You'll often hear chefs on TV talk about only being as good as the produce they source, and there has never been a truer word spoken.
The best pizzas can only be made with the best tomatoes. A steak is only as good as the butcher and cow it comes from. Similarly, week old fish will need to be dressed up with loads of other ingredients to cover it up.
While chefs have their own suppliers, farmers and fishermen to rely on, us home cooks turn to supermarkets, delis or markets to buy our food. The difference in how we source compared to professional chefs is one of the main reasons food tastes so much better when you eat out than it does at home. Seasoning and professional cooking techniques also lend a hand, but good produce is a huge factor.
So you'll have noticed the huge spread of high-end quality delis in Dublin in the past decade. Donnybrook Fair have outlets popping up all over the place and Fallon & Byrne are on the expansion trail as well, soon to open in the Swan Centre in Rathmines.
Our current favourite? Lotts & Co — it is an absolute dream.
Located just under the railway tracks in Beggar's Bush, they call themselves "a green grocer, butcher & fishmonger, deli & rotisserie, winery & so much more all under one roof". Squeezing so much in under one roof is an ambitious but valiant vision.
Cooking becomes easy when you shop in places like this. I find it incredibly uninspiring walking around a large supermarket looking at the tired plastic containers holding chicken breasts, bags of spinach and piles of perfectly uniform veg,
Here you get wonderfully sourced products - from the meat at the gorgeous butcher's counter to the neatly stacked seasonings or the huge Madagascan prawns at the fish counter.
When I walk into a large supermarket, even as a trained chef, all I can think of making is a chicken stir-fry. When I walked in here I was instanlty inspired to cook up jambalaya, tuna tacos or a slowed braised winter stew.
Good shops will inspire you a million times more than a cookbook, but having said that if you need instructions and a long list of random ingredients this is also the place to find them.
One thing to note is that all this great food comes at a price. This isn't Lidl or Aldi fare, with everything piled high to fly off the shelves in a matter of hours. Lotts isn't cheap but you get what you pay for when it comes to food.
Its a place to come on a special foodie journey when cooking a special meal or needing to stock up the pantry with lovely goodies.
You'll end up going home with random stuff like their mini stuffed doughnuts (divine), fizzy Italian drinks and some unbelievable goose fat - that's the beauty of the place.
People spend the guts of a hundred quid on a night out drinking shots and crappy beer without thinking twice about it. Swap that €100 out and spend it on amazing food in Lotts instead. You'll get a lot more value for money and enjoyment out of it in the long run.
My only regret is I can't shop in here for every single piece of food I eat. It really is that good.