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Taste of Dublin, 12-15th June


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Taste of Dublin see here started today and it is bigger and mostly better than before. I was working at it today (Wine Australia stand) so here are some first impressions. No Thorntons this year but Chapter One will be there Sat. and Sun. and Bon Appetit are there all four days. Gordon Ramsey at Powerscourt makes his first appearance as do Lockes, Balzac, First Floor Harvey Nicks, Still at Dylan (hotel) and Alex (Conrad hotel).

This year the festival takes over the whole of the Iveagh Gardens giving lots of space and dispersing the crowds (unlike last year when everyone crowded into the small restaurant area leaving the other half empty). There seemed to be lots more wine and beer companies this year and the usual suspects at these events (boozeberries, hot irishman etc.).

So what can I recommend... Silk Road Cafe's Felafel in a wrap for six florins (1 florin = 1 euro), spicy tasty crispy felafal in a large wrap best taste of the day. Scampi at Venu is excellent, as is the slow cooked shoulder of lamb with beans at Bon Appetit. A little less successful was the Turkish Chicken at Silk Road Cafe - very lemony with rather dry rice and some lumps of tomato - not bad, just not as good as I thought it should be.

Disaster of the day has to be the 2 dishes I had at Gordon Ramsey at Powerscourt - foie gras yoghurt (just strange tasting) and awful scallop arancini (deep fried risotto balls) - dammned if I could find any trace of scallop other than perhaps a vague aroma. at least these last 2 were only 5 tokens each. Cellar Bar at the Merrion are back with their fish and chips and mushy peas (now an outrageous 8 florins but still a large queue given that they are quite tasty).

Weather was a little chilly today but there was a good atmosphere. Music is much improved from last year with wandering Classical quartets and Trios and good bands belting playing blues soul and Led Zeppelin covers.

Freebies to watch out for include bottles of tropicana, magnum ice creams, strawberries (from Superquinn I think), and one of my favourite tastes of the day - a large lump of roast duck with a generous amount of crispy skin from Silver Hill ducks. Also should mention the girls at barrys tea stand who gave me lots of peppermint tea. Avoid the starbucks coffee as usual (nasty nasty bitter and muddy - why cant they make decent cafetiere coffee - I learned to do this aged about 14??)

Caught some of Clodagh McKennas demo and she was charming and quite witty. She baked a whole gubbeen with rosemary and garlic (v. tasty) and rolled some aubergines around some St. Tola cheese. Gino D'Acampo (regular on ready steady cook apparantly) was also doing a demo and trying to charm the women with his italian accent (it sort of worked). food he cooked was so so.

spotted only one sea bass and one slow roast belly of pork so a little more diversity in the food this year. lots more to try tomorrow and I will try to report back.

PS: Avoid the VIP tickets as apparantly all you get is a glass or two of champagne and a place to sit down away from all the restaurants and food outlets (why pay all that money to avoid the main reason for going there?).

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Day 2... first a word on the wine stalls. nothing that would be called exciting but you could while away an hour (and get pissed if you wanted) in the O'Briens Tent where you pay 10 euro to do a tour of about 20 of their suppliers. many of their winemakers are over so there are good conversations to be had - had a good chat with Mr. Ascheri about his fab hotel in Bra (where I stayed at the last slow food Salone). I like their nebbiola d'alba a lot and they are making a decent effort with their barolos at a fair price. their modern and v. cool hotel is above the winery and beside their agri tourismo restaurant so in theory you never have to leave. I digress. I confess that I havent done much of a survey of the wine stands as there are mostly commercial wines on show. there are a couple of no-name burgundy producer/negocients with stands and there are the usual promotional stands from wines of Bordeaux and wines of chile (and ourselves). berry bros have a couple of ok wines and Mitchells have some good producers but there are far too many crappy importers with big stands and no-name wines. Good beer is available from Premier beers (beside the wine australia stand) with a few trappists (chimay and la trappe) and others. Best to focus on the food.

so today i had a couple of Jaipur dishes (a fried chicken and a prawn dish) which were not earth shattering but suited the bottle of red chimay I blagged from premier beers on a swap for a couple of glasses of Lindemans sauvignon blanc.

Liked the lamb brochette from Venu a lot (v. similar to the dish served in the restaurant) - lamb was crispy on the outside and pink in the middle.

king scallop with black pudding and a pea foam (I think) from Bon Appetit was excellent. Black pudding and apple tart tatin on Lockes stand was far too sweet but I did eat it all up so I shouldnt complain too much.

Feta and spinach parcel from Silk Road Cafe was fine but no match for their falafal (see above).

Had some excellent murphys ice cream (from Dingle) and a good chat with the valrhona girls at the same stall - bad news is they are re-designing the Trinidad single estate Gran Couvo (my favourite chocolate) to bring it from the perfect 75g to 100g (presumably so they can charge more).

Scored some air dried connemara lamb from James McGeogh of Oughterard and some mossfield organic cheese from Ralph Haslam from Birr. both these products are amazing and should be sought out if you have never tried them. The air dried lamb is a world class product imo. Also the craft butchers today had excellent sausages and even better fresh blood pudding from Maguires of Ashbourne.

Should also say that the extra space really improves the event for the punters but there will be complaints from the stall holders as the extra space means less foot fall. Wouldn't like to be relying on selling enough to make a profit.

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Thanks for the wine update. I like Ascheri ,particularly the dolcetto, but it seems a wasted opportunity in particular given O'Briens and BBR's arsenal of suppliers. A masterclass, Antinori, Lafon, Bertani would have made the ticket worth the money. :raz:

Edited by augustine (log)
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Scored some air dried connemara lamb from James McGeogh of Oughterard and some mossfield organic cheese from Ralph Haslam from Birr.  both these products are amazing and should be sought out if you have never tried them.  The air dried lamb is a world class product imo.

Connemara is a beautiful place, I stay at the Quay House at Clifden with the family once a year or so.

Anyway, just wanted to say that airdried lamb is indeed an outstanding product. Farmer Sharp from Lancashire has been hawking an airdried mutton around for a good few years and it is absolutely wonderful - sweet, musky, and suck-through-your-teeth tasty. In my eyes it should have won the NWFF product of the year gong the year before last.

Cheers

Thom

It's all true... I admit to being the MD of Holden Media, organisers of the Northern Restaurant and Bar exhibition, the Northern Hospitality Awards and other Northern based events too numerous to mention.

I don't post here as frequently as I once did, but to hear me regularly rambling on about bollocks - much of it food and restaurant-related - in a bite-size fashion then add me on twitter as "thomhetheringto".

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just to round off the post... I didnt work on sat but it was reasonably busy day by all accounts. rained on sunday evening which dampened things a bit but there was a fantastic cuban band playing during most the rain which took the edge off and helped the mood (plus during the obligatory Guantanamera I think I heard the singer drop in "free guantanamo" along with the chorus. I like a little politics with my food.).

In conclusion, this was a good festival for the punter and any restaurant offering decent food should have broken even or made a profit and got some good publicity However people there to make money such as small producers that took a risk on selling enough product to make a profit would have struggled as the event was too spread out.

Standard admission was 40 euro including 20 euro worth of tokens so for 80 euro entry plus say 30 euros of extra vouchers you could have a good four hours of food and drink, a bit of a dance and a chat with some interesting people. plus if you were irish you were bound to know someone on one of the stalls to get you some extra freebies. I spoke to one prominent chef/prop. and he was v. happy - he enjoyed being out of his kitchen for a few days, made a small profit, made some friends with potential customers (he gave away a lot of free food) and generally enjoyed himself despite a few whingers. I felt much the same.

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Thanks for all the reports ljr. I was away, so missed the whole thing. Did Mint take a stand? I saw Dylan McGrath's pic in some of the pre-publicity (Saturday's Indo I think), but Mint is not listed on the Taste website.

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Thanks for all the reports ljr. I was away, so missed the whole thing. Did Mint take a stand? I saw Dylan McGrath's pic in some of the pre-publicity (Saturday's Indo I think), but Mint is not listed on the Taste website.

no Mint. pity really as he would have stood out. no l'Ecrivain either despite Derry's pic on the website and the supplement in the indo.

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