She loves book club. He reads cookbooks. They fell in love at The Cookbook Club.
Okay, they were already in love, but they fell in love with The Cookbook Club.
Started in September, The Cookbook Club hosts a monthly dinner that celebrates a cookbook, serves recipes from said cookbook and allows the diners to meet said writer of said cookbook. Bill had read about the Cookbook Club dinner featuring Clodagh McKenna, but the event had already sold out. He kept watch and snagged two tickets to the December Domini Kemp dinner. Domini is a food writer for the Irish Times, and along with her sister Peaches, owns several restaurants in Dublin. Domini has a new cookbook, Itsa Cookbook, published in October.
When the evening arrived, Dublin was still deep into its freeze, but we slid out to Ely Bar and Brasserie (which is ridiculously easy to get to from the DART, now that I know about the side exit from Connolly station). Ely is located in a renovated wine and tobacco warehouse built in 1820. Bill and I learned about this warehouse on a Docklands tour we took last July–it’s one of the few remaining structures of its kind, as most similar warehouses in the UK were bombed in wartime. Our dinner took place in the brick, arched rooms of the basement–a cozy place to spend a winter’s eve.
Diners chose from three starters, mains and desserts. Ely’s sommelier provided wine pairing suggestions, which were all available by the glass. The dishes were prepared by Ely chefs from Domini’s recipes. Bill spied a familiar item in the dessert offerings–the ginger and blackberry pudding. He had printed this recipe when it appeared in the Irish Times and has made it many times. It’s his Go-To dessert, and it works great with mango and pineapple if you don’t have blackberries around.
We ordered the following:
Potato and Jerusalem artichoke soup
Duck dal supper served with moong dal
Fig tart with apricot jam
Crabcakes with lemon and caper salad
Blackened salmon with spiced aubergine
Ginger and blackberry pudding
The Duck dal was really tasty. The cumin and mint of the dal are lovely with the duck, which was served with a dollop of chile paste. I tasted the chile paste first and got a serious blast of spicy heat. Which of course Rocked! Sadly, the recipe doesn’t mention the chile paste. You could use harissa quite effectively. I liked the soup, but would have liked a herby garnish. Parsley would work, and chervil might be interesting. I adore figs and the fig tart featured them well.
I had seriously considered the crabcakes, so I was glad Bill selected them so I could have a taste. There was very little binder, so the cakes were very crabby, but fell apart easily. They were very lemony. In a good way. I was surprised to see Bill order salmon. I had pegged him for the duck, but he was intrigued by the aubergine sauce, and with good reason. It was terrific. The aubergines are spiced with Szechuan peppercorns, garlic, ginger, chiles, and coriander.
The mains were all served with Gratin potatoes and Char-grilled broccoli. If you’ve been holding back on your dreams of blanching broccoli, grilling it in a hot skillet and then tossing it with lemon, chile and garlic, take the plunge. Totally worth it.
The ginger pudding was delicious, just like when Bill makes it. (Not an American-style pudding of course. Speaking of which, have you ever tried the ginger pudding at Zen. That stuff is the bomb.) Bill told Domini that he loved the ginger pudding and had made it several times, and we also gave her the tip about the mango! Domini and Peaches were both super friendly, and so is Elaine, the Director of The Cookbook club.
In addition to a delicious dinner we had delightful dinner companions. We met Eleanor, aka Brownieville Girl, and her friend, who I’ll call Annemarie, as I’m pretty sure that was her name. Annemarie is a dog and Austin-music lover, so we had plenty to talk about. Eleanor has reviewed several recipes from Itsa Cookbook on her blog and also provides her take on the evening.
A lovely snow was falling as we walked back to Connolly and even though were were sick of ice by then, the snow did its thing and made the moment magical.