The Menu: Food news with Joe McNamee

There are Valentines’ deals at Urchin at Cliff Townhouse.

Dingle town tours

The exceedingly swish Castlewood House team up with town neighbours Dingle Cookery Schooland photographer Monika Coghlan of Pepperazzi for a Food Styling & Photography weekend (Feb 22-24) with a workshop including cookery demo and lunch from DCS proprietor and all-round force of nature Mark Murphy at the school, a craft brewery tour at Dick Mac’s pub as well as Sunday lunch from The Little Cheese Shop. (Booking: tel. 066 915 2788).

Food for Thought

Dublin’s L’Écrivain hosts a very splendid Food for Thought dinner (Feb 3) as a posse of top Irish chefs come together to cook at this fundraiser for suicide prevention charity 3Ts and to raise awareness for suicide prevention in Ireland, with guest chefs including Rob Krawcyzk (Restaurant Chestnut), Grainne O’Keefe (Clanbrassil House) and Food for Thought founder, chef Daniel Hannigan. (further info: Breffni Burke, 086 856 3739).

Share the Love

The Menu will be getting his woo on in earnest next week in anticipation of Valentine’s Day but here are some earlier warning shots: with Menu-style levels of heroic amorous commitment, the Oyster Bar at Cliff Townhouse and its sibling Urchin Bar downstairs offer a Share the Love Seafood Platter and two glasses of bubbly throughout February, donating €5 from each sold to Focus Ireland, the homelessness charity. ( Cronin’s Sheebeen, in the beautiful Mayo town of Westport, hosts the first of a series of demo classes (Feb 6) from head chef Anthony Printer, this one a three-courser for Valentine’s Day that participants get to wolf down after the class (

Winter wine

The L’Atitude 51 Winter Wine Series continues with Volcanoes, looking at how volcanic soil can influence grape tastes, ranging from Etna to Santorini, Tenerife, Chile, Oregon and Madeira, with Pascal Rossignol, of Le Caveau, showcasing a selection of ‘volcanic vinos’. (booking essential,

Finally, The Menu’s continuing endeavours to cut down on waste plastic sees him these days equipped with a sustainable ‘cutlery drawer’, bamboo fork, spoon and chopsticks in a pretty little cloth pouch, which he procured from the ever-splendid My Goodness vegan food stall, also currently retailing stainless steel ‘permanent’ straws and exquisitely stylish reheatable tiffin lunch containers (


Mrs Menu being away, The Menu and his younger progeny are settling in for one of their all-in-no-limits steak-and-chips nights when No 1 Son puts in a call to announce he too is en route, triggering instant mayhem in Stores & Provisions, where it is correctly pointed out that No 1 Son is a full grown man, roughly the size of the horse he puts away on a daily basis, and for all that the Duhallow Organic sirloin steak intended for the evening’s repast is a most sizeable piece of meat, it will obviously be insufficient for the entire dining party.

Accordingly, No 1 Son picks up one of those pre-packed ‘upmarket’ steaks that have appeared in the supermarkets over the last number of years, purportedly aimed at the ‘gourmand’ home diner, and it is decided to implement a taste test. First up, the supermarket version and, while it turns out to be an exceptionally tender piece of meat, flavour doesn’t plumb any significant depths beyond a not unpleasant sweetness.

Next is the organic Dexter beef and, to be honest, ever before it hits the pan we are already noting telltale visual differences: marbled meat is a deep vermillion, the fat, a creamy buttermilk yellow.

But tasting is the ultimate arbiter: while tender, it still holds a pleasing resistance to the tooth and beefy flavours are multiple, complex and utterly intoxicating in comparison to the callow pretender lying alongside, largely ignored as all and sundry scramble over each other to ravage every last morsel of one of the finest steaks to grace The Menu’s table in many a long moon.

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