June 22, 2012

Faoi Thalamh: An Underground Dining Experience

The phenomenon of pop up restaurants is not a new one but it has taken hold of the Irish public’s imagination in recent years. It’s not unusual to see pop up restaurants, markets and even entire shopping centres take up residence in unused buildings. Personally I think it is a wonderful use of space that would otherwise remain vacant and gives retailers, chefs and other creative types out there an opportunity to showcase their talents without breaking the bank. It allows the Irish public to experience food, crafts, arts and even shopping in a different environment which lends itself to helping people feel like they are part of something special and unique. This is exactly how I felt recently when I attended an underground dining experience organised by Gary Bell and his team. 


The venue was an old warehouse on Barrow Street which we weren’t sure was the right place until we saw a group of people carrying quite a lot of beer in with them! The event was BYOB so we were either in the right place or heading into somewhere that looked like it was going to be a good party anyway so we gave it a shot. Turns out it was the right place and once inside the interior took on a magical quality. Filled with candles, music and chat the atmosphere was relaxed, fun and overwhelmingly friendly. 

Sitting down at our table we were introduced to a lovely bunch of people who all worked in very different walks of life but who had one thing in common – a love of good quality, creative food. We were about to have that in abundance. Our meal started off with Salt 'n' Vinegar Fish-Skin Poppadoms with Baby Chips. These were highly unique, being a mixture of fish skin and poppadoms. They came out on a communal platter which was handed around the table even though I would have happily hogged it for myself!


Then it was on to the Pan Fried King Scallop with Spring Pea Puree, Pea Shoots, Lemon and Dill butter. I am a big fan of scallops and this was perfectly cooked. The pea puree complimented it very well and added a sweetness to the dish.

The experience was enhanced by the ‘Seaweed Air’. Wine coolers were brought to the table which our waiter poured water into. The ensuing effect was this: 

The dry ice was activated by the addition of water and seaweed scented air flowed over and around the table. 

Then it was on to the Risotto of Wild Rabbit, with Parma Ham & Chives and Parmesan Cheese. This was creamy and rich with a good helping of rabbit spread throughout it. Thankfully there wasn’t too much of it on the plates as we still had another three courses to go! To cleanse our palates we were given Lemon Sorbet drowned in Absolut Vodka. I have had this before on holidays in Greece and it’s a lovely dessert. At this stage of the meal though I found it a bit strong. Turns out though that I think there was just more alcohol in mine as I did a taste comparison with my friend’s who was scoffing though hers. The Lemon Sorbet was accompanied by “Lemon Scent” which was along the same lines as the Seaweed air. 

Following hot on the heels of that was the main course: Roast Shoulder of Wicklow lamb, Baby Spinach and Dauphinoise potatoes. Lamb is one of my favourite dishes and this was grand. It was not overly done and tasted wonderful but you can’t go too wrong with lamb and potatoes as a main so I did think it wasn't as creative as the other dishes.

For dessert there was Strawberry and Champagne Torte. The torte was sponge based which made it extremely light and decidedly moreish, that’s if I could have fit anymore in!! By this stage I was well and truly full. The event cost us €45 to attend which is great value for the experience that we had. It was unique, the food was excellent with some really quirky experiences and the whole thing was enhanced by the socialable nature of the event. Unfortunately we couldn’t stay as I had to get back to Meath but I was ensured that dancing would follow!

Faoi Thalamh pops up around the county, as Gary has a day job as head chef at Portaferry Hotel, so the best way to find out what’s happening is to follow them on Facebook and on Twitter. This weekend they will be at Body and Soul with sittings available throughout the weekend. That event costs €50 and I am assuming you also need a Body and Soul ticket which are still available for both the weekend and for day tickets on Sunday. For more information click here. If you love the idea of underground dining these events are not to be missed.

P.S. Some of the photos are not mine, they came out too dark - it was the fault of all those romantic candles!! So these are taken off Faoi Thalamh's Facebook page.

June 19, 2012

Campo Viejo Tapas Trail

Last year as soon as I heard about the Campo Viejo Tapas Trail I knew I had to be part of it. The idea was simple, for €20 you would be brought around on a guided tour of Dublin, stop at five well known tapas joints and get to sample their best tapas along with a glass of wine. Food, wine and music - how could I not want to go on that!! So after rounding up a group of friends, off we went to what turned out to be one of the best nights of the summer.

One hundred people attended each night during the event and were spilt into groups of 20 with each group following a different trail. Our expectations of the night were exceeded from the beginning with 3 tapas from each restaurant, followed by a glass of wine and entertainment in a few of the venues. The flamenco dancing got a fair few of the group up onto the dance floor as well and the atmosphere in the venues was electric. We learnt more about the tapas from each venue and about Campo Viejo wine. The tour itself was fun and informative with our wonderful guide telling us facts about Dublin that none of us ever knew. Did you know that there is a medieval wishing well in the middle of Temple Bar?! I'll bet you a glass of Campo Viejo that you didn't!

So this year the Campo Viejo Tapas Trail will take place on Wednesday 27th June to Sunday 19th August. The price is once again €20.  Every Sunday from 2pm - 4.30pm and Wednesday from 6.30pm - 9pm, the trail will visit four Dublin tapas restaurants – Salamanca, Salamanca Fusion, Havana Tapas Bar and the Market Bar

Tickets go on sale tomorrow, Wednesday 20th June, and can only  be booked through campoviejotapastrail.com or facebook.com/campoviejoireland. One word of advice though, if you want your group to stay together book the tickets in one go - it will make everyone's life easier! I already have my group prepped and ready to book so don't dillydally as it was totally booked out last year!

You know you want some!!

June 18, 2012

The second World Social Media Day takes place on the 30th June and Cork is to host its own special celebration. Last year's event was a huge success and this year's event organisers, Margaret Smith of UmNumNum and Cian O'Regan, have planned a jam packed day. The idea of the event is to demonstrate to lots of people how little communities are growing and flourishing online from foodies to wine buffs, from knitters to artists, poets, musicians, photographers, sports fans, gardeners, politics junkies, hill climbers, runners and of course the coders and tech guys. Basically the day will be beneficial for everyone to attend.

The day will see many speakers lined up who have stories of how Social Media enriches their lives. They will have novel ways of presenting their stories and the talks will be limited to 15-20 minutes so if something doesn’t interest you then you won’t have long to wait until the subject matter changes!  The event will have really young participants from CoderDojo, like Harry Moran (youngest App developer) to  people in their 70′s and 80′s, showing that there are no barriers to who can enjoy the web and make it a social outlet.

A large part of the day has been set aside for bloggers and wannabe bloggers with a range of workshops covering everything on how to set up a blog, writing for a blog, food photography and how to make money from a blog. To finish off the day with a bang there will be a huge party afterwards in the Bowery, a brand new venue in Cork City Centre.

This  event will take place in the Rubicon Centre,CIT Campus, Bishopstown on Saturday June 30th from 10.30am – 4pm. The event is totally free so there is no excuse not to make it and the only bad thing about this event is that I can't go!

So in the spirit of all things social media you can get information on the event on Twitter, on Facebook and of course on their blog.

June 15, 2012

Food Cycle 2012

For the fourth year running, Dublin Cycling Campaign and Dublin Community Growers are organising a Food cycle, with visits to a number of Dublin's many community gardens.  There will be three rides, starting from different locations to visit several community gardens before converging on the OPW walled garden in Phoenix Park. In Phoenix park there will be a talk and guided tour of the walled garden, by Brian Meade of the OPW. It will finish with a picnic in the park!

The starting points are
  • Santry Community Garden, Santry Demesne
  • Mud Island Community Garden, Newcomen Court, Newcomen Avenue, North Strand
  • Pearse College Allotments, Clogher Road, Crumlin
All rides start at 11am on Saturday 16th June. Don't forget to bring food along for the picnic. This is a great idea and one which will help people to get active, learn about community gardens and see more of their city. So even if the weather is a little dodgy at the moment get those waterproofs on and the bikes out and get cycling!

For a more indepth breakdown of the routes please visit dublincycling.ie/foodcycle2012

June 05, 2012

Celebrate your local community with a Street Feast


On June 17th communities across the country will gather for the third annual Street Feast. Street Feast is a day of local lunches across Ireland, hosted by you and your neighbours. They can be held anywhere out on the street, in a local park, in a field, in your front garden. It's all about getting people together to celebrate their local community, eat good food and strengthen community links.

Sounds like a great idea doesn't it, so how do you get involved I hear you say?? Well you have two options; you can either go to a local Street Feast or you can run your own. To find out if one is happening near you have a look here. Or better yet run your own, it's very simple to do. Here are some simple steps for organising your own:
  • Start early - don’t leave it to the very last minute to arrange your Street Feast.
  • Register your Feast at streetfeast.ie - Tell them where and why you are doing it!
  • Get your group of neighbours together, make a list of things you’ve got. Try to borrow to fill the gaps.
  • Ask people what they are good at - and can they bring that?
  • Find a location: your street, a carpark, a garden, a community hall, anywhere will do.
  • Get the word out! Knock on your neighbours doors, tell them about Street Feast. Contact your local radio and newspaper and tell them what you are up to.
To make running your own Street Feast as easy as possible the Street Feast crew have complied a guide full of tips, recipes and even sample posters and invitations. The guide is available here. 

Lastly don’t forget to check out the Street Feast website and blog posts for more help on how to put on your Feast. So get involved and get celebrating your local community!! And if that's not enough inspiration have a little look at this video.

    June Foodie Festivals & Events

    This event is taking place in Curraheen, Co.Cork from 15th to 17th June. There will be a huge range of things to see and do including Arts & Crafts, Cookery Demos, Martial Arts and a Gardening Advice section. There is also a Charity BBQ on the Saturday in aid of Children's Leukaemia Association & Cork Association for Autism.
    This Festival features artists from the coastal and Celtic regions of Spain, England, Holland & Scotland whose traditions are linked by the voyage of the Spanish Armada, three of whose ships foundered on Streedagh Beach near Grange, Co. Sligo over 400 years ago. It takes place from 20th  - 24th June in Grange, Co. Sligo with music, drama and a lot of BBQ's happening. A street fiesta will take place on the Sunday which has been renamed 'Seafood Sunday' so there will be lots of seafood, shellfish & sea vegetables on offer and seaweed expert Prannie Rhatigan will be in attendance. 

    Cloughjordan Festival
    This festival brings 5 fun filled days to North Tipperary. With a range of events on offer including music, food, sports, arts & crafts there is something for everyone at Cloughjordan Festival. The festival kicks off on Wednesday 27 June and will run until Sunday 1 July.

    Love Gourmet Week
    For Love Gourmet Week 2012, ten of the best restaurants in Limerick and the Shannon region will offer a  dining experience from €35 per person. The ethos of the event will be a celebration of local produce, great Irish food and organic produce. As part of Love Gourmet Week, midweek promotions will take place in all participating restaurants with wine deals, cocktail specials and unique seasonal menus on offer to celebrate the event. This event runs from the 1st – 10th June. 

    Irish Derby Festival 
    The Dubai Duty Free Irish Derby Festival will take place from Friday 29th June to Sunday 1st July. Alongside the prerequisite racing will be the Good Food Ireland Village. This will give racegoers an opportunity to taste and buy a whole range of Irish produced food. FromFarmhouse Cheese and Smoked Salmon Platters to Dry Cured Bacon to Prime Hereford Steaks and Handmade Sausage there is something to suit everyone's taste.

    Sheep 2012 is a major sheep event being held at Teagasc, Mellows Campus, Athenry, Co. Galway on Saturday 30th June  at 10am. Sheep 2012 is an event that everyone with a commercial interest in sheep will want to attend. Attractions on the day will include: - Extensive range of commercial exhibitors, National sheep breed competitions, Sheep breed displays, Sheep dog trials, Demonstration of sheep dog training, Fencing demonstration and lots of workshops and seminars.

    On June 17th communities across the country will gather for the third annual Street Feast. Street Feast is a day of local lunches across Ireland on 17th June, hosted by you and your neighbours. They can be held anywhere -  out on the street, in a local park, in a field, in your front garden. It's all about getting communities together to celebrate, eat good food and strengthen community links. Organise your own or join in Nationwide by finding one near you.

    The Iveagh Gardens will once again play host to the Taste of Dublin from the 14th -17th June. Twenty of the city’s best restaurants will there for you to sample your way through and over 100 producers will be in attendance to fulfil any foodie fancies you might have. One of the highlights is Jamie Oliver's first ever Irish demonstration and the Kanchi Dine in the Dark event, where patrons sample food in complete darkness.
    Ok not specifically an event but as a last treat if you haven't tried out Dublin's newest Mexican offering, 777,  are offering brunch  from 12-3pm on Saturday 23rd and Sunday the 24th of June FOR FREE. It's first come, first served and the last orders will be taken at 3pm. It's all in order to celebrate their new brunch menu.

    Volvo Ocean Race
    The 2011/12 Volvo Ocean Race will end in Galway after completing an around-the-world journey which kicked  off in Alicante. The six yachts will sail into port around the 2th July but the party kicks off on 30th June with a massive agenda of events. Most of the events will take place in the Global Village which is a huge 17 acre site with sporting, lifestyle, cultural and entertainment events on offer. For all the foodies out there there will be cooking demos, an artisan food market, a global garden and much more. 

    World Social Media Day: See separate post for more information. Cork, Saturday 30th June, 10.30am - 4pm.

    N.B Even though the events section is updated weekly, dates and times are liable to change so please do check the websites yourself as well.
    If you would like to have your foodie event added please contact Kat at thepurplepageireland (at) gmail.com

    June 02, 2012

    Bloom 2012 & Bord Bia Food Blogger's Picnic

    Bloom is one of those events that I always mean to visit but something always seems to get in the way ...exams, birthdays and bank holiday weekends away. So this year when Bord Bia announced it was organising a food bloggers picnic challenge and asked if there were any bloggers who would like to get involved, I decided nothing was going to get in my way this time. Bord Bia organised the picnic as a way to bring together Irish, French, Belgium and UK bloggers. It was a novel idea and one which allowed us an opportunity to meet with international bloggers, talk food and of course showcase the best of what Ireland has to offer.

    The morning started off with a tour by Gary Graham, Bloom show manager. It was a wonderful opportunity to see the gardens in all their glory before the crowds hit and to learn more about them. As an added extra we were allowed to walk through some of the gardens so we got to experience them up close. If I had to choose a favourite mine would be the Glenisk Lorax Garden. It was fun, colourful, child friendly, creative and sustainable. For me the bee inns and the growing wall were just what I would love to have in a garden of my own.

    Emma telling us all about the Lorax Garden


    Some of the other highlights were the Growise 'My Garden', The Birds & The Bees, Amach & Isteach, Table for Four and Changing Perspectives. I really loved the borders surrounding 'My Garden' there was a huge range of colours which all tied in together and created an amazing looking showpiece garden. One of the added benefits of this garden was that it can be recreated by home gardeners. Another outstanding feature was the herb wall, a clever but functional piece of gardening and a source of constant herbs. Changing Perspectives stood out for me for the use of a variety of different materials.

    My Garden

    The Birds & the Bees

    Fiona getting a push in Isteach & Amach

    Changing Perspectives

    Table for Four

    After touring the gardens we were quickly briefed by Maeve from Bord Bia. The task was simple, create a picnic for two people! Teamed up into groups off we trooped to the Food Village only to be stopped in our tracks by the sheer scale of the village. It's massive and contains a Best in Season Fruit and Veg Market, a huge Food Market, Chefs Summer Kitchen, Love Irish Food, Bloom Inn, Artisan Catering, and a Meat and Fish Market. We started off in the Bloom Inn, where we were quickly drawn to Dunhill Castle who offer a light and sparkling drink, perfect for a summer bbq or party and a lovely alternative to prosecco.

    Dunhill Castle

    Then it was on the food! First stop was Broderick's who have a gorgeous new bar out called Heaven. It's like a caramel slice but with a twist. It's very light but has a lovely crunch due to the peanuts in it. Brought one home for the boyfriend and I think it's safe to say we may have to buy a boxload soon!!

    Never mind the bars - Free Hugs anyone??

    We then filled up our picnic bags with Goatsbridge Trout Caviar, a selection of cheeses from St. Tola, Cooleeney Farm and Crozier Blue, lots of chocolate from Lir and the Cocoa Bean Chocolate Co, crackers from Foods of Athenry, bacon jam from Ed Hicks, Crossogue Preserves parsley jam, lemonade from Glenilen, samples of Coole Swan, chocolate biscuit cake from Tipperary Kitchen, strawberries from Keelings and tomatoes from Donnelly Foods. There was so much to choose from and so many producers to chat too that we were the last group back!! We set up our picnic with some beautiful extra props of Nicolas Mosse pottery brought by Nenagh Gal. Even with our mother and daughter theme and our sophisticated yet fun display, we didn't win but I'm sure we were a close runner up!! All the picnics showcased the best of Irish food and both the Irish and international bloggers got to meet producers they may not have heard of before. It was a fun and informative event so well done to Bord Bia for being so creative in their promotions!

    Keelings Strawberries

    Coole Swan

    Wild Irish Sea Veg

    Pure Brazen

    The Scullery

    Donnelly Fresh Foods

    Glenilen Farm

    Part of our mother & daughter picnic

    Styling the picnic

    One of the other picnics

    Part of the runner's up picnic

    Cheese glorious cheese

    Food for Lovers - Winning Picnic and well deserving it's only gorg!!

    Then after all our of 'hard work' sampling and chatting, we were treated to a fabulous meal in the Phoenix Cafe. This gave me an opportunity to get to know my fellow bloggers a bit better and lets just say they had me in stitches!! There was also an incident involving a exploding bottle of beer which led to a lot of laughter but I won't name names!! Of course I couldn't leave Bloom without stocking up so off I went to buy Glenilen lemonade, The Scullery's Beetroot relish, Lir's Peppermint Bark pieces, Sea Salad and some Tipperary Kitchen meringues. I was also very tempted to buy a beautiful purple plant but only had two hands and clearly the food came first!!

    Bloom is a great day out and it is on till Monday 4th June. There is plenty for the whole family to enjoy and there are a range of indoor and outdoor areas so the Irish weather won't get in the way. Tickets are available to purchase at the gate (€20 per adult, kids go free), concession tickets for OAP’s or students (€15 per adult, kids go free) and online.  A free shuttle bus operates between Hueston Station and Bloom, and back again.  Parking is available on site in both the green and red car parks and costs €5. 

    Bord Bia kindly organised the picnic challenge of which I was a guest. So I would just like to say thank Bord Bia for a fab, fun filled and highly interesting event.  I am looking forward to Bloom 2013 already!!