Rare chocolate, great paté, and cooking on a stone

I had some great feedback about last week’s article, where I suggested that we support our local restaurants and food producers. The best commend I had was: “Use them or lose them.” I think that about sums it up and it is a great message to keep in the back of our minds when shopping generally.

During the week I sampled two interesting products in Sheridan’s Cheesemongers.

One was a pork and plumb terrine made by a company with a great name — it is called On the Pigs Back. It is from Cork and the terrine is made using the best of ingredients. I can vouch for the taste, if you are someone who likes to buy coarse patés while on holidays in France you will love this.

The other product I sampled is what the BBC called the best chocolate in the world. It is the first chocolate that is fully made in Africa and sold here in Ireland. The significance of this is that a developing country needs to add as much value to its exports as possible in order to make money from it, for example a country that exports roasted coffee ready for the grinder makes nearly five times as much as one that just exports bags of raw beans. In this case a charity called Value Added Africa (VAA ) sources quality finished products and supplies the Irish market. The products are developed and packaged in Africa and from countries such as Kenya, Sudan, Ethiopia, and Madagascar. The name of the chocolate is Claudio Corallo and the one I had was the soft chocolate, 73.5 per cent with bits of cacau. When you open the foil package the smell of the chocolate gets you even from quite a distance. My first impressions are that perhaps my palate is not developed enough to appreciate it and that it is quite expensive €4.50 for a 50g packet. But the aftertaste is amazing it really does linger. This is chocolate in the purest form you are ever likely to taste it. As it has received so much acclaim and it is obviously a worthwhile venture, I will leave it to you to decide — available at Sheridan’s.

Last week I urged you to support your local restaurants and of course I still do, however, I am sure many of you will be in Dublin over the next while and if staying overnight you may be wondering where to eat. Last week I had a very interesting meal in The Rustic Stone on the corner of Exchequer Street and George’s Street. It is owned and managed by Dylan McGrath who rose to fame on the TV series where we had a behind the scenes look at his project to get a Michelin star in Mint Restaurant within 12 months. This he did but unfortunately Mint closed about a year ago when all the big expense accounts evaporated.

McGrath’s philosophy for the new restaurant is healthy eating using the freshest ingredients. The main courses are primarily steak and fish although there is a good selection of pastas and salads. The novel part is that you cook all the meats and fish on a hot stone at your own table. I think it is a stroke of genius on McGrath’s parts as most chefs hate cooking steaks because it is so hard to please everyone, with requests from rare to cremated. This way no one complains as they cook the food themselves. I had tuna and my co-diners had steaks plus one excellent pasta dish. There is also a great gourmet burger dish called The Glamburgers, €16.50; it is two burgers side by side with all the trimmings but the fact that it is in two pieces means that it is very easy to eat as very often a mega- big gourmet burger is just too much to handle. I sampled this and it had a great combination of tastes.

The downside to our evening was that we had a long wait for our food, perhaps due to the fact that on a Wednesday night there were about 180 people through the restaurant, it seats about 120 people. So book ahead and request a table upstairs as downstairs is pretty noisy. The side dishes were excellent, polenta chips, fabulous home made regular chips on a skewer, and my favourite was the sweet potato mash with agave syrup and rosemary (agave is similar to honey, but made from the blue agave plant ). Prices are from €21 to €31 for the steaks plus the side dishes. The favourite starter among the group was the tandoori chicken wings, €5.50 for a regular portion or €10.95 for a large portion. I was the only one able for dessert and I had chocolate soup with chocolate mousse, €9.50, which was a chocolate mousse with an accompanying mini carafe of hot chocolate to pour over it, it was excellent. I was in a party of 11 people and everyone pronounced the food a big hit, and especially good for a large number of people as part of the enjoyment is watching each other cook the food and swapping morsels for a taste.

If you have some time available this evening, Thursday November 18, why not go to the Cases Christmas wine fair at its wine warehouse on the Tuam Road. There will be 120 wines and live music, appetisers from Cava Restaurant, and a blind tasting competition. It costs €20 per person and all proceeds go to Console, the charity that offers support to families who have lost a loved one to suicide. The wine fair starts at 6.30pm and continues until 10pm.

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