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, June 29, 2014

[Cocktails] Corpse Reviver #2

This weeks cocktail is from the bracing family known as the Corpse Revivers. These strong drinks are intended to set you straight when feeling a bit ropey after the night before. Nothing like more of the same poison to sort you out, eh?

I'm making the Savoy version of Corpse Reviver #2, which is exceptionally simple to assemble. This is probably a good thing if you're in the sorry kind of state that requires this drink. Equal measures of gin, Lillet Blance, Cointreau (or Triple Sec), lemon juice are combined with a dash of absinthe or pastis in this full frontal shock assault to the system.

1 shot gin (here I'm using Dry Fly gin, distilled in Spokane, Washington state)
1 shot Cointreau (or triple sec)
1 shot Lillet Blanc
1 shot lemon juice
Dash of absinthe or pastis
Stitch & Bear - Corpse Reviver #2 - Ingredients
No fancy bartending techniques required for this drink. Start by placing a coupe in the freezer or fill with ice to chill the glass. Combine the gin, Cointreau, lemon juice and a small dash of absinthe in a shaking glass. Alternatively, don't put the absinthe into the main drink, but instead swirl a small drop around the glass, leaving a small coating.

Fill the glass with ice, firmly cover with the shaking tin and shake hard until the tin is too cold to hold. Strain into the chilled coupe. Decorate with a lemon zest twist.
Stitch & Bear - Corpse Reviver #2 - Absinthe
Add a little dash of absinthe
Stitch & Bear - Corpse Reviver #2 - Finished
The final article
Sip this fine drink slowly and carefully until the world stops spinning. But be careful. Treat it with respect. After all, bartending legend Harry Craddock says "Four of these taken in quick succession will unrevive the corpse again." 

[Review] Saison, Kildare Street, Dublin 2 - CLOSED

I have a daydream that one day I will own one of the fine Dublin Georgian townhouses for which our city is famous. In my daydream, the townhouse is currently occupied by dismal office suites, but I convert it back to a home. In my head, I am happy imaging how my kitchen, sitting room and home gym (yes!) will be arranged to make best use of the wonderful building.

Even as I walk through town, I am often looking upwards, ignoring the shops and businesses at ground level, but instead imaging the great living spaces that could be made available on the upper floors. I think it's a great shame that there is so much unused real estate in our city centre. 

We recently dined at Saison, located in the Kildare Street basement that was the former home of Town Bar & Grill. After heading down the stairs, complete with a cute little outdoor seat, you enter directly into the bar space which leads through into the dining area. I immediately loved the deep sea blue colour used as an accent, as well as the mismatched (and probably vintage) glass lampshades and chandeliers.  As I sat waiting, complete with a deliciously refreshing G&T, my inner home designer went to work, reimagining the basement as a home. 

Graeme Dodrill is the man in charge of the kitchen, bringing experience from One Pico and La Mère Zou, assisted by a very smooth front of house team. In fact, there's a very definite whiff of Michelin and fine dining in the air. We started with a rather large amuse bouche of crab and tempura courgette flower. I'd have been happy with just the crab meat, it was the absolute essence of the sea.
Crab and tempura courgette flower amuse bouche
The menu at Saison is a joy to read and I had to evaluate each and every dish as part of my selection process. Uncharacteristically for me, I passed over the foie gras starter option in favor of a grilled octopus and clam dish, with succulent chunks of brioche that had soaked up the lemon, chervil and caper juices (€12).  But foie gras did come to the table anyway in a meat-lovers dish, accompanied by roast scallop, truffle and duck heart (€16). 
Foie gras, scallop and duck heart 
Grilled octopus and clams
My main course of roast scallops and fall apart slow-cooked Iberico pork cheek was coloured by a green riot of peas and broad beans, mingled with a rich jus (€30). A tasting plate of Wicklow spring lamb, including fried sweetbreads, came with charred courgette and a creamy, fresh quenelle of ricotta and peas (€34). 
Scallops and Iberico pork cheek
Lamb tasting
Our wine of choice was a La Cote Flamenc Picpoul de Pinet (€36) which displayed a stronger than usual minerality. For us the real star of the show was a roast almond panna cotta, with fresh raspberries, nutty toasted rice and almond milk (€8). It was a superbly confident dessert, drawing on the natural sweetness of the ingredients. We paired it a glass of the recommended Chateau Haut Montlong 2011 Montbazillac (€9), which was possibly a touch too sweet against the panna cotta. 
Almond panna cotta
We were dining on a voucher (which I'd thoroughly recommend picking up should Saison ever run the offer again), but there are set menus available for lunch and dinner. In fact, I've already promised myself a lunchtime date. Right now, Saison are offering a lobster-themed menu through to the end of July which simply makes my mouth water. I was informed by a waiter that there will be a menu change shortly, which gives me another very good reason to return.

Saison is simply superb, with excellent fine food and service. The dining room feels spacious with plenty of room for private chats and intimate meals. It's still somewhat early days for this restaurant, but I've got a feeling that it will be around for quite a while.

Saison, 21 Kildare Street, Dublin 2
Tel: +353 (0)1 662 4800
Twitter: @EatatSaison

Saison on Urbanspoon

Sunday, June 22, 2014

[Cocktails] Strawberry Daiquiri

For some reason, the daiquiri  used to make me think of what the TV show "How I Met Your Mother" called "woo girls". You know the kind… a group of women in a disco bar or nightclub, frozen neon-coloured drinks and shouting "woo" at anything or anyone.

In reality though, the daiquiri has a fair old pedigree as a cocktail and apparently originated in a iron mine of the same name in Cuba. (Click on this link to see what is considered the first written version. The recipe is for 6 people!) Eventually it spread to the US and was a favourite drink of Ernest Hemmingway and the sainted JFK. A classic daiquiri is a mix of rum, citrus and sweet and nothing else. It's a simple drink to make, but can be potent.  In my version below, I'm going to use fresh Irish Wexford  strawberries to sweeten it a little, while still staying in the classic camp. 

7 strawberries, hulled
2 shots rum
1/2 shot freshly squeezed lime juice
1/4 shot simple syrup
Stitch & Bear - Strawberry daiquiri - ingredients
Ingredients for a strawberry daiquiri
Start by taking a coupe or martini glass and placing into the freezer. This will chill the glass nicely in advance of the cocktail.

Place the strawberries into the shaking glass and muddle. Add the rum, simple syrup and squeeze in the lime juice. I use a citrus press or Mexican Elbow to quickly squeeze citrus.
Stitch & Bear - Strawberry daiquiri - Muddle
Start by muddling the strawberries
Stitch & Bear - Strawberry daiquiri - Mix
Add rum, simple syrup and squeeze the lime
Fill the glass with ice, place the tin on the shaking glass, making sure to seal well and shake vigorously. A good shake will further smash the strawberries and the ice will slightly dilute the drink. 

This drink will require a double strain, meaning a pour that uses both the Hawthorne strainer and a fine sieve. This will remove any fruit and ice debris from the liquid, leaving a clear, smooth drink.
Stitch & Bear - Strawberry daiquiri - Shake
Shakey shakey
Stitch & Bear - Strawberry daiquiri - Strain
Get ready to double strain
Stitch & Bear - Strawberry daiquiri - Voila
Elegant perfection
And there you go, a perfect summer drink. Two shots of rum means that it's not a lightweight, despite the sweet strawberry flavour. So don't go too crazy. Enjoy!


Thursday, June 19, 2014

[Events] Taste of Dublin 2014

Taste of Dublin is over for another year, and it continues to polarise opinions. To some people, it seems to represent an excessive Celtic Tiger legacy and to others, it's a lovely day out with plenty of food and drink to choose from. I tend oscillate between these two extremes but come June, I always end up in the Iveagh Gardens with a sheaf of florins (the Taste currency). 

I used to avail of a good corporate deal on tickets via work, but that hasn't been available for the last few years. Since then, I've actually refused to buy a ticket but instead, I enter all the competitions I can find. So far my luck has held good. The event organisers put on a magnificent show every year, but I do feel galled by a steep entrance fee (plus booking fee per ticket!), with nothing included bar entry. (To be honest, this year I received complementary tickets as part of my invitation to the Aldi 28 Steak promotion).

The first thing I noticed as our taxi pulled up on Harcourt Street outside the entrance was the sheer volume of the queue. We had deliberately planned to be an hour late to avoid the worst of the entrance queues, but it was as if the gates had just opened. Thankfully, we were able to bypass the queue (a rare perk that I was extremely grateful for), but I felt terrible for the people queuing. One quarter of the allocated time was already up and God knows how long more they queued for.
Stitch & Bear - Taste of Dublin 2014 - The Aldi cabin
The Aldi cabin at Taste of Dublin (see Louis in the window!)
As mentioned, we were guests of Aldi who had invited us to sample their 28 day dry aged Irish Angus steaks in a purpose built cabin and outdoor terrace. The superstar factor was bought by Cormac Rowe, executive chef at Michelin-starred Mount Juliet who, along with his team, expertly cooked the steaks to perfection in front of us. A small starter of cod brandade and a very delicious strawberry and basil panna cottta were served as part of a three course meal, with wines from the excellent value Aldi Exquisite range (my favourite? The Albariño).

I also got a real kick from having Louis Walsh present at our sitting. It was amazing to watch him make time for any fan who requested a photo or hug. If you had the balls to approach him, he made sure that you got some time. Major respect Louis.
Stitch & Bear - Taste of Dublin 2014 - #28byAldi
Place setting at #28byAldi
Stitch & Bear - Taste of Dublin 2014 - Aldi ribeye
Magnificent ribeye with salad from Aldi and Cormac Rowe 
Stitch & Bear - Taste of Dublin 2014 - Side of beef
An Aldi side of beef
Stitch & Bear - Taste of Dublin 2014 - Strawberry and basil dessert
Delicious strawberry and basil dessert
Now that I've gotten over my love fest with Aldi's steaks, it's back to the rest of Taste of Dublin. This year, I felt that there had been a real change. As I wandered around, up and down the steps, in and out of the trees, it felt less like a string of stalls and more like a grouping of experiences. Kentucky Ales were promoting their beers and whiskies in a section with a live band and grill, O'Briens wines was jumping, Glenisk had mounted smoothie blenders on bicycles and the open demonstrations had been spread throughout the area.
Stitch & Bear - Taste of Dublin 2014 - Aye mami
Samba time - someone is enjoying the Brazilian dancing
Thanks to Aldi's generous feast, we weren't very hungry, but we did sample some pea panna cotta from Hot Stove Restaurant along with dumplings and wasabi prawns from China Sichuan. Rock Lobster was the crowd favourite with long lines waiting for their signature lobster rolls, while Anita Thoma's (Il Primo) eye-catching method for finishing risotto on a wheel of parmesan was also drawing a crowd.
Stitch & Bear - Taste of Dublin 2014 - China Sichuan prawns
Wasabi prawns with mango from China Sichuan
Stitch & Bear - Taste of Dublin 2014 - China Sichuan spicy dumplings
Spicy poached chicken wonton dumplings from China Sichuan
Stitch & Bear - Taste of Dublin 2014 - Hot Stove pea panna cotta
Garden pea panna cotta from Hot Stove Restaurant
And it wasn't just the food that got us interested. Prosecco was the clear choice of the well-heeled, albeit tipsy, ladies who were wandering around clutching bottles and plastic flutes. Down in the VIP area, the (overpriced, in my opinion) tickets got you a glass of Champagne and a pre-mixed cocktail. Me, I was personally more interested in visiting some of the cocktail stands for a freshly made drink. We tried the Beefeater Gin bar from the Mint Bar as well as a truly excellent raspberry bourbon sour from Kentucky Ales.
Stitch & Bear - Taste of Dublin 2014 - Mint Bar cocktails
Tom from the Mint Bar creating my cocktail
Stitch & Bear - Taste of Dublin 2014 - Kentucky Ales cocktails
Raspberry bourbon sour from Kentucky Ales
Stitch & Bear - Taste of Dublin 2014 - Teelings whiskey
The excellent Teeling Whiskey company
The real star of the Taste of Dublin however, is the actual venue itself. The Iveagh Gardens are just stunning and Taste of Dublin makes creative use of the area. It was such a shame to see attendees littering the grounds with cigarette butts and other debris. Way to stay classy. As the evening bled into night, the Gardens become romantic and it's very easy to sit down and let the world pass you by. Before too long, it was 21.30 and the security team were starting to shut down the bars and stands. Time to depart and probably not too soon for the prosecco-sodden lady I saw fall head first into the barriers.

Final thoughts on Taste? I still think it can be expensive. I still think it's a love-in for D4-ites and socialites. I still think anyone who wanders around with the VIP lanyard is a borderline tit. But there were some signs this year that the festival is changing, moving towards a more personalised experience. Restaurants who make an effort with a signature dish will reap the benefits and with the right weather, it's a magnificent day out.

UPDATE: I just realised that I never mentioned the toilets. Probably because I had scrubbed that horrible experience from my memory. Before we had even left home, I had rolled up some toilet paper into my bag as previous years had taught me not to spin the toilet paper roulette wheel. This year though, the issue was smell and maintenance. I was left wondering what women were doing in the toilets to create such a smell and such a mess.

Monday, June 16, 2014

[Cocktails] The Caipirinha

To make a caipirinha, you need cachaça. If you don't have it, then stop right now, procure a bottle and then resume reading this article. 

What is cachaça? Cachaça is a distilled spirit made from sugar cane. In that sense it's a cousin of rum and can also be known as aguardente, ping or caninha. The distinctive flavour of cachaça is so essential to this drink that it's not worth proceeding otherwise. A quick look at my drinks shelf reveals bottles of Velho Barreiro and Pitú, which isn't bad considering that the Brazilians apparently only export 6% of this drink annually

How do I pronounce caipirinha and cachaça? "Kie-Pur-Reen-Yah" will get you close enough should you ever find yourself on the beaches of Rio. At your local decent off-license, just ask for "Ka-Shas-Sa"

Now that you have a bottle of cachaça, you'll also need some limes and sugar syrup (or granulated sugar). To make a single serve caipirinha, you will need ice and just three ingredients.

3/4 lime
2 shots cachaça
1/2 shot sugar syrup
Stitch & Bear - Caipirinha - Ingredients
Before cutting the lime, roll it with some gentle pressure on your chopping board. This helps release the juices internally. Cut the lime into segments.
Stitch & Bear - Caipirinha - Lime
Place the lime into a heavy glass and muddle to release the juice as well as the oils from the skin.
Stitch & Bear - Caipirinha - Muddle
Muddle well - release those delicious limey flavours
Add the cachaça and sugar syrup and stir well to combine. If you choose to use granulated sugar, then you'll have to stir for longer to get it to dissolve enough.
Stitch & Bear - Caipirinha - Mix
Stir well to mix the lime, sugar and cachaça
Finally, top up the glass with ice and give one more quick stir to settle the ice in. Some people like crushed or chipped ice, while traditionally Brazilians use cubed ice. Either way, it's all good.
Stitch & Bear - Caipirinha - Finito
Fill with ice for the finished product
What cocktail would you like to see next on Stitch & Bear? All suggestions welcome.


Wednesday, June 11, 2014

[Travel] Eat Drink Walk Petiscos Tour in Lisbon

Everyone likes a different kind of holiday. Some people like sunshine, some people like food and some people like activity. However, we found a way to combine them. Rather than spending a lot of effort to find the best Lisbon food and drink, we decided to take a short cut by booking ourselves onto a guided walking tour of Lisbon, offered by Eat Drink Walk. And so we found ourselves outside the Mercado da Ribeira in the bright sunshine, waiting for our guide Celia Pedroso, and our introduction to the petiscos of Lisbon.

As it was a Monday, the fresh produce sections of the market were regrettably quiet, while the fish market was closed altogether. Entire sections of the market are sectioned off behind plastic curtains and construction sounds echo around the halls. The whole market is undergoing modernisation, starting with the opening of the TimeOut food hall. This wide open space is filled with communal tables in heavy blond wood and lined with a selection of Lisbon's finest restaurants and food outlets. 
Stitch & Bear - Eat Drink Walk Petiscos Lisbon - Time Out food market
The Timeout food hall at the Mercado da Ribeira
We started our eating tour with a very fine selection of cheeses (sheep and goat) from Manteigaria Silva along with plenty of crusty corn bread, ham-wrapped figs, all accompanied by some crisp, refreshing glasses of Vila Santa Loios white wine, made in the Alentejo region. 
Stitch & Bear - Eat Drink Walk Petiscos Lisbon - Cheese platter
Cheese platter from Manteigaria Silva 
Stitch & Bear - Eat Drink Walk Petiscos Lisbon - Cheese and meat platter
Ham-wrapped figs and cheese from Manteigaria Silva
Then it was time to leave the Mercado and start walking the streets of Lisbon in search of the tastiest snacks and drinks. As we walked, Celia pointed out historic buildings and interesting sights, including a  bakery with wonderful animal creations and a food shop where slabs of dried salted cod were stacked high.
Stitch & Bear - Eat Drink Walk Petiscos Lisbon - Bread animals
Bread animals in a shop window
Stitch & Bear - Eat Drink Walk Petiscos Lisbon - Salt cod
Stacks of dried salted cod
Then it was time to visit Restaurante Nova Pombalina for some leitão - or suckling pig sandwich. The cafe assembles sandwiches on freshly baked bread in lightning fast time, accompanied by a delicious selection of fresh juices and potato chips. The rolls are filled with a mixture of crackling and meat, with a hot piri-piri oil available for those who like to spice it up. Rissois de camerao, or crispy prawn pancakes, had a tasty cream filling balanced by fresh herbs. Several glasses of fresh pineapple juice with ginger or mint worked their refreshing magic before we headed back out into the sunshine. 
Stitch & Bear - Eat Drink Walk Petiscos Lisbon - Rissois de camaro
Rissois de camarao - or crispy prawn pies
Stitch & Bear - Eat Drink Walk Petiscos Lisbon - Pineapple and mint juice
Refreshing fresh pineapple and mint juice
Stitch & Bear - Eat Drink Walk Petiscos Lisbon - Roast suckling pig rolls
Roasted suckling pig rolls with potato chips
The tinned fish industry is very important in Portugal where they have elevated it to an art-form. There are many shops dedicated to the sale of tinned fish, with shelves stocked neatly in a rainbow cacophony  of tins. Sardines, mackerel, octopus, mussels, tuna… if the Portuguese can't tin it, then it probably isn't worth eating. Conserveira da Lisboa on Rua dos Bacalhoeiros is a beautiful old-style shop with tins stacked behind the serving counter.
Stitch & Bear - Eat Drink Walk Petiscos Lisbon - Conserveira de Lisboa
Conserveira de Lisboa
Stitch & Bear - Eat Drink Walk Petiscos Lisbon - tinned fish
The first mountain of tinned fish
It was time to taste port, courtesy of the Garrafeira Nacional on Rua de Santa Justa. The entire shop is lined with bottles but especial focus is given to port and sherry. Bottles of different vintages and sizes are everywhere, and it was fun for our party to see who had the most expensive port vintage birth year. (I only clocked in at €200).

We got to taste a wide selection including white, ruby, tawny and aged ports, with colours ranging from light to dark deep red. The final bottle was a sample of the local Moscatel de Setúbal, a delicious sweet wine suitable for aperitifs.
Stitch & Bear - Eat Drink Walk Petiscos Lisbon - Vintage ports
Vintage ports at the Garrafeira Nacional 
Stitch & Bear - Eat Drink Walk Petiscos Lisbon - Port and muscatel tasting
Our port and Moscatel tasting at Garrafeira Nacional
Stitch & Bear - Eat Drink Walk Petiscos Lisbon - Muscatel du Setubal
Presenting Moscatel de Setúbal
At this stage we had walked well away from the Mercado and it was time to start turning back. But not before we stopped at a little food store specialising in food from the Portuguese Azores islands. Here we nibbled on cheese, spicy chorizo and fresh pineapple marinated in the sweet liqueurs produced on the islands. It seemed that every type of fruit was bottled on the shelves, even going to so far to produce a creamy Bailey's-like drink from rice. 
Stitch & Bear - Eat Drink Walk Petiscos Lisbon - Liqueur and cheese tasting
Cheese, spicy chorizo and liquer tasting
Stitch & Bear - Eat Drink Walk Petiscos Lisbon - More tinned fish
Yet more tinned fish
Yet more tinned fish, this time at the modern and sleek Loja das Conservas, which is more like a modern art gallery than a tinned fish shop. Tins from different canneries are arranged artfully underneath mini-histories of the cannery. Even the purchases are beautifully packaged, with tins carefully laid into cardboard boxes or even wooden boxes.
Stitch & Bear - Eat Drink Walk Petiscos Lisbon - Even more tinned fish
And even more tinned fish
Lisbon even has a tapas restaurant, Sol e Pesca, that specialises in decanting tinned fish, housed in a former fishing tackle shop. You simply pick your choice of tinned piscine delight and the staff will deliver them, in their oils or sauces, to your table. Simplicity is the key here, with fresh bread and carafes of crisp white wine to wash it all down. 
Stitch & Bear - Eat Drink Walk Petiscos Lisbon - Tinned fish tapas at Sol e Pesca
Tinned fish tapas at Sol e Pesca
Stitch & Bear - Eat Drink Walk Petiscos Lisbon - Sol e Pesca
And more tinned fish tapas at Sol e Pesca
By now our legs were feeling the effects of spending 4 hours walking in the Lisbon sunshine. Our final stretch took us back to the market for a Portuguese treat. Ginjinha is a local liqueur made from sour cherries and the little bar from Mariquinhas Óbidos serves it in a little chocolate cup for added sweetness. Careful handing is required in the heat, but to be honest, the little cup doesn't tend to last long.
Stitch & Bear - Eat Drink Walk Petiscos Lisbon - Ginjinha and chocolate
Tasting ginjinha - with a shot in a chocolate cup
Our little group of Irish, English and Americans had great fun wandering around Lisbon in the company of Celia and Eat Drink Walk. Sometimes having a local food writer show you around is the best way to find those little gems. Our tour lasted about 4 hours and cost €60 per head including all eating and drinking. Other tour options are available, just contact Eat Drink Walk for details.
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