Friday, September 8, 2023

This Gru-Vee will get even the weariest of spirits moving again!

This Gru-Vee will get even the weariest of spirits moving again!

Stagård Urban.GV Grüner Veltliner 2022, 12% ABV

RRP: €21.80. Stockists: Le Caveau, 64 Wine, Greenman Wines, Bradleys Cork

Urban, a fresh and lively Gruner Veltliner, is made from fruit of vineyards that are in some of the steepest locations of the western Kremstal in Niederösterreich (Austria).

This Gru-Vee (as it is sometimes called, not to universal approval!) has a strong citrus colour. Many micro-bubbles cling to the bowl of the glass. The nose gives apple and lime. It is indeed fresh and lively on the palate with almost a spritzy lime and grapefruit flavour with pepper traces and a crisp refreshing finish.

I like the way the Stagård website puts it: ““And he's so alive, he'll get even the wearyest of spirits moving again”.  Highly Recommended. 


Check my growing list of top wines for 2023


Check out my Good Value Wine List here


The current owners, Dominique & Urban, made their early reputation with exciting interpretations of Riesling.  Looks like they are doing the same with Grüner Veltliner if this beautifully made wine is anything to go by. They also produce a rosé in the Urban series, all organic and vegan. They have pursued an organic approach to the vineyards and cellar since 2006.

Their philosophy is to combine the characteristics of the grape variety with the natural conditions of the region and the vineyards. The wines are vibrant and distinguish themselves mainly by two factors: spontaneous and slow fermentation and extended time on the lees. “Above all,” says Urban, “we trust in time.” This allows each wine to find its own individual rhythm and equilibrium. These are true wines of terroir …. delightful to drink.

Stagård is an unusual name in these parts and came from Urban's father, who originally hailed from Sweden. But the history of Lesehof Stagård is as old as the town of Krems where it is situated: The "Lesehof der Tegernseer" was an old German abbey, first mentioned in official documents in 1424; its cellar dates back even further, to the year 1000. The estate passed into private hands in 1786.

Thursday, September 7, 2023

The Lodge at Waterford's Mount Congreve is a hideaway gem

The Lodge at Waterford's Mount Congreve is a hideaway gem.

All ready for you

The Lodge at Mount Congreve is a charming 18th-century gate lodge that has been lovingly restored and converted into a cosy and stylish hideaway. It is located on the grounds of the stunning Mount Congreve House and Gardens (one of the Great Gardens of the World), and it offers guests a unique opportunity to experience the best of both worlds: a peaceful retreat in a historic setting with easy access to all the amenities and attractions of the surrounding area including the lively city of Waterford.

Be sure and check the story
behind this temple in the
garden with its
lovely view over the Suir.

Following its 7-million euro renovation, Mount Congreve House and Gardens was reopened in early 2023 and now, since June, includes the Lodge in its list of attractions. 

The lodge, an 18th-century cottage by the entrance gate, is currently the only accommodation on the estate available to guests. Two other similar buildings are on the restoration list but they won't be ready anytime soon as no work has started.

The Lodge, originally the gatekeeper’s, has two bedrooms, a kitchen, a living room, and a bathroom, all on the small side but snug. Like all old buildings, it has its quirks but these give it some of its personality.  While the restoration has some old features (cast-iron rainwater goods and an antique bio-ethanol stove), there are also very modern elements (apps on a supplied mobile phone for heating, opening the main gate etc.).

There is a decent-sized lawn equipped with a barbecue and hammock and if you want to walk, the whole estate is at your door, the gardens too (you have your own key). You can park the car by the house and close the lodge gate behind you. The main gates to the estate close at 6.00 pm, so if you are out and about you need to have the supplied mobile with the apps in the car.

Sleep well!

If you want to tour around the area, you are also well placed. The award-winning Waterford Greenway cycle route can be accessed directly (you have two bikes available at the lodge) from Mount Congreve Gardens. The restored Waterford Suir Valley Railway has enabled the magic of rail’s golden age to be brought to life in nearby Kilmeadan. This narrow A gauge railway runs along 10 kilometres of the abandoned Waterford Dungarvan line. The R680 runs outside the gate and a few minutes in the car will take you to the N25.

The second bedroom. The Lodge can take 4 adults

The living room is one of the larger spaces here, well furnished, though modern posteriors may find some of the seats that bit hard - no shortage of cushions, though. There is an honesty bar (includes their own Mt Congreve gin) at hand, a chessboard and other board games, and no shortage of books. And a very modern Wi-Fi TV and yes the Wi-Fi is excellent.

The kitchen is small but has all you need to cook (if you want to!) and they supply enough essentials (fresh eggs, milk and bread included) to have a snack when you arrive (or the morning after). There’s even an “old” transistor radio on the window shelf and it is in good working order.

The dining room is so well furnished. The table is set with very attractive ware and you are immediately tempted to try it out. How about a picnic? No bother. There’s a large well-equipped basket there. I'm not too sure you'd manage that on your supplied bikes (2). You will of course be able to have breakfast or lunch or indeed afternoon tea at The Stables, the restaurant in the house.

Mount Congreve

The master bedroom is beautifully lit and decorated (large tapestry and gilded mirror in one) and the black radiators (used throughout) are hardly noticeable but do their job. The bed itself is of the lower variety, handy for those of a certain age! Comfortable though. The second bedroom is only slightly smaller and just as comfortable. 

In the Bathroom, you’ll find a range of toiletries including body wash and hand soap made locally by Wild Oats Soap, as well as a hair dryer. Bathrobes made up of 40% Bamboo & 60% Cotton can be found in the bedroom wardrobes. Check yourself out in the gorgeous old mirror. And the modern shower is all pushbutton, one of the best I've come across.

Meet a hearty Reuben at The Stables Café in the main house. 
Here, you may enjoy breakfast, lunch, and anytime treats.

The Lodge itself is very well maintained both inside and out, spotless.

Pawn to Q4!
You are assured of a very warm welcome. Head to the main house reception to meet the staff and they’ll take you to the Lodge and show you around and fill you in on what you need to know including a little demo on the apps on the supplied mobile phone.

Additional details:

  • The lodge is located in the heart of the Waterford countryside, just a short drive from the city of Waterford.
  • It is dog-friendly, with up to two dogs allowed per stay. If you do bring the dog, you will be able to take it to the Secret Garden Shop and the Stables Restaurant but not into the gardens.
  • Not recommended for children under the age of 12.
  • Rates from 195 euro per night to 270 euro per night depending on the season. A minimum two-night stay applies.
  • .More info here
Check the Secret Garden Shop for treats and pressies.

April Visit to Mount Congreve and gardens here . (Note - before Pantry at Cliff took over the Stables Restaurant).

Wednesday, September 6, 2023

Lovely Friday Lunch at North Point’s Lemon Pepper Cafe

Lovely Friday Lunch at North Point’s Lemon Pepper Cafe

Bought a bag of food for the doggy at Sunbeam Vets in North Point last Friday. And then walked around the corner and into a spic and span café called Lemon Pepper for what turned out to be an excellent lunch.

Lemon Pepper? You ask: “Isn’t that in the airport.” There is indeed a Lemon Pepper at Cork Airport. “And anyhow isn't that North Point Café called Perry Street?" Not anymore. Both Lemon Peppers fall under the BaxterStorey banner; they opened the airport venue just before Christmas and took over in Blackpool not too long afterwards.


The mainly glass-walled room is filled with light, and seating is comfortable. On-screen menus are short and clear. And do watch out for the specials. They even have a special place to show them off.

Having seen the evidence, it was rather difficult not to take either the Lemon Pepper Spiced Rotisserie Chicken Served with Spring Greens and Roasted Baby Potatoes or the Crispy Fried Fish with a side of mashed peas and triple-cooked chips (comes with 1 side salad or another side of your choice). Both dishes were priced at (€13.50).

Friday specials

But I was on the lookout for something a little lighter as dinner was already arranged for the evening. Instead, I made my choice from the sandwiches and it was their Reuben. The traditional filling came in a choice of wraps and I picked the Panini rather than the bread. Not a traditional Reuben cover then, and that might upset some traditionalists, but the sandwich was superb, moist and tasty and streets ahead of one that I ate two days earlier in a very classy venue in the southeast.


Besides, it came with two sides, neither very big but each very very tasty indeed, a potato salad and a pepper and veg salad, two salads that put what I received with my Reuben in Waterford to shame. Well ahead in price too: Lemon Pepper charged just €7.90 with the Waterford one coming in at €9.80.

BaxterStorey is largely based in the UK but is also strong in Ireland where the operation is headed up by Kieran Callinan, Cork Businessman of the Year in 2019 and well known through his role with Brook Foods (a sister company of BaxterStorey). “He's crafting a food revolution for his clients, serving up award-winning hospitality at racetracks, airports, zoos and workspaces everywhere from Cork to Belfast.”

Both Lemon Pepper cafés in Cork are committed to serving amazing coffee, delicious breakfast, lunch and tasty sweet treats. And the good news is that they will be using fresh local ingredients and supporting local suppliers. 

Rocky Road and other Treats!

We saw that ourselves last Friday with the likes of Carrigaline Cheese, Barry’s Tea, and Maher’s Coffee noted on the menu while O’Flynn’s Sausages, Ó’Conaill Chocolate and Ballymaloe Foods are mentioned in a media release on the airport venue.

So good well-priced food, (some enticing treats on the counter), in a comfortable venue. The welcome is warm, and an excellent crew here, friendly and quietly efficient. Call in, make your choices, sit back and relax! And don't forget the Dog’s nuts!




Irish Food & Drink Month returns with a Wicklow themed set of events in Powerscourt Distillery, BrookLodge Hotel and a new pop up in Hen’s Teeth

Last year, Great Irish Beverages launched the inaugural Irish Food & Drink Month (IFDM) project. Its aim was to showcase all the wonderful pairings of native Irish drinks with our homegrown foods. Few would argue that local foods taste best when enjoyed with local drinks and Ireland is no exception. Great Irish Beverages are extremely excited to announce their new plans and partnerships for the 2023 edition running throughout October. 

This year a new strategy is in place that provides an unparalleled approach to highlighting what is the absolute best from the one county. A hyperlocal celebration of a county’s finest produce alongside its finest beverages. And the one county they are focusing on is the Garden of Ireland, Wicklow. 

All of this is being done with the creation of four different events taking place in October and with the partnership of Scoop magazine editor and event coordinator Dee Laffan and Wicklow Naturally, the county’s food & drink network. The ultimate goal is to inspire bars, restaurants and hotels around the country to include more Irish food & drink offerings in their menus. The possibilities of pairing Irish made drinks with Irish foods are endless, even if we just solely focus on the one county. 

First off, October Feast is taking place in Wicklow during October. Kicking off with a stellar event in Powerscourt Distillery on Sunday, October 1st. This day-long event will include a Wicklow producers market, foraging walks, Harvest Craft demos and discussion panels and talks from local champions including Catherine Fulvio on life as a TV chef. Powerscourt Distillery, who produce the award-winning Fercullen whiskeys, will be hosting whiskey tastings and masterclasses for attendees. There’ll be live music from Wicklow trad musicians and the singing trio, Victory Dolls as well as the "Poetry in Bloom" poetry reading hosted by actor Patrick Bergin. Booking will go live from September 10th, here.

October Feast continues with an event on Saturday, 14th October in the incredible location at Brooklodge & Macreddin Village. Another day-long event, this will be themed around sustainable food from the local area and includes a producers market, craft demos, discussion panels with leading experts, Wicklow drinks masterclasses and also some live music. There will be a Wicklow-themed menu available in Brooklodge Hotel. With a bus to and from Dublin City centre. Booking will go live from September 10th, here.

Finally, October 19th & 20th will see the best of the Garden of Ireland pop-up in one of Dublin’s best venues – Hen’s Teeth. Named Beár Bia (the Irish for Food Bar), it’s a county by county event celebrating first-rate homegrown food and drink pairings. Each of the two nights will showcase a tailor-made menu solely composed of Wicklow’s finest food & beverage producers.

The mission behind Beár Bia is to highlight all the amazing producers we have in Ireland and to praise them in unison with each other over a sumptuous four-course dinner. Pairing our native food and drinks is an integral means to further develop our Irish culinary culture and it is also a delicious means to bring people together. The October edition, which places Wicklow centre stage, launches a series of events with Hen’s Teeth and will return in the new year shining a light on different counties each month. Tickets for Beár Bia are €65 each (plus booking fee) and include drink pairings. 

The October menu was created by Hen’s Teeth head chef, Dylan Mullen who himself is a Wicklow native. 

Beár Bia Wicklow Menu 

Grangecon Kitchen Sourdough with a Ballyhubbock ricotta and Olly's honey dip

Kilruddery House leaves & grilled courgettes in a Wicklow rapeseed oil dressing, with Hollywood Farmhouse Goats cheese, Dunnes black pudding and pear

Ridgeway Wagyu BBQ brisket with Mic's Chili, creamy mash, celeriac slaw & cucumber salsa

Coconut & Moo Moo basque cheesecake with a Conroys raspberry compote

All courses will be paired with drinks from Wicklow producers including Fercullen Irish Whiskey, Rí Rá Beer, Larkin's Brewing Company and istil 38 Premium Irish Vodka. 

Tickets for Beár Bia are €65 each (plus booking fee) and include drink pairings. They can be purchased here.

press release

Tuesday, September 5, 2023

The New Powers John's Lane Cask Strength Whiskey.

 press release

The New Powers John's Lane Cask Strength Whiskey

"reaching new flavour heights"

Proudly honouring the history of Powers Irish Whiskey, Irish Distillers is excited to announce a new, permanent expression to the Powers family, Powers John’s Lane Cask Strength. Launching 12 years after the introduction of Powers John’s Lane whiskey, this twelve-year-old cask strength edition will be batch-released each year. A celebration of the 18th and 19th century heritage of John's Lane Distillery when Powers whiskey was sold straight from the barrel at cask strength, the higher abv, 57.8% in the initial 2023 release, amplifies the much loved full bodied character of the original, reaching new flavour heights.

Born from the same meticulous attention to detail that created Powers John’s Lane whiskey, the distillers at Midleton Distillery in Cork have crafted Powers John’s Lane Cask Strength, a highly anticipated release. Characterised by soft pot still spices that are integral to the flavour profile of the Powers brand, the intensity in the cask strength edition is magnified to create a wonderfully complex liquid. An initial medley of rich aromatic woodland notes intertwines with worn leather and tobacco, before cocoa, treacle toffee, crushed black peppercorn, and dried herbs assail the senses. Bold pot still spices mingle with creamy vanilla, manuka honey and warming notes of nutmeg on the palate, before a wonderful spice-laden finish of toasted oak coated in a gentle honey sweetness.

Powers Distiller, Eric Ryan comments: “A brand of firsts, Powers whiskey continually challenged the old way of doing things and advocated careful experimentation throughout the years. With a rich heritage that goes back to its establishment in 1791, John's Lane Distillery’s well-earned reputation is brought back to centre stage with the launch of this new permanent cask strength Powers expression.”

200 bespoke bottles of Powers John’s Lane Cask Strength will be available exclusively at The Palace Bar in Dublin from today to celebrate 200 years since the iconic Dublin bar was first established.  Powers John’s Lane Cask Strength will be available on general release from 2 October in Ireland, Northern Ireland, Dublin Airport and online at at RRP €90.  

Tasting notes:
Aroma: An intense medley of woodland aromas intertwined with worn leather and tobacco. Layers of charred wood and cocoa meet with concentrated treacle toffee while the pot still spices continue to build towards additional notes of black peppercorn and dried herbs.

Taste: Rich pot still spice facets trailed by creamy vanilla, manuka honey and dried apricot. Additional nutty notes of freshly grated nutmeg work in harmony with the sweet wood-derived elements and bold spice intensity.

Finish: Toasted oak wrapped with honey sweetness that gently recedes, leaving the distillate-led nature of the spirit to endure until the end.

CorkBillyBeers #42. Craft with four of the best: White Hag, Heaney, Wicklow Wolf and Dupont

CorkBillyBeers #42

Craft with four of the best: White Hag, Heaney, Wicklow Wolf and Dupont.

Session. Saison. Pale Ale. Stout.


White Hag Little Fawn Session IPA 4.2% ABV, 330 ml can Bradleys

I’ve come across Little Fawn quite a bit over the last few years on draught across the country and I’m always glad to see it, always glad to see any White Hag beer in a pub or restaurant. Its wide availability confirms its status as a classic Indian pale ale and, also because of its lower-than-usual ABV, as a go-to session beer.

The White Hag are rightly proud of its modern independent craft brewery from Sligo, on Ireland’s Wild Atlantic Way. “We brew innovative and groundbreaking beers, inspired by ancient and classic styles.”

They certainly hit, and continue to hit, the bull’s eye with this one, an easy-to-drink American-style session IPA. Brewed with 100% Irish malt for a pale, very clean base.

An easy-to-drink American-style session IPA. Brewed with 100% Irish malt for a pale and layered with Mosaic hops, famous for their ever-changing fruity aroma. The colour is a light gold with a slight haze. No shortage of bubbles rising to a soft white head. Citrus-y in the aromas with a hint of something softer as well. The flavour is fruity hops with aromas of blueberry, passionfruit, grapefruit and more. Well balanced, with a mild lingering bitter finish. Lip-smacking stuff!

Very Highly Recommended.

They use ancient tales in selling their many and varied beers including this Little Fawn yarn. He was discovered “as a child on the slopes of Ben Bulben by Bran & Sceolan, this young and sprightly warrior spent his summers foraging and hunting the mountains and woodlands. These local flavours are reflected in the taste experience.”


Heaney Notifications Off DDH Nelson Sauvin Pale Ale 4.7%, 440 ml can Carry Out Killarney

“Switch off and enjoy this double dry-hopped pale ale, bursting with grapefruit, gooseberry and tropical fruit, brewed and canned by Heaney Farmhouse Brewery at The Wood, Bellaghy. Co. Derry.”, exhort the Heaneys.

They are talking about their relatively new Pale Ale, crammed with Nelson Sauvin Hops from New Zealand, “Tradition refreshed.”

The colour is a weak orange, quite murky, almost opaque, with a fluffy white head. Aromas are fruity and their tropical nature bursts out as the liquid roams the palate before a lip-smacking finish. 

The Nelson Sauvin hop has been regularly compared to the superb local wines made from Sauvignon Blanc in New Zealand, and there are similarities. That hint of gooseberry is one (grape and passion fruit are other characteristics of the hop) and there’s a bracing acidity as well. The beer is perfectly balanced, quite a thirst quencher on sunny days and also on not-so-sunny ones.

Very Highly Recommended. Another good one from the Heaney brewery.


Wicklow Wolf Apex Oatmeal Stout 6.5% ABV, 440 ml can Bradleys

“A full-flavoured stout that will leave you wanting more.” That’s the message from Wicklow Wolf.

The stout is black with a coffee-coloured head. Coffee in the aromatics as well. And also on the palate, intense stuff with a slightly sweet creamy smoothness. And yes, more is the request!

Apex champions a heavy malt bill, brewed with only the best flaked Irish Oats, specialty chocolate and coffee malts. No wonder this stout is the base for quite a few Wicklow Wolf variations.

Very Highly Recommended

Geek Bits

Hops: Bravo

Malts: Pale, Chocolate, Roast Crystal, Brown, Carafa, Oat, Cara


Saison Dupont 6.5% ABV, 33 cl bottle Bradleys

A Standard. A Classic. The Best.

I’ve been enjoying it every summer for the past six years. I've enjoyed quite a few others as well but none comes near. If there were a Saison World Cup, then the Dupont team would be favourites and would win. As Michael Creedon of Bradley’s told me a few years back “if you don’t like this, you don’t like saison”.

Beer has been brewed here in Belgium’s Hainaut for centuries, though it is only in the last 20 years or so that the Dupont Brewery has become a global reference for saison. 

Farm beers of this type – light, rather dry but fruity – were traditionally brewed during the winter, ready to quench the thirst of the seasonal field workers (saisoniers) during the summer to follow.

It is a cloudy mid-amber, with fountains of micro-bubbles. Aromas of citrus. Light and fruity, zesty and refreshing, yet no shortage of hearty flavour. Reckon any labourer, even a keyboard one, would be happy with this impeccable beer. Superb finish also with the bitterness now at the forefront. Nothing quirky, nothing extreme other than extremely good.

They say: Saison Dupont was first brewed in 1844. This copper-blond beer yields amazingly delicate aromas paired with pronounced hop bitterness. The house yeast and the local hard water, drawn from a well, play an important role in the creation of this beer. An in-bottle refermentation makes a major contribution to the development of this complex and highly aromatic beer.