Thursday, 2 July 2015

French Foodie's Top Tips for A Perfect Picnic

When the weather is good in Dublin there's nothing Mr. FFID and I love more than a good picnic, you probably know this already if you follow me on Instagram.  I don't think I've ever planned a picnic more than a few hours ahead but I have some tips to help you make your picnic better than the average combo of egg mayo sandwich and a pack of Tayto.

The Weather: check the forecast
We live in Ireland and it's pretty unpredictable but still the weather app (at least on my iPhone) is quite accurate so you should definitely use it. Make sure that there is no chance of precipitation at all. One day Mr. FFID and I didn't do this, packed everything and the minute we left the house it started raining. We ended up having a picnic in the living room with our cats trying to steal our foie gras.

The location: pick the perfect spot
Avoid the obvious spots such as Stephen's Green or Merrion Square where you have to fight for every inch of grass, chose a large public space. My favourite spots (see you there?) are: along the Canal (I like Percy place), Iveagh Gardens (so romantic), the Phoenix Park (don't feed the deers) and Sandymount Strand.

Be comfy
Do bring a blanket, little cushions or even a large pretty tablecloth to sit on. You'll be more comfortable and less itchy than if you're sitting on grass or sand. Pillows are also great if you fancy a little nap after eating.

Don't forget the sun cream
This is from my experience of being with an Irish man whose skin sizzles in the sun like bacon on a pan. Protect your skin!

Eat and drink like a king
I can't recommend enough that you buy artisan food, it's more expensive but your belly and soul will thank you. Make your picnic a great foodie occasion and spoil yourself:

- artisan breads (to make your own sandwiches or eat with cheese and charcuterie): buy from Le Levain (at Temple Bar market on Saturdays), Avoca suffolk Street (their rustic organic baguette is delicious), Arun Bakery and Tartine Bakery to name a few.
- Irish charcuterie: Gubbeen chorizo and salami, On the Pig's Back pâtés and terrines, Ed Hicks' bacon jam...
- Smoked salmon and trout from Burren smokehouse or Goatsbridge
- Like Darina Allen, bring sweet cucumber pickle (recipe below) to every picnic. I'm addicted to it since I've done the Ballymaloe course. Lovely with fish and also terrines...

Darina Allen's Sweet Cucumber Pickle Recipe
170 g (6 ozs) cucumber, thinly sliced
 55 g (2 ozs) onion, thinly sliced
 55 g (2 ozs) sugar
1 level teaspoon salt
35.5 ml (1¼ fl ozs) white wine vinegar
Combine the sliced cucumber and onion in a large bowl.  Mix sugar, salt and vinegar together and pour over the cucumber and onion.  Place in a tightly covered container in the refrigerator and leave for at least 1 hour.

- Eat Irish farmhouse cheese: I'd take one hard, one washed-rind, one soft and one blue cheese but that's because I love cheese. My favourite Irish cheeses are: Milleens, St Tola ash, Diliskus, Brewer's Gold, Crozier Blue, Coolea, Durrus, Ardsallagh but there are so many you can choose from.
- Bring some crudités: radishes, cherry tomatoes, celery sticks... they're great healthy snacks. Try radishes with rustic bread and butter, French style!
- Bring some delicious salads: I love a good homemade tabbouleh or this beautiful tomato and pomegranate salad and with Ottolenghi you can't go wrong!
- Pick up a bottle of your favourite wine and/or Irish craft beer. 
- Other food items I like to bring: fruit salads, olives, homemade hummus, strawberries, macarons, crisps (Keoghs or O'Donnells), crackers from Sheridans cheesemongers, hard-boiled eggs,...

Don't forget the utensils
Personally I prefer to bring real cutlery and plates, it's more chic. Don't forget the following items: corkscrew/bottle/can opener, cutting board, kitchen paper/towels, plastic bags for rubbish, wipes (to clean your hands), a cooler, a picnic basket or bag, mason jars to store your food (great for salads), sharp knives, serving spoons and plastic containers for your food and leftovers.

Enjoy the weather, the food and the company!
Create a nice spread on the tablecloth/blanket to make your picnic look pretty. Take your time eating and enjoy the scenery around you! Eating is a pleasure and if the sun is shining, it's pure bliss. You're allowed to take a quick picture at the start for Instagram but then you have to put your phone away and enjoy!

Bon appétit! 

Friday, 26 June 2015

A Café You Should Consider: Considered by Helen James

I love spots where you can enjoy something to eat and drink while people watching at the same time, I haven't lost that French habit of mine. I watch people A LOT and one of the best spots I've come across recently for this is Considered by Helen James.  

You may well know the Considered range of cookware, textiles and food by Helen James that can be found in Dunnes Stores. Well this is the café version of it.

It's a gorgeous space with big windows (you'll even need sunglasses if you sit by them on a sunny day), a long wooden communal table in the middle and lots of beautiful products from the Considered collection for sale. 

The food menu is short with a choice of five sandwiches ranging from €4.50 to €5.75 and daily specials which include soup or a hot pot. 

They have a selection of salads to mix and match or you can get baked goods which are made onsite daily and of course you can get coffee or tea as well as cold drinks.

I've been several times for a cup of tea and I always enjoy sitting by the window and using their free wifi. I always feel like I'm sitting in my dream kitchen...

I had one of their sandwiches on my latest visit: braised leeks with cheddar, gruyère, cornichons on toasted sourdough bread (€5.50). 

It oozed with melted cheese which made it quite satisfying. The sandwich came presented on a wooden board with a little cup containing a nice salad of kale, roast squash, bulgur wheat with pomegranate seeds and shaved carrots.

I resisted to the temptation to have pudding, but they did have some scrumptious looking cakes on display. 

I have to say Dunnes Stores surprised me on that one. I particularly love the brightness of the cafe, the soothing tunes of their playlist and just being surrounded by pretty things. With Kaph and Industry being their neighbours it looks like I may never leave Drury Street these days. 

Considered by Helen James
42 Drury Street 
Dublin 2

Wednesday, 24 June 2015

A Week in France

Mr. FFID and I had the most relaxing time at my parents' place in the middle of nowhere  Corrèze in France, perfect when you need a little break.

Our daily routine consisted of eating an unhealthy sweet breakfast of baguette slathered with milk chocolate and salted caramel spread or croissant, a 7km run (so as not to feel guilty for eating like pigs bons vivants), apéritif, a two hour lunch, a nap, sometimes a cycle, apéritif and a long dinner. It feels like I only remember the time spent sitting at the table, eating a ridiculous amount of food with my parents. 

It was the first Father's Day in ten years that I spent in France so we treated my dad to a meal in the local restaurant and he was delighted with the Teeling Whiskey I brought all the way from Dublin. I cooked a lot for my parents, to show off my Ballymaloe cooking skills and one thing they absolutely loved was the Ottolenghi's apricot, walnut and lavender cake I made. I've always wanted to make it but waited to be in France where I could use my parents' walnuts and lavender from the garden along with delicious apricots from the market. The flavours scream of summer in France and it was the perfect occasion to eat it!

One of the highlights of the week was a visit to the local food market on Sunday morning. The little town of Egletons was buzzing and there was some fantastic food. 

I loved seeing all the displays of cherries, peaches and apricots, the cheese, the charcuterie, the breads and the rotisserie chickens. We bought lots of goodies which we enjoyed for lunch a few hours later.

Mr. FFID and I couldn't resist the organic crêpes which only cost €1.50, so we had our second breakfast at 10 am... 

Spending a little time in France was lovely... I forgot how it is to wake up to a blue sky for an entire week and just wearing flip flops and a little dress all day without being cold. I also forgot what it is to eat four to five courses at each meal. That said, coming from Ireland there are things about France that I don't miss. I don't get why everything is closed on a Monday, why the local restaurant says they're full when they have plenty of free tables around and why the hell the butcher closes from 12.15pm to 3pm. They may have better weather but the French always seem to make life more complicated, this always reminds me why I love living in Ireland. 

After a week in France I officially can't look at cheese or a saucisson anymore. Needless to say I'm dreading my skinny jeans but life is too short and I'm sure I'll be back to my cheese in no time at all. 

Thursday, 18 June 2015

A Foodie Paradise: Avoca Rathcoole

I’ve always loved Avoca, ever since I landed in Ireland. With Mr. FFID being a Wicklow lad I think Avoca was one of the first places his mammy showed me when I went first to Wicklow.

She wanted to bring me to Avoca Rathcoole ever since she drove me back from Ballymaloe, so we went there recently for a ladies lunch.

Now let me tell you, I felt like a child in a candy shop. I wish this place was closer to where I live.  The premises are as beautiful as you would expect from this stylish Irish brand and it’s difficult to imagine a better food shop. OK, we have Fallon and Byrne in Dublin city centre and La Grande Epicerie in Paris is very impressive but Avoca Rathcoole is really something.

The food hall is beautifully laid out with a corner filled with fresh fruits and veg, a gorgeous cheese counter, pretty baked good displays and a dairy section. 

The rest of the grocery shop is full of Irish and International artisan products. There is also a Michie sushi counter where you can enjoy some freshly prepared Japanese food.

 The guys at Sprout & Co have a counter where you can get their vitamin packed juices, I’ve tried them before and they are really good though not cheap (just like everything good tends to be). 

There is a deli counter like you’ll find in other Avoca shops with food to take away and an endless display of sweet treats. 

Poulet Bonne Femme sells their rotisserie style chickens and the James Whelan Butcher counter is probably the swankiest butcher shop in the whole country.

Upstairs there are two cafes, one with table service called Egg and The Bird Cage Café, which is a self-service.

We got food from the latter and enjoyed it at their large sunny terrace. I’ve eaten many times in different Avoca branches and I’ve never been disappointed. 

Mammy FFID had the falafel wrap and a selection of salads while I had their sweet chili salmon with salads. I also enjoyed a delicious pasteis de nata (Portuguese custard tart) that was eaten before I even thought of taking a picture.

Of course they also sell clothes, books, things for the house and much more but while Mammy Mr. FFID was browsing those I spent my time looking at the food.  It’s not new and probably many of you know about it already but in case you don’t, plan a little visit someday if like me you’re a sucker for foodie shops.

Avoca Rathcoole
N7 Naas Road

Monday, 15 June 2015

The Bizarre Bloomsday Brunch & Brunch at Brother Hubbard

If you are not already subscribed to Happenings' newsletter, do yourself a favour and do it now. These guys organise pop up cultural events that make our city even more exciting. I've been a few times to their outdoor cinema screenings and really enjoyed them. They also do yoga classes in parks, gigs and other things that always sound exciting.

I don't know how it happened but I actually didn't get to buy a ticket for 'The Bizarre Bloomsday Brunch' before it sold out, and the funniest is that I mentioned it in my June events article. The event was part of Bloomsday festival and took place last Sunday.

I was so mad at myself but still decided to bring Mr. FFID and Ms. E to North Great Georges Street on Dublin's north side to have a look. This street is one of my favourites in Dublin and is proof that there are some real gems on the Northside too. The James Joyce Centre is there, which is a good excuse to come to have a look.

I took a few pictures while walking around and was very envious of the people who had secured themselves a ticket for the Bizarre Brunch and were sitting at the long tables.

The food was provided by the guys from Dublin Pop Up who impressed me a while ago at the surprising Secret Garden

There was a lovely atmosphere, music, a few food stalls and people dressed up for the occasion. You put bunting and vintage lampshades around and I just can't resist!

After a stroll around we headed to another gem on the north side of the city, Brother Hubbard (one of the first places I blogged about) for the most delicious brunch. 

The beans and pulled pork special for Mr. FFID...

Moroccan zalouk for Ms. E...

...and a pulled pork sandwich for yours truly.

Sundays on the Northside can be true bliss!