Showing posts with label Toons Bridge Dairy. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Toons Bridge Dairy. Show all posts

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, September 20, 2018

L’Atitude Scales New Altitude. Filling Me Softly With Her Food


L’Atitude Scales New Altitude
Filling Me Softly With Her Food
Stracciatella. Multo Bella.
No secret that Cork’s L’Atitude 51 is one of the best wine-bars around. That’s been confirmed by awards, both local and national. But did you know they have a lovely food offering too? Number One Union Quay is certainly a place to take it easy, easy drinking and also easy eating, sometimes easy listening as well.

Here you can go from aperitifs to small plates to large plates and have a lot of fun doing so. No shortage of variety here with a range of dishes that distinguishes L’Atitude from the mainstream. Who, for instance, is doing Toonsbridge Stracciatella?

But, I’m getting ahead of myself. There is a huge wine menu here, page after page of organic and natural wines, and that is what we looked at first. Many are available by the 125ml and 175ml glass, a 250ml carafe and by the bottle. Some, the more expensive ones, are available by bottle only! Since we were in, we were going to try a few so the glass was our vessel choice for the evening. 
Tapas Plate

And we started with the Crisp with Attitude Page, featuring wines that are lively, racy and mineral. CL made a very good pick: the Secateurs Chenin Blanc from the Badenhorst estate in South Africa while I enjoyed the Wines Direct import, the Paddy Borthwick Riesling from New Zealand. Sipped those as we tucked into a bowl of mixed olives. 

The menu here is “less formal”, encouraging you to share as the dishes arrive from the kitchen. Oh, they also do a Plat du Jour. You’ll see that on the blackboard. On the night of our visit it was Tagliatelle with a lamb ragu and they coupled that with a glass of wine, all for around fifteen euro (if I remember rightly). And they also do lunch daily.

And soon we were sharing another dish, a much bigger one; the Tapas, at €18.50, is one of the more expensive ones on the menu, but a very impressive platter indeed, well assembled and well presented. It contains Coppa, Jamon, Pecorino, Toonsbridge Mozzarella, Charred Aubergine, Artichokes, Roasted Red Pepper and Caponata was irresistible and easily and lazily dispatched.
Duck x 3.
At this point, the wines had changed. I was on to the orange wine (lots of skin contact and yet a good introduction to the style for beginners) from Sicily, the cloudy Rallo Baglio with a fantastic concentration of the flavours. CL meanwhile was on safer ground with the Madregale Rosso, one of the best house wines around these parts.

Now with the Tapas and the basket of bread finished we sipped the wines and waited for the next batch of food! And that’s where the eye-catching palate pleasing Stracciatella comes in. Even though the two dishes came together, there was a duel around this beauty. It is the creamy filling you’ll find in Burrata (another Toonsbridge cheese). It is soft and fresh, it has to be. Presented on a  bed of grilled aubergine and topped with Dukkah, it was temptation from the first bite, especially when spooned into the “pocket” breads that came with it.

The sharing continued with the Duck 3 Ways: Ummera Smoked Duck, Duck and Port Paté, and Potatoes sautéed in Duck Fat. Well, you know that Ummera’s Smoked Duck is a gem of southern cuisine yet the combination here somehow managed to put an extra shine on an already excellent product. Superb.


We were on to our final wines by now, both of us on the red. CL picked from the “Fruity with Attitude” section and came up trumps with a classic Pinot Noir by Regnaudot (Burgundy) while my final tipple was the Blaufrankisch by Austria’s Judith Beck, a winemaker that seems to be appearing more and more in this country. The plush Blaufrankisch, with generous fruit, is biodynamically produced and worth seeking out.

And L’Atitude itself, with its friendly service and informal style, is also worth seeking out either for wine or food or both!

1 Union Quay (corner opposite City Hall)
Cork
021 239019





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, February 11, 2018

Olives beyond Tuscany. Buffalo Return To Toons Bridge

Olives beyond Tuscany. Mozzarella beyond Italy.

Toby Simmonds Tells Two Stories.
Nyons olives, via wikipedia
Toby Simmonds, telling us about The Real Olive Company and Toons Bridge Dairy, was the star of the show as the Munster Wine & Dine Circle launched it's 2018 programme at a packed L’Atitude last Thursday. 

The gathering may have been expecting a genteel tasting of his imported olives and his Toonsbridge Irish cheese; well they got that, and much more, with Toby pointing out the snobbishness surrounding olive oil, the very limited varieties available in the supermarkets (like Chardonnay and Cabernet Sauvignon in wine and not too much else), the overuse of caustic soda (the Spanish Cure) in olives. And his cheese story is just as interesting.
Took this pic of a very old olive tree in the Charente in 2009

Toby came into a challenging scene when, with the aid of a three figure loan, he started off here in 1993. But since then farmers markets have taken off in a big way, the English Market stall has been and is a huge success for him and  partner Jenny Rose Clark (Jenny Rose also runs the Sandwich Stall in the market).

The snobbery comes across often at a market. “Is those olives from Tuscany?” When the answer is no, the potential customer walks away. Toby sees this as “missing the point” and something of an insult to all those communities around the Mediterranean who take their olives seriously and produce “good stuff”. 

And, as regards the limited choice now available in the supermarkets, he says that that diversity is everything. “Olives present a great story”. By way of illustration then showed a slide of himself and a 4,000 year old olive tree. “That same variety is growing as a five year old in the grove across the road.”

So then we got down to the business of tasting a string of his olives, starting with the Kalamata from the centre of Greece. As we moved on, he mentioned the overuse of caustic side in curing. “A little bit is fine. But too much takes the goodness out of the olives. It is happening all the time.” The green Picholine olives from France, though now grown all over the world, have a “little bit of caustic soda” in their cure, were among the samples we tasted.
Toby's Burrata

Others in the tasting were the Galega (my favourite on the night) from Portugal’s Alentejo, the very expensive Nyons variety from Provence, the dry and wrinkly Beldi (“will be even better in three years time”), and the little baby olives which Toby finds hard to sell outside of Cork where it is a firm favourite, not least with the kids.

Then we were on to the amazing Toons Bridge cheese story, a story that saw them “in crisis” just a few years after the original Buffalo/Mozzarella partnership ended in “divorce”. Flying in frozen buffalo milk from Italy wasn't a success but new cheesemaker Franco then turned up with a local solution and made it from cows milk.

A key factor in Mozzarella is the whey starter (“a bit like sourdough”); yesterday's whey is used as a starter the very next day.” The starter is essential for texture and flavour and the Mozzarella is the same as you get from Italy. 
Cheese plate by Toons Bridge at L'Atitude

So the Toons Bridge cheese story goes on and the good news is that they now have their own little herd of 22 young buffalo with another twenty on the way - you'll have to wait a while for this herd's cheese though. Currently, Mozzarella (from cows milk) is delivered fresh to their English Market stall on Wednesday and Friday mornings. Eat it at home as soon as you can, maybe even eat it on the bus on the way home! It is not meant to be kept!

The challenge presented by that crisis though has turned into an opportunity. With no fresh buffalo milk available to them anymore, Toons Bridge have creatively filled the gap by adding a string of gorgeous Italian style cheeses to their range.

One is Caciocavallo. This can age marvellously, turning the soft, rubbery paste so hard and flinty that it needs to be broken in shards. The flavours can be huge, as they harness all of the various raw milk bacteria to ripen the curd. This cheese was made by the ancient Greeks and they got it from the Babylonians. “It is one of the oldest in history.”
Olives trees. Took this shot from the spectacular fortified site of Les Baux in Provence

They also do Halloumi and Ricotta (try with Highbank Orchard Syrup). And then there’s the Pecorino Vincenzo.  Pecorino is the general name for sheep’s cheese in Italy. This pecorino is made in Toons Bridge by Vincenzo to a family recipe from his native Marche region.  

Vincenzo has a small flock of sheep and he make this gorgeous Pecorino right here. Another must try from this rural hub of creativity, imagination and passion and, every now and then, a little bit of well deserved luck!

Another of their cheeses is Scamorza which is a simple stretched curd cheese that is hung (you can see the mark of the string) for a short period of time to air dry. It is similar to mozzarella and melts well. It is sweet and delicate. They do both smoked and unsmoked versions and I must say I enjoy the smoked one (great when stuffing those big flat mushrooms) or, as Toby suggested at the tasting, “..it is great in a sandwich, like hanging out with gypsies”.
Cheeses, mainly Caciocavallo, in Toons Bridge

The enthusiasm is amazing. They are a long ways from finished here. More cheeses on the horizon. Keep a look out in the near future for the Toons Bridge Cardoon Cheese, featuring a flowering vegetable used in cheeses in Spain and Portugal. From the Med to Macroom, the links keep growing.

So big thanks to Toby for his amazing talk. Thanks to Andrew O’Dwyer of Market Place for supplying the Prosecco and to L’Atitude for the canapés.

Munster Wine & Dine Chair Eithne Barry filled us in on what is in store for the year. First event, on March 24th, is a Wine Trail (led by Colm McCan and with tastings!) around the historic streets of Cork, stopping at various places associated with wine, including the old bond. 

There will be some long distance tours during the summer, nearby producers too to visit, before the finalé, a tour and Sunday lunch in Longueville House, an incredible experience when we visited three years back. 

Lots to look forward to in the months head. So do join up (application form here)  and enjoy.