I needed to take some photos in Dublin, and my camera gear is in Kerry, so I went into the lovely folks at Conn’s Cameras, asking to rent a Nikon D700. All were out, so I inquired if there was any chance they’d rent me the new Fuji X Pro 1.
There’s been a lot of buzz around this camera, and I was dying to get my hands on it. For me, a lighter, smaller camera that takes great shots and manages low light has been something I’ve been waiting for ages to materialize. An all around camera – something to shoot ice cream and people – good quality but not exactly a Leica M9 (way beyond my budget).
Somehow, with all of the advances with digital cameras, there’s still the same old thing – compacts that don’t quite deliver the quality (usually due to small sensors and limitations on lens quality) and bulky DLSRs. Could this be the one?
Conn’s rented me one straight out of the box, and I walked out with the camera and all the lenses. Here’s the first shot I took, at night in our fairly dark Wicklow St. shop:
It’s a 16 megapixel camera, and advances in sensors leads them to claim that it’s equivalent to a full frame camera in quality. In addition, Fuji is known for making lenses (especially for cinema), and the camera comes with three – an 18mm, a 35mm, and a 60mm macro. They all have old-school aperture rings, which I love. I used the 60mm for this shot of ice cream:
Here’s a crop of the same shot:
Here’s a shot of a nut tart, taking within minutes of taking the camera out of the box, shot at 800 ISO:
So far so good. The picture quality is indeed great.
So,I headed outside to see if the speed of the camera is as much of an issue as people say, especially in low light. It is. Although the color and lack of grain in the below photo is amazing for near dark (shot at 3200 ISO), the 18mm lens had real trouble getting a focus lock. I shot a few, and none of them were perfectly sharp.
On the other hand, if you have a stationary target and lots of time to focus, it can deliver fine photos, even with very low light:
Do not buy this camera if you are the impatient sort. If you want to auto bracket exposure or take a burst of three shots, the camera stops to write them to disk, freezing up the digital viewfinder, long enough to drive me crazy. In addition, the lenses spend far too much time hunting for focus – especially bad on the 60mm.
Another downside is that the battery isn’t especially great, and I couldn’t find any meter that shows that the camera is about to die, which it does all of a sudden without a chance to take another shot.
Finally, I’ve found a bit of odd ghosting – the following shot was done in natural light on a cloudy day, and even the lens hood couldn’t stop the brownie being haunted:
So, for me, while there is lots to love about the camera, it’s not there yet. At €3000 for the camera and lenses, it’s not cheap, and as such it would have to perform better for me. I commend Fuji for their innovation, and I’ll be hoping the X pro 2 is the camera that finally puts it all together, but this baby will be returned as scheduled.
We’re doing a little bit of a rebrand, and I’d love your feedback – here’s our old and new logo. It’s extremely stressful for us to think about changing it, but we’ve had lots of feedback about our old logo being hard to read, especially in a supermarket context.
What do you think? Is it an improvement?
PS. What about the colour?
In Ireland, although we’re proud of our scenery, our castles and our pubs, we still tend to be apologetic about food. Do we think Ireland remains backwards when it comes to good eating? I don’t. Last year’s culinary tour of France proved to me that we have restaurants that can stand proudly with any in the world, and we were about to visit two of the best.
For any of you who haven’t been to Chapter One to taste Ross Lewis’ cooking, get yourselves down there! Four years ago, I thought it was really great. Two years ago, I thought it was even better. Last summer I went, and found that he had hit still new heights. One of my two visiting friends had gone with me for that summer meal, and I think the experience was half the reason she came back to Ireland so soon. This time, it was yet again sublime. The other friend travels the world in a very high-powered job, and fine dining would be a very regular occurrence. Not only did he say that he didn’t think there was a restaurant in New York as good, but he said it was his best meal in years. Period.
The next night, I brought them over to experience Kevin Thornton’s culinary wizardry. Sadly, after nearly a week of stuffing ourselves, we couldn’t muster the courage for the full tasting menu. This was a shame because one of my friends is a strict vegetarian. In many restaurants, vegetarians feel like second class citizens, a bother to the chef. At Thornton’s, not only do they accommodate you, but they whip out a full vegetarian menu – just as exciting as the regular menu, including the option of an 8 course “surprise” menu of dishes at Kevin’s whim. I thought the options looked so good that I traded in the regular menu and wasn’t one bit disappointed. Next time, we’ll spare ourselves some of the meals and come back for the full treatment. It surely must be as close to vegetarian heaven as it gets.
The BES has been set up (and will be managed) by Quintas in Cork, and although we have a fund that approved a chunk of the amount we’re looking for, it was less then we had hoped, so we’re short in terms of getting the BES fully subscribed.
So… if you know anyone who has been grumbling about their taxes and might be interested in an ice cream investment (there’s a sweetener of equity as well as the usual tax relief), please spread the word.
I’d be happy to pass on more details if requested.
I made this video a while back but forgot to post it. It’s Róisín at the Dingle Aquarium. Worth a visit if you’re in town and have little ones!
Some months ago, I was contacted by Geoffrey, a customer in our Dublin shop, who asked would I be interested in making Christmas pudding ice cream, made from puddings he cooked up using a recipe from his grandmother, Bridget (photo above, also supplied by Geoffrey).
Needless to say, this was the kind of opportunity I love – it combined a good story with a customer and an Irish tradition. Geoffrey was kind enough to seek out a registered kitchen for his cooking so that we could be covered in terms of food safety, and soon I had some of the most tasty pudding in my hands.
He’s quickly gathering a reputation for excellence with his puddings, which he makes for friends and colleagues. Maybe this is the beginning of a great artisan business!
We made the ice cream using his pudding and a hint of Baileys in the base. I think it came out quite well, and it has been a hit with customers, especially in Dublin, where I’m afraid it’s already sold out. We do have some left in Dingle and Killarney, and we’ll try to get a few more containers to Dublin in time for Christmas, but I can’t promise it.
I thought I’d post a recipe here since you might not be able to taste ours, and because if your house is anything like mine, you have left over puddings and Christmas cakes. Rather than discard them, you can use the leftovers in ice cream, which will keep long enough in the freezer that you can return to them when you’re feeling less stuffed!
Anyway, big thanks to Geoffrey, who drove this project and made it happen. He already has plans for a gluten free version, so next year we might do both versions. I’ll have to remember to make some extra for Dublin!
Here’s the recipe, and Happy Christmas everybody!
Murphys Christmas Pudding Ice Cream
• 120g sugar
• 5 egg yolks
• 220 ml cream
• 220 ml milk
• 1 tablespoon Baileys
• 200 gm Christmas pudding or other Christmas cake
What to do:
1. Combine the sugar and egg yolks and beat until thick and pale yellow.
2. Bring the milk to a low simmer.
3. Beat the milk into the egg/sugar mixture in a slow stream.
4. Pour the mixture back into the pan and place over low heat.
5. Stir continuously until the custard thickens slightly (around 65-70C) and just coats the back of a spoon. Don’t over-heat, though, because at around 76C you will scramble the eggs!
6. Immediately remove from the heat.
7. Allow to cool.
8. Stir in the Baileys
9. Whip the cream until it has doubled in volume (you should have soft peaks – don’t over-whip).
10. Fold (gently stir) in the custard.
11. Freeze using a domestic ice cream machine, adding the pudding when it’s fairly solid.
12. You can also just cover and place in the freezer, stirring every few hours, and again, add the pudding when it’s reasonably solid.
Notes: 1. Make sure you add the liqueur when the mixture is cool, or the alcohol will evaporate.
2. To pasteurise the eggs, heat the custard to 73C and keep at that temperature for three minutes. Use a cooking thermometer, though, and keep stirring! If the custard goes any higher than 76C, the eggs will scramble. Immediately cover and place in the freezer until cool.