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, November 25, 2012

[Competition] Christmas Giveaway #2 - Mango Tree Thai

This competition is now closed. Thanks very much to all those who entered and a Happy Christmas.

My second Christmas giveaway comes courtesy of Mango Tree Thai takeaways in Rathfarnham and Lucan. If you're overdosing on chocolate, mince pies and Christmas party food, you may feel the need for something different, something spicy and fragrant perhaps?

There's no doubt that Thai food is increasingly popular in Dublin and Ireland, and Mango Tree believes that Dubliners should pay a fair price for authentic Thai food. Owned by a husband and wife team, all kitchen staff employed at Mango Tree outlets are Thai. Husband Keith looks after business, while his wife is Head Chef Nipaporn. She was trained from a young age by her mother, herself a successful Thai chef. Mango Tree has been open for two years in Rathfarnham and 1 year in Lucan. You can watch Nipaporn in action and learn a little more about Mango Tree by checking out this YouTube video.

Mango Tree is generously giving readers of Stitch and Bear to chance to win 1 of 4 takeaway meals for two. Each prize will consist of 2 starters and 2 main courses, which can be selected from the Mango Tree menu. I will be giving away one meal each week for the next four weeks. The prizes can be redeemed until January 31st, 2013.

To win, just answer the following question: What type of cuisine is on offer from Mango Tree?

Please email your answer to with your name, contact details, and your preferred location (Rathfarnham or Lucan). Alternatively, you can leave a comment below, but please make sure that you are contactable. The closing dates for each prize will be November 30th, December 7th, 14th and 21st at 6pm. I will contact each lucky winner following their win.

Congratulations to the first lucky winner - Louise O'Toole

Our second winner is Nicola Brennan - Happy Eating

Our Week 3 winner is Pamela Dunne. Only one more prize left!!

The final lucky winner is Eimear Kearney. 

Mango Tree
51 Main Street, Rathfarnham, Dublin 14 (01) 444 2222
Sarsfield House, Chapel Hill, Lucan, Co Dublin (01) 628 0000
Twitter: @mangotreedublin

Saturday, November 24, 2012

[Travel] New York November 2012 - Part Two

It's been approximately a week since we returned from the USA, and I want to go back. We gorged ourselves in New York before heading south like swallows to the sunnier climate of Florida. The sun shone every day, temperatures remained firmly in the balmy region and I even got some colour. I'm still examining my head to figure out why we returned to a cold, dark and wet Ireland.

Last week, I presented you with Part One of our eating in New York. Now it's time for Part Two. We stayed mainly in the vicinity of our hotel, somewhere in the midst of SoHo, NoHo and the Lower East Side. The area around Essex Street and Rivington Street is heaving with coolness and great venues and we didn't have a hard time finding places to eat. 

The time difference kicked in hard on the Saturday morning and we were up early looking for our breakfast. I came across Shopsins while browsing and their frankly bonkers menu hooked me in. Shopsins is located in a tiny space in a little corner of the Essex Street Market (a wonderful market, which makes me want to live nearby). Apparently chef-owner Kenny Shopsin has a reputation for eccentricity, but all I know is that the food was good. My plate of crisp hash, eggs and bbq duck was colossal ($18),  but matched equally by his heuvos racheros made with brisket ($18). 
Stitch and Bear - New York - Shopsins General Store
Shopsins - heuvos rancheros with brisket and crisp hash with eggs and bbq duck
We headed south from Essex Street, heading towards Century 21 at the bottom of Manhattan. The thought of hours in this bargain heaven department store was too much for Himself, so we split up for a few hours before regrouping and heading back to our hotel. Later we headed out for drinks, finding ourselves at The Noho Star where himself ordered the grilled shrimp BLT ($16.50). I don't know how he does it, as I was still stuffed from breakfast.  The BLT came with a creative side serving of potato crisps mixed with fried sage and rosemary, and himself was delighted with the juicy shrimp. 
Stitch and Bear - New York - Noho Star
The Noho Star - Grilled shrimp BLT with that amazing side dish and some tasty cocktails
Later in the night, my appetite resurfaced so we called to Cocktail Bodega, which himself had spotted earlier. I can only describe the concept as juice bar meets cocktail bar meets diner. Spiked smoothies and fruit juices are served alongside a short selection of street snacks. Despite the informal, counter-order surroundings, the drinks aren't cheap with my coconut smoothie mojito costing $13.  However, just like a juice bar, there is a loyalty card offering every seventh drink free, so perhaps the long term economics are a little easier on the pocket. We ordered tasty glazed coconut curried shrimp ($11) and spicy jerked chicken satays ($7), before crossing the street back to our comfortable hotel bed.
Stitch and Bear - New York - Cocktail Bodega
Jerked chicken satays and coconut curried shrimp at Cocktail Bodega
Sunday morning, and it was time to pack up before grabbing brunch and heading to the airport for our flight to Fort Lauderdale. We strolled back to Rivington Street watching the neighbourhood wake up, this time to Spitzer's Corner, which describes itself as an American gastropub. The walls are covered with dark wood planks, giving this venue an immediate feeling of intimacy. With over 80 beers on offer, this could easily be an ideal pub. However, we were here for brunch with me ordering the chorizo hash ($11) and himself having the pork belly and eggs ($12). The pork belly was the clear winner with its succulent fatty softness and  sweet asian marinade of soy, garlic and ginger. 
Stitch and Bear - New York - Spitzer's Corner
Spitzer's Corner - chorizo hash on top, with asian pork belly below
Thus New York November 2012 came to an end - but there's more to come when I round up our eating in Miami. 

Shopsin's General Store, 120 Essex Street, New York 10002

NoHo Star, 330 Lafayette Street, New York 10012
Tel: +1 (212) 925-0070
Twitter: @TheNohoStar

Cocktail Bodega, 205 Chrystie Street, New York 10002
Twitter: @cocktailbodega

Spitzer's Corner, 101 Rivington Street, New York 10002
Tel: +1 (212) 228-0027
Twitter: @spitzerscorner

Thursday, November 22, 2012

[Competition] Christmas Giveaway #1 - Bombay Pantry

This competition is now closed. Congratulations to the lucky winners, whom I have contacted with the good news. Congratulations to Helen Moloney, Alan Stephens & Rachael Canning. Your prizes will be in the post shortly.

In the weeks leading up to Christmas, Stitch and Bear is planning a series of giveaways, in order to help bring a little bit of food-related cheer to the impending season of gluttony. It's also my birthday, so I'm kicking off with a great prize, three sets of vouchers from the wonderful Bombay Pantry.  

Bombay Pantry started 15 years ago with the aim of producing top quality Indian food to go. Since then they have grown and now operate 7 shops in the greater Dublin area, with plans to open more outlets in the near future. Their commitment to quality has been recognised by winning Great Taste Awards for the past 3 years!

Personally, I love the fact that most dishes at Bombay Pantry are naturally gluten-free (which suits my wheat intolerance), and I often order their stonking value €7 Early Bird deal. There's been many a night when I've driven home to Dublin, and this meal deal has been my saving grace. This great deal gives you a batata vada or bhajia for starter, any beef, chicken or vegetable main course plus a naan or rice.  Alternatively there's the meal deal for 2, which gives you batata vada or bhajia for starter, any chicken or vegetable, plus one rice and one naan, all for €19. You can check out their menu here.

The lovely people at Bombay pantry have provided the following vouchers for readers of Stitch and Bear, giving me a total of 3 prizes to give away.
  • 2 sets of 2 x €7 Early Bird vouchers
  • 1 x €19 Meal Deal for 2 voucher
To win, just answer the following question: Name any of the seven Dublin Bombay Pantry locations. (Hint: you can find the answer on the Bombay Pantry website).

Send your answer in an email to along with your name and contact details. Alternatively, you can answer by leaving a comment below, but make sure that you are contactable so that I can get the prizes to the lucky winners. The competition will run until 6pm on Friday November 30th. The lucky winners will be chosen at random from a pool of all correct answers. 

Monday, November 19, 2012

[Listing] Buy a Big Mac on November 24th and support a good cause!

It's not often that I mention or promote McDonald's on this blog, but this is a exception I am happy to make. I was born with a hole in my heart, for which I had corrective surgery in Our Lady's Hospital, Crumlin in 1989. The surgery was a complete success, and all has been in good working order for the last 23 years. 

I barely even registered that I was having surgery, I was having such a blast in this amazing hospital. There were toy rooms, TVs on trolleys and lots of other kids with which to play. However, I can only imagine how worrying the whole experience was for my parents. But the staff of Our Lady's did everything they could to make things comfortable for my mother and father. 

Ronald McDonald House offers accommodation for the parents of sick children on the grounds of Our Lady's Hospital, Crumlin since 2004. It is funded and operated by the independent charity RHMC, who will have their national fundraising day McHappy Day on November 24th. €1 will be donated from the sale of every Big Mac on the day, while McDonald's restaurants nationwide will also sell RHMC festive santa hats from November 24th to December 5th for just €2. 
Shane Jennings launches McHappy Day 2012
It costs €300,000 annually to run RHMC, and the charity receives no funding or financial support from   either the hospital or the Government. It relies solely on fundraising and donations to be able to continue to provide a "home away from home" for over 2,200 families to date. 

Leinster and Ireland rugby star, and Board Member of RHMC, Shane Jennings
Ronald McDonald House is an important resource for parents who are caring for children who are seriously ill. Having to be out of home for long periods of time to be close to their children can cause major stress emotionally and financially, this is where RHMC steps in. The idea is simple, nothing else should matter when a family is focused on healing their child. 
So make sure that you get yourself to a McDonald's this Saturday, November 24th and order a Big Mac. You can also drop your change into the collection box on the counter. Any parent who has taken care of a very sick child will know that this is a truly good cause!

Sunday, November 18, 2012

[Review] Nobu @ Bon Appetit, Malahide, Co Dublin

On Wednesday, November 7th, we visited Bon Appetit for the last in the current series of Restaurants of the World. This time, Oliver Dunne and his team would showcase the food of world-famous Nobu. This multi-Michelin starred chain of restaurants comes from Nobu Matsuhisa, who is famous for blending his native Japanese cuisine with South American influences. 

Our courses featured well known favourites such as prawn tempura and sushi rolls, all with an elevationary twist. The third course was a sublime piece of foie gras served with a Japanese truffle sauce and brown butter. This was last-meal-on-Earth quality food and was of monumentally indulgent proportions. Thankfully, this was followed by a light and fresh salmon and avocado plate. 

Fifth course was the signature Nobu dish of black cod with miso which had a sticky sweet salty skin and moist flesh. Then it was on to wasabi poussin with wonderful sweet onions. Upon reading the menu, I had been curious about our first dessert course, featuring passionfruit mixed with numbing Sichuan peppers. Needless to say, I shouldn't have been concerned as the little foamy puffs of Sichuan were lightly tinged with the strong berry flavour and balanced beautifully with the sharp passionfruit. We finished with a creamy peanut parfait, paired with caramel ice cream. 

Photos of each course follow below, and thanks to my new iPhone 5, I'm now able to take much better quality low light photos. Check out the wonderful presentation on the foie gras, salmon and black cod. 
Prawn tempura with sweet & sour ponzu sauce
Assorted sushi rolls and sashimi
Foie gras, edamame with Japanese truffle sauce
Sashimi of salmon, avocado puree, keta and horseradish
Signature Nobu dish - black cod with miso
Barbecued wasabi poussin, braised leg and slow cooked onion
Passion fruit gel, Schezuan foam with pink peppercorn dust
Peanut parfait, Matsuhisa Cabernet sauce, caramel ice cream
Bon Appetit is currently celebrating 6 years in business, and are offering a three course meal for two in the Michelin restaurant with a glass of bubbly on arrival for €99. This offer runs from November 14th - 24th and represents the continuing great value available from Bon Appetit. 

Bon Appetit, 9 Jame's Terrace, Malahide, Co Dublin
Tel: +353 (0)1 845 0314
Twitter: @bonappmalahide
Bon Appetit on Urbanspoon

Friday, November 16, 2012

[Travel] New York November 2012 - Part One

We arrived into New York on Friday afternoon. The flight with Aer Lingus had been far from great (food-wise) as my pre-ordered gluten-free meal hadn't made it onto the plane. In addition, all of the snacks and chocolate on sale from the trolley contained wheat in some form or another. By the time we were approaching JFK, my tummy was growling.

We had booked a hotel in the middle of all the cool spots - SoHo, NoHo, the Lower East Side and the East Village. Even better was the fact that the famous Katz's Deli was just a few blocks down the street. Around since 1888, and lately featured on Adam Richman's show "Best Sandwich in America", Katz's Deli is truly legendary. It's gloriously untouched by time, from the paper ticket you receive as you enter all the way to the formica tables and counter tops. Hundreds of photos line the walls, and their famous "Send a salami to your boy in the army" slogan is everywhere. 
Tables and photo adorned walls at Katz's Deli
Even before we had left Ireland, himself had decided that he was going to order the Reuben ($16.75) - a massive sandwich of thickly sliced pastrami, melted swiss cheese, Russian dressing and sauerkraut. I went for the melt in your mouth fatty gloriousness of a hot open faced brisket sandwich ($16.05). Even the terrible frozen steak-style chips couldn't ruin this carnivore delight. Katz's Deli feels immutable, as if it will transcend the centuries. You can read more about Katz's in this GQ article from Alan Richman.
Hanging salamis, the Reuben sandwich and the hot open brisket sandwich
Schillers is located in a former drugstore on the corner of Rivington & Norfolk and comes from famous New York restauranteur Keith McNally. We were lured in by the promise of half-price happy hour cocktails, but our server told us that they wouldn't be available for another hour. Regardless, we decided to stay for one, and I had a slightly savoury tasting pear-jalapeno margarita (if possibly a little too light on the lime). 
Schillers, Rivington Street
Later in the night, we found ourselves down at the northern end of Chinatown. To be honest, it never takes us very long to find asian food, and so we entered Nam Son, a Vietnamese restaurant on Grand Street. After waiting for some tables to turn over, we were seated and we quickly chose two bowls of the ridiculously cheap pho, along with a beef & lemongrass stirfry.

The broth used in pho is made over many hours, by boiling bones, spices and meats. The result is a light coloured broth, which is rich in flavour. Both varieties of pho were wonderful (beef for me and seafood for him), with oodles of noodles. In my case, the topping of thin raw beef slices cooked quickly in the broth once pushed under with the chopsticks. 
Bowls of pho and condiments at Nam Son'n
That's the end of Part One of our eating in New York, but if you want more, read on in Part Two.

Katz's Deli, 205 East Houston Street, New York 10002
Tel: +1 (212) 254-2246

Schiller's Liqour Bar, 131 Rivington Street, New York 10002
Tel: +1 (212) 260-4555
Twitter: @SchillersNY

Nam So'n, 245 Grand Street #1, New York 10002
Tel: +1 (212) 966-6507

Thursday, November 8, 2012

[Listing] Celebrate Beaujolais Nouveau with L'Atitude 51 and Brendan Cashman

Cork people are going to be happy with news of the following event, featuring chef Brendan Cashman (ex-Augustines). There was much sorrow when Brendan decided to close Augustine's, but now fans can share his cooking once again.

On Thursday, November 15th, the kitchen and wine workshop at L'Atitude 51 will be handed over to chef Brendan Cashman for an exclusive, French-themed pop-up style event that coincides nicely with Beaujolais Nouveau Day. On this special night, Brendan will be cooking a hearty 5 course French-style bistro feast and L'Atitude 51 will select wines to match each course (with Beaujolais playing a leading role).

Beaujolais Nouveau can only be released at the strike of midnight on the third Thursday in November, which is November 15th in 2012. It's a time-honoured tradition to celebrate the harvest and the release of this youthful and fun vin de primeur, fermented for just a few weeks before being released. 

The cost for the evening is €50 per person, which includes a welcome drink, the 5 course meal, tasting wines and a coffee to round off the meal. The evening kicks off at 8pm. Spaces are limited, so get in touch with 'Atitude 51 via email or phone (021) 239 0219.A

[Listing] This is Beer brings tastings to Cork & Dublin

Very short notice on these events, but if you're interested in learning more about beer, read on. 

Despite the fact that over 40,000 beers from around the world are produced using just four natural ingredients (hops, barley, yeast and water), it seems that 25% of Irish consumers still believe that the beer brewing process involves chemicals, according to a survey by Therefore, will host a series of events this November, designed to celebrate beer's four natural ingredients and challenge the misconceptions around one of the nation's favourite beverages. 

Events will be held in Dublin and Cork as hosts multi-sensory beer tasting experiences in Cork on Thursday November 8th, and at 4 Dame Lane on Monday to Wednesday November 12th - 14th. Internationally renowned experts Marc Stroobandt and Fiona Smith will bring to life beer's completely natural brewing process and excite the senses, flavour matching a range of beers with different foods.

I have attended tastings with both Marc and Fiona in the past (link) and would really recommend these events if you are starting out on your beer education.

Beer fans can book their spot on this beer tasting experience on the This Is Beer Facebook page.

Where: The Kiln Bar, Leitrim Street, Cork
When: Thursday, November 8th @ 7pm

Where: 4 Dame Lane, Dublin 2
When: Monday, Tuesday & Wednesday, November 12 - 14th @ 7pm is a hub for beer fans, as well as those who enjoy an occasional beer, to get the best out of beer. The website includes expert video blogs, beer tasting notes, food matching tips as well as information on beer's four natural ingredients. is a Heineken Ireland initiative and features  beers from the Heineken range such as Tiger, Coors Light, Paulaner, Moretti, Affligem & Zywiec. 

Saturday, November 3, 2012

[Review] Jamie's Italian @ Dundrum Town Centre

Jamie Oliver mania has hit Dublin hard with the opening of Jamie's Italian in Dundrum Town Centre. Twitter has been awash with fulsome praise for the food, the venue, the staff, and practically everything else.  I reckon that I won't be breaking any bad news if I reveal that Jamie himself won't be cooking the kitchen. The Dundrum location is an outpost in this popular chain of restaurants. As Jamie himself said back in June
That's not what I do. I pay for it, I pay people's wages, I choose the right people and really the only thing I do is write the menus, change the senior management and create a culture where people get a 40-quid meal for 17 to 21 quid. 
Like most people, I think Jamie is rather great. From his initial cheeky-chappy, moped-riding persona in The Naked Chef, he now campaigns vigourously for better food for school children and employs young troubled people in his Fifteen restaurants. He is one of the TV chefs that I can watch time and time again. I like his food as it's big on flavour and impact, but easy to make. I've eaten in Fifteen in London and liked it. But would the Jamie charisma translate in Dundrum? 

Two recent lunches (firstly by ourselves, and then with Mr. & Mrs. H) have given me plenty of material. On both occasions, we hit the restaurant early on a Saturday, seeking to avoid the queues that come later in the afternoon. God bless the Irish and their tendency to think that lunch doesn't start until 1pm. In an effort to prove the earnestness of the Oliver brand, a chef is hand making pasta in a little glass cubicle as we enter the restaurant. I wonder if they feel like an animal in the zoo?

The interior is retro cool with a polished concrete floor, white and dark red tiles and canteen style furniture. The walls of the split-level space are filled with foodstuffs both for consumption and for sale to take home. After all, this is Jamie-brand central. It's a cheerful and happy space that channels the Jamie approach.

So what about the food? A special of cauliflower and romanesco fritti was bland in it's deep-fried coating, while a butternut squash and ricotta bruschetta was bright and seasonal. I was puzzled when our server plonked two tins of tomato on the table, which turned out to be the base for a dolmen-like structure with my meat plank (a slightly meagre selection of cheeses & Italian meats, €8.75). Arancini, or risotto balls filled with gooey strings of smoked mozzarella and porcini mushrooms were decidedly moreish (€6.50).
Clockwise from top left - risotto balls, wild ragu pasta pipe, ricotta & butternut squash bruschetta and funky chips
Pastas were deemed rather good. A prawn linguine with shaved fennel, chili, tomatoes and rocket  was bright and flavoursome (small €9.50). Wild ragu pasta was rich and warming - a perfect pasta dish for cold winter days. All pastas are available gluten-free, although this isn't mentioned on the menu. Not knowing this vital fact at the time of choosing, I went for wild truffle risotto with butter and parmesan (large €14.75). This was an excellent risotto, fragrant with earthy truffle. The only downside was the dotting of parsley seedlings on top for decoration. For the record, I don't like parsley, which I find  pungent and harsh. As a result I ended up picking off all the little leaves from the risotto.

We sampled both types of potato fries - namely funky chips with garlic and parsley (€3.95) and the now commonplace posh chips with parmesan and truffle (€4.25). The jury's verdict was unanimous, the funky chips were the best.
Black truffle risotto

Garlicky prawn linguini

The staff at Jamie's are incessantly cheerful, and there's plenty of them, but it doesn't grate (immensely) on your nerves. In one case, we practically had to shoo away our server as he just wouldn't stop praising the daily specials. This either speaks volumes about the staff enthusiasm for the Jamie brand, or else it's crass commercialism. I haven't quite figured out which one.

Irrespective, the food at Jamie's Italian is enjoyable, and the small/large portion sizes makes it easy to mix and match. On both visits, Gerry Fitzpatrick (Jamie's Irish business partner in the venture) was keeping a close eye on goings on. Jamies has been in the making since 2011, and lots of Irish produce features on the menu, bringing an Irish touch to this Italian menu. As we leave after lunch, all seats are taken and the place is humming with conversation. It's a winning recipe.

Jamie's Italian, Pembroke District, Dundrum Town Centre, Dublin 16
Tel: +353 (0)1 298 0600
Twitter: @JamiesItalianIE
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