Sage Words

midleton brick

Another Irish Mail on Sunday restaurant review from last year, this time of Sage restaurant, in Midleton, Co Cork, run by Chef/Proprietor Kevin Aherne — great restaurant and a great chef! Continue reading

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Pilgrim’s Progress

april 2016 pilgrims

This is a review I wrote for the Irish Mail on Sunday, last August, 2015. Pilgrim’s is a very fine little restaurant based in Rosscarbery, in West Cork, owned and operated by chef Mark Jennings and his partner, Sarah-Jane Pearce, who runs front of house. It took just a single meal for it to be instantly installed as one of my most favourite dining establishments around, offering some genuinely original interpretations of superb local, seasonal produce in a wonderfully zen-filled setting.

Continue reading

Ballymaloe Litfest of Food & Wine 2014

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For the weekend that’s in it, here’s four of my most recent articles, all previewing the 2nd Ballymaloe Litfest. Last year’s inaugural event defied all expectations, even those of the organisers, and I’m gearing up for yet another splendid weekend even if my own schedule (including a 9.30am interview on Sunday morning with one of Ireland’s Queens of Cheese, the magnificent Giana Ferguson of Gubbeen, which The Swashbuachaill shall conduct in an entirely somnolent state) appears to have been planned with the sole intention of  putting manners on The Swashbuachaill’s innate ability to party for Ireland. If you get the chance, do visit what will be the premier culinary gathering anywhere on the globe this weekend.  Continue reading

My Culinary Hero – Myrtle Allen at 90, Ballymaloe at 50

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From left: Rory O’Connell, (Myrtle’s daughter) Tash Harty, (Myrtle’s son) Rory Allen, Joe Cronin, Colm McCan, Darina Allen, Rachel Allen, Myrtle Allen, Hazel Allen in the Drawing Room at Ballymaloe House. (Pic: Denis Scannell/Irish Examiner)

Contrary to popular opinion, The Swashbuachaill is not a callous sort though it may well appear so, such is the lack of attention or care devoted to this poor old site. But in fact, The Swashbuachaill is writing all the time, churning out the paid-for stuff that foots the bills, so will endeavour to regularly post links to aforementioned scribblings until such time as his carefully wrought investment strategies* come to fruition enabling him to retire entirely from the world of hard labour and solely dedicate himself to his dear, dear reader/s.

(*occasional scratchcards, half-baked notions of pursuing poorly thought-out business ideas at some ill-defined time in the future, a rather misguided notion of karma)

Which brings me to the cover story in last Saturday’s Irish Examiner Weekend magazine, a feature I wrote about my great culinary hero, Myrtle Allen, who is 90 years of age on March 13, in this year, the 50th anniversary of Ballymaloe House as a restaurant. Imagine, a farmer’s wife, 40 years old with six children, the youngest just three, and she decides to open a restaurant in her front room with no formal culinary training save a series of night classes in the Cork College of Commerce. Just over a decade later, she has a Michelin star  but, without doubt, the even greater achievement was introducing and standing by her culinary philosophy, whereby she saw it as  a chef’s duty to use the very finest of local, seasonal produce and, dispensing with ego and the panoply of ‘cheffy’ tricks and techniques that so often disguise inferior ingredients, to allow this food the star turn on the plate. It is a philosophy that the late Chef Gerry Galvin, dubbed ‘revolutionary’ at the time but is now accepted best practice the world over and, in the culinary world, her renown—very rightly!—is global. Happy Birthday, Myrtle!

Meeting Mattie Kiely

Mattie Kiely, former proprietor of Ireland’s finest ever fish & chip shop

So The Swashbuachaill hightailed it off to France recently for the full pair of weeks seeking refuge from the deluge but it turns out precipitation and lots of it is currently the in-thing right across North Western Europe. But, as always, it began promisingly with the always-pleasurable cruise out of Cork Harbour on the Pont Aven, a most superior take on ferry travel for those of us, veterans of the Slattery’s coach trips to London in the 80s.

And then, lo, who should I spy in the vessel’s piano bar (‘piano bar’, says you!) – none other than a true Cork legend, Mattie Kiely, formerly of the late and very much lamented, Kiely’s chipper on Maylor St, in Cork. Mattie was en route to Lourdes, an annual pilgrimage he makes with his lovely wife and a group from Ballinlough, the Cork suburb where he lives (turns out I lived around the corner from him for a number of years and never knew!) but for me, this was a culinary equivalent of heading off to Mecca and bumping into Mohammed along the way. Safe to say, if Kiely’s were still open then any arguments over the best fish and chips in Cork, nay, Ireland would all be redundant — when Kiely’s was around there was simply no other competition. Continue reading

Me new job at the Bridgestone Guide!

Apologies, generally, for the lack of consistent communication from The Swashbuachaill but the non-virtual world has been making fiercesome inroads on my time over the last couple of weeks. And one of those intrusions from the non-virtual world included a bolt out of the blue that left me near enough speechless – an invitation from John and Sally McKenna to become a Contributing Editor to the renowned Bridgestone Guide, Ireland’s food bible. I can’t say how proud and pleased I am to have been invited and hope I can live up to the challenge. That I should have been invited along with Aoife ‘The Daily Spud’ Cox only makes me prouder still. Obviously, when Dear Old Sainted Mother Swashbuachaill reads my new Bridgestone profile below she will realise for the first time that I may not be one of the world’s finest surgeons having spent the past three decades in Africa curing stuff and so on and so forth.

http://www.bestofbridgestone.com/profiles/joe-mcnamee

My reviews of the Electric (Irish Examiner & The Bridgestone Guide)

Honestly, The Swashbuachaill is not on a retainer from The Electric; it was sheer coincidence that I was asked to do these reviews within days of each other. Hardly surprising, when you think about it, as The Electric is getting noticed in a lot of places. Nominated for the Restaurant Association of Ireland awards in 2011 as best casual dining in its first year of opening gives you an idea of the standards they are aiming to reach.

http://www.bestofbridgestone.com/blog/joe-mcnamee-electric-cork

http://www.examiner.ie/weekend/foodandwine/switch-on-the-senses-184879.html