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!

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Another Irish Prizewinner (In a weird way)

It must be said that we don't do gangsters particularly well in this country. Our local bred boyos might have delusions of grandeur or ambitions to roll in the hood, but as always, we bring a uniquely Irish spin to gangster affairs.

Step up the recently deceased Philip Collopy. The 29 year old Limerick criminal was demonstrating how to use his Glock semi-automatic gun at a house party when he shot himself in the head, inflicting a fatal wound. In fairness to him, he had removed the magazine from the gun, but had failed to remember the chambered bullet.

Guests at the party were described as being 'unusally cooperative' with the Gardai following the incident and mobile phone footage immediately established the chain of events. The house guests at the party were hardly upstanding citizens and were eager to clear their names as quickly as possible.

It's awful to find humour in the death of a fellow human being but Collopy was a career criminal and the entire country is sick to the back teeth of the crime and deaths in Limerick. You'll be hard-pressed to find someone outside Collopy's family who will mourn his passing.

I reckon Collopy has to be a front-runner for one of the next Darwin Awards, which are awarded to deceased individuals who "improve the species, by actually removing themselves from it!". It looks like Ireland's recent winning streak is continuing.

Increasing Cinema Prices

I go to the cinema about once a week on average, if not more often. Ever since I was a student, and the Gate Cinema in Cork offered matinee showings for £2, I've been hooked. That's about 12 years ago though, and it's fair to say that it's a little more expensive now to go to the cinema.

Cinema prices for two adults at an evening showing are breaking the €20 barrier now. I've noticed that Cineworld in Dublin's Parnell Street have increased prices lately. Adult evening and matinee tickets have increased, by 70c to €10.40 and 60c to €8.30 respectively. When you factor in a booking fee of 45c per ticket, the price for a couple is now €21.70.

The other cinema I frequent is the superb Movies@ in Dundrum. Adult tickets here are €9.90 each with a booking fee of 80c per order, bringing a night out to a slightly lower total of €20.60.

I like to book my tickets online before going to the cinema. It's often quicker and saves queueing. One thing I've noticed lately in Dundrum is how many seats are already booked or even where showings are sold out. It appears that cinema is booming in Ireland right now as it does represent a cheaper night out than the pub. However the cinemas are continuing to raise prices, despite the fact that most of their patrons are facing decreased wages.

Monsters vs. Aliens

The first thing I learned about Monsters vs. Aliens is that it is 3D. Thanks to booking our tickets on the internet, we were without 3D glasses when the film started. We got that one sorted quickly.

Monsters vs. Aliens is a simple story. Susan (Reese Witherspoon), soon to be married to Derek, is hit by a meteorite whose special powers turn her into a giant woman. She is quickly isolated by the government, and sent to live with other captured 'Monsters', the blob Bob (Seth Rogen), the lizard man Link (Will Arnett), Dr. Cockroach (Hugh Laurie) and Insectosaurus. However, she has a battle on her hands when the evil alien Gallaxhar turns up on Earth to reclaim her super strength.

There were several families in the cinema and it was clear that the kids were enjoying this film. What was even more apparant was that the parents were enjoying it too. It's full of obvious humour as well as multiple references to the great alien invasion films of the past. There is more than plenty to keeps adults amused. The character of the U.S. president alone is worth the entry price. Reese Witherspoon voices the character of Susan (or Ginormica) with flair, and she is truly a fabulous role model (with great catsuits) for the younger female viewers. Watch out for Kiefer Sutherland in the role of the monster's keeper, General W. R. Monger.

I pretty much laughed my whole way through Monsters vs. Aliens and left the cinema in a very happy mood. I hope that it does the same for you.

Friday, March 27, 2009

Thumbs up to Starbucks

I have a love of Starbucks. Despite the fact that they are an evil corporate empire, they make good consistent coffee and often offer a nice place sit and relax.

Recently I've noticed two good things about Starbucks.

They've added new gluten-free options to their cake selection. A Belgian chocolate slice or a Seville Orange cake are now available as options. This is great news.

In their Ranelagh shop, I noticed that they had big bags of used coffee grounds available to take away for free for anyone who wanted it for their garden. It lead me to wonder what coffee shops do with their used grounds, but I applaud Starbucks for offering them to customers for a green purpose.

Chuan Chinese Restaurant - Capel Street

UPDATE: February 19th, 2012 - A new review of Chuan can be read here.

Chuan chinese restaurant is in the same location as one of my previously favourite chinese restaurants. I don't know if there has been a change of management, but the restaurant has been spruced up with a new decor. I ate there recently at lunchtime, and took advantage of their set lunch menu which costs approx E10.

It was a fairly disappointing meal and represented the backwards trend that I've been seeing in some chinese restaurants of late. It's back to the MSG and gloopy tasteless sauces that dominated Irish chinese restaurants for years in the 1980s and 1990s. I had spicy chicken shreds for starters which were fine, not very spciy but crispy. The set menu was overall bland with the usual culprits. I did however notice some chili and coriander dishes, so I ordered the lamb version.

It turned out to be flavourless meat (I can't even say for certain that it was lamb) in a gloopy sauce which had no discernible chili or coriander flavour. Looking at the diners around me, it seemed as if everyone was eating the same dish.

Given that the excellent Hilan restaurant is right across the street, and the hidden treasure of the Jade is just around the corner on Little Mary Street, there is absolutely no reason for me ever to visit Chuan again.

Chuan Chinese Restaurant, 120 Capel Street, Dublin 1. 01 - 872 0228

Thursday, March 26, 2009

My Little Blue Dress - Bruno Maddox

My Little Blue Dress begins in rural England at the beginning of the 20th century. It is initially the memoirs of a female centenarian born in 1900, but after just a few pages into the book, it becomes clear that there is something odd going on. All the memories are too idyllic and the main character speaks like someone from the late 20th century. Our heroine is proposed for the Queen of May in her local town, falls in love with a young man who is sent to fight in the trenches of WWI (and later becomes a war poet!) and then moves to gay Paris in the 1920s, finally becoming a nanny in England prior to the breakout of WWII.

After racing through the first 40 years of her life, the novel begins to turn to it's other path, where we find our heroine living in decrepitude in modern New York, where she is cared for by a young man called Bruno Maddox (clever eh?). Bruno is a struggling writer/novelist caught up in a funk of his own making.

Slowly, this satirical memoir starts to pose some riddles. Who is really writing this memoir? All the oddness and incongruities from earlier sections start to make some sense in this new context.

This is an undoubtedly clever novel. I just wonder if it is too clever but it does try to push the boundaries of what constitutes a novel. Ultimately though, I wasn't enamoured.

The New Coca Cola Heist Ad

I love this new ad from Coca Cola - just charming


Gag Order on RTÉ... WFT?

When I wrote about the sudden appearance of naked portraits of the Taoiseach, Brian Cowen, I had no idea of the stupidity that was to follow. Now it turns out that

1. A gag order has been placed on RTÉ concerning the incident and they have now issued an apology "for any personal offence caused to Mr. Cowen or his family and for any disrespect shown to the office of the Taoiseach by our broadcast".

2. The Gardai have questioned the artist, Conor Casby concerning possible charges such as incitement to hatred.

Now since it isn't April 1st yet, then I can assume that this isn't an April Fool's Day joke. Yet I'm sure that anyone sane who reads this story is considering Ireland to be fairly flipping hilarious right now. Instead of fixing our sinking economy or helping reassure the ever-increasing umemployed, we are persecuting an artist and gagging the national broadcaster.

Right now though, I'm more annoyed with RTÉ for bending over and taking it from the hiney from behind. Independent journalism me hole.

Lesbian Vampire Killers

I once had a Brazilian friend who was obsessed with vampires, especially female vampires. I know for certain that he'd have definitely approved of the concept of Lesbian Vampire Killers, the latest comedy homage film to cross our screens. In fact, I think that he probably would have loved it, irrespective of storyline.

But I'm not him, so what did I think of it? It's undeniably goofy, but seriously lacking in the horror or vampire department. We have lots of girls draped in flowing chiffon, wafting in the wind, but there is a disappointing lack of vampirism or lesbianism. The film is full of knob jokes and, with the exception of some comic moments, is fairly unfunny.

Still though, it's not the worst evening I've ever spent in the cinema.


Where does one start with 'Knowing'? I'm not sure. You probably know the premise by know. Nicholas Cage's character finds a list of numbers which predict every major disaster in the last 50 years. A race begins to prevent the disasters, but what happens when the numbers run out?

Nicholas Cage is one of those actors whose film you keep going to see because sometimes he's spot on. Unfortunately, this isn't one of those times. His wooden face dominates the film. His character, John Koestler, is a recently widowed MIT astrophysicist who believes in the randomness of the universe following the tragic death of his wife. He is estranged from his pastor father and clearly exists in a world of hurt, living only for his young son.

The film promises a good story, but its climax is just absurd beyond reason, which is a pity because the initial part of the story is tense and dramatic. The lighting and cinematography is eerie, adding to the early tension in the film. I honestly left the cinema wondering if Cage was a closet Scientologist (or some other form of looper) or if they'd accidentally cut in the last part of the Watchmen reel in the editing suite.

TBH, this one is best avoiding, unless you want some unintentional comedy.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

The Naked Taoiseach

Visitors at the Royal Hibernian Academy and the National Gallery recently. Not only had someone been brave enough to create two paintings of our Taoiseach in the nip (a scary thought by any standards) but they had then managed to hang the two paintings in the galleries.

One passer-by offered to purchase the painting in the National Gallery which features our beloved leader on the john. The Gardai are investigating, though I'm not exactly sure what crimes was committed here.


Monday, March 23, 2009

Growing Driving Test Waiting Lists AGAIN!

I read recently with dismay that SGS will no longer be conducting driving tests as of April 10th. What? The one competent and efficient contribution that this government has made to Irish life, and it's being stopped. Bravo. This truly shows our commitment to promoting safe driving.

The RSA is claiming that waiting times have fallen significantly, but I think it's safe to say that it's public knowledge enough that lists are lengthening again and approaching the extremes of just over a year ago.

Come on. It's tough on learner drivers. Let's not make it tougher.

Irish Rugby Team Homecoming

As a Corkwoman, I'm somewhat used to homecoming ceremonies for victorious teams (though that is looking slim this year!). I'm a little less accustomed to Irish teams coming home to celebrations. We stood on Dawson Street watching the homecoming ceremony on big screens. As I'm a little half-pint, I decided to occupy myself by taking photos.

I just loved the kids. How many of these kids will remember this day? How many will play rugby because of it?

As I wandered around, I realised that it wasn't only the kids who were enraptured by the Irish squad.

Pardon the poor quality of the images. Although I shot high-res on my SLR, I don't have editing software on my laptop, so Paint has to suffice.

Chocolate - Muay Thai Madness

I've just been blown away by the awesome Muay Thai skills of petite newcomer Jeeja Yanin in the fantastic martial arts movie Chocolate. Director Prachya Pinkaew (also behind the amazing Ong-bak and Tom yung goong) has created some awesome choreography which Jeeja Yanin pulls off with precision.

Yanin plays Zen, an autistic girl whose mother is battling cancer. Her mother had a past involvement with the criminal underword and when Zen discovers a diary detailing the money her mother is owed, she decides to go collect it in order to pay for her mother's medicine. Understandably, the gangsters aren't too keen on handing money over to a little girl, but Zen has an gift for mimicing the moves of others, and soon finds herself fending off all sorts of bad guys.

Just like Ong-bak, there are memorable scenes and bone-crunching, joint snapping action. It's an action film and a half, and it's great to see a new female martial artist burst onto the scene.


Sunday, March 22, 2009

25 Most Influential Books of the Past 25 Years

The culture magazine Mental Floss features an article in it's latest edition concerning the 25 Most Influential Books of the Past 25 years. It's not your typical list of critically acclaimed books, instead author Rosemary Ahern has gathered a different collection of books.

Books include Paulo Coelho's "The Alchemist", chosen for the way that Coelho redefined book distribution by making the book available for free on the internet. Other books include the incredibly popular "The Easy Way to Stop Smoking" by Alan Carr and Barbara Ehrenreich's "Nickel and Dimed" which played a part in the decision of the American Congress to raise the minimum wage.

Whether or not you agree with the list, it is at least a thought provoking that is different to the usual "Best 100 Books" type thing.

What a Craic!!

My God! After all the excitement of yesterday, my heartrate is only now starting to return to normal. A courageous group of Irishmen playing as a solid unit defeated the Welsh in rubgy to take the RBS 6 Nations title (as well as the Grand Slam and the Triple Crown), while a lone Irishman, Bernard Dunne, tenaciously fought his way to the World Boxing Association Super Bantamweight World Champion.

Both stories are amazing and represent true achievement. The Irish rugby squad had returned from the 2007 World Cup beaten and subdued. They had clearly underpeformed and we all felt let down. However, it's clear that Declan Kidney has worked some kind of magic with this band of players. The divisions and egos appear to be gone and yesterday we saw a determined and deserving team lift the trophy. Finally, this amazing band of players have earned the rewards that they deserve.

Boxer Bernard Dunne had been knocked out in the first round of a European title defence by Kiko Martinez and I really didn't figure that he had much of a chance in his bout against Ricardo Cordoba in the O2 last night. But it was clear from the 3rd round onwards that Dunne was fighting hard and holding his own, despite being sent to the canvas twice in the 5th round. The two boxers slugged it out all the way to the 11th round, where Dunne finally got the better of his opponent.

Just like the Irish rugby team, Dunne has achieved to his full potential. Was he spurred on by the victory in Cardiff earlier in the day? Who knows, but Ireland took a 6 Nations title and a World title in one day. What a feeling, or as Declan Kidney said "What a craic!".

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Expensive Espresso in Cafe Bar Deli

Just back from a nice lunch in Cafe Bar Deli in Ranelagh. The only downside - being charged E2.30 for an espresso. Ouch...

I think that I'll start to compile a list of espresso prices. I've already been following prices of my favourite drink, Bulmer's Light, in the city, so I think that I'll put up a league table for both shortly.

Rhodes D7 Stays Closed

One of the most read posts on my blog concerns the now-closed Rhodes D7 restaurant on Capel Street. The restaurant was apparently due to reopen on St. Patrick's Day following a refit and a menu redesign. However, it's still closed.

Yesterday, an article in yesterday's Herald stated that staff feel they have been "strung along" by management, and claim that their demands for redundancy have been ignored. The future of the restaurant still appears unclear, as owner Sean Kelly is due to meet chef GaryRhodes to discuss the future of the restaurant.

Mrs. Crimble's Cheese Bites

I really like the Mrs. Crimble's range. Their macaroons are a great sweet treat, with rich moist coconut and really don't feel like a speciality food at all. I especially love the chocolate coated variety.

I picked up a bag of the Cheese Bites in my excellent local shop Field & Vine recently. Made with potato starch, these hollow little bites are baked rather than fried and flavoured with Edam cheese.

I liked the texture but the cheese flavour was pretty vile. I was left with a flavour of plastic in my mouth. How did they get it so wrong?

Friday, March 20, 2009

A Florentine Death - Michele Giuttari

A Florentine Death was originally published in Italian, but has been translated into English by Howard Curtis. I only found out at the end of the novel that the author is an Italian policeman who once was head of the Squadra Mobilia in Florence and was responsible for cracking a case known as The Monster of Florence and returned a Velazquez painting to a church from where it was stolen. Well, the main character is the head of the Squadra Mobilia in Florence, is also responsible for cracking a case called the Monster of Florence, returning a Velazquez painting to a church from where it was stolen and is called Michele Ferrara. Well, fancy that for coincidence!!

The story centres around a series of initially unconnected murders, where it turns out that all the victims were homosexual. Ferrera figures out that there is one killer, and that the killer has him firmly in his sights.

Giuttari was special advisor to the Italian PM on the matter of organised crime, so I presume that he's fairly famous in his neck of the woods. Maybe that explains how this novel got published. To be honest, it's fairly banal stuff with dull cardboard characters and cliched dialogue. It received wide acclaim in the Italian press, so maybe something got lost in translation.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Basil and Walnut Pesto

I bought a bag of basil leaves recently, only to discover another bag sitting at the bottom of the fridge when I got home. I'd completely forgotten about it. It was practically full but only slightly wilted, but I hated the idea of letting it go to waste.

I then realised that I also had some leftover walnuts in the cupboard from when I made gluten-free chocolate brownies, so I decided to try making some pesto with the basil and walnuts.

I threw the basil leaves, walnuts, parmesan cheese and some olive oil into the blender and blitzed away. I found that the pesto needed more cheese than normal, probably due to the strong nature of the walnuts, but it turned out delicious.

I poured it into a container and poured a thin layer of oil on top to keep it covered until it's needed.

Fortuna Chinese Restaurant - Dublin

Chinese food is damn addictive. I could happily eat it day in, day out. Tonight we went over to Parnell Street, where we tried out the new Fortuna Sichuan restaurant.

The menu is amazing with photos of tranditional foods (duck blood slices and duck heads anyone) and tonnes of options. I chose cumin mutton and a spring onion pancake while he went for 'Fried duck until explodes" with fried rice. What a great name - we had visions of the chef struggling with some TNT and a duck in the kitchen.

The food turned out to be excellent. My cumin mutton was gently spiced and stir-fried with peppers and onions, while the mysterious exploding duck consisted of fried pieces of duck flavoured with siuchan peppercorns and green chilis.

Delicious food all round and a great new restaurant.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009


First of all, a big thanks to the nice folks at who provided tickets for a free screening of Duplicity this evening in the Savoy cinema, Dublin.

When two feuding corporate giants Howard Tully (Tom Wilkinson) and Dick Garsik (Paul Giamatti) collide, ex-CIA agent Claire Stenwick (Roberts) and ex-MI6 agent Ray Koval (Owen) see an opportunity to set themselves up for life. It's in their blood to always be one trick ahead, and they don't even trust each other. Yet, their personal relationship blooms and even turns to love.

This is another one of those films with double crossing, triple crossing and possibly even quadruple crossing. I'm not too sure who was crossing who by the time the film was over. Yet the pace never flagged and the chemistry between the cheeky yet broody Owen and perennial Roberts is tangible. The look is slick and stylish, helped by Owen's penchant for natty suits and thin ties.

Ultimately though the film is let down by the fact that we simply don't care about this too-cool-for-school couple. Though the ending alone is well worth the trip to the cinema. In short, it's a glamourous, reasonanly intelligent caper.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Having Some Fun on Sandymount Beach

We went for a little walk today on Sandymount Beach, where there was a fairly strong wind blowing. It's great to see dogs having fun at the beach...

Sandymount Beach

This red setter was running back and forth along the water's edge, clearly having the best day of his life, which this little terrier was clearly up for some hurling.

Sandymount Beach

Drunken Terenure College Students

I drove through Ranelagh several times today as I ran several errands, and I ran into drunken Terenure students on more than one occasions - sometimes in the middle of the road. It wasn't even 3pm and these young secondary school students were blathered in the middle of the road, causing a hazard to both themselves and traffic.

I'm sure that Terenure College had warned students to behave themselves while wearing their school colours, but it would appear that a fair amount of them hadn't heeded the warning.

Vicky Christina Barcelona

We finally went to see Vicky Christina Barcelona last night. It was towards the bottom of my film list because I'm not exactly the biggest Woody Allen fan. Now I'm not sure what Allen was trying to achieve with this film, but I immensely enjoyed it, though that may not have been Allen's intention.

The story centres around two American women, who are to spend the summer in Barcelona. There is the serious Vicky (Rebecca Hall), who is engaged to married to dull Doug, and is completing her master's in 'Catalan Identity. Somewhat surprisingly, it turns out that she can't speak much spanish. She is accompanied by her flighty friend, Christina (Scarlett Johansson), who isn't sure what she wants from life, but does know what she doesn't want.

They meet the brooding Juan Antonio (Javier Bardem), a painter who has a tumultuous relationship with his ex-wife, the mythical Maria Elena (magnificently played by Penelope Cruz). Christina is immediately captivating by Juan Antonio, while Vicky tries to deflect his attentions. However, a weekend in his company in the town of Oviedo begins to open Vicky's eyes. Christina begins a relationship with Juan Antonio and moves in with him.

The film truly bursts into life when Cruz arrives on screen in a blaze of big hair, virulent torrents of Spanish and cigaretts. Her performance is amazing in this film, and it finally begins to sizzle. Bardem plays the part of a dark and emotional Spanish painter to smouldering perfection.

All throughout the film, there is narration from an American male voice which I found to be hilarious (possibly unintentional) - "He showed her his paintings and she found it very beautiful". Overall, VCB is an entertaining film, if a little annoying and pseudo-intellectual at times. There are some great perfomances and a fantastic soundtrack and some great shots of the beautiful city of Barcelona. Just take it with a pinch of salt.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

The Strain - Guillermo Del Toro and Chuck Hogan

The Strain is the first book in a trilogy from Oscar award-winning director Guillermo Del Toro and Hammet-winning author Chuck Hogan. It's a bone-chilling, epic vampire story that is the complete opposite the to world of Twilight. Guillermo Del Toro created a fanastically evil, yet beautiful world in his amazing film Pan's Labyrinth, and now we can get to read his take on the vampire myth.

This story is a good, old-fashioned vampire story with real nasties and this first installment lays the ground for what should be a truly fantastic set of books. It takes certain elements of vampire lore and combines them with modern science and epidemiology, resulting in a modern horror tale. The novel contains strong elements of famous vampire stories, such as the original Dracula, the famous I Am Legend, all the way through to the vampires in Blade II. However, the authors have done an amazing job in creating a new vampire lore.

The novel is a page-turner, captivating the reader and drawing them in from the very first scenes. From the minute that Flight 753 lands in New York, seemingly full of dead passengers, the scene is set. The main characters are extremely well developed and I am already anticipating the next novel in this series so that I can find out what happens.

It's clear that the novel was written with the big screen in mind. As you read, you can clearly picture each scene in your head. It won't take much to turn this novel into a film, as I'm sure Guillermo Del Toro is planning. If you're a horror fan, then you will love this, and trust me, quiet sounds in the house at night will never seem the same again.

Tramore Beach

We went for a walk on Tramore beach this morning before heading back for a Sunday lunch of roast lamb. There was a strong spring sun shining and it was great to see so many people out enjoying the fresh air.

I've just bought a circularly polarised filter for my SLR camera, and I had been hoping to get some good shots, but to be honest, I didn't really find much opportunity. Another day perhaps...

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Happy Pi Day

Where would circles or spheres or cylinders or the Laws of Electromagnetics be without the humble constant of PI ?

Breakout a pie (the filling and pastry to be of your choosing) and celebrate Pi Day. (3.14 or March 14th).

L'Officina - Kildare Village

Dunne and Crescenzi were a welcome taste of Italy when they first opened in Dublin. Now they have several restaurants across Dublin as well as L'Officina in the Kildare Village Outlet.

We stopped at Kildare Village recently for a quick look around the shops (Goddammit Ted Baker, you and my credit card need to stop liking each other so much), as well a quick bite to eat before continuing along the road to Waterford.

The one thing that struck me while we were reading the menu (and which has always entered my head) is that L'Officina isn't particularly cheap. It's not expensive either, but they don't appear to be making any effort to offer value to people at the moment. There was no evidence of specials or set menus.

We went for oriecchiette pasta (little ear-shaped pasta served with broccoli, chili and garlic) and a plate of gnocci with creamy ham sauce. Both dishes were excellent and really hit the spot on a gloomy, windy evening.

I like the food on offer at L'Officina and I think that the restaurant is bright and airy with cream walls and light wooden tables and chairs. Outdoor seating is available and it's possible to look out onto the ruins of the Grey Abeey while enjoying your meal.

However, I really do think that L'Officina are capitalising on their position as the only restaurant in Kildare Village and therefore not offering any value to customers. It's a pity, as I can see real opportunities for Kildare Village in the future, if they are smart and offer the right value to customers.

Two pastas, one espresso, two macchiato and one diet coke cost E32 approx.

L'Officina, Kildare Village, Kildare, Co Kildare. 045 - 535 850

The Brief Wonderous Life of Oscar Wao

Diaz won the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction with his first novel, The Brief Wonderous Life of Oscar Wao. The tale centres around a Dominican family who live in New York, but a fair portion of the book is devoted to the family history and the obsession of Dominican people with fukú (curses or bad luck).

Oscar is the fat, intense, science-fiction and gaming geek of the family. (In fact the book is peppered with fantasy and sci-fi references.) Given this combination of characteristics, it is no surprise that he is a virgin and easily falls for women. Oscar is doomed to tragedy, just as previous generations of his family were the victims of bad luck and illwill (Hence the continuing thread of fukú in the novel). Diaz does such a wonderful job of presenting the lives of Oscar's family, that Oscar's ultimate end seems somehow fitting to the circumstances of his mother and grandparents.

A lot of the book takes place during the era of the Dominican dictator, Rafael Trujillo. Footnotes throughout the text provide context and background to this era. The tone and cyncial humour in which these footnotes are presented is just brilliant. In fact, Diaz's prose throughout the novel is energetic and vitalising. It's been a while since I read a novel written in such a vibrant and snappy manner. It is a fairly unique piece of work.

Some Old Favourites

I like revisiting certain restaurants because they are just so good. I'm going to replug some of my favourites, and nominate a new favourite cafe.

I've been the Hilan Chinese and Korean restaurant several times in the last few months, and each time it's gotten better. We've ordered dishes such as steamed fish in chili sauce, scallops in chilli sauce (a huge plate for E14!) and smoked dried pork with snow peas. When we couldn't finish a plate of dumplings, we asked for boxes to take them home in and the waitress suggested frying them the next day with some garlic and chili. Talk about service.

Chez Max near Dublin Castle just keeps getting better and better. It's such a cosy restaurant with oodles of charm, quirky menus and excellent service. We arrived on a busy Thursday night and rather than turning us away, we were seated in the tiny but lovely alcove and served a glass of wine while a table was made available.

Cafe Cagliostro is one of my favourite cafes in Dublin. It's located in the Italian Quarter just off the Millenium Bridge and features great coffee made by Italians. Bravissimo!

Friday, March 13, 2009


Apparently a valet was driving this Ferrari across the road in Sandyford, when he gave it a little too much gas...

Talk about losing your job in style.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

The Shame of the IRA

When are we going to stand up in Ireland, and openly and fully denounce the IRA as the terrorists that they are?

When are we going to say that enough is enough?

When are we going to stop idealising these outdated and vicious murderers?

Two young lads, on duty and away from home order a pizza. Pepperoni or hawaiian? The Real IRA didn't care. They didn't care that bystanders were also gunned down.

The Continuity IRA didn't care when they shot dead a 48 year old, father of two, who also happened to be a PSNI officer.

I'm proud to be Irish. I'm ashamed that there are terrorists who also consider themselves to be Irish.

Monday, March 9, 2009

The Local News - Miriam Gershow

Lydia's brother disappeared one evening without trace. The Local News explores the feelings of loss experienced by Lydia's parents, by her brother's friends and most importantly, the feelings of Lydia herself. Gershow combines a tale of loss with a tale of teenage growth. It's a bittersweet tale, but thanks to the author's knack for storytelling, it is never overwhelming.

The story is told from Lydia's viewpoint and we track her emotions as she comes to terms with the loss of her once-nice, now jock brother. She becomes infatuated with a private detective hired by her parents and deals with the unwanted attention of a male friend. It's a story of teenage years shadowed by a terrible loss.

I devoured this novel due to it's simple tale and excellent storytelling. Well recommended.

Sunday, March 8, 2009


Let me start by saying that I have not read, 'Watchmen', the graphic novel. I've picked it up in the bookshop, motivated by the fact that it has been rated as one of the All-Time 100 Novels in Time magazine. But for some reason, I just haven't felt motivated enough to buy it.

But I did buy tickets for the opening day of the movie. If there's one thing I love, it's a big, action-filled, science-fiction or fantasy movie. But to be honest, I didn't love Watchmen.

Judging by the fantastic staged cinematography, I'd guess that the film is a very accurate representation of the novel, probably right down to the frame. It has the look of devotion and attention to detail about it. Parts of the film are great, including the opening scene in the Comedian's apartment and the performances delivered by Jackie Earl Haley as Rorshach and Jeffrey Dean Morgan as The Comedian. In fact, Rorshach steals the film, lighting up the screen and demanding your attention when he's present.

On the other hand, vitality is visibly sucked from the screen whenever the character of Dr. Manhattan (Billy Crudup) is present. His pale blue glow is a cure for insomnia and not even his gi-normous blue wingwang is enough to shake off the lethargy.

So overall, fans of the novel will admire this film for its faithfulness. It is stylish in places, but far too long at approximately 2.5 hours. I left the cinema with the same feeling of confusion that I had when I saw The Spirit. It just made me wonder what the hell was going on.

Saturday, March 7, 2009

Voyage of the Vizcaína

I use Library Thing to track my library and my books. I get an unusual thrill when I add a book to my library, only to discover that I am the only person with the book. That was the case when I added Voyage of the Vizcaína: The Mystery of Christopher Columbus's Last Ship. An english translation, the book was originally written in German by Klaus Brinkbäumer and Clemens Höges.

The Age of Discovery, when Spanish ships sailed in hopes of discovery to the New World, took place over a very short time interval, no more than about 30 years. Columbus and subsequent seafarers used a type of ship called a caravel, which was extremely fast and manoueverable. However, we do not know what a caravel looked like, as no drawings have survived, or no remains have ever been conclusively found.

In the mid-1990s, ship remains were found near Belaporto in Panama. It was possibly the oldest shipwreck found in the Americas, and is possibly the remains of the Vizcaína, one of the caravels that Columbus took with him on his last voyage to the Americas.

The authors combine a story of modern maritime archaeology with an in-depth recounting of the story of Columbus. The whole myth of Coulmbus is investigated right from his early years in Genoa through to his four voyages of discovery to the New World. What we end up with is an informative and exciting story of exploration and human nature.

Meteor Broadband - Speed Test

I've had a Digiweb Ripwave modem for over 2 years now (purchased from Clearwire). It's never been the best for speeds and sometimes it's frankly prehistoric. It literally varies with the weather and which way the wind is blowing. (Those damn radio waves are being deflected by the breeze). Numerous calls to customer support result in the support staff trying to convince me that I'm in a region with full covereage (ahem! Then why am I ringing you?).

A mailshot from Meteor landed in my postbox last week, offering me mobile broadband with a special price on the modem. I figure that it can't be worse than the Ripwave and I have 7 days to test it out before I'm locked into the contract.

Firstly, the modem is cute - so it passes the aesthetic test. I especially like the way that the indicator light lies within the 'o' of the Meteor logo. But what about performce?

In my sitting room, I'm regularly getting the steady green light with occasional steady blue lights. Performance is OK with the steady green - not the fastest load, but no worse than the Ripwave. When I have steady blue, it literally rips along.

Right so, time for a speed test. I'm located in Dublin 6, near the Trinity halls of residence. Two consecutive tests on tells me I'm currently getting 124 kb/s and 83 kb/s. That's not great tbh.


Temple Bar Food Market

The Celtic Tiger hasn't gasped it's last breath yet. That's my opinion after a visit to the Temple Bar Food Market today. Small pies for E7 (The Gallic Kitchen), small pieces of belly pork for E11-14 (J Hick & Sons Gourmet Food)!

There is good variety on offer in the market, but I did't think that there was much value on offer. Karuna's Kitchen (vegetarian, with lots of wheat-free options) appeared to be the best of the lot when it came to prices for take-away food. They also have delicious chutneys and condiments available for purchase.

Seriously though. When are people going to wake up and demand value for money? Just because it's artisan, local or organic doesn't have to mean expensive. Continental food markets offer much better value and with a lot less pretentiousness.

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Gluten-Free Lemon Ricotta Cookies

My cooking urge and sweet tooth got the better of me again yesterday when I stumbled across the link to these delicious sounding Lemon Ricotta Cookies.

I decided to make them gluten-free by substituting ground almonds for the flour, but I made one classic mistake. As this is an american recipe, and therefore measured in cups, I substituted one cup of almonds for the cup of flour. Bugger. I should have used more almonds, or maybe a little gluten-free flour, as the cookies simply melted into one big sheet in the oven

Still though, they tasted damn good, so the recipe has huge potential. Here's the original and once I get the proportions right with almonds, I'll post that up too.

cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
2 cups granulated sugar
2 large eggs
15 oz. whole milk ricotta cheese
3 Tbsp. Meyer lemon zest, freshly grated*
1 Tbsp. Meyer lemon juice
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. salt

Cream the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add the ricotta, lemon juice, lemon zest and eggs and mix well. Slowly incorporate the dry ingredients until mixed through. Drop spoonfuls onto a lined, preheated baking sheet. Bake in a 350 F oven until the cookies are light golden. Let them cool on the sheet for a few minutes and then transfer to a wire rack.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Il Fornaio - IFSC - Dublin

My other half told me to get on the Luas one lunchtime and to meet him down at the IFSC. As we walked along, I was delighted to see all the new dining options in that neck of the woods. Turns out that he had a craving for the walnut and cream ravioli that Il Fornaio serve. It turns out that the walnut pasta is absolutely delicious and worth having a craving for.

I ordered a medium-sized (12") spicy Diavola pizza which turned out to be absolutely delicious and far too large for one person at lunchtime. Luckily, the walnut pasta had long since disappeared on the other side of the table, so he was free to help me finish the pizza.

Il Fornaio is a franchise operation, with another location in Raheny. This came as a surprise to me as it really did have a nice local atmosphere. Judging by the crowd in the restaurant, it's clearly a popular lunchtime option. However, I did think that Il Fornaio is an expensive lunchtime option. The somewhat small portion of ravioli with walnut sauce cost E15.95 while the Diavolo pizza was E16.80. We rounded the meal off with two good espressos (E1.80 each).

In conclusion, good food, but a pricey lunchtime option.

I'm in Pain...

I've been hovering around the fitness issue for a while now. 3 years ago I was 63 kg, training in the gym and taekwon 3-4 times a week. It kept me in great shape, and I loved it.

Moving to Dublin and depressing winter evenings coming home from work, combined with a knee injury and surgery for a detatched retina, along with spending 6 months working crazy hours on a project in Brussels, means that I now weigh a good bit more than 63 kg. I'm still able for 30 mins of cardio, but I don't do any weight-training or martial arts anymore.

I love training in classes, so I decided to give the Body Combat class in my gym (LA Fitness in Dartry) a go. It turned out to be fairly demanding (and the more effort you make, the harder you'll work) but good fun. I hated the sh*tty dance music that accompanied the class, but I slogged through it.

The downside to all of this... I'm seizing up today. I know that my body will adjust quickly enough (it's kind to me that way) but right now all I want to be left lying on the sofa.

Great Value from the Oriental Emporium - Abbey Street

I called into the Oriental Emporium on Abbey Street today on my way home from work so that I could pick up some of their thin-sliced frozen lamb for a stir-fry. I was really pleased with the good value that the Emporium offers on frozen meats. For a total spend of E10.90 I got the following:

2 large chicken breasts, frozen, E2.50 approx
400g thin sliced frozen lamb, E4
Small box of frozen, cooked, peeled prawns, E3.50
I packet of instant corn and ham soup 90c.

So for my money I was able to buy enough meat to make 3 meals for 2 (or 6 portions) and a pot of soup. I realise that the chicken can't be of the best organic quality for the price (E4.50 per kg) but I'm sick of paying the ever-increasing prices that the major retailers are charging.

Monday, March 2, 2009

Child 44 - Tom Rob

I've read several history books on the Stalin regime but none of them bought home the brutal and paralysing fear that permeated the society as much as this debut novel did.

Imagine a perfect communist society. As all the workers share equally in the profit and benefits, then there should be no more incentive for crime. It's all perfectly logical (in a certain way), so what does someone do when faced with evidence of a horrific series of murders? What does this person do when they are part of the state machine, dedicated to preserving its ideals and security? What do you do when anyone who even so much as breathes against the regime disappears? That is the problem faced by Leo Demidov, a secret policeman who has awaken to the cruelty of the state he is sworn to protect.

This book is bone-chilling on two different levels; firstly in it's terrifying descriptions of life in the Stalinst reign of terror and secondly, the brutal and terrible slaying of over 60 children and the refusal of a state to acknowledge the crime.

This is a great debut from a new author and thoroughly recommended.

300 Free Cervical Cancer Vaccines

Isn't it amazing how the decent and unselfish actions of a few people can make you realise how messed up and misdirected this country is?

A consortium of four Dublin-based businessmen have donated enough money to purchase 300 doses of the cervical cancer vaccine and several G.P.s have agreed to administer the vaccine (and its subsequent doses) free of charge next Saturday.

It's hardly a replacement for the axed E10 million cervical cancer scheme, but hopefully the fact that people think that this is important will eventually register with the government. It may be a political stunt (one of the doctors is Dr. James Reilly, the Fine Gael spokesman for Health), but it's one that I can live with.

Sunday, March 1, 2009

Gran Torino

Gran Torino turned out to be my film of the year. I genuinely don't understand how this little beauty failed to pick some accolades. When compared to the 'feel good film of the decade' (Slumdog Millionaire), it's clear to see that it stands head and shoulders above the latter.

Clint Eastwood directs and stars was Walt Kowalski, a grizzled grumpy old man. A Korean war veteran and retired Ford factory worker, he seen his neighbourhood change around him as ethnic minorities, mostly Asian, have moved in. Walt is unapologetically American and racist. Terms like 'gooks' and 'zipperheads' feature in abdundance in the film, but as the story progresses, they change from insults to forms of endearment.

Gran Torino is a great trbiute to Clint Eastwood. Here he mixes up his traditional toughman roles with the more artistic and sensitive work of his later years. A strong streak of humour runs throughout the film. It's a warm human story that touches deeply. It's been quite a while since I enjoyed a trip to the cinema so much.

Madina Desi - Dublin

My opinion of Madina Desi Curry goes up and down according to my most recent meal there. It's an informal traditional Indian restaurant on Dublin's Mary Street which features a large range of dishes. The vegetarian dishes are even cooked in separate kitchens and the restaurant is alcohol-free.

The first time I tried Madina, I was enchanted. We enjoyed traditional Indian cooking at quite reasonable prices. Butter chicken was quite simply amazing, as was the Keema Mutter (minced lamb cooked with peas). On another visit, a mixed meat tandoor grill was delicious and great value. However, a lot of the curry dishes are served with meat on the bone, and portions can be quite small once all the meat is removed from the bones. Today we shared a minced mutton kebab (served with a thick fluffy naan and sauces) as well as one of my favourites, the aforementioned Keema Mutter, with coriander naan.Both dishes were very good indeed.

Madina is the only restaurant in Dublin which serves Dosas, a type of big pancake. They're quite intriguing and now a 'Cheese Dosa' is available. Hmm, might give that one a try some lunchtime.

Madina represents good value when compared to other Indians in Dublin city. I still don't think that it's particularly cheap, but it's a better value and more authentic option than other restaurants with a wide variety of flavour and spice.

Madina Desi Curry, 60 Mary Street, Dublin 1. 01 - 8726007
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