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25 June 2008

Your West Cork Holliers

Your West Cork Holiday
So, it is the middle of your 2008 summer West Cork sojourn, and the West Cork weather is doing just exactly what it is doing today: Force 6 gales, and rain. What to do? No problem: our little West Cork guide will provide you with both shelter and succour.

Skibbereen: the coffee shop in Field's supermarket is only excellent, and great for kids.
Around the corner, Siobhan has moved the excellent Kalbo's Bistro across the street from the original site, and it's another great place for families.
Just dow the street. Over the Moon will provide shelter and succour at both lunchtime and dinnertime We had a family dinner here recently and it was superb: Francois' cooking has control and flair in equal measure, and the only problem is in deciding what to eat, though the West Cork crab mayonnaise and the lamb with champ followed by the apple, rhubarb and ginger crumble is hard to beat.

Crookhaven: the cooking in the Crookhaven Inn is ace.

Bantry: a new fish restaurant will shortly be opening above the fish shop, with Richard, ex-Good Things Café, at the stove.
The best sandwiches in town are in The Stuffed Olive.
Organico, on the Glengariff Road, is fantastic for imaginative vegetarian cooking.

Durrus: Good Things Café is the cutting edge of West Cork cuisine.

Schull: the soups in Hackett's are the best, but don't overlook the quiet and peaceful Jagoes, at the top of the street: they make a fine bowl of soup in here also.

Ballydehob: we had the great ritual of a drink in Levis's bar and then dinner in Annie's just last week, and the cooking and the service in Annie Barry's iconic restaurant is on top form. As a delighted Sam McKenna put it: “You don't even have to order the garlic bread, it just comes straightaway!”

Castletownbere: Taste is now under new management and has moved premises in the town.

Contact details on

06 June 2008

Sheridan and Fantasia in Galway

Post one blog on Galway, and suddenly it all starts happening.
If you haven't seem Mr Sheridan talking about cheeses and M. Fantasia talking about wines, you ain't seen nuthin'. Don't miss this at Sheridan's HQ in the centre city

Enrico Fantasia on 'NATURAL' WINES


Tickets are €20
Book a seat with Gerry at 091 564832 or

We look forward to seeing you there.

With kind regards,

Sarah Bates

Our Galway Girl

Whilst we have been having some time off, our Galway Girl, Sabrina Conneely, has been busy, Here are a quartet of Galway hotspots to whet your appetite for a trip to Ireland's wildest and most summery city. Take it away Sabrina...

First up was Holywell. A friend and I went in here for lunch. Like before, nice setting, friendly staff and lovely outdoor eating area which people had opted for on the sunny day. We shared a Salad Caprese for starter and a we both had Tagliatelle alla Mafiosa. My friend had the gluten-free pasta as she is a coeliac. She was very impressed as it is one of the only places in Galway that serves it. Waiters also mentioned that the chef would have no problem if you brought in your own gluten-free pizza base. Cheap and cheerful...great place to go with a gang! On our way out I asked the lady at the counter how business was since they went vegetarian and she said slow to start off but lots of new customers.

Anton's Cafe
Situated on Fr. Griffin Rd, a little out from city centre but this does not affect business. I've seen people double park to get in here! My friend and I had two open brown bread sandwiches, one with chicken and one with tuna, served with a lovely fresh green salad. You can check out his menu on This place reminds me of Ard Bia. Small eating area, art exhibited on walls, not the most comfortable but perfect for a tasty lunch. You can tell by sitting there that the customers are regulars as they chat to one another from across the tables. He has an Italian Pastry Chef who bakes brown bread and an array of desserts daily, which you can buy to take home with you. The guy that runs this place used to do catering etc but had to stop as Anton's got so busy and this is obvious with the trade that's passing through on a daily basis. Job well done!

Kettle of Fish
A tiny chipper with a seating area. Very clean, lovely staff. My sister and I ate scampi and chips, one calamari and chips with a few side orders. This was really tasty, we were short of licking our plates. Not very busy but I think with a little word of mouth this place will be flying it. They had a special Todays catch, monkfish, chips and tartar sauce at €16. Organic salmon, chips at €9.95. Silver Hake at €9.95.
They have an array of fish from cod, haddock, smoked haddock, plaice, lemon sole, etc. They also serve chicken, burgers, sausages, etc. Their most popular order is the battered mars bars, yuck! If your looking for fresh fish and chips with a good dash of vinegar this is the place to go!

Went here with a friend one evening. Both of us were really excited as we had never experienced tapas. Lovely setting inside....a mixture of textures, e.g. one side blue stone wall and the rest painted in light brown and blues...energetic and laid-back feeling to it. Funky Spanish music playing. Even though the room wasn't full the atmosphere was much so that we decided to stay for a second bottle of Spanish Rioja wine!
Staff were on the ball, they knew their stuff....any question you had on a dish they had all the information. I told them to bring an array of tapas to us and they delivered. An example of some of the dishes were marinated olives, cubed roast potatoes with spicy aioli, prawns and garlic, muscles in manzanilla sherry, catalan tomato bread with manchego cheese, roast pork belly with apple confit. All these dishes were mouth-watering. My favourite was the salted cod cakes with lemon (they salt their own cod here). Their most popular dish is their pig trotters. All fish from Dune Seafoods, Collerans Meats and Spanish cheese and meats from Sheridans. They also sell some Spanish edible products and in the corner they have a library containing Spanish cookbooks that people can browse through. Loved this place, will definately return. The owners seem to know what they're doing, they run a tight ship and if they keep this up they have one hell of a place.

And whilst In Galway, don't forget Upstairs at Sheridans, and the new Bar8 on the Quays

01 June 2008

Those Pesky Kids

It’s dinner time, so you go and call the kids in from the garden with a tempting “Dinnerrrr! Come and geddit!”
“So, what’s for dinner, Dad? ” they ask.
“Great grub. First, some sushi with wasabi and soy sauce. Then grated carrot and sweetcorn fritters.
Also, the world’s best cheese on toast with mature Coolea cheese, chopped tomato and rocket.
And we finish with stir-fried fresh noodles with purple-sprouting broccoli, spring onion, sliced carrot, ginger, chilli, garlic, fresh coriander and coconut milk with lime”.
Now, who is going to have the surprised look on their face at this point?
Your children, horrified by the thought of having to eat this curious concatenation of ingredients?
Or yourself, astonished at offering them, and expecting them to eat, such a potpourri of good things?
If that roll-call of dishes sounds strange, then rest assured that it isn’t. It’s simply what Denis Cotter, of Cork’s sublime Café Paradiso restaurant, cooked on the street in Bantry recently at a fundraiser for Bantry Hospice beds.
“And the kids were fantastic”, says Mr Cotter, who watched his sushi rolls, his fritters, his amazing cheese on toast and his slurpsome noodles being demolished by the kids who crowded around, asking questions, curious about wasabi, helping to stir yogurt and baking powder into the fritter mixture, and advising Mr Cotter to be sure to remove the seeds as he chopped his hot red chillies.
Standing there, unsuccessfully trying to grab something to eat myself, I was struck by the adventuresome nature of the Bantry kids when it came to these exotic foods. And it struck me that there are two sets of people who are letting down the next generation when it comes to eating.
Firstly, there are our restaurateurs, who all-too-often resort to the chicken nuggets/sausages/fish fingers-with-chips line-up when they write a children’s menu.
Secondly, there are far too many parents whose initial reaction to anything unusual is to say: “Oh, Conor doesn’t actually eat that”, and who thereby foist their own conservative eating habits onto their children.
Limiting what your kids experience in their diet was christened “The Tunnel Effect”, by the food writer Joanna Blythman in her book, “The Food Our Children Eat”.
Ms Blythman wrote of parents who, accepting defeat when their kids turn their noses up at some new foods, thereby create “a downward spiral of narrowing food preferences which limits a child’s palate and makes it doubly difficult to extend it thereafter”.
This tunnel syndrome, so familiar to us all, is especially saddening when one sees the open-minded reaction of kids who are let loose prepping, chopping and cooking foods.
At the recent Burren Slow Food weekend in Lisdoonvarna, Sarah Malone, a local Slow Food volunteer, had a gang of kids sniffing herbs, chopping vegetables and generally getting up close and personal with a lot of stuff that they might not otherwise confront.
The kids, of course, lapped it all up. It was tactile, messy, improvised, and great fun. It was food as play, cooking as craic. Just what any parent would order.
A few weeks earlier, when Denis Cotter cooked another kids demo at Hosford’s garden centre, “ it was as much as we could do to stop them putting their hands in the wok as he served up” says the writer and broadcaster Dianne Curtin.
Ms Curtin, author of the book “The Creators”, has run several several food workshops in schools in West Cork, “and I’m always amazed at how much knowledge they do have already”, she says.
“It’s always about making it fun, and they seem to take food information much easier from a stranger than from their parents!”
Ms Curtin identifies young peoples’ enthusiasm for learning as the all-important springboard for changing eating patterns.
“If they feel they are actively participating they are much more likely to eat the food afterwards than if forced by an adult to “eat their greens”.
Joanna Blythman writes that, “The guiding principle is to make a conscious effort to offer children as wide a range of foods as possible, all the time supplementing tried and tested successful foods with new ones”.
So, fling the chillies at the kids, and the hoi sin sauce and the polenta and the noodles and the sushi.
And ask yourself if the person saying “No!” to something new on the menu isn’t, in fact, yourself, passing on a preference for the tried and tested – and boring – instead of the challenging and exciting foods that are all around us.
And when they start picking the food out of the wok even before it’s been plated, then congratulate yourself on creating an adventurous, questing little palate. Kids are curious, and hungry, so feed the curiosity, and satisfy the hunger.