Showing posts with label Blaa. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Blaa. Show all posts

Sunday, July 7, 2019

A Can of Bass and A Swallow in a Country Pub. My Nire Gap Walk. Thirsty Work


A Can of Bass and A Swallow in a Country Pub
My Nire Gap Walk. Thirsty Work.
Paint the town red?

We saw a swallow in a country pub. Well, you would wouldn’t you, lots of them! Sorry, not that kind of swallow. It was the one that can fly!

Let me start at the beginning, that very morning when I,  as fresh as a daisy, left Cork; I was heading for the Nire Valley in West Waterford with a plan to walk the Nire Valley Gap. 

First call though was to Lismore, a lovely town with many attractions including the castle, the cathedral, the park, its location on the Blackwater River, its cafés (even without the much lamented Chop House) and its hotels (including Ireland first purpose built hotel).

What attracted me most this morning though was the frontage of Biddy Greehy’s Public House and Grocery. This famous pub lasted from 1952 to 2003 and the current owners maintain the window displays – now part of their home – as they would have appeared in the middle of the previous century: all manner of wine and beer containers (including a can of Bass that looks more like a can of paint), tobacco boxes, shoe polish tins, snuff and wine corks and so much more. 

After a “considerable” delay there looking at the old curiosities, we headed to nearby Cappoquin and enjoyed a delicious lunch at Barron’s Bakery (one of the oldest if not the oldest in Ireland). 

About 30 minutes later, having passed through Ballymacarbry and passed Hanora’s guesthouse, we arrived at the Nire Valley Car Park, the Sat Nav lady working very well indeed on this occasion. It was a warmish but grey day. I'd have preferred a bit more light for the photos but locals said later we were lucky the sun wasn’t out as it would have made the trek very difficult.
Movin' on up!

Anyway, we changed the footwear, sorted out what to carry (water, for sure), picked up our sticks and headed into the hills. A few walks, mainly big loops begin here, but we only had eyes for the Gap Walk, the shortest and most straightforward one. The opening stretch was perhaps the toughest and we rose rapidly with our view expanding all the time, the car park quickly becoming a dot below.

Once we went through a stile, the walk through the Comeraghs became easier as we were now walking across the slope, mainly on a grass surface with lots of sheep and those Comeragh lambs around us, red splotches of paint marking them now (they had been blue before the stile). Lots of stops for photos and we were delayed by having to skirt around some boggy bits (there had been very heavy rain two days earlier). Some watery bits had permanent timber platforms across to help the walker.

Cheeky chappy
In the mountains, of course, you think you are near your destination, that the height ahead is the final one. But that is seldom the case. We were wondering were we ever going to get to the gap! 

Then we met a small group who promised us that the cafe at the top was excellent! We checked the remaining distance and they said about 20 minutes. Not very encouraging but, being so close, we kept going and indeed got to that magnificent view out the other side, over the lowlands where the village of Rathgormack is situated.

If you are up to it, you can now go to the left or the right and head off on a loop that will take you back to the car park. But we were just about fit enough to make it back the way we had come and that was the plan in any case. 
Rathgormack is down there somewhere!

Two mile walk
Of course, the sun began to peep out every now and then and give us a tempting glimpse as to what the lovely area would look like when the sky is clear. So on we went, slowly but surely and we did manage to make it back about 15 minutes outside the maximum of two hours indicated in various sources (the minimum is 90 minutes). But we certainly enjoyed it and I promised myself I'd be back once the weather is guaranteed!

Back to Ballymacarbry now and soon we found our Glasha Guesthouse, a splendid place with the splendid Olive in good form, tea and cake at the ready and we soaked up the now well-established sun in the well kept enclosed garden with the fountain running. Later, she served us an excellent dish of salmon and we washed that down with very nice organic Verdejo from her short list. Not every guesthouse can offer such a service!
Glasha sunset

Large Bottle
Then she suggested a visit to the pub (three minutes away) but said a drink would only be deserved if we competed another walk, a two mile loop around the country roads. We did that as the sun began to go down and eventually headed to Lonergan’s pub across the bridge. 

No big selection on tap here  as you might expect and so I ordered the large bottle as the locals do. Indeed, I had a works colleague once, from this area, who was known as Large Bottle. Mine was a Smithwick Red Ale #1 and it is indeed a large bottle at 568 mls (and with an abv of 3.8). Very cool and enjoyable after all the walking.

It was then that the swallow flew in, past us and over the head of the only other customer who was reading his paper before circling the small area and exiting out the front door again to join his feathered colleagues in the dusk. The customer didn’t spot the bird but suggested that since it had left so quickly, it hadn’t liked what it had seen!

Anyhow that led to a chat with the customer and the barkeeper about the demise of some birds, including the corncrake. The customer, from nearby Newcastle (Co, Tipperary), said he does hear the cuckoo from time to time. 

That got us on to Old Moore’s Almanac, for some reason. I remember using that little magazine to try and pick (without success) the Grand National winner. It is still being published apparently and its latest success according to our fellow customer was in predicting that Prince Philip wouldn’t be well enough to greet President Trump. I reckon Philip was happy that that one came true!

On this trip:

Plum Wine. Sparkling Apple Juice. The Butler and The Queen. Fruit Cakes and Steeplechasers. All in a Tipp Day-trip

Enjoyable lunch at historic Barron's Bakery
Lonergan's Bar

Monday, July 1, 2019

Enjoyable Lunch at the Historic Barron's Bakery in Cappoquin. Try a Blaa and a Cappoquino!


Enjoyable Lunch at Historic Barron's Bakery in Cappoquin.
Try a Blaa and a Cappoquino!

Last week, while heading east in Waterford, we enjoyed lunch in the café at the famous Barron’s Bakery in Cappoquin. Later that day, a person working in local hospitality asked me why would you stop in Cappoquin: “There’s nothing there. I always recommended Lismore to my guests.” No doubt lovely Lismore, just a few miles further west, has a lot going for it but I rarely pass Cappoquin either.

We had a wee stroll around the town before calling in to Barron’s, a place we’ve visited a few times before. Barron’s Bakery has been operating for five generations, serving only the local community for all those years. Esther Barron, a direct descendant of the founder John Barron, runs the oldest bakery in Ireland with her husband Joe Prendergast.
Salmon Blaa

The baking takes place during the night, using the amazing old-fashioned Scotch Brick ovens. Bread-making here is a slow process but the bread is all the better for it. The bread is two hours in the making before it even gets to the oven whereas a factory process take only 20 minutes. Esther: “Hand-moulded bread is always more flavoursome. The bread can't be rushed. My father used to say ‘the art of bread-making is beyond science’”.

The bakery was established in 1887 and is one of the last bakeries in Ireland that still uses the Scotch Brick ovens. These give the bread a unique taste, flavour and crust as we found out for ourselves when we tasted their Blaa at lunch last week. Along with the Blaa, they produce Pans, Cobs, Grinders, Bloomers, Basket Pans, Brown Sliced, Doorstep Sliced and Stonebaked Pans.

The Coffee Shop, founded by Esther herself, serves breakfast, lunch and snacks all day until 5.30 pm daily, Monday to Saturday. It is a great place to meet friends, enjoy good local food and drink a quality freshly brewed coffee. You might treat yourself to a "Cappaquino" or eat a tasty slice of old fashioned Chester cake. If there's a celebration coming up, you may order your special cake here too. You can also admire some of the stunning photography from "Our Daily Bread” the story of the bakery by Roz Crowley. 
Coronation Blaa

Here’s a flavour from the book: The ovens were turned on each Christmas Day and people brought their turkeys. I loved the smell of the turkeys roasting with their delicious stuffing. We had to call to the houses, about twelve of them, to tell them they were ready. Daddy often got up on St Stephen’s Day to bake if people ran out of bread.

We had a look at the extensive menu here, soups, lots of sandwiches, wraps, quiche and so on but when we saw the specials featuring the famous Waterford Blaa, our orders were confirmed.

CL’s choice was the Fresh Baked Salmon with pickled cucumber and salad. This was served on either brown soda or Blaa and she picked the local favourite. An excellent dish for just eight euro.

My special, even slightly cheaper (7.90), was Coronation Chicken with salad, again on the Blaa. The light curry sauce enlivened it and there was also a small bowl of slaw. Both dishes were well cooked, excellent food at reasonable prices. Good service too.

So, do keep Barron’s and Cappoquin in mind if you find yourself passing through these parts, maybe after or before a trip to the Vee or the Nire Valley.


Sunday, September 9, 2018

Viking Feast at Walsh's Bakehouse. Gastro Gays Demo Scandi Skills


Viking Feast  at Walsh's Bakehouse
GastroGays Demo Scandi Skills
Knekkebrød

It wasn't the best of days as we drove to Waterford last Saturday but the perfect antidote was waiting for us in the shape of a Viking Feast at Walsh’s Bakehouse. 
Dermot Walsh welcomes one and all

After a warm welcome at the door, we were in for an eye-opener: tables already laid out with colourful inviting food. “Sit where you like”, invited Avril and so we did, eagerly.

We resisted temptation during the short speeches by Michael and Dermot Walsh. The GastroGays, Patrick and Russell, who were the brains and the cooks behind the feast were introduced. All the while, that food was untouched!

Russell (left) and Patrick

And then, wisely perhaps, the signal to eat was given, the demos could wait! And we were off on the first of seven “courses”, the Gastro version of Gravadlax: Irish salmon cured the Scandinavian way (lemon, dill, beetroot) with a Blackwater Gin twist. Raw grated beetroot gave the fish an extra colour, Patrick told us during the later demo.

The platters were now moving up and down the tables, our plates filling. The Köttbullar, Swedish meatballs with Lingonberry Jam, were well appreciated. “These are iconic in Sweden, every family has its recipe”.

Gravadlax
Every now and then something extra, including plates of salads, was introduced to the table. Janssons Frestelse was perhaps the most tempting. It isn’t called Janssons Temptation for nothing, this creamy potato, onion and pickled sprats bake.

Walsh make a series of Blaas, including a mini and this was the vehicle for Skagenröra or Toast Skagen, the not so little breads topped with shrimp. Delicious.
Hot Dog, Nordic style, with onions two way (soft and crisp)

Walsh also make a terrific brioche and that was put to good use in the Pølser or Pylsur. These are favourites at the Danish Pølsevogn (food trucks) and the GastroGays take on Hot Dogs, Nordic style, was yet another winner. As were those eye catching Knekkebrød, open crispbread sandwiches.

By now, the generous offerings of the first phase had been dispatched and the plates and cutlery were cleared away. Coffee, supplied by Coffee House Lane, was being poured. Dawn Meats and local brewery Metalman (with a special limited edition Blaager) also contributed to the excellent event.   

Mini Blaa with shrimp

While all this was going on, Patrick and Russell were doing a few demos and explaining some of what we had already eaten.  They also showed us how they preserve red onions and courgettes (they prefer these to the usual cucumber) in brine. 

Russell
The whole lunch-time experience was quite an eye-opener into how ideas in food can cross from one culture to another, how we can learn from other countries to make the best of what we have, how we can preserve and cut down on wastage. And have a good time while doing so. Big thanks to Russell and Patrick for bringing and spreading the message and the techniques.


And they were ready for the grand finalé, the unique Semblaa! In Sweden, in the run up to Lent, they gorge themselves on Semla buns. And, now in an exclusive collaboration between Walsh’s and GastroGays, we had the sweetest finish, a Waterford take on the Swedish classic, the Semblaa, packed to the detached (and then reattached) top with almond cream, more cream, all over jam, all under a coating of sugar enthusiastically applied by Russell. Munchious!

And there was one for everyone in the audience. Actually two for everyone as we all got one on the way out. The Walsh’s are a generous family indeed and it was great to meet them and their lovely staff. And thanks a million to Avril, who looks after Sale and Marketing, for the invitation.

The Semblaa Sensation!

Note on the Blaa
Over the centuries, there has been something of a religious twist in the story of the Blaa with both the Huguenots and later Christian Brothers involved. It is still something of a religion in Waterford with between ten and twelve thousand Blaas eaten each day.

In 2013, the Waterford Blaa Bakers Association succeeded in getting PGI designation for the Waterford Blaa. PGI *** stands for Protected Geographical Indication, which essentially means that only Blaas made by specialist bakers in Waterford city and county can be called Blaas. This guarantees an authentic heritage product, based on the traditional methods and the unique skills of the bakers. Waterford Blaas are now supplied by traditional family bakers operating since the 1800’s. The same time honoured recipe has been handed down from generation to generation.

Red onion in brine