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Walkers ‘Do us a flavour’ competition

17 Feb

Jennifer Maguire and Eoghan McDermott cooking up a storm….

Do you ever look at something in life and think- I could do this better? Now is your chance . Walkers recently launched their ‘Do us a flavour’ competition. The competition will crown one winner as Walkers’ first ever ‘flavour millionaire’ (#FlavourMillionaire). From now up until 4th March you can add your idea through the Walkers Facebook page . At that stage, a panel of judges will be in charge of whittling down the entries to six finalists, whose flavours will be launched during the summer and the Irish & British public will then decide on their favourite.

The competition (which those of us of a certain age will remember) first ran back in 2008. As a twist this year Walkers are asking contestants to pick from  Cheddar, Chicken, Pork, Sour Cream, Tomatoes or Beef as a base and then go crazy with another flavour.


What crazy concoction would you go for?

Chicken on tour: Hue and Halong Bay

29 Sep

photo 2-2


After a bus ride over the mountains by  Da Nang (Which was one of the first places American ground troops saw Vietnamese soil. In fact you can still see the outline of their massive base and some listening domes/radar balls on the mountains north of the city,) we arrived in Hue, on the bank of the perfumed river.

We were here for one night only. A brief visit! On arrival we were greeted by oppressive heat baking us on the concrete of the city. On first glance there was very little to recommend the city. However on the first afternoon we visited the citadel within which is contained the Imperial City. This was home to the Nguyen dynasty. It sustained heavy bombardment during the Tet Offensive and there are still many signs of that throughout the complex.

Imperial city

Imperial city

The next morning we took off on a moped tour. It was excellent. The whole group (16 of us) as pillion passengers on the back of mopeds. We visited a rice museum (more entertaining than it sounds, the 86 year old woman made it- she was full of beans), a fortune teller (Yes I succumbed and got my palm read. It all bodes well. To my future wife: we’re having three kids apparently.) A conical hat maker (the traditional hat of the Vietnamese people.) We also visited the mausoleum of Tu Duc, saw some chanting Buddhist monks, the only colosseum in Asia, (where they used to pitch elephants against tigers).
All before midday.

After a grossly unsuccessful attempt at getting lunch and food to bring with us on the overnight train to Hanoi- meaning I had a 13 hour train journey with just Pringles and Oreos, we set off for the train station. Only that the restaurant supports some children’s charities I won’t name them. But it was quite an achievement not to be able to serve a few baguettes in 90 minutes.

Best food: Very tourist orientated food in our area. So no real recommendations here.
Best beer: Huda – really good and never saw it again in Vietnam.
Best attraction: Moped tour. Few different operators. Well worth doing.

Halong Bay:

Halong Bay in all its glory

Halong Bay in all its glory

Halong Bay is one of those places that grabs your attention. I won’t even try to put it into words, I will let the pictures do the talking. These are just a few of the may pictures I took during our cruise around the islands. The bay is located about 4 hours drive from Hanoi and is home to 1969 islands.


As you can see we were blessed with the weather. The day before and after was grey, dull and it rained heavily. This is one of those places I want to go back to. I haven’t ticked it off the list just yet.


Best food: We had a great seafood lunch on our cruise around the islands

Best attraction: The cruise around the islands. Try and do an overnight one if your budget allows.

In the chicken coop with Summerville’s of Greystones

14 Jun

In the chicken coop is a new series for the blog. Throughout the series I will be chatting to various business owners in the food and hospitality industry.

Summervilles of Greystones

Summerville’s of Greystones


The first business featured in this series is Summerville’s of Greystones. I recently sat down with business partners Katie and Niamh and had a very enjoyable chat about their business. It was a glorious day down in Greystones and we sat in the beautiful garden out the back of the restaurant. If you visit and there is sunny weather this would be a fantastic spot to enjoy lunch, surrounded by the bird-life in the garden!

I started by asking about the history of  Summerville’s:

Niamh: “My aunt and uncle owned it. Then about five or six years ago, myself and my sister bought it. Then about a year and a half ago Katie became my partner.  Katie runs the kitchen and I do front of house, accounts, wages and tweeting.”

Katie and Niamh

Katie and Niamh


Did you change much when you took over?

Katie: “We redecorated a little bit- we wanted to keep the country/cottagy vibe and brighten it up a little bit. We also reorganised the kitchen. Everything is made on site and for this you need more space and flow in the kitchen, but we still have a wish list of changes we’d like to make!”

Niamh: “We changed our menu quite a lot, we talked to our customers about what they wanted. Before there were no sandwiches or lighter options, now we have a wrap and sandwich menu. We also have a lot of salads and soups.”

Katie: “We also put a lot of work into our gluten-free options- We have a gluten-free multi seed bread. We try to do gluten-free treats. There’s always a gluten-free brownie and apple+almond cake. You just have to keep updating really.”

What’s the signature dish/ your favourites?

Niamh: “Chicken Summerville is the signature. It sounds a bit weird- but in reality it’s lovely. It’s chicken, rice, celery and onion in a chicken and mushroom sauce, topped with corn flakes and mixed nuts, baked. The soup and salad combo is very popular. That suits the younger demographic that are a big part of the local community in Greystones. In terms of my favourite dish, I’d have to pick from our new nighttime menu and go for the smoked mackerel pâté with pickled vegetables.”

Katie: “Our pot pies are also very popular, we try to keep them interesting. Our soups are all stock based, so they are suitable for people with dairy or gluten allergies. I have a very sweet tooth, so my favourite would have to be the carrot cake. It’s actually my mum’s recipe.”


As an aside, you mentioned how popular your healthier options are, what do you think about calorie counts on menus?

Niamh: “We were only debating that a few weeks ago- I feel it could be a little off-putting. Also it’s really hard to be accurate.  I think people are very health conscious now though so they know a salad is better than something with pastry. Things like specials- it would be impossible to put a calorie count on that.”

Katie: “We keep toying with it- but it’s hard to be accurate. You hope that people ultimately have a bit of common sense.”


In a town like Greystones, repeat customers must be important?

Katie: “They are, we’re very lucky in that regard. At the weekend we get a mixture of customers, but we get a lot of regulars during the week. People come in for our scones in the morning. There are a lot of young families in Greystones- a lot of mums and kids come in regularly so it’s great to see the kids growing up.”


There’s a lot of good food in Greystones- why do you think this is?

Katie: “I think it’s because there is a market for it. People are really into their food and their wine here. There has to be that market for us to all exist. There is competition- there are about 20 different places to get a cup of coffee- so it is really important we are confident and happy with what we are serving. The businesses do what they do and do it well. So there is a nice variety of places to go.”


I noticed you have some great staff profiles on your website- quite a diverse bunch!?

Niamh: “We try to get a family feel here-  most of our staff are here for a while. They may have zero experience when they apply- but if they are nice they can get the job. Katie and I always interview together. We expect a lot from them,  but we also work all the shifts, so our staff see us doing the same jobs they do, which we feel is important.”


Any future developments for Summerville’s?

Niamh: “We just started opening evenings. We’ve always done private functions at night which we cater. Birthday parties etc. But we have just started Friday and Saturday nights. We wanted to chose something different that we would like- so we settled on an antipasti menu. We do three types of boards:  fish, cheese, and a meat board. La Touche wines nearby supply the wine.”

Katie: “We spent a lot of time choosing the wines, you can get a nice bottle of Merlot or Sauvignon Blanc for €17. We were determined to keep it really competitive. We both hate going to restaurants and getting charged outrageous amounts for a bottle of wine.”

(In the chicken coop- will feature some silly questions for each business to get a common thread running through. Feel free to suggest some in the comment section!)

I started by asking:

Is the customer always right?

Niamh: “We say that the customer is always right even when they are wrong! Seriously though, as there is a competitive market in Greystones, we need to be known for being friendly and having a professional rapport with our customers.”


Is the Jaffa cake a cake or a biscuit?

Katie: “Cake- it’s too spongy. There needs to be a snap to be a biscuit.

Niamh: “I would dunk it in tea, therefore a biscuit.”


I’d like to thank Niamh and Katie for taking time out of their day to talk to me. It was great to meet two people so passionate about their business. If you want to keep up to date with all that’s happening in Summerville’s you can follow them on twitter: @summervillefood.

(All photos courtesy of Summerville’s of Greystones)


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Brunch at Odessa, Dame Court

7 Jun

Odessa is widely regarded as one of the best spots in Dublin for some brunch of a Saturday morning. So recently myself and my mother headed in to Odessa before we started a slightly mad dash around town.  We arrived shortly after it opened and I’m glad we did- soon it started to fill up.

Odessa is on Dame Court, just off Exchequer Street. It isn’t the easiest to find- it has a pretty nondescript entrance, but persevere and make sure you find it. I had eaten here before at dinner time- where they do plates of differing sizes for €5 and €10 euro respectively as well as other stuff on the menu. There’s value to be had.

Food. On a plate.

Food. On a plate.


On this day in question, I opted for some huevos rancheros and the mother went for a Vietnamese salad. The brunch menu reads very well it has to be said- there are a lot of tempting options.  My eggs were served nice and runny, with corn tortillas, home fries, salsa and guacamole. There was also sour cream lurking on the plate somewhere. All of this was thoroughly enjoyable. Mum enjoyed her salad, I found it lacking a bit of zing- I felt it fell a little flat. I also thought the leaves were a little tough.

Brunch with two fresh orange juices and decent service came to €30. Odessa is definitely worth a visit. Especially for brunch.

WJ Kavanagh’s, Dorset Street

26 May

Dorset Street is hanging down with food outlets. If you peruse the lists of any takeaway website, you will see the array of eateries one can order from. There is some serious value out there too- a kebab and chips for a fiver! Despite these tempting deals, I managed to walk by the takeaways and wandered into WJ Kavanagh’s recently and shortly afterwards was joined by a good friend from college. He’s from outside the pale so is a good fella to dine with, as he doesn’t see Dublin as being divided by the Liffey. Dorset Street would not phase him. An adventurous sort.

I arrived first and settled myself at the bar and took in the array of beers/gins/whiskeys on offer. Impressive. The barman offered me a few to try as I wasn’t sure. Something I always appreciate. I settled on a very fine beer from Waterford, from the Metalman brewery. Himself arrived (looking like a George Michael tribute act, a comment that didn’t go down well, but he did- I blame the sunglasses.) We chose a table and leafed through the menu.

Meatarian board

Meatarian board


We started with a sharing platter for “Meatarians.” It was a very pleasant board of food. Various meaty delicacies, highlights being the terrine, which had good hammy flavour and wasn’t overly dense. Another favourite was the bacon jam which was very unctuous and sweet. Delicious. Served with some warm (good) bread and some piccalilli and pickled carrots of some variety- it was eaten in its entirety.

Two cocktails were ordered, for sampling/blogging purposes. The things I do for you people. George’s Daisy Cutter was grand, but I hit the jackpot with a ‘No.2’. Gin, elderflower, rose-water and citrus. Stunning with perfectly balanced flavours.

"No.2" in all its deliciousness

“No.2” in all its deliciousness

Mains were boar burger for him and bangers and mash for myself. A side of mac and cheese was also ordered, but we felt it was a little dry. Mac and cheese should be the sort of consistency you could lose a limb in. The boar burger was happily eaten, I even got to try some and it was very tasty- served in a good bun. My bangers and (black pudding) mash were served with an oniony sauce, but the mash was a little bland and didn’t really deliver on the black pudding front. All the same it was a tasty plate of food.

This is where a very pleasant dining experience took a turn. It was roughly an hour between finishing our mains and desert arriving. We were left with empty plates for (conservatively) 25 minutes. It wasn’t even that busy. It took so long we started to question whether or not desert would be ordered.

We did in the end- I ordered the fondant ( I was told it would take a while as it was done from scratch- he should have known at this stage we were a patient lot.) Himself went for a liquid (Redbreast, 12 year old) third course and enjoyed it. The fondant seemed to have had some sort of accident en route from mould to diner, so wasn’t intact, but was sufficiently gooey. The booze soaked cherries were potent and “Tasted like Christmas” according to George. The sea salt ice-cream was a first for me and was delish. The date purée seemed to have been replaced with a butterscotch sauce of some sort, and I left it be on the plate.

All of the above came to €73.  WJ Kavanagh’s has great drinks, very pleasant food, but unfortunately the service wasn’t up to the standard that the rest of the experience set. I’d still go back mind. The quirkiness of the place got to me, from the way the menu is written and presented, to the graffiti in the gents, but I think it was the chocolate fingers that accompany the bill which swung it.  Dublin needs more fun places like this, especially north of the Liffey.