictine monastery at the time of Pope Clement V and was given by the monks to the pope. This place-name is located on the land of the municipality of Malaucène, neighboring Le Barroux village. When the benedictine monks resettled in the region, they built their new monastery on the municipality land of Le Barroux. Nowadays the place-name of Chapelle du Groseau is in the heart of Via Caritatis vineyard which spreads on the tree municipality of Le Barroux, Malaucène and Beaumont-du-Ventoux. 

Wednesday, February 26, 2020

Two Superb Reds in my Mystery Case from Wines Direct

The Mystery Case
I've often seen Wines Direct advertise their Mystery Case, six reds and six wines, quality guaranteed with twenty five per cent off and free delivery. Sounds good and this time I ordered one. No regrets so far! Au contraire. The first two opened turned out to be two gems, one from Italy, the other from Spain.

Nicodemi “Le Murate” Colline Teramane Montepulciano D’Abruzzo (DOCG) 2017, 13.5%, €15.60 Wines Direct

Abruzzo is a DOC zone in the east of Italy. It borders the Adriatic and has the Apennines to the west, Puglia to the south. In and near the mountains, wild horses and bears may be seen here, and certainly saffron. Our producers, Nicodemi, are an hour away from the mountains, twenty minutes from the coast. And this wine is made from the Montepulciano grape. By the way, just to confuse things, there is a town called Montepulciano in Tuscany, also well known for its wines!

The Colline Teramane is a sub zone of the general Montepulciano zone and has that extra letter (G) at the end indicating its superiority. This particular wine is smooth and medium-bodied with a dark ruby colour. Black berry fruit and ripe plum feature in the attractive aromas, cracked black pepper notes there too. No shortage of rounded flavours on the warm and enticing palate, and it’s round and smooth right to the very satisfactory finish, soft tannins and a soft mouthfeel also. Soft and generous as I’ve come to expect from these wines in general and this is one of the better examples. VHR

Foods pairings recommended by Wines Direct include: Spicy Food, Pasta and Pizza, Hard Cheese, Game. Speciality foods of the region include lamb (they have one called Abbachio al Diavolo, hot suff!), Scamorza (check out the Toons Bridge Dairy version of this cheese), mortadella (spicy, garlicky), pork liver sausage, dried pasta and saffron. Serve at 16 to 18 degrees.

The Nicodemi estate abides by all the rules that organic farming demands, leaving wild grasses to grow around the rows, oxygenating and enriching the soil. “We believe in biodiversity and even our new vines are selected from our heirloom cultivars, because something that was good in the past can play a role in the future…. With careful actions, respectful of the grapes, our experience helps us turn them into wine without pushing too hard”. Nicodemi are also well-known for their Trebbiano.

Bodegas Maximo Abete ‘Guerinda El Maximo’ Tinto Crianza Navarra DO 2016, 14.5%, €18.55 Wines Direct.

This red blend, of Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon and Garnacha, is named in honour of the family’s father and was indeed the first wine Maximo made here in Vallervitos, “an incredible place” in the middle of the Sierra de Guerinda. His moustache was also of the large variety and an illustration dominates the label of the tallish bottle with a plastic disc over the top of its cork rather than foil or similar. 
The wine is dark, close to purple, with a  crimson rim. Nose of dark fruit, some herbal notes also. Complex and smooth, blackberry fruit and peppery on the palate, it has a lively acidity and ripe tannins, all echoed in a persistent finish. Very Highly Recommended.
The fruit is grown at altitude (700m) and the importers say that El Maximo showcases Navarra’s strengths as a DO. It certainly does. Recommended pairings are soft cheese, game, beef and lamb. Open 30 minutes before serving at the recommended temperature is 16 to 18 degrees.

Cush Restaurant opens in Ballycotton, Co. Cork

Cush Restaurant opens in Ballycotton, Co. Cork

Cush Restaurant, a contemporary Irish food restaurant offering refined dining, has opened in the picturesque village of Ballycotton.  The 40-seater restaurant has opened in what was previously known as restaurant Pier 26, overlooking Ballycotton Pier and the Ballycotton lighthouse. The restaurant has had a total refurbishment as is now headed up by an Irish culinary rising star, chef Dan Guerin.  Diners can expect a dining experience in a truly unique scenic setting.  

The menu draws on inspiration from both the coastline, the terroir of region and the seasonality of produce.Transforming local produce seamlessly from nature to the plate is the foundation of Dan Guerin’s food philosophy.  The menus at Cush Restaurant will change and evolve on a regular basis, but always a showcase for ingredients from trusted local suppliers. 

Dan spent his foundation culinary years mastering his craft in high profile establishments such as Sage in Midleton, and Michelin-star restaurant Campagne in Kilkenny. His cooking is largely influenced by where he lives and he creates dishes that are layered with flavours from local suppliers and the Irish countryside. 

Dan says, “At Cush we are so lucky to be surrounded by exceptional producers,  and located right on the coastline gives us instant access to a wide variety of ingredients. I like to be as creative with our menus. By using our imagination and keeping our cooking style simple, we bring out the best of our hero ingredients to produce dishes that reflect our respect for our locality. ” 

The weekend lunchtime menu will feature dishes such as Slip Sole on the Bone with Seaweed Butter Sauce; Roast King Oyster Mushroom, Slow Cooked Egg and Crispy Onions; and Velvet Cloud Panna Cotta with Poached Rhubarb and Gingerbread

On the evening menu, diners can expect Warm Natural Smoked Haddock, Potato Veloute and Crispy Egg to start; mains such as Roast Rump of Lamb, Harissa Spiced Shoulder Pastilla, New Season Vegetables and Mint; and Crème Caramel, Raisin and Vanilla Tuille for dessert.

As part of the wider offering Cush Maritime Bar and Cush Guesthouse are also open and newly refurbished. Cush Maritime Bar is a cosy, welcoming, traditional Irish pub. The pub features salvage from local wrecks and nautical memorabilia and serves a wide range of gins, aperitifs and cocktails. The cocktails are classic simple recipes with a special Cush twist and include; Basil Gimlet, Bourbon old fashioned, Classic negroni, French 75, Espresso martini, Hot port & apple brandy cup.

Cush Guesthouse offers cosy, tastefully decorated bedrooms with spectacular sea views. The perfect base for those attending a concert in Sea Church, taking part in activities at Ballycotton Sea Adventures or simply looking for a relaxing weekend away. Rooms start at 95 per night. 

Cush Restaurant is open Thursday through Sunday for the winter season. Early bird menu available each evening between  5pm - 7pm and á la carte dinner service from 7pm - 10pm. Lunch is served Saturday and Sunday from 12pm - 2pm. Cush Restaurant is located by the pier at Ballycotton, Co. Cork.  To book call (021) 464 6768 or visit

Keep up to date with the latest news by following Cush Restaurant @cushballycotton.

press release

Tuesday, February 25, 2020

Taste of the Week. Eve's Leaves Relishes

Taste of the Week
Eve's Leaves Relishes

Came across these excellent relishes during the Cork & Kerry Food Fair in the City Hall late last year. Nice small pots means the insides doesn't go to waste.

Not that there was much danger of that as these are well-made and well balanced. Take their hugely popular Tomato Chilli Relish for example. Along with juicy tomatoes, you get fresh garlic and a hint of chilli, "just enough to give it a slight kick without being overpowering". Very versatile too.

The Smoky Tomato Relish is another good all-rounder and a perfect match for goats cheese and vegan dishes. The Piccalilli, an old-time favourite, is excellent with cheese, cold meats or just on its own!

All the relishes are free from dairy and gluten and are vegan friendly! Indeed all their veg & salad, handmade relishes, edible flowers and micro greens grown at the foot of Cnoc na dTobar mountain in Kerry, are chemical-free.

Eve's Leaves
Killurley West
Co. Kerry
Tel: 085 8110144

Monday, February 24, 2020

Spanish Wine Sale at Supervalu. Look out for Lunático Double!

Spanish Wine Sale at Supervalu
Look out for Lunático Double!

Lunático Bianco Jumilla (DOP) 2018, 13%, Regular price €18.99, down to 12.00 during February offer.

This casual and easy-drinking wine has a rose gold colour, very clean and bright, quite attractive. Quite intense with both floral and ripe fruit notes. Creamy, with an unmistakable touch of oak (in which it has spent 3 months), fresh and fruity and a decent finalé. Perfect to pair with fish, white meats, medium strong cheese, cured fish, and Asian salads.  Take note of the serving temperature of 8 to 10 degrees. A superb Viognier and well worth looking out for in the sale.

Look out also for the Lunático red. This young Monastrell is part of SuperValu’s Specially Sourced Signature Range and has spent 12 months in French oak. It is 100% Monastrell (probably better known to many by its French name Mourvedre). Jumilla is one of the better areas for this grape.

Colour is medium purple with the legs slow to clear. Black berries feature in the aromas. On the palate, the rich berry flavours are enhanced by the sweet oak spice. It is rich and smooth overall with a long and pleasant finish and, I must say, I have a preference for the red over the white. But that’s personal. Do your own thing - especially in wine. 

Mosaic “Winemaker Selection” Priorat (DO) 2016, 14.5%, €12.00 (was 23.99) SuperValu

Full bodied red Priorat wines from a small region in Catalonia (north-eastern Spain), have been finding a much wider audience in the past few decades. So I was expecting good things from this Mosaic blend. And I got them.

Colour of this very accessible wine is purple. There are complex aromas with red fruits and spice featuring. Intense and full-bodied, moderate spice all the way, fresh and dry, tannins silky smooth with hardly a bite at all in a deliciously lingering finish. High quality here, and now at a terrific price.

Condado de Oriza Roble Ribera Del Duero (DO) 2017, 13.5%, €10.00 (14.99)

Say “hola” to this impressive youth from Ribera Del Duero where they’ll tell you they make better wines from the Tempranillo grape than their Riojan counterparts. 

Wine has been produced in this beautiful region since Roman times, though it became well known outside of Spain only in the 1990s. Just two hours north of Madrid, there are about 300 vineyards following the banks of the Duero River in the Castilla y León region, a flowing swathe of land that’s approximately 115 kms long and 35 kms wide. A few years back, Larousse Wine described the DO as “truly the queen of the Iberian peninsula and the cradle of the greatest wines”.

This Condado de Oriza is one hundred per cent Tempranillo (also known here as Tinta del Pais) and has been aged in new American oak for six months, a style known as Roble. After the oak, it is kept in bottle in the cellar for another six months.

It has a dark ruby colour. Ripe darker fruits (plum, cherry) in the aromas, plus spice and fresh herb notes. Rich fruit flavours fill the palate, muted spice, hints of the oak, full bodied and the finish is strong and long.

Serve it at 16 to 17 degrees and pair, the vineyard advise, with lamb chops, pies, cured or semi-cured Manchego or Gouda cheese, as well as dates wrapped in bacon.

Abellio Albarino Rias Baixas (DO), 12.5%, €10.00 (was 14.99).

Liked the colour of this current Wine of the Month immediately, an inviting medium gold. It is hand-harvested and ideal with shellfish and fish and also recommended for lightly spiced Asian chicken dishes. The medium intense aromas are of white fruit. It has a smooth character on the palate, intense fruit (pear, apple and peach) with refreshing minerality. It is zesty and well balanced.

On the Case!
As usual the Supervalu buyers have come up with a very attractive case deal, featuring the aromatic and soft La Miranda de Secastilla. Normal price for this six bottle deal in a wooden is ninety euro but during the Spanish sale you can get it for €50.00. Not to be sniffed at! Though you probably will have a nose or two at the fruity aromas before enjoying!

Like Cava, Spain's excellent sparkling wine, made in the same way as Champagne but better-priced, especially in this sale. We reviewed a couple recently - check it out here

* By the way....  If you buy any 6 normal sized bottles, including wines already on offer, you save another €10.00. So buy and enjoy responsibly.

Sunday, February 23, 2020

Amicus: ace restaurant in Cork city centre.

Amicus: ace restaurant in Cork city centre.

Chicken Creole

Amicus on Paul Street is one of the unsung heroes of the Cork food scene, just quietly and efficiently getting on with the job over the years. 

Called to the popular venue the other day for a bite of lunch and saw its popularity at first hand, feeding everyone from singles to family groups. I have been aware about its attraction to families as one of my daughters often sings its praises, finding the staff so helpful when she appeared with two smallies and a big buggy.

It was established in 2001 by Robert and Ursula Hales with a mission to provide guests with flavoursome dishes, freshly prepared using locally sourced ingredients, with a service that is friendly and efficient, in surroundings that are bright modern and welcoming. They score highly on all counts!

Amicus is open seven days a week serving breakfast to dinner and everything in-between. Fully licensed they have a well-chosen wine list, house infused cocktails and a selection of craft beers and ciders. 

They have their own allotments and support local suppliers including the English Market. And local breweries and ciders, including, Cotton Ball, Franciscan Well, Heineken and Stonewell are also supported. 

So back to our lunch. We were in early, maybe a dozen or so ahead of us. But, within 20 minutes, downstairs was full (maybe 70 covers, I’m guessing) and then the staff began directing customers to the upstairs room. I reckon by one o’clock, they were serving over a 100 and doing it with efficiency and friendliness. You just had to admire it, especially the guys flying down the stairs with three dishes full!

Just like the restaurant itself, the menu is large (and there is also a well-priced Express Menu for those in a hurry). We were in no rush and took our time to check out the soups and starters, the sandwiches, the specials (on the wall), the burgers, the sharing boards, the salads, the pastas, the pizzas, the panini, the main event, and the sides, the desserts, and the drinks and more! You can see why families would make their way here, something for everybody!

So what did I have? Eventually I settled on the Chicken Creole: Sliced Chicken Tossed in Creole Sauce, in a Pitta Bread Served with Salad & Home Cut Chips, all for 11.50. And it was top notch, top quality chicken and no shortage of it, the sauce nicely judged, enough to make a lively difference and not at all overpowering. A classy salad too and the same would be said of the chips, crispy enough on the outside, soft and inviting inside.

And CL more or less had the same salad, certainly the same chips, with her Panini which was packed with Sun-dried tomato, spinach, pesto and goats cheese. I got a few bites of it towards the end and was surprised it was so good, so full of flavour. Quite a feed for just €7.95. 

By now, a short queue was seen by the door but the staff were managing it very well and no one seemed to be waiting that long. Despite the large numbers, the servers still had time to check back and ask how things were going. Even when paying, the guy at the till (also keeping an eye on the  queue) was able to point to our table without hesitation and produce the correct docket. You just had to say chapeaux! Would have taken my hat off, had I been wearing one. 

Paul Street
Cork City Centre
Tel: 021 4276455

Saturday, February 22, 2020

Amuse Bouche

Not far from me, a little girl is sitting on the aisle seat. A peach glows in her hand… She asked her mother, What do we miss the most when we die?….
.. Food, I almost said to the girl. We miss peaches, strawberries, delicacies like Sandhurst curry, kebab pasanda and rogan josh. The dead do not eat marzipan. The smell of bakeries torment them day and night.

… The train is cutting through villages.

from Chef by Jaspreet Singh (2008). Very Highly Recommended.