School tour day dawned bright and very early, well earlier than most for me as I was on cow milking duty. Our first port of call was the Mahon Farmers Market where we all gave in our tickets to our chosen stall to have our “breakfast”. Steak sandwich at 10 in the morning? Yes please!
Then back on the bus (I got a lift in a car which was great, and more comfortable!) down to Durrus. I always forget how much I love West Cork, and seeing the first lambs in the field really brought a sense of Spring to the day. Everyone was quite giddy at the day at itinerary ahead, and even the long journey didn’t dampen spirits.
As we were in the car, we got to Durrus ahead of the bus, and started up the hill to the cheese makers premises. Narrow twisty lanes didn’t bode well for the 60 seater bus.
The view from the “factory” is incredible.
The awards on display outside, there are many more inside!
We got a private tour while waiting for those on the buses. Eventually the little bus ran students up and down as the bigger bus stayed in Durrus. It was great to see the bigger version of what we learnt with Clancy back in the dairy.
The smaller groups suited the visit in the end as we all got to see everything, and the day was so beautiful no-one minded waiting for the bus. We got to taste the produce too, always a plus!
Our next stop was back down the road to Durrus and the Good Things Cafe run by the eminently capable Carmel Somers. Although shut at the moment (Durrus is incredibly seasonal), we moved the “picnic” from the bus into the cafe, and nibbled on our white radishes and pate while Carmel spoke about her journey to this point in time with her cafe, and previous experience. It was a warts and all journey, and clearly her passion for flavour and excellence have been some of her drivers.
John McKenna also dropped in. I have met John a number of times in The Tannery, but spent quite some time with him while doing the Food Writing Module in UCC last year, and he is someone with whom you could talk all day about food trends and fads, and the disgraces of modern living. It also helps that he loves one of my favourite restaurants Harry’s, Donal is a visionary that many could model themselves on, as he just knows exactly what he’s doing. John spoke lovingly about the new Harry’s Shack, and made me want to jump straight in a car and drive to Port Stewart!
Reluctantly we got back on the bus and headed for Urru in Bandon.
Ruth Healy is a past student, and set up her modern day green grocer in Co Cork. Ruth talks at a rate of knots about her passion, food. Urru (Urban- Rural) was established by Ruth in 2003, and she has been an ambassador for producers ever since. Making the decision early on, that as a sales person, she wanted to spend her time interacting with her clients, there is no kitchen as such in the shop. The deli counter is spacious and inviting, as she explained herself she seeks out the best soup producers, bread producers while maintaining a coffee counter and the kitchen and book shop. There were over 60 of us in the shop, but it did not seem too crowded and we all had a look round.
Anthony Creswell from Ummera Smokehouse also called in to tell us about his produce while we were in Urru. Not only do they smoke fish, but also chicken, duck and bacon. He went through some of the challenges of having an artisan food business in Ireland.
With that we had to swap buses as those heading to the Riedel tasting that night in the Grainstore, Ballymaloe, went on the small bus to get back in time. Already it had been a long day, but we were all still in good spirits. Traffic was not too bad, and soon we were back in Shanagarry.
John Hinckley from Riedel Glass presented the glass comparison tasting evening, and I have to admit, I was very sceptical about whether I would truly be able to “taste” the difference. But it was a real eye opener. I won’t spoil it for anyone, as really this is an event that has to be experienced to be understood, and enjoyed.
What I will tell you is that White Burgundy is my new favourite type of wine.