“Life is like an ice cream cone, you have to lick it one day at a time” (Charles M Schulz)

With a heat wave coming (already here in fact) and temperature records being broken at an alarming rate across Europe, most people’s thoughts are turning to the task of staying cool and hydrated.

And ice cream.

Ice cream is eaten all year round (only wet weather dampens demand), but comes into its own in the summer months. An important part of a day out and a treat for the children that, somehow, doesn’t seem as “bad” as crisps, sweets or chocolate.

In the past few years ice cream lovers have become more sophisticated in their tastes and the newest offers have been positioned around a super-indulgent experience, with exotic flavours, descriptors and, sometimes, a touch of nostalgia.

In the US in 2018 the winning flavours in the annual What’s Hot in Ice Cream competition (run by the International Dairy Association) were the Signature Reserve Brazilian Guava Cheesecake ice cream, Spicy Mango Raspberry Fiesta ice cream and a Pomegranate and Sweet Potato Medley Bar. A mishmash of flavours that work together – just.

Which brings me to Three Twenty, a new ice cream parlour or “Ice cream Lab” located on Dublin’s Drury Street, which has an unusual manufacturing technique using liquid nitrogen. This enables rapid freezing of the ice cream at a low temperature which results in smaller ice crystals being formed with less air than is found in traditional ice cream. And a richer, creamier, denser ice cream that doesn’t require stabilisers and fillers.

The flavours are interesting and more reminiscent of desserts than ice cream.

Flavours

I opted for the Red Velvet during my recent visit. The ice cream itself has an almost stretchy texture and is extremely dense in taste – the organoleptic qualities alone are worth the rather expensive outlay of €5 per tub (€6 for a large). It’s not the best option if you are in a hurry – each ice cream is made to order using individual mixers and takes several minutes to prepare.

20190629_150120Verdict: An acquired taste which may be a little on the pricey side for many. I do plan to return however to try out another flavour (may even bring the kids next time!).

Five facts about Ice Cream which might surprise

(1) The first ice cream cone was produced over a century ago in 1896 by Italo Marchiony, an Italian emigrant, in New York City. He was granted a patent in December 1903. Although Marchiony is credited with the invention of the cone, a similar creation was independently introduced at the 1904 St. Louis World’s Fair when an ice cream vendor ran out of cups and asked a nearby waffle vendor to roll up his waffles to hold the ice cream.

(2) Contrary to popular belief, Häagen-Dazs is actually an American ice cream brand, established by Reuben and Rose Mattus in Brooklyn, New York in 1961. They liked the name as it was “Danish-sounding,” and felt that Denmark was known for its dairy products and had a positive image in the United States.

(3) According to World Atlas statistics, New Zealand leads the world in ice cream consumption with a per capita intake of 28.4 litres per year, followed by the US and Australia. Ireland lies 8th at 8.4 litres.

(4) An ugly turf war known as The Ice Cream Wars took place in Glasgow in the 1980s between rival criminal organisations using ice cream vans as a front for selling drugs and stolen goods. Van operators were frequently involved in violence and intimidation tactics and even murders, which led to a lengthy court battle and, eventually, exonerations for the accused.

(5) In 1984, President Ronald Reagan designated July as National Ice Cream Month and the third Sunday of every July as National Ice Cream Day (in the US). In the proclamation, President Reagan called for people to observe these events with “appropriate ceremonies and activities.”

“Without ice cream, there would be darkness and chaos.”
Don Kardong, Runner and Author

 

 

 

 

 

 

7 Unique Dining Experiences

This article was inspired by our recent family holiday in the Swiss Alps, where I came across a unique dining concept (more on this later).

As the adage goes, people want experiences, not “things”. Creating memories and unforgettable experiences is the watchword of our time. In food, this can be a venue, a theme, a style of cooking (or fusion of styles), a type of food, a campaign that “cuts through”. Something unique – at least for a while.

I have been to a New York bar where the wait staff were all twins; a restaurant in Philadelphia where the courses were bookended by opera singers in full flow; a Swedish restaurant in London where everything, yes everything, on the menu was flavoured with liquorice (much loved in Scandinavia); and a revolving bar in New Orleans featuring an actual merry-go-round which has been revolving since 1949.

Quirky themes can come (and often) go, particularly some of the more out-there ones. Novelty will only get you so far; the food, beverage and service offer has to deliver and the business model has to be profitable. As a case in point, Dublin’s first cat café in Smithfield (a cat lounge with coffee and real cats) while fabulously original recently had to close its doors due to significant running costs.

The last two decades has also seen plenty of new and interesting venues in Ireland and beyond with banks being converted into bars, double decker buses put into service as casual restaurants and deconsecrated churches turned into upscale eateries.

It’s fun, it’s different, it appeals.

7 Unique Dining Experiences to Try Before you Die

(1) In the Mountains

Fondue is synonymous with all things Swiss. And in the Saas-Fee ski resort in the Swiss Alps during the winter months a quite unique fondue experience is offered on board your very own gondola (cable car) which slowly traverses the mountains while you dunk your bread and down Valais wine. Sublime!

Offered once every few weeks during the season about 30 gondolas are in action for this ride with a difference.

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(2) In the Water

There are a few undersea restaurants – mostly in the Maldives – however the Conrad owned Ithaa was the world’s first and is perhaps the most impressive. Ithaa Undersea Restaurant allows you to dine luxuriously five metres below the surface of the Indian ocean, in an “aquatic wonderland” with amazing 360° views of reef and marine life.

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(3) In the Trees

The Treehouse Restaurant in Alnwick Gardens, Northumberland features wooden walkways, twinkling lights and a very unique dining experience.

Alnwick Gardens are one of northern England’s most beautiful attractions, rejuvenated and reimagined by Jane Percy, the current Duchess of Northumberland who took the gardens on as a project when her husband inherited the estate in the mid 90’s. Uniquely there is also a Poison Garden, which features 100 lethal plants and is used for drug education.

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(4) In a Cave

Grotta Palazzese is an exclusive restaurant created inside a natural cave. Located in Puglia, Italy the restaurant takes its name from the cave and has been used for parties and banquets since 1700, as evidenced by a 1783 watercolor by Jean Louis Desprez.

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(5) In a Tram

Although not strictly unique as there are similar cafes in other cities, The Tram Cafe in Dublin has made this list because of its fascinating history.

Originally built in the US city of Philadelphia in 1902, it started life as a horse drawn tram, then spending most of its working life in Lisbon as a refitted electric tram from the 1920’s to the late 1970’s. It was then moved to a tram museum in Wales and finally ended up in a field in Co Cavan where it was discovered by its current owner, refurbished and installed as a full café in 2016 on Wolfetone Square, Central Dublin.

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(6) In the Ice

The Ice Restaurant is the world’s only ice restaurant located precisely on the Arctic Circle in Finland’s Snowman Winter Resort. The Ice Restaurant features incredibly beautiful ice sculptures and a menu created from local ingredients.

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(7) In the Air

The brainchild of Hakuna Matata, an agency specialising in gourmet pleasures, and The Fun Group, which has expertise in amusement park installations deploying cranes, Dinner in the Sky is a flying dinner table which first took to the skies in 2006. Since then, the concept has criss-crossed the skies of 45 countries in Europe, Australia, Japan, India, the Middle East, South Africa, South America and North America, and even China.

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Not just featuring exclusive dinners, the events for up to 30 (carefully strapped-in) guests have experienced unique themes such as a Beach Bar, Opera and Poker Matches and some of the world’s best chefs including Heston Blumenthall. And, if you are so inclined, you can also exchange vows or host a business meeting in a highly original location at an altitude of 50 metres.

So no, the sky is not the limit…

 

 

 

 

Two Days in Paris

There are some simple things which the French do very, very well. One is macarons – allegedly very tricky to make (more on this later). Another is style – Paris really trumps London in its wonderful character and ambience, where ordinary streets are elevated by their chic shopfronts and quirky interiors.

SIAL Trade Show

I was in Paris to attend the SIAL Food Show. This is a giant behemoth of a show with over 7,200 exhibitors from 119 countries and 310,000 visitors, of which 73% came from outside of France this year. The 2018 show had a vibrant and upbeat atmosphere (as compared with 2016, which was a little subdued with strict security arrangements in place following the Paris bomb attacks). Security is still tight but less intrusive.

This year’s show saw a number of innovations including the Alter’Native Food Forum, dedicated to sharing trends and knowledge on new healthier foods, and also Future Lab, which focused on food forecasting and what we might be eating in 2030. An immersive walk-through tunnel explored four major food trends as follows:
• Alternative proteins
• Personalisation of food and health products
• Robots and artificial intelligence: the chef of the future
• Transparency and traceability: knowing where our food comes from

My prize for most eye-catching stand at SIAL has go to Camelicious from Dubai which sported a very life like mascot!

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There was a strong showing at this year’s SIAL show from Irish food companies which featured in four different halls. This included a presence for the first time in the Confectionery Hall. Exhibitors here included Cork biscuit company Hassetts Bakery, gluten free specialists Goodness Grains, Waterford fine food company Lismore, cake supplier Coolmore Foods and jam specialists Follain.

Paris Gastronomy

My French sojourn wasn’t confined to the trade show and, armed with a few tips from friends and colleagues, I spent a few very pleasant hours checking out Paris gastronomy. My first port of call was the new Printemps du Gout food concept within Printemps flagship department store on Bvd Haussmann. A former colleague based in Paris had recommended a visit, and it didn’t disappoint.

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Open since 10th January 2018, it consists of two floors of what could be best described as curated French delicacies. Located at the top of the men’s store, one floor features Fine Foods – the best of artisanal French produce – with iconic products on offer including the Maison du Chocolat, in addition to Maison Balme truffles, Byzance caviar and smoked salmon, Dubernet foie gras and more.

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The second floor – called Market Place – brings together other specialities, tastings, workshops and opportunities to meet producers, artisans, winemakers and chefs from France. These include France’s most creative chefs and artisan bakers including Akrame Benallal, Gontran Cherrier, Laurent Dubois and Christophe Michalak (pictured below).

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The décor is both modern and sumptuous and, with each artisan having their own dedicated tasting area, feels like a luxurious food market.

Paris is of course chock a block with fabulous “eat with your eyes” shops, such as Aux Deux Caneles near Chatelet (a canelé is a cork shaped pastry from Bordeaux with a caramelized crust and soft middle).

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Maxim Chocolates flagship store in the Louvre is an exercise in downright decadence.

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As a fan of bagels, I also checked out the chain Bagelstein (outlets nationwide in France and Belgium) which specialises in all things bagel, their mini bagel boxes are a treat.

20181022_143846Even relatively ordinary neighbourhood boulangeries such as Maison Marnay in Les Halles have fabulous ranges and very affordable prices.

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La Guinguette d’Angele serves gourmet takeaway food from one of the tiniest shop fronts I have ever seen.

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The Marlette “bio” café is a particularly interesting concept store, located in the The BHV Marais department store, which is located close to Notre Dame. Dubbed “the Parisian’s favourite”, this 6th storey department store was extensively renovated in 2014 and now rivals its more well known competitors quite comfortably. Marlette is a French organic baking kit supplier and this café sells both their organic baking kits and the finished product in a location which has stunning views of Paris. The chocolate fondant – so rich I couldn’t finish it – is a particular speciality.

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On the macaron front, by the way, the most intriguing offering I discovered (and there are quite a few) was Monsieur Benjamin in Les Halles, an art pastry shop which treats pastries as artistic endeavors. This is quite simply macaron heaven!

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For a few more suggestions, including the legendary Laduree and Pierre Herme, check out this link, Best Macarons in Paris.

Paris – best enjoyed unhurried and with a large pastry.