August 27, 2013

Cleaver East

There is not a lot that entices me to go to Temple Bar. The Saturday Market, The Project Arts Centre and the Exchange are about it. Restaurant wise I tend to avoid it though I will make an exception for Skinflint, Il Baccaro and The Port House. Ask me to recommend any others and I would be at a loss (I have yet to visit NEDE though I have heard good things about it). So it was with great anticipation that I paid Cleaver East a visit last week,  a new venture by Oliver Dunne and Rory Carville. 

The first thing you notice from the outside are the big windows with massive cleavers hanging from the inside. It is a strong focal point and one which will no doubt catch the attention of curious passersby. The interior is a vast open space which is well sectioned out including a sit down bar in the middle and a higher level seating area at one end. We were very pleasantly greeted at the door and promptly shown to a table. We were then asked if we knew the concept behind the restaurant which was described to us as ‘tapas-style dishes’. 

Once we had ordered a very palatable white wine, Lionel Osmin - La Reserve 2012, it was onto the hard choice of deciding what to order. We were told that four dishes each, including sweet and savoury, would probably do us. So we decided to get five dishes between us to start with and keep room for dessert. The first dish to arrive at the table was the Heirloom Tomato Salad with Pickled Onion Shells and Black Olive Crumb. This was followed swiftly by the Soft Poached Organic Duck Egg with Ricotta and Hazelnut Mousse and Asparagus and then the Carpaccio of Irish Dexter Beef, Rocket Pesto and 36 Month Reggiano Parmesan. All these dishes were superb with the black olive crumb nudging the heirloom tomato salad out in front. As my friend said she doesn’t like olives but she liked them like that!

Heirloom Tomato Salad with Pickled Onion Shells and Black Olive Crumb
Soft Poached Organic Duck Egg with Ricotta and Hazelnut Mousse and Asparagus

Carpaccio of Irish Dexter Beef, Rocket Pesto and 36 Month Reggaino Parmesan

Then after a substantial wait where we polished off our bottle of wine and moved onto bottle number two, the final two dishes came out. These were the Monkfish with Sweet Piquillo Pepper Puree and Iberico Crumb and BBQ Rare Breed Pork Belly with Apple and Ginger. As with the other two dishes their execution was superb and the creativity in them was wonderful.  The standout for me was the Pork Belly which was melt in the mouth and made me wish for a bigger portion of it. 

BBQ Rare Breed Pork Belly with Apple and Ginger

Monkfish with Sweet Piquillo Pepper Puree and Iberico Crumb

We finished off the meal with two desserts and chose the Cleaver East Twisted Banoffee and the Lemon Cannelloni. The Lemon Cannelloni was out of this world and was light, refreshing and very summery. My friend wasn’t too keen on her banoffee as she didn’t realise it had peanuts in it. This was due to not paying careful attention to what all the fiddly dots on the menu meant as we were in full blown gossip mode by then!

Twisted Banoffee

Lemon Cannelloni

There is no doubt that the food here is beautiful. It is superb to look at and a pleasure to eat. It is fun, creative and showcases Irish food in a wonderful way. The only problem I had with the place was that the food was described to us as ‘tapas style’ which left us with certain presumptions.  We assumed that the dishes would arrive close enough together and that they would be shareable. The first 3 did and then there was a sizeable gap which made it a bit awkward as I was eating when my friend wasn’t and vice versa. The dishes are also a bit too fiddly to be able to share properly – try sharing a duck egg, it’s not easy! On the Cleaver East website it actually says the concept is Tasting Plates and definitively not tapas style which makes much more sense as it would be much easier to just choose a few dishes and enjoy them yourself. I think they need staff to be very clear on what the restaurant’s concept is otherwise it can led to misconceptions such as ours.  

We also had a few staff issues that day firstly with being asked three times by different staff members if we knew the restaurants’ concept even after being told it in the first few minutes of sitting down. There were also  a lot of wrong dishes and teas and coffees brought to our table even though there were only  three other tables occupied that day. Yet the service was very friendly and it was all done with a smile. Cleaver East were also offering 20% off their bill which I assume is to cover teething problems such as those. 

All in all Cleaver East is a welcome new addition to the Irish restaurant scene and given where it is located hopefully many a tourist will go home with a renewed view of what Irish food is all about. 

Our meal cost €109.90 which included the 20% discount which is available till the end of August. You can book online for Cleaver East at Find them on Facebook here and Twitter here

Cleaver East on Urbanspoon


August 24, 2013

Nolita Cantina - American Style Dining in Liverpool

One of the great advantages of going on holidays to the Lake District this year with the car was that it left us with the opportunity to go anywhere we wanted to. So we decided to pay Liverpool a visit. We had been to Liverpool once before and it struck a cord with us. It is a lively, culture filled city with a beautiful shopping area and a thriving food culture. It is also only an hour and a half away from the Lake District and a 40 minute flight from Ireland. If you have never been and are looking for a easy weekend away I would say check it out you will be pleasantly surprised. 

So early one drizzly morning we hopped in the car and drove down. We spent a wonderful morning trawling through the shopping district in Liverpool One and then down to the vintage stores on Bold Street. This was all part of a well executed plan because the one place we really wanted to eat at was on that street too! Before I went away I had asked Liverpool Food and Drink Festival on Twitter if they had any places they could recommend. They very kindly came back to me with a whole list of different options including Mexican, Indian, Bistro and American. After much deliberation with the boyfriend we settled on Nolita Cantina having been very much swayed by the inclusion of baby corn dogs on the menu! 

Nolita Cantina is a relaxed, informal restaurant which serves American style food and I knew immediately it was my sort of place when I heard them play HAIM as part of their playlist! We started off our meal by choosing a pitcher of iced tea. It was properly homemade and very refreshing. 

Then for starters we decided on a sharing platter as we just wanted to try everything. This came with a selection of chilli cob, baby corn dogs, onion rings and spicy chicken wings. It also came with frickles, which are deep fried dill pickles and which I had never come across before. They also had hush puppies which are small savoury doughnuts made from corn meal, beer & cheese and which I can't find anymore in Ireland. It was a great choice and really covered quite a lot of the choices on the starter menu. 

The boyfriend also decided at the last minute that he wanted to try a plate of burnt ends so that also arrived at our table. The burnt ends are those pieces of meat that are probably a bit too charred to put into the main meals but which are delicious as a snack.

Then it was onto the main course and we had absolutely no idea what was in store for us! We had gone for Nolita Cantina's lunch deal where you can get any sandwich and bottomless fries for six pounds. We just assumed that they would be normal sized sandwiches. We were very very wrong!! What arrived at the table were sandwiches packed full of layers and spilling out from under the bread. My deli sandwich was the hand carved beef rump pastrami with lightly grilled swiss cheese, chipotle mayonnaise & pickle. The boyfriend went for the  pulled pork with lightly grilled monterey jack cheese and chipotle mayonnaise. I have never been to NYC but I can imagine this is exactly what people mean when they talk about the proper deli sandwiches! Both of the sandwiches were just packed full of flavour and the cheese had been slightly melted which brought all the ingredients together. 

Hand carved beef rump pastrami

Pulled Pork Sandwich

The sandwiches were accompanied by a basket full of sweet potato and normal fries which I thought was a nice touch as it provided a bit of colour and a variety of flavours. I actually prefer sweet potato fries as well so it was nice not having to order them separately. 

So could we eat it all?? In short no and I think it was actually the first time I have ever seen the boyfriend beaten by food!! In hindsight we ordered too much but that would be nothing new for us especially when it is our first visit to a place. We also weren't expecting the sheer size of the sandwich as I have never really come across food like that in Dublin. In fairness though if we went back we would probably do it all over again as food like this is hard to come by! As it says on their website Nolita Cantina was born out of the mutual passion of two chefs looking to satisfy their appreciation and longing for traditional, homemade American style food. Well I definitely think they have succeeded in that and also with introducing what real American food should be like to people who visit here 

You can find them on Facebook here and Twitter here.

Nolita Cantina on Urbanspoon

August 22, 2013

Did you know Ireland has a National Potato Day?

Did you know it's National Potato Day this Friday, 23rd August? Well it is and it's an opportunity to celebrate the humble spud, one of the most versatile vegetables around. Whether you like them mashed, boiled, in their jackets or slathered in butter, they offer something for everyone. National Potato Day, in association with Bord Bia, Irish Potato Federation Members and the Irish Farmer’s Association, plans to celebrate the wonderful spud with lots of events around the country. 

In Dublin Keoghs are bringing the farm to the city with  'Spud Fest' which will take place on South King Street.  'Spud Fest' will take place from 12.00pm – 4pm with potato performers, music, tastings, “Spud” Snaps and plenty of other festival fun.

In Navan there will be an All Ireland Potato Dig and Pic Competition while in Lusk there will be a Guinness World Record attempt for the world’s longest potato and spoon race. Teagasc will also host a National Virtual Workshop on “Growing Potatoes” which will be open to everybody for a live Q&A Session on  August 23rd  from 1-2pm. To find out more about the events taking place click here. And if like me you won't get a chance to get to any of the events make sure you have a spudtastic dinner instead! 

August 18, 2013

Conwy, Wales - Our Summer Holiday, Part 1

Summer holidays for us tend to take place in Ireland like last year's one in Kerry. We like the ease of just being able to put everything in the car and drive off without any delays. This year though we had to go abroad as a good friend was getting married in the Lake District. We have always wanted to go there so we used it as an excuse and worked her wedding around a two week holiday. So we packed the jeep to the brim, drove to the ferry and in under two hours we were in Wales. Who knew the ferry was that easy!! I always assumed it took hours for some reason but the Irish Ferries 'Swift' got us to Wales in an hour and 50 minutes. From there we were to drive to the Lake District but made a few stops along the way including one which involved a lot of shopping at the Cheshire Oaks Outlet!! 

First off though we made our way to Conwy which was onroute. The boyfriend is a big weaponry fan and had heard that there was a sword shop located near a castle in Conwy. What we hadn't realised was how well preserved and absolutely stunning Conwy Castle was going to be. The castle itself is huge and is still surrounded by its battlement walls. You can walk all the way around the battlements and there are lot of places to stop and take lots of pictures. The boyfriend was in his element!

After all the exploring it was time for lunch. We found ourselves in The Press Room, a lovely local cafe which was located by the entrance to the castle and which had an outdoor courtyard. We ordered two different types of rarebit: an original Welsh rarebit and mackerel rarebit. They were oozy cheese covered parcels of goodness. The mackerel was beautiful in it and gave the rarebit a nice bit of texture. One lovely touch was that the tomatoes had been roasted and they worked really well with the rarebit. We had just been expecting a small lunch but this was much more and kept us filled for the day. Lunch with two coffees cost £19. There is also a fairtrade shop located downstairs in the cafe so once you have eaten you can do a bit of shopping if you want!

Mackerel Rarebit

Welsh Rarebit

During our holiday I had read about a fabulous sounding fish and chips shop in Llandudno junction which is also in the borough of Conwy. So on our return visit we went about five minutes out of our way to find Enochs Fish and Chips. Enochs is split into two areas; the takeaway area and the restaurant area. It's a bright, airy place with comfortable seating and as one would expect a fishy theme adorning the walls.

All Enochs' fish is cooked to order and served in batter, golden crumb or poached in milk with parsley sauce. We ordered the Scottish hake and the Scottish haddock. All fish is served with chips and peas. Since I am not a fan of mushy peas the staff kindly allowed me to substitute them for beans.

The batter on both fish was light and crispy and the chips were perfect, crispy on the outside and fluffy on the inside. Another lovely touch is that Enochs have bread and butter on sale so you can make yourself a chip butty. We do this all the time at home so it was fun to see this on offer here. In total our meal cost us £23 and that included drinks. 

Conwy is a beautiful town and one that we can't wait to go back to. From Holyhead it takes only a hour so it would also be well worth a weekend visit if castles and great food sound like fun to you too!

August 14, 2013

Great Taste Awards 2013: Who are the Irish Winners?

The Great Taste Awards, often referred to as the ‘Oscars of the Food Industry’, are the acknowledged benchmark for speciality food and drink across the UK and Ireland. This year food producers entered nearly 10,000 products with only 125 foods achieving the full total of three gold stars. The judging process is rigorous with over 400 judges spending over 50 days doing tastings before they decide which products will be awarded a gold star.

Winning a Great Taste Award has a twofold advantage. Firstly, it means that we, as the consumer, know that the product has been awarded on great taste alone and not all on the other trappings such as packaging. Secondly, for producers, it helps differentiate their product from all the other competition out there.

So how did Ireland do? Overall 496 Irish products were awarded gold stars. 16 Irish products received the coveted three stars, 61 products received two stars while 419 received one gold star. I'm just going to concentrate on those that received 3 stars but congratulations to all the producers who received one and two stars. The sixteen products that won are:

Company Name
Corleggy Goats Cheese
Corleggy Condiments - Port Jelly
Burren Smoked Irish Organic Salmon seaweed marinat
Burren Hot Smoked Irish Organic Salmon with Honey, Lemon & Dill
Honey infused Burren Smoked Irish Organic Salmon
Stonewell Medium Dry Cider
Stonewell Dry Cider
Kilcree Gold Organic Honey
Duck Breast with Garlic & Pepper, 350g
Abbey Farm Gooseberry Preserve
William Carr & Sons Smoked Mackerel
Newgrange Gold Camelina Oil
Cashel Blue
Oak smoked Haddock
Wilkie's Organic Chocolate - Tumbes 75% Cocoa
Simply Better Ardrahan Cheese

A few of these products, such as Cashel Blue and Burren Salmon, I am very familiar with and buy on a regular basis. The Newgrange Gold Camelina Oil is only something I recently discovered and love to use on salads. The other products I am not so familiar with but seeing that they have received these stars and knowing from personal experience the outstanding quality of the products that I already use, will ensure that I will be on the lookout for the rest of them. 

On a little side note one of my favourite finds of the year has been Wild About who I discovered at the Galway Food Festival. They produce pestos, syrups and preserves from Ireland's native, seasonal and wild ingredients. We are particularly fond of their Fennel Cider Butter and Raspberry Beret in this household. Their Rhubarb Syrup was awarded two stars and would you believe it, I have a bottle in the cupboard. I have been told it goes particularly well with prosecco!!

To find out more about the Great Taste Awards 2013 or to find out about all the other Irish winners check out their website.

August 13, 2013

Irish Food Festivals & Events: 12 August - 2 September 2013

The Taste of Donegal Food Festival is a festival designed to celebrate and promote great food and drink in Ireland. This year’s festival will be held over a three day period from Friday August 23 until Sunday August 25. Artisan food producers will be in attendance along with a large number of exhibitors from all over the country along with a number of celebrity chef appearances. The festival will be opened with a big fireworks display on the Friday evening. 

This event takes place in Co. Clare over the weekend of the 23 - 25 August. It is a celebration of Irish craft brewing, Irish music and Irish artisan food.

If you can afford it then the Electric Picnic is on in Stradbally, Co. Laois from 30 August – 1 September. With a lineup that includes music, art, theatre, comedy, pantomime, food and holistic health it truly is an eclectic mix.
The Hilden Beer and Music Festival in Lisburn, Co. Antrim is a celebration of the best beers in the British Isles alongside local musical talent. Over 30 great beers, 24 bands, an all day BBQ and a lot of craic promises to make this a great festival. The festival will take place from the 23 - 25 August.

On Sunday, the 25th of August, Kilcullen in Co. Kildare will be hosting its forth annual Kilcullen River Festival. The day will include Farmers Market & Craft Stalls, Family Fun & Games, River Obstacle Course and much more. Keep an eye on their Facebook page for updates.

Throughout Meath with events running until September. Please see separate post here for more information.

Dalkey Lobster Fest will take place over the weekend of the 23 - 25 August and will see lots of free events for the whole family taking place. There will be lots of seafood and music to enjoy on the day. 

Carlow celebrates the 800th Anniversary of the building of Carlow Castle with lots of events happening from the 22nd 25th August. During the Festival the International Taste of Carlow and Craft Fair also takes place.  One of the highlights of the Taste of Carlow Festival will be the Inaugural Irish Chef’s World Culinary Challenge and this will take place on the 24 & 25 August.

On Saturday 17th August Ireland, Scotland and the USA battle it out for the title of Ultimate World Whiskey in Kilbeggan Distillery. The Kilbeggan team will whisk you back to 1757 as you discover how Irish whiskey was made in decades past and will show you how it is done today.  Transport from/to Dublin, lunch and whiskey tastings are all included in the 60 euro ticket price but space is limited!

The 2013 Virginia Show will take place on Wednesday the 21st August along the shores of Lough Ramor. There will be lots of livestock on show, arts and crafts, children's classes and cookery demos by Neven Maguire.

Taking place in Co. Cork from the 31 August - 2 September this festival promises lots of fun, fish and food trails over the weekend. 

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