Tag Archives: Restaurant

Are you a food tourist?

I have no problem in admitting that a fair chunk of my decision-making process, when it comes to a place to visit on holiday, has to do with the food that is on offer. As an example, our recent holiday took in both Amsterdam and Copenhagen.

Deepfried Zuchini Flower, Buffalo Mozz, Salad of Faro and Pea Shoots
Deepfried Zuchini Flower, Buffalo Mozz, Salad of Faro and Pea Shoots

Amsterdam is a city that both myself and Elly love, we got engaged there and have had some fantastic breaks there over the years. Every time we visit, we seem to find more and more things to do. Not least of these is the food. On our recent trip we ate in all sorts of locations, Restaurants, Cafes, street vendors you name it. we sampled cuisines as diverse as Argentine, Italian, Greek, French, Egyptian, euro organic and Chinese. I really couldn’t say a bad word about the food or the service we received in any of these places. Prices were reasonable and reflected the meals served very well.

Potato Gnocchi with Gorgonzola
Potato Gnocchi with Gorgonzola

We did have one negative experience on the morning we decided to get breakfast in a touristy cafe, you know the type of place big menu with everything from an English breakfast through to pancakes and waffles. We sat for 10 minutes while staff member after staff member walked passed ignoring us until we got up, pushed our way past the staff blocking the exit (while having a chat) and went across the street and had breakfast elsewhere. The service staff really didn’t care about their customers at all, they didn’t even apologise or bother to ask why we were leaving, I almost went back to look for the manager, but I was on holiday so why bother with the stress and frustration, the staff have to take their lead from somewhere, right?

Perfectly rare steak
Perfectly rare steak

Copenhagen was chosen as a destination because Primus, a band that I have been a fan of most of my life, were playing their first European tour in over a decade and we missed out on the tickets for the Amsterdam gig as they sold out in minutes. Apart from that, the “best restaurant in the world” Nemo is located there, so there has to be a knock-on effect on all the restaurants in the city, right?

Maybe it was the lack of familiarity with the city but we didn’t find it as easy to locate restaurants as we do in Amsterdam, with a notable exception of a fantastic little cafe/restaurant we stumbled on, which was filled with organic, vegetarian and vegan foods as well as meat dishes for us omnivores. What really made this place for me, was that  you could see pots of fresh herbs growing all over the place and a lot of the vegetables were actually grown within walking distance and were literally harvested to order for whatever dish was being prepared.

For Food's sake logo

Ireland has a fantastic reputation abroad as a food producer, particularly so when it comes to artisan products, but would you describe Ireland as a destination for a food tourist? Could we eat our way out of the current “trouble”?

This is the question being posed to the panel at “For Food’s Sake III”, a regular bi-monthly evening of food talk and tastings. I’ve missed the previous events but will be there with bells on this time and I’m really looking forward to an interesting discussion about this large and growing part of the tourism and food industries in this country.

The event is taking place in The Sugar Club this Thursday 28 July at 7 pm and full details can be found here. I’ll be there barring any disasters, so please feel free to say hello if you decide to come along.

More Pizza

A few Weeks back, I did a post about and highlighted some of my favourite pizza places in Dublin. Since then I’ve visited a few more and want to add to that post a little.

In particular I want to mention two restaurants; one fantastic and the other a bit of a let down. I like to finish my posts on an upside whenever possible so I’ll start with the disappointment.

Milano was the most recent addition to my summer long search for good Italian style pizza in Ireland. I should point out 2 things before I go too far into this, the first is that it was the restaurant in Temple Bar that we visited and secondly we were there as a result of a special offer they had advertised, which allowed us a Pizza for €0.15 with every main course ordered.

The initial impression was quite good as the restaurant was busy when we arrived and even though we had not booked in advance I was pleasantly surprised that we were seated immediately. We were given menus and allowed plenty of time to make our choices but not so much as to make us feel neglected. Our orders were taken, two starters, two main courses (both pizzas) and two drinks, a Peroni for myself and wine for Elly.

It was when the drinks arrived things started to go wrong. Our waiter poured my beer at the table which would have been nice except for it was a terrible pour and if that wasn’t bad enough the beer had only been in a cooler for a few minutes before serving, judging by the temperature, but it was drinkable and I wouldn’t even be mentioning it if the rest of the service had been good.

The starters weren’t exactly earth shattering and to be honest given the descriptions on the menu I was expecting more. Then there was the extended wait between courses. During which I spotted the carton of bechamel sauce in the kitchen area of the restaurant. Now call me a food snob, but if I’m in a restaurant I don’t expect to be eating processed food!

When our pizzas did arrive my regular pizza was small and unusually thick based for an Italian pizza, Elly’s thin base option was rolled so thin that it couldn’t support the moisture of the sauce and was a bit soggy and limp while somehow managing to be difficult to cut and chewy.

We were availing of a rather good special offer which meant that at least we didn’t over pay, but having now sampled Milano’s fair I can say with confidence that there are at least three other restaurants (Bar Italia, Botticelli and Le Med) within 100 yards that will serve you better pizza and for less than the regularly priced menu in Milano.

So that’s enough about them, the other restaurant that we visited recently was Pregos in the Ballyowen Shopping centre, Lucan‎. As they don’t seem to have a website they can be contacted on 01 610 9119 (Location Map)‎.

I’ve heard a lot about Pregos and have been eager to try it out as it’s close to home and has a good reputation locally. From the outside you could be forgiven for thinking that Pregos was a pizza take-away/delivery place on closer inspection you see that there is a restaurant upstairs, so in we went and up the stairs to one side of the counter where we were greeted by an Italian waiter and cosy little restaurant space with seating for about 40 people.

After a very brief wait while a table was cleared for us we were seated. We were not made to feel rushed at any time and the only hitch we encountered was with the bottle of wine we initially ordered as it was out of stock but a very pleasant alternative was suggested (with a little bit of local knowledge from our waiter sealing the deal) and greatly enjoyed. The service was quick and attentive without making us feel rushed at all. Both our starters and main course were fantastic. The pasta was great and the presentation simple but effective.

While we were enjoying our meal I spotted some Pizzas being delivered to other tables and was a little disappointed that I had decided to be a grown up and order pasta instead, not that there was anything wrong with the pasta just that the pizzas looked that good.

As we left the restaurant that evening there was a queue of people on the stairs waiting to be seated and as we walked home I realised that at no point had any seat in the restaurant been empty for more than a few minutes in the time we were there, and I fully understand why, the food is simply superb.

The following evening neither myself or Elly felt like cooking so we telephoned a take-away order in and drove round to collect our pizzas. They really didn’t disappoint, the bases were thin, crisp and a little bubbly with really fresh toppings and cooked quickly in a pizza oven. The only negative I can give is that the Pizza oven was not wood fired which really does add the final touch to the flavour but even without this Pregos’ pizzas are exceptional. If you happen to find yourself in Lucan then do treat yourself, you really won’t regret it.

Proper Pizza

As most of the regulars know, I have a bit of a thing for Pizza. Over the years I’ve eaten all sorts and types you can think of. A lot of my love for Pizza stems from one pizzeria that alas no longer exists but back in the late eighties it was the standard that I judged all others by and if you are of that age and ever ate in Fat Freddy’s Pizzeria in Temple Bar you’ll know exactly what I mean.

Picture of an authentic Neapolitan Pizza Margherita
Image via Wikipedia

Since it closed down I’ve tried everything from those frozen ones in the supermarkets, through most of the American styles until I discovered Domino’s in the mid nineties and from then on whenever I thought of Pizza I would think of Domino’s.

Not because they were the best but more because they were consistent and only a phone call away almost any time of the day or night. When hunger strikes, Domino’s to the rescue.! Those guys on the mopeds were like superheroes to me.

Even at a point in my life when I was eating Domino’s 3 or 4 nights a week I knew there was better, proper pizza out there. My problem was that sometimes it would be great and others times it would be so-so and others just plain awful and all from the same restaurant. I think the reason for the difference was more to do with the delivery drivers than the chef, to be fair, but why risk it when you know exactly what you’ll get from Domino’s and you know that it will be okay every time.

Dick and Dave's Wood fired Pizza Co.
Dick and Dave's Wood fired Pizza Co.

Then a few years back, on holidays on the continent, I re-discovered proper Italian pizzas and I decided that the mediocrity of Domino’s was no longer enough for me. I still like their Pepperoni Passion, even now I’ll occasionally sneak a Domino’s order in every couple of months, but by and large I’ll eat Italian style pizzas when we’re out at an Italian restaurant and I do a pretty good Italian style pizza at home as well. I know it will never be as good as what I have eaten in Italy for a number of reasons, the principle ones being my lack of a 400+ degree stone oven and the lack of San Marzano tomatoes. But I’m happy in the knowledge that I’m as close as I can get at home.

When eating out, particularly recently, it’s become a little bit of an obsession for me, there are so many Italian restaurants in Dublin that seem to be highly regarded, so one has got to be close to if not matching a proper Italian pizza – or at the very least my teenage memory of Fat Freddy’s? right?

Well I’ve eaten a lot of pizzas recently and while La Med in temple bar had a nice sauce the bread was flat and obviously machine made, Botticelli (also in temple bar) is definitely a step up, the sauce is of a similar quality and the bread has the look of being handmade and certainly tastes superior, but it’s still a pale intimation of anything you would taste in Italy or even a reasonable Italian restaurant on the continent.

The best that I’ve had in a Dublin restaurant recently was Bar Italia on lower Ormond Quay, just across from the North end of the Millennium bridge. The evening in question we did not have a reservation and Italy were playing in the World Cup so we were grateful for the table and my pizza really surprised me by how good it was. Head and shoulders above La Med and Botticelli, but it still seemed to be lacking something and I’m at a loss to think of what it was.

Oddly the best tasting pizza I’ve had in Dublin recently did not come from a restaurant but a van, yup, Dick and Dave’s Wood-Fired Pizza Co. that I tasted at The Point Village Market when we visited a few weeks back. Both the base and the toppings were incredibly fresh and so tasty, my only criticism was the sauce, it was a little thin for my liking and this took away from the look of the pizza but still had great flavour. Was it as good as a pizza you would get in Italy, no, but it’s definitely the best that I have tasted in Dublin.

So do you have a favourite pizza place? If so tell us about it below.

Fruit on Pizza

I know a few people who think fruit on a Pizza is just plain wrong. Which is silly after all tomatoes are a fruit aren’t they?

Comune di Stezzano
Image via Wikipedia

But real fruit, like pineapple that’s a big no-no, well I just don’t agree I’m one of those people that loves fruit on a pizza and not just pineapple either.

What really opened the flood gates for me was a little restaurant that Elly and I discovered on our honeymoon and have returned to since, yup the one I mentioned in this previous post. It’s a family run Ristoranti and delivery service in the Italian town of Stezzano (just outside Bergamo) called ‘Da Michele’. There is a fantastic atmosphere, the staff are very friendly (the waiting staff got a real kick out of our attempts to speak Italian) and the food is incredible, without a shadow of a doubt my favourite Ristoranti in the entire world. If your Italian is up to it you can find out more by following this link.

Anyway, enough of me waffling on, the last time we were in Italy, Elly tried their Apple and Gorgonzola Pizza and she was raving so much about it, I was left with no choice but to swipe a slice :) and while I’m not the worlds greatest Gorgonzola fan, the combination of flavours on this pizza were so simple and well balanced I was tasked with re-creating it when we got home.

Now I’m no Jedi Pizza master so I was expecting this to be a very difficult job and while I haven’t matched the fantastic taste and elegance of the original, I’ve managed to come as close as I believe I can without access to the same local ingredients, Michele’s stone oven and recipe book. It wasn’t as difficult as I anticipated and we got it almost spot on at the first attempt.

So why not give this next recipe a try and let me know what you think.