Stitch and Bear

Food & drink adventures and restaurant reviews from Dublin and Ireland

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Monday, June 27, 2016

[Events] Hooked by Aldi in support of Foodcloud

Over the last few years, Aldi Ireland have established themselves as a regular attendee at Taste of Dublin, which they cleverly use to showcase their range of Irish ingredients. Two years ago I dined on a steak feast inside a wooden hut, while last year's meal was enjoyed in a space decorated by Peter Kelly, better known as Weddings by Franc.

This year, the theme was Irish seafood, hence the moniker Hooked by Aldi, and the venue was a fun beach-style hut in bright blue and white. But the real innovation this year came in the form of support for Foodcloud. Established by Iseult and Aoibheann, Foodcloud is a social enterprise that connects businesses (like Aldi) who have surplus food to local charities. In other words, rather than throwing out unwanted or unsold food, Foodcloud ensures that it does not go to waste, but is used instead to feed people who need it.

I genuinely cannot stand food waste, and I feel terrible when I have to bin uneaten lettuce, veggies or meat from our fridge. Not only do I feel bad at the thought of throwing out food, and by default, all the effort that went into growing it, but I also hate the idea of literally chucking money in the bin. I suppose that I'm finally starting to take after my mother in earnest. (I'll be stockpiling jamjars soon). So it's a no brainer that I think Foodcloud is an excellent initiative and one that's well worth supporting.

All diners at the Hooked by Aldi beach hut could eat for free, but were asked to make a cash donation to support Foodcloud. A meagre €10 can facilitate 40 meals to people in need, and to give credit where it's due, Aldi has donated over 277,000 meals and promised to match the amount donated at Taste of Dublin 2016. If you want to show your support for Foodcloud, make sure to check out the "Get Involved" section of their website.

The chefs from the Hooked by Aldi event have provided some recipes inspired by the dishes that they served up at the event. Feel free to copy the recipes and put them to the test in your own kitchen, using Irish seafood.

Disclaimer: I was invited to dine at Hooked by Aldi, as a guest of Aldi, and it goes without saying, we did donate to Foodcloud. 
Dishes from the chefs at Hooked by Aldi
Aldi pan-fried sea bass fillets with creamed cabbage and bacon
Serves 4 

4 tbsp olive oil
4 x rashers of unsmoked streaky bacon, derinded and chopped
1 large carrot, peeled and diced
½ celeriac, peeled & diced
½ head of Savoy cabbage, core removed, finely shredded
200ml Clonbawn pouring cream
4 Skellig Bay Seabass fillets, 170 – 200g each
100g Kilkeely Pure Irish Creamery Butter, diced
½ fresh lemon
Small bunch of curly or flat parsley, roughly chopped.
Garnish: (optional)
2 tbsp capers
2 tbsp diced tomato, skin & seeds removed

Heat 2 tbsp olive oil in a large saucepan. Add the chopped bacon and fry for few minutes, then stir in the carrot & celeriac. Cover with a lid, reduce to a medium heat and cook for a further 8 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add the shredded cabbage and cook for a further 3 minutes, then pour in the cream. Simmer until the cream begins to thicken and the cabbage is tender. Remove from the heat and keep warm.

Heat a large non stick fry pan & add the remaining olive oil. Pat the fish fillets dry with some absorbent kitchen paper, then season with salt & pepper. Once the pan is hot, add the fish, skin side down and fry for 2 minutes until golden brown in colour underneath.

Turn the fish over onto its other side and add the butter.  Squeeze over the lemon juice and once the butter begins to foam, add the chopped parsley. Spoon the butter over the fish and remove from the heat.

Place the creamed cabbage in the centre of four warmed serving plates topped with the bass fillets. Spoon any remaining pan juices over the bass fillets, garnish with the caper berries, diced tomato and serve.

Aldi pan-fried fillet of hake with asparagus chive hollandaise
Serves 4
12 asparagus tips
4 Fillets of  Skellig Bay Hake (180-210g)
25g Kilkeely Pure Irish Creamery butter

Chive Hollandaise Sauce:
3 large Healy’s Farm egg yolks
1 teaspoon white wine vinegar or lemon juice
225g Kilkeely Pure Irish Creamery butter - melted
2 tablespoons of boiling water (if required)
Sea salt
Pepper mill
Chives, chopped


Heat a large saucepan of water and keep on a slow simmer.

Place the egg yolks in a large bowl with the white wine vinegar or lemon juice. Place the bowl over the simmering water and continue to whisk until the egg yolks become light and creamy in colour and consistency. Be careful not to overcook the eggs and whisk continuously.

Remove the bowl from the heat. Continue to whisk the eggs whilst pouring in the melted butter very slowly. If the sauce is a little thick whisk in the boiling water to thin it down. Add the chopped chives and season to taste.

Cut the asparagus and drop into a large pot of boiling salted water, cooking for 2-3 minutes, until just tender.

Place the fish on a tray and season with salt and pepper. Heat a large frying pan and add the butter.
Lay the fish fillets skin side down on the hot pan. After 1 minute turn the heat down to medium and cook until the skin is golden brown. Add a squeeze of lemon juice and turn the fillets carefully. Continue to cook for 2-3 minutes. When fully cooked remove the fish from the pan.

Put three asparagus spears on a plate, place the fish on top of the asparagus and nape with a little of the hollandaise sauce. Serve immediately.

Aldi salmon rillette
300g Skellig Bay salmon
75g Specially Selected organic Irish smoked salmon - sliced into strips
60g crème fraiche/greek yogurt
35g Kilkeely pure Irish creamery butter, melted
30g chives, chopped
1 shallot, diced
1 lemon
20ml white wine
Salt and pepper


Place the fresh salmon in a pot of cold water with salt, pepper, chopped shallot, squeeze of lemon and 20ml of white wine and bring to the boil. As soon as the water boils, turn it down to a simmer and cook for 7-8 minutes. Remove the fish from the water and allow to cool for 5 minutes.

Flake the salmon while still warm and add in the smoked salmon, chopped chives and a squeeze of lemon. Mix gently with a spoon, being careful not to break the fish into a puree. Now add the crème fraiche (make sure the mix is cool enough so as not to melt the crème fraiche) and melted butter. Slowly mix to incorporate all the ingredients and being careful not to over mix the fish. Season to taste.

The salmon can be pressed into a bread tin that has been lined with cling film or into ramekins. Chill for 8 hours or overnight before serving. Serve with some warm toast and some fresh cucumber pickle.

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

[Review] EATily Pop-up, Parliament Street, Dublin 2

What does an award-winning chef do when faced with the challenge of developing a new restaurant bang in the middle of Dublin city centre? If you're Oliver Dunne, former holder of a Michelin star at Bon Appetit, you launch a very time-limited pop-up while thinking about the more permanent presence.

EATily, located at the former Fiorentina premises on the corner of Dame Street and Parliament Street, is the result of a collaboration between Dunne and chef Aaron Carroll, formerly of Casadelmar in Corsica and Dunne's own Bon Appetit. Dunne  has long been a proponent of Italian food, and one of the finest meals I've ever enjoyed was his celebration of La Pergola in 2013. With a name that's confusingly close to New York's "Eataly", the concept at EATily is simple. It's a fixed price menu for three courses, with cichetti (little bites), tea/coffee with petits fours and a bottle of house wine. Wine upgrades are available at an additional cost.
Pre-dinner Negroni cocktail at EATily
We enjoyed a brief catch-up with Graham Dunne, Oliver's brother and more than capable front-of-house-man, as we relaxed with two fine Negronis, from a short selection of Italian-inspired cocktails. The selection of cichetti (an Italian phrase for small plates or bites, originating from Venice) were a welcome warm-up. Crisp grissini with ricotta and pesto, glazed roast Chantenay carrots, hummus and finally olives. We decided to go with the bottle of Sicilian house white wine, which turned out to be a very enjoyable dry, minerally wine.

Sicilian burrata was beautifully creamy with tangy flavours coming from the sun-dried tomatoes, pomegrante seeds and slight slick of vinegar. To be frankly honest, a little more sharpness would have been appreciated to contrast with the smooth milky burrata. The tomato cannelloni was the starter of desire with a fresh, crab filling, a basil and marscapone mousse and dried cherry tomatoes.
Selection of cichetti
Sicilian burrata with pomegrante and hazelnuts

Crab and tomato cannelloni

Onto the mains. Roast rump of Leccese lamb (from Salerno in Puglia) with sprouting broccoli and divine roasted garlic cloves was bang on the money. Slow-cooked and spiced rare breed pork fillet was an extremely generous portion, each piece topped with a Dublin Bay prawn raviolo and served with pea puree. The plates here are more than ample, but we did supplement with a portion of very good parmesan and pancetta fries.
Roast rump of Leccese lamb

Slow cooked spiced rare breed pork fillet with Dublin Bay prawn ravioli
Parmesan and pancetta fries
When it came to dessert, there was only one option that both of us were interested in. You could say that the measure of an Italian restaurant is to be found in their tiramisu and the EATily version comes covered in a dulse chocolate glaze with malty stout ice-cream. As we declined tea or coffee (I really don't know who has the space for tea or coffee late at night after a large meal), we didn't get to sample the listed sweets, but I think my waistline can live with that.

Our total bill, if I recall correctly, came to approx €130. I'm still not quite sure whether I consider that acceptable or slightly expensive. What we had was very good Italian food, made with well-chosen ingredients, and cooked with definite skill. However, it also felt somewhat safe, somewhere to take the parents for a very good meal, or somewhere to go for a comforting meal.

I do look forward to what will eventually replace EATily in the Parliament Street premises. Located where it is in the middle of town, in Temple Bar, and close to Dunne's other restaurant Cleaver East, it needs to be exciting or offer some excellent value for money. In the meantime, EATily runs for just 16 nights, every Wednesday, Thursday, Friday and Saturday for four weeks starting on June 8th, and finishing July 2nd.

Eatily, 40 Parliament Street, Dublin 2
Tel: +353 (0)1 531 3810
Twitter: @eatily_dublin
Instagram: @eatily_dublin

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

[Review] New cocktail menu at MVP

The team at MVP, possibly Dublin's most original and modest cocktail bar, have developed a new menu for the summer months. This new menu lists some tempting new drinks, as well as retaining some MVP classics. In case you didn't know, MVP is home to Anna Walsh, the Irish winner of the World Class Cocktail Competition in 2015, so trust me, this bar is pretty damned good at making cocktails. 

Out of the drinks we tried, two stood out for me. One was the Heléna, a mix of Olmeca Altos tequila, apple kimchi and violet. Apple kimchi sounds quite daring, but the effect is elegant. Served in a salt-rimmed, vintage style glass, the combination of slightly sour and spicy, shrub-but-not-quite-a-shrub, along with a rich mouthfeel and deep colour really impressed me. The second winner was the Poitín Colada, made with coconut-washed Bán Poitín. This is a fun, but grown up Irish take on the classic pina colada, but it's so much more refined with the addition of clarified pineapple juice and PX sherry.
The Heléna

Poitín Colada
The Kentiki Derby brings a tiki twist to Woodford Reserve bourbon with flavours of Amaretto and banana, topped with a port float. La Vie en Rose is a delicate, wistful long drink, made from Lillet Rose and Chivas Regal, topped with a delicate rose bud.
La Vie en Rose

Kentiki Derby
All drinks on the menu, whether new or old, are priced at a very competitive €11. And if you don't want cocktails, the MVP is also a proper old pub serving pints aplenty. It's also dog-friendly, so if you get really lucky, you can find yourself petting a dog, while sipping on some fine drinks and enjoying a topped baked potato from their Spudbox menu.

MVP, 29 Upper Clanbrassil Street, Dublin 8
Twitter: @mvpdublin
Instagram: @mvpdublin

Saturday, June 11, 2016

[Wine] June BBQ wines

If you've been following me on my social media channels, you'll know that we've been doing a lot of BBQ'ing in the recent good weather. Having some good wine to drink alongside your freshly cooked food is obviously very important, so here are my recent top 3 wines. Cheers!

Trentenare IGP Paestum Fiano 2015
Purchased on holidays Italy, for approx €15

Fiano is a white grape variety grown widely in Southern Italy, and on our recent holiday on the Amalfi Coast, I enjoyed some very fine bottles of Fiano. From Cilento in the Campania region, Azienda Agricola San  Salvatore is a combined producer of wine and olive oil as well as a buffalo farm. Perhaps that explains the slogan on the bottle, "I've seen a buffalo through the grapevines and I've drank wine. I've seen a buffalo and it has seen me". This wine is well structured, with good body, yet it retains a lot of freshness, and the typical minerality of the region. A very lovely summer wine.

Terre da Vino Essenze Barolo 2009
Purchased in Marks & Spencer, reduced to clear, around €30

This wine caught my eye on a recent browsing of the wine shelves in Marks & Spencer, who are currently clearing out some of their top end reds. I don't remember the exact prices, but it had been reduced from over €30 to under. From the start to the very last drop, I thoroughly enjoyed this 100% Nebbiolo Barolo. It displayed as ruby with garnet tinge in the glass, with delicate notes of violets and vanilla, balanced with leather and spicy, dark fruits. It felt a little light in the mouth, making me think that there isn't much bottle life left. 

Cazas Novas Vinho Verde 2015
The Corkscrew, Chatham Street, Dublin €14.95

Typically fresh and bright, this vinho verde comes from a small holding, and displays less effervesence than the vinho verdes you may be used to from holidays in Portugal. Made from local grapes Avesso and Loureiro, it's lovely, fresh and crisp, with citrus and pear-like fruit.

Sunday, June 5, 2016

[Review] Heron & Grey, Blackrock, Co Dublin

Blackrock Market is not exactly the kind of place where you'd normally expect to find a fine dining restaurant, but I suppose that this modern world is all about inverting the norms.  Plus I'd imagine that the rent is considerably cheaper than in the middle of town. Heron and Grey, named after owners Andrew Heron and chef Damien Grey, has taken over the premises of the former Canteen, and following a brief refit early in the year, it's now open under its own vision. 

It's a small dining room, the kind that estate agents would term bijou, with the open kitchen located at the rear. Every inch of storage space is astutely used and absolutely nothing is hidden from sight. In order to keep the kitchen running smoothly, diners are synced together so that plates can be prepared at the same time. Waves of plates are spread out on the counters and dishes are assembled with care. Watching Damien and co as the food is plated makes me realise how much prep work is undertaken at Heron & Grey in order to ensure a smooth, continuous service. 

We dined first for lunch (three courses for €26) and following that we were more than sufficiently intrigued to return for dinner (five courses for €48). The ingredients used are always fresh and completely seasonal, with the menu changing every two weeks. I'm told that dishes are never repeated which means that every meal at Heron & Grey will be unique

We started with a wonderful plate of butternut squash flavoured with vanilla and accompanied by blobs of Pedro Ximenez vinegar. Textures and contrasts abounded on the plate. Next was a single plump raviolo of ox and octopus, which had an intriguing texture, dressed with crisp reindeer moss and juicy samphire. 
Butternut squash
Ox and octopus raviolo 
A simple bowl of broth with vermicelli, lime and little mushrooms was a refreshing and cleansing break before we moved onto the main meat course. Duck was served beautifully pink with a wonderful sticky sweet sauce and knotweed. This was my first time eating knotweed (an invasive weed species) and I was immediately reminded of rhubarb, though slightly greener and bitter. 
Broth with vermicelli and lime
Duck with knotweed and currant
Desserts again continued the trend of multiple flavours and texture. Banana split with coffee and salt, followed by a surprise dessert of chocolate with raspberry. These two desserts were perhaps a little too close in style and could have benefited from a greater contrast. 
Banana, coffee and salt
Surprise desert chocolate with raspberry powder

The wine list is constantly evolving also, with new wines joining frequently. On our visit, we had an excellent Australian Pinot Noir but the star wine was a 2011 Chateau de Malle Sauternes which was simply sublime. 

Heron & Grey is so small that every team member pitches in during service, with lots of good humour and chat. And it's also utterly excellent. The small size of the room, combined with its popularity means that you need to ring well in advance to secure a weekend booking. But it's well worth the wait.

Heron & Grey, Blackrock Market, Main St, Blackrock, Co Dublin
Tel: +353 (0)1 212 3676
Twitter: @heronandgrey
Instagram: @heronandgrey

Heron and Grey Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Monday, May 30, 2016

[Travel] A quick weekend in Paris

Can you believe that until recently, I had never been to Paris? I had passed through Charles de Gaulle Airport several times, moving between one flight and the next, but I had never been in the city centre itself. So I must admit that I was quite excited when we booked a short weekend in Paris in March. 

As I was working in Amsterdam, I travelled via Thalys (high speed train) to Paris and it was a comfortable relaxing experience. I arrived at the Gare du Nord station, where I then caught a metro to our hotel on the Place de la République. The tall statue of Marianne (the personification of the French republican) at the centre of the square was still covered in tributes to the victims of the November 2015 Paris shootings and the grey, bleak wintery weather suited it well. 
Metro entrance near Place de la République
First stop was dinner, at Beef Club Ballroom, a steak and cocktail restaurant in Les Halles. The cocktails here were very good, very well made and presented in lovely glassware. My "Tommy's New Home" made with tequila and mezcal (€14) was stand out. The interior of the restaurant was also lovely, in that pressed-tin ceiling way that has become all too ubiquitous. Starters of grilled bone marrow (€13) and Pig Club salad, or bizarrely large chunks of bacon with blue cheese (€13) were absolutely fine.
Tommy's New Home cocktail
Os a Moelle or grilled bone marrow
The bizarre Pig Club salad
My main course of rib eye was perfectly grilled and cooked, although I was bitterly disappointed with the "chips" that came to the table. They were more akin to chunky chips or wedges, and tasted of overcooked potato skin. A disappointment indeed in the land of steak frites, especially when it carried a price tag of €39. His portion of steak tartare was much better, with the expected velvety smooth textures (€25) although it could have done with some more bite. All in all, Beef Club struck me as a place where style mattered just that bit too much more than substance, with little to make me happy after paying €180 for dinner.
Grilled entrecote or rib eye steak
Steak tartare
The next day, we made for the Tour Eiffel. As you'd expected from March, it was a cold and wintery day, with no visible sign of the overdue springtime. It was so cold still that some of the lifts to the top of the tower were not running due to ice. Even so, we enjoyed strolling under the magnificent tower, trying to recall the names of all the French scientists and engineers who adorn the sides of this monument. The best viewing spot for the Tower is across the river, on the high platform in the Trocadero gardens. Even on a grey, dull day, the sight was magnificent.
Obligatory Eiffel Tower photo
Our lunch was in the famous Le Relais de L'Entrecote, a classic French bistro chain on Rue Marbeuf, a brisk walk away from the Eiffel Tower. Le Relais de L'Entrecote really only do one thing, but boy do they do it well. Here, the contre-fillet cut of sirloin steak is served sliced, with a house secret sauce and heavenly thin, french fries. 

There's only one choice of starter, a simple walnut and radish salad, which is served largely to keep you occupied while the steaks cook. Waitresses dressed in classic black and white uniforms keep the whole show running smoothly, deftly moving diners around like chess pieces, while also serving the sliced steak and fries. And the steak, oh my the steak served with that indefinable sauce. This was so infinitely better than the previous night's dinner. I'm dreaming of it still.
Fresh green salad with walnuts at Le Relais de L'Entrecote
The famous steak frites and secret sauce at Le Relais de L'Entrecote
On Saturday night we headed for cocktails. Paris boasts several of the World's Top 50 cocktail bars, and I had made reservations at Candelaria, a small bar hidden behind an even smaller tacqueria on Rue de Saintonge. It took us a few minutes to figure out, but the secret is to walk straight to the back of the tacqueria, through the narrow door and down into the bar itself. It's all moody and darkly-lit, but the cocktails are good, very good. From there, we moved a short distance to the Little Red Door, which unfortunately doesn't take reservations. However, we weren't waiting long and even if we had waited longer, it would have been worth it. Some very knowledgeable bartenders man the stick at LDR and we literally could have stayed all night.
Cocktail menu at Candelaria
Sunday morning loomed, and it was nearly time to start thinking of getting back home. But first we wanted to have a final hurrah of French pastries. We took the metro towards Blé Sucré, a small but famous patisserie, who allegedly makes the best madeleines in Paris. Our standout favourite was the pastry pictured below (the name eludes me) which was a buttery, flaky mix of croissant and millefeuille. We sat in the playground outside the shop, along with two takeaway coffees and enjoyed every moment in the cold bright sunshine.
Pastry from Blé Sucré
And then it was Le Fin. Time to leave Paris, but only for a little back. Adieu Paris, adieu.

Saturday, May 14, 2016

[Review] Pickle Eating House and Bar, Camden Street, Dublin 2

Sometimes a new restaurant opens which challenges your perception of a certain cuisine, and highlights it in a way you've never experienced before. Indian food has been on an upward trend in Ireland, thanks to excellent cooking from restaurants such as the now-closed Jaipur, Kinara and Ananda. Sunil Ghai was the acclaimed chef behind the popular fine-dining Ananda and, along with Benny Jacob, he's opened the arguably best Indian restaurant in Dublin to date. 

Pickle, at the southern end of Camden Street, has a wonderful interior with beautiful tiled floor, solid wooden tables and a patchwork of bright Bollywood posters on the walls. It's not formal, but the fine quality of the fittings doesn't make it overly casual. The menu is mouthwatering with a wide selection, and it took a few visits before I felt that I had sampled enough dishes. What's clear here is that the food is undeniably exquisite, rich with flavours and spice. Whether it's a tandoor dish or a curry, every dish is far more than the sum of its parts and the best that it can be.

Highlights include the tawa machhi, or crispy pan-fried sea-bass coated in semolina, topped with crab chutney and a carrot and cauliflower pickle along with crunchy potato chips (€14). I adore tandoor lamb chops and the version at Pickle is sublime with juicy meat fading into charcoal bone, along with dashes of a mind-boggling but delicious strawberry green chilly chutney (€13). 
Tawa machhi with crab chutney
Tandoori lamb chop
The classic favourite of tandoori chicken is succulent, no mean skill when tandoor ovens can reach temperatures of 480C, and served with creamily-rich kali dal and steamed rice (€21). A goat mince curry was dense and shinily meaty, nearly purple in colour, flavoured with shallots, garlic and black cardamom. Served with buttery homemade pao bread (Brioche-like and a nod to the Portuguese influences on Indian food), it's a superb example of the richness and depths that a curry can reach. (€21).
Tandoori chicken with kali dal
Goat mince curry with pao bread
Pickle also gets my approval for its thoughtful and well-priced wine menu. Indian food can be tricky to pair with wine, but the suggestions here are good.  A bottle of the reliable Le Jade Picpoul de Pinet  (€32) is light and fresh, with citrus and fruit to balance the spicy flavours. 

There's something wonderfully reassuring about Pickle. Even the name itself implies a quiet confidence, a single word that covers a wide range of culinary technique, and one that's especially linked to Indian cooking. Sunil and Benny are extremely experienced guys and it's no surprise at all that Pickle has been operating at peak capacity ever since opening. It's simply addictive!

Pickle Restaurant, 43 Camden Street Lower, Dublin 2
Tel: +353 (0)1 555 7755
Twitter: @pickle_bysunil

Pickle Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato 
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