Saturday, August 3, 2019

Amuse Bouche

from The Sea by John Banville (2005). No recommendation.


At lunchtime the Colonel and I must shift for ourselves…. The  Colonel is a ruminant. He sits at the kitchen table in shirt-sleeves and an antique sleeveless pullover munching away at an ill-made sandwich - hacked lump of cheese or chunk of cold meat between two door-stoppers smeared with his slap, or a dash of Colman’s fieriest, or sometimes both if he feels in need of a jolt - and tries out feints of conversation on me, like a canny field commander searching for a bulge in the enemy’s defences.



Thursday, August 1, 2019

Kinnegar's Winning Team. A Squad for all Saisons.

Kinnegar's Winning Team. 
A Squad for all Saisons.

Libby and yours truly in K2



Hard work. Attention to detail. That’s what we saw when we took up an invitation from Libby and Rachel to visit the Kinnegar Brewery in Letterkenny. Libby was on hand to show us around and introduced us to Rick and some of the brewers. 

Hard work? You have to be willing to put your shoulder to the wheel here, well not exactly the wheel but those bags of malt come in 25 kgs size and quite a few need to be regularly hefted to where they’re needed!

Attention to detail? Success in many fields is built on this and Kinnegar is no different. Take a look at a notice of work for one area on the day: clean general; arrange utility room; order boiler diaphragms (steam jacket); hops racking. David is a master of detail. He joined the brewery early on as a JobBridge intern. A quick trainer, he is now of four brewers here and was working on K1 as we arrived.

Better explain. K1 is the small brewery from their farmhouse days in nearby Rathmullan and the name Kinnegar comes from the nearby beach of that name. We are in K2, huge by comparison, a magnificent illustration of how far this enterprising brewery has come in a six year span.
K1

K1 (10 hectalitres) has been brought here and given its own space in Letterkenny. Dwarfed by K2 (35hls), it will have a special place and will be used to try out innovative beers for many years to come, thanks in large measure to David who was close to completing the re-assembly here. Indeed K1 looks brand new. They will also bring in and use their first brewery, a 0.5hl unit, now known as K0.

Links with Rathmullan are still strong thanks mainly to Libby’s mother Margaret, 80 years of age and still working on the brewery books, happy to do so in the quiet of the countryside.

With the opening of the new state-of-the-art facility K2, the clinking of bottles coming off the line no longer mingles with the bleating of sheep from the surrounding fields. Yet “the farmhouse ethos at the core of what we do however remains the same”.

While I expected to see a spanking new brewery, my jaw dropped on entering the unit. It is huge, at least to my eyes, and of course, it was a huge investment leap for Libby, Rick and Rachel when they ordered the gear from Slovenia. But so far so good. So very good.
Rachel in the brewhouse


I reckon I was one of the first to sing the praises of Kinnegar beer as I came across them in various places around Downings in June 2013. One of the places was the Cove in Port na Blagh where I worked my way through the ales, the Limeburner Pale Ale, the Scraggy Bay India Pale Ale and the Devil’s Backbone Amber Ale. Thought all three were excellent.  My number one went to the IPA while CL picked the Limeburner, the same two beers that we enjoyed this time around.

We had no problem finding them this time, in bars, in cafés such as Buffers, in restaurants like Grape and Grain, in the splendid country house Castle Grove and in the Rosapenna Hotel. Enjoyed Scraggy Bay India Pale Ale (me) and Limeburner Pale Ale (CL) in particular. These two, along with Devil’s Backbone (Amber Ale), Rustbucket Rye Ale, Yannaroddy Porter, and Crossroads American Style IPA, form their core range.

And they do specials. Lots of them! Hard to keep up. Just a few to note that I’ve liked: the Merry Tiller Dry-hopped Saison, Bucket & Spade Session Rye IPA and the Black Bucket Black Rye IPA. 
 Black Bucket Black Rye IPA, Gold Medal at 2018 Brussels Beer Challenge

Balance is a feature of Kinnegar beers and that Black Rye IPA is a great illustration, hoppy, citrus flavours, quite intense (it is the big brother of the original Black Bucket!), quite superb.

Hadn’t come across the Kumpelnest Pilsner (5%) until this trip. Wasn’t expecting too much but reckon me and this one could be the best of buddies. Nothing dominant or over the top about it but with its persistent and pleasantly moderate aromas making an excellent first impression, we were on the right hop from the off. And those first fruity flavours are also persistent as my new buddy shows staying power. Good finish too. Buddy sure won’t let you down as you can see from the illustration on the can, he has lots of friends!

And speaking of friends, how did Kinnegar come together? Libby had her own graphic design company (and those skills would come in handy) but it was Rick who had an interest in craft brewing and spotted the new wave coming. Rachel was a pro in the world of horse; there was a bit of a downturn in that line and she was looking for something with a scientific angle as that was her long time interest and, having worked with horses, she had no problems with taking her turn at the physical side either. The timing was so right for them and Kinnegar was the vehicle to take them (and their now ten permanent staff) upwards and onwards.
This canning line will stretch you mentally!

Nowadays, everyone contributes to the ongoing development though Rick is the leader on the beer recipe side. By the way, they don’t filter or pasteurise, and let their industrious little friends, the yeast, carbonate the beer naturally during fermentation.

Libby told us that Kinnegar are that bit different to other breweries in that they built their business on bottles and cans rather than draught (they do draught of course). Their bottling line is a Meheen, “one of the two busiest in Europe” while their own canning line is a Wild Goose. 

Bet you didn’t know this. Working these two lines requires different responses from the operator. Libby explained that the bottling line is more physically demanding while the canning operation taxes the mental side more! Different strokes for different folks or vice versa. Just goes to show the value of teamwork and Kinnegar have quite a squad in place in Letterkenny.

Also on this trip: Mary T. From Mallow to Donegal's Castle Grove
Something fishy going on in Donegal
Superb Day Out at Oakfield Park & Buffers Bistro

Wednesday, July 31, 2019

A Right Royal Progress Through The Kingdom


A Right Royal Progress Through The Kingdom
The view from Bray Head walk

With the best of lodgings booked, her majesty and myself headed off to the Kingdom of Kerry one sunny morning in July. The natives were friendly and we were well watered and fed in the triangle between Killarney, Valentia and Dingle.

After a superb lunch at the well-appointed and newly established Kingdom 1795 in Killorglin , we drove on south-west to the Island of Valentia. The plan was to take the spectacular walk on Bray Head. So we paid our two euro (no royal exceptions, apparently) in the car park and headed up.
On Valentia

Old Barracks, Cahersiveen
And up, and up. All the time, the views (including the Skelligs) kept improving as we, and quite a few others, took the path towards the top. We came back the same way we went up, didn't do the full loop. On the way down, just managed to stop a doctor (the fly) from biting my arm. Haven't see one of those in years.

Back on the road and next stop was the nearby town of Cahersiveen. Had a little walk around here, taking in the massive church of Daniel O’Connell (The Liberator), the impressively restored Old Barracks (must do a detailed visit next time) and the monks in a boat sculpture on the way out of town. No plaque on that sculpture and I’m not certain if it is to do with monks rowing out to the Skelligs or St Brendan and company heading to America. Anyone enlighten me?
Glenbeigh Hotel

By the time we reached Glenbeigh we were rather thirsty so called into the small Glenbeigh Hotel for a reviving drink in the dark and old-fashioned but popular bar.

Time was running out so we headed to base for the night. And what a base the Hotel Europe proved to be. Amazing space and comfort here. But we were soon on the road again, heading for a 7.00pm dinner in Malarkey’s the new stomping ground in Killarney of expert chef Seamus O'Connell (ex Ivory Tower).

Back to base, well back to the Europe’s exceptionally comfortable bar, its friendly staff and its drinks list as long as your arm. Thought I’d treat myself to a cocktail and the Brandy Alexander fitted the bill after the multi-course meal in Malarkey’s.

The hotel is huge, 180 rooms, and we saw many of the guests at breakfast in the amazing Panorama restaurant the following morning, panorama because it boasts great views of the beautiful lakes. Must be hard to cater for that many people. The Europe uses the buffet method to good effect. Good but, unlike the rest of the operation, hardly five-star.
Chocs in Crinkle Store, Dingle

Still, we were fed, and fit enough for the second leg of the progress. Off we went to Slea Head, a popular spot for us and for many many more. July may not be the best time to drive that narrow road, especially if you have Italy’s slowest driver in front of you! Thought they were all super fast. So much for stereotypes!

After that trip it was back to Dingle for lunch at the packed Boatyard on the waterfront. Not bad at all but I thought my crab claws were excessively expensive, almost 17 euro for six with a little salad, chorizo and garlic butter. A fairly basic dish by comparison with what I got in the excellent Pier 26 in Ballycotton a week before: at least 10 claws, superbly prepared and presented, for just €12.00. 
Slea Head

High Notes. Dingle
After a look at the weekly market - it was closing up at that stage - and  a little shopping around town, we headed back. We could see Inch Strand ahead, lots of activity there, so we stopped and enjoyed a good stroll, taking in all the activity on the water, on the sand, and even in the air (kite-flying). Amazing the amount of cars and vans and campers that were parked on the beach. But where else could they park?

No big rush to turn around quickly at the Europe this time. They have an fantastic display of flowering shrubs here, all the way on through the drive and then all around the various sections of the car park. Top class.
Inch Beach
Brandy cocktail Europe

Our dinner that evening was in Nick’s in Killorglin… I’m saying “nothing at all”. Back in the marvellous hotel, we had a wander through the fantastic lounge areas, areas (including the library) that are well used, before ending up with our friends in the bar. Drinks this time included a Negroni (I do rather like that cocktail), some local beers from Killarney Brewing Company and that non alcoholic cider by Cronin’s (another Kerry company).

All good things come to an end and the following morning we had to settle up but thanks to the children’s generous present (for our recent 50th) we didn’t have to dig too deep at all!

How about this? On the way back, we were in traffic on the bridge in Macroom - not as bad as it can be - when we saw a heron standing on the parapet, calmly watching the cars go by!

Also on this trip: Malarkey in Killarney
Kingdom 1795 Killorglin

Tuesday, July 30, 2019

Killorglin's Kingdom 1795. Up and Running

Killorglin's Kingdom 1795. Up and Running.

House Focaccia with Toonsbridge Mozzarella, Piquillo Pepper, Tomato and Basil.
This is Chef Damien Ring's take on the more usual Caprese salad. 
Simple and simply delicious and excellent value too at €7.85.


 Buttermilk fried chicken on a blaa, smoked tomato, Coolea cheese, harissa mayo, is another of Damien's 
lunch-time dishes, another superb combination. You don't often see a Blaa in Kerry. 
Just €8.00, again excellent value in this impressive new restaurant

Looks great outside, even better inside. You'll find it on the corner of Main Street
and Market Street. Kingdom is well worth a visit.

You'll find many variations of Tiramisu in Ireland and many will fall short against this beauty from the kitchen
 of Kingdom 1795. The building once housed the Kingdom Bar and the leasing records start in 1795.





Restaurant manager Suzi and Chef Damien are the young couple behind this impressive new restaurant in the middle of Killorglin, County Kerry. The pic (right) gives you an idea of the amazing design and you may see more here.  The food though is the main thing and the only way to check that out is to make a dinner reservation and get in there! Best of luck to the couple who honed their skills over the past three years in the lovely Screebe House in Connemara.


Kingdom 1795
Main Street
Killorglin, Co. Kerry V93XED7
Highlights info row image
(066) 979 6527


Also on this trip: Malarkey in Killarney

Monday, July 29, 2019

Two Gems from Classic French Regions


Two Gems from Classic French Regions

Chateau Vincens “Prestige” Cahors (AOC) 2013, 13%, €23.50 Vanilla Grape Kenmare

Recently, while reviewing a different bottle from this independent South of France producer, I remarked that while Argentina Malbec is popular, the expertise of centuries in Cahors has not suddenly vanished. My point, hardly original, is once again illustrated with this latest Chateau Vincens that I found on the ancient shelves (over 100 years old) of the Vanilla Grape wine and card shop in Henry Street, Kenmare. Alain was delighted that I picked this wine from his neck of the woods.

It is a blend of 80% Malbec and 20% Merlot and has been raised (70% of it) in oak casks. The producers recommended that their  award winning “well balanced wine, with the wood well integrated” be served at 17 to 18 degrees and paired with red meats and duck breasts.

In 1947, a few growers founded this cooperative in Parnac. Their goal was to revive the Malbec, the grape of Cahors. They succeeded and were still going strong a few years back when I called.
Colour is mid to dark ruby. Rich dark fruit on the nose, notes of liquorice too. On the palate it is plump and luscious, a hint of spice, great depth of flavour, smooth and elegant, and a cherry led acidity helps towards a very pleasing harmony, mellow tannins too playing a role in a long satisfying finish. Very Highly Recommended.

Cahors was famous for its “black wines” even before Bordeaux became established as a producing area. It has had its problems, including phylloxera in 1883-1885. There was a rebirth for Malbec with the founding of the Parnac Coop in 1947. But trouble again in February 1956 when frosts wiped out almost all the vineyards of the region, which thus needed to be replanted en masse. In this replanting, Malbec became more dominant than it had been before. Cahors was awarded AOC status in 1971. Most of the vineyards are planted close to the River Lot.

Parize Givry 1er Cru (AOC) “Champ Nalot” 2017, 13%, €28.30 64 Wine Dublin, Bradley’s of Cork, Greenman Dublin, Le Caveau Kilkenny

This tempting and aromatic wine is a vibrant Givry gem. A subtle and warm wine that will go wonderfully with red meats, small game, and cheeses. Or on its own. This is Very Highly Recommended. Aged in 1-year old oak barrels, Le Caveau themselves are excited: “A brilliant Pinot Noir, very expressive…”

Mid ruby is the colour. Cherry and plum in the seductive aromas. Vivacious, absolutely delicious in the mouth. Smooth rounded red fruit, superb acidity, spices too, refined tannins and an excellent lingering finish. Not too much more to be said. Just go and buy one.

Sunday, July 28, 2019

Tasting Malarkey's at Rebel O'Connell's New Kingdom Base

Tasting Malarkey's at Rebel O'Connell's New Kingdom Base. 

Amazingly substantial 6th course of Tasting menu; amazingly delicious too!

It’s hot in the kitchen at Malarkey, the Killarney restaurant just opened by chef-patron Seamus O’Connell, best known for his years of good food, fun and frustration in Cork’s Ivory Tower. 

Pilsner from 9 White Deer
Service is in full swing. Probably just as well the restaurant, with its eye-catching decor both upstairs and downstairs, is not packed. The staff are extra busy though because they are also showing their new beer garden to the trade in Killarney and serving boxty and bubbles to their many guests.

After a superb meal, I take up an invite from one of the staff to have a look out back and am surprised at the overall size of the premises that Seamus has taken on and at how much work has already been done here.

Before I go, I get a chance to saw hello and have a brief word with the man himself. And he tells me that his biggest problem in these early months is the lack of staff, especially chefs. Seamus himself just has to work harder but there is no sign of the kitchen pressure on the plates. We have just enjoyed a superb 7-course Tasting Menu.

Choices are amazing here. Our Tasting Menu (Tasting Malarkey) is €50.00 each and he has a different Tasting Menu (Fusion De Luxe) priced at €70.00. There is a set menu (with lots of choice) for what seems good value at €30.00. And if you really want choice, just take a look at the A La Carte where you’ll have to allow extra time to make decisions; there are no less than 19 starters listed, including four of boxty.

Wild Salmon cured with Alder smoked salt in herbs


Wood pigeon, with beetroot

The finalé at Killarney's Malarkey. Toffee Apple crumble with smoked treacle ice-cream.
Nettle and Knotweed Soup (duck and orange centrepiece)
Crubeens with smoky onion poitín
Halibut with lobster sauce. And it is, but there’s some delicious bits of bacon and cabbage as well.

Friday, July 26, 2019

Amuse Bouche


On Saturdays, she knows, they sometimes eat lunch at a restaurant. Mila told her that. They go to a café where the little girl is allowed order anything she wants and where Adam tries tasting a bit of mustard or lemon from the end of a spoon, under his parents’ tender gaze. Louise would like that. In a packed café… she would be less afraid of the silence. She would sit between Mila and her brother and she’d straighten the large white napkin on the little girl’s lap. She’d feed Adam, spoon after spoon. She’d listen to Paul and Myriam speak. It would all go too fast. She would feel good.

from Lullaby by Leïla Slimani  (2018). Recommended.

Tuesday, July 23, 2019

What To Drink When You’re Not Drinking.


What To Drink When You’re Not Drinking.
Taste Better Than Previous Efforts. Look Better Too!
NA Cocktail at Hotel Europe

While settling up after a recent lunch at Kingdom 1795 in Killorglin, we began talking to Suzi about non alcoholic drinks. She and chef Damien, who have put so much into this lovely new restaurant, carry a selection including Stonewell NA Cider, Seedlip and Heineken Zero.

Bradley's include
a NA Cava
I first came across Seedlip a couple of weeks back at lunch in the Whale’s Tale Bistro in Clonakilty. This was the Garden version, the company do two others: Spice 94 and Grove 42. 

So where did the name come from? Seedlip: Over three hundred years ago, it was common for physicians to distil herbal remedies using copper stills, harnessing the power of nature & alchemy to solve medical maladies. In 1651, one such physician, John French, published The Art of Distillation documenting these non-alcoholic recipes. At that same time, a family in Lincolnshire had started farming, hand sowing seeds using baskets called ‘seedlips’.

Seedlip in Clon
Today, you can find Seedlip in quite a few places and it does indeed give you a choice. The Whale’s Tail version was a substitute for gin and served in the big fashionable gin glass. I tasted it like that and it did seem a bit “vegetable” - there were a few slices of cucumber in there too. But once the Fever-Tree Elderflower was added, the magic happened and the combination was just excellent, very acceptable indeed.

In Kingdom 1795, I tasted the Spice version neat, very aromatic and you could easily see how it would be the basis for an excellent drink. Again, Suzi suggested the Fever-Tree as an ideal companion. No wonder the Seedlip company reckon they have the solution to the question “what to drink when you’re not drinking” #wtdwynd
Killorglin's Kingdom, well worth a visit

There is a Seedlip rival on the market also, marketed as a non-alcoholic gin and called Ceders. I was talking to Michael Creedon of Bradley’s (North Main Street, Cork), about things non-alcoholic and he says there is a a definite trend in that direction. He has non-alcoholic wines in stock and also the Ceders.


When we departed Kingdom 1795, we went for a superb walk in the sun on the stunning Bray Head (Valentia Island). On the way back, we called to the Glenbeigh Hotel, again looking for a non alcoholic drink. And right in front of us, on the counter of the old bar, there was a card full of suggestions (Coca Cola suggestions, I think). The driver tried one, the South African “Appletiser”, a sparkling fruit drink with carbonated water, and it went down well. We also saw the non alcoholic Cronin’s Cider (bottled in Wexford) but too late!

NA Cocktail at Cask
based on Ceders spirit
We went upmarket later on that night. In the bar of the Europe Hotel - probably the best hotel bar in the country - we checked out the offerings. They have a terrific cocktail list - I can recommend the Brandy Alexander and the Negroni - that includes a choice of non alcoholic offerings including a long and delicious apple based one with ginger and lemongrass (the name escapes me). And we were also offering a zero alcohol wine.

They also carry the Erdinger NA beer, quite a good one too. I also find the Paulaner a handy substitute from time to time. And yes they support local here with normal strength beer on draught from Killarney Brewery and bottles of the NA Cider by Kerry based Cronins.

We also tasted that cider at lunch in Dingle’s Boatyard the following day. It is refreshing, somewhat drier than their regular 4.5% offering, and not bad at all. It does come for some reason in the smaller 330 bottle.
A selection of O'Brien's zero alcohol wines

Back in town, after the Kerry break, we called to O’Brien’s in Douglas. They carry the Seedlip drinks and indeed say the non-alcoholic drinks in general are flying, so much that they have to work hard to keep on. They have quite a few non-alcoholic wines including some from Torres and three that they bring in themselves.
At The Kingsley

Just the other night, we were going through the drinks list in the Springboard Restaurant in the Kingsley Hotel and spotted a trio of non-alcoholic cocktails (not too many places are using “mocktail” these days). They have the Shirley Temple and the Fishers and the Nojito, the latter an amalgam of mint, fresh lime juice, sugar and soda water. 

So there you are. Just a sample of the many alcoholic options out there now. Now you know #wtdwynd. Enjoy.

.


This Summer's Dessert Destinations. The Sweetest Things.

 This Summer's Dessert Destinations 
The Sweetest Things.
Pier 26 Ballycotton: This flower enhanced Pavlova with fresh strawberries, blackberries, poached apricots and Chantilly Cream (and a bit of rhubarb too) was a beauty, just the ticket to finish off an excellent meal.

The finalé at Killarney's Malarkey. Toffee Apple crumble with smoked treacle ice-cream.
Might not be the best photo but a cracking dessert.
A classic at Crackpots Encore in Kinsale: Poached Pears in mulled red wine. And it was a terrific version.
 Apple and Berry Crumble wasn’t the bravest of picks but it turned out to be a gem, beautifully made and presented - apparently Tramore's Copper Hen have a bit of a reputation on this one. If you do get the chance, do order one. One each!
Friendly Henry's in Ennis served us this lovely Pear Tart with caramelised walnuts and ice-cream. 
Jammy Dodger (coconut and raspberry compote) by Bobo at The Glucksman, UCC. You don't see these too often nowadays.
 Mocha Choca Indulgent Cake at the Garden Café Truck by the Ballymaloe Cookery School.
You could say they know how to bake around here. Quality guaranteed.

From The Oar Restaurant in Doolin: Passionfruit Soufflé with a Passionfruit sorbet.

 From the Springboard Restaurant in Cork's Kingsley Hotel comes this delicious Lemon meringue éclair (choux pastry éclair, lemon curd filling, Italian meringue, mango sorbet)