Firstly a quick message to Deirdre who mailed me looking for a chicken recipe, Deirdre I tried to mail you back but it kept failing. What recipe are you after and I'll re-post it for you.
So, back to business. In the photo you can see my dinner from last night, the pic is taken with my phone so it's not fancy, but I wanted to share, except for the crab claws which I devoured with my 14yo eldest son.
I got these from a stall at the Milk Market yesterday, they were cheap. I boiled them for ten minutes and me and the younger fella had lots of fun cracking their shells open with the side of a cleaver. I had one of those driving around doing tiny errands evenings, get firelighters, get dvd, that kind of thing. So When I got back towards home there was nothing for it but to get three bags of chips from Rio's for €1.50 a bag, and I'm sorry but I do prefer them to Luigis. We chopped some garlic, melted lots of butter and warmed the claws up in the pan till nice sticky browns bits appeared. The other fella fried himself a nice bit of haddock.
Crab claws incite a kind of feeding frenzy here. They're so tasty, yet you can't get enough out of them fast enough to quell your appetite. A sort of madness takes over, I guess it's called hunger, mixed with excitement. We puled part the shells, bits of them flying everywhere and crab juice splattering on the walls. It was at least twenty minutes in when I was surprised by the feeling that I was getting full, something that never ceases to amaze me. So we had to stop, there's still some left for a Sunday snack.
Food never gets old. Unless you leave it out in the heat for to long of course. I guess that's why cooking programmes just keep gaining popularity. Food, is the one common ground we all have. Everybody needs to eat, everybody loves to eat, even those who claim to now really be into food, we all do it, because we have to, and it's the one real sensory passion we can indulge in over and over again without risk of arrest or divorce.
I was asked recently "what is it with the celebrity chef?" "why not have a celebrity plumber, or electrician?" Answer is firstly there has been an attempt at the celebrity chippie, Craig from Big Brother. It didn't last because you can't eat furniture. While these trades are essential and worthy, they just don't hit the parts that food does. Food is a huge part of life. We can't live without it, simple.
The cult of the celebrity chef has arisen from demand, if people didn't enjoy watching Jamie or Nigella, they wouldn't do it. If cookbooks weren't so damn nice to read, we wouldn't keep buying them. If food wasn't so essential, we wouldn't keep on eating it.
One programme that ignores the institution of the celebrity chef is Masterchef. The new Irish version of this mega popular show (not copied by RTE but commissioned by RTE to an independent production company) is already second highest on the ratings here. It's a genius concept and draws the viewer in so much that we get emotionally connected to the contestants. The presenters are carefully chosen for their skills and experience and lack of fame. I was asked to screen test for the job, I did my best but didn't get it and rightly so because I'm not a chef or a restaurant owner. While reviewing for restaurant guides has given me experience, it's not the same. So kudos to the producers for looking for new talent, as the show's precedence can carry itself.
Watching the first show, where contestants were trying to win their apron, I felt mostly that the timing of this couldn't be better. Just now, in the grip of a financial meltdown, people who want to change their lives and have the balls to step up and do so are going for it. These consenting adults know what they're doing when they take part in this competition. Yes it's very tough, but it's a choice. They get to discover skills they didn't know they had and to develop their cooking under the guidance of the Michelin man Dylna McGrath. Would that have happened if they'd stayed home, moaning about what could have been, should have been? Let's not forget too, the prize of €25,000. So these contestants are not camera fodder.
They have to invest so much of themselves, so much blood, sweat and tears as we've seen. It's gutting when you get kicked out of the race. I took part in a show called Heat two years ago and made it to the quarter finals, where I lost and I was sure I'd won. Standing there in front of the cameras, after incredibly long hours on your feet with your nerves in shreds, it's hard. I was told my bad news in front of the camera, like they all are, and gutted, like they all are. It took me weeks to feel better. When it was shown on tv I got so many positive comments. Everybody loves the fall guy, or girl. Thanks. But I'd rather have won.
Masterchef is gruelling. But it helps grown ups who want their lives to be different, to make it happen. Anyone who gets to the final few will probably ditch their job and work in food anyway. You can't argue with the fact that even the people who complain about it, are still watching it, but that's good TV for you.
My one beef is I wished they'd called the Langousine the correct name which is a Dublin Bay Prawn. Surely now is a good time to own our own food culture, but that's just my opinion.
Dingle is dingin but if it’s far from the madding crowd you wish to be then the Phoenix Restaurant and guesthouse will make your wishes come true. Rising from the side of a busy road just beyond Inch beach, is the wonderland that is Lorna Tyther’s baby. Pull in and park your car and you’ll soon forget about everything in the outside world. Lorna, who is now twenty years in her business, runs first and foremost a restaurant that specializes in organic, vegetarian food. Much of what smiles up at you from your plate will be salad and veggies from the garden and tunnel in the grounds. You can even walk around the back of the house and see the lush salad beds and promising apple trees. Freshly baked deserts, crumbles and pies seem to sidle their way from the kitchen in the morning and onwards, lazily into the day. The garden is enchanting, mature and full of colour. Here and there are places to sit and stare and to notice all manner of unexpected treats. The gypsy caravans are a sight to behold so we decided to overnight in one. When would we get the chance again.
After a long and lovely day on a nearby beach we arrived, hungry and happy into the restaurant. Full of pictures that tell stories of Lorna’s travels and other life as a belly dancer, the room is cosy and inviting with a mish-mash of seating and objets a plenty. Fish has become a recent addition to the offerings here, mainly due to demand, but we went veggie, as you do when in Rome. The Phoenix salad was basically everything on a plate, olives, feta, humus, artichoke hearts and a hefty helping of their signature ten-a-day salad that’s bursting with freshness and flavours from the garden. For mains the chick pea, sweet potato and tofu curry was top of the list. This came with steamed brown rice and a generous mixed salad. The curry was full of contrasting textures and colours, it was fun to eat and even the rice had the best bite. The main of lentil quinoa bake is heaven for a non wheat eating, vegetarian who loves lasagne or moussaka. It comes with a punchy tomato sauce and plenty of green salad and is full of flavour and texture.
As we sat, happy as vegan clams, desert was next up. But our cosy caravan was calling and we just couldn’t decide on what to have, but it had to be in bed. Jane, a woman with a calling for hospitality put much care into choosing four deserts for us and even grilled some apricots to make the most magical tray of sweet treats. We brought it to our nook with a tray of tea and lovely mismatched china cups. We devoured, like happy children, every scrap of the heavenly pies, cheesecake and much too sexy chocolate shortbread semi-fredo. Somehow I didn’t have the crumble, it wouldn’t have gone with the orange polenta cake. If you come here for nothing but deserts, then at least do that.
The caravan was warm and comfy. As spacious as you would expect and lovingly renovated. Little lamps lit the way as we dozed off to a sugar-induced, full- bellied sleep. We were warned that Marcel the cockrel would wake us up and he did, but that’s the charm here too. You can stay in the guesthouse in one of the quirkily painted but really comfortable rooms if you need more space.
This place is so relaxed I wandered round in my pyjamas until lunch-time and had my home-made spelt bread toasted and served up with their own eggs for a breakfast. Sitting in the restaurant is a bit like being in a welcoming local shop as folk pop in and out wishing Lorna well with her recently launched cookbook. Here is a woman who puts every ounce of love into what she does, and she does it so well. If you need an escape, a treat, to relax or just to eat some really excellent good, clean food, go here. It’s something for everyone and it certainly won’t be your only visit. You can stock up on locally made organic cosmetics or ingredients for your larder and treat yourself to a bottle of organic wine.
Dinner, caravan and breakfast for two €120
The Phoenix Restaurant
Open for lunch and dinner, kitchen closed 9pm
If anyone is going up to da big schmoke for da bit of Christmas shopping and you're around Arnotts and Henry Street, I strongly recommend this restaurant for a great meal. Read on and see why...
101-102 Talbot Street
Phone: (01) 874 5011
Open: Tue – Sat 5-11pm
All major credit cards accepted
called the 101 to make a booking I told Pascal, who took the call, that I had a
choice between his restaurant and my friend’s choice of Eden Eden
Edenin Temple Bar. He chirpily told me that
Edenwas a fancier restaurant and that his wife Margaret goes there when she’s off work. He also added that the food in 101 was “Good and reasonable and that the place had a great atmosphere”. He went on to lament the fact that they hadn’t spent any money doing it up since they opened seventeen years ago and that it could do with a bit of an update. I was in and intrigued.
place was opened back in the darkness of the early 90s Dublin O’Connell
St Dublin street
Dublinwas not the shining economic light that it is now. Surely they had no idea their place would be situated right beside the controversial “Spike” on
O’Connell St, but it makes it easier to find as all you can see from the street is a little sign. You go up a simple staircase and open the door on what seems like the best party in town. The place is packed with diners chatting loudly and passionately and, it seems, enjoying their food heartily. Yes the décor is basic; it’s a throwback to the 90’s when there was no style at all. The amphitheatre or disco layout of a drop in the middle of the floor breaks up the busy crowd. An exhibition of busy oil paintings of
Dublin streetscenes is crammed onto the walls; they even hang over the mirrors. It’s feels like a proper city place, full of life. The tables and chairs are chosen for functionality and even the glasses are those small wine glasses you had in your college flat. The staff are young and funky with nothing but enthusiasm for the food. If they don’t know something they will quickly find it out from someone who does.
The menu is generous with the staples of sirloin steak with garlic butter or whiskey cream sauce, slow roast shoulder of lamb, goat’s cheese salad and more adventurous-than-usual sounding veggie options. I had pathetic intentions of having a light meal but chose the Crispy Pork Belly wrapped in Savoy Cabbage served with a plum and ginger sauce as my starter. It was a joy to behold on the plate. A perfect round mould was created from the bright green cabbage leaf, the pig was inside, and it sat contentedly in a bright pink pool of its sauce, like a pig in, sauce. When I cut into it the cabbage still had plenty of bite, it and the pork were warm, and the pork was a little crispy and shredded into chunks. The cold sauce contrasted well with the meat and the vegetable to give a great contrast of flavours and textures, with a fruity almost oriental twist. My date’s choice (rather my second choice) of starter was the Warm duck liver salad with roast pine-nut and balsamic dressing. The livers were very rare and deliciously tender, almost runny in the middle; I ate most of them as Date was a bit squeamish. The accompanying salad was a bit unimaginative but everything in it was fine and it worked with the livers, which don’t need much dressing up anyway.
For mains I chose the Char grilled Swordfish with smoked garlic and chilli butter. I was asked how I’d like it cooked, I went for medium. It came served simply on a bed of roasted baby new potatoes with its butter running down its sides. It was juicy and delicious, falling apart at the touch of my fork. The smoked garlic butter had none of the usual tang of garlic butter and didn’t murder the fish’s delicate flavours. My bowl of side salad was pretty standard with cucumbers, tomatoes and lettuce. The star of the show was the date’s main of Pan Roast venison served with sautéed bacon and cabbage and redcurrant jus. The venison, cooked to medium was melt in the mouth and so rich. It’s dark red colour with pink centre oozed sexiness on the plate, enhanced by the fruity, heady jus. The bed of bacon and cabbage sounded strange but the cabbage was finely shredded and barely sweated with the smoked bacon to make an unusual but uplifting marriage to the meat.
The wine list was very reasonably priced from €22 to €32 for the most expensive. I don’t drink white but often choose the fish and the server suggested the Sardinian Bombarde which was light enough for the dish but still held up well to the rich meaty ones.
Though the Date insisted he couldn’t manage desert after all the rich food I told him he had to, it was part of the brief. He chose the dark chocolate cheesecake with strawberries while I had the fool of blueberries over black-berry compote. The cheesecake was one of those ones that make you cry, it was so rich and dense it almost crumbled. Strawberries peeked out from its insides and oohs and aahs could be heard from other diners in the same state of bliss who had ordered it. My fool was light and fluffy and came in one of the little wine glasses; it looked like something from a Marguerite Patten cookery card. It was good to eat something a bit lighter than the rest of what we’d indulged in, though I must admit that I had most of the cheesecake too. We were so full we had to have brandies and coffees. Lots of diners were lingering over pints of Guinness and drinks. It seems you can have your whole night out here and never get flung out.
The meal for us both came to €124.00 including beer, wine and brandies (well it was Saturday…..)
Limerick City Market Square
Chef Diarmuid O’Callaghan has been running the kitchen at the Market Square Brassiere in
Citysince they first opened their doors for business four years ago. Previously of the busy Green Onion O’Callaghan is one of the most inventive chefs working right now in the city. The menu of the
Market Squarereads quite, well, run of the mill. Listings of Caesar Salad and wrapped goats cheese don’t inspire. Once you are in the door however, it’s the specials, that change daily, that really are inspired.
restaurant has an old world feeling of class. Hidden in a vaulted cellar it’s
easy to miss from the street. Plush red velvet curtains hang over walls of
exposed brick, wine bottles are stacked on shelves and the waiters all wear
suits. The main area is made up of smaller rooms so it’s cosy and intimate
without being on top of one another. A private room, under the road, can cater
for another twenty guests. For a Tuesday night in Limerick
Limerickthis place was full of life. We were sat close to a table of ten Italians, all tucking into specials of Roast rack of Lamb.
Specials aside I am always drawn to Foie Gras, in any form so I chose the Terrine, served with red onion marmalade and toasted brioche. The Terrine was silky smooth with that unmistakable muskiness of the goose liver, god bless them. The brioche was soft and lightly toasted and still warm when it reached me, two pieces were just enough to smother inch with the pate and top with the sweet onion jam. Mum chose the Liscannor Crab Cakes which came in the form of two golf sized balls on the plate (ahem). An oil of basil & mint was dredged down the side of the plate. The cakes were light and crispy on the outside and the crab meat in the centre fell apart when the fork touched it. So far, so very good.
As always I seem to go for the fish main as any dinner guest I bring chooses the red meat. So the wine I was offered was a Sicilian Red called Concilio, it was light with a cherry finish but full bodied enough to hold up Mum’s Fillet steak main. The steak was perfectly cooked, seared darkly on its outside and tapering to a deep red in the middle, served with a béarnaise sauce and compote of red onions it was a rich plate of food but the tanginess of the onions helped to cut through a little.
I was immediately drawn to the special of Fillet of John Dory, served on a curry cauliflower puree with a vanilla cream sauce with blueberries. Who wouldn’t be intrigued? The plate of food was a knockout, the white fish, atop its bed of velvet mash, sat stark against the flood of deepest purple sauce. The fish, a rich fella on his own, was so enhanced by this rich almost chocolaty sauce. It had a tiny touch of sweetness and no sharpness from the blueberries at all. The curried cauliflower was more subtle than I expected, it don’t sound pretty, but it provided a warm underbelly of earthiness for this tremendous dish. We smiled inanely at each other throughout.
All the deserts that flew past us on the deft hands of those waiters looked wonderful. The raspberry & white chocolate tiramisu was already sold out. I chose the Sticky Toffee Pudding, also not what you might expect on a menu of fine dining, but I’d been told it was great. It arrived in a huge dish, a little mould turned upside-down and wallowing in its own pool of the lightest toffee sauce and a life raft of vanilla ice cream. The sponge was light, much lighter than it’s common cousin, and the sauce with the ice cream was, well, warm and rich and sweet and amazing and it one of those moments where you’d be happy to just go to God and say “ Ok I’m done, it’s was great, take me now”. Mum had the special of steamed apple cake, a dense and dainty thing with more of their lovely vanilla ice cream and berries. We were happy piglets.
Because I cleaned my plate, again, I needed a brandy. It arrived warm and wafting in the glass. Diners chatted, laughter flowed, and this is a romantic place to go, with or without a lover. The bill, with coffees came to €129.00
Market Square Brassiere
74 O'Connell Street
Phone: +353 61 316311
Open: Tue – Sat Dinner only
Two sittings on weekends 7pm & 9pm
All major credit cards accepted
The Wild Onion Cafe, Limerick (061) 440055
The Wild Onion on High Street, in the Milk market area of Limerick City is so popular on Saturday mornings that it's name is uttered in hushed tones. "The Wild Onion, you'll never get a table in there", people mutter. The owners have a bit of a Michael Caine like reputation for getting loud and boisterous with the staff and customers. It all sounded too good for words, I had to try it. Attempt No.1 was last week when I made plans with Maz, from Style Treaty, to meet for late brekkie. I made this plan just before I was invited to a party near my house which ended up rather, ahem, late. I'm a stickler for sticking to a plan, espescially when I'm the one who does the inviting. So I hauled my bleary head out of bed and down to this bustling eatery. Really, I was still asleep and though the food was being enjoyed by so many hungry heads, I could barely get through half of my French Toast, Sausage Patty and Hash Browns. I made conversation like a baboon, apologies, and left.
This morning I thought I'd try again and I had the sense to stick my head in and book a table with Ruth for 1pm, with the kids and friends. If you reserve, don't be late, it's rude to Ruth and you'll lose your slot. This time I'd had a good 11 hours kip so I started the day off like a happy baby. The sun was shining as we made our way round the market, meeting people and soaking up the great atmosphere. Son No.1 was busy tasting cheese and lamenting that all the white anchovies were sold out from the olive stand. Must go earlier next time.
Ruth squeezed us to our table in this small, and so unassuming cafe. The menu is American style breakfasts, Reubens and burgers. I chose the Eggs with hash browns and sausage patty, the small fella had a plain grilled chicken open sandwich and Son No. 1 had the same as me but with ham instead of sausage. A flask of coffee is put on the table and Ruth quickly brought us a jug of ice water with glasses, where was this so-called cranky owner, I wondered. The grub is all cooked by Bob in the diner style kitchen that's right there in front of you and is on your table before the kids get crochetty. I told them that if they misbehaved, they would have to do the dishes, Ruth backed me up on this. The old methods of parenting can sometimes be the best. The eggs were so good, how can there be such a difference in a fried egg? The patties are delicious and the fried potatoes are yummy but do need a little extra seasoning. The small fella loved his chicken but left the bread. My pal Laura is veggie so her meal had a veggie patty which she liked, a rare achievement for a cafe. Most don't even bother with a veggie option for a fry up. Given that this is hard-core brekkie there was none of that greasy after taste or yukky feeling you often get after a cook up like this. They say the cookies are great, I'll try them next time. For three of us the bill was Euro22.
I'm on a search for the best restaurant in Limerick. Best for food, service, atmosphere and overall eating experience. Please send me your suggestions.
(01) 873 3849
Open: 7 days 11am – late
One of the biggest shockers about having kids is the curtailment of your social life. Lets be honest, we would never send the little darlings back from whence they came, a scientific impossibility anyway, so why do parents always say that? In my early days as a young Mammy living in Hamburg Germany Ireland
Recently I’ve noticed that the years of staying in has somehow produced two fine boys with table manners, the older one can even read a menu now. He was always the food-curious one and, as a toddler, I would buy chats with girlfriends by sitting a tub of stoned black olives in front of his grubby hands. Sides of salmon became his choice treat in the supermarket and I often found him sitting at the fridge, sucking on a pound of butter. Recently his curiosity turned to sushi. What was it and when could he have some?. The only place I know of in town is Aya, whose hip-ness would be too pricey for kid grubs.
It was back to
The menu is a full-colour catalogue of photos. They don’t all flatter the food but give a good idea of what you’re going to get. The big fella chose a safe nori sushi with salmon for starters, I had the ebi (prawn) with fish eggs. The sushi was room temperature, unlike its Japanese cousin. The child hoovered it up with a face like he’d just found God. For mains we chose the beef bulgogi. This came in a big, flat pan and was popped onto the burner on our table. Thinly sliced beef was topped with glass noodles, mushrooms and onions and cooked in about ten minutes in it’s light but slightly sweet sauce. The small fella had his usual of battered chicken (sigh). The rice was perfect jasmine and came in small metal bowls with lids, very cute. The bulgogoi was fine and quite light. Groups at tables took plenty of time grilling little pieces of fish and meat, rolling bites in lettuce and knocking back shots of Korean vodka in between. I stayed off the vodka, given that the kids can’t drive yet. With fizzy drinks and green tea the bill for three was €51.00. And we joined the human race for a little while too.
Zen Win House
A full weekend of work and socialising was punctuated by another trip down Chinatown Vietnam
We were given the standard European menu but I asked for what everyone else was having. They were having Chinese breakfast, so that’s what we were having too.I ordered Rice Gruel soup, (no prizes for writing snappy menus here), the German went for tofu soup. We asked for dough sticks and some dumplings and the waitress told us to stop ordering, that we had enough. We were immediately given knives and forks but of course I wanted chopsticks. We piled our side plates with the goodies from the buffet table. The salads were excellent and fresh and crunchy. Chinese food, as we know it can be laden with salt, sugar and corn-flour and leave you feeling less that lively. The Mandarin tea eggs, that’s eggs hard boiled in tea, were tasty and their marbled terracotta colour looks so good when you peel them.
The banquet arrived. My soup was exactly what it said on the tin, rice gruel with pork and egg. I couldn’t eat it, it was like baby food. There was nothing wrong with it, I’m just not used to those textures. The German’s tofu soup was fine and great for dipping the delicious dough sticks into. The dumplings were plentiful, 20 on the plate. We had bowls of soy and chilli to dip things into. With 4 cups of Green tea and endless salads the bill came to €21.00. I am going back to Zen Win for dinner to get a better idea of the food, if the duck is good I’m hooked.
On another note congratulations to Kieran Murphy from Ice Cream Ireland for bagging two awards at the Irish Blog Awards at the Alexander Hotel
I’ve heard from the mouth of a prominent Chinese business-man that Dublin Chinatown Ireland
Naturally Dawei suggested that his restaurant was the best place to eat so we hot-footed it for a hotpot (sorry again). The place was typically plainly decorated with Chinese news blasting via satellite on a giant plasma screen and not a red lantern in sight. The menu was cheap and amusing to my inexperienced Chinese palate; Pork ear with cucumber or the house special of Harlet with Sweet and Sour sauce. Though I have been to China Dublin