The Daily Spud

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A Taste Of Darina

There are some things that I now consider it my, er, job to do.

Like attending last weekend’s Taste of Dublin festival, for example – something that I thought you would like to know about and, therefore, I just had to go. You seeing how this works?

For those not familiar with the festival, the idea is that you mill about in the pleasant surrounds of the Iveagh Gardens, grazing on sample-sized portions of signature dishes from various city restaurants until either your belly is full, your wallet is empty or, quite possibly, both. In addition to the restaurant stands, there are other stalls plying their assorted food and drink wares and, occasionally, wares that don’t have anything to do with food or drink at all (window blinds, anyone?). There’s music. There are cookery demos. There are people wielding trays of free samples (I mostly noticed chocolate) and, if, you should feel the need, a free shot of vodka can be yours too. Providing the weather holds up, it’s a pleasant, if not particularly cheap way to indulge your inner foodie for a few hours.

Clever post-event advertising at Taste of Dublin by a certain purveyor of digestive remedies

Clever post-event advertising by a certain purveyor of digestive remedies

Now, one of the things that I got most excited by at the event was not actually the food, but the opportunity to get a little bit of first-hand cookery instruction from none other than Darina Allen, owner of the renowned Ballymaloe Cookery School and champion of the Slow Food movement in Ireland.

Darina Allen in action

Darina in action

She’s delightfully no-nonsense and freely admits to keeping a stash of Maldon sea salt in her handbag, to be pressed into action during any under-salting emergency. As she took us through our paces with homemade mayonnaise, she extolled the virtues of keeping one’s own hens and assured us that it was not as impractical a suggestion as we might have thought.

I’ll admit that having the eggs that would result from keeping some hens is indeed a nice idea. I even started wondering if there were any hatcheries these days that would dispatch a box of day-old chicks by means of the local bus, which is how my folks, at one time, used to acquire the means to freshly laid eggs, with a few extra to sell. Still, even if I don’t start rearing hens anytime soon, I will endeavour to at least make my own mayonnaise in future and just keep the Hellmann’s for emergencies. That, and I will use the bestest eggs I can get, I promise. I’m just not quite ready to go into full-blown egg production yet. You can tell I’m thinking about it, though, can’t you?

14 Comments

  1. I’ve heard about this cooking school, I’d love to take a class or two there. Sounds like an interesting time, what’s stopping you from full-blown egg production? =) the homemade mayonnaise idea is wonderful albeit a bit impractical even if it is so much better than store bought and it tones the arms as well. Impractical, for me anyway, because I never have the foresight think to make it ahead of time, its always drat, I need some of that white stuff now!

    the sampling accompanied by the occasional swig of vodka sounds like just the thing.

  2. That is another eerie coincidence! I was at a similar event on the same weekend as you. But I was in Los Angeles at the Share Our Strength and you in Dublin at Taste of…
    GREG http://www.sippitysup.com/shareourstrength

  3. I seriously considered raising chickens in our backyard and even looked into ‘eglus’, portable chicken coops (www.omlet.us). Unfortunately, given my dismal record at keeping garden plants alive, it’s probably more humane to let the chickens be.

    I haven’t been to a ‘Taste of . . . ‘ festival in a while – I probably swore off them the last time I paid some outrageous price for a piddling amount of food. But I would gladly pay up an admission fee to see the likes of Darina Allen. As for making my own mayonnaise, I’m up for it. I’ve already done homemade ketchup (with Foster’s Beer – wonder how Smithwick’s would go?) so on to the next condiment!

  4. I attended the taste of Dublin for the third time this year, the first year it was excellent, last year was pretty good, this year it was very disappointing. It was certainly more expensive than previous years at €90 for two (incl 20 euro food vouchers each). Hard times have certainly hit the vendors with little or no free tasters (except sausages and chocolate) and the cuisine on offer to buy was very disappointing, in previous years restaurants made a conscious effort to showcase what the dining experience in their establishments was like to encourage punters to try the real deal with quality mini versions of what you would expect in their restaurants.

    This year I felt that most of the restaurants were solely in it to make a quick buck, with cheap finger food such as fish or steak and chips and burgers on most stalls – where has all the haute cuisine disappeared to? I felt it was a poor advertisement for Dublin’s so called fine dining restaurants.

    Finally, having went in at 2pm on Sunday and then to be herded out like sheep at 4pm was the icing on the cake for what has clearly become a money grabbing venture as opposed to a celebration of food on this Island. As you might expect I will not be attending next year.

  5. Your dedication to your readers brings a tear to my eye–that you selflessly brave the Taste of Dublin to share with your loyal renders me speechless.

    Ahem. Anyway, sounds like One Big Fat Good Time! And very cool to get cooking tips from a pro–Maldon salt in her handbag! Ha! I might have to carry around my own wee packet of sel gris or something, so I can Represent on this side of the Big Water.

    There is Great Debate in our area about raising chickens. Lots of folks do it, but in Cary, NC (which is all sandwiched in with a bunch of other bedroom communities for Raleigh) won’t let folks raise chicken. This has made some people Very Very Angry that their right to Bear Fowl has been trampled. Will be interesting to see how it all plays out. I try and stay out of it and get fresh eggs from the farmer’s market here:)

    And to Tangled Noodle–seriously, A place to buy portable chicken coops called “Omlet?!” Hilarious! Glad I wasn’t sipping my tea when I read your comment!

  6. I’ve heard so many bad reports over the last couple of years, even though I would love to go it has put me off. Liam L, you’re not alone on your thinking

    http://forkncork.com/content/showthread.php?t=1875

    Nice to see Darina in action, thinking of heading down to Ballymaloe for a couple of nights in the next couple of weeks.

  7. Daily Spud

    Thursday, June 18, 2009 at 9:31 pm

    OysterCulture: I guess that’s the thing with making anything like that from scratch – it may not actually take very long to do but does require at least a little forethought…

    greg: we must be leading parallel lives or something!

    Tangled Noodle: the eglus sound brilliant but, like you, I think I would have a concern about being able to keep the chickens alive :) And I like the sound of the homemade ketchup with beer – I think I remember Heather posting about that – must add that to my list

    Liam: as Lorraine commented, you’re not alone

    I went to Taste of Dublin the first year it ran but gave it a miss for the past couple of years precisely because I did think that it was expensive for what you got. With the blog, I had a renewed interest in going back for a looksee. I’d have to say that the Darina thing was a highlight for me more so than the samples I ate. I did also get to chat to a couple of interesting food producers, which was also of interest – though I thought that the artisan food market at Bloom was better from that point of view. I had a pleasant time at TOD but, as a real showcase for and celebration of Irish food, yes, it could be both better and cheaper.

    Jenni: egads – they are interfering with your right to bear fowl? is there not something written into your fine constitution about life, liberty and the pursuit of poultry?
    thank goodness there’s always the farmers market to fall back on

    Lorraine: yep, there are plenty of people in Liam’s camp on this one (and see my response to Liam); I did enjoy seeing Darina, though, and am hoping to get down to Ballymaloe myself later on in the summer – all in the name of research, you understand :)

  8. Ahh, isn’t it great when food becomes part of the work. What hard work it is and what a sacrifice you made for us all. It was worth it for that clever sign. :)

    Glad you had a good time. The cooking instruction had to be great!

  9. I lived briefly in Eastwall many years ago, next door to a family that kept chickens. In an urban setting, they come with two drawbacks – noise and smell. As we’ve all seen in Foghorn Leghorn, they kick off around sun rise with a cacophony that will make you the talk of the neighbourhood, though thankfully the smell, especially in summer, can deter all but the most determined neighbours from direct confrontation.

  10. You should totally get a couple of chickens! What do you do when you go on vacation, though? I guess get a chicken sitter? Hmmm. All things to ponder. I would get a few if I didn’t live in an apartment w/no yard. :)

  11. Yes! It was Heather/Diary of a Fanatic Foodie’s recipe and it is delicious!! I’d also like to try Sippity Sup’s mustard recipe, too.

  12. I love Darina Allen!! She is an excellent cook!
    I love her cookery scool too!

    Lucky you!!

  13. Daily Spud

    Saturday, June 20, 2009 at 10:29 pm

    Lori: this is the kind of work I like :)

    Brian: excellent points, sir – the early morning noise would not be a vote winner with the neighbours (I mean, they already have band rehearsals to contend with, but at least they don’t happen at cock-crow!); methinks I need to move to a little country pile!

    Megan: yep, I was pondering that too – I guess you would have to get a chicken-sitter (and one who wouldn’t mind the noise and smell at that…)

    Tangled Noodle: ah, Heather’s ketchup recipe definitely caught my eye – I must go back and try it; I do also intend giving homemade mustard a go at some point – just a few of the items on my ever-expanding must-try list!

    Sophie: lucky indeed, I was very excited by the whole thing :)

  14. I love such festivals with several kinds of dishes. We have similar festivals here held by some organizations. We have the opportunity to taste lots of food until…(you know when, full stomach or empty wallet:)) And the money we pay for food goes to the organization which is the host of the festival.

    As for homemade mayonnaise, I’ve been wondering it for some time, but haven’t tried yet!

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