January 30, 2013

A Short Trip to Brussels

Just before Christmas my family and I went on one last trip before my sister and her family emigrated to Australia. I'm sure we are like every family where it took us about six weeks to decide where to go after whittling down a list of about seven places! In the end we decided on Brussels, predominately because most of us had never been there before and because we still suffer from the fear of a few winters ago about getting caught abroad in the snow!! So off we went, all six of us, ranging in age from 10 to my mother's age which I cannot disclose or this would be my last post!

I have to say though it did take a bit of convincing on my brother's part to get us all there, as when I think of Brussels I just think European Union, chocolate and beer and apart from the chocolate the other two don't rate very highly on my list. I have to say though that I was pleasantly surprised. The centre of Brussels is beautiful with the main square being the Grand-Place. Diverging off this are numerous side streets which are great fun to explore. Around every corner there is something new to discover.

The beautiful Grand Place and its Winter Light Show
One of the many chocolate shops
Once you have finished exploring there is always a chance you will be thirsty and in Brussels beer is the drink of choice. Now I'm not a big beer drinker, the only ones I enjoy occasionally are Eight Degrees Brewing but in Brussels there is such a huge amount of choice that you can't fail to find something you will like. One of the best places we went to was Delirium Cafe. It is a total tourist venue but how can you say no to a place with a choice of over 2000 beers. Turns out I am quite partial to a pale ale which is about five percent in volume! This was after asking the barmen what they would recommend and they were spot on. Each beer also has its own glass, some of which are easier to handle than others and the Belgiums are fanatical about using the right ones for each beer. There are tons of venues to try out beer in but Delirum is great because the range it offers is huge. We were also told about a place called Moeder Lambic but we didn't get to give it a go. It's on the list for next time.

Kwak Glass not the easiest to handle!
We didn't eat out a whole lot in Brussels as the Christmas markets were on and we filled ourselves up with bratwurst, churros and the famous Belgium frites. By the way there are over 2km of markets and they are fabulous to wander around with old style wooden huts everywhere you turn. Of the two restaurants we tried one was a forgettable Italian while the other was an amazing place called Un Jour รก Peyrassol. 

The ceiling at Peyrassol
We came across it while wandering around looking for somewhere to eat and this place caught our eye. It offered afull restaurant menu of pasta and other dishes but we were looking for a light lunch so the  waiter suggested we try their antipasti selection. He made us up a fabulous cheese and meat plate which was accompanied by some fresh crusty bread. It all felt very European!!


The cheese selection was unusual with one of them being a brie type cheese with truffle running through it. The meat plate consisted of Iberico ham, mortadella, salami and aged parma ham. It was a perfect sharing lunch.

As regards tourist attractions there isn't as much to see and do as in other European countries. Their main cultural statue is the Mannekin Pis which is of a boy peeing which the 10 year old found hilarious. He also kept saying Pis in the Irish way to wind his mother up! We did go to see the Atomium which led to a lot of 'Up and Atom' Simpsons jokes but it is worth going to see as there are a few interesting exhibitions on there. Brussels didn't feel as touristy as other main European cities but there is definitely enough to keep you busy for the weekend and if you get bored Bruges is only an hour away by train. No doubt though that like us you will be waylaid by sampling lots of beer and chocolate!

January 22, 2013

Brasserie Sixty6: Helping to beat the January Blues

The glitz and cheer of Christmas is over, it's dark, cold and everyone seems to be waiting for payday. It also seems to be raining or snowing a lot!! So on Friday evening, I made my way through puddles galore, to get to Brasserie Sixty6 on George's Street.  I arrived with a broken umbrella and soggy hair but was immediately cheered up by the warm restaurant and the friendly staff. The place was packed and I couldn't wait to sit down and try out Brasserie Sixty6's new January special. Back in October, I went with a few friends to try out the lobster special and found it great value. It was filling, fresh and an absolute treat as I don't often get to eat lobster. The new January special offer is a 8oz Prime Fillet of Irish Hereford Beef and after Christmas's overload of turkey and ham I was really looking forward to some good steak. 

Our meal started with a huge hunk of fresh bread and butter, which every table receives no matter what they order. There is something very satisfying about tearing off chunks off bread and slathering them in butter and quite therapeutic after a week at work. 


The fillet is chargrilled to however you would like it cooked and comes with thick cut chips, extra fine beans and asparagus coated with  homemade basil pesto. This is all topped off with a fresh dressed watercress salad and is  accompanied by a lovely Bearnaise sauce on the side. So it is very January diet friendly because you can eat as much or as little of the sauce as you like!!

Look at those chips! Fabulous!
Prime fillet of beef
We finished off our meal by sharing a New York Style Baked Cheesecake. Sharing was all we could manage after our steak! The cheesecake came with a blackberry compote & blackcurrant ripple ice cream and every last piece was devoured. 

New York Style Cheesecake

The fillet steak is available for €16.99 but it must be booked in advance and is only available until stocks last for the month of January so you have another two weeks to try it out. Go cheer yourself up! And to help cheer the nation up, Brasserie Sixty6, Rustic Stone Restaurant and Fade Street Social have decided to offer a free meal to any member of HMV staff who have not been paid in the last number of weeks. Staff are asked to bring along their most recent pay slip to enjoy a free meal in any of these restaurants
These restaurants will also be redeeming HMV vouchers from customers who are now unable to spend them in-store. All those with HMV vouchers can redeem the value against a bottle of house wine or a bottle of prosecco or house cocktails alongside the purchase of food.This offer for both staff and customers will run on Sundays, Mondays and Tuesday only and until February 12th. Now that's one way to get rid of the January blues.

Disclaimer: Unlike 99.9% of my blog posts which are fully paid for by me, this time I was invited to Brasserie Sixty6 to sample their new January Special. I do not let this sway my opinion as if I didn't enjoy the meal I would let you know. Though this one is such good value I almost wanted to keep it to myself!
Brasserie Sixty6 on Urbanspoon

January 17, 2013

The Brown Hound Bakery

One of my new year's resolutions is to write more about the county that I now call home and its surrounding areas. I feel that since I have stopped getting lost and have explored it over the last year that I can finally talk about it! Meath isn't that far from Dublin, but as soon as you leave Finglas and hit the N2 motorway you are soon surrounded by rolling hills of green fields or in the spring the most beautiful vivid yellow of rapeseed. I was a bit apprehensive about moving so far away from the city where instead of being surrounded by easily accessible and much loved places to eat I had to search to find a nice restaurant, a lively pub or a good food market. While we live in the countryside it is easy to get to Navan, Ashbourne and Drogheda if you have a car and I was delighted to discover that there are loads of great places to eat in the area.

One of the very first places I visited when I moved here was the Brown Hound Bakery in Drogheda after reading a post by Donal Skehan. While it is based in Louth, it is only 20 minutes away from us so there have been many repeat visits and I even did a baking masterclass there too with dessert maker extraordinaire Robert Thompson. This was a fabulous class where I learned a lot and even made the sherry trifle from scratch for Christmas Day.

Sherry Trifle
Amazing Pavlova
Rustic Berry Tart
Between various visits and bringing boxes of goodies home to sample, we have tried nearly everything the Brown Hound Bakery has to offer. We usually go for the petite sizes as they are enough to give us a good helping of what we want without overdoing it. 
Take home goodies
From the Mr James Carrot Cake, a moist cake with creamy lemon zest and cream cheese frosting to the Brown Hound, a rich chocolate cake covered in chocolate and topped with meringue to the Rustic rhubarb and apple tarts and monkey bread it is hard to choose a favourite. Though if I was forced, I would have to say no matter how much I eat the Chocolate Paradise my love for it is never ending!! It is a rich & moist chocolate cake topped with a mountain of sweet caramel, coconut & pecan frosting and I even got a giant one for my 30th birthday. I was tempted not to share!

My 30th Birthday: A huge version of my favourite cake!
The Brown Hound also do really great sandwiches. They are made with scones or as the Americans call them, biscuits. I have seen a few people look a bit sceptical when they hear what they are made of but don't be, they are delicious. My favourite is the Crab, Crayfish and Prawn in a plain buttermilk scone while the boyfriend has a liking for the Chicken in the Parmesan and Chive scone, going as far as to describe it as the best chicken sandwich he has had in ages!

Crab, Crayfish and Prawn
So if you ever find yourself in Drogheda or are just passing through, take a detour and discover food that makes me very glad I now live in Meath

Brown Hound Bakery, 2 Bryanstown Centre, Drogheda, Co. Louth and you can find them on Facebook here.

January 12, 2013

Union Square

Union Square is a special sort of place and has over the past few months become one of my very favourite restaurants to visit for lunch, brunch or just a cup of tea and cake. I grew up very close to Terenure and actually never knew this space existed as it was always behind closed gates. The space has since been utterly transformed, and the first thing you notice is the lovely courtyard filled with tables, pokkadot tablecloths and lots of colourful plants. On entering the restaurant the theme is continued with lots of quirky furniture and vintage style items. Clearly though the first thing I noticed was the old gold hostess trolley which was piled high with cakes!

Since I discovered Union Square, I have eaten here many times and with every member of my family. They have all loved it, even my brother who at 6 foot 4, looks amusing while drinking tea out of a china cup! The very first time I ate here was when my mother and I left it very late to get food and turned up at about 4.30 thinking we could still get some lunch. The staff were in the process of closing up as the venue had been booked out for an event that evening. We must have looked extremely hungry as they very kindly allowed us in as long as were happy to just order sandwiches. We decided to give it a go and were treated to some fabulous sandwiches of ham and artichoke on focaccia bread and goats cheese and beetroot on ciabatta.

Since then I have tried a couple of their other sandwiches, the poached eggs with smoked salmon and the french toast with berries. All of it has been fresh, filling and tasty.

Maybe it's me, but it seems impossible to leave the place without having some cake. All the cakes come with fresh cream and a small bowl of berry coulis. My favourite is their carrot cake which is so moist and moreish though I wouldn't say no to a slice of their lemon and poppy seed cake or anything else for that matter!

Once you have finished eating take a trip to Wilson & Co which is attached to Union Square and is a small paradise filled with lots of wonderful items. Last time I came away with a beautiful cake server so beware you will want to buy something once you are in there! Apart from breakfast and lunch, Union Square is open for dinner on Thursday, Friday and Saturday and do a three course menu for €25 all night long. Also for a different night out Union Square hold plays which are €25 for the show, dinner and wine. My mother has been to this with her friends and says it is a fantastic night out. So even if you just go for a slice of cake and coffee or feel like taking in some culture make sure you put Union Square on your list of places to visit this 2013.

Union Square is based at 9-13 Terenure Road North, Dublin 6 and is also part of Mayfield Deli and Bakery. You can find them on Facebook here.

January 01, 2013

A 2013 Wish and a competition to kick start the year!

So I have been a little quiet blogwise over the last month but I expect you were all as busy as I was! December was hectic - lots of events to attend, friends to see, baking to do and helping to send my sister, nephew and her partner off to Australia. They are being missed already!! I love New Years though and the promise and potential that each year brings with it

2012 was a fantastic year in which I made the leap and decided to go all out with blogging. It has been a wonderful experience so far and not just in areas that I thought it would be - such as writing about what I love, improving my IT skills, trying out new restaurants and attending new events. Along the way there have been other fantastic outcomes. I have met some wonderful people along the way, been inspired countless times by the imagination and creativity of the food blogging community and been blown away by the sheer volume of events that took place in Ireland during the year. Blogging has also helped me settle into a brand new life in Meath by meeting people who live here and who have offered me great advice throughout the year.

I hope your 2012 was just as much fun but if it wasn't 2013 holds within it the promise of being great. So here's to a wonderful 2013, may all your wishes and dreams come true and remember life is always a work in progress!!

And to kick off 2013 in style here's a little competition for you all. Up for grabs are a copy of Rachel's Favourite Food at Home and Gordon Ramsay's Great Escape. Hopefully it will provide someone with the inspiration needed to get cooking!

How to enter?

  • Simply leave a blog post comment telling me your 2013 New Year's resolutions. This one is mandatory and please only do it once!
  • You can also like The Purple Page on Facebook and follow on Twitter for extra chances at winning.
  • The winner will be selected randomly and announced here on the blog in two weeks time.
  • The competition is open to entrants in Ireland and the UK
a Rafflecopter giveaway

Congratulations Deborah McCaffrey you are the lucky winner. Debbie said her New Year's resolution is 'to take all of my kitchen gadgets out from their hiding place in my utility room and start using them regularly...already dreaming of the breads, ice creams, casseroles and fresh pasta I'm going to enjoy in 2013!'. I hope the cookbooks help in putting those gadgets to good use!