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.
It has taken The Swashbuachaill some weeks to recover from his recent foray back into the professional culinary world when he presented a nine-course menu in the magnificent surroundings of Uillinn, home of the West Cork Arts Centre, in Skibbereen, as part of the Taste of West Cork food festival. He was delighted and honoured to be invited by chairperson Helen Collins and the festival team to participate in this wonderful celebration of some of the finest food to be found anywhere in the world and it was billed as ‘The Menu Cooks The Menu” a nod to his epicurean alter ego and the title of his weekly food column, The Menu, in The Irish Examiner, the idea being to showcase some of the very splendid Irish produce he features each week in the aforementioned publication.
It is some time since The Swashbuachaill has graced this fair forum, buried, as he has been, under an unforgiving pile of children, academia and actual paid work and he is still desperately scrambling to catch up with himself. So, instead of posting new material, he shall take the slacker’s option and simply upload some of the paid-for work of recent times, such as the following, from the Irish Examiner, yet another annual summer round-up of dining choices in Ireland. (Can’t emphasise enough, though: this is not a definitive ‘best of’ list; rather, excellent options encountered on The Swashbuachaill’s travels around this fair isle during the previous 12 months.)
The Swashbuachaill has been off on yet another skite to his beloved Spain. He has more than a few dear Spanish friends and has long held the view that they are closer in temperament to the Irish than most other peoples of Europe. For years, his Spanish meanderings were concentrated in the South, most particularly, Andalucia, other than a few trips to Barcelona but more recent visits to the Basque Country, La Rioja and now Asturias and Cantabria have revealed a whole other dimension to the country: the wonderful welcome and hospitality are the same, maybe even better, but the landscape is entirely different; lush, green and an Atlantic coastline that is quite different from that seen on the ‘Costas’ down South. Driving along the Asturian coastline, a body could as easily be in Ireland as in Northern Spain, albeit on the finest Irish summer’s day imaginable. Here’s a link to a recent piece I wrote about my trip for the Irish Examiner. (Do please excuse the sub-editor who decided that Asturias and Cantabria are actually the neighbouring region, Basque or Basque Country!) Continue reading “Asturias and Cantabria, Northern Spain”
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 “Ballymaloe Litfest of Food & Wine 2014”
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!
As always, the end of year is truly heralded for The Swashbuachaill with a great, great feast on Christmas Day, a glorious over-indulgence in the finest of food and wines and there is invariably a large mob of family and friends at the table to do battle with The Swashbuachaill’s culinary strivings.
This year, though, was different. As always, Dear Old Sainted Mother Swashbuachaill was there but her usual chauffeur and one of the finest eaters this world has ever known, my youngest brother, Kevin, was not.Continue reading “A Christmas Present”