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!

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Have you seen my stolen bicycle?

It's horrible when theft hits you. I became a victim over the weekend, when thieves entered the grounds of my home and stole my newish bicycle. As well as losing my bicycle, I also feel a little violated, as experienced by many victims of theft.

My bicycle is a distinctive Pendleton Somerby in a lovely pale blue. It's sold exclusively by Halfords, so it's not that common. I would be so grateful if you could keep your eyes open for this bicycle. Please report any information to Rathmines Garda Station (information below).

  • Cruiser-style bicycle
  • Pale blue frame
  • Distinctive white tyres
  • Brown leather saddle and brown leather handlebar  
  • 7 speed Shimano gears 
  • When stolen, front tyre was punctured 
  • Basket holder fitted to handlebars 
  • Front and rear LED lights 
  • Some identifying scratches 

Please report any information to Rathmines Garda Station at (01) 6666 700


Sunday, October 28, 2012

[Review] Hilan Chinese & Korean Restaurant, Capel St, Dublin 1

It's a bank holiday Sunday and we're relaxing on the sofa. Earlier in the morning, we'd cooked some pork and chili sausages, accompanied by onions carmelised in the sausage pan juices and some paprika home fries. Despite this fine meal, a thought crept into my mind. It started out as a gentle nudge and a whisper, but it didn't take long before it was flaunting itself like a can-can dancer and roaring at the top of its voice. "Give me spicy food"!

Looking out of our window, I could see leaves scattered everywhere, while tree branches were beginning to look bleak against the grey skies. Against such a backdrop, food which warms both body and soul seemed the best of ideas . Scarves and warm woolen coats on board, we headed out. Thankfully, town was quiet and we were quickly over on the Northside, in the vicinity of Capel Street and Parnell Street. 

One of my long-term favourite haunts, the Hilan Chinese and Korean, has recently reopened after a refit. (You can read my earlier ill-formed blogging from 2009 here.) The refit has seen the counter swapping sides, while the wooden floors and tables have been replaced with a slate-inspired look. The ugly retro-fitted ventilation systems have now been absorbed into the new ceiling and there's a feeling of more space. The makeover extends to the menu also, which has been expanded with more Chinese options available.
From top left clockwise, the menu at the Hilan, dry-fried spicy beef, green beans and the aftermath
A mountain of fried green beans was crunchy and flavoured with garlic, black fermented beans and a scattering of dried chilis (€9.90). This is a dish I order often in Chinese restaurants and I love to see the variations bought by each chef. (It's often lablled Four Season beans on menus). A spicy fish bowl contained large chunks of soft white fish, floating in a beansprout broth (€12.90). The lightness and delicacy of this dish feels so virtuous but it's tinged with a spicy edge from a topping of chili, garlic, ginger and fresh herbs.

I stepped up the heat level with my choice of dry-fried chili beef (€10.90), which is flavoured with the Sichuan peppercorn. By the way, it's not actually a peppercorn, but is the fruit of the Pricky Ash tree and is a spice that demands respect from the beginning Chinese eater. The initial taste is somewhat medicinal and it quickly progresses to a tingling mouth numbing sensation. It's also utterly delicious and addictive. More please!
The comforting and fragrant spicy fish bowl
Finishing off with some green tea
Soon, we were contentedly facing three decimated plates of food. We were satiated, but that didn't stop us from craning our necks as the waitresses walked past with dishes for other diners. Chinese restaurants invoke dish jealousy and visits always involve a frantic effort to commit dishes to memory for future visits. 

The Hilan is currently celebrating its 10th birthday, and is offering a 20% discount until the start of December. This meant that the bill for our three large courses and sundries came to a respectable €30.80. Although our meal consisted of Chinese dishes, every table at the Hilan is equipped with a Korean BBQ with a wide range of Korean dishes on offer. 

Sichuan peppercorns are reputed to act as blood purifiers and digestive aids. I can't verify that but I can tell you that I was warmed and comforted after our meal at the Hilan. As we stepped back out onto the bleak and wintery streets, the charming staff completed the experience with a warm farewell.

Hilan Chinese and Korean Restaurant, 45 Capel Street, Dublin 1
Tel: +353 (0)1 874 8677

Monday, October 22, 2012

[Event] Mediterranean Magic at the Tannery Cookery School

A lot of my friends and family call me a lucky person. You may call me a jammy git, but over the years, I have won a fair amount of competitions and prizes, including many books, tickets to U2, and a top prize of an IBM laptop. (A huge prize for a poor postgraduate student). I don't have any secret to my success though - other than the fact that I enter competitions. It takes a second to pop your name in the draw and you could very well win. It's amazing the amount of people who will say that they have no luck, but how can you win if you don't enter?

Twitter has been a great mechanism for winning competitions. Until recently, my top Twitter prize was a 2 night stay at the lovely Sheen Falls Lodge, but that was all changed when Máire Flynn of The Tannery Restaurant, Townhouse & Cookery School rang. It turned out that I was one of three lucky Twitter winners who had won places on the Mediterranean Magic course. Máire had been struck by a string of last-minute cancellations, and generously offered the places via a Twitter raffle. 

We were a little late arriving at the Cookery School on the Saturday morning, which meant that we were able to sit with a cup of coffee in the kitchen, while Paul Flynn and the other attendees picked supplies from the garden. The kitchen in the school is an amazing bright space, which used to be a convent music room. Our particular class was going to be a demonstration class, but hands-on practical classes also on offer for the more dedicated students. 
The demonstration counter 
A wider view of the bright and airy room (#spotflynny to the side)
Watching Paul work was an educating experience. I'm no slouch at multitasking in the kitchen, but Mr Flynn is a whole different level. This shouldn't come as any great surprise, given his long experience in the cheffing game. He chatted and entertained as he chopped, diced and whisked his way through the dishes. We spent the morning watching him make the dishes for our lunch, including a fabulously fresh gazpacho, a vibrant Tuscan bread salad and a warming Moroccan chicken. Dessert was a wonderful Orange Almond Cake doused in a spiced orange syrup. 
Moroccan Chicken
Panzanilla - Tuscan Bread Salad
Orange Almond Cake
As the dishes were completed, Paul and his lovely assistant piled them on the kitchen worktop and we then helped ourselves before taking a seat in the calm and serene dining room. Generous glasses of wine, and a common love of tasty food ensured that there was plenty of chat over lunch. We were treated to a visit from Twitter royalty in the form of Paul's wife and business partner Máire, along with their two angelic little girls. The Tannery is a real family business. 
Lunchtime in the elegant dining room
After lunch, we were more than a little sleepy, but Paul seemed to have gained in energy over lunch and he launched into Round Two of cooking. He churned out aubergine rolls with red pepper sauce, a comforting ham, cheese and potato cake, all finished off with an exotic and spiced fruit salad. Of course, we had to sample all this before we could depart! We rolled out of the Tannery holding our recipe booklets, hugely inspired by Paul's attitude to flavours and freshness. 
Aubergine Rolls
Spiced fruit salad
Ham, Cheese and Potato Cake
If you are interested in taking a course with Paul at the Tannery Cookery School, then you can check out the website below for more information on upcoming courses. If you want to make a weekend of it, it's also possible to combine a cookery class with a stay in the lovely Tannery B&B, as well as enjoying a meal in their famous restaurant. Or perhaps, given the proximity of the Christmas season, a trip to the Tannery Cookery School might make the perfect gift. 

The Tannery Cookery School, 10 Quay Street, Dungarvan, Co Waterford
Tel: +353 (0)58 45420
Twitter: @TanneryDungarva @paulflynnchef


Saturday, October 13, 2012

[Review] The French Laundry @ Bon Appetit, Malahide, Co Dublin

The Restaurants of the World series is a very clever idea from Oliver Dunne of Bon Appetit. Instead of travelling miles abroad to eat at world famous restaurants, you simply travel to his Michelin-starred restaurant in Malahide, where you will be treated to menus inspired by the very best restaurants. Earlier in the year, I had booked for the Fat Duck night, but as often happens, work intervened and I had to cancel. Thankfully, Oliver decided to extend the series and I quickly booked nights based on The French Laundry and Nobu. The menus cost €60 per person for one night and €50 per person for the second night. 

Our first night was inspired by The French Laundry which is located in Napa Valley, California where it has a focus on French food with contemporary American influences. Chef Thomas Keller is the only American chef to have been awarded simultaneous three star Michelin ratings for two different restaurants. Basically, this means that he is hot stuff in the Michelin world.

I always enjoy the muted elegant dining room at Bon Appetit. A few weeks previously, we had celebrated a family birthday in the semi-full dining room, but on this Wednesday night, it was buzzing. Eight courses for €60 represents some seriously good value and people are clearly responding. 

The menu for the night is given below, along with photos of 7 of the 8 courses. Apologies for the darkness of the photos, but Bon Appetit isn't the kind of establishment where you flash photo, and the iPhone 4 camera isn't great in low light. I'm disappointed that I forgot to take a photo of the unctuous black truffle custard, which was delicately presented in an egg shell with warm carmelised onions. 

Black Truffle Custard
Potato Crisps
Blue Fin Tuna Nicoise
Capsicum Confetti and Toasted Brioche
Slow Cooked Salmon
Braised Red Cabbage, Parsnip Puree
Pan Fried Foie Gras
Artichoke Ravioli, Chive Oil and Barigoule Vegetables
Braised Veal Breast
Polenta and Parmesan Cake, Vichy Carrots, Mustard Sauce
Tote du Moine Cheese, Spiced Carrot Salad, Raisin Puree
Black Figs Roasted with Vanilla Sugar, Honey Ice Cream
Carrot Cake
Vanilla Frosting, Candied Walnut, Carrot Puree

Course 2 - Blue Fin Tuna Nicoise
Course 3 - Slow Cooked Salmon
Course 4 - Pan Fried Foie Gras
Course 5 - Braised Veal Breast
Course 6 - Cheese
Course 7 - Figs
Course 8 - Carrot Cake
Simplicity was the most noticeable feature in the dishes we received. Oliver Dunne's own food usually features more complex textures but here everything was stripped back. The dishes were very classic in style and very elegant. Slow cooked salmon retained its bright peach colour while a darkly intense tapenade enhanced the tuna nicoise. A little swirling tower of cheese slices sat atop a juicy spiced carrot salad, finishing with a moist square of humble carrot cake. 

I was pleasantly surprised (and a little shocked) when Oliver Dunne himself arrived at our table for a little chat. My impression is of an honest man, with little ego (especially considering the very short time it took for him to earn his Michelin star in 2008).  I've met a lot of restaurant managers and a few chefs since my blog started to become more widely-read, but I'm still not used to it. I guess I get a little star-struck by people who have the courage to be creative and produce food for other people to enjoy.

The honesty theme continues as Bon Appetit is currently seeking diners to act as restaurant critics. Between October 24th to November 3rd, a 6 course tasting menu will be available for just €45. In return, diners will be asked to put pen to paper and provide some honest  feedback. 

Bon Appetit,  James Terrace, Malahide, Co Dublin
Tel: +353 (0)1 845 0314
Twitter: @bonappmalahide

Bon Appetit on Urbanspoon

Friday, October 5, 2012

[Review] ORSO Kitchen & Bar, Pembroke Street, Cork

It's official - I have survived my second Oracle R12 go-live. For those of you unfamiliar with this subject, don't worry. Suffice to say that it's my real life job which funds my restaurant and cocktail habit. I've been involved with this particular project for a year, spent 14 weeks in the US and I've slept about 4 hrs on average each night over the last week. However, it's been a great success and I am very proud of the effort put in by both my company and the client personnel. Eating out and blogging activities definitely took a backseat during this hectic period. I may be a super woman but I'm not Superwoman. 

Conrad and Judy Howard, with their business partner Tracy Corbett, are some super business people. Firmly established in Cork's dining scene, they are the team behind the ever-busy Market Lane restaurant, the lovely Castle Cafe in Blackrock Castle, plus the new brewing venture Elbow Lane. Now the long-vacant Peppercorns premise on Pembroke Street has been smartened up something fierce to play home to ORSO Kitchen & Bar.
The food-laden counter at ORSO Kitchen
I have very fond memories of a tapas venture that used to run at night in Peppercorns. Apparently, a Spanish man had an arrangement to use the kitchen at night, where he would cook some fabulous tapas. I can still remember the crispy thin potato fries and chorizo cooked in wine - yes, they were that good. Unfortunately though, the relationship didn't last terribly long and that was the end of tapas in Cork. But now flavour will return to this venue, courtesy of the North African & Mediterranean stylings at ORSO.
Homemade free-range sausage roll with tomato relish
Stuffed roast aubergine with spiced roast veg
Slow cooked lamb pie
It's small inside ORSO and table space is at a premium. But it works somehow, probably due to the clean interior and the welcoming food counter. On a recent lunch, Himself ordered both the enormous homemade free-range sausage roll with tomato relish (€3.00) as well as the slow cooked lamb pie with coriander, apricots and potatoes (€5.00 or €8.50 with choice of salad). The sausage roll was smooth with a sweet flavour from the tomato relish, while the lamb pie was richly filled with fragant tender lamb.

My stuffed roast aubergine with spiced roast vegetables, yogurt and pine nuts (€5.00 or €8.50) came with a salad of roast squash, lentils, orange and little pickled pearl onions. This was like a comforting hug from a warm autumn kitchen, perfect for these shortening days. All was good until I managed to knock down a painting hanging behind me. Apologies ORSO!
Boneless lamb rib in sesame crust
Speck with chargrilled peaches and water grass
ORSO opens mainly during the day time, but extends to nighttime Thursday - Saturday. In the interests of providing a detailed report, I returned on my own for an evening meal. Alternatively, you could simply say I was hungry. The evening menu is full of small plates with matching prices. I initially ordered a New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc, but switched to a richer Vina Sios Celestia Chardonnay/Sauvignon Blanc blend at the suggestion of my waiter (€6.40 per glass). Two thumbs up for the good suggestion.

My choices of boneless lamb rib in a sesame crust (€7.50) and a speck salad with chargrilled peaches and watercress (€6.50) were excellent choices for a lone diner. They would work equally well as part of a larger selection for two or more. Others dishes such as honey glazed chicken quarter with chili and sesame or a spatchcocked guinea fowl will tempt me back for more.

I've despaired a lot lately of the dining scene in Cork, which seems somewhat stagnant in comparison to the vibrancy of Dublin. But ORSO stands out from the crowd with bright colours and rich soulful flavours. Pricing is spot on making it an attractive option for lunch or dinner.

ORSO Kitchen & Bar, 8 Pembroke Street, Cork
Tel: +353 (0)21 243 8000
Twitter: @ORSOKitchen

Orso on Urbanspoon
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