Monday, December 10, 2012

A Tremendous Verdejo

Meet this attractive Verdejo
Vina Orpendola, Verdejo 2011, Rueda (Spain), 13%, €13.00 to €15.00, stockists 

Just take a look at this remarkable Verdejo. It is beautiful and bright. Already your guard is down. But don't worry, it is a tender trap!

Rueda DO is a prestigious white wine region in NW Spain. This Orpendola is made with one hundred per cent Verdejo and “tries to express the personality “of the area. Vino Orpendola is a unit of the Osborne family, best known for its sherry.

I fell for it at first sight. It has lovely aromas of white fruits and blossom. It is full-textured, fruity, lively and dry. Generous, it doesn’t flatter to deceive and is excellent from start to long finish. Another winner from Wine Alliance. Highly recommended.

In singing the praises of a young Spanish wine I must not forget some of the older whites. I had the pleasure of revisiting one this weekend: R. Lopez de Heredia Viña Tondonia, Viña Gravonia Crianza 2002, Rioja DO.

Just gorgeous, as I remembered. See the full story here, plus a review of the even better 1996, both white and dry, both memorable.

Friday, December 7, 2012

More Food and Drink Spotting


Celebrity Chef gives Wilton Shoppers Festive Food for Thought
Not only are shoppers at Wilton Shopping Centre enjoying live carol singing and piano playing, as well as great value shopping, but next week they will also be treated to a free Christmas cookery demonstration with celebrity chef and author, Rachel Allen.

Shoppers will be shown how to create simple but delicious festive treats and Christmas party food by Rachel Allen, who will be in Wilton Shopping Centre on on Friday, 14 December at 11 am.  The demonstration is free to attend and all are welcome.

The free Christmas cookery demonstration is the latest in the Wilton Shopping Centre line up this holiday season, which has seen local schools carol singing as well as stunning Christmas piano tunes from Jeffers Pianos on site.  Santa is in his grotto at Wilton every day checking his list, reading the Santa letters posted in store, and hearing whether the children of Cork have been naughty or nice.  The team at Wilton Shopping Centre are also providing a free gift wrapping service.   And of course, Home & Away star, Brax, will be visiting on New Year’s Eve.

“We have a fantastic Christmas experience for shoppers at Wilton this year”, said Susanne Irwin, Manager of Wilton Shopping Centre.  “From carol singing, Christmas food tastings and cake decorating, and the elves’ free gift wrapping station ensuring that all gifts bought here are wrapped by Santa’s little helpers, Christmas shopping has never been so much fun or so easy!”

Boasting 62 shops under one roof, Christmas at Wilton is truly a unique shopping experience in Cork.  From the welcoming scents of cinnamon and orange to the friendly service and great choice of Christmas gifts available, Wilton Shopping Centre won’t disappoint.

Opening hours have been extended throughout December, and the Wilton Shopping Centre will be open from 9am to 9pm Monday to Friday, 9am to 6pm on Saturdays and Sundays opening hours run from 11am to 6pm.

For more information, see or follow Wilton Shopping Centre on Facebook.

‘Wine for the Festive Season’ with Colm McCan & Peter Corr

Ballymaloe Cookery School, Tuesday 11th December, 6pm

This entertaining & educational wine evening will run like a dinner party, starting with wines for the Aperitif, moving on to the Main Event and finishing with the End of the Day. Presenting the evening, with wines to taste, are Colm McCan, Sommelier at Ballymaloe House & Wine Teacher at Ballymaloe Cookery School, together with Peter Corr of Febvre & Co Wine Merchants who is also a guest wine teacher at Ballymaloe Cookery School, both of whom have a combined 50 years experience in the wine world, making them the ideal guides to Festive Wines.

Amaze yourself, your family and your friends with your wine knowledge, food & wine pairing, hot tips and wine gift ideas, all with Christmas and the Festive Season in mind.

Proceeds for this evening to the East Cork Slow Food Educational Project

€8 (Slow Food members €5). All are welcome. Advance booking essential.

Theatre of Food
(via @Bibliocook)

Theatre of Food is ‘popping up’ at Cork Christmas Market this year to bring some top tips for festive fare and seasonal treats. The stage, equipped with a Bosch kitchen will host fantastic participants including some of Cork’s finest chefs: Multi-award winning chef Brendan Cashman, formerly of the Michelin Star-ranked Augustine’s Restaurant; and Kevin Ahern of Sage Restaurant in Midleton, whose restaurant's ethos is to source the best of local produce from Cork County – East, West & North, with most sourced within a 12 mile radius of Midleton.

Both will be kicking off the pop up Theatre of Food this Sunday, taking centre stage between 3pm and 6pm, and treating the audience to some seasonal flavours and foods from the English Market.

Brendan Cashman and the magic of Brining

Brendan and the magic of Brining

Chef Brendan Cashman brought his cooking magic to CIT this week. Turkey, Smoked Salmon, Pan Roast Squab Pigeon and a dark Chocolate Cake were all on the list but it was brining that caught the attention of the audience.

Brendan, giving his services free for this charity event (in aid of St Vincent de Paul), started the evening with a demo of his Alternative to Smoked Salmon. The cure here consisted of lemon zest, dill, coarse sea salt, castor sugar and peppercorns. Samples were soon passed a round amid hums of approval.

The main practical demo had Brendan showing us how to cook his Pan Roast Squab Pigeon and Confit leg. The crown had been placed in brine for four hours. But before the pigeon was finished, we had a break, enjoyed some sweet delights produced by the CIT students.
Confit leg: Brendan and the pigeon leg
that he transformed into a tasty "lollipop"

Back to the splendidly appointed demo area then and Brendan explained the Brining. “Several years ago, I began to brine all kinds of meats, fish and vegetables to ‘infuse’ or impart more depth of flavour. In simple scientific terms it breaks down the muscle filaments, helping tenderise the meats. Once the filaments have broken down they can begin to absorb the flavours in the brine.”

Bringing was one of preserving options used before the refrigerator and is now making a huge comeback in modern cuisine, particularly in Scandinavia, and is an everyday approach to flavour enhancement in Michelin starred kitchens all over the world.

All attendees received a bunch of recipes, along with detailed instructions on curing, smoking and brining. Brining was again the main topic in the closing question and answer session.

At the very end, we had the results of the raffle for St Vincent de Paul and glad to say I was among the many winners of Christmas goodies. Great cause and a great demo. Well done to CIT’s Tourism and Hospitality Department and to Dr. Margaret Linehan, the Head of School of Humanities, and her staff, who organised the event.

Brendan is officially starting his cookery school in Douglas in the New Year but there are a couple of opportunities to enhance your Christmas cooking skills before then as he has two two-night courses taking place on the 10th and 17th and also on the 11th and 18th of December. For bookings contact him at or telephone 021-4365083.

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Food and Drink Spotting

Food and Drink Spotting

Happy Anniversary to L’Atitude 51

Happy First Anniversary to L’Atitude, the wine cafe at number one Union Quay.

Best known for its huge range of wine, available by the tasting glass, by the normal glass, by the carafe and by the bottle, the friendly venue also does morning coffees and gorgeous pastries, light lunches and light meals later on. Beer drinkers are not forgotten either. And, if you like a little music or art, then that’s another reason to make a visit. Wine tastings, even wine classes, are regularly available here.

Tuesday was the official anniversary. I couldn’t make that evening’s party but did call in earlier for lunch. They do one soup, one hot dish and a few open sandwiches, all a cut above the average and all priced below the average. Yesterday’s selection: Porchetta and sundried tomato; Fennel salami and gherkin; Buffalo mozzarella with aubergines.

Potato and Leek soup can sometimes be bland but not here and you get a massive bowlful and great bread for €4.50. My main course was the Jack McCarthy Black Pudding with Apple Sauce and a Mustard Mash. The cost? Just €6.50. Good food, good value.

Ballymaloe's Pop-Up Christmas Wine Shop

Ballymaloe’s Colm McCan has been in touch: “We are opening a ‘Pop-Up Christmas Wine Shop’ at Ballymaloe House, each weekend in the run up to Christmas, on Saturdays & Sundays, from 11.00am - 4.00pm.

Lots to see & do, and shop, in the area, including Ballymaloe House Shop, celebrating 40 years this year, and the Ballymaloe Shop Cafe for delicious morning coffee, light lunches, and afternoon tea; Ballymaloe House for lunch & dinner, and vouchers for Christmas, and the Farm Shop at Ballymaloe Cookery School.

All your Christmas shopping in tranquil Shanagarry – hassle free, lots of parking, delicious food – and a walk on the beach afterwards maybe.... Christmas Shopping with a smile!”

Sunday Brunch No. 5 Fenn’s Quay
Brunch may have been around for decades but Fenn’s Quay Restaurant, located on Sheares Street in Cork City Centre, is bringing it to Sundays on the 9th, 16th and 23rd of December, from 11:00 a.m. until 4:00 p.m.

Executive Chefess Kate Lawlor has created a delectable brunch menu featuring local ingredients in classics, like Eggs Benedict with Rosscarbery Rashers or Boiled Eggs and Soldiers with Marmite, and indulgent favourites, like fluffy Feirm Úr Buttermilk Pancakes with your choice of crème fraîche, homemade jam or maple syrup.

For light eaters, there are Croissants or Fruit Scones served with Irish butter and Kate’s own house-made jam. With a variety of brunch dishes on the special menu, you’ll be spoilt for choice. Known for its family-friendly menu and staff, even the littlest brunchers will enjoy themselves.

Roz Crowley’s Mince Pies

Irish Examiner and Feelgood food writer Roz Crowley looks at the mince pies available this Christmas. On tomorrow, Friday the 7th, she will give her verdict on the best in the Feelgood section of the Irish Examiner. Here she also makes her own Christmas mince pies. Video by Dan Linehan @lensdan

Brendan Cashman Pop-up

Brendan is having his own Pop-Up consisting of a 7-course tasting menu for just €55 next Sat 8th Dec in his brand new Cookery School. Or why not sign up for his Christmas Cookery Course running on Mon 10th & 17th and Tues 11th & 18th December and wow those relations with your newly-found cooking skills on Christmas Day! For more details email Brendan directly on or call 021 4365083


St Tola Goat Cheese ‏@StTolaCheese

St Tola Ash Log won Best Irish Cheese at the World Cheese Awards! Mature log wins Bronze too. What a great end to 2012!

Ballymaloe Cookery ‏@BallymaloeCS

Wines for the Festive Season @BallymaloeCS Colm McCan and Peter Corr in aid of slow food - Tue December 11th 6pm. lots of wine ideas €8.00

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Love your food? Love Your Fun?

Love your food? Love Your Fun? Read on..

"Six In The City" is RTÉ's newest reality entertainment series. Based on the success of a pilot episode, which aired during RTÉ's "Format Farm" season this autumn, "Six In The City" will return to RTÉ 2 this March for a full series of 6 episodes.

Lorna Hackett of WAKA TV telles me: “We are currently accepting applications from candidates in every Irish city, asking people to show us what makes a great night out in their city. The series will be recorded from January until March.”

“We are looking for couples and pairs (friends, colleagues, etc.) in every Irish city to take part in this RTÉ television show. The pair will showcase the best that their city has to offer in terms of dining, socialising, events and activities. Participants in the show get the chance to show off the best of their city's social life, and they will also get to visit two other Irish cities for great nights out, all expenses paid.”

“ The most successful pair in hosting a great night out, as voted for by the others taking part, will win a €1,000 city break to the European destination of their choice.

Do you & your better half have a fantastic social life?

How About Showing The Rest Of Ireland How It's Done?

With the chance to win a European Party Break worth €1,000

RTÉ Two's hit reality show, Six In The City, is back in March, and we'd love YOU and your partner to be the stars.

We're looking for party-loving couples from all across Ireland to compete in an exciting city vs city challenge.

You'll host YOUR perfect Night Out in YOUR City, and you'll also enjoy a weekend party break in two other Irish cities - all expenses covered.

Three couples, three cities and three great nights out. The couple judged to host the best night out wins the €1,000 prize. That could be YOU!





Party time!
To apply send your name and a contact number to:

or call             01 - 6611384       and ask for Trevor

Lorna Hartnett WAKA TV (01) 661 1384 and 085 77 080 52


A Stellar Pair from Spain

A Stellar Pair from Spain

The weekend provided the opportunity to try out a pair of reds from Spain and it was time well spent with a stellar duo, each well priced. Both were really good, though the Sembro perhaps had the edge.

Las Pizarras Si O Sy Syrah 2010 Calatayud, 12.5%, (€10 to 12), Stockists 

The vineyard says tradition is respected but “our young team of winemakers are open to innovation and advances, in search of ways of raising qualities”. Reckon they got it spot-on with this warm and spicy 100 per cent Syrah.

Nose is complex, fairly intense, dark fruits, especially plum. Plum and cherry on the palate, it is full bodied, smooth and well balanced, moderately spicy with a good long finish. Good value and highly recommended.

Sembro Tempranillo 2011 Ribera Del Duero, 13.5% (€12 to 14) Stockists 

This is another of the three Osborne family wines recently imported by Wine Alliance. Osborne, well known for its sherries, have several estates in quality DOs in Spain and the philosophy is to ensure the wine “is a unique reflection of the personality of the vineyard”.

This very dark red has an intense mix of fruits on the nose. Fruits and some spice on the palate with a pretty smooth mouthfeel and then a good long flavoursome finish. This one has a lot going for it. Quite a personality and highly recommended.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Amuse Bouche

’We will go home and eat cakies, little lotus-filled cakies,’ Granny sang. ‘We will eat turnip squares, salty white turnip squares,' she sang. ‘We will eat grass jelly, tangy green grass jelly. We will eat dumplings, soft, steamy dumplings.’
From Revenge of the Mooncake Vixen by Marilyn Chin.

Bringing the Buffalo Home

Bringing the Buffalo Home
 Last weekend was the first time that Toons Bridge Cafe was selling buffalo meat. Called there Saturday morning and it was great to meet up with owners Toby Simmonds and Jenny-Rose Clarke and also with buffalo farmer Johnny Lynch. There was quite a selection of the meat and, don’t worry, the cafe/shop will be open from 11.00am every Friday, Saturday and Sunday.
Mozzarella and Ballyhoura Mushrooms

 By the way, they sell much more than meat. There are some great cheeses on displays, especially the mozzarella and ricotta. They also do local produce and we helped ourselves to some of De Roiste’s black and white pudding. Don’t forget that they also have a great selection of Mediterranean products, much the same as you see on their olive stalls at the markets, including the English Market.

And if you have time to pause and sip, there is the lovely little cafe.

The Mozzarella came in a plastic bag with its fluid, “the only way to sell Mozzarella” said Toby. We enjoyed that in the classic manner (below), with tomatoes and basil. The following day, the “leftovers” were put to good use, mixed with some marinated Shiitake Mushrooms (from Ballyhoura Mushrooms) and a little salad. The mushrooms added another dimension and we had an enjoyable mix on the plate.

Two fillets were next up and they quickly cooked and were served with pommes boulangères and some greens, not forgetting a lovely Spanish red. Perfect. Next day, we tried the round roast, cooking it slow and low as advised. Very little fat here so the meat could dry out quickly on a higher heat. Served it with roast spuds and parsnips. Very enjoyable.

Aside from buffalo meat having 90% less fat, 67% less cholesterol and 45% fewer calories, the opinion here is that, taste wise, the buffalo meat is not that far away from the more usual beef. After all, Le Buff and Le Bouef are closely related. No doubt, the traditional steak accompaniments, such as onions and mushrooms should also go well with the Toons Bridge newcomers.

The ricotta can be quite versatile but this time we stuck with it as a dessert, copying the lads in the Mills by drizzling it with a local honey and it worked fine. Also had some grilled pears with toasted walnuts on hand but this was really a second dessert rather than a match. 

Also got a tip from Karen on twitter to try spinach & ricotta cannelloni. Next time! There are many ways of using all these fantastic buffalo products from Toons Bridge – indeed they had a recipe for Pot Roast with Red Wine available last Saturday. So why not try it and get yourself down to the lovely cafe before meat stocks run out!

Monday, December 3, 2012

Rebel Fusion at Fresco Bistro

Seven Up for Fresco Bistro

They called it the Rebel Fusion Menu and Fresco Bistro made sure it lived up to its name. Based on the best of Irish ingredients, Chef Kash and his crew came up with a stunning series of dishes, some with a European influence, others with an Asian touch, all delicious and illustrating how the food revolution, inspired by our immigrants, has changed the plates of Cork. 

And to cap it all, the wine pairings by the experts at L’Atitude 51 were spot-on, with wines from California, Australia and Europe. Must say too that the service here was excellent, the staff friendly and well informed on the dishes and the wines.

If pushed, I might say that the Brisket Tart and Sausage was my favourite course of the seven but, if pushed another way, I might go for that opening Cappuccino or indeed any course at all. Think I’ll just let the pictures do the talking here.

Oh, by the way, it looks as if Fresco Bistro, so hugely encouraged by the response to the venture, will be doing something similar on a regular basis. So, watch this space.

Ummera Smoked Salmon Cappuccino
A Cappuccino with a difference using Ummera Smoked Salmon and Ballyhoura Shiitake mushroom served with pistachio biscotti. "A brilliant blend, the salmon shining through."
The Wine: 2010 Clay Station (California) Viognier.

 Criostoir's Rebel County Spiced Beef.
Spiced beef bon bon pasta accompanied with smoked bacon, cabbage roll and horseradish beurre blanc.
"A new way with spiced beef! And that cabbage roll was gorgeous."
The Wine: 2010 Casteliroig (Spain) Xarel-lo
 O'Crualaoi's Beef and Ginseng Consomme.
Beef consomee topped with goji berries, venison wanton and quail eggs.
"Loved those little berries, the eggs, the venison, everything."
The Wine: 2008 Cat Amongst the Pigeons (Australia) Cabernet Sauvignon.
Murphy's Organic Salmon Teriyaki.
Mixed berry teriyaki of salmon on sobi noodles and a red miso brother, topped with shichimi togarashi.
"A brilliant super tasty dish influenced by the land of the rising sun."
The Wine: 2010 Temps de Flor (Spain) Xarel-lo, Muscat and Gewurztraminer

Ballycotton Jumbo Scampi
Pan-fried jumbo prawns with an Asian Salad tossed in a soy, garlic and thyme dressing with an Agar Basil Jelly.
"The prawns were brilliant here and that salad was special. The black cylinder is the Agar. Wasn't too popular!"
The Wine: 2008 Rosso di Montalcino (Italy) Sangiovese.

Criostoir's Brisket Tart and Murphy's Beef Sausages.
A tender brisket filled with quail's eggs in a tart, baked to perfection and accompanied with homemade Murphy's beef sausage.
"Yet another top notch dish. The pie was irresistible; terrific sausage and jus."
The Wine: 2008 Chateau Ventenac Reserve (France) Cab Sauv, Merlot and Syrah.

Mixed Berries Pulut
An Asian glutinous rice dessert with berries, served with egg and coconut jam, flavoured with screwpine leaf.
"Wasn't too sure about the rice when I saw this but it was fine with the berries providing a lovely contrast. That jam was yet another treat."
The Wine: Franciacorta Brut (Italy) Chardonnay and Pinot Nero.

Friday, November 30, 2012

Yaso! Just what the doctor ordered.

Yaso. Just what the doctor ordered!
Yaso is the name of the god of healing in Greek mythology. It is also the name of one of the well priced well bred new wines from Cork importer Wine Alliance. 
Well bred? Yes indeed, the vineyard is owned by the Osborne family. No, not the heavy metal tribe. I’m talking about a vine respectability here: the owners are the Osbornes of Jerez. The Tonto de Toro (Tempranillo) vines that provide the fruit are in 40 year old vineyards in the South Eastern province of Zamora and the wines spend 6 months in French oak.
Yaso Tinto de Toro (Tempranillo), 2010 Toro (Spain), 13.5%, €12.00 to €14.00 Stockists 
Cherry red is the colour and there is a fairly concentrated red fruit nose. On the palate it is smooth, fruity, with light spice and a good finish. On the wallet, it is light to medium. Highly recommended.
The other recent additions to the Wine Alliance portfolio include Las Pizarras Si O Sy Syrah 2010 Calatayud (€10 to 12); Sembro Tempranillo 2011 Ribera Del Duero (€12 to 14); and the white (also from Osborne) Oropendola Verdejo 2011 Rueda (€13 to 15). 
Read the Toro background here 

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Brendan Cashman to cook at CIT Charity Event


Some of the audience at last year's
 event with Rory O'Connell
 CIT and the Department of Tourism and Hospitality are delighted to welcome back multi-award winning Chef Brendan Cashman to perform a seasonal-themed cookery demonstration on Wednesday, 5 December 2012 at 7.00pm.

The demonstration will take place in the Tourism and Hospitality Department and all proceeds will go to St Vincent de Paul (Cork).

Tickets cost €20 and are available from or by phone
 from Michelle Kelleher              021– 4335804      .

Food and Drink Spotting

Food and Drink Spotting
Taste of the Week!

A Winter’s Ale
I have a highly recommended seasonal beer for you today. It comes from Mitchelstown’s 8 Degrees Brewing and it called A Winter’s Ale and it is widely available.

They say “it will warm you from the inside out”. Not too sure about that but I certainly enjoyed this strong (7%) spiced darkish ale. The spices, which come via Green Saffron, do not dominate. Neither is there an overpowering aroma or flavours.

This is a really well balanced glassful, rich and rewarding, an excellent blend for the season. I suggest serving in and sipping from a wine glass. Top up from time to time to revive the head.

Ladies Lockdown!
On December 6th at The Rising Tide, there will be a Pre Christmas Food & Fashion Night for the Ladies! “There's a Kir Royale reception on arrival with make up tips and touch ups with Glamity Jane. Nails Inc will be on hand (literally) to do complimentary file & paints. We'll then serve up a stunning 4-course dinner while you enjoy the fashion from The Dress Bar & Verso. Tickets are limited and are €35 pp. — with Emer Lockdown Models and 4 others.”

Beat the Budget!
The folks in From Vineyards Direct have been on with their plan to beat the budget. “This time we expect a rise in duty on the 5th. So now is a great time to stock up with some of our delicious reds for all occasions.

Chateau La Cardonne is a perfect, plump big occasion party wine from the much lauded 2003 vintage.
Our fantastic house Claret, La Reserve 2009, made with merlot from St Emilion, which is not only a delicious party wine, but will fool your guests into thinking it's a far more expensive offering.
Finally, Chateau Trillol 2008 from Corbieres, our staff favourite from 2012 and recently awarded a Coup de Coeur in the Guide Hachette, France's wine Bible. Big, brambly and really delicious.”

Soup-er Friday
Cork Penny Dinners is set to benefit from a “Soup-er Friday” fundraiser being organised by award winning local Cork food company, Just Food, on Friday 30th November. Fifty cents from every Just Food soup pot sold in Cork on the day will be donated to this worthy cause.

A pop-up Just Food Soup stand, located outside Brown Thomas, will also sell soup to passers-by on the day, with all proceeds from these sales going to the charity. To coincide with this fundraiser, Cork businesses who don’t manage to get their hands on any of Just Food’s delicious soups, are invited to bring their lunch into work on the day and the money saved by doing this can also be donated to Cork Penny Dinners.

Donations can be made to Cork Penny Dinners via, by posting a cheque to Cork Penny Dinners, 4 Little Hanover Street, Cork City; or bank transfer to The Ulster Bank, 88 Patrick St, sort code 98-54-80, account no. 10927581.

For further details on “Soup-er Friday” and information on Just Food products, visit or


Yesterday we got this tweet from ‏@Kajuiter
Want to make Traditional Irish White SodaBread ......Check out @poolchef30  #sodabread

No shortage of ideas for Christmas food here.

Mountain Dew gets a makeover. Check here.

Are you ready for General Tso’s chicken? Just click and check.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Blair’s Inn. Hot Food and Fire!

Blair’s Inn. Hot Food and Fire!

Hard to beat a seat by the fire these days, especially one by the fireside in Blair’s Inn where, in addition to the comfort (not to mention the craic), you have a fantastic choice of top nosh and beer.

Called in there yesterday for lunch and got that seat by the fire before settling down to study the fantastic menu, the beer menu that is. Lots of craft beer on draught and much more in bottle, including the new deliciously spiced A Winter’s Ale from 8 Degrees.

St Tola Goat Cheese Tartlet
I picked a pint of the draught Friar Weisse (Franciscan Well) and then began to study the other fantastic menu as the place began to fill up. No slack here on a Tuesday! No shortage of craic either. One diner was advised that drinking too much water could result in rust!

Some great producer names on the menu but when I saw two of them together, I couldn’t resist. My choice: Warm Salad of Ummera Smoked Chicken and Gubbeen Chorizo. Delicious. CL also hit the jackpot with a terrific plateful of Warm St Tola Goat Cheese Tart with smoked salmon and creamed leeks. 
Corned Beef.

Resisting the urge to try some seasonal game, we agreed on the mains which is a house special. It is the Silverside of O’Crualaoi’s Irish Corned Beef on a bed of champ served with cabbage and a parsley sauce, not to mention a side plate of veg and another of baked potato. You can’t go wrong with this one. Highly recommended.

Indeed, the Blair’s Inn experience is highly recommended. Some great choices here. About a half dozen starters, all served with their Black Rock Stout Brown Bread. Then you may choose from a dozen main courses. Not too sure about the desserts, as we didn’t get that far!

Riesling: Steel and Sweet.

Riesling. Steel and Sweet.
And a Stocco for the stocking.

Carl Ehrhard Rheingau 2009 Rudesheimer Riesling Kabinett Trocken 12.5%, €12.47 at Karwig Wines 

It has the colour of pale straw, with hints of green, micro-bubbles clinging to the glass. The nose finds white fruits, apples and lime for me. On the palate it is fruity and dry with a little minerally tingle (especially on the lips), yet overall it is a harmonious blend with a gorgeous steely finish fulfilling the initial promise. Very pleasant and easy drinking, more so with food, this 100% Riesling has that second glass appeal for sure. Highly recommended.

Willi Haag 2008 Mosel Riesling, 9%, €12.92 at Karwig Wines 

Light straw is the colour here and it also has that white fruit nose though low key. Delightfully fruity and concentrated and slightly sweetish, almost like a French Moelluex. Well-balanced and a good alternative to my preferred dry Riesling style. Diufferent strokes for different folks! Amazingly the estate has been “in family property” for over 500 years. The steep slopes are perfect for Riesling. Recommended.

Stocco Delle Venezia (IGT) Malvasia 2011, 13.5%, €12.99 at Deveney's (Dundrum) and Williams and Allen (Dundrum).

This Malvasía (rare to see it out on its own) is being distributed here by Distinctive Drinks, whose local rep is Paul Kiernan (@Grapes_Of_Sloth on Twitter). Malvasia originated in Greece and now is notable in the Med (often blended with Trebiano or Viura) and in California. The variety here is Malvasia Istriano, also well known in Croatia and Slovenia.

It has modest floral aromas and a straw colour. On the palate it is quite flavoursome, citrus, apricot and peach mainly; it has a fresh and pleasant mouthfeel and a decent dry finish. Quite pleasant overall and  it also makes a very nice Kir! Recommended.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Beef 'n Turf. Mo Bros Cook Up A Storm!


In 2010 Movember challenged Mo Bros around the country to have confidence in the kitchen, take pride in the meals they prepared and to ‘Cook like a Man’. In 2011 they ventured to the countryside and showed Mo Bros how to hunt, forage and fish for their supper with ‘Cook From The Land’. This year, Mo Bro chefs share their wisdom and knowledge with ‘Bring It On Home’- a new cookbook that encourages their fellow Mo Bros & Mo Sistas to celebrate Movember and host a dinner party during the month of Movember.

With a range of established expertise, the book hosts chefs from across the country who share their skills, tips and favourite dinner menus with their fellow moustachioed brethren and inspire them to host their own Mo inspired dinner parties. With delicious recipes the cookbook teaches men ‘if it’s worth doing – it’s worth doing right’ and to cook amazing meals with dishes that are tailored to help make hosting a dinner party simple – so more time can be spent around the table celebrating Movember and having fun.

Chefs from Diep Le Shaker, Ukiyo, Brooklodge, The Damson Diner and The Fumbally are just some of the many Mo Bro chefs who have shared their knowledge with mouth-watering recipes in ‘Bring It On Home’. Make your dinner party memorable with a beef bourgignon, BBQ prawns with piri piri, herb crusted john dory and a simple cheese fondue  and know that your guests will be blown away with your cooking prowess.

Not alone have we got the pretty pictures for you. We've also got the recipes right here

Movember, the month formerly known as November, is when brave and selfless men around the world grow a moustache, with the support of the women in their lives, to raise awareness and funds for men’s health - specifically prostate and testicular cancer. Donate at

White Gypsy Likes Her Food

White Gypsy Likes Her Food

American Pale Ale, 7.5%, 75cl bottle, €7.99 Bradley’s
Dark amber colour and a really bitter taste. Sufficient initial head soon reduces to a thin lacy cover. A really good balance of malt and hops (which they grow themselves). The bitterness doesn’t make your mouth pucker but it is obvious enough in the dry finish. Good body, made for food, and should perform ably at the table. Maybe that’s why I served it in a Reidel glass!

Tipperary Brewery White Gypsy, where Cuilan Loughnane is owner and brewer, intends this ale, one of a series of four beers, as a food beer and Cuilan says this is great with spicy dishes and grilled chicken. So you might well see it in restaurants in the near future and that would be no bad thing.

Russian Imperial Stout, 7%, 75cl bottle, €7.99 Bradley’s
Have been enjoying the excellent Irish craft stouts over the past 12 months and thought I might get on well with this one from its initial caramel aromas.
The ample head soon settled down to a see through cap but the toasty flavours remained intense and smoky right through to the dry finish.
The stout, like the ale, is part of a series, the big bottles aimed at the restaurant market. Indeed it, and the others, carry a food pairing recommendation. 
Didn’t have a steak handy for this one but did have a chunk of Gubbeen Smoked cheese. Like all good pairings, neither dominated and they proved a good match.

Also in the series (not tasted, yet!):
German Doppelbock 750ml  ABV:7.5%, A sweet malty beer with a juicy toffee finish. A perfect match for venison and roast pork and terrific with sweet vegetables.

Belgian Dubell 750ml  ABV:8%, A dry slightly spicy beer with a fruity finish. An excellent choice for grilled oily fish like tuna and salmon.

Monday, November 26, 2012

Discover the magic of Barnabrow

Discover the magic of Barnabrow

 Barnabrow House, a top wedding and Sunday lunch venue, reveals its magic little by little. Driving up the tree lined lane on a dark winter’s night, you might easily imagine a band of fairies at the weak edge of the headlight beams. In the morning, no imagination required, you will see a bunch of friendly donkeys, four generations, including a couple of this year’s foals.

Climb up a little higher behind the house towards the main restaurant, where the weddings are held, and lift your head and you will see a terrific view, over the neighbours in Ballymaloe, all the way to Ballycotton on the coast and its lighthouse winking in the grey morning light.

Lodge interior

Imagine this in the Spring and Summer. Then you begin to realise why the fairy of Cloyne based herself here, not that we did get to see the fairy fort. But there is so much else to see here, thanks to the magic, not to mention the hard work, of owner Geraldine Kidd who has been restoring and developing the ancient house and its surrounding acres over the past 16 years.

And the newest magic, and again hard work, is being supplied by recently installed head chef Stuart Bowes. His aim is to make everything on the table “as local, as organic and as fresh as possible”. We saw the motto put into super tasty reality in a stunning meal in one of the dining rooms in the house and you may read all about it here.

As part of a party of journalists and bloggers, we were welcomed warmly by Geraldine and her staff.  As we sipped the mulled wine, she explained that the place had been evolving for hundreds of years. After working in London, Geraldine came to visit Ballymaloe, saw the melons growing in the greenhouse, "an epiphany moment",  and signed up for a three months course.


 She added to her cooking experience with a stint in the Arbutus and also worked with Denis Cotter of Café Paradiso and also in Midleton’s Farmgate. She bought it “very cheaply” in the mid 90s. It has proved very popular as a wedding venue.

After a candlelit breakfast, Geraldine and Stuart took us on a tour of the facility, which is on three levels, almost terraces. There are various accommodation units and at the top you have the large room where the weddings are held and directly in front there is a decked area from which you have the views over East Cork. It is an exclusive location and a bespoke service is offered to each bride and groom.

They can cater for up to wedding150 guests and, yes they can stay overnight, not in the house itself but in a dozen or so lodges nearby. And very impressive lodges they are. Can be used by non wedding guests as well.

All are individually furnished and very tastefully so, loads of space. The one we toured had a huge kitchen cum living room, a massive upstairs bedroom (double and 2 singles), and as much downstairs, including a four poster bed.

Wedding venue
The rooms in the main house itself are also individually furnished with different styles from traditional to bright and airy with a Mediterranean touch. Ours had its own touches, among them some old suitcases casually on the top of the wardrobe and a packed bookcase.

Indeed, the house itself can be something of a mystery to the first timer. Which door to use? In the room where we dined, you push a door and a bookcase revolves to meet you.

In the greenhouse
On our walkabout, we were accompanied by the dogs, and saw the donkeys and the walled garden where Stuart can get his grapes, organic purples ones. His know-how and a little pectin is added and hey presto you have a delectable purple jelly! More animals on view, including a goat and also some poultry wandering around. All so natural here.

And that about sums up Barnabrow, hidden behind the trees for most of the year. Just another farmhouse you might think but there is a magic at work here, the latest supplied by the accomplished young Scottish chef. Well worth a visit. Or two. One couple with us had been married here a few years ago and enjoyed the return to Barnabrow.

Introducing Chef Stuart Bowes at Barnabrow

Introducing Chef Stuart Bowes at Barnabrow

 Experienced Scottish chef Stuart Bowes is the new Head Chef at Barnabrow House  in East Cork and owner Geraldine Kidd introduced him to the media last week. Later Stuart introduced himself with a smashing dinner.

But first we met in the smaller kitchen of the big house, Geraldine’s own kitchen! She told us Stuart spent six years training at the Michelin starred Chapter One in the UK before embarking on a trip to Australia where he broadened his experience before coming to Cork to work in the Orchids restaurant in Hayfield Manor. He joined Barnabrow last June.

While doing a little demo in the kitchen, Stuart told us that “preparation is vital...helps get consistency..whether your group is 20 or 120.”

 While demoing his Rabbit dish that we would so enjoy later on, he spoke of a new experience at the wedding meals in Barnabrow, the shared platter, which we would also see later. “We give the couple the choice and so far two have taken the shared platter. The reaction has been great and we hope to do more with it.” Many see the platter as a good ice-breaker.

Having talked the talk, Stuart walked the walk, starting us off with Cork-a-leekie! That Scottish classic was given an East Cork twist by the proud Scot with Dan Aherne’s organic chicken and leeks from Barnabrow’s own walled garden.

Some of my tasty bits from the Shared Platter

Conversation was now flowing and that flow was further enhanced as the shared platter was passed around. The wines too were flowing and they also were top notch. I could go on and on with the superlatives but I think I’ll just let you have a look at rest of the menu now. Top produce and a top chef meant we were in foodie heaven for the very enjoyable candlelit evening meal.

Food to Share:
Platters of Barnabrow’s home smoked Mallard duck, Gulf stream oak smoked salmon, Rosscarbery’s free range pork, pistachio and cranberry terrine, jamon Serrano.
Barnabrow’s home grown and home pickled artichokes, roasted and marinated beetroot and garden leaves, Olive Hallinan’s Cloyne Goat Cheese accompanied by hazelnut dressing, fig puree, aged balsamic and Barnabrow basil pesto.
Homemade rosemary and onion focaccia, hot crusty bread rolls.
Wine: Domaine Emilian Gillet 2009 from Burgundy.

 Bitter Sweet Sorbet:
Gin and pink grapefruit sorbet tanged with their very own organic apple jelly, married with fresh cucumber.

Main Course:
Loin of East Cork wild rabbit, poached and roasted, with a pithivier of rabbit leg, Cloyne quince, Barnabrow walled garden spinach and 8 Degrees Ale jus.
Wine: Paddy Borthwick Pinot Noir 2010.

Coast meets culture. Stuart’s parfait of Irish Atlantic sea salt and caramel with Green Saffron spiced marshmallows and Valrhona chocolate sabayon.
Wine: Château Joly Cuvee Jean.

One magnificent meal. Perhaps the humble rabbit provided the highlight but then I wouldn’t want to miss either the Shared Platter or the Dessert. Great stuff, thanks to Geraldine, to Stuart and their lovely staff.