WHAT? Taste of Dublin 2011
WHEN? Thursday 9 – Sunday 12 June 2011
WHY? Okay, let’s be honest: Taste of Dublin is as much a knee’s up as it is a chow down, and by the time everyone’s had a drink or five, it’s the burger stalls and barbecue grills that prove the talk of the town. As such, it’s not always the more delicate, sophisticated, skillful or ambitious dishes that reward the participating restaurants best – and the amount of deep-fat-fryers in the temporary kitchens is a testamount to their hard-won wisdom. Plus: with the kinds of lunch deals being offered in most of these establishments, there are cheaper, drier and more comfortable ways to sample their various offerings. And finally: if it’s inspiring artisan producers you’re looking for, last weekend’s Bloom had a far greater gathering of those on hand.
So, why don your wellies and ponchos and camp out in the Iveagh Gardens for a soggy afternoon or evening? Because as knee’s ups go, it’s a great one. There’s a fine cross-section of chefs, restaurateurs, wine suppliers, mixologists, craft brewers, tourism boards (Taste of Malaysia and Taste of Thailand), food purveyors (Superquinn are there to welcome you with jumbo strawberries from Pat Clarke) and hoteliers present to vie you with their ware. There are more and more free demos to sign up for: the new Edward Dillon Spirits Academy is offering free spirits tasting sessions every half hour, alternating between Bacardi and Hennessy, while the new Chef’s Table will see restaurant critic Katy McGuinness host intimate Q&A sessions with many of the big name chefs as well as with interesting folk such as Sarah Fleming from Grow It Yourself, and journalists Philip Boucher Hayes & Suzanne Campbell (the team behind RTE’s brilliant documentary, What’s Ireland Eating?). So a knee’s up if that’s what you’re after, yes, but with some interesting treats worth snuffling out.
WHO? Expect many of the regular restaurants who take a pitch here year on year: Jaipur turning out blood-warming curries (don’t miss their Bombay Railway Lamb Curry, a masala-spiced melange of melt-in-the-mouth slow-cooked Wicklow lamb served with moreish Malabar Parantha flatbread); Pichet doing their crispy hen’s egg thing (which they do very well, and serve with a black pudding boudin); Diep at Home spicing it up (their Som Tam green papaya salad is the stuff of Thai Street Food Dreams – and their new Chiang Mai sausage is well worth a spin too); ely with their juicy organic Burren beef burgers (always a winner).
Most are there all weekend, but some restaurants will only pitch up on certain days. Chapter One will appear on Saturday and Sunday, as will exciting newcomer, Mulberry Garden (head chef John Wyer was one of the lead tutors on Lynda Booth’s one-month cookery course at Dublin Cookery School which I blogged about last January – don’t miss his mussels, clams and langoustine velouté with garden peas and smoked bacon crumb).
New this year is a stall for Visiting Restuarants from beyond ‘the pale’. Last night, The Strawberry Tree rocked up from Wicklow with delights such as gutsy wild garlic pesto, delicate elderflower Turkish delight, and home-smoked wild venison with a chilli and rhubarb compote and Donegal Rapeseed Oil (wowsers!). Friday is the turn of the otherwise prohibitively exclusive Ashford Castle (where you need to book a room to book a table); Saturday that of Gordon Ramsay at Powerscourt (whose newly revised menu is all about “real food, no froths”, according to the man himself at a recent relaunch); white Sunday sees Garrett Byrne of Campagne return from his native Kilkenny to the city where he once worked as Ross Lewis’s right hand man in Chapter One.
WHERE? Back for the fifth year running in the currently fecund Iveagh Gardens off Harcourt Street.
HOW MUCH? €28.50 entrance, plus however many florins you think you’ll spend. With each tasting dish costing the equivalent of €5–€8, and a drink anywhere upwards from €5, it won’t be hard to part with your cash. Make sure to sign up to free sessions as early as possible.