Wednesday, March 27, 2013

The Culinary Tour...

Sally and Joielene
 I have to introduce you guys to Sally Barnes of the Woodcock Smokery who has been showing me all over Cork County, introducing me to butchers, cheese-makers, chefs and shop owners, markets and fishing docks...This is a trip that could not have happened with out her and just met through happenstance....
   First off is The Woodcock Smokery with Sally and her daughter Joielene where they do this incredible smoking....tuna loin, kippers, mackerel and haddock....incredible artisans, this small shop, which pumps out literally TONS of smoked product to all of the small shops and cafe's right up to the Michelin Starred places throughout Ireland!  You talk to the chef's here and everyone knows Sally, and not just for her product but for her knowledge of the pulse of Irish food, both land and sea and the work she puts into creating the west Cork Food scene and bringing together chef's, artisan food makers and people that love it.  I will just run through quickly what and who she has introduced me to so far.
Starting with her own place "woodcock Smokery" we start with a little tour and intro to what they are doing there.  Then its for a quick impromptu lunch in Sally's kitchen of some brown toast, smoked salmon and warmed smoked kippers.then it was off to Glebes to meet Peter and Jean Perry doing fresh garden/farm to table local stuff...then off to O'Driscoll's Butchery to talk with Paudy O'Driscoll and see his shop, pick up a few things and its off.  Outside we run into Sally's friend Sacha Puttnam...a local yet world renowned, classicly trained musician here who does all of the film scores for his Dad's films, award winning producer David Puttnam...oh, and he was a member along with friend Gavin Rossdale of the group Bush.  From there it was off to Spar, a grocery that is "run" by local farmers.  A regular grocery, though small by our standards, that the local farmers have shares and say in.  Chatting with the butcher, checking out the produce, having a fun talk about whiskey and beer and it's off......From there to the pub for a quick pint and a to West Cork Hotel to meet up with GM Neil Grant and Chef Christian Pozimski.....a nice long chat with them about everything and off I was, leaving Sally behind for a Local Food meeting for the Celtic Culinary Competition.  Next day its up early, into the car and off to the smokery....Joielene packs some order to be mailed and delivered to local shops.  While she was doing that, the snow started and Sally too me for a walk to the top of her property, which sits on a hill.  We get to the top and have a view, though snowy, of then entire bay, a small lake and hoses and sheep dotting the countryside.  Then a few step up further is the "Ring" and ancient ceremonial spot, a ring of stone wall, some carvings some standing stones and tunnels beneath...noone is quite sure the meaning....just incredible..just standing in a spot that was used for some sort of ceremony during monolithic times....crazy
 So into Sally's car and off to Durrus....a small town in West Cork, about 40 mins away.  Off to meet Jeffa and Peter of Durrus Farmhouse cheeses.  A quick tour of the cheese facility and seeing the fresh/aging cheeses....its another impromptu lunch of Durrus cheese, fresh fruit and toast with jams..of course tea.  After a really nice conversation and some great eating it was back in the car for a drive through the country to head to Clonakilty to make a few drops and a few hello's.  First to Lettercollum Kitchen Project to meet Karen Austin the chef/owner, where they have a small shop of incrdible sweets and savory's...where I had to pick up a just made Quinoa Burger to try out, some bread, some cured meats, some cheese some fun chat, and off.  Next up is Richy's bar and bistro, make a drop off and its a sit down with chef/owner Richy Virasawmy, who also happens to be the private chef for Michael Flatly of "Riverdance" fame... it's another coffee (which by the way is espresso over here, I am Wired!) finding running a restaurant is the same challenge in Ireland as it is anywhere else....yet the driving factor is passion and the love of what we do.  Then quick tour of the kitchen and ding rooms....a really fun and refreshing talk with Richy about both of our views on food and what is going on in the industry....Things are winding down for the day, but we get an invite to stop over Chef Caitlin Ruth's house for a chat.  She just made some home-made English muffins and wants us to stop by to chat.  Caitlin is a 22 year transplant from New Hampshire, through way of California and Belgium.  She is the chef at Deasy's Pub and Fish Restaurant in Clonakilty, and from what I hear, is one of the best around!  She had made the fresh muffins and tea for us.....and what a great host....the conversation was just a blast....I could have spent hours, but after a couple of hours it was starting to get dark and late.  It was back to Sally's and the Smokery to pick up the car and off to Baltimore...It was in incredible day of meeting incredible people...It's what tis trip was all about....Here's to good people, good talk, good food, good friends and coffee.....

Jeffa from Durrus Cheese

Sunday, March 24, 2013

gotta share the good and the bad...... I go to the local grocery to find some "local" meat, wanting to try and compare food/meats from here to what we have at home.   I am perusing the butcher counter, checking it with great intrigue and care.  I see a cut of pork...a nice pink/red meat, not that pale milky pork we find in most of our's labeled as a "pale back joint", but looks to me like a "center cut pork loin"'s got a nice fat cap on it that I think I can really sear and melt off.  I go outside and cut some fresh rosemary and thyme from the little herb garden out back and pierce the pork and lace the herbs through it.  I season it nicely with some sea salt and fresh cracked pepper.....see where I am going here?  This is gonna be an incredible dinner that I wish I had someone or someones to share it with.  I start browning off the fat, carefully basting the loin, melting the cap.  In the meantime i cut up my baby potatoes, season them up with some olive oil, sea salt and fresh cracked pepper along with some minced herbs from the garden.  To finish this off I finely slice some leeks and local mushrooms to just throw over the top.. This is gonna be a good dinner...     I throw the pan with the pork and the potatoes in the oven while I saute the leeks and mushrooms on the stove top......20 mins in the oven and all seems perfect.  I pull it, let it sit for 10 mins to firm up and finish cooking....start slicing it, but it looks a bit strange, though not sure why.  i cut and end piece and taste it.....damn, super salty....wayyyy salty.  Now I had a couple Guinness, but I still know how to cook and season, could I possibly have thrown that much salt on it?  I plate it up, as you can see...and cant wait to eat......damn, this shit is wayyyyy salty, what the hell did I do?  I can't figure it out at all...there is no way I could have added this much salt, and it tastes like it was brined........I don't get it.  I saw the pork, I held the pork, I cooked the pork...I have cooked pork loin a million times.....finally, after putting it aside, waiting an hour or so...I come back to it.  I look on-line for Pale back joint....nothing....i dig deeper, looking at Irish Pork sites....finally I find "Pale Back Rashers"'s fricking bacon....Irish fricking bacon!!!!  The same goddamn thing I ate the other day in the pub, though it was boiled and served with cabbage.  I am an idiot!

Today at "The Glebe"..

Today's lunch was at, my home away from home right now, Baltimore's own "The Glebe" Cafe' with the owner and gardener Peter Perry.  Glebe Cafe' is in the "Bridgestones 100 Best Restaurants in Ireland" and the garden is "The Best 100 Gardens in Ireland"- Liberty Press.....What a cool little cafe/garden tucked away in some woods on a tiny piece of land jutting out into an ocean cove. They grow all of their own "organic" produce right on their property here and it's just incredible "local" food.  I had Quinoa/Goat Cheese/Herb Fritters with a Garden Salad and Glebe Sweet Chili Jam, and some Roasted Baby Potato. The salad couldnt have been more than minutes old, right from the garden.  All cooked and served by Peter's daughters Tessa, Keziah and JoJo,  a real "Family run" business.  Some great conversation with Peter who is a British transplant.  Peter sat on the Soil Association Board in the UK when they initiated "Organic" certification...yet chooses not to be raped by the Irish government in fees to use the IOFGA symbol for his gardens. Irony. It's both refreshing and sad at the same time to hear from Peter that they deal with the same non-sense that we do back in the states.  That we all cringe when in inspector shows up, be it health, fire, liquor..whatever.  That they have the same "money-grabbing" government bs that we do.    Yet at the same time in spite of the difficulties we do what we do because we love it, that ultimately we enjoy what we do and sharing it with others....from our staff to our customers.  We had a great talk about "chains" and "box-stores" and how they are the downfall off small town.  They are just starting to feel that pinch now.  I was saying how back home almost any small town would give their right arm to have what they have here..the mom and pop shops, the local pharmacy, candy store, electronics store....the local pubs and the small town grocery...but how once the cat is out of the bag there is no putting it back in.  How they have the opportunity right now to put a stop to it but are slowly letting it happen.  He was adamant about how Ireland could be self reliant (less gas/oil) if the government would better regulate who can do business here. It is a country of only about 4 million people, half of just NYC alone....really interesting talk.
 Tomorrow the work finally begins....I show up at Woodcock Smokery to work with Sally Ferns Barnes and her daughter Joleine at 10am to get down to something....not sure what to expect or what I will be doing but can't wait to get in and do it!  I have had a few of their smoked fish from a local market here, including the smoked mackerel I had with my dinner the other night......wicked good stuff.....  But for now its time to start making dinner....a local pork loin with some rosemary from outside my kitchen and some local mushrooms and leeks with roasted potato..oh, and a Guinness or two.  Sucks cooking for one....looking forward to the family coming next week...  Next year we need to get a small Salty group together to to drink-