Month: October 2010

A Solo Sicilian Lunch at Syrah, San Vito Lo Capo

I have so many posts to write I don’t even know where to start. I’ve yet to write about my lovely trip to the Isle of Wight this summer. There’s so much yet to write about other recent travels to Sweden, Lyon, Glasgow. I still have to tell you about the final of the Cous Cous Fest. I have recipes to post, restaurants to write about. I recently went for lunch at the revamped Savoy and I have yet to write about that. It’s all a bit silly isn’t it? No matter, it’s all stuff I love to write about and I shall do it soon. Hopefully you’ll enjoy reading it too. Today I am going to write about something a little abstract, as I find I have been thinking about it a lot recently.  A Solo Sicilian Lunch at Syrah, San Vito Lo Capo. The meal itself was funny for its own reasons (solo female diner in Sicily might give you a hint) but the food was lovely, and very inspiring. I’ve found myself …

Wild Venison with Wild Blackberry Sauce

It’s been a tough week. My Dad is ill in hospital and, while thankfully he’s stabilising now, it was touch and go for a few days. Naturally, I’ve come home to Ireland, and while here have not had many opportunities to cook. I am really starting to feel it. Cooking, whichever meal, is one of the few times in my day that I am completely focussed and I find it utterly relaxing. I love playing with my food. I have not been cooking at home or eating well though, instead I have been eating at the hospital café, and really, I am sure Scotch Broth soup is not supposed to taste like damp warm socks, or coffee like grainy Bovril. ICK. They do have the beloved toasted special there but with plastic reconstituted cheese and I just can’t do it. Shouldn’t hospitals have good food, to help people get better, and to help ease the stresses of those visiting? Luckily across the road from the hospital there is a very nice shop which sells almost …

MacGrath’s Butchers in Lismore & Some Thoughts on Butchery

Growing up in Ireland there were many local butchers, there still are. The small area that my grandmother lived in had two, and each of them reared, killed and butchered their own meat. This was common practice, until very recently. I have many fond memories of going to the butchers. Our local butcher was the son of a family friend and our grandmother would send us there to get some minced beef and a t-bone steak with an onion. An onion? Well, my father thought he hated onions, but my grandmother craftily had the onion minced in with the meat and to this day, he doesn’t know that he has been eating onions all his life. I told him once and he refused to believe me. In Ireland we have always consumed a lot of beef, and produced a lot more. We export 80% of our beef on average, and while beef consumption isn’t as high as it used to be, 55% of the population still consume beef regularly. Our cattle population is on a …

An Afternoon at Ballymaloe, Cork

Ballymaloe is an Irish institution. Home to three generations of Irish culinary matriarchs, it is the home of the internationally famous Ballymaloe Cookery School and Myrtle, Darina and Rachel Allen. I had the immense pleasure of meeting Darina last week there, she was nothing short of an inspiration. You canreally see how she has become a lynchpin in the modern Irish food scene. Set on a farm (where they grow products for their market stall at Midleton Farmer’s Market nearby in Cork), the school is housed in a beautiful building along with the shop and café. I wanted to move there. We enjoyed some great pizzas (part of their Saturday Pizza afternoons run by Cookery School tutor and 4th generation butcher Philip Dennhardt) and a gentle amble. A great constitutional following our prevoious days endurance eating on our tour of Co Waterford. http://www.cookingisfun.ie/    

Putting Dungarvan on Ireland’s Food Map: The Tannery Restaurant & Cookery School, Dungarvan, Ireland

Paul Flynn’s return to his (and mine) native Dungarvan put a bright pin firmly on the map of Gourmet Ireland when he opened The Tannery 13 years ago, and subsequently the Tannery Cookery School & Townhouse. Award winning (it recently won Best Cookery School in Ireland at the RAI Restaurant Awards) it is a lovely space offering lessons that are casual, relaxed, informative and fun. We pitched up for a lunchtime demonstration and Paul led us through a lovely 3 course lunch, which we subsequently ate with wine. Paul’s style of cooking is charming and accessible, offering tips that even experienced cooks can benefit hugely from. He champions flavour, and has slimmed down his cooking style from his days as head chef at 3 michelin starred Chez Nico in London. Basically, you can do it too.   He draws influence from his surroundings and sources as much as he can locally. Not always possible, he cites the difficulties in sourcing local seafood despite being next to the sea, he uses them where he can. We started with a decadent mushroom …

A Weekend Exploring the Food & Drink of Ireland (Part 1 of Many)

Irish Food & Drink, so very under rated and so very, very good. We have some excellent culinary figureheads and ambassadors that you will already know: Darina Allen, Rachel Allen and Richard Corrigan perhaps. What about the produce and the producers though, the integrity of production and passion for good local food? It is  not something that a lot of people outside of Ireland are aware of and I want to change that. I really want people to know more, to try, explore, maybe even visit, and enjoy it as much as the four food & drink passionistas that I brought to Ireland last weekend. I go home frequently – you will have noticed – but it was fun and delicious to see other food bloggers experience and enjoy it for the first time. Irish food is interesting, and Ireland in general. It has changed so much in recent generations, sparking from a colony to a republic, a struggling economy to a world leading one and back. A relative and recent affluence inspired a restaurant boom, which quickly suffered in our recent …

One Night in Stockholm: Dinner at Bakfickan

On my recent trip to Lapland, I had a few hours in Stockholm the night before I flew there. I was determined to find somewhere local, interesting and good that might give me an insight to their food culture. Always my three objectives, I am not always successful when I have only one option, this time, however, it was a resounding success. Bakfickan – translated as the Hip Pocket – and meaning the small place behind the posh place basically, is embedded in the back of the Opera House next to its more formal and higher end sibling, Operabaren. It’s known for serving traditional Swedish food although there is clearly a strong French influence on the food here too. The two restaurants share a kitchen – although not a menu – at significantly different prices. It was definitely the one to try. A large counter dominates and staff busy themselves behind, swiftly and efficiently deploying food and drinks to the diners seated around them. It feels very old school with formal service but also very …

Bitesize: David Chang at Hibiscus, Bompass & Parr’s Artisinal Chewing Gum Factory, Hendrick’s Horseless Carriage of Curiosities, London Cocktail Week & New Openings

London is an exciting place to be at the moment, for those interested in food and drink. As you are here, let’s assume you are. Those with spaces in their diaries should all check out these. DAVID CHANG AT HIBISCUS FOR ONE NIGHT ONLY David Chang of Momofuku is coming to London for one night only, tomorrow Saturday 9th. One of  S.Pellegrino World’s 50 Best Restaurant chefs,  he will be cooking a special 6 course tasting menu at Hibiscus (Momofuku Style!). It’s £120 per person but I think you will be talking about it for a long time after. there’s a few places left, I wouldn’t miss it. Call Hibiscus to book. Menu: http://www.theworlds50best.com/special-happening-at-hibiscus/5314 ARTISANAL CHEWING GUM FACTORY   Bompass & Parr is building an Artisanal Chewing Gum Factory at Whiteleys Shopping Centre opening 25 -31 October. People are invited to learn the secrets of chewing gum manufacture at the world’s first micro-factory. Each visitor will be able to choose and combine a 200 familiar and unusual flavours including iris, gin, damp soil or yeast. In total 40,000 flavour combinations are possible. …

Ode to the Toasted Special

Have you ever had one of those days? You know the one. Where you are zapped from inside out, perhaps you’ve drank too much, perhaps you’ve not slept enough, someone is rapping on your head at work or maybe you are actually ill? You’re probably hungover, let’s be honest. I had one of those days recently. I felt like my brain was tucked too tightly in my skull and surrounded by bubble wrap, with just enough room for a tiny annoying creature with a pin to roam around squeezing through and bursting one bubble after another. What to do? Well, I was in Ireland so I had to seek out the Toasted Special. The Toasted Special is a thing of beauty and simplicity and should not under any circumstances be messed around with. There was a time when every pub in Ireland sold them. A simple toasted sandwich with ham, cheese, onion, tomato. Ideally some butter on the outside of the bread so that they brown and crisp beautifully. I will forgive you some parsley …