Tuesday, January 21, 2014

On Bread and Beer. And Beer in Bread.

Not Bread Alone!
Man does not live by bread alone! Not sure that Arbutus Bread would go along with that. Especially after their latest loaf, a very tasty white bread that is made with, among other things, beer from Eight Degrees Brewing Company in Mitchelstown.

Picked up a loaf in Bradley’s at the weekend. It didn't last long at all. What a crust. Couldn't wait to try it. Just added some Glenilen butter for the first slice. Fantastic. Some homemade gooseberry jam for the second slice. Superb. Ain’t going to tell you about the next slice. Nor the one after that. Experience it for yourself.

Am I the only one thinking that the Kinsale Pale Ale is the best around? Renewed acquaintance with this gem, by Black’s, in Jacque’s last week and thought it was just outstanding. Loved the way the flavours spread over the palate from the first sip and that dry clean lingering finish. Indeed, linger is the word. Took my time sipping, the better to enjoy every single every drop.

The very next day I called in to Bradley’s to get a wee stock of the KPA and here Michael Creedon,helpful as always, introduced me to the latest beer from Black’s, Ireland’s first Black IPA. Another gem that might well confuse you because of the dark colour and chocolate and coffee tones. Very happy with that one, though I must confess I’d have a slight preference for the KPA.

Kinsale have moved up to the popular 500ml size and I'd like to see more brewers follow suit and that includes Franciscan Well. I do like a wheat beer and the Well’s Friar Weisse is a favourite. Up to recently it was available only on draught and in that form I enjoyed a few out in Blairs Inn. Now is it in bottle but only in the 330ml size, same as their Rebel Red. Still, bottle size notwithstanding, it is a very tasty drop - love those refreshing flavours.

Tasting Notes
Kinsale Pale Ale ABV 5% - An exciting fusion of Cascade and Citra hops inspires tropical and citrus flavours that are beautifully balanced with the malty sweetness. The taste dollops a smack of citrus onto the palate – grapefruit and lime – alongside more sweet pineapple and tangerine a decent little malt body fairly creamy, with definite biscuit and cake-dough sweetness and straw overall very well balanced. Clean and crisp citrus bite to finish on, which lingers for a while alongside the sweet tropical fruit notes.  - Alltech Dublin Beer cup bronze medal winner 2013.

New from Blacks of Kinsale, Ireland's first Black IPA! A unique beer that ambushes your senses, it pours dark with a creamy beige head but tastes light and hoppy! Complex hoppy fruity flavours and aromas mixed with roasty bitter chocolate and coffee tones. Low carbonation for a smooth stout like finish. Dressed in black, charged with hops and ready to rock.

Monday, January 20, 2014

Hats off to Jacques!

Hats off to Jacques!
Hats off to Jacques.  Thirty three years on and the renowned Cork City restaurant, the oldest in town, is still setting the pace.

The Barry sisters, Eithne and Jacque, who started it all off, could be forgiven for sitting back and taking it easy. Not a bit of it. The award winning establishment, now with a small plates/tapas area recently added, continues to surprise.

“Every seven years!” said Eithne when we were in the other night. Every night really. I had started to look around for specials when I realised that the menu is really all specials. “We had a different menu last night. Depends on the market.” Now that takes some commitment.
Pigeon. Perfect!
And the commitment is extended to local producers, most of them named on the back of the menu. Some are well known, such as Breslin Butchers in the English Market, Gubbeen cured meats and Kanturk’s Jack McCarthy. Some are so well known, only the first names are used e.g. cheesemakers Giana and Jane. And the fish? “Well,” they say, “just look at the size of the Cork coast”.

And the sisters are delighted too to support the craft beer revolution which is quite strong locally with new breweries popping up all over the county. My choice in Jacques was the Kinsale Pale Ale, in its new and larger (50cl) bottle. One of the best ales I've come across (and I was in to Bradley’s the following day for more).

Now, for the food. Let’s take a look at the starters: Soup of the Day - Fresh Mussels with Chorizo Tomato and Garlic -  Crab and Apple salad - Salad of Blue Cheese and poached pear - Smoked Ummera Chicken.
The stunning KPA!
All tempting but I went for the Lambs Kidneys Dijon, with mustard, gherkins, apple and cream. The super sauce was one of the elements that made this a great success. And CL was blissfully happy with her flavour packed plate of Pigeon breast, white onion and thyme and Jack McCarthy’s Black Pudding.

We stayed on the game as we choose our mains. Mine was the Haunch of Venison on celeriac puree with some handsome robust kale, confit of shallot and red wine jus. A simply spectacular combination. so well executed.

And similar sentiments at the other side of the table as CL made her merry way through the Roast Pheasant, wrapped in pancetta, confit leg in potato cake, red cabbage and bread sauce.
A terrific choice too of main courses. Also on the list were: Scallops - Fresh Organic Sea Trout (with Goatsbridge Caviar) - Slow Braised beef short ribs - rib eye steaks - and a 7 vegetable Tagine.
Plum & Crumble
Seven temptations too in the dessert menu but, running out of space, we picked one to share and it was the gorgeous Plum and Walnut Crumble, well cooked and presented, underlining the immaculate attention to detail that prevails in this pleasant place. Here's to the next thirty three!

Tel : +353 (0)21 4277387        Email : jacquesrestaurant@eircom.net       Address : 23 Oliver Plunkett St, Cork
Jacques Restaurant is located at the heart of Cork City near the G.P.O. and is open Monday 10am - 4pm and Tuesday - Saturday 10am - 10pm. Lunch from 12pm - 4pm, side plates and tapas from 5pm to 10pm and the evening dinner menu is available between 6pm and 10pm.

Sunday, January 19, 2014

Amuse Bouche

I often accompanied my mother when she went shopping....

Levis’s in Castle Street for general groceries where Jimmy Levis or one of the assistants would be sure to invite me to choose a biscuit from the glass-fronted biscuit tins...
Then to Griffin’s in the English Market for meat and from his stall to that of Miss Hurley for butter – Black Swan or Queen of the West.
Fish we ate only on Fridays and then my mother went weither to Russell’s in Prince’s Street or the Baltimore Stores in McCurtain Street.
..... In North Main Street alone there were half a dozen different bakers – D’Arcy, Curran, Simcox, Hosford, O’Shea and at the Castle Street corner Larry McCarthy....most offered pans, ducks, baskets, castles, cottage loaves and plain loaves.

From Six O’Clock All Over Cork by Tom McElligott

Friday, January 17, 2014

Dining at the Castle

Dining at the Castle Café
The sky cleared as we arrived at Cork’s Blackrock Castle this week for lunch in the Castle Café. and, from the bright front room - there is also an inner room - we had a close-up view of the 16th century castle under a beautiful blue sky.

Blackrock Castle is located on the banks of the River Lee, about 2 kilometres from the heart of Cork city. Nowadays, it houses the CIT Blackrock Castle Observatory and, in the small grounds, the Castle Café.

It is  a very popular spot for lunch. We had arrived rather early, about 12.30pm, last Wednesday, but had to wait in line for a table. After a short spell, during which we studied the menu, we were led to our table. The menus are already there as they use them as table mats, just as they do in Market Lane, a busy city centre restaurant run by the same firm (ORSO is also under the same umbrella).

The Elbow Lane Brewery, soon to come onstream if reports are correct, is also part of the group. For the moment, at least in the Castle, you can sample the craft brews of Dungarvan Brewing and Eight Degrees Brewing in bottle. On draught, they have a White Gypsy red ale and I sampled, and very much enjoyed, a glass of that (€2.30) with the meal.

Service was pretty good here, even if all tables were full. Presentation and delivery of the food was fine and what was supposed to be warm was warm and water was refilled without having to make a request.

We had two good salads as our mains. One was the Slow cooked ham with honey glaze, roast sweet potato, watercress, sundried tomatoes and grapefruit dressing (€10.95) and the other a Caesar Salad with Romaine Lettuce, classic Caesar dressing, parmesan shavings and croutons (€8.50) enhanced by the addition chicken and Bacon (€2.50).

But it was the starters that had us talking, as both were superb. Mine was the Seared Escalope of venison with leek and thyme risotto (€8.50). The strongly flavoured meat was well matched with the soft and gorgeous risotto.

Homemade crab fish fingers with lemon cucumber pickle and quince jelly (€7.95) was another gem, a well cooked main ingredient enhanced by the pickle and jelly. Big marks for each of these. Curried prawn dauphine with a seafood sauce and watercress salad was another starter I'd have liked to have tried. Next time!

Castle Café, Blackock Castle, Cork.

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Taste of the Week

Taste of the Week
The Very Berry Granola is a welcome visitor, and a regular one, at my breakfast table. The tasty product, is just one of many award winners from the Foods of Athenry, owned and run by farmer couple Paul and Siobhain Lawless.

This is a superb blend of multi grains (Buckwheat, Millet and Brown Rice Flakes) . It is a source of fibre and is also processed sugar free – ( made with honey).  
Mixed with a generous sprinkle of deliciously  succulent  Sultanas combined with Apple Juice Infused Blueberries, Cranberries and Montmorency Cherries. To finish it off ? Crunchy Almonds and a touch of cinnamon  to add a natural boost to the sweetness.

Great on its own but sometimes I use it as a topping for the porridge. Mine is running low, so I’ll have to pop down to Bradley’s for a replacement.

Stockists Not all stockists carry the full range.

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Spanish Soul

Spanish Soul
Sembro Tempranillo, Vendimia Seleccionada 2012, Ribera del Duero, 13.5%, €14.99, imported by Wine Alliance  and widely available.

Some wines you only ever get to know briefly, a shakehands and a pleasant meeting and soon you don’t remember the name. This one makes more of a mark, goes that bit deeper. It has something special. From the heart of the Ribera del Duero it brings an expression of authenticity. I won’t easily forget the name of this magnificent Tempranillo.

Colour is a dark red and the pleasant aroma is of red fruits. On the palate it is fruity and smooth and then you have an excellent dry finish. After four to six months in new oak, there is some spice but it is pleasingly moderate. Very Highly Recommended.

The Osborne family, better known for their sherry, has been connected to the wine trade since 1772, are the producers.

Just had a quick look at the region in the World Atlas of Wine (available in Bradley’s) and was surprised to see that Swiss pharma company Novartis, “founded a vast property” there in 1996. More traditional wine names, including recent investors Torres and Faustino, have joined Osborne as Ribera investors.

Indeed, the region itself has only recently taken off, as “there were just 24 bodegas in the region when the DOP was created in 1982”. Going by this Sembro, we can expect more good things from Ribera del Duero in the years ahead.

Monday, January 13, 2014

Always Busy at the Bramley Lodge Café

Always Busy at the Bramley Lodge Café
 I think Bramley Lodge Café has been perpetually busy since Gillian Kearney opened the café in 2009. It is situated just off the N25 (main Cork-Waterford-Rosslare road) at Cobh Cross. Parking has been improved here, it has long opening hours and so it is a very convenient stop. And  a highly recommended one.

My latest visit came this weekend. The welcome is informal but warm, reflecting the friendliness of the staff. By the way, informal doesn't mean inefficient service, far from it. We were immediately directed to a table and soon had the menu and the list of specials and, as it turned out, we ordered mainly from the latter.

Had seen their Cajun style Salmon with a Mango Salsa and Rustic potatoes and seasonal veg (13.95) on their Facebook page earlier and went for that as my mains. It was terrific, cooked and assembled with a light touch, and thoroughly satisfying; it looked well and tasted well.

CL too was very happy with another nicely presented special: Roast Loin of sugar baked Pork with an Apple and Raisin Chutney, served with seasonal vegetables and potato (12.95). An excellent piece of meat and enhanced no end by that beautiful chutney!

 My Halloumi affair continued with my starter, this from the regular menu: Grilled Halloumi with organic leaves, char grilled melon, rustic potatoes and honey and citrus dressing (7.95). That dressing was superb and I totally enjoyed the combination of the cheese and the melon, a combination that I haven't come across in recent weeks.

Our other starter was the soup of the day: Broccoli and Courgette (5.50). Much more than the two veg went into this very flavoursome warming bowl.

The café puts much of its success down to using “the best ingredients available from our local producers”. Their website lists Ardsallagh Cheese, Ballycotton Seafood, Riverview Eggs, and Clonakilty Black Pudding among those suppliers and I also noticed Woodside mentioned on the menu.

In addition to the café, they have a food store full of their own and other producers’ good things, a huge range of lovely stuff including cakes, take-out meals, soups and chowders and salads. And, they also do outside catering!

Bramley Lodge,


Co. Cork.
t: 021 4882499

  • Opening Hours

  • Monday - Thursday 8AM- 7PM Last orders 6PM.
  • Friday - Saturday 8AM-9PM Last orders 9PM.
  • Sunday 9PM - 8PM Last orders 7PM.

Friday, January 10, 2014

Rainy Night but Well Fed at the Brook Inn

Rainy Night but Well Fed at the Brook Inn

You won’t go hungry in the Brook Inn. It is open all day, every day, so you can have breakfast, lunch and dinner there. And another thing, the portions are Irish (big!), as I found out when I visited this week.

It was a bad night, the rain lashing down. But parking is close by and soon we were seated in the comfortable dining area. Despite the weather last Wednesday evening, the dining area was very busy and the bar alongside was doing okay as well.

The menus, including the well priced Early Bird (2 course for €21.50), were soon brought to our table, near the fire! Quite a decent wine list as well and they also sell a few non-mainstream beers, as well as Stonewell Cider.
CL started off with the Chicken Liver Parfait Apple & Cranberry Chutney (8.95), Ciabatta and Granny Smith Jelly. Quite a large portion! But very flavoursome and enhanced by the chutney and jelly. Mine was more straightforward: The Brook Spicy Buffalo wings (7.25), Lime & Coriander Dip. Good quality sweet spicy wings tamed, a little, by the cool dip.

Spotted the McGrath's No.5 (5.95) on the menu and needed a sip or two of this very agreeable ale to go with the wings, not to mention a glug or two, or three, of water. Meanwhile, CL was thoroughly enjoying her impressive glass of Real Compania Verdejo (7.50), aromatic, fruity and with a good dry finish.

Both starters had been of a high standard and that continued with the mains. A staggering array of enticing options included pasta, curry, meats (including steaks) and fish. I was tempted by the Tasting of Organic Pork but picked the Roast Rack of Lamb Herb Crust (23.95), Carrots with Rosemary, Confit Shoulder, Fondant Potato Red Wine Jus.

The rack was excellent and that confit shoulder was dark and meltingly tender. Everything was perfect and, in terms of quality and quantity, it was quite a plateful! And the same could be said of the other mains: Fresh Bream, Pan fried (23.95), Warm Potato Salad with Bacon and Spring Onion, Wild Mushroom cream & wilted Spinach. 

Two happy customers, having indulged in a feast for the eyes, not to mention the waistline, stepped out into the continuing rain, promising to be back another night to try the desserts!
Greg Murphy is Head Chef here. He had shared his Sausage and Potato Christmas stuffing on Twitter before the festival and we used it over the holidays and found it perfect! It may be used at any time and you’ll find the recipe here.

Greg is the grand nephew of Sean Kinsella of the Mirabeau Restaurant, Dublin. “Sean was Ireland’s first celebrity chef whose guest list included Hollywood greats like Burt Lancaster, Richard Burton and Laurence Olivier.” So Greg has  a bit to go but, as he gives new twists to familiar foods, he sure is heading in the right direction!

Brook Inn, Sallybrook, Glanmire, Co. Cork

(021) 482 1498

Mon - Thu: 10:30 am - 11:30 pm
Fri - Sun: 10:30 am - 12:30 am

Thursday, January 9, 2014

Amuse Bouche

Then there was the yak, bought for fifty-five thousand rupees... and herded up by the Balti porters...... The animal came unwillingly, tugging at its rope. When the expedition tired of dal and chicken and hungered for red meat, the porters bound its legs one day and, as it lay on the ice, they slit its throat.

The blade was blunt, and it took several minutes to hack through the skin. The climbers who had gathered around to watch the ceremony cringed. One of them, Rolf Bae, offered his own knife but the Sherpas warned that no man should give away his knife unless he wants to invite bad luck. Spilling the blood of an animal in such a fashion was disrespectful to the mountain, the Sherpas said; instead they should butcher the yaks and goats at a lower altitude, farther down the glacier, and carry the meat up for the climbers. In the end, the yak bled to death and was skinned and its head was mounted on the rocks outside the cook’s tent.

from No Way Down (Life and Death on K2) by Graham Bowley.

·         Rolf Bae was one of twelve climbers, including Limerick’s Ger McDonnell, to die during that August 2008 climb.

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Taste of the Week

Taste of the Week
Bee Sensations  have been surprising many with their gorgeous products in recent times and came up with yet another winner just before Christmas and this was their "Amerena Cherries in Irish Honey and Potcheen", our Taste of the Week.

Just like their lovely jams (Honeyed strawberry with champagne and passion fruit is one of my favourites), honey has replaced the sugar and there are no artificial preservatives used.
Jars of this gorgeous treat are available in Bradley’s, North Main Street in Cork. Restaurants, such as Limerick's Tuscany Bistro, also use Bee Sensations products.

If you are in a hurry, you may take this straight from the jar! Our picture above shows it poured over ice-cream and it can also be poured over things, think I read somewhere that someone used it with the Christmas pudding. Bee Sensations themselves (Croén and Tom) suggest using a few of the cherries in champagne or brandy as a toast. Now what will I toast next?

Blas na hEireann update on Bee Sensations July 2015 here

Monday, January 6, 2014

Chowzter: amazing tips for foodies around the world.

Chowzter: amazing tips for foodies around the world
Marta in Barcelona
Let me tell you about Chowzter or, better still, let them tell you themselves:

Chowzter is committed to finding the tastiest fast feasts on earth each year.

In the process we hope to provide amazing tips to foodies around the world about where to get delicious fast feasts of the highest quality at a good price anytime and anywhere.

We are seeking Fast Feasts which should not be confused with historical notions of unhealthy fast food. Chowzter is committed to fresh ingredients, prepared at the moment of consumption. 

We seek out and support the local independent food purveyor and locally sourced ingredients.

We encourage healthy eating and over time will incorporate this theme more overtly into our portfolio highlighting fresh ingredients and the use of vegetables wherever possible.

We welcome input from the community as we seek to balance the delights of fast feasting with the challenges of maintaining a healthy lifestyle. 

London's Niamh

So how does it work? Easy. Are you off to Barcelona anytime soon? Wondering where to eat?  Just go to Chowzter, open the Europe tab, then Spain, then Barcelona where local guide Marta has the best dishes, and more, lined up for you.

So you're going to Brazil for the World Cup. Lucky you. But do you know where to eat? Why not check out the local Chief Chowzters at Rio and San Paulo. In North America you'll be spoiled for choice as dozens of cities are covered. Good coverage too in Asia and some in Africa.

Nearer home, there are no less than eight British cities covered, including London, which is covered by Niamh Shields, better known to many of you as @eatlikeagirl. Roman journalist Veruska Anconitano (not too happy after yesterday's hammering by Juventus) covers Dublin and tweets as @laCuochina while the Cork chief is none other than yours truly. See my current Cork listing here. Isaac's are tops at the moment, closely followed by Pier 26, Serendipity, Fenn's Quay, Barnabrow, Nash 19, Cafe Gusto and more!
Contact Chowzter at info@chowzter.com

Friday, January 3, 2014

Taste of the Week

Taste of the Week
One of the most encouraging developments in Farmers Markets in the last 12 months or so is the cooperation between the various producers and market stallholders. And I don’t mean looking out for one another, which they do.

Dungarvan Brewing Company's use of Badger and Dodo's coffee in their absolutely gorgeous Coffee and Oatmeal Stout was an early example while, more recently Arbutus Bread started used Eight Degrees beer for their Beer Bread.

The most recent one I came across is, I think, a very tasty success indeed, and is my Taste of the Week. Here you have the free range produce of Martin Conroy’s Woodside Farm in East Cork becoming the base of a superb ready to use (well, you do have to heat it!) meal by Flynn's Kitchen of Riverstick.

Basically, the meat balls are made by Iain Flynn using Martin's pork mince, beef mince and lardons. The sauce is tomato based with basil, chive, garlic oil and veg added. And I can you tell us the result is divine! Enjoyed that the other day and now can’t wait to try Iain’s Chorizo and Bean Stew, their other combination, both available at the local Farmers Markets.

Thursday, January 2, 2014

Amuse Bouche

He sipped.
-        - Jesus.
He tried it again. He’d never tasted anything like it. That was the chemo – he’d read about it, before he stopped reading. How his taste might become heightened.
He sipped again. It exploded – it just exploded – upwards, straight into his brain. He shook. Coffee tastes amazing. X He fired the text off to Aoife. She’d like that.
He looked around. Everything else was normal. The Brazilian young one behind the counter still looked nice...but she was still the same young one - that was the point. Everything was the same. It was just the taste; it was exact, scientific. He wasn’t going mad.

from The Guts by Roddy Doyle

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Happy New Year at Fleming's

Very enjoyable New Year's Eve Dinner at Fleming's Restaurant in Tivoli.

A marvellous meal with many highlights. Superb dishes with incredible sauces from chef-patron Michael Fleming and a flawless service by Eileen and the front of house team. The main dish was the amazing duo of pheasant and fillet, not forgetting the cognac and cream sauce! 

And then dessert. Three seemed enough but then they served their delicious Christmas pudding as well! Believe it or not, most were still able to get on their feet to sing and dance as 2013 turned into 2014. Happy New Year folks!

Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Top restaurant posts 2013

Top restaurant posts 2013
Aubergine & Roast Pepper Parcels at Chapel Steps

For the second year running, Bandon's Chapel Steps tops the restaurant charts. This year's post didn't score quite as high as the 2012 review but still, thanks to the many fans of this lovely restaurant, came out ahead. Good performances too from newcomers like Brendan Cashman's Gallo & Galettii in Wilton, Finn's Table in Kinsale, and the Greenroom at Sage in Midleton. Electric is tops in city centre, Cafe Gusto is leading cafe while the Sultan is best ethnic.

Top Drinks Posts
Kinsale's Black Pig Wine Bar is the place to go for a glass of wine (and a meal), the newcomer quickly establishing itself at the head of affairs. This was the Year of the WineGeese and great to see the visit of Cullen Wines to Cafe Paradiso featuring as does the series' opening night at L'Atitude 51. The rise of craft beer is underlined by the popularity of the post on the Cotton Ball, Cork's newest micro-brewery; this post, just up a week or two, is gathering in the hits even as I write.

Most popular restaurant posts
Speciality Nights at Bandon's Chapel Steps
Brendan is back
Electric. Easy to Book. Hard to Leave.
Magic at Myrtleville
Al Fresco dining at the Titanic Bar and Grill in Cobh
Old Friend's at Finn's Table
The Sultan of Penrose Wharf
Tapas in the Greenroom
Grazie Cafe Gusto

Most popular drinks posts
The Black Pig Wine Bar in Kinsale
On the tapas trail with Campo Viejo
Cullen Wines at Cafe Paradiso
Wine Geese Heading Home
Happy New Beer at the Cotton Ball
My Curious Case