Showing posts with label A Taste of West Cork. Show all posts
Showing posts with label A Taste of West Cork. Show all posts

Friday, November 5, 2021

Taste of the Week. Ballinrostig Cheese with Nettle

Taste of the Week

Ballinrostig Cheese with Nettle

Ballinrostig Cheese is owned and run, in the tiny East Cork village, by husband and wife team, Stephen Bender and Michele Cashman.  

Their basic cheese is a semi hard, Gouda style cheese made with Jersey cow milk and aged for 4 months. They a few variations and this Nettle, with a little parsley and chive also in the mix, is one and is our Taste of the Week. 

It is a delicious (and delicate) herby cheese with their signature background creaminess, very nice melted on a toastie or in a quiche. And they say it is a "favourite of our young customers". 

Local food ace Lilly Higgins recommends spreading it on a baked potato and says it "would be a great alternative to cream cheese in a bagel with smoked rainbow trout".

The tempting creaminess is down to the fact that it is made from organic Jersey cow milk. The milk is sourced from Ahern's Organic Farm near Dungourney, also in East Cork. Early on, the basic cheese is mild and creamy, slowly acquiring a stronger and more complex flavour as it ages.

It is widely available, including at local farmers markets. I got mine from Bradley's of North Main Street, Cork. Check below for more stockists and more information on their products.

Ballinrostig Cheese

Tuesday, December 31, 2019

Taste of the Week. Union Hall Smoked Salmon Paté

Taste of the Week
Union Hall Smoked Salmon Paté

Quite a selection of products from the Union Hall smokery in Bradley’s when I called to the North Main Street shop (established 1850) a day or two before Christmas.

At that stage, most of the shopping had been done but I thought to myself that their Smoked Salmon Paté would come in handy over the Christmas. It didn’t last that long, more or less demolished that very lunchtime. 

Ready to eat it says on the pack and I, having come back from the city and a call to Davidson’s, our local butchers, to collect the festival order, was ready to eat it. 

The Nolan family have been producing good quality smoked fish products in the small fishing village for the past 30 years and Missus Nolan’s delicious paté has its own unique flavour, mainly salmon of course but with a nicely judged element of a peppery spice along with citrus notes. Excellent on fresh Arbutus sourdough and our Taste of the Week. Taste of the Day more like it! It comes in a 100 gram pack and retails for €3.29.

Union Hall
West Cork
028 33125

Saturday, October 19, 2019

Richy's "No Menu" Night. Huge Success

Richy's "No Menu" Night. Huge Success

Richy Virahsawmy is a happy man this weekend. "The first no menu night was a huge
success, full house !! Thank you all. The next one is on 14/11/2019. Bookings open now!!"
Now wonder it went down well  in the Clonakilty restaurant - just look at these pictures of
 the wonderful dishes created by Richy's Head Chef Meeran Gani Manzoor. You can see
 that this talented guy has learned well from his time spent working in
 Michelin starred restaurants.

House cured salmon with Turmeric, lemongrass & gin, lime fraiche, apple & cucumber gel, wasabi pearls, lemon oil, fermented rice crisps! 

Pumpkin and pink peppercorn brûlée, goats curd, sage and pistachio
Scallops, cauliflower poriyal, tamarind & palm sugar glaze.
Duck, celeriac, red cabbage, carrot and hazelnut 

Chocolate & coffee

Sunday, September 15, 2019

Clonakilty Blackpudding’s Sparkling New Home

Colette Twomey
Clonakilty Blackpudding’s Sparkling New Home

When the newly married Edward and Colette Twomey took over a Clonakilty butcher shop in the late 70s, blackpudding was not really one of the attractions for them. But the deal did include a secret spice recipe and the Twomeys soon realised that the pudding was very popular with their customers and quite a few of them were sending it to relatives abroad. The couple were wise enough not to ignore the market and the rest is history.

All this came back during A Taste of West Cork event in the company’s impressive new facility in their home town. The two of us and a few dozen other paying guests were given a tour of the new visitor centre before being treated to a series of blackpudding based dishes by top chef Peter Clifford.
Chef Peter Clifford

Why Peter Clifford? Well Peter’s father, Michael, was one of Ireland’s most famous chefs, holder of a Michelin star, and an early and influential supporter of the Clonakilty product. Both Peter and Colette acknowledge that his signature dish of black pudding elevated the humble breakfast staple to being acclaimed as an excellent starter. 
The new Veggie pudding in a salad with Serrano, pomegranate, and sherry dressing.

Tragically, Michael died at the age of 54 when Peter was in his mid-teens. Tragedy too for the Twomeys when Edward passed in 2005; at least he had seen and enjoyed the success, a success that would be driven even further by his widow, the only holder of that secret spice mix recipe.
Colette (left), Peter and Deirdre Clifford, with picture of the late Michael.
Pic courtesy of A Taste of West Cork.

The digitised butcher ready to chat
There is even a spice mixer on display in the inter-active visitor centre, which is not quite completed at present but getting very close indeed. And here too you may find out about Johanna O’Brien, the 19th century compiler of that magic mix! It was passed down through generations of the butcher shop owners. The original butchers were Harringtons and so the recipe was named after them.

You will also meet the digitised versions too of the butcher and the grocer and hear employees talk of their experiences with the firm. By the way, that Twomey’s shop on main street is still going strong and well worth a visit and while you’re there be sure and check out the other company products such as rashers and sausages.

Colette, chief executive and co-founder of the host company, told us that Michael Clifford grew up in Clon. “He had a great passion for food and saw the potential in the black pudding and passed that on to us.” Peter's family, including Michael’s widow Deirdre, were at the event and Colette presented them with a framed portrait of Michael.
The new Veggie Pudding, now in the shops

Peter too enjoys cooking the black pudding and went on to demonstrate five dishes including the Gateau of Clonakilty Blackpudding, his father’s special. Other dishes, and we got generous tastings of the five, included Celeriac and Pear Soup with Blackpudding, A Clonakilty Veggie Pudding salad with Serrano Ham, pomegranates and sherry (PX no less!) dressing, Clonakilty Whitepudding with a stew of wild rice, pearl barley and wild mushrooms and also a Clonakilty Blackpudding on toast with butter beans and apple.
More on Peter here 

Western Road
Co. Cork

That Veggie Pudding may surprise you as you may not have heard of it.  It was launched just the previous Monday (September 8th). Peter gave it quite an endorsement and said he loved the spice element in it. It may be used in much the same way as the others, certainly substituted for the whitepudding. No shortage of recipes on the website, for breakfast, lunch, dinner and parties. Please click here

Tuesday, September 3, 2019

Chefs Landing! A Taste of West Cork About To Take Off!

press release
Chefs Landing! A Taste of West Cork About To Take Off!
Today we saw four Aboriginal Chefs Luke Bourke, Dave Gray, Josh Moore and Samuel Bourke of Sydney's Rockpool touch down in Cork Airport today in advance of The A Taste of West Cork Food Festival which starts this Friday.  Not only that but the Bourke twins also have Cork connections, their Great Great Great Grandfather was a Cork man who emigrated to Australia - Maurice Bourke born in 1836 in Cork. Such a lovely story to celebrate the twinning of Australia with West Cork for A Taste of West Cork Food Festival which runs up to and including the 15th September across 50 towns, villages and islands, with 265 fascinating events and 43 guest chefs.  (See the programme on

West Cork is a good food mecca for ten days from this Friday, with chefs flying in from Australia and the USA to join popular local chefs for 265 fascinating events in 50 towns and villages and nine islands

West Cork’s best restaurants, bars, B&Bs and hotels, along with the myriad of native artisan food producers in the region, are poised to enjoy the sixteenth A Taste of West Cork Festival, and, with strong bookings to date, visitors can expect a memorable culinary and social experience.   

Undoubtedly Ireland’s largest food festival, A Taste of West Cork Food Festival runs from this Friday 6th to the 15th September in scenic and friendly places from Bantry to Beara, Cape Clear Island to Whiddy Island, Baltimore to Bandon and Courtmacsherry to Clonakilty, to mention a few.

With a team of four Australian Indigenous chefs working alongside West Cork’s super chefs, the Festival also sees the return of 4 chefs from the USA, all keen to challenge their peers in this ‘best in class’ food festival.

With culinary events to suit all palates and pockets, and quirky soirées in unlikely places, check out the options on;

  • The atmospheric Church Restaurant, Skibbereen hosts one of Ireland’s top chefs for a gourmet 5-course menu, using local abundant fresh produce on Thursday 12th September.  Award-winning Ed Cooney of the legendary Merrion Hotel, Dublin, will craft culinary delicacies for the discerning diner.  This is a super opportunity to entertain clients and friends, with Regina Daly and her team determined to make the experience a memorable one. Book directly with The Church Restaurant, Skibbereen.
  • For a really earthy foodie experience we recommend Foraging, Fishing & Feasting with the Australian Chefs and Michelin Star Chef Ahmet Dede on Monday 9th September.   A 12-hour extravaganza, you will forage, fish and feast after an exciting day on land and sea, with gourmet lunch and dinner and several other culinary surprises.  See the delights of the adventure on
  • The West Cork Forum at Baltimore Sailing Club on Saturday 7th September and entitled ‘Facing the Challenges of a Rapidly Changing World – our Survival’, is a free forum, with a line-up of impressive national and international speakers, chaired by Lord David Puttnam.  See the for the full list of high-profile speakers on this important topic which affects present and future generations.
  • On Tuesday, 10th September, Bantry’s Learning Network’s Organic Vegetable Garden hosts a cooking demonstration with Trish Messon of The Stuffed Olive Restaurant, Bantry, showcasing new and exciting dishes using locally produced produce. Bookings on 087 6023183 or just arrive and you’ll be welcome!
  • Sunday 15th September sees the Festival Finale Sunday Street Market Spectacular at Main Street, Skibbereen, where the town is en féte, with numerous food tastings, live music and cooking demonstrations. The Town Hall, Skibbereen will welcome Fáilte Ireland’s new initiative TASTE THE ISLAND, an all-Ireland food and drink expo, showcasing the artisan food and drink producers from all around the island of Ireland. 

The Festival is kindly supported by Cork County Council, Sean and Rose O’Driscoll, Fáilte Ireland, Tourism Ireland, The Gwendolyn Harold Barry Trust, Fields of Skibbereen, Bόrd Bia, Pure Cork, Cork Airport and many other supporting sponsors and patrons from the region and elsewhere.

To book accommodation/events and to see the full A Taste of West Cork Food Festival programme online where contact details of each venue are listed, browse the programme online or pick up a hard copy locally. Furthermore, the A Taste of West Cork Artisan Food Guide is available from selected book shops throughout West Cork. 

Friday, August 30, 2019

A Taste of West Cork Forum to Explore The Challenges of Change

press release
The Challenges of Change:
Annual West Cork Forum, as part of A Taste of West Cork Food Festival, set to shine spotlight on food safety, sustainability and climate change

As avid foodies all over the island salivate at the thought of the upcoming A Taste of West Cork Food Festival (6-15th September) – including international food fans who have travelled long distances to be a part of the gourmet action – organisers of the annual festival are also keen to use their platform to showcase West Cork’s prominence as a standalone, sustainable food capital of Ireland and one that strives to protect and nurture its surrounding environment. This will be carried out through the annual West Cork Forum, a free event that will take over the Baltimore Sailing Club on Saturday 7th September and serve as one of the key highlights of the 2019 Festival programme.

Sponsored by Sean and Rose O’Driscoll, this year’s conference covers a hugely pressing topic, namely ‘Facing the Challenges of a Rapidly Changing World – Our Survival’. An all-day event, the 2019 West Cork Forum will kick off at 11am sharp, with the morning section running straight through until lunchtime at 1pm. After a brief break, the activity will be back in full swing from 2:30-4:30pm, when the conference element of the Forum will come to a conclusion.

The West Cork Forum agenda is this year decorated with a wide range of esteemed guest speakers, who will discuss an array of notable topics including food safety, food justice, sustainability and climate change. Among those addressing the gathered crowds will be the Australian Ambassador to Ireland, His Excellency Richard Andrews; Baroness Bryony Worthington, Architect of the UK Climate Change Act, Founder of Sandbag Climate Campaign and Executive Director for Europe of the Environmental Defence Fund; Dr Aifric O Sullivan UCD, member of the Editorial Group of the InterAcademy Partnership Report 2018; Owen Brennan, Executive Chairman Devenish Nutrition; Dr Christie Godsmark, School of Public Health and the Environmental Research Institute, University College Cork; David Byrne, Former EU Commissioner, Health and Consumer Protection with Responsibility for Food Safety in the EU; and Chairman Lord David Puttnam, climate activist, educator and filmmaker.
At last year's forum (l to r): Sean O'Driscoll, sponsor West Cork Forum; Phil Hogan, European Commissioner for Agriculture and Rural Development and Helen Collins, Chair of A Taste of West Cork Food Festival. 
Those attending the West Cork Forum can also take advantage of another A Taste of West Cork Food Festival programme highlight, which will be held in the area on the evening in order to celebrate the centenary of the RNLI Baltimore. The event, taking place at Baltimore Harbour from 5pm is also free of charge to the public and will feature a rescue demonstration staged by the RNLI Lifeboat station and the Coast Guard helicopter, giving onlookers an opportunity to witness the bravery and professionalism of the volunteers that battle the elements and put their lives at risk to rescue those in danger at sea.

Following an engaging morning and afternoon filled with debate, discussion and contemplation, lucky ticketholders (to a now sold-out event) will be invited to celebrate and sample all of the finest produce that West Cork has to offer, with a drinks’ reception at the Baltimore Sailing Club, followed by a gourmet seafood dinner at The Lookout Restaurant. Pre-dinner drinks will be complimented by a special performance from St Fachtna’s Silver Band, while a seafood feast served up by Kate Jacob and her team at The Lookout will showcase the bounty of the Atlantic Ocean, with each course paired with carefully selected Australian wines. During the dinner, critically acclaimed Dutch cookbook author, recipe writer, TV presenter and culinary editor Yvette van Boven, will address the crowd and bring yet another memorable, educational Forum to a close.

Speaking ahead of next week’s conference, His Excellency Richard Andrews, the Australian Ambassador to Ireland, said: “This festival and indeed the West Cork Forum highlights the love and knowledge the people of West Cork have for their own place, their pride in the quality of the fruits it bears, and their commitment to managing their land sustainably for the future. These are values Australia’s Aboriginal people have held for over 60,000 years, and of which Australians today remain proud. Our communities, although separated by land and sea, remain intrinsically linked thanks to the major role played by Irish people in the building of Australia as it is today. We want 21st century Ireland – and especially West Cork – to be an ongoing part of the story of our national cuisine and we equally want Australia to contribute to the evolution of Ireland’s culinary landscape.”

He added: “We look forward to celebrating our mutual commitment during this ground-breaking visit and to sharing an educational experience through the West Cork Forum.”

Also commenting on an event that promises to be one of the busiest of the Festival, Chairperson of the A Taste of West Cork Food Festival voluntary committee, Helen Collins, said: “This year’s topic is undoubtedly of great importance to all of us as citizens of the world, and it certainly holds particular prominence for those of us living in West Cork and familiar with its rich landscape and the huge efforts of its local people in contributing to sustainability, food quality and combating climate change. Our status as one of Ireland’s most prominent food capitals gives us a natural platform to hold such serious discussions on sustainable food safety and environmental health and the West Cork Forum addresses all these issues in depth. This status, combined with a list of speakers that are as esteemed as they are informed on their individual subject, creates an unbeatable formula for an event that will both enlighten and inspire. We are proud that through the annual Forum and bountiful programme, our Festival continues to excite and educate those that visit this heavenly part of the planet.”

For further details on the West Cork Forum and A Taste of West Cork Food Festival, which runs from 6-15th September, visit To book events please call the venues directly.

Sunday, March 24, 2019

Celtic Ross. Dinner Supreme in Kingfisher Brasserie

Celtic Ross. Dinner Supreme in Kingfisher Brasserie
Spring roll
Had heard lots of good things about the Kingfisher Brasserie in the very popular Celtic Ross Hotel in Rosscarbery. And it was with great anticipation that we studied the menu, instantly encouraged by the stated commitment to local producers. 

Local drinks too and we sipped our Sherkin Lass Ale by the West Cork Brewery as we we went through our dining options. Earlier we had sampled two of the area’s spirits, whiskey from the West Cork Distillery in Skibbereen and gin from Beara.

So how could I not pick something from Rosscarbery for my meal? And I did, starting with a superb Ham Hock and Rosscarbery Black Pudding terrine (€8.50), with Jerusalem artichoke and shiitake piccalilli, wild garlic pesto, artichoke crisps. Superb. We shared. 

And we also shared the other opener, the Skeaghanore Duck Spring Roll (€8.95) Confit duck, carrot and apricot chutney, blue cheese, ruby red sauerkraut, cos lettuce. Thumbs up from each side of the table for the work of the kitchen under Shane Deane (Head Chef) and Alex Petit (Executive Chef) in this family owned hotel.

Time now for the mains, chicken supreme. But not just any chicken supreme. Their Shannonvale Chicken Supreme Zaatar (€20.50) with Aniseed carrots, chickpea, harissa and golden raisin stew, minted chimichurri will have your taste buds dancing to a different beat. Supreme indeed!

The Irish Trout Fillet (€20.50) Crushed sweet potatoes, quinoa, sunflower seed and orange granola, wild garlic pesto, again illustrated that expertise and the little things (the quinoa, the seeds, the granola, the pesto) can make a delightful difference.

Sat back then for a wee spell and relaxed in our comfortable seats and after a chat with our friendly and informative server, decided to share the final round. The Citrus Plate (Yuzu curd, physalis drizzle cake, lemon sorbet, mint crème fraiche, lemon tuile) was tempting as was the West Cork Cheese plate (a collection of the classics) but the one we picked and enjoyed was the Medovik Cake Honey sponge, sour cream, caramelised walnuts, chocolate tuile.

Second drink!
All this in the split level brasserie, part of the adjoining eating areas here. You also have the option of choosing from the Kingfisher Bistro menu which includes starters such as Woodcock Smokery Smoked Haddock Tartare and mains like Seared Union Hall Brill. So no shortage of choice, no shortage of quality either.

Having finished the Medovik Cake, we stepped through the open door to the bar which was also busy and we took our ease as a trio of young fellows played some traditional music and one of them seemed set to crack the timbers with a dazzling display of Irish dancing. A relaxing end for us to an evening in Rosscarbery that had begun with a walk across the causeway and then down towards Warren Strand, watching the estuary birds eagerly feeding as we strolled. 

Co. Cork
Tel +353 (0)23 88 48722

Also on this 24-hour trip:
A day out with West Cork Farm Tours
Super Food at Ardfield's Mountain Bar

Sunday, December 30, 2018

Meet Ireland’s Great Producers. Just a few of them!

Meet Ireland’s Great Producers
Just a few of them!
Cheesemaker Jean-Baptiste at Hegarty's

2018 Highlights now completed.
See below for brilliant National Stud visit;
A Taste of West Cork;
Life galore in the Irish Pub;
Michelin Stars, a trio this year;
Clonakilty's outstanding street festival;
Variations on the Irish Breakfast

Always manage to visit a few producers and 2018 was no exception; well, there were some exceptional visits, one to the innovative duo at the relatively new Killahora Orchards, the other to the well-established Hegarty Cheese in Whitechurch .

We were with a group of members of the Munster Wine & Dine who spent a very enjoyable May evening on a tour and tasting at Killahora Orchards near Glounthaune. Barry was our enthusiastic guide as we got both our whistles and our feet (aside from those who had brought wellies) wet in a most delightful way. 

Some of us had already marked Killahora products, including Johnny Fall Down cider, the Pom 'O Apple Port and their unique Rare Apple ice wine, among our favourite things. Those who hadn't come across them before were converted on this tour and tasting. More here

I met Jean-Baptise Enjelvin, cheesemaker at Hegarty’s, a few times during the year before heading out to see him at work in Whitechurch on an October morning.When I arrive at Hegarty’s farm on the outskirts of Whitechurch, less than twenty minutes north of Cork City, I’m greeted by Dan Hegarty, the frontman for their magnificent cheddar cheese that has been snapped up by restaurants and retail customers alike over the past 16 years or so. 
Killahora Orchards

For the past three years, Dan has had the considerable help of French cheese-maker Jean-Baptiste who had been on duty from earlier that morning.  He helps me get my kit on and I start to note how he makes their Templegall, a Comté style cheese, which has been getting sensational reviews over the past few months. 

I try my best to stay out of his way as the work progresses from the milk to the tank to the wheel on the stand. Amazing combination of skill, knowledge and muscle and then a lot of patience (a year or so of it) before the cheese is ready. It is a high quality product so do watch out for it! More here

* If you are food or drink producer and would like me to do a post in 2019, do drop me a line at
* A producer for every week; see the list of Great Irish Tastes 2018

National Stud/Japanese Gardens
One of Ireland’s Stand-out Visits
2018 Highlights continued...
Guide Aoife has a back-pocket treat for Hardy Eustace.  And he knows it!

Last June, we “did” a loop around the Midlands, taking in Mikey Ryan’s in Cashel, Birr Castle, a tour of Tullamore DEW, and a stay at the impressive Heritage Hotel in Killenard but the undoubted highlight was our visit, on the one ticket, to the Japanese Gardens and the National Stud.

The Japanese Gardens are small but perfect. Now over a hundred years old, it is still very much worth visiting. Some 120,000 visitors soak up the peace ad beauty here every year. They were devised by Colonel Walker and were laid out by Japanese master horticulturist Tassa Eida and his son Minoru between 1906 and 1910. Walker named one of his classic winning horses after Minoru.

Before, or after, visiting the stud, you can refuel in the Japanese Garden Café. Here, Ballymaloe-trained Natalie Collins and her manager Ronan Mackey take pride in offering simple, wholesome food with the emphasis on freshness and flavour. Local ingredients are used wherever possible. The restaurant is open 7 days.

By the way, the grounds of the National Stud rival the gardens for beauty. But it is the characters here that I’m inclined to remember, especially Hardy Eustace! Described in his highly successful racing career as a hell of a horse and a tenacious battler, the now twenty year old is described as a big baby by Aoife, our fantastic guide, as she feeds him polo mints and those “missing” sugar cubes. 

Indeed, we all help out, keeping our fingers straight as we make our offerings to the famous gelding. Also keep it relatively quiet, just in case the jealous Hurricane Fly, who shares the field, might hear. 
Aoife was brilliant, our guide of the year, and later she took us to see the stallions, the guys that pay her wages! You may read an account of the visit here
John Coll's Famine Funeral at Coming Home

Other excellent “visits” this year included Nano Nagle Place (Cork City) , Youghal’s Historic Clock Gate Tower  and the amazing Ewe Experience  in Glengarriff.

Best art experience of the year was Coming Home: Art and the Great Hunger  in Skibbereen.

A Rib around Bantry Bay
Just one of 250 events at A Taste of West Cork
2018 Highlights continued...

Ten days, 41 towns and villages, 8 islands, over 250 events. I’m talking about Ireland’s biggest and probably best food festival: A Taste of West Cork.

Impressive numbers indeed. But statistics only hint at the September story unfolding across the bays, the mountains, the hills and dales of the region. We dabbled a bit this year, as we regularly do and one of the highlights was the Indian Night in Richy’s of Clonakilty, another restaurant in the top echelon of this Michelin starred food-scape.

But the most fun that we had came down in Bantry, on a rib run by Diarmuid Murphy of the Fish Kitchen. The rib run and a fish dinner that evening were one of the official events for the festival. We weren’t quite sure why to expect when we booked - even thinking at one point that we’d have to fish for our dinner!

And, then as the clouds rolled in and the wind increased, we still weren’t sure as Diarmuid introduced us to his rib on the new marina in the bay. We put the gear on and soon we were bouncing out there on the bay. Exhilarating stuff even if our experienced skipper (we took just the one splash) decided against taking on the waves at either end of Whiddy Island and a trip across to see the liner in Glengarriff had to be abandoned.

But all the while he was filling us in - we two were his only passengers - on the geography and the amazing history of the bay: Wolfe Tone, the American flying boats on WW1 duty, the Eagle Pointers, Bantry House, the blue cliff, the Whiddy disaster and so much more including, of course, the mussel farming in the huge bay. He is a superb guide to the area and no wonder he is thinking of running this as a tourist attraction in the summer of 2019. Keep an eye out for that! Once I have details, I’ll post them here on the blog.

About two hours later, we were back on dry land. Time then for a rest and a shower before heading to the Fish Kitchen in the heart of Bantry for a delicious meal, enjoyed with a communal table that, by pure chance, included Esther and Joe Barron from the famous bakery in Cappoquin. A great afternoon trip and a terrific evening.

Life Galore in the Irish Pub
2018 Highlights continued...
Hot in the city. Galway in July.

We visited Galway in the high heat of the amazing summer, met some lovely people and enjoyed ourselves thoroughly everywhere we went and that included a visit to Michelin starred Aniar, strolls in the narrow streets, a cooling (not really!) cruise on the Corrib and on the huge lake (biggest in the Republic) but the memory that stands out was our visit to a pub!

We’ve been in some  memorable pubs in recent times, Dick Mack’s (with its micro brewery) in Dingle,  Reidy’s with its uncountable corners and crannies in Killarney, the Swagman and its amazing host Dale in Sligo, and a few more but the King’s Head in Galway is out on its own.

Well worth a call. And there is a bistro here that serves excellent local food - enter through a small archway off the city’s Latin Quarter. Chef Brendan Keane is a keen local and seasonal operator and hopefully Sorcha will be on duty to fill you in on the menu and the specials.

Afterwards, find your way to the adjoining pub and get a seat, by the stage if you want to get close up to the music or maybe by the bar. Our second night was by the bar, excellent choice of drinks here including local craft beers. 
Cocktail time!

And they have an impressive cocktail list here and put on quite a show as they get them ready. In the meantime, you’ll find yourself chatting to customers from all over the place. It won’t be a quiet chat - the music will be loud and lively, just like the street outside. Life con brio.

Another memorable pub was found just a few miles north-east of Cork city. O’Mahony’s of Watergrasshill operates only at weekends but do get there for the food and the fun if you are anywhere close. 

Máire and Victor (you’ll know him from the House Café at the Opera House) have given this two hundred year old pub a new lease of life, the emphasis very much on local food and drink. Old cow sheds have been converted into use - there is a stage in one - as venues for concerts and weddings. New soul in the old stones and well worth a visit for its lovely food and lovely people.

Michelin Stars in a Row.
More to follow!
Daikon, bamboo shoot (Ichigo ichi

Michelin stars are like the No. 8 bus (sorry, it’s 208 now, ask Billy Murphy of the Young Offenders); you wait, and wait, and then three come together. Just three? There are a few more waiting in the wings.

The anointed threesome in Cork (Ichigo Ichie, The Mews, and Chestnut) are now well-known but I’ve been flirting with a few others. Reckon Pilgrims should be up there with a bib at least while Bastion should be up a notch from the bib. Missed out on Dillon's but on the list for 2019! Enjoyed myself in both of them in 2018 and the highlight was the meal in Ichigo Ichi - before it got the star.
Pollock, pine, at Aniar

Outside of Cork, Aniar (star) and Aldridge Lodge (bib) were also visited this year. By the way, if you’re lucky enough to dine and get one of the three rooms to overnight in Aldridge, consider yourself doubly lucky as breakfast here is also a star treat!

Festivals: Amazing Street Fest in Clon!
2018 Highlights

Food and food related festivals continue to pop up all over the country. Relatively new ones, such as FEAST in East Cork, are thriving, along with well established events such as A Taste of West Cork. The Old Butter Road Festival, mainly in North Cork, enjoyed a good year. Didn’t get to too many outside of Cork this year but had a quick and appetising day trip to Harvest Festival (to a Blaa event) in Waterford city.

There was quite an excellent Cheese festival too at the Cork Airport Hotel, a great cheese dinner on one night and some new cheeses on display in the many stalls on the following days. And the regular long-table was again a huge hit on Cork’s South Mall with over 400 diners.

For me though, the festival where food and fun totally and seamlessly combined was the Clonakilty Street Carnival. Long tables galore here on the main street, even one for the kids. Much more for the young folks too with games and music. Music too on various platforms for the attendees in general. And very impressive numbers with over 2,000 adults fed, by the town’s leading restaurants, for fifteen euro a head!

Variations on the Irish Breakfast
2018 Highlights
Plaice Plus at Aldridge Lodge

In the queue at Nash 19 the other day (coffee and scone for me), I was drooling at the elements of the Full Irish inside the counter. I already had had breakfast but those rashers and sausages etc certainly looked very good indeed. Another excellent one, that I fully enjoyed, was served in mid-summer at De Barra Lodge near Rosscarbery

Rarely go out for breakfast so it’s mostly in hotels and B&Bs that I sample the traditional Full Irish. Sometimes, I ask for the cut-down version: “one of everything”. 

And sometimes I ask for the fish, if there is one. 

Increasingly, there is a fish option. The very best (usually plaice, served simply) is to be found in the Garryvoe Hotel or its cousin across the bay, the Bayview. Superb stuff, especially if you’d had a hard night.

Last month, I had the good luck to dine and stay in Aldridge House on the beautiful Hook Peninsula in County Wexford. I will soon be publishing a full post on the dinner and the stay. I had an inkling that the breakfast would be good.

And when owner-chef Billy Whitty told me plaice was on the menu, I jumped at it. They have a Michelin bib here and Billy improved on the simple plaice, turning it into a marine version of the Full Irish.

Very hard to beat his magnificent plate of fresh and delicious plaice that came with a poached egg (choice of hen or duck), tomatoes and a Portobello mushroom. All that after a terrific starter of a yogurt pot with hazelnuts and raspberry. 

Pancakes are also very popular around the country at breakfast time and I’ve enjoyed a few in recent months, the best hotel offering probably that at the lovely Lyrath Estate in Kilkenny. 

The very best though came closer to home, in the spring, at the Crawford Gallery Café where they served up American style buttermilk pancakes, with delicious bacon, yogurt, blueberries and bananas and Maple syrup of course. Amazing flavours and textures. Simply irresistible! 
Pancakes at the Crawford Gallery Café
No bacon at another excellent Cork venue, the terrific Good Day Deli. But, early in the year, they had excellent Poached Pear Pancakes with coconut mascarpone and a drizzle of Irish honey. A morning winner from this sustainable foods champion. Another non-meat venue is the Candied Hazelnut in Waterford and here I enjoyed their Blueberry Pancake Stack with Maple Syrup.

Will the plaice or the pancakes displace the Full Irish? Maybe not on their own but there are other factors at play here and you can expect to see even more variety on the Irish breakfast plate.

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