Tuesday, February 28, 2023

Memories of Paris return with this classy Pinot Noir from the Southern Cone.

Memories of Paris return with this classy Pinot Noir from the Southern Cone.

Cono Sur Ocio Pinot Noir DO Val de Casablanca Chile 2017, 14% ABV, €60.00 Bradleys

I have a little history with Conor Sur and Ocio, dating from a Friday night in November 2014:

The private boat trip on the Seine was a surprise. We started more or less at the foot of the Eiffel Tower, cruised under the bridges of Paris, the illuminated buildings adding to the magic. A lovely meal and Cono Sur wines enhanced the pleasure. The focus was very much on three reds that evening: the 20 Barrels Syrah and the 20 Barrels Cabernet Sauvignon and, perhaps (even then) my favourite, the Ocio Pinot Noir.

The day had started with the European final Bloggers Recipe cook-off in L’Atelier Beaubourg (close to the Pompidou) with Clare and myself representing Ireland, Anna for Sweden and Johanna for Finland. Some gentle bubbles to ease us into it - loved that Cono Sur rosé - and, with lots of friendly chats going on, there was no pressure.

When the winner was announced late that night on the boat we, the Ireland champions, were pipped for the trip to Chile by Finland. But we did have the most fabulous night in Paris. And we met the Chileans again in Dublin on the following Monday when there was more Ocio, though the focus then was mostly on the launch of their fantastic Silencio Cabernet Sauvignon.

Docking, but still rocking on the river.

Our Ocio, lovingly crafted by a Chilean winemaker and a Burgundian consultant, comes in a beautiful crimson robe, slightly lighter around the edges. Cono Sur’s iconic Pinot Noir has an arresting aromatic intensity expressing fresh notes of red berries, plum and cherries with a touch of spice and tobacco and hints of its 14 months in French oak. In the mouth, it feels velvety and elegant.  Acidity and balanced tannins play key roles in bringing it all together for a lengthy finish. 

This is one of those gorgeous wines that goes well beyond second glass appeal. Very Highly Recommended.

Ocio is a red wine that can be enjoyed slightly chilled, at 14°C. Enjoy it, Cono Sur say, with fresh salads, with red fruit sauces, soft cheeses such as brie, duck, tuna or preparations with mushrooms. We celebrated our 54th wedding anniversary recently and Ocio was the chosen wine and we paired it, quite successfully I thought, with the French dish Boeuf Bourguignon. Both the dish and the wine brought back happy memories of days and nights in La Belle France.

All aboard on the Seine

Cono Sur itself was born around the first Pinot Noir vines were planted in Chile, more specifically in Colchagua Valley. “In the 60s, the region was considered an area with a cool climate and suitable for variety. Being around the first vines inspired us to adopt Pinot Noir as our flagship variety and the goal of producing the best Chilean Pinot Noir was born.” 

West Cork handmade biscuits brand one of five small Irish producers chosen for nationwide distribution by SuperValu

press release

West Cork handmade biscuits one of five small Irish producers chosen by SuperValu for nationwide distribution  


West Cork Biscuits will be stocked in SuperValu stores nationwide following Food Academy success 


West Cork Biscuits will be taking their handmade chocolate chip cookies nationwide as they’ve been chosen by SuperValu for nationwide distribution as part of their hugely successful Taste of Local initiative, which highlights quality local Irish food and drink products in-store.  


West Cork Biscuits offer a selection of handmade cookies and biscuits baked at their small Dunmanway bakery, including their Belgian chocolate chip cookies which are now available at SuperValu stores countrywide.

West Cork Biscuits are one of five producers from the Food Academy Programme, the business support programme for innovative food and drinks producers, to be stocked as “Guest Stars” in Taste of Local fixtures in SuperValu stores nationwide for three weeks, beginning on March 2nd 


The 5 products selected for nationwide distribution this March are:  

·         Chicory Root Syrup from Homespun, Co. Dublin 

·         Belgian Chocolate Chip Cookies from West Cork Biscuits, Co. Cork 

·         Curry Paste from Sing Li Foods, Co. Louth 

·         Ginger Beer from Zingibeer, Co. Dublin 

·         Original Gravy from Porter & Nash, Co. Dublin 


SuperValu are keen to shine a light on Irish-made produce, and offering this chance to sell their products nationwide is a huge opportunity for these small producers. The SuperValu Taste of Local initiative showcases nthe producers who have gone through the Food Academy Programme as well as highlighting hyperlocal products that are unique to local stores. 

The producers chosen to be stocked nationwide from March 2nd are part of the Food Academy programme at SuperValu which mentors budding entrepreneurs and producers giving them the tools to take their business to the next level. Each one has demonstrated that they are ready to grow and being chosen as an in-store Guest Star means they will be exposed to new audiences. 


Speaking about their selection for Taste of Local and their experience in SuperValu’s Food Academy, Managing Director Ger Devin said:  

We joined Food Academy in 2015 and from that very first pitch meeting, I immediately felt great guidance and support from the team which remains today. SuperValu’s Food Academy gave our business a sense of security and opened doors for us which allowed us to develop our distribution channels into other stores. You always get the sense that SuperValu want us not only to survive but to thrive and succeed.”  


West Cork Biscuits was set up in 2003 by Richard and Jane Graham who are now retired, and in 2010, Ger Devin stepped in as Managing Director after working with the couple through the Local Enterprise Office. “We believe in supporting local and most of our ingredients are sourced right here in West Cork, and our products are completely unique as each biscuit is made entirely by hand as opposed to

from a machine,” Mr Devin added.  


“We are delighted to be a part of Taste of Local, this is a brilliant chance for us to showcase ourselves on a national level and we are extremely grateful to SuperValu for the opportunity,” he concluded.  


Speaking about the launch of the five “Guest Stars” products nationwide, Carmel Biggane, Food Academy Manager said: “SuperValu are incredibly proud to support growing Irish food and drink producers, it is an important part of our company ethos, and we are delighted that the five producers’ products will now be available to purchase nationwide.  

Starting your own business can be an overwhelming experience and our Food Academy programme provides the producers with the tools they need to thrive and grow their businesses to their fullest potential. Each of the producers have such inspiring stories and SuperValu is thrilled to be on this journey with them.” 

The Food Academy programme is a unique food business development programme between SuperValu, Bord Bia and the Local Enterprise Offices. The programme supports Irish producers in navigating the food business industry, teaching vital skills and knowledge including branding, digital marketing, driving sales, sustainability, food safety and labelling, finance and one-to-one mentoring. Some 270 producers are on the programme, and 98% feel that Food Academy has been “very beneficial” to developing their business.  

Food and drinks producers, who are in the early stages of developing their business and would like to see their products on shelves in SuperValu are strongly encouraged to apply for the programme. Applications for this year’s intake are now open, and the deadline for application is Friday, April 7th 2023. The programme will commence in September 2023. Those interested in applying can find further details on mwww.localenterprise.ie/FoodSupports/Food-Academy-Programme. 

This year’s Guest Star Products are available at over 150 SuperValu stores nationwide from March 2nd until March 22nd.   

Monday, February 27, 2023

Delicious Delights of the Green Room. Calm Oasis in City Centre

Delicious Delights of the Green Room

Calm Oasis in City Centre

Seafood Crepe

Beth and Harold, who made so many friends in their time at Dockland (Club Brasserie before that), are back up and running in The Green Room at the Crawford Art Gallery.
Polpette di Pane

That didn’t take long, did it? Especially after the devastating task of closing the Dockland when their lunch time business vanished during Covid. Their lunchtime customers were now working from home and so the duo had to face all those empty tables. But as anyone who knows Beth and Harold, they weren’t going to be twirling their thumbs for long and you can now enjoy his cooking and her smiling welcome once again in the Green Room.

And they brought something else with them! Remember those large white globes that distinguished Dockland. Well now they hang from the Green Room ceiling, throwing a soft light on the scene below, full of plants, plus more greenery in the paintings that adorn the walls of this lovely room. Green also on the chair covers and on the banquettes. And, as they serve dinner on Friday and Saturday from 5.00pm, a calm settles in the beautiful room as twilight descends outside. Calm but not silence as there is a lovely buzz while the various groups settle down to read the menu and catch up on their various news around town.

We made a most enjoyable “excursion” there last Friday evening, blown away by the room itself and later well satisfied with the lovely dishes from the kitchen. Another touch from Dockland remains as the menu is not divided into starters and mains but you can easily make out what is small, smallish and bigger!

Mediterranean Market Plate

After a warm welcome from Beth, we were soon seated and sipping our wines as we studied the menu. Wines by the way were a Moreau Sauvignon Blanc from the south west of France (typically fresh gooseberry-fruited, dry white) and a Monopolie Pinot Grigio from Italy (citrus notes, lively acidity and refreshing).

Service was calm and friendly throughout and our starters were not long in coming and one was a complete surprise. We partly knew what to expect of the Spiced Cauliflower Fritters (right). Cauliflower lends itself to this kind of treatment and the sauce provided made for an excellent starter. 

But we weren't too sure about the Polpette di Pane. We asked a few questions and were told it was a peasant dish from Italy. No problem there as quite a few peasant dishes have made it to royal tables! I’m not going to tell you what the main ingredient is (again there’s a smashing sauce). It is not anything "disgusting" like intestines or testicles or anything in that league. I would heartily recommend that you order it! We did and enjoyed every little bit, including the surprise reveal.

So on we go to the star of the show: the Seafood Crepe. This comes in two sizes, small and large. The full description is Baked Seafood Crepe (mussels, salmon, cod, monkfish, cream, white wine, tarragon, parsley and parmesan). It is indeed a superb combination, a special treat in a special room.

CL was the lucky one there but there was a lot of sharing going on through all three courses and there was plenty to share in my Mediterranean Market Plate, packed with butterbean and sundried tomato salad, roasted marinated artichokes, roasted peppers, leaves, marinated olives, tapenade, roasted harissa oil and toasted sourdough. (Ingredients in this kind of plate may have the odd change from time to time). Ours was just perfect, great flavours and textures and no shortage of anything. Quite a plateful and vegetarian as well.

Time now for a sweet ending! We were about to share a dessert but such was Beth’s description of a second one (she mentioned booze!) that we went for that as well. More happy sharing here as we spooned our way through the Boozy chocolate Mousse and the (also boozy!) Zabaglione Semifreddo. Time for a rest after that, that sleepy feeling encouraged by the tame Fulham v Wolves game on TV.

Sunday, February 26, 2023

Cork Whiskey Festival Launched At The Shelbourne Bar

Cork Whiskey Festival Launched

 At The Shelbourne Bar

Midleton Whiskey Ambassador Ger Garland at the launch.

“It is going to be the best Whiskey Festival in the country,” declared Laurie O’Dwyer at the launch of the Cork Whiskey Festival in the Shelbourne Bar last Thursday night.

Laurie, co-founder and co-director of the festival with his wife Sonya, has the credentials for running such a festival. His Whiskey Chats Podcast  is now up and around the 180th episode and provided “a really good network” to help get the Festival off the ground.

Laurie: Going to be the best! Pic via CWF.

“Thirty four events over three days will see the cream of the crop in  Cork. Over half the tickets have been sold, a big surprise to us at this stage. Now we’ll be putting a big push on to make it a sellout and make it the best festival in the country.”

Laurie had a big thank you for the evening’s host: “We couldn’t have done it without the Shelbourne Bar and Phillip. And of course Irish Malts and Midleton Distillers. major sponsors. Check it all out on the website".

The Shelbourne Bar is the official Social Hub and info point for Cork Whiskey Fest 2023. "Whenever you want to chill out, meet with new friends or catch up with old friends, The Shelbourne is where you will find your fellow festival attendees and our info desk."

Ger Garland

Ger Garland, Whiskey Ambassador for Midleton,  admitted to being amazed at the growth of the whiskey industry in Ireland. “When I started there were just 3 distillers, now there are 48.” And he had news from Midleton where a new distillery (representing an investment of around a quarter of a billion) will be ready for 2025, "totally carbon neutral". 

He is looking forward to the festival: “The Cork Whiskey Festival will give you a glimpse of both the newcomers to the business along with the more well established….. Tastings will be great whether you are a novice or more experienced!”

Ger of course will be working at the festival as indeed he had some work to do on the launch night, guiding us through a tasting of Jameson Black Barrel and a Redbreast 12,  a couple of Midleton’s well-known spirits. We didn’t really need any guidance for our intro drink, a classic Jameson and Ginger serve in a tall glass with a user friendly grip!


Jameson were, of course, based in Dublin but became part of the Irish Distillers in Midleton when the few remaining distilleries came together for survival’s sake in the 1966. 

The Black Barrel is a step up on the basic Jameson and quite an economical one too, an all round whiskey. Ger filled us in on the story of the Black Barrel and  the “alligator”. The barrels in which it is matured get a second char, a deep one that “cracks open the barrel and leaves marks like an alligator skin, very black of course and that led to the name".

Enjoying the craic with Oisin Davis (r) of Great Irish Beverages 

Redbreast too has a long history, going back to 1912 and the Redbreast 12 is the biggest seller of Irish premium whiskey in the world. Ger: "It has been on the market since 1912 and the ruby hue is due to the sherry influence (raised in Oloroso barrels). It smell is wonderfully evocative, like Christmas cake in a glass, full bodied, buttery, spicy, sweet and fruity and with that soft warming effect.”

Lovely on a cold February night! And I left the Shelbourne with a warm glow, hoping that the third weekend in March will be a few degrees warmer!

* In the meantime, get your tickets at the website.

Thursday, February 23, 2023

CorkBillyBeers #13. Craft, with Red/black IPA, via Blacks Kinsale, 9 White Deer, Sierra Nevada.

CorkBillyBeers #13

Craft, with Red/Black IPA, via Blacks Kinsale, 9 White Deer, Sierra Nevada.


The Darker Side Of IPA

Blacks Red Eye Redemption IPA, 5.5% ABV, 440ml can Bradleys

“We’ve peppered a rich amber base with rye and saddled it with hefty amounts of Chinook and Topaz hops to round it up.” That’s the short intro by Blacks of Kinsale to their Red Eye Redemption IPA.

Colour is red, as you might have guessed. And there’s an off white head that hangs about for a bit, not too long, mind you. Aromas are quite strong, fruity and resinous, a promise of what’s to come. And thanks to those generous amounts of hops, what ensues is a muscular hop experience, yet the malted barley and the rye combine well to keep it all in balance even if the finish is tilted towards the hop lovers.

Blacks urge you to Gallop off into the sunset with this double dry hopped Red Rye IPA combining fantastic Chinook and Topaz hops with Amber malts and Rye for a berry pine balance with the caramel base. 

And I’d endorse that and make this a Very Highly Recommended beer. Good to see that the recent Stratasbeer – “hopped to the high heavens” with fresh Galaxy and Strata hops - has been suitably followed up. I know most of you don’t need a shot of redemption but why let the sinners have all the fun!

Very Highly Recommended.


9 White Deer Black Lightning IPA, 6.5%, 500 ml bottle

On a visit to Ballyvourney.

This stronger IPA pours dark, like a stout, and even the tanned head looks stout-like. I got a big head here but I did rev it up during the pour! After all, that is quite the motor bike on the label!

There’s a roasty toasty edge to the aromatics. And that edge continues onwards to wake up any sleepy taste buds. Now the fully engaged palate can appreciate the posse of hops here. They say: “This Black IPA is triple hopped with huge hop volumes of all the American hops expected of the style.” 

So hops galore as the malt plays a background role. The IBU is a high 52. But for all that, there is quite a balance and the brewery gives credit for that to the fact that they adjusted the (soft) water profile “to make the hops seem more rounded rather than sharp and harsh which can easily happen when using so much hops”.

“Black Lightning is hopped from the mash to the fermentor. We use Willamette, Chinook, Cascade, Summit and Centennial hops in very large volumes, about 100% more than a regular beer, but we don’t make it too bitter. It is an intensely hoppy and powerful beer. Like the legendary motorbike Vincent Black Lightning 1952 (the one on the label), this beer needs to be handled with care.”

The brewery 9 White Deer is nestled in the heart of West Cork making the highest quality Irish beers. “We have a range of uniquely crafted beers; our renowned pale ale, a beautiful Irish red ale, an award winning black IPA, the best stout you’ve ever tasted, our balanced IPA and seasonals… Everything we do is 100% gluten free.”

A cracking beer, well balanced. Our recent feature on the Ballyvourney brewery may be read here

Very Highly Recommended.


Sierra Nevada Celebration Fresh Hop IPA, 6.8% ABV, 355ml can Bradleys

Once we pick fresh hops, the clock starts ticking. Each year, we visit the Pacific Northwest to hand-select the best Cascade and Centennial hops, race the harvest home, and brew immediately to capture citrus, pine, and floral notes at their absolute peak — aromas and flavors for the perfect winter beer. It’s a magical time at the brewery — has been for 40 years now! — when our brewers huddle around the fermentation tanks, toasting the start of a special season with a holiday beer in hand. Wrapped in red, consider Celebration IPA a true Christmas IPA, your first present of the holidays.”

So, in the early days of February, am I too late to the magic hop party? I wonder, as I pull the tab on this Sierra Nevada Celebration Fresh Hop IPA.  It is a red colour - this much I am expecting - with a slightly off white head. All in all, a little lighter in colour than the 9 White Deer IPA. Aromas are that little bit spicy, hints of resin and yes it does, the hops that is, indeed still seem fresh.

And so it continues on the palate. Bit by bit though the bitterness of the hops take over and any semblance of balance fades away, even a few months after the harvest and the maturation,  it is still a big win for the out and out hops lover. Like all fads, it will please the faddists. 

According to author, Mark Dredge (Beer: A Tasting Course),  “there are few better red-coloured IPAs in the world. ….. The hops are tangy, grapefruit, herbal, and floral and overall reminiscent of Campari’s bittersweet balance.” Not too sure about the Campari comparison as that is perhaps my favourite aperitif!

In the Beer Bible, author Jeff Alworth says these beers “taste their best just days after they’re kegged, while that living essence is still at its freshest. By Thanksgiving they’re gone. Fresh hops beers are the ultimate harvest beers, to be savoured in the moment of ripeness, not hoarded and saved.”  

Must be a very special beer indeed if you can get it at its freshest! If I get to the West Coast in August or September, I’d be easily tempted to give this “delight to the hopheads of the world” a go, especially since I began to get more into this one during the last few sips!

Geek Bits

Malts: Caramelised malts, Two-row Pale

Hops: Cascade, Centennial, Chinook

Yeast: Ale Yeast

IBU: 65


Wednesday, February 22, 2023

Beautiful Garciano Red Wine From The Badlands. “like two souls merged in a single body”.

Beautiful Garciano Red Wine From The Badlands.
 “like two souls merged in a single body”.

Azul y Garanza “Garciano” 2020 Navarra DO, 14%, 

RRP €17. Stockists:The Vintry , Dublin. Connemara Hamper, Clifden. 

Little Green Grocer, Kilkenny. Ardkeen Grocery Store, Waterford. Mannings , Ballylickey. Quay Co-Op, Cork. Wunderkaffee, Farran, Co. Cork. Real Olive Co. Macroom Dairy & Dublin. Taste, Castletownbere. Harrington's, Ardgroom, Beara. 
Sonas, Newcastlewest, Co. Limerick. Mary Pawle Wines.

The label is rather spiritual here: In Garciano, delicate Garnacha and indomitable Graciano find perfect harmony, like two souls merged in a single body. That explains the two-headed animal, sheep and predator, on the label. The other line is more down  down to earth then: Fermented in concrete tank.

But, never fear, it is an excellent wine, in keeping with the Azul y Garanza reputation. Importer Mary Pawle: “A great favourite with our customers, this delicious, well balanced wine is a blend of the fruity and spicy Garnacha and the subtle acidity of Graciano grapes. Medium bodied and guaranteed to please.”

It comes from the edge of a desert to the south with the foothills of the Pyrenees to the north. The desert, in Navarra, is the Bardenas Reales. The wine is a blend of 60% Garnacha & 40% Graciano, a blend that has spent six months in French oak.

Aromas of this mid-ruby wine are quite complex with fresh raspberry and blackberry prominent on the nose. The fruity and spicy Garnacha with the “subtle acidity” of the Graciano make a great match as you can sense on the palate where it is quite intense, berry and  plum, spicy but smooth and balanced. The wine is Very Highly Recommended.

It comes from an amazing area, the Bardenas Reales, a semi-desert or badlands. The very poor and arid clay-calcareous soil, the dry weather and the big contrast of temperature between the day and the night provide grapes with high concentration and a perfect balance and also offers distinctive character and great expression.

Azul y Garanza are organic but go further, planting fruit trees and native aromatic plants around the vineyards. “Working this way, we break the monoculture and we create a wider eco-system. Also, we kept the forested areas close to the vines which are important, among other reasons, as a refuge for animals. All of this allows us to configure the mosaic of the landscape, bringing heterogeneity and developing its biodiversity.”

Navarra is neighboured by Rioja to the West and by Aragon to the East with France beyond the Pyrenees to the North and its major red grapes are Tempranillo and Garnacha. Garnacha is also a leading grape in Aragon and, under its French name Grenache, is a key player in the GSM blends ff the Rhone Valley. And it has yet another name in Sardinia where it is widely planted and known as Cannonau.

M&P O’Sullivan Ltd, for its vision and significant growth trajectory, is SME Cork Company of the Year 2023.

M&P O’Sullivan Ltd, for its vision and significant growth trajectory, is SME Cork Company of the Year 2023

Food wholesale company M&P O’Sullivan Ltd. (M&P), which has seen significant growth in the last number of years, has been named SME Cork Company of the Year 2023 at the Cork Chamber Cork Company of the Year Awards 2023. 


M&P O’Sullivan, a fourth-generation family-run wholesale food business which was founded in Cork in 1905, was recognised for its innovations, vision and significant growth trajectory. The business has grown turnover by over 20% year on year over the past few years and is on track to double turnover in the coming five years. 


M&P recently made a number of strategic new hires, introduced a new online ordering platform and mobile app, and implemented a new warehouse management system. They also invested in multi-temperature warehousing which enabled them to launch a frozen and chill food offering, extending the range by approximately 1,000 product lines.


The business also acquired Brennan's Caterworld in recent years, which is one of Cork’s oldest catering equipment companies, broadening their non-food and catering equipment category by 5,000 product lines. And they have invested heavily in expanding their reach around the country. 

Eoin (left) & Patrick O’Sullivan, Co-Directors, of food wholesale company
M&P O’Sullivan Ltd. (M&P), celebrating the award.


In addition, M&P O’Sullivan was recognised for its numerous initiatives to deliver the highest standard of customer service including staff training and customer loyalty initiatives guided by the principle of Total Customer Experience, which differentiates them in a very competitive market. 


Accepting the award Co-Directors Eoin & Patrick O’Sullivan said: “It is a great feeling to be recognised by the Cork business community and to be honored for supporting local jobs, local suppliers and local communities in Cork for the last 11 decades. This award is not only for the O’Sullivan family but for everyone who has helped build M&P O’Sullivan’s into the company that it is today,”


M&P O’Sullivan is a one-stop shop for the foodservice, fast food and retail sector. Its product portfolio is over 15,000 lines across frozen, ambient, minerals and catering equipment. A highly skilled and dedicated team of 65 employees support over 3,000 customers from their purpose-built, multi-temperature warehouse on Sarsfield Road in Cork city.


Run by Eoin and Patrick O’Sullivan, the company is a shareholder of Gala Retail Services which has over 180 Gala stores and 40 Your Stop stores nationwide. They supply 30 of the Gala & Your stop stores in the Munster region.


The business operates a cash and carry service for customers that want to shop in-store across its 15,000 product lines which include frozen, chill, ambient, minerals, packaging, alcohol, food equipment and non-food products.


The company prides itself on its customer service and the unique relationship that its recently expanded 10-strong sales team has with customers. 


Community has been at the core of their business for the last 118 years and it has long associations with initiatives such as Cork On a Fork, Marymount Hospice Ball, the Irish Grocers Benevolent Fund, Cork Business Association, Carrigaline Lions Club, and the Carrigaline Youth Club Internship Program.

For further information see www.mpos.ie.