Browsing articles in "Food"
Mar 30, 2012

Avoca Handweavers – Country Chic!

Escaping the big smoke for a couple days was an excellent way to clear my head. It was like a mini brain holiday! The fresh country air certainly blew away the cobwebs. First up was Wexford to visit my uncle. We got away from the madding crowd with a lovely walk along Rosslare Harbour. Next stop Inch, to stay with my best friend and her gorgeous family.

The babies were so excited to have a visitor that we decided to bring them on a trip to Avoca Handweavers. And so we four ladies set off – Avoca really is a girls world, with the original woolen mill, a sparkling stream, pretty flowers and a nice cafe and shop. The place is cute as a button, made up of a bunch of cottages on a patch of green in Wicklow’s quaint Avoca village.

Avoca is one of the world’s oldest weaving mills. Established in 1723, it has now expanded into a thriving business selling homewares, clothing, children’s toys and artisan food. As well as it’s famous woven goods – in all colours of the rainbow, the blankets are as bright as they are snug. The mill still uses traditional looms and it’s amazing to see the process in motion.

We settled in for a late lunch at the cafe. Avoca’s food is homely and artfully presented. Everything looks delicious! We went for a juicy salmon fish cake and a thick slice of spicy nutloaf. Both came with three salads – there are lots to choose from and we munched on broccoli, hazelnut and feta, jewelled wild rice, honey and mustard potato, and mixed leaves.

Of course we couldn’t leave without sampling something from Avoca’s bakery. We enjoyed a good chat over a rich coffee cake and a giant Mars Bar square. Yummy! The girls had great fun playing in the shop afterwards, trying on scarves and admiring dollies. Then it was back outside for some stone skimming by the water. A fab day out for kids – both big and small!

www.avoca.ie / The Mill at Avoca Village, Co. Wicklow

Mar 28, 2012

Green With Envy – A Different World

Today’s glorious weather was perfect for a bike ride. I’d an errand to run in Rathmines and I wanted to test out the new Grand Canal cycle path – two birds. But drama ensued when my tyres started playing up and I lacked the necessary welly to fix them. Luckily my lovely nabe came to the rescue with his electric pump. Job done! But seriously. I’m thinking of getting a husband.

A nice traffic-free amble and I ditched my bike outside the Swan Centre. Once business was out of the way, I had a good wander around in the sun. Rathmines, forever known as bedsit land, is a mish mash of 2 Euro stores, charity shops and mini marts. It’s crumby in a comforting kind of way – quite unlike it’s slick neighbour Ranelagh. But the town has character and a lively cafe culture.

I rested my bones in the Village Cafe, at an outside table – how cosmo! It’s amazing how Dublin comes alive with a bit of heat – the place was packed. The Village Cafe is a staple with locals, serving breakfast, lunch and dinner. There’s a Mediterranean slant to the food and I went for a goat’s cheese, roast veg and olive tapenade ciabatta. With chips. And tea. Delish!

With a happy tummy, I was about to head for the hills when I spotted a sign for a swap shop. Oooh… Green With Envy, upstairs from Boots, is a fashion exchange, vintage boutique and art gallery extraordinaire. I’ve found nirvana. Glamorous owner Margaret Williams showed me around the gorgeous salon and I was really taken with her bright, bold paintings.

The main room is a treasure trove of such beautiful things. Luxe dresses, velvet scarves, sparkling jewels, rainbow hats and soft furs. I vowed to Margaret that I’ll never buy new clothes ever again, so exquisite are her pieces. She told me that her stock is vintage finds and worn once or labels still on. She only accepts top quality, often designer outfits.

We agreed that more women are looking for something a bit different, especially for occasions, as style is so samey these days. Margaret takes in select gear, displays for up to six weeks and if it sells, the price is split 50 / 50 with the original owner. I fell in love with a stunning lace embellished ball gown. Margaret told me that a bride to be had tried it on earlier.

Sunshine beckoned us both and I promised I’d be back again for a good a flick through the rails at Green With Envy. According to Margaret there’s new items in every day. Today, I managed to escape with just one buy – a delicious black silk prom dress. I popped it into my pannier bag and went back out into the real world. I wish I could live in that shop. Sigh…

Green With Envy, 302 Rathmines Road Lower, Rathmines, Dublin 6

Mar 27, 2012

Bianconi’s – La Dolce Vita!

It was a family affair at Bianconi’s last Saturday. I met up with Ma, Pa and the Bruv for a late lunch. The morning after the night before, and I’d managed to rack up an impressive hangover out of just two drinks. I kid you not. So a good slap up was on the cards. Bianconi’s is a proper Italian joint that works the Continental cafe vibe, with a sunny glass front and a buzzy terrace outside.

Our charming waiter seated us and I was feeling better already… There’s lots to choose from – we perused the a la carte, set lunch and brunch menus. Something for all food moods. We kicked off with freshly squeezed orange juice and cool Peroni beer. Dad went for the celeriac soup followed by pork belly with garden pea mash and apple cider jus. Noms indeed.

The rest of us went herby, with tomato and basil bruchetta matched to goat’s cheese and spinach filo on Mediterranean veg for the Bruv. Mother munched on the veg and mozzarella ciabatta, while I polished off La Barberino, a thin crispy pizza with blue cheese, pear and walnuts. The Bruv wrinkled his nose, citing the “pineapple on pizza” effect of the pear. Love / hate I guess!

The food in Bianconi’s is fresh and authentically Italian. And they do lovely chips. Being a lazy hazy day we had time, and amazingly room, for dessert. The honcho, an old school Italian gent, talked us through their special ice creams – the real deal. We ordered four flavours. Chocolate, vanilla, amaretto and rum’n’raisin. And a creme brulee. And a Cafe Bianconi.

The coffee and ice cream combo perked me up nicely, then out into the sunshine – where did that come from? Bianconi’s is on the Merrion Road, opposite St Vincent’s, so we went our separate ways. The ‘rents to Blackrock and the Bruv and me into town. We walked off the carbs on Sandymount Strand, only to work up a thirst for hair of the dog at the Oarsman in Ringsend.

Bianconi’s, 232 Merrion Road, Dublin 4

Mar 26, 2012

Bistro Spice – Small But Perfectly Formed

When one of my girlfriends suggested a meet up / eat up in Bistro Spice, none of us thought we’d be a gang of eight last Friday. My lovely ladies are busy women indeed with careers, babies and kids, husbands and homes – modern life, that’s all. But I think the secret of our social success was the venue of choice. Bistro Spice in Monkstown has long been a party haunt with my bunch.

This bijou Indian restaurant has an intimate, friendly atmosphere and a great knack for hosting a large table next to a dating couple. The wonderful staff know how to keep everyone happy! BYO booze from Goggins off licence next door and we were settled in for a good ol’ gossip. Bistro Spice has endured throughout our friendships and it felt like nothing had changed.

The menu is concise and more adventurous than the average Indian restaurant, yet is pocket friendly compared to nearby gourmet Indians. There are lots of delicious vegetarian and seafood dishes on offer. I went for the prawn puri to start, spiced tomato prawns on delicate pastry, followed by Malabari fish curry, a medium hot coconut sauce rich in bite and flavour.

We ordered plenty to share – some girls were eating for two! Passing around all of those little pots of curry is my fave part of the Indian dining experience. Beware those who like Mammy dinners! We tucked in, talking and eating, tearing off chunks of naan bread, drinking Merlot, swapping stories and spoons of mango kulfi. Laughing, catching up and sipping chai tea.

Waving goodbye to Bistro Spice, we thanked them for the always warm welcome. It was bedtime for a few of my mates, so hugs and kisses and on to the Gilbert & Wright in Dun Laoghaire for the rest of us. Imagine Oxfam on acid in your Granny’s front room – it’s a great pub! We made ourselves cosy upstairs, 90’s choons on the airwaves and the joy of camaraderie in our hearts.

www.bistrospice.ie / Bistro Spice, 101 Monkstown Road, Monkstown, Co.Dublin

Mar 21, 2012

Ritz-Carlton – Ambassador You Are Spoiling Us…

My first impression of the Ritz-Carlton is of those gaudy Arabian furniture showrooms on the Edgware Road in London. I used to stroll down there on a Saturday afternoon and marvel at the solid gold eagles, porcelain tigers and red velvet chaise longues. Tasteful. The Ritz-Carlton is fabulously bling, testament to it’s boom years origin, but lately it seems less brash and more class.

Adapting to the straightened times of even it’s clientelle this fine hotel, set in the estate at Powerscourt House, has toned down from an uber celeb haunt to a mellow chill out zone. Mother and me had a nice spin trough the Wicklow mountains and, as we were passing, decided to go mad and have lunch a deux posh style. Well it was the day after Mammy’s Day after all…

The Sugar Loaf Lounge, in the lobby, offers a less formal lunch than Gordon Ramsay downstairs, which is now open for breakfast and dinner. There’s a choice of two delicious afternoon teas but since we’d stuffed our chops the day before, we tore ourselves away from the pastry trolly and opted for the all day dining menu. Having spotted some fine looking fish and chips next door we ordered two.

Yummy batons of delicately soft cod wrapped in light batter came with juicy chips, mushy peas and homemade tartar sauce. We also got stuck into a basket of fresh fluffy bread. When in Rome… We added some fizz too – San Pellegrino, not champers! Every bite was divine. The Ritz-Carlton does seriously good nosh and amazing service to match. The views aren’t bad either.

Dessert was a long walk around the grounds followed by a mooch in Avoca at Powerscourt House. I could honestly spend all day browsing beautiful, but useless, things. Bliss. We picked up a slice of chocolate gateau for Dad since he’d missed all the fun and Mother wouldn’t get home to make the dinner. Well, ladies who lunch must take pleasure in life. Let him eat cake!

www.ritzcarlton.com / Ritz-Carlton Powerscourt, Enniskerry, Co. Wicklow

Mar 11, 2012

Herbstreet – Naturally Delicious!

Doncha love those evenings when you’re milling about the house and a friend calls, off the cuff? Since my mate was nearby we decided to meet up at Grand Canal Dock for a natter and a bite to eat. Any excuse! GCD is a lively hub at the end of Pearse Street, home to the Grand Canal Theatre (or the Bord Gais Energy Theatre, if you fancy) and neighbours with Google and the IFSC.

There’s a nice crop of bars and restaurants on the colourful waterfront, most of which kindly feed me on a regular basis. I might start keeping shoes in my oven a la Carrie Bradshaw… So it came as a surprise to me that I’d never been to Herbstreet. Maybe it’s because, anytime I stroll by at the weekend their terrace is packed out with fellow townies brunching away. But tonight there was room for two!

The place is buzzy with a healthly pre-theatre crowd tucking in to hearty fare. Our lovely waitress told me that Herbstreet’s opening times cater to performance nights these days and indeed our fellow diners had filtered out by showtime. Alas, it’s a top people watching spot while the going is good. Indeed I found myself chatting to an ex boss of mine! That’s what I love about Dublin.

Herbstreet’s menu is a delicious read with homemade burgers, fresh seafood and imaginative salads. We munched on creamy Cobb salad, sardines on toast and chunky sweet potato chips, with a bottle of Hoegaarden each. The food was so well put together, my sardines were big juicy fellas that came on feta and sundried tomato green leaf salad, with salty capers. Simple. Yummy.

It was nice to have the place to ourselves by the time tea was served, catching up on the goss as we were. Dessert, including my fave New York baked cheesecake, was tempting but we passed, already satisfied customers. Herbstreet’s staff were such a joy and, as a local, they welcomed me back for brunch, to sample their in-house cakes. Well, there’s no breakfast cereal at home…

Herbstreet, Hanover Quay, Grand Canal Dock, Dublin 2 / www.herbstreet,ie

Mar 9, 2012

Sheehan’s – Straight to The Pint

Town on Saturday night, it’s just not what it used to be… But that doesn’t mean a girl can’t squeeze the few quiet pints in! With Dublin Does Fridays bigging up the weekend it’s nice to see the city partying again, if under the radar. Dublin has grown up and and the feeling on the streets is more mellow than hedonistic. So we felt right at home at Sheehan’s on Chatham Street, getting the Guinness in.

A civilised sup seems to be the buzz these days. The great thing about going to “the pub” is that you can just rock up as you are – no need for the full regalia! I’d zipped into a silky mini skirt and slipped on my blue suede shoes to meet my pals. The vibe in Sheehan’s was easy glam and casual banter. Sure, I’ve fond memories of mad nights out in it’s old sister joint, the former Sheehan’s in Blackrock.

We propped up the ground floor bar, necking some very decent black stuff and elegant pints of Paulaner. Sheehan’s is not short on atmosphere with its dark, cosy interior, but like many Dublin pubs it’s the friendly bar staff that make the place. Sheehan’s is just as welcoming before dark and I’ve been known to settle in for some home cooked comfort food after a long day’s shopping on Grafton Street.

Sheehan’s, 17 Chatham Street, Dublin 2

Mar 5, 2012

First Thursdays Dublin – Temple Bar

First Thursdays is a great idea! On the first Thursday(geddit?) of every month Dublin opens up it’s cultural doors for an evening of arts. A bit like a mini Culture Night, it’s a great way of encouraging folk to check out what the city has to offer. I strolled into Temple Bar, ’twas a lovely night and straight into the Brick Alley Cafe on Essex Street East.

With a Wu Tang Killa Headache threatening to wreck my buzz I knew this was just the place to chill out before hooking up with my pals. I pointed to a virgin deep dish apple pie I’d spied in the window cake stand and ordered up a hot slice with cream. And a cuppa, obviously! Pulling up a wooden bistro chair I settled in at the central communal table of this cosy caff.

One bite and I was feeling better already. Crunchy shortcrust, fresh apples – not too sugary and with a big pot of whipped double cream. ‘Nuff said… The Brick Alley Cafe is dark and romantic like an old hideaway tabac you might find in French village. Wine bottles line the wall behind the counter, which is the focal point of the room, with fresh ice creams out front. La vie en rose…

Ready to rock ‘n’ roll I made my way to Meeting House Square, home of the Gallery of Photography to meet the chaps. It was the opening night of “Amazon”, an exhibition with pictures by award winning photographers Sebastiao Salgado and Per-Anders Pettersson. In Aid of Sky Rainforest Rescue, the exhibition highlights the devastating effects of deforestation in Brazil.

Salgado’s work, in black and white, portrays stunning natural habitat, despite human destruction, and the communities living within them. The stark contrast of how these tribal people live, so close to nature, and how we operate in the Western world is amazing. Pettersson’s photos pick up the colour of rural Brazil with sharp insight into family life on the edge of rainforests.

Next up was the Project Arts Centre, a well known hub of weird and wonderful creativity in Temple Bar. We experienced “Panto Collapsar” and “We Sell Soul”. The former is an art installation by contemporary Australian artist Mikala Dwyer. The main spectacle of the piece is a hovering canopy of silver floating O shapes, moving in harmony with the room, calling our attention to a spiritual world.

Our lovely guide, Ian, talked us through the concepts of both art works explaining the latter, by Liverpool’s Richard Proffitt, as the first in the Project Arts Centre’s new experimental portal, The Grotto. It features a collection of hippy memorabilia and counterculture paraphernalia, evoking the reality of commercialised ideological icons. An interesting observation indeed.

All art-ied out, our next stop was Ukiyo for a bit of bento action. The Japanese bar and restaurant on Exchequer Street is a fave of mine, combining tasty food and good value as I so like. We tucked into the day’s offering of salted mackerel, kimchi pork, and vegetable pasties which came with miso, mixed salad and sticky rice. You can’t go wrong for 10 euro.

A dessert bento was made for sharing as we spooned hazelnut cheesecake, rum and raisin brownie, ice cream and a wonderful milky goo. Don’t know what it was but we loved! All washed down with Asahi beer and a refreshing Tom Collins. As more people make a date with their sofa nowadays, due to financial woes, First Thursdays is a great free night out with something new to do every time.

www.templebar.ie

 

Feb 28, 2012

Brownes – Sandymount Central Perk

Running an errand in Sandymount this morning I decided to stick around and have an aul potter. It’s that kind of place with the Green, all those pretty houses and a nice crop of little boutiques. Mira Mira was my first port of call. I just can’t walk past that place! Like an Aladdin’s cave of super girly stuff Mira Mira is my go to shop for presents and housey things.

Owner Bronwyn Thomson sources her eclectic stock from all over the globe and has an eye for unique jewellery, Fairtrade homeware and sweet babywear. In fact all of my friend’s kiddies own something from Mira Mira’s organic cotton ranges – thanks Aunty Lorna! Today I picked up a gorgeous mosaic mirror for Rainbow Cottage – a girl likes to reflect…

Next stop Butler’s Pantry where I bought a single wodge of Victoria sponge – very handy when I fancy a tea time treat, but don’t want to stuff my chops with cake! Then into Books on the Green for a quick browse. They always have unusual reads, lovely cards and a colourful children’s toy section that’s popular with locals big and small.

I had a mooch around the boutiques – just looking! – before landing in Tesco. Well I had to do something domestic… Every little helps but I don’t mind admitting cash register rage. The self service ones. “Unexpected item in bagging area” said robot chick. Shut up and give me my change!

Then over to Michael Byrne Fine Foods for everything I can’t get in the supermarket – artisan breads, fresh cheese and a well stocked delicatessen. A great epicerie if you want special bites for a dinner party – or Chez Emily chocolates for someone else’s. Ravenous after all my larking, I made my way to Brownes for a nice sit down.

Brownes is very much a Sandymount hub with Yummy Mummies, well groomed Dames and retired Gentlemen all jostling together in the twin dining rooms. It’s a top spot for weekend brunch and does brisk trade all day Saturday and Sunday. But during the week it’s easy pace is good for getting out the papers and enjoying a cuppa.

The breakfast and lunch menus offer plenty of choice and there’s smart French style bistro fare in the evening. I went for the veggie breakfast which came with big juicy mushrooms, a perfectly poached egg and lots of granary toast. Just what the doctor ordered! I needed a perk so I got a latte – coffee is a bold move for a tea lady y’know…

The service in Brownes can be as charming as the decor – country kitchen with paintings by local artists – or not. But I was looked after by a very efficient chap today. I strolled home a happy camper but couldn’t resist a cheeky peek into my local charity shop en route. Ooh, a red polka dot silk dress for a fiver – mad not to…

Brownes Deli and Cafe, 18 Sandymount Green, Sandymount, Dublin 4

Feb 26, 2012

Sunday Best – Brunch at Cafe Bliss

Up with the lark this morning, I rolled out of the hay and into the sunshine with a spring in my step. Alas, my cupboards being on their default setting – that’s bare – it was time to forage for brekkie. I gave the Bruv a quick call and lo he was up and about too, walking the canal bank. Zipping into town on me rothair, shades and all, I found him sunning himself in St Stephen’s Green. Who’da thunk it in February? He had a hankering for a dirty great fry up and I knew just the place.

Cafe Bliss on Montague Street, that little lane between Harcourt and Camden, is an old haunt of mine. I used to live around the corner and they kept me well fed over the years. This place is a great neighbourhood staple – I’ve brought various beaux, girlfriends, my Mother – everybody loves Cafe Bliss. Watch men in uniform go by when dining solo – sharing elbow space with the boys from Garda HQ is a tasty dessert for any lady. Delish…

We took a pew at a table for two and set about the brunch menu. Cafe Bliss offers excellent morning fare and lunch as well as a fantastic value Early Bird and A La Carte. The Bruv got stuck in with a full Irish, while I went for French toast with bacon and a fresh banana strawberry smoothie. And lovely pots of tea, natch. He made fast work of his breakfast, a non greasy supply of pig stuffs including both black and white pudding and plenty of toast. Potato wedges were a bonus – proper man food.

Satisfied with our carb loading we washed it down with free tea refills while we had a good post mortem of the week gone by. Cafe Bliss is a great chill out zone for that sort of thing. The staff are relaxed and the atmosphere smart yet homely. Lively but far from the madding crowd, Cafe Bliss strikes just the right note, offering a fine feed for a nice price. I know I’ll always be a regular – it’s worth the spin across town come rain or shine.

Cafe Bliss, 4B Montague Street, Dublin 2