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, April 29, 2012

Comerç, 24, Barcelona

Way back in February, I managed to put a week's holiday into my work calendar. This is actually a rare event for me, and it's gotten to the point where I have over two years worth of holidays available to me at the moment. It's just a matter of finding the time to enjoy them (easier said than done!).

With 4 nights booked in Barcelona, I was I was determined to do nothing but eat and drink too much cava. And I think we managed to do that quite successfully, including a blow-out meal at Michelin-starred restaurant Comerç, 24. Located in the El Born district, chef Carles Abellan produces menus based on miniature cuisine with touches of molecular gastronomy and a focus on local produce. In other words, a more refined form of tapas, which is not surprising given that Abellan previously worked under world famous chef Ferran Adrià.

We thought that we had partially adjusted for the late dining habits of Spaniards by booking dinner for 8.30 pm. However, this turned out to be the evening opening time and we were probably the second table seated for evening service.  The interior is dimly lit with a slightly industrial feel that is alleviated by yellow accents. Later I found out that the building was originally used for salting and the selling of pickled and preserved goods. It feels like an appropriate use of the location.

With glasses of cava in hand, we were left to the task of choosing between the two tasting menus - a 7 course Festival menu and a 12 course Grand Festival menu. Both options require putting yourself in the hands of the chef, with exceptions made only for dietary requirements. We opted for 12 courses and made ourselves comfortable.

Baskets of fragrant, large loaves of bread were bought to the table for our selection. Thick crusty slices were returned along with a selection of 4 Spanish olive oils and some salt for dipping. The oils ranged from light and green to rich and spicy, providing a wonderful showcase for Spanish oils. Time flew by, and before too long the first courses arrived at the table. 
  • Cauliflower soup with smoked tea and nori, served cold
  • Cauliflower with ginger and rice vinegar, 4 little florets served atop a stone
  • Cold monkfish with black sesame and black garlic
This first grouping was quickly followed by
  • Filo, parma, lemon and basil, where the flavours formed a gradient from one end to the other.  Utterly delicious, with the intense parmesan flavour reminding me of parmesan ravioli at Chapter One
  • Pizza 24, sliced at the table, mixing together the unusual flavours of anchovy and strawberry
Cauliflower with ginger and rice vinegar
Monkfish with black garlic and black sesame
Pizza 24 with rocket, anchovies and strawberries
Filo tubes filled with parmesan, basil and lemon
Once all the early courses were cleared away, the fish and meat courses started to arrive. For the most part, these were served individually. The shrimp ceviche and oyster dishes were served together, as was the pizza sashimi, tuna tartar and razor clam yakisoba. Overall, there was a bias towards seafood, understandable in a town like Barcelona.
  • Beach shrimp ceviche with wine peach, icy cool granita texture against juicy prawn
  • Oyster with nasturtium leaf and flower, served atop dry ice The oyster and flower were to be rolled in the leaf and eaten in one go
  • Cockles dashi, with delicate sea urchin, a taste and texture akin to foie gras
  • Galicean barnacle, distinctly shaped barnacles served in an agar (?). This was my least favourite dish of the night, mainly due to the lack of flavour when compared with other dishes
  • Peas with squid, a light delicate pea broth with grilled squid and spherified samphire that popped in the mouth
  • Razor clams yakisoba, rich and tasty
  • Pizza sashimi
  • Tuna tartar, served in a pool of rich, unctuous egg yolk
  • Cod with chard, chickpeas and miso
  • Forest rabbit rice with "espardenyes", a rind of rich, meaty risotto
  • Palamos prawn, salt-baked whole prawn. We received advice from the water to suck on the head to get all the tasty juices
  • Beef sirloin with turnips, served perfectly pink
Beach shrimp ceviche with wine peach
Oyster on dry ice with nasturtium leaf and flower
Dashi with cockles and sea urchin

Peas with squid
Razor clams yakisoba
Pizza sashimi
Tuna tartar
Cod with chard and chickpeas
Palamos prawn
Beef with turnips
Following a break, our dessert plates started to arrive at the table, presenting us with array of dishes across the table. However, we stuck to the order in which they arrived. Food and wine pairings are available, and we decided to enjoy some dessert wines along with our sweets. Two glasses were poured, Itsamendi Uretzi 2008 (€4) and a 2008 Olivares (€5). Both were stunning, but the rich red Olivares took the poll position. (We even purchased a bottle the very next day at the famous food shop Colmado Quilez on Rambla Catalunya.)
  • Mel i Mato, a Catalan cheese and honey dessert
  • Lemon ice tea
  • Requit Napolita
  • Nougat with twin cigar. Rich and chocolately, these started to melt once we picked them up, so we quickly ate them in one go
  • Apple and saffron, a great pairing
  • Conguito C,24, chocolate shells pairing with olive oil and salt
Mel i Mato
Lemon ice tea
Apple and saffron
Nougat with twin cigar
Conguito C,24
We declined the offer of coffee, due to the late hour (well after 11pm at this stage), but a plate of delicious  petit fours were none the less were delivered to the table. 
  • Oreo vanilla with black sesame
  • Wild pine nuts with chocolate, dusted in rich dark cocoa
  • Lingote gold, literally covered in gold paint
  • Matcha tablet, white chocolate tablets, flavoured and coloured with green tea
Petit fours at Comerç, 24
Earlier, we had chosen a 2010 Quinta Apolonia Spanish albarino (€26) from the wine list. The sommelier had been most informative when helping us make the selection, clearly outlining the difference between several options. He received bonus marks for pointing out a third cheaper option which came from the same cellar as one of the more expensive options.  Our earlier cava was a 2007 Segura Viudas Brut (€6 per glass), a superb crisp and light cava. We actually ended up drinking several bottles of this cava over the course of our trip.

The Grand Festival menu cost €106 per head, and our total bill for the night came to approximately €300. However, this was probably the most adventurous meal I've enjoyed to date in a Michelin starred restaurant and the wine recommendations were spot on. Service was polite and polished while the dim lighting meant that we felt alone or private throughout the meal.

The manner in which Comerç, 24 mixes traditional Catalan and Spanish cooking with fashionable molecular gastronomy leads to a set of playful and creative dishes. For me, there were some dud notes, but the overall meal was truly memorable. The pace and delivery of the dishes was perfect and the whole night flew by in what felt like a matter of minutes. The strong emphasis on light, tasty seafood was magnificent, while the creative desserts and petit fours finished the meal with aplomb. Very memorable.

Comerç, 24, Carrer Comerç 24, 08003 Barcelona
Tel: +34 93 319 21 02

Monday, April 23, 2012

The Bovine Menu at La Brasserie, Bon Appetit

Early in 2012, Malahide restaurant Bon Appetit launched a teaser campaign on both Twitter and their website hinting that a new offering, Bovine Bon Appetit, was on the way. The name and the cow logo definitely suggested a beefy slant, but it took a while before the full details emerged.

The Bovine concept turned out to be pretty simple - a diverse selection of beef cuts, sourced from the  most flavourful breeds of rare cattle. The menu, or "beef bible" lists detailed notes on breeds, types of cuts, aging, marbling, cooking temperatures and even tasting guidelines. Pride of place in this new lineup is a Grade 9 Wagyu steak, offered initially at cost price. All I can say is that it didn't take me long to book a table.

The BIL and his wife joined us for dinner in La Brasserie to celebrate a new job for one of us. We kicked off with some aperitifs in Le Bon Vin, the tapas and wine bar located on the ground floor of Bon Appetit. Once our table was ready, we were guided downstairs to La Brasserie, where we were presented with both La Brasserie and Bovine menus. There was no question that for the majority of us steak was going to be ordered. The only question left to be answered was which cut would be selected. The Popeseye (the Butcher's Secret), the wing rib (the Well Hung) or the ribeye (the Trendy Boy) all sounded tempting, while the Wagyu Sirloin (aka The Big Spender) ruled supreme.

In anticipation of a big meal, the two of us shared a starter of salt cod scotch egg (€9.50). A perfectly runny egg yolk was nestled inside a shell of cod and potato which had been fried until crispy golden. 
Stitch and Bear - La Brasserie - Salt cod Scotch egg
Scotch egg with cod
Just one member of our party of four had chosen to dine from the regular La Brasserie menu, choosing the sliders (€24.00). This comprised three perfectly constructed mini-burgers, made from beef, lamb and venison. These little guys must have tasted well, based on the comments of "best beef burger ever", followed by "best lamb burger ever" we heard issuing from that side of the table.
Stitch and Bear - La Brasserie - Sliders
Slider burgers at La Brasserie
Both of us ladies had pushed the boat out by ordering the 8oz/225g Wagyu sirloin (€49.50). I'd never had the privilege of indulging in this carnivore delight before, so I grasped the opportunity to enjoy it at cost. I asked for the chef to cook it as he saw fit (my normal tastes run to blue or rare), and I would describe the end result as medium rare. Each steak on the Bovine menu comes with one accompanying sauce, so I went for my all-time favourite of Béarnaise, which I supplemented with an additional order of indulgent truffle butter.

The Wagyu sirloin is the single most expensive menu item I've ever ordered, so I really wanted it to live up to its promise. Well, I can tell you that it is wonderfully tender, with a subtle taste that is distinctly different from other steaks. The intense marbling that is typical of the breed produces a texture that is slightly reminiscent of foie gras. In short, it's flipping delicious. 

Himself ordered the 250g ribeye steak aged 60 days (€24.00) which was beautifully cooked with all the flavour that one expects from a juicy fatty ribeye. To round out the steaks, we also ordered some of the wonderful sounding side dishes. We might possibly have over-indulged with creamed spinach with Gruyère (€4.50), creamed sweetcorn (€3.50), chips (€3.95) and finally, broccoli Hollandaise (€3.50)
Stitch and Bear - La Brasserie - Wagyu sirloin steak
Wagyu sirloin steak with accompanying butters
Stitch and Bear - La Brasserie - Creamed sweetcorn
Creamed sweetcorn side
At this point in the meal, I was defeated by beef, and I settled for a mint tea made with fresh leaves (€3.50). However, some of the others bravely soldiered on and ordered desserts. The star dessert was a vanilla cheesecake (€7.50) served very prettily in a glass jar with a crumble base and topped by fresh fruits and berries. Utterly simple but delicious. Special mention has to go to a 2007 Monbazillac De Haute Montlong dessert wine which was a deep concentrated gold, with more spice and less sweetness than a Sauternes.
Stitch and Bear - La Brasserie - Cheesecake
Cheesecake at La Brasserie
This was my second time dining at Oliver Dunne's Malahide kingdom, and I have to say that it was another remarkable experience. Service was attentive and charming throughout the whole night. We were in the mood to celebrate (which our final bill reflected, ouch!) and we were delighted by the offer of a free round of after-dinner drinks. 

Bon Appetit continues to offer wonderful value to diners with Early Bird and special menus in both the main restaurant and La Brasserie. The Bovine menu does offer a great selection of prices, meaning that it's possible to enjoy some really good steak without breaking the bank. 

La Brasserie at Bon Appetit, St Jame's Terrace, Malahide, Co Dublin
Tel: +353 (0)1 845 0314
Twitter: @bonappbovine @bonappmalahide

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Do your cakes have the Cake Factor?

In just a single day, I received news of two great events, both of which deserve to be supported. First up were a group of 3rd culinary students from DIT who are holding an Eat Only Irish night on May 2nd and will charge a mere €20 per head for an eight course tasting menu. More details here.

The second event comes courtesy of the Emerald Warriors (EWRFC), Ireland's gay rugby club, who will hold their 5th annual fundraising 'Tea Dance' and 'Bake Off'. Entertainment is guaranteed with Shirley Temple Bar, Veda Beaux Reves and Davina Devine hosting the event in The George Bar and Nightclub on Sunday, April 29th, between 3pm-6pm.

Shirley Temple Bar does her Tea Dance
These fabulous ladies will don their pinnies, twin sets and pearls in order to serve up a delicious selection of home baked treats on dainty dollies. Guests will also enjoy a variety of entertainment in the form of a Make & Do Corner, a ‘Bake Off’ and old style ceili dancing all washed down with lashings of tea.

As part of the event the club is calling on amateur bakers to don their aprons for the annual ‘Bake Off’ competition. Contestants are invited to offer up a tasty baked treat which will be served on the day and judged by The George’s drag queens in a Cake Factor meets X-Factor style competition. Contestants will have to present their cakes to the judging panel who will determine if their offerings are worthy of the cake table. A selection of prizes are up for grabs for the best and worst cakes.

A fun day out for all ages, tickets for the event are priced at €10 and are available directly from The George bar or they can be booked online be emailing The Emerald Warriors Club   All funds raised will go to supporting the Emerald Warriors Rugby Club.

For more information on the event visit or 
Follow the action on Twitter @Thegeorgebar or @ewrfc 


Eat Only Irish @The Green Room, DIT

On May 2nd, a group of 3rd year Culinary students from Dublin Institute of Technology will once again put their money where their mouths are. The continuing theme of the meal is "Eat Only Irish", adhering to the concepts of seasonality, origin and the tenets of the Slow Food Movement "Good, Clean, Fair".

Following an inaugural event in March, the students have taken the lessons learned on board, and promise an even better event in May. An eight course tasting menu is on offer at the Green Room Restaurant, DIT Cathal Brugha Street for a mere €20 per head. It's incredible value, as well as offering a chance to support some passionate and inspired young chefs.

For more information, or to book seats (served at 6pm), please contact Darryl via Twitter (@CaptainSlowFA) or via email You can follow the event via the Twitter hashtag #EatOnlyIrish. A sneak peek at the menu is given below to help whet your appetite.

Ryefield goat's cheese parfait, fresh hazelnut, beet & David Llewelyn apple balsamic

Pan-seared scallop with black pudding, smoked salmon boxty, Irish sushi

Celery, apple & beet granite

The Dexter - mini Dexter slider, smoked Knockanore, homemade bun, Gubbeen smoked bacon served with triple cooked chips

Quail breast with boudin of quail, Gubbeen venison salami and bacon popcorn

A selection of rare and unusual Irish cheeses

Raw Cotta - a raw milk pannacotta, summer berries, cracked meringue

Bacon fudge, parsnip and Gubbeen chorizo cake, savoury macaroons

Monday, April 16, 2012

[Review] The Greenhouse, Dawson St, Dublin 2

It may only be April, but the restaurant opening of the year has already taken place. And unless Ferran Adrià decides to move to Ireland and open a fish'n'chip shop in Lahinch, I don't think any other restaurant will eclipse the opening of The Greenhouse, close to Dublin's St Stephen's Green.

Finnish chef Mickael Viljanen has transferred his family and his cooking from the limestones of the Burren in Clare, to the granite blocks of the capital. Leaving behind Gregan's Castle, he is now heading up the kitchen at Eamon O'Reilly's newest venture, which is located on the former premises of Bleu Bistro on Dawson Street. The interior has undergone a transformation with all the linen and crystal that one might expect from a fine dining venue. Plush, blue-green velvet chairs provide blocks of colour, but overall the room is too densely packed. Listening to your elderly neighbours slurp down their second bottle of wine is never a good experience.

We ordered from the set lunch menu (2 courses for €25, 3 courses for €30), applying the "no-samesies" rule. While waiting, we grazed on a miniature dark rye loaf, pre sliced, served with plenty of softened butter. Our amuse bouche were little bonbons of chicken liver, which had to be eaten in one go, bursting in our mouths.

Perfect miniature rye bread
Amuse bouche of chicken liver bonbons
Things moved up a notch with the arrival of our starters. My starter of foie gras was incredibly beautiful, served in a tumbler, topped with crumbles of celery sorbet, candied walnuts and a vibrant flower. Celery is my arch-enemy of the vegetable world, yet the icy cold clumps blended beautifully with the sweet, small walnuts and smooth, decadent foie gras. His starter of Clare Island salmon had been cut with geometric precision and was rich and fatty. Clumps of snow, horseradish and kohlrabi added texture and flavours.
Foie gras royale with walnut and celer
Clare Island salmon, kohlrabi, licorice and horseradish
The magnificent visual arrangements continued with our main courses. My shoulder of veal was pink perfection, served with rich jus, swirls of carrot, beautiful mash and blobs of intense, vinegary reductions. But special praise has to go for his main course of pollock (spelt pollack on the menu). I have fond childhood memories of this much-ignored fish. I even tried to buy it once in the English Market only to be told that it was too common and not available. It's a magnificent alternative to cod, and here it was elevated to buttery perfection, accompanied by the strong tastes of wild garlic with charred and pickled onion petals.
Veal shoulder, local carrots, date, dill & vinegar
Pollack branade with wild garlic, onion petlals, smoked butter emulsion and wild herbs
We had initially intended to have just two courses for lunch, but as one can imagine, that intention didn't last past the starters. My choice of passionfruit soufflé was listed as taking 15 minutes on the menu, but that gave us time to sit back and relax. Soufflés fascinate me as masterpieces of baking, and this rendition was no exception. Beautifully light and fluffy with a buttery, sugar encrusted outside but still tart and sharp from the passionfruit. My only (and very slight) let down of the meal was the passionfruit sorbet. It was sharp and the soufflé was sharp, making everything too sharp. The lack of balance here was in contrast to the meal so far.

His dessert of poached and roasted Conference pears were beautifully matched with peanut, chocolate and caramel bits. The pears were caramelised and soft (a welcome contrast to my pears at Bon Appetit which skidded off the plate when I tried to cut with my fork). 
Passionfruit soufflé with passionfruit sorbet
Poached and roasted conference pear with chocolate, caramel and peanut
Several of our lunching neighbours were knocking back bottles of wine (with lunch!) but I haven't quite yet reached that position of lushness and fecklessness. However, as I was on holidays, I did enjoy a glass of distinctive Tahbilk Marsanne from the Goulburn Valley, Australia (€7) with honeysuckle and other, more complex flavours.

There's no doubt that The Greenhouse will soon be the owner of a sparkling Michelin star (if indeed, that is the game they want to play). Food as pretty and elegant as this deserves to be feasted on with all senses, and my lazy backside is very thankful that it's now available in Dublin, as opposed to Clare. With perhaps 6-12 more inches between the tables, this little restaurant would be a veiled cocoon of pleasure.

The Greenhouse, Dawson St, Dublin 2
Tel: +353 (0)1 676 7015
Twitter: @_The_Greenhouse

The Greenhouse on Urbanspoon

Friday, April 13, 2012

[Review] Brasserie Le Pont, Fitzwilliam Place, Dublin 2

A few weeks back, I caught a bad dose of the flu. It was the kind of flu where you're out of action for a full week, something that my tough rural West Cork genes didn't expect to happen. Even when I had recovered enough to go back to work, I was still somewhat fatigued. But a week of light eating at home meant that I had built up a bit of a limited appetite, and I was more than keen to get into a restaurant.

Brasserie Le Pont is tucked away downstairs on Fitzwilliam Place and it's got a bit of Tardis-effect going on. Despite appearing initially small, the restaurant opens up towards the rear, with doors opening onto a garden terrace. The decor is sleek and chic, decidedly on the upscale side of mid market. By the time we were seated at our tables, we were very much liking the look of Brasserie Le Pont.

A set lunch menu offers two courses for €21.95, with more extensive a la carte options. My interest was caught by the daily specials, which I ordered for both starter and main course. Baby squid stuffed with chorizo and feta with saffron risotto and fennel salad was a beauty on the plate (€7.50). I love squid tentacles and the body was plump and juicy from the stuffing. His Lyonnaise salad of frisee lettuce, poached eggs, lardons, croutons and mustard dressing was generous and spot on (€8.95). Extra bonus points were awarded for the large glass plate on which the salad was served. 
Baby squid stuffed with feta and chorizo
Frisee salad with lardons, poached egg and mustard dressing
Mains consisted of duck confit and moules frites. The confit of magret duck was served with red cabbage, roasted garlic pommel puree, fig and pearl onion puree (€15.95). The duck was perfectly cooked, the potatoes were delicious, but there was slightly too much of the overly sweet red cabbage. Overall though, this was a very well done classic French dish. I love moules frites, but I'm frequently disappointed when the sauce is weak and wishy-washy. However, that was most definitely not the case with his main course, which came with a punchy, tasty white wine and garlic sauce (€12.95).
Confit of magret duck with garlic potatoes

Owner Fiona Kelly wished to create a French brasserie which combined high quality food with affordable prices. Chef James Doyle (formerly of RhodesD7 and Gordon Ramsay at the Powerscourt Ritz-Carlton) takes the lead in the kitchen and the results are extremely impressive. His set lunch meal delivered perfectly executed French classics, while my special selections showed some real flair, particularly the baby squid starter. 

Brasserie Le Pont is a quietly classy spot. It fits nicely into the Dublin scene, offering a stylish room, stylish food at recession stylish prices. After being sick for a whole week, Brasserie Le Pont definitely helped lift my spirits.

Brasserie Le Pont, Fitzwilliam Place, Dublin 2
Tel: +353 (0)1 669 4600
Twitter: @BrasserieLePont

Brasserie Le Pont on Urbanspoon

Sunday, April 8, 2012

Yummy Drummy Card at Dundrum Town Centre

Dundrum Town Centre has recently launched the aptly named Yummy Drummy card, which offers discounts to diners in many of the restaurants and cafes located in the shopping centre. For some reason, availability is limited to just 5,000 cards but registration still appears to be open. If you find yourself in Dundrum on a frequent basis, then this card could be well worth applying for.

Regular listings of the discounts available will be emailed to card holders, and offers are supposed to change regularly. I've provided the offer list from April 5th below in order to give you an idea of the available discounts.

Broadly speaking, I think this is a great initiative from the restaurants and cafes in Dundrum Town Centre.  I love a discount or offer, coming from a combination of my unique penny-saving mother and long-term postgraduate career. I especially like the straightforward simple discounts, such as a flat 10% discount from burger chain Eddie Rocket's, 15% from pizza restaurant Milano or 10% from the delicious Port House. Kudos to venues such as these for making life easy for customers.

However, what I immensely dislike are the offers with T&Cs attached, particularly T&Cs that are akin to requiring that you paint yourself blue on a Wednesday when Scorpio is in ascension. Harvey Nichols First Floor Bar & Restaurant appears to be the most limited offer followed by others such as Siam Thai and Roly's Saul. Sorry restaurants, I don't want to have to remember details for this type of stinginess.

  • Ananda - 10% discount on food only from a la carte menu Sun - Thurs
  • Bagel Factory - 10% off
  • Café Libro - 20% discount on all food & drinks
  • Cortina's - 15% off any bottle of wine Mon - Fri
  • Douglas and Kaldi - Starter, main course, dessert and bottle of wine for 2 people for just €50
  • Eddie Rocket's - 10% discount
  • L'Officina - Lunch offer of pasta and house dessert for €15 Mon - Fri 12pm-4pm
  • Gallery Café - 10% discount Mon - Fri
  • Frangos World Cuisine - Free dessert with every adult meal purchased from Carvery Mon - Fri 5pm-9pm
  • Harvey Nichols - 10% discount on lunch and cocktails in the 1st floor restaurant & bar. Tues - Thurs only
  • Milano - 15% discount. Not valid with any other offer
  • Ristorante Del Arte - 20% off main menu (Not applicable to special menus)
  • Roly's Saul The Restaurant - 10% discount on the a la carte dinner menu (food only) Sun - Thurs 5pm - 10pm
  • Siam Thai - 10% discount on cocktails anytime and 10% off a la carte menu Sun - Wed
  • The Counter - 10% off all food Mon - Fri
  • The Port House - 10% discount
  • Wagamama - 15% off food Mon - Fri
  • Yogism - Buy one yogurt, get a second for €1
  • Yo!Sushi - 20% discount Tues - Fri


The Pit, Raleigh, North Carolina

In North Carolina, barbecue is king. I've seen peoples eyes glaze over as they tell me about their backyard barbecues or their favourite little barbecue roadside shacks. In general, small and local appears to be better when it comes to barbecue, but there appears to be one exception - The Pit in Raleigh. 
Stitch and Bear - The Pit - Menu
The menu at The Pit
The Pit can hardly be described as a shack. It's situated in a beautifully restored 1930s meatpacking warehouse right in the middle of downtown Raleigh. Despite being large and spacious, queues of diners spill over onto the street outside, patiently waiting for a table in this shrine to barbecue. Young and old, families and couples, The Pit appears to appeal to all in Raleigh. 

By the time of writing, I have visited on three separate occasions. On my first visit, I must admit that I felt a little let-down, as the chopped pork didn't live up to the anticipated hype. But then I learned about the different barbecue styles and the selection of better dish choices on subsequent visits has produced much better results. 

For your dining information, it's worth understanding some key regional barbecue differences. Broadly speaking, some barbecues are dressed with a vinegar based sauce, while others come with sweeter, tomato based sauces. Depending on your preferences, this can be a major factor in your barbecue enjoyment. Even within the state of North Carolina, there are important variations. Eastern North Carolina involves cooking the whole hog with thin vinegar sauces while Western North Carolina uses only the pork shoulder and thicker sweeter tomato sauces (also known as Lexington barbecue). 

On my first visit to The Pit in November 2011, we ordered chopped barbecue (pit-cooked overnight, chopped and seasoned Eastern North Carolina Style) and pulled pork (smoked and pulled from the bone, lightly seasoned and ready to sauce as you would like). Both dishes were very well priced at  $11.99 and came with two sides of your choosing. We liked the smoky pulled pork, but didn't really enjoy the chopped barbecue due to the vinegar dressing. But that was a rookie mistake on my part, one that I didn't repeat on subsequent visits. 
Stitch and Bear - The Pit - Chopped barbecue & sides
Chopped barbecue at The Pit 
Stitch and Bear - The Pit - Pulled pork & sides
Pulled pork at The Pit
When I visited in March 2012, it was as part of a group of four. This allowed us to order a selection of dishes, placing them in the middle of the  table for all of us to share. A whole rack of baby back ribs ($21.99) were magnificently smoked, with meat falling easily from the bone. Judging by the outstretched hands, this was the favourite dish at the table. The incredibly tender smoked beef brisket ($15.99) was my next favourite, while moist pulled pork and unremarkable BBQ chicken (pit roast on the bone, $13.99) rounded out the meal.
Stitch and Bear - The Pit - Baby back ribs
Baby back ribs with collard greens and mac'n'cheese at The Pit
Another major plus about The Pit is the wide range of speciality beers available. America supports its microbreweries and craft beers and the menu at The Pit offers plenty of choice. With my new wheat-free diet in full force, I was delighted to find gluten-free options such as Crispin hard cider, which was light and fresh. The wheat free diet meant that I couldn't partake of the basket of light fluffy biscuits (or scones to us Europeans) and crispy hush puppies which arrive at the table once you sit down. 
Stitch and Bear - The Pit - Crispin cider
Crispin cider at The Pit
Overall, I very much like The Pit. The carnivore who lives within me is sated by the large portions of succulent, juicy, smoked meat. But I've learned the hard way that a lot depends on your order choices. For me it's pulled pork, baby back ribs and brisket all the way. The same logic applies to sides. Sweet potato fries and creamed corn are good, while I can live well without the collard greens and grits. 

Reading reviews of The Pit online is an interesting experience, as lots of posters seem to take a delight in slating the place. Apparently for many purists it's too upscale to serve "real" barbecue. Now, I'm a novice in the world of real barbecue, but I do think that with some careful selections that you can have a fine barbecue experience with good beers & cocktails in The Pit. 

(For other dining tips, visit the website This genius website pulls together information on all venues featured on shows such as Man v Food or Diners, Drive-ins and Dives. To date, I have yet to replicate any of the challenge events, but these shows do act as a guide to regional specialities.)

The Pit, 328 West Davie St, Raleigh, NC 27601
Tel: +1 (919) 980 4500
Twitter: @thepitbbq

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Brigs Restaurant, Raleigh, North Carolina

Imagine you're away from home for work, and it's the weekend. You can't turn to the other person in your life for company, or share the usual weekend morning routines of coffee and relaxing. You need to find some restaurants or cafes that will fill that void.

I've made several visits to Brigs restaurants in Raleigh, NC, in the past few months. It constantly turns up as a popular brunch spot on Google, and the queues waiting to get in seem to confirm the popular opinion. The first time I visited was a bitterly cold January morning (think everything coated in silver frost), so I was glad to park and head indoors only to be faced by a large queue of people all waiting to get in. I registered with the hostess and received an electronic tag which would alert me when a table became available. I settled down with my book in the unheated porch area and waiting, cursing under my breath.

I don't think I was waiting long though, whatever my frozen backside might say, but I did jump a mile in the air when my alarm buzzed in my lap. I was seated at a table for 4 in the corner but looking around, Brigs doesn't really seem to do tables for one or two people. They are clearly used to feeding groups. Like a lot of American restaurants, the menu is substantial, but could be broken down into categories such as skillets, omelettes, scrambled eggs and pancakes & waffles.

My friendly waiter made sure that I quickly had the essentials (coffee and water) and then returned to take my order. I went for one of the monthly specials - the imaginatively titled Three Little Pigs benedict. The blurb on the menu promised the following...

The big bad wolf would have loved this one, and so will you! This tasty benedict has two large sausage patties, shaved smoked ham, poached fresh eggs, Hollandaise sauce, and a sprinkle of bacon atop a toasted English muffin. Served with fresh fruit and choice of grits or homefries. $9.79
Three Little Pigs Benedict at Brigs, Raleigh
Repeated (and unsuccessful) efforts in NC have taught me that I just don't like grits, so I went for homefries. When the eggs arrived, I was amazed at the amount of food that had been piled onto the plate. In the little skillet sat an english muffin with thick slices of ham, poached eggs, sausage patties & hollandaise sauce. Piled around it were cubes of homefried potatoes which slices of pineapple and melon and a sprig of grapes lurked on the other side.

Fast forward two months and I return to Brigs in March. This time the monthly specials had an Irish theme. I shuddered to see the corrupted wording "St Patty's Day" on the menu, but even so, the Dublin benedict sounded very tasty.
A favourite from the past - we top a toasted English muffin with steamed asparagus, shaved lean corned beef, poached eggs and a special stone ground mustard hollandaise! Served with fruit and home fries or grits $9.89
Stitch and Bear - Brigs Raleigh - Dublin Benedict
The Dublin Benedict at Brigs, Raleigh
Again, I received the same type of platter. The generous amount of thin sliced corned beef and delicious mustard hollandaise sauce went down very well. My new wheat-free diet meant leaving the English muffin behind me, but hey, given that it was an Irish-themed dish, I felt quite patriotic.

Brigs isn't a fancy place - the dining room is quite basic in design and decor. But Brigs knows what it's about. It's about good, tasty, filling food that the whole family can enjoy. My total breakfast (which kept me going for most of the day) cost under $15, including coffee & taxes. Best of all, what you don't finish can be boxed up and taken away to eat later.

Brigs, Brennan Station Shops, 8111 Creedmoor Road, Raleigh, NC 27613 Tel: +1 (919) 870 0994

Monday, April 2, 2012

Ben & Jerry's Free Cone Day - April 3rd

This press release came into my inbox at short notice, but it does involve free ice-cream, so it's well worth sharing. Ben & Jerry's make delicious ice-cream and are well known for their interest in Fair Trade, sustainable business and all matters green. Since 1978, they have continously maintained the  long standing tradition of Free Cone days to say "thanks" to the cowmoonity that supported their business.
Founders Ben Cohen and Jerry Greenfield point the way...
Ben & Jerry's dairyingly delicious Free Cone Day will be hoofing its way to Scoop Shops across Ireland on Tuesday, April 3rd. Fans can try a scoop of tried and tested favourites, along with some exciting new additions to the euphoric flavour freezer.

The hours are a little restricted, probably because all the Scoop Shops are located in cinemas. Free scoops will be available between 6pm and 9pm on April 3rd at the following Scoop Shops:

  • Odeon, The Point Dublin 2
  • UCI, Coolock, Dublin 13
  • UCI, Blanchardstown, Dublin 15
  • Movies@, Swords, Co Dublin
  • Movies@, Dundrum, Dublin 16
  • Rainforest Adventure, Dundrum, Dublin 16
  • Storm, Waterford, Railway Square
  • Storm, Limerick, Castleroy Shopping Centre
  • UCI Newbridge, The Whitewater Shopping Centre
  • Flix, Roscommon, Point Retail Park
  • Movies@, Gorey
  • Century, Letterkenny
Log on to to locate your local Scoop Shop or visit

Do you have an idea for a sustainable business?
Ben & Jerry's are on the hunt for some bright sparks in the UK, Ireland, Denmark, Sweden & the Netherlands, who are creating exciting new models for sustainable business which will help make a difference in communities. Are you, or do you know someone who is interested in creating a business that embraces the ice cream pioneer's philosophy of giving back to the community. Now is the time!

The 5 overall winners will scoop themselves a €10,000 cash prize and have their idea featured on a Ben & Jerry's tub!

Entry to the competition closes on the 15th of April, to find out more, click here
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