Culinary adventures in Ireland

Culinary adventures from our visit to Ireland from the blog of Sierra FoodWineArt magazine. Photo galleries are posted on our magazine’s Facebook page:

A visit to the Ballymaloe Cookery School in Ireland

We enjoyed a visit to the Ballymaloe Cookery School in Co. Cork on Saturday during a family vacation in Ireland. Ballymaloe is one of the world’s most prestigious cookery schools, and the only one situated on its own 100 acre organic farm. Darina Allen established the school in 1983 with her brother Rory O’Connell.

Think of Darina as the Alice Waters of Ireland. She also is a tireless food activist, professing the farm-to-table philosophy like Alice Waters or Michael Pollan. Darina’s motto: “If one starts off with good, fresh, naturally produced food, in season, one needs to do so little to make it taste good.”

The Ballymaloe Cookery School is surrounded by verdant green fields. In was an unseasonably warm and sunny afternoon, and we visited the gardens (ornamental fruit garden, formal kitchen garden and herb garden), enjoyed a leisurely walk through the farm and “glasshouses,” and drank raw milk from the farm’s own Jersey herd of dairy cows. It was a delightful culinary adventure.

We also enjoyed a tradition at Ballymaloe called “Saturday Pizzas.” What began as an experimental pop-up restaurant in 2009 has grown to become a fun and casual tradition with locals — and visitors who know about it.

“The idea for Saturday Pizzas really took when I was on a trip to California,” said Philip Dennhardt, who set up and runs “Saturday Pizzas,” according to the cookery school. “I came across a great little cheese and wine bar called Cheeseboard. It had a really relaxed atmosphere and served delicious wood-fired pizza.”

The rest of the article is here.

From “grain to glass”: The Jameson whiskey distillery in Midleton

The John Jameson & Son Irish Whiskey company was born and raised in Dublin, but eventually the iconic whiskey maker outgrew its city home. In 1975, it moved the entire whiskey making operation to the green surroundings of Midleton, Co. Cork.

The Midleton Distillery now produces much of the Irish whiskey sold in Ireland under the Jameson, Midleton, Powers, Redbreast, Spot and Paddy labels. The new facility adjoins the Old Midleton Distillery, which is now home to the Jameson Experience Visitor Centre and the Irish Whiskey Academy. In 1988, the Jameson brand was acquired by the French drinks conglomerate Pernod Ricard.

We enjoyed a guided tour of the Old Midleton Distillery. We watched a film, visited key buildings on site (milling and malting, mashing and fermentation, distillation and aging) and enjoyed a premium whiskey tasting of “single pot stills.” The tour took about 1 1/2 hours.

The three key ingredients of Jameson Irish whiskey are barley (unmalted and malted), water and corn. Most of its suppliers are farmers from within 100 miles of Midleton.

In Ireland, the barley is dried in a closed kiln fired by natural gas (formerly coal). The workers wore platform shoes, so the hot floor wouldn’t burn their feet. (An early pair was on display on the tour). In Scotland, whisky distilleries fire the kiln with peat, adding a distinctive peat flavor.

Under head distiller Brian Nation, Jameson is known for a triple distillation process for its whiskeys, compared with two or one for Scotland or the United States. The added distillation is supposed to make the whiskey smoother while increasing the alcohol content.

The rest of the article is here.

A visit to the English Market in Cork

When we were growing up, we enjoyed visiting the Grand Central Market and Farmers Market in Los Angeles. It was a bustling scene, with food vendors, produce markets, florists and sit-down restaurants. Later, we enjoyed visits to Harrod’s Food Hall in London, the Bon Marche in Paris and the Tsukiji Market in Tokyo.

This week we visited the English Market in Cork, which brings together the cuisines and culture of Ireland. Many food enthusiasts consider it the best covered food market in the UK and Ireland. Situated in the heart of Cork City, the English Market is a roofed food market and has been trading since 1788. Developed and still owned by Cork City Council, the Market is one of the oldest municipal markets of its kind in the world. The trading stalls are held under 21-year leases from the City Council.

“From cheeses to pastas, from olives to cured meats, from sauces to oils, from sausages to sushi, and from exotic spices and herbs to an abundance of beans and rices – the Market has taken on the ambitious role of meeting the culinary tastes of a modern and diverse new market, and knowingly married these with local and traditional fare,” according to market organizers.

We visited the Market on a Saturday morning, absorbing the sights and sounds from the food vendors. We ate breakfast and bought some food to go — cheeses, salami, smoked salmon, a baquette, fresh pears and apples, and more. Here are some examples of what we experienced:

Farmgate Restaurant: Showcasing local and traditional produce, the Farmgate Restaurant in the gallery of Princes Street Market opened in 1994. Shaping its menu from the finest of produce on sale from the stalls below, the Farmgate encapsulates the “very essence of the values that have sustained the English Market across four centuries,” according to market organizers.

The rest of the article is here.

About jeffpelline

Jeff Pelline is a veteran editor and award-winning journalist - in print and online. He is publisher of Sierra FoodWineArt magazine and its website SierraCulture.com. Jeff covered business and technology for The San Francisco Chronicle for years, was a founding editor and Editor of CNET News, and was Editor of The Union, a 145-year-old newspaper in Grass Valley. Jeff has a bachelor's degree from UC Berkeley and a master's from Northwestern University. His hobbies include sailing and trout fishing.
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