Saturday 22 July 2017

Society: Darren's specs appeal, Courtney's LA dreamin' and Holly's heirloom ring

Holly White and fiancé Andrew Wynne.
Holly White and fiancé Andrew Wynne.
Anna Haugh and Avril Bannerton at the launch of Taste of Dublin. Photo: Leon Farrell.
Monika Krzywania and Natalia Miszkiewicz at the M2Beauté event in The Pembroke. Photo: Konrad Kubic
Edna O'Brien at 'A tribute to Edna O'Brien' at the Gaiety Theatre.
Fair City's Aoibhin Garrihy.
Courtney Smith & January Russell Winters pictured at the Aer Lingus #LAXperience event in the Marker Hotel
The Calypso Tumblers pictured at the Aer Lingus #LAXperience event in the Marker Hotel
Bairbre Power

Bairbre Power

Drinking with Dublin's Mad Men advertising ­community at their Friday night HQ in Smyth's on Haddington Road reminded me of when I used to come in for all sorts of slagging because of my drink of choice: a glass of Guinness with a drop of red lemonade.

It was regarded as a sacrilege by hardcore pint drinkers and Joe, the barman, would throw his eyes up to heaven and add the lemonade with a polite smirk.

Well I was smirking like an idiot at the launch of Taste of Dublin in Farrier & Draper on Wednesday night as the Open Gate Brewery crew invited us to try their new invention: strawberry porter.

Brewing expert Alan Clarke invited us to try out the 'Retro Nasal Tasting Technique' where we took a mouthful of porter, breathed out through our nose and tasted the basil at the end.

Basil! Bet the singer Adele will love it because she does like her Guinness served with a drop of blackcurrant. The special limited edition strawberry porter was the talking point of the night and it turns out it was created by Feodora Heavey on the grounds of St James's Gate where they handblend strawberries and basil with roasted barley and stout malt.

The Taste event was undoubtedly the best party of the week and I caught up with up with my ol' pal from the Afternoon Show, chef Kevin Dundon who told me all about his Dunbrody pop-up restaurant at Taste which runs in Iveagh Gardens from June 16-19. Turns out that his venture into Dunbrody craft beer is a runaway success and best of all, it came about, Kevin explained, "after four of us put in €5k each". And talking of food, UTV's latest recruit, fashion stylist Holly White hosted a swish vegetarian dinner and screening party at her Fitzwilliam Square home to mark her fiancé, Andrew Wynne's business TV debut.

Andrew's Nutmost - activated nut products - attracted interest from three investors on RTÉ's Dragons' Den and in the end, he went for Alison Crozier.

The dinner party was the first opportunity for Holly and Andrew's parents and family to get together after the couple got engaged in Istanbul at the end of December. Holly told me how this week they decided to have their wedding in May 2017 at Mount Juliet.

"Andrew went to Kilkenny College and I loved Mount Juliet when we went to stay there," said Holly, who is thrilled with the 100,000 audience being pulled in by The Pulse show. And in a nice Kilkenny twist, Andrew got Holly's sapphire and diamond engagement ring from goldsmith Christopher Heltzel in Kilkenny. Also, the engagement ring worn by Holly's mum, Cathy White, was designed by Christopher's father, Rudolf Heltzel. Synchronicity or what!

Pampering afternoon tea is real eye-opener

Bairbre Power

There's something shamefully delicious about pouring a chilled G&T from a china teapot and there was lots of pampering going on at The Pembroke this week as M2Beauté launched their new luxury treatments to make your lashes and eyebrows grow.

Guests were treated to an afternoon tea with a twist and I honed in on the elderberry tea with celery, pomegranate and basil and chatted with the brand boss, Monika Krzywania. I can't wait to be batting my eyelashes.

And speaking of decadent little touches, John Farrell is introducing the 'Long Friday Lunch' at Luna, Drury Street next Friday where the idea of returning to the office is strictly optional!

Foodie dynamo John is across the Butcher's Grill and Dillingers in Ranelagh as well as 777 on George's Street and Super Miss Sue. He confided that he's working on the concept of a contemporary Chinese on Camden Street in August.

Stars align for Edna at Gaiety

Kirsty Blake Knox

Rebel and writer Edna O'Brien was both "on the edge of the moon" and over it as she stood backstage at the Gaiety Theatre.

A constellation of Irish writers, actors, and musicians had gathered together to celebrate her work.

"I'm very excited now but I will be more excited when it's over," she said.

Riverdance producer John McColgan had organised the evening, 'A Tribute to Edna O'Brien', and ran through musicians' cues as MC, the novelist Joseph O'Connor, leafed through his notes.

"Do you think I could get a clipboard?" O'Connor asked.

Singers Mary Black and Eleanor McEvoy, Fair City's Aoibhín Garrihy, Brenda Blethyn, Olivia O'Leary, Marty Rea and Stephen Brennan were some of those to pay tribute to Edna through songs, readings and poetry.

"I did not know I had or could have so many friends," Edna said. "Although I had a bet on John McColgan to hold on to my funeral," she added.

It was a full house with President Michael D Higgins, Red Rock's Cathy Belton and Marian Finucane in the crowd.

"It's hard not to fall in love with Edna," John McColgan said. "She's a great beauty, a great story teller and a wonderful dinner companion."

Once all the singing, reciting and dancing drew to a close, Edna took to the stage. "I've had a whole lot of emotions from tears to fun," she told the crowd adding; "Had I violets I would spread them at all your feet."

The following day, I headed to the Bord Gáis Energy Theatre for the unveiling of their 2016 Christmas show.

After much fanfare we were told Big the Musical, based on the 1988 Tom Hanks film, will be hitting the boards. To get us into the spirit of things, the producers had decked the lobby out with a light-up floor piano - which we tried, and failed, to play 'Heart and Soul' on.

While it's months before that show rolls into town, this week the curtain rose on The Gate Theatre's production of Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf. The show has been directed by Broadway darling David Grindley and stars Mark Huberman, Denis Conway and Fiona Bell.

"It's an exceptional play," director of The Gate Michael Colgan said. "And this is an exceptionally strong cast."

LA dreamin' (and tumbling) in Dublin

Kirsty Blake Knox

Stylist Courtney Smith certainly comes from a family of high-fliers.

Not only did her grandparents work for Aer Lingus but her granddad, Jock Smith, piloted one of the airline's first transatlantic flights.

So it seemed fitting Courtney was on hosting duties at Aer Lingus' LAXperience bash in the Marker Hotel this week.

The place had been given a Venice Beach makeover with lots of palm trees and Chevrolet bumpers decorating the walls.

In one corner a hula hoop yoga station had been set up. Yes, really.

"The hulas help you bend in ways you never imagined," a seasoned yogi told me.

A clean eating expert showed off a newfangled juice machine - powered by a spin bike. "So you can burn some calories while making a smoothie," he said.

And street performers The Calypso Tumblers cartwheeled around the floor before collapsing on it. Once the event wrapped, we wandered back on to the Dublin docks dreaming of LA sunshine.

Darren's got specs appeal

Bairbre Power

Broadcaster-turned-menswear designer Darren Kennedy hosted a chic lunch at Forest Avenue on Thursday to launch his summer frame selection for Specsavers.

"I've curated 12 styles - six for men, six for women - and they go on sale from tomorrow," explained Darren (inset), who sat down with a table of 12 female fashionistas for a top-class lunch by John Wyer.

"I checked out the restaurant in advance," Darren joked when we noted how his lime-green shirt co-ordinated so perfectly with the dramatic Paul Hughes canvas.

Darren's choice of specs on the day were a classic Karl Lagerfeld Clubmaster-inspired frame with tortoiseshell and gunmetal grey rims.

We chatted about the upcoming VIP Style Awards, which he hosts next week, and after our chat about all things 1916, I've a feeling his suit on the night will be quite patriotic!

I chatted with Sinead Clohessy, chairperson of Specsavers Ireland, and Catriona Gallagher from Ogilivy, during lunch. The awful weather kept me indoors - which meant I simply had to have dessert! John's pain perdu was so intriguing... I will be dreaming about the coconut sponge wrapped in custard and ice cream on top for a long time!

Baby talk and Will Ferrell on cards for Carney

Kirsty Blake Knox

Film-maker John Carney is gearing up for his next big production. 

The Sing Street director and his partner, actress Marcella Plunkett, are expecting their first child this summer. "So that's next on the cards," he said.

John joined the cast of hit musical Once in Walton's music store on South Great George's Street this week for a sing-song. The show will return to the Olympia Theatre this summer.

Walton's holds a dear place in John's heart; as a teenager he used to bring his first dates there to serenade them on the grand piano. "We didn't have a piano at home," he said. "I thought I was Harry Connick Jr and would play Tin Pan Alley.

"It worked quite well but the staff must have hated me." After the arrival of his first-born, John will team up with funnyman Will Ferrell on a new movie all about Roger Ebert and Russ Meyer's debauched creation of cult classic Beyond the Valley of the Dolls.

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