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, December 31, 2011

My Favourites from 2011

It's time for a little retrospective on 2011, courtesy of Stitch and Bear...

Personally, 2011 was the year that I got back into blogging. Prior to 2011, Stitch and Bear had been a mishmash of topics. But once I returned from my 13 month stint in Amsterdam, I decided to focus purely on food matters, and more specifically restaurant reviews. I put my technical hat on and purchased the domain as well as fixing my Google ranking issue. I made many new and interesting acquaintances on Twitter as well as attending a great food photography workshop hosted by Bord Bia.

I had the opportunity to eat out a lot this year, as well as try out lots of great Irish products. Here's a selection of my top picks.

Best Meal of 2011
A meal is more than just food. Service and atmosphere all contribute to a great meal, and the memories will linger with you long after the food has been digested. You don't have to spend a lot of money to get a great experience, but this year both of my my front-runners for 2011's best meal were Michelin star venues - Chapter One and Bon Appetit. Both meals were fantastic examples of moden Irish cooking, but they were also true experiences. Trying to choose one over the other was akin to splitting hairs, but I'm going to give the gong to Bon Appetit (all because I want an excuse to go back and try their downstairs tapas bar).

Best Ethnic Restaurant 2011
I am addicted to spicy food (as well as Twitter and Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc), and the Chinese cuisines of Hunan and Sichuan are my firm favourites. However, my best ethnic restaurant of 2011 has been Kinara Kitchen in Ranelagh.  This location delivers flavoursome and authentic Pakistani and Eastern Indian food in a beautifully decorated dining room. Top tip: Try the Champ Kanddhari (grilled spicy lamb chops).

Runner up: Mandarin House for some excellent, authentic and great value chinese food.

Best Restaurant 2011
I had no difficulty at all in choosing my winner in this category, despite the sad fact that it is located in Drogheda. Owners Jeni and Reuven have created a wonderful and magical emporium and I have no hesitation in naming the Eastern Seaboard Bar & Grill as my favourite venue of 2011. Going for a meal in this quirky but quietly sophisticated restaurant makes me very happy inside, while visits to the sister Brown Hound Bakery bring about a return to the wonder of childhood. The Eastern Seaboard is a shining beacon of creativity and excellence in a vibrant Irish dining scene.

Runners up: Bibi's Cafe for casual food and  The Fatted Calf, Glasson for amazing food in a pub.

Best Irish product 2011
The Irish craft beer industry has been growing strongly for some time now but my favourite Irish product of 2011 has been the Cork-made Stonewell Cider. This cider features a mix of fresh juices from different Irish apple varieties and the finished product has a wonderful apple taste. Drink this and you will not want to ever again pollute your mouth with mass producted ciders. This is currently only available in the Munster region due to limited quanitites, but plans are afoot for greater production in 2012.

Runners up: Great beers are coming from companies such as Eight Degrees Brewing, Metalman, Dungarvan Brewing Company and Trouble Brewing. (Is it coincidence I wonder that the first 3 companies all come from the same corner of Ireland?) Get yourself to one of the emerging pubs specialising in these beers (such as L Mulligan Grocer in Stoneybatter or the BierHaus in Cork), and you can have a fine night tasting the best of the Irish brewing industry.

Other highlights of 2011
  • Redisovering Coolea mature cheese - this is a sweet, nutty and smooth Dutch-style cheese made since 1979 in the Cork Muskerry Gaeltacht (my home region). Purchase some in Sheridan's Cheesemongers (or your local store) and eat at room temperature. There is none better.
  • A vanilla panna cotta with coffee & truffle ice-cream and espresso jelly at Mulberry Garden. I think this is a dessert that you'd either hate or love. I loved it. 
  • Wonderful Irish whiskey from the Cooley Distillery. Until recently, this was the sole remaining independant distillery in Ireland, but their recent sale to Beam doesn't change the fact that Irish whiskey is having a resurgence in popularity. Try the Greenore 8 Year Single Grain or the Kilbeggan blended whiskey.
  • A perennial local favourite of mine is the fantastic range of jams and relishes from Cúil Aodha based Folláin. I simply love their Exotic Fruit Relish, particularly in a grilled cheese toastie.
  • The emergence of proper cocktails, firstly at Harry's on the Green (although it's prone to loud music) or more lately, at the Cliff Town House. My love affair with cocktails reached new heights with the tableside preparation of the perfect martini at the Sheen Falls Lodge.

Looking forward to 2012
My wish for 2012 is to see more variety and independance enter the Irish dining and drinking scene. We need establisments with more character and uniqueness. 

I think that the Celtic Tiger destroyed the pub culture in Dublin City centre. Too many beautiful and traditional bars had their guts ripped out to become late night bars which poured forth bad loud music and drunkenness. Let's turn down the music and get back to talking in our bars, preferably over a glass of Irish beer or cider.


Margaret said...

And so say all of us (re. the bars!)... even our little local pub gets way too noisey past 9 o'clock!

Happy New Year!

WiseMóna said...

Happy New Year Joanne. I am with you in spirit or spirits as the case may be. I will continue the search on the west coast for better hooch in quieter bars. Over Christmas, with the exception of stellar beers in a few nice pubs, I only drank at home. I refuse to take any more chances on mediocre drinks. Knowing that you have found the perfect martini gives me hope!
Looking forward to seeing you soon xx

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