Having been buffeted by the coronavirus storm, Rosscarbery’s Celtic Ross Hotel kitchen has not only weathered the storm but ‘cast off’ once more, this time in, Craft West Cork, a funky little outdoor kitchen, where head chef Alex Petit subjects world-class West Cork produce to some of his very fine cooking, providing anything from breakfast and brunch snacks to full dinners, all washed down with fine Irish craft beers, ciders, cocktails and select wines, with large plates and desserts for two with a bottle of wine for just €45. -Open Fri/Sat/Sun/Mon-. www.celtcrosshotel.com
The Menu is very definitely one of those who will be at all costs avoiding foreign jaunts this year to instead enjoy a wonderful Irish ‘staycation’ and you’d be hard-pressed to deny the charms of the Seven-For-Five offering of seven nights in Kenmare’s legendary Park Hotel with its two restaurants, spa, swimming pool, 18-hole golf course and walks and one of Ireland’s loveliest little towns just outside the front gate. A multitude of on-site activities can be augmented by daily spins around one of the most glorious regions in the country, equally equipped with exciting offerings on land and at sea. www.parkkenmare.com
Beautiful Ballyvolane House, in Castlelyons, Co Cork, offers a most relaxed and reviving take on the Irish country house experience, and is open once more for business, promising a delightfully hospitable ‘home-from-home’ experience including use of the wonderful gardens, grounds and amenities and some very delicious home-cooked food, all the while ensuring guests safety concerns remain paramount. www.ballyvolanehouse.ie
Foley may not be as well known in Ireland, let alone abroad, as the late, great Myrtle Allen, but Foley’s trailblazing take on an Irish locavore cuisine, employing both traditional and classical techniques and dishes and bringing them to bear on superb Irish produce, was of similar calibre to Allen’s and, for a select coterie of informed chefs, diners and critics during the bleaker years of Irish hospitality, she was, and remains, an equally important and influential figure.
‘Breakfast’ opens with a rock solid brown soda bread but hot on its heels follows an extended medley of fruit compotes that trills along for several pages. Pancakes, porridge and yoghurt are swiftly dispatched before we get down to business with eggs: a parade of omelettes, then eggs Benedict, Florentine and Royale, all featuring her beloved hollandaise sauce, first encountered in a London restaurant in the 1950s and an integral part of her repertoire ever since.
Then, a variety of fish dishes, each of sufficient heft to pass muster as brunch, lunch or even dinner before closing with an Irish farmhouse cheeseboard. That Foley avoids entirely the ‘Fry’, though it is part of the Shelburne Lodge morning offering, illustrates an ever-present pursuit of pizzazz; the superb base ingredients may be elemental but she is a sumptuously generous cook, in both substance and spirit, ensuring every dish is flush with joie de vivre.
‘Starters’ includes a substantial array of vegetarian dishes. Many decades ago, any child choosing to self-identify as a vegetarian, would most likely have been sent off for shock therapy or even banished entirely. Foley’s response to one of her own children becoming vegetarian was to not only create an inspired meatless Irish ‘oeuvre’ for her offspring but to also feature it prominently on her public menus. Certain of the dishes—Red Onion Tart with Blue Cheese; Goat’s Cheese Parcels—may evoke lacklustre ‘veggie’ tropes from the lazier end of contemporary Irish dining but Foley’s original spry recipes make the case for their perpetual enshrinement in the Irish culinary canon.
A Wild Atlantic Fish Soup is a glorious creation including lobster and a sharp counterpoint to every sub-standard hangdog ‘chowder’ ever dished up in the name of Irish ‘seafood’, the difference between building a half-arsed hayshed and the Alhambra—the Moorish reference is not random, grace notes including orange zest and saffron.
Declaring fish to be her ‘real love’, the chapter on same begins with an opening pair of Dover sole dishes, perfectly encapsulating her ability to flit effortlessly between serene simplicity and the most exquisite of epicurean excesses, without ever once losing the run of herself, from the pristine austerity of sole meunière to fabulously flamboyant sole stuffed with Atlantic prawns, completed by one of the following: brandy cream sauce; garlic butter; or spinach, mushrooms and Noilly Prat sauce.
Meat dishes are delicious, hearty affairs, considered and consummate examples of ‘Irish bistro’ style cuisine. Equally, desserts are primarily unctuous baked treats of blissfully sinful elaboration. In such a time of crisis, when many have sought solace through cooking at home, it’s hard to think of a more suitable cookbook to crack open—a timeless tome that will last long into the future. www.mywildatlantickitchen.com
The Menu is a fiend for the Maldron sea salt, one of the world’s great condiments, and while Achill Island Sea Salts similarly present as light flakes they pack an infinitely more potent saline punch than their English brethren, so their efficacy is greatly enhanced by a gentle crushing betwixt fingers before anointing any dish.
Wakame Seaweed flavour, sporting a marine umami finish, is good with a multiplicity of seafood dishes but The Menu’s preference was for the greater subtleties of a Smoked salt, especially good with salads and cold dishes, a recent crowning glory on his own homemade hummus. www.achillislandseasalt.ie