Tuesday, May 31, 2022

A Gorgeous Valpolicella Ripasso. And a couple to note when dining out.

A Gorgeous Valpolicella Ripasso.

And a couple to note when dining out. 

Musella Valpolicella Ripasso (DOC) Superiore 2017, 14%, O’Briens Wine €24.45

Musella is an organic family-run winery and one of the "13 Amarone Families", a group regarded as the best producers in the Veneto region, in the Northeast of Italy. Musella value their local grapes (grown in the predominantly limestone soil), including those in this blend:  Corvina and Corvinone 85%, Rondinella 10% and Barbera 5%.

The colour of the blend is a bright ruby red. And the nose draws you in further with aromas of red fruits and spices. The palate is full of vibrant cherry flavours, smooth for sure, and with the most perfect balance. And it finishes well and long with more fruit (raspberry included now) and some herbal notes plus a gentle touch of tannin on the lips. A very engaging Valpolicella indeed, complex yet quaffable,  and Very Highly Recommended.

The concentration here is the result of the Ripasso method. Ripasso (re-passed) wines are made by fermenting young Valpolicella wine with the unpressed but drained skins and lees left over from making Amarone and this process can give the Ripasso a “super-charge”. Read more details about the method here.

Suggested pairings are cold meats/pâtés, Duck, Nutroast, Pheasant/Pigeon, Pizza/Pasta, Rib-Eye Steak, Sirloin/Striploin/Rump steak.

By the way, I was just reading there in Vino Italiano that Valpolicella means “valley of many cellars” (vallis polis cellae). The Modern History of Italian Wine though, says the POL refers to large mounds of sand and gravel left behind after flooding in the local river but goes on to confirm that “this great land of wines has always practiced the characteristic technique of over-ripening and drying the grapes”.

Wine Folly has proposed a hierarchy of Valpolicella blended wines with our Ripasso in the middle. Above it are Recioto Della Valpolicella and Amarone Della Valpolicella while below are plain Valpolicella Superior and Valpolicella Classico. So now you know!

The Veneto (capital: Venice) is one of the 20 Italian regions and has a population of about five million.

Two O’Briens Spotted In The Wild

(Well, in restaurants really!)

Bodega Tandem Casual blanco 

I was surprised to find this one on the by-the-glass list (also by the bottle of course) in the Michelin Bib Gourmand Restaurant CUSH in beautiful Ballycotton. 

You rarely see Viura as a house white in Irish restaurants. Tandem's gorgeous Casual, with its elegant nose (floral and fennel) and its vibrant, fresh and mineral palate, could change all that. The wine, from Navarra, was superb with the halibut.

They like their Latin in this Spanish winery, even the Tandem is Latin. The wine name here is from the word casualis, accidentally, luckily. It is the only thing accidental about this wine though,  a beautifully made Viura from a gorgeous plot. Viura is perhaps best known as the main white grape in Rioja but has obviously crossed into neighbouring Navarra. In the rest of Spain it is known as Macabeu.

It has been fermented in stainless steel with its wild yeasts at 15-16ºC for 32 days and aged on its lees for 4 months at 16ºC. Recommended serving temperature is 12 degrees.

Lagar de Costa Geal Albariño

Geal Albariño is made on an artisanal scale by O’Briens Wine Director Lynne Coyle MW and the family owned Lagar de Costa winery in Rías Baixas, Spain. Most of these vineyards are very small and Lynne told us at a recent Albariño tasting that the Lagar de Costa winery has 11 hectares and is regarded as quite large.

The wine was aged on lees in a single concrete egg for eight months bringing complexity and depth. Geal Albariño is dry, refreshing, and lightly textured with green fruit notes, a hint of white peach and a lingering salinity making it an ideal wine for seafood. 

Geal by the way is the Irish and Scottish (Lynne is Scottish) for bright. Most of you will have come across it in school; if you don’t remember, check out the pronunciation here. 

In Nell’s, the new wine bar in MacCurtain Street, Cork, we took Aine’s advice and ordered a glass of the Geal and it went well with their lovely Fennel infused Nocellara olives.

It is also perfect with shellfish and seafood. The vineyard is right alongside the Atlantic and the vines grow on granitic soil. So that, and the fact the some of the roots are more or less in the water, may account for the traces of salinity in the Geal.

Monday, May 30, 2022

Finalists in the Euro-Toques Young Chef of the Year competition 2022 presented by La Rousse Foods

Euro-Toques Young Chef of the Year
Top (l to r): 
Eoghan O'Flynn, Shauna Murphy,  Victor Franca, Attila Galambos
Bottom (l to r): Calum Falls, David Condon, Leticia Miranda

After an exciting & rigorous skills test semi-final, seven young talents go through to the final of the Euro-Toques Young Chef of the Year competition 2022 presented by La Rousse Foods

This year the Euro-Toques Young Chef of the Year competition celebrates its 30th anniversary — a proud 30-year record of supporting and nurturing young talent in the kitchens of some of Ireland’s best restaurants, promoting young chefs who are themselves mentored by some of the country’s leading talents.

Continuing the competitive journey that began for these young chefs in January, the Euro-Toques Young Chef of the Year 2022, competition presented by principal partners La Rousse Foods today announced that seven chefs will continue on to the grand final in September.

In January, 12 young chefs were selected for the semi-finals which took place yesterday, on Sunday May 29th in the professional kitchens of Dublin Cookery School, Blackrock, Co. Dublin. Guest judges Richard Corrigan of The Corrigan Collection, Shauna Froydenlund formerly chef patron of Marcus at The Berkeley, Kieran Glennon of Restaurant Patrick Guilbaud and Euro-Toques Commissioner General Gareth Mullins of The Marker Hotel chose the seven young talents following their skills test semi-final yesterday.

The seven chefs selected to go through to the final round of Euro-Toques Young Chef of the Year 2022 are David Condon - The Shelbourne Hotel, Calum Falls -  Aimsir, Victor Franca - Nua Asador, Attila Galambos - Aniar Restaurant, Leticia Miranda - Mae Restaurant, Shauna Murphy – The Oak Room, Adare Manor and Eoghan O'Flynn - Liss Ard Estate.

During the course of today’s semi-final, the 12 participating young chefs were set two separate tasks — the first a skills test of following a recipe and the second of creating a dish based on a mystery basket of produce selected by the judging committee. Their tasks were to make a classic crème Anglaise with a recipe and method to be followed precisely, for which they were allocated a half hour, followed by a 90-minute task of producing a dish using mystery ingredients.

Focusing on local ingredients and the idea of reconnecting with friends and family, the semi-finalists were requested to create a family-style dish using mackerel and a surprise basket of ingredients, while also having access to other elements they selected themselves from the Pantry by La Rousse Foods, a selection that includes many award-winning Irish producers.

With Domini Kemp and Conor Halpenny running the kitchen, the young chefs worked hard to fulfil these two challenges, a test of all the skills essential in a kitchen including knife skills, palate, creativity, ability to plate, cooking, seasoning, technique, understanding of raw ingredients and ability to read a recipe. Then the 12 young hopefuls were marked on their execution and work practice, the taste and flavour of their various dishes, and presentation, with the skills set counting for 25% of the total and the mystery basket test for 75% of the total score.  

The seven selected finalists in the Euro-Toques Young Chef of the Year competition, will have the opportunity to experience a series of educational events over the summer months before the grand final in September, including a stay at Ballymaloe, a masterclass with Michelin-starred chef, Mark Froydenlund, a lunch at a Michelin starred restaurant and more.

The Euro-Toques Young Chef of the Year competition presented by La Rousse Foods is Ireland’s premier culinary competition celebrating Ireland’s best emerging culinary talent. Open to professional chefs under the age of 28, the competition has a proven track record in discovering the finest young talent with former winners including Mark Moriarty who progressed to win the World San Pellegrino Young Chef Competition in 2015. Former 2017 winner Conor Halpenny is currently entering the 2022 World San Pellegrino Young Chef Competition. The young chef finalists in this year’s Euro-Toques Young Chef of the Year 2022 are currently working in some of the country’s most exciting and sophisticated kitchens and being mentored by individual chefs with unique skill sets and talents. For all the young chefs taking part this contest is a unique experience that will provide recognition throughout Ireland and beyond, and act as a prestigious stepping-stone in their culinary career.


Full list with mentors

  • David Condon  |The Shelbourne Hotel |Mentor: Andy Sommefeldt

  • Calum Falls |Aimsir | Mentor: Jordan Bailey

  • Victor Franca  |Nua Asador| Mentor: Ross Lewis

  • Attila Galambos  |Aniar restaurant | Mentor: JP MacMahon

  • Leticia Miranda |Mae Restaurant | Mentor: Gráinne O’Keefe

  • Shauna Murphy |The Oak Room Adare Manor| Mentor: Killian Bowen

  • Eoghan O'Flynn |Liss Ard Estate| Mentor: Alex Petit

Sunday, May 29, 2022

Great to see Mayfield's Old Bank Café is back in action

Great to see Mayfield's Old Bank Café

 back in action 

Chicken Sandwich

Our local café, The Old Bank, has just recently reopened, having been closed for the duration of the pandemic. Great to see it back in action with a nice bit of buzz there when I called for lunch last week.

And the good mood was extended as I tucked into my Open Warm Chicken Sandwich (grilled warm chicken, pesto, leaves and tomatoes on sourdough, and served with chips and an excellent salad). It was a very pleasant dish indeed. The chicken was perfect and the sandwich was enhanced, flavour and moisture wise, by the pesto and the tomatoes. Cost was €11.95; I could have added bacon or cheese for a euro or, to make it close to a dinner dish, a half-soup for three euro.

Butcher, Deli, Café. Under one roof

CL picked the Warm Chicken Salad (12.95) - chicken features a lot on the menu! Her grilled Mediterranean chicken came with black pudding, potato cubes, and was served on a bed of mixed leaves, balsamic reduction and topped with Parmesan cheese. The black-pudding was a little over-cooked but everything else was perfect.

Other choices on the menu included Soup of the Day, a Toasted Special, a Buttermilk Chicken Burger, an 8 ounce Angus Beef burger in a brioche bun, Roast of the Day, Cormac’s Cold Meat Salad, plus a warm goats cheese salad. 

Chicken salad

When Friday comes around, you may have Seafood Chowder and also Fish and Chips. They also have a Kids Menu. It is part of the O’Connor Meats Butcher and Deli complex on the Iona Road in Mayfield, so most of the meat is at hand.

We didn’t have time for something sweet on the day but there were quite a few tempting cakes in the cabinet along with cookies. And the coffee is good here. 

Service is friendly and efficient. All in all, a nice little interlude just a few minutes from home.

They offer a full breakfast menu as well and that includes porridge, The Butcher's Fry, pancakes/waffles, Eggs Benedict and Omelettes, available from 9.00am to 12.00pm. Lunch is served 12.00pm to 4.00pm.

Contact details:

The Old Bank Café, Colmcille Avenue, Iona, Mayfield, Cork.

Open: 8.30am to 5.00pm Tuesday to Saturday. Check Facebook for updates.

Tel: (021) 453 0541

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/oldbankcafe

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/theoldbankcafe/

Friday, May 27, 2022

Favourite Beers of May. The Long List

 Favourite Beers of May (long list)

(Some good ones here! Going to be difficult to pick one.

Short list in a day or so.)

Amber Lager: Hope Limited Edition 26 Born To Be Free. 

NZ IPA: Wicklow Wolf Far Far Away. 

Rye Lager: Whiplash Melted Roggenbier. 

Barrel Aged: Wicklow Wolf Locavore Spring 2022 Barrel Aged Farmhouse Ale with Brettanomyces 11.9% 

DIPA: Boundary Double Nelson DIPA 8.0%; DIPA: Rye River Dam Buster Double IPA 

American Pale Ale: Otterbank Middle Lane American Pale Ale 

Single Hop Pale Ale: O Brother You’ll Pay With Your Souls Single Hop (Simcoe) Pale Ale - 

Vienna Lager: Wide Street Vienna Lager

Pale Ale: Whiplash Got To Keep On 

IPA: Rye River Big Bangin’ IPA 

American Wheat: Rye River Backwaters American Wheat 

Ocean Sands Enniscrone introduce Chef’s Signature Tasting Menu

 Ocean Sands Enniscrone introduce

Chef’s Signature Tasting Menu

Lobster from Killala Bay

The Ocean Sands Hotel in the seaside town of Enniscrone, Co. Sligo introduces their new nine-course Chef’s Signature Tasting Menu on Thursday 9 June. It’s the latest fine dining development from executive head chef Marcin Szczodrowski since his appointment at the beginning of the year. The Chef’s Tasting Menu will be available on Thursdays and Fridays only. Overlooking the magnificent 5 kilometre sandy beach the newly refurbished hotel deservedly achieved four star status this season.

Marcin Szczodrowski has made quite an impact on the Irish culinary scene since he moved here from his native Poland 15 years ago. At award-winning Eala Bhán Restaurant in Sligo Town he built a stellar reputation winning both the Yes Chef Rising Star and Best Chef in Connaught awards along the way. He’s harnessed all his fine dining flair in developing this tasting menu which is very much based on his twin passions of local and seasonal products. The quality of Irish ingredients consistently amazes Marcin, who revels in working with them. He is strongly committed to working with seasonal products and detests the jarring impact of out-of-season elements on menus.

Chef Marcin

“This menu is really close to my heart. I wanted to showcase both top quality produce and the skills of my kitchen team”, says Marcin Szczodrowski, “I’m really excited about bringing a completely new, fine dining menu to the Ocean Sands and I’m looking forward to guests enjoying this intimate dining experience”.


The menu will vary regularly but will always consist of nine finely balanced courses including enticing dishes such as Duck Liver Brûlée served with a Balsamic Gel and Hula Hoop Crisp, Lobster Ravioli celebrating the freshest lobster from Killala Bay or Grilled Fillet of Monkfish wrapped in Pistachio and local Seaweed accentuated with a Lime Foam and Green Vegetables. Equally, the menu will showcase top class pastry chef skills with a deft and light hand.

Those same pastry skills have made the recently introduced Afternoon Tea by the Sea a resounding success with residents and visitors alike. It is served on weekdays in the conservatory or Atlantic Room.

The Ocean Sands Hotel comprises 50 generous bedrooms including 20 family rooms and an impressive bridal suite complete with sea view balcony. Directly behind the hotel are 13 beautifully appointed and roomy apartments with easy beach access. It’s ideal for family holidays with a safe attractive playground beside outdoor tables. It’s pet friendly, allowing dogs in selected hotel rooms and apartments. The Ocean Sands is an acclaimed wedding venue.


The nine-course Chef’s Signature Tasting Menu costs €68 per person and must be booked in advance as numbers are limited (Tel: 096 26700). A vegetarian option is available by prior request. A tasting menu with wine pairings will be introduced shortly in conjunction with a new wine menu.

Bed and breakfast rates at the Ocean Sands Hotel start at €119 for a double room.

Thursday, May 26, 2022

Electric Restaurant Marks 120th Anniversary Of The 1902 Cork International Exhibition With Tom Spalding Talk & Cocktails Of The Time

Electric Restaurant Marks 120th Anniversary 

Of The 1902 Cork International Exhibition

 With Tom Spalding Talk & Cocktails Of The Time

Dr Tom Spalding, in period clobber. Pic @corkbilly

Dressed in your Sunday finery, feathered bonnets and top hats included, the good people of Cork paid their pennies and stepped into a car that was hauled up the ramp. The passengers, full of anticipation and perhaps not a little trepidation, stepped from the cars into a small boat at a height of 70 feet. 

Ready for action (l-to-r): mixologists Caolann McNeill, Dan Cronin & Cian Daly
Pic: Shaunagh O'Connell

No safety belts, just holding tight on to one another, as the boat began its rapid descent of the chute towards the waters of the River Lee. There were nervous screams as the boat thudded onto the surface of the river, splashing water as it did so, and then it slowly lost momentum before the thrilled passengers were taken back to the banks as the crowds cheered. All the fun of the fair at the 1902 Cork International Exhibition at the Mardyke.

Whiskey Sour. Pic: @corkbilly

No chute these days nor on last Thursday night week when a group of invitees gathered in the South Mall to hear historian Dr Tom Spalding give us his take on the Exhibition while our kind hosts Electric Restaurant served up a series of cocktails from the original 1902 menu, cocktails made by the Waldorf Astoria bartenders on their visit to the Mardyke. We were, of course, in Electric’s new cocktail bar, Ohm.

Tom told us how the exhibition came about and indeed how it lasted a year longer than originally planned. The then Lord Mayor Edward Fitzgerald was a driving force behind it and eventually the venue or at least, part of it, was named in his honour, Fitzgerald's Park.

Stevie G (Red FM) & Lisa Grainger. Pic: Shaunagh O'Connell 

Hundreds of thousands came, from near and far, to visit the exhibits. And the organisers had laid on plenty of entertainment for their visitors and indeed Tom said these entertainments brought in the money and led to the Exhibition making a profit. The highlight of course was the huge water chute that was erected near where the Shaky Bridge now stands.

Pic: Shaunagh O'Connell 

Food and drink was also an essential and there was no shortage of dining venues, scattered around the grounds, serving everything from freebies (samples of confectionery and bread in the Industrial Hall) to top notch cuisine at The Chalet restaurant. In between, there a few teahouses and a Temperance Restaurant.

So successful was the exhibition that a second year was added on and they began again in May 1903. That year, the royal couple King Edward VII and Queen Alexandra came to see what the fuss was. They too were well fed of course and there was wine (and more). 

Margaret & Carmel Best. Pic: Shaunagh O'Connell

Tom had the list:

Sherry - Garvey’s Amontillado.

Hock - Liebfraumilch.

Champagne - Perrier Jouet’s**.


Moselle Cup (a cocktail, methinks!)


Gran Marnier Cordon Rouge

Green Chartreuse

Kummel (a Caraway liquor apparently).

Pas Mal!

Cocktail "Corpse Reviver". Pic: Shaunagh O'Connell

So what cocktails were we drinking? Well, the busy and energetic Electric bartenders, paying tribute to the visitors from the Waldorf Astoria,  had recreated the four below from the original 1902 event.

We had a choice of:

Mint Julep (Bourbon, Mint, Ango);

Gin Sling (Gin, Lemon, Sugar, Soda);

Corpse Reviver (Tequila Blanco, Cointreau, Lillet Blanc, Lemon, Absinthe);

Whiskey Sour (Bourbon, Lemon, Sugar, Whites, Ango).

That sour was my favourite. Ango, I presume, is bartender speak for angostura bitters.

I’m sure the Ohm team can rustle up any of that quartet for you if you walk in off the street but they may just prefer to see you trying  something from the current  menu, original cocktails and quite often original names.

Electric welcome from Emer
 O'Mahony. Pic: Shaunagh O'Connell
How about Green Yoke? This is a mix of Absolut Vodka, Melon, Cointreau, Turbo, pineapple.

Fancy Rose of the Lee? Glendalough Rose Gin with Lychee, Prosecco and Soda.

Then there’s Sound Man Brendan. Havana Maestros Rum, Buffalo Trace Bourbon, Beamish and Banana.

One for the road? Try the Jungle Beour, a melange of Rum, Campari, Pineapple, Ginger, etc.

And they have quite a few more.

*  For much more info on this amazing Exhibition, get your hands on  The Cork International Exhibition 1902-1903: A Snapshot of Edwardian Cork by Daniel Breen & Tom Spalding. Also check out footage from the Mitchell and Kenyon Collection: Panorama of Cork Exhibition Grounds (1902) – YouTube

** If you take a look at Electric’s current wine list you’ll note they have a couple of different bottles of Perrier Jouet in their sparkling wine section. 

Glasshouse Chef Alan Fitzmaurice takes on the world

 Glasshouse Chef Alan Fitzmaurice takes on the world


Well-known chef Alan Fitzmaurice has spearheaded the award winning kitchen at The Glasshouse Sligo for the last decade. No stranger to international competition, he is testing himself against the best next week at The Global Chef Challenge in Abu Dhabi. Alan and his commis chef, GMIT student Chelsea Esquivel, are bringing the best of Irish produce to the highest table, competing against the best in the world.


The Global Chef Challenge takes place every four years and is run by the influential World Chefs Association. As with the FIFA World Cup, finalists come from regional qualifiers around the globe. Alan is representing Northern Europe and will compete against 11 other chefs from all five continents. The winner will be announced at a Gala Dinner which is the culmination of the Worldchefs Congress & Expo event. 


“This is an incredible opportunity to showcase Irish produce as the best in the world”, said Alan Fitzmaurice, “It’s been an intense preparation for Chelsea and myself perfecting our menu. We are very happy with the dishes and we’re going to give it our best in Abu Dhabi”. Leaving nothing to chance, Alan’s luggage consists more of kitchen equipment than shirts and socks.


The competition takes place on Wednesday 1st June with limited preparation in a separate kitchen permitted on the previous day. Its’ a six hour intensive cooking marathon on the day itself, when four separate and perfect dishes must be served to an expert judging team of 12 people. The judging criteria are stringent, and sustainability is an important consideration. “We’re very aware that 50% of the marks go on taste. There is no room for style over substance. Every dish must positively explode with flavour.”, explains Alan, “The dishes are carefully planned to avoid waste almost completely. We’ve put a lot of effort into using every part of the halibut we are using for example, the bones for stock and trimmings for a tartlet as well as the show-stopper pan fried fillet. It’s all about attention to detail”.


Alan is fiercely proud of the Irish culinary heritage which he believes is still not as well appreciated as it should be. With this in mind he’s bringing an updated version of the farmhouse classic Boxty to the table, using beetroot as a novel twist. It’s a carefully chosen opportunity to highlight Irish dairy products which Alan believes are the best in the world.


Chelsea Esquivel is a young chef from Belize who is studying culinary Arts in GMIT. who is blazing a trail as a pastry chef. She won a gold medal for Afternoon Tea in the Chef Irish National Culinary Championships in 2021.


Castlerea born Alan Fitzmaurice has a trophy cabinet positively groaning with awards and honours. He is an evangelical supporter of Irish food and is committed to bringing on and assisting young chefs. He is Executive Chef at The Glasshouse Sligo and has just been appointed President of the Panel of Chefs of Ireland.


The Glasshouse is a chic four-star hotel in the heart of Sligo town, overlooking the Garavogue River. Its striking architectural exterior design is well matched with funky contemporary interiors, including the award winning Kitchen Restaurant.

press release