I'll do anything for cake... including getting up at 7.30 on a Sunday morning to make my way into Dublin City. Which is exactly what I did yesterday for my first ever Foodies on Tour, organised by Clare from An American in Ireland. il Valentino, an (or rather The) Italian Bakery & Cafe, located near the old flour mills in Grand Canal Harbour, invited some food bloggers for a tour of its bakery and to sample some of its pastries and coffee. Coffee and Italian pastries... yes it took me about two seconds flat to decide whether I would go or not!!
Since leaving Italy I dream of the food. Dreams filled with cannoli, crostate, ciabatta, focaccia and coffee all eaten while sitting in piazzas filled with sunshine. Dreams that are hardly ever realised in Ireland until yesterday while sitting in the rare Irish sun, overlooking the water, drinking the most perfect caffé macchiato and eating a sublime slice of mixed berry cake.
Oh What To Choose!!
A Close Up of Deliciousness!!
il Valentino is run by husband and wife team, Owen and Valentina Doorly. He's Irish and she's Italian, both consumed with a passion to bring real bread and pastries back to our table. Everything is baked on site and is free of preservatives, enzymes or additives. It may mean a shorter shelf life but this is real food, made with passion and it comes through in the taste. The bakery runs 24 hours a day and fresh bread is available six days a week with Sunday being the only exception.
Our tour started off with a choice of coffee and cake. For me there is no better coffee to start the morning off with than a caffé macchiato and I eventually settled on a mixed berry slice. The cake was moist and fruity and Valentina explained that it originally comes from the Tirol Region and uses buckwheat. The coffee is sourced from Caffe HausBrandt and is exclusive to il Valentino. It is a delicious blend with no trace of bitterness which can so often be found in cafe coffees.
My Final Choice!
Valentina and Owen then gave us a little talk on how they established il Valentino. It was was set up in 2005 and based on a lot of faith that the Grand Canal Dock area would become the vibrant hub it is today! They now employ fifteen staff and their breads and cakes are supplied to over 40 restaurants and shops. We were then taken for a tour of the bakery where all the magic happens. Talk about Foodie Heaven!!!
Owen and Valentina are passionate about real bread. They believe bread has lost its way and I am with them on that one. There is nothing better in the world than a crusty loaf of freshly baked bread and il Valentino have a wonderful ethos behind their own bread making. Owen explained that their bread is created in small batches from scratch and each day salt, flour, yeast and water are combined with no preservatives or artificial ingredients. Each loaf is handmade and baked to perfection. Something I didn't know was that Ireland apparently has the highest number of coeliacs in Europe. I know myself that I have stopped eating highly processed white loaves as they don't agree with me. Owen explained that this is due to the high yeast content in bread and that since their breads are carefully made with a very low yeast content a lot of coeliacs can tolerate them.
Their top seller is the Italian Country Loaf and when I mentioned this to a friend who I met later, she went 'Ah that explains why I can never get it, I thought they had stopped making it!!'. She is now on a personal mission to get up earlier and get in there first thing in the morning! We were also privy to seeing how croissants and pain au chocolats were made. It is quite a process and I will appreciate every layer when I eat my next one!.
The Laminator! Deliverer of Croissanty Goodness
Finishing the Pain au Chocolats
Some of the baking equipment
Admiring his handiwork
Warm, buttery croissants. Get in there Girls!!
The motto for il Valentino is 'Celebrating Life' and this is visible in everything they do. From Owen and Valentina's passion for good, real food, to the baker's pride in their work and their staff's enthusiasm behind the counter, the happiness is infectious. I dare anyone to go in, sit down for a coffee, cake or sandwich and not to come out smiling and believing that life in Ireland can be Bellissima!
It was a wonderful morning and I think it is fair to say that all the bloggers came away very happy and full!! How could we not with being sent on our way with this as our last sample.
Thanks to Valentina and Owen for having us down and for being so passionate about what they do and thanks to all the food bloggers: Smorgasblog, The Daily Spud, Like Mam Used to Bake, Gunternation, Wholesome Ireland, Dublin by Mouth, An American in Ireland and A Mexican Cook In Ireland for all the lovely foodie chat (I'm hoping I didn't leave anyone out!!).
Oh and on a final note I didn't have to dream of cannoli last night because I couldn't leave without buying some!!