Thursday, July 18, 2024

“Fresh, fruity, an everyday wine with lots of Tuscan character.” Serego Alighieri BellOville Toscana

Serego Alighieri BellOville Toscana (IGT) 2019, 13.0% ABV

€20.95 O’Briens Wine



“Fresh, fruity, an everyday wine with lots of Tuscan character.”


The colour of this smooth supple organic wine is a deep ruby red. Rich berry fruit and liquorice on the nose. Firm and richly fruity, but soft and well-balanced at the same time. Plums and sweet spices on the long delicate finish.


Fresh, fruity, an everyday wine with lots of Tuscan character.  Would do nicely at the weekends too. That typical Tuscan softness helps make it versatile at the table. Goes well with pasta dishes (with meat sauce), roast and grilled meat, especially lamb, seitan skewers and grilled vegetables. The recommended serving temperature is 18 degrees.


Born among the Tuscan hills of Cinigiano in Poderi BellOvile, the blend is close to the usual, mostly Sangiovese and a little each of Canailo and Ciliegiolo. Serego Alighieri is a historic Tuscan estate dating to 1353. Masi's purchase in collaboration with Conti Serego Alighieri marks the return of the descendants of the poet Dante to Tuscany. Masi family, of course, are also well known for their top-class Amarone and Valpolicella.

* This post is part of a series on Italian wines made from native grapes and produced by usually small or medium-sized organic wineries. Taking some “guidance” here from the recently published VINO. Mightn’t always net the hat trick but hope to score two from the three each time. I have quite a few lined up but I’m happy to consider any suggestions or help. #OrganicItaly

Wednesday, July 17, 2024

A Culinary Journey Awaits at Clifden's Lamplight!

A Culinary Journey Awaits

 at Clifden's Lamplight

Chicken

Clifden's Lamplight isn't just a tapas bar; it's an experience for the senses. This charming spot offers a delightful exploration of small plates from around the world, all crafted with fresh, local ingredients and a touch of seasonal magic.

Tapas for Sharing and Savoring

The heart of Lamplight lies in its tapas. Designed for sharing and conversation, these small-plate delights are a celebration of flavour and creativity. Imagine digging into Firebox Roasted Pork Belly, bathed in a rich Pasilla and tomato sauce, balanced by the sweetness of pineapple pico de gallo and the freshness of summer peas.

Seafood lovers will find their haven here as well. Dive into a pot of Mussels of The Atlantic Way, simmered in white wine and a touch of spicy Nduja sausage for a truly decadent experience. Or perhaps the Spanish Garlic Prawns, swimming in a fragrant shell bisque and boasting the sweetness of confit garlic, tempt your palate.

For a taste of the unexpected, try the Torched Mackerel Shloyaki. This dish pairs the smoky richness of the mackerel with a refreshing baby potato salad, dill emulsion, and zucchini pickle - a taste bud adventure guaranteed.

Lamb

Tapas to recommend:

We stayed with the tapas for the evening. Our stand-out favourite was the 7-hour Braised Irish Ox Cheek, a true crowd-pleaser, meltingly tender and bursting with flavour thanks to the Irish champ mash, seaweed butter, and a touch of local stout gravy.

Beef, a favourite.

Others for your shortlist are the Spring Chicken Schnitzel (with Charred asparagus + wild mushroom fricassee + chive oil) and the Connemara Hill Lamb Kofta (with Tabbouleh + red cabbage slaw + Labenah + Harrisa chilli sauce), both perfectly cooked and presented and the accompaniments were nicely judged.

Nibbles cost 3 to 8 euro; Tapas are mostly in the mid-teens; sharing boards from 16 euro. Look out for offers especially Sharing Board plus wine!

A World of Wines Awaits

If the Tapas are the heart, Lamplight's soul is the wine. The team takes their wine as seriously as their food. Their curated selection boasts a focus on organic and biodynamic bottles, sourced from diverse regions worldwide. 

Sommelier Ivan Preboc meticulously handpicks each offering, ensuring top quality, sustainability, and flavour profiles that perfectly complement the food. Many wines are available by the glass, carafe, or bottle, catering to all preferences. You notice quite a few from Eastern Europe, none the worse for that!

Duck, not a favourite on the night!
Difficult to cut, even with a steakknife.

Orange Sauv Blanc
from Chile

My favourite whites were the orange Sauvignon Blanc from Chile's, Curicó Valley, Chile, and the  Gruner Veltliner from Slovakia. On the red side, we enjoyed the Blaufränkisch, from the Burgenland, in Austria, and the Cabernet Sauvignon by Nicolas Idiart in the Languedoc.

Some that we reluctantly left behind (and I’m just talking about by the glass) were the Nero D'Avola, (Solandia, Sicilia) and that Hungarian Riesling (by Mura from the Bussay vineyard).

White wines by the glass cost from €7.50 to 11.00 while the reds are €7.50 to 13.50.

A Welcoming Atmosphere

Stepping inside Lamplight, you're greeted by a warm and inviting atmosphere. The restaurant boasts a long, oblong layout with comfortable two-person tables on one side and larger tables for groups on the other. The large front window bathes the immediate space in natural light, while strategically placed mirrors add depth and a touch of elegance. For a touch of fresh air, al fresco dining is also available on the street section.

A Must-Visit for Food and Wine Lovers

Whether you're a seasoned tapas enthusiast or simply seeking a delightful culinary adventure, Clifden's Lamplight is a must-visit. With its innovative tapas, delectable mains, and a world-class wine list, this restaurant promises an unforgettable dining experience.

Also on this trip:

The Connemara Smokehouse

 Foyle's Hotel

Moran's Oyster Cottage



Taste of the Week with Jack and Janet.

Taste of the Week

Jack McCarthy's Pastrami and Janet's Country Fayre Ploughman's Chutney.


Another visit to the English Market and another Taste of the Week, the superb Jack McCarthy pastrami from On the Pig's Back. We also bought some of Jack's Spiced Beef.

Pastrami by McCarthy's of Kanturk

The Pastrami was earmarked for our version of a Ploughman's Sandwich. The ingredients also included a baguette from the Alternative Bread Company, Tim's Mature Cheddar (by Ardsallagh) from the Roughty Fruity stall, and Graham's Wholegrain Mustard from the Good Food Shop.

Aside from the market ingredients, we added lettuce leaves from the back garden and Janet's Ploughman's Chutney (bought on a spur-of-the-moment visit to the Avoca Shop at Moll's Gap. 


The traditional style chutney is packed full of Irish garden vegetables. It has a simple yet very fulfilling flavour. Try it also with cheese and crackers, TV dinner, bar-B-Q food or vegetarian dishes. And in sandwiches of course. By the way, Janet's Red Pepper Relish is also excellent and quite versatile at the table. It has been described as ‘irresistible’ by food critics.  "Whatever your taste with whatever food at any time of the day…or night, just spoon it on and enjoy!"



More details on the different products from Janet's busy kitchen here




Tuesday, July 16, 2024

Vino Di Anna Vendredi 13 Vino Rosso. A lovely light red wine that “majors in red fruits and drinkability”

Vino Di Anna Vendredi 13 Vino Rosso, 13.0% ABV

RRP €29.45. Stockists: 64 Wine, Greenman Wines, Bradleys Cork, Le Caveau online



A lovely light red wine that “majors in red fruits and drinkability”


This organic wine has come all the way from the northern slopes of Mount Etna. The colour is vibrant red. It has aromas of cherries and strawberries and a little spice.  It is full of fruit with what the wine-maker says is “the trademark minerality of grapes grown at high altitude on volcanic soils”. Importers Le Caveau say this wine “majors in red fruits and drinkability with a few herbal twists and mineral crunches for fun”. 


It was a wine that was unplanned. A scorching and dry year unfolded on Mt Etna in 2021 “which resulted in a low-yielding harvest of ripe, healthy grapes. However, sugar levels were higher than normal and the skins of the black grapes were thicker and more tannic.” 


Winemaker Anna elaborates: “Thus, we needed to modify our vinification practices accordingly. Nature still proved dominant, and to produce a balanced wine, we found the need to blend the wines that usually would have been destined for our Palmento Rosso and Jeudi 15 Rosato labels, along with a white wine made from old bush vines of Grecanico, Carricante and Minnella. Vendredi 13 Rosso is the result”. 


In a playful tongue-in-cheek gesture, the new wine was named Vendredi 13.  “For some Friday 13th is considered unlucky while for others, it’s a day to celebrate!” And here we have something to celebrate with! It certainly has a playful label, signed by Michel Tolmer.  This light and juicy natural red is Very Highly Recommended.


The Producers

In 2007, itinerant winemaker Australian Anna Martens and her husband Eric Narioo (a natural wine importer based in London), bought a small vineyard on the slopes of Mt Etna. It was full of old-growth Nerella Mascalese, Catarratto and Greciano. According to VINO, they produce a range of earthy pure-spirited wines with fruit all organically grown and naturally fermented. 


VINO is well impressed and has included them in their shortlist of Winemakers to Know in Sicily. Not just VINO.   “These are exciting wines, full of personality,” says  Jamie Goode  wineanorak.com. 


There is nothing to worry about in that little (very little) bit of natural sediment at the bottom of the bottle.


* This post is part of a series on Italian wines made from native grapes and produced by usually small or medium-sized organic wineries. Taking some “guidance” here from the recently published VINO. Mightn’t always net the hat trick but hope to score two from the three each time. I have quite a few lined up but I’m happy to consider any suggestions or help. #OrganicItaly



Jacques. Encore. A warm welcome. Excellent food.

 Jacques. Encore.

Crab

Jacques, now into its fifth decade, continues to set the gold standard for Cork restaurants. Our visit last week was a delightful confirmation that it remains as exceptional and reliable as ever.

Upon arrival, we were warmly welcomed by the restaurant’s younger generation. We eagerly perused a menu brimming with both small and large plates, along with an impressive wine list.

Orange Gru-Vee

Jacques has been offering wines on tap for quite some time now. As they explain, “Not only are the wines kept at the optimum temperature, they are also always beautifully fresh, just as the winemaker intended!” This innovative system reduces spoilage, thanks to the kegs, and also cuts down on packaging and transport costs.

We enjoyed a gorgeous orange Grûner Veltliner from the tap, a perfect example of the benefits of this system. Of course, Jacques also boasts a large selection of wines not on tap.

For my meal, I took a culinary journey to Castletownbere, beginning with a superb Castletownbere Crab Salad, adorned with Strawberries, Balsamic, and Black Pepper. This seasonal dish has seen many iterations over the years, and the 2024 summer version is as delightful as ever.

Next, I enjoyed the Seared Castletownbere Scallops, accompanied by Cauliflower, Green Beans, Samphire & Tomato, Pickled Shallots, Almonds, Soft Herbs, and Rosti. This dish, with its long title, lived up to the promise, delivering a plate packed with incredible flavours and textures.

CL also started with a seafood delight, the Mussels Escabeche, served with Roast Squash, Radish, Purslane, Hazelnut Crust, and Salsa. This unique and delicious take on mussels was a hit.

Interestingly, Aishling Moore, a chef who works just down the street from Jacques, recently published her first book, Whole Catch, which features a recipe for Escabeche. It looks enticingly straightforward, and I might just give it a try soon!

Scallops

Jacques has also been showcasing Schnitzel recently. Unlike the pork versions we've tried elsewhere, Jacques' version features chicken, paired with Caesar Salad, Bacon, Tomato, and Rustic Potatoes. CL found it delightful, rounding off a meal that left both of us thoroughly satisfied.

Jacques, located at 23 Oliver Plunkett St and 9 Phoenix Street in Cork, offers a warm welcome whether you come in through the front or back door.

Opening Hours: Tuesday - Saturday from 5pm
Contact: 021 427 7387
Instagram: jacques_restaurant

Monday, July 15, 2024

Coyles, Clifden's New Gem, offering good food and coffee

Coyles, Clifden's New Gem, 

offering good food and coffee


The news spread like wildfire through Clifden: Alice Coyle, the mastermind behind the popular Cork Fab Food Trail, was opening a food and coffee shop on her native ground! We all knew Alice for her incredible food design skills, having designed the stunning Maki Sushi in Cork's English Market. Alice had set up (in 2021) and then ran the local NeighbourFood in Clifden. But with that ending, her new venture, Coyles, promised a treasure trove of local produce, and I couldn't wait to see it for myself.

Visiting Coyles on July 3rd 2024.

Finding the perfect location took time, but when a space opened up right in the town centre (shared with the Post Office!), Alice dived right in. The grand opening was scheduled for the end of May, and the anticipation was electric.

Opening day arrived, and everyone was eager to step inside. There was a slight hitch, though – a mishap with their fancy coffee grinder! As Alice recounted later, the grinder malfunctioned just as they were about to open. "Coffee beans went flying everywhere!" she laughed. But true to Alice's spirit, they tackled the problem head-on, and despite the initial chaos, the opening was quite a success.


Even without a name sign yet (they got one soon later), the shop was a sight to behold. The aroma of freshly brewed Oughterard Calendar coffee filled the air, and shelves were gradually filling with the best Connemara had to offer: sourdough bread, melt-in-your-mouth cinnamon swirls, delicate macarons, sunshine-bright lemon meringue tarts, rich brownies, and a delivery of fresh vegetables. On their Instagram, Alice promised an ever-growing selection, highlighting the abundance of talented food producers in the area. This was just the beginning, she assured us.

The following weeks were a whirlwind of activity. By June 4th, Aonghus Costello from @angarraiglas, another local champion of sustainable food, started supplying Coyles with a vibrant selection of plants, vegetables, salads, and seedlings. Alice's excitement was palpable in her social media posts, where she'd announce the arrival of new goodies – from baby lettuces and beetroot to rocket, chard, and fresh tomatoes.

For planting at home!

By June 7th, Coyles had officially hit its one-week mark. "We made it!" Alice declared. It turned out, Clifden folks had a serious sweet tooth and a deep appreciation for good coffee (who could blame them?). A big shout-out went to the brilliant local bakers – Laura O'Donovan of @so_doh_sourdough_renvyle, the talented folks behind @offthebeatentruckcafe (Laura Hayden) and Phoebe of @phoebesconnemara – and of course, the amazing Calendar Coffee for keeping everyone fueled. Alice also expressed her gratitude to customers who chose to shop small and support local producers.

Mid-June saw the arrival of a gleaming new freezer, and with it came the exciting addition of Connemara lamb and Dexter beef from John O'Toole of @freaghillaunislandorganicfarm. Alice was particularly thrilled to be John's main outlet in Connemara. "John's passion for his food, both on the farm and in the kitchen (he's a chef at Kylemore Abbey!), is truly inspiring," she remarked.

Temptation

The last week of June brought another delightful surprise: a collaboration with local chef, grower, and maker Phillipa Duff of @theseahare.ie fame as she began supplying a selection of her mouthwatering sandwiches. Alice herself had the pleasure of trying the pulled pork with ginger slaw, pickled onions, and gochujang mayo on sourdough focaccia – "an absolute revelation!"

As June drew to a close, Calendar Coffee remained a top seller, and July 8th unveiled yet another exciting offering: Lions Mane and Tree Oyster mushrooms from a local grower and chef named Egon Heinze. Egon used to sell foraged foods through NeighbourFood Clifden, and now he was venturing into the world of mushrooms. "Get ready for all sorts of weird and wonderful fungi!" Alice announced.

Oyster Mushrooms

With every passing week, Coyle's is establishing itself as a central hub for exceptional local produce. The future looks bright, and customers can't wait to see what other delicious discoveries await them in the coming months.

Also on this trip:

The Connemara Smokehouse

 Foyle's Hotel

Moran's Oyster Cottage



Beer of the Week. Wicklow Wolf 10th Anniversary American Amber

 Beer of the Week

Wicklow Wolf 10th Anniversary American Amber

4.8% ABV, 440 ml can Bradleys


American Amber will always have a special place in our hearts at Wicklow Wolf. 


The Newtown Mount Kennedy  Brewery has very good reason to get a little nostalgic about their American Amber, our latest Beer of the Week. “It was the first beer we ever brewed and released back in 2014, and it seemed fitting to celebrate our 10th Birthday by bringing it back one last time in our original branding with a new and improved recipe.”


I got my hands on it not long after the 2014 launch and wrote: “Your palate tells you this is very good: sweet caramel and tropical fruit tones, balanced by a tang of citrus hops. Mellow magic, made the Wicklow way.” Not a whole lot different from what the Wolf says about the current Amber.


It still has that golden/amber colour with a soft white head. Caramel, toffee and a whiff of citrus in the aromas. The recipe may well be refreshed but the perfect balance between malt and hops has been maintained.


Very enjoyable and Very Highly Recommended.

Check our updated Beer of the Week index here.

Friday, July 12, 2024

The Met Summer Special Menu

press release

The Met Summer Special Menu


The Metropole Hotel is excited to announce the launch of its highly anticipated Summer Special menu at the Met Bar & Restaurant. Designed to tantalize taste buds and celebrate the vibrant flavours of the season, this exclusive offering is set to become a highlight of Cork’s dining scene. Guests can now indulge in a two-course dinner accompanied by a choice of a glass of wine, beer, or a soft drink for just €32.50 per person. Available seven days a week from 5 PM, this culinary delight promises an unforgettable dining experience.

 

The Metropole Hotel’s Executive Chef has crafted a selection of dishes that showcase the finest local ingredients, ensuring a memorable meal that reflects the best of summer produce. The Summer Special menu features a variety of mouth-watering options to suit all palates.

 

**Large Plates:**

 

- **Fried Halloumi, Carrot & Orange Salad**: A vibrant mix of shaved fennel, micro coriander, and mustard & orange dressing, perfect for a light yet flavourful start.

 

- **Warm Duck Salad**: Pulled confit duck leg, fried potatoes, mixed leaves, red onions, and watermelon rind drizzled with honey dressing.

 

- **Rigatoni Pasta Primavera**: Seasonal greens, ricotta, pea purée, lemon & mint oil, Hegarty cheddar, and black pepper for a hearty vegetarian option.

 

- **Double Irish Hereford Cheeseburger**: Grilled flat mushroom, Bandon cheddar, baby gem, beef tomato, grilled bacon, pickles in a brioche bun, served with skinny French fries and truffle mayonnaise.

 

- **Roasted Massala Glazed Squash**: Channa massala, roasted beets, chickpeas, pickled watermelon rind, and poppadom, an explosion of flavours and textures.


 

- **10 oz Tim Mulcahy’s Chicken Supreme**: Accompanied by potato & N’Duja terrine, kale, wild mushroom, hazelnuts, and pink peppercorn and Jameson sauce.

 

- **McCarthy’s Slow Cooked Lamb Shoulder**: Channa massala, chickpeas, roasted squash & beets, pickled watermelon rind.

 

- **Union Hall Grilled Hake**: With roast potatoes & seasonal greens, pea purée, tartare condiment, and charred lemon.

 

**Desserts:**

 

- **Raspberry & Plum Clafoutis**: Candied walnuts, salted caramel ice cream, and marinated raspberries.

 

- **Mango, Passion Fruit, and Soya Posset**: Exotic coulis, candied hazelnuts, and fresh mango.

 

- **Dark Chocolate Marquise**: Candied hazelnuts, Amarena cherries, white chocolate & almond tuile, vanilla ice cream.

 

- **Seasonal Rhubarb & West Cork Strawberries**: Clonakilty set yogurt, honey granola, poached rhubarb, fresh strawberries, strawberry ice cream.

 

Each dish is thoughtfully created to contribute to our zero food waste targets, ensuring sustainability while delivering exquisite flavours. Guests are encouraged to follow @themetcork on Instagram for the latest updates and to book their table through the link in the bio.

 

The Metropole Hotel invites all food enthusiasts and those seeking a delightful dining experience to savour the Summer Special menu at the Met Bar & Restaurant. Book now and enjoy an evening of exceptional cuisine in the heart of Cork.

A PODCAST CELEBRATING THE UNISON OF IRISH FOOD & DRINK. Ep2 is live.

press release

EPISODE 2 OF BEÁR BIA IS LIVE - A PODCAST CELEBRATING THE UNISON OF IRISH FOOD & DRINK. THIS EPISODE IS A SHOWCASE OF THE PRODUCERS AT BORD BIA BLOOM FESTIVAL
Oisin and Dee with Dennis Dempsey (left) and Birgitta Hedin-Curtin (right)



Dee Laffan and Oisin Davis are on a mission to highlight the finest Irish food & drink pairings through their brand new podcast "Beár Bia." Translated to

Egawa Sushi: A Fusion Frenzy in Cork City's Kyle Street where Japan meets Brazil.

Egawa Sushi: A Fusion Frenzy in Cork City's Sushi Scene
You'll find her in Kyle Street. Not the girl from Ipanema!


Move over, California rolls! Cork City's sushi scene just got a splash of vibrant fusion with the arrival of Egawa Sushi on Kyle Street. You'll find them in the former Brazilian Golden Bites space, Egawa offers a unique twist – Japanese sushi with a Brazilian flair - note the international flags (Japan and Brazil!) displayed on their Instagram.

Intrigued by the

Thursday, July 11, 2024

Beer of the Week. Kinnegar’s mixed 4-pack. Cold IPA. Pale Ale. Pilsner. Raspberry Grisette

Beer of the Week. Kinnegar’s mixed 4-pack. 

Cold IPA. Pale Ale. Pilsner. Raspberry Grisette 


Donegal’s Kinnegar has just launched their summer adventure into 4-pack territory and this very convenient format is out there to be enjoyed. “Look forward to a refreshing journey through these four great beer styles. We don't often indulge in tasting notes but this time we set Sean the task of putting the experience in words.”


Cold IPA 5.3%, 400 ml can Bradleys


Colour of this Cold IPA, a once-off by Kinnegar and part of their new 4-pack this summer, is a light gold with bubbles galore racing to the soft white head. Peach, apricot and grapefruit feature in this light hoppy beer with a very refreshing finish indeed.


Kinnegar report it as a big success.  “Can’t you make it part of the core range?” they’ve been asked.

Wondering what a Cold IPA is? I was. It is an IPA fermented at lower temperatures than what is normally used to ferment an ale. Brewers often use a lager yeast or a combination of a lager and an ale yeast. Kinnegar: “Another riff on a tune we’ve been playing with for the past year. Practice makes perfect.”


Hazy Pale Ale,4.5%, 440 ml can Bradleys

This session pale is light straw and cloudy. The American hops have endowed Kinnegar’s latest iteration of this quaffable popular style with quite a backbone of tropical fruit, citrus and pine and just a moderate bitterness. Refreshing as expected and ideal for a session.


Sean’s verdict: “Juicy, sweet fruit, high drinkability. An indispensable summer companion. One will not be enough.”


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See updated Beer of the Week index here

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Pilsner, 5% ABV, 440 ml can Bradleys


This latest lager from Donegal is straw-coloured with a soft white head and tons of bubbles rising. Much like the craft lagers we know in this part of the world but with a hoppy punch. A touch of lime runs through it to the refreshing finalé. Well worth a try and another excellent can in the 4-pack.

They say: An old-world style with new-world flair courtesy of its distinctive New Zealand hop profile. 

Sean’s verdict: Citrus (lime), grape, clean bitterness





Raspberry Grisette, 3.8% ABV, 440 ml can Bradleys

Grisettes are refreshing, low-alcohol beers with origins in the Hainaut province of Belgium. They are crisp, medium/light-bodied, citrusy beers—brewed to be endlessly approachable. It is also supposed to be a summer beer. I’ve waited long enough for summer, so here goes.


Our Raspberry Grisette from Kinnegar has an orange colour with a short-lived white head and lots of micro-bubbles. It is crisp and dry with a fruity tang from the raspberries. I reckon loganberries would have given it a real kick-ass tang. As it is, this is a very refreshing low alcohol beer indeed. Recommended pairing: with a summer’s day if you can find one in 2024. Preferably outdoors.


Sean’s verdict: Crisp, dry, citrus, raspberry. Sean doesn’t waste words.