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Tuesday, November 27, 2018

Three of the Best from JN Wine


Boekenhoutskloof Wolftrap Red 2016 Western Cape (South Africa), 14.5%, €14.50 Bradley’s Off, Matson’s, Cashel Wine Cellar. JN Wine online

This James Nicholson import is a very popular wine and you’ll see it on quite a few restaurant lists. It is a dark ruby colour, the legs slow to clear. Ripe fruits (plums, blackberries) feature in the enticing aromas, also a touch of vanilla. That fruit is also there on the vibrant palate, a drift of spice too, smooth with silky tannins, well balanced and with an excellent finish. This full-bodied dry wine is Very Highly Recommended. 
It is mainly Syrah (86%) and the other grapes in the blend are Mourvèdre (13) and Viognier (1). It is fermented in stainless steel and aged in French oak prior to blending and bottling.

According to The Wine Advocate, Boekenhoutskloof is the only outstanding South African wine estate. The reputation of the winery is built as much on the outstanding value of the everyday wines as it is on the quality of the flagship bottles. This is an outstanding example of one of their everyday wines - the Wolftrap white is another beauty - and goes well with steaks and barbecued meats.

Boekenhoutskloof Wolftrap White 2017 Western Cape (South Africa), 14.5%, €14.50 Bradley’s Off, Matson’s, Cashel Wine Cellar. JN Wine online


Boekenhoutskloof was awarded 2012 Winery of the Year by the prestigious Platter's Guide to South African Wine Guide. This Wolftrap white was also accorded Superquaffer of the Year status in the Guide.

I didn’t know that when I first came across it at a Fish Banquet in Ballycotton’s marvellous Bayview Hotel in September last, enjoyed with a dish that had a quirky title: My Ding A Ling! Better explain this was Torched Ling with Salt Baked Celeriac, Little gem, Hazelnut & Gubbeen Pesto, Smoked Skeaghanore Duck-breast,  a superb combination. And this vibrant wine here made a terrific impression at the table and, with its fantastic aromas and flavours, proved a great match.

It is an unusual blend of Viognier 48% (for spice), Chenin Blanc 41% (melon) and Grenache Blanc 11% (white peach), all contributing to the experience. The different grapes are fermented and aged partially in French oak before blending and bottling. 

It has a very clean light yellow colour with green tints. Pleasant white/yellow fruits, plus floral notes, feature in the inviting aromas. Fresh and fruity, unexpected depth in this elegant body, a lively acidity all through and then a lip-smacking finish. Superquaffer indeed and Very Highly Recommended. Excellent value also.

The name goes back to the early days of the European pioneers who erected a wolftrap. To date, no wolf  (an animal of the northern hemisphere, though there is a relation in Ethiopia) has been seen in the valley!

Domaine Bellevue Chardonnay Val de Loire (IGP) 2017, 12.5%, €14.50 Bradley’s Off Licence, Matson’s, Cashel Wine Cellar, JN Wine online


The Loire Valley is better known for its Chenin Blanc and Sauvignon so this Chardonnay is something of a surprise. But a very pleasant one indeed. It has spent some time on its lees, is unoaked, and that, with its northern freshness, gives the wine a lovely mouthfeel, excellent depth of fruit there too. Very Highly Recommended.

It has a lovely mid-gold colour. Intense aromas of pear, pineapple. Fresh and lively on the palate, excellent fruit flavours, and no slacking off in either flavour or aroma in the finalé. Had a glass of this at a FEAST Fish Event in Ballycotton's Bayview. It was paired with Deep fried monkfish, octopus, pea, lemon and potato purée, fried capers, oyster mayonnaise, Jerusalem artichoke chips - the Bayview’s version of Fish ’n Chips!  I was impressed by the wine’s performance. More impressed now after having had a bottle to play with!

It was introduced at the dinner by Richard Reeve of JN Wines. "Chardonnay," he said, "was the variety of the 90s, before oak on the cheap gave it a bad name and it fell out of fashion. It is coming back now in an unoaked style as this is. From a sauvignon Blanc region of the Loire, it is rich and fresh, a big favourite of mine. Enjoy!"

Domaine de Bellevue is situated not far from the city of Nantes and is a young wine estate created in 2005 by the talented young winemaker Jérôme Bretaudeau. By the way, earlier vintages of this Chardonnay had what they describe as “a very good evolution; a conservation of five years seems reasonable”. In other words, you may hold on to it for a few years and it should improve! Recommended pairings are as “a great accompaniment to just about every white meat or fish dish and also makes a delicious aperitif”.




Taste of the Week. Beara Ocean Gin


Taste of the Week 
Beara Ocean Gin

The sea plays a key role in the flavours of Beara Ocean Gin, not that juniper is that far behind. The new-ish gin, 12 months on the go and already making inroads in the export market, is infused with salt water and sugar kelp to “capture the nature of our maritime surroundings in the Beara Peninsula”. It is my Taste of the Week.

It is fresh and zesty for sure and that bit different - on the night I was comparing it with the Roku gin from Japan. Juniper is to the fore in the Japanese drink while the Beara has that hint of fresh citrus. It is also a touch sweeter perhaps but overall it boasts a delicious balance of flavours and aromas and a totally pleasant finish.

It made an immediate good impression and is now on my short list. It is perfectly enjoyable by itself  and as they say themselves “it mixes easily, just like the people in West Cork”. They recommend using Fever Tree Mediterranean tonic to “get the best result”.

Beara Distillery also produce a Pink Ocean Gin. The basic recipe is enhanced with Cranberry and Rosewater to give an enticing pink hue and added flavours.




Monday, November 26, 2018

Sizzling Dishes At Quinlan’s Fish in Princes Street


Sizzling Dishes At Quinlan’s Fish in Princes Street


Sizzling deep-water Atlantic prawns, in olive oil, chilli and garlic served with a mixed leaf salad and sourdough bread, were the star of the show when we visited the busy Quinlan’s Seafood Bar in Cork recently.

It was a Monday and I didn’t expect it to be so busy - but it was abuzz, people were being turned away. Just as well we had booked a table. We got a nice welcome and service was pretty good too throughout.

Fish direct from tide to table, they say, claiming to be “unique in Ireland as we source all our Fresh Fish and Shellfish from our own boats and fish factory at Renard Point, Caherciveen”. Fresh Hake, Cod, Haddock, Whiting and Plaice, from Dingle Bay are available throughout the year. The mussels come from Oysterhaven.

But back to those sweet and delicate prawns. CL had them as starter (12.00) while I enjoyed them as mains (19.00). The “soup” of oil, chilli and garlic was nicely judged so that the texture and flavour of the fish came through. The well dressed salad was excellent while the average sourdough was put to good use in mopping up! No Picpoul de Pinet or Muscadet on the white wine list but the listed Albarino would be a good match.
Salmon

Quinlan’s always have a list of specials and it was a tempting one the other night with Black Sole and Lobster included. I went for one of the special starters, the Prawn and Smoked Salmon croquettes, served with salad and Asian Aioli (12.95). Quite a substantial dish and very tasty too!

It wouldn’t be a fish bar if you couldn’t get Fish and Chips. And here you have a choice of fish: whiting, plaice, haddock, cod, hake or fish goujons. And those fish and chips are served with a batter they “have developed to complement our super fresh fish”. For a healthier option you can have the fresh fish pan-fried in olive oil. And you can also choose salad instead of chips. In any event, those Fish and Chips seemed to be flying on the night as were those sizzling prawns.

Along with the specials, you have a fine choice of main dishes here including Dingle Bay Wild Squid and Portmagee Crab Claws, even a Portmagee Crab Bake. Also simpler dishes with Hake and Salmon. CL went for the Pan-fried fillet of Salmon served with Lyonnaise potatoes, asparagus, carrot purée and basil pesto (19.50). Quantity yes but quality too.

The Kerry family are well known too for their award winning smoked salmon and we had that as a lunch dish in their Killarney restaurant earlier in the year served as an Open Sandwich on brown bread and it came with a straightforward salad and lemon wedge. The amount of “smoking” was nicely judged and the flavour of the salmon itself is not diminished but rather enhanced by its engagement with Irish oak. So watch out for that too.

And what did I have at that lunch in Killarney? Yes, you’ve guessed it, those prawns again but this time served in a light tempura batter. A different dress then but still beautiful!
Smoked Salmon lunch dish, Killarney in March.

Wild Christmas with Brett, Black & Brut. Eight Degrees Trespass Dark Farmhouse Ale


Dreaming of a Wild Christmas with Brett, Black and Brut. 
Eight Degrees Trespass Dark Farmhouse Ale with Blackberries 7.5% ABV 75cl bottle.

Raised with Brett and infused with Blackberry, I was thinking funky and farmyard as I pondered this Christmas special from Mitchelstown. And then when the person alongside, who had started ahead of me, said it smelt like cider I was thinking of some early natural wines that had ill-advisedly been put on the market, quite possibly putting some people off natural for a long time.

A friend of mine who had then recently opened a market stall, always maintained you just had to get a drop or a morsel into the potential customer’s mouth to make the sale. So I remembered him as I raised the glass and soon the preconceptions vanished like the courage of a Ballyhoura poacher disturbed in the act.

This dark farmhouse ale is not a rough and ready country bumpkin (by the way, what do you call a city bumpkin?) at all. Au contraire, Rodney. And its natural sophistication is not overly surprising when you consider the distinguished “assistant” the Eight Degrees brewers had. None other than Jamil  Zainasheff, owner of California’s Heretic Brewing and author of Yeast and Brewing Classic Styles.

I enjoyed my first glass with a slow-cooked dinner of Woodside Farm Pork (shoulder) and a bunch of winter root vegetables. The experience was excellent. But how would my Trespass drink on its own?

Excellent is the answer, again. The adventurous “melange” is more about the Brett than the hops. Not a bubble in sight in the dark brown liquid but a refreshing tang and a cutting acidity, the kind you’d come across in a good Brut champagne. A classy drink which, by the way, has spent no less than 15 months in Burgundy (Pinot Noir and Chardonnay) barrels. And, after finishing school, Eight Degrees added even more of those Ballyhoura blackberries.

Perhaps not my favourite aromas but now this rich and dark saison-like beer with its lip-smacking finish is a firm favourite. Brett, Black and Brut is the new order! Now, I’d better order that goose for Christmas, as that’s the recommended match from Eight Degrees.

Trespass is the latest in their Ballyhoura Wild Series which already includes Hopsfume 100% Brett IPA, The Oak King Belgian Pale Ale, and the Holly King Imperial Stout.

Sunday, November 25, 2018

The Best of Game. Venison Dishes to Track Down


The Best of Game
Venison Dishes to Track Down

It’s game time in Ireland and one of the best places to get your fix is at Blair’s Inn in Cloghroe. You get hungry just listening to chef Duncan Blair: “Game is a big part of our menus this time of year. We introduce it gradually in November. It’s a slow burner at first, but it becomes extremely popular as the season progresses. 

“Our venison, stout and dark chocolate casserole is a real hit. Our own favourite has to be the haunch steaks (or the loin if we’re feeling fancy pants). Love serving it simply; rare with honey roasted celeriac and parsnip with a red currant and dark chocolate jus.”

Blair’s is well known and loved as a supporter of local craft beers so I wasn’t surprised with the answer when I asked Duncan what he’d drink with venison.  “With a casserole, it has to be the 9 White Deer Stag Stout. With the haunch or loin I love it with a decent Pinot Noir, like the Forrest Estate, which has a delicate fruitiness but with a bit of bite too. Savage!”

Martina Cronin, the excellent chef at Blarney’s Square Table told me they do venison every year. “We would do a bit more game but are a small restaurant and don't want to have waste.”

“We do a roast venison loin and braised venison served with Caramelised Brussel spouts, smoke bacon lardons, chestnuts and a parsnip puree. The orange and ginger and juniper berries in the parsnip puree works really well cuts through the richness of the venison.  It’s a really solid dish full of complementary flavours and the Cabernet Sauvignon vinegar in the venison braise brings a touch of acidity to the dish and balances well with sweetness of puree and saltiness of the smoked bacon.” Sounds superb! 
Square Table venison

At The Montenotte
Last April, the Irish Times headlined “Consumer interest in venison falls dramatically” . But is doesn’t seem to be the case around Cork. I’ve had some terrific examples recently, beginning with Liam Kirwan’s Wellington in the Montenotte Hotel.


This is somewhat deceptive, as at first it looks like a small pie in a big dish. And I was thinking maybe I should have had ordered a side. But the Ballinwillin Venison Wellington is loaded with the aromas and tastes of Autumn in the wild - that “little pastry” packs a powerful punch of flavour and texture, with no little help in that department coming from the cavolo nero (the kale of Tuscany), the dark chocolate jus and the roast celeriac.
At the Maryborough

Gemma Murphy is Head Chef at Bellini's in the Maryborough Hotel and she impresses with her Venison Loin, coffee and orange glazed salsify, heritage beetroot, parsnip foam. A magnificent combination and that venison was superb, possibly the best piece of meat, of any kind, that I’ve come across this year. And, in unknowing keeping with Duncan’s wine hint, our wine from Les Deux Cols, was a blend of Grenache Syrah and Cinsault (producer Simon Tyrrell calls this the Pinot Noir of the south); put to the test, it matched well with the venison, a super dish indeed.

Loving Salads

Loving Salads

During a special Game evening in Loving Salads, the venison was the star of the show. Chef-Owner Jason Carroll had major help from Craig Coady on the night and this was Craig's dish. The meat came wrapped in brioche and immediately under that was a moist circle of mushrooms, and parma ham. Black truffles, mustard, juniper and herbs had all been used to enhance the seared saddle of venison and there were also golden and red beets on the plate and a helping of madeira jus. Absolutely superb. Shame this game special lasted just for two days.

Top of the Game
Venison, as you know, often comes as part of a game pie and one of the best examples I came across over the past two years was the one at the Village Tavern in Murrisk (Mayo). 
Well fed in Mayo

I had been looking forward to that Game Pie since I first saw the list. The mega mix included rabbit, pheasant and venison with a horseradish and cheddar mash and the pie was surrounded by a tonne of roasted root vegetables. And then there was a bottle of Westporter Stout (from the local Mescan Brewery) to help it down. A memorable meal.

Like to know more about venison? Then one of the best places to try is Ballinwillin House, suppliers to restaurants in Ireland and the UK. Their website is here

* Just notice that Pier 26 in Ballycotton have a game night on Nov 30th. Details here

Friday, November 23, 2018

Amuse Bouche

Were himself now capable of a morsel or two, I’d be the first to take pleasure feeding him. Maybe a slice of roast chicken, or a wing, a taste of salty ham perfumed with sugar and cloves on the skin, a wedge of chocolate cake sandwiched with apricot jam or a hefty slab of bread drowning in the best Irish butter, if you can get your hands on it off someone travelling from home. He’d relish the lot of that, make no mistake, and I’d be the happy woman to see him sated.

from The Woodcutter and His Family by Frank McGuinness (2017). Recommended.

Thursday, November 22, 2018

The Cecchins of Mendoza; Carignan and Cabernet Sauvignon


The Cecchins of Mendoza 
Carignan and Cabernet Sauvignon

According to Wines of South America, The Cecchins of Maipú, Mendoza, are a third generation wine family with a very strong focus on Carignan (though also well-known for their Malbec). They use horse-drawn ploughs and native yeast. The plots in their 27 acres of organic vineyards are bordered with aromatic plants to attract animal pests away from the vines.  If you’re lucky enough to visit and dine in their restaurant, you’ll see the fruit, walnuts and olive oil, all organic, are grown on the farm.

Familia Cecchin Carignan, Mendoza (Argentina) 2015,  13%, €18.50 64 Wine Dublin, Bradley’s of Cork, Greenman Dublin, Le Caveau Kilkenny

The Cecchin Carignan has a purple colour, with a lighter rim. Earthy and savoury scents outweigh the expected fruit. On the palate, the fruit is the main element, a touch of spice too, tannins well integrated, no shortage of acidity and a lengthy finish. Light and refreshing and Highly Recommended.

Carignan is used mostly in blends, particularly in the Languedoc. It is rarely enough seen solo. Suggested food matches include Peppery Catalan sausage,  Spicy lamb meatballs, and Aubergine lasagne.

Familia Cecchin Cabernet Sauvignon, Mendoza (Argentina) 2015,  13%, €18.50 64 Wine Dublin, Bradley’s of Cork, Greenman Dublin, Le Caveau Kilkenny

Fairly deep ruby red colour. Moderately intense aromas (black berries, cassis). No oak has been used. Straightforward Cabernet Sauvignon character on the palate, fresh and fruity and full bodied, full of vitality and noticeable acidity, good tannin structure and excellent length. This is a very dry wine, not at all related to the regular South American fruit bombs, and Highly Recommended.

Cabernet Sauvignon is one of the world’s most widely grown grapes and this Mendoza effort is really good value especially when you see that the Screaming Eagle version from the Napa Valley will, according to Wine-Searcher, cost you over €3,000 a bottle! 

By the way, Wine-Searcher suggests Fillet steak with foie gras and truffles; Beef wellington with honey roasted carrots; Korean-style beef stir fried in garlic, soy and sesame, as a match for Cab Sauv.

Did you know that, in 1997, DNA profiling revealed the grape to be a spontaneous crossing of Cabernet Franc and Sauvignon Blanc which took place in 17th century southwestern France?


Delicious Sunday Lunch at Ferrit & Lee


Delicious Sunday Lunch at Ferrit & Lee
Outstanding Risotto

A brilliant November sun lifted the spirits as we headed to Midleton’s Ferrit & Lee for a Sunday lunch. And the body was well taken care of with a superb and delicious lunch. Service with a smile also increased the satisfaction levels!

They have some very popular dishes here that appear on both the lunch and evening menus. And there are quite a few of their starters that can also be served as mains so all that increases the choices for the customer. And they'll tell you about the specials which are also written on a large blackboard facing the entrance door. 
Fish Cakes

And another thing you’ll notice is the plates. No not those on the table but a couple of eye-catching displays on the walls. Lots of painting around too and window length boxes, well kept and full of greenery.

So what would we have? A bit of reading to do before we made our choices. There was a tempting Ham Hock and Black Pudding Terrine, also their popular Goat’s Cheese Bon Bons, Beetroot Relish, Pistachio Nuts. And more, including another two starters on the board.
Smoked Mackerel Salad

We got two delicious ones. CL went for the Thai Fish Cakes, Asian Salad, Nam Jim Dressing, Miso Mayo. (Starter €8.00 Main €13.50) and was very happy with that, with every element of it including the dressing.

And I did very well too with the Smoked Ballycotton Mackerel Salad, New Potatoes, Apple, Pickled Vegetables, Horseradish Creme Fraiche, Cured Egg Yolk (€8.50). A terrific mix of flavours and textures, quality and well judged quantity and I was off to a flier.
Ballycotton cod

Again there were some favourites on the main list including Slow Cooked Featherblade of Beef and also their Confit Leg of Duck, Braised Apple and Red Cabbage. But our eyes were on the specials.

CL choose the Fish of the Day, Pan Fried Cod with a Spinach Mash, Roast Vegetables and Lemon Hollandaise. Just perfect, local and seasonal at its best as is the norm here.
Ferrit & Lee in the November sun

And I got one of my best risottos ever with Ardsallagh Feta and hazelnuts (16). Absolutely delighted with it - even if it meant there was no room for dessert - and those hazelnuts were a delightful part of it.

So it was two happy customers that headed off into the sun just as more punters checked in. Busy friendly spot and Very Highly Recommended.

Wednesday, November 21, 2018

Cask Launch for Monkey 47 Sloe Gin. A Quartet of Delicious Drinks from Cocktails HQ

Cask Cork Launch for Monkey 47 Sloe Gin

 A Quartet of Delicious Drinks from Cocktail HQ

Monkey 47 is a German gin from the Black Forest and the 47 bit gets in because they use an amazing 47 hand-picked herbal ingredients to make it. The Sloe gin was launched at Cask last Monday and, yes, the sloes came from the famous forest as did the spruce tips which are added later and there were a few on display in McCurtain Street. 

Andrew Dickey, Brand Specialist at Irish Distillers, welcomed us and introduced us to the Monkey 47 story and the Sloe gin, the star of the evening. Cask's Andy Ferreira was given the task of constructing the menu and, as ever, he did it very well with a suite of four cocktails. He also had a simple gin and tonic in a solid Monkey mug and warned us to try that too before leaving.

Andy praised the sloe gin as being "very adaptable" as he introduced the first drink, King Louie's Punch (Monkey 47 Sloe, Italicus, Myrtle leaf sherbet, Jasmine, and Prosecco. Thought I was getting something to warm me up (it had very cold outside) but this was a cold drink, a big piece of ice in the middle of the bowl. Cold and dry but very nice indeed, served in a china cup.

Cask
The generous folks at Cask were now dishing out nibbles and small (some not so small) bites and we were enthusiastically tucking in, while not forgetting to try those cocktails. Our second one was a tall glass of Pear of Cheetahs (Monkey 47 Sloe gin, Monkey 47, Verjus, Spruce and Pears Soda). The gentle introduction continued here, easy sipping.

The next one was more arresting though. Coffee Mr. Nilsson? consisted of Monkey 47 Sloe, Green coffee, and Lustau Vermouth and had a kick from the coffee, also a bit peppery. One to note.

My favourite soon followed. It was titled Final Call Miss Baker! (Monkey 47 Sloe, White Port, Ancho Reyes, Sweet Cicely Tincture). I had been looking forward to that and it didn't disappoint at all, very enjoyable indeed. And, of course, we finished with that gin and tonic in that big mug! There are some suggestions for more cocktails in the press release below. Cheers!

IMMERSE YOURSELF IN MONKEY MADNESS WITH MONKEY 47 SLOE GIN

From the makers of the botanically-curious Monkey 47 gin, comes a new instalment, Monkey 47 Sloe Gin. Monkey 47’s practically obsessive quest for quality meets myth and legend in Monkey 47 Sloe Gin, which is as versatile as it is quaffable.
 
Final Call Miss Baker!
Aromatic and complex, with huge fruit and juniper notes, Monkey 47 Sloe Gin uses blackthorns or sloe berries, which are harvested after the first frost and macerated for four weeks to let the sediment settle to the bottom. The hydropress process, which protects the berries, then takes place, with the results filtered several times before being put back into the original macerate. Water is added and then in just six weeks, Monkey 47 Sloe Gin is ready to be enjoyed in whatever tipple you fancy, either hot or cold.

The liquid’s mix of earthy, tangy juniper, with rich sweet red berries, and hints of almond delivers Monkey 47’s penchant for exceptional taste, especially when presented in the signature serve; in a hi-ball glass filled with ice, topped with bitter lemon or Sicilian lemonade and garnished with a lemon wheel.
 
G&T in a mug!
Be transported to the Black Forest in winter with Monkey 47 Sloe Gin hot serve, which fuses this nutty and tart gin with Crème de Cassis, cranberry juice, lemon juice, cinnamon syrup and hot water, bringing exceptional pleasure to the palate. Or relish Monkey 47 Sloe Gin in Sloe and Sherry Win the Race cocktail, complete with Fino sherry, Cherry Heering, lemon juice and sugar topped with bitter lemon or Sicilian lemonade, served over ice in a highball glass.

Monkey 47 Sloe Gin is versatile, masterfully handcrafted and distilled in small batches. This liquid is the result of the alchemistic art of distillation that Monkey 47 is renowned for, and is available from leading bars and off licences nationwide, RRP €55. Share your experience on Facebook, follow the black monkey on Instagram or express your joy in 140 characters or less on Twitter.

CorkBilly’s Drinks Digest: Wines, Spirits and Beers. A Wolf in Town!


CorkBilly’s Drinks Digest
Wines, Spirits and Beers


At The Bierhaus Cork, this Thursday, 7.30pm
Wicklow Wolf X Anspach & Hobday (London) Tap-takeover
Meet the Wicklow Wolf Team & Anspach & Hobday owner/brewer (Jack Hobday) 
3 Beers from Wicklow Wolf 
3 Beers from Anspach & Hobday 
1 Collaboration beer 
Tastings promos on the night! Details on the Bierhaus Facebook page.

and if you want more Wicklow Wolf then you’ll find them teaming up with their friends Dungarvan Brewing Company at Dungarvan’s Merrys Gastro Pub for a 6 Course Beer Dinner, celebrating Irish Craft Beer on Friday the 23rd November.


Spanish Wine Evening at Rostellan Chocolate
Friday, November 30, 2018 at 7 PM – 9 PM
An evening of tasting 6 varieties of Spanish Wine with cheese and pates. Alejandro from Heart of Spain will present this event which promises to be a fantastic evening. Strictly limited tickets are on sale at an introductory price of €25 each. Contact Peter at 087 2908774 to purchase a ticket.

SuperValu Case Deal

Kate Barry of Barry & Fitzwilliam has been on to tell me about the terrific Villa Maria Case Deal exclusive to SuperValu.

6 different bottles of Villa Maria wine per case.  The RRP for the pack is €105 – it is on offer in selected SuperValu stores at €70.00

The Buy 6 Save €10 starts next Thursday 22nd November and will run until December 24th -  hence this will bring it down to €60.

Please note the Villa Maria Case Deal is a limited offer and once it’s gone it is gone!!

Mezze & wine pairings night in Ardkeen Quality Food Store. 
Join us at the Barista Bar in Ardkeen Quality Food Store on Saturday 24 November for a Mezze & wine pairings night. Husband and wife team Dvir and Nicola of Mezze (Waterford locals) will prepare an authentic Middle Eastern feast with shared plates using the amazing locally sourced produce from Ardkeen Quality Food Store. Experience casual authentic Middle Eastern dining, ideas of how to use local produce to prepare bright and vibrant foods, and learn which wines work best with Middle Eastern flavours - all chosen by resident expert Julie Ward.

Tickets include 4 course vegetarian meal with wine tastings and must be purchased in advance. 


Les Gourmandises have a Malbec wine & dinner on November 27th (7.00pm); details on their Facebook page.

Premium Irish whiskey tasting and 4 course tasting menu at Cronin’s Pub.
Tuesday, November 27, 2018 at 7:30 PM – 10 PM
"Join us in Cronin's Pub, Crosshaven for a premium Irish whiskey tasting and 4 course tasting menu. We will be joined by Irish Distiller's whiskey ambassador Michael Cowman. Each whiskey will be paired with a specially prepared tasting menu from the Mad Fish Kitchen at Cronin's Pub.

Be amongst the first to taste the newly launched Red Spot, 15 Year Old Single Pot Still, which was discontinued in the mid-1960s and now rejoins Green Spot and Yellow Spot in Irish Distillers’ Spot Whiskeys range. It has been created using an old recipe handed down by the Mitchell & Son family of wine merchants, who created the original Spot Whiskeys in the early 1900s. We will be tasting this alongside Yellow Spot 12 Year Old.

This will be a night to remember! Starts at 7.30pm. Tickets must be purchased in advance."

Cillian of Mescan Brewery has a special for you

Westport’s Mescan Brewery
“Delighted to announce the release of our Christmas beer, Beoir na Nollag!

We made a version of the beer 3 years ago and it was a huge success. This year's beer follows the theme but it's a new recipe. It's a strong dark beer 8.8% which was brewed in the spring and was cold conditioned in bulk for 6 months before transfer to Irish Whiskey casks for 2 months of barrel ageing. It was then dry hopped and bottle conditioned. 

The flavour profile is malty, with dry fruits, warming alcohol and sublte notes of whiskey, wood and hops. Over time it will demonstrate an evolving complexity as it matures farther in the bottle so it's a beer that can be enjoyed now or cellared for later drinking. 
We only bottled 1,000 litres but we hope not to run out before Christmas!”

And, speaking of Christmas specials, Eight Degrees have two beauties. Check them out here 

Tuesday, November 20, 2018

James Whelan opens 8th Butcher’s Shop. Son Pat keeps his feet on the ground.


James Whelan opens 8th Butcher’s Shop
Son Pat keeps his feet on the ground.
Display at new Whelan's shop in Dunnes Stores, Bishopstown Court.

I met Pat Whelan at the original James Whelan shop in Clonmel in November 2011. He took time out to have chat about that shop and also a new one in Avoca in Monkstown (Dublin) to which he was applying the finishing touches. Now he has eight in total. Progress has been amazing. 

I met Pat again at Dunnes Stores Bishopstown Court last Friday. He was there to play a role in the weekend celebration of the extensive renovations of the popular supermarket, a weekend to highlight the newcomers to the store including Whelan’s, Sheridan’s Cheese, ABC Bread, O’Connell Fishmongers, Baxter and Greens and Café Sol. 
Part of the new food hall

Again, the Tipperary man took time out for a chat. I reminded him about our first meeting and how he enjoyed going out to the marts and farms to meet the producers. Has the expansion put a stop to that? 

I was glad to get the answer that it hadn’t, an answer that I had more or less expected from a man who stays in touch with the grassroots, staying connected to the source. He goes out weekly and told me that only the Tuesday before he had bought about 40 cattle in the Fermoy Mart but what I hadn’t expected was that his 80 year father, after whom the shops are named, was on the road with him. Respect to both!
Dunnes Kiwi chef Matthew Brownie was promising the Irish an All Black grilling ahead of the big game.
He was just joking, of course!

But some things have of course changed and not just over the last seven years. Pat was (still is) a regular visitor to the English Market in the good old days. Then he felt it “was alive” when he walked through. It certainly was in your face. The food scene began to change back in 60s and 70s. It became “sanitised”, the connection with its source fragmenting, we agreed, me thinking of sliced pan and supermarkets as being among the agents of change.
O'Connell fishmongers

People like Pat, and luckily there are quite a few of them, kept the flame alive. “Good food is an investment in your future,” he says. “Great to see the youngsters coming into it, great to see them make the connection and great to see it done right. We owe it to ourselves and to the planet to really reconnect with nature.”

“Training is important,” he emphasised in answer to my query about Whelan’s Butcher Academy. Indeed, the good work of the academy has been recognised by a counterpart in South West France. “They want to do an Erasmus exchange with us where our trainees can swap experience with their French counterparts. It’s great for us to be recognised like that and great too for the apprentices.”
Whelan's Himalayan salt aged beef, before and after (so tender!)

The eight Whelan butcher shops are in Clonmel, Dunnes Stores Cornelscourt, The Swan Centre Rathmines, Dunnes Stores Blanchardstown Centre, Pavilions Shopping Centre, Swords, Avoca in Rathcoole and Kilmacanogue as well as Dunnes Stores Bishopstown Court. Pat is very happy about the link-up (now 30 months old) with Dunnes seeing them as a family company that “is all about the customer, the Better Value is not just a slogan, and they are very warmly regarded in Cork".

And it looks as if the Whelan shop is warmly regarded as well. “We’ve had a great welcome from our fellow debutants, Pat O’Connell’s and Sheila of ABC”. Whelan will have in-house competition from Dunne’s own butchers. He knows that his produce is top class and may cost a little more. A customer may like a treat at the weekend and something good but less pricey on a Monday. “Retail is all about choice,” he says and is quite happy with that.

Earlier Donnacha, the manager of Whelan's Bishopstown shop, showed me some of that choice. The Tralee native has worked for two and half years for Pat in Dublin and jumped at that chance to get back nearer home. “We started off four weeks ago and it took off straightaway, so far so good. Now we’re setting up for Christmas.”
And where there's Dunnes, there's Simply Better

The shop has a beautiful lay-out and lighting. It is well manned with expert help at hand as you choose between the different meats and the different cuts. 

A lot of the weekend focus was on “the big reveal”, the collaboration between Pat Whelan and Peter Hannan which has resulted in the amazing Himalayan Salt Aged Beef, now on sale exclusively in Whelan’s eight shops and at their online shop.

Hannan has constructed a Salt Chamber made of rock salt bricks from the Himalayas and here the beef spends over 35 days and the final result is exceptional quality with a truly unique flavour.  More details here.  

“We got a great welcome to Cork,” said Kevin Sheridan of Sheridan's as we chatted in front of their very impressive stall. And I use the word stall deliberately as it does resemble a market display. A big stall, mind you. Space to display the many cheeses - lots of Cork produce there too - and all the little bits and pieces (crackers, relishes for example) that go with them.
Yours truly with
Kevin Sheridan.

‘We have more Cork cheese here - in Galway we would have more from Galway - and find the customers very enthusiastic. Great to be in Dunnes too, as they are part of the Cork heritage.”

“We started as a small cheese stand, and this weekend, we are celebrating the opening of the Cork Bishopstown Court location with many local producers that we are proud to call our friends. We feel so lucky to work with many quality Irish producers and are thrilled to share their amazing work all under one roof in Dunnes.”

Like Pat, Kevin emphasised the importance of training. Sheridan’s have brought some of their more experienced people from their other shops to Cork for the time being, passing on that experience, all for the benefit of the customer.

Didn’t see Pat O’Connell himself but got lots of fish there, some frozen, some fresh, and some smoked (including Goatsbridge trout produced by my friend Mag Kirwan in Kilkenny). Must go back and try that red mullet! 

Also met some regulars on the food scene: Padraig O’Farrell was showing his Carrigaline cheeses at Sheridan’s and Aoife was doing a Kinsale Bay tasting nearby while Dunne’s Kiwi chef Matthew was threatening to grill the Irish at the rugby! Could have spent the day there but time caught up with me.

  • You may see a YouTube clip of Peter Hannan’s salt chamber here.
  • And see Hannan cook those amazing steaks here.