Pickles with pedigree: Former Fumbally chef’s new food adventure

Food File: Julien Comte’s new Blackrock cheese bar; Champagne in the G; top Irish basil and tannery treats

Pickle it, just a little bit

Chef Laura Caulwell, who many will know from her days at The Fumbally and Storyboard cafe, has branched out into food production, with Lolo's Picklery, an idea that she came up with while on maternity leave earlier this year. "While spending hours on the couch breastfeeding Florence, I started daydreaming about not going back to work and re-evaluating what I wanted our lives to look like. I wanted more control over how much I would work and when, and to be my own boss.

“So I landed on pickles. I love pickles. Every dish I ever designed in the Fumbally or Storyboard was laden with colourful pickles, whether it was onions, radishes or rhubarb.” Caulwell uses apple cider vinegar from the Apple Farm in Tipperary for her pickles. “I had a 25-litre drum delivered to my tiny house in Stoneybatter. I did a lot of experimenting and, honestly, my house has smelled like vinegar since May.”

She is now renting a production kitchen and has three pickles in her range: Tickled Pink (red onion with coriander and fennel), Rancho Relaxo (onions and jalapeños with cumin and oregano), and Hello Yellow (onions with turmeric, ginger and cardamom), with a recommended retail price of €6.50 for a generous 330g jar. Lolo's Picklery is currently stocked in 39 delis and specialist food shops around the country, and can also be bought online from wrappedinkindness.ie, paxwholefoodsecogoods.com and hensteethstore.com.

Cheesy by name, cheesy by nature

Some people just have the knack of being able to put things on a plate artfully, while for others, it’s a challenge. That’s one reason, the other being the wonderful selection of produce on offer, that Iciar French cheese bar, newly opened in Blackrock, Co Dublin, stands out.


Julien Comte, who says that with a surname such as his, he was always destined for a career in cheese, left behind a 30-year career in pharmaceuticals in Paris to move to Ireland and start a business offering expertly assembled European cheese, and cheese and charcuterie, platters and boxes.

The beautifully presented boxes, made of biodegradable spruce wood and poplar plywood, also contain crackers, fruit and nuts (nuts can be omitted by request). The medium box will serve three to four people and the large is for six to eight. Prices are €29.99-€59.99 and local delivery in the Dublin area costs €7. Nationwide delivery isn't yet available but will be offered next year. Comte says demand is so strong they are having to put a cap on orders for Christmas. iciar.ie.

Basil not faulty

Irish-grown basil, planted in Galway in May, is the main ingredient in Pestle + Mortar Sauces’ fresh pesto, which you’ll find in chill cabinets. It’s a top-notch example of its type, and is joined by a sundried tomato pesto too. Both are stocked by selected Tesco stores, as well as Spar and Joyce’s of Galway (€3.25). Both varieties have been Blas na hÉireann award winners.

The can-can

Is tinned fish about to have the surge in popularity in Ireland that it deserves? Shines, a family firm in Killybegs, Co Donegal, has been producing a range of premium canned and jarred fish for some time, and now there are two notable additions to the Irish market for this handy and healthy store cupboard ingredient.

Galway fishmonger Stefan Griesbach and Vincent Corrigan have founded an online shop, fishtins.com, selling canned fish from France, Italy, Spain and Portugal. They offer free nationwide delivery with orders over €35, and if you order by today, you'll have delivery before Christmas.

Stephen Firth’s Azouro brand has also recently launched a range of canned fish, along with extra virgin olive oil from the PDO region of Trás-os-Montes in the Douro valley. Firth, who is from south Co Dublin, lived in Portugal for more than a decade and is also currently developing a range of olives and tapenades.

The Azouro sardine and mackerel fillets are both packed in organic extra virgin olive oil, the sardines seasoned with seaweed and the mackerel with lemon thyme. They are available from Sheridans Cheesemongers, including their counters at Dunnes Stores, Fallon & Byrne, Lotts & Co and Barnhill Stores, as well as independents nationwide with a recommended retail price of €5.95.

Lovely bubbly in the G

The G Hotel in Galway is offering customers a chance to try three different Champagnes – Taittinger, Taittinger Prestige Rosé, and Taittinger Nocturne – before being served a glass of whichever is the preferred one, in the hotel’s cocktail lounge. It costs €35 and must be booked in advance by emailing eat@theghotel.ie or by telephoning 091-865200.

Tannery treats

Paul and Máire Flynn’s Tannery restaurant in Dungarvan is doing lovely Christmas food boxes filled with delicious treats including a ready-to-bake sticky duck pie (€65, serves six), and a selection of starters, including their famous crab crème brûlée, that come in individual glass jars, ready to serve (€10 each). Order online at tannery.ie.