Showing posts with label Opera House. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Opera House. Show all posts

Thursday, May 12, 2016

House Café. In the middle of our town

House Café
In the middle of our town
Mega mushrooms
The shows come and go but The House Café keeps performing in the Opera House, just a few yards from Patrick’s Street. So central, so good.

We called to this friendly place for lunch this week and enjoyed it from the start to finish, the welcome, the friendly informative service, the little chats and, of course, the food. Food that is based for the most part on top notch local produce: Crozier Blue, Knockalara, Ballyhoura, Coolea, O’Mahony Butchers among those featured.
We could have had one of the soups (carrot, ginger and coriander looked tempting. Or one of the sandwiches (Coolea cheese with wild garlic pesto caught the eye). But once I saw the Creamed Ballyhoura Wild Mushrooms on sourdough toast with Parmesan and organic leaves, I was hooked. It is one of the best expressions of these fabulous mushrooms (much in demand by the country’s top chefs) you're likely to come across. Go in and try it!

CL too cleaned her plate, every little bit. Her choice was the Spiced Chickpea and Sweet potato Falafel with hummus, tahini sauce and salad with a roasted pide (a Turkish bread). Her dish cost nine euro, mine two euro more. Both were vegetarian but we didn't even think about that, just good food, and that’s the way it should be.

Since we had skipped the soup, dessert was on the cards. I went for one of the specials and it was very special, again worth a call if available. This was the Carrot and Pistachio cake (3/50), toasted and served with butter and cream. It was so good! Too good in fact. CL got very interested and I had to give over fifty per cent, On the other hand, I got fifty per cent of her lemon Drizzle Slice (3.50), and quite a superior Lemon drizzle it was.

Sp we relaxed and finished off our Golden Bean coffees (2.30) before settling up at the counter (cash only, by the way!) and heading off to Pana (the local name for Patrick Street).

House Café
Opera House
Emmet Place
Tel: (021) 490 5277

Twitter: @HouseCafeCork

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

James Nicholson at The Opera House. No Shortage of Stars

James Nicholson at The Opera House
No Shortage of Stars
Marc Kent of Boekenhoutskloof
James Nicholson Wines, came, saw and conquered at the Cork Opera House last Monday, three South African producers starring in the impressive portfolio tasting. Burgundy's Bertrand Ody of Chateau De Beauregard had just three wines but what a superb hat trick. Verdicchio featured strongly at organic Umani Ronchi; the Plenio was amazing. Liked too the Freestyle Range from Domaine Gayda (Languedoc), especially the easy-drinking Cabernet Franc.

Louis Strydom of Ernie Els Wines was proud to fly the flag for South Africa: “We over-deliver at every price point”. And I think the best examples of that were his Sauvignon Blanc (16.95) and The Big Easy White, a 100% Chenin Blanc (14.95). “The Chenin is our most planted grape, our most exported wine. We are proud producers of the grape. This is uncomplicated, lemon, zesty, great noses. Very versatile, excellent for the on-trade. And it ages well.”

The Els Proprietor's Cabernet Sauvignon (34.99) is a good one. But I had a slight preference for the Proprietor's Syrah (29.99). It is 95% Syrah and is called Syrah (rather than Shiraz) to indicate that it has been made in a Rhone style. The big one here though was the Ernie Els Signature 2012 (58.99), a Bordeaux blend with 65% Cabernet Sauvignon, 25% Merlot, some Malbec, Petit Verdot and Cabernet Franc.
Over-delivery came to mind again when tasting the Wolftrap Red 2014 (14.49). Winemaker Marc Kent was on hand to explain that it is a blend that includes Syrah and Mourvedre. They marry nicely. Marc, from the Boekenhoutskloof winery in Franschhoek, was much in demand as he had the iconic Chocolate Block (29.00) up for tasting and that, with 73% Shiraz in the blend, had no shortage of fans.

And there was no shortage of South African quality at the Rustenberg stand where I met Murray Barlow. His basic Sauvignon Blanc (14.75) and especially the “quite complex” Chardonnay (18.99) were excellent. The John X Merriman (19.99), named after the previous owner, an estate blend of mainly Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon, is quite superb, even if still young.

Top of his whites though, and one of the very best in the room, was the Five Soldiers Chardonnay (35.95), excellent fruit and finish here. And there was also a very high class red, the Peter Barlow 2009 (35.95). This is named after his grandfather who bought the property in 1941. It has spent two years in oak and four in bottle. “This has seven years on it,” he said. “And is getting better.” Before we left Murray, we enjoyed a sip of their Straw Wine, a farewell treat!

Nicolas Sordon of  Demazet had a beautiful Armoires White 2013 for just €12.99, same price as the entry level Verdicchio Villa Bianchi from Umani Ronchi. But the Verdicchio to get your hands on is the Plenio. Not sure it is available here yet but do try the Casal di Serra 2013 (17.99), fresh, fruity and aromatic.
Leticia of Grupo Pesquera
And then, at the Grupo Pesquera stand, there was a white or was it? This the 100% Alejairen 2012 (25.75). It spends 8 days on lees and then two years in US oak. It has many of the characteristics of a red.

By the way, they use all US oak here and Alejandro Fernandez was “the first to make a 100% Tempranillo wine”. More US oak, two years again, has had its impact on the excellent Dehesa la Granja 2007 (19.99). It is full bodied, great with food and “we expect it to be better with time”.

Nicholson’s themselves had a big selection of their other wines on show and I very much enjoyed the Soalheiro Alvarinho 2015 (18.99). Great acidity here with nicely restrained fruit, a really good example of the grape.

And they also had the very affordable and very good Uno Pio Uno 2015 (14.95). This is a blend of Primitivo and Nero Troia. It is organic, is new to the Nicholson range and is already selling well. I could see why.
A Very Good View!

I suppose we should never be surprised when we see something different from the Languedoc but I did ask Tim Ford of Gayda about the lovely fresh Cabernet Franc (21.99). “There are not many in our area,” he said. "But our winemaker is from the Loire and he insisted on making it. It is my TV wine!” I certainly loved it as I did the more serious Chemin de Moscou 2013, its seductive palate with restrained fruit followed by  a great finish. It is an IGP and the blend is 62% Syrah, 32% Grenache, 6% Cinsault.

I didn't get to all the tables but one I wasn't going to miss was Chateau De Beauregard from Burgundy and the three top class wines that Bertran Ody was showing. The St Veran 2014 (22.85) and the Pouilly Fuisse 2013 (28.95) were real treats but my favourite was the Fleurie Classique 2012 (22.85), with its floral aromas, fruity palate, its smoothness and long finish. Superb.

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Superb Cono Sur & Penfolds Tasting in Cork (Part 2)

Superb Cono Sur & Penfolds Tasting in Cork
Two of the world’s leading winemakers were in Cork last week for an unusual double tasting. Adolfo Hurtado came from Cono Sur in Chile to link up with Andrew Baldwin of Australia’s Penfolds. The event, in the Blue Angel Bar at the Opera House, was organised by Findlater Wines and was more a masterclass than your basic tasting. Lots of notes and photos were taken and it’s been a job to edit it all down to two posts, the first here features Adolfo and Cono Sur, the second (below) sees Penfolds in the spotlight with Andrew going solo!
Part Two
Andrew explains the Penfolds range

Andrew Baldwin is a leading winemaker at Penfolds of South Australia. But, as a young man, he started there as a distiller! He was making neutral and brandy spirits. He has been there for thirty years now - the company do seem to have many loyal long-term employees - and he has been making wine since the 90s, “everything from Bin 28 to Grange”.
Grange, of course, is “an icon” and has been described as “an institution”. It was first made in the 1950’s by Max Schubert and was soon “the subject of controversy” according to Andrew. Schubert was told by the board that it was like a dry Tawny Port and “who, in their right mind, was going to drink a dry Tawny Port”.

Back at base, Max continued to work on the Grange. But in secret. Just like winemakers in France during the WW2 occupation, he constructed fake walls and made three vintages behind closed doors in the tunnels of Magill Estate. At that point, the board's interest was revived and Max was able to reveal his secret, even if stocks were limited. Its fame soon grew and the standard has never dropped.

During the 50th anniversary (2001) of Max Schubert’s creation of Grange, to recognize its consistent quality and renown, the national Trust of South Australia listed Penfolds Grange as an official heritage icon. To see Russell Crowe’s 3 minute video of Grange, please click here.
Before the joint event in the Opera House

Following many years of continued growth, in both the production and the reputation of the wines from The Grange Vineyard, Penfolds (once owned by Guinness) now accounts for 50 percent of all of the annual wine sales across the whole of Australia.
The company is also a huge exporter and much of the credit for that goes to Dr Ray Beckwith. Andrew says Ray, a contemporary of Max Schubert, “put science behind wine in Australia”. “He helped give stability to the wines and that led to exports”.

All ready to go in the Blue Angel

Up to the 1950s, as you'll see in the Crowe video, much of Australia was drinking Port and Sherry type wines. And indeed that was how Penfolds started, back in 1844! Englishman Dr Christopher Rawson Penfold and his wife Mary arrived with cuttings from the South of France and proceeded to make fortified wine “for medicinal purposes”.
And Andrew acknowledged that “Tawny style wines were our foundation” and told me that the Port (not necessarily for medicinal purposes anymore) is still a vital part of the production with three being made from ten year old to 35 year old. He describes the older one “as the great grand-father, a wine of exceptional complexity”.

Penfolds are known for their blending prowess, grapes bought in from near and far, but they also celebrate terroir and the Holy Ground in this regard is Block 42. Andrew says that this 10-acre block was planted only 30 years after the great 1855 Bordeaux Classification and comprises the oldest plantings of Cabernet Sauvignon continuously produced in the world.

It’s been all red wine in this piece so far but Andrew pointed out that “the white wine portfolio compares well. Two years ago, our Chardonnay was ‘best in world’”.
Yours Truly with Carmel from Ardkeen Superstore
We asked Andrew for a few tips for someone wishing to start exploring Penfolds wine and, without hesitation, he recommended the Koonunga Hill Shiraz Cabernet because of its “drinkability and lots of fruit” and he also said the Koonunga Hill Chardonnay is “really approachable”.
Penfolds Tasting

Bin 51 Eden Valley Riesling 2014
Andrew  told us that the Eden Valley produces white wines “more floral, more aromatic” than the Clare. “It has good balance, great with seafood or as an aperitif. There are lime lemony characters and, with sugar under 2 grams, it is very very dry.”
Bin 2 Shiraz Mourvedre 2012
The first red and our first example of blending, the fruit for this coming from the Barossa, McLaren Vale and Padthaway. The Mourvedre, better known as Mataro (the Aussies prefer the easier pronunciation!), “adds spiciness and evenness to the palate”. It has spent 10 months in a mixture of oak. This is a relatively new blend and popularity continues to grow, especially in the Asian market.
Bin 8 Cabernet Shiraz 2012
This is one of their newer wines and dates from the early 90s. It has a lovely sweetness and Andrew was quick to point out that the sweetness is natural” “It comes from the fruit, not from sugar!” This particular year the blend was 57% Cabernet and 43% Shiraz and that is close to the usual proportions. It has been matured, for 12 months, in seasoned and American oak, with 13% in new French oak, and has “a lovely whole mouth sensation. The two varieties complement each other.”
Adolfo and Cono Sur featured in yesterday's post.

Bin 407 Cabernet Sauvignon 2013

Five vineyards contributed to the previous wine and the same number to this, emphasising the multi-region focus of Penfolds and again it has been in a mixture of oak for 12 months. It is a serious wine. “Nose is dark, palate also, ...quite complex… and can be laid down for a long period.” Notes indicate peak drinking between 2017 and 2030. Not bad though in 2015!

Bin 389 Cabernet Shiraz 2013
I assume some of us were hoping that Andrew would pull a bottle of Grange out at the last minute! But he did come up with this beauty, also known as Baby Grange or Poor Man's Grange, in part because ”components of the wine are matured in the same barrels that held the previous vintage of Grange”.

Like Grange, it is a “judicious balance of fruit and oak". The fruit mix is Cabernet (51%) and Shiraz. It is quite complex both on the nose and on the palate (where the winery rating is expansive, explosive, exotic). It is made in the Penfolds style, richer, more tannic “and the time on lees gives more flavour.” Over time, the colours change, the wine softens out, the tannins too. Worth keeping by the sound of it! Indeed, peak drinking time is indicated as 2018-2035.

After the tasting, we had time for more chat and time too to enjoy some tasty nibbles from Victor and his team in the House Cafe.

Friday, May 17, 2013

The Award-winning House Cafe

The House Cafe

For just €8.50, I enjoyed a sublime lunch dish in Cork last week. Ballyhoura Wild Mushrooms were the main element here, the light touch of the House Cafe culinary team  combining them with Free Range Egg, spring onion and parmesan to construct a delicious omelette. They added some pickles cucumber and healthy organic leaves to vary the taste, the flavours and the textures. A simple creation. But a superb one.

House Cafe is the relatively new award winning cafe set up in the foyer of the Cork Opera House. Just like  managers Victor Murphy and Steve McGlynn and Chef Eoin O'Reilly, I’m always looking to support local producers and isn’t it just great to see these fresh ingredients used in such an imaginative way. The menu here is very attractive and it looks as if I’ll have to return again, and again.

CL went for the Mezze Slate (8.50) and what a variety she got. Colours and flavours galore in the Aubergine compote, roasted parsnip hummus, bean salad, roasted peppers, Tomato Tapenade, and marinated olives.

We had each started off with a soup (4.50). One was Cauliflower and Parsnip, the other Carrot and Sweet Potato. Both very tasty and quite substantial. If you had time only for soup, this would keep you going for quite a while.

Finished off with coffees and by the way this too is excellent and comes from the Golden Bean, based at Ballymaloe and regulars at Mahon Point Farmers Market. Not much room for dessert but did try a Macaron. Sweet!

Opening times are  all day Monday to Saturday, from 10 to 5.30, and shownights until 9.

Victor proudly gave me this list of the growers and producers that they use:
Leaf / Salad / Veg - Caroline Robinson, Coal Quay Market
and Derek Hannon - Greenfield Farm, Leamlara.
Other seasonal fruit/veg' from various stallholders at the Saturday Coal Quay market.
Wild mushrooms from Mark and Lucy of Ballyhoura Mushrooms.
Eggs and Apple juice from Colin Wolfe, Coal Quay market.
Fish from O'Driscolls market stall, Ballycotton seafood, Rene Cusack & Frank Hedermans.
Sausage, rashers, bacon, puddings from Avril Allshire -  Caherbeg/Roscarberry
Free range chicken - Jack McCarthy
Sourdough and pide bread - Arbutus Bread
Cheeses :- Knocklara
              - Gubeen
               - Hegartys
              - Mozzarella, ricotta, Parmesan, olives and olive oil from Real olive company/Toonsbridge.
Beef - O'Mahony's, the market
Game - Ivin Ellis.
Coffee - Mark Kingston of Golden Bean

"For Drinks,  we collect seasonal foraged flowers and herbs, to make cordials. We make everything from scratch on site in House Cafe (save the white bread)."