Tuesday, 21 October 2014

The Wholesale Fruit and Vegetable Market

Open House Dublin was a free event organised by the Irish Architecture Foundation and took place last weekend. For one weekend a year, this is an opportunity for Dubliners to visit or join guided tours and workshops in many buildings across the Irish capital, to learn more about their history and architecture.

As usual, I had to combine my love of Dublin and a bit of culture with my love of food and I was thrilled to see that Open House Dublin had a tour of the Wholesale Fruit and Vegetable Market in their schedule of events.

I've passed by this building many times on Mary's Lane and admired the beautiful red bricks without ever stopping. I know it's open to the public but I've just been too intimidated to step into this Victorian inspired market structure.

Many people were queuing for the tour on Saturday to get a guided tour of the market, it was great to see people being interested in a building that has become a bit forgotten.

Historian John Conroy gave us a brief presentation of the history of the market that opened in December 1892 and was originally a fish and vegetable market. If you pay more attention to the facade you notice sculptures of different fish and veg, the details are quite impressive actually.

Nowadays, the market is a wholesale fruit and vegetable market but during the second part of our tour we were told what it will become.

Even if the food scene has considerably improved in the last few years, what Dublin is missing is a proper market. Now we have a few farmers markets but they don't compare to the English Market in Cork or big permanent markets like you find in other cities around the world. In France pretty much every little town has a market hall where locals buy their food.

The fruit and veg market is going to become what all the food lovers here are hoping for. There will still be the wholesalers on one side of the building but the rest will be transformed into a retail market will many artisan food stalls, seating areas and even a restaurant. The building is huge and the structure is perfect for a great food market open to the public.

The only thing is we don't know how long it's going to be, at least a year... probably more. As I was walking around I could imagine stalls selling delicious Irish farmhouse cheeses, displays of Irish beef, bakers selling proper breads and I could see myself buying my vegetables for the week. We really need this and I can't wait for it to happen.

Wholesale Fruit and Vegetable Market
Mary's Lane
Dublin 7

Wednesday, 15 October 2014

FFID's Face Lift

Have you noticed? I hope you have. It's my new branding, bien sûr!

I'm delighted to launch the new header and logo for French Foodie in Dublin. I was getting seriously bored of the previous one. I awkwardly designed it (if you can call it design) a few years ago, so I decided it was time for a change.

I met with fantastic New Zealand born graphic designer & illustrator Mel Gardner and I told her I wanted something new and fun, that represents the blog. So the little lady on the left with the beret and stripy top is me and is pretty much how I look (although I'm a bit chubbier in real life) when I run my French food tours. Of course I often walk around Dublin with a baguette, cheese and grapes (in the form of wine) and the Georgian buildings represent Dublin. I think Mel did a great job (I hope you agree) and designed exactly what I was looking for.

You're more and more to visit this blog everyday so I wanted it to look pretty, I hope you like it!

If you ever need a graphic designer/illustrator and like what Mel did for me, her website can be found here.

Tuesday, 14 October 2014

Dublin's Best-Kept Secret: Blas Cafe

Each time there is a great spot opening on the Northside I giggle with excitement. It's my part of the city you see and I like highlighting its hidden gems, so here is the new cafe to watch: Blas Cafe in the Chocolate Factory.

The Chocolate factory is a community space where creative people work in their studios, they also have an event venue, art gallery and a cafe on the ground floor. 

Blas Cafe is a little gem that I'm happy to have discovered before it got too busy, this will certainly change. If you know about the Fumbally, think of Blas as its Northside counterpart. 

A spacious, bright space with white walls, big wooden tables and a strong artsy feel. There is a drum hanging from the ceiling, a comfy burgundy velvet sofa, mismatched chairs and art displayed in a corner: I'm in love.

As I approach the counter I notice Wall & Keogh's teas and Wild Flour Bakery's cakes, it is already promising. The lunch menu is compact: soup, two meaty sandwiches, two vegetarian sandwiches and a hot dish. However it changes regularly and with a Moroccan chef, expect the dishes to be flavoursome (they have eggs berber with merguez sausage patties for brunch on Saturdays!). The coffee is from Roasted Brown I'm told and coffee lovers will certainly approve.

As I sit by myself at a table with my laptop and use their free wifi I look around and like what I see, Dublin's cafe scene is certainly getting very exciting. 

A friendly gentleman brings my beef po boy (€6.95) to the table served on a enamel plate. I see it's real bread straight away and ask where it's from. It's from Tartine Bakery, owned by French man Thilbault Peigne who I know. His bread is top quality and among the best you can find in Dublin. The shredded beef is tender and juicy, served with tomato, a crunchy pickle, some lettuce and mayo. Not very original maybe but simple and tasty, I lick my fingers with contentment.

I order a pear, almond and cardamom cake (€3.50) for quality control purposes. It looks slightly dry outside but as I bite in it it's just soft, moist and delicate. I'm always happy when I see Kate Packwood's cakes in a cafe as they're the perfect size and level of sweetness that I want with a good (paper) cup of peppermint tea.

So do I like Blas? You can certainly tell. It's very new but looks like a winner already and I just hope there will still be a table for me after I reveal one of Dublin's best-kept secrets.

Blas Cafe
Chocolate Factory
26, King's Inn Street
Dublin 1
Mon - Fri08:00 - 16:00
Sat10:00 - 16:00


Wednesday, 8 October 2014

French Food Fair On The Square - Saturday 11th of October 2014

Today is the day! I finally get to talk to you about a project I’ve been working on for a while now… I’m delighted to announce ‘French Food Fair On The Square’ in conjunction with Merrion Square Innovation Network and kindly supported by the awesome people at Irish Village Markets.

'French Food Fair on The Square' will take place on Saturday 11th of October from 10 am to 6pm at the Royal Society of Antiquaries of Ireland, no. 63 Merrion Square Dublin 2.

In this beautiful Georgian building the best Irish-based French food producers will be there to give you a taste of France right in the heart of Dublin. You will be able to stock up on on French treats such as breads, macarons, chocolates, cheese, charcuterie and many other products.

Entrance is free.

There will also be talks and tastings throughout the day to tease your tastebuds! These include:


Franck Le Moenner (retail manager at Sheridans Cheesemongers) talks about the French Terroir (AOC) vs Irish Terroir family business, followed by cheese tasting.  (max 30 people, arrive early!)

Clémentine Agron from Cocoa Atelier talks about the origin of chocolate, chocolateries in France, Cocoa Atelier's chocolates & history, followed by a guided tasting (max 20 people, arrive early!).

Thibault Peigne (Baker and Owner of Tartine Bakery) talks about sourdough bread making and the importance of fermentation.

Nicolas Bateau (Co-owner at L’Art du Chocolat) talks about chocolate making and chocolate tempering, followed by a chocolate tasting and screening of the movie ‘Chocolat’. Tickets for the screening and talk (€5) available here (max 50 people)

This is family-friendly event, Polka Swan Face Painter (12.30pm-4pm) and jugglers will be there on the day to entertain the little ones! There is also a playground in Merrion Square Park.

There are still a few spaces left so if you’d like to have a stall at French Food Fair On The Square please get in touch with me at frenchfoodieindublin@gmail.com


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The Best Attraction in Disneyland Paris: Ratatouille

Besides being a traditional French vegetable stew, Ratatouille is also an Oscar-winning animated Pixar/Disney movie starring a little rat named Remy who dreams of becoming a chef in Paris.

A few months ago when I heard the Ratatouille attraction was being built in Disneyland Paris in collaboration with legendary French chef Paul Bocuse, I got very excited and began counting the days until it opened. I absolutely love the movie, it's food-related and it takes place in Paris, what's not to love? Well, yes, maybe the fact that there are rodents all over the kitchen of a restaurant is a reason to be put off but don't you think little Remy is cute? I do.

The Ratatouille attraction opened in July and since then I was following pictures of it on Instagram, I could see the queue was about two hour long during the summer months. Thankfully, Mr. FFID and I visited on a weekday in September when the summer holiday madness was over and the kids were back to school.

The Ratatouille attraction is located in the Disney studios park where the setting of the movie has been superbly recreated. When you arrive at 'Place de Remy' you are charmed straight away by all the little details: flowers, vintage bikes, balconies, the fountain... There is also the attraction's very own restaurant as well as its souvenir shops (sadly closed when I was there) around the square.

The Ratatouille attraction is located in a building that looks like a Parisian theatre and is the longest attraction in the whole park, lasting over 3 minutes. Once you have collected your 3D glasses you find yourself in a rat shaped car, supposedly shrunk down to the size of a rat.

It is brilliant!  I won't spoil it but basically you are totally immersed in the movie for a few minutes and will be surprised by a few things. My only complaint is that it is too short, I loved it so much!

At the end of the ride your little 'rat mobile' finished up by parking beside the dining room of the restaurant 'Bistrot Remy'.

About that, Mr. FFID and I were hesitant (more me than him) of trying the food there. The food in Disneyland is generally expensive and poor quality but considering this was one of my favourite movies we decided to give it a go. I booked a table in advance just in case but the place is huge, it's the largest restaurant in the park seating around 370 people.

We were warmly welcomed at the reception area where we sat for a few minutes in the lounge beside all of Remy's and Chef Gusteau's awards.

Then the waitress explained to us that we were walking from the human-size restaurant to the rat-size restaurant, I giggled... I literally felt like I was a a child on Christmas Day and I've never been that excited to enter a restaurant.

The decor is just amazing, from the champagne cap-shaped chairs to the giant Gusteau's cookbook, the attention to details is just superb!

You have lots of different sections, the private booths are divided by giant plates and the coat hangers are giant forks.

There is a giant colander on the ceiling and tables are topped with cocktail umbrellas, there are giant sardine tins and wine bottles. If you're a Ratatouille fan you'll find yourself smiling all the time, just like I did.

The two course menu is priced at €29.99 and the three course menu at €39.99. Yes I hear you, it's expensive and you can eat a fabulous lunch in a Michelin-starred restaurant in Paris city centre for less (without wine). It is themed-park food but nevertheless I was pleasantly surprised.

First there is a decent portion of a mixed leaf salad with a nice vinaigrette served with fresh bread, there is no alternative starter.

Then we went for the steak frites (the other option was fish) which was cooked to our liking and served with a secret sauce, a kind of a pepper sauce I believe. It was a good steak with a copious amount of delicious fries and it hit the spot. There was a little bowl of not-so-pretty ratatouille on the side, don't expect the super ratatouille (more a tian really) featured in the movie!

Strangely they have more desserts than mains on the menu, Mr. FFID's mousse au chocolat was spot on and my rum baba surprisingly divine.

Overall it is expensive for what it is but we loved the experience, the service was friendly and not rushed, it took us two hours to eat there, the proper laid-back French way. I went with low expectations and they were far exceeded, we were full and happy to have tried it.

I didn't want to leave the Ratatouille quarter in Disneyland, it is now my favourite area in the park. I left it with the theme tune of the movie in my head, along with the voice of chef Gusteau, telling me 'Anyone can cook'. Thanks chef, I'll remember than when I'll train in Ballymaloe next year!