|"Caught in the spotlight" (Stage Fright by The Band)
Thursday, December 20, 2018
Down Home, Downtown at the White Rabbit
As we sat down at our table in McCurtain Street’s White Rabbit, Aretha Franklin was belting out her songs. Kind of appropriate I thought because when the Queen of Soul hit the road, her pots and pans came too.
She was no mean cook, those pots and pans rattling perhaps in protest against the “‘chitlin circuit’ - ‘a string of black-owned honky-tonks, night clubs, and theaters’- so-called because the venues also served up chitlins (chitterlings) and other soul food.” * Black musicians were often able to tour through a segregated United States only because of the existence of that circuit.
More music from that era, including Wilson Pickett’s Midnight Hour, followed as we studied the menu in this down-home joint at the far eastern end of the street, more or less next door, I think, to where the garda barracks was. The sixties in there were more swingeing than swinging; "bad" boys got their ears clattered.
Amazing list of whisky here from the southern states, and other parts. Hard to make a choice but I did strike it lucky with Maker’s Mark, smooth, subtle and easy drinking. They have a wagon load of craft beer here also.
Aside from that cherished whiskey list - their “pride and joy” - they serve authentic slow-smoked barbecue food, our main reason for coming in from the December rain. Everything in this unpretentious place is prepared in the kitchen here.
They start with Brunch which includes the Cowboy Breakfast: their BBQ beans topped with house-smoked bacon and sausage, topped with a fried egg and served with sourdough toast.
As the day moves along you may enjoy Bar Bites such as Pork Belly Cubes, BBQ Tacos, Tortilla Chips and more, even a dessert of Kentucky Hot Chocolate.
The meats come into their own from noon on, until 9.00pm. There are salads and sides (including one or two vegetarian) and sandwiches, not in slices, but in brioche buns with red slaw, pickles and BBQ mayo.
We were there though for The Meats, the Meat Plates in particular. The Plate consist of your choice of meat to which you may add two sides.
CL went for the half pound of Pulled Pork with Potato Salad and Red Slaw (11.95). My pick was the 2/3 pound of Baby Back Ribs with Green Salad and BBQ Beans (12.95). We were the two happiest bunnies in town as we concentrated on those two excellent good value platefuls. We did share, of course, and the verdict came down narrowly in favour of the tasty ribs. And if you are picking a salad here, go for the outstanding beans (the others are all good too).
The other meat choices by the way are Pork Belly, Beef Brisket, BBQ Bacon, and Smoked Chicken Wings.
By the time we had finished eating, the place had filled and the music had been pushed well to the background by the happy sound of many young voices. Soul food in the south perhaps but a long long way from the chitlin’ circuit.
Well worth a call here, good food, good value. Our two platefuls along with the Bourbon (6.50) came to a grand total of €31.40. Service is efficient and very friendly, helpful too.
* Easy Riders, Rolling Stones (on the road in America, from Delta Blues to 70s Rock) by John Scanlan (2015)
Thursday, December 7, 2017
The SpitJack's Superb New Menu.
Amazing Cheese and Fortifieds List
|Pom'O (right) and Ice Wine
The SpitJack has hit the ground running in Washington Street and, with its first summer a success, has just announced its new winter menu. I took the opportunity to try it out in mid-week. The meats as you’d expect, as SpitJack is a rotisserie, are top notch but the real surprise was the new Cheese and Fortified Menu. Not too many of our top restaurants will match this magical list of possible combinations.
And the good news is that there is quite a local input. Near neighbours, Ardsallagh Goats and Johnny Fall Down, feature strongly. The inventive Glounthaune drinks outfit are doubly represented with a Pom’O Apple Port and a Rare Apple Ice Wine.
The Pom’O is based on the traditional Normandy pommeau (pressed apple juice with apple brandy) but the Glounthaune orchard has added a twist or two of their own to make this beauty. They used rare apples and then a combination of freezing and thawing, a year long fermentation and nothing at all was added to make the Ice Wine, the first Irish ice wine to be sold.
It is beautiful and rich and perfect with the cheeses that we had and with the Ardsallagh Ash Pyramid in particular. Ardsallagh have a much longer history in the East Cork area than Johnny Fall Down but Jane Murphy continues to innovate and this is her first ash pyramid. Made from pasteurised mild goats milk, it is formed into the traditional Valencay shape and sealed in ash. Got an early taste during the Culture Night but this is the first commercial batch and it won't be the last.
The Ardsallagh was served with Fig Compote. Our second cheese was a favourite of ours from our (too) few visits to the Basque country. It is a sheep cheese from Ossau-Iraty a area of the Pyrenees where we got “lost” once or twice. In the Basque country, they often serve it with a Black Cherry conserve (I use Loganberry jam at home!); last night, SpitJack’s Quince paste was excellent.
Then we finished with the Comte AOC from the Jura mountains, served with truffle honey. This 24 month vieux is a beauty, delicious, and enhanced by that honey.
Other cheeses on this impressive list include: Brillat Savarin, Camembert Bonchoix AOC, Cashel Blue Mature, Durrus Og, Epoisses AOC, Manchego 18 months PDO, Pont L’Évêque AOC, and Stilton PDO. There are three Quinta Seara D’Ordens signature ports on the fortifieds list while dessert wines include Chateau Camperos Sauternes and a couple of sherries, a Colosio PX and Orleans Borbon Manzanilla, plus the two Johnny Fall Down drinks.
The new menu, like the previous one, is well constructed, in the sense that, if you wish, you can avoid meat in the starters and that’s what we did.
Salted cod is an Atlantic tradition so I was delighted to see the House Salted Cod “Bunyols” (€8.5) Catalan Style Cod Fritters, Flaked Salted Cod, Fried Crisp Exterior, Soft Pillow Centre, Lime Chantilly, delighted too that I choose this tasty plateful.
Across the table, CL also made a good pick. The pickled Heirloom Beetroot Carpaccio (€7) with Ardsallagh Goats Cheese Foam, Candied Walnuts, Tarragon Oil, Watercress, looked well and tasted well.
On now to the main event, as my Eight Degrees Sunburnt Red Ale sank in the glass. Time for the Rotisserie Pork Belly Porchetta (€17), Slow Roasted Pork Belly Stuffed with Sage & Garlic, Crisp Crackling, Kale Colcannon Potatoes, Braised Kale & Apple Compote, Sautéed Tender Stem Broccoli, Honey Mustard Jus. “Savage,” as we say around here. The word’s not the most sophisticated but, when pronounced with soul, means the meat (in this case) is rather good my dear.
And it also may be applied to CL’s earthy choice, a peasant’s pleasant pot in winter time of Brazed and Rotisserie Roasted Lamb Shank (€19.00), with Red Wine Glaze, Pearl Barley & Winter Vegetable Cassoulet, Crème Fraîche, Mint Oil, Braised Lamb & Brandy Jus. Local and seasonal, simple soul food, simple but superb.
So two very happy customers and that was before the cheese and Johnny Fall Down took us to a higher level!
Check out the new menus and more here at SpitJack
34 Washington Street
Monday, November 13, 2017
Broth to Bowl by Drew Smith.
“You might find your definition of the word soup somewhat stretched in these pages but that is the way of my kitchen.”
So says author Drew Smith in the introduction to his new book, Broth to Bowl. The word soup is “stretched” here, in many delightful ways as he shows us how to master the art of great soup from six simple broths.
And, by the way, Drew is adamant: “a stock cube will not do”. “For soup to be nutritionally optimal and full of flavour, you must begin with a solid foundation – a good broth.”
“Soup is the heart and soul of the kitchen. Menus invite you to think that a soup is a single event, which it is if you are running a restaurant. But at home, probably the last thing you want is 75 bowls of cauliflower cheese soup.
What we want is evolution, so one recipe leads logically into the next and so on. Less work. One job = three or four or more, completely different meals, a vegetable tea becomes a chunky vegetable broth becomes a creamy soup. The same liquid can find its way into ragouts, stews, casseroles and all manner of sauces.”
|Ingredients I gathered for vegetable tea and vegetable broth
If you are on a budget, this book is for you. “It may seem at first glance that we are using humble, cheap everyday ingredients, but for the most part these are what our bodies need and crave. We have become very wasteful as a society. We like our meat to be neat little red fillets.
But much, if not most, of the nutritional benefits of eating meat at all are to be found in and around the bones, the marrow, the collagen-rich elements like cheek and trotter. We buy breast of chicken and ignore the rest of the bird, despite knowing through history that a soup made from the carcass has always been given as a restorative. So too was beef tea.”
|Vegetable tea, the basis..
Let us go through the section headings. We’ll start with Vegetable Tea. It is the first recipe you’ll see and that is the start, and also the basis, for many more, including Potassium Broth (“If you had to live on one simple recipe, then this might be a good choice”), Kale Vichyssoise, Laksa and Gazpacho (for when the temperature rises above 25 degrees!).
|... for the broth
The red meats are next, beginning with the Basic Beef Bone Broth and that can be the basis for so much more. There's a Proper Borscht, a Rich Man’s Pho, a French Potée (a soup, broth and stew all in one), and the legendary Italian bollito misto.
There is a shortish, but no less interesting, chapter under Fish, including Fish Chowder, Jane Grigson’s Lobster Bisque, Dalston Bouillabaisse, and a magnificent Oyster Soup!
And we stay with the sea as we turn the focus to Kombu. How about a Japanese Bonito Broth? Monkfish in dashi with ginger? A Tonkotsu Ramen?
|My chunky vegetable broth
It is much the same pattern all the way through. Start simply and build from there. So, in the end, it may be more to accurate to say that soup (the food that is), is expanded, enhanced, deepened, in this well laid out, well illustrated, book, while happily admitting that soup (the word) is well and truly stretched.
* In addition to the recipes, there is advice on buying your produce and on the equipment you’ll need. And a list of various garnishes too.
- Drew Smith is the author of Oyster: A Gastronomic History with Recipes and translator of La Mère Brazier. The former editor of The Good Food Guide, he has been a restaurant writer for the Guardian and has won the Glenfiddich award three times.
* Broth to Bowl: Mastering the Art of Great Soup from Six Simple Broths by Drew Smith - Modern Books, published October 2017, Hardback, 4 colour with photographs, 160 pages, RRP: £20.
This is a sequence. It starts out as a light tea, becomes a soup and then transforms itself
again and again. You can drink this first-stage broth as an alternative to tea and coffee.
Once you get the hang of it, vary the spices, vegetables and herbs with the seasons.
Put 4 litres of water on to boil in a deep pot or saucepan while you deal with the vegetables. Peel and trim the carrots and cut into thirds. Peel and quarter the onions. Dice the leek. Quarter the potatoes – you can leave the skin on. As the water comes to the boil, drop the vegetables in and add the spices. Trim the top leaves off the parsley, save for arnish, and throw the stalks in the mix. Cover and simmer gently for 30 minutes. Strain and discard the vegetables, keeping only the liquid. Warm through, garnish with a few leaves of parsley and add a slurp of olive oil if you like. Serve in a mug or glass or take a thermos to work.
COOK’S TIP: There’s nothing wrong with the leftover vegetables. You can have them for dinner, dressed with a little meat broth. Or take out the potato and carrot, dice and mix with mayonnaise for a cold salad.
6 BLACK PEPPERCORNS
1 BAY LEAF
Bunch of fresh PARSLEY
SEA SALT to taste
OLIVE OIL to serve (optional)
MAKES 4 LITRES
Thursday, December 1, 2011
CURVES AND COLOURS IN A BUTCHER’S SHOP
Never knew that meat had so many variations in colour until I saw the counter in James Whelan’s shop yesterday. What a superb display for the customer. And so much information. All well laid out and superbly lit. The soft overhead lights do their job well; there is virtually no glare and the customer sees the meat as it is.
Must say I had a terrific guide in Pat Whelan himself, taking time out from his busy day which also included a trip to the Avoca Food Market in Monkstown (Dublin) to oversee preparations for the opening of his new butcher shop there. Would love to live near a Whelan shop but at least we can always buy online .
Pat explained that the lighting was an integral part of the design and then pointed to the floor (an earthy colour) and to the ceiling (sky colours) and said the meat was the bounty of nature in between.
Curves abound too in the shop, virtually no hard angles. Fung Shui principles were employed. Pat admitted to being gob smacked when the German designer first explained the plan to him but had a good feeling about it and signed the cheque. It has worked out very well indeed.
All the major meats are well laid out here and some minor ones, everything from rabbit to beef and poultry of course and no shortage of info as to where it was raised and bred, much of it on the nearby Whlena farms.
Opposite the counter, there is a long row of shelves, generally with packs, including a whole range of puddings, from as near as Inch House and from as far as Newport (Kelly’s).
Whelan’s own pre-packed products are also displayed here, vacuum packed bacon and ham, sausages, rashers and so on. The packaging is transparent. You can visually examine the contents. Another example of the Whelan integrity! What you see is what you get.
Towards the back of the shop, there is semi-circle (curves again) that contains the “deli”, another inviting counter where you can buy prepared or semi-prepared meals, everything from Boeuf Bourguignon to a mini quiche. It very much resembles the “traiteur” counter in a French butcher shop.
An Irish Butcher Shop. It is full of recipes and because it is written by an Irishman for an Irish audience, you won’t have any problem finding the ingredients.
The recipes are, I can say, brilliant and if you need any further help, there is a treasure trove of help, videos even, on the Whelan site which is well worth a visit. But, I have to encourage you to make a visit to the real shop and see one of the gems of the Irish food scene.
Just hope that these few words and pictures do it justice.