Showing posts with label Franciscan Well. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Franciscan Well. Show all posts

Sunday, November 11, 2018

Wonky Donkey's Night Out With A Difference. Holy Smoke. Unholy Jokes


Wonky Donkey's Night Out With A Difference. 
Holy Smoke. Unholy Jokes 

Like some food? Drink? Lots of laughs? All under the one venue? The simple answer is to head to Mardyke Entertainment Complex, enjoy a meal at Holy Smoke, then head into the Cellar Theatre for a drink and a comedy show by Wonky Donkey. And to make it easier for you, you need just the one ticket. There are couple of combined food and show options available and you may check them out here.

Food comes first for us, of course, and we were looking forward to the Holy Smoke visit. We weren’t disappointed - far from it. There is a special Pre-Show Menu on Friday and Saturday nights (the only nights that Wonky Donkey operates - so far!). And it is a menu that contains quite a lot of choices and a good variety as well.

There are a bunch of sharing plates to start with - you don’t have to share! We got two contrasting ones, both very impressive. The Whole fire-grilled prawns in a chilli, lime and coriander butter was CL’s choice while mine was the Ox cheek with fire roasted carrot & marrow gravy. And yes, we did share!

The pork here is “handsome” and, since she likes handsome fellas, CL choose the Pulled Pork (Pork shoulder, cooked low n’ slow and smoked for 14 hours over oak, hand pulled & mixed with Holy Smoke BBQ sauce. Served with slaw and corn bread). As always, the smoked meat was full of flavour, enhanced by their own barbecue sauce.
The cheek of it

Meanwhile I was meeting up with Juicy Lucy, a 6oz beef burger with a Monterrey Jack cheese core, topped with Monterrey Jack cheese, grilled onions, lettuce, beef tomato and Alabama sauce. Sweet home Alabama! Next time I’m in, I’m going to make the acquaintance of Dirty Lucy!

By the way, if you haven’t been to Holy Smoke in a while, I'd advise you to check their general menu. There are now more choices than ever for all kinds of eaters, including vegetarian and fish. For instance, there are no less than 13 starter/small plate options. Check the general menus here 
Pull the other one

Quite a few local beers in bottle but just one, Rebel Red, on draught. That was one of our choices and the other was the Punk IPA from Brew Dog. There’s a bigger choice once you enter the Cellar for the comedy and here I switched to Franciscan Well’s Chieftain. Not too many tables in there though for your drinks and the arched rows of seats in front of the stage are close enough to one another.

There was a bit of a delay in starting the show but then it was non-stop. I don’t know how they do, up there on stage, joke after joke, funny story after funny story and not a note in sight.

Mike Morgan, one of the men behind the Wonky, introduced the show and gave us a taste of what was to come with laugh a minute routine of his own, and had us in stitches with his tales of greyhound walking and bingo playing (apparently he is the Mallow champion in both disciplines) and then there was mother-in-law or was she just a random shopper? You never know with these guys.

Ross Browne, another Wonky mainstay, was bigger and noisier than Mike. Both were well dressed though, sharp suits, shiny shoes, a bit like the Sky Sport’s soccer presenters. Irish comedy has changed a lot since Hal Roach (though he also dressed well) ruled the roost. Lots of language and not of the foreign variety, though Mike did essay a few words of French. 

And it’s kind of head on challenging. I think Dan Martin, one of the two lead stars of the “Rowan and Martin Laugh-in”, a hit comedy show of the 60s and 70s, would approve. “People are basically irreverent,” Mr. Martin said in 1968, explaining the appeal of the show. “They want to see sacred cows kicked over.” 

One of the catchphrases of Laugh-in was Sock it to me!  Browne and company do just that. He said he was looking at a crowd of turnip heads, though he seemed to include his own in that assessment of the Irish noggin. 

He probably wouldn’t go down too well in Listowel. He said nobody ever goes to that town except by accident, maybe after turning off the Sat-Nav and taking four wrong turns. I presume when he’s performing in that Kerry town, he takes the mick out of Cecilstown (ask Mike about that place).

And that was only half the show. After the interval, Micky Bartlett and Mark O’Keeffe entertained the packed house, the Wonky Donkey’s fourth sell-out in a row. There’s sure to be a big demand for tickets for next Friday and Saturday so get online now and book the food and comedy option that suits you. The line-up over the coming weekend includes Fred Cooke, Naomi McDonald, Brian Gallagher, Ross Browne and Mike Morgan.



Thursday, November 1, 2018

Exquisite New Seasonal Menu at Montenotte's Panorama.


Exquisite New Menu at Montenotte's Panorama.
Superb Food. Great Views Too.
Hake

The foyer of the Montenotte Hotel is abuzz as we enter last week. Lots of shiny suits and colourful dresses fill the comfortable spaces. And the buzz continues into the Panorama Bistro where we thankfully have a booking (they are turning people away) and where we are about to enjoy a surprisingly delightful meal.

Well, maybe not that surprising! We have been studying the menu and it looks very inviting indeed. At the table, among the family parties celebrating their new graduates, we see that this evening there are no less than nine specials, three under each of the main headings. Besides, we have some inkling of what new chef Liam Kirwan is capable of as we enjoyed a delicious lunch during the summer at Mikey Ryan’s in Cashel (where he was then employed).
Crab

And big kudos too to the Panorama staff. They were busy but, nonetheless, they performed very well indeed, always with a smile and even finding time for a quick chat or two. So efficient were they, that there were no delays in getting the food to the tables. We were in early and some customers were leaving but soon the restaurant was full again, those with tables near the long window getting the full benefit of the great view over the city and, just underneath, over the lovely new gardens here.

But our eyes were on the menu, my hand on a pint of Chieftain Ale as they do offer the Franciscan Well beers here. You could well start with one of their Snacks, a Cashel Blue Rarebit among them, but we go for the dishes under Starters and get two beauties.

CL picks for the Crab Gratin with Wheaten Bread Crust. Clearly stated. No big highfalutin phrases on this menu. But the dish is high class, packed with flavour and a little spice and she declares it as one of the best crab starters she’s ever had.

But, we agree, mine is even better. The Roast Jerusalem Artichoke and Shallot Jam Tart with walnut ricotta, is pleasing to look at and its melange of flavours and textures is hard to match. Not too sure that any starter I’ve had in recent months comes anywhere near this gem!

CL is a Hake lover (Hake’s not my pet name, by the way) but not so much if this delicious fish is smothered in a creamy sauce. No danger of that here (none of the four fish dishes, including the two on special, has a cream sauce). Her Saffron Poached Hake, with Gubbeen chorizo, butterbean and charred Padrón pepper casserole is a magnificent melange of flavour, texture and smoky aromas. Really top class.
Venison Wellington

My mains is deceptive, looks like a small pie in a big dish. Maybe I should have had ordered a side. But the Ballinwillin Venison Wellington is loaded with the aromas and tastes of Autumn in the wild - that “little pastry” packs a powerful punch of flavour and texture, with no little help in that department coming from the cavolo nero (the kale of Tuscany), the dark chocolate jus and the roast celeriac. As you can see from this dish, the new menu is seasonal and local (Ballinwillin is in Mitchelstown).

Quantities here are, like the quality, very well judged indeed. You won’t really be stuffed, unless of course you wish to be and indulge in some of the tempting sides which include Truffle and Rosemary Fries, Buttered Greens, and Creamed Spinach to mention just a few. 
Plum Pie
So we had room for dessert and went for the one we had noted when we first got our hands on the menu: the Mulled Plum Pie. Another beauty and another seasonal dish, so you’d better get in there quick and, don’t forget, make a reservation!

Excellent choice of desserts (again three extras on special) but I’d better tell you about the cheeseboard as it illustrates the kitchen’s commitment to local. The description is Milleens, Crozier Blue, Daru, Cooleeney Camembert, oat cakes, whiskey honeycomb, barm brack, walnut brittle, pear. If you get that, sit back and relax and hold off on that taxi for a while!

Monday, July 23, 2018

Cliff House Hotel. New Menu. Bar above. Sea below.

Cliff House Hotel. New Menu.
Bar above. Sea below.
Salmon

Some people wanted a table in the sun. Some preferred to be in the shade. And a few stayed indoors. We were on the terrace at The Bar in the Cliff House on one of the sunniest days of this sunny summer. Earlier we had been walking on the Waterford Greenway and so we two settled for a place in the semi-shade to try out the new bar menu at this superbly situated hotel.
Looking out to sea

A glass of Rebel Red and lots of water helped cool things down as we studied that inviting menu, divided into sections: From the Garden, From the Land, From the Sea, Irish beef from McGrath’s and Sheelin,  Small Bites and Snacks, Sides, and Desserts. And also a Dish of the Day. This superb well-priced menu is served 12 noon to 4.00pm and 6.00pm to 9.00pm.

Service, we noticed, is rather leisurely here. In any case, it is the kind of spot you come to slow down, take in the fantastic views out to the ocean and back towards the curve of Ardmore beach. A “school” of young wanna-be sailors gather below at the base of the cliff and add a riot of colour. Who’s in a rush?
Asparagus
Spring rolls

So, eager to try out as much as possible, we pick and choose from under the various headings. My Green Asparagus Peperonata, Burrata, Almonds (9.75) comes from the Garden, maybe the Garden of Eden it is so tempting, so delicious.

Oysters, Iberico Ham and Organic Olives come under the Small Bites and Snacks section. So the Official Blog Chef (OBC) gets a surprise when she sees no less than three Skeaghanore Duck Spring Rolls (7.50) arrive. And they are packed with that renowned duck meat, rich and satisfying. She feels the energy lost on the Greenway flowing back!
Below the bar's terrace

A bit of a gap between round one and two. But the second phase is just as impressive. My pick, From the Sea, is the Organic Irish Smoked Salmon (12.50 small & 21.50) Mi-Cuit, Buttermilk, Dill Oil, Radish. I take the starter portion. The quantity is enough and the quality is off the charts. Just superb and the buttermilk, dill oil and radish make a great match with the warm flaky flavoursome fish.
Terrine

View from Table 40
Table number on the stone!


And it’s thumbs up at the other side of the table also as OBC tucks into the well presented (they are all well presented) Guinea Fowl Terrine Pickled Vegetables, Brioche, Parsley, Mayonnaise (9.50) that comes out of the Land section.

The Lemon and Cream pot with Blackwater Gin was calling me from the dessert menu but, having enjoyed a hearty breakfast earlier in the Granville in Waterford, we had had enough and so reluctantly bade goodbye to the lovely crew at The Bar. 

With so much much delicious food on that menu, we promised ourselves a return visit! After all, the hotel is just 53 minutes from the eastern side of Cork City (and Google Maps often over-estimate). No excuse.

Also on this trip:
The Candied Hazelnut
Everett's New Waterford Restaurant

Thursday, April 5, 2018

A Specials Evening at The Oyster Tavern


A Specials Evening at The Oyster Tavern
Lamb

The Oyster Tavern may have been established in 1792 but while nostalgia for the (more recent) good old days (and nights) will gain you some goodwill you've got to keeping putting quality on the table. And in April 2018, The Oyster is doing just that. During our visit last week, we enjoyed two of the best main courses that we've come across in a long while. Working under renowned local chef Kate Lawlor, the team’s Pan-fried Halibut and Rack of Lamb were absolutely outstanding; and neither of the evening’s specials needed a heavy sauce.
Carpaccio

That rack of lamb, like much else here, comes from the English Market next door. And Tom Durcan's rack was perfectly cooked (pink) with pearl barley, cabbage stew and turnip purée, Irish food at its best. Great flavour from the tender meat and I reckon I'd have eaten a bowlful of the accompaniment on its own.

I enjoyed every bit of that but think I was beaten to the line by CL who hardly spoke, just purred now and then, as the fish disappeared. The Halibut, a lovely piece of fish lovingly handled in the kitchen, its delicate flavours respected, was served with charred tender stem broccoli, pickled beetroot and oyster sauce. And there was a tasty side of crushed potato with dillisk and tarragon.
Cheers!


The main choices also included a range of steaks (from Tom Durcan), baked sea-bream, two vegan friendly dishes Cauliflower Steak and Char-Grilled Aubergine Charlotte, a Chicken Cordon Bleu (from the market's Chicken Inn) and more.

We began our guest visit with a couple of lovely cool draught beers, both by Franciscan Well, the Chieftain Ale and Rebel Red, and a look at the menu. No shortage of starters: soups, chowder, oysters (of course), scampi, a Knocklara Cheese Salad included. 

CL enjoyed Durcan's spiced beef carpaccio, with cracked black pepper and sea salt on a bed of rocket leaves while I was also impressed with the flavours and textures in the Pork and Onion Croquettes (Clonakilty black pudding and apple sauce).
We were in early on the Tuesday after Easter Monday and had a chance to have a “good look”. Great welcome by the barman downstairs, a bit of chat and then he guided us to the lift, and that kind of service continued right through upstairs, and at the very end when the same friendly fellow engaged us again in a bit of banter. The restaurant looks fantastic, the island bar a feature as is a secluded area off to your right as you enter (great for a large private party). The main area has lots of booths with very comfortable seating, some lovely chairs around the bar as well (see Oyster pic below). 

This gorgeous dining area gets lively at weekend nights, with some of the musicians known to strut their stuff on the counter! Mightn't be the best time for fine dining then but you may still eat here as platters are part of the late night service. There is a separate weekend menu (including steak and eggs) and also a Pre-Theatre menu.

We finished up though with a couple of desserts, a Sherry Trifle and a Tarte Tatin and a lovely chat with Chef Kate Lawlor who joined last October and is very much enjoying her new challenge here. Earlier, we met up with restaurant manager Deirdre Caldwell.

Check a previous visit (last September) to the Oyster here.
And keep an eye for our chat with Kate Lawlor - coming soon.



Monday, October 30, 2017

Franciscan Well Festival. Beers from Home and Abroad


Franciscan Well Festival. Beers from Home and Abroad

 The focus during last weekend’s Franciscan Well October Beerfest was very much on premium beers from abroad. There were about two dozen excellent imported beers on tap and some of these were part of the core theme of Sour. But their own beers were not forgotten about either and there were a couple of tasting sessions in the upstairs bar to highlight these.


Our opening night visit concentrated on the sour section and you can see the details here. We were back there again on Saturday, again tasting a few of the imports, when there was a general invite, from Lisa, to join some fellow-punters upstairs.

With the “students” seated comfortably, Lisa played a short video which took us through the beer-making process: malting, milling, mashing and mash tun (sugar extracted at high heat), Lautering (clarifying the wort which is basically unfermented beer, afterwards the spent grain is taken to a farm where the cows love it!). 

At the boiling stage, hops are added to the wort for bitterness, hops added later for aroma. The wort is now pumped through a heat exchanger to the fermentation tanks.  Yeast is added to convert the sugars into alcohol. When this process is finished, the beer is ready for conditioning and filtering and finally packaging. I don’t think the Franciscan Well video is online but there is a reasonably similar English brewery one here

Many Cork drinkers will have started their craft beer journey with a pint of Rebel Red so Lisa didn't include that one in our tasting. Instead, we began with a drink of Friar Weisse, their wheat beer. “We make it as German as possible,” she said. “A German brewery Weihenstephan sources the yeast for us.” 

The Well adheres to the strict German brewing process to deliver this fantastic beer. Colour, we agreed, is a deepish gold and the beer is cloudy. There are aromas of clove and banana and the finish, the group concluded, is an average bitter. Lively carbonation reinforces a zesty light mouth feel. I am reminded why this was an early, and on-going, favourite of mine.

Soon we were on to my current favourite: Franciscan Well Chieftain IPA. This is a hugely popular IPA, and Franciscan Well’s answer to Ireland’s growing demand for IPA style beers. It is not, however, very pale. It is a medium amber with a coppery hue. It is clearer than the Friar Weisse, having been clarified with Irish Carrigeen moss.


The aromas, Lisa helped us determine, are citrus, grapefruit and orange, coming from the American hops. Lisa said it has a bitter taste “technically”. “But not very bitter, a little lower than traditional IPAs but higher than the commercial ones.” This medium bodied beer starts off hoppy on the palate before the malt begins to balance the experience and then there’s a hoppy finish.

Both of these beers are part of the Franciscan Well’s core range: the others are the Rebel Red Ale and Shandon Stout.

Back downstairs then to try more of the guest beers and I got off to a flier with Grotten Sante Brown Beer. Pierre Celis, the founder of Hoegaarden, is credited with creating Grottenbier or ‘cave beer’ many years ago and this is a cave beer, aged in limestone caves and turned weekly, champagne style. This malty fruity zesty beer, with an alcohol volume of 6.5%, is made using small quantities of exotic herbs that create a slight dryness. A very pleasant experience indeed.

The next beer came from the USA, a Brett Citrus Saison. This is a sour beer, just not in name! Denver’s Crooked Stave are known for their progressive approach to old-world brewing. This Wild Sage Brett Saison is noted for its refreshing tartness and prominent notes of sage, wild herbs and lemon. Very impressive indeed.


I had another American beer, the Left Hand Milk Stout, on my short list but it wasn't pouring until much later. I was offered the Fierce Beer Café Racer Coffee and Vanilla Porter instead and said yes. And we both kept saying yes to this one. 

It is made in Scotland but the notes indicate it is American style dark roasted coffee and vanilla porter with a hint of danger. If this is danger, I can live with it. Indeed, I am living with it as we went straight across the river to Bradley’s to stock up with a few bottles. Good stuff! And a good day in the city as we left the beer festival and headed into the heart of the jazz festival, keeping a firm grip on the brown bags!




Friday, October 27, 2017

A Sour Theme! This Weekend's Franciscan Well October Festival

A Sour Theme!
This Weekend's Franciscan Well October Festival
Rodenbach cocktail

Sour is a big topic in Irish craft beer at present and indeed is the core theme at this weekend’s 17th annual Franciscan Well October Beerfest.

Beer expert Barry Fitzgerald has been involved in 16 of the 17 and was our host at an opening tasting event in their upstairs bar on Thursday evening, following a warm welcome from Marketing Manager Kate Clancy.  

Barry reckons that over a 1,000 new beers have been tasted in this festival on the North Mall, “always a new experience”. “It is the longest continuously running beer festival in the country…. it has evolved into a tasting menu, all about flavour, and this weekend’s menu reflects that.”

There are some twenty-six imported beers, all special but some very special indeed, on the menu card this time, available by the pint, the half-pint and the third-pint. Barry picked three sours, by well established breweries, for the tasting session, three that you could profitably note if calling in over the weekend (the festival continues today, Saturday and Sunday, from 1.00pm each day).

The first was from Belgium, a sour brown (8% abv) Goudenband (gold band) by Liefman in Oudenaarde; quite an experience. This is a mixed fermentation beer with re-fermentation in the bottle. “It is made by the year, is different each year, you can lay it down and it will last forever. This is the 2016, its first time in Ireland and may never be here again. We have just a small amount for the festival.”

“You notice cherry, but there is no fruit used in it, the flavour comes form the basic ingredients, the ageing and the wild yeast. It is winey, leather notes, very complex. If you like sour, this is a very good one!” 

Quite an amazing beer really, a real treat with a super balance, quite a sophisticated drink and a long long way from local sours that I've tasted recently. Much more detail on this beer here.

Next up was a UK/Norway collaboration between the Buxton and Lervig breweries, a gooseberry sour IPA at 7.00%, “brewed to celebrate friendship and a love of wild places”. The name of the beer is Trolltunga and you’ll get some detail on it here

There is fruit in this one as it’s packed with sour gooseberries, “cookers” as Barry said. And there was instant agreement as lips puckered up alarmingly around the tasting tables! This was really sour. “It is at the cutting edge of the new sours…wild yeast…open fermentation.” If you are getting in to sours, this is hardly the one to start with. As for me, I was in the minority that liked it. Then again, I sometimes get incredulous looks when I drink Campari neat. “How do you do that?”
Much different to the other two, which I also liked.

Back to Belgium then to complete the hat trick, Barry saving the best until last: The Rodenbach Gran Cru Sour red/brown at 6%, a blend of 1/3rd young beer and 2/3 of beer aged two years in large oak vats, giving fruity taste, complexity and intensity. Barry told us this Flemish Sour Ale has its own AOC. “It takes over two years to make (even the angel’s share happens here) and young beer is added to restart fermentation.”

“It is more like a traditional beer, the flavours primarily from the oak cask and the wild yeast.” It was certainly more approachable than the previous one and went down really well in the group. Lots more info on it here.  By the way, the festival list also features another outstanding beer from this brewery, the Caractere.

Upstairs at the Franciscan Well is where’ll you’ll find Ireland’s first and only brewhouse cocktail bar. Dean was ready to shake but he was determined to respect the Rodenbach which would be the base for our cocktail. For instance, even the detail of garnish was given due consideration by Dean who put aside the normal basil in favour of sage, considering the basil too aromatic for the beer.


So, to 60ml of Rodenbach, the mixologist added Tobacco and Honey rum, lime juice, Bermuda rum, Cotes du Rhone red, and ice of course. It was a superb finale to an eye-opening session in the bar which is soon to be re-named and Dean and company are determined that the cocktails will reflect what goes on in the brewhouse, getting as many as possible of their ingredients from the beer-making process. Sounds like a good plan. Here’s to checking it out, with Barry of course, during festival #18 next year!

Thursday, October 19, 2017

Holy Smoke On The Mardyke. Temple of Fire and Smoke

Holy Smoke On The Mardyke

Temple of Fire and Smoke
Wings

If you visit Holy Smoke, and you should, you’ll be visiting a kingdom of fire and smoke. And your royal guides will be John Relihan and Deccie Walsh.

John welcomed us to their tasty palace on the Mardyke last Tuesday night for a rather special evening: six courses of pit smoked BBQ paired with either Irish Craft Beer or Irish Whiskey. Caroline Hennessy, of Eight Degrees and author of Slainte, introduced the beers while Killian O’Mahony, a recently qualified cooper at Midleton Distillery, told us about the whiskey.

Did you know that Holy Smoke is housed in the original Woodford Bourne cellars (1875), that stored at one time over 50,000 gallons of choice whiskies, Cognac, rum and casks of wine, sherries and ports?

Gubbeen sausages
John told us they cook  here “with fire”, using a Japanese Robata grill and a large smoker. They use sustainable charcoal (supplied by an Oxford firm). Ribs take four hours while brisket and pork can take 14 to 16 hours. He stressed the importance of using the right charcoal and the right wood.

He has trained with some of the best, including Jamie Oliver, and in many cuisines including BBQ, Italian, Spanish, Japanese. “It’s been quite a journey,” said the man from Duagh in Co, Kerry. They have just introduced steak to the menu - “you can expect lots of different cuts and do check out our Jazz event on October 25th.” Link is here.

Six courses seems like a lot. But the Holy Smoke team judged this to perfection. It was quality all the way but the quantity was spot-on too, not too much and certainly not too little. 
Baby Ribs

After a welcome drink of Prosecco and a bowl of pickles and pork scratchings, Caroline introduced the first of the beers. “The Franciscan Well were among the first of our craft brewers and their traditional red ale, the Rebel Red, is great with pork.” And our first dish was Gubbeen Hot Links Sausages. These spicy sausages, commonly used in southern US barbecues, got the taste buds up and running.

More pork now but of a very different kind: Wet Rubbed Baby Back Ribs (marinaded overnight and smoked for four hours over oak). Caroline praised the quality of Irish Malt and said Eight Degrees were proud to use it. And certainly the Howling Gale Pale Ale had a good solid base of malt, a lovely aroma and not too hoppy and proved a good match for the ribs and the cornbread.
Pork sliders

And next came one of the highlights of the night: Pulled Pork Slider (shoulder smoked low and slow for 14 hours). Amazingly succulent and delicious and the Stonewell cider, that Caroline had been keeping in reserve, proved an ideal match. 

Head Chef Deccie Walsh managed to take a few minutes away from the kitchen and told us of his love for slow cooking and nose to tail cooking. He really enjoys this type of event. After last night, we all do! 
Local ale

Another highlight next: Pit Smoked BBQ Chicken Wings (marinaded, smoked for 4 hours and char-grilled). Accompanied by pickled celery and a blue cheese dip, this was a superb mid-menu course, fingers in action again. And the beer? Another from Eight Degrees: the Barefoot Bohemian Pilsner, a nice light beer in the traditional Czech style and excellent with the wings.

Brisket Burnt End Sliders were now arriving on the table, another highlight for me, all the more appreciated when we heard that their journey to our plates had started during the storm of the day before.
Brisket

We had a two drinks to go with this one. The first was a can of the Franciscan Well Irish Pale Ale, a favourite of mine. “Don't drink from the can,” Caroline advised. “Pour it into the glass, the better to appreciate its lovely amber colour, the citrus aromas. As you drink, you’ll note the citrus bite.”
A winner

Killian told us about the importance of the casks as he introduced the Green Spot whiskey made at Midleton from pot still whiskey aged between seven and nine years, with 25% coming from sherry casks.

Time then for dessert: Chocolate, banana and caramel brownie, with a whiskey sauce. Obviously, if you had whiskey remaining (I didn’t), you could have tried a drop with this. 

The final beer was the award-winning Amber Ella from Eight Degrees. As Caroline said, it has a lovely malty flavour to go with the brownie and the sauce. First brewed in 2014, this American style amber surprised the home brewers by taking a bronze in the World Beer Cup in the US. “It was  a big surprise,” recalled Caroline. “ It was a boost for Eight Degrees but also a boost for Irish craft.”

Killian had ended his whiskey intro with a toast to friendship and the lovely evening finished in that kind of spirit, old friends met and new friends made. Thanks for the invite and Slainte to all at Holy Smoke.


Sunday, September 3, 2017

Return of the Oyster Tavern. Les Bons Temps Rouler.

Return of the Oyster Tavern.

Les Bons Temps Rouler.

I look at some of the old black and white pics in the new Oyster Tavern and am transported back to my days in Winkle-pickers (shoes), Slim Jim (tie) and DA (hair). But that “good old days” reverie soon evaporated as the delicious dishes arrived on the table. Some terrific food here now, well cooked, and well served by one of the friendliest front-of-house teams around.

The history of a tavern on the site dates to 1800. The new two-storey building owes it current existence to the Capitol development. It is comfortable - there’s even a lift - and beautifully decorated. 

The food menu, from breakfast to dinner, is based mainly on ingredients from the adjacent English Market, and the drinks menu, again illustrated with some of those old black and whites, contains a good deal of Irish craft beer and local spirits. Our opening drinks were a mix: a Chieftain Ale from Franciscan Well and a Hemingway Daiquiri.

Fish Hot Pot

We were in for dinner and studied the menu, all on one large card. They happily fill you in on the specials and help with any questions. For starters, we could have had Scampi, Chowder, Soup of the Day. And oysters, of course. 
Steak!

My pick though was Tim’s Ham Hock (€6.00), served with Hassett's sourdough bread and West Cork Relish. The ham was packed into a jar. There was a lot of it there and it packed a lot of flavour as well. And that West Cork relish was a tasty bonus, really good.

Meanwhile, CL was thoroughly enjoying her Caprese Salad (7.50): Toonsbridge Mozzarella, tomatoes, basil and olive oil. This has become a local standard and was top notch.
There wouldn't have been a blogger in the old Oyster.

Quite a decent wine list here too and I ordered a glass of Finca Florencia Malbec (8.00) to go with my steak. This was my second Tom Durcan steak in quick succession and again it was very impressive, tender and with outstanding flavour. The 8 ounce fillet (29.00) was cooked to order, and came with straight cut chips, English Market seasonal vegetables, Roast Shallots in a red wine peppercorn sauce. The included veg by the way, mangetout, broccoli and cauliflower, were also cooked to pin-point perfection, which is not always the case.
Hemingway enjoyed his daiquiris in la Floridita in la Habana in Cuba.
 The Bodeguita del Medio is just down the street.  
Muchas gracias to Mark Deane(ex Mayfield) for the pic.

CL choose the fish special, a Prawn and Mussel Hot Pot with chorizo (18.00). No shortage of flavour there and a warming dish you might well see more of as the autumn comes in. Other main course choices included Tim O’Sullivan’s Black Pudding Burger, Oyster Haven Mussels, Chicken Inn’s Supreme of Chicken, Warm Chicken and Bacon Salad, and a Risotto. There was also a lamb burger special.
Upstairs at the spanking new full-colour Oyster Tavern. (Oyster pic).
After all that, we thought it best to share a dessert from the short yet tempting list. Sherry Trifle was probably top of the list when the old Oyster was in its heyday and that was our pick and we enjoyed sharing the Sherry soaked sponge, raspberry jam, custard topped with Chantilly cream and served with a shortbread biscuit. All for a fiver. You might well have paid close to that back in the day!

The main restaurant area is upstairs though they do serve lunch in the downstairs bar. We had started early and weren't around to see the transformation that takes place later in the night. Then the plates are cleared away, and we were told there is a generational change as well, as the live music - you might even see a saxophonist on the counter - takes over. Oh, those awful Rock and Rollers! (Note to myself: Must try that sometime).

Sunday, August 27, 2017

Great Irish Beer Fest. Beer, Cider, Food, Music

Great Irish Beer Hall

Beer, Cider, Food, Music
Michael Cowan of award winning Mont
Headed to the City Hall at the weekend for the Great Irish beer Festival. Some twenty brewers were listed so that meant a huge choice. While each exhibitor displayed their menu, there was no overall list, such as you’d find at a wine-tasting. 

More difficult then to find a particular pathway through that amount of beer. Who had the sours? Who had the stouts? Did they bring them? Were all the recent award winners here?

It would have been made a little easier also if there was a measure smaller than the half-pint (€2.75). On the other hand, if you knew exactly what you wanted, all you needed to do was fill your glass (€5.50) to the pint mark!
Beer Hall!

I had targeted Sullivan’s from Kilkenny for my first call. That worked out well and there’ll be a separate post tomorrow on their lovely award winning red ale.

Indeed, there were award winners all over the hall, including local brewery Rising Sons who are having a great month: “August 2017 has been an incredible month for us, winning 5 Gold Medals at The World Beer Awards 2017.”

Not too far away in this bright room, with the tables and seats, was the Mont stall and they too were celebrating a World Beer Award as their lager was named the Country Winner (Ireland) for “Czech Style Pilsner Lager”. 

Michael Cowan of Manor Brewing (Wicklow) is the public face of Mont, Ireland’s “super-premium Pilsner lager”. They use pure Wicklow Mountain spring water, the finest barley malts, Hallertau, Saaz and Cascade hops.

Michael said they are a dedicated lager brewery. “With the very soft Wicklow water we have, our super-premium lager is better than the main stream piss and we are trying to improve lager’s image with a big concentration on packaging.”

Their Bohemian style Pilsner has “an Irish accent” and an ABV of 5.1%. You can quickly taste why it is picking up awards. There is quite a backbone to it, full of flavour and hop character and a superb dry finish, great balance all through. “Moreish” as they say themselves.

Just to compare, I took a token over to Eight Degrees - they were in the darkened room - and got a glass of their Barefoot Bohemian,  “an unorthodox lager with complex biscuity malt, soft rounded bitterness and a twist of spice from the noble Saaz and Hallertau hops.”  
This crisp and lovely Pilsner doesn't quite have the heft of the Mont but, at 4% ABV, is perfect for a session. And it has retained its popularity since the summer of 2012 when the Mitchelstown brewery introduced it as a seasonal beer. 

The Cotton Ball’s Indian Summer is another beer that has surprised its creators. This hybrid, “capturing the best of ale and lager” was supposed to be a seasonal but goes on and on.

After that we welcomed the Shoot the Breeze, a 4.5% ABV California Common, just introduced by the Franciscan Well. “This light hazy amber beer has a distinct fruit background as a result of our own unique twist!” I'm a big fan of the Well's core beers and the Chieftain, Friar Weisse and Rebel Red completed their line-up on the night.

Time now for stout, after all we are in Cork. And the Cotton Ball make a terrific stout, Lynch’s, in the traditional creamy style. But there’s no shortage of substance, coffee and caramel and a dry finalé, behind the silky smoothness. A pleasure indeed to sink one of these.

Two heads are better than one, according to Jameson, talking about their Caskmates, which has emerged from a collaboration between themselves and the Franciscan Well Brewery. 

First, the Well used whiskey casks to brew two beers,  Jameson Aged Stout launched in 2013 and Jameson Pale Ale launched in 2014. The stout-seasoned casks were then returned to Midleton and this whiskey is the result. It has worked well and Jameson are now engaged in similar ventures with some US breweries.

No alteration to the usual Jameson smoothness in Caskmates. Maybe there is a hint of hops there but, back in the dark room, I wasn't paying full attention as I sipped and chatted as the music played. It is a modern easy drinking fruity whisky with a long sweet finish. Quite a lovely finalé to my excellent evening in the City Hall. For the music fans, the night was only beginning, 

* My favourite beers, from the fraction that I sampled, were: the Mont Pilsner, Lynch’s Stout, and Sullivan’s Red Ale.

See also: An Ale of Two Families. Brewery Lost in a Bet.