Friday 24 January 2020

The Pleasure List: All things sweet and beautiful

From left: Zoku pops, SI+LU Hat; Eames chair; Madonna, Material Girl; Westport Food festival
From left: Zoku pops, SI+LU Hat; Eames chair; Madonna, Material Girl; Westport Food festival
IRRESISTIBLE: Every now and then, we all deserve a treat, says Rachel Allen

'I think we all do our best to include wholesome food in our diet, but every now and then we deserve a treat, don't we?" So says Rachel Allen, and we are disinclined to argue. It is this generous understanding of human psychology that has inspired Rachel's latest book, All Things Sweet, entirely dedicated to the creation of treats and desserts.

However, as Rachel points out, even sweet things can be full of nutritional goodness if you make them yourself, so there are plenty of recipes that include nuts, seeds, fruit and yoghurts here. Quick after-school snacks, afternoon tea treats, classic desserts and celebratory cakes all rub shoulders together in a pleasant jumble of easy-to-follow, reliable instructions for dishes such as sesame and honey halva, strawberry Victoria mess and a rather irresistible double chocolate mousse. All Things Sweet joins the steadily-growing collection of Rachel's books, including Easy Meals, Home Cooking and Bake, that do such a good job of taking the fear and frustration out of home cooking.


Second birthday bash for design house

CA Design, best for contemporary and retro furniture, celebrated their second birthday last Wednesday with Italian food and cool 1950s & 60s Italian jazz from DJ Steve Reddy. Set up by Carol-Anne Leyden and Una Foley, CA Design opened in 2012 on the basis that there was a niche in the market for affordable, design-focused furniture, with a particular emphasis on pieces inspired by 20th Century design classics.

Which means you can expect sleek, functional and lovely items, inspired by classics such as the Mies Van Der Rohe Barcelona chair, Eames lounger and ottoman, and Norman Cherner chairs and stools. Everything is beautifully made, with attention to the smallest details and finishes. Originally only available on-line, CA Designs now has a physical presence too, on South Lotts Road, where you can browse by touch and smell rather than simply visually, so pop along - preferably in party mood.


Material girl immortalised at Newbridge museum

"Experience has made me rich and now they're after me . . . " so sang Madonna in Material Girl, released back in 1984 when she was still a very possible one-hit wonder pop pretender. But how right she was. Thirty years later she is in the curious position of being both icon and iconoclast. Madonna's influence on music and fashion are now justly celebrated in the Newbridge Silverware Museum of Style Icons, in an exhibition that runs until September 15th. On view will be the Marilyn Monroe-inspired pink satin dress from Material Girl, period clothing from Evita, and the famous photograph of Madonna wearing a black beret with bared breasts on the catwalk with Jean Paul Gaultier. Also on display is Madonna's 1988 day-planner - including hand-written notes about public appearances and private engagements with then-husband Sean Penn. Proof that the Material Girl is just (not!) like the rest of us.


Pretty healthy pops

Have you noticed the way ice-pops are having a moment, transformed from despicable sugarfest into healthy treats, and a neat way of making stuff like kale palatable? Recently we have come across spicy watermelon pops, banana, spinach and flaxseed pops, even sweet and salty celery pops. Seriously. And so, for the Indian summer of which we live in daily expectation, jump the bandwagon and invest in the Quick-Pop Maker from Zoku, now available at Brown Thomas from €20. This incredibly cute little device freezes ice-pops in under seven minutes, on your countertop, without using electricity. Yes, it does seem rather like magic. But unlike most magic, it works. Capable of making striped pops, yoghurt pops and even flavoured core pops, along with more usual varieties, this is a clever, handy way to experiment with the new frontier of healthy sweet stuff, as well as the perfect Trojan Horse for the kind of stuff your kids usually turn their noses up at. Broccoli pops, anyone?


Shsh! Supper is a secret at Westport festival

The fourth annual Westport Food Festival takes place next weekend, September 5th to 7th, two days of foraging, pizza-making, tasting tours, useful demos from top chefs, bakers and mixologists, a food village and even a fringe festival. This year, organisers have also added the element of surprise - a Secret Supper event, on Sunday September 7th. Something like Come Dine With Me, intrepid diners will buy tickets for a five-course Taste Experience meal, but without knowing the wheres or whats until the night itself. There will be a pre-dinner restaurant lottery at the Clock Tavern on High Street to decide who goes where - participating restaurants include JW's at The Wyatt, Sol Rio, An Port Mór, Quay Cottage and Knockranny House Hotel. Once they have eaten, the ticket-holders then come back and score their experience. Based on that, the winner will be awarded the Michael Ruane Memorial Chefs' Challenge. A secret, a gourmet meal and a competition all rolled into one, surrounded by the trappings of an all-out festival; what's not to like?


Cute, kind clothes for kids

Si+Lu are husband-and-wife team Simon O'Connor, a composer and curator of the Little Museum of Dublin, and musician Lucy Clarke, who ran straight from her Leaving Cert to Glastonbury, where she played as part of all-girl rock band Chicks. From there, Lucy studied philosophy, and now has two children, and this fantastic knitwear label. The label came about as all the best ideas do - to fill a gap the couple found in the market. Unable to find handmade children's clothing made in Ireland, Lucy and Simon decided to do it themselves. They set about finding local knitters, weavers and seamstresses, and steadily developed a clothing brand that is sustainable, and can also compete on price with its closest international competitors. Using gorgeous materials like Donegal tweed, sheepskin and rare alpaca wool, Si+Lu's clothing is contemporary in design, but uses the kind of artisan craft methods that usually get overlooked in the creation of childrenswear. Their clothing is classic and durable, meaning the hand-me-down factor is huge. The new season includes bright hats and scarves made of alpaca wool, sheepskin ear muffs, tweed and wool coats, as well as Si+Lu trademark cosy striped jumpers and hand-printed t-shirts.

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