Showing posts with label cheese. Show all posts
Showing posts with label cheese. Show all posts

Wednesday, January 12, 2022

A Simply Better Continental Cheese Selection.

Continental Cheese Selection

From Simply Better By Dunnes Stores

Gorgonzola Piccanta

A Christmas present of cheese put me thinking of a Swiss holiday and an excursion to the town of Gruyères, and aliens! There were fabulous views, a church, a chateau, and the famous cheese!

There was also a strange museum – based on the film Alien. The HG Giger Museum is based on the work of the graphic artist of the same name, who did the special effects for the film and others (such as Poltergeist 11).

This way for cheese!

A similarly themed bar is adjacent and it was here that we had coffee and minuscule meringues made with Gruyère. Then a short drive downhill to an “industrial” cheese manufacturer where a robot is usefully employed turning, watering and replacing big wheels of cheese in the racks.

Gruyère was included in Continental Cheese Selection by Simply Better Dunnes Stores at Christmas and it was quite a pleasant and tasty surprise, not least because some were “new” to me, as the vast majority of the cheese eaten here in this house over the past few years has been Irish. 

Babies in the bar.
G'us a drink, now!

So it was nice to see and taste what is going on the continent. And there was a good bit of variety in the selection. There were two fairly familiar cheeses, the Gruyère and the Gorgonzola. The other two were completely new to me, the soft rind Langres from Champagne and the L’Edel de Cleron from Franche-Comte. Also included was a little jar of Fig and Macadamia Nut Chutney from Girona in Spain; the nuts from Australia the all-spice from Jamaica.

One day last week, we made a fruitless run to try out the Cork Marina Market again but the large car park was full and lots of pedestrians coming in as well, plenty of  families around with schools still on hols. Quite a gang already eating out on benches under the full sun. We had to beat a retreat. 

What now for lunch? I thought of this selection and we opened the L’Edel de Cleron produced by Jean Perrin. I was reading about it and saw that Perrin makes it with milk from Jura Mountain Montbéliarde cows, the same milk used for Mont D’Or (both are wrapped in spruce bark). 

In the belly of the beast! Inside the pub in Gruyeres

So we heated up the cheese in its little round box and, when warm and soft, scooped it out with fingers of toast. Very delicious indeed, lusciously creamy and it vanished very quickly. Just the job though for lunch and I drizzled some of local honey (Leamlara) onto the last few scoops and that added to the pleasure.

Langres Cathedral

Langres is named after a little town in Champagne and is distinguished by a wee hollow on top of its small drum shape designed to hold a tiny pool of brine while maturing. Our producer, Fromagier Schertonleib,  went a spirited step beyond and this is matured with Marc de Champagne!  A touch of class.

It is a cows milk cheese with an edible orange coloured rind. It is creamy and smooth and melts on the palate. There is a delicate pungent aroma while the flavour is light, though the intensity of aroma and flavour can change as it matures. It is excellent on its own or when used in cooking.

By the way, we did use the multi-national chutney with all the cheeses (plus some Hegarty’s Cheddar that we had in the fridge) and it was excellent. The versatile Spiced Plum and Port Jam (by The Big Red Kitchen) also saw plenty of use and really starred with the Gorgonzola, as did the lovely Toro Albalá Marqués de Poley Oloroso (from O'Briens Wine).

Gorgonzola (via Pixabay)

Speaking of Gorgonzola, this Piccante Gorgonzola (AOP) was produced by the Arrigoni family in Lombardy, a region where nowadays the famous blue is made mostly in commercial plants. It traditionally has a white moist paste with green/blue veining and a sharp lactic smell.

The chateau at Gruyeres

Our Piccante has a beautiful smooth texture and a rich spicy flavour - so little bits are best! The rind is inedible. There are two types of this cheese, Piccante (savoury) and Dolce (sweet), with the latter (less blue-veined with a more delicate taste) representing some 90% of the production (ref: The Oxford Companion to Cheese).

French Onion soup with Gruyère (at Market Lane)

And the Gruyère? Characteristics of this famous Swiss cheese are its dry, firm and chewy texture and a moderately tangy flavour and with a nutty sweet finish - no need for any chutney here. A good one for the cheeseboard and a superb cooking cheese. The rind by the way is inedible.

Ours, a 15-month cave aged cheese, is made in traditional copper vats by the Margot family in the heart of the Jura Mountains and it is slowly matured in caves. The texture is firm and smooth and the flavour is rich and intense. 

Hegarty's copper vat

Gruyère is made mainly from Holstein milk and its long-time cross-mountain rival Comté (or Gruyère de Comté) from Montbeliarde. Just a few miles north of my house in Cork lies Whitechurch where Hegarty’s make a superb Templegall that can rival the Swiss and French; they use milk from their Freisians and, yes, they make it in a beautiful copper vat (over 60 years old).

Tuesday, January 19, 2021

Taste of the Week. Aged Ballinrostig Gouda.

Taste of the Week. 

Aged Ballinrostig Gouda.

One of the highlights over Christmas and the New Year was a big chunk of Aged Ballinrostig Gouda style cheese that came in a hamper that we had treated ourselves to. We had a few cheeses ahead of it in the queue and it was only recently that we tucked into this.

The Gouda style cheese is made in East Cork with organic Jersey cow milk and aged for 12 to 18 + months. A beautiful stronger complex flavoured hard cheese with sweet nutty and caramel notes that manages to hold onto its creamy past. We were impressed from the first bite and made it our Taste of the Week.

We weren't overly surprised of course as we've often tasted their regular cheeses at markets and via stores such as Bradley's in North Main Street. But the aging here certainly takes it to another level, the height of Umami!

In 2014 Michele and Stephen (from Holland) renovated and moved into Michele’s family home in the village of Ballinrostig near Whitegate in beautiful East Cork. As part of the revamp, they transformed the old garage into a small purpose-built dairy which was intended for making cheese as a hobby. In 2015 they started to sell commercially and within two years they both had left their careers to meet the growing demand for their delicious cheese. 

Ballinrostig Cheese

Ballinrostig, Whitegate, Co. Cork Midleton, Ireland P25PE00

Tel: 0879160440

Monday, November 4, 2019

Top Cheesemakers to be Recognised at 2019 CÁIS Irish Cheese Awards

Introducing the Big Cheese!
~Ireland’s Top Cheesemakers and Producers to be Recognised at the 2019 CÁIS Irish Cheese Awards~
At the judging (l-r) Monique Kelleher (Communication Manager, Ornua), Ross Lewis (Chapter One), Catherine Fulvio and Enda Howley (Expert Cheddar Grader, Ornua). 
This is one date you don’t want to miss! The upcoming 2019 CÁIS Irish Cheese Awards is due to take place this coming Thursday November 7th at Cork’s Metropole Hotel, with winners to be commended during a lavish black-tie gala dinner2019 marks the eighth year of the biennial awards and CÁIS, the Association of Irish Farmhouse Cheesemakers, have seen the bar suitably raised thanks to over 200 entries from 50 Irish farmhouse cheese producers.

The prestigious ceremony will see members of CÁIS; key sponsors such as Ornua, Pallas Foods and Bord Bia; judges; cheesemakers; and members of the public congregate in celebration of the abundant, diverse and exquisite range of Irish farmhouse cheeses produced on home soil. This truly unique ceremony is exclusively dedicated to both artisan and large-scale cheese producers from all corners of Ireland, with competition stiffer than ever before as entrants go for gold.

Those in attendance on the night will enjoy a gourmet 5-course dining experience courtesy of this year’s bespoke menu, which will incorporate a selection of winning cheeses from the 2017 awards. Mouthwatering dishes will be carefully curated by the Metropole’s Head Chef Stuart Dardis, who has garnered a strong food-lover following since taking over the kitchen at the Metropole. MC for the evening will be none other than journalist and broadcaster Helen Carroll from RTÉ’s Ear to the Ground, adding star quality to a prestigious event that has been creating quite a buzz among the Irish food community.

This year’s selection of judges includes a number of well-known personalities such as Catherine Fulvio, TV chef, award-winning food writer, author and proprietor of Ballyknocken House & Cookery School; Ross Lewis, Michelin Starred Head Chef at Chapter One Restaurant in Dublin; and food writers/bloggers Patrick Hanlon and Russell Alford, collectively known as The Gastrogays. The elite judging panel also includes Patrick Clement, Head of Culinary at Pallas Foods; Dr Matthew O’Callaghan OBE, member of UK Protected Food Names Association and Artisan Cheese Fair organiser; Catherine Mead OBE, Chairperson of Specialist Cheesemakers Association (UK) and cheesemaker/owner at Lynher Dairies; Aoife Carrigy, freelance food writer and editor; Dr John McKenna, food writer; Enda Howley, Cheese Grading Expert with Ornua; Monica Murphy, cheese  and wine expert; Rory Mellis, Wholesale Director of Mellis Cheese LTD; Dr Kieran Jordan of Teagasc; Diarmuid Murphy, Simply Better Brand Manager for Dunnes Stores; and John Leverrier, Quality Manager of Sheridans Cheesemongers.

The judges were tasked with the particularly difficult job of putting the eclectic variety of cheeses to the taste test to identify their chosen worthy award winners. Each cheese entered was assessed under three key criteria: flavour and aroma, body and texture, and overall appearance of cheese, while packaging and branding was also taken into consideration within the ‘Retailer’ and ‘New Cheesemaker’ categories. The judging process was a thorough, in-depth exercise, with each judge working hard to ensure the efforts of the country’s finest cheesemakers were awarded accordingly.

The 2019 ceremony will also – for the first time ever – see a prize be awarded to one lucky winner as a result of a public vote. In the lead up to the event, CÁIS appealed to the general public to share their valued views, inviting cheese lovers to cast their vote for their favourite Irish farmhouse cheese. The winner of this category will be announced on the night.

Commenting ahead of the awards ceremony, Padraig O’Farrell of CÁIS said: “The Irish Cheese Awards provide those involved in the industry with a wonderful platform to showcase their work and to transform their brands into household names within Ireland and beyond. The event itself also offers an opportunity for producers, both on a large and small scale, to network and build community links.”

He continued: “It’s a busy and exciting time for those involved in the Irish Cheese Awards, with competitors and judges alike eager to see the superb range of produce quite literally brought to the table. We have a wonderful list of entrants this year and we are excited to promote and commend these top-quality producers and brand names through these important awards.”

A limited number of tickets are still available for the event. Priced at €69 per person, tickets for the 2019 Irish Cheese Awards are available from Eventbrite online or alternatively, can be purchased on the CÁIS website by visiting For more information on CÁIS and the Irish Cheese Awards 2019, visit For social media updates, follow CAISIreland on Facebook and @caisireland on Twitter or follow the conversation using #IrishCheeseAwards 

Issued on behalf of CÁIS Irish Cheese Awards 2019 

Friday, October 4, 2019

Taste of the Week. Timos Irish Cheddar Cheese

Taste of the Week
Timos Irish Cheddar Cheese

Didn’t see any cheese stall while strolling around the local Farmers Market last Saturday (28th September), so called into the shopping centre and spotted a selection in the Douglas Vegetable Fruit and Veg shop.

I hadn’t seen this one before: Timos Mature Cheddar, made in East Cork by Carrig Foods. The label also indicates it has been “slowly matured for over two years” and is “very Flavoursome”. It is now our Taste of the Week.

Enjoyed a small tasting with Arbutus sourdough (and not much else) during a quick lunch. It certainly is very flavoursome and not as “dried out” as some mature cheddars.  Apparently the company was set up eight or nine years ago by Siobhain, the daughter of Jane Murphy who makes the multi-award winning Ardsallagh Goat Cheese. 

Carrig Foods Ltd
Co. Cork
Tel: 021-4882338.

Thursday, May 23, 2019

A Tasty Morning With Karen Coakley On Kenmare Foodies Tour.

A Tasty Morning With Karen Coakley
On Kenmare Foodies Tour.
Enthusiastic Emma at Maison Gourmet
Henry Street is abuzz this sunny mid-May morning. Shoppers out and about, drivers trying to find parking. All kinds of small shops here, cafés and bars too. But we’re in a back lane watching bakers at work. We’re privileged because we’re with Karen Coakley, the Kenmare Foodie herself, and her Kenmare Foodie Tour takes you to places you won’t get to on your own, allows you see what goes on behind the scenes (away from the bustling street and the busy counters) and in most places you get to chat with the person or persons who started the food (or drink) business.

Margaret of Kenmare Ice Cream is one of those protagonists. Rose also plays a key role but she has to leave on business and it is Margaret that tells us the story. Both are Ballymaloe trained and were looking to start something in 2007. A gourmet deli was the first aim and they did much work on that before a discouraging coffee stop in Adare put them off. By the time they got back to Kenmare the ice cream idea was born but not yet taken seriously!

Margaret at Kenmare Ice Cream
But after research, it quickly gathered momentum and they got some equipment. How do we sell? They bought a tricycle, added three planks, and Margaret went off selling while Rose made the ice-cream. By the end of that summer, with over 11,000 scoops sold, they knew they were on to something.

Soon they had to scale up. They found “proper equipment” , including a 24 flavour cabinet, and a UK expert came over to give them two days training. They had  started making French style ice cream but now switched to the Italian style. “Because it’s all about flavour,” said Margaret. “More so than the richer (egg based) French style. Raspberry Ripple was our first flavour, and still my favourite. We stay as clean and green as we can. Four years ago, we started making whipped ice cream and that is now a big success. We do high quality but at a good price.”

Their Bia Bia is a full scale cafe, including ice-cream of course, in Railway Street while Kenmare Ice Cream, where we visited, can be found on Henry Street (open 11.00am to 11.00pm in season when Margaret and Rose have 22 people employed). Oh yes, you may still see that tricycle around Kenmare on special occasions but their famous cow, Moodini, is parked up for a while, awaiting a suitable grazing spot!
Patrick and Emma talk sourdough
If you’re arriving in Kenmare from the West Cork side, you’ll spot Maison Gourmet on top of Henry Street on your left. It was here, on the terrace at the rear that we joined up with Karen and her group. Soon, we met Emma, the French lady behind the bakery/café. And she took us out the back, to the lane where the bakery is and where we got our hands on the dough and fashioned our little baguettes (which we would collect, nicely baked, at the end of the tour).

Here they use a rather special butter, the Isigny AOC (now AOP). They can’t use Irish butter. It is good but it doesn’t have the same elasticity as the Isigny. Emma, having been part of large bakeries in Carcassonne and Toulouse, is delighted to be in Kenmare and you can see that Kenmare is delighted to have her and her bakery. Amazing too how many French visitors find their way to Maison Gourmet. Maybe it's that tempting smell of the breads, cakes and Java coffee.

Thirty years ago, she met Patrick who was already a baker, fell in love with the baking and the baker. Emma has “flirted” with Ireland since she came here as an au pair when she was twenty. Then, 3 years ago, she and husband Patrick “took the path of our dream and we opened a bakery in Kenmare. That was the best idea that we ever had.”
Beara Gin truffles at Lorge

Their butter and flour may be imported from France but they also use lots of high quality Irish produce in the busy café. But it is the breads (including sourdough) and pastries that attract me, all those classics from butter croissants to pain au chocolat (again the very best of chocolate is used) to Macarons to Mille Feuille, strawberry tartlets and more.
Olivier (On the Wild Side)

More chocolate down the street where’ll you find the Lorge shop. Hard to believe he started making chocolate by accident. His “factory” at nearby Bonane is housed in the old post office and is now a thriving business. Karen told us he is currently working with Beara Gin and indeed we sampled some of those delicious white chocolate truffles and, later, bought some bars and a bag of his marshmallow.
Alain knows his wines

Soon we found ourselves down by the town park where the weekly market was in progress. As we walked, Karen was dispensing food and recipe ideas, lots of tips all the way through the morning. 

At the market, we sampled the cured meats (including a beetroot and pork saucisson and a delicious chorizo) by Olivier of On the Wild Side. Later we called back to get some of his paté and also those Merguez Lamb Sausages. Cheese samples then, including Milleens and Coolea, from Christian’s cheese stall where he had many choices for his customers.

“How about a glass of wine?,” said Karen. Oh yes was the answer. We headed for the Vanilla Grape, a wine and card shop owned by Alain and Christine. “We are here 15 years now,” said Christine. “though those shelves are over 100 years old.” Frenchman Alain is always on the lookout to give his customers wine at a good price, not easy though considering we “had two tax hikes since the recession”.

But he did have just the job for us, a Cà Vittoria apassimento style, not from the Veneto but from Puglia, and well priced at €19.50. As we sipped the Nero D’Avola, we discussed serving temperatures with Alain saying the fridge is not a friend of wine. Had another chat with him later in the afternoon and bought myself a bottle of Chateau Vincen from Cahors much to the delight of Alain who himself is from the area (Figeac).
Making coffee with the Syphon

Alexa and Dave are the duo behind Babors Beans at the Brewhouse in the Square. Here they are serving top quality coffees, sharing bites, monstrous burgers and zesty cocktails to brighten up your day. But we’re here for the coffee that they roast themselves.

Dave told me they have eight single origins and five blends. He has to keep an eye on the price. “You have to watch the market as the price changes every day. It is too expensive to buy from the individual farmers. I get mine from Inter America Company. 

He is, of course a passionate enthusiast. “You can drink 10 to 15 cups a day and it’ll do no harm if you drink a lot of water as well!” He showed us two ways of making coffee, with the Syphon (which I preferred) and with the Chemex. We also enjoyed an espresso. By the way, not alone can you buy 250 grm bags of the various coffees here but you can also get the implements including the Syphon and Chemex. The new roastery is close to being ready and then he’ll be doing classes and demos and no doubt Karen will have that on her tours as well!

After all that, it was back up to Maison Gourmet to collect our loaves and say goodbye to one another. The tour takes about three hours but it was so enjoyable, with so many different and informative chats, that the time flew.
Christian and his cheeses

Get all the info on Kenmare Foodie Tours here.   Karen is always working on varying the tour and soon there’ll be a fish call.

Tuesday, April 23, 2019

Clare: A County of Cliffs and Karst, Caves and Cheese. And so much more!

Clare: A County of Cliffs and Karst, Caves and Cheese. 
And so much more!
Ancient Poulnabrone

You think of Clare, and the Cliffs of Moher and The Burren (a Karst landscape) always come to mind. They are indeed amazing visits but there is so much more as I found out in a recent two day trip.

There are two excellent cave visits. Aillwee is probably the best-known but this time we choose to go to Doolin to see the extraordinary stalactite there. We visited two cheese makers, the well-known St Tola and Burren Gold. Then there was the Burren Perfumery in an isolated spot but still managing to employ over 30 people in the season.
Superb packaging at Burren Perfume

Perfumery garden
As you travel between the perfumery and Aillwee you’ll the grey Burren stretching away at either side. And here too there are reminders of the past, a castle (Lemanagh), a fort (Caherconnell) and, most memorable of all, the ancient tomb at Poulnabrone. Just a few of the many attractions listed on the very helpful leaflet Burren and Cliffs of Moher GeoPark.

Okay, let us start with the cheese. We spent most of the first morning with Brian at St Tola and you may read all about it here. Our last call that afternoon was to the Farm Shop at Aillwee Caves where, if you’re lucky, you can see the Burren Gold being made. We had a lovely chat with Dave here  and an even lovelier tasting.

In between the cheese stops, we called to our B&B, the Fergus View, and got detailed directions for the afternoon from a very helpful Mary. And that was how we ended up at Poulnabrone. 

This is a Portal Tomb built, from great slabs of limestone, over 5,000 years ago (around the same time as the pyramids were being built) on the grey pavement of the Burren. The remains of over 30 people have been found on this ancient site. It is indeed much smaller than the pyramids but still you look at it in awe. 

And that awe continues as you eyes take in the extent of the grey pavement  (formed 350 millions years ago) all around as it stretches into the distance and you pick it up on the flanks of the distant hills.

Moher ??
And we got more great views of the unique landscape as we made our way to Sadie Chowen's Burren Perfumery . This  small company is “making cosmetics and perfumes inspired by the landscape around us. Everything is made on site, by hand, in small batches”. They include perfumes, creams, soaps and candles in the portfolio. We enjoyed  a little tour there through the perfume area, the herb garden and the soap room. There is also a Tea Room with homemade local food. The perfumery is open daily all year round.

The following morning we headed for Doolin on the coast, not to take a boat to the Aran Islands and not to take one along the Cliffs of Moher, but to visit the cave there. It is privately owned, by the Browne family. In addition to the cave, there is a café and a nature walk.

Mike Dickenson and Brian Varley, from a Yorkshire pothole club, discovered the cave in 1952. They crawled in. You don’t have to do that nowadays but you will have to bend down in certain parts. We had a terrific guide in Cathy and first she took us down the stairs which is enclosed in a concrete shaft stretching some 80 feet down; then, with our helmets on, we continued down to 80 metres.
Doolin's amazing stalactite. 10 tonnes, 23 feet.

Now, we get “orders” to turn out all mobile phone lights and we are briefly in darkness. A few lights come on in the blackness. Next there are oohs and aahs as the great stalactite is revealed, all 10 tonnes of it, all 23 feet of it (the longest free hanging stalactite in Europe!).  Amazing!
Doolin sheep

As Cathy takes us around and then under it, we get to know it a little better. One side (the whiter one), with drops of water still dripping, is longer than the other which has no drip and has stopped growing, it is “dead”.

Above ground, the nature trail takes visitors on a short rural walk where you will encounter some farm animals including rare breeds of pygmy goats and Soay and Jacob sheep, ducks and chickens. The ducks and chickens weren’t there on our trip, having been decimated by a rogue mink. But replacements were due!

There is also a well-regarded café and a shop and an area where you’ll see some information (mainly on posters) about the cave which was opened to the public only in 2006. As part of the planning permission, there is a limit of around 50,000 visitors per annum.

We had one or two other visits in mind in the Lisdoonvarna area but with the weather bright and clear, if quite breezy, we decided to head for the Cliffs of Moher. And the guy on the parking gate told us we’d made the correct decision, that the views were great.

And so they were. We joined the crowds (11 buses and more than half a mega-car-park full of cars) but the people were well spread out over the area and no sense of crowding at all. We walked and walked and took in the outstanding views. 

Something struck us as we strolled around. Most of the visitors were speaking a language other than English and those speaking English had either American or English accents. Of the small group in the morning’s cave visit, we were the only two “natives”. I know it was a working day (Friday) but still we wondered do we Irish really appreciate what we have on our doorstep. 
Ball retriever.

Over the past few years, we’ve often been asked what did we do this year. And we’d mention Kerry, Clare, Waterford, Wexford, Mayo, Donegal and so on. And the response often is. “Yes, but where did you go on holidays?” Quite a lot of us don’t consider it a holiday unless we go abroad.

We finished off the afternoon by taking the coastal route, calling at Liscannor (birthplace of John P Holland, inventor of the submarine) and a very lively Lahinch where surfers and golfers were out in force before reaching Berry Lodge at Spanish Point. Here we got a splendid welcome from owner David.

Plan to head to Clare again fairly soon, perhaps starting in the southern part of the county. Anything I should see, visit? After that, I’ll fill you in on a few places to eat and stay.
Surfers get a lesson on Lahinch beach while repairs (following last year's storms) continue in the background.