And, now that Valerie has relocated back to her native Limerick, it turns out she has joined up with the most bloggerful group of food lovers you can find anywhere: The Limerick Food Bloggers. Check these guys out:
I finally met up with the Limerick bloggers for dinner during the week at Copper & Spice in Cornmarket Square. The food was fine as always, but, to be honest we could have just as easily gone to the pub, we just yakked and yakked, like women do, for hours. We left only because they were closing down the shutters. Mary T is gone to Oz for six months, Maz from Style Treaty was great to chat to, it was great to put a face to Lorraine from the Italian Foodies and Laura I already know.
But it isn't all Shannonside stuff for Valerie. Here is her report of a tremendous Saturday night in Dublin's iconic 101 Talbot.
When I called the 101 to make a booking I told Pascal, who took the call, that I had a choice between his restaurant and my friend's choice of Eden in Temple Bar. He chirpily told me that Eden was a fancier restaurant and that his wife Margaret goes there when she's off work. He also added that the food in 101 was "Good and reasonable and that the place had a great atmosphere". He went on to lament the fact that they hadn't spent any money doing it up since they opened seventeen years ago and that it could do with a bit of an update. I was in and intrigued.
When this place was opened back in the darkness of the early 90s Dublin was not the shining economic light that it is now. Surely they had no idea their place would be situated right beside the controversial "Spike" on O'Connell St, but it makes it easier to find as all you can see from the street is a little sign. You go up a simple staircase and open the door on what seems like the best party in town. The place is packed with diners chatting loudly and passionately and, it seems, enjoying their food heartily.
Yes the décor is basic; it's a throwback to the 90's when there was no style at all. The amphitheatre or disco layout of a drop in the middle of the floor breaks up the busy crowd. An exhibition of busy oil paintings of Dublin street scenes is crammed onto the walls; they even hang over the mirrors. It's feels like a proper city place, full of life. The tables and chairs are chosen for functionality and even the glasses are those small wine glasses you had in your college flat. The staff are young and funky with nothing but enthusiasm for the food. If they don't know something they will quickly find it out from someone who does.
The menu is generous with the staples of sirloin steak with garlic butter or whiskey cream sauce, slow roast shoulder of lamb, goat's cheese salad and more adventurous-than-usual sounding veggie options. I had pathetic intentions of having a light meal but chose the Crispy Pork Belly wrapped in Savoy Cabbage served with a plum and ginger sauce as my starter. It was a joy to behold on the plate. A perfect round mould was created from the bright green cabbage leaf, the pig was inside, and it sat contentedly in a bright pink pool of its sauce, like a pig in sauce. When I cut into it the cabbage still had plenty of bite, it and the pork were warm, and the pork was a little crispy and shredded into chunks. The cold sauce contrasted well with the meat and the vegetable to give a great contrast of flavours and textures, with a fruity almost oriental twist.
My date's choice (rather my second choice) of starter was the warm duck liver salad with roast pine-nut and balsamic dressing. The livers were very rare and deliciously tender, almost runny in the middle; I ate most of them as Date was a bit squeamish. The accompanying salad was a bit unimaginative but everything in it was fine and it worked with the livers, which don't need much dressing up anyway.
For mains I chose the char-grilled swordfish with smoked garlic and chilli butter. I was asked how I'd like it cooked, I went for medium. It came served simply on a bed of roasted baby new potatoes with its butter running down its sides. It was juicy and delicious, falling apart at the touch of my fork. The smoked garlic butter had none of the usual tang of garlic butter and didn't murder the fish's delicate flavours. My bowl of side salad was pretty standard with cucumbers, tomatoes and lettuce. The star of the show was the date's main of Pan Roast venison served with sautéed bacon and cabbage and redcurrant jus. The venison, cooked to medium, was melt in the mouth and so rich. It's dark red colour with pink centre oozed sexiness on the plate, enhanced by the fruity, heady jus. The bed of bacon and cabbage sounded strange but the cabbage was finely shredded and barely sweated with the smoked bacon to make an unusual but uplifting marriage to the meat.
The wine list was very reasonably priced from €22 to €32 for the most expensive. I don't drink white but often choose the fish and the server suggested the Sardinian Bombarde which was light enough for the dish but still held up well to the rich meaty ones.
Though the Date insisted he couldn't manage desert after all the rich food I told him he had to, it was part of the brief. He chose the dark chocolate cheesecake with strawberries while I had the fool of blueberries over blackberry compote. The cheesecake was one of those ones that make you cry, it was so rich and dense it almost crumbled. Strawberries peeked out from its insides and oohs and aahs could be heard from other diners in the same state of bliss who had ordered it. My fool was light and fluffy and came in one of the little wine glasses; it looked like something from a Marguerite Patten cookery card. It was good to eat something a bit lighter than the rest of what we'd indulged in, though I must admit that I had most of the cheesecake too.
We were so full we had to have brandies and coffees. Lots of diners were lingering over pints of Guinness and drinks. It seems you can have your whole night out here and never get flung out.
The meal for us both came to €124.00 including beer, wine and brandies (well it was Saturday…)
101 Talbot, 101 Talbot Street, Dublin 1
Tel: 01 874 5011