Monday, 28 January 2013

Yindees Downtown Kilkenny: Thai Food At Its Best

There’s a dinner party scene in the gastronomically sensual movie Chocolat that sums up the joy of eating good food. Juliette Binoche, playing the part of passionate and gifted Chocolatier, cooks up a storm for birthday girl Judi Dench, who acts the part of a lonely, fun-loving woman with big opinions living in a small, obedient community. Guests include Johnny Depp, in his role as a travelling gypsy, and other quirky, non-conventional sorts.  When the food is brought to the table, the camera zooms in on ornate platters of lovingly made dishes of food. Instrumental music plays softly as the camera follows the silent reactions of the guests. Smiles, quiet glances, bulging contentment and soft faces of gratitude precede loud laughing, hand clapping, the sound of glugging wine pouring into raised glasses and a gorgeous variety of other celebrations. Song and dance follows, with other small delights of a wonderful shared experience, like story and joke telling.

As I sat in the subtly lit surrounding of Yindees in Kilkenny with my fiancĂ© I remembered that scene. The sunbathed faces of Thailand’s people looked down from the walls through canvas pictures; smiling women in cone hats working in fields, or in tiny boats selling fresh produce; boy monks in orange robes collecting alms, and wonderful portraits of the Buddha. The decor is inviting, tasteful and effectively represents the cuisine its guests have come to eat.

I ordered the crispy potato and pumpkin cake for starters. A small rocket salad sat on the side, with a drizzling of sweet dressing. The best word I can come up with to describe the feeling it invited in me was comforted. It was crisp, fluffy and sweet all in one bite. My other half ordered the lamb martabak - slow cooked lamb potatoes and spices in pastry, with mint and yogurt dressing. Not one for words, he just pointed downwards with his fork a few times, and made a noise that sounded a lot like “Um, mm, mmmmmm.”  I sipped a perfectly decadent Cosmopolitan cocktail as I waited for my next course. He ordered a Kiwi beer, called James Boag's, which he hadn’t necked since his days in Australia. The atmosphere was conducive to relaxed fun. The staff was top class, and checked in on us regularly, topping up our water and ensuring we were happy. Large numbers of guests sat around us, visibly enjoying the vibe too. The place was almost to capacity, which was impressive for a wet night in January.

I had wok-fried tofu and vegetable noodles for my main. I used the wedge of lime at the top of the dish to dress it in fresh juice. The first taste turned me into my partner. Lost for words, I simply sounded out my joy. As a vegetarian, it really is hard to get a good dish at a restaurant, but this was simply not the case at Yindees. The tofu was crisp, and well chopped into small cubes, as opposed to the massive chunks usually served up at other oriental restaurants. The flavours were a complex but perfectly suited medley of fire and spice.  I finished the entire serving, which let me tell you was not meagre.  My partner had already made headway through his curry before I even pretended to care about how he was enjoying it. 

Dessert - lychee panna cotta -  brought me back to my time in Hanoi, where I used to buy large bags of lychees from women in cone hats and eat them at my desk at Vietnam News. Fresh, sweet and hydrating, it is such an exotic fruit, and one that is guaranteed to trigger an endorphin release. My happy fiancĂ©, not usually one for high praise, doted on his mango and passion fruit cheesecake. His was the better choice (as usual) but the panna cotta wasn’t to be dismissed either. Admittedly, though, it is probably more suited to those who like a rich, gooey texture after their dinner.
We’ll be going back. 

Monday, 7 January 2013

Seven Months Later...

Last night there was a miracle, a cracking belter of a miracle. I’m hovering over the floorboards in my house this morning after it. Not to exaggerate, but it was better than when Santa’s sleigh took off from Central Park in Miracle on 34th Street. It was better than when Moses spilt the sea, or when Peter and Wendy tried out flying for the first time. Only mothers will appreciate the full extent of it though. Here goes...

Kian slept uninterrupted in his own room in a cot!  Alone. As in, by himself! This has major implications for my life. It means I can now read in bed with the light on; that I can hit the sack and not have to lie on the crumby bit of space leftover at the edge after dad and baby have positioned themselves for the night. I won’t be woken at 2 and 3 and 4 in the morning by someone too cute to throw out - someone who likes pulling the hair out of my scalp and shoving his fingers up my nose. Someone who likes to scat and chant all sorts of baby talk at unholy hours because he’s cramped, or uncomfortable, or bored or who knows.

 Admittedly, not every parent goes through what I did because most are smart enough to implement a routine from the beginning and stick with it. Baby sleeps in the crib and goes to bed at roughly the same time every night and there’s no more about it. But I’m a first time mom, and a nervous enough one at that. I worry inordinately about the consequences of my actions upon my son’s emotional and mental wiring. I desperately want him to grow up happy and secure, and I want him to feel confident and loved. What I’m now learning is that I don’t have to be with him around the clock to achieve this.

Kian was ready for his own space.  He wanted it. So now we have to scramble around and pick up the bits we didn’t expect we’d actually need anytime soon – like a bumper to block the draught. We resorted to using the crib one as an emergency replacement last night.  We’ll also need to get one of those night lights that make stars on the ceiling. The little ripper really surprised us – who knew he didn’t need me breathing down his neck at night anymore than I needed to curl my toes in pain every time he ripped a rib from me!

He looked so comfortable in his cot all night long. So cosy and cute and grown up. I’m not naive enough to believe that every night will be as last night was, but if it’s anything close to it then I’ve got some still waters ahead. I’ve got some of myself back. I’ve got an independent baby.

 Proud lump in the throat forms. Geeky smile follows, with a “Thank you, God!”

Thursday, 3 January 2013

A Dose of Realism Never Hurt Anyone...

It’s my annual New Year’s clear-out, and I’m filled with the same enthusiasm and hope as every other year before. But there’s a big difference this year, and it’s not insignificant. Wait for it: I’ve become a realist. Not in the nihilistic there’s-no-God sense, but in the you-need-to-work-really-hard-to-achieve-results sense. I’m filled with the wisdom of folks who say things like ‘If you move just a grain a day, eventually you will move a mountain.”

My resolution list is no longer piled high with Get Rich Fast schemes and daydreams. It’s solid, and that’s thanks to Kian. He has sobered me right up and ended my nebulous stupors of legless ambition. Thank you, baby.

I’ve also learned another lesson – no leaking my plans. From now on, I will write only about results, not what I’m going to do, because experience has taught me that once I have shared my excitement and over-enjoyed the initial dreaming-up of things, I fan out and quench. So no more of that – I’m over sharing my plans.

All I will share is my desire to stay in a healthy frame of mind throughout the entire year and to maintain my smokless lifestyle. I’m re-reading Kris Carr’s Crazy, Sexy Diet, and having my first flirtation with spirulina in my green juice as I write this. Diet is what supports everything else, so I figure if the foundations are solid, the structure won’t decay.

Here’s to a really wonderful 2013 everybody.