Showing posts with label Chocolate. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Chocolate. Show all posts

Tuesday, May 7, 2019

Hazel Mountain Chocolate Flourishes on a Bare Burren Hill

Hazel Mountain Chocolate Flourishes on a Bare Burren Hill 

On a sparsely populated Burren hill overlooking Galway Bay, you’ll find a tropical fruit being turned into one of Europe’s finest chocolates. Here in John Connolly’s grandparents place, he and wife Kasha (a trained chocolate maker) produce the chocolate and run a café and are guiding their customers towards a cashless future.

But first to the chocolate. It is bean to bar, a rare operation in Ireland. I know of three others: Alison Roberts  of Clonakilty, Shauna Wilkies of Midleton and Proper Chocolate in Dublin. Perhaps there are a few others?

The Connollys import their beans from Madagascar, Venezuela, Mexico and Costa Rica while the cacao for their milk chocolate comes from Cuba (single estate). Their milk (in powder form) is supplied by Dairygold in Mallow.

You can visit and do a tour here. But even the casual visitor can view most of the process via a large glass window. Just stroll around the shop and check the huge range. Dark chocolates, milk chocolates, cake mixes, chocolate spreads, Cacao powder, hot chocolate powder (single estate), a Burren truffle collection, seasonal collections, and so much more.

And you do get a few samples as you enter the shop. And then there’s the café. We called there, of course! And naturally, I ordered a mug of their Salted Honey Hot Chocolate(4.70). Absolutely gorgeous, nicely judged too, not too sweet, just perfect and a terrific match with my fruity tart of the day (5.90).
Carrot Cake

While paying for our purchases in the shop (lots of bars) and for our lunchtime snack, you hear about their drive towards cashless. And we were only too happy to go along with that, including the tip. Now if you have no card, then cash is acceptable and they do have a tip jar. You may well expect a cashless drive by a modern outlet in your local main street but hardly up a bare hill in the Burren. But the Connollys are creatives, leaders. We could do with many more of them around this country.

Oh, by the way, you could get locked in here (also in their shop in Galway). All voluntarily! And I'd say no shortage of volunteers either. They hold regular lock-in events (tours and sampling and a look behind the scenes) at Christmas and Easter.

County Clare

Galway shop
at 9 Middle Street
Galway City
You may also shop online
The factory is easily found: just follow the large chocolate coloured signs on the Kinvara to Ballyvaughan road (N67). Hazel Mountain is about halfway between the two.

Also in Clare recently:
Bunratty Castle & Folk Park
Hazel Mountain Chocolate
The Burren Brewery
A Tour of Clare
St Tola Goats Cheese visit
Burren Gold Cheese
Henry's Bistro & Wine Bar Ennis
Red Cliff Lodge Restaurant Spanish Point
Noel's Restaurant at Bunratty Manor
Oar Doolin
Naughton's Kilkee
Coast of Clare

Wednesday, February 20, 2019

Taste of the Week from The Proper Chocolate Co.

Taste of the Week
from The Proper Chocolate Co.
Glad I recently ordered the #IrishFood hamper to raise awareness & funds for #RearingtoGo @TeacTom via @gingerbreadmiss recently. There were some very tasty bits and pieces there including a Dark Chocolate with Toasted Coconut, now our Taste of the Week. I’ll undoubtedly have another TofW out of that hamper as well as the weeks go by.

The Proper Chocolate Company is a bean to bar producer based in Dublin and they get their beans in many countries and so have quite a variety of flavours. They also do drinking chocolate.

My bar is made from organic cocoa beans and is a delight. They sum it up pretty well themselves: “a delicate fragrance of coconut followed by a gentle dark chocolate marked with fruitiness”.  The coconut also adds a nice bit of texture and the whole effect is excellent. Quite a treat!

The Proper Chocolate Company H2G
136a Slaney Close, Dublin 11
Tel: 01 555 4490
Facebook: Properchocolate
Twitter: @proper_choc
Insta: proper chocolate

Saturday, August 4, 2018

Amuse Bouche

Dr Joseph Fry opened his chocolate company in the mid-1700s, marketing the powder for medicinal purposes, but it was his grandson, Joseph Storrs-Fry, who achieved the historic breakthrough. Combining Van Houten’s pressing machine with the Watt steam engine, he began mass-producing cocoa cakes and experimenting with the mix of butter and flavourings to produce something they could mould into shapes. By 1847, Fry had the balance..just right, and began selling..the world’s first chocolate bars.
from Dictatorland, The Men Who Stole Africa, by Paul Kenyon (2018). Very Highly Recommended.

Tuesday, May 10, 2016

Taste of the Week. Treat from The Chocolate Shop

Taste of the Week
Treat from The Chocolate Shop

The Chocolate Shop in Cork’s English Market is a treasure trove, packed with good things. And good people there too in Rose and Niall who’ll help you get exactly what you’re looking for.

I was on the lookout for a Taste of the Week. In truth, I could have had closed my eyes, put out a hand and anything I touched would have fitted the bill. But I asked them to fill a little box with some delicious pieces, some by Wilkies Chocolate from Midleton and the others by Skelligs Chocolate from County Kerry. I had my Taste of the Week, on the double!

They opened in 2000. They know their stuff - were very impressive at a recent Chocolate/Whiskey matching event in the River Lee Hotel.  They are independent of any single manufacturer or franchise and therefore free to source only the best quality chocolate from the best artisan chocolatiers throughout the world.

You’ll also find related items, such as Nougat. And they also sell Hadji Bey’s Turkish Delight, a long standing favourite in these parts. Check them out and find your your own taste of the week!

English Market
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Tuesday, March 15, 2016

The Bunny from Blarney Chocolate

The Bunny from Blarney Chocolate Pays A Visit
There was a ring at the door. The big white bunny from Blarney Chocolate was outside. And she was carrying a hamper of goodies from their new range. Needless to say, she got a big welcome!
This is her story:

A locally designed Easter range is bouncing into spring with hand crafted and moulded chocolate treats that are mind meltingly wonderful, courtesy of the professional chocolatiers at Blarney Chocolate Factory.  As always the Cork based chocolate company has the perfect chocolate treat for everyone including luxury eggs, a range of smaller eggs and chocolate figures, chocolate truffle boxes and the popular chocolate lollipops and bars. 
For those who are looking for delicious, fun and traditional nod to all things Easter then Blarney Chocolate Factory have a range of medium and large Eggs in Milk or Dark Chocolate which can be decorated and personalised, the only limits being your imagination! For something eggstra special then look no further than the stunning signature Easter product which features a beautiful milk chocolate character of a rabbit and duck in an Egg (€15.95).

A must for Easter egg hunts or perfect for sharing with friends Blarney Chocolate Factory have a number of options ideal for sharing including: six lovely milk chocolate eggs in a chocolate egg box (€12.95), 2 milk chocolate eggs with a bunny lollipop (€5.95), a milk chocolate chicken on a cracked open egg with small praline eggs in a yellow box (€12.95), milk chocolate chick sitting on a milk chocolate egg (€4.95) and last but not least the quirky ‘Croc’ egg in a box with chocolate buttons (€9.95)

The perfect choice for chocolate lovers with a more sophisticated palette are the un-egg-spected flavour range of artisan eggs which include; dark chocolate egg with mint sugar and mint fondant pralines (€12.95), a hazelnut praline egg (€12.95) and the super luxurious large truffle egg which features a half egg of milk or dark chocolate filled with a collection of our pralines, truffles and fondants (€22.95).

Blarney Chocolate Factory is proud of their gifted chocolatiers who lovingly hand crafted each and every piece of chocolate so that their skill and passion can be tasted in every joyful mouthful.
The full Blarney Chocolate Factory Easter range is available at their shop on the square in Blarney Village or online at 
That big white bunny!
About Blarney Chocolate Factory:
Blarney Chocolate Factory opened for business on the first of June 2014. Their charming shop is located in the beautiful square in the centre of Blarney Village and only 100 yards from the entrance to Blarney Castle.  In addition to amazing chocolate products they sell great Coffee, Hot Chocolate and fine Italian Gelato which is also made in Cork.

Thursday, October 29, 2015

Koko Chocolate Kinsale

Koko Chocolate Kinsale
Frank's Answer to Recession
So there you are, after the recession and wiped out. Not the time for a knee jerk reaction. Count to ten, maybe. Well Frank Keane’s count to ten took him eight months and his decision took him from shock to choc!

For twenty one years before the recession left him high (low, maybe) and dry, Frank had dealt in collectable ceramics in Kinsale, in the same premises where he now makes Koko chocolates. Things were good but, like many another, he got ambushed when the Tiger’s roar died, going backwards before the final “wipe-out”.

What would he do now? What could he do. He looked to the kitchen. Under his mother’s influence he had always loved the kitchen. But, at fifty, he didn't want to start at the bottom with someone half his age telling him what to do.
Giant chilli caramel
Chocolate was the answer that came to him. And so, four years ago, he took a short two day course with Benoit Lorge in Kenmare and has been learning ever since, and enjoying life, even if the commitment is huge - seven days a week.

Citing Mast Brothers of Brooklyn and London as an inspiration, he “learns new stuff every day”. It helps that “chocolate is a very forgiving substance. If something doesn't turn out well, you can melt it down and start again.”

Ireland is a good place to make chocolate but even here the weather can be a problem. “On a wet day, especially with high humidity, the excess moisture can be a problem. And on a hot summer’s day, it is impossible to work."

My favourite. Well, one of many!
 “Chocolate should be fun,” he says. “Put a smile on customers faces, adults as well as kids! I am often asked, Can you do this? I say I’ll give it a go and if it works it works”.

He had an unusual request over the recent Bank Holiday weekend. His premises were to be one of the calls on a James Bond theme arranged by a wife as part of her husband's 40th birthday celebrations. The party group were split into fours and at least one group was calling to Koko where they would find a chocolate grenade and hidden inside was 007’s favourite drink, the Martini (shaken, not stirred). I had an envious look.

Milk chocolate ganache
 Frank makes the chocolate upstairs. We were sampling as we spoke and one that really caught my attention was the Ginger-Honey-Seaweed combination, a marvellous concentration of flavours and a very long finish indeed. Superb and as Frank pointed out, all three ingredients are good for you!

His own favorite - it changes weekly! - is the Rum Truffle. “You can't go wrong with a Rum Truffle, particularly if you have enough rum!”
Halloween choc and awe!

Kirsch is another liquor that Frank uses. He uses Balkan Cherries, stones out, stalks on, and soaks them for ages in a big bucket of Kirsch. Then they are dipped in dark chocolate and are divine! He also uses the likes of crystallised orange and ginger.

Christmas, fast approaching, is a peak time for Koko. And, as Frank relies on local customers (he doesn't do wholesale), he is always hoping for reasonable weather in the two weeks before the holiday, so that people can comfortably use the roads and get to Kinsale.

 And everything here is fresh. “Everything you see here was started in the last two days. You get fresh stock, nothing is old here, it just turns over.” Quite a commitment but he gets great satisfaction from his work and loves having his own business.

By the way, he is right in the heart of the town, opposite the main car park alongside the tourist office. So do call in and take a look and while you are there you may also have a cup of coffee, maybe a hot chocolate? And, buying or looking, you are assured of a hearty welcome from Frank.

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

All About Farmers at Ballymaloe, Port. Cheese, Chocolate.

All About Farmers at Ballymaloe

Port. Cheese, Chocolate.
It was all about farmers at Ballymaloe last Thursday evening, appropriately enough in the week that the East Cork food destination celebrated the 90th birthday of Myrtle Allen.  Myrtle turned her front room into a restaurant fifty years ago and the rest is food history, still evolving. And Ballymaloe is still a farm, of course.

Thursday was also about Port, cheese and chocolate. The only real farmer on stage was Dan Hegarty whose family in Whitechurch make the well known and well loved cheddar. Chris Forbes from Taylor’s Port told us of the many small holders on the steep slopes of the Douro while Shana Wilkie of Wilkie’s Chocolate, Ireland's only bean to bar chocolate maker, told us of the small Peruvian farms from where she gets her beans.

It is mountainy in the Douro and very hot. There are some 35,000 tiny holdings, according to Chris, but Taylor’s buy grapes from less than 100. Taylor’s also grow their own - their Quinta de Vargellas is one of the best known in the world - and the port is made from a variety of indigenous grapes.

Port is a fortified wine. Fermentation is stopped after 2 or 3 days by adding 77% proof alcohol. That arrests the fermentation and maintains the high sugar level. Some hard work before all that though. The pickers start early, stop for lunch and wine, start again and stop in early evening for more food and more wine.
But they are not finished. They then start the traditional foot-treading in the lagar, two hours of tough going, squeezing out the juice and the colour. All Taylor’s vintage ports are made using traditional methods, including foot-threading.

We started the tasting with a 2008 LBV (Late Bottled Vintage). LBV was created in the 1970’s by Taylor’s, all the grapes coming from the one year and it spends 4 to 6 years in large wooden vats. Taylor’s are the world leaders in this style and, as we saw, it goes very well indeed with both cheese and chocolate (the Amazonas). By the way, if you open a bottle, Chris advised to finish within 3 to 4 weeks, as it loses its freshness after that.

Dan Hegarty was  very impressed with the Port and said he was thinking of giving up his favourite lager. Indeed, there is no shortage of good humour as Dan took us through the family’s relatively short history of making cheddar.
Shana and her relationship with the farmers
They started in 2000, using the traditional methods, and sell their products at different ages. They “went mad” early on, going flat out with production but now they are more restrained and there are only marginal increases from year to year. It is a two year cycle and they milk about 100 cows. On Thursday, we tasted three ages: 6 months, 12 months and 18. The older was the more popular though, according to Dan, his bank manager would prefer if the youngest was in top position!

Fonseca Quinta do Panascal Vintage Port 1998, the produce of just one vineyard, was next up, “an affordable way to drink vintage Port.” It is now 14 years in bottle with opulence, spiciness and red currant flavours. It proved an excellent match with Wilkie’s Amazonas with Cocoa Nibs and also with the 6 month old cheddar. And a word of advice from Chris: “On opening, decant, and drink that evening!”

Shana too had a few tips for recognising good chocolate. “Shiny chocolate is normally good, dull is not so good. A sharp snap is also a good sign.” Shana is originally a graphic designer “by trade" but always had a great interest in food.

She went on to tell how she got into chocolate making and got familiar with the different beans and flavours and was drawn to the Criollo flavour bean. She now works with a few families in Peru. At home, and home now is Midleton as she has returned to the East Cork, she is always experimenting, always getting better and indeed she already has some impressive awards to her name. 
Her Tumbes chocolate was an excellent match with the 10 Year Old Tawny. This port has spent ten years in small wooden casks, no new wood used. It is lighter in colour with mellow notes and little spice. Chris described it as a “liquid fruit cake”. Went well with the chocolate and also the 18 month cheddar. Great too with pates and terrines, according to Chris. “The style is fresh and clean and it is easy drinking.”

Chris surprised some by suggesting that these Tawines (we finished with the exquisite 20 Year Old, even lighter in colour and with a toastier aroma) be served slightly chilled and also suggested serving them in summer as well as the more traditional winter usage.

The three gathered on stage for a deserved round of applause and there was thanks too for Peter Corr of Febvre who assisted throughout the evening and for Ballymaloe’s Colm McCann and his team.
Left to right: Chris Forbes, Peter Corr, Shana Wilkie, Dan Hegarty and Yours Truly.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Chocolate Week

Newest chocolate recipes

Raspberry choc brownies from grubdaily 
It’s Chocolate Week, no better time to try our newest choccy recipes from home cooks like you. grubdaily says his Choc raspberry brownies are ‘truly indulgent’, so what are you waiting for? Find more new recipes to the right, and our entire Chocolate collection for more inspiration!

What’s your best chocolate recipe?

Wednesday, September 14, 2011



I met Kerry chocalatier Benoit Lorge for the first time at last Saturday’s Midleton Food Festival. You just couldn’t pass the range of tempting creations at his stall. And, when you study his brochure, you realise that this is only a fraction of his portfolio of chocolate goodies.

You can buy singles or boxes (with anything from two to 54 pieces). You can fill a mixed bag, like I did, 10 for €6.00. He also does chocolate bars including an award winning Praline and also Nougat (nice stuff too – I got some in Manning’s Ballylickey two months ago). His truffles - buy by the bag – are multi-awards winners, gold going to the Rum Bitter, the soft Rum and Caramel and also to the Orange and Cointreau.

I had whiskey and rum included in my selection and you may also get Baileys and other liqueurs.  But you may also avoid the

Wednesday, June 29, 2011


In a rural setting, between Kenmare and Glengarriff, in a Kerry village called Bonane, a French chef called Benoit Lorge makes exquisite chocolates that end up in all corners of the world.
This success story started back in 1995 and goes on and on. They ship worldwide via their website  while local stockists here in Cork are Nash 19 (Princes Street) and the Sugar Cafe (Washington Street).

Monday, December 13, 2010



Must admit I don't always have the green flag wrapped around me when I’m shopping, even for food. But If the Irish product has the quality and is price competitive, then I’ll