Sunday, August 23, 2015

Sheen Falls Lodge in Kenmare, County Kerry keeps up tradition yet soars with consummate cuisine (8-15-15)

The next night we drove about 5 minutes away to the other Relais et Chateaux hotel in the area (it is rare there are two so close!) and we were blown away by the entire experience from the time we sat down at the bar and discovered that there is amazing locally made Dingle Vodka (& gin) that makes a dry and neat martini. While the bar snacks here (overlooking Sheen Falls, a tiny stream at this point of the season) weren't as exciting as the night before (here we had olives and spicy nuts, etc). the dining experience was indeed a tour de force.

The huge dining room or Falls Restaurant is light and airy (yellow is the predominant color in the building as well as in the exterior paint) and Chef Philip Brazil works hard to impress each diner with each bite.

An amuse of Wild Mushroom Veloute came first and was spectacular, and pronounced correctly :-).

We tried the Castletownbere (again from nearby Beara) Oysters with a simple lemon shallot vinegar and pea shoots. Will declared the shoots bothersome, but the oysters were creamy and slightly briny and truly delicious.

These were enjoyed with a superb Te Pa Sauvignon Blanc 2014 from New Zealand that matched the bivalves in creaminess but with a huge grapefruit flavor.

We also tasted the Domaine de Chiroulet Reserve SFL (Sheen Falls Lodge, made for them) 2013 from Gascogne which is 50% Gros Manseng, and 25% each Sauvignon Blanc and Ugni Blanc, which will preferred. It was nice to have so many options by the glass and an extensive wine list as well, all overseen by the superb French maître d' Quentin. We also loved the grand piano in the middle of the room being played softly and politely and were excited when we heard familiar tunes from the Irish musical "Once" we had just seen in DC!

Brown soda, Granary and Onion rolls were the order or the day with more amazing butter....the curse of this trip was carbs, butter and cheese, but we loved it all. The water was all Sheen Falls Lodge locally filtered.

Will & I both started with the Roast Beet Carpaccio, Raspberry Vinaigrette, Tarragon Mascarpone, Salted Sunflower Seed Crackers and Pea Shoots while Samuel had the Rigatoni with Lemon Olive Oil, Plum Tomato Sauce, Mint-Basil Pesto & Parmesan Shavings, promising no more pasta or chips for the next 3 days!

Quentin and I discussed a 1990 Chateauneuf du Pape, Chateau de la Gardine and he said he would open it for us. He did and tasted it once, then on the second try, he declared it undrinkable bringing us an amazing 2012 Domainee Chante Cigale Chateauneuf du Pape Vieilles Vignes that was drinking so smoothly is was dreamy.

The main courses were truly delicious with a Ring of Kerry Lamb Duo of Grilled Cannon (upper rump) and Confit of Shoulder served with Garlic Gnocchi, as well as Connemara Air Dried Lamb, Sour Mint Jelly, Jameson Whiskey Carrot Barrels and Thyme Essence, what a salute to Ireland. The Char Grilled Fillet of Tipperary Hereford Irish Beef came in either 10 ounce or 12 ounce portions and I went for the former, it was way big enough. The Irish Hereford and Angus cattle are all grass-fed which is why the meat is so amazing (today I found grass-fed lamb/beef burgers at the farmer's market and can't wait to try them). The dish came with a 30 hour Braised Beef Cheek & Shallot Croquette that was melt-in-your-mouth to-die-for,  Carrot Puree, Potato Mousseline, monstrous King Oyster Mushrooms and a Chimichuri Dressing with red Wine Jus. This was probably our favorite beef the entire trip.

Dessert was irresistible and we tried the Summer Raspberry Tartlet with Crème Patisserie & Lemon Curd Ice Cream which was delish, but my Chocolate & Peanut Butter Mousse with Summer Berries, Chocolate Textures (such as brittle) & Chocolate Ice Cream was again one of the best finales of the trip.

Bravo to the entire team at SFL!