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31 January 2008

Bridgestone 100 Best in Dublin on Sat Nav

We have to say that even the Help Line at Garmin were a bit confused as to how to load a foreign POI file onto one of their own Sat Navs. It took a good bit of to-ing and fro-ing and I'll-ring-you-back-when-I've-spoken-to-my-supervisor, before we finally got a clear understanding of how to load up our .csv file which fluidedge had prepared for Garmin Nuvi sat nav.

So, for those of you still struggling with this new technology, here's how we did it. First we downloaded a POI Loader from the Garmin website ( - good news is it's a free download. Then we opened a new folder on to our computer's documents file. We then saved the Garmin comma separated (csv) file from into this folder. We then opened the POI leader, "found" our sat nav device and browsed our documents file until we came to the saved folder containing the Bridgestone file inside. Crossing fingers and toes, we clicked Continue on the POI Loader and voila! Up came the message "Congratulations! You have successfully installed 101 Points of Interest on your Garmin" (101 points of interest!?) To find the Bridgestone file on the Garmin we navigated to the Extras file on the Where to? bit of the sat nav. It was in a file called Custom POIs.

We have it in mind to create a FAQ section for these pages, so if anyone out there has struggled as much as we have to familiarise themselves with this new tech, do drop us a line.

30 January 2008

Great Fast Food

There is a little corner behind Patrick Street in Cork, running from Paul Street to Paradise Place, where you can now find pure, wholesome, delicious ... fast food. Fast Al's delicious pizzas are already legendary in the precinct, where you can walk in and buy a slice of the most echt New York-style pizza. Al has now expanded to a new outlet two doors down where you can buy real falafels, homemade pittas stuffed with chick pea fritters and salads. The last few times we've been to Cork we've stopped at both of Al's addresses and figured he had the market sussed for real fast food.

This week, just around the corner from Fast Al's we found another little haven of wholesome speedy take-aways. The Natural Foods Bakery has expanded, now with a shop in Pier Head in Blackrock, and in Paul Street where you can find the most tasty, wholesome takeaway sandwiches including Gubbeen salami with mayo, relish, salad and dressing on granary, a Natural Foods Cheese Sandwich: cheddar, tomato, lettuce, cucumber, mayo and sunflower spread on a floury bap, and our new favourite the herb and seed pitta with hummus, cucumber, red pepper, lettuce and sprouts, loads of dressing and mayo. There are pizzas here too, made on a wholesome organic base and topped with oregano, olives and mozzarella. The sweet things menu includes a gluten free chocolate cake and the famous no-added sugar cherry buns.

You can buy superb bread and cakes to take away, there is a tiny loo (useful info, that), great staff and three stools for three customers who want to eat in.

The Natural Foods Bakery deliver if you live or work in central Cork - find out more by ringing 021-461 4555.

29 January 2008

Mince wi' yer tatties

'“Yes, but can she cook mince?” A young Scotsman extolling the beauty and talents of his intended bride to his family was invariably asked this question. Mince is such an important dish in Scotland that it is virtually written into the wedding contract.’
Sue Lawrence, in her book, Scots Cooking, gets to the heart of Mince and Tatties, and provides a fine simple recipe, though she cooks her tatties separately from the mince, which is flavoured with marmite and a splash of Worcestershire sauce. Finding myself with a handful of minced beef, some mushrooms and some left-over tatties the other day, I borrowed an idea from Hoppy (or Simon Hopkinson as he is also known) and used the mushrooms in the mince mixture, and then finished the dish with an idea from Fergus Henderson's wonderful book, “Beyond Nose to Tail”, and stirred some Macroom oatmeal in after the mince and its mixture was half cooked. The result was curious – savoury minced beef, pieces of potato, shards of mushroom and the tender bite of the oatmeal – rich, and delicious, a winter dish for souls who have just gotten back from a long country hike. I realise that putting pieces of potato in the mix is positively sacriligeous, but I was lost to the established faiths a long time ago.

28 January 2008

Your trip to London

Our good friend and Bridgestone editor, Eamon Barrett of the Waterford parish, managed to get some time to grab a bite to eat on a recent London trip, herewith his reports on Rowley Leigh's rebirth and Fergus Henderson's unique, uncompromised cooking. And to think that a mere decade ago London was in the restaurant doldrums.

On Sunday we ate in Le Cafe Anglais in London, Rowley Leighs much publicised return to the stoves. In a lovely room - an old McDonalds apparently - above a shopping centre, the place was jammed with people. Two huge rotisseries dominate the room's open kitchen and throw out quite a kick of heat so summer eating there will be t-shirts only. The menu is extensive and very well priced. We had three hors d'oevres between us, of which a super smooth chicken liver parfait was the best, though the chunks of octopus were undeniebly tasty too. Ju had soft roes on toast for starter, and a fine piece of black sole for mains. I had foie gras terrine and then glazed partridge, complete with shot pellets. Queen of Puddings makes a return on the dessert menu and lovely it was too. Might be because of the heat but I liked it more than Ju as a destination.

Star of the trip was dinner in St John, Fergus Hendersons spartan restaurant in the City. It's the simplest of spaces, so trimmed down it could be a canteen. For starter I had venison heart with beetroot and walnut, an amazing dish, the heart sliced paper thin, it's delicate cut offsetting the strong flavour. I almost went for the chitterlings but the waiter recommended the tripe and sausage as being particularly good, and so it was, a lovely stew with white beans. Ju had slow roasted lamb, beautifully pink. The dessert was a pear and treacle steamed pudding for two, served with a large jug of hot homemade custard, just amazing. Definitely on the list of London places we would go back to.

Finished up with lunch on Tuesday in St Alban,: paperdelle with venison and chesnut was deep and dark and very tasty.

24 January 2008

Capital stuff

It's become fashionable to bemoan the lack of new restaurant openings in Cork city, and to suggest that this proves that standards are improving elsewhere, but not on Leeside.
This is bunk. Cork city restaurants are as fine as ever, and are all characterised by intense self-criticism and a strong sense of competition.
Just look at Claire Nash's Nash 19. We dipped into the restaurant just before Xmas to see the latest refurbishments and to try the Monday-Friday offer that Claire has concocted to meet with the adapting demands of her customers.
After a perfect bowl of chowder, we ate the best piece of cod we had enjoyed in months, served with flat mushrooms, and a perfect warm Mexican chicken salad, and then had a slice of plum pudding that was one of the finest examples we have ever eaten anywhere. The place was buzzing, and the staff – the staff! - are second-to-none. A blissful lunch, a blissful experience.
Nash 19 is one of those restaurants that makes a city special: Dublin has nowhere like this, and neither has Belfast.
Cork, boy. Nowhere like it.
19 Prince’s Street, Cork (021) 4270880

23 January 2008

Getting a Roasting

The great thing about aging is that you no longer care to be thought right. In fact, being proven wrong comes to be a pleasure.
We used to be of the opinion that Illy coffee reigned supreme. A superlative product, we thought it had no equal.
But Illy has equals. Indeed it now has competitors that may well outstrip it in terms of individuality, personality, distinctiveness.
Take Ponaire coffee, for example, roasted by Jennifer and Tommy Walsh in Tipperary. Or take John and Anna Gowan's Cork Coffee Roasters. Or take Michael Kelly's Ariosa coffees, roasted in County Meath, to name but three of the bespoke coffee roasters who are working today in Ireland.
These three are Masters of the Roast, which makes them Masters of the Universe, such is the importance of coffee in our lives. The variety, accuracy and personality of the blends they create is exceptional. This morning we had some of Jennifer and Tommy's “Costa Rican Cottage Blend”, a mix of Costa Rican beans with dark-rosted Colombian Utz Kapeh beans. Beautifully balanced, delicate, suggestive, all that a good cup of coffee should be.
And, not only are these guys great roasters, but they are also great marketeers – check out Ariosa at the temple Bar Market – and creators of great rooms – John and Anna Gowan's Coffee Shop on Bridge Street in Cork city is one of our fave pieces of modern, retro design.
So, we were wrong, thankfully.

21 January 2008

Restless Artisans

“We are still beavering away with a steady trickle of new offerings”, writes Stella Coffey from the much-admired Ladybird Organics, makers of superlative organic meat products.
“We have dry cured rare breed back and streaky rashers, preservative-free farmhouse sausages named after townlands and villages in Co Tipperary (Ballypatrick - 100% pork, nothing added; Ballylooby - parsley and garlic; Ballyhickey - sage and sautéed onion; Ballydavid - red wine and garlic).
Now, isn't that a proud way to behave when you are an artisan producer? One of our plans for 2008 is to convert the nation into the Italian way of thinking about food, which is to say that your define yourself by the food of your region, and you proudly assert that it is better than everyone else's region. Stella and Richard of Ladybird have gotten there before us: hand-made sausage named after Tipp townlands! We like it.
And there's more.
“Beefburgers with chili and coriander, and in two weeks we will launch Well Hung Angus Organic Beef cuts which have been hung for 21 days. Like our other beef products these will be sold frozen. We hope the salami will be ready for Easter!!”
Thank Heavens Easter is early this year.

20 January 2008

No need to worry, no need at all

The European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) has issued a draft opinion that food from cloned livestock is safe to eat.
“Healthy clones and healthy offspring do not show any significant difference from their conventional counterparts”, the EFSA said in its opinion, to which it is now inviting views before drawing a definite conclusion in May.
It is expected that the US Food & Drug Agency will also shortly issue an opinion. The Financial Times has pointed out that a positive decision by the USF&DA “ would boost a handful of biotechnology companies that have been working on cloning animals, mainly cattle, for years. They say cloning would help farmers by increasing the availability of elite breeding stock”.
Excuse me? A cloned animal would be classified as “elite breeding stock”? Hmmm.
But, isn't it nice that the biotech companies just want to help farmers. So thoughtful.
Also thoughtful is US Democratic Senator Barbara Mikulski, who has suggested that F&DA delay its decision: “We do not know enough about the long-term effects of introducing cloned animals, or their offspring, into our food supply. What's the rush?”, asked Senator Mikulski.
But Senator, the biotech companies are just in a rush to help farmers.
What to do? Well, here is a suggestion. The scientists in EFSA and the F&DA will be the people on whom further tests will be carried out. They will eat food from cloned animals, let's say for a period of two years. And we will monitor them. We will ask them to put their mouths where they hope the money will be.
Simple, really. So. let's publish the names of all the members of the EFSA, to begin, and should they come up with a positive opinion in May, let's get to work feeding them cloned meat and cloned animal by-products. Should the F&DA decide the same, then ditto for our American cousins.
Now, wouldn't that be dinner invitation to cause trepidation: “Please come round for a meal of cloned food products, next Thursday. Bring a bottle”, yours, the EFSA...

17 January 2008

On your 'phone

We like the quiet life, but we don't seem capable of managing it whenever the annual Bridgestone 100 Best Guides appear. What should, we think, be an unexceptional event seems to have turned in to an annual snowball fight, with us against a series of diverse interests, from Killarney to builders to guys who turn out braised lamb shanks as if their life didn't depend on it.
With the new 2008 100 Best Guides, the snowball fight has been as intense as ever.
This is a good thing. Food in all its aspects is part of our culture, and we should be prepared to disagree and argue about our culture.
The bit that seems to gall many folk is: “Who do they think they are to call the books “The 100 Best?”
Good question. And the answer is: every year we seek out the 100 restaurants, and 100 places to stay, that are trying ever so hard to do Their best and to be Their best. That is what it means to be “The Best” – people achieving and realising their own ambitions, not people who tick critic's boxes.
There are plenty of Restaurants-by-numbers out there, but they aren't in the Bridgestones.
And Heaven help us, but we have dozens upon dozens of new hotels who all have all the stuff – the big rooms, the spa, the dining room, the cocktail bar, the golf course, all the stuff their accountants and designers told them they needed.
What they don't have is: hospitality. So they are, truly, empty vessels.
None of those in the Bridgestone 2008 Guide either.
We have also a Dublin restaurant guide for your mobile phone, on If you bookmark it, you can have 100 destinations with all their details – and the ability to call them and make a booking – right in your pocket.
It's been created by our wonderful web team, fluidedge, folk so talented they can even reduce Bridgestone plaques to make them fit onto Nokia N95s.

13 January 2008

Give me a T...

Congratulations to An Bord Pleanala, who have refused the supermarket behemoth Tesco permission to build yet another supermarket in the pretty town of Callan, in County Kilkenny
Kilkenny thus retains its status as the most singular county in Ireland, for it is the only county that does not have a Tesco store.
Obviously this singularity, this aesthetic avoidance of sameness and dullness, is not attractive to Kilkenny County Council, however, who had already granted the supermarket behemoth planning permission. Cllr. Tom Maher told The Irish Times that he was “extremely disappointed”, and regretted that the proposed 120 permanent jobs, and 60 temporary construction jobs, would not now happen.
What planet is Cllr. Maher living on? When supermarkets open, they displace and void 30 jobs for every 20 jobs they create. The 120 jobs in Tesco Callan would have seen 150 local jobs melt away. The impact of supermarket openings on local economies is well known, or at least is well known to everyone except members of Kilkenny County Council
Cllr Matt Doran went even further than Cllr. Maher, however, as he was both “absolutely disgusted and hugely disappointed” at the decision. “Callan needs a store like Tesco in order to survive”, he said.
Callan needs better councillors if it is to survive.
So, congrats to the brave An Bord Pleanala, and remember: when it comes to refusing planning permission to dull, bullying, £3 billion-profits-per-year behemoths, then every little helps.

11 January 2008

Poor Ould Fellas

“All they want to eat is some bread, some cheese, and some oxtail soup. And by that I mean normal white sliced bread, a box of Galtee cheese, and oxtail soup that comes out of a packet, and makes one-and-a-half pints, as God intended it”.
Declan Lynch's prescription for the diet of poor ould fellas, in his smashing book “The Book of Poor Ould Fellas” isn't just a fine menu for the endangered species that is the POF. Myself and Mr Lynch, fellow students almost thirty years ago, used to brew up the pint-and-a-half of oxtail soup and the cheese sandwich – usually toasted – as we navigated our way through student life in and around various dire bedsits and whatnots in Dublin 6, before playing that Gram Parsons album one more time and then taking ourselves off somewhere for a pint of porter. The oxtail soup and the cheese sandwich was what poor young fellas lived on in those constrained days. Tell that to young people these days and they won't believe you.
Declan's book is worth the price of the ticket for the Drogheda-meets-Quest For Fire story alone, but there is much biting humour and satire – and much truth – in this charming and rather tender look at a section of our society that is dying faster than snow on a ditch. Arthur Matthews contributes some illustrative material also and, speaking of Mr Matthews, isn't it about time that his classic “The Border Fascist” was brought out from the old days and dusted off and fed some oxtail soup before making us all laugh out loud.

“The Book of Poor Ould Fellas” is published by Hodder Headline.

10 January 2008

No, it isn't Pancake Tuesday...

Louise Delaney, who makes the excellent Sowan's bread mixes in Cork, has just introduced two new pancake lines, one with unbleached white flour, and one with spelt. Here is what happened on their first day in the McKenna household:

12.30 am Receive pancake mixes and make them straight away for lunch: simplicity itself, with just 2 eggs and 580 milk needed. Superb, even the first one which, of course, is traditionally meant to stick to the pan. Packed the spelt pancakes with slices of left-over beef sirloin heated with some tomato, yellow pepper and spring onion with a little of Miriam Flores' habanero sauce: mighty.

2.45pm: 9 year old PJ McKenna is exulting in the pancakes right now, and even had some stewed apple and honey with one. He speedily scoffs three.

4.30pm: Connie McKenna has 2 pancakes with stewed apple and honey, and one with Green & Black's hazelnut and chocolate spread. PJ has a 4th pancake with G&B spread.

5.30pm: Sam McKenna, fresh from basketball practice, has two pancakes with stewed apple and one with G&B. PJ has a 5th pancake with G&B spread.

9.30 pm: final two pancakes made with Sowan's mix are cooked and eaten by the posse of people working on the drumkit.

A hit, a veritable hit, one might say. Look out for the new Sowan's organic pancake mixes in good shops and delis.

09 January 2008

The FT in Dublin

Nicholas Lander, the restaurant reviewer for the Financial Times, reported last Saturday on a trio of Dublin addresses, where he seemed to have thoroughly good time when visiting the capital.
The Winding Stair won praise for cooking, service and it's superb wine list, though Nick did find it very noisy. Fallon & Byrne was likewise praised for its “inherent warmth and friendliness” and also for its smart wine pricing policy, whilst Erik and Michelle Robson's Ely got the gong for creating a ”most elegant wine bar and restaurant” in Ely CHQ, whilst staying true to “the roots of traditional Irish food”.
This is good news for the three restaurants, all of them firm Bridgestone stars – and all of them featured in the Bridgestone 100 Best Restaurants in Ireland 2008, published this week – but what is truly significant about Mr Lander's article is that he should choose three Dublin restaurants which are so trenchantly Dublinesque. Reviewers on whistlestop tours frequently go for the starred addresses – five years ago on imagines the hit-list would have been Guilbaud's, Thornton's and L'Ecrivain – but instead we have three maverick, authentic restaurants chosen, places that define the spirit of the city as it is today.
The article also underlines another change in the capital's food culture: the new generation of star chefs are already here, folk like Tom Meenhan of F&B, Aine Maguire of TWS, and the great crew in Ely. The changing of the guard is already well underway.

08 January 2008

Surviving Resolutions

New Year resolutions fail for a very simple reason: they are self-denying.
But, surely that is the point? Doesn’t there have to be a bit of Hades, a spot of self-mortification, in order to have a true resolution? Mustn’t the flesh be flailed, the guilt assuaged, before the pilgrim can make progress towards a new enlightenment?
In a word: no. We Irish are a Mediterranean people, albeit one who find ourselves a little more northerly in geographical locations than is absolutely ideal. Thereby, we are accidentally amidst Northern Anglo-Saxons who relish guilt, mortification, self-flagellation, and all that stuff.
But that stuff doesn’t suit us, and it certainly doesn’t suit us after a decade and more of the Celtic Tiger, where we have been happily living in Weimar-sans-Inflation since 1992.
So, forget the self-denying bit for the New Year, and turn instead to Best Practice. You don’t have to change your life – and waste a fortune at the gym you never go to and thereby feel guilty about. You just have to make some resolutions that introduce Holistic Best Practice to help you achieve wholeness. Without sweat. Without guilt. Without grief.
And wholeness in this case means Wholefoods. Specifically oats and rice. Specifically porridge oats, and brown rice.
Porridge Oats might seem much too quotidian a fare to induce epiphanous culinary moments, but if you get lucky, then revelation can hit you right in the taste buds as you have breakfast.
I remember once travelling with the novelist Howard Jacobson, working on a story, when Howard had a bowl of Macroom oatmeal for breakfast at Ballymaloe House. “And you must have it with cream and brown sugar”, ordered the kindly lady serving breakfast. So Howard forgot about his doctor’s orders and had the brown sugar and the rich, unctuous cream on top of the oatmeal.
“This is porridge?” he asked after one spoonful. “This is supposed to be health food? But this is magnificent!”
It happens just like that. What you expect to be penance food is suddenly revealed as a magnificent piece of culinary pleasure.
I experienced something similar in Eunice Power’s lovely Waterford B&B, Powersfield House, one morning, when staying there with my family. Eunice had laced the porridge with sesame seeds, raisins, linseeds and sunflower seeds. Made with the local Flahavan’s oatmeal, it was a porridge for the Gods, a Powersfield Powerhouse.
Mrs Power is quite an authority on making porridge into something delectable, as her recipes show. (see box).
“I am a complete believer in the power of porridge. It is grown and produced locally, and really suits our systems, it is natural for Irish people to eat porridge”, says Eunice.
Mrs Power uses Flahavan’s oatmeal, so I took a trip to little Kilmacthomas to see how they do things there. The mill sits by the side of the River Mahon, and today John Flahavan is the sixth generation of the family to run the business, a family firm that dates back to the late 1700’s.
Seventy years ago there were more than fifty millers of oatmeal throughout the country. Today, Flahavans and Odlums share the market between them, with a tiny slice left for Donal Creedon’s outstanding Macroom Oatmeal.
Most of the Flahavan’s oats are sourced from farmers who are growing within a 60 mile radius of the plant, so this is truly a local food. And it’s a particularly green factory also: they use water power from the river to drive a turbine, and they burn the shell of the oat that wraps around the precious kernel, with the resulting steam power used for cooking and drying the oats. “We actually use very little oil”, says John Flahavan.
Touring the factory, one is struck the by image of cascades: the cascading river that originated the whole process centuries ago, and the cascading kernels of oats as they undergo their processes of cleaning and cutting and cooking and drying, tumbling and tumbling, cascading finally into bags of jumbo, pinhead, organic and progress oats.
And just how well does porridge suit our systems, as Eunice Power suggests? ”There is a general consensus amongst nutrition experts and health care professionals that as a population we should be eating more whole grains and whole grain foods”, is how the U.K.’s Grocery Distribution working group on wholegrains has put the case. Yet we are slow to take up the message that has been clearly advocated since the health benefits of wholegrains were revealed in the early 1990’s. As John Noonan, who works for Flahavans puts it, oats bring with them “a big basket of benefits”. They are high in fibre, and we need more fibre. They are low-GI, and they take cholesterol out of the system, and we need less cholesterol. It hardly needs to be said that oats are also inexpensive, and modern oatmeal cooks in no time at all. So, here is a local, green, health-giving food that only takes 3 minutes in the morning to make. That’s Best Practice.

Another wholegrain that we need in our lives is brown rice. Of course, this glorious, health-filled food is ritually dismissed as the ultimate “hippy food”. But this denunciation only serves to prove what many of us, today, believe: the hippies were right, and they were years head of their time.
But, doesn’t brown rice take forever to cook? Isn’t it just too much hassle, too much time? How can you blend it into a time-poor modern lifestyle?
Well, you can try this recipe, what we call Brown’s Brown Rice, because the recipe is one included in the Tassajara Recipe Book, by Edward Espe Brown, published way back in 1985. It isn't quick, but it's the easiest thing on the block.
Mr Brown calls it “Properly Cooked Brown Rice”, but it should really be called “Simplicity Itself”. It’s not really a recipe; it’s more of a technique, and it never goes wrong.
What you do is take 1 cup of brown rice, add 2 cups of water, a decent pinch of salt and a knob of butter. Bring the water and rice to the boil, then cover the pan and turn the heat down to the lowest setting. Now, you leave it alone for one hour. “Watch tv, prepare other dishes for dinner, or do your yoga asanas, but Don’t Look In The Pot”, says Edward.
At the end of the hour, you will have sweet, nutty, light, toasty brown rice, all for the sake of two minutes preparation. And you will have a technique that gives you perfect brown rice, and all the healthfulness of wholegrains, without any effort, for the rest of your life. Best Practice once more, and not an iota of self-denial.

Powersfield Porridge Ideas

Creamy Cranberry and Orange Porridge with Toasted Granola
Make porridge using skimmed milk and add dried cranberries, a little grated orange zest and some maple syrup. When cooked, stir in whipped cream and top with toasted granola – delicious!

Mixed Seed Porridge - Omega 3 Boost
Soak the porridge oats with a mixture of seeds, such as pumpkin, sunflower, sesame and golden linseed. The seeds swell and are delicious when cooked in the porridge this way, add some goji berries or dried cranberries for an extra dimension .

Apricot & Walnut Porridge
Soak the porridge oats overnight with chopped dried apricots and some chopped walnuts

Cinnamon & Sultana Porridge
As above but use succulent sultanas and a teaspoon of ground cinnamon to taste. This is lovely served in the autumn with some stewed apple and thick Greek yoghurt.

Apple Muesli

4 cooking apples
2 tablespoons sugar
1 cinnamon stick
½ cup water
3 cups organic oatmeal
3 cups apple juice

To serve:
sprinkling of granola & natural yoghurt

Peel and core apples. Slice apples thinly, place in saucepan with sugar, cinnamon and ½ cup water. Cook to puree consistency. In a bowl add the apple juice to the oatmeal and stir. Add pureed apples to mixture. Allow to cool and refrigerate over night. Serve with natural yoghurt and a sprinkling of granola.

Toasted Oatmeal Granola

3 cups porridge oats ( I use Jumbo flakes) pinch of salt
½ cup chopped nuts
½ cup wheat germ
½ teaspoon grated nutmeg
½ tablespoon ground cinnamon
¼ cup sunflower oil
1/3 cup honey
Preheat the oven to 160°C. Toss the dry ingredients together. Add the oil and honey. Toss again to coat thoroughly and spread the mixture on greaseproof paper in your largest roasting tin. Bake until golden, turning every 10 minutes so it browns evenly, for approximately 30 minutes. When done, remove from oven and allow to cool. It will loose its stickiness and become crunchy. Store in an airtight container.

This is delicious with raspberry swirl yoghurt. To make raspberry swirl yoghurt, just mash a cup of raspberries with a fork and lightly ripple through Greek yoghurt.

The 'Burlo

The newspapers have been filled with stories lamenting the passing of The 'Burlo, Dublin's Burlington Hotel.

To read them, one might imagine that The 'Burlo was the capital's equivalent of Ballymaloe House, an iconic concept with cutting-edge cuisine and a cultural impact as deep as it was wide. The 'Burlo cabaret was, one might imagine, as great an artistic feat as Wagner's Bayreuth or Britten's Aldeburgh.

We hate to be party poopers – we really, really do – but the single worst meal we were ever served in Ireland was a lunch following a seminar in The 'Burlo hotel, many years back.

It was so bad that even though we lived for years just a couple of hundred yards from The 'Burlo's front door, we could never bring ourselves to walk through those doors.

And as a cultural event, the 'Burlo seems to us closer to Stan Staunton's Irish soccer team: not quite Bayreuth, not quite Aldeburgh. More Leeds United, actually.

And mention of Ballymaloe House makes us consider this: imagine if the Dublin hotels created by the P.V. Doyle/Jurys group had expressed and epitomised the aesthetic of Irish hospitality and Irish food that Myrtle Allen has exemplified for the last 40-odd years.

What sort of culinary and hospitality culture might we have then?

07 January 2008

Wild Garlic, Gooseberries... and Me

“When did you last come across a cookery book that had been conceived and executed as a work of art?”, we asked back in November.

And then Denis Cotter, of Cork's Café Paradiso, published “Wild Garlic, Gooseberries... and me”, as if in answer to our question. A cookery book conceived and executed as a work of art.

If you had asked us if Mr Cotter could have topped the success of his previous books – in our opinion the best cookery books written by a working chef – we would have said it was a task that bordered on the impossible.

But, he has done it. Wild Garlic... is an intense meditation on growing and cooking. It shows all the signs of deep consideration, such as is rarely gifted to a cookery book. Cotter has wrestled with the content of this book, and has triumphantly brought an original intellect to focus on what we eat, and how we grow it, find it, and cook it. The recipes are glorious excursions into flavour, and the text is a glorious excursion into intellectual savour. The book is already short-listed for the André Simon award, and our money will be on it to take that prize, and every other serious cookery book prize going.

(Wild garlic, gooseberries... and me” is published by Collins @ £20 sterling.)