Service , Kevin talks

The click of an amazing service.
Running with the herd is pretty much what it feels like on a busy Saturday night. The key is space, everyone need their space, section, customers and time. The dance of a busy restaurant is a very fine art and in order to be at your best you must respect the job you do. Focus and planning is what it’s all about. Times are the dictator and knowing what your kitchen and restaurant can handle so as not to mess the whole thing up is key. 8pm Saturday night and you fill the beast after already clearing a full first sitting is a bad move. The kitchen build, like it’s a practice run in the first sitting, the head chef voicing with accuracy as the team dance to their own rythem so as everything my come to the same end, service.

That’s us, the team out front that pound it out but on a sweet night it’s very hard to explain and I can only ever say how it feels for me. It feels like a bright white ball of light is in the center of my chest. An energy flows through the body and self awareness goes through the roof because being in control is your job at this point, that sounds very serious I know but you will pay hard earned cash to experience.

Giving is another key I believe one must be, to give the people time, time to arrive, be seated, take in their surroundings if indeed this is their first time. Chilled water is such a gimme these days but in order to provide there is a cost, bread and dips. Giving is also knowing and building a trust between you and your people. We give our story as to wear our hearts on our sleeves because we believe in the ethos, we respect our planet and we respect our guests.

Now it’s the staff’s turn, firstly there is the start of the shift and let’s just say like a super football club a player can get injured, a sniffley noes and it off home to bed with some Lemsip and hopefully a cuddle. While this causes a ripple effect through a small team like the vibrations of a wave that started 3 hours ago and service hasn’t started yet, We are full. On a sweet night when you sit down at the end of that night, you know you did good you feel better then a lotto winner. Every guest shows on time and every guess leaves blown away because the service was great is an emotional feeling you can’t compare. Sales is a feeling of giving in a different way and generally something that is a service but waiting is a skill given in order to please your need. Sometimes the chef and I at different times stand to listen with closed eyes as we hear the people busy enjoying their time. Cutlery dancing and wine glasses singing, the dance of a service is gold.

I couldn’t tell you how many times I’ve stood in our restaurant and welled up with tears of joy on a night where everything went our way. The team I have support our cause, they see the head chef and the struggle he breaths, with a kitchen no bigger then a standard sitting room but still he makes it work. Regulated the gills, he makes it work. An admirable man and we fight for that cause. We change our wines as to deliver the perfect glass to each individual but keep them on their toes by introducing them to more so the mind can travel. “Oh hello sir, good to see you. Yes, I believe the merlot isn’t it? I see you’ve ordered the steak, try this taster of Malbec too and see how the flavour works with the steak”. “You know, I have an amazing Australian Chardonnay that will go with that, would you like to taste?” Is an art, a dance, a rythem of it own and the pleasure one can feel like there is no other. Feed is a need, dining out is a pleasure. The beauty of what we do has a soul of its own created by all who are involved.

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Kevin’s wine tasting trip

After returning from a trip I was brought on by one of our suppliers I am left with a feeling of humble pie. Taken by my wine supplier Terra Food & Wine, Juan Calljero has a selection of stunning wines in his catalogue. We met at the gates of the plane in Dublin airport and the seven of us were on a journey. When we arrived in Madrid and got the hotel stuff out of the way, we set off on a guided tour of Madrid as this was Alberto Mendozas back garden. Living in Ireland for 17 years and being part of serious achievements for restaurants, Albert showd us amazing food culture in the Spanish city centre. We went to a food jungle is the only way to describe where we were brought, the Platea. A hall set with the backdrop of a stage with a Dj that later became a band. In the middle there was a gymnastic display and on we went. The next place was the city council building where the rooftop had been turned into a viewing, relaxing lounge area. As the night grew late and the feet got tired, we ended the tour and the centre of Madrid and we took our final photo of the evening, no one could imagine what was to happen in the morning.

Up and a’tem early Saturday morning and with the sat nav on, we headed off to the vineyard. 3 hours out the road and we arrived at a discrete location, with stunning gardens, doors, fountains and grape fields as far as the eye could see. Welcomed by Manuel who introduced us to his wine maker Pedro, the tour of this amazing vineyard began. A beautiful tour at the fields in a horse drawn carriage, we got to see all the grape varieties your merlot’s to Syrah’s and the mapping and planning that goes in. They keet stallions, ducks and also host weddings. After the tour of the grounds we were brought through the wine making process and first shown maps of the land and all they harvest. Almonds, olives for oil, pistachios and of course several different types of grapes from reds to whites and rose. Brought through the great halls where the wine is stored in giant 1.5million litre worth of tanks, it was incredibly impressive. After seeing unfiltered chardonnay that had the resemblance of cloudy beer to beautiful blends of stunning fermented grape juice. We had a break then for a couple of hours where food and wine was consistently represented. It seems the culture is built around food and the enjoyment of company and spending time. After a midday siesta Manuel brought us to his private cellar where he showd us some amazing personal possession. Wines from the years his kids were born, wines served at his sister’s wedding and the first wine produce by Manuel. A 15 year old bottle of priceless wine. With very little left and it not being sold you could see the passion in Manuel’s face. Manuel wanted to show us a local village called Chinchilla so we headed there after for an evening meal. At the table we ate some traditional Spanish pinchos and tapas and Manuel had brought a few bottles of wine to taste which included one from the first batch. The liquid inside the bottle hadn’t seen the world in 15 years and as Manuel decanted the beauty I began to feel this amazing feeling of community and enjoyment. The conversation was flying the food was so tasty, no frills no spills just really nice local food. The place was packed, it wasn’t a huge place but it was full. An early night after the long day around 2.30am and I can honestly say one of the best days ever. Breakfast the following morning and a short tour of another part of Madrid where the palace is, we found ourselves in another huge market where every type of person hangs out. From young to old the culture seems to be, I’d rather live with my people then live without my people and the whole thing revolves around food and spending time together. A lot can be learned from cultures like that and being able to visit such places is an honour and a privalage. Trying to make the feeling of being at home is something I want people to feel in our restaurant I guess from spending time abroad in Spain the answer

The answer a Spanish person would give you is “well, what kind of a relationship do you have with yourself, what kind of relationship do you have with your people?” and at the end, they would say, “eating with your people is the only way to be”. When around restaurants and food in Spain you can’t help but feel like you belong or apart of, a beautiful community spirit full of soul, depth and history.

No. 21 off licence on RIOJA

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RIOJA

Rioja is a stylish but warming red, and it goes well with all kind of roasts, steaks and chops. There’s so much more to red Rioja than it seems at first glance. The fancy labels, the gold wire, the hessian wrap, the seals on the bottle, all give the impression that each bottle is as elaborately made as the next. This, of course, is far from being the case. Others may have minimalist packaging but conceal a truly great wine. Rioja is a large region with over 300 producers; most of the wine made here is sold very young, without any oak aging, and just becomes an anonymous supermarket brand or similar. Take a look at the label: if you see the words Sin Crianza, this wine has never seen the inside of an oak barrel and therefore will lack that lovely toasty vanilla aroma we all know and love. This flavour comes from the American oak preferred by top producers here. Rioja Gran Reserva spends two years in the barrel and three more in the bottle. These older wines are paler in colour, subtler in flavour than a typical red Rioja, but linger on the palate for a long time.

Bodegas Palacio is a centenary winery located in the heart of the Rioja Alavesa.  Since their foundation in 1894, they have made an important contribution to the revolution in winemaking that has taken place in La Rioja. Their founder, Don Cosme Palacio y Bermejillo, began producing his exceptional wines over 100 years ago, making the bodega one of a limited few to be selected as Bodegas Históricas de la D.O Ca Rioja.

Their wines are like a historical timeline of the region, starting with Glorioso which dates back to 1928; Glorioso Reserva and Glorioso Gran Reserva are both stunning examples of this style. Both of these wines are available at Number 21 Off-licence.

Follow number 21 off licence on facebook and twitter @no21listowel

No. 21 off licence

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Primitivo

If you want fruit-forward, ripe, red wine for a good price, look no further than Puglia. Some of the best values in Italian wine come from this sunny, dry region. Most Puglia wine is red, full-bodied and will pair well with a wide variety of foods. Producers in Puglia have focused on making great red wines and local grapes like Negroamaro, Primitivo, and Bombino Nero make for delicious drinking.

If you’re searching for a richer, fuller-bodied red with abundant weight look towards Puglian Primitivo. Primitivo tastes of dark fruit like fresh figs, blueberries and baked blackberries. There’s a distinct dried fruit-leather character to it as well. The word Primitivo doesn’t mean primitive in Italian, but actually means early ripening since these grapes accumulate a lot of sugar early in the season. The early ripening means resulting wines are big, luscious and full of fruit. However, what’s fascinating about Primitivo is that sometimes the grape bunches ripen unevenly, so green grapes will get harvested along with the ripe ones.

If this type of wine takes your fancy, then why not try Italia Primitivo, on offer at Number 21 Off Licence this week.

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