Friday, February 1, 2019

Amuse Bouche


… the Greeks, to whom we owe the proverb oinos kai aletheia, wine and truth, which became in vino veritas when the Romans took over. Claret still has this aura for me, of a wine to be not swilled but meditated, and always in good company—which does not, of course, preclude drinking it alone, if your company reaches the required standard (which, after a glass or two, I find, mine does).
from Roger Scruton’s My Fall, part of Wine Reads edited by Jay McInerney (2018). Very Highly Recommended.

Thursday, January 31, 2019

Mauritius to Mitchelstown. How a long trip pays off for Eight Degrees. Brains, brawn. Long hours and hard work too!


Mauritius to Mitchelstown.
How a long trip pays off for Eight Degrees.
Brains, brawn. Long hours and hard work too!
Scott (left) and Cam

It’s not eight degrees when we visit the brewery. It’s just hovering between two and three and the Galtee Mountains are looking well under a lace-cap of new snow. Reminds me of the Swiss town of Engleberg even if the Galtees are nowhere near as high as the Alps.

No danger of getting cold though for the founders and workers at Eight Degrees as they are mightily engaged in moving operations from the old brewery to their German giant from Mauritius. The giant has been asleep in Mitchelstown -he did after all have a long journey - but now there are signs of life as Cam, Caroline and Scott are bringing it all together in a large unit in an industrial park on the northern edge of the North Cork town.

The three principals, especially Scott and Cam (seeking to make good beer like they had enjoyed down under), had started off with a home brew kit (still in use!). They had some success with that and indeed won a prize at a “home-brew” competition. The cottage in Kildorrery was getting crowded so, having started on the serious side in 2010, they began brewing in 2011.
Caroline (left) with the two of us.

Their first real brewery, including a legendary forklift that could only reverse (work that one out), came from the Carlow Brewing Company and that too is still installed in a nearby unit on the estate and has much more work ahead of it.

The home-brewing was all very well and valuable experience was gained. But it was still a nervous group that prepared for their first public outing, a beer festival at the Franciscan Well. And a shock was in store for the rookies when that batch of ale turned out to be bad! They can laugh at it now. Then though the pressure was on, big time! And the relief was palpable when the second batch was spot on and ready for the festival.

But how would the public take to it? Cam and Scott waited nervously with their one beer, their one tap. An older guy (don’t think it was me!) came over and tried it, hummed and hawed for a moment or two and then gave the thumbs up. It proved quite a hit at the Well and there was no turning back for Howling Gale. It is still their top seller - just goes to show the importance of getting it right at the beginning. By the way, Bohemian Pilsner, another of their originals, is their number two.
Top seller.
Right from the start!

And where can you find the Eight Degrees beers? All over, basically. They’ve been exporting to Italy (their #1 export market) since 2012. France also takes the beers, indeed you can find them in most of Europe. The UK too of course (with that pesky Brexit question mark).  

Beirut in the Lebanon is a relatively new market for them and they had a very enjoyable promotion there last St Patrick’s Day. The beers also travel to Australia, Singapore, Macau, Hong Kong and they have just gone into Japan.

They find it hard to keep up with the amount of outlets themselves but you can get pretty up-to-date info here.

Showcases the best home grown barley
Caroline is our guide as we go through B2, their high quality, if secondhand (“there is a Done Deal for breweries” she tells us) brewery from Mauritius. By 2014, “things were looking good” for Eight Degrees, so good in fact that expansion was on the horizon though no-one thought the gate to it was lying unused on an island in the middle of the Pacific Ocean.

There was quite a buzz as “the lads headed off to Mauritius” and did the deal in September 2014. Apparently, there were two competing breweries on the island, one closed and that opened the door for the successful Eight Degrees bid. There was no delay in the delivery and it arrived in Mitchelstown in January 2015.
A work in progress.

But scarce resources meant they weren’t able to proceed with the project and B2 stayed in storage for two years or so. Progress was slow but their new base began to be adapted in August 2016 and it is still a hive of activity with brewing going on in what is something of an indoor construction site. 
A tank from their first brewery.
They thought it was big!

By the way, one of the important factors for the area is that there are ten full time employees in Eight Degrees and the commissioning of B2 has given employment to various contractors. Some going!

They have a bottling plant too of course as they like to keep full control of their beers from start to finish. They moved into canning about six months back. The canning is done on site by a visiting contractor and that means they can keep an eye on it. Only certain beers are canned while some are sold in a variety of formats. And Caroline told me the canning has worked out very well for them.

It’s been quite a year for the trio behind the firm. Last May, they sold Eight Degrees Brewing to Irish Distillers, Ireland’s leading supplier of spirits and wines and producer of the world’s most well-known and successful Irish whiskeys.

At the time, Caroline told me: When we set up the brewery in 2010, it was with the idea of brewing naturally adventurous, great tasting beers that were more exciting and innovative than anything else in the market. Becoming part of the Irish Distillers family means that we have the long-term capabilities to continue on this mission as well as being part of the very exciting Jameson Caskmates story.
A new limited edition Red IPA

The recent Blowhard Imperial Stout is the first result of the union; there'll be more so watch this space.

Caroline, who has a distinguished background in food writing, didn’t expect to be a factotum in a brewery. She is as enthusiastic as any of the lads. She loves the give and take between the various micro-brewers; they help one another and she is more than thankful for the help Eight Degrees got in the early days.

The enthusiasm comes through when she talks about the malted barley. “I love how it comes up the road to us from Togher, much of it grown in the fields around here. It is a high quality barley and we showcased it in the Full Irish which has those great rounded flavours.”

Looks as if we can expect a flavourful future from the hard-working team at Eight Degrees!



Wednesday, January 30, 2019

A Couple of Classy Austrians via Karwig Wine


Wohlmuth Klassik Sauvignon Blanc (Südsteiermark, Austria) 2016, 12.5%, €21.65 Karwig Wines

While you may not immediately associate Austria with Sauvignon Blanc, Steiermark, to the south west of Vienna and next door to Slovenia, is synonymous with fresharomatic white wines, particularly Sauvignon Blanc. 


Here’ll you find the Wohlmuth winery who also produce wine from other grapes such as Pinot Gris, Riesling, Muskatteler, and a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon and Blaufränkisch, most of which are available via Karwig’s. Wohlmuth, by the way, is regarded by The World Atlas of Wine, as a producer of “some of Südsteiermark’s most elegant wines”.

This Sauvignon Blanc is classed as trocken (dry) and it is. It has quite a light lemon colour. Moderate intense aromas, herbaceous, leafy, hints of mint. On the palate it is light and gently fruity (ripe nectarine, peach, melon) and the lively acidity is a balancing factor. A really pleasant and elegant drop and Very Highly Recommended.

Wohlmuth say it goes well with asparagus with gravadlax salmon; chicken breast with red pepper sauce. Please take note also that they advise serving it at 12 degrees - they know what they are talking about and the advice will help you get the very best out of a top notch wine!


Winzer Krems Blauer Zweigelt “St Severin” trocken (Austria) 13%, €14.45 Karwig Wines

A few focail:
Niederösterreich is the name for Lower Austria.
Trocken is dry, which is the case with many Austrian wines.
Blauer Zweigelt is a red grape variety, widely grown in Austria.
St Severin is the wine name.

This well-priced quality red wine has a dark ruby colour, lighter at the rim. Gorgeous and intense fruit aromas. Also engaging red fruit flavours (cherries, berries, redcurrants), a touch of spice, full bodied and quite dry to the finalé. Overall though this is easy drinking, light and bright, not unlike Pinot Noir, and is Highly Recommended.

The winery, which is situated 70 miles west of the capital Vienna,  recommends matching it with game, beef and “a lot of cheese varieties”.

CorkBilly’s Drinks Digest. Wines, Spirits and Beers Events


CorkBilly’s Drinks Digest
Wines, Spirits and Beers Events

Wine x5 at The Raven Bar with PradoRey!


Green Drinks
Today, Wednesday at 8 PM – 11 PM
at Nana’s 12 Douglas Street.
Sociable get together for people with an interest in the environment and sustainability. 
Cork Environmental Forum's monthly Green Drinks.

This event is free entry. Please send the invitation to your friends, we all want a busy evening!

What is Green Drinks?

Green drinks is an established evening in cities all over the world, once month people meet in a pub, talk and make friends. You will meet people interested in the environment, sustainability, green living, or just making the world a better place, you can make new friends from near and far and share your interests.

There are no particular rules in these events, you can join us and start speaking with whoever you like. Please invite your friends to join this group and attend the evening.

For any further information just like the page and/or contact us by sending a message. You can help by inviting your friends to like the page and sharing the event on your profile.

Hope to see you soon and don't miss out on this great fun & informative night!

Franciscan Well’s Cask Ales and Strange Brew Fest
See the list of brewers and beers  on poster

The Cork Beer Mile with CAT 
Thursday, February 21, 2019 at 6:30 PM – 11:30 PM
Get your walking shoes on and join us on a walk around Cork's must prestigious craft beer bars! 

This time we're in cahoots with two outstanding Irish breweries DOT Brew & Larkin's Brewing Company! More details to be announced soon! Who are the lads? 
​Dot :
Dot Brew is a gypsy micro brewery brand with roots strongly cultivated in Dublin 8. Specialising in uniquely designed barrel aged and blended beers for an evolving Irish and International palette. Dot adopts maturation and blending techniques from the Whiskey and Wine industries and applying them to break the boundaries of beer production. Dot has been rated one of the top 10 Irish brewers by Untappd users for 2018. (Placed 6th) 
Larkins :
Launched in 2018 after dipping their toes into the brewing market at the RDS Irish Craft Beer Festival the previous year, Larkins has already been rated one of the top 5 Irish brewers by Untappd users for 2018. (Placed 3rd) An independently family owned  brewery based in County Wicklow, Larkins set their focus on making lager style beers as good as they can be along with working on other styles of beers from IPA’s , Saisons to Pale Ales. 

Do you know what makes a wine biodynamic?

Biodynamic viticulture could be described as an extreme form of organic farming. With its meticulous attention to soil & vine health, as well as supporting biodiversity in the vineyard, biodynamic wines are growing in popularity. An evening on this fascinating subject will be presented by O'Briens Wine Director Lynne Coyle MW in The O'Briens Wine School, Donnybrook, Dublin 4 on Thu 21 Mar 2019 7:00 pm - 9:00 pm. More detail here https://www.tickettailor.com/events/obrienswines/231667 

Gin Tasting!!
Friday, March 1, 2019 at 7 PM – 9:15 PM

Sol y Sombra Tapas Bar & RestaurantOld Church of Ireland, Lower Bridge Street, Killorglin 6

On the night, we will present a selection of 6 superior gins, a selection of premium tonics and explore the different herbs and botanical's used in the distilling process of creating craft gins.  Info here https://www.facebook.com/events/236122720613873/ 

A welcome G&T will be served at 7.15 pm to allow the group to mingle before the tasting, the tastings itself will begin at 7:30 pm (sharp) in the upstairs Mezzanine.

You also have the option to have a meal if you so wish before or after the tastings.

We will be sampling lovely gins, its will be a unique night you won't want to miss

Tickets are €25 plus booking fees they are available through www.ticketstop.ie

There are only 24 spaces available so book early to avoid disappointment!


Munster Wine & Dine 2019
The Munster Wine & Dine will launch their  2019 programme in L'Atitude 51 on Wednesday February 6th at 6pm and are delighted to announce that the tastes for the launch will be provided by the wonderful Hederman Smokehouse. Lots of visits to restaurants, brewers, distillers, producers on the cards. Interested? Turn up at L’Atitude on the 6th. Entry is five euro!


Spanish Wine Week including Two-day Tapas Competition in Kerry.
Part of Spanish Wine Week 8th -14th April 2019

Brittany at The Friary!
Cider and Crepes

 Let's all celebrate Brittany once again. Sat Feb 9th - 6.00pm! Details https://www.facebook.com/events/2925144140830855/

In a galaxy, not so far away, there is a country, proud and full of culture.
For one night, let's celebrate this wonderful land… Brittany! 

Gorgeous single estate cider and apple liqueur imported directly from Château de Lézergué, delicious salty and sweet crêpes made by the “bretonniest” of the bretons Cyril Kerboul, all of this wrapped with the best music that Bretagne can offer (and obviously with no partiality at all). [*edit DJ Arbraz*: extreme partiality intensifies]

Kentoc'h mervel eget bezan saotret…
Breizh da viken!*
Let's all celebrate Brittany once again.







L’Atutude WINTER WINE SERIES

MOUNTAINS, ISLANDS,
VOLCANOES & COASTS
Thurs Feb 7th 7.00pm

VOLCANOES

The Winter Wine Series focuses on the landscape around where grapes are grown and how it influences wine style. In this second tasting we will look at volcanoes and how volcanic soil structure creates a unique environment that influences grapes. There are many examples of interesting wines produced on volcanic soils – ranging from Etna to Santorini, Tenerife, Chile, Oregon and Madeira, to name but a few. We will present a selection we think really reflect their volcanic origin.

Join us and Pascal Rossignol of Le Caveau , Kilkenny as we taste our way though our selection of favourite “Volcanic” wines.

Tickets €20. Booking Essential





Richy’s BYO Offer
Clonakilty restaurant Richy’s are offering a helping hand when dining out. “Feeling the crunch after Christmas? Why not save some dosh by bringing your own wine to Richy’s! T&C's apply. Available 14th Jan - 28th Feb 2019. Corkage €5.”

  


Tuesday, January 29, 2019

Taste of the Week. Rascals New England IPA Nine.


Taste of the Week
Rascals New England IPA Nine, 9% abv, 440cl can Bradley’s Cork €4.95

Rascals of Dublin are big fans of the New England IPA style and have three variations, each named based on the abv. The series is called 759 (why not 579, I wonder). The Limited Editions are unfiltered, unpasteurised. Cryo Amarillo and Cryo Mosaic are the hops used.

Exotic, juicy and Banger is how they describe this. Loads of hops and, just to be sure, no less than three separate dry hop additions. You, like me, might be wondering about the Cryo hops. Cryo is a relatively new concentrated hop powder. Fairly technical stuff but the end result means your beer has everything you like about hops but not the bitterness.

Rascals have a West Coast IPA called Good Vibrations. Vibrations from this New England libation are also pretty good. Our cool Taste of the Week.

If in Dublin why not visit the source, the Rascals Taproom.  I had hoped to call there on a recent Tuesday but no joy as it is not open on Mondays and Tuesdays.

Monday, January 28, 2019

Two Highly Commended Whites from Liberty: Marlborough and Chablis


Kim Crawford Sauvignon Blanc Marlborough 2017, 12%, €21.99, Egans Off Licence, World Wide Wines, Jus de Vine, Wine Well Off-Licence, 64 Wine, Baggot Street Wines


Once on a guided tour of Switzerland, I met a New Zealand couple, sheep farmers from Queenstown. They were outgoing and friendly, no humming or hawing.
“Will we jump off at the next stop,” I’d asked on a descending ski-lift. “and walk down.”
“Yeah, right, no problem.” They’d answered. This wine reminds me of them.

Not particularly because it is a beautiful light gold with green tints, the sheep farmers were well tanned. Nor because of the exuberant tropical aromas, that typical cut grass too. The palate is awash with tangy citrus, pineapple and ripe white fruit flavours, fresh and refreshing. All positive and Highly Recommended, just like my Kiwis and "no problem". Crisp and satisfying, try it with fresh seafood, goats cheese salads or just on its own.

Kim Crawford, by the way, gather the fruit from all over the Marlborough region, but emphasise that seasoned winemaker, Anthony Walkenhorst, had individual blocks targeted for their strengths and overall contribution to the blend. It is a pattern established early on by Kim and his wife Erica when they started at the turn of the century without owning grapevines or tanks. 

The vines for this Sauvignon Blanc ranged in age, up to 14 years, bringing a mix of youthful vigour and depth of flavour. Anthony has won local awards for his Sauvignon and Pinot Noir.

Les Hauts de Milly Chablis 2017,  12.5% , RRP €29.99 Cinnamon Cottage The Wine Centre wineonline.ie

This fresh and youthful Chablis has a light straw colour, green tints (or was that from the Christmas tree?). You'll note white fruit and floral notes in the aromas. There is a prominent citrus element on the palate flavours. The best part of a year on its fine lees has contributed to the excellent structure and complexity of flavour. Fresh and mineral with an excellent finish. An excellent good quality early-drinking Chablis and Highly Recommended.

In the vineyards a totally natural approach is adopted, herbicides and pesticides are banned. The little fertiliser used is organic compost. The wines are pure, fresh and textural. This Chablis is vinified on its fine lees for 10 months before bottling and you are advised to serve it at 11 degrees. I would err on the upper end rather than risk it too cold.

Sunday, January 27, 2019

Exquisite Aldridge Lodge. Accomplished Cooking in Attractive Corner of Wexford


Exquisite Aldridge Lodge.
Accomplished Cooking in Attractive Corner of Wexford 

Aldridge Lodge is one of Ireland’s hidden gems. A top class restaurant, with a Michelin bib since 2007, in rural surroundings just outside of the Wexford village of Duncannon (with its Kennedy family connections). Amazing food here and, hidden or not, you’ll be well advised to book well in advance. Even more so if you want one of the three rooms on offer.

The beautiful spacious rooms are very much in demand and I’m told that groups make annual dates here. They enjoy a great meal, at very reasonable prices, and then take a bottle or two of wine upstairs, where there is a very comfortable common room, and chat into the night.

Aldridge Lodge may in a secluded part of County Wexford but you won’t feel isolated here as the marvellous Hook Head Peninsula is just a short drive away - you may visit the lighthouse, the haunted Loftus Hall, Tintern Abbey and its 200-year old Colclough Gardens, and Ballyhack and its castle, and so much more.
Duncannon Tasting Plate

Chef Whitty
Billy Whitty and Joanne Harding are the owners here and the welcome is warm. Chef Billy met us as we parked and helped bring in the cases and invited us to come down for dinner at our leisure.

And it is leisurely, no rush, but no delays either! First you are brought into the bar area. The menus are brought as you sip your drink - I enjoyed their special Aldridge “G&T”! They don’t have a spirits licence so the special “G&T” is based on white port. Delicious!

The choice for the 35 seater restaurant is fantastic, almost totally local. Billy’s family are involved in fishing and farming in the area and are the main suppliers. 

They have a Tasting Menu for just €35.00. After an amuse bouche in the lounge, you move into the dining room and do watch out for a superb starter, the Duncannon Tasting Plate: Tempura smoked salmon, smoked salmon mousse, smoked sea trout and a divine smoked haddock fish pie.
Pork Belly

The Middle Course may offer Twice cooked free-range pork belly rib with celeriac purée, soya and honey jus. Or Seared Kilmore scallop with Gubbeen chorizo croquette and creamed cauliflower. Each terrific.

If you are there in winter-time, it is probable that venison will feature. I certainly enjoyed the Venison haunch and loin with a black pudding cake and tomato. CL’s choice was also superb: Glazed Free Range Chicken Breast with spiced sprouts, cranberry compete, roast baby parsnips, golden raisins, almonds and pan juices.

Desserts are also rather special. Ours were Raspberry Tiramisu and a Vanilla Crême Brulée with honeycomb. There’s an interesting and wide-ranging wine list, also a selection of ports and dessert wines. Quite a few available by the glass. We finished off with one of their specials: a glass of the delicious Stonewell Tawny. They also have local beers, mainly from the Cleverman range.
Breakfast "starter"

After a good night’s sleep, we woke to see the December sun shining over Duncannon before heading down to the same room for breakfast, another five star event, again with Billy in the kitchen and also front of house! 
Plaice plus!

We didn’t go for the Full Irish, but rather the Full Fish! Let me give you a few details; the magnificent plate came with plaice fillets, reinforced with a poached egg (choice of hen or duck), tomatoes and a Portobello mushroom. All that after some terrific starters including Pear poached in red wine and a Yogurt pot with hazelnuts and raspberry.

That set us up for the day, for sure. Time then for a leisurely chat with the chef/owner before we struck off to Ballyhack to begin the journey home with a short ferry trip to Passage East, all the while promising ourselves we’d be back!

Friday, January 25, 2019

Amuse Bouche


There he ate the meals that Visitación brought him twice a day, although in the last days he lost his appetite and fed only on vegetables. He soon acquired the forlorn look that one sees in vegetarians. His skin became covered with a thin moss, similar to that which flourished on the antique vest that he never took off, and his breath exhaled the odour of a sleeping animal.

from One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel Garcia Márquez (1967). Very Highly Recommended

Thursday, January 24, 2019

CorkBilly’s Drinks Digest. Wines, Spirits and Beers Events


CorkBilly’s Drinks Digest
Wines, Spirits and Beers Events

Arthur Mayne’s Burns Supper
Some wee walkies too.

A night of literary celebration awaits as the annual Burns Supper returns to Arthur Mayne's! 

This year we've teamed up with Chivas Regal and 3 of the other Cork Heritage Pubs Mutton Lane The Old Town Whiskey Bar at Bodega and Oval Bar to bring you a night to remember! 

On Friday January 25th the trail starts here in Arthur Mayne's! recite your favourite Burns poem and join us for a glass of Chivas Regal 12 year old and a piece of fresh haggis! 
See poster for details

Eight Degrees Tasting
Beer tasting at Kilbarry SuperValu, Tramore Road, Waterford.
Time: 14:00 to 19:00
Cans: Sesiún, Citra, Hurricane, Full Irish 
On offer at 3 for €10


TODAY FRI AT 2 PM
Kilbarry SuperValu · Waterford

Wines Direct
“Celebrate the end of your 'Janvier Sec' (we can't even say the words in this parish) in style with the return of our Mystery Box. Once again we have created a limited number of very special cases, heavily discounted and with Free Delivery included.” • 12 Bottles • 6 Red • 6 White • No Doubles • No Duds. €150. Details here https://winesdirect.ie/the-mystery-box.html 

SuperValu Offers You Bubbles for Valentine’s
SuperValu have a bunch of bubbles on offer just in time for Valentines Day. The one I fancy is McGuigan’s Frizzante. I remember Neil McGuigan introducing that at a dinner in the Trident not too long ago - he just loved getting the most out of the pronunciation!  

“It comes in a resealable bottle,” he said. “It is produced from Semillon grapes, it is easy drinking, for everyday”. Nothing wrong with easy drinking on Valentine’s either! It is fresh, soft, scented and grapey, with delicious lightness and good length. Best served chilled. And it is down from €14.99 to €10.00!


Spanish Wine Week including Two-day Tapas Competition in Kerry.
Part of Spanish Wine Week 8th -14th April 2019

Brittany at The Friary!
Cider and Crepes

 Let's all celebrate Brittany once again. Sat Feb 9th - 6.00pm! Details https://www.facebook.com/events/2925144140830855/

In a galaxy, not so far away, there is a country, proud and full of culture.
For one night, let's celebrate this wonderful land… Brittany! 

Gorgeous single estate cider and apple liqueur imported directly from Château de Lézergué, delicious salty and sweet crêpes made by the “bretonniest” of the bretons Cyril Kerboul, all of this wrapped with the best music that Bretagne can offer (and obviously with no partiality at all). [*edit DJ Arbraz*: extreme partiality intensifies]

Kentoc'h mervel eget bezan saotret…
Breizh da viken!*
Let's all celebrate Brittany once again.







L’Atitude WINTER WINE SERIES

MOUNTAINS, ISLANDS,
VOLCANOES & COASTS
Thurs Feb 7th 7.00pm

VOLCANOES

The Winter Wine Series focuses on the landscape around where grapes are grown and how it influences wine style. In this second tasting we will look at volcanoes and how volcanic soil structure creates a unique environment that influences grapes. There are many examples of interesting wines produced on volcanic soils – ranging from Etna to Santorini, Tenerife, Chile, Oregon and Madeira, to name but a few. We will present a selection we think really reflect their volcanic origin.

Join us and Pascal Rossignol of Le Caveau , Kilkenny as we taste our way though our selection of favourite “Volcanic” wines.

Tickets €20. Booking Essential





Richy’s BYO Offer
Clonakilty restaurant Richy’s are offering a helping hand when dining out. “Feeling the crunch after Christmas? Why not save some dosh by bringing your own wine to Richy’s! T&C's apply. Available 14th Jan - 28th Feb 2019. Corkage €5.”
Franciscan Well’s Cask Ales and Strange Brew Fest
Our favourite festival of the year....The Cask Ales and Extraordinary Brew Festival running from Jan 31st to Feb 2nd. Yellow Belly, Rising Suns, Metalman and West Cork Brewing are just some of the brewers at the festival and will compete in the Beoir Cask Competition to see who can come up with the most extraordinary beer under categories: Best lager, best "pale', best stout and best specialty. Judged by The national Beer enthusiasts club, winners will be announced on the Saturday of the festival. Live music, performances & Pompeii pizza! Admission is free

  


Eastern flavours and culture at Silk Road Café in Chester Beatty Library


Eastern flavours and culture at Silk Road Café
 and Chester Beatty Library

During one of the first Culture Nights in Cork, the Kay Harte of the Farm Gate Café had Abraham Phelan down from Dublin as guest chef and the queues were long. You can still find Abraham’s food in Dublin, at The Silk Road Café, a mecca for students, artists, other gallery visitors and more, in the Chester Beatty Library.

Here, the dishes served reflect the global reach of the collections - with Middle Eastern, North African, Mediterranean, vegetarian and coeliac friendly dishes served on a daily basis. No shortage of choice here when lunch begins at noon as they have about a dozen different offerings. Earlier in the morning and later in the afternoon, they serve teas and coffees and lots of good things, including baklava.
Quite a dining room at The Silk Road;
the kitchen and other rooms are to the right.

We had been taking a look in the Library itself and came down to the café, splendidly situated in the atrium, at noon. There is no written menu but the staff are very helpful here and soon we were sorted.

Breakfast had been generous and there was a big dinner on the horizon so nothing too much was required and we picked a three pronged small salad (8.20) and a vegetarian moussaka with salads (11.50).

Their selection of 12 dishes changes daily and all are served with rice and vegetables or with two of twelve vegetarian salads. 

The main courses could include a lamb moussaka as well as the vegetarian one. You’ll find a fish dish and a number of chicken offerings including curry. There may also be a pie and freshly made falafels. 
All cakes, biscuits and breads are homemade and you will find mixed berry scones shoulder to shoulder with chocolate brownies, fruit tarts, fig cake and baklava. 

To finish up, we ordered tea and the good value here was underlined with a pot (of at least two cups) for two euro.

We were fit for more walking after that and went back up the stairs to the museum. Entry is free but donations of a fiver are suggested.

You may have seen something of the current major exhibition “Gift of a Lifetime: Treasures from the Chester Beatty’s Collection” on TV. 

It includes folios from the Beatty Rosarium (a collection of devotions to the Blessed Virgin) consisting of 8 amazing miniatures. There’s an equally impressive late 12th century Deluxe Gospel Book from the pinnacle of the Byzantine period and also a 13th century Gospel Book, also from Turkey and one of the most important copies of the Qur’an in existence.

On this floor, you’ll also find the Art of the Book, everything from tiny snuff containers to large Dragon Robes but mainly displaying fascinating manuscripts, books, schools and bindings.
A summertime view from the roof garden of the Chester Beatty

Another floor up and you’ll wander through the Sacred Traditions Gallery, all about the world’s major religions, most of them from the east, including of course Christianity and Islam. The library reaches out to young and old with, among other things, lectures, tours and workshops. You may also explore some of the collections online. Check it all out here.

And don’t forget to visit the rooftop garden. The views are restricted, probably for safety and security reasons, but you do get a good look out over the area, including Dublin Castle to your left.

That Abraham Phelan visit to Cork was in 2011 (how time has flown!) and among the tasty bits he was busy serving up were Spanah Fatayer, Fil Fil Mahshy, Musken, Dagaj Bil Lemon and Patingan Mahshy.  (Hope those spellings are correct!).

While going through the info at the Silk Road website, I saw they do an Afternoon tea with a twist. There are no finger sandwiches or any scones but sweet and savoury treats from more than 15 countries. Sushi, chicken shawarma parcels, small bowls with paella are mixed with Persian love cakes, date truffles and Indian burfi. Click here for the Menu.

also on this Dublin trip:
The Little Museum of Dublin

Pearse Lyons Distillery
Café en Seine


Heading east


Wednesday, January 23, 2019

Spanish Duo with Mary Pawle Wines


Azul y Garanza Desierto Navarra (DO) 2012, 14.5%, €39.00 Mary Pawle

The Bardenas Reales is a semi-desert natural region, or badlands, of some 42,000 hectares in southeast Navarre. The soils are made up of clay, chalk and sandstone and have been eroded by water and wind creating surprising shapes, canyons, plateaus, tabular structures and isolated hills, called cabezos. 

This superb wine is named after the desert. Yet the vineyard itself is the exact opposite of a desert. They have planted different species of vegetation, such as aromatic plants, shrubs, and fruit trees (the greater the assortment, the better), but using only indigenous varieties. The vines occupy just 37% of the total available land area. Mono-crop cultivation is avoided; there is room and shelter for all kinds of life.

And here, in Ribera Alta, a warm area as you can imagine,  they produce this 100 per cent Cabernet Sauvignon. Colour is an intense ruby, the legs slow to clear. Aromas are of ripe dark fruit, plums, blackberries included, also notes of vanilla. Deep and dark flavours in the full bodied wine, dense, touch of spice, warming, powerful and smooth with a long and very satisfying finish. A superb wine and Very Highly Recommended.

“Wild-natured vines, full of biodiversity and astonishingly beautiful; organic and endowed with special faculties which result in one-of-a-kind wines. Wines which are a clear reflection of the place they come from.” And the purity of the nearby desert gives the vineyard the advantageous pathway to produce this bio wine without too much trouble. Perhaps the biggest human intervention is its 15 months in French oak.

Navarra, for a long time now, has been criticised for its use of French grapes but, according to Wine-Searcher, “is beginning to attract attention for its high quality red wines made mainly from the Tempranillo, Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot grape varieties after years of being overshadowed by its southern neighbor, Rioja".

Founded in the year 2000 by Fernando Barrena Belzunegui, Azul y Garanza is a family winery, located in Carcastillo, with its own vineyards in the area called La Cañada de los Roncaleses, at the entrance to the extraordinary desert of the Bardenas Reales, the largest in Europe. . Thanks to this location, the vineyards enjoy ideal conditions for obtaining quality grapes: a very poor soil and an extremely dry climate, with strong thermal contrasts between day and night. The winery continues, since its inception, the principles of organic farming.



Osoti Crianza Rioja (DOC) 2013, 14%, €17.50 Mary Pawle Wines

Quite an exceptional blend of Tempranillo (85%) and Graciano organically grown grapes. It has a deep cherry colour, tears slow to go. Rich fruity aromas plus hints of the oak. Fruity and very very dry. Red and darker fruits feature in a power-packed palate and that keen acidity balances it all nicely. And no slackening off at all in the persistent finish. Very satisfactory rounded wine and Very Highly Recommended.

The wine has been aged in barrels for 12 months. Sediment spotted, so probably best to decant.

A few sentences from the website that I like:
“We continue the ritual that has not changed in thousands of years. The grapes are picked by hand and taken to the winery with care, as if they were treasure.
We put the wine in oak barrels where they wait in silence, at the correct temperature, until they turn into a wine that condenses the meaning of La Rioja in a bottle.”



"We take advantage of other herbs and plants to protect the vines and enrich them."