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!

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Gartine - Amsterdam

I recently had two days to myself in Amsterdam as I had decided to take two days annual leave and take a break from the hectic project on which I am currently engaged. I woke up on Thursday morning with a determination to find a nice spot for breakfast. 

Five minutes later, after a browsing session on the iPhone and I had selected Gartine (near Spui) as my candidate for the day. It's located down the small Taksteeg alleyway, between Kalverstraat and Spui). It's a small restaurant with several tables on two levels inside, with a further few tables located outside. Breakfast is served from 10.00-12.00 and the menu is brief. I chose the French Toast (made from the very sweet Dutch sugar bread) which came with apple and cinnamon butter (€4.95).

What arrived were two delicious pieces of French Toast. The sugar bread had carmelised and become wonderfully crunchy. The accompanying apple puree was refreshingly tart when served with the toast. The dish was served on wonderful old delph with creaky cutlery - making it the whole thing feel rather eclectic and boho. Delicious.

Gartine, Taksteeg 7 BG, 1012 PB Amsterdam, The Netherlands. +31 (0)20 320 4132

Soulless - Gail Carriger

Ladies and Gentlemen, meet Miss Alexia Tarabotti. Gentlewoman, spinster and a supernatural (or in layman's terms, a soulless person). However, being soulless is not the cause of stigma for Alexia. It's more to do with the fact that her father was Italian and is dead. London society is a tough place.

When a vampire rather gauchely attacks Alexia one night, she ends up accidentally killing the vampire and triggers the unwanted (or wanted, depending on how you look at it) attentions of Conall Maccon, the Earl of Wolsey, and a werewolf to boot. Despite an unfortunate past incident with a hedgehog, Lord Maccon finds Miss Tarabotti most intriguing. However, it appears that dastardly schemes are afoot, threatening the safety of Queen Victoria's empire.

Gail Carriger has entered the vampire/werewolf arena with aplomb, creating a cast of characters that are truly memorable and entertaining. Gay vampires, masculine werewolves and feisty ladies feature alongside side-splitting scenes and action (some of the corset-busting variety). This is definitely a romantic comedy for the gothic lady.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

This cookbook is based on the ancient philosophy of Ayurveda - which breaks everything down into 5 elements: ether, air, fire, wind and water. Every person has a unique body type (either Vata, Pitta or Kapha) and by eating correctly for your body type, it is claimed that you can reduce stress, improve your health and sleep patterns. 

The book begins with an introduction and a questionnaire to identify your body type. I found it hard to identify myself as one of the three Ayurvedic body types described in Anjum's introductory text, but I did like the message that she is trying to send. In our western world, with busy deadlines and days, it is all too easy to forget to examine the food that we use to fuel our bodies.

Overall, it's a nice addition to my kitchen shelf as most of the recipes are light and healthy, made from fresh ingredients. I have no doubt that such food would make anyone feel healthier, fitter and slimmer if eaten regularly, but I don't see anything too dramatically different in this cookbook.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Peony Courtt Chinese Restaurant, Bunclody, Co Wexford

Carlton Hotels have been doing some great deals lately, resulting in us spending one night at the Millrace Hotel in Bunclody, Co. Wexford. After driving down from Dublin in some beautiful Friday evening sunshine, we decided to walk through the town and perhaps find somewhere for dinner.

Bunclody is a lovely little town, with the real vibe of a little Irish town. As we wandered around, we came across the local dancehall which promised a teenage foam disco later that night. Truly scary stuff. In fact, as we strolled the streets, we could in fact sense the hormone level rising as gaggles of teenagers started to gather. 

There isn't a lot of dining choice in Bunclody, but we were swayed by a review from Paulo Tullio (link) in the window of the Peony Court, the local chinese restaurant. By the way, a word of warning, Peony Court is located near the most free-for-all crossroads I have ever encountered. 

Peony Court is small and dark inside, but very nicely decorated. The menu is extensive, offering both Thai and Chinese dishes. However, like a lot of small local restaurants, prices are steep. We shared a bowl of thai soup to start (delicious) while we waited for our mains of scallops (with lemongrass and thai herbs) and salt & chili seafood.

The first thing that struck me when the mains arrived was the size - and not in a good way. There were about 6 scallops spread thinly out on a large plate. My salt & chili seafood was only slightly larger. Considering that both courses were costing in excess of €22, this felt more than a little miserly. However, to be fair, both dishes were pretty damn good, with my salt & chili being the best version of this dish that I've tasted to date.

However, any good feelings I had about the food were completely ruined by the bill. One soup, two mains, two portions of rice and a few drinks came to approx €80. The rice portions alone were €4.50! If you are already paying over€22 for a main, being charged another €4.50 for rice really hurts. It's kind of equivalent to dropping a bar of soap in the shower when in prison.

We did ask the hostess why the rice was so expensive but all she could tell us was that the price was the price. Not really good enough.  Given the small portions, I have the feeling that the Peony Court could be economising in an effort to stay afloat. Right now, people just don't have money to spend on €4.50 portions of rice.

Peony Court, 3 Irish Street, Bunclody, Co. Wexford. 053 937 6924

Camden Kitchen, Grantham Street

 I used to really dislike the Havana's tapas outlet that existed on Grantham Street. I can still recall experiencing what was possibly the worst portion of calamare ever created in any restaurant kitchen anywhere. Thankfully, the tapas joint expired a while back and now Camden Kitchen has opened in its place.  So far, press reviews have been positive with both Tom Doorley and the Sunday Tribune giving positive reviews. That was enough to persuade me to give it a spin when I was next in Dublin.

Therefore I arrived early one Friday lunchtime and I was seated by the lovely waitress at one of the window seats. I really like the decor throughout the restaurant - it's clean and simple. The menu apparently changes every day and it's a mixture of small bites and larger mains. Like its neighbour, Green 19, the menu is presented on clipboards, while specials are chalked on a blackboard on the wall.

I went for the charcuterie plate (pictured above) which looked goregous when it arrived, accompanied by a little basket of tomato bread. Air-dried ham was amazing, while the parfait simply melted in the mouth. The terrine was a little underwhelming, despite featuring chunks of meat and little capers. It simply needed more seasoning, but dissapointingly, there was no salt or pepper on the table. The chunk of Wicklow Brie was far too small. I followed the plate with a delicious firm panna cotta served with raspberries.

Overall I like Camden Kitchen but I'm not convinced that it's the best new thing on the Dublin restaurant scene - mainly because I found the prices to be a smidgen too high. However, it is relaxed and charming and undoubtedly is worth another visit - purely in the interests of research of course!

Camden Kitchen, 3A Camden Market, Grantham Street, Dublin 2. 01 - 4760125

Frommer's Paris Free and Dirt Cheap - Anna E. Brooke

There is always going to be a demand for a guide that can steer you around the City of Romance on the cheap. As we all know, romance usually comes with a hefty price tag, but this simple and easy book from Frommer's offers a wide-range of free or cheap attractions.

Attractive but purse-friendly hotels or relaxing cafes that don't charge an arm and a leg for a drink. How about a nice meal in a neighbour restaurant off the tourist-track? This guide offers them all. It's simply laid out with clear maps and it offers a different view of the city when compared to the more conventional travel guides. Some of the suggestions may be a little offbeat, but it's also got plenty for the regular tourist. It also fits in nicely with the current trend of both saving and splurging while on holidays. If you can save a few bob on one part of your trip, that means you can splurge later!

31 Bond Street - Ellen Horan

31 Bond Street recreates the events around the 1857 murder of Dr. Blundell. Set in New York, just 4 years before the Civil War, the novel offers a fascinating view of society at this time. Dr. Blundell's murder was a sensation, causing a media frenzy and resulting in his housekeeper, Mrs. Emma Cunningham, being charged with his murder.

The young, but prominent lawyer, Henry Clinton, takes on her case, which pits him against the well known public defender Oakley Hall. In the courtroom, both men argue their cases with passion and belief. All the while, the media storm around the enigmatic Emma Cunningham continues.

This is Horan's debut novel, and for the most part, she has written an intriguing and captivating tale. She cleverly mixes timelines to produce a clever whodunnit. However, it does fall apart a little towards the end as the greater plot and story is revealed. 
This is definitely one of the better efforts at a historical mystery and is deserving of a read. However, it also has a slight feel of storytelling by rote - resulting in what is overall a good read, but not a great read.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Roasted Red Pepper and Ham Risotto

Here's some roasted red pepper and smoked ham risotto which I cooked this evening. Filling and tasty, I just loved this risotto.
© Stitch and Bear | All rights reserved.
Blogger Template Developed by pipdig