Showing posts with label Tom Crean Base Camp. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Tom Crean Base Camp. Show all posts

Wednesday, December 22, 2021

A Covid Confused Year Yet Chefs Come Up With Amazing Dishes

 A Covid Confused Year Yett Chefs Come Up With Amazing Dishes 


Wednesday, July 14, 2021

From Dingle to Kenmare in the Kingdom. Highlights galore on Kerry coastal drive.

From Dingle to Kenmare in the Kingdom.

Highlights galore on Kerry coastal drive.

The strand from high up on Clogher.

We got in of our favourite walks, Bray Head on Valentia Island. A brewery tour and terrific food at the Tom Crean Base Camp was another highlight. Lucky too in that we stayed at three lovely places, all helpful, especially Hannah at Muxnaw Lodge who drove us back into town for dinner when we asked for a taxi. The weather in Kenmare was wet but we had a magical night strolling around Dingle’s harbour after a massive feed at the Fish Box. And much more on a recent 3-night 4-day trip in Kerry.

Dingle boats

The drive down from Cork took us first to Tralee and a look at the impressive Tralee Bay Wetlands Eco & Activity Park. Lots of activity here for families, including pedal boats on the lake and a massive climbing wall for the adventurous. Had hoped to enjoy a lunch here but it wasn’t to be; all the café had to offer were over-sweetened waffles. Perhaps the menu will expand as the season goes on and as more visitors come. Our server did indicate that they hope to have sandwiches and salads (these already appear on the online menu).

Soon we were on the road to Dingle via the Conor Pass of course. Great views of Dingle from the parking area at the top and they get a little better if you climb up the hill alongside. A few minutes later we were in Dingle itself and heading for the coast. Both Ventry and Slea Head were packed so our first real stop was Clogher. Time for another walk to the top here and great 360 views that include the Blaskets and Sybil Head.

Fish Box on Green Street, Dingle

Craft Ale by Dick Mack
Enjoyed that interlude and we headed back to Dingle and to Bambury’s Guest-house, our base for the night. Enjoyed the welcome here and took it easy for a short spell before heading out looking for food. The Fish Box was our destination. It was first come first served. We didn't have to wait long for our table in one of their outside booths. Here they have some sixty covers. 

The owners, the Flannery family, have their own boat and the menu is mainly about fish. Quality is good but quantity is massive.  Ours,  The Fish Box and the Spice Box, came not on  plates but on trays. Quite a choice here but if you are going for one of the boxes you’d be advised to skip the starter. We didn’t! 

We saw pints coming in. The Fish Box is more or less next door to Dick Macks and you can enjoy the ale and the stout from the micro-brewery. And there’s also cider from Stonewell and a short wine list. After that, we strolled down to the water where the views and sounds of the sea and the many boats were enthralling. Great buzz there too with people hanging out, some going  canoeing and others returning from their boat trips.

Bray Head Walk

Glenbeigh mussels in the hotel
Next morning after a lovely breakfast from Bernie and her Bambury team, we were on the road again, this time heading for the Iveragh peninsula. First stop was the car park for Bray Head Walk at the southern end (Portmagee) of the island. There is a parking charge of two euro. We’ve had better days on this marvellous walk but even on a dull day it is enjoyable with views out towards the Skelligs, the cliffs and back towards Portmagee  and the bridge (on which my father worked) that links it to the island. I didn’t time it but I think the walk to the tower at the top and return takes something under 90 minutes, probably less if you’re under 70 and not taking so many photos!

Glenbeigh Hotel breakfast
Our base for the night was the old Glenbeigh Hotel with its own parking and large gardens. Though most of the meals are served in the old bar, a large one, they also have a beautifully decorated Garden Room where we enjoyed a really good breakfast. No surprise to us at that stage as the evening meal was quite splendid and featured some excellent fish dishes including their Seafood Mariniere for example, packed with fish (fresh salmon and white fish) and shellfish (mussels and prawns). There’s a very friendly and efficient team in place. The only downside was the hit and miss (mostly miss) WiFi.

We could see over the gardens to Rossbeigh beach from our window and we headed there after breakfast for a long walk. Back on the road then, heading for a stop at Waterville. Busy enough here with Micko Dwyer and Charlie Chaplin in their usual positions.

We had some early afternoon appointments in Kenmare so didn’t have as much time as usual to dally. The rain arrived in Kenmare at the same time as ourselves and kept getting worse until about seven in the evening by which time we had packed in a lot, including our visit to Tom Crean’s.

That started with a tour of the micro-brewery given by co-founder and brewer Bill Sheppard. Like his wife, Aileen Crean O’Brien (grand-daughter of the famous Antarctic explorer Tom), Bill is a get and go person. They now have a range of about eight beers and you can read all about them and the tour here. Bill's tour includes details on the beer and his method of brewing of course but he also details Tom Crean’s adventures there along with the tale of the trip that the family made to the region in 2016.

Breads in the morning at Muxnaw
 Aileen is the cook here, quite an accomplished one indeed. Watch out for her fish dishes. I reckon her Star Seafood Fish Pie is as good as you’ll get anywhere! And, of courses we had a few beers, including their lovely 6 Magpies Stout to go with the food.

After the tour, we had headed to nearby Muxnaw Lodge (WiFi didn’t function here either) in its lofty location overlooking the bridge. Here, we asked owner Hannah to phone a taxi for us to return for the meal. She wasn’t having any of it and drove us over herself! We really appreciated that very much indeed and the lovely breakfast the following morning.

Also on this trip: Tom Crean Base Camp Kenmare where you'll find a B&B, a micro-brewery and a restaurant. Eat, Drink and Sleep!

Tuesday, July 13, 2021

Tom Crean Base Camp. Eat. Drink. Sleep

 Tom Crean Base Camp. Eat. Drink. Sleep.

Special delivery! That's the brewery van in the background.

The young sheep rush into their new ground and the words con brio come to mind as they dash hither and thither and investigate their new surroundings on a grassy slope near Kenmare.

And the same words could well be applied to the enterprise at the top of the town’s Main Street painted blue and known as the Tom Crean Base Camp. Aileen Crean O’Brien, grand-daughter of the legendary Antarctic explorer, leads a team than runs a B&B, a restaurant and a micro-brewery, all under the one roof.

Aileen on Carrauntoohil. Pic from Tom Crean Base Camp.

Aileen and her family seem to have inherited the determination, endurance and enterprise of her grandfather. Indeed, in 2016 a bunch of them set off for South Georgia to see at first hand what Tom had experienced in his third trip to the region (this with the explorer Shackleton). 

They certainly experienced the real thing and Aileen ended up with a broken leg and they had to wait to get to Chile to get that sorted. And, on her return, she didn’t sit back and take it easy but resumed her duties as head of the kitchen. Staff, we were told, gave her and her crutch a wide berth for a while!

Bill, in the brewery

Friends had told us that Aileen is an accomplished cook, having learned the ropes in the kitchen at the town’s famous Park Hotel under the guidance of Michelin head chef Matt d’Arcy. They later married and opened their own restaurant but Matt’s untimely death meant Aileen had to leave the business while she raised her young family. She came back in 2009 and refurbished and renamed the restaurant and accommodation in honour of her grandfather. And it keeps expanding.

The latest enterprise is their micro brewery and that was our first visit on what turned out to be quite a day in Kenmare. We had booked our tour for 3.00pm and met our guide Bill Sheppard who co-founded the brewery with Aileen in 2019. The couple had met during one of her trips to India and they married earlier this year.

Bill was born in Chester in the northwest of England. He worked as a fire fighter in the London Fire Brigade and later graduated from Chester University with a degree in Archaeology.  Now he has retrained as a brewer and is turning out quite a range of Tom Crean beers, everything from the 1% Last man Standing to the Six Magpies Stout with lots of ales (pale and red and IPA) in between.

Most of the sales are direct from their premises and he also delivers around the town pushing his trusty sack-truck. But they do have a van. After all they have customers in other Kerry towns including, appropriately, Tom Crean’s birthplace of Annascaul. 

As Bill told us the story behind the brewery, we sipped from a number of the beers, including the St Bridget’s Lager; the saint was a brewer herself. Druid’s, the wheat beer, “celebrates the landscape” and another new beer, Kerry Surf & Turf, is a tribute to land and the sea. He reckons his 6 Magpie Stout is as good as any around and Aileen uses it in one of her beef pies.

Fish Pie

The café here is a daytime venture, understandable as they also do B& B here and the day is long enough. So, from 9.00am to 4.00pm, you may have breakfast and lunch. After that, up to 6.00pm or so, there’s pizzas and a few specials as well. And all of this, at the time of writing, is in an improvised outdoor setting in the yard alongside the little brewery. Outdoor yes but well covered; it lashed when we dined after the tour and, while the place is airy enough, not a drop got through! Suppliers are all local and you can guess where the beer comes from! 

The highlight for me was “Star Seafoods Gratin” (Scallop shell, piped with mash, cod, salmon, mussels, vegges, seafood sauce, Cheddar Cheese, and Billy’s Mixed organic leaves, with fries), all in all a superb fish pie! CL meanwhile was quiet enough, concentrating on her very tasty Fish Cakes with Pineapple Salsa, Chips and Salad.  No shortage of fish in those cakes. By coincidence, Star Seafoods are a local Kenmare firm and we get quite a few deliveries from them here in Cork city, indeed, I saw them selling fish in Blarney yesterday, a very efficient outfit indeed. 

Fish Cakes

Both the starters were excellent as well: the Panko Coated Prawns (sweet chilli dip with Billy’s organic mixed leaves in a honey and mustard dressing) and the BBQ Chicken Wings (Indian Mint Dip - low fat Greek style yogurt with chilli and mixed organic leaves).

Newcomers, the Bonane Babes

Aileen, after her shift in the kitchen, then came out for a chat and that brings me back to the sheep. “Big day tomorrow getting our sheep for my front garden.  We finally got a herd number,” she told us.  “We produce our own electricity (P.V. panels provided by local firm Pro-Solar). and use the spent grain for dog biscuits (customers' dogs benefitted!) and muffins.  We will be able to feed the sheep the spent grain now and, later on, sell the lamb in the restaurant.  We are also awaiting our number for pigs and will do the same with them.  Really excited about it all.” The sheep, two boys and two girls, are settling in well and are already known as the Bonane Babes.

Quite an enterprise going on here. Quite a woman. Think her grandfather would be very proud of what Aileen and the family have accomplished here. And they’re are not finished yet!

Also on this trip: Three Days in Kerry, from Dingle to Kenmare. Check out the sights, the food, the hotels and B&Bs here.

Tour de Munster at the Base Camp last month. Pic from Tom Crean Base Camp.