Thursday, 9 July 2015

Fade Street Social and Quinta da Alorna Wines

I recently finished the WSET level 2 and got a completely new understanding of exactly how little I know about wine! In order to develop my palate a bit more before I embark on the next stage I need to drink loads and loads of wine, purely for educational purposes of course!

All joking aside wine and food pairings are a great way to get to know different wines and also to see what you can match them with. Sometimes you even ending up enjoying something you would never have ordered!

Quinta da Alorna supplies the house wines in Fade Street Social and their recent wine and tapas matching was a great success. We started with their 2013 Cardal Rosé and some deep fried olives before we ploughed straight into a mammoth further six courses all of which were delicious. 

Tuna and tomato ravioli, shallot and tomato fondue with coriander, basil and lemon confit was matched with Quinta da Alorna Branco 2013. The high acidity in the tomatoes was counteracted nicely by the wine which mellowed it out and made for an overall well balanced dish. 

The truffle pasta with charred asparagus and Parmesan was my favourite dish. It was paired with a summery Quinta da Alorna Reserva Branco 2014. The citrus notes in the wine cut through the lucious creamy and saltiness of the dish. 

The first red of the night, Cardal Tinto 2012, was matched with the thinly sliced beef carpaccio with pickled mushroom, radish, wasabi mayonnaise and smoked oil. This was an inspired match. The low tannins in the wine complemented the dish very well and I thought it brought out even more of the delicious earthy flavours in the beef. 

I'm not a huge lover of duck and I found the next dish to be very sweet. Thinly sliced Magret duck breast was served wtih pickled kumquats, pain d'epice, scented shallot pureé, orange dressing and a handmade confit duck spring roll. To be fair though the unoaked Quinta da Alorna Tinto 2011 it was paired with went a long way to toning down the sweet flavours. 

We had a very special wine with the next course, a 2011 Marquesa de Alorna Grande Reserva. This wine is made entirely of hand picked grapes and has a less intense but much more complex flavour than the previous tinto we tried. It was a lovely match for the charcoal roasted Irish sirloin though the accompanying Parmesan, chestnut and mushroom tart was too salty for my palate.

Dessert was a baby banoffi pie matched with a late harvest Quinta da Alorna Colheita Tardia. It was a balanced match and a perfect way to round off a great meal. 

This food and wine tasting was run in conjunction with an online publication that brings you all the latest foodie news, reviews and offers. I'd recommend subscribing to hear about more upcoming events like this one. 

Disclaimer: I was a guest of at this food and tapas tasting. I wasn't asked nor paid to write this post and, as always, my opinions are my own. 

Thursday, 2 July 2015

My Favourites at Taste of Dublin 2015

I'm a bit late with this blog post as I'm suffering from withdrawal! I can't believe it's all over. Taste of Dublin is my favourite of all the summer festivals in the city. I just wanted to share some of my highlights from this year.

Dubliners enjoying a great day for Taste of Dublin

My number one highlight was meeting Caitríona from Wholesome Ireland. I've been following her fantastic blog for three years now so when I saw her I greeted her with an enthusiastic hello. Of course she had no idea who I was but we eventually sorted that out and had a great chat! 

Marcus O'Laoire and Tim Anderson in the Electrolux #SecretIngredient kitchen.

Myself and Caitríona were both guests of Electolux Ireland and got the opportunity to attend a cookery demonstrations in their fantastic kitchen. Highlight number two! When I say fantastic I mean bloody awesome! Chef Tim Anderson played worked with all the wonderful gadgets including an amazing sous vide steam oven that I'd give my right arm for! 

Tim explains how the shrink wrap system works. 

Steam oven cooking at a perfect 55C

Char those babies! 

Marcus modeling the final product! 

Lovely light and delicious dish packed with flavours.

Highlight number three was, of course, the food. While it should be difficult to pick a favourite the lobster roll from Rock Lobster just blew me away. It was delicate yet rambunctious a, sort of, refined comfort food. I was delighted to learn that they'll soon be available in the city centre. Watch this space! 

Super lobster roll from Rock Lobster.

Of course there were many other wonderful dishes too. Here are some of my other favourites. Roll on 2016!

Rioja goodies.

L-R: Steak and chips with Bearnaise sauce from Chophouse, wasabi prawns from China Sichuan and king scallop with chorizo and cauliflower puree from Matt the Thresher. 

L-R: Kerala prawn curry from Jaipur, neck of lamb from Brioche (dish of the festival) and grilled mackeral on toast from Marcel's. 

... and it wasn't just food, there was the odd beverage or two! 

Disclaimer: I attended Taste of Dublin on two separate days. Once as a guest of Electolux and the second time I paid for myself! My opinions are, as always, my own! 

Monday, 22 June 2015

A Celebration of Irish Gin : Dublin Gin and Tonic Festival

The Dublin Gin and Tonic Festival starts today, Monday 22nd of June, and runs until the end of the week. You might remember the Dublin Wine Fest from a few months back well  the concept is the same, purchase a wristband for the festival, which is €5, and enjoy 30% off your gin and tonics at up to thirty of Dublin's best bars. Fantastic value and great fun too! 

Three fantastic Irish gins will be represented at one of each of the venues, Shortcross from County Down, Glendalough from County Wicklow and Dingle from County Kerry while the good folks at The Taste have come up with some crafty food pairings to go with your #IrishGnT. Have a look at what's on offer here

I enjoyed a delicious Shortcross Gin and Tonic at Taste of Dublin recently. 

As our Irish summer finally starts making an appearance what better way to end a day than sipping a tasty gin and tonic and enjoying the sunshine? Be sure to vote for your favourite using the hashtag #IrishGnT on twitter or on Great Irish Beverages Facebook Page. Now, all that remains is to pick out what venues to head to! 

Friday, 19 June 2015

Dine in the Dark with Darwins and Torres Wines

I had a most uncomfortable dining experience recently. It had nothing to do with the food, the wine, the company, the staff or the location, as the title of this blog suggests though, I was blindfolded for the experience. I hated it. I have never been more frustrated in all my life. People say that if you're deprived of one of your senses then your others become heightened, well, I can't attest to that. I became so agitated from the experience that I found it really difficult to focus at all on textures or smells or even the conversation going on around me.

The Torres Blindfold Experience. 

Perhaps this was the experience the organisers were going for though! Both Darwins and Torres Wine had teamed up with Sightsavers Ireland to run this event in order to highlight the work that is being done to help those who are visually impaired. I for one have a totally new appreciation for how hard life must be for those with visual impairment and I only lasted just over an hour with my blindfold in place.

Some of the delicious food we tried. Top : Monkfish. Bottom : Spring rolls. 

Darwins treated us to four courses which included spring rolls, monkfish, lamb and an assiette of dessert consisting of chocolate mousse, lemon tart and strawberries as well as some surprises thrown in for good measure! As would be expected with Darwins the food was absolutely fantastic, totally up to its usual standards. Have a read here of a recent, more visual, experience!

The two beautiful crianzas we tried.
These are available across Dublin City from off licences such as Martin's of Fairview, Redmond's of Ranelagh, The Corkscrew on Chatham Street, 64 Wines in Glasthule and Deveney's of Rathmines and Dundrum. 

Torres paired the dishes with some fantastic wines. The most surprising of all was a de-alcoholised moscatel called Torres Natureo, I'll definitely be introducing this one to my pregnant friend! We also had two lovely crianzas and a moscatel/gewurztraminer blend. The star of the show for me had to be the Jean Leon Chardonnay. I told Ivan from Findlater Wines that I love to hear the story behind wines and he duly obliged, have a read here, it's a good one.

Listening to what we had just been eating and drinking. Very grateful to have the blindfolds off! 

Overall I enjoyed a really wonderful evening with superb company from Niamh of Grazing Gourmet and Timi and JR from Picture This Dublin but the memory of being agitated and frustrated is still with me as I write this. On that note I think all that remains to be said is well done Sightsavers, Darwins and Torres on a very memorable and moving experience.

And a little message from Sightsavers. 
To find out more about the wonderful work that Sightsavers to log onto to their website

Disclaimer : I was invited to attend the event by Findlaters Wines. I wasn't asked nor paid to blog about this event. My opinions, as always are my own! 

Saturday, 30 May 2015

My Favourites at Bloom 2015

Bloom is now in its ninth year, can you believe it? It's success is no doubt down to the hard work of all the gardeners, designers, producers and crafts people who pitch in each year, not to forget the organsiers and promoters too! 

This year's event was no different despite the rain and below average temperatures (hello summer?) I don't have a horticultural bone in my body so, like last year, I'm not going to blab on about things I don't understand but just share some of my favourite bits with you. This year was a little extra special for me as I got to actually visit a show garden (ie: behind the protective rope!) I've got to thank Fiona Dillon for that. Her extra special Freddy Buttons garden was really amazing and definitely one of the gardens not to be missed. 

Bloom runs until Monday so you have three days left to enjoy it. If you choose to go I'd advise using public transport. The Luas red line will drop you to Heuston where you can pick up the free shuttle bus to the venue. Given our changeable weather layers are also advisable! 

I received free tickets to Bloom from the event promoters and a free weekend pass from Luas. I wasn't asked nor paid to blog about either. My opinions, as always, are my own. At the end of the day I'd have attended the event and blogged about it regardless of receiving anything free! It's a fab day out! 

Friday, 29 May 2015

East Side Tavern

East Side Tavern, one of a new breed of pubs with high-end food. 

I've noticed a shift in the Dublin dining scene, it's ever so slight but the change is becoming perceptible. Food in pubs. I'm not talking about pub grub or even gastro pubs but cracking good bistro style food that's creative, inspired and with deft attention to detail. This change is ever so obvious in East Side Tavern.

The bar is beautiful. They've achieved wondrous things with just bottles, shelves and inventive lighting. There's a few quirks around the place too as well as plenty of comfortable seating. We were eating upstairs where it's brighter and the music is a bit lower! 

Octopus and Crab Croquettes €11

I fell in love with Niall O'Sullivan's cooking during his tenure at Isabel's. I had thought that it was a perfect venue for his food so it took me a while to get used to this new hip location but I'm nothing if not adaptable, especially when it comes to food. M went for what can only be described as one of Niall's signature dishes, in fact, when I saw it on the menu I knew exactly who was in the kitchen! The octopus and crab croquettes were just as delicious as I remember.

Chargrilled Purple Sprouting Brocolli €8 

I thought it was really brave that two of five the starters on the menu were vegetarian. It takes a lot of brazen confidence in one's ability to have just broccoli or carrots as the main constituents of a dish! I went for the broccoli and was quite impressed. It was slightly let down by a less than zingy goats cheese but the textures and presentation couldn't be faulted. 

Chargrilled Rib Eye €26

We both opted for the chargrilled rib eye which is cooked sous-vide before being given a delicious charred skin. I was warned that it might not come as rare as I expected but it would be oh-so-juicy to make up for it, they didn't lie! The cafe de Paris butter gave the dish a nice eastern lift though it meant there was no sauce to dip my chips into. I survived! 

Chocolate Mousse with Milk Parfait €7 

Roasted Pear €7

We finished off with two decent desserts which I can only describe as highly stylised but there was substance with the chicness too. I really loved the milk parfait's creamy texture and I nearly licked the brown butter caramel off the plate. We washed the whole meal down with a very acceptable bottle of South African Chenin Blanc. There are plenty of craft beers to try too if that's what you desire.

As we finished up our meal the place took on a decidedly more pub than bistro feel and this is perhaps the only thing I have to lament about, I would have loved to have lingered over another bottle of wine for a couple of chilled-out hours but that wouldn't pay the bills and in this ever competitive industry that's the most important thing.

East Side Tavern
104 - 105 Lower Lesson Street
Dublin 2
01 678 9529

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