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Drinking Wine at the Kelly’s Resort Hotel

11 Mar
Reception at the Kelly's Resort

Reception at the Kelly’s Resort

Ok, so, this may seem like a smug brag barely veiled as a review but.. no, that is exactly what this is. I was spoiled rotten for a full 24 hours in a lavish hotel and I am unashamedly shouting it from the cyber rooftops of my site.

Last week I was  invited to taste some wines of the Loire valley in the famous Kelly’s Resort Hotel, and really, as a struggling blogger/allotment field hand, who was I to refuse?

Situated in the small port town of Rosslare in Wexford, Kelly’s Resort has that old school charm of a prestigious hotel brought into the 21st century.  I had already heard awed stories from friends and family about their lavish bedrooms, beautiful restaurants, top quality food, afternoon teas, and cheeses served from little trolleys but what blew me away was the way in which we were treated… a strange mixture between best friend and royalty.

Now yes, I am aware that we were treated as such because we were reviewing the place, but as I looked around during our lunch in the Beaches restaurant (which by the way was great, though it was traditional, it was exactly right for the place; classic food done perfectly) I realised everyone was receiving the same treatment. During each course our waitress would return to make sure everything was ok, and a few minutes later we would have various managers making their rounds, asking if everything was alright, how our stay was going and generally making happy small talk. Though initially I found this amount of hospitality over bearing (at one point, asking a waitress where the rest room was, she guided me right to the door and for a moment I thought she was going to join me) I oh-too-soon became accustomed to it.

Three Way Smoked Trout Crostini

Spicy Chicken Wings With Prawn Crackers

Three Way Smoked Trout Crostini

Three Way Smoked Trout Crostini

Pan Fried Lemon Sole with Grilled Courgettes

Pan Fried Lemon Sole with Grilled Courgettes

Stuffed Lamb Shoulder

Stuffed Lamb Shoulder

Warm Chocolate Brownie with Raspberry Sorbet

Warm Chocolate Brownie with Raspberry Sorbet

Panna Cotta with Raspberry Coulis, Crushed Macaroons and Apple Foam

Panna Cotta with Raspberry Coulis, Crushed Macaroons and Apple Foam

After we had settled into our room and had our afternoon tea on the balcony looking over the sea (*insert smug tone) I received a call from reception to advise us that there was a change of plan and instead of taking part in a wine tasting with Arnaud Bourgeois and other guests (It only ran during the week) we would be having a private tasting with Mr. Kelly himself.

Bill (we’re best buddies now, I can call him Bill) was a never-ending fountain of knowledge and brought us through each wine with such passion and enthusiasm and without feeling like we were being lectured. Telling us in depth about the areas where the wine was produced, the style used in that region, how the grapes variety/year/soil all affect the taste and smell of the wine and the characters of the people who make it really brought the wines to life.

We tasted 6 wines in total ranging from a light crisp Sauvignon from Touraine to a jammy sweet bio-dynamically produced red Bourgueil and finishing with a 2010 Clos Des Pape, a very special bottle from Châteauneuf-du-Pape, one of the most renowned regions in France. This bottle came from Bill’s brother in law’s vineyard and was one of the most enjoyable and complex wines I have ever tasted. Though I usually find the language used by wine tasters to be flowery nonsense, I could smell the tobacco, liquorice and blackberry jam that was described.

After the tasting we were told, much to my idiotic delight, we could take two of our favourite wines from the tasting for dinner and I have never been happier my companion preferred to drink white wine, leaving lil’ old me to drink the Clos Des Pape (the bottle of which has now has a place of honour on my kitchen table)

Chateau de la Saule

Chateau de la Saule

Voigner

Voigner

Domaine Baron

Domaine Baron

Clos Des Pape, from the owners brothers vineyard

Clos Des Pape, from the owners brothers vineyard

After our tasting Bill brought us to the Marina Bistro, which is attached to the bar, it was a more relaxed atmosphere then the Beaches restaurant where we had our lunch and our waitress was lovely, chatty and had a great knowledge of both the wines and the food menu. The food again was traditional with a nice twist, I had mussels with garlic and my companion ordered a slightly odd combination of Texas style baby ribs with pak choi , stir fried noodles and French aioli, but it actually worked really well. My mussels were perfectly cooked; large, sweet and plump, served neatly in a circle ( though I do prefer to have a messy bowl of shells I can pick my way through).

The star of the meal for me was my confit of duck, on a bed of lentils with champ and a grilled slice of aubergine. Though I thought the aubergine unnecessary, the duck was spot on. Breaking my fork through its amazing crackling-like skin into soft strips of tender meat that fell off the bone, mopped up with the lentils and mash which tasted fantastic with my wine.

After squeezing dessert in (a light chocolate mousse and a really amazing lemon meringue pie) we went to the bar and decided to get a whiskey while we listened to the flamboyant, two-piece band perform an interesting remdition of Shirley Bassey’s “Big Spender”. We wanted something different and the bar man suggested Bushmill’s Limited Millennium Edition, which was great but cost 13.50 each, something we couldn’t really complain about seeing that was the only thing we had payed for.

Grilled Mussels in Garlic Butter

Grilled Mussels in Garlic Butter

Barbarque Ribs with Stir-fried Noodles, Pak Choi and Aioli

Barbarque Ribs with Stir-fried Noodles, Pak Choi and Aioli

Rib Eye Steak with Dauphinoise Potatoes

Rib Eye Steak with Dauphinoise Potatoes

Confit of Duck with Sweet and Sour Lentils, Champ and Grilled Aubergine

Confit of Duck with Sweet and Sour Lentils, Champ and Grilled Aubergine

Lemon Meringue with Raspberry Sorbet

Lemon Meringue with Raspberry Sorbet

White and Dark Chocolate Mousse

White and Dark Chocolate Mousse

The next morning we woke up and went to reception where I was told had an hour massage booked for 11. Delighted, we made our way to breakfast where we chose freshly squeezed orange juice, fruit salad and then a full Irish fry up. Good comfort food served by very bubbly, friendly staff.

Fresh Fruit Salad

Fresh Fruit Salad

Full Irish Breakfast

Full Irish Breakfast

I made my way down to the spa, which is beautiful and modern, and I was pampered with a body massage with oils of my choosing and my boyfriend was left to use the rest of the spa facilities which included three thermals suits, a mist shower room with heated pebbles and fresh sea water plunge pool.

As we went to check out to get our train back to the city, the manager sent for a car and gave us a box filled with sandwiches, salads, fruit and water “for the journey”.

And with that, two very happy, pampered and full bellied paupers returned to reality knowing that some day (when we become significantly wealthier) we will return.

Kelly’s resorts are currently doing 5 day Spring offers from 475 euro full board per person

Further information can be found on their website

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A Trip to Tullamore D.E.W

26 Nov

A bottle shaped corridor at the Tullamore D.E.W visitor centre.

Last week I was invited to a press tour of the newly refurbished Tullamore D.E.W visitor centre. With promise of free whiskey and a free lunch, I made my way to Dublin where I was shipped off on a big green bus with some of Dublin’s top  food and drink writers.

After a journey filled with my fellow passengers lamenting wine tastings of old (“I remember when you would fly to Paris for a wine tasting at six , be there til four and stagger onto your flight with the remaining bottles by nine” a writer told me wistfully) we arrived at the canal side visitor centre.

The bar

The cafe

The building itself has been beautifully restored, what was originally the Tullamore D.E.W warehouse has now been turned into a wide open spaced bar/cafe filled with exposed original brickwork and big wooden furniture. with the stools made from their own whiskey barrels.

Our tour began with a short video of the origins of whiskey, and it’s history in Ireland from the first batches made by drunken scoundrels in ditches , to the foundation of Tullamore whiskey in 1829. As the video ended the large screen moved sideways to reveal a hidden staircase as though we had defeated a dungeon master in a computer game and we had been granted access to the next level.

Our guide talking us through the blending process

We were brought step by step through the whisky making process with an impressive mixture of videos, props and voice overs of the workers of old  which made it easy and fun  for a whisky novice like me to understand.

Aroma pods

But of course, what’s the point of going to a whiskey centre if you don’t get to taste some whiskey? The tour ended with us sampling three. Here, again, they really made sure it was accessible for even the most ignorant person (me) to understand what we were tasting. In the middle of the table we had “aroma pods”, jars filled with apple,grass, spices etc to help us identify the  flavours and aromas.

We got to taste the Original triple blend made up of Grain, Malt and Potstill, the Old Bonded Warehouse, which was left to aged for an extra 11 months in an old sherry cask and the 12 year old Reserve. The Original was first, and I was able to pick out the flavour of apple and vanilla and spice. The second was my favourite  The Old Bonded Warehouse, it was much smoother, with more spice notes and the taste of the sherry cask coming through. The final one, the 12 year old was smooth and with more flavours of spice and caramel. It was great as a beginners guide but I thought it would have been better with one or two more of their range on show (though I might just be greedy)

Our guide talking us through the tasting

After our tasting we walked down to the Balcone Italiano at the Bridge House Hotel, where we were given a slap up lunch of pork terrine with red onion marmalade, pan fried duck breast and a trio of desserts and I nearly needed a wheelbarrow to get me out the door.

Pan fried duck breast with roast vegetables and poached quails egg

Blackcurrent parfait, tiramisu and honeycomb semifreddo

All in all, I have to say I really enjoyed the tour, the building itself is beautiful,  and the tour made whiskey; the history, process and taste, accessible to a beginner, but I feel it might be slightly dull for a real enthusiast. Though it is a far trek from Dublin, I can imagine it would be great for a hen or stag day out, or really anyone who fancies learning a bit more about our whiskey heritage and if you decided to  make a day trip out of it Kilbeggan whiskey distillery isn’t too far away either (though you will have to fight over who will be the designated driver)

A Kamikaze in Florence

3 Jun

A few days ago I was in Florence, on a pit stop on the way to here where I am living for the next three months working the land, eating  food and just generally living in countryside bliss.

Foreseeing the next 3 months to be one of hard labour and dusty clothes, I decided to enjoy my last night being a cosmopolitan woman of the world. So I threw on my glad rags and arrived at Borgo Antico, one of the many busy trattorias lining the Piazza di Santo Spirito, that overflows with hip young Italians clutching cocktails and cigarettes. After a quick check of my ever reliable Italian app I asked  the waiter for a table for one on the terrace where I envisioned sitting with a glass of prosecco, some aperitivo while watching the Italian world go by.

However, this was  not to be.

I was squeezed into the bottom of a large table filled with what I can only describe as The Godfather’s extras reject party. They looked up at me just long enough to throw a look of disdain before returning to their antipasto and beers. With slight less confidence, I ordered a starter of grilled seafood whilst trying to grapple back an air of cool sophistication.

Sophistication, also, was not to meant to be.

My waiter arrived with an Olympus mountain of seafood, clearly meant for a family or possible rugby team to share. The new addition along with my increasingly reddening face however seemed to warm my mafia dinner companions to me, with Tony#3 beside me laughing “Piano! Piano!” (“Slowly! Slowly!”) whilst I ate.

Though embarrassing in size this was the most well cooked platter of seafood I have tasted. This was everything I though Italian food would be, uncomplicated cooking and quality fresh ingredients : plump mussels and clams, the largest and sweetest whole prawns I have ever eaten and tender calamari rings cooked in garlic, parsley, white wine, butter and of course their own juices. Oh dear sweet Neptune yes!

So, a suave cosmopolitan I may not be but a blissfully full foodie I am.

A dopo!

 

Ladies Who Lunch: Belles Tearooms

29 Apr

In a family full of grown up women like mine there is always a need for a quick caffeine fuelled catch up ( though it’s rarely quick and it’s never just coffee) and of late, our new coffee haunt has become Belles Tearooms . It’s all just so fantastically girly and one cannot help but giggle and simper and coo at all it’s lovely-ness. I swear, I saw a fully grown man  sitting beside us giggling and sipping daintly from a china cup, his pinky stuck out proud. That’s the kind of place we’re dealing with here.

Top notch coffee comes in a mismatch of china cups, hot chocolate in individual teapots and the food is so god damn tasty, to the point of obscene. Their short menu contains filled sandwiches, salads and cakes. And that’s it. No soups of the day, no full fry up, no carvery dinners, which is why they get to keep the quality high and the prices very reasonable. I have already established a firm favorite on the menu and unashamedly order it without fail on each arrival, The Italian Job: A ciabatta bread topped with roasted red onion and filled with chicken, pesto, mozzerrella cheese and red peppers. I’m drooling on my keyboard just thinking of it.

A perfect place for a clan of McMahon women to meet for an obligatory catch up, gossip and to indoctrinate our newest member into the circle of Ladies who Lunch.

Hot Chocolate in a Teapot

What’s Love Got To With It?

14 Feb

You’d presume that on a day like today, a day of chocolates and flowers and declarations of “I Love You!”, that this entry would be all about aphrodisiacs and lazy brunch recipes. But no, today’s post is about hate.

Hate is possibly too strong a word. Disdain? Disapproval? Whatever the synonym, it’s a feeling I’ve been harbouring for the past few days.

After a disastrous episode in the kitchen that I don’t care to dwell on (but I’ll briefly mention that my attempt at Eggs Benedict was a catastrophic mess) I have decided to focus all my energy in hating (or disapproving) the depraved new T.V show which I blame  for my culinary calamity, The Fabulous Baker Brothers.

Now, if you’ve never seen the show I’ll give you a quick summary. The Fabulous Baker Brothers is a new cookery show on Channel4 with a one line pitch that says it all, “Henry and Tom Herbert are butcher and baker brothers on a mission to prove baking’s not just for girls”. They do. And then some. They take the idea of a male targeted cookery show, pump it with testosterone and give it some knives. Some really big knives.

The formula is simple, replace obvious cooking instructions with some manly ones, for example “Dust with flour” is clearly too feminine, why not try fling? Or whack? Or possibly open fire? (Ha, I joke, but you get the picture) Besides that, throw in  the occasional grunt, a few “grr’s” and “arrr’s”  and cut to scenes of the cheeky lads scuffling around, dimly clubbing each other with baguettes and raw meat et voilà! A show that is definitely not for girls, like a Yorkie Bar but without the sweet after-taste.

I don’t know, perhaps I’m just cranky that my breakfast was a flop, perhaps I just hate being excluded but I really don’t think another two macho male chefs is what Channel4 viewers are screaming out for. I thought we had enough with Blumenthal and Ramsay?

On another note, I will give some praise to Gordon, he does know how to treat the ladies. Men take note.

Happy Valentines Day.

Coffee Is The New Vice. Part One.

25 Jan

I have (for the most part) replaced alcohol with caffine.

I foolishly did this for three reasons: to save money, to spend my time on more important activities and to become a more healthy and svelte being. But it is all for vain. Coffee has become the same problem alcohol was. The quick pint after work is now a quick coffee. There is never just one, the bill is always higher then imagined and you ALWAYS must have food to accompany. However, diets, plans and financial sanity aside, it’s the perfect medium to meet ones sister for a lazy Sunday afternoon of gossip.

We went to Riva Brassarie (http://www.rivabrasserie.ie/html/home.html) on Earl St, Dundalk, one of my favorite haunts for a caffine fix. They recently gave it a make over and the stylish modern room is filled with a mismatch of chunky furniture and dainty light fittings. Most importantly to me however, is their now greater selection of foody books for customers to drool over whilst sipping at their Cappucinos

We asked for just coffees and requested the window seat to people watch if speaking  just became too much. We, of course, ordered the menu ( just to check), then finally bowed to our duty to try one starter…each (we couldn’t make a decision that early on a Sunday). I ordered the Caramelised Red Onion and Goats Cheese Tart while my sister opted for the Spiced Fishcakes.

The starters were the right size for two people who had just eaten breakfast barely an hour ago. Despite the unnecessary zigzags of balsamic syrup, my tart was very tasty with good contrasting flavours between the goats cheese,onion and buttery pastry. The spices in the fishcakes were slightly too mild but the texture was spot on by using chickpeas instead of potato and resembled more of a spiced fish falafel then a fishcake (which strangely was a good thing). It also had a curry mayo dip to give a bit of a lift.

The coffee is always a bit of a gamble in Riva so I opted for a hot chocolate. It hit the spot for the child in me and even had marshmallows. Looking at my sisters latte, it was obviously one of their coffee off days.

All in all, a perfect way to procrastinate and I didn’t even miss the booze…

..much.

Bad Coffee.

Good Hot Chocolate

Completely unnecessary but very tasty Spiced Fishcakes

Also unnecessary/tasty Onion and Goats Cheese Tart

"A Quick Coffee"