Archive for the ‘food’ Category

The Fever-Tree of Milk: if two thirds of your coffee is the milk, wouldn’t you want it to be the best?

Friday, January 18th, 2019


I’m always fascinated by the idea of work and craft. How a restaurant gets a Michelin Star and gets a second or a third. Getting your suppliers to grow old strains of grains, to breed certain strains of birds etc. This piece on the hard work and obsession with ingredients is inspiring. And Cork has a story just like that now thanks to Mews restaurant in Baltimore. Everything is local, as organic as they can find and everything has a purpose.

“If you stick to your vision and don’t compromise then you reap the rewards and the first step is the Michelin star. We knew what we were doing. We wanted to be one of the best restaurants in the country.”

I’ve eaten in a few Michelin Stars and some would blow you away with the work involved in dishes, for others I genuinely question how they were special and how they got an awards for anything more than media mentions. Nothing remarkable food wise and service only so so. Earlier there was the wonderful story of a father and son team growing real Wasabi in Ireland, something that’s even hard to grow in native Japan. The work involved in getting this to grow in Irish soil and in Irish weather shows real dedication. Already the top restaurants are asking to use it. This is a perfect match.

It was in Chapter One that Ed Jolliffe told me the story of Fever-Tree Gin and recommended it to me when I was having some Dingle Gin. Local! I loved the story and their pitch “if three quarters of your G&T is the tonic, wouldn’t you want it to be the best? “ So they went around the world getting the best natural ingredients. Then the bit I really loved – they targeted the best restaurants and best hotel bars who they probably knew would love to get something of this quality to pass on to their customers.

Sourcing local well reared meats, well caught fish, well grown veg is a big thing for this restaurant and some of the best ones around. Every piece of a meal has an origin story. You see and are told the work that goes in to presenting this to you. I remember at some point a desert was described where hot juice from apples was dropped into an ice bath to form little pure beads that was one minor part of the dish. Impressive.

The idea of owning and controlling the whole stack, like how Apple controls everything, both the hardware and the software but not just buying in the parts but dictating how the glass is made in the phones, designing their own chips to their spec, where the materials come from and having them made sometimes using machines they designed. Every single detail. I like that, compared to a fucking pickle on a stone I got in another Irish restaurant. Let the food speak for itself not go-faster-stripe bullshit. Shit coffee but the mugs were amazing yeah?

I see good restaurants do more and more of this as they have the swagger and purchasing power to do this even to the degree that the salt and pepper, the butters are special compared to what you’d normally get. Everything is examined to see can improvements be made. Teas and coffees were some of the last elements to be changed but this is changing. Special teas, bespoke roasted coffee blends. So coffee then…

It makes me think what can be improved in coffee and all the new intense-about-what-they-do coffee shops. I see all these coffee shops and some are roasting their own beans but yet you look at the milk and it’s the same milk that everyone else uses. We’re so lucky in Ireland that our milk is great. But I was wondering why the main element in most coffees is not consistent or being controlled more? To reuse Fever-Tree’s question: “if two thirds of your coffee is the milk, wouldn’t you want it to be the best? “

I remember being told how in LA bagel and pizza places would install special filters to mimic New York water that makes NY bagels the best. All to make sure everything is perfect. It wasn’t fully the water it seems though.

So what about the milk, what milk gives the best cappuccino, gives the best flat white? There is some research about milk with higher protein count and fat count giving a better taste. Yes yes soya milk and oat milk is popular too but people still go for ordinary milk in big amounts. Here’s the story of a crowd in the UK looking at this and like so much coffee culture, Australia has been looking into this for a much longer time.

Ireland of all countries should be at the cutting-edge of this, we produce great milk, cheese and anything dairy. We’re big into our bespoke dairy farms too so why not bespoke milk for our coffees that we seem to be consuming in bigger and bigger amounts? Start your milkers!


Service – Lessons from Restaurant Patrick Guilbaud

Saturday, November 12th, 2011

I was lucky enough to have lunch in Restaurant Patrick Guilbaud a few weeks back. €48 a pop for a three course lunch with the usual teas and coffees and Petits Fours included too. Speaking of which:

Patrick Guilbaud Petits fours

The food was stunning, as it would be from a two star Michelin restaurant. What really marks it out for me is the service. The service in restaurants that know they’re special is non-intrusive, warm and not at all pretentious. I’ve been to restaurants where the staff think they and their workplace are special and have a snotty attitude towards everyone. Normally this gives them validation to have sloppy service, serving up variations of chicken currys. They’re the “it” place for a blip in time and love the attention of the fickle public. Guilbaud’s, Chapter One, Thornton’s, Cliffhouse Hotel and other Michelin-like restaurants almost seem timeless inside their doors. They’ll keep doing what they do to an amazing standard no matter the weather or economic climate outside their doors.

All the staff in Guilbaud’s appear to be French and it seems obvious they are drilled as if they were in the military. With their black tux like uniforms you sometimes see the room flowing with black and white as they go about their work. Dishes are served with panache, on silver trays, covered with silver covers that are removed at the exact same time for everyone. Nice flair. No clapping allowed! Well, we didn’t. In between courses someone with a silver crumber in the shape of a razor fish comes along to wipe the crumbs off the table. If you leave the table, someone is over to reposition your chair and refold your napkin. Tempting to do a Homer Simpson “lights go on, lights go off” type situation with getting up every few minutes.

I think any business that works in the service industry (and I think anyone that works with the public is such a company) would learn a lot about providing good customer care from dining at this restaurant. Everything seems to flow easily but you know tradition, training and thought have gone into everything. Every detail has been considered and whether you think this makes everything artificial or not, it still makes you appreciative. I was reminded of the Steve Jobs biography and how obsessive he was about everything. Not that I have read it but every second paragraph from it appears to have been quoted online already.

So yes, food, here’s a surprise starter and the main course of veal. Surprise starter, starter, main course, desert, petitis fours and espresso came to €48 which for the food alone was worth it but the service we received will stay with me and inspire me to try and be that good with my own business. From communications, to product, to presentation of the product to (the hardest bit) making all of this seamless. Thanks Guildbaud’s.

Guilbaud Surprise starter

Guilbaud Veal

On that, the Restaurant Patrick Guildbaud has a book celebrating the first 30 years and it retails at €50. Profits will go to The Irish Hospice Foundation. Available at Avoca stores, Brown Thomas, Dubray Books, Fallon & Byrne, House of Frasier, The Irish Hospice Foundation and the restaurant itself at 21 Upper Merrion Street. The book is quite beautiful.

Mulley in Donegal next week

Friday, October 1st, 2010

Mediabox have booked me to do a “social media” seminar in Donegal on Thursday. And it’ll be with a castle in the backdrop. Glenveagh National Park’s Visitor Centre is where it takes places. Well done to Joanne and crew for putting together the seminar and charging people sfa for it too. Seminar and lunch is €65 and a tour of the castle.

And of course I’ll have to try the food at Harry’s.

Bacon Explosion with Irish Pork

Monday, July 5th, 2010

Heart attack on a plate. Worth it. So we decided to make an Irish Pork Bacon Explosion last weekend. My friend Jonathan did all the work while I took photos.

Streaky bacon weaved together

Sausage meat plastered on top

Barbecue sauce put on that

Cooked bacon bits sprinkled on top

Rolled and then weaved

That Irish Food Blogger Event

Saturday, May 22nd, 2010

Organised by Donal Skehan and facilitated by Bord Bia, the Irish Food Bloggers event last Thursday was superb. It was great to be there, even if toast is the best thing I can er cook.

It was fantastic too to meet so many of the food bloggers I’ve been reading for years. More blogs too to add to I was going to call Caroline the grand dame of Irish food bloggers but she’s far far too young for that. She has a great summary of the day, a good deal of which comprised of Irish Pork. I think it would be good to have regular foodie blogger get togethers and get such creative talent (both in the kitchen and on their blogs) to network more.

Lorraine Fitzmaurice of Blazing Salads kicked off the practical demos and showed how to make spelt bread and miso pesto.


Then came Pat Conway from GMIT on butchering some Irish Pork. I think his demo was a favourite of many, well except the poor veggies having to watch as he showed the art form of butchery. I got up close and recorded him doing his magic, ten minute video embedded:


Maire Dufficy of Bord Bia then did some cookery demos with various types of Irish pork, minced pork was new to me. This demo was tough as it was nearing lunch and the smell wafting through the room was a killer for most people.

I was up next to talk briefly on marketing your blog and suggested (selfishly as I was starving now) we move me to after lunch but the kitchen wasn’t ready, so I wittered on fo 10 mins about marketing and getting yourself attention.

Then lunch, guess what we had? And then dessert:

Eoin Purcell from Green Lamp Media then gave a great quick talk on what publishers want and also what areas are underserved in the cooking book industry. Some brilliant tips were shared. One main takeaway is that a pre-existing audience and even a mailing list of blog readers makes selling books and getting a book deal a little easier.

After lunch there was a talk on food styling and photography from Erica Ryan and Jocasta Clarke. Eoin mentioned in his talk that food bloggers with great photos have an advantage in terms of book deals so this talk proved very valuable. Again, loads and loads of tips were shared.

And then some nice swag was given away as the day wrapped up.

The day was good in many ways, it brought the vibrant food blogger community together, some meeting each other for the first time. It gave Bord Bia a nice opportunity to meet opinion formers and sharers and to tell them about the quality processes around Irish pork. It also was a nice training day for people passionate about food allowing them to up their game. Hopefully there’ll be more of these events for food bloggers, I’d love to see a food fair showing off Irish produce to food bloggers for example. This event is a perfect example of earned media, with the likes of Bord Bia not marketing or broadcasting to a community but working with them and helping to enrichen it with knowledge.

Well done Donal and Bord Bia.

Demon Coffee

Sunday, January 31st, 2010

A demon in my coffee, taken on Friday last:
Demon Coffee

Chapter One – Not a review

Friday, January 22nd, 2010

More like a gushing of being bowled over by amazing food combinations. Yesterday I visited Chapter One restaurant for the first time and certainly not the last time. They deserve their Michelin Star. A big warm welcome, a big warm goodbye, genuine interest in making sure we enjoyed every second of the meal. From shaking our hands as we came in, to being asked was it our first time in the place by Martin (one of the owners) and interest in who we were, to telling us how the mousse was made (Soda streams have a home still!) to offering to call us a taxi, the experience was amazing. I thought beforehand which such a great reputation and high profile clientele that it might be intimidating but it was the complete opposite. It felt like we were family.

If you’re a bit obsessed with food as I am you might agree that good food and good surroundings can seriously change your mood for hours and days. We giggled all through the meal last night as it was so good and tickled all parts of our palettes. We were stuffed after all the food too so decided to walk around town for a bit and we were still smiling and laughing and even this morning I was in a damned good move.

And they now have the Chef’s table where you can sit in the kitchen and sample everything at a special table. We got a quick tour last night of it. Birthday, here I come!

Yes, it’s expensive but I have to say in terms of the food I’ve had so far in my life, it was value for money.

Food porn pics from a dodgy iPhone, in real life they looked amazing, never mind that they tasted better again:

Starter was: Duck sausage, fricasse of lentil, egg poached in red wine, horseradish cream

Main was: Rump of wild venison, mushroom pithivier, creamed cabbage, pickled walnuts and raisins, sauce grand veneur

Desert was: Warm chocolate mousse, caramel jelly, espresso mousse, lime ice cream and honeycomb

With the tea came chocolates:

A low-cost hotel means more money for food

Tuesday, December 15th, 2009

So I’m in Galway and I’m staying in Flannery’s hotel. 40 quid a night at the moment and a fairly decent WiFi connection. Given I’m here on business, I have a daily budget for accommodation and food. With the money saved on the hotel I’m spending it on food. Once again I went to Cava tonight and for 30 quid got some tapas which comprised of:

Gazpacho soup:

Salted cod cakes with lemon mayonnaise:

Lamb’s heart with pork and chorizo:

oh and pistachio ice cream:

and Flannery’s has been refurbished the past few years so comfortable spacious rooms aplenty. After forking over €150 for rooms in some dodgy London hotels, this is a steal. And I won’t apologise for the constant foodporn people see on my Facebook.

Ireland’s sweet tooth

Sunday, December 13th, 2009

Some facts from the Business Post today:

  • Ireland’s chocolate market is the 12th biggest in Europe and is Britain’s biggest confectionery export market.
  • Cadbury’s Dairy Milk has been Ireland’s favourite chocolate for more than 75 years, bought by more than 60% of the population and is Ireland’s number one confectionery brand.
  • The Mars Bar is the number one filled bar.
  • Maltesers is the number one cinema brand.
  • Tayto holds a 28.4 per cent share of the crisps market.
  • King Crisps holds an 11.6 per cent share of the crisps market and is the number one crisp by pack sales in the capital.
  • Hunky Dorys is the number one crinkle cut crisp, with a 13.4 per cent share of the market.
  • Harvest Fare is Ireland’s leading nut range.
  • Doritos and Sensations are number one and number two sharing bags in Ireland.
  • The gum and mints market is worth €53.4 million annually, with Wrigley holding a 76.5 per cent value share.
  • Nestlé Rowntree is the number one brand in impulse sugar confectionery.

I love the terminology used.

Peppermint Everything Cupcake
Photo owned by norwichnuts (cc)

Good Mood Food – The book launch on Oct 21st

Thursday, October 15th, 2009

Wednesday the 21st of October, Dubray Books on Grafton St., Dublin.

Donal Skehan from The Good Mood Food blog is launching his fantastic book on healthy eating/cooking next week. If you’re about pop in and say hello to him.

Mercier Press invite nicked from Donal’s blog:
Good Mood Food