Idá’s Restaurant, Dingle

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The Swashbuachaill was abroad once more, down in Dingle for the annual food festival and what is also becoming an annual event, a return to one of my very favourite restaurants, Idá’s, owned and operated by the sublimely talented Chef/Proprietor Kevin Murphy. On this particular night, I got to hang out in the kitchen for the first service (and take a few pics) before sitting for the second service, a nine-course meal, each course paired with superb organic/’natural’ wines from Pascal Rossignol of Le Caveau, in Kilkenny, and also ‘scored’ with music especially selected by Dublin-based DJ John Casey. Here’s my subsequent review from the Irish Examiner.  Continue reading

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Asturias and Cantabria, Northern Spain

A traditional shepherd’s dwelling in Los Picos de Europa, Asturias, Spain

The Swashbuachaill has been off on yet another skite to his beloved Spain. He has more than a few dear Spanish friends and has long held the view that they are closer in temperament to the Irish than most other peoples of Europe. For years, his Spanish meanderings were concentrated in the South, most particularly, Andalucia, other than a few trips to Barcelona but more recent visits to the Basque Country, La Rioja and now Asturias and Cantabria have revealed a whole other dimension to the country: the wonderful welcome and hospitality are the same, maybe even better, but the landscape is entirely different; lush, green and an Atlantic coastline that is quite different from that seen on the ‘Costas’ down South. Driving along the Asturian coastline, a body could as easily be in Ireland as in Northern Spain, albeit on the finest Irish summer’s day imaginable. Here’s a link to a recent piece I wrote about my trip for the Irish Examiner. (Do please excuse the sub-editor who decided that Asturias and Cantabria are actually the neighbouring region, Basque or Basque Country!)  Continue reading

More Than Just a Cheap Cut

Panfried Calves Liver, Beetroot Mousse and Braised Lentils - €4 for four people

Panfried Calves Liver, Beetroot Mousse and Braised Lentils

Along with almost every other journo in Grub Street, I have been asked to write about ‘cheap eating’ and have just written an article (published in today’s Irish Examiner) about saving money on food shopping for the family, specifically, how to buy meat for less. Continue reading

10 Cookbooks You Should Own?

It’s the closest I’ve come to generating a twitter firestorm – well, maybe more of a twitter firelog but it’s certainly the most tweets I’ve ever received in response to a query for an article I was writing, published in the Irish Examiner Weekend Magazine. The query? Name ten cookbooks you should own. And then the tweets began a-tumblin’ in. I even received an email furnishing his top ten from a man so profoundly allergic to the whole social media phenomenon, he was unable, physically, mentally or morally to respond with a tweet. But he is also a man who knows his onions, the 101 things you can do with them and a whole load of other foodstuffs besides, with a veritable library of fabulous cookbooks to bolster that knowledge. Continue reading

Oil Crisis?

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Here’s a link to my recent Irish Examiner review of a tremendous – and tremendously important – book, Extra Virginity: The Scandalous and Sublime World of Olive Oil by Thomas Mueller (Atlantic Books)

Though I ate a shedload of Mediterranean food in London during the 80s, olive oil remained a rather nebulous concept to me (and indeed to most Londoners at the time), I didn’t especially differentiate between oils – it simply existed. But at the beginning of the nineties, I worked for a spell with the Real Olive Company, doing markets and prep back in the warehouse. Thus began my education, learning about multiple varieties of olives and oils. Or so I thought. In reality my education began with this book. Several years ago, I read the original New Yorker article, subsequently expanded to produce this book, and found it, I must admit, profoundly depressing, focussing almost entirely as it did on the huge fraud in the olive oil industry.

Thankfully, Mueller expands enormously from that particular emphasis in the book so there is maybe a glimmer of hope for the future of a foodstuff which is utterly precious to me. But I have been very, very wary of where and how I purchase my oil ever since. The oil in the photo above is bought from a friend, Lenny O’Donovan, who sells at markets in Mahon Point and Temple Bar. It comes from the village, north of Barcelona, where his wife’s parents are from and is very, very good. But more importantly, I trust its provenance. I’m afraid its no longer possible to say the same about much of the olive oil for sale around the world today.

http://www.irishexaminer.com/opinion/books/virgin-on-the-ridiculous-why-olive-oil-will-be-hard-pressed-to-survive-187400.html

My reviews of the Electric (Irish Examiner & The Bridgestone Guide)

Honestly, The Swashbuachaill is not on a retainer from The Electric; it was sheer coincidence that I was asked to do these reviews within days of each other. Hardly surprising, when you think about it, as The Electric is getting noticed in a lot of places. Nominated for the Restaurant Association of Ireland awards in 2011 as best casual dining in its first year of opening gives you an idea of the standards they are aiming to reach.

http://www.bestofbridgestone.com/blog/joe-mcnamee-electric-cork

http://www.examiner.ie/weekend/foodandwine/switch-on-the-senses-184879.html

My Irish Examiner review of Star Anise

ImageIt’s surprising how many people are unaware of the existence of Star Anise but Bridge St, where it is located, is a connecting street, a class of blink-and-you’ll-miss-it link between the quays and MacCurtain St, so perhaps that may be why. Actually, I worked on Bridge St many moons ago and it is one of my favourite streets in Cork, a little self-contained universe including Cork Coffee Roasters Café, one of the very best coffee shops in the country. Star Anise, too, has become another valuable member of that community,  it is a rare gift to be able to create a feeling of real welcome. And Star Anise has that gift.

http://www.examiner.ie/weekend/foodandwine/added-value-183256.html