Saturday morning and, instead of the usual rush to get washing on the go and a possible trip to Midleton for the Farmers Market, I awoke in Cashel, Co Tipperary – the Trip to Tipp was on.
To most tourists Cashel is most famous for the Rock – an old monastic centre strangely enough situated on a rock which dominates the town. To us foodies though there are far greater things than a tourist trap, no matter how impressive or with what history.
It is not far from here that the famous Cashel Blue cheese is made. A delicate and yielding curd, with a rich blueness makes Cashel Blue far closer to Roquefort or Gorgonzola than the acidic and astringent Stilton or Danish Blue. Good young, even better matured Cashel Blue combines superbly with Walnuts and onion to make a delicious tart which can be served either hot or cold. Though Cashel Blue is a Cow’s milk cheese another family member makes a delightful Sheep milk cheese Crozier Blue, if you haven’t tried either get them NOW!
The other great foodie attraction in Cashel is Chez Hans. This destination restaurant was one of the first to offer local and seasonal produce on a simple menu changing with the seasons and cooked superbly. (One of our colleagues was spotted in Cashel on her way to hand in her resume to Chez Hans). As we had a dinner planned we would not be booking a table at Chez Hans – even if we could find a way around the long, long waiting lists. But good news next door is baby sister Cafe Hans.
Cafe Hans is the informal branch of Chez Hans with much of the menu repeated and some dishes prepared in Chez and brought to Cafe for finishing and assembling.
As we were to eat later and did not get there till around 3:30 we confined ourselves to a main course only. Two of us opted for the daily specials menu and the Fishcake.
Made with potato rather than breadcrumbs assorted white fish was paired with some Salmon in a thick and tasty cake served with a really good Couscous, a towering salad and a red tomato reduction that was both sweet and intense. A classy Prawn Cocktail served with Avocado and Chips (that would not have passed the Ballymaloe colour test) and Lamb with Mash were the other dishes enjoyed by colleagues.
On the way back we passed a third notable foodie reason to go to Cashel, the Cashel Abbey Hotel. This establishment was the old seat of the Archbishops of Cashel – after they decided that living in a stone building on a sticky up bit of rock was not conducive to Rheumatism avoidance. It was here that one Archbishop asked his personal brewer – senior clergy had such posts in their household staff- to make him a new and pleasant drink to share with visiting princes and kings of both the church and laity. The resultant brew was so pleasant that the brewer asked if his cousin could have the recipe that he had devised to brew commercially. Luckily the Archbishop agreed and young Arthur Guinness set up in Dublin, the rest as they say is history.
But back to us. The reason we were in Cashel was for a Thanksgiving Dinner hosted by Jacqui from our house, at her house. The food was very good.
A Parsnip and Fennel Soup was followed by the traditional Turkey served with Garlic Potato, Roast Potato, Roasted Vegetables, Leeks with Bacon, Bread Sauce, Cranberry Sauce and rich gravy
To follow this we had an upside down cake with Vanilla Ice Cream.
Appropriate wines were served with dinner, my colleague exercising her wine knowledge to ensure a good match with the food, and probably doing some sneaky revision for Wednesday’s Wine exam. Dinner over the assembled multitude settled down for some serious wine tasting!! Noble though their efforts were they cannot match the best wine tasting story that I have ever heard. It cannot be repeated on this blog but it involved a person well known to many of the guests. A lorry load of Beaujolais and a French Ferry Port strike. I leave it to you to furnish your own conclusions.
Thus Saturday passed though this blog will not appear till Sunday as there is no internet access immediately available and I will have to wait for an establishment with free Wi-Fi to open.
Oh yes, and it snowed