The good gourmet: Blueberry and Cooks Haven, Kilkenny
Blueberry is a gourmet deli nestling in the heart of Kilkenny city, specialising in home-cooked meals and an excellent bakery.
I arrived just before lunch and the place was packed with freshly baked breads, cakes, buns and, in particular, piping hot, hot-cross buns. In fact, it was the smell of freshly baked goods that diverted my nose, and the strawberry meringues (€1.50) attracted me to the shop. I had a quick scout but returned at about 3pm; big mistake, as most of the baked goods were gone.
There is a deli counter with various sandwiches and rolls, which they make to order. They also stock a wide range of home-cooked meals including chicken, fish and meat dishes, various soups, vegetarian dishes, and extras such as braised red cabbage and dauphinoise or roasted vegetables with lemon and basil oil.
All the food is cooked on site and you can see the gang working hard, as the kitchen is located behind the counter. The mastermind is Will Fitzgerald, who spent a number of years training under such chefs as Marco Pierre White, Anton Mossiman and Richard Corrigan, so standards are high.
If you are having any type of gathering, they have an extensive menu and are happy to advise. I also found them to be terrific value -- a portion of home-cooked beef lasagna, which the kids devoured, cost €4.95.
I was delighted to get dinner for the kids, and the Frenchman and I had a really nice caramelised onion and St Tola goat's cheese tart (€4.50) with salad for a simple dinner. I also treated us to a portion of salmon pâté (€4.50), spread on some homemade brown bread, drizzled with a little lemon juice and black pepper.
Cooks Haven is another little gem, just around the corner from Blueberry. They have colourings and equipment for home baking. I was delighted to find pink sprinkles and pink colouring, saving me a trip to Dublin. Mother and daughter team Patricia and Kate Hennessy also have a range of Nordic Ware cake pans and, wait for it, they rent them by the week. We, as a family, are big fans of Nordic Ware. They have heavy-duty cake pans in various shapes, which make great novelty cakes. I have a couple at home, but they are expensive, so for €10 a week you can now rent a cake pan.
At the moment the store has the tractor, train, castle, cup cake, butterfly and pirate ship pan shapes, but they are increasing their stock. In fact, they are so on the ball that they even know the one Nigella Lawson will be using in her 2010 Christmas TV show, and will have some in stock for sale and to rent.
Cooks Haven also stock some beautiful table linens by Anneka Bourke. The patterns include country-kitchen red apples with browns and greens, similar to Nicholas Mosse designs but yet a little different. Large tablecloths are between €35-€45 and they apparently wash fantastically, with no need to iron them.
The store offers a selection of utensils, including Microplane graters, and I picked up a Fox Run cake tester with a plastic red handle so I can easily find it in my drawer. Cooks Haven is a fun shop for any kitchen enthusiast and also great for gifts.