Wine of the Month – December

By Enrico Fantasia

Rosso Piceno “di Gino” 2010 FATTORIA SAN LORENZO

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Genius: an exceptionally intelligent person or one with exceptional skill in a particular area of activity.

If we agree with the definition of genius given by the Oxford Dictionary then Natalino Crognaletti, the driving force behind Fattoria San Lorenzo, is definitely a genius.

He has no particular secrets to craft his unique wines, but lot of very personal and sometimes extreme ideas. So extreme that every time I spend few days with him I always leave with the same doubt: either I know much less about wine than I think, or he is gloriously messing me around telling me bizarre stories….

Biodynamic ante-litteram as this is how they always did it since his great grandfather started growing grapes: take a walk in the vineyard with Natalino and you’ll be amazed by the incredible amount of ladybirds, butterflies and bees “working” with him. And if you compare with the desolate “death valley” landscape of the neighboring chemical-sprayed vineyards, the difference is striking.

The farm is also self-sufficient and pretty much everything they need is home grown or produced (they basically buy only flour, sugar and coffee).

It’s difficult for me to pick a favourite from the vast range of wines Natalino produces, but the Rosso Piceno “di Gino” is consistently one of the best reds he makes, and possibly one of the best value for money I ever found.

A blend of Montepulciano and Sangiovese in a 60:40 ratio mainly aged in steel vats (only 10% of the wine sees oak, just to soften a bit the natural acidity of the two grapes and to add a extra layer of complexity), this wine is rich, deep, funky, complex, ripe but never overpowering. It’s also full of black cherries, red fruit, spices, liquorice and tobacco. And just in case you were wondering, it is age-worthy and at the same time has that sort of please-give-me-another-sip drinking feel that I know you like.

Anything else you need to know about it? No.

So, get it now! You’ll make your turkey happy this Christmas…

Cheesy Musings – Your Christmas on a board

By Elisabeth Ryan

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Its that time of year when cheese gets its proud outing on tables across the country.  What follows is mostly a monger musing  on helping you get the right selection of cheese and find great things to accompany your cheese  as opposed to a hard and fast set of rules. When we mongers help you select  you christmas cheeses for yourself or as a gift, we want to know above all that the cheeses will be thoroughly enjoyed; whether that’s  a fairly stinky oozing washed rind or a rather more general purpose crowd pleasing easy going comte or cheddar type, so when it comes time to buy, if you don’t have any definite choices in mind –  tell us what types please you the most and we’ll help you work the rest out.

Definitely experiment and try new things and of course, above all else listen to your mongers advice, but – like a wedding haircut its important to hold on to what you know will make you happy!!!

With all this in mind its worth remembering when selecting a cheese board for a variety of guests that not everyone loves the more hardcore cheeses – balance is the key!!

Some people associate strength and force with their uber board for christmas. Try to suit the selection to encompass all your guests’ needs , not just a select few.

If in doubt, best to play it safe with a couple in the selection, and get larger quantities of these. Then,don’t forego the others, but just get smaller quantities of them instead.

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CLASSIC CHEESE BOARD SELECTION MANDATES A SOFT, A HARD, AND A BLUE and then most people add in a fourth for fun. I’d suggest keping it to four as a maximum, couple of reasons for this:

Firstly; you can have nice big chunks that look really great and impressive rather than buying 5 or 6 and having smaller pieces where you don’t get the same visual drama.

Secondly; you don’t then have too may opposing flavours.

In  terms of quantities, a very general rule of thumb is 100g per person total.

I often recommend limiting a board to just two cheeses and then adding in interest and contrast with the accompaniments and wine matches; which brings me nicely on to my next topic…

Some specific matching advice

Wines can be tough, as often it is difficult to pick one wine which goes well with all the cheeses on your board and despite what many think, in my experience whites tend to be a better match for cheese than reds, this can be tricky though as by the time it comes to cheese time, most people have switched over to red to accompany the meat course that went before.

Nonetheless, don’t feel you can’t switch back to white or even try a dessert wine or port. Or support Irish and match a craft beer or two with your cheese course!

Blues: Wines of choice are generally sweet like a Verduzzo and the bigger blue cheeses can stand up to Ruby, LBV or Tawny Ports. Food accompaniments,  likewise think sweet; try candied nuts or quince paste. Sweet jams or onion maramalade can be great. Rich chocolatey Irish craft porters can also be a great match.

Bloomy Rinds (Camembert / Brie types): Work great with richer styles of champagne or Cava, but also nicely with any rich but not oaky style of Chardonnay, also often good alongside juicy ripe reds like Cotes du Rhone or a juicy Valpolicella or Spanish Tempranillo (not a heavy tannic style of red though). Food accompaniments which work well include sweet chutneys, fig compote and  bloomy rind cheeses are great with a really good sourdough bread toasted. Irish craft beers can be trickier to match with these types but the lightest style of ale can pair pretty well.

Rind washed cheeses (the orangey/pinkey  coloured pungent ones):These work particularly well with more floral styles of wine such as Alsace Gewurztraminer or a Pinot Gris. Unusual  flavours like cawaway seeds often work well. These cheeses can be surprisingly versatile and the stronger ones will even hold up to a dark beer or whiskey, but a red beer is usually most versatile as a catch all craft beer match.

Fresh cheese or goats cheese:A crisp style of sauvignon blanc, generally from the old world regions such as the Loire Valley in France makes a super match. Figs, both in their fresh form or pressed in cakes or in compotes or jams are truly great with most goat’s cheeses.

Goat’s cheeses of all types can be lovely with a dry craft cider.

Hard cheeses:Generally the easiest to match with a variety of red wines, a very classic combo is traditional cheddar with an aged Bordeaux red. But again richer whites will work well here too. Food matching tends to also be more versatile with harder cheeses; quince paste again works well as do the fig compotes, and all types of chutneys, also try cherry jam – especially good with hard sheep’s milk cheeses. As far as beer goes red beer or heavier pale beers generally work a treat, especially with aged goudas, which can often even work beautifully with a porter.

Finally, for all the advice about matchings and pairings and what does and doesn’t work, feel free to ignore it all and eschew the monger advice, pick what you like and what you enjoy it with. Nothing works better than something that makes you happy!

A few tips on minding your cheese and how to serve…

  • When it comes to looking after your cheeses a few key points to remember as follows:
  • Store in the vegetable compartment of your fridge (or a cool pantry if you’re luck enough to have one!), wrapped in cheese paper or greaseproof paper.
  • Prior to serving – allow the cheeses to come to room temperature for a couple of hours (not hot kitchen emperature, but actual advised room temperature (approx 20 degrees celcius). For very soft and delicate cheeses, they can be served a little cooler again, maybe just an hour or so out of the fridge, so as not to lose their shape and melt!
  • If you have larger pieces of cheese designed to last through a few occasions, just take what you need from the piece and bring this up to temperature, rather than taking the whole piece in and out several times.

To Rind or not to rind

As a rule of thumb for softer cheeses the rind is an integral part of the cheese, and you may miss out if you don’t parttake, and for harder cheeses the rind is generally a protective coating to the cheese and doesn’t get eaten.

Once again though, do what makes you happy, and even if that means cutting the lovely bloomy rind or squishy pinky rind off and focusing on the interior – then go ahead and do it – the aim is for you to get maximum enjoyment

Final Tips

Buy your cheese from a cheesemonger with a dedicated member of staff and a cheese counter where they cut from the block, one who will let you taste on the spot and provide advice.

If you choose to buy online from us, feel free to mail us with any queries before you buy for the same help and advice as you would get in person!

To be brutally honest,we mongers often sigh a little (entirely inwardly of course) and  resignedly think to ourselves that like like puppies – cheese is not just for christmas – what we ask above all is that you remember to select your favourites and what you like rather than chosing the classics or what seem to you the scary ones  just  for the sake of it! And also of course as an aside that you remember to  buy lots  of cheese  (and look after puppies) all year round!!!

 

Wine Extravaganza 30th November @ Our Meath Shop

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Franck and Darryl here from our Meath shop inviting you to our Wine Extravaganza with Enrico Fantasia this Saturday.

Come taste some of our Christmas wine selection which includes our TYDY Sauvignon Blanc from the Loire Valley, Our Lastone Valpolicella, Our Monteraponi Chianti and our I Campi Soave.

Our Saturday market will also be in full swing with Richard Hogan and his Organic Veg, Flood’s Butchers, Bakealicious, Lola & Bo, Vera will be cooking up her delicious Bacon and Sausage rolls, Hazel will have her delicious selection of Chocolates, Yvonne will have her local free range eggs, cordials and relishes and more…

Dublin Shop Cheesemongers hit the road

Here is an insightful account of a recent trip taken by our Dublin Cheesemongers by ‘Monger Dominique. 

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Sheridans recently sent three members of their Dublin Shop to visit some much beloved producers of Irish cheese and meats production counties Cork and Tipperary.

Our trip was for two days but in order to make the most of it, as with cheese and crackers, we paired some natural opportunities:

  • in Kanturk, there were Ardrahan and McCarthy’s
  • in Cork City, The English Market and it’s long faithful love, On the Pig’s Back
  • And in Tipperary ,  we were herded over to the Cashel Blue factory near Fethard with Henry Clifton Browne’s flock of sheep.

First was Kanturk, three hours from Dublin when you leave at 6:30am. It is a sweet older town, lively, busy with big signs advertising bargains and thankfully not many To Let signs.

First port of call was Ardrahan, which is a true farmhouse cheese, we turned into the driveway marked out by short yellow gate posts with a sign reading ‘Ardrahan House” stenciled on the side. It is only byrounding a once affluent and equally yellow house into a car filled courtyard that we gained a little more confidence.  When a brisk older woman with a warming welcome emerged from the back door– we knew we’d reached Mary Burns and her Ardrahan.

Ardrahan is largely in Mary’s hands but it has been and will continue to be a family enterprise.  Liz, her daughter has a family member’s interest and led us on the tour, Mary’s son Ger manages the milking herd and the land and Joan and Mark, both locals, assist in the cheese making rooms. They have been with the Burns family for years.

The cheese tour begins immediately: hairnets, blue booties and white coats, this is not a fashion show. Joan is waiting by the vat with the set milk and begins to cutting the curd with passes of her cheese harp. It seems soothing, cutting and washing the curd and then doing it all over again, but it takes strength and experience to know when it is the right consistency for forming the cheese. Once accomplished the cheese making kicks into its own rapid development, the cheesemakers have ten or so minutes, two buckets, and 170 molds to fill with curd before it becomes too dry to set properly into cheese. Filled molds are then pressed with weight, once set they go into the brine. In this case the baby is the bathwater in that cheese makers hold on to their brine for years as it becomes part of the process in making the unique cheese.

In the cheese rooms the cheese exhibits the homespun variability that we know so well in the shop. Each cheese has a different depth and colours to its neighbours. The most consistent element, the identifying pattern on the rind, comes from almost haphazardly chosen wire racks on which the cheese is aged. Natural processes assist, even wrest with the cheese makers in the ageing process. Washing away unwelcome moulds and encouraging the growth you seek is like gardening but at a fungal and bacterial levels; they are kept busy shaking hands with one and shooing another. Finally there is the packing room where, emerging from their caves into the light, the ready cheese wait to be wrapped, labeled and sent to their next destinations.

Over lunch we talked with Mary, discovering how she came to making Ardrahan.. Mary applied to a cheese-making course for farmers in UCC in the early 1980’s and was told that she wasn’t farmer (man) enough to participate but when the turnout was low they changed their minds and invited her in.  Louis Grubb and some other cheese makers were also there. The course focused on cheddars and production at a larger scale than was practical to small farms but within the course they spent a week with an Irish cheese maker, Mary chose Milleens with Veronica Steele, and it was here that she found something practical for the farm.

McCarthy’s was our next destination. Kanturk, I finally learn, mystery solved, translates from the Irish as Boar’s Head. I was not misleading people seeking the McCarthy’s Boar’s Head pudding when I pointed to McCarthy’s of Kanturk (I had seen a Boar’s Head label on it before). Jack with his son Tim are the able-bodied forces behind the local and national reaching butchers. Jack is a larger than life man, an entrepreneur who works in food.

Most of the meats are locally sourced or from a field not too many beyond. They take it all in by hand and so are able to respond to the different breeds, ages, sizes that are brought in from the field (which is not possible in so automated factories), the pigs used go beyond the limited definition of ‘free-range’, succulent cappoquin chickens, mountain lamb, you can feel the countryside taking on rich dimensions.

Fed well visually and viscerally we feel it would be safer to head to Cork before Jack pulls us into a pub and the stories begin.

Our next stop is Isabelle Sheridan (not related except in activities) of On the Pig’s Back and Cork’s beautiful English Market.  Isabelle Sheridan is the woman behind On the Pig’s Back, it has been running in Cork for over ten years. She began with patés and terrines and her collections stretched to include a considerable variety of cheese, choice of crackers (including Sheridan’s), some freshly baked savories and breads. Isabelle recently opened an On the Pig’s Back in Douglas to accommodate the need for a bigger kitchen but it has become its own success and is packed with Corkonians for the lunch times.

The next day was an early drive to Tipperary and all things Cashel Blue. Sarah Furno, of the Grubb family, decided that we probably didn’t see much of the farms that engendered all of these cheese making projects and so arranged our first visit to be with Henry Clifton-Brown, her cousin, who is responsible for all of the sheep and all of the milk they produce.

From there we go on to the new Cashel Blue factory which is across the road from the old Courtyard where is all used to happen in Fethard, Co. Tipperary. It is quite discreet in its setting. We go through a door and enter into a very professional cheese making facility. I am a little giddy and the size of it. The intention was to create a place where the cheese could be made sustainably, in its current and increasing quantities, without exhausting the people or the landscape involved.  No curd cutting today but we see the open vats where the cheese harps (broaching looms)and harpists prepare the curd, lines of molds empty but for tomorrow’s Cashel Blue and then on into the brining and the ageing rooms. The brine is, as with Ardrahan, treasured and both Crozier and Cashel take their first swim in the same pool. The ageing rooms smell like sweet, young lactic Cashel and we begin to hunger. During the tour I learn that Louis and Jane Grubb’s recipe for Cashel Blue is quite unusual for a blue cheese; Cashel Blue is not like anything else (ie. it is not an Irish Stilton). They raise the temperature to a higher degree during the initial curding stage and then they age the cheese in moist cooler refrigeration for longer and use fabulous Irish milk – resulting in a more buttery, sweet, creamy blue than most and one which relies on the richness of Irish cow milk. The cheese made with Henry’s ewe milk is made very similarly but needs to age for a little longer and produces a cheese which is more blue, with a clear rich salty paste.

I’ve learned a great deal about our cheese makers and meat product producers, the art of their work and how they wrest and work with natural forces on one side and again with market forces on the other. Nature seeks change, lives in cycles and diversity and the market, particularly the larger market seeks the general and conformity. One of the joys of being a small farmhouse producers and working at Sheridan’s is that we seek to work with the natural products and create and offer individual and unique tastes which celebrate the land and engagement with it.

I think that it was a successful trip, at least for me.

Nothing is simple and easy and I think that is a general rule for all the good things in life J

Sheridan’s Christmas Fair 2013

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Our 2013 Christmas Fair will take place on the Saturday 14th and Sunday 15th of December from 10pm – 6pm at our Virginia Rd. Station Shop in Co. Meath. Jam packed with Food, Wine, Local Craft Products, Kid’s Fun, Carol Singing and Mulled Wine.

Stay tuned for more updates.

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Bra – Cheese 2013

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An insightful account of Cheese 2013 in Bra, Piedmont (North Italy) by our Galway Cheesemonger Emilia Furey.

When I found out I was going to attend the Bra Cheese Festival in Piedmonte, Italy as a representative of Sheridans Cheesemongers, I don’t think I knew what to expect. I knew good food, good wine and most likely good weather was involved and possibly some hard graft at our cheese stall over the course of the few days the festival ran. It was all that… But also so much more…

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Travelling from Milan airport in our cortege of cars filled with excited Cheesemongers, we drove through the Italian countryside for just over two hours to reach our destination fantastico – Bra. Here, in this quiet, beautiful and special little gem of a town, we drove around to view what was to become the hub of all things Slow Food and all things cheese! On our first day, set up was just beginning and all the many strange and wonderful cheese makers, cheesemongers and other special stall holders were hard at work trying to create aesthetically pleasing stalls to display their exciting products but mainly, to create stands that welcomed all visitors and show case what each stall and company had to offer the customer, the browser and the wonderer!

Over the course of the next 4 days, the Sheridan’s staff (along with help from Jess and Dave Murphy at Kai, Siochfradha from Rúa and Donal from Fallon & Byrne) that travelled over to Bra, worked  and laughed together in shifts to man the Sheridans Cheese stall and the Presidium stand, which was dedicated to raw milk Irish cheeses. Things were hectic, busy, confusing with the Italian language barrier ( we tried to muster few phrases) and the hours flew by. In between shifts, we were free to take walks around the town and take in the sights and visit all the other stands and get to meet some of the people who’s products we stock like Marcel Petit Comtés’ Mr Goux, who gave us a fantastic talk on the work and special attention that goes into selecting only the finest Comté for each customer and how they know by taste what each customer really wants in their Comté wheel! Sheridans have a special and old connection with the Cravero family who supply our Parmesan and they hail from Bra itself. We got a chance as a group to visit the family home and the business which is part of their amazing home. Snuggled down a narrow, high walled drive, lies the big iron gates that holds the walls that mind our beloved Parmesan! We walked into the warehouse where the parmesan live and age, and the sweet and milky smell of the wheels hit us immediately. We all stood around with our eyes wide with admiration and our mouths watering with the scent of the quality and thought of fresh parmesan shaves falling onto a bowl of hot fresh pasta! Outside, the view onto the surrounding valleys was breathtaking! clear blue skies, warm and breezy weather and to share this with a group of like minded happy and excited cheese fanatic’s – you could not have asked for a better place to be in that moment!

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The town invites everyone with open arms. Gorgeous coffee available at every turn, patisserie shops full to the brim with special cakes and treats, big fluffy sheets of focaccia bread with cheese, marrinara and olives wafting out luring you in at counters, happy smiling and kind people, al fresco dining with glasses of the finest prosecco and a view of the world walking by and the most important place of all, Café Converso! Situated at the end of a long cobbled street with an old, comforting and large cream coloured church as its neighbour, lies one of the best things about this town besides its people and its love of cheese. Café Converso is like your own kitchen. A very well manned kitchen I might add with a side entrance that supplies you with the finest Italian chocolates and treats to take home if you wish. You walk in the door and Federico opens his arms and welcomes you like an old friend. Shouts of drinks are made for you and a little plate of special snacks are brought with every drink order. You look to your left and find a man with a parma ham and a plate of ripe gorgonzola handing out tastes. People laughing, singing, chatting and all delighted to be included into the cosy little piece of italian hospitality and warm hearted welcomes.

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This festival is a prime example of what people can do when they work together for something beyond themselves. Slow Food – attention to detail – like minded people – creativity – caring attentively to the product and the people behind the product is the ethos of this festival. The passion and care that went into even the dedicated rubbish police they had sitting at every bin exemplifies the whole thought logic behind trying to create a place and event like this, that spreads joy and that would stimulate interests in those who may not have even thought about the man who turns the wheel of parmesan that eventually becomes the shaves of cheese that melt into his hot pasta bowl in Galway, a thousand miles away from where the cheese began life. This town is a faint reminder of something sometimes missing in our own country. The happiness, the kindness, the smiles, the chat, the atmosphere – you cant fake that. You don’t need to have money to create this – it exists places still in the world – where people enjoy having people visit if only to have a chat about about the taste of a cheese over a glass of wine.  Sheridans is a little slice of this in Ireland. Of course, Sheridans made it possible to bring their Irish family to meet their extended Italian family and we were treated like such. I am so glad I got to travel with Sheridans to see the spectacular and amazing festival of CHEESE in Bra this year. I cannot recommend a visit of this kind to anyone more – foodies or not – festival or not – Bra is a sight to behold. Go visit, sit down with a glass of wine made in the hills around you, sample the cheese that lives up the road, soak up the sun that shines gladly on you, take in the sound of happy, smiling people and enjoy the simple and special things that are still left for you in the world.

The creative side of our Dublin shop

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Here is a glimpse of the sumptuous spread we prepared for a launch in a Dublin library this week, similar to what we regularly prepare for various launches, receptions & meetings.
We all enjoy the creative side of our work in Anne St and the feel that good food should be a multi-sensorial treat – you feast with your eyes as much as your taste buds!
These featured are some examples of what we often prepare for launches, receptions and meetings.
We use cheeses, meats, fish and antipasti from our shop based on breads from Tartine Bakery in Swords and of course, our own Sheridans Cracker range.
We have also teamed up with other quality food suppliers such as Michelle Darmody’s brilliant Cake Café, Murphys Ice cream, Cookies of Character, Skelligs and O’Conaills Chocolates to offer a full sweet & savoury spread on for larger scale events.
Wines from the Grapecircus @ Sheridans range are available for catering events and we can also provide staff if required. It’s as delicious and hassle-free a catering offering as you could imagine!

The exciting Knockdrinna Meadow

At our Waterford location with our counter in Ardkeen Store, we are especially lucky to be surrounded by a number of local cheesemakers including Triskel, Knockanore, Knockalara and Knockdrinna.
This past couple of weeks we’ve all been particularly excited about the amazing Knockdrinna Meadow Sheep’s milk cheese made by Kilkenny based Helen Finnegan. This semi-hard cheese has a lightly washed rind, which add’s to the earthy flavour of the cheese and results in a beautiful pinky orangey hue on the outside of the cheese. The interior of the cheese is a beautiul creamy white colour, and whilst the earthy smell carries through on to the pallet, there is also a sweetness, almost fudge like to the flavour of the cheese. Aromas and tastes of hay also intermingle with the very definite milky delicate flavours. We’re always pleased to promote our local cheese makers – but Helen has made our job very easy with this fantastic example of an Irish farmhouse sheep’s milk cheese.

Leopardstown Market

There’s a great variety of stalls at the Leopardstown market on a Friday these days. If you’re food shopping for the week, as well as our lovely range of cheeses, there’s a choice of two organic veg growers, Jenny McNally and Dennis Healy. There’s organic meat from Coolanowle and spanking fresh fish from Out of the Blue to tempt you also. There’s seasonal berries and master bakers, including the recent addition of tasty gluten free cakes. If you work in Sandyford, why not pop across for a bite of lunch. Choose from falafel, thai or a delicious pie or quiche from the Gourmet Grub Bakery. Runs every Friday from 9.30-2.30, with ample customer parking.

Recipe of the week: Strawberry and Mascarpone tart

Strawberry and Mascarpone tart

This wonderful summer keeps giving and giving and I am running out of fresh ideas to accommodate all the strawberries we’ve had! But why should I feel under this grotesque unnecessary pressure says you? Well maybe because it is so unprecedented that I want to make the most of what nature gives, that I know too well that it will be over too soon at least for another year. As a child, a dusting of sugar and Chantilly cream was the only way, in the early “noughties”, who hasn’t been given a plate of minimalist art nouveau “Strawberries and crushed meringues” with crème fraiche (yes Seamus, I am talking about you) as now, I really enjoy them at breakfast with yogurt and honey. Making the top 20 of antioxidants it is also famously known for its high vitamin c content. All in all, the goodie two shoes of the health world , so, the other day, when I came across a strawberry and mascarpone tart recipe, I wanted to know more, cross over to the dark side of the fork… It was with no regrets, a real treat, with a big dollop of Burke’s Honeycomb ice cream

You’ll need:

• 1 sheet of short crust pastry
• 250g Mascarpone cheese
• 130 g of sugar
• 1 vanilla pod
• 50g ground almonds
• 1 handful of strawberries
• 4 eggs
• 5cl of lemon juice

How to:

Beat the eggs and the sugar together, add the almond and fold in the mascarpone without any fuss. Cut the vanilla in half lengthways and scrape the seeds into the mix. Add the lemon juice. Spread the sheet of shortcrust on a buttered and floured tart dish, pour the mix in the middle and place halved strawberries here and there. Bake at 180c for 25min but check with a knife that it is cooked, just in case.

Website Launch

Welcome!

We are really happy to launch our new website and online shop. This is a work in progress and you will see lots of additions and updates over the coming months. You will find lots of information on our favourite cheeses, wines and other foods along with recipes and news on events that are going on. Sign up for our newsletter to get a monthly email and keep up to speed with what is going on in Irish food.

If you can’t make it into one of our shops you can now order many of our cheeses, crackers and wines online. At present we are only delivering within Ireland, but we hope to expand deliveries in the coming year. The orders are put together with the same care and attention as when you are served by one of our cheesemongers in-store.

Thanks for dropping by.

Kevin Sheridan