The menu: Chocolate tasting in Clonakilty

Joe McNamee visits Clonakilty Chocolate for a seven-course chocolate-themed dinner.

Gamely eating his way through a cellar full of chocolate, Valentine’s gifts from his many doting admirers, has recalled for The Menu one of his more intriguing culinary encounters of recent times, his meeting with Alison Roberts of Clonakilty Chocolate.

One of only a handful of her peers to begin with the humble bean, in addition, some of her finished products also include healthy yet delicious alternatives to traditional dairy and sugar, a boon for frustrated chocoholics with prohibitive health conditions.

Therefore, it was with delight that The Menu learned of the Factory Launch Feast (February 26), which commences with a tour of the new production facility followed by a seven-course chocolate-themed dinner, each chocolate-infused course, whether sweet or savoury, to be cooked by the very wonderful chef Cáitlin Ruth, of Deasy’s Harbour Bar & Restaurant.

There may still be one or two seats remaining for the dinner but solace is on hand for those inevitably disappointed with a Chocolate Tasting & Tapas Evening (March 5), in Molly’s Wine Bar, Clonakilty, during Fair Trade fortnight, featuring an introduction to tasting, sweetening alternatives to sugar, alternative dairy options, while the second half of the evening is devoted to music and tapas.

And keep an eye on the website for news of the regular chocolate workshops for all ages; www.clonakiltychocolate.com  or 085-7574338

THERE’LL BE NO SHORTAGE OF FOOD AT THIS EXPO

The 50th anniversary outing for Ireland’s premier hospitality event, Catex (February 17-19), the enormous Food Service Industry expo at the RDS provides myriad opportunities for culinary entertainment.

This year includes the 2015 Irish Barista Championship, the Eurotoques Ireland Chefs’ Masterclasses, featuring some of Ireland’s top chefs.

The Hospitality Heroes’ Live Stage sees leading industry stakeholders debate trends in Irish hospitality and there are a whole host of open cooking competitions to choose from. www.catexexhibition.com 

BRADLEY’S... 80 NEW PRODUCTS

Fresh from West Cork, the erstwhile English Market stall retailing exquisite food produce from West Cork producers has found a new home with the current holder of The Menu’s 2014 Munchie Award for Best Food Emporium, Bradley’s, of North Main St. Bradley’s already stock an excellent and ever-evolving range of finest Irish produce and probably the best selection of craft beer in the country, so the addition of 80 new products fare from down West can only serve to further improve nigh-on perfect! www.bradleysofflicence.ie 

Today’s special

One yuletide favourite that swiftly becomes New Year’s foundling, along with the Brussels sprout and the forlorn puppy, is cranberry saucewhose primary purpose is to enhance and elevate turkey meat, most especially when said turkey is drier than a Lenten Pioneer.

Last week, The Menu chanced upon one such festive foundling, a gift from up North, abandoned at the back of the pantry.

And there it would have stayed had he not also registered the additional Raspberry and Bushmill’s Whiskey.

The raspberry adds a sweet and citric lift to cranberry’s paradoxical dull-sharpness and Bushmill’s brings spicy undertones that plumb depths.

The turkey may be gone but cold chicken did for sweet starters, next up was some smoked mackerel slathered all over some toasted buttered Arbutus wholemeal sourdough suggesting Bella Jo Kitchen’s Raspberry, Cranberry & Bushmills Whiskey Sauce is quite the all-rounder.. www.bellajo.co.uk 

BEER OF THE WEEK with Leslie Williams

8 Degrees Russian Imperial Stout; 9% ABV, 330ml — €3.30

Stockists: Bradleys, McHughs, Good Independents

Few beers are better suited to chilly winter evenings than Russian Imperial Stouts and I was pleased to find that Mitchelstown’s Eight Degrees has recently introduced one as a seasonal dark beer (along with Zeus Black IPA and spicy Aztec Stout).

Rich aromas and flavours of chocolate, coffee and caramel, rum, raisins and coffee liqueur on the finish.

At this strength you may want to serve this with your Valentines chocolate dessert or simply sip in front of the fire. Speaking of fine Cork breweries Franciscan Well’s Winter Cask Ales festival began yesterday and continues all this weekend – admission free.

– Leslie Williams



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