Day Fifty Three - Stop the bus we want a ...
No cooking today as the course “school” tour was taking place ... every 12 week course students get taken on one (unless there is a snow storm, like the last class 😝) ... so at 8:30 a.m. this morning we were divided into two buses (places on each bus determined yesterday by lottery!!!) and we went on our merry way!
I was on bus two (with Richard chaperoning us) and our first stop was to Ballinrostig Homestead Farm where Stephen Bender and Michelle Cashman make farmhouse cheeses ... I’m not sure what I expected but we arrived a house in the middle of a village with a large garage door!!! However we were met by Stephen and Michelle who took 30+ Students into their actual home (no really) and made us feel so welcome! They began with a quick presentation on their “artisan” operation and then showed us to that large garage that was essentially a mini dairy ... where the magic happens, then we saw their ageing / maturing room and finally we got to taste their fantastic cheese ... in their kitchen! It was great to hear directly from a couple who left steady careers and went "all in" and are growing!
The next stop was to Mahon Point and the a farmers market lunch ... a steak sandwich from Boeuf a Lolo (recommended by our teacher Tiffin, who used to work with him) ... good call ... very tasty and washed down with a craft cider! 🤫
The next stop was to "The Apple Farm" in Chair, Tipperary where we met Con Traas. Con's parents moved from The Netherlands to Ireland in the late 1960's to grow fruit. They had been growing fruit in Holland since the 1800's (the family, not his parents), but because it was difficult to find new land there for fruit-growing they decided to move to Ireland. Con and his team manage a 60 acre farm with 40 acres of fruit! At the moment they are growing four varieties of strawberries, three of raspberry, four of cherry, three types of plums, and two pears compliment and 60 varieties of apples! The amazing thing is they sell most of what they grow right there on the farm! Con also lectures at the University of Limerick ... in his spare time !!! 😊
Next it was off to Fethard, Co. Tipperary and to Dooks Fine Foods that is run by an ex-Ballymaloe student, Richard Glesson. Richard has been getting great reviews recently for his modern approach to food, especially from Catherine Cleary of the Irish Times (review)(I had read this review when it came out and thought wow would love to visit this place but when would I EVER be in Tipperary ... hmmmmm). Richard took quite a bit of time with us to share his experiences since he left Ballymaloe. He spent a few years in London working for Ottolenghi & Skye Gyngell! He talked openly about his thought process and challenges that lead him to open a modern cafe / resto in rural Ireland. It was very interesting to hear someone that was in a similar situation to me (a "few" years younger) and how they have gotten to the position they are in now! Huge kudos to Richard! 💥
Lastly we went to see a particular favourite of mine ... even available in Luxembourg from Eirelux ... Eight Degrees Brewing in Mitchelstown, Cork. Here we were shown around by Scott and Caroline (an ex Ballymaloe Student) firstly we saw their original operation and then their new seriously scaled up operation (they have just recently been acquired by Irish Distillers). There was ... you will be glad to hear ... a fair amount of beer tasted! 🍻
All in all it was a surprising good day, it’s fantastic to hear stories from passionate people doing what they love!
Then it was back to the school ... where I had to feed my sourdough starter for the third day! The rest of the evening I spent filing and preparing for tomorrow ... back into the kitchen for tomorrow and then end of week eight! 😱
As the pop up dinner has been cancelled this weekend due to the passing of Myrtle Allen ... I am trying to convince some of the guys to do a Pit roast (assuming we can get permission to dig up a bit of the garden!) .... what could possibly go wrong ???? 😂😱😝