April 28, 2012

Kangaroos, Crabs and a whole lot of Prawns

While lying in bed early this morning, listening to the sound of thunder and lighting and hailstones pounding the bedroom window I seriously considered staying there ... for the day! Thankfully though I didn't and dragged myself out for an early start for the trip from Meath to Howth for my first ever Fabulous Food Trail. This food trail was extra special as it coincided with the annual Dublin Bay Prawn Festival so there was a great festival atmosphere in the town. Our Fabulous Food Trail started off outside the Old Courthouse with a history of Howth from our lovely tour guide Roisin. She was interrupted by Martin from Nicky's Plaice with a batchload of their famous smoked salmon which they smoke themselves. It was only the start of a morning of sampling! Martin is very passionate about fish and the industry that surrounds it. Apparently Irish people eat only 22 fish meals a year while over 78% of our fish is exported! 

Then it was on to Ray Collier Butchers where Ray himself told us the story of Lambay Beef. I have to admit I didn't even know anyone lived on Lambay Island let alone raised cattle on it. The cattle are born and reared without ever seeing a roof in their lives. Another interesting fact is that there is a troop of kangaroos living on the island! Yes you heard that right ... Kangaroos. In the 1950s Dublin Zoo had too many on its hands and four were sent to live on the island. Since these ones are from Tasmania the habitat is not too dissimilar and over the 60 years they have thrived there!!

Then it was off to The House for a lovely sit down of scones and tea. The House advocates a slow food policy which is brought through their food and presentation right down to the china cups we were given to drink our tea from. It was all about sitting down, relaxing and enjoying our time there.

Then we traipsed two doors up to Ella's - the local wine bar. This is a lovely small venue which is famous for its prawn tempura. For our sampling we were given White Crab Meat and Avocado on Brown Bread. It was succulent and moreish so I had two!!

Then came the biggest surprise of the day - a visit to Donal Skehan's house!! Donal & Sophie very kindly welcomed us all into their home where Donal provided us with a demonstration on how to make Wild Garlic Pesto and then fed us all with Wild Garlic Soup. It was very surreal watching him demonstrate in exactly the same kitchen he does for the Kitchen Hero series as everything is exactly the same. I am now very inspired to make my own Wild Garlic Soup!

Next it was on to the County Market or Joe's as the locals call it! This lovely food store  stocks a wide range of goods. They also have a tearoom upstairs. We got to sample one of their meringues which was light, and topped with cream and a sweet raspberry coulis.

Then to wash everything down we visited The WineHouse where we sampled some red and white wines.
They offer a fabulous range of wines from small producers around the World that are exclusive to them. The trail finished at the Festival Food Village where it was prawns galore. Paella, prawn curry, BBQ prawns - you name they had it!!


The Howth Food Trail was €40 euros and there are others in Dublin and Cork.  I went with two friends and we had a ball. It is a wonderful morning out filled with lots of food and information about a place that you thought you probably knew a lot about. Go on a trail and you will be surprised to find out how much you didn't know!!

The Dublin Bay Prawn Festival runs until tomorrow Sunday 29th April. If you are unsure about going let me leave a little montage of persuasion for you!

April 24, 2012

Galway Brewers on the Bay

Love craft beer & love bank holidays?? Well this May bank holiday weekend sees the return of ‘Brewers on the Bay’ to Galway. This is the third annual national Craft Beer Festival and it will take place in the Olso Microbrewery in Salthill.
Logo from Facebook

14 Microbreweries from across Ireland are heading Westward and will be showcasing existing top Irish craft beers plus special one-off brews. Currently confirmed for ‘Brewers’ are Bay Brewery, Carlow Brewing, Eight Degrees Brewing, Franciscan Well Brewery, Galway Hooker, Hilden Brewery, Porterhouse Brewing, Metalman Brewing, Trouble Brewing, White Gypsy, Whitewater Brewing  and Tempted Cider. There will be something for everyone with a whole range of different flavours on offer from chocolate stouts to banana beers, spiced ales and everything in between. Beer connoisseurs, beer tourists and the beer novice are all welcome.

For festival news, beer facts, brew names and special offers check out ‘Brewers on the Bay’ on Twitter at: Twitter @brewersonthebay or on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/brewersonthebay. The festival will take place on May 5th and 6th, 2012.

Also if you are a Ladyeee and into your craft beer you might be interested in reading this More women are making - and enjoying - beer. Go on the girls!!

April 21, 2012

Pyg Restaurant in Powerscourt Town Centre

You know how it goes. A group of girls meet up, stand in town outside a bank and deliberate what and where to eat and drink. Strains of 'I want to go somewhere new', 'It needs to be cheap', 'I've already eaten so just something small', 'I don't like that sort of food' all mixing with the sound of growling tummys. Well that was the scenario last Friday night, so throwing out suggestions as fast as I could (I think I was the hungriest), we settled on Pyg. It was new, we didn't know what to expect, so that was that decided and off we trooped. 

Pyg is based in Powerscourt Town Centre. It is part of the Pygmalion Bar and to access it in the evening you have to go through the bar to reach the restaurant. There is a lovely vibe to the restaurant with a mix of seating - couches, low chairs, high stools - so you can just sit back and relax. As we hadn't booked we got offered the high stools at a long communal table. The great advantage of this was that we could see straight into the kitchen. I love watching chefs make their magic!

Some of the unusual decor

The first thing we noticed was the price of the food - a Cheese Plate for a fiver, Spicy Chorizo & Tomato Stew for eight euro, Catalan Tuna and Mussels for nine - surely they must be tapas sizes we whispered to ourselves. Yet on glancing around and subtly eyeing up other customer's food we discovered to our delight that no, it's just really really good value! Oh we could have gone mad and stuffed ourselves silly but we kept it simple! For starters we ordered a cheese plate with the usual mix of Blue Stilton, Manchego, Irish goat’s cheese and Camembert. It was grand it didn't rock my world but that's because I' m a cheese nut (see Spring Cheese Celebration blog post) but it was good cheese all the same and perfect for sharing.  

Cheese Plate to Share Please

Then it was on to the mains. For Sassy B, who said she only wanted something small, an order for a side of Garlic and Cheese Ciabatta was placed. It was nice and crispy - it was garlic bread. You can't go too wrong.

Garlic and Cheese Ciabatta

For Brighty, the Fajitas took her fancy. They came served with grilled peppers, onions & mushrooms, achiote red rice, Mexican beans, flour tortillas, guacamole, Monterey jack cheese and sour cream. I am a big fan of Fajitas though for me the achiote red rice was way too spicy and there weren't enough tortillas for all the food that came with them. This is only a minor personal complaint but Brighty had no such qualms and deemed it all delicious.


Then it was time for my main course. I love tuna and it is such a treat to get it out so I was done deciding in about 2 seconds flat what I wanted to get. My Catalan Tuna and Mussels dish tasted of summer, sunshine and the Mediterranean. The tuna was perfectly cooked and served with capers, olives, lemon, green beans and sautéed new potatoes. I couldn't have asked for anything more from a main.

Catalan Tuna and Mussels

We were tempted to finish off the meal with dessert but we were full ,so instead we finished off our bottle of Merlot and rounded off the meal with a coffee. Pyg is a little gem of a restaurant, the food is ridiculously good value and the staff are very accommodating. The waitress didn't even bat an eyelid when all Sassy B asked for was a side and we were allowed to stay as long as we wanted without feeling rushed. It's a lovely venue perfect for a cheap meal out and a catch up with friends and when your done you can just stroll down into the bar for a cocktail!!

All together our bill came to €53 which included wine and coffee.
For more info on Pyg click here. It is open from 6.30 on Thursday, Friday and Saturday and the Pyg Cafe takes over during the day.

April 13, 2012

Nom Nom Noshington

Jacques: "Meet me tomorrow for Brunch." Marge: "What's Brunch?" Jacques: "You'd love it, it's not quite breakfast, it's not quite lunch, but it comes with a slice of cantaloupe at the end. You don't get completely what you would at breakfast, but you get a good meal!"  This Simpson quote sums up brunch so well. I like everything about it. I love the lie in that it follows and the fact that it sets you up for a day of shopping. Well that's how I like it to pan out anyway! So recently the mother and I headed to Noshington Cafe on South Circular Road, after having passed it many a time, and promising myself that we would have to give it a go.

The very lovely specials board
The cafe is bright and airy and, on that particular day, was filled with sunshine. It is a mixed clientele with groups of friends, couples and families filling up the place. Noshington offers a weekend brunch menu where poached eggs, pancakes and pudding all make an appearance. They also have a special menu which when we were there had quiche, nutloaf and hot pot on offer. It also had a delicious array of cakes on it!! I love poached eggs and a good hollandaise sauce but I was torn between that and the homemade beans on toast with chorizo. The eggs won and they were delicious! Perfectly runny and teamed with salty bacon and spinach...it was a match made in heaven.

Poached eggs with bacon, spinach and hollandaise sauce
The mother decided to go for the nutloaf special. Now I have never had nutloaf and for some reason the whole concept is very American to me and sounds terribly bland. Possibly too much TV as a young one!! This was gorgeous though, not too crunchy, quite moist and wasn't bland at all. The red onion was a nice addition and added quite a bit of flavour.

Nutloaf with baby potatoes, salad & red onion confit
Close up of Deliciousness!!
While brunch itself was filling, as everyone knows there is always room for dessert and being able to see the board filled with descriptions of all the lovely sounding desserts didn't help at all. So after much deliberating we went for a coconut macaroon and an apple and almond slice.  Both were totally delicious (though I had icecream envy) and a nice ending to a lovely meal.

Coconut Macaroon
Apple & Almond Slice

In total the whole bill came to around €35 and this  included two glasses of freshly juiced orange juice. You won't come away hungry from Noshington, you definitely get a good meal even if you don't get a slice of cantaloupe at the end!! 

Noshington is found at 186 South Circular Road. For more info click here.

April 09, 2012

A Spring Cheese Celebration at Salt, Monkstown

I love cheese... LOVE IT. If I could live off it entirely I would! So I was delighted when I got a tweet from Pat Whelan - Tipperary Butcher Extraordinaire -  to tell me that I had won two tickets to A Spring Cheese Celebration at Salt, Monkstown. I had been dying to try Salt, a new Avoca venture, for ages but having just made the move to Meath it's a little out of the way so this was the perfect excuse!!

We arrived a little early which gave us lots of time to have a good nose around all the lovely food on offer. Salt is different to the other Avoca's as all it offers is food. All the usual goodies that we have grown to love from Avoca were there, so there was an abundance of fresh cakes, breads and ready to go meals. Then there was the butcher counter. This is something to behold! There is so much on offer there was no wonder that a few of the customers I saw spent about 10 minutes deciding on what to buy!! After having made ourselves hungry just looking around we were ready to start the celebration. 

The Spring Cheese Celebration menu was devised with cheeses from Patricia Michelson's La Fromagerie, Sheridan's Cheesemongers and meat from Pat Whelan's. The meal started off with a cheese teaser in the from of Fivemiletown Goat's Cheese with Pickled Beetroot. This cheese is simply divine as it isn't too strong but is creamy and works well with the beetroot. 

Fivemiletown Goat's Cheese with Pickled Beetroot
Then came the real starter - Shropshire blue cheese tart with grapes & red onion marmalade. This was lovely and it was accompanied by a dressing of capers and raisin, unusual but surprisingly delicious.

Shropshire blue cheese tart with grapes & red onion marmalade
Then came the star of the show a Pat Whelan Fillet of Beef with Lyonaisse potato & Coolea fondue.  This was without doubt one of the best pieces of meat we have ever had. It could have come on the plate by itself and I would have been happy but teamed with everything else it was a superb main.

Fillet of Beef with Lyonaisse potato & Coolea fondue.
After that we got a surprise dessert. It wasn't on the menu but out came a Raspberry pot. The glass jars reminded me of the Glenilen yogurt jars and have given me a few presentation ideas of my own now!!

For afters we were served a cheeseboard with crackers & condiments. Kevin from Sheridan's Cheesemongers and Patricia from La Fromagerie then got up to tell us about the cheeses on our plates. This was highly interesting and I was enjoying the talk and tasting so much that I forgot to take a picture!! We learnt that Durrus is unique as it is the only Irish wash rind cheese still made using raw milk and traditional rennet, that Crozier Blue is the sister cheese to Cashel Blue and that Saint Maure has a straw impaled in it for ease of handling. I learnt that I have three new favourite cheese's: Fivemiletown Goats  Cheese, Crozier Blue and Beaufort Chalet D'Alpage!!

This was a highly enjoyable night - the food was fantastic and the staff in Salt are brilliant. One of the staff  happily wrote down names of wines for me when I asked.  I even got to meet Pat himself and it was lovely to meet the man behind the wonderful meat. We were reluctant to leave  but as it turned out the boyfriend ended up working in Monkstown two days later. He came home loaded with cheese and striploin steak. We ended up having our very own Spring Cheese Celebration! My only wish now is that Avoca open up a place like Salt in Meath ... oh I can dream!!

 Our own Spring Cheese Celebration: Poulet Bonne Femme Sourdough, Pat Whelan Striploin Steak & Crozier Blue

For more info on Salt click here
For more info on James Whelan Butchers visit here
For the home of good cheese visit Sheridans Cheesemongers here