Welcome to The Menu’s House of Love, a special loveheavy edition of this column.
Once upon a time, each February, The Menu would commence his exhaustive preparations for Valentine’s Day with a rigorous regime of four and a half sit-ups followed by a prolonged scrub in the cast iron tub before the coup de grace, a splash of the Old Spice under, not just one, but both armpits.
These days, however, the formerly great romantic is currently unavailable for Valentine’s liaisons with any other than Mrs Menu herself, on account of her preference for monogamy and the very large stick with which she expresses her preferences, and so The Menu will have to settle on just one of the following fine options for putting on a spot of the ‘woo’:
The Mustard Seed, in Co Limerick, offers a Be My Valentine package at the pet-friendly four star Victorian country house, including four course dinner, overnight stay with a bottle of prosecco on arrival. www.mustardseed.ie
Longueville House offers one/two nights B&B, complimentary bubbly in the room on arrival plus chef’s seasonal dinner for two. www.longuevillehouse.ie
Ballymaloe House offers a mid-week package, one night’s B&B, dinner for two and a complimentary half-bottle of pink champagne.
The Menu would be hard pressed not to go all in and book for the following night as well, a Chateau Feely Wine Dinner (Feb 15), preceded with a talk from the wonderful winemakers, Caro and Sean Feely, who moved to France some years ago to establish their own superb vineyard. www.ballymaloe.ie
Galway Food Tours hosts a special Valentine’s walking tour (Feb 14) taking in Dela Restaurant, John Keogh’s The Lockkeeper, Crust Bucket pizza bus and Massimo Gastro Pub, with stories and games en route. www.galwayfoodtours.com
While The Menu recommends a personal chocolate tour of Cork, taking in Danero, on Cork’s South Main St, Ireland’s finest chocolate emporium, The Chocolate Shop, in the English Market, and then to Oliver Plunkett St, to visit Butler’s, followed by the newly opened and especially fine, Cocoa, brainchild of Cork chef Brendan Cashman, which The Menu shall be returning to in this column in coming weeks.
And for the defiantly single, Cork’s Imperial hotel are staging an Anti-Valentine’s Day (Feb 9-18) for a minimum of three, presumably lovelorn, ‘friends’ offering a dinner and drinks package including champers and cocktails (booking essential, 021 4274040).
We are not quite at saturation point but as the consumer grows more informed, sales of industrial bread continue to decline and a steady stream of genuine bakers continues to join the Irish real bread baking community, the latest being El-Door Bakery, on Cork’s Mac-Curtain St (itself rapidly developing into another gastronomic hub in the city).
Owned and operated by Darek Skulimowski and his wife Luz, The Menu was delighted to encounter an extensive range of baked comestibles on a recent visit.
Breads, yeast and sourdough, are the work of a consummate craftsman, sourdough loaves (particularly, wholemeal, walnut and port wine, and green olive) all proving especially fine.
Two different Cornish pasties made for a splendid lunch, the very delicious lamb-filled option deserving special mention and both a steal at €3, while a selection of doughnuts were a serious hit with the progeny.
Having pretty much filled his boots (with plenty as well for the freezer), The Menu took a nibble from an excellent brioche but mislaid it, only to find it again two days later when it was stale — no problem at all, as The Menu turned it into the finest bread and butter pudding (with a filling of Wendy’s apricot jam) that has been consumed around these parts in many a long while! Fing El Door Bakery on Facebook.
Yellowbelly Red Noir, 4.9% ABV, 330ml - €3.29
Stockists: Bradleys, Bierhaus, Ardkeen, O’Briens, Molloys, widely available in the south-east.
New beers from Co Wexford based Yellowbelly seem to appear every time I visit an off-licence.
I love their comic-book inspired packaging and I’ve yet to taste a bad beer so keeping up is not a chore.
Red Noir was launched last November and features Little Red — a formidable warrior brewer from another dimension — visit www.yellowbellybeer.ie to read her comic.
Unfiltered and unpasteurised this pours a rich dark red colour with a soft head.
Toasted malt aromas mixed with berry fruits — blackberry, redcurrant — rich fruity palate, smooth and warming with understated but noticeable hop character and a dry and (dried fruit) finish.