Wednesday, September 13, 2023

Chef Network Launches Open Kitchen Week 2023. Inviting Guests to Experience a Professional Kitchen: 6th to 12th of November

 Chef Network Launches Open Kitchen Week 2023

Pictured at launch in Café En Seine, Kailum Concannon of
Aniar (left), Galway, and Meeran Manzoor of Rare, Kinsale

Inviting Guests to Experience a Professional Kitchen: 

6th to 12th of November

Anyone who has ever been curious about what it’s like to work in a professional kitchen will be invited by Chef Network to go ‘behind the pass’ in professional kitchens throughout the country from November 6th to 12th. 

Chef Network has enlisted restaurants from around Ireland and Northern Ireland to offer guest slots in kitchens throughout the week of the 6th to the 12th of November. This is the first year of this brand-new initiative, with plans already in place for an expanded annual ‘Open Kitchen Week’ in 2024 and beyond. 

There are over 300 guest slots available in 50 restaurants, cafes, bakeries and hotels across 14 counties, each signing up to offer anyone interested the chance to look inside their kitchens. Participating businesses include some high-profile names such as Elbow Lane, Inchydoney Hotel and Spa, The Hungry Donkey Food Truck and The Blue Haven to name but a few. The list of establishments includes a diverse range of hotels, bakeries, cafes, restaurants and bars, allowing participants to choose from the environment they want to trial. Anyone interested can sign up for a two to three-hour shift, a full day or a particular service: breakfast, lunch or dinner service, depending on what is on offer from the particular establishment. Registrations are open now. 

Ruth Hegarty, from egg&chicken Food Consultancy, who is leading the project for Chef Network says “Chef Network and many many people in the industry do great work to build positive and nurturing work environments in kitchens, but we don’t always see or hear about it, so we thought ‘let’s open up kitchens and show people’. This is for anyone who has considered any kind of kitchen or culinary career, or it might spark someone’s curiosity for the first time. Our message is that a career in a professional kitchen could be for anyone; there is such a huge diversity of types of roles and places to work, and there are so many opportunities out there. We expect big interest in this, we think people are genuinely interested in knowing what goes on behind the doors of a professional kitchen. For year one, we have just 50 establishments participating, so we expect slots to book up fast”. 

A professional chef, Chef Network spokesperson and Culinary Director at Gather & Gather IrelandMark Andersonsaid, "This is a fantastic and unique opportunity for people to see inside the kitchen and how good and positive kitchens work daily. Those who sign up for the experience will get a very different and rewarding opportunity, working in some of the best restaurants and workplace kitchens in Ireland. It's a chance to get behind the pass and see how professional kitchens and chefs operate in a fast-paced exciting environment that will hopefully highlight the positive industry that I love to work in every day.”

Anyone who is interested in participating can book a slot here.

Munster restaurants taking part include Elbow Lane, Inchydoney Hotel and Spa, The Hungry Donkey Food Truck and The Blue Haven Hotel. 

Keep up to date with the latest news by following Chef Network on social at @chefnetworkirl

Liberty Tasting at Hayfield Manor puts focus on “Sustainable Winemaking”.

Liberty Tasting at Hayfield Manor puts focus on “Sustainable Winemaking”

At the Hayfield Manor Tasting (l to r): Liam Campbell, Wine & Drinks Editor & Consultant; Sandra Biret Crowley, Castlemartyr Resort Sommelière;
Marcus Gates, Liberty Wines.

If you are asked about sustainability in wine-making, you may well think first about looking after the vineyard, understanding and looking after the soil. But of course, the subject is much broader than that as was obvious from the Liberty Wines Sustainable Winemaking Focus Tasting at the Hayfield Manor last Monday.

Let us start with bubbles as many tastings do. My first call was to the Rathfinny table, an English Sparkling Wine producer from the South Downs, just 3 miles from the channel. The Drivers, Mark and Sarah, are the owners here and are sustainability supporters: “We aim to be a sustainable wine producer. As a result, we take the stewardship of our land seriously. All our buildings are constructed using locally sourced materials, such as flint from the vineyards, and we have worked with Natural England and the South Downs National Park to implement a programme of improvements to enhance wildlife habitats and reclaim areas of natural chalk grassland, as well as creating wildlife corridors throughout the vineyard.”

This ‘re-wilding’ of what was previously an arable farm ensures greater biodiversity. This focus on the environment, and to sustainability and the soil, ensures good quality fruit.…sustainability is multi-layered, it’s everything we touch. It’s not just about the use of carbon or energy or chemicals. It’s about how we treat our soils, our use of water and all the inputs we have in the winemaking process, the whole environment.” 

Rathfinny is taking multiple steps to increase biodiversity following a pioneering assessment by Buglife.

This attention to detail shines through in the wines, which are beautifully made, elegant and balanced. I tasted their Classic Cuvée Brut (2018) which has spent 3 years lees and is one of the best things you can ever put into your mouth on a Monday morning! A brilliant start to the day! 

However, this focus on sustainability is not limited to the vineyard. Pepe Raventos’ restoration of the Can Sumoi estate has protected 380 hectares of forest. Piper-Heidsieck uses the lightest available Champagne bottle as part of their commitment to reach net zero. Nor are these efforts limited to environmental sustainability. Fairview supports an association for its farm workers, enabling employees to further their education, build new homes and make their own wines.


The 80 wines on show were roughly half white and half red with a Sake (Keigetsu Sake Nature V) in between and a superb Port (Dona Antonia 30-year-old Tawny) to finish. 

One of the outstanding whites and new to Liberty this year was the Domaine de Montille Bourgogne Blanc `Le Clos du Château de Puligny-Montrachet 2020. Superbly balanced and one of my Star whites on the day.

Etienne de Montille was an early advocate of organic farming when, in 1995, he introduced these principles in the estate’s vineyards. Biodynamic practices followed in 2005, and the domaine received ‘Ecocert Bio’ certification in 2012.  Montille’s `Le Clos du Château` is a five-hectare vineyard located within the walls of the castle of Puligny.

My other Star whites were

2021 Blank Canvas Reed Vineyard Marlborough Chardonnay

2021 Loimer `Loiserberg` Kamptal Grüner Veltliner Reserve

2022 Domaine de L’Enclos Chablis

Always something differentand colourful
from Gallina de Piel

Other gettings a big thumbs up were

2021 Pieropan `Calvarino` Soave Classico

2019 Gallina de Piel `Manar dos Seixas` Ribeiro Treixadura/Albariño/Godello/Loureiro

2022 Matošević `Alba` Malvazija Istarska 

2022 Antonella Corda Vermentino di Sardegna

2022 Château La Verrerie Hautes Collines Viognier

2023 Tinpot Hut Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc - perhaps the freshest wine in the room, just in from New Zealand.

2017 Mount Pleasant `Elizabeth` Cellar Aged Hunter Valley Semillon -

2020 Cullen `Grace Madeline` Margaret River Sauvignon Blanc/Semillon V


One of the outstanding red wines was NV Dreissigacker `Vintages` St. Laurent/ Pinot Noir. This multi-vintage wine has elegant and charming aromas, is well-balanced with a silky texture and is altogether gorgeous.

Jochen Dreissigacker has 45 hectares of vineyards in Rheinhessen. All of his wines are certified organic and he describes his transformation to organic viticulture as “the artisan path to purity”. In 2019, Jochen also started following biodynamic principles in order to create the optimal conditions for the grapes to thrive – an approach that he describes as “a long-term investment in nature and wines”.

`Vintages` red (he also has a white) is a harmonious ensemble of St. Laurent and Pinot Noir from 2018 and 2017. Fermented separately before blending and ageing in barriques for three years, it certainly made a big impression last Monday.

Three excellent Italians

Pedro Parra is a major favourite of mine. He has spent decades working internationally but bit by bit realised he really wanted his own vineyard and winery and so he set up in Itata near the ocean, 500 kms south of Santiago, the capital of Chile. And this Vinista (below), the fruit sourced from 120 year old vines planted at 300 m above sea level, is one of the results. It was my wine of the year in 2020. 

País is a red grape variety of great historical importance. According to it was the first Vitis Vinifera grape variety to be exported from the old world to the new world in the 16th century.
 You've heard of flying winemakers. You're more
likely to find Pedro Parra in the ground. (pic from Liberty zoom session).

My other Star picks in the reds were:

2019 Racines Santa Rita Hills Pinot Noir

2022 Monterustico Dogliani

2019 Allegrini Amarone della Valpolicella Classico

2019 G.D. Vajra Barolo `Albe`

2021 Domaine Vico `Le Bois du Cerf` Rouge

2021 Pedro Parra `Vinista` Itata Valley País

2020 Montes Colchagua Merlot - Montes have significantly reduced their water usage through a technologically advanced approach to drip irrigation.

2021 Cuevas de Arom `Altas Parcelas` Calatayud Garnacha

2021 Can Sumoi Garnatxa Sumoll - - The restoration of the Can Sumoi estate has protected 380 hectares of forest.

September morning at the Hayfield Manor.

And big thumbs up for:

2022 Frédéric Berne Beaujolais Lantignié `Granit Rose

2021 Domaine Grégoire Hoppenot Fleurie `Clos de l’Amandier`

2019 Altos Las Hormigas Mendoza Tinto

2019 Fontodi Flaccianello della Pieve - the estate is certified organic, run on biodynamic principles and a lead in regenerative viticulture.

2019 Kaiken Mendoza Cabernet Sauvignon

2021 Montes Apalta Vineyard Carignan/Grenache/ Mourvèdre

Cattle at Fontodi (pic via Zoom masterclass 2020). More detail here

Liberty had no bother in picking 80 great examples to illustrate the topic of sustainability.  “Wine producers are adapting the way they work in the vineyard to adapt to climate change and to produce better grapes. Both mean better wines,.… There is much more to do before we achieve a truly sustainable wine industry – and much required for producers to adapt to the increasing temperatures and extreme weather caused by climate change." 

"We are proud to work with producers rising to this challenge and, as a Carbon Neutral Positive distributor, share their values. These producers are not only making excellent wines with a clear sense of place today but also ensuring that such wines can be enjoyed in future.”

No denying. Harvest dates get earlier and earlier as global warming builds up.
Chart via Cellar Master Émilien Boutillat during Liberty Zoom masterclass May 2020.

* The Liberty Wines Dublin Autumn Portfolio Tasting on Monday 2nd October 2023 at The Westbury (trade only).

Tuesday, September 12, 2023

CorkBillyBeers #43. Craft with Wicklow Wolf, Galway Hooker, St Bernardus and Community Brew Project

CorkBillyBeers #43

Craft with Wicklow Wolf, Galway Hooker, St Bernardus and Community Brew Project.


Wicklow Wolf Eden Session IPA, 3.8% ABV, 440 ml can Bradleys

Deliciously juicy, easy-drinking dry-hopped ale

The colour is hazy orange with a soft white head. Aromas of resin and grapefruit. Citrus is also prominent in the juicy palate where there’s quite a tropical presence as well, and again there’s a hint of pine. Well-balanced though all through with the malts having their say and the freshness of the hops combining in a satisfactory finalé.

Deliciously juicy, this easy-drinking dry-hopped ale, carrying just 3.8% ABV,  is a banker for a session, another winner from the Wicklow Wolf.

Very Highly Recommended.


They introduced it in 2019, saying: “An easy drinking Session IPA brewed with a shed load of the freshest El Dorado, Sabro & Chinook hops….We are obsessed with hops. Deliciously juicy, Eden is dry-hopped to give an abundance of tropical and stone fruits with a hint of piney bitterness. The malt bill provides a creamy & well-rounded balance. Malts: Pale, Oats, Cara Blond, Cara Clair


Galway Hooker Irish Pale Ale, 4.3% ABV, 500 ml bottle Centra Victoria Cross

Established in 2006, Galway Hooker produced the original Irish Pale Ale – now the most popular style of craft beer in the country.

And this bottle is indeed marked “the Original”. Colour is a mid-gold, a bit on the hazy side but that doesn't prevent you from seeing the bubbles rising up to the soft white head. Aromas are a mix of citrus and floral. It is crisp and zingy and the flavours are deep on the palate with both malts (Caramel) and hops (Cascade) getting an influential look-in. Quite a refreshing beer with a dry finish.

Perfect, they say, with barbecued meats, seafood and mature farmhouse cheeses. Very Highly Recommended.

Hooker tells us it is created in small batches to make the perfect balance of slowly developed malt and Hops flavours. “The result is a tangy flavour to savour with a light citrus aroma. It combines European and American hops with Irish malt to produce a truly unique blend of old world subtlety and new world taste.”

“Our ethos is to brew natural, full-flavoured, high quality and preservative-free beers. The results are beers that have received numerous awards, including Gold Medals at the Irish Food Awards and the World Beer Awards”.


St Bernardus Wit, 5.0% ABV, 330 ml can Bradleys

St.Bernardus Wit is a traditional unfiltered Belgian wheat beer produced in Watou. It was developed in collaboration with Pierre Celis, the legendary master brewer who was the driver of the resurgence of white beer in the 1960s.

It has a pale orange colour, quite hazy with a dense white head. The aromatics are quite complex though clove stands out for me. There follows a masterclass in balance in the mouth. The herbal notes (coriander), the spice (clove), the fruit (orange, lemon), the sweet malt and the creamy texture (from the wheat) all combine marvellously well with a superb result.

It is a very refreshing beer but quite versatile at the table (which almost goes without saying when you have a Belgian beer at hand). 

St Bernardus are enthusiastic: “This incredibly versatile beer can be paired with almost any recipe from anywhere in the world. Its most outstanding role is perhaps that of a refreshing contrast when served with creamy dishes - a risotto for example - or in combination with shellfish and white fish. Do you serve a slice of lemon with your fish? You can echo that or a lemon sauce or dressing with this beer with its strong hints of citrus.”


Community Brew Project Fragments Red IPA, 6.5% ABV, 440 ml can Bradleys

How does the Brew Project* work?

“It's pretty simple... It's up to you to tell us what you'd like to see brewed by each of the breweries! We'll narrow the ideas down to a shortlist, and then vote. The beers with the most votes get brewed. We have four brilliant breweries taking part in the project: Ballykilcavan, Dead Centre, Hope and Dot Brew.”

This Red IPA is brewed by Hope. And, yes, it is reddish, pretty murky, with a cream head that slowly sinks. Hops used (“liberally”) are Citra and Amarillo and you do get a bit of citrus fruit in both aromas and flavours.  Not a great balance though and we parted ways before the end.

* More details of the project on the Craic Beer Community platform here

Monday, September 11, 2023

Sunshine obliges once again as the final day of Feast takes over Midleton's streets.

Sunshine obliges once again as the final day of Feast
 takes over Midleton's streets.

Feast, the East Cork Food Festival, once again drew the crowds to Midleton's main street for its final day last Sunday. And the sun, also an annual visitor, once again turned up (and stayed longer than forecast), as did dozens of providers and thousands of punters, young and old.

There was no shortage of burgers available from the hot food stands that lined the sunny street
but by early afternoon the line at this juice and smoothie stall was the longest in town.

Joe McNamee's Grub Circus pitched up in its usual place on the green and the pre-lunch session was titled Fermentation. Joe's sterling line-up knew the subject well and featured Niamh Hegarty (BKultured), baker Benjamin Le Bon (Seeds bakery, Kinsale/Owner/Operator of Natural Foods Bakery); Dr Fanny Leenhardt Coghlan (, educator and nutritionist), specialising in sourdough breads and heritage wheats); Ramya Balasubramanian (Scientist from APC Microbiome), specialising in gut health and expert on fermented foods from around the world).

If you wanted a seat and table and some tasty grub to enjoy, along with music and drink of course. Then the Sage Courtyard was the place to plonk. Ten euro bought me a bowlful of lamb Tagine and I sampled two of the three Original 7 beers available on tap, the lager and Revolution IPA. Both were excellent with the also excellent tagine though CL gave the nod for pairing to the lager. I should have tried the Wonderland Red Ale as well. Next time!

You just cannot have a festival in these parts without
the marvellous Annie's Roasts and her team. Below, local butcher Jim Crowley's
outstanding burgers are always a festival treat.

Not just humans! Food for doggies gets a look-in.

Delicious beers from Cork's own Orignal 7 brewery in Sage courtyard,
lager (left) and IPA.

Reckon they talking Valentia Vermouth here in Sage.

Crepes were as popular as ever!

Max and Katherine (from Ukraine and currently Trabolgan) were
introducing their Snackuberry (below). Hope to get a little story on this shortly.

Roscoff onions on sale at the West Cork Garlic stall.

Sage was also on the street!

Got some delicious Samosa, Spring Rolls and
Chicken Tikka from the marvellous Spice Genie,
winner of the Battle of the Food Trucks in 2022.
Plan to get a post up on them too!