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3 Great Irish Whiskies to Try This Month

Top 3 Irish Whiskies to Try

No longer an aul lad’s drink, Irish whiskey is now the fastest growing spirit in the world having seen exports grow 300% over the last decade. Either the aul lads are upping their daily intake considerably, or the interest in whiskey has expanded to a wider demographic. Amazingly up until 4 years ago, Ireland had just four distilleries, but now you’re as likely to see a new distillery popping up beside your local Londis as you are a new Starbucks. Okay, if we’re going to be all facty, there are now 16 up and running, with 13 more on the way. So not that far off 😉

So with that in mind, I’ve put together my top three Irish whiskies which you should honour with a connoisseurial sip this month (hey, why not) #drinkresponsibly :

JAMESON BLACK BARREL
Jameson dominates the export market with almost 70% of global Irish whiskey volume, but don’t let its size put you off. The brand now covers a whole heap of different whiskies including this little beauty, Black Barrel.  A triple distilled blended whiskey, it gets its name from the use of double charred bourbon barrels in which it matures giving it a lovely caramel, toasted wood taste (if you can imagine what toasted wood tastes like) and beautifully deep, dark colour. It is usually priced around the €50 mark, but if you live in Austria you can get it for €29.99 in your nearest Spar. I kid you not!

WEST CORK 12 YEAR OLD RUM CASK
This lesser-known little gem is a limited release from the Skibbereen distillery, aged in first fill Bourbon casks for 12 years and then finished off in rum casks to give it a gorgeous malty, marzipany flavour. The 12 year olds are also available in Sherry & Port versions, but after my little trip to Barbados earlier this year, I’ve quite the penchant for rum of late. You can pick it up from your local whiskey specialist or online around the €50 mark.

REDBREAST LUSTAU EDITION
No top Irish whiskey list would be complete without at least one member of the Redbreast family. This whiskey is the result of a unique collaboration between the premier sherry producer in Spain, Bodegas Lustau and the Midleton Distillery in County Cork. The whiskey is initially matured in traditional bourbon & sherry casks and then finished for one extra year in first fill sherry barrels which have been specially seasoned with Oloroso sherry. The result is a very smooth whiskey with a honey, caramel, fruity taste which has been consistently winning international awards since it was launched last year. Expect to pay around  €65-69 for the pleasure.


FOOD HOME RESTAURANT OFFERS

Best Dining Offers in Dublin Right Now

Suesey Street

Having my own business,  it breaks my heart seeing restaurants on voucher websites, as I know how much commission they must pay, and how tight margins are already. However, as a consumer, who doesn’t love a good offer, and it’s a great way to try somewhere new or places normally above the budget. So once again, I’ve scoured the websites and brought you some beauties. This time, they all come from thetaste.ie as the other usual suspects i.e. Groupon, Living Social etc. are getting a tad repetitious shall we say in their offerings. So on the note, here are some I think you’ll like to try in the weeks ahead:

L’ECRIVAIN
OK, I’ve gone proper posh here, but everyone should have a Michelin starred dinner at least once in their lives. Situated on Baggot Street, and run by Derry Clarke, this stylish restaurant has held a Michelin star for the last 14 years. The Taste offer gives 3 courses from their Summer Dinner Menu with tea or coffee and petit fours for 2 people for only €75, which would normally cost a princely €150. The Summer Menu offers among other dishes: Fois Gras, Aged Wicklow Lamb, and Raspberry Panacotta. (OK, OK, they would be my choices :-)) You can have a goo of the full summer menu and buy the offer here
Restaurant Website: http://lecrivain.com/

SUESEY STREET (seen above)
I can’t personally vouch for the supper club, but I can vouch for Suesey Street – the French-inspired food and decor are truly top notch. Managed by John Healey from TV3’s The Restaurant, the eatery is situated on the Leeson Street end of Fitzwilliam Place. With live jazz music in the background, the supper club offers 4 course dinner for two people with a bottle of wine  for only €69. My picks would be the Toonsbridge Burrata, followed by Suckling Pig Belly & Confit Squid, and finished off with Strawberry Cheesecake. Or maybe the Whipped Dark Chocolate with Caramelised Banana. Decisions, decisions! Seriously, for such great quality food, wine, and the addition of live jazz, this is a ridiculously good offer. Peruse the menu and check out the offer deets here
Restaurant Website: http://www.sueseystreet.ie/

HUGO’S
I’m very fond of Hugo’s on Merrion Row. The decor is old-school, moody French bistro. The service – courteous and unpretentious. The food – excellent. I haven’t tried it for brunch yet, but with this offer, I’m definitely going to give it a go. How about Steak, eggs & chips, Sardines on Toast (hmmm, not sure about that one), Bourbon & Fig French Toast (you had me at Bourbon :-)). The menu offers something more that the usual Eggs Benedict, so perfect if you want to make a change from your ususal. The offers gives 2 courses for 2 people for €25. Pretty brilliant, eh? If you don’t get to go to brunch, you should seriously consider their early-bird menu for €22.50 for two courses, or €28.50 for three courses. Methinks, you’ll like it a lot. Check out the offer & sample brunch menu here.
Restaurant Website: https://www.hugos.ie/

Photo courtesy of Suesey Street.

FOOD HOME RESTAURANT REVIEWS

Nothing Beats a Good Pokē

Klaw Poke, Dublin

Never visit a restaurant on its opening day, that’s just not playing fair. Despite months of planning, there will invariably be hiccups, late deliveries, staff shortages, missing toilet rolls – you get the picture. However, on this occasion, I didn’t really have a choice. I had been madly curious about the fab Mr. Sabongi’s latest offering (he of Rock Lobster, Klaw notoriety), and my other half was leaving the country for a while and knew he would just love it. So on a sunny Friday early evening in May (you might remember the one), we took ourselves to the posh end of Capel Street (which end’s that you say? Well, you be the judge :-)) Klaw Poke is the new arrival in question, whose menu is focussed around pokē  (pronounced “poh-kay”, but where’s the innuendo fun in that), or Hawaiian Sushi which is a cross between Japanese sushi and Peruvian ceviche and made up of pieces of raw tuna, salmon and other seafood marinated in soy sauce, seaweed and sesame and served on a base of rice or quinoa with greens such as kimchi and avocado to bump up the health value.

Klaw Poke, Capel Street

The restaurant is small and can host about 24 bums on seats, with some at the long bar overlooking the kitchen, watching the magic happen. The decor has a fresh holiday feel with a long chalkboard which would line the wall with its menu was a work in progress on the evening in question. The menus were also still at the printers, and so our super-friendly waiter listed out the options available. Being crap at retention, I could only remember the first and last items he mentioned. Thankfully, himself is less of a goldfish on the memory front, so we ordered the Salmon with Siraracha Aioli & Yellowfin Tuna & House Ponzu. The speedily served result was an explosion of a freshness. Delicately marinated fish in a perfectly paired sauce, rice, chillis, avocado, delicious kimchi (which I’m normally not a fan of), picked cucumber, and radishes created a dish which was perfect marriage of healthy eating and sublime taste. Would I be full afterwards? Maybe not. Satisfied? Definitely. Prices vary according to the fish chosen, and you can choose your toppings and sauce, so you can customise your dish to suit your tastes, or just trust the experts and try one of their signature bowls

Since that first evening, I understand that there have been a number of additions to the menu such as lobster rolls, chowder, and crab on toast. And indeed, they have also played around with their Pokē recipes which is really the beauty of this dish, which will undoubtedly be shooting up in menus all over the place, – the permutations are endless! Unfortunately, I have not been back yet, simply due to the location being a bit out of my way, but I look forward to making the trek very soon, and I recommend you do too.

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FOOD RESTAURANT OFFERS

Dine in Dublin 2017

Dine in Dublin Festival

If you’re of a certain age i.e. a lot younger than myself, you won’t remember a time when the Dublin food scene was horrendous. Like, seriously horrendous. These days, however, it takes quite an effort to get a crappy meal in Dublin. Nonethless, we humans are creatures of habit, and just as we end up wearing the same ten items of clothing, we also tend to frequent the same handful of restaurants. So, with the advent of Dine in Dublin on Monday, February 27th, running until Sunday, March 5th, now’s the time to break out of your rut and avail of the great offers available during festival week. There is a full list of the restaurants and cafes which are are taking part on the Dine in Dublin website, but here are a few of my recommendations:

Fallon & Byrne
1. FALLON & BYRNE
One of favourite places in Dublin full stop. I could easily spend a whole afternoon just walking around their food hall, and as for their restaurant – fabulous! For festival week, they’re offering a 3 course meal for two people with Prosecco Cocktails on arrival for €60. Choose from a set menu which includes Pan-roasted Irish hake and Free-range Irish coq au vin. And to finish it off, who could say no to a Mont Blanc Knickerbocker Glory with chestnut mousse!
Contact: Fallon & Byrne, 11 Exchequer Street, Dublin 2

Brother Hubbard
2. BROTHER HUBBARD
If you haven’t been to Brother Hubbard, sort yourself out pronto! This über trendy cafe on Capel Street (and Harrington Street) serves up some gorgeous 3FE coffe and semonlina pancakes by day, and from Wednesday to Sunday, offers an incredible Middle Eastern Feast Menu in the evening. For Dine in Dublin 2017, they are offering this 3 Course Feasting Menu for €50 for two people. Choices include falafal, pomegranate chicken livers, beef kofta, lamb shoulder, not to mention a hole heap of vegetarion options. Methinks, you’ll like it a lot.
Contact: Brother Hubbard, 153 Capel Street, Dublin 1

Laduree Dublin

3. LADUREE
I love France. I love the idea of Frenchness. So it’s a bit of a given that I’m in love with Ladurée. Situated on the corner of South William Street, the restaurant/café evokes all that you would imagine a Parisian tearoom would look and feel like. Perhaps the hubby or boyfriend won’t quite appreciate its boudoir decor, but for the ladies, it’s a perfect way to spend an afternoon with friends or the mammy for a special treat. For festival week, they are offering afternoon tea for two people with a glass of bubbles for €45. Choose from a selection of finger sandwiches, pastries, macarons, and financiers (that’s a small almond cake, not the lad who works behind the counter at your local AIB).
Contact: Ladurée, South William Street/Exchequer Street Corner, Dublin 2

The Woollen Mills
4. THE WOOLLEN MILLS
If you don’t get to go here during the festival, make sure to drop by at some stage, if not for a meal, then for a coffee and one of their amazing sambos or sausage rolls. During Dine in Dublin, they are offering a 3 course dinner plus cocktails for two for €60. On the menu are Mussel + leek paté, Ha’penny Bridge homemade coddle, stout-braised beef short ribs, and white chocolate cheesecake among others. When you’re booking, try to get a seat in the roof terrace looking out at the Ha’penny Bridge and the Liffey. The view is pure Dublin!
Contact: The Woollen Mills, 42 Lower Ormond Quay, Dublin 1

All photos courtesy of dineindublin.ie

FOOD PLACES TO GO

3 Things to Do This Chinese New Year

Chinese New Year

Happy New Year, or 新年快乐 as they’d say in downtown Hangzhou, or indeed certain parts of Capel Street. Today marks the first day of the Chinese New Year, and heralds the beginning of the year of the Rooster. With a steadily growing Chinese population in Ireland, particularly in Dublin, and calls for the creation of a Chinatown area around the Moore Street/Parnell Street area (I, for one, say yay to that idea), the Dublin Chinese New Year Festival is getting bigger and bigger. So with that in mind, here are my 3 suggestions to celebrate the year of the Rooster:

1. LEARN HOW TO COOK CHINESE FOOD
If you have the time and the moola, definitely go to this unique Chinese Cooking Course! Taking place in the Cooks Academy Cookery School on South William Street on January 29th, this is a special full-day cookery with Kwanghi Chan (he of Soder + Ko brilliance), and award-winning American-Chinese food writer Mei Chin. At the course, attendees will learn to prepare four delicious traditional dishes. The course runs from 10am – 4pm and costs €140. More details on the course can be found here.


Spring Fair Festival Dublin

2. EMBRACE CHINESE CULTURE AT THE SPRING FESTIVAL FAIR
The Chinese New Year, also known as the Spring Fair will be celebrated at the CHQ Building at Custom House Quay on Sunday, February 5th. There will be loads of colourful dragons, fashion shows, martial arts displays, and you can even have a stab at a spot of Chinese Calligraphy. It’s a great opportunity to see the Chinese culture in all its glory. And did I mention there’ll be food? Yes indeedy, food and drink stalls galore! Find more info here.

3. TREAT YOURSELF TO SOME CHINESE JEWELLERY
No, I don’t mean hit up your nearest Dealz shop for some brass tat! No Siree Bob! I recently came across this brilliant Irish designer, Aine Breen, at the Irish Design & Craft show. While living in China, our Aine decided to learn Chinese calligraphy, because apparently Chinese telly isn’t all that great. Anyhoo, on her return to Ireland, she created a beautiful collection of fine jewellery engraved with the Chinese symbols for love, happiness, and luck. And who doesn’t need a bit of that! You can check out Liwu Jewellery on her website.

happiness-collection-necklace-earrings2
Images shown courtesy of https://www.dublinchinesenewyear.com/ and http://www.liwujewellery.com/

FOOD FOOD NEWS

Fabulous Sprinkles of Flavour

Salmon Sprinkles from Gold as Gold Foods

I love an ‘aul food market or festival, so I do. But regularly going to food markets on a small island such as ours can get a bit Groundhog Dayish after a while, albeit a very enjoyable and flavour-filled Groundhog Day! So it was nice to stumble across Jack Healy’s “Wild Salmon Charqui”, a new product that I hadn’t seen before that faithful day in the Temple Bar Food Market.

The product, a salmon equivalent of beef jerky, is based on the native Indian method of preserving fish by drying. Jack has created a number of different flavours, both sweet and savoury, using garlic, soy sauce, maple syrup, Tabasco sauce, various herbs, and chilli to create a perfect high-protein, low-calorie snack which makes a great alternative to the usual snacks on offer. Although I like the jerky, or “charqui” as he calls it, it is the salmon sprinkles which he also sells which excites me the most. Let’s just say these are frickin’ brilliant! They are so versatile, and having a shelf-life of 12 months means that they are the perfect cupboard staple. Let me explain readers, the sprinkles (I’m sure he has another name for them, but it’s my blog, so sprinkles it is!) are dried wild salmon ground down into the size small breadcrumbs. You can use these babies in scrambled egg to give them gorgeous salmon flavour,  sprinkled on top of poached eggs and hollandaise sauce for Eggs Royale, on a baked potato with sour cream, sprinkled on soups, or with creamy pasta and a bit of parmesan. The permutations are endless!

Salmon Sprinkles from Good as Gold Foods
Added to that are the well-documented and proven health benefits of salmon:

* Reduces inflammation
* Lowers blood pressure
* Reduces the risk of cancer
* Reduces the risk of heart disease
* Improves brain function
* Helps makes your skin only gorgeous!

Jack is not currently trading at Temple Bar (in fairness, it’s nippy out there!), but a new website and new markets are currently being planned, so if you’d like more information or order some product, you can contact him on his Facebook page

Let’s make this a year to really get behind Irish businesses and startups, so that our economy and our subsequent welfare become less reliant on external factors.  The innovation and entrepreneurial spirit certainly exists in abundance. And with any luck, we should be seeing this particular brilliant product in supermarkets and restaurants throughout the country very soon.

Images borrowed from As Good as Gold Facebook page
FOOD RESTAURANT REVIEWS

Cooking up a Treat in Camden Kitchen

Camden Kitchen, Dublin

I know, I know. It’s been absolutely ages since I’ve written anything. While one of the positives of being self-employed is that you can work whenever you want, the reality is that you pretty much work all the time available to you. And when you’re not working, you’re thinking about the work you should be doing, which leaves poor ‘ole Brekkie at Tiffany’s a tad neglected. Anyhoo, onwards and upwards, or just off Camden Street in this particular case.

I’ve been curious about Camden Kitchen for ages. It’s actually been around since 2010, so I’m ever so slightly late to the party. The cosy little neighbourhood eatery (oh how Irish Times Lifestyle of me) is situated on Grantham Street, just off the main thoroughfare of Camden Street which houses the foodie delights of Delahunt, Pickle, and Tesco Express. Having received a most welcome 50 yoyos from the Mammy for my recent marital anniversary, I thought what better than to seize the opportunity and avail of a Living Social voucher for a three-course meal at CK for two people for a mere €49. And so it came to be last night…

The restaurant is small, situated over two floors, and was completely full on this particular rainy Friday evening. The atmosphere is warm and unpretentious with antiquities and flowers decorating the dining area. Given the smallness of the restaurant, the tables are positioned very close together. Question: when sitting down at a table on those occasions, what is the correct ettiquette? Does one position one’s arse to one’s own table, or towards the neighouring guests? Arses aside, we were well within earshot of our neighbour’s conversation, and let’s just say they won’t be celebrating any anniversary together in the near future!

And so on to the food, himself ordered the wild Wicklow pigeon with lentils, and not wanting to order the same, I selected the chicken liver parfait with sourdough toast. The parfait was beautifully smooth with the accompanying plum chutney adding a delicious sweet contrast. The pigeon and lentils were cooked and seasoned on point. An absolute a revelation and showed the chef’s true understanding of how to enhance this ‘game of the poor’ in the subtle way it deserves. Himself is extremely particular i.e. fussy fecker when it comes to preparing food from the wild. Game always needs a subtle hint of sweetness combined with some nutty aroma and this chef knows that!

Starters, Camden Kitchen

For the main course, I decided to continue my poultry experience and had the Salt Marsh duck breast served with barley and cabbage, confit beetroots, and butternut & orange puree. This was seriously gorgeous! The duck was cooked medium rare with the puree bringing sumptuous sweetness to the dish. And as for the beetroot – brilliant. I initially had reservations about the beetroot being included at all, but man they were good! I ordered a side portion of sauteed potatoes as I was wary of the barley. Again, my doubts were thoroughly unwarranted as the barley was indeed a very welcome surprise.  Himself had the wild Irish hake and bisque risotto and cockles which was perfectly executed and did not disappoint. The risotto was al dente, the hake as flaky and with a crispy skin, exactly as it should be. The chef earned serious kudos from himself for both his dishes which he said were cooked perfectly and packed with flavour.

To finish off, we both ordered the bread & butter pudding. I would’ve been more than happy with any of the four other dessert choices, but in fairness who can resist a bit of b&b pud! For the purpose of review, I would’ve liked one of us to have tried something else, but as himself was in Joey Tribiani mode and wasn’t going to share his, I was not going to miss out. The pudding was beautifully light, made with Brioche and served with almond ice-cream and krokant. My only slight complaint was the lack of sultanas (I only had two), but I am perhaps a tad over-fond of the humble sultana.

Main Course, Camden Kitchen

Camden Kitchen is a great little gem (only slightly) off the beaten track. The service was excellent, with friendly and attentive staff. If you can get hold of the living social voucher, snap it up. If you don’t, still go. You’ll be delighted you did.

Camden Kitchen
Grantham Street
Dublin 8
http://camdenkitchen.ie/
Tel: (01) 476 0125

FOOD RESTAURANT OFFERS

Best Dining Offers in Dublin Now

Camden Kitchen

The dining scene in Dublin is really ramping it up in the last couple of years, with loads of new openings every month. All the better for us, and needless to say with competition fierce, the offers are getting even fiercer! Well I’ve scoured the offer & voucher websites for you, and picked out a few beauties I think you might like. Go forth and fill your bellies!

CAMDEN KITCHEN (shown above)
Voted by Conde Nast Traveller Magazine as one of the 12 best places to eat in Dublin, this offer is the perfect opportunity for you to try this fabulous little restaurant nestled off Camden Street. Living Social are giving 3 course meal for two people for just 49 yoyos! Just to give you an idea of what you could go for: Goats Cheese Mousse, Walnut, Golden Raisins & Capers Vinaigrette, Gold River Farm Leaves for starters, Wild Wicklow Venison Saddle, Pressed Potato Terrine, Roast Shallots & Pickles Blackberry for mains, and perhaps finish off with Dark Chocolate & 5 Spices Fondant with Homemade Vanilla Ice Cream, Coconut Froth. Well that’s me sorted anyway!
Restaurant Website: http://camdenkitchen.ie/
Offer Link: livingsocial.ie

Brasserie Sixty6
BRASSERIE SIXTY6
A really popular restaurant on South Great George’s Street, they have just introduced their steak & lobster menu. Let’s all take a moment and savour those two words, shall we: Steak. Lobster. Anyhoo, the beautiful folks at thetaste.ie are giving 2 course dinner from their new menu for 2 people plus 2 summer cocktails for only €50! Holla! And just to help you salivate a bit more, let me just tell you the full description of the lobster dish: Roast lobster tail with tempura claws, served with thick cut chips, curry aioli, and a summer salad of pineapple, tomato, ruby grapefruit, chives, picked ginger, shallots, and watercress. Told ya!
Restaurant Website: http://www.brasseriesixty6.com/
Offer Link: thetaste.ie

Le Bon Crubeen

LE BON CRUBEEN
This multi award-winning restaurant often gets ignored due to its location on Talbot Street, away from the trendier locations around Grafton Street & George’s Street. But its consistently high standards, and focus on sourcing products from the best Irish suppliers, warrant a visit. The offer is for a 3 course meal for 2 people for 49 smackers. Some highlights include Daube of Beef, Slow cooked Lamb Rump, Sirloin Steak, and Pork Belly. And don’t get me started on the Chocolate Creme Brulee and the Caramel Bavorois!
Restaurant Website: http://leboncrubeen.ie/
Offer Link: dealrush.ie

Photos shown from top courtesy of camden kitchen, taste.ie, le bon crubeen