Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Amuse Bouche

There was literally an open door for cheap imports, and food, in general, became very cheap. A tin of Black Eagle salmon from North America, about five inches high, cost threepence. Australian butter, very yellow in colour, was considerably cheaper than Irish butter, and cheapest of all was Chinese ham. … These hams were not the same shape or colour as Irish hams; they were more rounded and they certainly stirred some primitive instinct in my young teen’s sensibilities. But some vested interest..put out a rumour that the Chinese had so many women that they were slaughtering the surplus and selling it off as bacon….sales of Chinese bacon..stopped.

From Rory and Ita by Roddy Doyle.

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Foodcloud targets 50,000 signatures in pledge to reduce Ireland’s food waste

Press release from the Foodcloud
Bid to Reduce Food Waste
Pictured at the launch of the Foodcloud Fest are founders Iseult Ward and Aoibheann O'Brien
 with food expert Sophie Morris

Foodcloud, Ireland’s not-for-profit organisation that matches surplus food with those that need it most, today announced that it is targeting 50,000 signatures in a national pledge to reduce Ireland’s food waste. The organisation estimates that if 50,000 people in Ireland reduce food waste by just 1 kilogram per week, just over €1m will be saved, the equivalent of over 5.7 million meals. 

The Foodcloud pledge can be signed at the event or following the event at where individuals and businesses also find out more about reducing their food waste.  

Announcing the pledge, Iseult Ward, co-Founder of Foodcloud said, “At least one million tonnes of food in Ireland and almost 1.3 billion tonnes worldwide are wasted per year. To put that in context, one in every four calories produced from food in the world, is wasted. We want Irish people to think about how they can reduce this waste - with such a rich food and agricultural heritage, it makes sense that as a nation, we commit to this.”

To raise awareness of the pledge, Foodcloud will host The Foodcloud Feast on 2nd April next, at Smock Alley Theatre in Temple Bar, Dublin. A lavish three course banquet of fresh, quality Irish ingredients that are ignored or forgotten by supermarkets, restaurants and the modern food system will be prepared by Sophie Morris, Chef and author of Sophie Kooks. 

RTE broadcaster and food waste campaigner, Philip Boucher Hayes will MC the Feast, and chair a discussion entitled Food Waste – the Challenge and the Opportunity. Participants in the discussion include: Oisín Quinn, The Lord Mayor of Dublin, Emer Costello, Labour Party’s MEP, Eoin MacCuirc, Bia FoodBank, Odile LeBolloch, EPA, Iseult Ward and Aoibheann O’Brien, FoodCloud and Conor O’Malley, Meade Potato Company.

Aoibheann O’Brien, co-Founder Foodcloud said, ‘The Foodcloud Feast will bring together policy-makers, chefs, retailers and foodies, to discuss how we can tackle the food waste challenge, but also identify the opportunities this provides for the food sector. The aim of the evening is to inspire guests by a vision for an Ireland where no good food goes to waste when there are people who are going hungry

Tickets for The Foodcloud Feast are available through at €37 per person which includes a 3 course meal with wine or beer and lively debate, in the atmospheric surroundings of Smock Alley Theatre.

Established in Trinity College Dublin, in 2013, Foodcloud is a community-based social enterprise that brings food businesses and charities together with an easy-to –use and reliable technology platform, matching those with too much food with those who have too little. To date Foodcloud has redistributed over 5 tonnes of food, the equivalent of 13,000 meals to its network of 35 charities in Dublin City Centre, and Drogheda. FoodCloud holds a Social Entrepreneurs Ireland Minnovation Award, has graduated from TCD’s Launchbox, NDRC’s start-up accelerator programme, Launchpad and are recent winners of the Arthur Guinness Projects. Supporters include the Environmental Protection Agency, Diageo, Starbucks and Tesco Ireland. To find out more see

All About Farmers at Ballymaloe, Port. Cheese, Chocolate.

All About Farmers at Ballymaloe

Port. Cheese, Chocolate.
It was all about farmers at Ballymaloe last Thursday evening, appropriately enough in the week that the East Cork food destination celebrated the 90th birthday of Myrtle Allen.  Myrtle turned her front room into a restaurant fifty years ago and the rest is food history, still evolving. And Ballymaloe is still a farm, of course.

Thursday was also about Port, cheese and chocolate. The only real farmer on stage was Dan Hegarty whose family in Whitechurch make the well known and well loved cheddar. Chris Forbes from Taylor’s Port told us of the many small holders on the steep slopes of the Douro while Shana Wilkie of Wilkie’s Chocolate, Ireland's only bean to bar chocolate maker, told us of the small Peruvian farms from where she gets her beans.

It is mountainy in the Douro and very hot. There are some 35,000 tiny holdings, according to Chris, but Taylor’s buy grapes from less than 100. Taylor’s also grow their own - their Quinta de Vargellas is one of the best known in the world - and the port is made from a variety of indigenous grapes.

Port is a fortified wine. Fermentation is stopped after 2 or 3 days by adding 77% proof alcohol. That arrests the fermentation and maintains the high sugar level. Some hard work before all that though. The pickers start early, stop for lunch and wine, start again and stop in early evening for more food and more wine.
But they are not finished. They then start the traditional foot-treading in the lagar, two hours of tough going, squeezing out the juice and the colour. All Taylor’s vintage ports are made using traditional methods, including foot-threading.

We started the tasting with a 2008 LBV (Late Bottled Vintage). LBV was created in the 1970’s by Taylor’s, all the grapes coming from the one year and it spends 4 to 6 years in large wooden vats. Taylor’s are the world leaders in this style and, as we saw, it goes very well indeed with both cheese and chocolate (the Amazonas). By the way, if you open a bottle, Chris advised to finish within 3 to 4 weeks, as it loses its freshness after that.

Dan Hegarty was  very impressed with the Port and said he was thinking of giving up his favourite lager. Indeed, there is no shortage of good humour as Dan took us through the family’s relatively short history of making cheddar.
Shana and her relationship with the farmers
They started in 2000, using the traditional methods, and sell their products at different ages. They “went mad” early on, going flat out with production but now they are more restrained and there are only marginal increases from year to year. It is a two year cycle and they milk about 100 cows. On Thursday, we tasted three ages: 6 months, 12 months and 18. The older was the more popular though, according to Dan, his bank manager would prefer if the youngest was in top position!

Fonseca Quinta do Panascal Vintage Port 1998, the produce of just one vineyard, was next up, “an affordable way to drink vintage Port.” It is now 14 years in bottle with opulence, spiciness and red currant flavours. It proved an excellent match with Wilkie’s Amazonas with Cocoa Nibs and also with the 6 month old cheddar. And a word of advice from Chris: “On opening, decant, and drink that evening!”

Shana too had a few tips for recognising good chocolate. “Shiny chocolate is normally good, dull is not so good. A sharp snap is also a good sign.” Shana is originally a graphic designer “by trade" but always had a great interest in food.

She went on to tell how she got into chocolate making and got familiar with the different beans and flavours and was drawn to the Criollo flavour bean. She now works with a few families in Peru. At home, and home now is Midleton as she has returned to the East Cork, she is always experimenting, always getting better and indeed she already has some impressive awards to her name. 
Her Tumbes chocolate was an excellent match with the 10 Year Old Tawny. This port has spent ten years in small wooden casks, no new wood used. It is lighter in colour with mellow notes and little spice. Chris described it as a “liquid fruit cake”. Went well with the chocolate and also the 18 month cheddar. Great too with pates and terrines, according to Chris. “The style is fresh and clean and it is easy drinking.”

Chris surprised some by suggesting that these Tawines (we finished with the exquisite 20 Year Old, even lighter in colour and with a toastier aroma) be served slightly chilled and also suggested serving them in summer as well as the more traditional winter usage.

The three gathered on stage for a deserved round of applause and there was thanks too for Peter Corr of Febvre who assisted throughout the evening and for Ballymaloe’s Colm McCann and his team.
Left to right: Chris Forbes, Peter Corr, Shana Wilkie, Dan Hegarty and Yours Truly.

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Lunch, even a song, at the Cornstore

Lunch, even a song, at the Cornstore
Pork Rillettes
They go the extra yard for customers at Cork’s Cornstore. Dropped in there this week for a late-ish lunch as part of CL’s birthday celebrations. We were just starting on our coffees when the singing surprised us. Our waiter had started into Happy Birthday! And then backed it up with some gorgeous chocolate cake and a candle. Thanks a million, Cornstore.

We enjoyed the terrific lunch. Started off with their massive Atlantic Seafood Chowder. No shortage of fish in this well presented chowder, served with homemade brown bread. A pretty full bowl by the way and packed with flavours and textures of the sea.

CL’s Pork Rillettes was a continental style delight, not often seen in this part of the world. This was served with a matching chutney (plum, grape etc), salad and toasts. Her completely delicious mains was the Pan Seared Salmon with roast potatoes, pea puree, roast tomatoes and a bourride sauce.
The popular restaurant is well known for its aged beef so I couldn't resist going for the Aged Rib Eye Steak on onions with home cut chips and salad. The steak was moist and tender and one hundred per cent scrumptious, as always.

Our late lunch had turned into an early dinner.No room for dessert but we did manage to finish off that surprise chocolate cake before leaving with large smiles on our faces.

About the Cornstore
The Cornstore Restaurant offers delicious award-winning menus over 2 floors in a lively, Manhattan style surrounding. We specialise in premium Steaks & quality Seafood, award winning cocktails, new world beers & a vast wine selection.

(021) 427 4777



Friday, March 14, 2014

Taste of India on Cork’s Left Bank

Taste of India on Cork’s Left Bank
Mango Lassi

For a hundred years, from the late 18th century, Cork exported butter to the world (including India), the merchants building quay walls to facilitate the trade. Yesterday, facing one of those walls and just a  few hundred yards from the former Butter Exchange, I enjoyed the cuisine of South India in a tiny restaurant called Iyer's.

Gautham Iyer opened the restaurant in December 2012 and, aside from a few weeks out of action due to a broken leg, has has not looked back since. The customers have come regularly, the reviews have been good and of course all that is because the food is excellent and the prices are very keen indeed.

The menu is entirely vegetarian and, yes, there is spice. Some people are wary but the spice is not at all extreme and, indeed, if things are not hot enough for you, you are encouraged to ask for their pickle! Everything is prepared freshly on site, leading to long working days for the owner-chef.

Aside from a visit to a local Indian supper club, I know very little about Indian cuisine. Maybe you're in the same boat so here is a little Wikeipedia guide to what you may expect at Iyers. These are items such as the Vada, Samosas, and Dosas.

Iyers has all these and also some more substantial rice dishes. Best advice I can give is to go in and try them! The menu, on a big board behind the counter, changes regularly.

We started with a Masala Vada and also a Samosa (a pastry, normally triangular with a savoury filling). These were served with two sauces or dips (each on a small dish). One was Tamarind (Imli), the other Green Chilli. Both the Vada and the Samosas were very tasty, crunchy and savoury and nicely spiced and, no, we didn't ask for the pickles!

Dosa, with chutneys and bowl of Sambar.
Gautham came out from from time to time to see how things were going but, in any case, service was friendly and informative and there was no shortage of water. In addition, they have a range of drinks and I went for a lovely looking and great tasting Mango Lassi while CL picked the refreshing Apple & Mango Juice.

On then to our dosas. You may get a Plain Dosa but ours were the Masala and the Onion. Again we were sharing, so they held the second one back until we were finished with the first. Each was served with fresh chutneys, one tomato, the other fresh coconut. Really loved that coconut and we both preferred the Masala filling to the Onion. With this dish, you also get a bowl of Sambar (a kind of soup, changes from day to day).

The Dosas may not have looked that mighty large but we were quite full by the time we finished them. Well, maybe not quite. I had spotted a gorgeous looking cake on the counter on arrival. This was Banana, Mango and Coconut and it was absolutely delicious. The Pistachio and Rosewater Cake may not have looked as well but that too was a delight. All the baking is done by Caroline, Gautham’s wife.
Pistachio and Rosewater Cake
Just across the bridge from the Opera House, the restaurant is out of the hustle and bustle of the city centre but still quite close. On Wednesday, it was busy when we arrived at 2.30 pm and the few, very few, outside spaces were taken up.

The south-facing aspect and the nearby river gave an almost Mediterranean air. On days like this, Gautham wonders if he could expand to the larger footpath at the other side of the road but knows that sometimes if you get too big, that compromises may have to be made and you might well lose some of your integrity, a route he doesn't want to take.

For now, small and all as it is, let us enjoy this fabulous corner of South India on the banks of the Lee. Very Highly Recommended.

Banana, Mango and Coconut Cake.

Iyers Restaurant

087 640 9079



Tue - Wed: 12:00 pm - 5:30 pm
Thu: 12:00 pm - 5:30 pm, 6:30 pm - 9:30 pm
Fri - Sat: 12:00 pm - 5:30 pm

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Taste of the Week.

Taste of the Week
Bought a wedge of this Sheep's cheese at Bantry Market last weekend. It is a beauty and compares with the renowned sheep's cheese of the Pyrenees. The Cratloe Hills Gold has great flavour and  is certainly creamier, that Irish rain and grass again! Sean and Deirdre Fitzgerald started making sheep's cheese on their Cratloe farm, overlooking the Shannon, in the mid 80s. The product is 100% sheep's milk using only a vegetarian starter, rennet and salt. It is a natural product manufactured in a traditional way with no additives or flavours.  It is our Taste of the Week.

* Sheep's cheese may have certain health benefits. Check out their site here

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Marques de Riscal Tasting at Bradley's

Marques de Riscal Tasting at Bradley's

The Hotel Marqués de Riscal Elciego, built in 2006
(architect Frank Gehry)

In 1858, Marques de Riscal founded their winery in La Rioja. A few years earlier, Bradley’s had opened, as a dairy, in Cork. A glass of cream was a regular treat for lady customers of the time. Yesterday in North Main Street, the ladies, and some gentlemen, were tasting not cream but the superb wines of Marques de Riscal.

Riscal was one of the pioneers in Rioja and, over 100 years later, in 1972, became pioneers in Rueda when they produced their first white wines there. Ruth Sutton, their Sales Manager for Ireland and the UK, was in Bradley’s yesterday and started us off with a couple of whites from Rueda, both 2012.
First up was a refreshing Verdejo, quite characteristic of the variety, a variety that I rather like. The surprise came with the next taste, this from a bottle of Sauvignon Blanc. Quite  a complex nose, crisp on the palate and a good long finish. A very pleasant surprise indeed.

In Bradley's yesterday
with Ruth Sutton of Marques de Riscal.

On then to the reds, starting with the Ardo Rioja 2012, easy drinking and made from younger grapes. It has spent four months in oak. Floral and fruity on the nose, soft and pleasant on the palate and a longish finish with some pepper.

Moved up a notch or two for the next one, the 2008 Reserva. Really gorgeous aromas here with a fresh and soft introduction on the palate, quite pleasant and elegant and one to note for sure. As was the 2005 Gran Reserva, this even more silky on the palate with a long finish. A Reserva will normally have spent 12 months in cask while the Gran gets 24 months.

And then came the finale, the stunning Gran Reserva 150th Anniversary edition from 2001, a very good year! The deep red colour in the centre changes to to brick red around the edge though nothing too dramatic! But this is incredibly smooth on the palate. Irresistible! And selling now at 46.00, a reduction of over four euro.

Indeed, all the wines, distributed in Ireland by Findlater's, are reduced while stocks last. The Sauvignon, for instance, is down from 14.99 to 12.49. But you’d need to move fast as they were selling quickly even before the tasting began.

Amuse Bouche

Roarty was making an omelette from the mushrooms Eamonn Eales had collected in Davy Long’s park that morning. They were good mushrooms, medium sized and delicately succulent, just right for a special omelette, an omelette surprise. He had chosen the best mushrooms for his own omelette; the one he was making for Eales was special because it contained not only the mushrooms from Davy Long’s park but also a handful of obnoxious, black-gilled toadstools which he himself had picked on the dunghill... He was hoping that four of them would be enough to poison his lecherous barman....

from Bogmail by Patrick McGinley

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Bantry’s Maritime Hotel is an excellent base

Bantry’s Maritime Hotel
The Maritime
Bantry is an excellent base if you wish to see the glorious scenery of West Cork and the Maritime Hotel is an excellent place to stay in the town.

Like toes on a foot, but much more pleasant looking, the spectacular peninsulas spread out from Bantry. Nearest is the Sheep’s Head (a paradise for walkers), to the East is the Mizen Peninsula and the formidable views at Ireland’s south-west tip, and to the west, you have the magnificent Ring of Beara.
The Market
Right in the town itself, you may visit historic Bantry House and estate. And nearby you have Glengarriff with its forests and inlets and Garnish Island. And there is so much more within reach, Schull, Castletownsend and Baltimore, all by the sea, and to the west the incredible Healy Pass towards Kenmare. Indeed, the regular Bantry to Kenmare Road, via the Caha Pass and a few very short tunnels, is also very scenic.

I was in Bantry for a short visit last Friday and the first call was to the local Farmers Market, which takes place weekly in the marvellous and spacious Woilfe Tone Square, one of the best squares of any town in Ireland. Then I headed for Sheep’s Head and a very rewarding walk to the little lighthouse.
Sheep's Head Penisula
Manning’s Emporium at Ballylickey, on the Bantry to Glengariff road, is a regular call when I'm in the area. And I headed there later on for a “tweetup” with Karen Kenmare Foodie (@KarenCoakley) Siobhain of Sheep’s Head Producers (@SHProduceMarket) and Andrew of Manning’s (@emporiummanning). Had a lovely chat about all things food, even drink, and more besides.

Manning’s may be just a country store but it is stocked with classy produce, much of it local. Indeed, Val Manning was one of the first to support the local producers. Being a country store, you might not expect to find the highest standards here. You'd be wrong!
Three Tweeps! Siobhain (left), Karen and me
After the walk in the peninsula I was looking for something refreshing from their Sherry Bar and asked for a Fino. But Andrew came out (yes, we were sitting outside last Friday!) to say the Fino wasn't as cold as he'd like and suggested a Manzanilla instead. How about that for professionalism and knowing your stuff?

After a most satisfactory meal that evening in O'Connor's Seafood Restaurant (see link below) on the square, we strolled the few yards back to the Maritime on the quayside. The hotel is long rather than high. It has lifts but you’ll be walking a bit! Service is excellent here, very friendly at reception and in the breakfast room (where we enjoyed your standard self service hot breakfast, cold options were also available and indeed they also had a few hot specials).
Specials at O'Connor's
Service is excellent in the bar too, quite an impressive bar with a huge back-wall, divided into “cubby-holes” that hold a massive collection of spirits. The man serving in the bar was very helpful and we had an informative discussion about the merits of the new versus the old Smithwicks. Later, I noticed they sell Eight Degrees beers and Stonewell Cider.

Our well equipped room was fine and spacious. They are a family friendly hotel and have large suites available, leisure facilities (including a pool) and a spa. Check out the details that might suit you here . They have their own underground car park and that is a big help. Both the area and the hotel are highly recommended.


The Quay
Bantry, West Cork
  • +353 27 54700
  • +353 27 54701.

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