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28 July 2008

Some West Cork News

We have already flagged the production of Tom Crean, Antarctic Explorer, at the Theatre by the Lake in Gougane Barra, but having seen it last night with the family, we have to assert that if there is any way to get a seat for Aidan Dooley's amazing performance, then you should do whatever is required to get your hard little seat in this simple little theatre.
Mr Dooley got the standing ovation last night, and after almost 500 performances he is surely well used to it, but there was a freshness and zealour about his playing that was riveting.
And equally riveting was dinner in the hotel before the show. Neil and Katy are on top form these days, the hotel is jammers, and the cooking is so sweet and lovely: plaice with tempura batter; goujons of chicken and excellent pizza for the kids, lovely breadcrumbed mussels; great mushroom soup; smashing desserts including the best apple crumble in West Cork. A darlin' place, and one of our favourites.
And a new favourite is Bantry's Fish Kitchen, above the fish shop in the centre of town. Here, again, is lovely, straightforward, respectful, modern Irish fish cookery: perfect fish and chips; perfect lemon sole with new potatoes; perfect fish cakes; perfect smoked haddock with mash. Great cooking, great service, nice room, excellent value, and not to missed by any locals and visitors. Call them on 027 56651

25 July 2008

Terre Madre Waterford

A note from Dianne Curtin of Slow Food West Cork. Take it away Dianne...

I mentioned Terra Madre Waterford 2008. I now urge you as committed members of Slow Food Ireland to look at the website,, see what events are taking place, and most importantly, to sign up for one of the 40 workshops already confirmed. And do bring a friend or two! This conference will be the at the cutting edge of changing food policy in this country and it is up to all of us to support it and help make it a success. We need well attended workshops with lively discussion, that will form the backbone of a major document presented to Ministers for perusal after the event. Come and meet those who can make change in the food industry of this country. The policy makers will be there, along with many other influential faces, and this is your chance to have your say. You can also contribute by joining the on line forum on the website. !

Please browse the site and remember - as with all Slow Food events - this Conference will fulfill the Slow Food philosophy in every way - combining the essential elements of gastronomy, education, and fun! There are lots of things going on over the weekend and it promises to be a real extravanganza of the celebration of good food. Your contribution and attendance will help make it the success it deserves to be, and in turn, help to influence how food is produced, prepared and sold in Ireland.

Best regards,

Dianne Curtin

West Cork Slow Food Convivium
Co. Cork

Web Site:

Your Holiday Home

Okay, so August beckons, and you have rented a nice little house somewhere, and said to your friends, “Sure, if you are in the area why not drop in...” and, so far, 967 of them have promised to do just that. Firm promises.
So, if you have to give them all a drink or three, then you are going to be Bear Stearns. What to do?
The answer is to buy a few cases of what I reckon is the best value white wine on the market. Wines Direct of Mullingar sells Chateau Des Eyssards Bergerac Sec at less than €10 a bottle, and it drinks like a €15 wine: notes of grapefruit, notes of flinty freshness, a true beaut at an extraordinary price, from brothers Pascal and Laurent Cuisset. If it had the appellation of its near-neighbour, Bordeaux, you would pay twice as much. And, Wines Direct deliver quickly and efficiently.
Only problem is that you won't be able to get rid of those friend after a couple of glasses...

18 July 2008

Recession? What recession?!

Being a Bridgestone editor is a bit like playing in a Miles Davis quintet: no rehearsals, plucked from the bench, get out there and be confident right from the start, here we go right now...
Anyhow, that's how Caroline Byrne of the Bridgestone Dublin parish got her start, filing expert reports straight away after an innocent e-mail enquiry, being despatched all around the city to say who and what is Bridgestone quality, and so it was nice to finally meet her in person in The Winding Stair this week.
And what a place to meet! TWS was jumpin': hasn't anyone told this packed, noisy, tumultuous restaurant that there is a recession going on? There was a party going on, is what is happening at the TWS. As Ms Byrne wisely identified it: when the Irish do what they know how to do and do it well, they are the best. So it is with TWS: the best.
Burren Smokery and Woodcock Smokehouse smoked fish plate with dilisk bread was excellent, as was organic beetroot with toasted walnuts and Ryefield goat's cheese. Mains of Clare Island organic salmon, and a sublime dish of Sally Barnes's smoked pollock, poached in milk, with a white cheddar mash were two masterly examples of native fish cookery. The cheeeboard offered 4 Irish cheeses, and Clew Bay carrageen pudding with rhubarb compote was a dream with some late picked dessert wine.
This is Irish cooking for the 21st century, served by staff who are so hip they should each have their own television shows. A genuinely awesome eating and drinking experience: don't miss TWS.

14 July 2008

Roast Chicken & Duck

Everyone knows that Simon Hopkinson, formerly chef of London's Bibendum Restaurant, produced one of the best ever chef's books when he collaborated with Lindsey Bareham to produce “Roast Chicken and Other Stories”.
Fewer people know that when Simon produced “Second Helpings of Roast Chicken” that he produced one of the worst-written cookery books of all time, a turgid trawl through banal musings, interspersed with some good recipes. He should have brought Lindsey along for the ride one more time...
However, the food is frequently good, especially this recipe for roast duck, which he admits comes from Mrs Hogg of The Haven, Gressingham. As duck is such a divil to cook right – get off the fat, crisp the skin, don't overcook it, keep the flavour – this is an invaluable technique:
you just pre-heat the oven to 190c, rub the duck with salt, and put it into the oven with the cooking rack slanted steeply so that the cooking fat drips down into a deep cooking tray below. Now, with the parson's nose pointing slanting downwards, cook it for 3 hours, removing the fat occasionally so that it doesn't splash all over the oven. If you have a nice West Cork Skeghanore duck, then you will have the heart and giblets, and use these to make a stock, which you combine with the scrapings in the pan after all the fat has been poured off, and there is your gravy.
Some fresh new spuds go well, and we used some grown by John Kelly of Cappanaparka, on the Beara Peninsula, bought in Organico in Bantry where you will know them by their cute little label which also has John's contact number: 087 6317552, should you wish to buy some direct.
Simple, delicious, zero work, that's the stuff, and thanks to Simon and Mrs Hogg.

12 July 2008

Eating & Theatre in Cork

Is there anything nicer than an early dinner in Neil and Katy's Gougane Barra Hotel in County Cork, followed by an evening of theatre in their little Theatre by the Lake? We don't think so, having had a great time last year watching Mick Lally in The Matchmaker.
Well, the good news from Neil and Katy this year is as follows:

We are delighted to announce that we will have Tom Crean Antarctic Explorer from the 15th of July-3rd of August, and The Tailor and Ansty returning from the 12th-31st of August in our Theatre by the lake. We are very excited about getting Tom Crean, as we tried to get this last summer and it’s a captivating show. We also have an early bird pre-theatre dinner available before the show. It’s possible to book through our website or by phoning the hotel on 026 47069.

Pre-theatre dinner, a show, then a few scoops in that lovely little bar back in the hotel. Bring it on...

11 July 2008

Seasonal Eating to get the Best of Food/John McKenna

A new edition of Margaret Costa’s “Four Seasons Cookery Book”, first published in 1970, arrives from the publisher, and you can’t work out which is sadder. Is it the fact that the book’s title is so weirdly anachronistic in the times in which we live? Or the fact that the foreword to this classic of seasonal good eating is written by Delia Smith, that great promoter of packaged and prepared foods.
My generation has been the generation that has allowed the importance of seasonal eating to be eroded by the mechanics of supermarket retailing. What was obvious to Margaret Costa in 1970 – “The best kind of cooking doesn’t depend on exotic and expensive ingredients, only upon the best and freshest of whatever you decide to use” - is no longer obvious to anyone in these islands.
Why bother to exult over May’s asparagus when it can be bought all year round? Why worry about the six-week-season for fresh peas when we can get a bag of frozen petits pois in every freezer cabinet? Why celebrate the first of the new season Irish potatoes when we have had the chance to eat Egyptian potatoes for weeks before the locals ever get near a shelf?
Seasonal eating, like religious observance and holidays in Tramore, is something our parents did, but that we have moved on from. We are sophisticated, whilst our parents were merely simple, God love ’em.
The truth, of course, is that we have paid a terribly high price for worshipping at the altar of convenience, whilst sacrificing the God of quality. But the price we have paid is dealt with in what is today a devalued currency, and so it gets little or no attention, and indeed it invites derision.
Use adjectives such as “tactile”, “ripe”, ”fresh”, and a supermarket buyer will think you have lost your mind. Talk about “aroma”, “scent”, typicity” or “organoleptic quality”, and the supermarket security staff will come to escort you quickly and efficiently from the building, lest you cause a commotion.
But seasonality is of paramount importance to food quality. And with certain foods, the volatility of daily climate conditions can cause major differences in quality.
The Taste Council recently held an organoleptic seminar featuring selected Irish farmhouse cheeses alongside the world-famous Montgomery cheddar cheese from Somerset. Of the four samples of Montgomery cheddar offered by Jamie Montgomery, the cheese made on May 8th 2007 was absolutely terrible: sour, nasty, with none of the defining quality of the great Montgomery cheddars.
Why? Simply because it was a cheese made on a day of terrible weather, so all the conditions prevailed against making a good cheese.
This is how volatile our foods actually are, but if we don’t accept and respect this volatility, we wind up with foods that have no flavour, no taste, and that ultimately have no quality whatsoever.
As you pick up that rock-hard peach, or that punnet of blackberries, just ask yourself what condition the fruit was in when it was harvested. Once a fruit is picked, it isn’t going to get sweeter or more flavourful. Pick it too soon, and you have sealed its fate, and murdered its quality.
And at this time of year, there is no reason whatsoever to accept third-rate quality. The Wexford strawberries are being sold at the roadsides. The Kilcrohane spuds, small and smooth and soft-skinned, are ready to be gently cooked and then showered with all the herbs that the garden is thrusting forth – thyme, lovage, parsley and marjoram were the quartet I chopped just a few days ago to blanket over the spuds, along with plenty of good butter, of course.
The lettuce leaves and young spinach are in the farmer’s markets, the mackerel are in the waters, and July will be bustin’ out all over with all the good things – small broad beans, peas, courgette flowers, fresh crab, plaice, squid, farmhouse cheeses made with pasture milk and not the winter’s silage, strawberries, raspberries and gooseberries.
To eat food in its season is to enjoy ripeness, quality, freshness, the splendour of perfect food at the perfect moment in time. Food in its time gives us a true taste of the sublime, as William Carlos Williams understood when he wrote the poem, “This Is Just To Say”:

I have eaten
the plums
that were in
the icebox
and which
you were probably
saving for breakfast
Forgive me
They were delicious
so sweet
and so cold.

09 July 2008

Do Not Miss This!

We are big fans of the great North Cork markets, at Kilavullen and mallow. Now, here is a demon, not-to-be-missed chance to hear the inspiring stallholders of the markets discuss their work. This is going to be one of the events of th culinry year! her's the details:

From Monday 14th July, URRU Culinary Store will host a week of Conversations on a Farmers’ Market with participants from the bi-monthly Mallow Farmers’ Market. Listen to Gudrun Shinnick from Fermoy Natural Cheese Company talk about making her fantastic local cheeses and Gairdín Eden’s Maurice Grinsell on growing year-round top-quality salad leaves. Old Millbank Smokehouse’s Geraldine Bass’ explains how to smoke fish at home, Patrick Franke describes the process of organic conversion and growing your own vegetables, and Bibliocook/URRU staff member Caroline Hennessy demonstrates how to capture the natural yeasts in the air to make a unique sourdough starter.

The conversations will take place in the café of URRU Culinary Store each morning at 11am, from Monday 14th July to Friday 18 July and all are welcome. There will be no charge for these community events. For more information, please contact William Healy at URRU Culinary Store, Bank Place, Davis Street, Mallow. Telephone/fax: 022 53192.

Monday 14th July at 11am
Geraldine Bass of Old Millbank Smokehouse: Smokin’! Preserving with smoke at home (TBC)
Tuesday 15th July at 11am
Gudrun Shinnick of Fermoy Natural Cheese: Just Say Cheese
Wednesday 16th July at 11am
Caroline Hennessy of Use Your Loaf – How to make sourdough bread
Thursday 17th July at 11am
Maurice Grinsell of Gairdín Eden: How to grow (probably) the best salad leaves in the world
Friday 18th July at 11am
Patrick Franke: How does your garden grow: organically?

The next Mallow Farmers’ Markets will take place on Saturdays 12 and 26th July in the courtyard in front of URRU Culinary Store.

08 July 2008

Viognier & Pizza

You get some idea of the ambition and drive that animates Stéphane Montez when you see the label of his Viognier, from Domaine de Monteillet, in Chavanay in the Rhone Valley.
“Viognier” is in big letters at the top of the label, the Domaine name is at the bottom, and Stéphane's name is centre stage, written like a bolt of lightning. Blimey!
Is he worth it? He sure is, and I mention the Viognier – he is better known for much pricier Cote Rotie and St Joseph – simply because this is the sort of nervy, wild, wickedly interesting wine that suits serious pizza.
Modern fruit-driven wines murder the complexity of tastes on a good pizza, even though theoretically they should work. But something like a Viognier as fine as this is just the thing: the wine is powerful, yet its typicity and poise means that the fruit is locked within the structure of the wine. M. Montez has travelled the globe making wine before going home, and he has learnt well, expressing terroir and typicity with wines such as this. So, ditch the Aussie Chardonnay and Shiraz, and get stuck into this with a sice of leek and black pudding pizza with pine nuts. If you have 8 minutes to spare, then do watch the youtube video of Stéphane's estate, and you can order the wines via where the Viognier will cost you about €17

Not so good news from Belfast

Sadly, David Semple's fine Espresso Soul is no longer doing the good thing at Cromac Place in Belfast. A shame, and a destination that will be much missed. We wish David well in his future plans in the business.

07 July 2008

Refined Defined

You can't top a book Like Pizza Defined, but that doesn't mean that you can't free-associate with ideas whenever you are cooking the book's recipes.
When some friends and their kids were around last week and we were making some of Bernadette's classics, we just happened to find ourselves with some cooked beetroot – no way the kids were eating that, of course – and a few anchovies.
Would it work? Well, there was plenty of goat's cheese being used with the other pizzas, and goat's cheese likes beetroot, and goat's cheese likes anchovies, and we had nothing to lose. The beets were chopped, the cheese sliced, the anchovies rinsed and placed on top and we fired it into the oven with the pizza peel.
Did it work? It sure did: these three elements are superb together.
So, when you have all the pizzas from PD cooked, don't be afraid to head off on a pizza skite of your own

06 July 2008

The return of Pizza Defined

Publishing is a frustrating business.
No matter how hard you try, every book always manages to come up short in one way or another: a photo not quite right, a typo on page 7, someone's name spelt wrongly.
But, once a decade, everything works. With us here at Estragon Press, it worked out right eleven years ago, when we published our first ever cookery book, Pizza Defined, by Bernadette O'Shea.
Ms O'Shea was at the height of her powers. Her restaurant, Truffles, in Sligo, was packed every night, her cooking was the stuff of legend – it is still possible to talk about her food with complete strangers you might meet and who ate there, even though she closed a decade ago.
The photographer, Mike O'Toole, was beginning to make his name as the most exciting talent in food photography, assisted by his wife, Anne Marie Tobin.
And Nick Cann, the designer, came up with a design template for the book that was cutting edge then, and remains cutting edge today.
Together with this team of talents, we managed to make a book that quickly became regarded as the definitive book on pizza cookery. Pizza Defined had all the hallmarks of a timeless book, as good as books by Richard Olney, or Denis Cotter, or Paula Wolfert. It was concentrated, studious, idiosyncratic and ahead of its time, and happily the book was warmly received.
But when its print run was sold, we discovered that the plates used to make the book had gone awol. So, this little beauty simply went to sleep.
Fast forward, then, to the digital age, when you can magically re-originate books from the original text, and we are delighted to say that Pizza Defined is back on the shelves, in a beautiful new edition.
Age has not withered it. Ms O'Shea's meticulous devotion to her cooking has meant that no pizza book published since PD has matched her inventiveness. Working on the book up in Sligo, Bernadette seemed to simply pull new ideas out of the ether, adding them to the recipes that made Truffles such a classic destination, and I think the book still feels spontaneous, inspired, concocted on the spot – it was tested and photographed in just 2 days, believe it or not.
So, Pizza Defined is back for the new century, and we hope you enjoy it. Available in all good book shops @€20, as they say, and you can also buy it via

05 July 2008

Pizza Defined

Readers of The Irish Times will be aware that we have republished Bernadette O'Shea's cookery book, Pizza Defined. We will have more on the book next week, but to begin here is Tom Doorley's piece on the book, from the 'Times magazine today:

The last word in pizza

Ireland lost a great restaurant when Bernadette O'Shea closed Truffles of Sligo way back in 1997, but her truly outstanding pizzas live on in her landmark book, Pizza Defined.

This masterful work is now back in print, thanks to John McKenna of Estragon Press and Bridgestone guides fame.

I was lucky enough to eat in Truffles just before it closed and I can still remember every mouthful of Bernadette's bacon and cabbage pizza. Well, not bacon but exquisite Parma ham paired with crinkly dark green savoy, pinenuts and a little nutmeg. It was bliss.

The recipe for this marvellous invention is included in the book but, more importantly perhaps, there is a vast amount of information for anyone who wants to take this humble dish as seriously as it deserves - from flour and yeast to the art of kneading and the precise science of baking. Add to that the luscious photographs by Mike O'Toole and plenty of brilliant and wholly unexpected ideas - such as black pudding and leek pizza, to name but one - and you have a book that is, as the title suggests, truly definitive.

Pizza Defined may be 11 years old but it's still as fresh and as inspiring as it was on the day it first appeared.

Pizza Defined by Bernadette O'Shea is published by Estragon Press (€20, paperback). - Tom Doorley

04 July 2008

Darth Vader's surprise bash

It's easy to be a Bridgestone editor.
You simply need to be talented, whacky, idiosyncratic, and be blessed with awesomely talented kids as well.
So, Valerie O'Connor, our resident Limerick editor, got the gig on all counts. And if you need proof that her kids are awesome, then just go straight to this youtube clip, wherein you will see a work of towering genius: a 4 minute movie made by Leon O'Connor, who is all of ten years old, and who is the future of cinema as sure as I am sitting here writing this and telling you that Leon is the future of cinema.
Kids today! How on earth can you keep up with them...