Day 23: Chocolate, cheese, wine and fermentation


Happy humpday!

So this was today’s agenda: Brownies, cheese, wine and fermentation. Tough right? If you could write the perfect Wednesday class plan for a bunch of foodie students, this would pretty much be right up there with ideal. 

9am – Watch Pam demonstrate various different brownie recipes. (Which happily we get to eat at morning tea time) The spelt brownie was a highlight.

“Brownies should be oozing, gooey and unctuous. Not hard. Not spongey. Chocolatey perfection”

Some of the brownie selection from the morning’s demo.

09.30am – Listen to a lecture on local Irish Farmhouse cheeses such as Ardsallagh, Clonmore and St Tola.

Those delicious Irish cheeses

10.00am – Wine lecture #3 with Colm McCan and Peter Corr. Yay! Wine Wednesday! Today we did some helpful recapping of what is going to be in our exams.  Chardonnay, Vine to Wine, Tasting notes, Muscat, Sauvignon, Pinot Noir, food and wine matching…. Something tells me I’m going to actually need to open my wine text book, rather than just keep looking at it.

I know, I know. A text book on wine… more like a fun book!

Today we also covered formal, fine dining wine service. I just love that the etiquette around wine. How you order it. How you taste it. How you serve it. The ‘rules’ which facilitate the enjoyment of this slightly unpredictable, romantic, scientific, food enhancing, mysterious and delightful thing that is a bottle of wine.

I love the French word terroir. It describes so perfectly everything that you taste when you drink a glass of good wine. The location of the vineyard, its soil, its drainage, slope and elevation; its microclimate including temperature and precipitation, exposure to the sun, wind and fog etc.  All of these things the winemaker has skillfully bought together for you. All of these things you taste. And, bien sur, all of these things you pay for.

We learnt about how wine should be bought to the table and served. How it should be poured so that everyone can see the label. How important it is not to over fill the glasses (and not top up too soon) so as not to put pressure on guests to buy another bottle. We learnt about the appropriate temperatures to store and serve different bottles, both for serving by the bottle and buy the glass. What to do if a wine is corked (or if a guest thinks it is) and basically good ‘wine management’

Some fun facts from today’s class.

  • Did you know that 96% of the wine that is bought in the world is consumed within 24 hours of purchase.
  • The ideal temperature for a cellar is 12C
  • 89% of the wine produced in Bordeaux is red
  • Shiraz and Syrah are the same grape variety! (I did not know this)
  • There are 3 permitted grape varieties in Champagne:
    • Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier

And we also tasted 4 wines. My favourite was the Tapanappa from South Australia, an amazingly full and rich Cabernet Sauvignon. Closely followed by a lovely dry Riesling from Nahe in Germany.  And so interesting to hear from Lucy about how the German wine industry is trying to change the perception that so many drinkers have of white wine being sweet. Blue Nun? What is this wine. Apparently it raised a certain profile for German wine – just not a particularly good one.

Today’s tastings


2pm – Fermentation Lecture with Darina and Emer

This was a super interesting and inspiring afternoon. (Which I will describe in whistlestop fashion as it is nearing pumpkin hour and I must be in bed by midnight.)

“The reality is that our Western diet is very deficient in fermented food. So much of what we eat now is processed, ‘dead food’. Our gut should be filled with lots of healthy, living bacteria, which is what we can get from fermentation”. – Darina

We covered sourdough, yoghurt and labneh and kefirs with their equally cool sounding Scobys. (Scoby = Symbiotic Colony of Bacteria and Yeast). We saw and tasted kombucha, kimchi, sauerkraut, kvass and (my favourite!) mead.

Kefirs are fermented drinks with bacteria feeding on the sugars in water or milk. They can be drunk plain, salty or flavoured with fruit. And they can be flat or fizzy. Either way they are refreshing and very good for your intestinal and digestive health.


Those salty, sour but insanely moreish kimchi’s and sauerkrauts are so delicious and easy to make. The kimchi less so as it needs more ingredients, but there is no reason why I don’t make sauerkraut more often. Not when I buy a jar of it for €3.50. Essentially for finely grated cabbage and salt!

Finally my favorite mead. Simply 1 part raw, local honey to 4 parts clean, fresh water (ideally as chemical free as possible) and 8 days later you have mead. Sweet, light and golden, this was impressive! I suspect it would give you a raging hangover… there is one way to find out! Not that I need an excuse but it’s convenient / serendipitous that I have a few friends coming over to visit in the coming weeks. Look out ladies, mead is on the menu.

Magic mead

6pm – extra curricular activities:

  1. Continuing my sourdough (my next loaf is going to feed some of my London ladies when they come over to visit this weekend)
  2. Butchery!

Butchery was actually so genuinely interesting. Amazing to really get a good understanding for what your meat it. What the lamb has had to face before it comes to you and what and how it’s made.

Getting lamby

I’ve had more reflections on this, but I’m now well past my bed time. Beauty sleep calls.

What a day!

00.15 – bed time


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