I have a confession to make. There is very little that makes me happier than dancing around a field in the sunshine in my sparkly wellies (a €10 investment from Penny’s over four years ago. They owe me nothing. If anything, I owe them an apology or two for what I’ve put them through), listening to some live music, or strolling through the woods, a maze of tents or whatever the festival layout may be, to happen upon some kooky looking artists you’ve never heard of before charming a tune out of a saw, a tin can and a battered old guitar. Festivals are my happy place, and this year’s Body & Soul didn’t disappoint.
In recent years, I’ve noted a marked improvement in the dining options at music festivals and Body & Soul was no different. In fact, because of the nature and ethos of the festival, it went above and beyond my expectations of festival food. I’ve included a couple of highlights below and where possible, a pic and a price. What I liked most about Body & Soul was that the food and the fun weren’t separated - each performance area had a range of food stalls locatednext to them so that you could enjoy the line up whilst being in line. Oh and there were lines!
I committed to making the obligatory pilgrimage for a Pieminister pie and after twenty five minutes was rewarded with two weighty cardboard boxes of pastry encrusted goodness. We went for The Heidi (sweet potato, goats cheese & spinach with a hint of onion and roast garlic) and The Shamrock (beef steak cooked in Guinness with carrot and onion). There’s a couple of options on offer when you go for a Pieminister - the ‘Groovy’ for €6 - plain pie or add gravy, ‘Ye Olde Faithful’ for €7.50 includes pie, mash and gravy, with ‘Fab Four’ at €9 there’s the addition of minty peas, and ‘THE MOTHERSHIP’ (yes, they capitalized it!) at €10 offers the pie of your choice accompanied by mash, gravy, minty peas, grated cheese and shallots. In case you’re wondering, I went for The Mothership. Go big or go home…
Other options for those fond of a pie or a burger included wicklow beef burgers (some commented that €8 was a bit steep), hot dogs, noodles, a lovely Tandoori vendor called 'Dabba' and some fantastic meditarannean food from Dax & Co. - who’s patatas bravas have hit the spot for me on many an occasion - it may not look all that pretty, but their cubed spuds, fried to perfection and doused with a lovely smoky tomato sauce, garlic mayo and freshly grated parmesan cheese for just €3.50 had queues of revelers by their pink stall all weekend. By Sunday afternoon in fact, they had sold out of many of their menu options which is a great testament to the quality of their food. Doubtless, next year they’ll bring twice as much!
For the more health conscious festival foodie, spots like The Happy Pear and Natasha’s Living Food offered up a great mix healthy food and drink options with the stage at Natasha’s proving as much of a draw as their food. The Happy Pear weren’t shy of blasting the tunes through their speakers either with a DJ on site all weekend, and there wasn’t a moment that I didn’t see queues for the fine food from the Greystones guys.
The one dining option I didn’t get to try but really would have liked to, was the Faoi Thalamh pop-up eatery with chef Gary Bell. Located near the entrance to the festival site, the pop-up offered two sittings each evening over the weekend in a beautifully decorated marquee complete with live music performance.
With four courses costing €50 per person, it was something I had to decide against, though friends who dined on the Friday night said the food was exceptional and the experience well worth it. Unfortunately, this didn’t sell out, and it probably should have owing to the quality of the food and the team behind the concept - this could be down to price, or the fact that many festival goers opted for the food stalls and the evening acts lined up in the Upstage and Mainstage arenas. The marquee was in a prime location as thousands entered the festival site, a few folk well dressed inviting people into view the marquee and discuss the menu around the main arrival times might have helped push them to capacity. I really hope they get to run it again next year and pack it out as it’s a fantastic concept, really well executed.
For the coffee lovers amongst us, Attridge and Cole was the place to revive with freshly roasted coffee served piping hot and in normal sized cups - always a good sign! It also helped that they were located near Api’s Chocolate, resulting in a coffee / chocolate combo I enjoyed more than once over the course of the weekend!
My first visit to Il Valentino was one of those unintentional “I’m late and starving and need to eat something on the fly” occurrences whilst en route to the Grand Canal Theatre over a year ago (and yes, I’m still referring to it as the Grand Canal Theatre). Not only did a madeline and a coffee hit the spot, it had me back to Il Valentino within a fortnight wanting to spend more eh, “quality time” with their mouthwatering cakes, pastries and breads.
I’ve made many a visit since, but none as enjoyable as last Sunday when, thanks to Clare Kleinedler and the Irish Food Bloggers Association, we were invited to meet the makers and bakers behind Il Valentino and learn a little bit more about the philosophy and passion behind the bakery that’s so good they supply their products to several well known and loved restaurants and shops in Dublin.
Owners Valentina and Owen Doorly are foodies after my own heart. Passionate and uncompromising, Valentina worked in a corporate setting and Owen in the coffee industry for a number of years. On moving to Dublin from Italy, they looked at the coffee shop and bakery scene in Dublin and decided they could do better. They believe in the art of eating, that “Food is Culture. Culture is Food”. At the risk of sounding over-enthusiastic, I’m with them, and here’s just some of the reasons why:
First and foremost, their food is good. Really good. Try it. Try something as simple as a croissant (best in Dublin I’ve decided - I’ll get to that later) and I think you’ll be making return visits. Their food ages naturally, they don’t put anything in it to prolong it’s shelf life. They bake over twenty types of bread using the traditions still alive in continental artisan bakeries. They care about what they (and we) put in to our bodies. They don’t believe in making gargantuan scones that you could build a Connemara style wall with. It’s all about proper sized portions of good food, using the fewest, highest quality ingredients available. I’m also rather fond of the staff in Il Valentino, they’re always warm and friendly, and you can tell that’s something that matters to Valentina and Owen.
We arrived and were treated to a coffee and pastry of our choice. Whilst Valentina and Owen chatted to us about the evolution and ethos of Il Valentino, we enjoyed the fruits of their labors. I opted for a slice of raspberry, sponge and almond perfection. It didn’t last long. Moist, colorful, full of flavor and very filling - I was glad I’d skipped breakfast so that I could properly indulge. For the coffee lovers among you, they are the only Irish importers of Hausbrandt coffee, originally from Trieste.
The real treat for me, was when we were brought down into the bakery itself - which runs practically 24/7, baking pastries by day, and fresh bread six nights a week. We were introduced to the team at work there. Wanting to preserve and maintain the craft of artisan baking, (using flour, salt, yeast, water and nothing more) the Doorly’s started by bringing in bakers and pastry chefs from Italy and other parts of Europe - thankfully, they stuck around, and I hope it’s a tradition that many Irish bakers will encounter there too. Morgan, the head baker along with Owen chatted us through some of their products and processes and helped us wrap our heads around the ovens and equipment used in baking their bread (imported from Italy, of course!).
Morgan then presented a tray of croissants and pains au chocolat whilst telling us about how their thirty two layers are rolled and chilled time and time again. All of a sudden I wasn’t full any more. I tasted and fell in love with every single one of those thirty two layers and every gram of french butter within them.
When we emerged from the belly of the bakery Valentina and Owen chatted to us further and introduced us to their other products including their impressive honey range - they have a great brochure and section in the shop dedicated to this and it’s well worth checking out further on www.ilvalentinohoney.ie if you’re interested.
I’d a wonderful morning and got to meet many a food blogger that I’m very fond of for the first time before running to catch a dart to Gourmet Greystones. My exit was slightly delayed by the arrival of the platter below - ‘twas rude not to! Il Valentino might be slightly more expensive than some other bakeries but I believe that for what you get, it’s better value and of a very high standard. If you want to enjoy good food from people who believe in investing in quality ingredients and in spending time on their craft, then get thee to Grand Canal Harbour.