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!

Friday, May 25, 2012

EVENT: Kanchi Dine in the Dark

If you're heading to Taste of Dublin 2012, you might like to take the opportunity to support a worthy cause, while also enjoying a food experience. Disability organisation Kanchi will offer visitors to the Taste of Dublin a truly unique experience. Kanchi Dine in the Dark will involve an exclusive tasting plate served by legally blind waiting staff, all done in complete darkness. The food will be prepared by 10 of Ireland's top chefs, including Ross Lewis (Chapter One), Kevin Thornton (Thornton's) and Malcolm Starmer (Bite) .
Stitch and Bear - Kanchi Dine in the Dark
After being guided to tables, the diners will be served a taster plate. Without the usual sense of sight, diners will have to engage their other senses. Each sitting will last approximately 30 minutes, after which guests will have the opportunity to meet with the chef who prepared their food, discuss the cooking techniques and the local produce involved.

By removing one sense (sight), other senses can be heightened and altered. Additionally, communication in the dark is very different due to the lack of the usual visual cues. Although the event will offer food enjoyment, the primary aim is to challenge perceptions of difference and disability.

The ten chefs confirmed for the event are: Oliver Dunne (Bon Appetit), Malcolm Starmer (Bite), Stuart O'Keeffe (private chef and TV presenter), Ed Cooney (Merrion Hotel), Ross Lewis (Chapter One), Bridin Carey, Conal Markey, Richard Speedie (all Masterchef 2011), Kevin Thornton (Thornton's) with special guest chef Tom Dunne.

There will be several sittings each day during the Taste of Dublin festival for both lunch and dinner, with 25 places per sitting. Places will be allocated on a first come, first served basis. The cost of entry will be eight Florins (the festival currency) and this will cover the tasting plate and a glass of wine or alternative non-alcoholic drink.

The 7th annual Taste of Dublin takes place from Thursday 14th - Sunday 17th June, in the beautiful Iveagh Gardens. Tickets are now on sale at or call 0818 300 030. Advance standard tickets cost €20 and booking fees apply. For more information please visit

About Kanchi
Kanchi is a not-for-profit disability organisation established in June 2000 by Caroline Casey, a visually impaired social entrepreneur. Kanchi works to change mindsets and behaviours around disability by creating initiatives that influence business and media leadership. Their work is grounded in the Disability Business Case which demonstrates the tangible business benefits of embracing people with disabilities as employees, customers and suppliers.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Whiskey Events at L. Mulligan Grocer and W.J Kavanagh's

Following on from the news of Food & Wine Magazine's Tullamore Dew tastings, which takes place this Wednesday and Thursday, I have also  received word of some more "Whiskey Week" events. These events will be hosted by whiskey-loving L. Mulligan Grocer and W.J. Kavanagh's.

Single Pot Still Tasting
W.J. Kavanagh's
Wednesday, May 23rd @ 7.30 p.m. €12.50

Seamus Lowry from Irish Distilleries will conduct a single pot still evening where attendees will get to sample a Redbreast 12 year old, Redbreast 12 year old cask strength, Power 12 year old John's Lane Release and finally, the fantastic Middleton Barry Crocket Legacy. Our representative from the Midleton Distillery will also have some cask samples of age single pot stills for you to try and who knows, may also pull a rabbit out of the hat. 

Ireland vs Scotland Head to Head
W.J. Kavanagh's
Thursday, May 24th @ 7.30 p.m. €17.50

Whisky Magazine editor Rob Allanson and L. Mulligan Grocer / W.J. Kavangh's Michael Fogarty go head to head in a Scotland vs Ireland Whisk(e)y tasting to determine whether the spirit with an 'e' or without is superior. Last year, the introduction of a surprise (and illegal!) fifth whiskey sealed the deal for the home nation. This year, a food element has been added to the tasting. Will Fivemiletown Irish Goat's Cheese inch out Black Crowdie? Or Burren Smoked salmon trump over Lochmuir Smoked Salmon in this inter-Celt showdown?

Two Whisk(e)y Dinners
W.J. Kavanagh's
Friday, May 25th @ 7.00 p.m. €35.00

On the eve of Whiskey Live, W.J. Kavanagh's are delighted to host the global brand ambassadors from two of the world's leading distillery groups for two very distinct dinners.

Around the Whisky World with Beam Global Whisky Dinner
A special evening treat with the chance to meet John Cashman (Global Brand Ambassador for Irish whiskey within Beam Global), Simon Brooking (Scotch Master Ambassador) and Fred Booker Noe (great grandson of Jim Beam and the Jim Beam Small Batch Bourbon Distiller) for an evening of fine food matched with whiskies from the Beam portfolio. All food and whiskey is included in the price.

Bowmore Whisky Dinner
Join Gordon Dundas from Islay's oldest working distillery, Bowmore, as he guides you through this magical smokey dram matched with fine food and sample some edible peat. All food and whisky is included in the price. 

For menus, please visit the W.J. Kavanagh's website

All of the above Whiskey Week Events can be booked through


Saturday, May 19, 2012

Dining in Raleigh, North Carolina

I want to take an opportunity to give y'all a rundown of the type of food I've enjoyed during recent work visits to Raleigh, North Carolina. Some restaurants will get their own blog post. Other visits will be combined into omnibus type posts, where I will fly through some of the different dishes I've enjoyed and locations that I've visited.

If you were to visit the official Travel & Tourism website,  then you would learn that North Carolina declares itself to be the birthplace of Pepsi cola and home to Krispy Kreme doughnuts. These are odd facts to be promoting when North Carolina is in fact home to lots of microbreweries, wineries and good restaurants.

North Carolina is at the beginning of the South, where men are gentlemanly, accents are drawling and everything is picture perfect. I've been based in Raleigh, which forms part of the Triangle, an area full of high-tech companies, universities and research institutions. As a result, Raleigh is an affluent city with plenty to offer.
Stitch and Bear - Raleigh - Bang Bang shrimp at Bonefish Grill
Bang Bang shrimp at Bonefish Grill
A lot of restaurants seem to offer some form of Bang Bang shrimp (aka Dynamite shrimp or Boom Boom shrimp). These are crispy fried shrimp, tossed in a spicy, creamy sauce. The shrimp at Bonefish Grill come piled high and taste good. On Bang Wednesdays, they are the star attraction, costing just $5 per portion at the bar. An "American Style" Kobe beef burger was spot on with medium rare beef. Seafood is popular in Raleigh and the Bonefish Grill has daily changing fish specials. 
Stitch and Bear - Raleigh - Seabass at Buku
Plaintain encrusted seabass at Buku
Buku is a bizarre restaurant. Inspired by street food from around the world, it serves a wide range of cuisines. However, it's not charging street food prices and the dining room doesn't feel in any way ethnic. However, if you can't make up your mind what cuisine you'd like, then Buku could be the spot for you. I dined as part of a large group where we shared many different starters, all pretty good. My main of plantain-encrusted Chilean sea bass was served with caramelised noodle squash, mango salad and warm passionfruit citrus vinaigrette ($29). The encrusted sea bass was lovely, but the sauce proved too sweet and overpowering.
Stitch and Bear - Raleigh - Hurricane burger at Draft
Hurricane burger at Draft
Draft is a Raleigh tavern that serves up the 3 Bs - beer, burgers and billiards. I stopped here one night on my way to a concert, where I ordered the Hurricane burger ($13). My burger arrived topped with BBQ pork shoulder, cheddar and coleslaw. It's generally quite hard to get a bad burger in the USA and Draft was no exception. The only let down were the sweet potato waffle fries, which didn't have the taste of regular sweet potato fries. Still though, good burgers and lots of beer on draft make this an easy going and fun spot.
Stitch and Bear - Raleigh - Texas Tumbleweed CheeseSteak sandwich at Gypsy's Shiny Diner
Texas Tumbleweed CheeseSteak at Gypsy's Shiny Diner
You probably haven't experienced Americana until you've eaten in an honest-to-god diner. Gypsy's Shiny Diner is an amazing sight, glittering silver in the sunlight. It took many tries for owner Gypsy Gilliam to get this gleaming diner open, but the end result is amazing. Constructed in Florida, the building was trucked to NC on 6 over-sized trailers. Once the convoy passed over NC state lines, it was escorted by the Cary police department, who halted traffic while a crane settled the diner onto its final location.

The food at Gypsy's is no-frills diner food. The staff are friendly and the portions are generous. I went for a late breakfast/early lunch on a Sunday. My food of choice was a Texas Tumbleweed CheeseSteak fried sandwich with thin slices of steak, smoked bacon, melted cheese and sautéed onions, served with grits, homefries or hashbrowns ($8.99). What emerged from the short order cook pass was a sandwich of epic proportions. I managed to each about a half, and then started to sweat while looking at the other half. This definitely isn't heart-friendly food, in fact, you could imagine The King wolfing this down along with his fried Peanut Butter sandwiches, but it was good.
Stitch and Bear - Raleigh - Pulled pork sandwich at the Q Shack
Pulled pork sandwich at Q Shack
North Carolina is all about BBQ, and the Q Shack is a local fast food chain that sources its ingredients from local farms and producers. I visited their restaurant in North Hills where I ordered the hickory smoked pulled pork sandwich, served with fries, coleslaw and hush puppies ($5.69 for the sandwich with one side and hushpuppies). The pork was juicy and tender, with not too much vinegar flavour (an important aspect of Carolina BBQ is the use of vinegar, something that took me a while to get used to). Amazing value and delicious BBQ.
Stitch and Bear - Raleigh - Ruckus
Ruckus Philly Brisket at Ruckus Pizza, Pasta & Spirits
My last feature in the blog post will be Ruckus Pizza, Pasta and Spirits located in Cary, next to Raleigh. It's a popular spot which is famous for its large and creative pizzas. Despite that, I chose to go for the Original Ruckus Philly which featured moist home cured brisket, onions and mushrooms on a toasted hoagie roll ($7).  Very tasty and cost effective in a lively location.

Keep an eye open for more posts featuring highlights from Raleigh and North Carolina dining.

Monday, May 14, 2012

Tullamore Dew Whiskey Dublin Tastings

Way back in October 2011 I attended a tasting of Tullamore Dew whiskies at L. Mulligan Grocer in Stoneybatter. We were led through a selection of whiskies, each matched to a food course. The night was informative and fun, helped by the fact that our table won the cocktail making competition.

Now Food & Wine magazine has teamed up with Tullamore Dew to offer two Dublin-based tastings to Food & Wine readers. The masterclass will be hosted by a Tullamore Dew whiskey expert who will guide the guests through the range, and answer any questions that may arise. In addition, there will also be a chance to win tickets to Whiskey Live 2012, which takes place in the Mansion House on May 25th.

Details of the two events are given below, with tickets costing €15 per person. To book, please call Sarah Curry on (01) 240 5387 or

  • When: Wednesday May 23rd 7pm - 8pm
  • Where: O'Neill's, 2 Suffolk St., Dublin 2
  • When: Thursday May 24th 8pm - 9pm
  • Where: The Duke, 9 Duke St., Dublin 2


Saturday, May 12, 2012

[Review] L'Atitude 51, Union Quay, Cork

Once upon a time, Cork had two great music venues. Sir Henry's was a nightclub which catered to both the Indie and Electronic crowds with regular club nights. It is more than legend to a whole generation of Cork people. Thousands of people "claim" to have attended the famous 1991 gig where new band Nirvana played support to Sonic Youth. I became familiar with Sir Henry's as a UCC fresher in 1996. This love affair lasted all the way through my undergrad and postgrad careers until Celtic Tiger Ireland intruded and it was knocked down to be replaced by a car park. 

The other renowned Cork spot was the famous Lobby Bar, where many great musicians played to small, packed crowds. My favourite memory of the Lobby is a Beth Orton concert on a beautifully warm, sunny summer evening, with the audience squeezed as tight as sardines in the upstairs room. Alas, the Lobby closed in 2005 and subsequently housed a series of restaurants. But things picked up significantly in December 2011 when L'Atitude 51 opened.

Owners Beverly Matthews and Emmanuelle Legrande (both holders of WSET diplomas) have done something special with this venerable location. The interior has been painted in muted colours, the bar sells Irish craft beers and ciders, and I'm reliably informed that they sell some incredible sausage rolls for breakfast. Open from 10am to late 7 days a week, they offer a selection of French-inspired daily specials alongside a regular menu. 
The upstairs interior at L'Atitude 51
The food and wine menus at L'Atitude 51
I've visited several times since L'Atitdude 51 opened, with the most memorable occasion being the Little Beauty wine tasting. This is part of a regular series of Meet the Winemaker events hosted by L'Atitude 51 in conjunction with a selection of Irish wine importers and distributors. I've also called in several times while working in Cork for a glass of good wine, or one of their tasty but simple French dishes. 

We visited on a recent Saturday night to find all seats taken downstairs. Seats were still available upstairs, through a stairwell still papered with gig posters from the Lobby era. The lighting is just enough on the bright side of dim to be comfortable with little tea lights flickering on the tables. We quickly looked at the specials chalked on the board, before settling on two platters of mixed cheese and meats (€12.50 each) supplemented by an order of aranicini (€7.50). 

We settled in with two glasses of 2009 Secateurs Chenin Blanc (€6 per 150ml glass). I like the way that the wine menu is laid out, with categories such as "Fruit Driven" or "Fruity with Attitude" in the red half, balanced by "Herbaceous" and "The Aromatics" in the whites. It definitely gives you an idea of what you might like to experiment with. I also love the glassware used in L'Atitude 51 - there's a real love of wine here.

Our two boards featured large chunks of room-temperature cheese and sliced meats. If I have a favourite food, it would be cheese, and I was in cheese heaven with the wide selection. All nationalities were represented with generous chunks provided. A lot of restaurants could learn from L'Atitude 51 about temperature and portion size.
Meat and cheese board No 1
Meat and cheese board No 2
Due to the delay in giving our arancini order, they were late in arriving, coming just as we were scraping the last of the cheese rinds. We had ordered a mixed plate with both ham and spinach varieties. Arancini are Sicilian rice balls, made with mozzarella and other ingredients which are then deep fried until crispy golden. As you can imagine, the end result is a gooey, melted dumpling with a lovely crispy exterior. By this stage, we had finished the Chenin Blanc, so we ordered a 250ml pichet of 2010 Domaine de la Renne Sauvignon Blanc (€9), which offered better value than 2 individual glasses. 
Mixed selection of arancini
I've got to admit that I'm a big fan of Emma and Beverly's venue. They've taken a venerable Cork venue and produced a modern, yet relaxed wine bar. It's easily possible to spend hours sitting in the window, watching the River Lee flow past, while sipping on a fine wine. Their passion for all matters oenological (I just love that word) is evident in every part of the bar, from the large chalked wine lists right through to the regular wine tastings and classes. 

Since L'Atitude 51 opened in December, another wine bar has opened in the former premises of Arthur Mayne Pharmacy on Pembroke St. But there is a massive difference in attitude. Arthur Mayne does occupy a beautifully restored nostalgic premises, but it also chases the loud late night bar crowd. Walking into a crowd of under-dressed over-sexed late night partygoers is not something I find sits naturally with the enjoyment of a good class of wine. That's where L'Atitude 51 wins. So pull out your GPS and get yourself to (51.9, -8.47) and relax.

L'Atitude 51, Union Quay, Cork
Tel: +353 (0)21 239021
Twitter:  @Latitude_51

Sunday, May 6, 2012

Crisp Fest 2012 (with loads of crisps)

My May bank holiday weekend plans had involved getting on a plane to the US on the Sunday. Exciting as this was, I was even more delighted to receive a phone call informing me that my work schedule would change. As a result, I got to spend the whole weekend at home, a truly unexpected pleasure.  

The main problem lay in the fact that I had turned down a whole raft of invitations and events, as I had planned to be stateside. But then a late saviour from an unlikely source appeared. The first Crisp Fest was scheduled to take place at The Bernard Shaw. As someone who loves crips, this was an absolute no-brainer.

This excellent festival is the brainchild of the folks behind the Irish A Blog About Crisps. The concept is simple - come to the pub, eat some crisp sandwiches and drink some drinks. But these clever guys took it a step further by securing loads of free crisps from the likes of King Crisps, Tayto, Boxerchips and Keogh's (forgive me if there were others I haven't listed). 

The first task of the evening was to secure drinks - himself took care of that by getting two whiskey sours for €10. The second task fell to me, namely to secure a crisp sandwich for himself. This task involved some tough decision making - would he prefer the classics of Tayto or King or perhaps strike out with an alternative crisp? Tradition won out and I secured a Tayto sandwich made from the softest, whitest sliced pan. For myself, I snagged my favourite flavour (Salt and Vinegar) in the form of Boxerchips Salty Malty.
Stitch and Bear - Crisp Fest 2012 - Salty Malty Boxerchips and crisp sandwich
Salty Malty Boxerchips and a classic Tayto sandwich
With drinks and the all important first sandwich onboard, we continued to work our way through the free samples. First up was a bag of new kids on the block Keogh's Shamrock and Sour Cream. This was followed by more Boxerchips, but this time taking the form of a mixed vegetable variety (parsnip, sweet potato and beetroot). At this stage, bags of Tayto Prawn Cocktail were being handed out to the crowd, so we also snagged some of those.
Stitch and Bear - Crisp Fest 2012 - Keogh's Shamrock & Sour Cream
Keogh's Shamrock and Sour Cream
Stitch and Bear - Crisp Fest 2012 - Various Veggies Boxerchips
The Various Veggies from Boxerchips
The only downside to Crisp Fest 2012 was the freezing cold. Even with all the lovely crispy goodness on offer, we decided to head back indoors, but not before himself got one more crisp sandwich. At this point, we were offered some handmade badges to wear with pride (which I did).
Stitch and Bear - Crisp Fest 2012 - A badge of pride at Crisp Fest 2012
My badge of pride - Crisp Fest 2012
I think the Blog About Crisps (@blogaboutcrisps) team are onto a great idea. If there is one thing that Irish people love as much as the pub, it is crisps. It's even better if the pub and crisps are combined. And it's even better again if crisp sandwiches are added to the mix. This event could be a fantastic showcase for newer crisp brands, as well as providing an opportunity to enjoy some old favourites. 

Well done to team behind Crisp Fest 2012. Here's to Crisp Fest 2013.

Saturday, May 5, 2012

Vanilla Pod Eatery, Carrickmines, Dublin 18

Our new favourite Sunday activity is going for walks in the hills and forests of South Dublin and Wicklow. As well as getting out for fresh air and activity, a lot of the walks give stunning views of Dublin and Dublin Bay.  In less time than it takes to watch an episode of your favourite TV show, you can climb and look down on the city. Check out the Wicklow Walks website for listings of various walks, which are graded by time taken and degree of difficulty.

On a recent Sunday, we walked through the woods at Carrickgollogan, climbing to the top of the little summit for some great views. From there we continued round the circuit to the historic Ballycorus lead mines flue chimney. Obviously we were a bit peckish after our ramble, so we headed to the nearby Park in Carrickmines, where you can find the Vanilla Pod Eatery.

The Vanilla Pod Eatery is a bright open space with ample seating for hungry shoppers, office workers or local residents. The people behind the location have loads of experience including the Brown Thomas Café, and this is evident the minute you step into the VPE. The counter is bursting at the seams with loads of cakes and sweet goodies, while little pots of heather brighten every table. As it was Sunday, the brunch menu was available, boosted by several daily specials. 

He chose a hearty bacon and sausage sandwich (€7.50) served with a little pot of relish and an extra side of fries (€2.90). This was substantial, enhanced by the high quality of the sausages used. I chose one of the specials - egg, ham and cheese served with potato rosti (€8). This turned out to be a large disc of roughly mashed potato, topped with a thick generous slice of home cooked ham, egg and melted cheddar. It was extremely satisfying after an outdoor walk, but there was too much potato and I ended up leaving a decent portion on my plate. 

Bacon and sausage sandwich
Fried egg, ham and potato rosti
As we ate, we watched the busy staff work, we could see that their t-shirts are emblazoned with humourous statements, a theme which carries through to the coffee mugs. My only complaint about the VPE arose when we received our coffees. We ordered Americanos (€3), only to receive full-sized mugs full to the brim. I dislike the Irish habit of serving over-sized coffees so this was a negative point for me. 
The humorous mugs at the Vanilla Pod
There's a whole lot to like about the VPE. It's friendly and casual while the food is simple but good. Prices are pretty decent and there is a cheerfulness about the place and its staff that is quite welcoming. In short, it's a very decent casual eatery.

Vanilla Pod Eatery, The Park, Carrickmines, Dublin 18
Tel: +353 (0)1 294 5126

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

May Wine Tastings at L'Atitude 51, Cork

I'm very proud of being from Cork, and living away from Cork can never change how you feel about the place. I do prefer to live in Dublin, but there is something about Cork that will always say home. Therefore, I'm pleased to be able to bring news of some Cork wine events to my rebel readers.

Way back in February, I attended a Little Beauty wine tasting held at L'Atitude 51 on Union Quay. (Those of my generation will better remember this venue as the famous Lobby Bar.) This tasting was part of the Meet the Winemaker series, hosted by L'Atitude 51 in conjunction with various Irish wine importers and merchants. It turned out to be a great opportunity to taste some good wines, eat some good food and most importantly, hear the thoughts of the winemaker themselves. 

I recently received news from L'Atitude 51 of two new upcoming tastings for the month of May, which I'm delighted to share with you. As you might expect at L'Atitude 51, cheeses, charcuterie and light snacks will be served to match each wine. To book your places at these intimate events, just pick up the phone and call L'Atitude 51 at (021)2390219

Beaujolais Tasting - Thursday May 10th (19.00-20.30)

This first event, in association with Karwigs Wines, introduces Loic Teymond of Chateau de Chatelard, a Beaujolais producer, making wines in the Fleurie, Moulin a Vent and Brouilly appellations. Loic will guide you through a tasting of 4 of his wines and introduce you to this interesting  winemaking region in France. 

Beaulolais produces predominantly red wines from the Gamay grape using an unusual technique known as carbonic maceration. Nestled between Burgundy and the Rhone Valley, it often gets overshadowed by its more well-known neighbours; however, Beaujolais also produces some very good quality wines which are well worth investigating. No better opportunity now that we're coming into the summer (or what we hope will be a summer). Vines have been cultivated on the Chateau de Chatelard domain since it was created in the time of Charlemagne in the eighth century. This chateau is fanatical about quality, both in the farming and in the winemaking. 

Cost: €10 per person

Frankland River Tasting - Wednesday May 23rd (18.30-20.00)

The second event, in association with Wines Direct, will introduce Sandy and Rod Hallett of Alkoomi Wines, based in the Frankland River region of Western Australia. Sandy and Rod will give a presentation on the Frankland River area and will guide you through a tasting of 6 of their wines. 

Located in Western Australia’s Great Southern approximately 360 kilometres south-east of Perth, Frankland River is one of Australia’s fastest growing wine regions. Although viticulture began in the Frankland River region in 1969, it has only more recently become known as a significant producer of premium quality Western Australian wines. This is one of the  coolest wine producing regions in Western Australia.

L'Atitude 51, Union Quay, Cork
Tel: +353 (0)21 239021
Twitter:  @Latitude_51
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