Stitch and Bear

A long-running Irish blog with reviews of the best restaurants in Dublin and throughout Ireland. Some wine and cocktails thrown in for good measure!

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Sunday, September 24, 2017

[Opinion] The importance of transparency in blogging

Over the course of the last few weeks, I’ve kept up with the Twitter storm that has followed tweets from chefs Gaz Smith (Michaels of Mount Merrion) and Garret Byrne (of Michelin-starred Campagne in Kilkenny). No matter which side of the fence you are on, this debate has revealed some ugly sides to the world of food and travel blogging. 

It is claimed that a blogger contacted Campagne seeking a free meal in return for blog and social media coverage. On the surface, it appears gauche and self-entitled on the part of the blogger. But on the other hand, it was a business offer that Garret could either accept or refuse, and refuse he did. 

As a blogger, I’ve always tried to feature restaurants and venues that I feel deserve to be shared. As a result, I could probably count on one hand the amount of times I’ve written a strongly critical review. I’ve obviously eaten in many restaurants where the best thing was the exit, but I’ve rarely chosen to feature those spots. 

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Sunday, September 17, 2017

[Review] Sova Vegan Butcher, Pleasants Street, Dublin 8

I often wonder how much vegetarians miss eating meat? Or in the case of vegans, how much they miss products such as butter and cheese. There's no doubt that being vegan is a dedicated life choice and with very few exceptions, vegans are poorly catered for in mainstream restaurants. But like any grouping, once a critical mass is achieved, commercial options do become viable. 

About 2 years ago, Sova Vegan Butcher established its permanent home on Pleasants Street after a period of pop-up residencies. Long time vegetarian, now vegan, Bart Sova is the eponymous owner and proprietor of this restaurant, which has tables on the cozy ground and first floors. It's been on my hit list for quite a long time, and I finally find the time and mood following a very zen-inducing yoga class at the close-ish Little Bird Cafe. We arrive on Saturday lunchtime, and we are quite lucky to get a free table amidst the busy churn of brunchers and gym-goers. Judging by the popularity, its clearly doing something right.

I suppose the clue to understanding the menu is present in the oxymoronic restaurant name, as many of the dishes on the menu are described in terms more familiar to meat eaters. Amongst the brunch menu you can choose from a full Irish breakfast complete with sausages, bacon, pudding and scrambled tofu, a chia burger, a pulled porc bap or even a doner kebab (made with seitan protein).
Stitch & Bear - Sova Vegan Butcher - Potato gnocchi
Potato gnocchi with mushroom ragu
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Sunday, September 10, 2017

[Review] Beaufield Mews, Stillorgan, Co Dublin

There are some restaurants that exist outside the vagaries of time. They are not influenced by fashions and trends, they don't serve the current trendy dish, but instead they offer a solidly comfortable experience that everyone enjoys. They are always there for family celebrations, arrivals and departures, and form part of the background fabric that keeps everything stable. 

In Dublin, one such restaurant is Beaufield Mews. Located in Stillorgan, it's Dublin's oldest restaurant, having been in the same family for over 70 years. Outside, there's a lovely courtyard, which is charmingly lit at night. The downstairs restaurant and gardens at Beaufield Mews are arguably the most famous part of this former coachhouse and stables. But we are here to dine upstairs in the Loft Brasserie, a spacious and high ceilinged set of rooms with plenty of elbow room between the tables. 
Stitch & Bear - Beaufield Mews - Beef tartare
Classic beef tartare
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Sunday, August 27, 2017

[Wine] Torres Priorat

DISCLOSURE: My visit to the Torres winery at El Lloar in the Priorat was provided free of charge by Pico Communication and Torres. Many thanks to all those who helped arrange the visit. 

The Priorat is a sun-baked, mountainous region inland from Tarragona and south of Barcelona. Climbing up through the mountains via the modern but very windy roads brings about a sense of awe. Abandoned terraces are visible, cut into the hillsides, once verdant with vines but now abandoned for decades. The combination of emmigration and the fascist rule of Franco took their toll on the Priorat, resulting in an 80% reduction in the area under viticulture. 

The DO Priorat winemaking region was created in 1954, but it wasn't until the late 1980s and early 1990s that things started to change. In 1985, the bottling of bulk wine was phased out and the production of quality wine was phased in. Then came the revolution. In 1989, winemaker Rene Barbier and a gang of likeminded winemakers bought land in the Priorat and introduced fine winemaking techniques along with French grape varieties such as Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah and Merlot. The world started to take notice, the modern reputation of Priorat wines was born and it has continued to grow ever since.
Stitch & Bear - Torres Priorat - Vineyards at El Lloar
The vineyards at Torres near El Lloar

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Saturday, August 12, 2017

[Wine] Torres Purgatori

We spent a recent weekend in the stunning Priorat wine region, which is located a bit under a 2 hour from Barcelona. It's one of just two DOQ wine regions in Spain, the other being Rioja and it's a majestic place, renowned for powerful red wines which possess incredible minerality. When you see the steep, sun-baked terraces, perched on the sides of the hills and mountains, it just all makes sense. 

If you travel even further inland far away from the sea, through the Priorat and near the city of Lleida, you will enter the territory of DO Costers del Segre. It's a harsh, semi-arid region with dry, hot summers and colder winters. According to Spanish winemakers Torres, the monks of the famous Montserrat abbey would carry out their penance at the Desterrats estate in Costers del Segre, working the land to produce food for the diocese. In the manner typical of monks all over the world, they also managed to produce some excellent wines in the region, which now inspire the name of Purgatori, the first Torres wine from this region. 
Image taken from Torres website

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Monday, August 7, 2017

[Opinion] A tale of two cocktails

The incredible growth and creativity that the Irish cocktail scene has exhibited in the past few years is a wonderful cause for celebration. The parallel explosion in the Irish spirits industry, including whiskey, gin and vodka, has given Irish bartenders expanded access to top quality ingredients for their creations. 

Many bars and hotels now have a cocktail programme of one form or another, which can range from the pedestrian but decent, to the original and highly creative. From a business sense, cocktails and premium drinks can offer an attractive profit margin which makes it worth while to invest in staff training and inventory. But in order for a cocktail programme to be successful and gain a solid reputation, bartenders need to exhibit consistency and adherence to quality standards. 

Let me illustrate with an example...
Stitch & Bear - A tale of two cocktails
The original on the left, the second on the right

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Sunday, July 30, 2017

[Event] Tiger Street Eats

The recent announcement of Michelin-starred street food in Dublin, courtesy of Tiger beer, definitely caused a bit of buzz. At €10 per ticket, the Tiger Street Eats event offered the chance to try the world famous chicken from the Hong Kong Soya Sauce Chicken Rice & Noodle street food hawker stand.  Tiger Street Eats is a concept designed to showcase the vibrancy of Singapore streets, and has already travelled to Auckland, Kuala Lumpur and New York. Dublin was the first European venture, and as you'd expect in a city that would go to the opening of a postcard, the tickets quickly sold out. 
Stitch & Bear - Tiger Street Eats - Placemat
Tiger Beer Street Eats
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