Stitch and Bear

A long-running Irish blog with reviews of the best restaurants in Dublin and throughout Ireland. Some wine and cocktails thrown in for good measure!

Saturday, July 28, 2012

A Sunday in New York

My job can be pretty demanding. This may come as a shock to those of you who believe the life of a management consultant to be a cosseted existence of champagne and oysters. Sadly, this is not so. Generally it consists of late nights, missed lunchtimes and too many airline lounges. But sometimes, just sometimes, my traveling life can be pretty sweet.

I've been on my current project, an Oracle R12 implementation since November 2011. During the intervening period, I've had to travel to the US several times, sometimes up to 3 weeks at a time. I thrive on international projects, working with a diverse range of colleagues and clients, but being away from home and family can suck.

On my last trip, and with some military quality planning, himself and myself arranged to meet on New York's Fifth Avenue. He flew from Dublin, while I flew north from Raleigh. Our trip coincided with Fleet Week, so the city was at once both quiet and stuffed full of sailors. The weekend flew past with trips to the Empire State Building, Liberty Island, Ellis Island and the 9/11 Memorial. We didn't plan any food adventures, as the time simply hadn't been available, but luckily Sunday turned out to be a pretty decent day food wise.

Sunday was already bright and warm when we left our hotel on West 37th Street. Brunch was booked in a restaurant on West 23rd Street, so we decided to stroll over, giving ourselves a chance to look round. On our way, we passed Brgr on 7th Ave (between 26th and 27th) where I noticed a sign for their milkshake, proclaimed to be the best Milkshake by New York Magazine. The famous milkshake was a rich, creamy concoction of blueberry and pomegranate. It's pricy at $5.50 plus taxes, but definitely delicious.  
Blueberry & pomegranate milkshake at Brgr
We passed the famous Hotel Chelsea, now hidden under a heap of scaffolding. It's impressive to stand outside this famous location, reading the names of famous guests from the wall plaques. Bob Dylan, Charles Bukowski, Janis Joplin, Leonard Cohen, Arthur C. Clarke and even Brendan Behan have all lived at the Chelsea. Then it was onwards for us to the Guilty Goose, a lovely family inn in the heart of Chelsea, where the ground floor has been turned into a restaurant with a fine selection of craft beers. 

Duck and fowl features front and centre on the Guilty Goose menu and the brunch menu serves many classics, all with a little twist. After ordering we were served some rather dull corn bread, along with French press coffee (no espresso based drinks here). My D.L.T., a twist on the classic B.L.T. featuring duck ham, fried egg, lettuce and oven dried tomatoes. This was served with garlic aioli and garlic french fries ($16.00). This was decent enough, but could have benefited from more of the tasty duck ham.
The Duck, Lettuce & Tomato (D.L.T.)
Himself had chosen the Goose omelette which arrived as a delicate pale yellow wrap, covered in micro leaves ($15.00). The omelette was light and fluffy, enclosing a wonderful mix of goose confit, olives, chèvre and english peas. Goose is a meat that I tend to associate with heaviness and Christmas, but here it was light and wonderful.

The Goose omlette
Leaving the Guilty Goose, we continued down to West 22nd Street, where we ascended to the High Line Park. This amazing park was once a 30 foot elevated train line which was originally used to take dangerous train and tram traffic off the New York street level. Unused since 1980, it has since been turned into a mile long promenade on the west side of Manhattan. Its layout changes as you walk, sometimes wide with greenery and benches, sometimes narrow with birdhouses. The sun was blazing down at this stage and it was so enjoyable to sit basking in its warmth.

The wonderful Highline park
We then descended from the High Line Park and followed West 23rd Street down to the Chelsea Waterside Park and Pier. From there we had a lovely view out over the Hudson River, and a less lovely view of a man in a bright neon blue banana hammock playing badminton. That's New York for you, you simply couldn't make it up. 
View of the Hudson River from Chelsea Park
Our fairytale time in New York was drawing to a close, but we made a heroic effort to fit in one last meal at Righteous Urban Barbecue (RUB). New York City isn't exactly where you'd expect to find top-notch BBQ, but Chef Paul Kirk is hailed as one of the best pitmasters in the world and a member of the BBQ Hall of Fame. The restaurant itself is simple and basic. As it was a warm and sultry New York evening, all the windows and doors were wide open, with seating spilling out onto the pavement.

I chose the Burnt End Dinner, which features the point of the brisket, cooked twice until crispy and lightly sauced (€20.95). This is a limited availability dish, and comes with two sides, for which I chose onion strings and super fries. I love the crispy ends of roast meat. In fact, I'm the person who asks carvery chefs for all those crunchy, tasty end bits. These burnt ends didn't disappoint, and neither did the sides.
Burnt ends platter with fries and onion strings
Himself chose a mixed plate of barbecued chicken and ribs. Overall, he wasn't that impressed as the rib pieces were tough and chewy, more reminiscent of jerky. Both platters featured the weird addition of sliced white pan.
Mixed platter of barbecued chicken and ribs
Rub BBQ wasn't quite the high note on which we had hoped to end our New York trip, but it's worth checking out if you do find yourself in NYC, with no chance of venturing further south.  Real BBQ is a great modern cuisine, but unfortunately without too many devotees in Ireland (other than Mike Corcoran down in Ballinascarty, Cork). 

And so it was that our short trip to New York came to an end. We reluctantly got into separate taxis and headed to our separate airports. But we can always say that we arranged to meet on 5th Avenue. 

Brgr, 287 7th Avenue, New York 10001
The Guilty Goose, 131 West 23rd Street, New York 10011
Rub BBQ, 208 West 23rd Street, New York 10011


Thursday, July 19, 2012

Noshington, South Circular Road, Dublin 8

I love waking up on Saturday morning in Dublin. Firstly, it means that I'm at home and secondly, that I'm not working. I enjoy shuffling bleary-eyed into the kitchen to make a cup of coffee in our Nespresso machine. I love getting to sit on my sofa with said cup of coffee, with gorgeous views from our apartment's bay windows out over the Victorian park across the way.

And then there's the pleasure of planning the day's activities. On one recent Saturday, we had tickets for the evening session of Taste of Dublin. The only problem was that the tickets were across Dublin, in Himself's brother's apartment. And the brother had to leave at midday to attend a wedding. This was the kind of pressure that I don't need on Saturdays.

Anyway, with the tickets secured, we turned our attention to breakfast. As we were on the South Circular Road, we decided to try the weirdly English-sounding Noshington. It's situated on the junction of Washington Street and South Circular Road and doesn't seem very big from the outside. Indoors, it's bright and open, with a fantastic salvaged counter. Our initial good vibes faded though as we continued to wait to be seated. We eventually took a table next to the door and forcibly got the attention of a waitress for menus.

We received two breakfast menus, a regular weekday menu and a weekend brunch menu. The selection on the brunch menu read well with prices ranging from €8.50 to €11.50. There's a full Irish on offer, but disappointingly tea/coffee didn't seem to be included in the price. We ordered from the one waitress who seemed able to see us, but that wasn't the end of the erratic service.  The wrong dish arrived twice for Himself, delivered by one of the blinkered servers. First time, the server blamed Himself, insisting it was his order, while the second time she blamed her colleague. 
Homemade beans on toast with chorizo and smoked cheese
Sausage & black pudding roll
Service issues aside, the food itself was pretty good. My homemade beans on toast was suitably comforting, enhanced by pieces of chorizo and a snowdrift of grated cheese (€8.50). His sausage and black pudding roll with mustard mayo was tasty although the meat had an over-processed texture (€4.50).  Both plates were served with a side salad with a pesto dressing. Coffees were good, properly sized (i.e. not soup bowls) and accompanied by a milk jug with enough milk for two people.

In a breach of restaurant etiquette, I was tweeting while waiting about the poor service. I received back several responses, all labeling Noshington as a resort of the pram pushing yummy mummy. But this does indeed seem to be the case. Noshington does seems to be popular with a wide range of customers, from OAPs to yummy mummies. A chalkboard offers daily specials and that fabulous old-shop counter is stuffed full of baked goodies. It's a pity about the scatty service. No customer needs to deal with servers who are overdue a trip to Specsavers. 

Noshington, 186 South Circular Road, Dublin 8
Tel: +353 (0)1 410 0414

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Camile, Rathmines, Dublin 6 & Kevin Thornton Special

I've been a quiet fan of Camile Thai for a while now. They are part of the growing amount of proper Thai restaurants which cater to the apparently insatiable Dubliner demand for Thai food. With takeaway locations in Phibsborough, South Circular Rd, Dun Laoghaire and a brand new sit-down restaurant in Rathmines, Camile are giving the public what it wants.

Last weekend, we managed to get not one, but two Camile Thai meals. This was not intentional on our part, but resulted as part of a fortuitous chain of events. I was delighted to receive an offer for a preview tasting of a special limited edition dish created by Kevin Thornton. Himself and myself looked at our weekend calendar, and decided to use this offer on Sunday night. However, just a mere day earlier I had responded to Camile Rathmines on Twitter and managed to secure some #cameal Tweetseats for Monday lunchtime.

First up was the Kevin Thornton special meal which will be available from Monday, July 16th. The dish is inspired by Kevin's travels in Mae Chan and features chicken marinated in lemongrass, ginger, garlic, chili, spices and citrus zest, cooked in a Thai sauce along with fresh herbs and vegetables.
Kevin Thornton at Camile
This dish arrived at our home in a paper delivery bag bearing an image of the man himself along with instructions on how to assemble the dish. Essentially it's one carton of noodles and one of chicken and veg, but the instructions only tell you to pour out 3/4. We were left wondering what to do with the other 1/4? Truth be told, that puzzlement didn't last long as we thoroughly enjoyed the dish which was fragrant, light and packed full of crunchy vegetables such as cauliflower and baby corn. I generally choose more heavily flavoured Thai dishes such as chili oil stir fries or curries so I was really surprised by how much I enjoyed this lighter, more subtle dish.

As part of the Kevin Thornton meal, we also received one complementary starter of Po Pia Sot (Thai rice paper salmon rolls, normally €5.50) which we supplemented with a portion of Crispy Pork Belly (€5.50). The pork belly, unsurprisingly, is fatty but comes with a sweet chili dipping sauce to balance it out. The salmon rolls are served cold with the contents showing through the translucent rice paper, and make for an interesting alternative to the usual crispy, fried type starters. 
Crispy Pork Belly and Po Pia Sot starters
The very next day we visited the new sit-down restaurant in Rathmines to sample some more Thai food, this time as part of the #cameal promotion. This entitles two people to two main courses and ice-cream for free. Starters and drinks are purchased separately. This type of promotion has proved insanely popular at Crackbird and Skinflint, and is bound to bring lots of new and faithful customers to the Rathmines location.

The interior is nicely decorated but orientated towards functional rather than comfort. You decide what you want to order, place your order at the till, gather your cutlery and delph and take a table. The food is delivered to the table in takeaway cartons which you then decant into bowls (if that is what takes your fancy). This type of service is good for quick informal meals, but having a large menu on the walls, or more signage on the process would greatly help. It's early days at the restaurant though, so maybe this will be resolved in due course.

We ordered a shared starter of Thai Butterfly Prawns served with mango sweet chili dipping sauce and more of the ubiquitous crispy rice noodles (€5.50).  No need for additional comment, these prawns were exactly as you'd expect. 
Crispy butterfly prawns
My main of prawn massaman was a rich, gently spicy, creamy curry with nicely cooked cubes of potato and a decent handful of plump prawns (€11.45).  I just love the richness of this kind of curry, but it can be ruined in a second by lumps of undercooked potato, thankfully this was not an issue here. Himself had chosen the beef Pad Prik, which is a black bean sauce and chili based stir fry (€10.50). At first taste it seemed a bit bland, but once we stirred up the contents of the carton, it came to life. Both dishes came with good sized portions of steamed rice.
Prawn massaman curry
Beef Pad Prik (black bean and chili)
Once we had eaten enough adult food, it was time for the inner child to emerge. Two ice-cream cones had been delivered with our food, and himself headed up to the self-serve ice-cream machine. There's something magical about Mr Whippy ice-cream (as I like to call it). The simple, cold vanilla flavour never fails to please and it's a winning touch from Camile.
Ice-cream cones ... waiting
We were stuffed leaving Camile. The portions are generous and the prices are attractive. There are now several restaurants serving this market, but Camile is up there with the best. They score extra brownie points for the range of dishes on offer which are coeliac friendly.

Disclaimer: We received a complimentary Kevin Thornon meal and Po Pia Sot starter courtesy of Camile Thai and Presence PR. The #cameal promotion is available to all by following Camile Thai Rathmines on Twitter.

Camile Thai, 133 Lower Rathmines Road, Dublin 6
Tel: +353 (0)1 470 4040 (or visit their website for the other stores' numbers)
Twitter: @camilerathmines or @CamileThai

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Food Tastings at Kilkenny Design Centre

The team behind the Foodhall at the Kilkenny Design Centre contacted me recently to let me know about a series of regular food tastings, held every Saturday. The aim is to give consumers an opportunity to try some great Irish products, as well as meeting the local producers behind these wonderful foodstuffs.
The team from Highbank Orchard Syrup
The tastings are growing in popularity and a line up has been announced covering the July - October period. Tastings take place every Saturday in the Foodhall between 12pm - 3pm and are completely free. So if you live in Kilkenny, or are visiting for the weekend, you should definitely check out the Centre and these events.

July 21st
Highbank Orchard Syrup with Julie Calder-Potts

July 28th
Kilkenny Design Kitchen with Joan the Baker

September 1st
Wexford Preserves with David Sinnott

September 8th
Lavistown House with Olivia Goodwillie

September 15th 
Pandora Bell with Nicole Dunphy

September 22nd 
'Gookies' Cookie Dough with Muriel Coughlan

September 29th
Paddy O's Granola with Paddy O'Connor

October 6th
Naturamatics Skincare with Susan Kelly

October 13th 
Inistiogue Food with Dennis Fallon

Kilkenny Design Centre, Castle Yard, Kilkenny, Co Kilkenny
Tel: +353 (0)56 772 2118
Twitter: @kilkennydesign


Sunday, July 8, 2012

[Review] The Chophouse, Shelbourne Road, Dublin 4

I'd been eyeing up the Chophouse which sits quietly at the corner of Shelbourne Road and Bath Avenue for a while. It's got a kind of uninteresting exterior which had never tempted me to cross its threshold. Occasional rumours had surfaced of good gastropub food and drinks, but my usual source of information (Twitter) was staying mum. And then I saw a tweet from The Chophouse itself announcing a new brunch offering. 

Fast forward to a bright, cold May Saturday morning, with both of us wearing medically-required sunglasses and sorely in need of some tasty, soul-nourishing food. The entrance to the Chophouse leads directly into a sunlit conservatory and something in our addled brains insisted that we should take a seat at the sunny tables. Despite the friendly staff, it took quite a few minutes for menus to be delivered, but when they arrived, it was to the accompaniment of a basket of fresh brown bread. 

The main brunch menu is short, with just 6 courses, but is supplemented by the specials board where Chophouse Rarebit battled it out with New York style steak and eggs. Of course, brunch isn't brunch without cocktails, and the Chophouse is no exception. My bellini came with a full snipe of bubbles and a generous pour of freshly squeezed peach juice (€6.50).  Despite the restorative nature of the prosecco, we were literally feeling the heat in the conservatory so we moved indoors to shadier climes.  
Prosecco bellini with fresh squeezed peach juice
The interior is charming and simple, with clean colours and muted painted panelling. Cookbooks from famous restaurants and chefs are arranged on shelves along with a wide selection of red wines. We relaxed into a deep leather sofa (with our backs to the sunshine) and got on with the hard job of reading the papers. 

Himself had ordered the seared rump of prime Hereford steak, served with grilled tiger prawns, crushed avocado, tomato relish & twice cooked fries (€16.00). It was beautifully chargrilled, and served sliced on top of a piece of crusty bread to soak up all the juices, with a generous drizzle of hollandaise sauce on top. I had chosen a special, the New York style steak and eggs, or ribeye, caramelised onion, chips and dips with truffled mayo (€22.50). Ribeye is my favourite steak cut, and this didn't disappoint. The thick chunky chips were perfect for dipping into my selection of sauces, particularly the tangy and pungent mustard-truffle mayo.
Seared rump of Hereford steak with grilled tiger prawns
New York style steak and eggs
Both of us were very content by the time we had cleared our boards (yes, the steaks are served on wooden chopping boards), but when a steak costs €22.50 for brunch, it should be good. To be honest, I thought that his cheaper meal of turf 'n' surf style steak and prawns was the better dish. While we were eating, we could see a chalkboard advertising a very tempting porterhouse steak for 2, which definitely sounds like a reason to return. I don't plan on a herbivore lifestyle anytime soon. Two Americanos rounded off the meal at €2.50 each. 

Famous chef Anthony Bourdain is a fan of The Chophouse, having eaten there on several recent visits to Dublin and it recently took the gong for best Gastro Pub in the 2012 Irish Restaurant Awards. Proprietors Kevin Arundel and Jillian Mulcahy have definitely achieved a lot with a venue that has only been open for just over 2 years. In short, it's a grown-up gastropub.

The Chophouse, 2 Shelbourne Road, Dublin 4
Tel: +353 (0)1 680 2390
Twitter: @the_chophouse
Chop House on Urbanspoon
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