Fri 21 Dec 2012
I’m guessing there’s quite a few of you who haven’t yet finished your Christmas shopping, so I’m offering the gift of recommendations – none of which requires you to go to a busy shopping centre (that’s a gift in and of itself, no?). It’s also a round-up of some of my favourite places and things of 2012, so here’s hoping this will inspire some of you and also help out with your last-minute gift search!
The Gift of Eating Out: Asador Restaurant Voucher
This new Southside restaurant has everything: A beautiful, elegant but not-too-formal atmosphere, a stunning bar with fantastic cocktails and a great wine & beer selection, incredible food and hard-to-beat service. I recently had the opportunity do have a nice, long dinner there with a friend and I have to say it was one of the most enjoyable meals I’ve had in Dublin all year.
The key to Asador’s cuisine is that they take quality meat, fish and produce and don’t screw it up; in fact, they coax each ingredient to fulfil its potential. The open custom-built wood fire grill gives steaks, poultry and seafood a lovely, smoked flavour, and the sauces and sides serve to compliment the main star of each dish. For my starter I had the burrata, which I love but hadn’t seen on a menu here until I visited Asador. Burrata is a decadent combination of fresh mozzarella and cream; the cream is injected into the centre of the cheese and the result is a rich, creamy kicked-up version of this popular Italian cheese. My Argentinian friend ordered the lamb skewers (she loves her meat!) and was very impressed with her well-seasoned starter.
For our mains, we opted for the 8-oz fillet which came perfectly cooked with beautifully fried, crispy wedges and a sauce of our choice. We both opted for the chimichurri, a combination of fresh herbs, olive oil and a good hit of chilli (very popular in Argentina, so my friend was thrilled to see this on the menu). We paired our steak with a bold Italian red, the perfect accompaniment to our meal.
The experience at Asador is truly unique for Dublin, particularly because the level of service for this reasonably-priced restaurant is up there with 4-5 star places I’ve visited. A voucher from Asador would be an ideal gift, one that can be used in January – a month where most of us will be staying in and saving our pennies.
A Gift to Savour: Homemade Eats & Treats
I’m always experimenting in the kitchen and I used this year’s Christmas gift exchange at work to try out some new recipes. As our budget for the gift exchange was a mere €20, I spent the bulk of that small budget on food that I could make myself with ingredients I likely already had in my kitchen presses.
I bought a handful of veg: carrots, radishes, peppers, garlic and chillies and made a batch of pickles using vinegar and spices I already had. There are a number of easy pickling recipes on Foodgawker, so pick your favourite and pickle away! It’s so easy and if you have leftover jam jars lying around like me, it’s a great way to recycle them. I also made some homemade barbecue sauce, roasted seasoned nuts and blueberry and lemon-infused vodka (as simple as filling a bottle with some blueberries, lemon slices and vodka and letting it sit for two weeks in the fridge!).
Even the box I presented it in was recycled from a magnum of wine I’d received as a gift earlier in the year, and I printed the labels from a website and taped them onto the jars. I probably spent less than €20 all told. It takes a bit of work, but I made enough to have leftovers of everything for Mountaineering Man and myself.
A Gift of Mystery: Parlour Games Pop-Up Restaurant
A couple of months ago I had the pleasure of attending chef Ian Marconi’s (of Paella Guys fame) new pop-up restaurant, Parlour Games, which he hosted at his house in Portobello. Pop-ups are all the rage at the moment, and why not? It’s a great opportunity to put yourself in the hands of the chef – there’s no ordering, you eat what he serves and that’s that. While this may be an issue for some, I find it’s a great way to experience food that I may not have the opportunity to try otherwise. At his debut pop-up I was introduced to a wealth of Spanish, American and Middle Eastern fusion cuisine…Ian’s influences seem to stem from a number of regions but he somehow brings it all together seamlessly and deliciously. The next pop-up is January 26th, so book in for yourself and your partner or friend as a gift…to both of you!
A Gift of the Farmer’s Market: And finally, if you need a bit of shop-around before you make your decision, visit the Honest 2 Goodness Farmer’s Market in Glasnevin on Saturday (tomorrow!). It’s really a foodie haven, and I know that there will be a ton of gift-y treats this year from Wild Flour Kate’s fresh-baked cakes and biscuits and Arun Bakery’s delicious sourdough breads and buns to My Mexican Shop’s delectable ethnic ingredients and the H2G pantry of sea salts, cheeses and more.
I hope this helps with your last-minute gift shopping. Happy Christmas to you all!
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