Thursday, December 11, 2008
Ireland's Excellent Wine Themed Lodge
GLASSON CO. WESTMEATH
Athlone, Ireland NA
The Irish Tourism Bureau has courted Darcy and me for several years. They have been telling us that we would be impressed with Ireland’s cuisine, wines, whiskeys and luxury accommodations. While they do not make any significant amount of wine in Ireland, the culinary scene has experienced a revolutionary transformation that sets Ireland light years apart from England’s meat and potatoes offerings.
We visited Ireland in September 2007 on a self-guided press trip. The Irish Tourism Board carefully planned our entire itinerary. But when we arrived at Shannon Airport we were basically on our own self-guided, seven-day journey of the emerald Isle.
We have so many stories and experiences to share from this visit. But I thought that it would be best to tell you about Ireland’s premier wine themed hotel and gourmet restaurant.
Located almost dead in the center of Ireland, The Wineport Lodge is located on a peaceful inland waterway in Glasson County on the inner lakes of Lough Ree, which is fed by the Shannon.
The lodge was founded in February 1993 by husband & wife team Ray Byrne and Jane English. Their success with Wineport has enabled them to expand their holdings to 4 other distinct properties.
When we arrived, we were elated with the lodge’s location overlooking the lake. It was a sunny day and locals told us how lucky we were to be experience sunny and dry 80 F degree weather. Apparently they had three weeks of torrential downpours that ended just days before our arrival.
The concept of this place is every wine lovers dream. Each hotel room is named after a legendary wine brand. Ours was the Taylor Fonseca room. When we arrived at our room their was a decanter waiting with Taylor Fonseca Port! After opening the blinds we were elated with the gorgeous view of Lough Ree with classic wooden hulled yachts moored on the pier. Our room was spacious and well appointed with walnut furniture by leading designer Robert English. Our bathroom was large and spa like.
Guests arrive by road or water, and the bar & restaurant is popular with gourmet diners, tourists, corporate clients, the local community, families, golfers and sailors. We noticed several anniversary parties with middle-aged children toasting their fox haired parents 50th anniversaries.
The kitchen, under Chef Feargal O'Donnell's helm, offers a wide variety of International cuisine’s and approaches. He focuses on using local organic ingredients for most of his menu. Of course the wine list is extensive. It includes a great stable of French and Italian classics. But to cater to the Irish market, a great selection of popular priced Aussie wines are offered.
Before dinner we were offered a seat on the outdoor deck overlooking the sunset falling across the Lough Ree. The Bar Manager knew we were journalists and asked if we would like to try some Irish whiskey. I asked him to pick something special. He shortly appeared with two bottles of 16-year-old Bushmills. As a scotch drinker I was impressed with this whiskey’s smoothness.
We were treated to a chefs sampling of Wineport’s signature dishes.
One of our favorites was the Steamed Fresh Mussels with Coconut Coriander and Sweet Chili Cream. It offered a satisfying variety of sweetness, texture and spice.
(See recipe below.)
Other notable dishes include;
Wineport soup & crusty breads.
Steamed Lissadel Bay mussels, white wine & gremolata cream sauce.
Tempura of confit pork belly, sweet soy & fried shallot.
Served with daily changing potatoes & vegetables
Roast breast of chicken,
black pudding & port raisins, pancetta & glazed turnips.
Bouride of smoked seafood, Parmesan potato crust.
Braised beef olives, honey roast root vegetables,
sage & pearl onion bordelaise.
Dessert Menu €10
Wineport banoffi, pineapple & mint salsa.
Risotto of pear, vanilla bean, Muscat & saffron.
Chocolate raspberry tart, Tia Maria mascarpone.
White chocolate orange soufflé, Baileys ice cream.
Classic crème brûlée with rhubarb & anise compote, sesame tuille.
Banana & buttermilk pudding, caramelized Bramley apple,
black treacle sauce, honey & cinnamon ice cream.
Wineport ice creams, seasonal fruits.
Seasonal fresh fruit with natural yogurt or fromage frais
available as a healthy alternative to dessert.
Ideally accompanied by a glass of Rosé
Enate Rosado, Cabernet Sauvignon, Spain €6.50
Noble One – Botrytis Semillon 2000, De Bortoli, New South Wales, Australia
Glass €19 1⁄2 btl €55
Orange Muscat & Flora 2002, Brown Brothers, Victoria, Australia
Glass €7.50 1⁄2 btl €22.50
Muscat de Beaumes-de-Venise. Paul Jaboulet Aîné 2001,
Glass €6.50 1⁄2 btl €20
Sauternes, Château Guiraud 1er Cru 1996
Glass €22.50 1⁄2 btl €69
By Chef Feargal O'Donnell
Steamed Fresh Mussels with Coconut Coriander and Sweet Chili Cream
2lb fresh clean mussels
1/2 can coconut milk
Small bunch fresh coriander (chopped)
4 tablespoons sweet chili sauce
Bring a thick-bottomed pot to heat.
Add mussels & half a glass of white wine.
Cover & cook for 2 1/2 minutes on medium heat.
Add coconut milk, coriander & sweet chili, bring to the boil & cook for another 1 1/2 minutes.
Divide into four bowls & serve with some crusty bread on risotto rice.
If you are planning as trip to Ireland, I highly recommend a visit to this lodge. The friendly staff really enjoy their jobs. You will love their service a premium level accommodations and cuisine.
Wineport Lodge Glasson Athlone Co Westmeath Ireland
Tel Ireland 090 643 9010
International (00353) 906 439 010