Oil Crisis?


Here’s a link to my recent Irish Examiner review of a tremendous – and tremendously important – book, Extra Virginity: The Scandalous and Sublime World of Olive Oil by Thomas Mueller (Atlantic Books)

Though I ate a shedload of Mediterranean food in London during the 80s, olive oil remained a rather nebulous concept to me (and indeed to most Londoners at the time), I didn’t especially differentiate between oils – it simply existed. But at the beginning of the nineties, I worked for a spell with the Real Olive Company, doing markets and prep back in the warehouse. Thus began my education, learning about multiple varieties of olives and oils. Or so I thought. In reality my education began with this book. Several years ago, I read the original New Yorker article, subsequently expanded to produce this book, and found it, I must admit, profoundly depressing, focussing almost entirely as it did on the huge fraud in the olive oil industry.

Thankfully, Mueller expands enormously from that particular emphasis in the book so there is maybe a glimmer of hope for the future of a foodstuff which is utterly precious to me. But I have been very, very wary of where and how I purchase my oil ever since. The oil in the photo above is bought from a friend, Lenny O’Donovan, who sells at markets in Mahon Point and Temple Bar. It comes from the village, north of Barcelona, where his wife’s parents are from and is very, very good. But more importantly, I trust its provenance. I’m afraid its no longer possible to say the same about much of the olive oil for sale around the world today.


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.


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.



My Irish Examiner review of Star Anise

ImageIt’s surprising how many people are unaware of the existence of Star Anise but Bridge St, where it is located, is a connecting street, a class of blink-and-you’ll-miss-it link between the quays and MacCurtain St, so perhaps that may be why. Actually, I worked on Bridge St many moons ago and it is one of my favourite streets in Cork, a little self-contained universe including Cork Coffee Roasters Café, one of the very best coffee shops in the country. Star Anise, too, has become another valuable member of that community,  it is a rare gift to be able to create a feeling of real welcome. And Star Anise has that gift.


Count Me Out – do restaurants owe us a responsibility to list calories on menus?

Good food or nothing more than calories?

Haven’t had a chance yet to watch the Frontline programme on the issue on RTÉ last night but hope to see it this evening. Meanwhile, here are some more thoughts on the Calories on Menus issue.Continue reading “Count Me Out – do restaurants owe us a responsibility to list calories on menus?”

Count Me Out – thoughts about putting calories on restaurant menus

This rather obscure image is currently heading the No to counting calories facebook page, grabbed at the last minute. But it is relevant: a cap from a bottle of exquisite Glenillen milk. Older readers will instantly recognise the cream on the underside of the cap, recalling an era before homogenisation, you know, when milk actually tasted good.

When I recently learned of plans to bring in legislation requiring restaurants to itemise the calories in each dish on their menus, my initial reaction, rightly or wrongly, was one of absolute disgust at what I perceived to be idiocy in the extreme. Most alarmingly, it seemed this process was being shepherded through with almost zero public debate. I began to tweet about it but Twitter leaves little room for nuance in any debate so I established a facebook page, hoping it would become a forum for debate and a place in which others could add links to other resources of information.Continue reading “Count Me Out – thoughts about putting calories on restaurant menus”

My Irish Examiner Review of Greene’s Restaurant, Cork

Greene’s is now of an age, nearly 20, which might qualify it for institution status in Cork but partly due to its location, a little off the main drag, and partly due to varying fortunes in the kitchen over the years, it seems to have lost some of its lustre. But the current chef, Fred Desormeaux is cooking some very, very fine food making it well worth a reappraisal.


Sage Restaurant, Midleton – My Irish Examiner Review

Kevin Aherne, Chef/Proprietor, Sage Restaurant, Midleton

My review of Sage Restaurant in Midleton was published in yesterday’s Irish Examiner but I can always find a few more words to add to anything I have published, being a great man altogether for the guff. When it comes to Sage, I’d have no trouble at all filling a newspaper – I am a big fan of the restaurant.

Continue reading “Sage Restaurant, Midleton – My Irish Examiner Review”

A Most Unmerry Sickmas!

Many thanks to all who sent lovely messages saying how greatly you were missing updates from The Swashbuachaill. I can only assume they were genuine as Dear Old Sainted Mother Swashbuachaill is currently barred from the local internet cafe after burning out three hard drives ‘liking’ my last post. So, I believe some sort of explanation for The Swashbuachaill’s absence is in order.

Continue reading “A Most Unmerry Sickmas!”

Rachid Zaouia versus The Swashbuachaill’s Sweet Tooth

There’s an awful lot of stuff to be found in The Swashbuachaill’s head. What some may call weird, others call wonderful (that would be Dear Old Sainted Mother Swashbuachaill leading the charge on the latter) but all agree the biggest thing in The Swashbuachaill noggin is the Sweet Tooth.

Continue reading “Rachid Zaouia versus The Swashbuachaill’s Sweet Tooth”

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