Today Bill and I dined at Skinflint with some fellow food bloggers and had the opportunity to chat with its proprietor Joe Macken, and I’ll tell you, he charmed my culinary socks off.
Joe’s well known in Dublin eating circles as owner of beloved Jo’Burger and its sister droolstaurant Crackbird. He’s got memorable hair and has probably been described as “larger than life.” Dublin is lucky to have him. Because Dublin is lucky to have his food. I’ve been to Jo’Burger only once. It’s just not in my orbit, but I remember being quite happy with my burger, which doesn’t always happen in Dublin. We’ve visited Crackbird a number of times, and were very impressed, even when it was just a fleeting pop up.
I said then that “Crackbird is quirky, but it’s the kind of quirkiness that lives in service, ultimately, to the food (along with admittedly some self-knowing hipness)….” And that’s what struck me when talking to Joe today. He’s mad creative and his persona is definitely present in his restaurants, but foremost Joe loves his food. And he makes other people love it too.
We started our lunch with Aperol cocktails, as you do, followed by a trio of bread and dips: brandy chicken pate, beetroot caviar, and hummus. The pink peppercorns in the pate bring an aromatic note to the richness of the liver. The beetroot caviar was a lovely balance of sweet and savory, and is a gorgeous jewel red. The hummus was garlicky, which is how we like it!
Then we ordered our pizzas. We ordered almost every pizza. There are 10 set pizzas on the menu, each named after the mother of a staff member. One of our party went for the daily meatballs, which today were lamb. (Check twitter for the daily meatball.) I ordered the Lil which is Boyne Valley blue, poached pear, sweet pickled onion and cream. Yeah. Bill chose the Tess with pulled pork, fennel seeds, braised fennel and marscapone. The table also saw some amazing combinations like roasted garlic confit, toasted hazelnuts, tomato, Fontina and spinach & butternut squash, rosemary, ricotta, capers and espelette.
The pizzas at Skinflint are grilled, which is a great method to create a thin crackery crust (reminded me of crust on a pizza we had Rome). Joe invited us in pairs into the compact kitchen to watch the lads prepare the crusts, which are made with 100% Odlums flour fermented for three days, then run through a cool machine from Italy that stretches out the dough, and coated with some semolina. Then the dough goes onto the grill and is dressed with its toppings, and after a minute or two is ready for serving. A quick enterprise which is good for hungry diners and kitchen throughput alike.
I recommend going to Skinflint with six to eight friends so you can taste all the pizzas. It was hard to pick a favorite. I was almost overwhelmed by all the amazing flavors on our table. I’ll say braised fennel stands out as a genius pizza topping, and Bill was quite taken with the butternut squash and caper combo. My pizza was a perfect celebration of the love between pear and blue cheese, and Joe is proud to be using Boyne Valley blue which is a goats cheese blue. A stronger blue, but right at home on that pizza. I also liked the housemade Mexican chorizo, and roasted garlic is another brilliant pizza topping. Pizza is all about bringing flavors together to create greater-than-the-sum-of-its-parts-Super Flavor, and these pizzas are super. Especially drizzled with Skinflint’s Firebee honey infused with chile. Seriously, this honey should be given out to school children to teach them about the good things in life. No wait, perhaps it should be a reward for becoming an adult. Either way, it’s great.
Skinflint and Crackbird are filling a much needed place in Dublin–casual, excellent food that has an identity. Joe is committed to making Irish food with Irish ingredients and he’s no where near stopping, and we couldn’t be happier.
Bill and I were thrilled to finally try A Winter’s Ale from 8 Degrees Brewing. This delicious, lightly spiced ale was perfect with our pizza.
Mucho thanks to Joe and staff for a terrific time.