Showing posts with label Dunnes Stores. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Dunnes Stores. Show all posts

Tuesday, November 20, 2018

James Whelan opens 8th Butcher’s Shop. Son Pat keeps his feet on the ground.


James Whelan opens 8th Butcher’s Shop
Son Pat keeps his feet on the ground.
Display at new Whelan's shop in Dunnes Stores, Bishopstown Court.

I met Pat Whelan at the original James Whelan shop in Clonmel in November 2011. He took time out to have chat about that shop and also a new one in Avoca in Monkstown (Dublin) to which he was applying the finishing touches. Now he has eight in total. Progress has been amazing. 

I met Pat again at Dunnes Stores Bishopstown Court last Friday. He was there to play a role in the weekend celebration of the extensive renovations of the popular supermarket, a weekend to highlight the newcomers to the store including Whelan’s, Sheridan’s Cheese, ABC Bread, O’Connell Fishmongers, Baxter and Greens and Café Sol. 
Part of the new food hall

Again, the Tipperary man took time out for a chat. I reminded him about our first meeting and how he enjoyed going out to the marts and farms to meet the producers. Has the expansion put a stop to that? 

I was glad to get the answer that it hadn’t, an answer that I had more or less expected from a man who stays in touch with the grassroots, staying connected to the source. He goes out weekly and told me that only the Tuesday before he had bought about 40 cattle in the Fermoy Mart but what I hadn’t expected was that his 80 year father, after whom the shops are named, was on the road with him. Respect to both!
Dunnes Kiwi chef Matthew Brownie was promising the Irish an All Black grilling ahead of the big game.
He was just joking, of course!

But some things have of course changed and not just over the last seven years. Pat was (still is) a regular visitor to the English Market in the good old days. Then he felt it “was alive” when he walked through. It certainly was in your face. The food scene began to change back in 60s and 70s. It became “sanitised”, the connection with its source fragmenting, we agreed, me thinking of sliced pan and supermarkets as being among the agents of change.
O'Connell fishmongers

People like Pat, and luckily there are quite a few of them, kept the flame alive. “Good food is an investment in your future,” he says. “Great to see the youngsters coming into it, great to see them make the connection and great to see it done right. We owe it to ourselves and to the planet to really reconnect with nature.”

“Training is important,” he emphasised in answer to my query about Whelan’s Butcher Academy. Indeed, the good work of the academy has been recognised by a counterpart in South West France. “They want to do an Erasmus exchange with us where our trainees can swap experience with their French counterparts. It’s great for us to be recognised like that and great too for the apprentices.”
Whelan's Himalayan salt aged beef, before and after (so tender!)

The eight Whelan butcher shops are in Clonmel, Dunnes Stores Cornelscourt, The Swan Centre Rathmines, Dunnes Stores Blanchardstown Centre, Pavilions Shopping Centre, Swords, Avoca in Rathcoole and Kilmacanogue as well as Dunnes Stores Bishopstown Court. Pat is very happy about the link-up (now 30 months old) with Dunnes seeing them as a family company that “is all about the customer, the Better Value is not just a slogan, and they are very warmly regarded in Cork".

And it looks as if the Whelan shop is warmly regarded as well. “We’ve had a great welcome from our fellow debutants, Pat O’Connell’s and Sheila of ABC”. Whelan will have in-house competition from Dunne’s own butchers. He knows that his produce is top class and may cost a little more. A customer may like a treat at the weekend and something good but less pricey on a Monday. “Retail is all about choice,” he says and is quite happy with that.

Earlier Donnacha, the manager of Whelan's Bishopstown shop, showed me some of that choice. The Tralee native has worked for two and half years for Pat in Dublin and jumped at that chance to get back nearer home. “We started off four weeks ago and it took off straightaway, so far so good. Now we’re setting up for Christmas.”
And where there's Dunnes, there's Simply Better

The shop has a beautiful lay-out and lighting. It is well manned with expert help at hand as you choose between the different meats and the different cuts. 

A lot of the weekend focus was on “the big reveal”, the collaboration between Pat Whelan and Peter Hannan which has resulted in the amazing Himalayan Salt Aged Beef, now on sale exclusively in Whelan’s eight shops and at their online shop.

Hannan has constructed a Salt Chamber made of rock salt bricks from the Himalayas and here the beef spends over 35 days and the final result is exceptional quality with a truly unique flavour.  More details here.  

“We got a great welcome to Cork,” said Kevin Sheridan of Sheridan's as we chatted in front of their very impressive stall. And I use the word stall deliberately as it does resemble a market display. A big stall, mind you. Space to display the many cheeses - lots of Cork produce there too - and all the little bits and pieces (crackers, relishes for example) that go with them.
Yours truly with
Kevin Sheridan.

‘We have more Cork cheese here - in Galway we would have more from Galway - and find the customers very enthusiastic. Great to be in Dunnes too, as they are part of the Cork heritage.”

“We started as a small cheese stand, and this weekend, we are celebrating the opening of the Cork Bishopstown Court location with many local producers that we are proud to call our friends. We feel so lucky to work with many quality Irish producers and are thrilled to share their amazing work all under one roof in Dunnes.”

Like Pat, Kevin emphasised the importance of training. Sheridan’s have brought some of their more experienced people from their other shops to Cork for the time being, passing on that experience, all for the benefit of the customer.

Didn’t see Pat O’Connell himself but got lots of fish there, some frozen, some fresh, and some smoked (including Goatsbridge trout produced by my friend Mag Kirwan in Kilkenny). Must go back and try that red mullet! 

Also met some regulars on the food scene: Padraig O’Farrell was showing his Carrigaline cheeses at Sheridan’s and Aoife was doing a Kinsale Bay tasting nearby while Dunne’s Kiwi chef Matthew was threatening to grill the Irish at the rugby! Could have spent the day there but time caught up with me.

  • You may see a YouTube clip of Peter Hannan’s salt chamber here.
  • And see Hannan cook those amazing steaks here. 


Monday, November 12, 2018

Taste of the Week. James Whelan Rack of Roasting Bacon


Taste of the Week 
James Whelan Rack of Roasting Bacon
Three Star Bacon and Cabbage
(with orange, mustard and redcurrant sauce)

With the now well-established move to a more modern Irish cuisine, a few people were led to forget the past or at least to look down on it, and that meant putting the traditional bacon and cabbage well down the ranking as if it were something to boot out of the Irish kitchen.

Thankfully many, including a few leading chefs, knew that the past had many lessons for the future. Bacon and cabbage devotees meanwhile stuck with their favourite and are now reaping the rewards. Take the James Whelan Rack of Roasting Bacon for example.

Here's what the Great Taste judges had to say as they gave it a coveted 3 Star Award: "An impressive looking piece of bacon, with a good layer of fat, well caramelised. There is a good amount of juice when cut into, and it cut quite easily. The meat was succulent and soft, and there was a great piggy flavour and subtle smokiness. The flavours of the meat were superb and very well balanced through the curing. Clearly a quality piece of pork, and well looked after”

This Taste of the Week is all that and more. We tried it out recently. I’m a long time bacon and cabbage devotee and I have to say that this is the best bacon dish ever. Big thanks to three: James Whelan of course, Bord Bia for the fantastic recipe  (including that amazing orange, mustard and redcurrant sauce) and finally to the official Blog Chef herself.

A superb treat that could well make the turkey redundant this Christmas!

Thursday, June 1, 2017

These Ladies Like to be Out and About. Bluebell Falls Goats Cheese

These Ladies Like to be Out and About

Bluebell Falls Goats Cheese

“Our goats are outside all the time. They have the use of the shed but seem to prefer the outdoors, even when it’s wet,” said Victor O’Sullivan to me when I visited his Bluebell Falls goats, all four hundred of them, last week. “It makes a definite difference to the cheese.”

Victor and his cheesemaker wife Breda have a mix of three breeds on the farm, just outside Newtownshandrum in North Cork “Why the mix?”, I asked. “They each have different characteristics and, with the three, we get a more balanced type of milk.” 
Milking lessons!
Two of the breeds here are originally Swiss. The Saanen goats are a white or cream-coloured goat breed, named for the Saanen valley in Switzerland. The Toggenburg goat, is a breed of milk goat, named after the region in Switzerland where the breed originated, the Toggenburg valley in the Canton of St. Gallen. The British Alpine is a high-producer of quality goats' milk, and the breed can be found in many goat dairies.

They’ve had goats here since the middle of the last decade and the herd was up to the 400 mark by 2007, the milk being sold on to dairies. They took the big step in 2013 when they bought out Bluebell Falls (then in County Clare). Breda and Victor did cheesemaking courses under Eddie O'Neill at Moorepark (near Fermoy) and, very importantly, Paul Keane of the original Bluebell gave them a solid grounding in the business over a three month period. 
By 2014, they were retailing their own cheese. And, continuing “the same system as Bluebell”, have expanded each year since and are proud of their BRC accreditation, the global standard for food safety.

Their long oval packages have becoming well known to cheese lovers at markets, festivals and in the aisles of supermarket such as Dunnes and Tesco. Varieties such as the Original, the Honey and Garlic, the Cranberry, the Pepper, Mixed herbs and Garlic, and the Caramelised Onion and Caraway seeds, will be familiar to many of you.

I met Victor at the recent Mallow Garden festival and he showed me the original and the cranberry in a newer different “tub” packaging. As tasty as ever but looking well. 

And right along them were the new products, not made from goats milk but from cows. Not any cows either. He uses gorgeous creamy milk from a herd of pedigree Jersey cows on a farm in nearby Dromcollogher. And the two new products, the Jersey Cream Cheese Original and the Jersey Cream Pesto  are absolutely superb, well worth seeking out.
After that chat, it was time to get out and do a bit of farm work. Victor took us through the long grass where a big group from the herd were grazing and soon, with the promise of food, we were surrounded.

“How about giving a hand with the milking?” was the surprise question. Both of us put the hand up. Soon, he had a hold of one of the goats and CL was taking instructions, trying to concentrate and avoid the odd stray leg flying out. A second goat was more steady and the milk flowed, well flow may not be an exact description but she was getting the hang of it as I did later.
One of the young ones
Luckily, Victor doesn't have to rely on city visitors to do the milking of the large herd. He has a mechanical set-up that milks them twice daily. Then of course the cheese making starts. 

And when it is made, you must sell it. And that too takes time. Last weekend, Victor was at both the Mallow Festival and at The Sheridan's Irish Food Festival in Co. Meath. This week, it is five days at Bloom in Dublin, not counting the coming and the going. Tough going really but he gets great satisfaction from making a top class product and getting it out to the public. He is rightly proud of Bluebell Falls cheese and we consumers are lucky to have him on our Irish doorstep. Bluebell Falls is another reason why I'm happy to buy local!
Victor at the Mallow Show
The multi-award winning soft cheese is supplied to top end  hotels, restaurants and food service. It is distributed by, among others, Pallas Foods, La Rousse Foods, and Plassey Foods. Also available in all major retailers and good health stores.

Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Laurent Miquel. Blending Tradition And Innovation

Laurent Miquel
Blending Tradition And Innovation
Lagrasse
Near the ancient village of Lagrasse, 30 kilometres south east of Carcassonne and south of the A61 (Autoroute de Deux Mers), you will find Les Auzines, a vineyard owned by Laurent Miquel and his Irish wife Neasa.   Les Auzines, in the Corbieres appellation and organically farmed since the 1990s, is the place where Laurent’s family “will share its passion of the vines to future generations”.

The hill-top fort at Ensérune, not too far from Miquel's Beziers vineyard,
 was occupied continuously, including by the Romans,
 from the 6th century BC to the beginning of the first century AD.
The Miquels are best known, to date, for their Cazal Viel vineyard, not too far from Beziers and in the Saint Chinian appellation. This superb terroir was first planted by Roman warriors during the construction of Via Domitia, the ancient road that ran along the south through Narbonne.

Laurent and Neasa, a Dubliner, got married in 2007 after a long courtship (11 years!). Before and since, she has been busy on the marketing side and has opened up new avenues for the excellent wines of the two estates.  I certainly enjoyed the three below and there are others available.

Via Domitia, preserved  in Narbonne centre

Laurent Miquel Albarino 2014 (Vin de France, Lagrasse), 13%, €15.00, Dunnes Stores

I didn't mention Spain in the preamble but the limestone soils coupled with a uniquely cool microclimate and access to water makes Les Azines the perfect place for this audacious Albarino project by the innovative Laurent.

According to Laurent, this is a “repatriation”: Albarino was first brought to the Galicia region of Spain by the French monks from Cluny along the fabled route of Santiago de Compostela many centuries ago.

Forget the history for a moment and let us taste this light and bright gold wine with its aromas of citrus fruit and floral notes too. Crisp and dry and lively, terrific minerality, no shortage of refreshing fruit with a good long finish. A great match for seafood. This elegant wine is Very Highly Recommended and one to watch for the future!



Laurent Miquel Père et Fils Chardonnay Viognier 2014 (IGP Pays d’Oc), 13%, €12.00 Dunnes Stores


This blend has the colour of bright honey with very pleasant peach-y aromas, some floral notes too. There are fresh fruit flavours with a lively refreshing mouthfeel and this very agreeable wine has quite a finish as well. This is a gorgeous blend of Chardonnay (65%) and Viognier (35%). 

The Miquels are regarded as leading growers of Viognier and, though it is in the minority in the bottle, it plays quite a role. Impressed and Very Highly Recommended. This wine is ideal for pre-dinner drinks, salads, all types of seafood or poultry dishes.

Laurent Miquel Père et Fils Syrah 2014 (IGP Pays d’Oc), 13%, €9.00, Dunnes Stores

Syrah is another of the grapes that the Miquel family specialises in and this is  a good example. Colour is purple and there are aromas of rich dark red fruits, spices notes too. It is smooth, fruity and spicy on the palate, fine tannins, excellent balance plus a persistent finalé. Well made (cool nights and long sunny days help), well priced and Highly Recommended. A natural for your rack of lamb!

All pics (c) Billy Lyons

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Taste of the Week. Ballintubber Cheddar with Chives

Taste of the Week
Ballintubber Cheddar with Chives
This traditional West Limerick cheese has been handcrafted on Cahill’s Farm . It is wonderfully creamy and the chives give it a soft little crunch. It is an international gold medal winner* and our Taste of the Week.


I like producers who provide the consumer with hints and recipes and Cahill’s do just that on the back of the packet. They suggest grating it onto a pizza “for a gourmet twist”. They even suggest a wine: a spicy Syrah/Shiraz. Ideal they say for any cheese board - serve at room temperature with honey or red grapes.

I didn't have red grapes handy but the cheese, purchased at Dunne's Stores in Ballyvolane, sure went very well with the excellent Lisanley honey that you can buy at Bradley’s, North Main Street. And it also matched well with a wee drizzle of Highbank Orchard Syrup. So there you go, plenty of ways to try the Taste of the Week.

* In 2014, it took gold at the International Cheese Festival which is held annually in Nantwich, England.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

DUNNES STORES

BETTER VALUE – UNDER YOUR NOSE!!!


Do we foodies look down on Dunnes Stores? Could be guilty myself. Mistake!

Take last weekend. Called in and picked up a tub of crayfish tails for less than €1.99. Add some leaves and mayo and you get much better than your average prawn cocktail, more to get your teeth into and certainly tastier.

Main course? Picked up a half leg of lamb, cost €6.49. Top class traceable meat and very enjoyable, made even more enjoyable by a red from Bordeaux (Chateaux Fonfroide) which Dunnes were selling at half price (€6.99), in a promotion that is still going on.

I didn’t realise it at the time but the dessert I picked up, a Chocolate and Raspberry combination (€2.96), was from Heinz Weightwatchers. It was quite good, a crumbly chocolate base topped by the pureed berries in a jelly.

Good quality all round and good value, made even better value by the fact that there was ten per cent off everything at the checkout.