In London there is a wonderful shop called Books for Cooks. A bookshop, filled with – what else – cookbooks, it is situated at 4 Blenheim Crescent in Notting Hill and is the kind of place that Sunday supplements wax lyrical about. As does anyone who visits the shop. It is small, not so very wide, and has bookshelves from floor to ceiling, crammed with hundreds upon hundreds books of amazing dishes, foods, ingredients, people. There is a cosy, albeit battered, couch in the middle of the floor, right between a piled-high table and a low shelf – just the place to sit and leaf through one of the many books that will take you on a journey to far off lands or reveal more about your own culinary surroundings. All this, and I haven’t yet got to the best bit.
Category: Eating Out
Last week I was running for a film preview screening at 10.30am but, in dire need of caffeine, I took a few minutes to grab a take-away coffee at the Butlers Irish Chocolate Café on Henry Street. I’ve been a huge fan of these cafés ever since they opened in Dublin – not so much for the coffee that they serve, but for the free chocolate that you get alongside it! It’s a great way to test your way through the range but, although I had carefully studied the display and chosen a double chocolate chocolate for later consumption, at that moment in time I needed something a little more filling. There was a tempting-looking display of muffins, brownies and cookies and, nestled amidst them, a large, simple oatmeal cookie. Always a fan of the oatmeal cookie, I added one of those to my order and legged it down the street to Screen 1 in the Savoy and the Tristan and Isolde preview (not great, don’t bother).
Last Friday, over a glass of wine and some nibbles at a city centre tapas bar, the Boyfriend – after WEEKS of mystery – handed me my passport and…a guidebook for Paris! He had told me that we were going away for the weekend, we would be spending time in a city and that I had to pack for cold weather. Despite lots of guessing – I thought Galway, or maybe Belfast – I hadn’t even come close to figuring out where we were going.
Saturday night dinner for friends staying over meant a late night, a not-so-hurried rise on Sunday morning and a similarly delayed breakfast. We badly needed to blow the cobwebs away so we drove down to Brittas Bay for a long walk in the surprisingly warm sunshine (and a brief snooze on the beach!). When we arrived back in the car about 3pm, lunchless, the Boyfriend and I were hungry as hunters. Driving back to Dublin we took the opportunity to turn off the N11 into the branch of Avoca Handweavers in Kilmacanogue. Although initially rather daunted by the long line of lunch-ing and afternoon tea-ing visitors, we were distracted by a blackboard full of intriguing choices. By the time we had decided on dishes, we were almost at the top of the queue and gazing at the generously stocked salad display. More decisions had to be made.
Before I left Ireland in 2004 I heard great reports about a new Vietnamese restaurant in Dublin’s Temple Bar. As it happened, the Boyfriend and I were hoping to visit Vietnam while either journeying to or from New Zealand but this never happened. Since my return, the regular mentions of in the cookbooks, magazines and websites that I read have piqued my interest so I jumped at the chance to take the Boyfriend to dinner in Hô Sen last night.
After my appetite had been well whetted by Denis Cotter’s A Paradiso Year: Autumn and Winter Cooking, I decided that it was time to return to Café Paradiso itself and last weekend I went down to Cork. All my nights were tied up but Saturday lunchtime was designated Paradiso-time and who better to share it than my Sister, who lives in Cork, and the Canadian friend that I met in New Zealand. Both the girls are waitresses – one in the nearby Liberty Grill, the other in Cork’s famous Jacobs on the Mall – so Café Paradiso wasn’t getting the most uncritical audience.
Last Friday night in Dublin was miserable. Cold and raining, it was a night for staying by the fire but, with an impromptu cousin get-together happening, we were all out in town looking for a place to find a bit of food. A booking in Frank’s Bar and Restaurant had to be abandoned when our party acquired another two people so these hungry wanderers made their way to the new food centre of George’s Street. With a variety of restaurants lined up on both sides of the road, there had to be a place willing to take the six of us.
One night a few weeks ago the Boyfriend and I accompanied our Scottish physiotherapist housemates to a celebration of International Physiotherapist Day. Now, going to celebrations of other people’s careers is not something that we would normally do but, as this was taking place at Christchurch’s Canterbury Brewery, we decided to make an exception – just this once, you understand.