Tag Archives: balsamic vinegar

Review: Taste of Dublin

On Friday evening last, Elly and myself hopped on a bus and headed into Dublin city centre to catch the Taste of Dublin Festival in the Iveagh Gardens. I have to say it was a gorgeous venue which added to the tasting experience no end.

It was our first visit to Taste and we were both pretty excited, which of course meant that we were early and ended up standing around with a lot of other people queueing to enter and trying to spot any celebs passing down the VIP lane, there were none (at least that we recognised).

Bang on time the gates opened and people started to flood in past the jazz band inside the entrance and on to see what the first stand had on offer. No freebies that we saw but a couple of glasses of prosecco with added strawberry were purchased to help get us in the mood. I was a little disappointed at being asked for more cash so soon after entering the festival (hey, I’m a tight fisted Irishman after all;)) but I needn’t have worried because for the next 20 minutes we were plied with more free samples than it was possible to consume even at the slow pace we were able to move past each of the stands.

Both Elly and myself had done a bit of forward planning with a list of “must sees” some that we both wanted to see/try and some “solo” events. First on both our lists was Gino D’Acampo‘s Cookery demonstration, albeit for different reasons :)

Gino D'Acampo
Gino D'Acampo's Cookery Demonstration

I have to hand it to Gino, his showmanship and stage craft were second only to his cooking and he’s obviously done a few of these demonstration things before. With the assistance of some audience members he started into preparing a courgette pasta dish, which looked and smelled fantastic. I was a little surprised to see him using dried pasta, however the rest of the dish was prepared entirely while the spaghetti was cooking so this firmly falls into the realm of a “quick and easy” dinner.

Gino (again with audience participation) also prepared a tiramisu, but more on that tomorrow 😉

At this point Elly and I began operation “divide and conquer”. To be fair Elly wanted to do a wine tasting demonstration that I was less than enthusiastic about, so I left her to sample the wines and I toddled off for a look around some of the other stalls to pass the time until the Ballymaloe Cookery School “class” that we had booked into was due to kick off.

Elly’s wine tasting Session:
The Edward Dillon Wine Experience was one of my must-sees at the festival and I was lucky enough to roll up just as a class started. They had different sessions on throughout the weekend, and on Friday evening it was “The Modern White Wine Styles of Rosemount“. A fast talking Australian shipped over specially from the vineyard was our host for the session and he rapidly walked us through 4 wines from their diamond label, starting with a peppery little pinot grigio. This was definitely an easy-drinking summer wine and he went on to explain that they had designed the wine to be so easy and light that you’d finish a bottle in one session!

Moving on through the wines we then tasted a Semillion Sauvignon, which was not to my liking as it was just too acidic for my palate. I started sipping ahead at this point and correctly guessed that the next two on offer were Chardonnays, easy to tell from their buttery texture. Wine 4 seemed to be a lot richer and more complex when wine 3, and this was confirmed when we were told that wine 4 was their Show Reserve Hunter Valley Chardonnay, which is oak-aged. Overall it was a fun little tasting session and really showed off the different characteristics of their white wines.

Portabella Mushrooms With Basil Pesto and Balsamic Vinegar
Portabella Mushrooms With Basil Pesto and Balsamic Vinegar

The Ballymaloe cookery class was an excellent introductory lesson in food preparation, that I thoroughly enjoyed. It began with a full demonstration of how to prepare “Portabella Mushrooms with Basil Pesto and Balsamic Vinegar” and we were then divided into groups, each group member was given their own task to perform and then all were brought together to “plate up”. All good fun and great to get another perspective on pesto, which seems to be very “of the moment” considering every food event I’ve been to this year has had at least one demo of someone making pesto or a pesto variation.

Once the meals were plated, we were directed to nearby tables and chairs to eat. I have to admit I had “sampled” most of the ingredients while in the class and was a little dubious as to how it was all going to come together, but it did and was absolutely delicious. I now have a first hand understanding of why Ballymaloe has the reputation it has.

After this we wandered through the various stalls tasting the samples and purchased a number of the sample signature dishes. The stand outs for me were the “Panang Gai” from Diep le Shaker, ely‘s “Organic Burren Beef Burger” and Eatery 120‘s “Chocolate Soup with Tahitian Vanilla Bean Ice Cream”

The last of these three stood out for all the wrong reasons. I’m not sure what I was expecting from this dish but the positively ordinary tasting chocolate sauce with a melon ball sized scoop of bland vanilla ice cream left me regretting the purchase and with a very much less than favourable impression of Eatery 120. Maybe I just picked the wrong dish but if you’re going to pitch yourself as a fine dining experience then you should make sure that all your dishes are spectacular in each of their areas and this simply was not.

Now that said, both Diep le Shaker and ely are on my list of must visits for exactly the opposite reason. Stunning Taste sensations both of them.

Elly’s Picks:
I was lucky with my restaurant taster picks at the festival, as none of them let me down, except on pricing! After paying €20 in, if you taste 4 tapas-sized portions and drink 2 glasses of wine you’re lucky to get away for an additional €35. Leaving that aside, my first taste was the delicious Steak Frite with Bearnaise Sauce from The Saddle Room. I’d seen a review earlier in the day which had whetted my appetite for this, and it was yummy.

Balzac were up next, serving a tasty Foie Gras & Chicken Liver Caramel with Raisins & Pedro Ximenez. This was served with little bread toasts to spread the dish on. I quickly ran out of bread toasts, but the restaurant won me over when they happily provided me with some more for no extra charge. My final taste of the day was the one I had really been waiting for; Roasted Scallop, Confit Duck, Summer Squash Puree & Foie Gras Lollipops from Salon des Saveurs. From the first bite I was hooked, the scallop was cooked to perfection, the duck confit was pure melt-in-your-mouth goodness and foie gras lollipop studded with crushed nuts added a wonderful creamy note. You won’t believe it though, but the simple summer squash puree served with this dish was the real scene-stealer! Overall, Salon des Saveurs was the winner for me, and hopefully I’ll get a full dinner there before long!

I’d like to be able to sum up my experience at Taste in an overwhelmingly positive way, but there are two things that really impacted negatively on the experience for me. The crowd and the cost.

To explain, the crowd was ridiculous. In places you couldn’t move without bumping into people. No big deal at a trade fair but at a food fair where people had plates of food in their hands – not so good! It seemed to be partly down to the layout, a lot of the vendor stalls were crammed into one small area while larger open spaces went un-utilised. Either that or the tickets had simply been over sold. Whatever the reason I’m not sure how you can be expected to enjoy food while you’re being jostled about, even a plastic fork hurts when it gets rammed into the roof of your mouth by accident.

As for the cost I’m inclined to agree with Consumed Foodie because apart from the cost of the ticket Elly and myself spent about €100 between us on food and wine. Now, if we went out for a meal and spent that much, I’d be confident that I wouldn’t be thinking of eating again as I left the premises.

Then of course the festival is about more than the eating and considering the price of admission, there was plenty available by way of demonstrations and information to make it worthwhile, just not as a substitute for an evening meal. Will I be going again?

Well, of course, except next time I’ll plan to have a meal either before or after the event 😉

Recipe: Caramelised Onion Chutney

Caramelised Onion Chutney
Caramelised Onion Chutney

Ingredients;

6 x medium white onions sliced in half moons
Balsamic vinegar
Olive oil

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This is another one of those recipes that’s not so much a recipe as a way of creating something supremely tasty from only three ingredients plus time and some heat.

Get a large pan or saucepan onto a high heat. Allow the pan to heat fully before adding a lug of olive oil, turning the heat down and adding all the chopped onions. Stir them well until the heat has gone down in the pan and they stop sizzling.

Next cover the pan of onions and leave over a very low heat for thirty to forty five minutes, stirring occasionally, until all the liquid has disappeared. Now add a glug of a good balsamic vinegar, stir this in and leave it for ten minutes until this too has disappeared and repeat this last step again, adding more Balsamic Vinegar, stir it in well and leave over a low heat until all the liquid has evaporated.

Now you’re ready to serve, hot over a freshly cooked burger or steak; or if you allow this to cool it can be stored in a refrigerated, sterilised glass jar for about a month, to be used cold on sandwiches or salads or reheated.

Recipe: Clearing out the bits salad

Clearing out the bits Salad
Clearing out the bits Salad

Ingredients;

4 romain lettuce leaves
2 slices of chorizo
Small handful of mangetout
Small handful of sweetcorn
Some fresh thyme
Some fresh mint leaves
Small handful of dry roasted onion
Parmesan cheese
Vinaigrette dressing

Serves 1

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This isn’t so much a recipe as a way of thinking, the ingredients are completely flexible, depending on what you have available. So to start with, have a look in your fridge, presses and the garden (if you grow your own) to see what’s available.

In my case, there were some romain leaves, chorizo, parmesan, sweetcorn and mangetout in the fridge. Some dry roasted onion and vinaigrette dressing in the press and finally some fresh thyme and mint in the garden.

Once you’ve assembled your ingredients simply tear the romain leaves and chorizo slices onto a plate or salad bowl. Next, throw the mangetout over the top and scatter some sweetcorn.

Then finely chop the mint leaves and pick the thyme leaves, then sprinkle over the top. Take a few very fine slices of parmesan and crumble them over the rest. Sprinkle some dry roasted onions over and finally, drizzle some vinagarette over the lot to finish.

If you don’t have any vinegarette made up, simply drizzle a little extra virgin olive oil and balsamic vinegar over the salad to dress it.

It’s a great way to use up those odds and ends before they go off.

In the past I’ve used peppers, ham, chicken, turkey, salami, beansprouts, tomatoes and all manner of fresh herbs just because they were there. One of my favourite herb combinations I discovered by accident while making a salad in this way, fennel and mint, try it with a lemon or lime juice vinaigrette 😉

Recipe: Vinaigrette Dressing

Vinaigrette Dressing
Vinaigrette Dressing

Ingredients;

Extra virgin olive oil
Balsamic vinegar
Salt
Pepper
French mustard

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Vinaigrette dressings are very quick and simple to make and this recipe is a good “standard” dressing to learn. It’s ridiculously easy and quick to make and if you store it in the fridge will keep for about a month.

The secret of a vinaigrette is simple – three parts fat to one part acid with some mustard, salt and pepper to help the emulsifying.

Get a clean and preferably sterilised glass bottle and start by putting some balsamic vinegar in, fill it about an eighth of the way up.

Then add roughly three times as much extra virgin olive oil, followed by a pinch of salt and pepper. Lastly add a little French mustard.

Now seal the bottle and shake it for about a minute. Take a small taste and adjust the seasoning if needed. Now let it sit for about 10 minutes, if it starts to split into layers then add a little more mustard and repeat the process. All vinaigarettes will separate eventually but ideally you want one that stays emulsified for 10 minutes or so.

Store this in a cool dry place until you’re ready to use it. Then give the bottle a shake and drizzle lightly over your salad to serve.

The great thing about this recipe is that you can substitute so many different things, I regularly use lemon or lime juice instead of balsamic vinegar.

I’ve also been known to use some truffle oil or other flavoured extra virgin olive oils to give a little variety to the taste. It’s a great recipe to experiment with as you can come up with something that is completely unique to your tastes and preference.

I have to say I find that lemon juice really freshens the flavour of any salad and makes it something special for any occasion and in case you’re wondering it’s taken me far longer to type this recipe than it takes to make it, so have fun with it and if you find a combination you really like please let us know in the comments.

Recipe: Pan Fried Asparagus and Prawns

Pan fried Asparagus and prawns
Pan fried Asparagus and prawns

Ingredients;

200g packet of asparagus tips
100g king/tiger prawns
knob butter
15g parmesan, grated finely
balsamic vinegar

Serves 1

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In a small frying pan, add about 2cm deep of water and bring to the boil. Add the asparagus tips and cook for 2 mins.

Drain the water from the pan and add the butter. Once melted, add the prawns to the asparagus and butter, and cook for 2-3 mins max. Overcooked prawns will be tough and chewy and not very nice.

Once cooked, place on a heated plate and top with the parmesan and a drizzle of balsamic vinegar and eat immediately.