Showing posts sorted by relevance for query krug. Sort by date Show all posts
Showing posts sorted by relevance for query krug. Sort by date Show all posts

Monday, July 28, 2014

Krug at Ballymaloe. Patience and perfection

Krug at Ballymaloe
Patience and perfection
Toast to the harvest! The Krug is served in its special Riedel glasses.
"Champagne is all about pleasure."
Nicole Brown got widespread agreement on her opening statement at Ballymaloe last Thursday evening. And that agreement was reinforced by the time the audience in the famous Cookery School had sampled the amazing Krug Grand Cuvée.


Nicole was in Ballymaloe, both as a visitor - she is on holiday in West Cork - and in an temporary extension of her role as the US Brand Ambassador for Krug Champagne. Ballymaloe’s Colm McCann was delighted with the visit and welcomed Nicole, who was accompanied by Adrien Combet of Moet Hennessy Ireland, and the rest of us to the first ever Krug tasting in Ireland!


Krug, perhaps the premier champagne house, was founded by Joseph Krug in 1843. With some previous experience of the trade and his own principles to guide him (detailed in a journal he started for his young son in 1848), he set about extracting pleasure from a difficult climate (200 days of rain per annum). The chalk soil though was and remains a huge factor in the champagne maker’s favour.


The boundaries of champagne have long been set (though there is a move on to extend them in the next year or so) and so the competition among the houses for the raw material, the grapes, can be intense. Very few houses have enough grapes of their own. Krug, with some contracts dating back to 1878, are loyal to their suppliers and it seems to work both ways.



Krug use 5000 small oak barrels (average age: 23 years) for the first fermentation. Repairs are constant but Eric Label, Chef de Caves, is determined not to use stainless steel at this stage.

The tasting committee - we are talking about the Grand Cuvée here - consists of six members charged with using their memories and tasting abilities, not to mention the legibility of their handwriting, to make the flagship wine as consistent as possible each and every time!

There is no magic formula here, just memory and taste, and taste again! Some 200 plus wines are tasted twice while the reserve still wines are tasted once or twice each year. No less than 5,000 thousand hand-written tasting notes are accumulated in Eric’s big black book and then consulted before the blend composition is finalised.

The final blend may consist of over 100 wines from ten or so different vintages (years)! The wine then matures in the cellars for at least six years. Memory, taste, and so much time! The patience of perfection.
Roast Guinea Fowl and those amazing Heritage tomatoes.
While champagne is the most regulated wine in the world, its workings are not always clear to the outsider. “Krug wants to be transparent,” said Nicole and pointed to the ID on each bottle. Download the APP and you’ll get the key info, including important dates, on the wine. Let’s check the Grand Cuvée in our hand. We see that no less than 142 still wines (some going back to 1990) were blended with the base 2006 wine and that it was aged for seven years on its lees.

The audience was now eager to taste and Colm and his crew obliged. Nicole: “The Grand Cuvée is unique, an incredible expression of champagne”. And so it is. The deep golden colour and the endless fountain of fine bubbles promise much as do the amazing aromas. And it is all delivered on the palate, full and yet fine, mature yet fresh. You won’t forget this one in a hurry.

The Krug Rose, first made commercially in the early 1980s, is crafted in much the same way as the Grand Cuvée, and includes Pinot Noir from La Cote Valnon “to make it pink. It is aged for five years and the reserve wines date back to 2000. It is amazing with cheese.” Krug offer five champagnes and all five are Prestige Cuvées.

Back in Ballymaloe House, at dinner, we were amazed at the versatility of the Grand Cuvée, matching everything from fish to fowl and not forgetting vegetarian. Ballyhoura Mushroom and Marjoram Bruschetta and Hot Buttered Ballycotton Lobsters featured in the starters while Poached Wild Blackwater Salmon, Roast free-range Guinea Fowl and Braised Ballymaloe Pork were among the mains listed.
Sunset finds Nicole and Adrien doing some field-work.
The gigantic tin whistle is the newest
addition to the FORM sculpture trail, showing all
summer long at Ballymaloe.
Cheeses included St Gall, Triskel Goats and Cashel Blue and here the Rosé was put through its paces. No problem!

It was a delicious well paced meal and one of the highlights was the Shanagarry Heritage Tomato and Basil Salad. Colm McCann had been talking this up all evening and, boy, was he right. This simple salad illustrates the essence of the Ballymaloe farm and kitchen. Here they start with simple and end with simply superb!

We dined with windows and doors open on this lovely summer’s evening. Walked out then to the front, the canopy of farmland darkness broken by a myriad of sparkling stars. The Milky Way, I saw. And then I thought. What a prosaic name. All that sparkle and the best they can come up with is milky! Why not The Champagne Way? Pourquoi pas?

Thursday, July 3, 2014

A Sweet Exception

A Sweet Exception

Chateau Tour de Calens, Graves Superieures 2010.


The big sweet wines of France are pretty well known. Sauternes will top most lists but next door in the Dordogne you’ve got Monbazillac. In the Loire, they’ll boast of their Layon and more. 

But the French do make many sweet wines, not all as intense as those previously mentioned, and you'll find gorgeous and versatile moelleuxs (semi-sweet), such as the white of Jurancon and the red vin doux naturel (naturally sweet) of Rasteau, all over the place.

I was up and down Bordeaux’s left bank a few times recently and, of course, a call to Sauternes (what a tiny little place) was on the cards. Before that though, I made a couple of visits to the Maison des Vins de Graves in Podensac and got educated.

While Sauternes (and its entwined neighbour Barsac) are on the left bank, their wines were not on sale in the Maison. But that doesn't mean there is no sweet wine produced in the rest of the area. Indeed, there are quite a few and they are labelled Graves Superieures.

I got to taste a few of the fifteen they had in stock, including Chateau Rougemont 2006 and Chateau Cherchy Desqueyroux 2011. Enjoyed both and also the winner of their 2013 Gold Medal for the category, Chateau Brondelle 2011.
But the one that caught my sweet tooth was the Chateau Tour de Calens 2010, the category winner in 2012. “This is the exception that proves the rule,” said my hostess as she poured. All the others are from land adjoining Sauternes or Barsac to the east (where you'd expect the Botrytis cinerea mould that gives the sweetness to occur) but the Calens is out on its own in the west. It is produced on the bank of the Gironde in the environs of the town of Beautiran, closer to Bordeaux itself than to Barsac. 

The Doublet family are the producers and offer both Red Graves (75% Cabernet Sauvignon) and White (a blend of Semillon and Sauvignon blanc). In exceptional years, “a few feet of vines, harvested in late fall, allow the development of the Graves Supérieures : a soft sweet wine with a rich palette of candied fruit”.

I bought a few bottles and one made it home. Sipping it now, the €8.80 I paid for the half litre was money well spent. But where will the replacement come from? Pretty sure it is not on sale in Ireland.

* There are a few ways of producing sweet wines. Noble Rot (Botrytis cinerea), as in Sauternes, is probably the best known. The other main method is Late Harvest (Vendage Tardive), used in Alsace for example. Read more on the subject here.

Two drinks events, cider and champagne.
* The multi-award winning Franciscan Well Brewery is proud to host its first Summer Cider Festival from 4th July to 6th July. Cider makers showing include MacIvors, Tempted Cider, Craigies, Cork’s very own Stonewell Cider and Little Island Cider and Scott's Irish Cider, to name but a few.   The Cider Festival will open at 2pm on Friday 4thSaturday 5th and Sunday6th
Admission is free.

On Thursday, 24th July, at 7.00pm, a Krug Champagne tasting with Nicole Burke, Krug USA Brand Ambassador, will be held in the Ballymaloe Cookery School (note venue). Contact colm@ballymaloe.ie for further details and bookings.

Friday, July 4, 2014

Art, Craft and Food Naturally at Ballymaloe

Art, Craft and Food Naturally at Ballymaloe
Palais de Poulets
Ballymaloe is a working farm, producing magic by the moment. I went through the looking glass last Wednesday and, in a few short hours, sampled this incredible place.

With Colm McCan as our guide, we passed the Palais des Poulets and stepped into a one acre bubble where all kinds of vegetables grow organically under the warm shelter. And so too do a selection of vines, though even the enthusiastic Colm knows that more magic will be needed if the fruit of these East Cork plants is to be turned into wine.

A fertile Allen imagination is at work in the calm warm place. One segment of the shelter has a newly laid carpet, of grass. Here later in the month, one hundred people will sit down for the Long Table Dinner, a night of fine food and conviviality.
Under cover clockwise from bottom left:
tomatoes, passionfruit flower, Colm with grapes,
and borage in the herb garden

Many tales illustrate the 30 year old story of Darina Allen’s Cookery School and we mingle with the students for lunch. The starter is pea soup. Sounds mundane enough. But it was excellent and the main course, with the Belly Bacon an outstanding feature, was incredibly delicious.

And the magic was sweetly evident on the dessert plate, emphasized by that natural cream from the Jersey cows, a memory of good times past but very much part of the present reality here in Ballymaloe, provided by six Jerseys that yield the milk for the table and for the students to make their butter, cheese and yoghurts.

Man does not live by bread alone, though I could think of a worse diet than that emanating from the Ballymaloe ovens. Colm now directed us to the gardens, starting with the herb garden, based on the legendary gardens of Villandry. May not have quite the scope of the Loire chateau but Ballymaloe has its surprises, including that unforgettable After Eight Mint (one of many varieties, including Banana and Orange).


Dinner. Check out that Jersey cream on the dessert plate!
Soon we were into the herbaceous border, a magnificent example of the type, and heading for the  Shell House, hardly a house, just a very small building but unforgettable. Here, some 20,000 shells have been artistically arranged (by Blott Kerr Wilson in 1995). You'll never look at mussel shells or scallop shells in the same way again. The gardens and shell house are open to the public and there is a charge.

Back in the main house, built around the remains of a 15th century Fitzgerald castle, part of which still stands, we went down to the wine cellar in the rock on which the buildings stand. Here lay treasure! Colm handled some of the great wines of the world with care and, like a good Corkman, I just looked, eyes and mouth open!

Time now for a reviving cup of coffee and where else would you go but to the tig beag, the roasting house of Mark and Golden Bean, right next to the well known wine and entertainment venue, the Grain Store. Mark was roasting a few kilograms of Ethiopian beans so we waited for the crack and soon we were sampling, via his AeroPress, the freshest coffee we had ever tasted. Mark, by the way, has a new outlet for his excellent coffee and soon you'll be able to buy and drink it at the Princes’ Street store, just opened (02/07/14), by The Rocket Man.
Mussel shells in small sample from Shell House

Now for a little cultural exercise, in the environs of the house and the field outfront. Colm introduced us to Richie Scott, the exhibition's coordinator. Richie would be our knowledgeable guide on the sculpture trail which features a walk into the middle of the cornfield to see some of the exhibits.

Richie first assembled FORM for Mount Juliet last year and now this revised version will be in Ballymaloe until September 28th. There is something for everyone here: some humorous pieces, some severe, large scale pieces and small, abstract and figurative. You may not like every piece but do bring the kids and let them loose; take your time as you walk around and let your eye wander and allow the magic in.

My favourite, in this first walkabout, was perhaps Holger Lonze, especially The Large Seabird. Enjoyed too the quirky pieces, mainly in Kilkenny Limestone, by Eileen McDonagh. And what about that stranded surfboard, high and dry at the base of the big tree? Go see for yourself. No charge.

Almost ready. Mark checks a roast.
After quite a packed few hours it was time to say goodbye. But we’ll soon be back. Already the first date is confirmed. On Thursday, 24th July, at 7.00pm, a Krug Champagne tasting with Nicole Burke, Krug USA Brand Ambassador, will be held in the Ballymaloe Cookery School (note venue). Contact colm@ballymaloe.ie for further details and bookings.

And all that magic? Probably the usual formula: 5% inspiration, 95% perspiration.

Some upcoming Ballymaloe events
Ballymaloe Garden Festival, August 30th and 31st. www.ballymaloe.ie
Feel Good Food: Let’s Cook, one day course with Chef and Nutritionist Debbie Shaw at the Cookery School, Monday July 21st. www.cookingisfun.ie
Master It with Rory O’Connell, Two Day Course which sees Rory teaching a slection from his book. Wednesday Jul;y 30th to Friday Augist 1st.  www.cookingisfun.ie

On the FORM trail.






Friday, August 17, 2018

In Praise of East Cork. Food. People. Place. Worth a Visit!

In Praise of East Cork.
Food. People. Place. Worth a Visit!
Town crier in Youghal
Friendly people, great food, attractions on land and sea, both natural and man-made, make East Cork a gem of a place to visit. From the fantastic 13th century St Mary’s Collegiate Church in Youghal to high class Fota House Gardens and Arboretum, both free to enter, there is a treasure chest of places to visit in the area.
Fota Wildlife

Let me take you on a trip to see part of it. We’ll also enjoy some delicious meals as East Cork is a foodie’s paradise with top notch venues including Sage and Kevin Ahern’s 12 Mile Menu,  Barnabrow (ideal for weddings and a leisurely Sunday lunch), Midleton’s pioneering Farmers Market (every Saturday) and the food mecca of Ballymaloe.
Christy Ring

And, before or after Barnabrow and Ballymaloe, do take the opportunity to visit the  medieval town of Cloyne. It is one of the hidden gems of the area, its skyline dominated by the large medieval Round Tower and across the road is St. Colman's Cathedral built in 1270/80 and still in use. Famous Cloyne people include the 20th century hurler Christy Ring and the 18th century philosopher George Berkeley, both of whom are remembered here: Ring's statue is by the GAA field and Berkley's tomb is in the cathedral.

Barnabrow
Coming from the city on the main Cork-Waterford road, take the Cobh exit ramp and head for breakfast or lunch, right to Bramley Lodge, or left to The Bakestone Cafe at Ballyseedy.  Now, set up for the day, go over the nearby bridge to Fota Island and its many attractions.

If you have kids, go the Wildlife Park; if not, walk through the renowned Fota Arboretum and maybe add a tour of the Georgian House. If you like it around here, you may also try the high class  Fota Island Hotel and Golf Resort. Other top class hotels in the area include the Raddison Blu (Little Island) and the Castlemartyr Resort.
Garryvoe walk

Moving on, go over the Belvelly Bridge and you’ll soon come to Frank Hederman’s famous smokehouse. You are now on Great Island where the cathedral town of Cobh is situated. Much to do here including the Sirius Art Gallery, walking tours (including the Titanic Trail and Spike Island), harbourside bars and restaurants and of course the Cobh Heritage Centre which tells of forced deportations and also the tales of the ill fated liners, The Titanic and the Lusitania.
Mitchel Hall on Spike Island

If you have four or more hours to spare, be sure to take the ferry over to Spike Island. It is a fantastic tour, great guides, so many interesting things to see and do, much of it related to its historic military and prison life, but also superb walks and views out over the harbour. Very Highly Recommended.

Fota House and arboretum; walled gardens too

Cruise liners call here regularly during the season, with a carnival atmosphere in the town on the days they are in port. And here boats take you across to Spike and also on harbour tours. Maybe you’d just like to walk around the town; I did so recently, taking in the Holy Ground, the Titanic Garden and the Sonia O’Sullivan statue, and you may check it out here. Perhaps you'd prefer just to sit on the decking at The Titanic Bar & Grill and watch the boats go by.

Sonia

Whiskey Sour in Jameson
Time now to head out of the islands and head east to Midleton and a tour of the Jameson Experience. If you give the right answers here, you’ll end up with a certificate of proficiency in whiskey! No shortage of cafes and restaurants here (indeed there's one in the distillery). Plenty more outside, including Ferrit & Lee and the family friendly Granary now celebrating twenty two years in business.
Cork Harbour

Dessert at Radisson Blu, Little Island
There will be detours, of course. One that I like is off the Whitegate road, out of Midleton. Look out for the signs for East Ferry and enjoy a walk by the estuary and maybe reward yourself with a well cooked meal at Murph’s, a restaurant with a lovely view.

Another suggested detour - you may need a driver here - is to head towards Ballyvolane House near Castlelyons. Lots to do here, including fishing and glamping, and it is also the home of Bertha's Revenge Gin!

And if you're in this area at the weekend, be sure and call to the 200 year old O'Mahony's Pub in Watergrasshill. Superb local food and drink, music also, extensive sheltered outdoor areas and ways and means to keep the kids happy.
Dinner at Sage


Next stop is Ballymaloe, the home of modern Irish food. You could spend a day here. Maybe an overnight stay to sample the world renowned cooking. Call to the cafe for a mid afternoon or mid morning  coffee. Be sure to take a look at the impressive Cookery School gardens, not forgetting the Shell House and their truck cafe during the summer. And don’t forget Golden Bean coffee roaster Marc Kingston is also based here.
Krug tasting in a Ballymaloe cornfield

In the nearby seaside village of Ballycotton, take a stroll down to the pier and see the fishermen come and go, maybe take a boat trip to the lighthouse on the nearby island. If you feel you need to stretch the legs, then there is a spectacular walk  along the cliff tops. After all that exercise, treat yourself to a gorgeous meal at Pier 26.
View from the Bayview Terrace


If you need to overnight, then the Garryvoe Hotel and its top notch Samphire Restaurant, with great views over the bay, is close at hand. And across the bay, there's its sister hotel, The Bayview; great views here. Closed in winter but, when open, check out the superb cooking of chef Ciaran Scully, an example here.
Ballycotton cliff walk

Youghal is the final town, on the Blackwater and just shy of the border with Waterford. On the way, you could stretch the legs in Killeagh’s Glenbower Woods one of many attractive walks in the East Cork area. In Youghal, take a boat trip on the Blackwater. If you want a mid-day salad or sandwich in the town, then the Sage Cafe will take good care of you. Just alongside is the newly refurbished Clock Gate Tower, a must visit!


After all the activity, you deserve to rest up for the night. Enjoy a meal in the Old Imperial Hotel on Youghal's main street, maybe just a drink in its old Coachhouse bar, maybe both! Aherne’s, of course, is famous for its seafood and they too have rooms.
Samphire at Garryvoe Hotel



And do try and get your hands on the local craft beers, including Ireland's first organic Red Ale, made by the dedicated team in the town’s Munster Brewery; they also do tours. Amazing apple and pear drinks, including their unique Ice Wine, coming from Killahora Orchard (near Glounthaune).

And before leaving the area, don’t forget to visit Ballynatray House, a Blackwater gem.
Dinner at Brook Inn

If, at the end of a day's touring, you find yourself heading back towards the city, then do consider the Brook Inn near Glanmire for dinner. It is a lively buzzy place and the food is good there too.

Enjoy East Cork, the food, the place and its people!

Ballynatray House, by the Blackwater

(revised 17.08.18)
If you have a cafe, restaurant, visitor attraction, not listed here, please let me know and I will do my best to visit with a view to inclusion in next revision. You may also use the comment facility below.