Food news: playing devil's advocate in the city of angels
The best cookbook that I've been given recently is Jessica Koslow's Everything I Want To Eat: Sqirl and the New California Cooking (Abrams Books, ¤35 at Eason's). Koslow runs a restaurant in Los Angeles, a city that has more than its fair share of obsessively health-conscious eaters and somewhere that dietary restrictions are the norm, yet Sqirl - located on the edge of trendy Silver Lake - is somewhere that bacon lovers and vegans can share the same table.
Koslow's customers include "a prosecutor, a violinist/librarian, and assorted actors, writers, and smart people", according to veteran movie producer Lynda Obst (whose credits include films as diverse as Sleepless in Seattle and Interstellar), who wrote the introduction and is a regular at Sqirl's Saturday morning breakfast club, which is jammed from 8am on.
In devising the menu at Sqirl, Koslow - who had a serious career as a digital content producer for clients such as Apple and Coca-Cola before she was seduced into working in food by a stint at Anne Quatrano's James Beard-award-winning restaurant, Bacchanalia, in Atlanta - set about creating dishes made from fresh, local and seasonal ingredients that could be adjusted to suit the needs of vegetarians, followers of gluten-free diets "or whomever you're sharing your meal with".
What's exciting about the book is that the recipes are generally multi-part, with sub-recipe elements that can be taken from one and used in another. It's a style that is derived from the ordering habits of Sqirl's customers, with constant requests for substitutions and modifications.
The Sorrel Pesto Rice Bowl, for instance, "is made up of a foundation of brown rice tossed in sorrel pesto, and it comes topped with preserved Meyer lemon, a silky poached egg, a dab of lacto-fermented jalapeño hot sauce and French sheep's milk feta, plus watermelon radish for both crunch and garnish".
But you don't have to have all those things on your rice bowl if you don't want them. You can have a vegan version, and Koslow likes hers with kale, while others tack on avocado, breakfast sausage, cured bacon or prosciutto.
Koslow says that having constantly to modify dishes for certain diets has made her a better cook, and Sqirl's cult-like status in a city more often associated with joyless eating than with taking pleasure in food, can only be a good thing.
Gin & teaching
The latest small batch of Irish gin is Listoke 1777, made in Drogheda and flavoured with local botanicals. The artisan distillery is also home to Ireland's first Gin School, where visitors can distil, bottle and label their own bespoke bottle of gin. 70cl/€45. listokedistillery.ie
Champagne at the Shelbourne
On Wednesday, February 8, the Saddle Room hosts a five-course dinner created by executive head chef, Garry Hughes, with each course paired with a different Laurent-Perrier champagne. €96pp, booking essential. (01) 663 4500.
Sure to banish the mid-week blues, The Richmond restaurant in Dublin's Portobello hosts a five-course tasting menu each Tuesday, priced at €29.95. Chef David O'Byrne's menu changes weekly. richmondrestaurant.ie