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, April 16, 2016

[Opinion] My experience with WSET Level 2 Wine and Spirits

At the start of 2015 I had had been toying with the idea of taking formal wine classes for a while and had indeed already completed several casual wine tasting courses. I finally decided to bite the bullet and enrol for the Wine and Spirit Education Trust (WSET) Level 2 Certificate in Wines and Spirits. There is a foundation Level 1, but it's entirely possible to go straight in at Level 2 if you already have a reasonably good knowledge of wine. 
There are several accredited teachers in Ireland, which you can find listed on the WSET website, but when I did my research, one name was consistently mentioned again and again. I therefore found myself in the very capable hands of Maureen O'Hara from Premier Wine Training. The classes took place at night, over the course of approximately 8 weeks, lasting 2 hours per class. I paid €440 which covered all classes, textbooks and study materials, a set of tasting glasses and the exam itself.


Tuesday, April 12, 2016

[Review] Richmond, South Richmond Street, Dublin 2

Over the last few weeks, I've been trying to deal with the Sunday evening fear. I know I'm not alone here, with many workers feeling the same on Sunday evenings. In fact, I've given consideration to setting up a Glenroe-themed nightclub, where the theme music plays constantly and the tables are stacked with copybooks full of overdue homework. However, in my case, the Sunday fear is exacerbated by the fact that I am currently flying to Amsterdam at ridiculous o'clock every Monday morning, making it hard to sleep the night before.

My latest tactic to handle my insomnia is to go for a nice meal on Sunday evening, helped in no small part by the liberal application of a good bottle of wine. I'm hoping that by the time I return home from dinner, I'll be fit only for bed and a solid sleep before the alarm clock wakes me up ahead of the dawn chorus. Plus, this plan also gives me a chance to catch up on some of the new Dublin restaurants.

This Sunday, it was the turn of Richmond, a new local venue located in the old, iconic Gigs Place on Richmond Street. The Gigs Place, established in 1970, was apparently the ultimate Dublin greasy spoon, and I have to admit that I never crossed its doors. I could never figure out if there was an etiquette for entering or if it was some "exclusive" club. Now head chef Davy O'Byrne and owner manager (the veteran) Russell Wilde have restored and revitalised this piece of Dublin dining history. 

We chose from the superb value Early Bird menu where two courses costs €21.50 and three cost €25.00 A full dinner menu is also available with daily specials chalked over the kitchen pass. My risotto with wild mushroom and white truffle was superb, with little parmesan and sesame crackers for added crunch. A bowl of white bean and wild garlic soup, topped with shredded ham hock, was a nice seasonal touch.
Wild mushroom and white truffle risotto

Sunday, April 3, 2016

[Opinion] An ode to the Caesar salad and the humble anchovy

I've been a long term lover of the classic Casear salad. It's undeniably the king of salads, and eating a good Caesar salad is a pleasure like no other.  The combination of crisp Romaine lettuce, a creamy umami-packed dressing and crunchy croutons was a genius move on the part of whoever assembled the first Caesar salad. Its creation is generally attributed to Caesar Cardini, a Italian immigrant with restaurants in the US and Mexico. Legend has it that he was working in Tijuana (to avoid the restrictions of Prohibition) when he created the now eponymous salad. 

I would say that calling this dish a salad is an item of technicality. Yes it is lettuce-based but the creamy emulsion dressing is what makes the salad so delectable. Add in lashings of parmesan cheese and other optional additions, and the calorie count can increase dramatically. However, I'm choosing to still view it as a salad and all the benefits that come with eating salad.

So why am I writing about the Caesar salad? I recently ordered a version at an Amsterdam hotel which I found myself consuming with great enthusiasm.  I went so far as to run my finger around the inside of the bowl to catch all the remaining dressing. And it wasn't because I was starving. It was because it was packed with chunks of anchovies. Those lovely, salty, meaty little fish which pack more punch than a heavyweight boxer. Yes the lettuce was lovely and crisp, the croutons were crunchy, there was loads of parmesan and the addition of grilled chicken, bacon and hard-boiled egg was superb, but it was really all about the anchovies. 

Anchovies are delicious eaten straight from the tin or jar, and will add bucketloads of oomph (more technically known as unami) to any dish. They've been used for centuries as a source of potent flavour, and feature in many classic sauces such as Worcestershire sauce and Pater Peperium Gentleman's Relish. But for some reason, many people dislike the anchovy, probably because they've eaten the cheaper, fishier versions. Invest in some quality anchovies and you will see the difference. In fact, I'll go so far as to say that if you don't like anchovies, we may need to discuss the nature of our relationship. 
My homemade Chicken Caesar salad
Making a Caesar salad dressing can involve a fair amount of whisking as you need to emulsify the egg yolk and olive oil. If you've got biceps of iron, then work away, otherwise use a blender to help speed up the process. A personal tip is to use the leftover oil from the anchovies in the salad dressing for extra flavour. One of my favourite recipes is comes from Bon Appetit and is really easy to make quickly.

If you want to try anchovies in other recipes, try this recipe list from Huffington Post.
© Stitch and Bear | All rights reserved.
Blogger Template Developed by pipdig