Showing posts with label Dingle. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Dingle. Show all posts

Monday, October 6, 2014

The Dingle Distillery Tour. Well worth ten of your euros!

The Dingle Distillery Tour
Well worth ten of your euros!

Welcome to the Dingle Distillery
 When you arrive at the Dingle Distillery, just west of the town, you’ll want to look inside. But your guide Joe tells you to look outside. “Look through the gates there,’” he says, then directs your gaze further out to the mouth of the harbour. It is, even on a dull day, a pretty picture and one that appears on the Dingle bottles.

It doesn't appear yet on their whiskey bottles, the reason being that their irish whiskey is not yet on sale. By law, Irish whiskey (spelt with an e) must mature for three years and one day. That period will be up for Dingle at the end of next year but it could be well into 2016 before Dingle Whiskey appears on the shelves, joining the gin and vodka which are now available and bringing badly needed revenue into the fledgling operation.

Joe took us, a small international group, though the history of the liquid. His story says it was “invented”, though more likely a happy accident, around the time of Christ. The Irish may well have been the first in the Northern Hemisphere to distil it though the first written reference to it here does not appear until 1405.

It is often claimed, and Joe endorsed it, that the word whiskey comes from the Irish word for water which is uisce. Uisce beatha is the Irish name for whiskey and this translates as water of life and has many equivalents (eg aqua vitae) in European languages.

Joe reckons the Norman invaders couldn't quite pronounce uisce (maybe they were drinking too much!) and changed it to whiskey. No shortage of humour when Joe’s your guide. He recalled an old Irish saying: “When you’re well, whiskey makes you sick; when you’re sick, whiskey makes you well.” Whiskey making though is no joke. “If things go wrong, you could end up with porridge.”

He took us through the technical details of the process as we walked around, telling us that towards the end, the alcohol count is in the high 70s, early 80s. The strength is reduced by adding water before bottling.

The process here follows the usual Irish practice.”Triple distillation gives a very smooth whiskey, much smoother than the Scotch which is double distilled.”

Spirit stills
 Dingle buy in Ethanol to make their gin and vodka (not Joe’s favourite drink: “does nothing for me”). This is already distilled four times. Dingle distil it one more time and, in the case of the gin, add in their own botanicals (which he didn't disclose!).

Gin, he told us, is a Dutch (not a British) invention and that is why we get the term Dutch courage for alcohol induced bravery. This was just one of a few explanations. He also had one for the term Blind Drunk, no laughing matter. Drinking methanol, one type of alcohol, will literally turn you blind.

Our tasting was of the Gin and Vodka (both in attractive distinctive bottles) and we got a few tips but generally the talk was of whiskey. Joe emphasized the importance of the casks but cautioned that to get good stuff out, you had to put good stuff in.

The cask of choice currently is one that had been previously used for Bourbon, Sherry or Port. We were able to taste some of the immature whiskey, including some at 20 months, and could get the flavour of whatever had been in the cask previously.

Quite a few people have invested in the distillery through buying a cask of the whiskey for the future and these casks are named and stored here. In addition, there is an internal wall where the names of the founding fathers are displayed.

It looks like they have made a wise investment. Joe says that there is a renaissance of interest in whiskey worldwide. Quoting from the New York Times, he said the foxy lady (a name sometimes used for the liquid) is appreciating in value at a higher rate than gold!

And that was it, tour over. On the way down, ex cop Joe said: “Drop into the office and I’ll take ten of your euros off you.” Well worth it Joe. Thanks for the entertaining and informative tour.

I was in Dingle for the Blas na hEireann Awards and the Food Festival. Read all about it here. The Taste Trail was another highlight of the weekend.

My Dingle Food Experience

My Dingle Food Experience
Festival and Blas na hEireann Awards

Local starter, all local here, at An Canteen:
 chorizo croquetta and ham hock terrine (supplier Jerry Kennedy)

Trucks, tractors, trains, even tourists, may have delayed our arrival in Dingle last Thursday but nothing was keeping us away from the Blas na hEireann Awards or the fantastic Dingle Food Festival.

Artie Clifford and his hard-working Blas committee had all the products - there are well over two thousand in some ninety categories - lined up for the tables of judges in the Skellig Hotel. The food and drink products would be fully tested and so to would the palates of the judges as there were two sessions lasting a combined total of around five hours.

You have no idea of who makes what. It is not a blind tasting as such (no blindfolds!) but the unpackaged products in front of you are “anonymous” for want of a better word. There are up to five on the shortlist for each category and each judge tastes quite a few groups over the morning and afternoon.  My standout category? I thought the standard in blue cheese (winners: Cashel Blue) was top class, with three of the five outstanding. See the full list of winners here.
Not all food. This piece, from recycled tyres,
 created by Mick Davis, is called Ram's Head.

With the judging completed - we still wouldn't know the winners until Saturday afternoon - it was time to check in at our accommodation. The next event was the press opening of the Dingle Food Festival at the Tom Crean Brewery. More food here but, after all the little bites during the day, I opted for a couple pints of the cool and fresh Tom Crean lager.

Lovely chats then with fellow judges and bloggers and all fell silent as Neven Maguire, presented earlier with a special award by Blas, cut the ribbon and opened the festival. Next port of call was the bar in Benners. Tom  Crean available there too of course and a whole selection of Irish craft beers included on the drinks menu.

Neven Maguire at the opening of the
Dingle Cookery School.
Very impressed with that development (Benner’s also have Dingle vodka and gin from the local distillery). Next stop was An Canteen, another huge supporter of craft beers. Here hosts Brian and Niall greeted us and served up a fantastic meal, made with pride and passion and no little skill, from local produce. Even Neven was highly impressed.

Time then, for me at least, to stroll down the lane and head back to the bed. Friday would be another busy and very enjoyable day.

Blas winners on the double:
East Cork's Sandra and Joe Burns.
The rain came down for a while on Friday morning but that didn't stop the punters from turning up in the farmers market to see Neven Maguire signing his new book Fast. He was in great form, chatting and smiling and standing in for photos as the fans queued up to buy the book.

Thanks to Lisa McGee (@Dingle Spirit on Twitter), we had heard that there was a two o’clock tour at the Dingle Distillery so we strolled out to the west of the town and joined an international group for a very interesting 75 minutes or so. See separate post here on this tour.
Fun times at Tom Crean's
On the way back, we called into the Dingle Cookery School opening. Here again, Neven was doing the honours and, as usual, joining in the fun. It is a tremendous facility. Lots of courses are now available, some short, some long. Check out all the details here. Hope to do a separate story on this also.

And still more to do. Next Blas event was the announcement of the winners in the awards given by the local enterprise offices. Cork, Donegal, Galway, Kerry, Limerick, Louth, Mayo, Meath, Tipperary and Waterford were among those represented at Benner’s. Delighted to see Beara Seafoods and Joe’s Farm, two small family producers that I've met this year, among the winners.

Dessert at Idás
Friday night found a group of us in Idás, an excellent restaurant more on John Street. Lots of conversation and good food, good wine too, as an enjoyable evening unfolded. Great to meet chef and owner Kevin Murphy who had laid on a special tasting menu for us. Check Idás out if you’re in the town or the area - worth a detour!

The rain, aside from a few showers, held off on Saturday and just as well. First stop was the Blas Producers Networking Event. Buyers were here in their dozens and it was great chance for the producers to show and talk about their produce. Lovely to meet up again with Olivia  from An Olivia Chocolates, a winner last year (and gold again this year), with Sam from Cloudberry Bakery (also a gold this year - see her tasty produce in Brown Thomas in Cork) and with so many more.

On the Taste Trail at Out of the Blue.
Their shark bite (front) was a big hit!

And then it was off to the market which covers most of the central streets of the town. This includes the regular farmers market but it is so much more. Producers who have won in the previous year’s awards had the opportunity to have a stand and so the selection of foods and drinks is huge. The Foods of Athenry, Hartnett’s Oils, Wild Irish Foragers and Blurini Blasta were among the many stops we made.

Soon though we were down to business, on the Taste Trail. With over 80 participants, this must be the biggest and best of its kind in the country (if not, let me know!). Everything, from shark to kangaroo, from ling pie to Dingle Fudge, from wine to craft beers and ciders, available. Purchase with your book of tokens or with cash. Separate post here.

Saturday's special menu at Out of the Blue (OOTB)
All the while the awards were being presented in the cinema and again it was a delight to see many hard working producers that I know get their just rewards.

Just as well our booking for Saturday's dinner was on the late side. It was 9.15 when we arrived at Out of the Blue, the fish specialist restaurant on the waterfront in Dingle. The French chefs had a special multi-course menu for the night, even a special wine menu. It was a terrific meal in a small place with a great atmosphere and a great staff. Highly recommended. Post to follow.

Stamina had run out by the time Sunday morning dawned. There was still much to do, including the Taste Trail and market again, but home called and we headed east with lots of lovely memories and a promise to ourselves to call again.

Slán go fóill.

Monday, October 7, 2013

Dingle Days. Best of Food and Fun

Dingle Days. Best of Food and Fun
Blas na hEireann and Food Festival

Dingle Harbour
Just back after a marvellous few days in Dingle. A wee bit of work and lots of fun as the Blas na hEireann Awards were held there along with an extensive Food Festival. Besides, the sun shone, temperatures were up and the peninsula was at its very lovely best.

We left Cork Thursday morning and met the rain as it cleared from the West and the sun was shining on Dingle as we arrived, tourists sitting out around the Fungi statue and music playing, better than many a July day.
But I had to leave the sunshine to attend to my duties as a judge at the 6th annual Blas na h-Eireann Awards in the Skelligs Hotel. What a huge operation, expanding all the time. Products entered were away up again this year and the number of judges was increased from 48 to 72. 
It is all very well organised and you got to meet many other people involved and interested in Irish food and drink as the samples were delivered to the various tables. It did take a bit longer than expected and many bites and drops later, we reached the end of the session at about 6.00 (instead of the expected 4.00pm!).
Slea Head
Enjoyed a lovely walk in the sun then up to the very well equipped and very friendly Benner’s Hotel, very conveniently situated to many of the Blas and Festival Events. One of those events was a group dinner for the travelling judges and that was on at An Canteen where hosts Brian and Niall played a blinder.

An Canteen would host the craft beer and cider events of the Festival on Saturday and Sunday. No better place, as they only serve Irish craft beers and ciders.
Blasket Heritage Centre
Friday was the most leisurely day of the trip. So we headed off west through a mid morning shower with the sun coming out strongly as we approached the beautiful Slea Head and some of the resident gulls, lining the roadside wall and looking for food! The Head and general area was looking brilliant with the surfers were enjoying the sea.

That evening, we had another highlight when we had dinner at Jim McCarthy’s Chart House in the town. This was absolutely fantastic from start to finish and is the subject of a separate post.

Back then to the bar in Benners and isn't it great to walk into an Irish bar and see Irish drinks displayed prominently in front of you: Gin and Vodka from Dingle, beers from the West Kerry Brewery, Stonewell Cider from Cork and the local Tom Crean lager, my choice for the night.
Cider competitors
Just by chance, we met local artist Liam O'Neill and restaurateur Derry Clarke at the bar. They were “plotting” their contribution to the weekend’s Taste Trail (part of the Festival) and invited us to call down to Liam’s studio on the Saturday. And that Mutton Pie from Derry was a delight, even if we had to join a very long queue to get our hands on a couple. Long lines too at the Chart House (Jim had invited us back) and at Murphy’s Ice-Cream shop and, indeed at other places.
Didn't have too much time to spare between two Blas sessions on the Saturday but did get to tour the many markets stalls and a highlight here was a cup of real unpasteurised milk from Maja at the Little Cheese Shop stall outside her shop, the flavour of a country childhood. Later, got a bap packed with Kerry Lamb from Olivier, busy at his On the Wild Side stall, also in the market.
In the afternoon made a brief visit to An Canteen, packed with punters, in the bar, in a covered barbeque area outside and also on a raised patio, sitting short sleeved in the sun and sipping craft delights such as Stonewell Cider and Howling Gale Ale from 8 Degrees (didn't have time for anymore) and listening to some vinyl.

The morning session of Blas involved meeting the producers in the marquee set up next to the Phoenix Cinema where the awards would be presented in the afternoon session. Had tasted quite a few foods on Thursday and recognized many of them in their “proper” packaging on Saturday.
A Taste of Dingle Bay Crab at The Boatyard
Quite a lot of suspense at the afternoon session, a lengthy one. And I felt sorry for the couple next to me who had to wait until the second last category to find out if they had been successful. They didn't get a medal but, as Artie Clifford, the brains behind Blas, said: “all finalists are winners”.

It was about seven before I got back to the hotel. Soon we were heading off down the town to sample the local fish at the Boatyard. They were, like almost every other restaurant that we passed, quite busy, and I enjoyed one of their specialties: A Taste of Dingle Bay Crab (local crab claws in garlic butter, crab and prawn quiche, crab cake in tomato remoulade and creamy chowder). Yes, all that, plus a small salad and a slice of their own brown bread on the one big plate. Went down well with a pint of Tom Crean’s.

Top Awards:
Supreme Champion sponsored by @Bordbia is the wonderful Olivia from An Olivia Chocolate.
Best Artisan sponsored by The Taste Council  @SkeaghanoreDuck West Cork Duck
Best Export Opportunity sponsored by Enterprise Ireland was awarded to   @HeavenlyTasty (organic baby food by James and Shauna Blair).
Full list here

Chart House is Tops

Chart House is Tops
The Chart House in Dingle was the destination on Friday night. It had been a fabulous day in the beautiful peninsula and the meal here rounded it off superbly. We have eaten in some really excellent restaurants this year, from Donegal to Limerick, from Cork to the Loire, and I’m happy to say that The Chart House is one of the very best.

It is a lovely small restaurant where you get a terrific welcome from Jim McCarthy and his friendly knowledgeable staff. Some walls have exposed stone and some are hung with quality artwork, including at least one large scale piece by local artist Liam O’Neill.

Much of the produce used is sourced locally and you can see that marked on the menu. And if it is not from Dingle or its environs, it won't have travelled too far. There is something refreshingly light about the meals here; you leave the table feeling pleasantly full but not stuffed and you’ll have enjoyed some really flavoursome dishes.
My meal started with the Ham Hock Spring Roll with sun-dried tomato and poppy seed orzo, remoulade mayonnaise. Had been doing a lot of tasting on the previous day for Blas na hEireann but this alluring plateful fully revived the taste buds.

CL was also delighted with her Chart House Salad of maple dressed leaves layered with air dried ham, cantaloupe melon, toasted hazelnuts, spring onion, cherry tomatoes and grated parmesan. A delectable combination of textures and flavours.

I’m a big fan of Spanish white wines and, was delighted to see a blend of Verdejo and Viura on the list. The Rueda Esparanza was crisp and refreshing, with delicate floral aromas, and really fruity. Absolutely delicious!
Back to the eating now and the main course. The Pan-seared Hake was CL’s choice and that was served with a chorizo and chickpea stew, asparagus and rosemary butter. Another engaging combination of textures and flavours.

I went for the Tenderloin of Pork with sautéed summer cabbage, dauphinoise potato, apple purée and thyme juice. The pork was delicious and tender. Jim told me it had come from a new supplier in Kilgarvan and he was delighted with this find. So was I!
I have become a little wary of desserts recently, mainly because you get much the same offerings in most restaurants. But not here. Mine was Poached Pear with warm gingerbread, vanilla ice-cream and butterscotch sauce. CL picked the Warm Rhubarb Crumble with Blackberry Ice-cream and a little jug of sauce Anglaise. They make their own ice-cream and are rightly proud of it.

We certainly enjoyed the desserts and the meal overall and so took note when Jim told us to be sure and call on the following day as he had some good things for the Dingle Food Festival Taste Trail. We sure did and he sure had. And the word had gone around the town as the queue was long but a taste of that Blackberry ice-cream while we waited was a lovely wee bonus.

Well worth a visit and very highly recommended. For post on the Dingle Food Fest and the Blas Awards, please click here.

Monday, November 12, 2012

Blúiríní Blasta agus Tigh Bhric

Blúiríní Blasta agus Tigh Bhric. Eating and drinking on the Dingle peninsula. Check it out at my other site

Tuesday, October 4, 2011



Barber Daly a Cork tea blending company has been awarded the prestigious title of Supreme Champion at the Blas na hÉireann National Irish Food and Drink Awards.

This, the fourth year of the awards has proved an outstanding success.

There were 1,300 entries, which was twice as many as last year.

Barber Daly was set up in 1975 in Cork City by Brendan Daly and Bob Barber. In 1994 the company moved to a purpose built factory in Forge Hill in Cork.

Their winning award is for their Reserve Fairtrade tea they sell to SuperValu.

Well known food hero Peter Ward announced the awards in Benners Hotel in Dingle on Saturday evening. Gold, silver and bronze awards were presented to winners in 30 categories.

Bursaries up to the value of €20,000 were presented to the top winners.

The Business Diversification Award, sponsored by AIB, went to The Limerick Strand Hotel for ‘The Secret Ingredient Range of Products’.

Susan Steel Development and Innovations Officer with BIM presented the Seafood Innovation Award to Cork company Keohanes for their Microwaveable Salmon with Butter.

“This is a great evening to celebrate food and Irishness. An event like this shows how we are changing the way we look at fish.

“Over 86 per cent of the fish caught in Irish waters leaves this country in lorries with no added value to it. That needs to be changed,” she pointed out.

The Cloudberry Bakery in Keel Castlemaine Kerry won the Best New Emerging Food Producer from Kerry. The award was presented by Thomas Hayes on behalf of Kerry Enterprise.

“Food is vital to Kerry and an event such as this is the jewel in the crown. But there is need for changes to be made in regulation. There is need to ease regulation in such a way that it is not so difficult for people entering the market,” Mr Hayes said.

O’Connors Bakery from Ennis in Co Clare won the New Best Product Award sponsored by Enterprise Ireland. They won the award for their Christmas mince meat. Gareth Dee from Enterprise Ireland pointed out that Ireland’s food industry is exporting €10 billion worth of produce this year.

The Rogha na Gaeltachta award, sponsored by Udarás, was presented by local man Seamus Cosai MacGearailt to Kerry’s Blurini Blasta Beo based in Lispole.

And the Best Artisan Producer Award was won by Cork company, Una’s Pies, which was sponsored by Bord Bia

Arte Clifford, Chairman of Blás na hÉireann Irish Food Awards said, “Every quality food producer is a winner. The event is going from strength to strength every year and this year has proved a phenomenal success. To see joint gold prizes being shared between large and small companies is a real proof of how the smallest of producers can flourish in the food business”.

 All of the category winners will be on the website - - very shortly and here is a link to the picture gallery.