John McKenna gets a sneak preview of The Cava Cookbook, published this week.
John McKenna enjoys the shifting plates as Belfast's James Street South changes livery and style.
John McKenna tunes in to Enda McEvoy's culinary fugue and variations in Loam
John McKenna reviews maverick books by maverick people
Aoife Cox delights in The Canteen That Could
John McKenna waits patiently for a table at Bakestone
It's just before one o'clock at Bakestone, it's a Wednesday in late wintertime, and there are no tables to be had in the restaurant.
“Sorry, tables are all full” explain the busy girls behind the counter. You might expect people to start leaving the queue, but no one does. Instead, we wait, trays in hand, and use the time to finally decide what it is we want to eat for lunch. Roasted cauliflower tart? Sausage-meat pie? Chicken sandwich on Arbutus bread?
Northern Ireland is succumbing to the coffee revolution, fast. Portia Preston tries to decide between the chemex and the aeropress in three vital destinations.
A good room. A good chef. No wonder Balfe's seems to have an aura about it, an air of busy confidence, despite having only six weeks trading under its handsome belt.
Both the room and the chef, Cathal Dunne, have an implicit understanding of restraint. The room is quite lovely – dark, lush banquettes; marble-topped tables; gleaming white tiles; an open kitchen, and a bar that yells “Pull up a stool, now!” at you – all add up to a space that exerts a primal pull.
How I Do It:
Kevin Murphy of idás, Dingle, County Kerry
Here's the sort of note that people send us after they've paid a visit to visit to idás, in Dingle:
“So worth a visit, had super food there this summer. Truly well judged. Best meal in a while.”
Kevin Murphy's food has won almost unanimous acclaim, and his culinary confidence is growing all the time, witness, for instance, the fact that one of his Sunday lunch dishes is “Cumin-roasted cauliflower steak, cauliflower and dal purées, roast beets and squash, herb shoots”
The Slow Food movement is a bit of a mystery in Ireland, sometimes even to the people involved in it. Its not organic and its not fairtrade – although they are certainly encouraged. So having eliminated the things it is not what is left?
My second visit to the Slow Food Terra Madre event in Turin (held bi-annually every October) helped me finally reach a better understanding.