Jan 11 2013

Romantic Restaurants for the Single Guy – Part 2 (Fiona)




OK, you’re a single guy, you have met someone new – she’s looking like a ‘keeper’ –  and you want to move things along a bit (or a bit faster anyway!).

In Part 1 of this article (here) I covered the top 5 restaurants in the world. In this second part I will cover the best 5 restaurants I have actually been to around the world….. and that are a bit more realistic on the wallet. They are not exactly cheap – but they’re not ‘silly money’ either – and you should at least be able to get a reservation there before you start drawing your pension.

Click on the web links I have provided for each one to discover more about them.

I hope you get the opportunity to experience one or more of these fabulous restaurants with that special lady in your life one day. She’s out there waiting for you – just get out there and look for her….. and cook her a romantic meal once in a while J

Lots of love,




1 Le Parc (Carcassonne, France) http://www.restaurantleparcfranckputelat.fr/

(website has an English section)

I last went to Le Parc in the summer of 2012, sitting outside in the covered garden, listening to the cicadas chirping away and soaking up a beautiful sunny day at the foot of the ancient historical ramparts of La Cite in Carcassonne. He could have had me there and then if he had wanted to!

The food of chef Franck Putalet here is divine and the fixed price lunch cost €35 each (which included a glass of wine, a salmon starter, breast of duck main course and dessert). For a 2 star Michelan restaurant, that is remarkable value and it is an experience you won’t forget in a hurry.  There are more expensive and more extensive menus available both at lunchtime and in the evening for all you gourmets out there but I promise you the fixed price lunch will leave you full and happy.

If you have any problems with the web site, try a different browser to internet explorer.


2 La Signoria  (Calvi, Corsica) http://www.hotel-la-signoria.com/

(website has an English section)

La Signoria is a 5 star hotel situated just outside Calvi in Corsica (the most beautiful island in the Mediterranean). I ate in the Romanesque-style palm gardens here on my birthday in June last year under a beautiful pale blue evening sky, accompanied by the best, most discrete table service I have ever experienced. The menu when I ate there offered a great selection of dishes based on local organic ingredients (I had a cold pea soup as a starter that was to die for) including local cheeses.

The hotel was once an 18th century Genoese estate and is quite incredible and luxurious, nestled at the foot of the Corsican mountains and away from the general noise of the town. I think they still doing cooking classes here too.


3 La Mere Zou (Dublin, Ireland) http://www.lamerezou.ie/

I have to give my favourite local restaurant here in Ireland a place in my top 5 list. La Mer Zou is a thriving but relaxed restaurant in the centre of Dublin (St. Stephens Green).

The food is simple but stunning classic French cuisine (including a good selection of local seafood), it is relatively  inexpensive and the ambience (it often has live music such as a guitarist or cello player) created by the owner and staff is perfect for a romantic dinner for two. It also has a good selection of wines at affordable prices. Early bird menus from 6-7pm currently offer 3 courses for €26.

If you are ever in Dublin, I would definitely recommend eating here.


4 The Cinnamon Club  (London, UK) http://www.cinnamonclub.com/

Quite simply, the best Indian restaurant I have ever eaten in and I would get on a plane and go back there tomorrow for their spiced rack of lamb. Based in the heart of Westminster, in the former Westminster library, it will change your perception of Indian food if you dine here. If you have a lady who likes Indian food, take her here.


5 Izakaya Sozai (San Francisco, USA) http://www.izakayasozai.com/

San Francisco is a great, fun town and this is a great Japanese fusion/ramen restaurant. A lot of the menu covers seafood options but there’s plenty of meat on offer too and you can have it on skewers, breaded, deep fried, braised, sashimi’d or with wasabi!  The ramen is great and it’s a fun place. Whenever you look around in this place everybody looks happy and like they are having fun.

I think ‘Izakaya’ actually means a Japanese drinking establishment that serves small plates (like tapas). I had a complete pig-out and went for small dishes of pork belly  and a whole grilled squid followed by ramen (ritsu tonkatsu).




Dec 11 2012

Christmas Morning Champagne (Theresa)



Nothing says it’s Christmas morning quite like the pop of a freshly opened bottle of champagne…… well, nothing says it quite so eloquently or romantically anyway.

All the girls at Alpha Dog Food are going down the route of champagne with peach or apricot juice this year (depending on what we can get hold of in Ireland in December!): the Bellini made famous by Harry’s Bar in Venice and adored by all women. If you are looking for romance on Christmas day, you couldn’t get off to a better start than serving this up.

1. For the best bubbles try holding the glass at an angle while you fill it, rather than pouring the champagne straight down.

2. Corks from champagne bottles can erupt at speeds of up to 60 mph (97 kilometers per hour). At that speed, a cork in the eye can put a serious damper on any Christmas day romance you had in mind. The damage can range from corneal abrasions to retinal detachment. Ouch.

3. If you’ve navigated the cork-popping successfully, you’ll soon find yourself in bubbly bliss. In fact, champagne owes its flavor to these bubbles, which carry aromas directly to the nose.  In research published in 2009, scientists found that each bubble carries tens of aromatic compounds — compounds that appear in heavier concentrations in bubbles than in the liquid champagne itself.

4. The word champagne is now reserved for sparkling wines coming from the Champagne region of France, but bubbly was first produced in England in the 1500’s.

5. One of the biggest consumers of sparkling wine and champagne are Californians. In 2009, the state consumed 2,938,370 9-litre cases of bubbly.

6. Blood-alcohol levels rise faster in people drinking fizzy champagne compared with people sipping flat stuff, according to research conducted in 2001 at the University of Surrey in England. Forty minutes of drinking bubbly sent people’s blood alcohol to 0.7 milligrams per milliliter, compared with 0.58 milligrams per milliliter for people drinking the beverage flat. No one knows why bubbly has this effect, but it may be that the bubbles somehow influence how fast the alcohol gets taken into the digestive system.




Somehow seduction and champagne have always been linked. Perhaps it’s down to 18th century royal courtesan Madame de Pompadour (favourite mistress to Louis XV). She was the first beauty to drink champagne at royal court. Her favourite brand Moet is still the number one selling champagne around the world today and the current face of the brand is sultry screen star Scarlett Johannson.

Or maybe its thanks to twentieth century cultural icon James Bond, still just as popular with global movie audiences today as he was back in the 1960s. The world’s most sophisticated and sexy secret agent 007 is renowned for his love of employing champagne as a favourite weapon of seduction – whether he happens to be using Dom Perignon, Taittinger Comtes de Champagne or Bollinger Grande Annee, we just instinctively know that choosing the right champagne for the moment means James always gets his girl!

By the late 1700s in France the connection between seduction and champagne was well and truly established. Legend has it that the saucer-shaped champagne glasses called coupes were modelled on the the breasts of another famous French royal: Marie-Antoinette, who was the wife of Louis XVI

They were a saucy lot back at the court of Louis XV and XVI, but in fact the earliest reference to the magical seductive qualities of champagne was by an Englishman called Sir George Etheridge as long ago as 1675.

And remember what another Frenchman said about champagne. This time it was a famous gourmet from the 19th century by the name of Brillat-Savarin: “Burgundy makes you think of silly things; Bordeaux makes you talk about them, and Champagne makes you do them.”




You’re probably going to want something to eat with your champagne, so what’s it to be?

Well, strawberries and chocolate are two delicacies that spring immediately to mind and, apparently, scientific tests have shown that all three have a clear beneficial effect on your state of mind. If you saw the movie Pretty Woman you’ll remember that Julia Roberts used to love to drop a strawberry right into her champagne glass. Champagne purists might turn their noses up at this but, if you enjoy it, go for it, but I’d recommend using rosé champagne rather than white champagne.

For one thing the colour of rosé is enticing and romantic in itself, but the other reason is that rosé is a better complement to the strawberries.

This is partly due to the matching colour, but also because rosé champagne often contains a higher proportion of red grapes, particularly Pinot Noir, than the equivalent white champagne and it’s these grapes that give the champagne those lovely aromas and flavours of red fruit, including strawberries, so the two together are a match made in heaven.

What about chocolate? Well, I hate to be a kill-joy, but chocolate and champagne really aren’t that great a combination. It’s down to you of course, but I think you’ll get much more pleasure if you eat and drink them separately.

The reason for this is that chocolate is rich and creamy in texture and can be quite sweet to the taste. On the other hand, most of the champagne we drink is brut meaning that it has a low sugar content and is fairly crisp and fresh on the palate. These two opposites are best enjoyed on their own.

If you’re absolutely set on eating chocolate with champagne here are a couple of tips that are well worth trying:

  • Try white chocolate instead of dark chocolate      with champagne
  • Try a demi-sec champagne rather than a      brut champagne

Demi-sec is richer in sugar and makes for a much more satisfying, smoother combination with the sweetness of the chocolate. You’ll find demi-sec champagne on sale in most good wines stores.


Whatever you decide, have a great Christmas and a very romantic New Year in 2013.


Merry Christmas,




Nov 8 2012

Romantic Restaurants for the Single Guy – Part 1 (Fiona)


OK, you’re a single guy, you have met someone new and you want to move things along a bit.


So you’ve tried some of our menus on her and have arrived at the conclusion that she may be a ‘keeper’ and is worth taking out for a romantic meal and spending some money on (or she’s playing really hard to get and you are getting desperate – the big romantic meal out is the last throw of the dice as far as you are concerned).


If you are lucky enough to be able to afford the best, the list of five restaurants below are considered to be among the crème de la crème of eating establishments in the world (good luck with getting a booking/reservation in the foreseeable future though!). I’ve chosen five from around the world (as our readers are scattered across the globe), rather than any specific ranking or awards, otherwise I would have been listing only European restaurants (that’s just my little joke to all you non-European chefs out there – don’t take it seriously or get offended now).


Next week, I will produce a second list: my top five of great restaurants that I have actually eaten in. They are not cheap – but not ‘silly money’ either – and you should at least be able to get a reservation there before you start drawing your pension.


See you next week,






1 Noma (Denmark)


Noma is consistently voted the number one restaurant in the world. I’m not sure how much the menu cost of 1,500 Danish Kroner converts to in your currency (wherever you are reading this in the world) but in Ireland that’s about 200 Euros – which seems a reasonable amount to be eating at the best restaurant on the planet! A friend of mine has been there and she says it is just amazing.


2 El Celler de Can Roca (Spain)


The Roca brothers run this fabulous restaurant in Spain – and you can even do cookery courses there if you want to improve on what you can learn here with Alpha Dog Food! Traditional cooking at its best with tasting menus at around 130 Euros and feast menus around 160 Euros – but you do get nine courses and two desserts for that!


3 D.O.M. (Brazil)


Chef Alex Atala in Sao Paulo is very big on local ingredients in a big locality. One for the international jet-setter.


4 Per Se (USA)


I have always wanted to go to Thomas Keller’s Per Se restaurant in New York (Manhattan). I know several people who have and it was all they talked about for days afterwards. The food sounds amazing.


5 Iggy’s (Singapore)


All I can say is: “art meets food.” What I can’t figure out is are those menu prices in Singapore dollars or US dollars?

US$1.00 is about SG$1.22 at the current rates/time of writing.