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!

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

A Print Purchase on Etsy

One of my favourite blogs, A Dress A Day, caused me to make an impulse purchase just now. Erin, the blog author, has a bit of a fetish (?) for interesting fabric prints, and robots are a recurring theme in her posts.

Today, she posted a whole series of links to robot-themed items on Etsy, one of which caught my eye and I simply had to buy it. Isn't it fantastic? Total cost, including shipping to Ireland, was $14.50, so it's not going to break the bank either - not that it matters since it's payday tomorrow anyhow.

The artist is Tim Boyd, who trades as waterbears on Etsy and his other prints are well worth checking out. BTW, Etsy is an auction side for craft items and is a great alternative to eBay for unusual and alternative items.

Daughters of the Doge - Edward Charles

Daughters of the Doge is one of my charity shop purchases. There are days when you go into a charity shop and you end up leaving with 10 books, simply because they seem to have interesting book after interesting book. It's a historical novel set in the mid 1550's, mainly in Venice. In fact, it was the sleek cover with its dusky image of a gondola which caught my eye.

Richard Stocker is a young English protestant. Unfortunately for him though, Catholic Queen Mary sits on the English throne and tensions are high between the religions. Richard's position is more precarious than most given the fact that he had been a companion to Lady Jane Gray, who had been executed by Queen Mary. All this is recounted in the first Richard Stocker novel, In the Shadow of Lady Jane, but rest assured, you do not have to have read the first novel to understand the events in this second novel.

Richard is unsure of his path in life, but fate offers him a chance to travel to Italy, more specifically Venice. He has a strong interest in medicine and being accepted to study at Padua University is a possibility. But while in Venice, he discovers a talent for art and drawing in the studio of the great artist Tintoretto. He also meets three remarkable, and beautiful women who all play their part in the development of his life. There is the stunning and calculating courtesan Veronica Franco who teaches him about the subtle undercurrents of Venetian life, the demure and intelligent Yasmeen, a Muslim who captures his heart and finally, captive nun Faustina. Together, these women represent the diversity of Venice and are the Daughters of the Doge.

It's a weird coincidence that I've just finished Sarah Dunant's amazing novel Sacred Hearts, also set in the world of Renaissance convents. Unfortunately though, this novel fails to reach the same heights as Dunant's book. It is somewhat repetitive and predictable with rather flat characters. The author does take the rather 21st century concept of not knowing your path in life and applies it to a character in the 16th century, but ultimately Charles fails to bring the main character to life.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Bar Italia IFSC

We grabbed a quick bite to eat last Thursday in Bar Italia in the IFSC. We were on our way to see Leonard Cohen play in the o2 and our first option, Il Fornaio, was full up. However, Bar Italia, just across the Custom House Square, had some free tables. I like the other instances of Bar Italia that are dotted around Dublin, so I thought that it would be a good bet.

It was a meal of minor, irritating things, none of which were very bad on their own, but when added up mean that I probably won't be in a hurry back. Firstly was the musician playing the piano just inside the door. He was good, but the volume of his playing was just too much. Secondly, the tables are located far too close together. I really do have a fear of intimacy when dining. Thirdly, it took ages for the waitress to come and take our order.

When the food arrived (pizza Bar Italia for me, pizza Antica for him), it looked quite good. Fresh rocket leaves covered my pizza (something that I've loved ever since a trip to Pisa) while there were generous parmesan shavings on his. But something was lacking from the pizzas - no real tomato bite and mine quickly became soggy and dripped everywhere.

Ultimately, no real incentive to return - although I did notice a seemingly good value deal for a pizza and glass of wine during daytime hours.

Bar Italia IFSC, Custom House Square Lower, Mayor Street, Dublin 1. 01 - 670 2887

Monday, July 27, 2009

Pizzas at PantiBar

I like PantiBar, a gay and lesbian pub on Dublin's Capel Street. It's got a really, nice chilled vibe going on, great bar staff and cool decor. Best of all, they now serve pizza. I've yet to try it out for myself, but it's definitely on the menu (no pun intended) for my next visit. The pizza names are homages to famous Irish women from Countess Markievicz to Ann Doyle.


Sunday, July 26, 2009

Caffe Parigi, Sir John Rogerson's Quay.

My other half is quite pleased with himself recently - a new Italian cafe, Caffe Parigi, has opened up near his work place on Sir John Rogerson's Quay. And it's a proper Italian too - overstaffed with hip, dark-haired, seriously smooth waiters. But that's not the best part - the food is great too and the prices are better.

I joined him there one day for lunch and I was immediately impresed by the smooth, sleek decor. It's more than clear that there has been a lot of effort and thought put into this enterprise. Opening the menu, I was pleased with the choice available and went for the mixed meat and cheese plate (€7.o0) while he chose the tagliatelle alla bosciaola (€7.00). Both dishes were impressive, especially the antipasto misto, which was more than generous (compared to the €14 spent in Meade's Bar, Cork later the same day).

The pasta portion was just the right size (Italian restaurants have a hard time in Ireland trying to convince us that a small portion of pasta is the right amount) and came with cream, mushrooms, ham and peas.

Add two dark intense espressos (at a brilliant €1.50 each), a small bottle of sparkling water and a glass of coke and the bill came to a total of €22. La dolce vita indeed.

Caffe Parigi, 17-19 Sir John Rogerson's Quay, Dublin 2 . 01 - 679 0022

U2 at Croke Park

I wouldn't have paid €130 to see U2 in Croke Park - frankly, nothing is worth that kind of money, but seats in the Davin stand for €33.60 was too good to refuse - especially as we didn't have to queue to buy them ourselves. It turns out our seats were slap bang in the middle towards the front of the Upper Tier, giving us a superb view of the stage and stadium, albeit at a distance.

As the evening darkened, the fantastic "crab" stage and video screen became the star of the show. The colours changed throughout the night, and the screen moved up and down without us even noticing. Overall, it was a good concert, but not terribly enjoyable. Bono seems to build the crowd up, and then flattens it. The encore was a real let-down with no enjoyable tunes ringing in our ears as we went home.


Experimenting in GIMP

I've been taking photos with my DSLR for a while now and I feel that I'm beginning to get decent shots on a regular basis - though I still have a long way to go. As I'm too stingy to pay for Photshop, I've been using GIMP to do any post-processing that my shots need.

So today I learned how how to combine colour and black&white images using layers and masks. (Tutorial here). Here are two of my first efforts.


Street Artist and Pigeon

I was walking down Grafton Street a few days ago when I saw a street artist who was impersonating a bronze statue. The best thing... a pigeon had decided to use the statue as a perch.

Now I don't know if this was staged by the artist or not, but it really doesn't matter. People were snapping photos left, right and centre, so here's mine. Took it with my camera phone and zoomed in, so please excuse the quality

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Wagamama Lunch Special

I stopped into Wagamama for lunch recently and was pleased to see they have a lunch deal in place Monday - Friday until 5pm. €9.95 gets you a main from a decent list along with a complimentary drink, including a 330ml Tiger beer. Not too shabby at all.

Make sure to sign up to Wagamama member's area as well - special offers are often available to members.


I was walking along Henry Street when I saw that one of the street traders was selling fresh cherries. Ever since I first tasted fresh cherries in Florence years ago, I've been a sucker for them. So you are... some fresh cherries...


Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Deane's Deli Bistro and Vin Cafe, Belfast

We went to Belfast for a night recently and stayed in the lovely and affordable Park Inn on Clarence Street West. I was delighted to see that Deanes Deli was located near the hote on Bedford Streetl. Michael Deane holds the sole Michelin star in Northern Ireland for his flagship restaurant Deanes, but it's always nice to eat in a more relaxed setting.

After a stroll around City Hall, we returned to Bedford Street and grabbed a table just before last orders in the Deli. I chose the local aged ribeye steak (£18) served with fries and a herb butter, while he chose the Deli Beef Burger with JalapeƱo rarebit, fresh guacamole, oven dried tomato and French fries (£11).

The interior of the restaurant is wooden panelled painted an olive green and bottles of wine line the shelves. At nighttime the lighting is dim and very relaxing. Our food was delicious - both the steak and the burger had real beefy flavours and I just loved the herb butter and jalapeno rarebit on the burger. I can't remember the total cost, but I think that 3 glasses of wine and our two mains bought the bill to somewhere in the region of £44.

Deanes Deli, 44 Bedford Street, Belfast BT2 7GH, United Kingdom. +44 (0)28 9024 8800

Monday, July 20, 2009

Meade's Wine Bar

UPDATE 18 September, 2012: I have noticed a lot of traffic to this blog post since the recent reopening of Meade's Wine Bar. I would like to point out that this review is from 2009, and I am yet to visit the new version of Meade's. 

We passed through Cork city last weekend on our way to West Cork for a wedding. I left Cork three years ago, and I love returning. Ultimately, Cork is my home city and coming back always feels comfortable and relaxing.

Meade's wine bar on Oliver Plunkett Street wasn't open long when I left for Dublin (if I remember correctly). In fact, I think that I was in there once before I left. It looks like the kind of place that I would frequent regularly, if it was on my doorstep.

Entering through the small, narrow, wooden door, accompanied by the clang of an old bell, is like walking back in time, and it definitely evokes a Bohemenian, continental feel. Rickety wooden furniture, low lighting, marble bar top and narrow gaps all work together to create a cozy atmosphere. I must say that I am not a fan of the lightweight creaky wooden chairs - I've never found sitting on chairs like those comfortable and I probably never will.

We ordered two wines, but my order for a Sauvignon got confused and I ended up with a glass of prosecco - but bubbly stuff is always good so I wasn't complaining. The red was a reasonable €6 while the prosecco was either €7 or €7.50. We ordered a mixed meat and cheese plate for €14 but this is where the good part of the story ends. What we got comprised of 4 slices of chorizo, 4 rolled parma ham slices, 4 bits of blue cheese and 4 bits of brie. Small bits at that. A side plate of small bread pieces and a dish of pesto finished the platter. Although all the bits were excellent (as should be given that the English Market is only just up the road), €14 was far too much for this meagre amount of food and was the key factor in us deciding to leave and not have any more wine at Meade's.

This is the truth of the new world - Us Irish are not great complainers. Instead we simply won't return to the scene of the crime. By charging us €14 for one meagre plate, Meade's have ensured that we won't but any more food/wine on their premises again.

Meade's Wine Bar, 126 Oliver Plunkett Street, Cork. 021 - 427 1530

Thursday, July 16, 2009

The Rapture - Liz Jensen

Gabrielle Fox is a therapist who is confined to a wheelchair following a tragic accident. She has found it hard to come to terms with what has happened to her but she has taken up a new posting at Oxsmith Adolescent Security Psychiatric Hospital. Here, she is assigned the case of Bethany Krall, an extremely troubled teen who killed her own mother with a screwdriver.

Bethany is very disturbed and has been violent as well as spewing disaster scenarios. She has been receiving ECT treatment, and appears to be making progress. While in Art Therapy with Bethany, Gabrielle begins to see portents and omens in Bethany's work and begins to wonder if there is more to this girl's story than appears to meet the eye.

The story is set in the near-future where evnironmental disasters are more frequent and where an oppressive and foreboding heat dominates the days, setting an intense, gothic atmosphere in the book. Environmentalists and evangelists are powerful figures on the political landscape and there is a fevered feel in the air. Against this backdrop, Gabrielle still struggles to deal with her lot in life and her burgeoning new relationship with physicist Frazer Melville.

This is a gripping story with a grim environmental message. It is also a story of dealing with one's past (both for Bethany and Gabrielle) and facing into a future that you don't want to see. It's an emotional ride, but one that's worth taking.

Pushing Daisies - Season 1

Pushing Daisies is produced in glorius technicolour with full candy-tone. It's oh so sweet and centres around the Pie-Maker or Ned (Lee Pace). Ned tragically discovered an unusual ability as a child. One touch from him, and dead things came back to life. One second touch from him, and they're dead for good. If he doesn't touch the reanimated being for a second time, then natural balance takes over and something else dies in their place. So Ned institutes a rule; When he touches someone or something, he touches them again (for good this time) within a minute.

Fast forward many years and Ned is the proud owner of the Pie-Hole (which even has a pie crust shaped roof) and is business partner to snappily-dressed, knitting obsessed private investigator, Emerson Cod (Chi McBride). Ned's reanimation skills come in handy when investigating murders, given that he can collect eye witness testimony from the dead themselves.

Things get turned around when one of the deceased folk turns out to be Ned's old sweetheart, Chuck (Anna Friel). Ned cannot bring himself to touch her again for a second time, thus keeping her alive and in his life - but at the price of never being able to touch her again!

Due to the writer's strike in the States, there are only nine episodes in Series 1 of the show, but they are nine beautifully imagined and lovingly created episodes. Mixing 50s and 60 fashion and primary colours into the show lends an amazing quirkiness and fantasty to the show. Throw in a fastastic appearance from Kristin Chenowith as Olive Snook, the Pie-Hole waitress who is in love with Ned, along with the charming characters of Chuck's aunts, the ex-synchronised swimmers knows as the Darling Mermaid Darlings.

Pushing Daisies is a charming, simple yet quirky romantic comedy. Great performances from the leading characters along with snappy dialogue and lots of romantic gazes all add up to create a television show that is truly memorable.

At Last! Some Sense

I've been reading Volume 1 of the Bord Snip Nua report, chaired by UCD economist, Dr. Colm McCarthy, and it makes for some of the most sensible reading I've ever encountered.

Rationalisation of the crazy number of agencies and semi-state bodies, cuts in social welfare and elimination of duplicate payments, reduction in public sector staffing... In fact, estimates of over 17,000 job cuts in the public sector have been bandied about.

The annoying aspect of the report is that all this is common knowledge, and that it represents fat that we should have trimmed during the good years. Unfortunately, we all know that things are left ignored and buried while the going is good. Now, we have to face the pain.

As a private sector employee, who has taken a pay cut in addition to the government levies, I am glad to see a bright light being clearly shone on the elephant in the room - namely staffing and pay in the public sector. It is an area that is long overdue and I firmly believe that if the Government fails to tackle this issue, it could well mean their downfall. Private employees have had just about enough job losses and pay cuts and want to see some equality across the entire workforce.

The report is honest and considered. The question remains if the Government will implement it in an honest and considered fashion.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

The Quest for the best Salt & Vinegar crisps

There's something utterly addictive about salt and vinegar crisps. They pucker your mouth, occasionally make your eyes water when you get a particularly vinegary crisps but they are divine. I've sampled a fair few brands over the years, from homegrown Tayto's to storebrand and gourmet.

I always get excited when I see a gourmet brand - I think "Finally, the best bag of salt and vinegar crisps is here" and then I'm disappointed when they turn out to be too crunchy or not salt'n'vinegary enough. Take Real Crisps Sea Salt and Cider Vinegar flavour. Nice packaging and they come in around the €1 mark. They have a medium flavour and are just a tad too crispy for my liking. You could cut your gums eating these crisps.

Marks & Spencer do a decent packet of handcooked Salt and Vinegar crisps (€1) which hit the spot quite nicely, but my favourite own-brand crisp came from Lidl in a big bag. However, they seem to have stopped selling them, instead replacing them with odd lamb flavoured crisps.

Ultimately, it's hard to beat our own Tayto's and sometimes Walker's. Homegrown is best. But if you can offer any advice on other salt and vinegar crisps that you think are worth trying, please let me know!


Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Sacred Hearts - Sarah Dunant

Sacred Hearts is the third novel in Sarah Dunant's Renaissance Trilogy (following on from The Birth of Venus and In The Company of The Courtesan) and is set in the cloistered and isolated world of a 16th century Benedictine convent. The rising cost of providing a dowry for noble daughters meant that many families sent their daughters to become Brides of Christ, often against their will. In other cases, disabled and handicapped noblewomen found homes in convents.

The convent of Santa Caterina in Ferrarra has just accepted its newest novice, the angelically-voiced Serafina. Except Serafina does not want to be there and devotes all her energies to escape. The dispensary mistress, Zuana, is appointed to bring this troubled soul into the fold, thus bringing Zuana firmly into the political life of the convent.

Dunant paints a fascinating post of a world where many intelligent and religious spent their lives cloistered together. The artistic devote their time to the pursuit of music, singing and other activites, but these "frivolous" activities are under threat from stern reforms sweeping through the outside world. It is against this backdrop that the abbess hopes to use the amazing voice of Serafina to bring fame to the convent, but Serafina has her own plans. Interal divisions and strife within the convent are also conspiring to use Serafina for their own ends.

The plot is rich and layered which keeps the reader engrossed and Dunant brings the convent world to glorious, breathing life. There is an intriguing dichotomy in this small female world which is in turn subject to the whims of the external male-dominated world. Thoroughly well recommended reading.

Gifts of War - Mackenzie Ford

Gifts of War is the debut novel from Mackenzie Ford (a pseudonym adopted by a writer of historical work). It starts on that historic Christmas in the trenches of WWI when Germans and English alike put down their weapons and celebrated Christmas together. Hal, an English officer, meets Wilhelm, his German counterpart, who asks him to pass a photograph to Sam, his English fiancee reassuring her that he is safe and well. Hal is surprised at the fact that a German has a British fiancee, but agrees to pass the message on whenever he can.

However, Hal is fascinated by Sam's photo, and when he meets her in the flesh, he is captivated. In fact he is captivated to the point where he omits to mention Wilhelm, but instead starts to court Sam himself. Sam is in a tough position, she has a young son from her relationship with Wilhelm. Being an unmarried mother in WWI England is bad enough, but at least no one knows that her son is half-German. Hal eventually wins Sam over and they enter into a life of conveniance. A wife will help Hal in his burgeoning intelligence career in London, while Sam will have a husband and her son will have a father.

Although Hal is in love with Sam, she does not return the feeling as she is still very much in love with Wilhelm but she is willing to accept a relationship with Hal. It is here that the selfishness of the two main characters becomes apparent, and indeed, they appear well-suited. Hal hides Wilhem's truth from Sam, while Sam gives Hal everything but her heart.

The historical detail with which this novel is imbued brings the story to life, but the somewhat cold main characters can annoy the reader at times. All throughout the story, the reader wonders what resolution will come about, but the ending is weak and unstaisfying. It is a pity as the story is morally interesting. The side character of Hal's sister, Isobel, a nurse working at the war front, is quite emotional and bring a lot of warmth and depth to the character of Hal that is otherwise missing.

It is an interesting piece of historical fiction, which challenges many traditional values of the time. The story is a little unpolished at times, maybe because this is Ford's first fictional novel, and is ultimately let down by an ending that fails to resolve the issues raised. However, it's still very much worth a read. It will be quite interesting to see what Ford writes next.

The Cake Cafe, Pleasants Place, Dublin 2

The Cake Cafe is a hidden treasure in Dublin 2. I did debate whether or not I should write about this place, the main reason for not writing being purely selfish. I want to keep the numbers who know about Cake to a minimum. But you can't keep a good thing down.

Cake Cafe is tucked behind the Daintree Paper shop on Camden Street and it is possible to access the cafe simply by entering Daintree and walking out the back door to the cafe. Alternatively, you can gain access via Pleasants Place. It's small with an open kitchen and several tables dotted outside. It's even possible to sit outside when it's raining as some tables are located in the wooden bicycle shed.

The menu is simple and features a daily-upated tart, terrine, toast, salad, soup and hot pot along with staples such as beans on toast and sardines on toast. It's also open for breakfast. All food and drinks are served on a hodge-podge of old china, chips and all and it all works together to create a delightfully eclectic atmosphere - not unlike visting your dear old grandma who never threw anything way and was a nifty baker to boot.

I enjoyed the terrine of the day, a smoked mackarel pate served with hot buttered thick toast, salad and red cabbage pickle. Extremely satisfying and good value. The toast of the day was an intrguing banana, bacon and honey but the thought of the post-lunch lull that it would surely induce deterred me from trying it out.

There are a delicious array of homemade cakes on the counter, all freshly baked and so angelic looking that you simply have to taste. A fantastically soft Victoria sponge filled with cream and fresh strawberries was simply divine.

Total cost including one pot of tea (served in a mismatched pot and lid) came to E13.55.

The Cake Cafe, The Daintree Building, Pleasants Place, Dublin 2. 01 - 478 9394

Sunday, July 12, 2009

The In-Betweeners - Seasons 1 and 2

If you're a fan of Peep Show, then I think you cannot afford to miss the inbetweeners. Delivered in half-hour episides, it's packed full of puerile humour, cringeworthy scenes and is genuinely hilarious.

Will, the nerdy geeky one, is sent to a local comprehensive following his parent's divorce and subsequent removal from private school. While there, he befriends lovesick Simon, sex pest Jay and happy golucky but dim Neil. They form a group that is not quite cool, not quite uncool - a precarious position in the social strata of secondary education.

These two short series revolve about the main driving desire of the lads - sex. Unsurprisigly, their quests to appear cool, meet girls and get off lead to many embarassing, laugh out loud situations. There are many times when you will find yourself shouting at the telly "Don't do it lads, don't do it!" - but they go and do it. Excellent viewing.

The boxset of two seasons is probably the best way to see the show, as there are only a handful of episodes in each season and you will watch one episode after another - it's that good.

Carlingfod, Co Louth

We drove through Carlingford, Co Louth recently on one of those weird Irish days where the sun is shining yet the rain is pouring. We parked near the castle, and were walking towards it when the heavens opened. We were drenched in literally seconds but the skies cleared as quickly as they darkened.

Carlingford is a very attractive little town, nestled alongside the Mourne Mountains. Judging by the pubs and cafes in the town, it could be a great place to go for a short break, as I'd say that you're guaranteed a fair old time at night.


Yuelaixiang Chinese Restaurant

We went to Parnell Street on Thursday night in the quest for Chinese food. I should really have been sensible and gone to the gym followed by a meal at home, but sense has never really been high on my list of priorities.

I had been in town where I had treated myself to a glass of wine at the bar of Cafe Novo at the Westbury Hotel. It was a very nice glass of wine, but it would want to be at E8 a glass. But fair play to the barman for topping up my glass for free when I managed to catch it with my arm and spilled half of it.

With the other half in tow, we went to the Yuelaixing restaurant on Parnell Street. The establishment has been there for ages, but I suspect that they change hands quite regularly - hence the name that Google cannot find.

We ordered a plate of seafood dumplings (E5.50), a braised seabass (E9.80) and Yu Xiang shredded pork (E7.50). I ordered a glass of house red wine, which turned out to be fairly vile (think port flavours) and himself had some Qing Tao beer. The seabass, cooked whole in ginger, garlic and other nice flavours, turned out to be delicious and fell apart at the touch of the chopstick. My pork was spicy in bitesized pieces. The dumplings had been steamed and then panfried, with a lovely meaty filling.

Total bill was E31.80 for two substantial courses along with dumplings and alcohol. It was really more than we could eat! Yuelaixing is another good traditional chinese restaurant to add to the Dublin repetoire.

Yuelaixing, Parnell Street, Dublin 1. 01 - 872 8847

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Bounty bar not distinctive.

What would you say if someone showed you the following bar of chocolate?

You'd immediately say Bounty, right?

Well apparently the Bounty bar isn't distinctive enough to warrant a European community trademark. The manufacturer, Mars, applied for a trademark on the basis of its unique "three dimensional nature" which was granted in 2003, but overturned following an appeal by manufacturer Ludwig Schokolade.

The European Court also said that a survey carried out by Mars in six of the then 15 member states - United Kingdom, Belgium, France, Germany, Italy and the Netherlands - did not necessarily mean the Bounty Bar's shape was regarded as a unique selling point throughout the EU.

What do you think? Can a manufacturer copyright a bar's shape - assuming that it doesn't carry a trademark or logo?


Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Blood Ties

Blood Ties is a 2006 television series based on the Vicki Nelson series of books from Tanya Huff. Christina Cox plays Vicki Nelson, a private investigator who was forced to retire from Homicide due to a progressively worsening eye conditioner. One day she is hired by a goth to investigate the death of her boyfriend and her investigation leads her into the world of the occult, where she meets Henry Fitzroy.

Turns out Henry is a 500 year old vampire and the illegitimate son of Henry VIIII. An investigative partnership develops with the inevitable romantic and flirtacious undertones. But competing for Vicki's affections is Mike Celluci, her ex homicide partner and erstwhile lover.

Christina Cox turns in a wise-cracking, high octane performance as Vicki, but the show fails to shine and reach the same heights as comparable shows such as Buffy and the recent Moonlight.

Monday, July 6, 2009

Britain's Next Top Model

I just cannot believe that they eliminated Jade from the final of Britain's Next Top Model. Time after time she has delivered beautiful photos but on the top of that, she appears to be a genuinely nice person. Sure she is thin (she has battled an eating disorder) but as she said herself, she's getting stronger.

The two finalists, Sophie and Mecia, are good looking women but neither has the star quality that Jade possessed. To boot, Sophie just strikes me as an incredibly duplicitious person. She seems to pull the wool over everyone's eyes. How that silly girl made the final and is being held up as a potential winner is beyond me.

I'm rooting for Mecia to win, but that really is only because the clear winner is no longer in the competition.

Sunday, July 5, 2009

Pubs not pasing on the Bulmers price reduction

An article in today's Sunday Times highlights what I've noticed in recent weeks - pubs have not been passing on the recent price cuts in Bulmers wholesale prices. Apparently just 1 in 5 have passed the reductions on to their customers. C&C had hoped that the reductions would drive the price of a pint bottle to below the magical E5 mark. Given that the majority of Dublin pubs appear to charge E5.5o or more, it appears that publicans are happy to pocket the difference.

Saturday, July 4, 2009

I love TK Maxx

I love TK Maxx. Seriously.. I do. Some days you don't find a single thing, especially in the St. Stephen's Green store. But on other days, you just keep finding little gems of stuff.

Today in Waterford, I went through the clearance rails with a vengance. I found a Tahari Arthur S. Levine black crepe shift dress (sleeveless and knee-length) with a lovely satin neckline for E10!! And I got a grey Hoxton Chic skirt that will do nicely for work for E3. I know that Tahari is a fairly medium priced (think $250 for a suit) line of American womenswear, so E10 for a dress is pretty good. It will be ideal for work.

To top that all off, I bought a Prestige curry pan pressure cooker for E35 and a bottle of Crema Balsemcio di Fragola (Strawberry balsamic glaze) for E5. We've been thinking about buying a pressure cooker for a while now, and when we saw one on the shelf in TK Maxx today, we didn't say no.

Now, if only they'd have gas torches in stock the next time I'm in. That would do nicely.

Gladiatrix - Russell Whitfield

We all know about the gladiators of ancient Rome. Slaves who found a kind of freedom because of the adulation of the crowds for whom they fought, often to the death. However, this historical novel focuses on the female gladiators or gladiatrices.

Lysandra is a Spartan prietess (think of the 300) who is sold into slavery when washed up on a beach following a shipwreck. She is an arrogant, detached person, who views anyone who is not Spartan as practically barbarian. But she has been trained since childhood in the arts of war, a fact not lost on her new owner.

She is sent to training camp for gladiatrices, where her attitude sets her apart from the others. Her unwillingness to submit to slavery drives her and ultimately depresses her. I just could not warm to the character of Lysandra. She appears cold, aloof and without sympathy for those around her. Even when she loses her lover, it's hard to be sympathetic.

The novel is packed full of activity - from graphic scenes of fights in the areans to emotional outbursts between the main characters. There's a definite lesbian hint to this novel - it's full of strong, independant women who can fight. It's got plenty of historical detail but ultimately, it's devoid of emotion and the ending is so abrupt and anti-climatic that you'll wonder where the rest of the book went.

Wongson's Chinese Restaurant, Waterford

High Street in Waterford is an odd little street. Behind a shopping centre, you've got the Wine Cellar (Irish/bistro), Emiliano's (Italian), Wongson's (Chinese, formerly Johnny Fan's) and an Indian (can't remember the name). It's an whirlwind tour of the ethnic side of Waterford.

We went for lunch today's to Wongson's with the in-laws. Wongson's is offering a two course meal (main + tea/coffee for E9-11ish) but you can add in a starter for just E1.5o. So overall, a three course lunch can come in around the E12 mark if you stay away from the more expensive options.

I went for wontons as a starter and Wongson's special beef as a main. 4 huge wontons arrived with a really meaty prawn filling. A delicious tomato-chili sauce accompanied them, which was definitely above the norm. My main turned out to be a huge portion of thin-sliced beef and vegetables in a dark, sweet spicy sauce. It reminded me of hoi-sin, with a chilli kick and it had a definite hint of caramel. Other mains were tom yum prawns, hot garlic beef and crispy onion chilli.

Wongson's does good, regular Chinese food with generous servings. I think that there's also an early bird menu with 3 courses for E18.95 (or there abouts). If you're an authentic chinese food junkie (like us) then it won't set your world on fire. If however, you want a good chinese meal, then it's definitely an option. Total cost for 4 starters, 4 mains (including tea/coffee) was E45.

Wongson's, John Collins House, High Street, Waterford. 051 - 854 866

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Coman's Pub, Rathgar and Bulmers - WTF

I was under the impression that Bulmer's had recently cut the wholesale price of their pint bottle by 10%, and that these cuts were to be passed on to the consumer.

Though Bulmers has cut its wholesale price to publicans by 10 per cent, there is no guarantee that pub owners will pass on all the savings to drinkers. Part of the aim of the advertising announcing the price cut is to ensure pub customers know about it.

Right so. I've heard of places where a pint bottle is costing around the €5 mark, so some pubs are passing on the value, but it does appear that other pubs aren't being so nice.

I've commented previously on the Stout Bar, Rathmines where I paid €5.80 for a Bulmer's pear. Well, I paid the same (€5.80) last night in Coman's of Rathgar. It's a disgrace that publicans are continuing to act as if people still have money to burn. Why are they resisting price reductions, when it's clear that the cost of living in every other aspect is decreasing?

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