Wednesday, 7 October 2015

Best brunch in Dublin with a baby - Herbstreet brunch review

Things have been a little quiet around these parts recently with nobody getting much sleep as the littlefoodie has been sprouting his first two teeth. Due to this lunches have been much shorter affairs and bed times have been early enough for me to barely get close to a computer!  

While my other recent reviews have all been for week day lunches, today's review is for one of my favourite weekend haunts. Herbstreet is one of the older unsung heroes of the brunch market in Dublin. It gets very little press but always has a queue out the door on a Saturday or Sunday morning and while Ive had dinner there, brunch is definitely the speciality. If you have a hangover this is the place to go as it has a great brunch menu. If you have a hangover and a small child, there's even more of a draw. 

Food - Every time I come here its always a challenge to pick what Ill have but this time I had the french toast with bacon and maple syrup and the mr had the eggs benedict. Its a real challenge because the pancakes, full Irish and eggos mexicalos are all pretty good too. At around 12 euro for most of the mains its a little more expensive than some other brunch places but the quality is great and portions will keep you going half the day. Their orange juice is freshly pressed and they make a mean coffee too (as seen below served with side salad of giraffe)

Accessibility - There is only a ground floor so accessibility is not an issue. 

Changing facilities - There is a large wheelchair/buggy accessible loo beside the other toilets with changing table and fancy nappy wrapping bin. 

Highchairs - The littlefoodie was particularly fussy on our most recent visit and went from sitting in his buggy, to our laps to a highchair and back again. I saw at least 2 other kids in high chairs while we were there so they must have plenty of them.

Space for buggy - Not a massive amount inside but the staff are more than willing to make room. There is also a large terrace at the front (heaters and retractable awning for the cold) which would be perfect if you had a few buggies along. 

Service -  Our server was really lovely in helping us get a space that the buggy would fit and chatting to the littlefoodie. Some of the other staff also came over for a chat with him while we had breakfast. Service is professional and prompt, without you ever feeling rushed over your lazy Sunday brunch. 

Table booking - They dont take bookings for brunch at the weekend but if you turn up and there's a queue they will give you a time estimate and tell you to come back which is handy if you have a little one in tow. Ive heard that you can (and should) book tables for lunch during the week.

Overall rating - 5/5 - Anyone I have ever introduced to Herbstreet has become a regular, the service and food are great

Babyfriendly rating - 5/5 - Ive regularly seen babies and older children here. Its a busy enough place that you wont feel self conscious about a screaming baba and the staff will make you feel at home. 

The damage - Brunch for two, 2 orange juices and cappuccinos came to just under €40

Tuesday, 22 September 2015

They say it takes a village - breastfeeding resources

Much of the blame for the low breastfeeding rates in Ireland is laid on formula being pushed on the generation before us, as a result those having babies now dont have a knowledgable support network around them if they choose to breastfeed. While this may be true I definitely feel that the health service also needs to take some ownership as from my own stay in hospital I could see that promotion of formula was rampant and that midwives had very little time to help new mothers trying to breastfeed.

Even though I had plenty of support from my own mother, there was still nothing quite like getting help from new mothers and those still nursing over those first few weeks. A lot of the questions I had popped up at 3 in the morning when it wasnt possible to call people so I have included some online resources too:

  • Kellymom - a wealth of answers to every possible breastfeeding related question. Invaluable on those first days at 4am when you arent sure if you are doing anything right. 
  • Ciudiu - Ciudiú host great support groups for breastfeeding moms. After a few weeks of only being comfortable feeding lying down which meant that I wasnt leaving the house, a lovely breastfeeding counsellor at my local group helped me feed sitting down which was life changing at the time. 
  • Your local public health nurse - Some of these are great, some are not much more than baby weight watchers. I was pretty lucky with my nurse, she had nursed her own children and gave me links to a lot of resources. Even if your PHN is useless they most likely host a breastfeeding support group where you can meet with the other local mothers. Just having someone local to chat to makes a world of difference and in my case led to great new friends, my first nursing in public experiences and weekly lunches
  • La Leche League - My local group was a bit hard to get to but LLL are meant to be a fantastic source of information and I certainly used their website on many occasions. 
  • - This website is a fantastic source of information for late night questions. I have also heard that if you email them they will come back to you really quickly. 
  • Lactation consultants - Breastfeeding shouldnt hurt, but if it does (especially after 2 weeks) its definitely worth contacting a lactation consultant. Its a real shame that this is a resource that is not available for free as a new mother but the cost is minimal for the support they give. After 9 weeks I contacted a consultant who came to my house and spent two hours with me watching me feed and looking at my little guy. She was such an encouraging support to me, diagnosed tongue tie and recommended a procedure that made life for both of us a lot easier. Its worth every penny if something feels wrong.  
  • EBI facebook group - This facebook group is full of inspirational breastfeeding mothers and a great place for questions you might have late at night as well as breastfeeding humour, interesting articles, tips on where to get great nursing friendly clothes and more. 

The other thing you might look forward to after nine months of ballooning out of most of your clothes are new clothes. Nursing clothes can be kind of expensive and annoyingly a lot of nursing clothes are designed to cater for a pregnant belly too so are none to flattering. Here are some of my favourites
  • Buy some cheap vest tops and wear something loose on top so that you can pull your top up and the vest top down. Half of your wardrobe suddenly becomes nursing friendly
  • Hotmilk make really nice nursing bras that dont make you look like an old lady and are available in a lot of the larger department stores
  • Boob Design do really good quality tops and hoodies for keeping you warm while feeding. Added bonus - there is a 90% chance that you will be out when the package arrives and your neighbour will end up having to sign for the package with boob written on it. 
  • Wrap dresses - hide a multitude of sins and are great for access
  • H&M nursing tops are cheap and cheerful 
  • Scarves are fairly useful when youre starting out trying to figure out how to hold a tiny baby while allowing them access to milk. I always have one in the changing bag
If there are any resources that you found useful then please share them in the comments. 

Monday, 14 September 2015

Baby led weaning - what is it and why?

When the littlefoodie was born I had read a lot about the 9 short months of pregnancy and labour but very little about what to do when the baby arrives. This, although crazy, seemed to be very common among the other new moms that I met. Everyone reads what they need to know now and not much further. I definitely wasnt thinking as far ahead as introducing solids, so I was very confused when someone mentioned adding baby rice to milk at about the 8 week mark. Around this time one of the girls I know mentioned Baby Led weaning and it sounded like it made a lot more sense to me than baby rices and purees.

So what is Baby Led Weaning (BLW)? 

In contrast to normal weaning where you introduce food slowly by feeding your baby purees of increasing thickness, with baby led weaning you jump straight to finger foods and focus on the baby feeding themselves.

I have been reading the Baby-led Weaning book by Gill Rapley to find out more and the guidelines are all pretty common sense. Some of the main things Ive learnt from the book

  • Wait until the baby is ready - comfortable sitting unaided, reaching for and showing interest in food and at least 6 months old (some people start with rice and purees as early as 4 months)
  • Its great for appetite control, nutrition and avoiding food pickiness later in life as you are introducing all textures straight away. 
  • Its great for babies fine motor skills as they learn to pick up food and bring it to their mouths
  • Its ok for a baby to reject certain foods, but try introducing again in different formats as it can take up to 15 times to get a taste for a food (this is why I didnt like olives until my late twenties!)
  • Makes life easier when eating out - baby just eats food from your plate at the same time as you
  • Babies still get most of their nutrients from milk in the first year and choose to eat the nutrients they need when offered. 
  • Offer a variety of foods but let baby choose what they want to eat - dont force feed
  • Avoid sugar and salt - you dont want baby getting a taste for these! 
  • Embrace the mess. Apparently its messier but for a shorter amount of time as babies get used to feeding themselves. 
There is a great getting started list here

Im really excited about BLW because of my own love of food. I want the littlefoodie to be able to join in at mealtimes and experience all the joys and textures of food as they should be served and I dont want him to feel left out from what others around him are eating (this will mean less cake in our household!). I know there will be plenty of mess to deal with in the short term, but look forward to the benefits and will document the new foods and recipes I find as we start over the next few weeks.

Thursday, 10 September 2015

Airfield Overends review

I had never been to Airfield before I had the littlefoodie but was informed that I wouldnt last maternity leave without a visit because its "where all the southside mothers go" according to my own one. Ive now been 3 times since being on leave and have found it both delicious and baby friendly. The clientele consists about 60% of older ladies having lunch and the rest is moms with babies so there is no fear of your screechy little one interrupting an interview/important business deal here. The dining room is full of light and beautifully designed with views onto a pond and wildflower meadow. 

Food - This and the last time I visited I had the empanada of the day - today was puff pastry filled with sausage, cheese and horseradish. My sister in law (who also had a baby in tow) had the chicken liver pate. Thankfully neither of us are dieting as a lot of the menu is fairly calorific. Airfield really caters towards the ladies that lunch as the special of the day comes with a glass of wine and theres a fairly impressive selection of cakes on view as you enter the door. I arrived for lunch at 1:45 and it was still fairly busy when we left at around 4. We both had coffee and a cookie and some Madelines for dessert. The cakes are particularly good here too. 

Accessibility - There is only a ground floor here and its easy to get buggies in and out. The entrance is really wide so no problem getting buggy through the doors. 

Changing facilities- There is a disabled loo with changing table just inside the door. 

High chairs - I spotted a bunch of high chairs at the back of the restaurant

Space for buggy- There is plenty of room for buggies around the place. Saying this, its the second time that Ive been shepherded into one of the nooks at the side where they seem to hide all the children away and there isnt so much room for buggies in these areas.

Service - Our server was really lovely and attentive. She couldnt resist the womanising charms of the littlefoodie and picked him up for a cuddle before we left

Table booking - No need - plenty of space and even though it was busy we wouldnt have had to wait too long

Overall rating - 4/5 - Would be lovely to have more salads on the menu, that being said I havent tried the ones that are on the menu (next time Im not having the empanada). Also as most things are over the €10 mark its definitely not an every day lunch option. 

Baby friendliness rating - 5/5 - No problem bringing babies here at all (although the parking spots are a bit tight for getting car seats out). 

The damage - Just shy of €30 for 2 very light lunches, coffees, cookies and madeleines.

Tuesday, 1 September 2015

The Woollen mills review

When the littlefoodie was born first one of the things that I missed most was getting out to restaurants for lunch and dinner. I feared that when I became more mobile, restaurants wouldn't be as accommodating as when I went without a baby. Over the last few months Ive become braver and now get out as much (if not more) than I did before, although mostly for brunch and lunch rather than dinner. The topic of how baby friendly restaurants regularly comes up with friends so as I eat my way around Dublin for the remainder of my maternity leave I will post restaurant reviews here with comments on how baby friendly they are. Yesterdays visit was to the Woollen Mills at the Ha'penny bridge.

Food - I had the turkey sandwich with salads and my friend had the cuban sandwich. Both sandwiches were so good that neither of us wanted to share. The sandwiches came on homemade ciabatta with a choice of salads or soup (both come in at under 10€). This was by far the best sandwich I have eaten in Dublin in a long time and consisted of turkey, guacamole, crushed tortilla (strange) and chipotle mayo. We shared a starter of jerusalem artichoke hummus to share which had a lovely smoky taste to it but wasnt really necessary given the size of the sandwich plate. As dessert I had the doughnut of the day, a magical concoction of doughnut perfection stuffed with apple and topped with an amazing cinnamon mascarpone and my friend had a peach custard tart (too much custard, not enough peach). Ive been to the Woollen mills twice before and really enjoyed on both occasions so I will definitely be going back. They take excellent ingredients and know what to do with them.

Accessibility - The ground floor is buggy accessible but Im not sure that you can get to the lovely outdoor terraced first floor other than by stairs. The ground floor outdoor area is covered and has plenty of room so is perfect for buggies and people watching 

Changing facilities- The main toilets are down a stairs but there is a wheelchair/buggy accessible toilet on the ground floor with a changing table

High chairs - I spotted one while on the way to the toilets. There were no other kids in the restaurant during lunch but there may have been more high chairs upstairs

Space for buggy- Fairly limited, you wouldn't want to be meeting friends who also have buggies unless you were willing to sit outside. Calling in advance would be advisable if you are meeting a few people with buggies.

Service - Our server seemed to be a bit disinterested in helping get the buggy to the table when I arrived. When ordering both courses we had to ask other people who told us they would ask our server to come over. Service of 10% was added to the bill automatically which may be part of the reason that the service wasnt great. Overall the staff didnt seem at all bothered that I had a baby with me which was good as said baby has just learned how to shriek! 

Table booking - I booked the table using their online booking system and notified them through this that I would have a buggy with me. 

Overall rating - 4.5/5 Only thing Im marking down on is the service

Baby friendliness rating - 4/5 Not a lot of space for babies unfortunately

The damage - Just shy of €50 for a starter, two sandwiches and salads, 2 desserts a coffee and soft drink. Service at 10% was included

Monday, 31 August 2015

The littlefoodie eats local - 4 other reasons to breastfeed

Before the littlefoodie was born I read a bit about breastfeeding and the health benefits and decided to give it a go. I attended a class in the hospital where everything pointed to how good breastfeeding is for both the mother and baby, but the number of second time Moms in attendance definitely pointed to challenges ahead. I decided to give it a go and not beat myself up if it didn't work out. Given that Ireland has one of the lowest rates of breastfeeding globally I didn't have that much hope for much support from the health system (Ill post more on resources shortly)

Now that my little fella is 4 months old I look back at the reasons I started feeding and realise that many of the reasons I kept going were ones that Id never seen advertised. Speaking to fellow moms they say the same. If you're thinking of breastfeeding then here are some of the reasons you don't always hear:

  • Support and Networking - Breastfeeding might seem like a lonely task if you're afraid of nursing in public but Ciudiu, La Leche League, Friends of Breastfeeding and your local health centre have regular meetings to help you get answers to questions, eat cake at and get over any fears you have. I have met some lovely people through my local group who I meet with at least twice a week for lunch and classes. Having lived in the same house for ten years without knowing any people locally Im amazed at the number of new friends I have through breastfeeding groups. 
  • Cheap - Breastmilk is free! No purchasing boxes of formula or bottles (although we do have a few bottles for expressed milk). How much can you save? I spoke to one mom this week who was spending €5 a day on premade formula as her baby wouldn't take the powdered formula. Start counting up those 5 euros and you have yourself enough for a pretty nice holiday
  • Makes traveling easy - Talking of holidays, by 4 months the littlefoodie had 2 stamps in his passport and had stayed in hotels in Ireland on 3 occasions. He had been fed on a plane (great for ears on take off and landing), boat, train, bus and in the car. When he was thirsty (especially in hotter climates) there was always enough for him to drink. We didn't have to worry about fridges, sterilisers or clean water which meant that we were able to travel with only hand luggage! As a family that love to travel breastfeeding made travel simple. 
  • Lazy - Ok, so it wasn't as easy for me as it is for others. My little boy had tongue tie which wasn't diagnosed until he was 9 weeks old. This made feeding painful for me and for him until a while after he had the procedure to fix it. Nevertheless I say lazy because breastfeeding meant that we had no making of bottles or sterilising and no boiling of kettles late at night while a hungry baby cried. When hunger struck a snack was always available for him without me having to move from the bed. 
This article also has some great inspiration if you're thinking of breastfeeding and is well worth a read  - it melts your ass fat, passes on flavours of what you eat, produces antibodies to fight infection in your baby and is the perfect food (even if your own diet is not so great)

I know that breastfeeding doesnt work for everyone but its definitely worth considering and reading all you can before your baby is born if you want to give it a go. 

Ive a feeling we will be sticking at it for a while to come.

Thursday, 27 August 2015

A littlefoodie joins

After a couple of years of doing nothing with this site, Ive decided to restart this blog. So much has happened since I last posted - trips to Sri Lanka, Barbados and lots of eating in Italy where I also tied the knot. Probably the biggest change has been bringing a little foodie into the world. About a year ago I found out I was pregnant and was informed of all the many things I shouldnt eat, since he has been born I keep thinking of all his future food experiences. I decided to restart this blog with this as one of the themes. I will get back to posting restaurant reviews and recipes too, but chances are they will have a slant towards being baby friendly given my little companion. 

About the foodie - 
I've always been crazy about food whether eating it or making it. Food has inspired many trips around the world so much so that the first foreign phrase I learn is normally how to thank the chef. Cooking and baking is a great source of stress relief for me, eating the spoils a source of joy. In 2009 I handed in my notice and spent 3 months training at Ballymaloe Cookery school with the sole intention of mastering my skills, but no intention of ever becoming a chef.

I started this blog in 2008 as a way of documenting my way through cookery school. Over time it and I grew tired and it fizzled out back in 2012. I decided to start it up again in 2015 after my son was born as I started to look forward to seeing food through his eyes and passing my love of food on. Baby led weaning seemed like the obvious choice for the future little foodie as I wanted him to experience real food. Laziness also had a big part to play in this decision. I want my little fella to grow up eating with us as a family, being curious and adventurous with food.

One of the big changes since having a baby is the lack of time that I get to cook, so its likely recipes here will focus on being quick to make yet tasty and filling. Over the coming months those recipes will include food that I can share with the little foodie. 

The little foodie - born in April 2015
The little foodie doesnt know anything about real food yet other than seeing it frequently entering his parents mouths. Born in April 2015 his food journey is currently only breastmilk but around October this year he should start to have his first food adventures.

Disclaimer - I am not a child nutritionist or expert on breastfeeding. Everything expressed in this blog are my opinions only. Please consult an expert if you are having any issues with feeding your child.