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Sally's blog

All the best places to eat, shop and stay in Ireland. A local guide to local places.

Young Buck Cheese, Northern Ireland

John McKenna meets Mike Thompson, an iconic artisan making Northern Ireland's first raw milk blue cheese.

A Right Young Buck

Remember the date: November 26th, 2013.
That was the date when Mike Thomson made his first Young Buck cheese, in a wee room in an industrial estate on the outskirts of Newtownards, in County Down.
Young Buck is iconoclastic, for it is a raw milk blue cheese. No one in Northern Ireland has ever done this before, which is what makes the date of the start of production of the first cheese so significant.

Roasted Brown, Dublin

“Left to have coffee at Roasted Brown”.
That's Caroline Hennessy, describing the trusted technique of how to rescue a bad lunch in Dublin city centre: get yourself to Roasted Brown, and salvage the day with a cup of Don Mayo, from Costa Rica.

Newforge House, Derrylin, Co Armagh

John Mathers is meticulous.
How meticulous? Consider this: when he makes you a Shortcross gin and Fever Tree tonic, to which has adds a slice of orange, he also adds ice cubes. But... his ice cubes are made of tonic water, so as you sip through the life-affirming drink, there is none of the dilution that occurs with ordinary, made-of-water ice cubes.
The result? The last time I had a drink as good as the Newforge gin and tonic, it was in the American bar at the Savoy Hotel in London, twenty years ago.

Book Special - Books for Health

Grow Cook Eat, by Michael Kelly (GIY)

Grow Cook Eat is the ultimate lifestyle book, simply because it shows exactly how to achieve the ultimate lifestyle. Michael Kelly and his many contributors have taken the GIY message and made it accessible, understandable and enjoyable. The book is first and foremost a guide to growing and cooking but, in truth, it is a book about economics, social science, health and philosophy.

The Fumbally, Dublin

Dublin's Fumbally manages the most difficult balancing act in modern urban living: it is the most intensely knowing place – the sort of eating house where you half expect, on entering the bathroom, to find that they have a copy of Malevich's Black Square, which they've hung upside down, hanging on the wall – and yet it is totally devoid of self-consciousness.It's hip, without a downside, which means it's the sort of space that could only be created in Ireland.

The Square Table, Blarney

We'd give Martina and Tricia Cronin their own restaurant-and-cooking television show, starting tomorrow, and we'd call it “Round Pegs in The Square Table”

These twin red-headed sisters – Martina at the stoves, Tricia out front – are a blast. They're voluble, self-deprecating, funny, talented and iconoclastic.“We're culchies”, Martina will tell you – they hail from Kilnamartyra, just up the road from Blarney – but they're not culchies, they're just rooted.

Upstairs @ West, The Twelve Hotel, Barna

In post-modern cooking, everything goes. A chef might draw inspiration from an artwork or a literary text just as much as a plate of food he or she once ate in someone else's restaurant.There is only one problem with post-modern cooking: it's difficult. In fact, it's incredibly difficult. If you want to do it right, it will do your head in. Where to start? Where to end? Where does the comfort zone dissolve into incoherence? When does the free-form stop making sense?

Murphy Blacks

Around Loop Head, in south County Clare, you can meet people and start chatting, let the conversation drift its way towards restaurants and cooking, and then hear them say something like “Oh, Mary Black's mushrooms in Guinness batter with that dill and honey mayonnaise.” And they get all dreamy then, remembering the dish, and its unctuous flavours, its lush satisfaction, the fact that they order it everytime in Murphy Black's.

Ox, Belfast

My guest wasn't mincing her words.“This is the best food I've eaten in my entire life”, she saidWe were halfway through a dish of “Squid, chorizo, romanesco, ink”, the third course of seven on the tasting menu at OX, on Belfast's Oxford Street.

The dish was pure OX: visually arresting, tactile, ardently clever and seemingly able to push all the pleasure points with every bite. Just as clever, and just as tactile, was the decision to pair it with a red wine, a glass of Villa Wolf pinot noir from Germany, a red wine that drinks like a white wine.


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