Sometimes I get a whimsical thought in my head and when I do I hop in my car and off I drive. I always have a destination in mind, but I’m never particularly bothered about how long I’m going to be or what route I’ll take to get there. I figure that there may be something else to see along the way. Sunday just gone, I decided to head off to Toonsbridge Dairy. Or is that Toon’s Bridge or just Toons Bridge. I don’t know. But I felt I needed to go and anyway they sold coffee and cake so anything else was going to be a bonus!
Actually, Toonsbridge (I’ll stick with this version of the spelling) is a mere 25 minutes drive door to door. What bliss! This means that if I miss the market in Clonakilty on Friday, I can pop over to Toonsbridge which is closer than going to the English Market in Cork City. Also, what I didn’t expect is what could be the world’s smallest delicatessen shop. It is tiny, barely fits 5 people and two of those are staff! The kinda place where browsing is a luxury so you should either do one of two things; 1. prepare a list of things you want or 2. ask. I went with Option 2 and was rewarded with a lovely cappuccino and a slice of gluten free ginger and lemon drizzle bundt cake – made with ground almonds. It had it all going on.
Now, I went in knowing that I wanted cake and a coffee – bingo. I also purchased some of their dolmades, their devine sun blushed tomatoes and a packet of Bresaola. Now, let us talk cheese.
Toonsbridge Dairy is of course part of The Real Olive Co; but what they are renowned for is their Buffalo Mozzarella. This devine milky mouthful of unctiousness was where it all started, with properly fresh Buffalo milk. In order to do this, one must have a herd of Buffalo to hand. “But, you’re in West Cork” I hear you cry; “We’re not Home on the Range, you know”. All of which are true, but if you drive over Toon Bridge (see another spelling, tut!), hang a left and drive for about a kilometer, there they are in all their horned glory.
They are magnificent creatures; munching on West Cork grass in West Cork as opposed to jungle, serengeti or whatever. A strange site to behold and yet they look very much at home. I conclude that they must be the world’s happiest Buffalo. How else can it be that the cheese that is produced from their rich and creamy milk tastes so darn-tootin’ fabulous.
And there is more good news. The Dairy have been busy expanding their range of Buffalo milk cheese. The Mozarella is king; but I would highly recommend their Feta and Haloumi. If you are put off by either of these cheeses from the tangyness (which I personally love), then try them made from Buffalo milk and I guarantee you will convert. I purchased some of their Buffalo milk Ricotta for a dish I am making in the week and if their other cheeses are to go by then this will be a treat too. The latest addition to the range is their Buffalo Blue. It is not a powerful knock-you-off-your-feet kind of blue but more of a rub-down-with-a-feather-duster. It is smooth, rich, creamy and milky and it is finished off beautifully by the familiar blue tang at the end. It’s a Barely Blue but tastes all the better for it because it keeps the characteristics of the Buffalo milk at its core.
As a serving suggestion, I ate a good chunk of it on rosemary crackers with some of the Bresaola and a little dribble of Filligans Spicy Plum Chutney – a little mouthful of pure heaven that I would highly recommend.
Try some. As little as a couple of Euro will get you a little slice of cheesy bliss! And, if you head down to Toonsbridge during the summer on a Friday and Saturday you might get the opportunity to try one of their new wood-fired pizza’s from the BEAST that is lurking in their garden.
As I sat there on Sunday in the sunken garden, listening to flamenco music, taking in the scent of the wood-fired oven and eating my cake and drinking my coffee, I realised that my little whim had been a fruitful one!