Tuesday, 28 June 2011

Come To Our Screening of Big Night on July 7th!

I'm sure some of you saw it coming when we asked you all on facebook what your favourite food film was. With easy access to the former cinema that is The Sugar Club and a fair amount of cooking experience behind us, we had to get you all together for dinner and a movie at some stage.

And while a lot of you seemed to show some serious love for flicks like "Eat Drink, Man Woman" and "Babette's Feast" there was definitely one clear favourite for your ultimate food film, the 1996 classic, "Big Night."


I for one was delighted with the fine choice you lot made. Make no mistake, I would have happily sat and watched any of the suggestions that were thrown at us, but the Italian food in Big Night has a very special place in my heart and I'm dying to see it featured on a big screen, especially as I'll be chomping down on it at the same time...

The first ten years of my life were spent in Jersey City, where for the last century or so there has always been a healthy supply of Neapolitan cuisine. I wasn't aware at the time, but the standard of it was actually excellent. In fact, I only became aware of how good it was, when we had to move to Ireland in the 80's and I had to endure horrible food crimes like cheddar cheese pizzas and spaghetti on toast. My father was still back in NJ and every year we would go visit him. Our first and last meal for each trip had to be pizza or pasta from any of the old reliables like Ilvento's on West Side Avenue (sadly no longer trading, in fact it's some kind of Korean Baptist Church now) or The Prince of Pizza on Journal Square.

As the years rolled on, our palettes appeared to mature somewhat and we grew to love clams in linguine and my Aunt Linda's angel hair pasta in puttanesca sauce. One very long summer college break ( Jaysus, I'd fucking kill for a two month holiday these days), I hung out in my cousin's gaff whose mother, my Aunt Thea, grew up in Little Italy. The day she taught me how to make a risotto is firmly embedded in my epicurean memory bank  - the toasting of the rice, the constant stirring, knowing just how much cheese to use, knowing just how much stock to use. I'll never forget it and I can't wait for the day when I can show my daughters these same tricks, especially as we named my eldest one after Aunt Thea.


So anyhoo, in case you don't know, not only will we be screening this great movie but we'll be making and serving some wicked risotto to go along with it, for just a fiver a bowl. Those who are lucky enough to have seen Big Night before will know how handy that will be, because as soon as the grub starts rolling out of that kitchen - you wanna eat some. Of course the bar will be open throughout with table service should you wish to imbibe. And if that weren't enough to tickle your fancy Joe Macken from Jo Burger will be on hand to make the seminal culinary dish from the film, Il Timpano which we will lovingly hand out to everyone afterwards.

Do come along and join us - it will quite literally be, a feast for all the senses. Oisin

Sunday, 5 June 2011

Stuart's Moans: Wine Prices

We all have our personal moans when we eat out and Stuart Clark who hosted For Food’s Sake last May in The Sugar Club is no different. One of Stuart’s several moans of the evening was the price of wine in restaurants and he shared his frustrations with the panellists. It turned out that Caroline Byrne, Dublin editor of the Bridgestone Guide felt the same way:

“This is one of my moans as well, not just because of the price but the range is so limited and uninteresting. I know it’s not worth the money that I am paying. An alternative could be bringing in your own wine and paying a corkage fee, this could create a better value of wine in restaurants. However saying that there is only a handful of restaurants doing it now.”

The introduction of BYOB is not as simple as it sounds according to Paul Cadden, owner of Saba and former President of the Restaurant’s Association of Ireland: “If customers want really cheap wine we can get really cheap wine but they are not going to like it. There is another side to wine prices and it is in regards to the supermarkets. They sell alcohol so cheaply that most people are used to it and it’s tough to compete. The BYOB concept is coming into restaurants but it will take time to come in.”

Joe Macken from Jo’ Burgers agreed with Paul and explained that restaurants are not trying to rip-off customers but they are experiencing a side-effect of supermarket’s race to the bottom. “Supermarkets are annihilating what restaurants can do because they buy vast amounts of wine at incredibly cheap prices. If you walk into a supermarket off-licence the beer and wine is cheaper than what restaurants buy it. It’s really hard for us to compete. We are not trying to screw the customer by jacking the price. We are getting screwed by the government, we can’t compete.”

Stuart’s moan had hit a chord with the audience as the microphone was passed around the crowd to add another voice to the debate. One man strongly disagreed with Paul and Joe about restaurants’ stance on wine prices. “Don’t you think people can budget to eat out if there was a corkage fee? It’s got nothing to do with wine producers in Ireland.  It’s only to do with price and cost, simple as that.”

The topic had begun to show its complexities and Caroline Byrne was quick to bring her insight and understanding to the debate. “We are not a wine producing country, we are importing our wine and there is huge tax on wine.  It costs a lot less in places like Australia and South Africa. I do think it is a good way to go but I don’t think it will be decided tomorrow, it will take time.”

The discussion was finally concluded not by the panellists but by a woman from the audience who was met with applause for her wisdom. “I’m Australian and I have worked in hospitality in Ireland and Australia. With a BYOB policy the restaurants in Australia are cheaper to run. Restaurants here rely on marketing wine, for restaurants to make any money they need to do this. If you bring people in and charge two quid corkage the restaurants will not make any money. It may feel like a better deal to a consumer but it is counterproductive.”

That ended a good session of debate that went back and forth between the panellists and the audience. It was time to move on as there was plenty more issues that deserved similar attention while Stuart also had more moans to moan about. Keep checking back for more detailed discussion from the second For Food’s Sake evening.