Showing posts with label Thomastown. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Thomastown. Show all posts

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Kilkenny Dinner, in Cork

Kilkenny Dinner, in Cork
Goatsbridge smoked trout

Zwartbles lamb chops were the highlight of a weekend dinner here in Cork. Other Kilkenny products to feature were Goatsbridge Smoked Trout and Knockdrinna Cream cheese with a pesto topping.
The lamp chops (gigot) were a present from Suzanna at her Zwartbles farm near Bennettsbridge when a group of bloggers visited recently. Not alone did she provide the meat but she also came up with the other main ingredients, Catillac pears and Newtown Wonder Apples. And she didn’t to stop there as she also gave us the recipe.

Carrots, butternut squash, red onions and more were added to the old Creuset and the stew was ready about five or six hours later. Suzanna is a slow cook advocate! It was well worth the wait. The pears and apples mixed so well with the gorgeous lamb while the other ingredients all added to the delightful flavours. A superb main course, a rare treat indeed, polished off appropriately, with a glass of Riscal Gran Reserva 2001 (the 150th anniversary edition).

Zwartbles lamb
Eat Trout is the marketing slogan - you’ll notice it on their packaging - for the marvellous Goatsbridge Trout Farm in Thomastown, Kilkenny. It is now appearing on their Canned Smoked Trout. We opened up the tin and added a fairly simple salad, leaves and some potato. Great flavours from the smoked finish, and pleasing texture too.

And the cream cheese from Knockdrinna, also Thomastown, is also a new product, The cheese is also excellent on crackers (try Carrigaline or Sheridan’s). That pesto topping is a terrific idea. We served this as a simple bruschetta, tomatoes and the cheese on a slice of toasted Arbutus sourdough (had to get at least one Cork product in!).

To tell you the truth, I don't particularly like the points scoring that goes on between the different counties (e.g. that Tipp food is better than Kerry food). We have some magnificent producers, some large, many small, spread across the country. Just go out and support them. Wherever you find them. 
Cream cheese, with pesto, from Knockdrinna
 The Zwartbles flock is not very large, so the availability of the meat is very limited. You may have to start a flock yourself! Goatsbridge and Knockdrinna products are widely available. Check the websites.

see also

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Bloggers On Tour. Caviar, Ceramics, and Cat Bodacious!

The Bloggers On Thomastown Tour
Caviar, Ceramics, and Cat Bodacious!

Ger Kirwan welcomes us to Goatsbridge Trout Farm

From Rainbow trout to Zwartble sheep, from ceramics to cheese, the Town of Food bloggers tour had a busy and every interesting day in the Thomastown area last Monday.

The first get together of the day was at Goatsbridge Trout Farm .  Mag and Ger Kirwan were our hosts. After coffee and cake, we headed down to the adjacent farm where some kids and adults were already fishing from one of the ponds.

The trout farm was started by Ger’s parents, Padraig and Rita, in 1961. Padraig's father was a miller in the area and the fish tradition goes back a long way, at least back to the monks of nearby Jerpoint Abbey, who established a fishery in the 12th century.

Trout hauled out for a quick look and the fabulous caviar.
These Cistercians would not recognise today's Goatsbridge. The Fish Farm employs twenty people. Virtually all the fish is sold in Ireland, about 10,000 a week! Each of the holding ponds, maybe 100 square meters, holds no less than 12,000 of the trout (all rainbow, by the way).

Goatsbridge trout is sold fresh, smoked and barbecued. And there is also a paté.Their latest venture - a very delicious one indeed, and one that you can taste in many of the country’s restaurants - is trout caviar. The idea came after a chance meeting in Boston with someone who was doing it in the US. It took Goatsbridge another few years to develop it for their conditions and they married the US practice with the French way and have perfected it since. Well worth seeking out! Why not try their online shop.

Back to the cars then and off to nearby ceramicist Karen Morgan .  Karen moved from Limerick to Thomastown in 2006. Originally, she operated in the town itself but has now set up a studio alongside her home in the countryside and here you can see her at work and see and buy her work. At present she produces functional kitchen items (dishwasher and microwave safe) with swirls and ripples - reckon she has been to the trout farm. She loves Thomastown: “So much going on here: craft, music, food.”

Karen (left) and Helen
From ceramics to glass, Jerpoint Glass the next stop. This was founded by Keith and Kathleen Leadbetter in existing farm buildings some 35 years ago and the boost they needed to get off the ground came when the Kilkenny Design Centre backed them. I have always loved the way they use the single colour. It looks delicate enough but this glass is tough stuff, largely because it is finished by hand. Mainly they make tableware that is meant to be used. Functional and aesthetic!

Then it was over the road to Stoneyford to meet Helen Finnegan who has been making Knockdrinna Cheese here for the past ten years.

“We’ve had some difficult times but are moving well now.” She started making goats cheese in the back kitchen. In more recent times she went into sheep cheese and even more recently started making cheese from cows milk for the Little Milk Company, a small group of local organic farmers. I love the Brewers Gold from this later venture and bought some of that! Helen also gives Cheesemaking Courses, so watch out for those.
There is also a little cafe at Knockdrinna but our lunch date was back in Thomastown at the Cafe Sol Bistro. Knockdrinna cheese is on the menu here too and lots of other good local produce including Goatsbridge trout. I went for the hearty Lavistown Sausages with creamy potato, root vegetables and a flavoursome thyme gravy. Well worth a lunch or dinner call if you're passing on the road to Waterford. If not, make a detour! And, by the way, they also have a cafe in Kilkenny itself.

After a call to see the Town of Food development in Thomastown, we headed to the Zwartbles farm to see Suzanna (a blanket designing shepherd!) and her unusual sheep and their cat shepherd Bodacious! She, Suzanna that is, is a Slow Food advocate and the philosophy runs through to what she does here: What you put in is what you get out.

And good things go into her Zwartble sheep. “They have a great variety of grasses and herbs and are finished off on clover and windfall apples.” Lucky sheep and lucky the customers that get the meat. It was a pity that darkness was setting in as we arrived. I didn’t get good pics but if you want to see the sheep at their best then check the site above!

Jerpoint glass
We got the brightest of welcomes from the lady and her happy bouncy sheep. By the way, it is not just the meat that is in demand (you'll soon be able to get it locally at Pembroke House restaurant in Kilkenny) but also the wool, available to buy as rugs and blankets in places such as Jerpoint Glass.

We brought our bags to the orchards and filled them with pears and apples, including the Catillac pear and the Newtown Wonder apples. We even got a taste of her outdoor grapes and also got to see her alpacas who help protect the sheep by scaring off dogs and foxes.

A lovely chat then and a welcome cup of tea. And even a going away present of some lamb chops. A warm feeling then at the end of a packed day as we headed into the darkness and the road to Cork. Thanks to Kilkenny in general, to all the food producers and providers and to all the craft people that we met and to Mag Kirwan and to Dee Sewell in particular for organising.

See also:

Better pics on their site

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Kilkenny’s Night of a 1000 Feasts.

Kilkenny’s Night of a 1000 Feasts
Town of Food a Step Closer
Hazel, top left, with just some of her guests at the Feast.
On Sunday evening we left our lovely base at Rosquil House to head to our Feast, part of the Night of a 1000 Feasts in Kilkenny. Our Feast, one of about two thousand registered as it turned out, was quite close and at about 7.00pm we were warmly greeted by Hazel and three generations of her family, all celebrating the 76th birthday of her father.

Hazel is a fabulous cook and really loves to bake and the tables were groaning under the weight of a very colourful and tasty feast. The conversation flowed, not least because there were some relations home from Canada. We had a lovely evening with the family and a big thank you to Hazel and husband Richard.

The 1000 Feasts project, while obviously having a huge social element, was also designed as a fund-raiser  towards the Town of Food Project. This is a huge Leader funded project that is located in Thomastown but the local people had to raise some €180,000 themselves. It was down to about €25,000 before the weekend and hopefully a good bit less at this stage. Read all about the project here.
Happy Birthday!
Our group were brought to see the project on Monday afternoon and met Francis Nesbitt, the co-ordinator. He told us it is based in the old school (built 1947) and that the builders had been in since mid-July and will finish in about six weeks.

There will be a lot of community involvement, at all levels, including gardening and cooking. There will be a community kitchen club to benefit many, including fledgling food producers who won't have to kit out their own kitchens to make a start. There will also be a training kitchen. This will be state of the art, as no less than €105,000 has been spent on equipment. “Everything you could think of.”

There will of course be all kinds of cooking courses going on here but don't run away with the idea that this will be for amateurs only. Thomastown won this project in a competition with other towns so there will be some serious education going on here, including chef training.

“We want motivated people here….We want to create a pipeline of kitchen-ready chefs..their learning will be one half here, the other half in restaurants.” This is a fantastic project and the few paragraphs above only give you a hint of what's in store. Please check it out on the website.

Francis (left) meets the Town of Food bloggers.
The day of a “1000 Feasts” began for me with a bloggers meet-up at the main gate of the castle. After the introductions, we made our way to the National Craft Gallery, the venue for one of Jim Carroll’s Banter on Food series, this episode entitled War Stories from the Kitchen.

Pichet’s Denise was among the panelists and she said you have to be a little bit crazy and one hundred per cent passionate to open your doors to public scrutiny. John Healy agreed that the industry is “addictive”. One big danger is that people go into it for the love of food and with no idea about the business side. Overall though the panel agreed that standard has “gone away up” over  the last ten to fifteen years.

Carroll then steered the discussion, mentioning Anthony Bourdain’s rather ancient book Kitchen Confidential, to the war in the kitchen! But no big news there really. Yes, flare-ups are inevitable and management has to be ready for it, “people skills required”.

By now it was time for lunch so the group (about 14 strong) headed off to the Podge Meade’s Bula Bus, a former unit of the fleet in Manchester city but now parked up at the back of Billy Byrne’s pub. The kitchen is downstairs and the upper deck is laid out as a restaurant, serving wild and foraged street food. Venison, mushroom and rabbit (which I enjoyed) featured on the menu last Sunday.

We had some time to ourselves after lunch and I headed back around the many market stalls on the Parade and enjoyed a glass of Costello’s Red Ale in company with Colm McCann and Pascal Rossignol who had just finished their second Wine v Beer show, a show that also featured Caroline Hennessy.

We would meet Gabriella of Costello’s again in our last group engagement here. This was in the Leader tent where we chatted with some emerging producers including Eadaoin's Kitchen, Bob and Joan’s Jams, Butterfly Valley (Cookie Mixes), Richie O’Brien (Honey) and Inistioge Food (Marinades). Our bag included some of those marinades and we’re looking forward to trying them soon, so watch this space!

See also:

Rabbit at the Bula Bus