December 31, 2013

Forest Avenue: An exceptional meal to end 2013

Blogging took a little bit of a backseat over the last few weeks. Christmas just seemed to fly up on me and for the first time ever our household was responsible for Christmas dinner!! It was a success but I may have landed myself into doing it for the next few years! Now I'm sure you might all well be sick of the sight of food after two weeks of Christmas delights but I thought this post would be a good way to round off 2013 as this meal was 'THE' meal of 2013 for me.

Just before Christmas myself and the mother took ourselves off to Forest Avenue, a newish restaurant situated on Sussex Avenue in Dublin 4 and run by husband and wife team, John and Sandy Wyer. It was a random Tuesday afternoon but the restaurant was busy and the first thing I noticed was the variety of diners in there. It included business men, students, families and well heeled ladies. Indeed the table next to us had buggies and a highchair at it. The decor is casual and has a Nordic feel to it with white walls and great floor to ceiling windows. The place had a lovely informal atmosphere to it and the owners have definitely managed to capture that neighbourhood feel. 

The menu for lunch consisted of two choices for each course. Unsurprisingly we both went for the same thing. The apple doesn't fall too far from the tree and all that jazz!!  The meal started off with some warm fresh bread and an aubergine dip. It was a small taste of the wonderful things to follow. There is also a open kitchen where the chef is on view and you are able to see all the dishes being plated up. The skill and flair in the kitchen is something to behold. Being able to see what was going on pleased the mother a lot and she said it was like a real life viewing of RTE's The Restaurant!

The first course up was the potted seatrout with horseradish, cucumber and beetroot.  It was beautiful to look at and almost too good to eat but we got over that fairly quickly! All the flavours worked wonderfully together and it was a light, fresh starter.

Potted seatrout with horseradish, cucumber and beetroot. 
Next up was our main course of roast cod with leeks, mussels and Jerusalem artichoke. Each mouthful was a delight and the fish flaked apart easily. I also love the earthy taste of Jerusalem artichoke and thought they worked a treat with the fish. The dish was also accompanied by a little fish cake. Conversation between myself and the mother ground to a halt and consisted mainly of 'mmm' and 'oh my god, have you tasted that bit yet'!! 

Roast cod with leeks, mussels and Jerusalem artichoke
At the beginning we did think we would only have two courses but we were so blown away by the quality of the dishes that we couldn't leave without having dessert. Dessert was coconut cream, passion fruit and spiced bread. The passion fruit came in the form of a sorbet with spiced bread sprinkled liberally around the plate. The coconut cream came in a separate little cup. It was divine! 

Passion fruit and Spiced Bread
Coconut Cream

From beginning to end this meal was flawless. The flavours and combinations were amazing and as my mother kept saying to anyone who would listen - the staff, the chef, and all her friends since - it was such an experience! I didn't doubt that it would be very good as John and Sandy Wyer are well known throughout the food world. I think though that they have managed to create something very special with Forest Avenue. It is modern food of a very high standard without any of the pretentiousness that normally accompanies food like this or the massive prices! I'm predicting that Forest Avenue will be of the stars of 2014!

Lunch at Forest Avenue cost us €27 for three courses. Dinner consists of a tasting menu for €48 while their fabulous sounding Sunday Brunch is €24. 

8 Sussex Terrace - Dublin 4 - Ph: 01 667 8337
Find them on Twitter here

December 12, 2013

The 12 Cups of Christmas

Today on Twitter I came across a really fun alternative to the 12 Pubs of Christmas. It's The 12 Cups of Christmas! But what is it I hear you ask?

Well, the girls @EventmamaHQ love a  drink as much as the next gal but they also love their tea and treats. When it comes to tea, cakes and chats, they claim they literally cannot get enough! 

With that in mind, they have come up with Eventmama’s 12 Cups of Christmas #12cupsxmas. They have set up a route with some fantastic locations across Dublin, chock full of some of their favourite cafes. In fact, they came up with too many great places so a few honorary mentions are below as well!

The 12 Cups of Christmas route:
  1. Wall & Keogh, 45 Richmond Street South, Dublin 2 @WallandKeoghTea Facebook: Wall and Keogh Tea 
  2. The Cake Café, 8 Pleasants Place, Dublin 2 @CakeCafeDublin  Facebook: The Cake Café
  3. Bibi’s Café, 14b Emorville Avenue, Dublin 8 @bibiscafe  Facebook: Bibi’s Café
  4. Fumbally Café, Fumbally Lane, Dublin 8 #FumballyCafe
  5. Peacock Green, 13 Lord Edward Street, Dublin 2 Facebook: Peacock Green
  6. Queen of Tarts, Cow’s Lane, Dame Street, Dublin 2 @QueenOfTartsDub Facebook: Queen of Tarts
  7. Joy of Cha, 10 East Essex Street, Temple Bar, Dublin 2 @Joyofcha  Facebook: The Joy of Cha
  8. Brother Hubbard, 153 Capel Street, Dublin 1 @brother_hubbard  Facebook: Brother Hubbard 
  9. Paris Bakery, 18-19 Moore Street, Dublin 1 @ParisBakeryDub  Facebook: Paris Bakery and Pastry
  10. The Bakehouse, 6 Bachelor’s Walk, Dublin 1 @BakehouseIRL  Facebook: The Bakehouse
  11. Clement & Pekoe, 50 South William Street, Dublin 2 @ClementandPekoe Facebook: Clement & Pekoe 
  12. Accents Lounge, 23 Stephen Street Lower, Dublin @accentslounge Facebook: Accents Coffee & Tea Lounge

Their Most Honourable MentionsLittle CafeBirdcage BakeryTea Garden, Bewley’s CaféOolong Flower Power Tea Shop.

And most importantly, The Rules.
  1. Upon entering each establishment, the brand of tea being used must be commented on.
  2. A mince piesmust be consumed by each attendee at least once. No ifs, ands or buts.
  3. Coffee is not allowed. However, hot chocolate is acceptable.
  4. We must argue over who pays the bill in at least six establishments.
  5. The phrase “Sure, that’s a grand cup of tea” must be said at each establishment.

Eventmama will be embarking on their own 12 Cups of Christmas adventure, and they are inviting you to partake in your own 12 Cups of Christmas as well! They will be tweeting and checking in on Facebook to let you know how they are getting on. Go on, go on, go on, you know you what to join in the fun! And sure while you're at it let them know when you’re on your #12cupsXmas. Bring on the tay!

December 10, 2013

A Christmassy Afternoon Tea at the Clarence Hotel

There is something special about afternoon tea. I think it mainly has to do with eating lots of cake and drinking prosecco when you probably should be doing something else much more productive! Last Sunday a group of girls descended on the Clarence Hotel in Temple Bar to celebrate the impeding motherhood of one of our friends. She is the first to have a baby so the excitement levels are quite high! We managed to keep it a surprise till the moment she walked in the door. Thankfully the shock didn't put her into an early labour!

We were dining in the Study which was very festively decorated with a giant tree and a roaring fire. It was quiet enough with only a few other tables in the room but we were taking up a large part of it so we more than made up for that.

Afternoon tea started off with a glass of prosecco and was soon followed by plates of food. First out were the daintiest looking sandwiches. These were a mix of cheese and pickle, salmon on brown bread and cucumber and cream cheese. One friend in particular was overjoyed to see the cucumber and cream cheese sandwiches on the slate as she says they rarely make an appearance in afternoon teas anymore.

After we had scoffed all the sandwiches it was time for scones with lashings of raspberry jam and  cream. I'm not sure why the edges were cut off but I assume it was for purely asthetic reasons. I have just never seen them served like that before but they did look very uniform on the stand.

Next up were the cakes and to say we were spoilt for choice would be an understatement.We were treated to mini banoffe pies, lemon squares, rhubarb tarts and to top it all off a larger black forest tart with cherries that had a good kick of booze of them! The mini banoffe pie was reminiscent of dessert in the Clarence's new restaurant Cleaver East. You can read my review of that venue here.

We were also given some lovely vivid green macaroons but I have to admit I'm not a big fan as overall I find them quite a bland dessert. I have yet to be wowed by one. I did sample a bit of one but then opted for another lemon square instead! Everything was beautifully presented and the cakes were dainty and delectable. I think the only criticism that I have is that perhaps there was almost too much cake! It would have been nice to have one more savoury option.

All in all though it was a memory making afternoon. We were treated impeccably by the staff who couldn't do enough for us, from getting a few (hungover) friends copious amounts of tea and coffee to helping us carry out gifts to a taxi. We even had a visit from the kitchen to make sure everything was perfect which we thought was a nice touch. 

Afternoon tea was €25 a head which might seem expensive for some cakes and sandwiches but it was worth it. It also seems to be quite a standard price when you look at other afternoon tea menus. The Clarence seems to be currently in the throes of a revival with the arrival of Cleaver East and the Liquor Rooms and now they have also have an afternoon tea menu which is well worth making a special visit for.

For more information phone +353 1 407 0800 or find them on Facebook here.

December 04, 2013

Beauty, Bites & Bubbles with Zaragoza & Benefit Cosmetics

I came across this package the other day and I just had to share it.  It sounds like a really fun way to spend time with your mum, sisters, aunts, cousins or any friend who likes to get their makeup done, drink bubbly and eat! It's the perfect idea for a unique Christmas get together.

Zaragoza have teamed up with their next door neighbours, Benefit Cosmetics, and brought together a gorgeous package of beauty, food and Cava. Gather your girlfriends and make it a night to remember with the Beauty, Bites and Bubbles package from one of the city’s most exciting new restaurants  Zaragoza, and the gorgeously girlie beauty brand Benefit. 

The night begins with a ‘makeupper’ while enjoying a glass of bubbly at the Benefit Boutique on South William Street. When you’re all looking sufficiently glamorous, pop in next door to Zaragoza to relax and enjoy a fabulous 8-course tapas meal. On the night, you will also get a 10% discount on all products and services and a free Benefit Deluxe sample. This is a great gift idea for mothers, sisters and friends who deserve a bit of pampering and a great night out, and all for just €39. 

Daragh Monaghan of Zaragoza says he’s delighted to be teaming up with Benefit to offer this wonderful package just in time for Christmas. “Benefit is the perfect brand match for Zaragoza, and being able to offer our customers such an experience is really exciting for us. Zaragoza is fun, friendly and all about people. We love offering the perfect setting for memorable nights out, with some great food, wine and cocktails into the mix.

Call Zaragoza to make your booking on (01) 6794020.

December 03, 2013

Another Great Sushi Spot - Zakura, Wexford Street

I am originally from the southside. Grew up there, went out there and ended up working there! Somehow though in my thirties I have managed to find myself living in Meath. Noone saw it coming! Now I find myself on the Northside a lot so it is wonderful to see it reviving in the last few years especially in terms of food. Instead of having to cross the Liffey for a good feed we now have a few fantastic choices. Sandwiches at Oxmantown, middle eastern breakfast plates in Brother Hubbard and Dublin's best Chinese at M&L. Indeed one of my favourite restaurants is Musashi on Capel Street. Read my blog post on it here. Word on the street now though is that they are also the people behind Zakura Noodle & Sushi on Wexford Street. Indeed walking into Zakura is a very similar experience to Musashi. The decor is the same, right on down to the small wooden stools covered with red cushions. The menu though is more Wagamama style, all glossy and black and very easy to read. 

We walked in at 5.30 on a Friday evening and were seated immediately and handed a cup of green tea. I don't think the word has gotten out yet that it is there! I started off with some crab cucumber norimaki while Maya went for salmon sashimi. Both were presented beautifully and were fresh and tasty. I just love how they display their food. I mean how cute is that little boat filled with sashimi!

Salmon Sashimi

If this had just been lunch I would have left it at the sushi but seeing as we tend to eat a LOT we decided to get some bigger dishes. Maya went for the very exotic sounding Suzuki Amiyaki Gohan which is basically grilled seabass on a bed of stir fired vegetables. It was as lovely to look at as it was to eat.

For me it felt like a good night to try out their Chicken Ramen as it had felt wintery all day. I love ramen and it's usually my go to dish in Wagamama as it always hits the spot. I will definitely be adding this one to the list. The broth had a deep chicken flavour while the chicken breast itself was glazed with a sauce that added another dimension of taste to it. It was comforting, filling and fun to slurp up! What more could you want in a ramen.

Another plus besides all the food is the price, it's pretty cheap for what you get. The whole meal cost us €40.90 which included a pot of Japanese green tea. It was great value and we left full and happy. It's also BYOB so what more can you ask for! So if you love Japanese food I would suggest you get down there fast before you are being turned away because they are full.  The word is going to get out fast!

You can find them on Facebook here and their website here. 

Clarification: Zakura is independently owned and is not a sister branch of Musashi's. 

December 02, 2013

December's Food Festivals & Events

Just because it's winter doesn't mean that the event scene has gone quiet! There are sleighloads of Christmas markets and events where you might just find that special and unusual gift. Hopefully you will find something of interest in there for you to attend. If I am missing an event and you would like to add it just email Kat at Enjoy.

Week 1: 2 - 8 December


Week 2: 9 - 15 December

Week 3: 16 - 23 December