Monday, 24 August 2015
My friend Ms. L is a frenchie from Normandy, which means seafood is serious business for her. As both of our respective partners are intolerant to seafood we decided to have a few seafood dates over the next few months and chose Klaw as our first place to try.
Klaw is the new venture of Niall Sabongi of Rock Lobster, which opened a few weeks ago in the heart of Temple Bar. It's a tiny place which can only sit a few people, like a little seafood shack that landed in the most touristy part of the city. There are a few tables and stools where you can sit by the wall, it's very narrow and compact but in a cute way.
We visited on a weekday so it wasn't too busy but it was very noisy outside with people cheering and watching a match across the road while buskers also played loud music in Temple Bar Square. Luckily, having lived for over three years on East Essex Street across from the Temple Bar pub I'm kind of immune to the Temple Bar madness and was well able to focus on the food and the company, so it didn't bother me too much.
The menu is written on a giant blackboard and is of course all about seafood. Oysters in 3 varieties (Achill, Waterford and Galway Bay) you can eat them naked (with lemon or tabasco), dressed or torched. You can get Atlantic prawns, crab served in different ways, seafood chowder, smoked salmon, a seafood platter (€38) and of course lobster as well as a few dessert options.
We both went for oysters to start, Ms. L took one of each variety and preferred them just with a bit of lemon juice (€2 each). She's used to eating raw oysters and they went down a treat. I've always had my oysters hot and with a topping like a champagne sabayon or even with camembert on top so eating raw oysters was a first for me. I went for two Achill oysters, one with a 'bloody mary' dressing and the other with a nam jim dressing (€2.50 each).
The bloody Mary one had a bit too much topping for me, lots of tomato which made it a bit difficult to eat and it didn't really remind of a bloody mary. However, the one dressed with nam jim sauce was zingy and fresh with cucumber and lots of coriander which complemented the saltiness of the oysters.
Now, having tried and absolutely loved the lobster roll at Taste of Dublin over the last few years I just had to get it in Klaw. To be honest, the price hurts a bit... €14 is a lot for a small roll. I had two voices in my head, one saying it's bloody expensive and the other one telling me it would be worth it, it's lobster after all. Ms. L and I both went for it and were very pleased.
The roll is a delicious brioche bun fried in butter and oozing with lobster dressed in a yuzu mayonnaise served with a big chunk of cucumber. It is super tasty and even if it looks small it's rich enough that you'll feel you've had enough.
We washed down our feed with a glass of Picpoul (€7) and I rounded off the meal with a rather boozy and delicious creme brûlée which was brûlée in front of me by a young lad with a huge torch, which he seemed excited to use. He confessed it was his favourite tool in the kitchen.
The staff were friendly, I liked their enthusiasm and you could tell they enjoyed working there and talking to customers. When the bill came I initially though 'that's cheap' but then realised they forgot to include the lobster rolls and I think the guy was a bit surprised by my honesty when I pointed it out and requested the correct bill. They were lucky we weren't dishonest tourists just passing by Temple Bar! So yeah it wasn't cheap after all but we really enjoyed our food and the experience. I loved when the smell of butter wafted from the kitchen each time a lobster roll was being prepared, it made me want to order more...
Klaw is a fun new place, perfect for seafood lovers who are looking for something tasty without too much fuss. Locals may be put off by the location as Temple Bar suffers a bad reputation but I can tell you their lobster rolls alone are worth venturing into that part of the city!
5 A Crown Alley
Saturday, 22 August 2015
It’s almost over and yet it feels like summer never really began. Which is a shame as there are plenty of great beers out there at the moment which pair perfectly with a sunny day. There does seem to be a bit of a trend towards wheat beers of late and these pale, citrusy, thirst quenching and refreshing beers are prefect when enjoyed at a beer garden or with a picnic. So for this post I wanted to share a few of my favourite summertime wheat beers before it’s too late.
First up we have a wit beer from one of my favourite Irish breweries, White Hag. I’m a big fan of their IPA and oatmeal stout so had high hopes for their wit beer. Fionnabhair (the name of their ‘Irish Wit Beer’) is a hazy, pale-golden fella with a decent head on him. A very good example of the wit beer style it’s full of citrus with a light, easy drinking body. A perfect beer garden beer, this will appeal to both the hop-phobic Heineken drinker and the craft connoisseur alike.
Next we have another wit beer, but this time with a twist. The Irish craft beer institution that is Galway Bay Brewery have released a very enjoyable seasonal Gorse flower wit beer. The first thing I noted was that it was considerably less carbonated than the previous beer, with pretty much no head. The colour was much darker than your usual wit beer, very hazy and more orange than gold, with plenty of yeasty sediment floating about. It smells sweet and earthy and the flavor, while holding on to some citrus is also pretty herbal and complex. French Foodie and I enjoyed a bottle of this as an aperitif with a picnic recently and I’d highly recommend you give this unusual beer a try before the last of the late evenings are gone.
Last up in our golden trilogy is the Metalman Equinox Wheat Lager. I sampled and thoroughly enjoyed this on draft recently at the Big Grill Festival and was delighted when I say that it was being stocked in cans in my local supermarket. While staying refreshing and drinkable, this beer is certainly one of the more hop forward wheat beers I have had and is full of pine, orange, lemon and freshly cut grass. It’s a little more bitter than the other two but very well balanced with it’s sweet fruity flavours. I could certainly see myself having a few of these little cans by the barbecue and imagine they would go pretty well with some chicken skewers or bbq corn.
Well, it seems there are plenty of great summertime beers out there at the moment, now if only it would stop raining…
Well, it seems there are plenty of great summertime beers out there at the moment, now if only it would stop raining…
Follow Mr. FFID's beer tweets @mrffid
Wednesday, 19 August 2015
It's not a secret that I love my meat so I wanted to see what the Big Grill Festival was all about this year. I heard some mixed reviews about the first event last year but I decided to give it a go, bought tickets (€18 each) and headed to Herbert Park on Sunday.
When I got to there I was actually surprised by the size of the festival as I expected it to be much smaller.
It was quite spread out and not too busy until mid-afternoon when the crowds arrived despite the grey skies overhead. The atmosphere was very laid-back and there were a lot of families with kids. People with children were very prepared and I was envious of their picnic blankets which would have been handy to lie down on. You could also sit at picnic tables but sometimes it was quite difficult to get a seat, there was a waiter service from JustEat though if you didn't want to move and loose your spot.
I liked that they had a decent craft beer area featuring some great Irish breweries such as 8 Degrees, Metalman and Trouble Brewing just to name a few. Personally I discovered and enjoyed Metalman's wheat beer which was just so refreshing and light, so I stuck to it for most of the afternoon.
I also enjoyed (maybe because of its cute little logo) the Raspberry Beeret by Brewtonic. There were also wine stalls at the event if beer isn't your thing...
I didn't really attend many talks or demos and just chilled around with Mr. FFID. Like Taste of Dublin you pay for the entrance and then have to purchase tokens (Smokins) to be able to buy food. Most of the food stalls were Irish but surprisingly many of Dublin's main BBQ spots (Bison, Pitt Bros, My Meat Wagon etc...) weren't there. There were also a few stalls from international pitmasters like DJ BBQ, John Relihan, Tyson Ho and Andre Lima de Luca.
Unlike Taste of Dublin the food isn't served as a tasting portion, which in some ways is a pity as you get full very quick and aren't able to try too many dishes. We shared everything we ordered to be able to taste more but still.
Mr. FFID and I are big fans of 147 Deli so we went straight to their stall.
Their smoked pork neck and shoulder with chipotle slaw, crispy onions with a smoked bacon & jalapeño mayo on a cheese and onion bap was out of this world! I swear my tastebuds tingled: it was spicy, smoky, opulent and I didn't want it to end. It was well worth the money (€7)!
Kinara Kitchen's set up was very impressive and having tried their food at Electric Picnic last year I knew I wouldn't be disappointed.
We went for two of their dishes (lamb and chicken) which were fiery but so good, including their freshly made bread. The only complaint was the price, €10 seemed a bit much as they weren't massive portions.
I also tried the pork cooked in a cinder block pit and served in a brioche bun with kimchi (€6) at John Relihan's stall. The girl was very generous when serving pork but not so much on the kimchi which was a pity as you could barely taste it. It was good but lacked of the spicy kick more Kimchi would have brought to the meat.
I also got to take part in a Banter discussion on food festivals in the afternoon and after that we stayed around for a while. It got busy late in the afternoon, there were DJs (including DJ Yoda) blasting out tunes and a big crowd which was nice.
Overall I enjoyed the festival, it was different from the usual and very meat orientated of course. It works out as a pricy enough afternoon after the entrance fee but running a festival is costly so of course they have to make it viable for them. My main complain would be that the portions were too big, taster portions at a lower price would be better and allow people to taste more.
Finally here are a few tips if you're thinking of going next year:
- Bring a blanket to sit on
- Try non Dublin based stalls first so you're not too full (you can always visit the Dublin businesses on another day)
- Watch out for competitions on social media (I bought my tickets but then I saw there were lots of competitions online)
- Don't eat before you go
- Bring wipes as you're eating with your fingers
The Big Grill Festival
Monday, 17 August 2015
Introducing 'French Foodie in Dublin Meets', a series of interviews where I speak with some of my food and drink heroes and those at the forefront of Dublin's foodie revolution. For the first in this series of interviews I met with Tom Stafford, main man behind ViceCoffee Inc, a speciality coffee shop on 54 Middle Abbey Street.
How did you get started in the coffee industry?
My background was in advertising. I studied media, worked in the industry for a few years and then I’ve always kind of done hospitality from secondary school right up to college. Then I travelled quite extensively after college for a year and then back to Dublin. I left just before the recession hit and eventually travelled in South America, New Zealand and I ended up living for two and a half years in Melbourne where the speciality coffee scene is huge. I managed a café while I was there and I got really big into the speciality coffee side of things. Then I moved back in 2011; I stalked Colin Harmon in 3fe until he gave me a job and then I work for the guys in 3fe for a year and half. Then they decided to concentrate on opening their roastery so they pulled out of Twisted Pepper and the opportunity came up to take over here and so yeah I’ve been in Vice Coffee Inc two years in January which is pretty cool and I haven’t looked back.
When did you start loving coffee?
I suppose I was a little bit into it before I left Dublin, then as soon as I got to New Zealand it was just a different approach to coffee. It was all about quality not quantity. Once I got to Melbourne, the whole scene there is so different, they have high end restaurants but a lot of it is more approachable and they have this amazing brunch scene. You go out and you can have brunch any day of the week from like 7am to 4pm and then all these cafes will turn around and have an evening spread as well and do amazing wines and craft beer and have music. That’s when I was like ‘wow this is different!’, it was all affordable as well, you could and we did go out for dinner and lunch nearly 5 times a week. Everyone was fun there was none of that pretentiousness that kind of came with food. That’s how I fell in love with it all.
What do you think of Dublin’s current coffee scene?
It’s really impressive for such a small city to have so many coffees shops that do a really great job. Some people kind of give out but there is an amazing coffee scene if you compare it to the likes of London and we have a great selection of really talented baristas. We’ve gone on to compete in all the different competitions and while we haven’t won the world title in a few years we’re always right up there amongst the best. We always have international baristas and coffee fanatics coming to Dublin and they always rave about how great our scene is. In the next year we’ve got the countdown to the world barista championships happening here in the RDS next June, so it will just going up and up till then. I think Dublin’s scene is pretty amazing for such a small city.
What do you think is the next trend in Dublin’s coffee scene?
In the last couple of years there’s been a really big emphasis on filter coffees but the next thing is to focus more on the cold drinks side of things. When the sun shines in Dublin everyone wants to have iced coffees, we were probably one of the first ones to do the Vietnamese iced coffees 3 summers ago, now you can get them everywhere. There is a bakery on Georges street called Krust that do a nitro cold brew, I haven’t tried it but it looks like a pint of Guinness when it’s brewed. We’ll be launching our new coffee cocktail menu in September-October for the winter season. We won the best Irish coffee at the whiskey festival in February this year and we’re gonna be expanding our menu including lots of different types of coffee cocktails so watch this space!
The best coffee experience you’ve ever had?
Hmm… probably the best coffee I've ever had was a coffee that was brewed by the world brewers cup champion in Rimini last year at the world championships. It was brewed in an aeropress, there was not even measurements taken but the coffee was what they called a 90+ coffee, a really high grade type of bean and at the time it was a Costa Rican coffee and it was the coffee the world champion barista had won with at the competition the previous day. It was just… I never had anything like it! We were really hungover and it still tasted phenomenal! I haven’t had a coffee like that since. We’re very lucky that we get high grade coffees here but that one was just ‘Oh my god! What is this?’
Finally, what’s your advice for making a good cup of coffee at home?
Good water, you can make coffee really easily at home and it doesn’t cost. You don’t have to buy an expensive espresso machine or grinder. Essential kit like either an aeropress or French press, good quality coffee beans, a grinder (freshly ground coffee is always better than pre-ground). Use good water and if your water isn’t great at home and tastes chlorinated you can buy filtered watered from the supermarkets. Just follow a routine, having something like a timer and a scale. Measuring everything is very important you kind of have to follow a recipe it’s a bit like baking. If you follow a recipe your coffee should be amazing!
Notes from FFID: Vice will be doing more tasting classes over the next couple of months so follow their social media channels for updates. Even though The Twisted Pepper has recently closed as a music venue Vice Coffe Inc is still operating as usual. 54 Middle Abbey Street will be refurbished in a few weeks but the lads from Vice will still be there afterwards to serve you awesome coffee!
Friday, 14 August 2015
I remember the first time I ate coriander as a child and I still giggle thinking about it. I was in a Vietnamese restaurant with my parents and coriander was a garnish on my plate, I had no clue what it was. I told my parents it was herb that grows on the pavement and my parents and I just burst laughing and couldn't stop. It was a meal out I will never forget!
That said, I liked it and ever since then it has become my favourite herb of all. Coriander divides people, some think it tastes like soap but personally I love it and use it A LOT.
I never buy hummus as it's such an easy snack to make and takes less than 10 minutes, I like mine with plenty of coriander in it of course. It's great to bring on picnics or to eat for aperitif with crunchy vegs or nice crackers. Once you've made it, you'll never eat store-bought hummus again!
Coriander Hummus recipe
1 tin of organic chickpeas (drained)
15g of coriander (stalks and leaves)
1 peeled garlic clove
1 tablespoon of tahini
1 tablespoon of good quality olive oil
2 tablespoons of lemon juice
1/4 teaspoon of salt
pinch of pepper
Put all the ingredients in a food processor and blitz until smooth.
Drizzle a little olive oil and sprinkle some paprika on top to serve.