February 25, 2012

Foodie Fairs for the Weekend

If you are looking for something to do this weekend two food fairs are taking place this Sunday. Meath Craft & Food Fair and A Taste of Offaly. Both events kick off at 12 noon.

Meath Craft & Food Fair
Crafters Ireland's hugely popular Meath Craft and Food Fair is a great day out for the whole family and will be taking place in the Newgrange Hotel, Navan on the 26th of February. Visit over 30 of the best crafters, foodies and small businesses in the area - including restaurant quality curry sauce, wickless candles, the best cakes and biscuits Meath can offer, woodturners, handmade jewellery, the forever living company plus much much more. Check out www.craftersireland.ie
for more information.

Taste of Offaly
A Taste of Offaly will take place at the Tullamore Court Hotel and will feature more than 40 exhibits, sampling opportunities and cookery demonstrations. The exhibits will range from gourmet jams to cheese, various types of bread to handmade sausages and fine wines, hand made paper products and crafts and is truly is a celebration of all things local. Chef Yvonne Carty of Hey Pesto fame will also be offering demonstrations on the day. For more info
click here.

February 22, 2012

A Sunny Saturday at the Sugarloaf Lounge

So last Saturday, on one of those beautiful Irish spring afternoons, Ms J suggested we head to Powerscourt and have afternoon tea Downton style. It didn't take much to convince me, I love the whole idea of afternoon tea - china cups, bitesize sandwiches and scones - what's not to like. So off we headed to the Ritz-Carlton and gracefully arranged ourselves in front of the grand windows overlooking the mountains. We tittered at the range of mini size jams, complimented the tea and coffee and ooohhed when the three tier cake stand arrived. So far so good.

Maybe my expectations were too high, maybe I have watched one too many English period dramas, maybe I have read too many Austin novels, but I was disappointed. First off for a five star hotel it took over 45 minutes for the sandwiches and scones to arrive. Diners around us were being served full meals while we drank an entire pot of tea and coffee and waited and waited and waited. When they did arrive some of the bread on the sandwiches tasted stale as if they had been sitting out for ages uncovered and the foccacia was greasy from too much oil.

The prawn sandwich and the chicken wrap though were very tasty with juicy fillings. The mini scones were ever so delightful especially with a thick topping of lemon curd and freshly whipped cream. And then we came to the desserts. I was surprised by the fact that we weren't offered small petit fours but instead full size after dinner desserts. I am most certainly a dessert person so I took my time deliberating what to choose from the well stocked trolley but clearly I didn't choose well enough as I didn't like either. I started with a dark chocolate sponge finger with the added glamness of some gold leaf but this was too rich and bitter so I left most of it behind. Then I moved on to a raspberry and pistachio eclair which was super sweet and the raspberry flavour was lost in the over sugary filling. Ms J faired better with a vanilla tart with a surprise filling of custard in the base and a light lemon meringue pie so I did what every proper lady would do and offered to help her eat them! 

Chocolate Sponge Finger

Vanilla Tart

Raspberry and Pistachio Eclair
Overall for the price that was paid - €35 -  it is an expensive treat and obviously not one that people would be having all the time.The venue is beautiful and the hotel is very comfortable to sit in for an afternoon but I would be hard pressed to justify eating there again. I am still enamoured with the idea of afternoon tea but if I ever get the chance to do it again it won't be at the Sugar Loaf Lounge.

February 18, 2012

Choux Box Delights - Serious Cake Pops

So Valentine's has come and gone, cards have been exchanged, expensive meals eaten and the choccies have been demolished (they lasted all of about 5 minutes in my house!!). But this year I decided to do something different and take a leaf out of the American's book. In America everyone celebrates Valentine's Day, it's not just for couples, every one you love gets a small token of your appreciation. Some might say it's a cynical ploy by Hallmark to increase their sales (you know who you are!) but I say whatever - lets spread the love!!

So after coming across the amazing Choux Box a few weeks previously and drooling over their photos I decided to order some for the family to celebrate Valentines with them. This is what arrived!!

They came in a range of delicious flavours. Chocolate, which was a chocolate sponge, mixed with a light cream cheese icing and coated in chocolate. Lemon, which was a lemon sponge mixed with a lemon buttercream & coated in white chocolate.  And to top the whole American Valentine idea off - an oreo one. You can also get them as red velvet sponge which would obviously have been perfect for Valentines but like most families allergies got in the way!!  

So were they as delicious as they looked ... YES!! They were gorgeous, very moist on the inside with the perfect amount of chocolate covering. They were really fun too with the whole family enjoying the novelty of them. They would be perfect for any occasion - birthdays, hens, dinner parties - the list is endless. Now all I need to do is come up with an excuse to buy some more - hmm whose birthday is it next??

February 13, 2012

Lunching Around Ireland

Last week saw me trapse through the bottom half of Ireland for a mixture of business and pleasure. This whistlestop tour brought me to Wexford, Limerick and Galway and it was the perfect opportunity to try out some new places I wouldn't normally get too. Now as we all know the locals always know the best places to go so I got a few to divulge their secrets on where to go to for a lunchtime feed and I think I have found some gems!!!

La Dolce Vita - Wexford

This Italian cafe might be one of the best kept secrets EVER. Having lived in Italy I am notoriously hard to please when it comes to Italian restaurants. A lot of restaurants entice me in with promises of perfect pastas, pizzas and tiramisu but few deliver. La Dolce Vita is perhaps the BEST Italian food I have had outside Italy in a long time!! Forgive all the capitals but I really can't emphaize how special this little place is!!

The menu in La Dolce Vita offers paninis and other lunchtime fare but we were here for pasta. Or so I thought until I saw the specials menu - swordfish, venison, ossobuco - Oh where to start!! So after having a few quick steathly peeks at what other diners were eating we settled on two specials - Spagetti with Taleggio and Tomato and Ossobuco with Germolata.

The spagetti was delicious perfectly cooked and really flavoursome with the taleggio melted through it.

The Ossobuco was divine, the meat was falling off the bone and the sauce was light but tasty and it was covered with wondefully fresh gremolata. The portions size are huge and perfect for sharing. Great if you are looking for a Valentines lunch this week!! Of course then we decided it would be rude to leave without trying the tiramisu and an espresso, both of which rounded off the meal.

One other lovely thing about this restaurant is that the owner was really involved in the running of the place and would come out to check on us and make sure we were enjoying ourselves. It was a lovely touch and the fact that he gave me one of my favourite italian chocolates on the way out has endeared him to me forever!! The only thing wrong with this place is that it isnt closer to Dublin!!

La Dolce Vita don't have a website but you can find them on Menupages here

 La Dolce Vita on Urbanspoon

The Sage Cafe - Limerick

Our Limerick local told us to get down to The Sage Cafe early as the place is jammers at lunch and as soon as we arrived we could see why. This cafe is easy to spot with its inviting green exterior and funky decor. All the food looked very inviting from their daily specials right down to their desserts which are homemade along with all their breads, jams and chutney. After crawling intently through the menu we both finally settled on the fish pie. The pie was gorgeous not too dense and topped with fluffy mashed potato. This is a great lunchspot and so if you are in Limerick why not give this little spot a go and team it with a visit to the Milk Market for a perfect food filled morning out. Apparently Mike Hogan from the Cranberries owns the restaurant too. Now there is a prime bit of local gossip for you!!

For more info on the Cafe click here

Cava Spanish Restaurant and Tapas Bar - Galway 

This is a tapas restaurant but lunch is served here daily. The menu includes loads of gorgeous Bocadillos (Spanish Sandwiches), lovely soups and salads, stew and some specials which are changed to relect what's in season. I was very tempted by the sounds of the chickpea stew with chorizo and meatballs but instead I went for their great offer of a soup, sandwich and coffee for only ten euros. So for ten euros this is what you get:

 And look at that for a sandwich, full of serrano ham and manchego:

 And a delicious bowl of broccoli soup:

The lunch food here is tasty, filling and great value. I will definately be back for a return visit and hopefully I can fit in a dinner visit next time.

For more info on Cava Spanish Restaurant click here 

February 08, 2012

Raw at the Rustic Stone

Just before Christmas I was treated out to a meal at the Rustic Stone in Dublin City. I was unconvinced, cook the food myself...why...sure couldn't I do that at home! But I was converted and so much so that I told my friends they had to come and try it with me. So last Sunday we all managed to drag ourselves into town despite the neverending deluge of rain. It was wet, it was miserable but it was worth it (including my wet shopping bags distintegrating on the luas!!).

We were welcomed in by the very friendly staff, shook off the raindrops and sat ourselves down to what was a truly remarkable lunch. Rustic Stone offers two menus: you can order off their normal menu which is full of salads, pastas and food on the stone, this is where the cooking it yourself part comes in. One of the group went for this, deeming it her dinner for the day so Ms. J went all out and ordered herself a fillet of beef with mushrooms and wild tarragon.

Fillet of Beef
This came out to her sizzling on the plate. It was juicy, flavoursome and perfect by all accounts. She now is on a mission to find out where their beef comes from!! She also ordered a side of pesto chips with garlic and tomato parmesan. Big, fat, doorstops of potato and boy were they good.

Pesto Chips
Or you can order off their Raw menu which is only available at lunchtime.The Raw menu is described as 'a simple concept of applying less heat to food' and since this was just lunch for myself and Ms. B we ordered off this thinking we would still have room for sunday dinner later!! The menu basically works like a tapas menu, you can order two or three dishes as they come in small or big portion sizes. Now in reality there doesn't seem to be much difference but you do get two side salads with the main.

For starters we ordered mango slices with coriander, crab meat and radish and sushi - style tuna with ginger cous-cous, tofu and lime. Both were amazing the tuna was thinly sliced and placed on a small square of cous- cous tofu mixture. The mango and crabmeat both worked very well together and one didn't overpower the other. We milled through these and then it was on to the mains.

Monkfish and Salmon
The mains arrived beautifully presented. The one on the left is monkfish cured in beetroot followed by salmon on seasonal melon. The salmon and melon were as you would expect - fresh, tasty and tangy but for me it was the monkfish that stole the show. It was amazing with small but meaty pieces of monkfish wrapped in wafer thin beetroot.

We had such a fabulous lunch that we couldnt resist dessert!! Strawberries suspended in jelly with a lime foam, seasonal berries with passion fruit sauce and a vegan friendly oat crumble with kiwi and chocolate and avocado sauce. I have to admit I got the last one predominately because I was curious. It was different, very strong with a slight aftertaste but it's worth trying. The seasonal berries with the passion fruit sauce got the top vote with fingers being stuck into the pot to get the last remaining drops!! Overall the Raw menu in Rustic Stone is wonderful. It is very different, adventurous, creative and unusual. It is also a great restaurant for anyone with allergies as everything is marked clearly on the menu. So if you are floating around town and wondering what to do for lunch or indeed dinner, I'd definately suggest giving this a go, you won't be disappointed.

February 01, 2012

My first EVER competition!!

So it's the 1st of February and today is jam packed with things to celebrate. January is over, spring is coming, it's St. Brigid's Day, National Grandparent's Day and my blog is two months on the go!! So I thought it was high time to mark all this celebration with my first EVER competition. I am a huge fan of Lorraine Pascale's BBC Programme 'Baking Made Easy'. I love her show, her style of cooking and am always left wanting to bake after watching her. So I was very lucky when a very lovely friend, who knows me all too well, got me her cookbook at Christmas (it's not like i hinted that much!!). It's a gorgeous cookbook packed full of recipes for bread, cakes, desserts and savoury baking. I can't wait to try her 'I cant believe you made that cake' recipe it's impressive looking. I love this cookbook so much that I want to give a copy away to one of my lovely readers.

So how do I get myself into the draw for this I hear you say?? Well this is one of those super easy competitions. All you have to do is be a follower of my blog. You can do this in a number of ways:

1.  Follow The Purple Page through Google Friend Connect (you can do this through a google, twitter or yahoo account – hit the Join this Site button. It's just over there in the sidebar to the right).

2. Like The
Purple Page on Facebook and  share the post about this giveaway.

3. If you’re on Twitter join me here and tweet away.

You can just do one of these, you can do all three, it's up to you but I will give you one entry for each of the steps.

Good luck everyone!

This giveaway is open to Irish and UK followers only but if you are from abroad still join me as one day maybe I can have an international competition :) A winner will be selected at random and announced at the end of February.

The competition is now closed and the winner, as picked by Random.org, is Leanne Daly. Well done Leanne please email thepurplepageireland@gmail.com with the details of where you want me to send your very lovely prize too :)