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!

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Supper for a Song - Tamasin Day-Lewis

Supper for a Song is billed as being for the clever cook in the cost-concious kitchen. Tamasin Day-Lewis is a well-regarded food writer with an eclectic style, and while this cookbook represents her style, I don't believe that it lives up to its billing as a count-the-cost and spare-the-energy cookbook.

To fully take advantage of a lot of the recipes would mean having a well-stocked larder or cupboard, and while this is an admirable way to be, I can't see a lot of cost-concious cooks fitting into this category.

I received this book as the evenings start to darken and I am immediately tempted by a lot of the receipes which promise warmth and filling on cold winter evenings. However, I did find the layout of the book to be distracting with a mixtures of savouries and starters, rather than more clearly defined sections.

It is a beautiful cookbook with an exciting and interesting mix of recipes and tips. I just feel that it is completely missold by the strapline on the cover.

Coppinger Row, Dublin 2

Coppinger Row is the new kid on the block on the Dublin restaurant scene. With it's super-chilled relaxed vibe, along with cocktails, tempting bar bites and comfort-food menu, it appears to be carving a niche for itself.

I finally got to visit last weekend... months behind everyone else. All the staff appeared to be comfortable and relaxed with each other, joking and chatting as they went about their business We ordered from the Sunday Brunch menu. Himself chose the Kedgeree with poached egg while I broke with tradition and went for the broad bean and chorizo ragu on toast. A bit carby for my liking but it sounded delicious. Unlimited filtered still and sparkling water is available for E1 per person, with a portion being donated to the Movember charity.

A blackboard behind the bar promised bar bites served with toast for E3 so we chose the marinated anchovies. A large dish of anchovies arrived along with several slices of toasted rosemary flavoured sourdough bread. Absolutely delicious, especially when combined with the olive oil and balsamic vinegar available on the table.

The kedgeree turned out to be more of a smoked haddock risotto but was creamily smooth and unctious. The broad bean and chorizo ragu was filling and nicely flavoured from the smoky chorizo. The toast soaked up all the juices from the ragu - mmm. A side order of home-cooked fries completed this perfect Sunday brunch.

Overall, I was highly impressed with Coppinger Row. I could easily see myself sitting along the bar, relaxing with a glass of wine and some more of those delicious, great value bar bites. Coppinger Row is a restaurant that is doing all the right things.

Coppinger Row, Coppinger Row (off South William Street), Dublin 2. 01 - 672 9884

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Bel Cibo

We went to the wonderful Lighthouse Cinema in Smithfield tonight to see the Korean vampire film, Thirst. Before heading to the film, we went for a bite to eat in the newly opened Italian pizzeria and restaurant, Bel Cibo.

Bel Cibo is located right next to the cinema, making it a very attractive option for the pre-cinema goer. It's a very high-ceilinged room with a lime green floor. Tables and seats are in red, providing a strong splash of colour. I do wish however that restaurants with such high ceilings would add a layer of fabric (or something) to help dampen the sound.

The menu is simple with pasta, pizzas and insalatas. There are two meat options with several specials on a board. I went for the Rucola pizza (rocket, bacon, olive oil, basil and smoked cheese) while he had the spaghetti carbonara. The spaghetti was perfectly al dente with a delicious eggy sauce coating the strands. My pizza came with a thin crispy base, with lashings of cheese and bacon. Very good indeed.

One gripe - himself ordered a glass of the house red which turned out to be a very small glass indeed. Quite miserly. However the total cost for two mains, one small sparkling water and one glass of red came to E28.90. So not that bad after all.

It's good to have another proper Italian restaurant in the city, following on from the excellent Caffe Parrigi on Sir John Rogerson's Quay. Here's to Bel Cibo and la Dolce Vita.

How to Catch and Keep a Vampire - Diana Laurence

Vampires are definitely the bad boys of the moment, though when you stop to think about it, did they ever fall out of fashion? Lestat, Angel, Celine, Edward Cullen and Moonlight - vampires have always been sexy, dark and downright alluring.

Diana Laurence is on the ball with this tongue-in-cheek guide to dating a vampire. It covers the gamut of the dating experience from initial flirtation and pickup lines through to the secret of the red satin ribbon. Drawing on her 'personal experience', Laurence steers us mortals through the world of dating undead bloodsuckers in her step-by-step guide to loving the bad and the beautiful.

Entertaining and a little fluffy, this would be a great Christmas gift for the Twilight-besotted teeenager in your life.


Save the Kino Cinema

I just read in today's Irish Times that the Kino Arthouse Cinema on Cork's Washington Street after creditors initiated proceedings to recover more than €50,000 owed to them.

I spent 9 years in Cork as a student starting in 1996 persuing first my B.Sc. and then my Ph.D. A lot of that time was spent in various cinemas watching mainstream in the Capitol and then the Gate. But I also saw a lot of films (both good and bad) in the Kino, the only cinema in the city where you could get real coffee and bring it with you to the film.

Films I saw in the Kino include Hedwig and the Angry Inch, Howl's Moving Castle, Sunshine, PI, Run Lola Run, Titus Andronicus and many many more. It is a fantastic cinema.

I'm more than happy to pledge some financial support to the Kino. I want the management to know that I appreciate all the good stuff they've done over the years. Although I live in Dublin now, I want to know that the Kino is alive and kicking in Cork


Monday, October 26, 2009

Ilya Tapas Mullingar

We were in Mullingar recently staying at the Annebrook House Hotel celebrating the wedding of two of our friends. The unfortunate problem with celebrations is that they usually mean hangovers the next morning. Two nights celebrations means that we suffered two mornings' worth of hangovers.

Thankfully, on both mornings, my non-wellness was assisted by the charming and lovely Ilya Tapas. On morning one, I enjoyed a delicious fluffy homemade scone with butter, strawberry jam and cream. On morning two, I went for the eggs benedict, which came with grilled bacon rather than ham, but delicious none the less.

Ilya seems to be the real deal and is clearly popular with Mullingar people. Thanks for making my mornings a little cheerier.

The Swansong of Wilbur McCrum - Bronia Kita

The Swansong of Wilbur McCrum is set in the Wild West, but it is not a tale of cowboys and the Wild West. Yes, there is the occasional train robbery and cathouse, but is ultimately a story of one man's quest to make a better life for himself and his undying love for the mother of his child.

Wilbur McCrum has had an unlucky life. He has been cursed with fits which cause him to be bullied at school and he has a terrible fear of cattle, following several traumatic events with cows. Abandoned by his mother, he spends most of his life travelling, trying to hide his afflictions, sometimes working honestly and sometimes stooping to a life of crime.

Wilbur's life is just a sequence of unfortunate events, each captured in a short, snappy chapter. We realise early in the story that Wilbur's life is flashing before his eyes as he is drowning, but thankfully this is not the end of our lovelorn and lacklustre hero. Eventually his good nature, and desire to do the right thing turns Wilbur's life around and he eventually achieves some redemption.

This was a charming, quirky book which was very easy to read. It was refreshing to have an unfortunate hero and an intriguing supporting cast of characters. Very recommended reading.

The Hunt for Atlantis - Andy McDermott

The Hunt for Atlantis is as cliched as they come. It is a mish-mash of styles, genres and action sequences and the reader can easily predict every baddie action and every twist and turn.

However, it is a rollicking good read, ideal for the beach or lazy evening by the fire. Dr Nina Wilde believes that she knows where Atlantis lies. After surviving an attempt on her life, she is engaged by the Frost Foundation to search for Atlantis. It is here that she meets Eddie Chase, an ex-SAS bodyguard, who has been hired by the Frosts to protect Nina. Together they will travel the world, facing constant danger, in order to discover the fabulous legacy of the Atlanteans.

If you're looking for a fast-paced plot, with a dose of mythology and history and liberally laced with action scenes, then The Hunt for Atlantis is definitely for you. A surprisingly enjoyable story.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Farmleigh House, Dublin

After one of our regular trips to the Hilan on Capel Street for an excellent value Sunday lunch, we drove across town to the Phoenix Park. Everytime I drive through the park, I am struck by its size. Today, the colours were amazing in the park - reds, browns and golds were everywhere as the leaves turn colour and fall off the trees.

We ended up parked at Farmleigh, where we wandered around the grounds before having a lovely cup of coffee in the fresh air at the charming Boathouse cafe. I was sorely tempted by the lovely looking cakes and desserts on display inside, especially these little mini loaves or the scones with cream and jam, but I resisted... barely.


Saturday, October 17, 2009

Oliver's Eatery, Terenure

Oliver's Eatery is located over Vaughan's Eagle House pub in Terenure, and is run by Breton chef, Olivier Quenet, previously of Patrick Guilbaud and a director of La Maison des Gourmets. What this establishment delivers is hearty, hale food at excellent prices.

Once seated, I ordered the traditional farmhouse bake. Now let me assure you, that having been bought up in an Irish farmhouse, I've never experienced a farmhouse bake before. But other than that, I thoroughly enjoyed my filling dish of sausage, bacon, potatoes and veg baked in a cheesey sauce.

Himself ordered the fantastic looking looking beef and Guinness pie. A large crusty, puffy pastry lid topped a rich, peppery filling with tender beef. It's just a pity that I don't consider a lid to pastry to be a pie. A pie is self-contained, and designed to be eaten in the hand. But I digress, this was a seriously good pie. One portion of perfectly cooked fries completed a very good meal.

To drink, we both chose a glass of a delicious, juicy spanish red which was well-priced at E5 a glass. Overall our meal came to approx E38.

What struck me as we left Oliver's is that this food will be excellent in winter time. It will insulate and sate you, cushioning you against the cold of winter.

Oliver's Eatery, Terenure Road, Terenure, Dublin 6W. 01 - 490 1251

Mellifont Abbey

Today we visited the Old Mellifont Abbey, located a short distance off the M1, near Drogheda. Only ruins are left now of this once-magnificent Cistercian abbey. The main feature is the unique octagonal 'lavabo' where the monks would have washed their hands prior to eating. Only low walls and remnants remain of the rest of the abbey.


M&L Chinese Restaurant, Dublin

Update: Read here for a more recent 2013 review of M&L Szechuan restaurant

I had heard via word of mouth about a 'real' Chinese restaurant located off O'Connell Street. Hmm.. I said. I thought that at this stage I had tried all the traditional restaurants in that part of the world, but it turns out that I hadn't.

The M&L is located on Cathedral Street near the Pro Cathedral. When we walked up, we could see that the place was literally heaving with Chinese. Entire families were seated enjoying feasts of food. There seemed to be a real vibe and buzz in the place.

When we were seated, the waiter handed us an English menu. A very bland looking menu at that which didn't seem to match up at all with the glorious looking spreads around us. So we folded the menus shut and beckoned over our waiter. I asked for a fried beef dish with chilis (no sauce). He hummed and hawed and eventually wrote something down on his little pad. My other half asked for a whole steamed fish with some form of spicy sauce. But this seemed to cause an incredible amount of confusion. The waiter even returned from the kitchen, obviously sent by the chef, to be sure that we wanted the whole fish, 'head and all'.

My beef turned out exactly as I wanted. Dry-fried pieces of beef, flavoured with dried chilies, cumin, sesame and vegetables. My tastebuds tingled and my mouth rejoiced. The fish came served in a large bowl of chili and siuchan pepper flavoured oil. He dived straight in, emerging with many large portions of fish, pronouncing it very flavoursome.

I think that Chinese food can be quite addictive, and spicy food the more so. All day, I had been craving my 'hit' of spiciness and flavour, and I definitely got it at the M&L. As we left, we saw a family tucking into a plate of gorgeous looking crabs, so the challenge for us on our next visit will be to persuade the staff that we really want to eat their food and that they should share that elusive Chinese menu with us.

Total cost for the two dishes, along with a plate of 10 dumplings, one sparking water and one diet coke came to E35. Excellent value and definitely on my list to restaurants to return to.

M&L Restaurant, 13 Cathedral Street, Dublin 1. 01-874 8038

Friday, October 16, 2009

Happy Dictionary Day

October 16th is Dictionary Day, named in honor of the birthday of Noah Webster, the father of the American Webster dictionary.

I think that dictionaries are amazing works. They are dense and learned, packed with explanations, pronunciations and etymology. Imagine the task that faced lexographers when compiling the first dictionary. In order for a word to be considered, they had to discover its origins and provide adequate proof of its use. For a great story about the making of the famous Oxford English Dictionary, check out The Surgeon of Crowthorne: A Tale of Murder, Madness and the Oxford English Dictionary.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Blog Action Day 2009: Climate Change

Today is October 15th, 2009 or Blog Action Day. The topic for this year's event is climate change. Even British PM, Gordon Brown has contributed with a blog post stating "climate change is the biggest threat to all our futures".

I've always been worried about climate change. How could 6 billion people not have an impact on the planet? There has never been this amount of living beings on the planet and we do not live in harmony with nature. We consume resources, spew emissions and show very little consideration to this rock that we call home.

Today, Professor Peter Wadhams from the University of Cambridge, who has been studying Arctic ice since the 1960s, warned that the Arctic could be largely ice-free and open to shipping during summer months in as little as 10 years.

Isn't that scary? Arctic ice is old, it's old in geological terms. And yet in one generation, we have managed to erode the Arctic ice to the potential point of non-existence.

Pause for a moment to ponder this and then do something.

Monday, October 12, 2009

A Beautiful Evening Sky

We were driving from Waterford to Dublin yesterday evening, when I spotted this beautiful evening sky. It's taken about 5 miles south of Thomastown in Co. Kilkenny.

Damages - Season 1

Glenn Close is an illustrious actress with an imposing screen presence. But she has waited until 'Damages' to make her regular appearance on our television screens, delivering a modern and dramatic take on the traditional lawyer genre. In the vein of '24' and other modern series, Damages focuses on one court case, with many subplots and undercurrents.

Patty Hewes (Close) is a leading and feared litigator. She is currently spearheading a civil suit against billionaire Arthur Frobisher (Ted Danson) whose company collapsed with 'accounting irregularities' leaving his employees without their pensions. Hewes hires recent graduate Ellen Parsons (Rose Byrne) who turns out to be more than a match for Hewes' manipulations and ploys. Parsons' involvement with Hewes will drag her family and friends deep into a web of corporate deceit and high stakes litigation.

As the series draws to it's gripping close, it becomes clear to the viewer that everything you've seen on screen matters. There are no wasted scenes or screentime in this high-paced, intricate drama. An exciting and moden soundtrack makes this the best legal drama in years. And interestingly, we never see the inside of a courtroom!

Milano and Pizza Express Exchange Rate

Milano's have been offering good value deals to Irish diners for the last period of time now. An email popped into my inbox today offering two pizzas for €15. Very tasty indeed.

That is until the equivalent English offer from Pizza Express (the same company) plopped in - two pizzas for £10.

That is a good old-fashioned exchange rate of 1.5 Euro to sterling, but we do have different VAT rates etc to the UK, and the thing is that it's hard to be really peeved-off. Two pizzas for €15 is still good value.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Candy Everybody Wants - Josh Kilmer-Purcell

Candy Everybody Wants is a light-hearted and easy-t0-read book, set nostalgically in the early 1980s. Jayson (with a distinctive "y") Blocher wants to be on T.V. He wants to be really famous. The only problem, he lives in Wisconsin where he films his own soap operas using an old video recorder with a separate tape recorder for sound. Oh, and he's gay, with a somewhat dysfunctional set of family and friends.

When events in his home town don't end well, Jayson finds himself in New York, where he sets himself firmly on the path to fame. However, things aren't quite that easy, and Jayson has to learn to come to terms with himself and his family.

The book is an easy read and makes a perfect flight or beach read. It is quite funny at times, but has the overall lightweight feel of candyfloss. There's something to watch with this author - he clearly has a flair and wit (well, he was a very famous drag queen).

Diagnosis - Lisa Sanders

Diagnosis: Dispatches from the Frontlines of Medical Mysteries is a collection of case studies and thoughtful insights into the technique of diagnosis. Lisa Sanders is a medical doctor, staff member at Yale University School of Medicine and technical advisor to the hit T.V. show, House. She is the author of the popular monthly Diagnosis column in New York Times Magazine.

Diagnosis focuses on the challenges faced by doctors when attempting to diagnose the cause of a patient's illness. Sanders explores tools such as the traditional physical exam, the knowledge accumulated by individual doctors and the ever-increasing use of diagnostics such as CAT, MRI and echocardigraphs.

Interpersed between all these aspects are a collection of short tales - each recounting a particular medical mystery. Each case study clearly illustrates and highlights the relevant topic under discussion. From West Nile disease to the uncommon CannabinoidHyperemesis, Sanders takes the reader through a wide range of medical puzzles and the challenges facing today's doctors.

In an world with an ever-increasing amount of medical knowledge, a large dependence on technology, and decreasing use of the traditional exam, how will tomorrow's doctors fare? It makes the reader aware of the fact that doctors are human too, not all-knowing oracles of truth. Diagnosis is written in clear English, and is more than suitable for a non-medical person to pcik up and read. A very interesting and honest book.

Gougane Barra, Co. Cork

I drove down to Cork recently to spend a few nights with my parents. On Friday morning, I got up early and drove to Gougane Barra with the intention of spending a while taking some photos. Unfortunately, the heavens opened while I was driving over the mountains, and I was only able to take a handful of shots as everything was damp.

The mountains surrounding the valley were shrouded in fog and the little church sat silently on the island in the middle of the lake. Even in the middle of the pouring rain, the lake was smooth and there was such a sense of peacefulness and calm. It really is such a gorgeous spot and it reminded me strongly of maternal grandmother. Late in life, when she found it hard to walk, she loved to be driven to Gougane Barra where she would pray in the car.


Thursday, October 8, 2009

Irish Drivers and 3-lane Roads

I'm so incredibly fustrated everyday driving between Dublin and Naas on the N7. For those of you who don't know, there's a 3-lane section of road between Dublin and Junction 8 on the N7. This then turns into a 2-lane motorway, the M7.

The majority of flipping drivers who sit in the middle lane is just downright astounding. They seem to be completely oblivious to the lane that's just to their left. As a result, we have a vastly underused section of the road.

So imagine, I'm driving along in the leftmost lane. I usually do about 105 kmph, or just a little over the limit. I come up on someone who's sitting in the middle lane, doing a slower speed than I. To obey the rules of the road correctly, and not undertake this ninny, I must pull into the middle lane behind him, overtake him using the rightmost lane, and then cross back two lanes to return to my original lane. That's a dangerous enough maneouver. And all because this fool doesn't know how to drive a multilane road safely and correctly. Gah!!!


Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Undone (Genesis) - Karin Slaughter

I received an ARC copy of Undone by Karin Slaughter - but it turns out that this novel is to be published under the name of Genesis outside of the United States. A little confusing perhaps, but there you go. I don't know why one name wasn't chosen, and I do think that Genesis is more evocative name. But hey, maybe the religious connotations are too much for the U.S.
Karin Slaughter is one of the leading lights in the crime thriller genre and she has had a hugely successful career to date. She is the author of two series - the Grant County series featuring doctor Sara Linton and the Atlanta series featuring policeman Will Trent. Apparently this novel is the 7th in the Grant County series, the 3rd in the Atlanta series and the first in a new series, the Georgia series, which will feature both main characters. This merging of two stories will surely please dedicated fans, while cutting down on the amount of writing that Slaughter has to do.
Someone is taking kidnapping successful women and holding them prisoner in a foul, underground, cave which has been dug from the earth itself. When a car collides with one of the women, who has escapted from her captor, but is tortured and starving, Trent, and his partner Faith Mitchell, find themselves on the trail of a horrific and sadistic mind. When the woman is taken to hospital, Sara Linton is the attending physician and she is horrified by the pain and condition of the woman, who calls herself Anna. Her suffering and pain is beyond belief. When reports filter through of a similar woman being kidnapped, Trent and Mitchell know that they are in a race against time.
It's easy to read this book without needing to read the previous novels. While you will be aware of past history, Slaughter does a good job of providing enough information to get you involved. The crimes described in this book are dark and ugly but Slaughter gives her lead characters more than enough human frailty and honesty to compensate for the dark nature. They are genuinely likeable people. Additionally, I felt that the author did a great job of taking the reader through the internal thoughts of a detective who is working to solve a case, as well as showing us how inter-departmental politics can jeopardise an investigation.
The novel did feel a little rushed towards the end - and somehow, the ends came together a little too neatly. But Slaughter isn't the first author to fall into this trap and she won't be the last. Overall, this is a good, personable crime thriller. Fans of the genre are bound to enjoy it, and new readers will surely be encouraged to pick up another Slaughter novel.

Free Irish Shipping from Amazon on orders over £25

One thing that has annoyed me about Amazon for years are their shipping charges. If you live the UK, you could avail of free shipping for orders over a certain amount, but Irish customers enjoyed no such perks.

However, that has changed. Amazon have announced that free shipping is available to Irish customers on orders over £25, and they've also included a handy Sterling to Euro currency converter on the website too. This could mean the end of and their exorbitant exchange rates.

One catch though, you have to select the Super Saver Delivery option yourself when ordering - it is not applied automatically. Taken from

Super Saver Delivery is available for orders delivered to the Republic of Ireland. If your order is eligible for free Super Saver Delivery, there's no delivery charge--your order is delivered free. But you must remember to select Super Saver Delivery as your delivery option when you place the order.


Monday, October 5, 2009

€5 Burgers at Gourmet Burger Kitchen until 5pm

Walking through town the other day, I noticed an amazing deal. The Gourmet Burger Kitchen are offering all burgers at €5 until 5pm. Considering that some of their burgers can cost up €11.50, this deal represents simply brilliant value.

I've been less than impressed with the value offered by GBK in the past, but this change in pricing means that they'll be getting a second chance from me.

Friday, October 2, 2009

The Pixies at the Olympia

The Pixies at the Olympia on Wednesday, September 30th. This was going to be good, or at least I hoped it would be good. There was a bit of a shaky start, but when the Pixies got going, they simply rocked out with abandon. Backed up by the excellent guitar playing of Joey Santiago and drumming from David Lovering, Kim Deal and Frank Blank sung and roared their way through an impressive selection of Pixies hits.

When they finished the first part of their set and took their applause, they seemed happy and more than a little bemused by the standing ovation from the packed audience. Out they came for a 2 song encore (Wave of Mutilation (again) and a long version of Into the White).

It might have been a short set (approx 70 mins) but very few bands can deliver such a collection of hits in such a time, and very few bands still sound incredibly fresh and original. The Pixies have thrown down the gauntlet to a lot of younger bands. They may be middle-aged but they can still rock.
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