Tuesday, January 1, 2019

Whites Alright at Marks & Spencer



Sauvignon Blanc Marlborough (New Zealand) 2017, 9.5%, €16.00 Marks and Spencer

Just 9.5% alcohol, as compared to the normal 13-14%, yet with all the taste. Dr John Forrest is the man, not the only one (Villa Maria are among the others also involved), behind this trend where “through careful manipulation of the leaves of the vines, the grape berries end up with around 60% of the normal amount of sugar.” Expect more lower abv’s as other varieties come under Dr John’s appliance of science, a pioneer in the field.

Three per cent Riesling is included with the Sauvignon. The wine is a lightly coloured yellow, with green tint and mini-bubbles clinging to the bowl of the glass. Herbaceous aromas, especially nettle (which I’m told is more associated with Sauvignon Blanc from the Loire). The nettles continue on the palate, citrus and gooseberry making an impression here also, and a superb acidity also. Amazing about that nettle effect; I’ve often heard of it but this is the first time I’ve had it face to face, so to speak. It is an amazing wine and Very Highly Recommended.

There are already technological solutions, such as using reverse osmosis, which passes the wine through a membrane to strip it of ethanol, or a spinning cone column, which uses centrifugal force and steam for the same purpose. But winemakers would prefer something they can control themselves in the vineyard and so it looks as if the Forrest method may be the way forward as climate change continues to lead to higher alcohol counts.

Castro Martin Albarino Rias Baixas (DO) 2016, 12.5%, €19.00 Marks and Spencer

This light and fresh wine has a light straw colour, tints of green and micro-bubbles were noted clinging to the glass. Aromas are mainly pear and peach. It is vibrant on the palate with intense fruit, lemon now also in the mix, a zesty refreshing acidity too and a long dry citrusy finish. Try with shellfish, white fish and salads and also as an aperitif. Highly Recommended.

You’ll see the words Sobre Lias on the label and you’d be right if you guess that means on the lees. Castro Martin, a family estate where Angela Martin is the wine-maker, use this method to “add richness, flavour and aroma complexity”. The Albarino grape comes mainly from north west Galicia where it flourishes.

M&S winemaker Sue Daniels notes that this bone dry white is made with minimal intervention and no oak “to allow full expression of the grape’s unique flavours. Couldn’t argue with that after finishing the bottle (I did share!).

Monday, December 31, 2018

Taste of the Season. Barnabrow Christmas Pudding


Taste of the Season
Barnabrow Christmas Pudding
Beautiful texture, amazing flavours

This year, Aberdeen born Chef Stuart Bowes gave the famous Barnabrow Christmas Pudding some added punch, packing it “with the locally distilled Jameson Whiskey and soaked with a double potion of Guinness”.

The pudding was dark, laden with fruit, bound with butter, laced with fresh spices, sprinkled with fairy dust, sweetened with local honey and carrot from their Victorian walled garden. The whisky and stout also helped moisten it.

For all that, there was a certain textural lightness about it, nothing like the heavy unappealing almost indigestible dark slabs served up in some establishments. It was a delight to dispatch and was our Taste of the Season.

Roughy Fruity had them on sale in the English Market. Perhaps they have some left! I suspect there may still be some on offer at Sunday lunch in Barnabrow! And I see that they have a Little Christmas event next Saturday afternoon.

Barnabrow
Cloyne, Co. Cork
021 - 465 2534

Sunday, December 30, 2018

Meet Ireland’s Great Producers. Just a few of them!


Meet Ireland’s Great Producers
Just a few of them!
Cheesemaker Jean-Baptiste at Hegarty's

2018 Highlights now completed.
See below for brilliant National Stud visit;
A Taste of West Cork;
Life galore in the Irish Pub;
Michelin Stars, a trio this year;
Clonakilty's outstanding street festival;
Variations on the Irish Breakfast

Always manage to visit a few producers and 2018 was no exception; well, there were some exceptional visits, one to the innovative duo at the relatively new Killahora Orchards, the other to the well-established Hegarty Cheese in Whitechurch .

We were with a group of members of the Munster Wine & Dine who spent a very enjoyable May evening on a tour and tasting at Killahora Orchards near Glounthaune. Barry was our enthusiastic guide as we got both our whistles and our feet (aside from those who had brought wellies) wet in a most delightful way. 

Some of us had already marked Killahora products, including Johnny Fall Down cider, the Pom 'O Apple Port and their unique Rare Apple ice wine, among our favourite things. Those who hadn't come across them before were converted on this tour and tasting. More here

I met Jean-Baptise Enjelvin, cheesemaker at Hegarty’s, a few times during the year before heading out to see him at work in Whitechurch on an October morning.When I arrive at Hegarty’s farm on the outskirts of Whitechurch, less than twenty minutes north of Cork City, I’m greeted by Dan Hegarty, the frontman for their magnificent cheddar cheese that has been snapped up by restaurants and retail customers alike over the past 16 years or so. 
Killahora Orchards

For the past three years, Dan has had the considerable help of French cheese-maker Jean-Baptiste who had been on duty from earlier that morning.  He helps me get my kit on and I start to note how he makes their Templegall, a Comté style cheese, which has been getting sensational reviews over the past few months. 

I try my best to stay out of his way as the work progresses from the milk to the tank to the wheel on the stand. Amazing combination of skill, knowledge and muscle and then a lot of patience (a year or so of it) before the cheese is ready. It is a high quality product so do watch out for it! More here

* If you are food or drink producer and would like me to do a post in 2019, do drop me a line at cork.billy@gmail.com
* A producer for every week; see the list of Great Irish Tastes 2018

National Stud/Japanese Gardens
One of Ireland’s Stand-out Visits
2018 Highlights continued...
Guide Aoife has a back-pocket treat for Hardy Eustace.  And he knows it!

Last June, we “did” a loop around the Midlands, taking in Mikey Ryan’s in Cashel, Birr Castle, a tour of Tullamore DEW, and a stay at the impressive Heritage Hotel in Killenard but the undoubted highlight was our visit, on the one ticket, to the Japanese Gardens and the National Stud.

The Japanese Gardens are small but perfect. Now over a hundred years old, it is still very much worth visiting. Some 120,000 visitors soak up the peace ad beauty here every year. They were devised by Colonel Walker and were laid out by Japanese master horticulturist Tassa Eida and his son Minoru between 1906 and 1910. Walker named one of his classic winning horses after Minoru.

Before, or after, visiting the stud, you can refuel in the Japanese Garden Café. Here, Ballymaloe-trained Natalie Collins and her manager Ronan Mackey take pride in offering simple, wholesome food with the emphasis on freshness and flavour. Local ingredients are used wherever possible. The restaurant is open 7 days.

By the way, the grounds of the National Stud rival the gardens for beauty. But it is the characters here that I’m inclined to remember, especially Hardy Eustace! Described in his highly successful racing career as a hell of a horse and a tenacious battler, the now twenty year old is described as a big baby by Aoife, our fantastic guide, as she feeds him polo mints and those “missing” sugar cubes. 

Indeed, we all help out, keeping our fingers straight as we make our offerings to the famous gelding. Also keep it relatively quiet, just in case the jealous Hurricane Fly, who shares the field, might hear. 
Aoife was brilliant, our guide of the year, and later she took us to see the stallions, the guys that pay her wages! You may read an account of the visit here
John Coll's Famine Funeral at Coming Home

Other excellent “visits” this year included Nano Nagle Place (Cork City) , Youghal’s Historic Clock Gate Tower  and the amazing Ewe Experience  in Glengarriff.


Best art experience of the year was Coming Home: Art and the Great Hunger  in Skibbereen.

A Rib around Bantry Bay
Just one of 250 events at A Taste of West Cork
2018 Highlights continued...

Ten days, 41 towns and villages, 8 islands, over 250 events. I’m talking about Ireland’s biggest and probably best food festival: A Taste of West Cork.

Impressive numbers indeed. But statistics only hint at the September story unfolding across the bays, the mountains, the hills and dales of the region. We dabbled a bit this year, as we regularly do and one of the highlights was the Indian Night in Richy’s of Clonakilty, another restaurant in the top echelon of this Michelin starred food-scape.

But the most fun that we had came down in Bantry, on a rib run by Diarmuid Murphy of the Fish Kitchen. The rib run and a fish dinner that evening were one of the official events for the festival. We weren’t quite sure why to expect when we booked - even thinking at one point that we’d have to fish for our dinner!

And, then as the clouds rolled in and the wind increased, we still weren’t sure as Diarmuid introduced us to his rib on the new marina in the bay. We put the gear on and soon we were bouncing out there on the bay. Exhilarating stuff even if our experienced skipper (we took just the one splash) decided against taking on the waves at either end of Whiddy Island and a trip across to see the liner in Glengarriff had to be abandoned.

But all the while he was filling us in - we two were his only passengers - on the geography and the amazing history of the bay: Wolfe Tone, the American flying boats on WW1 duty, the Eagle Pointers, Bantry House, the blue cliff, the Whiddy disaster and so much more including, of course, the mussel farming in the huge bay. He is a superb guide to the area and no wonder he is thinking of running this as a tourist attraction in the summer of 2019. Keep an eye out for that! Once I have details, I’ll post them here on the blog.


About two hours later, we were back on dry land. Time then for a rest and a shower before heading to the Fish Kitchen in the heart of Bantry for a delicious meal, enjoyed with a communal table that, by pure chance, included Esther and Joe Barron from the famous bakery in Cappoquin. A great afternoon trip and a terrific evening.

Life Galore in the Irish Pub
2018 Highlights continued...
Hot in the city. Galway in July.

We visited Galway in the high heat of the amazing summer, met some lovely people and enjoyed ourselves thoroughly everywhere we went and that included a visit to Michelin starred Aniar, strolls in the narrow streets, a cooling (not really!) cruise on the Corrib and on the huge lake (biggest in the Republic) but the memory that stands out was our visit to a pub!

We’ve been in some  memorable pubs in recent times, Dick Mack’s (with its micro brewery) in Dingle,  Reidy’s with its uncountable corners and crannies in Killarney, the Swagman and its amazing host Dale in Sligo, and a few more but the King’s Head in Galway is out on its own.

Well worth a call. And there is a bistro here that serves excellent local food - enter through a small archway off the city’s Latin Quarter. Chef Brendan Keane is a keen local and seasonal operator and hopefully Sorcha will be on duty to fill you in on the menu and the specials.

Afterwards, find your way to the adjoining pub and get a seat, by the stage if you want to get close up to the music or maybe by the bar. Our second night was by the bar, excellent choice of drinks here including local craft beers. 
Cocktail time!

And they have an impressive cocktail list here and put on quite a show as they get them ready. In the meantime, you’ll find yourself chatting to customers from all over the place. It won’t be a quiet chat - the music will be loud and lively, just like the street outside. Life con brio.

Another memorable pub was found just a few miles north-east of Cork city. O’Mahony’s of Watergrasshill operates only at weekends but do get there for the food and the fun if you are anywhere close. 


Máire and Victor (you’ll know him from the House Café at the Opera House) have given this two hundred year old pub a new lease of life, the emphasis very much on local food and drink. Old cow sheds have been converted into use - there is a stage in one - as venues for concerts and weddings. New soul in the old stones and well worth a visit for its lovely food and lovely people.

Michelin Stars in a Row.
More to follow!
Daikon, bamboo shoot (Ichigo ichi

Michelin stars are like the No. 8 bus (sorry, it’s 208 now, ask Billy Murphy of the Young Offenders); you wait, and wait, and then three come together. Just three? There are a few more waiting in the wings.

The anointed threesome in Cork (Ichigo Ichie, The Mews, and Chestnut) are now well-known but I’ve been flirting with a few others. Reckon Pilgrims should be up there with a bib at least while Bastion should be up a notch from the bib. Missed out on Dillon's but on the list for 2019! Enjoyed myself in both of them in 2018 and the highlight was the meal in Ichigo Ichi - before it got the star.
Pollock, pine, at Aniar


Outside of Cork, Aniar (star) and Aldridge Lodge (bib) were also visited this year. By the way, if you’re lucky enough to dine and get one of the three rooms to overnight in Aldridge, consider yourself doubly lucky as breakfast here is also a star treat!


Festivals: Amazing Street Fest in Clon!
2018 Highlights

Food and food related festivals continue to pop up all over the country. Relatively new ones, such as FEAST in East Cork, are thriving, along with well established events such as A Taste of West Cork. The Old Butter Road Festival, mainly in North Cork, enjoyed a good year. Didn’t get to too many outside of Cork this year but had a quick and appetising day trip to Harvest Festival (to a Blaa event) in Waterford city.

There was quite an excellent Cheese festival too at the Cork Airport Hotel, a great cheese dinner on one night and some new cheeses on display in the many stalls on the following days. And the regular long-table was again a huge hit on Cork’s South Mall with over 400 diners.


For me though, the festival where food and fun totally and seamlessly combined was the Clonakilty Street Carnival. Long tables galore here on the main street, even one for the kids. Much more for the young folks too with games and music. Music too on various platforms for the attendees in general. And very impressive numbers with over 2,000 adults fed, by the town’s leading restaurants, for fifteen euro a head!


Variations on the Irish Breakfast
2018 Highlights
Plaice Plus at Aldridge Lodge

In the queue at Nash 19 the other day (coffee and scone for me), I was drooling at the elements of the Full Irish inside the counter. I already had had breakfast but those rashers and sausages etc certainly looked very good indeed. Another excellent one, that I fully enjoyed, was served in mid-summer at De Barra Lodge near Rosscarbery

Rarely go out for breakfast so it’s mostly in hotels and B&Bs that I sample the traditional Full Irish. Sometimes, I ask for the cut-down version: “one of everything”. 

And sometimes I ask for the fish, if there is one. 

Increasingly, there is a fish option. The very best (usually plaice, served simply) is to be found in the Garryvoe Hotel or its cousin across the bay, the Bayview. Superb stuff, especially if you’d had a hard night.

Last month, I had the good luck to dine and stay in Aldridge House on the beautiful Hook Peninsula in County Wexford. I will soon be publishing a full post on the dinner and the stay. I had an inkling that the breakfast would be good.

And when owner-chef Billy Whitty told me plaice was on the menu, I jumped at it. They have a Michelin bib here and Billy improved on the simple plaice, turning it into a marine version of the Full Irish.

Very hard to beat his magnificent plate of fresh and delicious plaice that came with a poached egg (choice of hen or duck), tomatoes and a Portobello mushroom. All that after a terrific starter of a yogurt pot with hazelnuts and raspberry. 

Pancakes are also very popular around the country at breakfast time and I’ve enjoyed a few in recent months, the best hotel offering probably that at the lovely Lyrath Estate in Kilkenny. 

The very best though came closer to home, in the spring, at the Crawford Gallery Café where they served up American style buttermilk pancakes, with delicious bacon, yogurt, blueberries and bananas and Maple syrup of course. Amazing flavours and textures. Simply irresistible! 
Pancakes at the Crawford Gallery Café
No bacon at another excellent Cork venue, the terrific Good Day Deli. But, early in the year, they had excellent Poached Pear Pancakes with coconut mascarpone and a drizzle of Irish honey. A morning winner from this sustainable foods champion. Another non-meat venue is the Candied Hazelnut in Waterford and here I enjoyed their Blueberry Pancake Stack with Maple Syrup.

Will the plaice or the pancakes displace the Full Irish? Maybe not on their own but there are other factors at play here and you can expect to see even more variety on the Irish breakfast plate.

* Have you a great breakfast offering? Email: cork.billy@gmail.com

Winter Coffee Stout Double from Rascals and Dungarvan


Winter Coffee Stout Double

Rascals Brewing Irish Coffee Stout, 4.8%, 500ml bottle 

“A collaboration with our friends over at The Dubliner Whiskey. First off we brewed delightful coffee-infused milk stout. We then aged this beauty in fresh bourbon barrels. The result is a mesmerising Irish Coffee – Stout! All the wonder of an Irish Coffee in a stout; this is magic!”

As you can see, Rascals are very happy with this collaboration. The coffee by the way comes from Irish roaster Khanya.

Coffee on the nose, whiskey on the finish, both on the creamy palate. This barrel aged beauty does what it says on the bottle and went down well with the Christmas pud.

Dungarvan Brewing Coffee and Oatmeal Stout, 4.7%, 500ml bottle  

“A rich, full-flavoured stout with lifting red berry flavours and a lasting smoothness. Perfect for the long winter evenings!”

That’s the Dungarvan summary of this lovely seasonal beer. Can’t believe though that is is the 7th edition! But that’s how long it’s been a firm favourite in this house, a winter brew made using Flahavan’s oatmeal and Badger & Dodo coffee. Coffee nose and amazing flavours including roast notes from the barley.

Rich and smooth on the palate and full of flavour all the way through to the satisfying finish. Has been excellent from Day One and this current version keeps the Dungarvan flag flying high.

By the way, I was reading on their site that they change the coffee each year. This time it is a filter brewed Ethiopian Ambela -with intense red fruit and blackberry flavours that lift the beer while muscovado sugar notes give a rich warmth. 

Friday, December 28, 2018

Amuse Bouche


..in Jame’s tiny kitchen, she roasted a chicken, cubed potatoes, peeled yams into a casserole dish the size of a steno pad: Thanksgiving dinner in miniature. James, who had never cooked himself a meal, who subsisted on burgers from Charlie’s Kitchen and English muffins from the Hayes-Bickford, watched in awe. 

After Marilyn basted the chicken, she looked up defiantly, closed the oven, and peeled the oven mitts from her hands. ”My mother is a home economics teacher,” she said. “Betty Crocker is her personal goddess.” It was the first thing she had told him about her mother.

from Everything I Never Told You by Celeste Ng (2014). Very Highly Recommended.

Thursday, December 27, 2018

A Sparkling New Year to you. Not forgetting Nollag na mBan



The only grape used in this stunning champagne is the black Pinot Meunier, leaving both Chardonnay and Pinot Noir (the other regular champagne grapes) out of this particular equation.

It has an inviting eye-catching light gold colour - the bubbles look even better! Aromas are light and fruity (strawberry). Light fruit on the palate also, refreshing and well-rounded, well balanced with a lip-smacking long finish with typical brioche (biscuity, like Marietta!) aftertaste.

The vineyard is planted on the privileged Epernay soil; Epernay is the capital of Champagne and also a town of artistic and historical importance. And, yes,Granzamy do blends of Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier.

Here, a small number of growers are concentrating their efforts into bringing Pinot Meunier back into the limelight as a variety which produces quality Champagnes and not just a varietal to compliment a blend. Granzamy is one of those growers.


Akarua Brut NV, Central Otago (New Zealand), 13%, €43.99 Tindal Wine Merchants Limited, Baggot Street Wines, Searsons Wine Merchants,The Corkscrew, Mitchell & Son Wine Merchants WINEONLINE.IE
Pinot Noir and Chardonnay are the grapes used here and, yes, it may be New Zealand but this is made in the Methode Traditionelle, that is the champagne way, and it spends a minimum of 18 months ageing on yeast lees. 

A serious contender then with an inviting gold colour and very good small-bubble flow. Aromas are floral, savoury and that brioche is there too. It is almost creamy in the mouth followed by that long crisp brut (dry) finish.

Sparkling wines are a relatively new operation of the vineyard but already Akarua has been bringing in the medals, mainly gold. This Brut NV (non vintage) is a fine aperitif wine and is ideal for celebrating with friends whenever and wherever you get together, be it New Year’s Eve, birthday or anniversary, or Nollag na mBan! If using it as an aperitif (it was outstanding here on Christmas morning), don’t forget to provide some nibbles - these bubbles go to the head faster than still wine!

Here’s another lovely bottle of bubbles from O’Brien’s. This is from Australia and is a rosé. Again, it is made by the Traditional Method (same way as champagne) and is a blend of selected vintages, hence the NV. 

Produced from Pinot Noir grapes, it comes in a gorgeous pastel salmon hue in which fountains of micro-bubbles constantly rise. There are delicate scents of strawberry and pomegranate. The palate is more intense than the nose, strawberry again and now cherry as well, and a pleasing refined finish and, along the way, you come across that bread-biscuit flavour. Another superb and delicious aperitif and, again, don’t forget those nibbles for yourself and your guests! Happy New Year.






Exquisite Collection Crémant du Jura (AOP) Chardonnay 2014, 12%, €12.00 Aldi

Got this Brut (dry) at the local Aldi. I was very impressed with it. This sparkling Chardonnay, again made using the same methods as they use in making champagne, is perfect for any celebration (big or small). It is not lacking in complexity, has light fruit flavours, that hint of biscuit and a fine finish. Good price too, bubbles on a budget.

French sparkling wines made by the méthode champenoise but falling outside the boundaries of the Champagne region are termed Crémant. Grapes other than the traditional Champagne varieties may also be used.They are produced in many regions of the country including Bordeaux, Loire, Burgundy, Limoux, Alsace, and the Rhone (known as Crémant de Die).

Friday, December 21, 2018

Amuse Bouche


The game wound down and dinner was served, a roast, and a salad of watercress, rocket, and Roquefort, then dessert, a charlotte Malakoff au chocolate much admired by the party-goers, which brought Mme Reynard a flush of pleasure. “Say what you want about Julia. I know some will drag her through the mud, but in the end, what are they actually accomplishing with this?…”
“Who is Julia?” Tom whispered to Joan.
“Child.”
Tom misunderstood. He turned to Susan and asked,”Who is Julia?’

from French Exit by Patrick deWitt (2018). Recommended.

Thursday, December 20, 2018

Down Home, Downtown at the White Rabbit


Down Home, Downtown at the White Rabbit

As we sat down at our table in McCurtain Street’s White Rabbit, Aretha Franklin was belting out her songs. Kind of appropriate I thought because when the Queen of Soul hit the road, her pots and pans came too. 

She was no mean cook, those pots and pans rattling perhaps in protest against the “‘chitlin circuit’ - ‘a string of black-owned honky-tonks, night clubs, and theaters’- so-called because the venues also served up chitlins (chitterlings) and other soul food.” * Black musicians were often able to tour through a segregated United States only because of the existence of that circuit.

More music from that era, including Wilson Pickett’s Midnight Hour, followed as we studied the menu in this down-home joint at the far eastern end of the street, more or less next door, I think, to where the garda barracks was. The sixties in there were more swingeing than swinging; "bad" boys got their ears clattered.


Amazing list of whisky here from the southern states, and other parts. Hard to make a choice but I did strike it lucky with Maker’s Mark, smooth, subtle and easy drinking. They have a wagon load of craft beer here also.

Aside from that cherished whiskey list - their “pride and joy” - they serve authentic slow-smoked barbecue food, our main reason for coming in from the December rain. Everything in this unpretentious place is prepared in the kitchen here.

They start with Brunch which includes the Cowboy Breakfast: their BBQ beans topped with house-smoked bacon and sausage, topped with a fried egg and served with sourdough toast.

As the day moves along you may enjoy Bar Bites such as Pork Belly Cubes, BBQ Tacos, Tortilla Chips and more, even a dessert of Kentucky Hot Chocolate.

The meats come into their own from noon on, until 9.00pm. There are salads and sides (including one or two vegetarian) and sandwiches, not in slices, but in brioche buns with red slaw, pickles and BBQ mayo.

We were there though for The Meats, the Meat Plates in particular. The Plate consist of your choice of meat to which you may add two sides.

CL went for the half pound of Pulled Pork with Potato Salad and Red Slaw (11.95). My pick was the 2/3 pound of Baby Back Ribs with Green Salad and BBQ Beans (12.95). We were the two happiest bunnies in town as we concentrated on those two excellent good value platefuls. We did share, of course, and the verdict came down narrowly in favour of the tasty ribs. And if you are picking a salad here, go for the outstanding beans (the others are all good too).

The other meat choices by the way are Pork Belly, Beef Brisket, BBQ Bacon, and Smoked Chicken Wings. 

By the time we had finished eating, the place had filled and the music had been pushed well to the background by the happy sound of many young voices. Soul food in the south perhaps but a long long way from the chitlin’ circuit.
"Caught in the spotlight" (Stage Fright by The Band)

Well worth a call here, good food, good value. Our two platefuls along with the Bourbon (6.50) came to a grand total of €31.40. Service is efficient and very friendly, helpful too.

* Easy Riders, Rolling Stones (on the road in America, from Delta Blues to 70s Rock) by John Scanlan (2015)

Wednesday, December 19, 2018

Two Lovely Italian Whites


Bianco de Ampeleia, Costa Toscano Bianco (IGT) 2017, 11%, €23.95  Le Caveau 64 Wine Dublin, Bradley’s of Cork, Greenman Dublin,
The famous Elisabetta Foradori from Trentino is a driving force behind Ampeleia and, where Elisabetta goes you’ll find good wine. This, Bianco di Ampeleia, mainly made from the old variety Trebbiano, with an addition of other local white grapes (Malvasia, Grecanico & Ansonica) grown together in the same vineyard, is a fine example.

Might be a bit much to say the colour is rose gold but it is a cloudy gold with pink tones, very much in orange wine territory here and certainly organic. It is fragrant, hints of orange peel and dried fruit. You know now you are on to something different. And then you discover the amazing flavours; it is creamy, complex and fresh. Superb body and long dry finish. Very satisfactory indeed and Very Highly Recommended. Exactly the kind of wine to give organic orange-coloured wines a good name.

Should be excellent and versatile with food, anything from fish to turkey, from antipasti and bruschetta to creamy dishes like risottos, spaghetti ala carbonara, and fettuccine alfredo. Try it too with fruit desserts.

Podere La Prendia Pinot Grigio, Mantova (IGT) 2017, 12.5%, €16.50 Marks & Spencer

M&S winemaker Jeneve Williams had a hand in this excellent unoaked white, produced from grapes in the “mild and temperate” climate of Northern Italy (near Lake Garda). It is 100 per cent Pinot Grigio, one of the most popular varieties grown in Italy.

I remember hearing Australian winemaker Tim Adams speaking in Cork about ten years ago and he was introducing his Pinot Gris which had a distinct pink tint. He told us that this is a natural phenomenon of the grape and which he had retained, at least for that harvest. It is a distinctive grey on the vine but, when squeezed, the juice runs pink.

This is because Pinot Grigio is actually a red variety but with very low anthocyanin (the molecules that give colour to red grapes). Anyhow enough of the technical!

Back to the glass and what you’ll notice is that this wine from Montova has very little colour at all, just a hint of yellow. Aromas are pleasant, pear prominent. There is a surprisingly complex palate (it has spent some time on its lees), pear and lime mingle, a lively acidity and a persistent finish. A premium refreshing Pinot Grigio and Very Highly Recommended.

Serve it lightly chilled to get the best from it. Great as an aperitif or pair with white fish dishes or light herby pasta recipes.

Tuesday, December 18, 2018

Taste of the Week. Old Millbank Salmon Paté




Taste of the Week
Old Millbank Salmon Paté 


Geraldine Bass is a regular at the local farmers markets here in Cork and her Old Millbank Salmon Paté is our Taste of the Week. I bought it at her stall in the Farmer’s Market  in Mahon Point and if you want to get some of this deliciousness, you should head for Mahon tomorrow. Get there early.

The paté - you can get a nice little pot of it for four euro - comes two ways. The original is in a very tasty creamy paste, ideal for spreading on canapés or, if in  a hurry, spooning! I have a slight preference for a variation where she adds little chunks of her salmon to it, giving an extra twist to the texture and the flavour. Either way, it’s delicious. By the way, I first bought a pot in 2010 and it also cost four euro!

Her smoked salmon is also certainly well-priced and well regarded. You’ll note it on offer at local restaurants, including the likes of The Square Table in Blarney and the Farmgate in the English Market. Needless to say, I have some of that put aside for the Christmas.

Geraldine is a pleasure to deal with and treats all customers with great courtesy and, where required, great patience. She is very very helpful and will give you loads of hints. She also obviously gives the same care and attention to detail to her top-class produce. Treat yourself to some soon!


Old Mill Bank Smoke House, Willow Pond, Summer Park, Buttevant, Co. Cork.
It’s between Mallow and Buttevant, so sometimes you’ll see Mallow in the address.
Tel: +353 22 23299

Monday, December 17, 2018

O'Callaghan's Mitchelstown. Local and Seasonal. Since 1988!


O'Callaghan's Mitchelstown
Local and Seasonal. Since 1988!

On the road again. Thinking about a light lunch. Mitchelstown comes up on the signs and immediately I think of O’Callaghan’s, a restaurant cum deli right in the middle of the town. 

On the way, we pass the sculpture of Fanahan, the local saint, who looks well fed himself. The O’Callaghan’s building is also looking very well in the weak December sunshine. And, inside, it’s very busy too.

One look at the menu tells me why. I know l’ve come for a light lunch - there is a big dinner ahead in Kilkenny that evening - but if I had come for a “proper” lunch I’d also have had hit the jackpot. And if I had wanted a salad bowl to take back to the nearby office, then I’d have been well catered for as well. And, by the way, there is also a children’s menu with lots of choice.

The menu changes daily (local and seasonal) and, on this Wednesday, lunch was being served from 12 noon until 4.30pm. There were no less than three soups on the specials and also a tempting starter based on Crowe’s crispy pancetta. Crowe’s are just one of their many local suppliers - see the full list here. 
Fanahan

Lots of main course specials, all priced around the 12 to 14 euro mark. There was a Red wine braised boeuf bourguignon, a pan-fried fillet of cod, Vegetarian baked flat mushrooms, and a vegetarian quiche,  just to give you an idea. All substantial dishes indeed.

There were salads and sandwiches of course. And here I found just what I wanted: a Caesar salad, with baby gem leaves, so fresh and crisp, Caesar dressing, Parmesan, a scattering of anchovies and croutons, for about seven euro if I remember rightly.

Meanwhile CL was tucking in, enthusiastically, to a Cajun Chicken Wrap with  tomato and onion (7 euro approx). I sampled that too and it was also excellent. Everything here is done to order. And service is top notch, friendly of course.

We enjoyed those and just regretted the fact that we couldn’t have tried the big plates! As we made our way out (checking the goodies on the shelves), punters were still piling in, some to eat, some to get a takeaway, others to order cakes and pastries (they also bake here, five different types of bread daily, four different types of scones). 

And they know what they are doing - their customers have been supporting them since they opened in 1988. And don’t worry if you see a queue as they can seat 130 people!

O’Callaghan’s Café serves food all day with extensive Breakfast and Lunch menus. As they say themselves, O’Callaghan’s is the perfect place to break a journey, whether you have time to eat in or prefer to eat on the go, O’Callaghan’s can offer everything you need!

O’Callaghan’s Deli,
19 Lower Cork St,
Mitchelstown
Co. Cork
Tel: 025-24657

Sunday, December 16, 2018

Lyrath Estate. Friendly Place. Friendly Faces


Lyrath Estate. 
Friendly Place. Friendly Faces  

Young Rudy
Ringo, Reilly, and Rudy will more than likely catch your eye during a  visit to Kilkenny’s spectacular Lyrath Estate Hotel. The hotel’s three Golden Retrievers pose in many hotel publicity shots and indeed you’ll see  them in guest wedding pics as well. But popular and all as the threesome are, it is the humans around here that you’ll rely on and, as we found out during a recent stay, they too are very friendly indeed.

Just one example. As we walked into the magnificent Yew Tree room for breakfast, we got the biggest smile and a lovely warm greeting from the lady on duty. It is not very unusual in Ireland but we were particularly delighted with it, as a week earlier, we got an unsmiling silent greeting (hardly a greeting at all) from a corresponding person in a Wexford hotel.
Front of the "old" house

Our initial greeting on arrival at Lyrath the previous day was warm as well and we got all the info we needed. Soon we were passing their very impressive Christmas decorations, all on a grand scale under the high ceiling, and heading off to our executive room. The 137 rooms are generally off from the central part of the hotel, itself based on the original mansion.

There are a number of room categories and Executive rooms offer more space for guests to enjoy and come with a king size bed. They include an entrance hallway, a walk-in wardrobe/dressing area and large bathroom with double basins, bath and separate walk in shower. Our room overlooked the estate. We certainly had all we needed with a separate toilet in the bathroom, TV of course and the WifI was perfect as well.

Head Chef: Kenneth Murphy
Lyrath has just appointed Kenneth Murphy as Head Chef. The much travelled Carlowman has a wealth of experience, worked extensively with the Virgin Limited Edition Group and, more recently, was also Executive Head Chef at Fota Island Resort.

O'Hara's ale
No doubt he’ll be putting his own stamp on the menus here in due course. There are two main dining rooms, the Yew Tree (open only on Fridays and Saturdays at present) and the very comfortable Grill and Bar, situated on the mezzanine over the entrance foyer.

We were there in midweek and our reservation was at the Grill. First we called to the bar there and again had a lovely chat with a young barman. He filled us in on what was available when we requested Gin and Tonic and we were glad to hear they had Dingle Gin. So we enjoyed those before strolling across the floor to the restaurant.
Twilight at Lyrath

Like the rest of the hotel, comfort and space are the main features. Soon we were seated in a lovely booth with the menus at hand and making our choices. 
Beetroot Tartarin
Also had a good look at the wine list, quite a quality one, and CL settled on a glass of their Sepp Moser Gruner Veltliner (11.50), fruity (citrus, apple) but with excellent acidity and well able to handle the food. I was glad to see they had quite a selection of the local O’Hara’s beers in bottle and even more so when I found out the Yellow Belly Citra Ale (6.00) was available on draught. “A pint, please,” I beamed.
Beef cheek

Soon we were enjoying our starters. Mine was Smoked Salmon with beetroot purée, cucumber, fennel and cress salad. CL’s was Beetroot Tartarin, the classic combination of goats cheese, beetroot (spiced in this version), pine nuts and horseradish. We enjoyed those two.

Grilled Atlantic Salmon was CL’s choice for the mains and that came with grilled asparagus spears and béarnaise and got the thumbs up. Mine was Slow-braised Hereford Beef cheek, quite a large portion, served with shallot purée, carrots and creamy mash. It was top notch, enhanced by a side of Steak chips, heartily recommended by our server!
Santa in the lobby

Dessert choices made us think before I plunged for my first slice of Christmas pudding of the season. It came with Brandy Anglaise and vanilla ice-cream. Pas Mal!

The main bar, Tupper's, is on the ground floor and has a club like atmosphere in its two rooms with an adjoining much brighter conservatory which overlooks Lady Charlotte Wheeler-Cuffe’s Victorian garden (now restored). More beer for me, a lovely glass of draught ale, this time by O’Hara’s, sipped in front of the open fire.

The breakfast in the spacious Yew Tree, with its views over the old garden, was excellent. Great buffet choices, juices, cereals, fruits, cheese, ham, and more. 

And the kitchen was in top form too and the stack of Hugh’s Pancakes with fresh blueberries and maple syrup, along with my server's suggestion of bacon, went down a treat. My starter here was a granola-topped pot of yogurt. All good, as Christmas music played gently in the background.
Breakfast

With the weather turning nasty we were’t able to take advantage of the walks around the 170 acre estate, one marked 2.5km, another 5.km. 

At other times of the year, you’ll have, among other things, falconry and archery available. And of course they have a spa and leisure centre (with 17 metre pool). And there is also a Conference Centre here. 

All within a couple of kilometres of the heart of medieval Kilkenny. You could spend well more than a day here and that is what I’d heartily recommend. And say hello to the dogs for me!