Showing posts with label Hegarty's Cheese. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Hegarty's Cheese. Show all posts

Sunday, December 30, 2018

Meet Ireland’s Great Producers. Just a few of them!


Meet Ireland’s Great Producers
Just a few of them!
Cheesemaker Jean-Baptiste at Hegarty's

2018 Highlights now completed.
See below for brilliant National Stud visit;
A Taste of West Cork;
Life galore in the Irish Pub;
Michelin Stars, a trio this year;
Clonakilty's outstanding street festival;
Variations on the Irish Breakfast

Always manage to visit a few producers and 2018 was no exception; well, there were some exceptional visits, one to the innovative duo at the relatively new Killahora Orchards, the other to the well-established Hegarty Cheese in Whitechurch .

We were with a group of members of the Munster Wine & Dine who spent a very enjoyable May evening on a tour and tasting at Killahora Orchards near Glounthaune. Barry was our enthusiastic guide as we got both our whistles and our feet (aside from those who had brought wellies) wet in a most delightful way. 

Some of us had already marked Killahora products, including Johnny Fall Down cider, the Pom 'O Apple Port and their unique Rare Apple ice wine, among our favourite things. Those who hadn't come across them before were converted on this tour and tasting. More here

I met Jean-Baptise Enjelvin, cheesemaker at Hegarty’s, a few times during the year before heading out to see him at work in Whitechurch on an October morning.When I arrive at Hegarty’s farm on the outskirts of Whitechurch, less than twenty minutes north of Cork City, I’m greeted by Dan Hegarty, the frontman for their magnificent cheddar cheese that has been snapped up by restaurants and retail customers alike over the past 16 years or so. 
Killahora Orchards

For the past three years, Dan has had the considerable help of French cheese-maker Jean-Baptiste who had been on duty from earlier that morning.  He helps me get my kit on and I start to note how he makes their Templegall, a Comté style cheese, which has been getting sensational reviews over the past few months. 

I try my best to stay out of his way as the work progresses from the milk to the tank to the wheel on the stand. Amazing combination of skill, knowledge and muscle and then a lot of patience (a year or so of it) before the cheese is ready. It is a high quality product so do watch out for it! More here

* If you are food or drink producer and would like me to do a post in 2019, do drop me a line at cork.billy@gmail.com
* A producer for every week; see the list of Great Irish Tastes 2018

National Stud/Japanese Gardens
One of Ireland’s Stand-out Visits
2018 Highlights continued...
Guide Aoife has a back-pocket treat for Hardy Eustace.  And he knows it!

Last June, we “did” a loop around the Midlands, taking in Mikey Ryan’s in Cashel, Birr Castle, a tour of Tullamore DEW, and a stay at the impressive Heritage Hotel in Killenard but the undoubted highlight was our visit, on the one ticket, to the Japanese Gardens and the National Stud.

The Japanese Gardens are small but perfect. Now over a hundred years old, it is still very much worth visiting. Some 120,000 visitors soak up the peace ad beauty here every year. They were devised by Colonel Walker and were laid out by Japanese master horticulturist Tassa Eida and his son Minoru between 1906 and 1910. Walker named one of his classic winning horses after Minoru.

Before, or after, visiting the stud, you can refuel in the Japanese Garden Café. Here, Ballymaloe-trained Natalie Collins and her manager Ronan Mackey take pride in offering simple, wholesome food with the emphasis on freshness and flavour. Local ingredients are used wherever possible. The restaurant is open 7 days.

By the way, the grounds of the National Stud rival the gardens for beauty. But it is the characters here that I’m inclined to remember, especially Hardy Eustace! Described in his highly successful racing career as a hell of a horse and a tenacious battler, the now twenty year old is described as a big baby by Aoife, our fantastic guide, as she feeds him polo mints and those “missing” sugar cubes. 

Indeed, we all help out, keeping our fingers straight as we make our offerings to the famous gelding. Also keep it relatively quiet, just in case the jealous Hurricane Fly, who shares the field, might hear. 
Aoife was brilliant, our guide of the year, and later she took us to see the stallions, the guys that pay her wages! You may read an account of the visit here
John Coll's Famine Funeral at Coming Home

Other excellent “visits” this year included Nano Nagle Place (Cork City) , Youghal’s Historic Clock Gate Tower  and the amazing Ewe Experience  in Glengarriff.


Best art experience of the year was Coming Home: Art and the Great Hunger  in Skibbereen.

A Rib around Bantry Bay
Just one of 250 events at A Taste of West Cork
2018 Highlights continued...

Ten days, 41 towns and villages, 8 islands, over 250 events. I’m talking about Ireland’s biggest and probably best food festival: A Taste of West Cork.

Impressive numbers indeed. But statistics only hint at the September story unfolding across the bays, the mountains, the hills and dales of the region. We dabbled a bit this year, as we regularly do and one of the highlights was the Indian Night in Richy’s of Clonakilty, another restaurant in the top echelon of this Michelin starred food-scape.

But the most fun that we had came down in Bantry, on a rib run by Diarmuid Murphy of the Fish Kitchen. The rib run and a fish dinner that evening were one of the official events for the festival. We weren’t quite sure why to expect when we booked - even thinking at one point that we’d have to fish for our dinner!

And, then as the clouds rolled in and the wind increased, we still weren’t sure as Diarmuid introduced us to his rib on the new marina in the bay. We put the gear on and soon we were bouncing out there on the bay. Exhilarating stuff even if our experienced skipper (we took just the one splash) decided against taking on the waves at either end of Whiddy Island and a trip across to see the liner in Glengarriff had to be abandoned.

But all the while he was filling us in - we two were his only passengers - on the geography and the amazing history of the bay: Wolfe Tone, the American flying boats on WW1 duty, the Eagle Pointers, Bantry House, the blue cliff, the Whiddy disaster and so much more including, of course, the mussel farming in the huge bay. He is a superb guide to the area and no wonder he is thinking of running this as a tourist attraction in the summer of 2019. Keep an eye out for that! Once I have details, I’ll post them here on the blog.


About two hours later, we were back on dry land. Time then for a rest and a shower before heading to the Fish Kitchen in the heart of Bantry for a delicious meal, enjoyed with a communal table that, by pure chance, included Esther and Joe Barron from the famous bakery in Cappoquin. A great afternoon trip and a terrific evening.

Life Galore in the Irish Pub
2018 Highlights continued...
Hot in the city. Galway in July.

We visited Galway in the high heat of the amazing summer, met some lovely people and enjoyed ourselves thoroughly everywhere we went and that included a visit to Michelin starred Aniar, strolls in the narrow streets, a cooling (not really!) cruise on the Corrib and on the huge lake (biggest in the Republic) but the memory that stands out was our visit to a pub!

We’ve been in some  memorable pubs in recent times, Dick Mack’s (with its micro brewery) in Dingle,  Reidy’s with its uncountable corners and crannies in Killarney, the Swagman and its amazing host Dale in Sligo, and a few more but the King’s Head in Galway is out on its own.

Well worth a call. And there is a bistro here that serves excellent local food - enter through a small archway off the city’s Latin Quarter. Chef Brendan Keane is a keen local and seasonal operator and hopefully Sorcha will be on duty to fill you in on the menu and the specials.

Afterwards, find your way to the adjoining pub and get a seat, by the stage if you want to get close up to the music or maybe by the bar. Our second night was by the bar, excellent choice of drinks here including local craft beers. 
Cocktail time!

And they have an impressive cocktail list here and put on quite a show as they get them ready. In the meantime, you’ll find yourself chatting to customers from all over the place. It won’t be a quiet chat - the music will be loud and lively, just like the street outside. Life con brio.

Another memorable pub was found just a few miles north-east of Cork city. O’Mahony’s of Watergrasshill operates only at weekends but do get there for the food and the fun if you are anywhere close. 


Máire and Victor (you’ll know him from the House Café at the Opera House) have given this two hundred year old pub a new lease of life, the emphasis very much on local food and drink. Old cow sheds have been converted into use - there is a stage in one - as venues for concerts and weddings. New soul in the old stones and well worth a visit for its lovely food and lovely people.

Michelin Stars in a Row.
More to follow!
Daikon, bamboo shoot (Ichigo ichi

Michelin stars are like the No. 8 bus (sorry, it’s 208 now, ask Billy Murphy of the Young Offenders); you wait, and wait, and then three come together. Just three? There are a few more waiting in the wings.

The anointed threesome in Cork (Ichigo Ichie, The Mews, and Chestnut) are now well-known but I’ve been flirting with a few others. Reckon Pilgrims should be up there with a bib at least while Bastion should be up a notch from the bib. Missed out on Dillon's but on the list for 2019! Enjoyed myself in both of them in 2018 and the highlight was the meal in Ichigo Ichi - before it got the star.
Pollock, pine, at Aniar


Outside of Cork, Aniar (star) and Aldridge Lodge (bib) were also visited this year. By the way, if you’re lucky enough to dine and get one of the three rooms to overnight in Aldridge, consider yourself doubly lucky as breakfast here is also a star treat!


Festivals: Amazing Street Fest in Clon!
2018 Highlights

Food and food related festivals continue to pop up all over the country. Relatively new ones, such as FEAST in East Cork, are thriving, along with well established events such as A Taste of West Cork. The Old Butter Road Festival, mainly in North Cork, enjoyed a good year. Didn’t get to too many outside of Cork this year but had a quick and appetising day trip to Harvest Festival (to a Blaa event) in Waterford city.

There was quite an excellent Cheese festival too at the Cork Airport Hotel, a great cheese dinner on one night and some new cheeses on display in the many stalls on the following days. And the regular long-table was again a huge hit on Cork’s South Mall with over 400 diners.


For me though, the festival where food and fun totally and seamlessly combined was the Clonakilty Street Carnival. Long tables galore here on the main street, even one for the kids. Much more for the young folks too with games and music. Music too on various platforms for the attendees in general. And very impressive numbers with over 2,000 adults fed, by the town’s leading restaurants, for fifteen euro a head!


Variations on the Irish Breakfast
2018 Highlights
Plaice Plus at Aldridge Lodge

In the queue at Nash 19 the other day (coffee and scone for me), I was drooling at the elements of the Full Irish inside the counter. I already had had breakfast but those rashers and sausages etc certainly looked very good indeed. Another excellent one, that I fully enjoyed, was served in mid-summer at De Barra Lodge near Rosscarbery

Rarely go out for breakfast so it’s mostly in hotels and B&Bs that I sample the traditional Full Irish. Sometimes, I ask for the cut-down version: “one of everything”. 

And sometimes I ask for the fish, if there is one. 

Increasingly, there is a fish option. The very best (usually plaice, served simply) is to be found in the Garryvoe Hotel or its cousin across the bay, the Bayview. Superb stuff, especially if you’d had a hard night.

Last month, I had the good luck to dine and stay in Aldridge House on the beautiful Hook Peninsula in County Wexford. I will soon be publishing a full post on the dinner and the stay. I had an inkling that the breakfast would be good.

And when owner-chef Billy Whitty told me plaice was on the menu, I jumped at it. They have a Michelin bib here and Billy improved on the simple plaice, turning it into a marine version of the Full Irish.

Very hard to beat his magnificent plate of fresh and delicious plaice that came with a poached egg (choice of hen or duck), tomatoes and a Portobello mushroom. All that after a terrific starter of a yogurt pot with hazelnuts and raspberry. 

Pancakes are also very popular around the country at breakfast time and I’ve enjoyed a few in recent months, the best hotel offering probably that at the lovely Lyrath Estate in Kilkenny. 

The very best though came closer to home, in the spring, at the Crawford Gallery Café where they served up American style buttermilk pancakes, with delicious bacon, yogurt, blueberries and bananas and Maple syrup of course. Amazing flavours and textures. Simply irresistible! 
Pancakes at the Crawford Gallery Café
No bacon at another excellent Cork venue, the terrific Good Day Deli. But, early in the year, they had excellent Poached Pear Pancakes with coconut mascarpone and a drizzle of Irish honey. A morning winner from this sustainable foods champion. Another non-meat venue is the Candied Hazelnut in Waterford and here I enjoyed their Blueberry Pancake Stack with Maple Syrup.

Will the plaice or the pancakes displace the Full Irish? Maybe not on their own but there are other factors at play here and you can expect to see even more variety on the Irish breakfast plate.

* Have you a great breakfast offering? Email: cork.billy@gmail.com

Sunday, October 14, 2018

Morning at Hegarty’s Cheesemakers. In Whitechurch with Jean-Baptiste


Morning at Hegarty’s Cheesemakers
In Whitechurch with Jean-Baptiste
Ready to go. Cheesemaker Jean-Baptiste

It is 9.45am when I arrive at Hegarty’s farm on the outskirts of Whitechurch, less than twenty minutes north of Cork City. Here, I’m greeted by Dan Hegarty, the frontman for their magnificent cheddar cheese that has been snapped up by restaurants and retail customers alike over the past 16 years or so. For the past three years, he has had the considerable help of French cheese-maker Jean-Baptiste Enjelvin.

Jean-Baptiste had been on duty from earlier that morning and he helps me get my kit on as I start to note how he makes their Templegall, a Comté style cheese, which has been getting sensational reviews over the past few months. 
Savoir faire. Checking the curds, by hand!

The Bordeaux native, who holds a Masters in Agriculture, Food Processing, Marketing and Management, is tasked here with the development of a new range of hard cheeses, including the new one (also similar to Gruyère), speciality cheddar and smoked cheddar.

The focus today though is on the Templegall. The vat, a beautiful 60 year old copper one, is full of fresh milk. The outside is made of stainless steel and temperature controlled water circulates in the enclosed cavity. Patience and timing are key in cheesemaking as is the personal touch, elements all common to artisan food producing. You can have all the high tech gear but a feel for the cheese (in this case) is just as important. Savoir faire is the term Jean-Baptiste uses.
Almost there

He waits until the milk - the culture and rennet had already been added - thickens, judging how quickly his scoop spins around on the surface. As it slows, he knows the perfect moment is approaching. And when it does, he starts to cut the curds. 

The cut for the Comtè style is smaller than that for cheddar. And he can’t afford delays at this point as there is an optimum window of just four minutes. “You have to do it quickly, otherwise the curd is not what you want,” Jean-Baptiste tells me. The more it is cut the more whey is lost and so the dryer the cheese.
Filling the moulds

And the cheesemaker’s touch is vital here. “You must get it as regular as you can. Too big, you get too much water. Too little could block the mould.”

That done, a paddle attachment starts to spin in the vat and the aim now, as the temperature rises slowly to 56 degrees, is to get those little curds as moisture free as possible. He regularly takes a fistful into his hand, squeezes them to check the moisture. He hands me some to taste. Don’t think he expects me to eat the lot but I do (I've missed my ten o'clock break!), and enjoy it. 
Water is squeezed out as the solids find their place

In the meantime and as the steam rises, we take a look at the stored cylinders of Hegarty’s renowned Cheddar. They are clothbound, it keeps in the moisture, and Jean-Baptiste is delighted with their progress, pointing to the older ones and telling me he loves the signs of mould and mites!

Comté in France is made mostly from the milk of Montbeliarde cows but Jean-Baptiste says they are not necessary to the process here. “We are making an Irish cheese, so we use milk from Irish cows.” And the cows here at Hegarty’s are Friesians. Templegal production in Whitechurch is now winding down for the year as it is only while the cows are out there eating grass that the milk is used for the cheese. “Sileage is not suitable for Templegal,’ insists Jean-Baptiste.

The wheels, in their reinforced casings, will stay here for the night.

In the brine
Jean-Baptiste, who plays rugby with a local club, is enjoying “the craic” in Ireland and is amazed how much the Irish love Mediterranean food.

Back to business now as the contents of the vat are pumped into the moulds. The water and the whey are forced out under the pressure and drain away and after a few minutes, during which the cheesemaker is working flat-out, we are left with two wheels full of the cheese solids. Weights and pressure are applied and the wheels are left overnight, during which time the cheese will lose more water.


Hygiene is crucial at every point and now Jean-Baptiste has a lot of washing up ahead of him, even though he has been cleaning up in any spare minute during the past hour or two.

The wheel, which weighs upwards of 40kg, will spend one full day in brine. After that, “you must look after it, wash it every 2 or 3 days as the rind forms. Bacteria will cover the cheese in red and that helps keep moisture in. I don’t want to end up with a cheese with cracks or holes in it!”
A couple of young wheels

Mould forming in the cheddar
So how long will these big wheels be stored for? Nine months is minimum, 12 months is optimum, “18 months, if we can”. That last period though may not suit Dan’s bank manager!

Now I take the gear off and taste a piece of mature comté before leaving. It is exquisite! Very Highly Recommended. Do try and get yours hands on some. I did, thanks to Jean-Baptiste who handed me a large slice of Templegall as we said au revoir!

Brothers Dan and John Hegarty are the fifth generation of Hegarty dairy farmers.  At the turn of the century, they faced a familiar problem on Irish farms. And like many before them, and since, they found a way to diversify and add value by going into cheese production, a solution that allowed both stay on the farm. 









Sunday, September 30, 2018

Cork Cheese Fair. Amazing New Cheeses.


Vincenzo

Cork Cheese Fair
Old Favourites; Superb New Cheeses
Part One: Italy’s Oldest Cheese, from Mid Cork

Many of you will know of Vincenzo, the Italian shepherd best known for his Pecorino which is on sale at the Toons Bridge Market stalls.That was his first cheese here in Ireland but he has quite a variety now including a stunning new one called Conciato Romano. 

While there were quite a few old favourites, such as the classic Coolea and the outstanding St Tola, showing at the weekend’s Cork Cheese Fair in Cork Airport, there were quite a few new or at least relatively new ones, including Vincenzo’s, Cashel Blue’s Organic version, the aromatic Italian Truffle Cheese from Carrigaline Farmhouse, Rockfield (a hard sheeps cheese from Velvet Cloud of Claremorris) and Hegarty’s Templegall. 

The Little Milk Company also had a beautiful Mild Organic Irish Cheddar. Jessica told me it is flying in Germany and Denmark and should be on the home market soon - so watch out for that!

The Conciato Romano is an ancient Italian cheese, indeed many believe it is the country’s oldest, and its production is being encouraged by the Italian Slow Food Foundation. 

Vincenzo’s is made from sheeps milk but goats or cows may also be used. After being pressed by hand the forms are cured and dressed with olive oil and vinegar and herbs before being packed in a sealed jar (or amphora) and matured. “It sells well in the markets,” he told me and, for the moment, you’ll probably have to travel to Skibbereen where he has a stall every Saturday to get it (and his other very interesting variations).

Always a fair bit of variety in the Carrigaline Cheese portfolio and now there’s a new one, an Italian Summer Truffle. “A small piece goes a long way,” says producer Padraig O’Farrell who is delighted with the way it has turned out. For the moment, you cannot buy it in the shops but watch out for it in restaurants (it is available to chefs via Pallas Foods). Reckon there will be some beautifully aromatic dishes created using this one! 

Aisling and Michael (above), the duo behind Mayo’s Velvet Cloud, have become well-known because of their yogurts but now their Rockfield cheese is getting very popular as we found out during the Cheese Dinner that preceded the fair. 

It is creamy and buttery in the mouth with slightly sweet and nutty undertones. The cream coloured interior of this cheese becomes firmer and darker as the maturing period is extended and the flavour becomes nuttier. Supply of this lovely new product is fairly limited this year and Cork buyers can find it in On the Pigs Back. Should be more of it available next year and probably more stockists as well.

Hegarty’s Templegall comes in a big wheel and is a gorgeous delicious Comté style cheese. Dan Hegarty and Jean-Baptise Enjelvin (from Bordeaux but very much enjoying the “craic” in Cork) are rightly proud of this magnificent effort from the Hegarty’s Whitechurch farm. 
Hegarty's cheddar (top) and
new Comté style cheese

It has been earning plaudits for the past few months. It is available in cheese shops such as On the Pigs Back and you’ll also come across it in restaurants. And don’t forget that Hegarty's are famous for their cheddars.

Cashel Blue is also very famous and their newish Cashel Blue organic is a another gem. “More mature than the original,” PJ Ryan told me on Saturday. “More of a hit to it but the same creaminess.” You can get this in cheese shops, including Iago. 

Also tasted their lesser known Shepherd’s Store, a traditional, European style semi-hard cheese. As a seasonal product, it is made only between the months of February and September, and is aged for a minimum of six months. Try it out at On the Pigs Back.

See Also: The Cork Cheese Dinner
Cork Cheese Week Part 2

Thursday, May 31, 2018

Leisurely Tour and Tasting at Cotton Ball Micro-Brewery


Leisurely Tour and Tasting at Cotton Ball Micro-Brewery
Eoin (right) starts the tour.

The sun shone as members (and guests) of the Munster Wine & Dine gathered at the Cotton Ball for a leisurely tour of and tasting at the pub’s own micro-brewery. The brewery was founded by the Lynch family less than five years ago yet they’ve outgrown the original brewery and have moved into a new one in their Mayfield (Cork) premises.

The old brewery is being wound down, our guide Eoin Lynch told us, but is still being used for some brews, including their Lynch’s Stout. He is delighted with the “huge difference in space” afforded them by the new facility.

They also have their own mill, the grain coming from Togher. Speciality malts are imported, mainly from Europe, and we had some fun smelling the many aromas.
Speciality malt, from Belgium

Someone asked what’s the most popular beer. Eoin: “Most of the beer in the world is lager. Craft or not, you can’t ignore that. It is a very competitive market with more and more craft breweries opening. We use tip top ingredients here but labour is the big cost!”

They have almost tripled batch size with the new facility. “But we still need to balance demand, not to get too far ahead. You don’t want product sitting around.” And he confirmed, in response to a question, that draught does indeed taste better. One of the reasons is that most bottles are filtered for “shelf life purposes”.

He showed us some of their kit, including the bottling line, capable of doing 1,000 bottles an hour. A new keg wash means they put through three kegs at a time instead of one previously.

Now it was time to sit down in the Brewery Room, pay tribute to the bar founder, one Humphrey Lynch, Eoin’s great-grandfather, who left Ballyvourney at 15 years of age and settled in an American town known as Byefield which he later used in naming his Cork estate house. 
Cheese please

After working for two years with Joseph Longfellow, cousin to the famous poet, he worked for a year in the ship yard at Newburyport until the American civil war broke out. 

He was one of the first to enlist in the 4th U.S regiment light artillery battery and served through 27 general engagements principally in the army of the southwest and along the Mississippi valley. Then he worked for 14 years as a foreman of the picker room in Newburyport cotton mill. 

This would later give him the name of a public house he purchased in Baile na mBocht  (now Mayfield) after returning to Ireland in 1870’s. Nowadays, each bottle from the new brewery pays tribute to the man who made it all possible, bearing an image of American Civil War veteran Humphrey on the label. 
Keg washing facility

We were on the draught though, five beers in all. And Isabelle Sheridan of On the Pig’s Back supplied the cheeses for the pairings. Generally, it seemed the stronger the beer, the stronger the cheese. 

For instance, the lager and the easy drinking Indian Summer paired well with the Ardsallagh Feta, the Ale with Hegarty’s Cheddar, the Indian Pale Ale (with the Magnum hops, a favourite bittering hops here) with both the Cheddar and the Bleu D’Auvergne. The stout too matched up well with both the cheddar and the bleu. And Hegarty’s new comté style cheese called Teampallgeal was very popular across the board!
le bleu
A pint of Lynch's

After that generous tasting, there was a pint “of your choice” for each guest and lots of chat as the evening wound down and I relaxed with a flavoursome pint of Lynch’s excellent stout.

Until the next time, which will be a mid-summer trip to the county on July 8th. Members are asked to keep an eye on their emails for details. Later in the year, we will be visiting The Mews in Baltimore and Longueville House in Mallow.

  • A more detailed account of the soldier and entrepreneur Humphrey Lynch may be found here  
  • The Cotton Ball website is here
  • For more info on Munster Wine & Dine, click here

Sunday, May 20, 2018

The Lifeboat Inn. Courtmacsherry's Gastro Pub Up and Running


The Lifeboat Inn.
Courtmacsherry's Gastro Pub Up and Running

The Lifeboat Inn in Courtmacsherry is not open a year yet but is making quite an impression in the village. Serving good local food, much of it from the nearby waters, in a casual atmosphere has been the aim of David O’Halloran and chef Martin Buckley since they started here last summer and already it is paying off for them. 

Indeed, they have “expanded” across the road where an inviting terrace has been set up with views over the water. I reckon that will be buzzing in the months ahead. So, a tip for motorists: drive slowly here and allow that server (it may well be David as he looks after front of house) get across the road!

We were there recently and the menu , as promised, has lots of fish and seafood: cod, black sole, John Dory, crab claws and prawns. And quite a bit more as well. The menu is short enough but I prefer to see a short list and high quality, and that's what you get here.

Surprisingly enough, the wine list is a long one with lots of choice. The outstanding Craggy Range Te Muna Sauvignon Blanc features but the New Zealand wine is one of just a few from the New World. We enjoyed the Tandem Wines Casual Rosé and an Albarino, both from Spain, two of about ten whites available by the glass. 

A few more from the New World in the reds, where I spotted the lovely Finca Florencia Malbec from Argentina; some excellent European offerings too, ranging from 22 euro to 130. And there is a bar right there in the middle offering the usual suspects plus an outstanding local craft beer by Blacks of Kinsale.

We had five starters to choose from and my choice was their Prawns in garlic and white cream with crispy sourdough on the side to soak up the cream. A simple enough dish, delicate and delicious and pleasurably dispatched. 

CL’s opener had more texture, more flavours, also a little bit more robust, and the warm Haulie’s Black-pudding salad served with apple, walnut and crispy hen’s egg was also a winner.

Aside from the fish dishes, the mains may also include a Beef Burger in a Brioche Bun with Gubbeen Cheese and Tomato or a Sirloin Steak with all the trimmings.

My choice though was the Wild Mushroom Risotto with herbs and shaved Parmesan. This was one of the best I've had, just perfect and, at €14.00, good value also.

CL meanwhile also struck gold with her Cod with a Parmesan crust, baby potato, roast cauliflower, and wild garlic (no doubt from the local wood where we had earlier walked through swathes of it in flower). The fish was pristine, the whole dish a delicious combination of textures, flavours and aromas (19.95). Go for this if it is on when you visit!.

We were tempted by the desserts but eventually decided to share the cheese board. And we got a generous selection - Milleens, Hegarty’s Cheddar and Cashel Blue - served with an outstanding pear and fig chutney and plenty of bread and crackers. Another one to look out for!

Probably not surprising that the offering is so good here. Both David and chef Martin have put in long years learning the trade in London and Dublin before settling in Courtmacsherry. Their Gastro Pub is truly up and running and well worth a call, even if it is just for a glass of wine or beer on the terrace.

While we were among just a few diners - we were in very early - it would be advisable to book ahead, especially if you are going down just for the meal as they tend to get full early on at the weekend.

The Lifeboat Inn
Main Street
Courtmacsherry
Co. Cork
Tel: (023) 886 4656
Twitter: @the_lifeboatinn 
Web: www.lifeboatinn.ie 

Other recent posts from this area:
Courtmacsherry Hotel


Monday, May 7, 2018

Cronin Sisters Walk The Walk as Old Blarney Butter Roads Festival Steps Up A Gear

Cronin Sisters Walk The Walk
 As Old Butter Roads Festival Steps Up A Gear

Quite a few tributes were paid to the women behind the Old Butter Roads Summer Féile at the 2018 launch in Blarney on Saturday. Two of those women are the Cronin sisters who spoke honestly and eloquently about the importance of local produce. 

Having talked the talk, the sisters, Tricia and chef Martina, showed they could walk the walk at a multi-course meal in their Square Table restaurant on Sunday night. Local produce was right, left and centre as the courses came to the table. 

The festival lasts all through May. The spotlight was on Blarney last weekend but will shift to Macroom, Kanturk and Mallow, Mitchelstown and Fermoy, to villages Aubane, Watergrasshill, and Whitechurch and to other parts of the general North Cork area. Check the website link below and also their Facebook page.

Toonsbridge Mozzarella with Follain red pepper chutney;
Bluebell Falls goats cheese and beetroot crumble;
Michael Twomey's crispy black pudding with red cabbage chutney;
McCarthy's black pudding wrapped with puff pastry, piccalilli and apple purée.
Annabella Farm micro-herbs.

Ballinwillin Farm wild boar and mushroom tortellini, onion purée

K. O'Connell's pan-fried hake, Bertha's Revenge Gin,
Jerusalem artichoke and mussel

Michael Twomey Butcher Angus aged rib eye, Tom O'Brien's free range egg
béarnaise (not shown but exquisite!), McCarthy's beef dripping chips,
and onion confit.

Longueville House apple brandy chocolate mousse,
buttermilk foam, expresso ice cream

Hegarty's cheddar and new Templegall (comté) cheese and Toonsbridge
scamorza , served with Follain relish and Longueville house apple brandy
and fig chutney and house crackers.


Sunday, May 6, 2018

A Bit of Banter. At Old Butter Roads Launch in Blarney


A Bit of Banter
At Old Butter Roads Launch in Blarney
Joe McNamee with, from left, Martina and Tricia Cronin and Lenka Forrest

“Sometimes you need to be broken to get stronger”, said Martina Cronin, Chef at the Square Table where her twin sister Tricia is front of house and manager, at the launch of the 2018 Old Butter Roads Food Trail in The Church Of The Resurrection Blarney on Saturday.

Martina was responding to journalist Joe McNamee whose gentle prompting drew some terrific answers from the chefs and producers on stage. Martina paid tribute to her mother: “The house was very food oriented.” But she was in transition year before she made her mind up to be a chef.

Ciaran Scully, teacher and chef, “had me ready for Dublin” where her education continued under top chefs Ross Lewis and Graham Neville. One of the things she learned along the way and which she and Tricia implemented at the Square Table was to use local as much a possible. “This way we met and got to know the local producers and that in some ways led to this festival.”
Hegarty's cheese

Joe asked Tricia how customers reacted to local produce. Her years in Jacques gave her a good grounding and introduced her to local produce. “I enjoy engaging with the customers on local produce and local producers. But you do need to know your stuff. There’s a lot of homework to be done, especially with new dishes. I find too that now locals and international customers are talking about the Old Butter Roads.”


Lenka Forrest who runs the Old Blarney Post Office Café in the village started here about two years ago and immediately “clicked” with the Cronin twins and Maire, the chair of the Old Butter Roads. “It is important to promote the great food that's within this area to locals and tourists. I was happy to get the call to join the OBR. And happy too to see how Irish food has changed over the past twenty years.”
Victor of Bluebell Falls

Pat Mulcahy
Lenka, originally from Czechoslovakia (“the Czech side!”), didn’t really have a food background. But spotted the closed-up Post Office and rented it. “I didn’t know anything about the business, about the margins. It is a tiny place - you can see us make everything. We use the right ingredients and give good customer service. I like sharing food and love to see people enjoying our food.”

Frenchman Jean-Baptiste Enjelvin is helping Dan Hegarty of Whitechurch make his great cheese for the past two years or so. He admitted he had no idea about Irish cheese but soon discovered “other amazing cheese makers, Gubbeen, Milleens, Coolea”. Hegarty’s are long renowned for their cheddar but Jean-Baptiste told us that the range is expanding, a Comte/Gruyere style, and had some delicious samples to share.


Zwena McCullough of the nearby Hydro Farm Allotments said she is passionate about growing. “We share everything in the allotments, including the fruit cage. It is organic, no chemicals, we have a great community from tiny tots to the quite elderly. A great variety of nationalities including a Moroccan lady who makes a great tagine! We help educate by running courses and so on.”


Victor from Bluebell Falls was also on the platform - they weren't all up together! And he told Joe his story. We visited his farm recently and you can see all the details here
Hydro Farm Allotments 


Pat Mulcahy from Ballinwillin Farm told us his business includes deer, wild boar, and goats, B&B, lunch, evening meals. He has about 40 meat products, all through organic farming. He found lots of obstacles at the start: “You need to be determined, lots of walls to jump.” Now he works with many chefs to get his food message across.


And while he meets some of the biggest names in the industry it is often at home that he feels the big pride. “The chest expands,” he admitted, “when I’m sitting around the breakfast table with guests from many countries enjoying the farm food as was the case this morning.” You’ll probably be hearing more from Ballinwillin about wellness and the link with food as they are seriously looking at the influence of quality and authenticity on good health.


All together now!

Pat also imports his own wine from Hungary. “Some of the best winemakers in the world are in Hungary but they don’t sell. We were lucky to get into partnership in a cellar and now bottle and import our own range of wine. Growing grapes is like farming - that's what attracted me."

The Aubane community seem to be ahead of the posse on the Old Butter Roads as they celebrated the 250th anniversary 20 years back and Celeste Buckley told us on Saturday about another celebration on May 18th next, the 270th, with a five course meal at the local community centre to be followed by music and dancing. “We have a very exciting menu for the event and are really looking forward to the night.” Details on here
Jean-Baptiste

Kanturk too will be involved and we heard from Timmy McCarthy, the 5th generation butcher from the town. “We can't move forward without taking inspiration from the past. We have a rich array of producers and it all needed direction. This is a platform to promote the area!”


Joe McNamee then officially declared the event open. “This is a tremendous initiative. Food and tourism are intertwined and contributed to the country's recovery. The quality of the food and the movement of small premium producers led to this. But don’t reserve your support for special occasions. Support these producers in your weekly shopping.”

Chairperson Maire Ní Mhurchu, a founder member, then invited us to sample the trays of tasty bites laid out for us and so we did. “We all have a passion about food,” she said earlier. “We are a  cooperative group and intend to show the area at its best. Our new website has been launched. As you know our logo is the Milk Churn.”

Joe McNamee launches the 2018 event.


“This is a great unspoiled area, yet very close to the city. There is a great heritage here and that shouldn't be forgotten either and the Aubane celebration is part of it as it the cart outside built by the local mens shed.”

Soon the celebrations began. Indeed, I suspect they had already begun in nearby Blairs Inn. Next stop after the church opening was Lenka’s cafe where Pat Mulcahy was roasting one of his wild boars. Lots of events coming up over the month so do stay in touch with the website and also their Face book page

Also of interest: