December 11, 2012

Lots of Christmas Cheer - Fairs & Events in the next two weeks

As Buddy the Elf would shout, 'SANTA! OH MY GOD! SANTA'S COMING! I KNOW HIM! I KNOW HIM!, and with only two weeks left to go there is much to do before he arrives down the chimney. Yet there is loads happening around the country so if you can, take some time out amidst all the Christmas present shopping, the partying and the organising and enjoy some well earned Christmas cheer. You can visit Santa, eat mince pies, drink Gl├╝hwein or do them all together!

Events kicking off this weekend are:

Loads of fairs and markets throughout the country are already in full gear and some run right up until Christmas Eve:

November 27, 2012

yum.

If you haven't been in Dublin City Centre for a while take a walk down Camden Street to George's Street and you may be pleasantly surprised. No longer is it just a long walk peppered with charity shops, dodgy mobile phone stores and off licences but along the way you will encounter a huge range of restaurants that cater to all tastes. If you want a craft beer with your food try Against the Grain, for great Asian food give Neon a go and if you want to grab something on the go but want it to be from a company who believe in sustainability have a look in Grub. If though, you have a craving that only a Man Vs Food style sandwich will fill, then stay on Camden Street and head to Yum

With an enticing exterior of dark wood panelling and green signage the interior mirrors this with soft green chairs and dark wooden tables. It's comfy, clean and not overcrowded with seats. There is a choice of starters, antipasti, mains and sides. We went straight for the mains after seeing what arrived  at the table next to us and I decided it might be a struggle to finish that! With fifteen different mains to choose it took a bit of time but since I love a good bit of brisket I went for The Reuben while the boyfriend went for the Pulled Pork Sandwich. Each main comes with two salads or with one salad and a choice of fries or baked potato.

The Reuben is thinly sliced brisket marinated overnight in garlic, thyme and bay leaf, slowly cooked and broiled with seasoned fried onions and Swiss cheese all served between two thick slices of sourdough bread. It was a good sandwich which was complemented by the choice of tomato, asparagus and red onion salad which was light enough to eat alongside it. The only downside of The Reuben was that it was slightly dry and would have benefited from some relish on the inside to give it a bit of moisture or indeed the traditional Russian or thousand island dressing.

The Reuben 
 

The Pulled Pork Sandwich is made with slowly cooked shoulder of pork and teamed with spicy Texas style coleslaw and BBQ sauce on a lightly toasted burger bun. The boyfriend liked it but did find it slightly too spicy and he had hoped that the BBQ sauce would mean that the sandwich was slightly stickier and smokier than it was. He also got the goats cheese salad which was a bad choice with the sandwich as the goats cheese was quite heavy and was a bit much with the Pulled Pork. This salad could also have been a lot nicer by adding some dressing to bring it all together as it was literally just cheese and salad leaves (though I have since been informed by Yum that this should have been accompanied by a honey balsamic dressing which would definitely do the trick).

Pulled Pork Sandwich

At the end of the day though, aside from a few minor issues, it didn't stop us from eating every last bite. Ok, so I needed a bit of help with mine but I gave it my best shot!! 

Only crumbs and few onions left!
I also have to say that the staff were so lovely on the day. We were an hour late and when I rang to say we would be late they said not to worry as they would have a table for us. We also didn't have to ask for water and were quickly given a replacement knife when I knocked mine onto the floor. None of the mains are more than €12.95 so for less than €13 you can eat well and leave full be it for lunch or dinner! Or you can do what we did and get your mains for free if you get on to Yum's Twitter and ask for some #yumseats.

Yum. is open Monday to Saturday from 8am - 11pm and Sunday from 8am - 9pm. They also do a full breakfast till 12am so if you find yourself still in the area after a night out in Coppers or the Palace you know where to go now!!

Update 25/03/13 Yum appears to have closed if it reopens I will let you all know.

November 17, 2012

Damson Diner

One of my best mates recently announced she was coming back to Dublin for a few months, which resulted in lots of bouncing around the house and excitedly clapping my hands. She is a great one for eating out with and since she left a few years ago an amazing amount of restaurants have opened up in Dublin. A lot of these places are quirky, creative and are catering for customers who want to eat good food but at reasonable prices. One such place is the Damson Diner which has opened where The South William used to be located and which seemed a good place to start in reintroducing her to the Dublin dining scene. 

Set over three floors, the space has been totally transformed with diner style seating downstairs and a large open mezzanine upstairs. We wandered in just after six on what happened to be their opening night and were seated immediately in one of the little nooks.  The decor is simple but eclectic and the whole thing has a 1940s feel to it. It is spacious yet were we were seated felt quite private and allowed us to have a good catch up without feeling like the people next to us were eavesdropping! 

The menu is short and you can choose from Bites, In a Bowl or From the Grill. It is a mix of both Asian and American food but it isn't fusion, instead it is a choice of dishes from either area.  We both love fish so decided to share a starter of Louisiana Crab Cakes. These were fresh white crab meat mixed with peppers, onions & celery and served with Louisiana hot sauce. They were lovely with a slight kick of heat off them but nothing that was too intense.

 

For our mains we both went for the Seared Tuna which was yellow-fin tuna, flash grilled and served with pickled radish, pickled ginger and fresh fennel. Now I'm not sure what I was expecting but it wasn't this, I think I had tuna steak in my head as that is the only way I have ever eaten tuna in a restaurant. This was a very pleasant surprise. It was fresh, tangy and it let the tuna be the star of the dish.


For our sides we choose chips and Breaded courgettes. The chips were grand, crispy on the outside and fluffy on the inside just like they should be but it was the breaded courgettes that had us talking. They were delicious chunks of breaded goodness and we probably could have eaten another bowl of them!

Breaded Courgettes
Crispy Chips
Damson Diner have a short menu of desserts but as we were fairly full we opted for one of their many delicious sounding cocktails. Damson Diner's cocktails are extra special as they are made with Irish fruit infusions that are done in house, think sloes, cranberries and raspberries left to infuse for a few months. These infusions are seasonal and once they are gone that's it until next year!! I had a strawberry blondie which was finished off with a sherbert covered strawberry while Maya had a Gin Tom Collins. Amazing!! 

Infusions
The staff were lovely on the night and took time to explain the food, cocktails and what the plan was for the rest of the restaurant. They showed us the private dining room which can seat about ten people and has a privacy window so that you can see out but no one can see you!! There is an adjoining smoking area just past this room and there are also plans to add a late night bar in the basement from early December which sounds like a perfect place to enjoy some pre Christmas cocktails!!

Private Dining Area
All together our meal cost us €63 which was for one starter, 2 mains, 2 sides and 2 cocktails. Damson Diner is located at 52 South William Street, Dublin 2 and there is more info on their Facebook page here.

November 09, 2012

November is Cava & Sea Tapas Month

Wines from Spain and the Embassy of Spain are delighted to announce Cava & Sea Tapas Month which will run for the whole month of November. 

November is the perfect month to awaken the senses to the taste and combination of Irish Fish and Cava. Before Christmas arrives with its heavy warming food, put a spring in your step with some beautiful pairings of seafood and sparkling wine.

This promotion will run till November 30th with each restaurant having their own individual promotions. There seems to be more information on each restaurant's Facebook page or in the news section on their individual websites. For example  the Essence Bistro is offering 2 glasses of Cava and Four Seafood Tapas for only €32.00 per couple. If you can't find what you are looking for just give them a buzz! The following restaurants are participating:


Cafe H

Grand Canal Plaza, Dublin 2
Tel: 01 – 899 2216

Cava

51 Lower Dominick Street, Galway
Tel: 09 – 153 9884

EssenceBistro

75 Main St, Swords
Tel: 01 – 895 6811

Ivans Beshoffs Oyster Bar & Grill

17-18 West Pier, Howth
Tel: 01 – 839 0285

The Port House

64 South William Street, Dublin 2
Tel: 01 – 6770298

The Port House Ibericos

Ballinteer Road, 5-6 Pembroke Cottage, Dundrum
Tel: 01 – 216 6133

The Port House Pintxo

12 Eustace Street, Dublin 2
Tel: 01 – 672 8590

Salamanca

St.Andrew´s St, Dublin 2
Tel: 01 – 677 4799

Seapoint

4 The Crescent, Monkstown
Tel: 01 – 663 8480

SPA Seafoods

The Spa, Tralee
Tel: 066 – 713 6901

The Gables

Torquay Road, Dublin 18
Tel: 01 – 289 2174

Also if you decide to drink a toast with Cava in November you could win a €75 voucher or 6 bottles of Cava  just by telling Wines from Spain where you ate. Visit Wines from Spain for more information about the promotion and prizes.

November 05, 2012

The Cake Cafe Bake Book

In south Dublin, hidden down a quiet side street, there is an absolute gem of a cafe. Filled with great food, friendly staff and the most delicious lemon slices you will find this side of Dublin, The Cake Cafe is the place to go with your friends, your mum, your other half or who ever else you can drag off the street! My ideal outing often involves sardines on toast, tea or wine depending on the time of day and of course a lemon slice or a slab of chocolate cake depending on the mood.

So recently when I heard that Michelle Darmody, owner of the Cake Cake was looking for sponsors to help self publish her first cookbook I didn't have to think twice. She was using Fundit.ie to source her sponsors, a crowdfunding website which allows people to help fund ideas which they think are really worthwhile. If you have never encountered it before, have a look, there are loads of creative events and ideas that need help with sponsorship. They aren't asking for a lot and really need help to get their ideas off the ground. By people preordering her book through Fundit, Michelle was able to
completely self-publish The Cake Cafe Bake Book and do things in true Cake Cafe style.

The Cake Cafe Bake Book is a quirky, colourful, illustrated book all about baking. It is filled with recipes for lots of sweet treats including the infamous 'Lemon Slice' and lots of other practical information such as how to line a tin properly. The majority of recipes fill half a page which make them very easy to follow, to understand and ultimately to bake.  Another fantastic thing about it is that the recipes have measurements in both grams and ounces so no having to work out the conversions in your head or on your flour covered phone! Another big plus is the empty pages at the back where you can add your own recipes or those pesky magazine recipes that always seem to get lost. 

The Cake Cafe Bake Book is a definite must have for any baker and for only 18.99 it would make a fabulous gift this coming Christmas (sorry if that's too early for you, only 49 days to go!). Of course I had to make the Lemon slices but they were so good they were gone before I got to take a photo!!  Michelle kindly took some time out to talk to The Purple Page about her cafe, her cookbook and all things cake.

Michelle you are the owner of the very successful and wonderful Cake Cafe on Pleasants Place, which is filled to the brim with all manner of delicious treats. Where did your love of baking come from? I grew up in a house that was always filled with the smell of baking. I was roped in to help my parents in the kitchen as I am the oldest of five children and there was always something to take out of the oven or to stir on the hob. 

Six years ago when you set up the Cake Cafe did you ever envisage yourself writing such a book?  I studied art in college and made quite a few artist books over the five years there. I have always loved collecting and to an extent making books so I guess this book is an extension of that. It could probably fit into the design section in a shop as much as the cooking section which is what I love about it. It is a workbook and sketchbook as well as a cook book. I left blank pages that I hope people will fill to make each book their own. 

Do you feel that it was just a natural progression or were people just constantly pestering you for your recipes!? A bit of both really. We are constantly asked for recipes and I host baking classes where I share recipes so it was natural to start collecting them. I had a strong idea how I wanted the book to look and that came about naturally. I was also very conscious of getting the book printed in a fair manner within the EU rather than being out sourced. I eventually went with a great printer in Luxembourg. 

Why did you decide to self-publish? What was the biggest challenge and what has been the best part about it? The biggest challenge was the amount of work involved. I set up a publishing company under the name of The Cake Cafe and set about writing. It was nerve wracking to think that publishers thought I was a bit mad and I did wonder how I was going to get the book to people. Luckily Thames and Hudson stepped in and have taken over the distribution. They are also releasing it in Australia and the UK 

Do you have any advice for other authors who would like to self-publish? Give your self plenty of time, everything takes longer than you think. I would also say if you have a strong enough idea and really want to do it you will. 

How long did the Cake Cafe Bake Book take from the initial idea to publication? Over a year. 

I love the artwork in the cookbook and I think that since there are no pictures to go by it liberates the reader from what they think their end product should look like and allows them to bake freely. Do you agree?  Yes I loved working with Niall and Nigel of Pony on the design of the book. I feel the lifestyle photography has been done so I wanted to try something different. I was lucky to have a close working relationship with such talented designers. 

There seems to be an ever increasing number of people who suffer from food intolerances these days and indeed you offer a number of recipes in the book that are dairy free. Is this something you are very conscious of and that you kept in mind while writing the Cake Cafe Bake Book? Yes we get more and more people asking us for wheat free and dairy free recipes. I think it is very important to think of both when you are looking at baking. 

Now for the most important question!!! Out of all the wonderful recipes in the Cake Cafe Bake Book what is your absolute favourite? The sponge cake. It still amazes me how three simple ingredients can transform so utterly. I think it is the simplest and purest way to see the magic of baking.

November 01, 2012

November's Food Festivals & Events

Castlebar Christmas Market in Co. Mayo, will take place on Saturday 24 & Sunday 25 November in the Events Arena at Breaffy House Resort from 10am-5pm. With lots of new traders taking part this year it will be a great start to the festive season and a chance to pick up Christmas gifts, crafts, tasty treats and more.

The 2012 Winter Fair will take place in Belvedere House in Mullingar, Co. Westmeath on the 24 & 25 November. The Winter Fair at Belvedere features contemporary collections of jewellery, interior products, gift ware, textiles, cards, ceramics as well as local food producers all indoors in the Courtyard at Belvedere.
 
The FOOD & WINE Magazine Christmas show 2012 is back from the 30th November to the 2nd December  in the RDS Main Hall in Ballsbridge. It will be a three-day food and drink extravaganza, that will show you how to recreate world class dishes in the comfort of your own home!  There will be a Chef's Kitchen, the Artisan Market, a Wine Experience Theatre and a whole host of free masterclasses. Tickets to the event cost €20 but there is an early bird option for €15.

The third annual Galway Continental Christmas Market will take place from 23 November – 22 December in Eyre Square. A jam-packed schedule comprising of a whole host of different events is promised for the Market’s duration, including  entertainment from Galway’s top live bands and DJ’s, performers, puppet shows, storytelling, school choirs and carol singing. Santa’s Grotto will be run by local charities and the popular Bier Keller will play host to various events throughout the duration of the market alongside offerings of festive treats, artisan food products and Christmas gift ideas.

Taking place in  Co. Kerry from the 31 October to 4 November this fair promises to be better than ever. Some of the events on offer include a Food & Literary Taste Trail, a Herbal Medicine Trail and an Organic Gardening Class. There will also be a Food Village and Craft Fair, a Saturday Kitchen Live Demonstration and a Farming Seminar with Minister Simon Coveney and lots more.

This Christmas market takes place for 3 days only in Limerick City from 23 - 25 November. Visit the the stalls located throughout No. 1 Hotel & Spa & Pery Square which will include local artisan food producers, arts & crafts, Christmas gifts with a difference and much more.

On 10 & 11, November Taste of Louth takes place in The Marshes Shopping Centre, Dundalk, Co. Louth. There will be demonstrations from Neven Magurie, Clodagh McKenna and Brian McDermott and a  big Taste of Louth Cupcake Challenge. Tickets are €10 for the cookery demonstrations and you can buy them through the Taste of Louth website.

Slow food Ireland presents Wild & Slow 2012, a unique festival that celebrates everything that is good about Irish food: fresh, local, traditional and wild. It takes place in Macreddin, Co. Wicklow on the 10 & 11 November. There is a huge of range of workshops and events on offer including curing, pickling, foraging, stalking, bee keeping which is just for starters. There will also be a food village offering visitors a chance to sample homemade foods.

Throughout Waterford City from 30th November to the 23rd December a big winter festival will take place with a huge range of events happening. There will be storytelling, Christmas markets, movies, craft workshops, an ice rink and lots lots more. There really is something for everyone at Winterval 2012.

October 26, 2012

itsa... Yelp Event

I never cease to be surprised by the sheer volume of creative, entertaining and free events that take place in Dublin these days. I think the recession, while bad for our pockets, has really brought people's imagination to the forefront. I attended one such event recently at itsa...Bagel in Ranelagh. This event had been organised by Yelp.ie which is a website to help people find great local businesses like dentists, hair stylists and cafes. Apparently Yelp is very big in the States but it definitely seems to be catching on here. If you are a member, which only takes about two minutes to do, you can attend free events organised by them. Recently there was a cocktail making demonstration in Sweeney Mongrels and ale tasting in WJ Kavanaghs neither of which I could attend, much to my disappointment!! 

The event in itsa Bagel was my first outing as a Yelper and it won't be my last. Being a coffee lover, I was in absolute heaven. We were shown the Brew Bar and told a little about the beans behind the coffee. We were also introduced to Erika who was a finalist in the World Barista Championships. She made her speciality chilli and vanilla coffee just for us. She explained that vanilla was infused into the milk and then we could increase the chilli strength by leaving the chilli in the coffee for longer. It was a great coffee and not as spicy as I thought it would be. Instead it had a slight afterkick which was a nice sensation.

Erika - Finalist at the World Barista Championships
Along with the coffee we were allowed choose whatever bagel we wanted in order to experience the food. I choose the October special "The Norwegian" which was made with a pumpernickle bagel, smoked salmon, low fat red onion cream cheese, cucumber pickle, oakleaf lettuce and honey dijon.

 

Claire choose the Caesar which was filled with roast chicken breast, caesar dressing (no anchovies!), parmesan, cos lettuce, butter and very kindly allowed me to take a picture of her food even though I had only known her for all of five minutes!

 

This was all followed by more coffee, this time from the Brew Bar, and a range of cakes including carrot cake muffins, gluten free brownies and a crumble type fruit square. I sampled them all purely for research purposes you understand! During all this stuffing of our faces, we were treated to a short talk from Josh, who told us a little about the business, its owners and the ethos behind it. Being a regular of itsa Bagel in Ranelagh, it was lovely to learn so much about the business and to meet the staff that make it such a nice place to go to.

        

The night was rounded up with a food quiz with some of the world's most difficult questions - Do you know what spice Cleopatra used to stay gorgeous because I didn't!! Myself and my teammate didn't fill out an awful lot of the questions as we were too busy chatting and having a laugh even though we had only met that night. This was a great event and Yelp seems to be a great way of meeting new, like minded people who are up for a laugh, want to learn something new and love living in Ireland. Oh and by the way Cleopatra used saffron in her baths in an attempt to stay beautiful!

As a side note Yelp are looking for a community manager so if organising events like the above and writing about them sounds right up your street get onto their website quick smart!! Sounds like it would be a fun job!