Friday, November 3, 2023

Cork's Farmgate Café. Where time doesn't stand still and tradition thrives.

Cork's Farmgate Café. Where time doesn't stand still and tradition thrives

As we queued for lunch behind a small group of French speakers and others on the stairs up to the Farmgate Café in Cork's English Market, we began to get a little worried. You have to reach the top to see how many are in and if there are vacant tables. 

We could have had booked and would have had if it had been a Friday or a Saturday. But this was a Wednesday (after the Jazz Weekend) and we thought we’d be okay. As it turned out we did find a table, just for an hour we were told. There was no rush in the end but I’ll be more persistent on the phone the next time!

The delay was slight, to be honest, and we didn't really have time to study the menu (that had been handed to us as reached the top of the stairs) until we were seated and enjoying two of their breads, including the marvellous white soda that we occasionally buy at their stall downstairs - it is one of our favourite breads in the city.

The menu doesn't change all that much but we were here for the traditional plates - I had already pencilled in the Irish Lamb Stew. CL went for their Chicken Supreme and our dessert was Bread and Butter Pudding. All three are not so much traditional as timeless. As long as local producers maintain their high standards and as long as the Café, now with Rebecca Harte at the helm (having taken over from her mother Kate (the café’s founder), then these treasures of the ages will await you.

But don't worry, there is plenty of variety in the short menu. They are open to outside influences. How could they not be with so much of the market below also enhanced by flavours and spices from many countries and cultures and so you will see Atlas Green Olives, Pork Rillettes, Moroccan spices, and  Scarmorza, sitting on the menu along with longstanding staples such as Loin of Bacon, Ladysbridge Potatoes, Tripe and Onions and Barry’s Tea.

While you are waiting for your food to arrive and or between courses, take a look over your shoulder and see which poet is looking down on you - Seán Ó Tuama's work was at my shoulder. 

In the area, where you can book a table, there is, since 2005, the Poetry Wall. 

An ini­tia­tive of poet Gerry Mur­phy and Kay Harte, it is a unique col­lec­tion of poems, by Cork, Irish and inter­na­tional poets, com­mis­sioned by the Far­m­gate Café to cel­e­brate Cork’s year as Euro­pean Cap­i­tal of Cul­ture.  In 2018 Pres­i­dent Michael D Hig­gins vis­ited and added his own hand­writ­ten com­po­si­tion Star­dust. Where else would you get that with your spuds?

And speaking of spuds, those Ladybridge potatoes are superb, the traditional balls of flour. Quite a few years back, Kay Harte and I were entertaining a couple of high-ranking US bloggers here and they too were bowled over by the potatoes and the phrase. Back in those days, the spuds from the same supplier were stored on the stairs. I don't think that’s the case now but they are as good as ever.

They came, large and floury, to be shared between us. The stew, with a selection of seasonal root vegetables, was superb, just what I expected. CL was more than happy with a beautifully cooked (large) piece of chicken, that too enhanced by the same veg and potatoes. 

Both dishes are very highly recommended by the way. Other choices on the day included regulars such as Tripe and Onions with Drisheen (and those potatoes!);

 Ardsallagh Goats Cheese Ciabatta, Balsamic Roasted Onions, Rocket & Walnut Pesto; Sourdough Sandwich with Moroccan spiced Chicken and Coriander Mayonaise; and a Toasted Sandwich (Loin of Bacon, Scarmorza Cheese, Onion Marmalade). 

A favourite bread!

There were a couple of tempting specials as well: a Chicken, Bacon and Mushroom Pie; and Pan-roasted Hake.  Oh, I almost forgot that Bread and Butter pudding was very enjoyable. As simple as could be, just the basic bread and butter and sultanas in a generous pool of "creamy" custard. Another thumbs up from us for tradition!

Lunch is served from 12.30pm to 15.30pm  (Tuesday to Friday) and the phone number is 00 353 21 427 8134. On Saturday, hours are as above but breakfast from 08:30 and lunch until 16:00. Be sure and check their socials for updates.

Instagram: farmgatecafe



Thursday, November 2, 2023

CorkBillyBeers #52. Craft with Whitefield, Lineman, Blacks, and Lomza

CorkBillyBeers #52

Recommended wines 2024

Craft with Whitefield, Lineman, Blacks, and Lomza


Whitefield Harvest Ale 5.8% ABV, 375 ml bottle Bradleys

Seasonal. Classic tastes to suit the seasons. Brewed in Tipperary.

“To celebrate each year’s harvest we brew a beer with a unique ingredient. This year we are using raspberries from Con Traas’s farm in Cahir in a blend of sour beer and weisss beer. The raspberries were added at the start of cold maceration to preserve their unique flavour.” 

Orange is the colour (opaque) here and the white head vanishes quickly. The longish cork is secured with the normal wire trap and takes some removing. Smell the beer and you get a sour whiff, no hint of the wheat beer as yet! No hint of the raspberries from the Apple Farm though I did detect a hint of crab apples. 

That refreshing sourness rushes through on the palate, a concentrated hit, some clove notes interspersed, that my palate welcomed,. Probably one of the rarest flavours I've ever tasted. But I'm not backing off. I'm ready for more, taking my time though, sipping small the more to enjoy the flavour and the refreshment.

Out on its own in more ways than one! Go for it. Very Highly Recommended.

Best before date is March 2025 (bought 10.10.23). Wonder if I got a few and kept them until ‘25! They could well be even better.

Whitefield is a small family-owned brewery dedicated to brewing authentic, traditional-style beers. “Our focus is on using the best available malt and hops from farmers and people we’ve actually met and visited. Beers are brewed using a traditional style German brewhouse, matured over many months and then we self-distribute all our beers to publicans and off licences we respect and trust. This we believe, allows us to provide you, the customer, with a genuinely authentic beer.” See our feature on the Tipperary brewer from earlier this year here



Kilohertz or kilohops, KHZ is just buzzing, just the job for the Lineman himself.

Lineman KHZ IPA, 7% ABV, 440 ml can Bradleys

There’s this promise on the label: “With the bitterness to refresh and the fruitiness to satisfy your hop cravings..”

Lineman’s KHZ is back after a 2-year break, “one of our dankest and funkiest IPAs thanks to the lashings of Ekuanot and Azacca we give it.”

Colour is a light orange but a very hazy one whose white head holds on for a brief moment. Aromas tell of the dankness to come. And it comes in a power-packed rush, bitterness welling across the palate as a shoal of strong citrus flavours swirl about. The dry hopping has worked like a dream but this is no heavy metal performance. It is Booker T cool and smooth, knocking out a rhythm of fruity hop aromas. Jamming it up so you don't want it to end.

Very Highly Recommended. Kilohertz or kilohops, KHZ is just buzzing, just the job for the Lineman himself.

Geek Bits

BB: 15.08.24. Bought 25.09.23 

ABV: 6.9%

Hops: Azzaca, Ekuanot, Centennial, Citra

Suitable for vegans

Format: 440 ml can


Blacks KPA Kinsale Pale Ale, 5.0% ABV, 500 ml bottle Dunnes Stores

Can’t blame folks for blowing their own trumpet! “Our world-famous KPA is all about perfect balance and amazing drinkability.” I have been drinking this since 2014 and would gladly help with that trumpet.

You know the story. This is an American-style Pale Ale bursting with Cascade and Citra Hops. Tropical and citrus flavours are beautifully balanced with malt sweetness. Loved the way the flavours spread over the palate from the first sip and that dry clean lingering finish. Indeed, linger is the word. Take your time sipping, the better to enjoy every single drop.

The Magic of Malt and Hops

The delicate balance between malt and hops is what makes this pale ale so special. Some brewers go too heavy on the malt, but this recipe allows the hops—a mix of Centennial, Cascade, and Citra—to shine through with their grapefruit, lime, and other citrus flavours. The malt still plays its part, giving the beer a delicious mouthfeel and a crisp clean finish.

This is how Blacks themselves put it: Blacks escape the mundane of the mass market, producing beers with passion, personality and lots of hops. American-style Pale Ale bursting with Cascade and Citra Hops. Tropical and citrus flavours are beautifully balanced with malt sweetness.

Very Highly Recommended

Geek Bits

Style: Top Fermented
IBU: 60
Hops: Centennial, Cascade, Citra
Best before: BB: 12.06.24 (purchased 05.10.23)
Pair: Burgers, Steaks, BBQ Meats
Released: 2013
Available: Draft, Bottle 500ml, Cans


Lomza Lager 5.7% ABV, 500 ml bottle Dunnes Stores

Spotted this Polish lager on the shelf and thought, thanks to my long-standing European spirit, that I’d give it a twirl.

Their recipe consists of nothing more than three carefully selected ingredients: water, barley malt and hops. It is distinguished by being non-pasteurised.

It certainly looks (with its gold colour and white head and millions of bubbles) like a lager. Smells like one also with its malt qualities prominent. The flavour is excellent and the beer is refreshing, a simple well-made lager.

“At Łomża we believe that simplicity is a great thing. In an increasingly complex world, we offer clarity - just the highest quality ingredients with nothing to hide. The only complicated thing about Łomża is our name.”

The Łomża brewery is one of the last remaining independent big-capacity breweries in Poland. “The decisions we make directly affect us and our business. We don’t compromise on quality. We stay true to ourselves and our aim to produce good quality, honest beer.”

Expiry date is next January. I didn't take too much notice of the non-pasteurised note even though it is flagged very clearly on the label until I photographed the bottle for this post.  The cans and bottles of pasteurised beers are run through a hot water spray that’s around 140 degrees to kill any bacteria and stop any yeast still in the beer from growing. Unpasteurised don’t get that treatment.

Wednesday, November 1, 2023

Well balanced and delicious. A Very Highly Recommended Rioja Reserva.

Well balanced and delicious. A Very Highly Recommended Rioja Reserva.

Ramon Bilbao Rioja Reserva (DOC) 2015, 14% ABV

€19.50 in Dunnes Stores.

“ Rioja with a twist”. That’s how Ramon Bilbao, who have enhanced their “historical range..with modern approach”, describe their wines. Their “style” is well appreciated in Spain where they have 9% of the market.

This Rioja Reserva has a deep ruby colour, somewhat lighter on the rim. It is clear and bright and you’ll notice those tears, indicating a high alcohol count, though 14 % is not that unusual in warm countries. 

Aromas are quite intense, dark and fed fruit. In the mouth, you notice an excellent acidity along with the fresh fruit flavours, and a touch of vanilla from the oak. Fruit and spice are also in the finish. Tannins are fine, all part of the balance of this delicious wine.

The producers say their style is fresh, elegant and fruity. And this is a very good example, light and bright and a long way from some of those heavyweight traditional Riojas. Drinking very well now and there seems broad agreement that it can evolve further in the bottle, even into the 2030s.

Best served between 17º C and 18º C, this wine pairs perfectly with traditional food such as red meats, game and mature cheeses. Very Highly Recommended.

The 2015 harvest “will go down as one of the earliest and quickest harvests in history”, according to Ramon Bilbao, thanks in no small way to July “with the highest temperatures ever recorded”. The results were clean and fruity wines. They use “pre-fermentation maceration for 3 to 4 days, post-fermentation maceration for 5 to 7 days, overpumping and daily plunging. Filtering and clarification did not take place until the end. Ageing: American Oak Barrel for 20 months: Missouri and Ohio, and a further 20 months in bottle”. 

Rioja Classifications Guide

Wondering what a Crianza is? Well, it is one of the classifications that indicates the age of the wine in your bottle and you’ll see a stamp at the rear to confirm it. Reserva is another but you should note that Rioja takes these terms seriously, it is a guarantee, and you can rely on the system. In some countries, reserva is at the producer's whim, with no supervisory system in place!

Generic: This category guarantees the origin and vintage of wine. They are usually wines in their first or second year, which keep their primary freshness and fruit. This category may also include other wines that do not fit into the categories of Crianza, Reserva or Gran Reserva, if they have been subjected to an ageing process that is not certified by the Control Board.

Crianzas are wines which are at least in their third year, having spent a minimum of one year in oak barrels. For white wines, the minimum barrel ageing period is 6 months.

Reserva These are meticulously selected wines with a minimum ageing between oak barrels and the bottle of three years, of which at least one has to be in barrels, followed and complemented by a minimum 6 months’ ageing in the bottle. For white wines, the minimum ageing period is 2 years, with at least 6 months in barrels.

Gran Reserva These are wines of great vintages that have been painstakingly aged for a total of sixty months with at least two years in oak barrels and two years in the bottle. For white wines, the minimum ageing period is 4 years, with at least 6 months in barrels.

The labels are colour coded. You’ll see the Reserva has a burgundy colour while Gran Reserva has a (royal) blue.

* The GranReserva is also a beauty and we’ll have a post on it in a week or so.


Check my growing list of top wines for 2023


Check out my Good Value Wine List here