Cellar Tours Blog

Archive for the ‘Ireland Travel’ Category

Kilbeggan Distillery, located in central Ireland, makes some of the best premium whiskies in the world including Connemara Peated Single Malt, Tyrconnell Single Malt, Greenore Single Grain, and Kilbeggan Irish whiskey.

We had the chance to interview their distiller, Andrina Fitzgerald this month and are delighted to share it with our readers.

CELLAR TOURS-  How do you find it being one of the the only female distillers in Ireland?

I am no longer the only female distiller in Ireland. Jameson has recently hired an apprentice female distiller. It is great for the industry to see women getting involved in the production side of the whiskey industry. Primarily it was a male dominated world, and even to this day when visitors hear there is a distiller on site at Kilbeggan, they are a bit surprised to see a woman operating the stills. I’m proud to have the opportunity to learn the trade from the masters before me – I take pride in my work and appreciate the fact that I am very lucky to have the job I have. I love the science behind the craft but also knowing that I am creating something from scratch which others will enjoy in a few years’ time, fills me with pride.

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CELLAR TOURS- How did you first come to learn about, appreciate and enjoy whiskey?

Everything I have learned, I have learned here on site. Prior to starting the job, I had a very limited knowledge of whiskey, but I understood the science behind the process having studied chemistry and biology at university. With each day that passed, I gained more knowledge about whiskey, the different brands (both what we make and other brands), and what distinguishes one whiskey from another. Being immersed in the day to day running of the distillery ensured that I got a great understanding of whiskey. Knowing the time and effort that goes into creating a whiskey means that I will appreciate the next dram I have.

CELLAR TOURS- What is an average work day for a distiller like?

A typical day for a distiller is full of variety. The morning starts off with getting everything up and running for the day ahead. Once the stills are charged, heated up and running, the rest of the day is taken up with monitoring the stills for flow rate, alcohol strength and temperature, along with doing paperwork, checking in with mashing, fermentation and maturation. And of course meeting and greeting with visitors and telling them how we operate and make whiskey here at the home of Kilbeggan Irish Whiskey.

CELLAR TOURS- What is the main difference between Scotch whisky and Irish whiskey?

The difference primarily lies in location. Scotland is more Northerly than Ireland resulting in colder winters. Ireland has a very temperate climate; the summers are never too warm, the winters never too cold. This lack of extremes allows Irish whiskey to mature at a more mild and mellow pace resulting in a softer, smoother style of whiskey.

8/06/2013 Kilbeggan Distillery Photography. Picture Conor McCabe Photography.

CELLAR TOURS- What types of whiskey do you make at Kilbeggan and do you have a personal fave?

Here at Kilbeggan we are currently making single malt whiskey. We have in the past made some innovation whiskies which are currently maturing in the warehouses here in Kilbeggan. However for now, we are focusing on making single malt which will go into our Kilbeggan blend after maturation. Although I do love all of the brands that we produce, Kilbeggan would be my favourite. I particularly enjoy the caramel and vanilla expressions which are revealed on the palette before finishing quickly with the soft, light malt sugar note. I enjoy having my dram of Kilbeggan on the rocks or in an Irish Coffee.

CELLAR TOURS- Where do your barrels come from? I heard some barrels come from Jerez and Marsala?

Here at Kilbeggan we are using ex-bourbon barrels from America to mature our whiskey. Our barrels are coming from some of the Jim Beam distilleries in America. We use the ex-bourbon barrels for the development of our desired and signature flavours. Another reason for using ex-bourbon barrels is that they are plentiful. Ex-sherry, port or maderia barrels can also be used for maturation, but the supply of these is not as plentiful as the ex-bourbon barrels. Therefore, this makes these barrels more costly to source.

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 CELLAR TOURS-How is Kilbeggan different to the larger players in Ireland like Jameson?

Kilbeggan is a double distilled whiskey. This allows the whiskey to retain more flavor than a triple distilled spirit like Jameson. While as smooth and soft as a triple distilled whiskey, Kilbeggan has more flavor resulting in a more versatile and fuller flavoured whiskey.

CELLAR TOURS- Is it sacrilege to use whiskey in cocktails? If not, is there a certain whiskey cocktail you like?

Definitely not sacrilege! A good cocktail is all about balance and complementary flavours; just like a good whiskey. The beauty of whiskey is that it can be enjoyed in many ways; straight, with a little ice or water, in a long drink like Ginger ale or indeed in a good classic cocktail like an Old Fashioned, Whiskey Sour or Manhattan style drink.

8/06/2013 Kilbeggan Distillery Photography. Picture Conor McCabe Photography.

CELLAR TOURS-What can visitors to the distillery look forward to and is there a best time of year to visit?

Visitors to the Kilbeggan Distillery Experience start their tour in 1757 and discover how Irish whiskey was made in decades past. They will discover the families that owned the distillery in the past and the importance the local community had on what you see today. They’ll see the old mash tuns and fermenters, still in their original positions. Visitors can also get close to the iconic waterwheel which once powered the whole distillery and kept whiskey flowing through Kilbeggan.

A stroll across the courtyard takes you to the present day, where whiskey is being produced in the traditional way – ancient traditions have been passed on from generation to generation, and the team are happy to talk you through what they are doing. Visitors can see the traditional method of mashing in an oak mash tun, fermentation in Oregon pine vats and the new Kilbeggan malt spirit flowing the from ancient pot still –  which is over 186 years old! Of course no visit would be complete without a taste of Kilbeggan’s finest. A visit to Kilbeggan Distillery is a unique experience not to be missed! The Distillery is open 7 days a week, except for between Christmas and New Year periods.

8/06/2013 Kilbeggan Distillery Photography. Picture Conor McCabe Photography.

CELLAR TOURS-With the holidays around the corner, it´s the season for Irish coffee, do you have a Kilbeggan Irish coffee recipe you could share with our readers?

Classic is best. A good shot of Kilbeggan, topped up with freshly brewed coffee and lightly whipped chilled cream floated on the top.

Gourmet Country Houses in Ireland

Posted by gen On October - 25 - 2013

We  had a special wedding anniversary to celebrate earlier this month and decided to visit some of Ireland’s famed country houses. Being foodies, we looked for ones with a fine reputation for their cuisine. We were blown away by the quality of the cooking and hospitality and are delighted to share our travel notes with you!

GOURMET HIDEAWAY AT THE OLD CONVENT

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We had heard great things about this delightful country house in idyllic County Tipperary and it is literally the most enjoyable night we have had in years- and we travel/dine out and stay at great hotels for a living! Located in the quiet village of Clogheen in the foothills of the Knockmealdown Mountains in the famous Vee it´s a truly beautiful part of the country. Colorado native Christine and local chef Dermot Gannon bought this historic property dating back to the late 1800´s in 2005 with the intention of creating the kind of place they themselves would love to stay at- an adults only (ie, for couples who need a night away on their own), food centric luxurious and pampering country house. They have created something extremely special indeed. We arrived in the late afternoon and (thankfully) decided to do a pre dinner walk to get our appetites going. The house is a short walk to the tiny village and there is a lot of history here as well as a charming local pub where we had a great chat with the friendly publican.

Before sitting down to our 8 course gourmet Irish artisan tasting menu we met and chatted with other couples in the super cozy living room, there is a convivial air in the place and your spirits are boosted in this house! Dinner was simply stunning, dish after dish of gorgeousness. They have a nice and varied wine list with names from all over the world including a tempting wine from Lebanon, but we settled on an old time favorite, Condado de Haza reserva.  Breakfast the next day was probably the best breakfast we have ever enjoyed outside of our own house.  Spelt waffles with maple syrup and local bacon, Baked Garden Fresh Hens Eggs with Organic Smoked Salmon and  St. Tola’s Goats Curd & Goatsbridge Caviar were just a few of the delicacies on offer. Needless to say after breakfast a serious walk was in order and luckily the Old Covent is a short drive to some of the loveliest hill walks in the region, which we were grateful for after so much rich cuisine! If we were to recommend one country house in Ireland, this would be it! Great for romance too with the claw foot bathtubs, four poster beds and dreamy setting….

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MOUNT JULIET27

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Enroute to Mount Juliet we were graced by bright blue skies and gorgeous sunshine and we visited some fabulous spots. Highlights included the stunning Cistertian Jerpoint Abbey, the Jerpoint glass blowers (they have a neat little shop, the glassware is high end and special), the adorable village of Inistioge (featured in our post on the most beautiful villages in Ireland) and we called in to visit one of our fave cheesemakers, Helen from Knockdrinna near medieval Kilkenny (we will be offering new cheesemaking classes as part of our gourmet tours of Ireland next season).  In the afternoon we arrived to the beautiful Mount Juliet estate, it´s huge! There are 1500 acres of woodlands, gardens and rolling green hills of golf course (there is a world class Jack Nicklaus Signature Golf Course onsite).  This Irish Georgian country house also boasts their own stables  and equestrian center, and a Michelin starred restaurant, what a treat! We would love to actually come back and spend 3 nights here as there is so much to do- salmon and trout fishing, archery and they have a great spa. Plus it´s only a few miles down the road from Kilkenny which is always lovely to visit (and for foodies, note there is another Michelin starred restaurant in Kilkenny, called Campagne).  We loved the relaxed elegance in the main house and The Lady Helen Restaurant (awarded a Michelin star for 2014) is terrific. The opulent dining room has  panoramic views over the River Nore and like many country estates in Ireland, dishes are used with their own fresh herbs and veg and local ingredients from the county. Highly, highly recommended.

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KILGRANEY HOUSE

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We drove from gorgeous County Kilkenny to the gentle, bucolic region of Carlow. Idyllic rivers crisscross historic villages and this is an extremely authentic pretty area hardly touched by tourism. The main industry is small scale agriculture and there are some gems to discover here. We really loved the tidy town of Leighlinbridge with its Norman castle and Valerian bridge, and the eccentric  Huntington Castle and Gardens are fun (the castle is said to be haunted and they even do a candelit ghost tour!).  We arrived to Kilgraney House, a historic Georgian home stylishly updated with ethnic decor from around the world. After enjoying an aperitif by the fire in the romantic drawing room we sat down to dinner.  Seven courses of dinner! Highlights included wild mushroom risotto and the citrus panna cotta.  Most ingredients are sourced from the estate and the dishes are made with all seasonal ingredients.  In the morning we enjoyed a tour around the beautiful gardens, the owners offer gardening courses and are on the Carlow Garden Trail and it would be fun to go back and do a course, along with one of the aromatherapy treatments they are famous for. For  design lovers, Kilgraney will tick all the right boxes.

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A few other great country houses in Ireland we recommend that we have stayed at and enjoyed the dining experience immensely include beautiful Longueville House  (best autumn vegetable soup scented with sorrel EVER), Ballyvolane House (loved the breakfast) and Carrig Country House in beautiful County Kerry (truly stunning country cuisine).

There are a few great resources where you can find lovely historic accommodations in Ireland including the Blue Book, Hidden Ireland, and Manor House Hotels of Ireland.

The Winding Stair Restaurant in Dublin

Posted by gen On May - 20 - 2013

Guest blog-  The Winding Stair Restaurant in Dublin, Ireland

By Maria Burpee

One of the perks of my job is travel. This is about my gourmet experience in Dublin at The Winding Stair. With charming and simple decor and a down-to-earth staff the restaurant felt local and approachable. I started with an Ancora, Pinot Grigio Rose from Italy and then had the Nutty crusted haloumi with nectarine and green peppercorn chutney and caper berries, with a side of rocket. It had a Lackluster presentation and a strange haloumi. Maybe it’s the Irish cows, but it was too creamy to be haloumi in my mind. Is that not a designated origin cheese I wondered? Also the chutney was more currants than nectarine.

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Next the Irish seafood chowder with Fingal Ferguson’s chorizo and treacle bread. The bread is to die for I must find the recipe. The chowder I thought smelled too fishy and too heavy on potatoe at first but it was delicious, very filling though with the bread. The seafood was great, the chorizo is spectacular and well spiced, a great depth of flavor and welcome bite to the creamy soup. I don’t usually eat pork and I lived in Spain for 5 yrs so for me chorizo needs to be like this if you are going to eat it, otherwise don’t bother.

Next an Allento, Syrah tourgu merlot, alentejo Portugal and a  Char grilled 28 day dry-aged Irish Hereford beef rib eye steak with sticky onions, roasted garlic truffle butter and homemade chips. The onions were the star of this show, the red onions reduced in balsamic vinegar and a touch of brown sugar mean they are a sweet perfunctory side to balance the lovely garlicky meat and fantastic homemade chips. The presentation was nothing to speak of but that’s the point really, it doesn’t need it, the fufu plating has no place with simple, authentic, flavorful food.  Finally a smooth, rich chocolate pudding with (alleged) caramel cream and pistachio praline. When I die, please just bury me in that pudding.

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A member of Good Food Ireland The Winding Stair says on their website:

“The food is good, old-fashioned home cooking, with produce sourced from artisans within the island. The beer list focuses on local and international micro breweries with an emphasis on good, food-matched beers and ales. The wine list is extensive and also aims to showcase some of the new and emerging stellar boutique wine makers from the new and old worlds. We aim to be a restaurant devoid of bells and whistles, with food cooked by chefs devoid of ego and served by warm, friendly professionals with a passion for their business.”

You have succeeded in your aim in my opinion. This is not a restaurant critique because that might imply I am an expert and a sense of high brow judgement. It is not my place to judge, I simply wanted to document my dining experience so that ordinary folks can experience this authentic, purposeful, delicious tour of Ireland. I wish The Winding Stair a tasty, twisting, successful journey.

Most Beautiful Villages of Ireland

Posted by gen On September - 1 - 2011

Ireland is truly one of Europe’s most beautiful countries with miles of virgin countryside, pristine coastline, charming fishing villages and quaint hamlets.

While there are dozens of great little villages, we of course have our favorites. Herewith, enjoy reading about some of the Most Beautiful Villages of Ireland…

Most beautiful Villages in IrelandADARE

Adare in Co. Limerick has long been regarded by many as Ireland’s prettiest village. Originally belonging to the Fitzgeralds its present manicured gardens and thatched cottages owe themselves more to the Earls of Dunraven who restored the village in the early 1800s after having almost been completely destroyed due to the numerous battles which took place there during the 16th century wars. Many of the thatched dwellings dotted around the village were once workers’ lodgings which have recently been converted into cosy little cafes and restaurants with “The Inn Between” probably being the most popular.

However this quaint little village is not only well-loved for being as picturesque as a painting, there is also plenty to see and do. Nearby stands the award winning 5 star Adare Manor with a championship golf course, top class equestrian centre, luxurious spa, fine-dining eateries, immaculately sculpted gardens and two evocative ruins all housed within its 900 hectare parkland. Around the village 13th-15th century priories, abbeys and castles have been well-preserved and are definitely worth a visit. Of particular interest is the Foynes Flying Boat Museum which educates the visitor about the strategic position of the Shannon region when flying was still in its infancy during the 1920s and 1930s. Vintage cars can also be hired to experience the thrill of taking in the beautiful surrounding countryside in pure style and elegance.

Most Beautiful Places Ireland

ARDARA

The attractive village of Ardara is renowned as the weaving capital of Donegal with tweed shops and woollen mills abound.  Settled in a cove along the rugged coastline, the fine sandy strands and spectacular seascapes are the perfect backdrop for the awe-inspiring sunsets which can only be found on the west coast of Ireland. Looking out to sea from this pretty, unspoilt hamlet, it is easy to understand why so many Irish songs are filled with heartache at having to leave these beautiful shores.

Nothing could be more pleasing to the senses than a leisurely drive along the scenic route from Ardara to Glencolumbkille over Glengesh Pass, a wild and deserted landscape of glens, moors and lakes. Ireland is famous for its hospitality but the people of County Donegal go that extra mile. Cosy Nancy’s bar in the centre of Ardara is famous for its sumptuous house chowder, heart-warming Irish coffee, an exceptional pint of Guinness and intimate traditional music sessions. If you want to experience “real Ireland” we highly recommend Ardara and if you happen to be in the county at the end of August, do not miss the three-day Donegal Food Festival in Donegal town.

Most beautiful Ireland

ARDGLASS

Most visitors to Northern Ireland head straight to the Antrim Coast however the rest of the country has plenty to offer those who prefer to stay off the beaten track. Overlooking the Irish Sea, Ardglass has been a fishing village for millennia which today produces some of the best herring in the country. The peninsula surrounding the village is just as picturesque and the Mountains of Mourne and the Mourne Coast to the south and Stragford Lough to the north are simply stunning.

Ardglass has been associated with St.Patrick and it was already a well-established port when the Anglo-Norman invader John de Courcey established his headquarters just a few miles away in Downpatrick taking advantage of the easy to defend harbour which was a must in those days of constant conflict. It then became an important port for the London Trading Company during King Henry VIII’s reign and later came under the ownership of the Fitzgeralds, Earls of Kildare. The Earls went on to build Ardglass Castle where the golf club house now resides and which offers a fine-dining eatery; a great place to savour and sample the local produce. For more casual but equally impressive dining, historical and award-winning Curran’s Bar offers a variety of tantalising dishes including Fresh Ardglass Garlic Prawns, Natural Smoked Haddock, seafood platters and succulent steaks.

Beautiful Ireland

ENNISKERRY

Enniskerry located just south of Dublin is also known as the gateway to Wicklow. This picture-postcard Victorian village is the perfect starting point for any tour of “The Garden County”. Nestled in the foothills of the Sugarloaf Mountain, Enniskerry was once part of the Powerscourt Estate and was developed to house the various tenants that worked there. Now it is a very popular little village full of craft-shops, cafes, pubs and art galleries with a pretty clock tower and triangular market square at its centre.

Nature lovers can’t fail to be impressed by what is on offer in and around the hub of Enniskerry. Powerscourt Estate is a gorgeous Palladian style villa which is open to the public all year round and has some of the most spectacular gardens to be found in the whole country. Also within the grounds the magnificent Ritz Carlton hotel is located as well as an extensive golf course. Next door is Powerscourt Waterfall, the highest in Ireland, surrounded by lush parkland and home to a herd of Sika deer. Just a few miles away lies the intriguing and somewhat haunting scenery of The Sally Gap. Stark, dramatic and isolated it is hard to imagine that this remote bog-scape is situated on the outskirts of the capital. For “craic agus ceol” head to Johnnie Fox’s, the highest pub in Ireland, which offers a delightfully traditional ambience, decent steaks and seafood and a Riverdance style Hooley night.

Most beautiful Ireland

INISTIOIGE

Charming and extremely romantic, Inistioge, in County Kilkenny has been the setting for many films due to its quaint village feel,  18th century houses, tree-lined square and superb hillside scenery. In fact Mia Farrow claims it is her favourite place in Ireland. Lying in the Nore Valley at the foothills of the imposing Woodstock Estate, Inistoige is a very popular romantic getaway for a lot of Irish couples. The village was originally a Viking settlement and is steeped in history. Above the river are the remains of a Bailey castle and a Norman motte.

County Kilkenny is not only well-renowned for its ale of the same name, there are some cracking restaurants, cafes and farmer’s markets in the county too. In Inistioge try The Motte, an 18th century lodge run by award-winning chef Rodney Doyle offering a very interesting menu consisting of local fish, wild game and beef. The Motte also organises cookery courses too.

There are many beautiful, easily accessible paths in and around the village to wander along and enjoy the relaxing atmosphere. Meander along the wide and hypnotic river, explore the splendid gardens and forests at Woodstock Estate or take a picnic to the riverbank beside the gorgeous 10 arched bridge spanning the River Nore.  Anyone looking to ignite a spark or rekindle an old flame cannot help but be seduced by the charms of Inistioge!

Beautiful Ireland

KENMARE

Picturesque Kenmare (“Little Nest”) on the Ring of Kerry and at the mouth of the River Sheen was founded by Cromwell’s surveyor general in 1670, an extremely important period in Ireland’s history. Later in 1775 it was his descendent, the first Marquess of Landsdowne who commissioned the neat stone facades and decorative plasterwork on display today. During the time of the Potato Famine, nuns from St. Clare’s convent introduced lacemaking as a means for local girls to make a small living and Kenmare is now renowned for its intricate designs and traditional lace.
Kenmare is surrounded by breath-taking hills and mountains not to mention the infamous Killarney National Park with Ireland’s highest peak, Carrantuohill rising majestically to the north.

The village is an excellent base for exploring the Ring of Kerry and the Beara Penninsula and is brimming with gourmet eateries. Kenmare Bay salmon, succulent local lamb and beef, creamy dairy produce and artisan breads, pastries and preserves are just some of the delicious delicacies to be found in and around Kenmare. For fine-dining in stunning surroundings the Sheen Falls hotel nestled in amongst woodland and waterfalls is very popular and for elegant seasonal produce in the heart of Kenmare, Packies Restaurant is also a must.  The luxurious Park Hotel then has a delicious lakefront setting, a fab spa and has the best whiskey sommelier in Ireland. When it comes to enjoyable activities, sightseeing, cruising on the bay or indulging in gourmet cuisine, Kenmare does not disappoint.

Most beautiful Ireland

KILMORE QUAY

Kilmore Quay is a tiny fishing village with a bustling seaport in County Wexford. Quintessential white-washed, thatched cottages line the streets and look out over a sandy beach to the Saltee Islands, Ireland’s largest bird colony. Trips can be made out to the privately owned islands during fine weather from the village and there is also an interesting maritime museum on a lightship moored in the harbour. Within walking distance of the village is Ballyteigue Burrow nature reserve, a beautiful sand-dune system perfect for a leisurely stroll on a fine afternoon.

Life in Kilmore Quay revolves around the sea with angling and diving playing a prominent role in the locality.  For foodies there is a bountiful array of seafood including mackerel, bass, cod, bream, Pollock and skate and a seafood festival is held here every summer with fresh fish on offer every day, family activities and lots of live music. At other times of the year, the best place to indulge your love of fresh seafood is at The Silver Fox seafood restaurant where a vast variety of delicious and reasonably priced fresh fish dishes are yours for the taking.

Beautiful Ireland KINSALE

Gourmet Capital of Ireland” probably says all a serious foodie needs to know about the pretty town of Kinsale in west Cork. Located on one of Ireland’s most beautiful rivieras, Kinsale has featured prominently in history since the 1300s. In 1601 a British victory against Irish and Spanish allies in the Battle of Kinsale led to the exodus of Irish royalty known as the Flights of the Earls. Many glorious cliff-tops are dotted along this coast and just south of the town lies The Old Head of Kinsale where a ruined castle looks out to where the Lusitania was sunk by a German submarine in 1915. Steeped in history it may be, however these days Kinsale is internationally renowned for its gourmet fare.

The multitude of eateries offer local produce in various guises and the town hosts the annual Bollinger Food Festival in October which attracts visitors from far and wide. County Cork truly is a haven for gastronomes of all types. From Murphy’s brewery (main competitor of Guinness), the Jameson Heritage Centre, Clonakilty black pudding, the outstanding smokehouses of Frank Hederman in Cobh and Anthony’s Ummera in Timoleague to a variety of superb cheeses like Gubbeen and Ardagh Castle. Competition is so stiff in Kinsale that the majority of its dining establishments are of the highest calibre; the fun part is indulging in as many delicious experiences as possible and choosing your own personal favourite! Having said that, we do recommend at least one meal at the legendary seafood restaurant called Fishy Fishy; an institution in this haven of fine food.

Beautiful Ireland

Michelin Stars in Ireland- Fine Dining Experiences

Posted by gen On May - 5 - 2011

Michelin Starred Restaurants in Ireland

by Nancy O’Neill

The legendary Michelin guide for 2011 has been released with The Republic of Ireland retaining all of their stars and Northern Ireland losing their only one. Sadly, Michael Deane of Deane’s in Belfast lost his star, which he had originally received in 1997, due to an ill-timed burst water pipe and subsequent flooding of the restaurant last year.

Of the six fine dining establishments to be allocated the coveted stars in the Republic, only one, House at The Cliff House Hotel, is outside Dublin. For each of these talented chefs the emphasis across the board seems to be marrying the finest and freshest LOCAL ingredients with expert culinary skill to create utterly sublime dining experiences. Ireland may not be at the forefront of every foodie’s mind but it is certainly getting there.

L' EcrivainL’ ECRIVAIN

L’Ecrivain Restaurant, a hidden treasure located in a cute courtyard off Baggot Street in Dublin, is run and owned by accomplished chef Derry Clarke and his wife Sallyanne.  With one Michelin star and having won Best Restaurant Wine list, Best Sommelier and Georgina Campbell’s Restaurant of the year, its fan base seems to stretch far and wide. The restaurant has an established reputation for innovating old-fashioned classics and using top quality seasonal ingredients with a strong emphasis on the freshest, locally sourced seafood.

Michelin starred dining Ireland

Inside, the restaurant is small, intimate but in no way cramped with simple crisp white décor and luxuriously rustic wood and brick elements. Menus are refined and well thought through including succulent specialties such as Dublin Bay prawns, Pigeon breast, Organic Salmon or Wild Seabass with divine desserts to indulgently finish off a sublime eating extravaganza.

At L’Ecrivain there is a huge emphasis on hiring highly trained, experienced and unbelievably friendly staff (even by Irish standards!) to look after the diner’s every need; making any visit not only a tantalisingly tasty one but an extremely pleasant one too. Within that staff, award-winning sommelier Martina Delaney has compiled a delightful wine list combining classic favourites and exciting new finds. Highly recommended.

109A Lower Baggot Street, Dublin

GUILBAUD’S- Restaurant Patrick Guilbaud

French born proprietor Patrick Guilbaud, originally from Cognac, is the only person to currently hold two Michelin stars in Ireland. His restaurant is located in an 18th century Georgian townhouse (think colourful Dublin doors!) beside the beautiful five-star Merrion hotel over-looking the hotel’s delightful  16th century garden.

Michelin starred dining in Ireland

The food at this elegant establishment reflects the décor; modern French sophistication and Irish charm using the finest in-season local produce. Signature dishes on chef Guillaume Lebrun’s menu include the Clogher Head Lobster Ravioli and Roast Lacquered Challans Duck. Even the pea soup gets rave reviews!  The Testing Menu is also extremely popular allowing you to try Lebrun’s take on classic Irish dishes.

Equally impressive is the wine list which includes wines that Mr. Guilbaud has been collecting from all over the world since 1981. Finding the perfect wine to accompany your meal will not be difficult however the vast array could throw the more indecisive amongst you into a quandary. Fear not, highly accomplished sommeliers are on hand to take you through each offering in great detail. Why not combine a delicious dinner at Restaurant Patrick Guilbaud with an overnight stay at luxurious Merrion Hotel. The perfect way to round off any trip to Dublin.

Merrion Hotel, Photo Cred Good Food Ireland

21 Upper Merrion Street-Dublin 2

THORNTON’S

Controversial, acclaimed chef Kevin Thornton won Chef of the Year in 2007 and has previously held two Michelin stars. He is renowned for speaking his mind (probably due to being one of nine children!) and never backs down in the face of adversity. Love him or hate him he is one of Ireland’s most famous and respected chefs. He has worked in the gardens of Cashel Palace hotel, on a farm, in a vineyard and an abattoir all helped to create a vast culinary knowledge base.

Specialities at the restaurant include Roast Suckling Pig with Poitin sauce or Lightly Smoked John Dory with Brunoise vegetables. Vegetarians are well catered for too. Exciting and delightful from the very first bite, the menu changes with the seasons and availability of produce.  Sommelier Paul Young will help you choose a wine to complement each dish from their interesting wine selection.

Michelin Ireland

The dining room, designed by New York architects, is light, airy and modern with crisp white linens, plush décor and large photos from Thornton’s book adorning the walls. There is also a canapé bar where you can enjoy a refreshing glass of wine, taste some exquisite nibbles and soak up the atmosphere without having to make a reservation. Perfect at the end of a long day of sight-seeing and/or shopping!

Thornton’s, 1 Portobello Road, Dublin 6

CHAPTER ONE

Award-winning Chapter One in Dublin city centre went through a vast renovation in 2009 to create a slick and exciting eatery with the main centre-piece being the culinary theatre that is The Chef’s Table. This snug little alcove with its shiny volcanic rock table offers diners the chance to interact with the professional kitchen while indulging in an intimate banquet of modern, robust dishes executed to the highest level using only the highest-quality local, seasonal produce. For a restaurant renovated at the back end of the Celtic Tiger there is none of the pretension one would expect from that era. Dishes are hearty, soulful and well-balanced with the elegance and sophistication one expects from a Michelin starred kitchen without the diner running the risk of leaving the restaurant feeling only half full. Specialities include wild halibut with a blanquette of cockles and mussels, or for the carnivores, loin of venison with blackberry and chocolate ravioli.

Michelin dining Ireland

As for the wine list, sommelier Ed Jolliffe has chosen a wonderful selection to suit all budgets, careful to compliment the menus without the wines taking centre stage.  And chef and co-owner Ross Lewis is one of Ireland´s most charismatic and innovative foodie personalities. For a divine and indulgent dining experience combining modern Irish cooking with old-fashioned grace and charm a visitor to Dublin cannot beat Chapter One.

18 – 19 Parnell Square, Dublin 1, Ireland. Check out our friends at Good Food Ireland’s wonderful profile on Chapter One here.

BON APPETIT

Bon Appetit overlooks the harbour in Malahide, a quaint and picturesque village north of Dublin City Centre famous for its stunning seascapes, relaxing coastal walks and, of course, Malahide Castle  and peaceful surrounding gardens. The Georgian building housing the Michelin starred restaurant also includes a chic brasserie, trendy cocktail bar and a glitzy wine bar called Le Bon Vin offering tantalising tapa style nibbles and extra special wine tastings.The Restaurant itself is the definition of stylish sophistication and elegance; neutral greys, mochas and creams set off by plush carpets and classy Victorian furniture.

Michelin starred dining Ireland

Executive chef at Restaurant Bon Appetit Oliver Dunne was awarded a Michelin Star in 2008. He began his career in Dublin and then worked in London under Gary Rhodes and Gordon Ramsey and was tipped as one of Ireland’s rising stars when he came back to Dublin in the early noughties. Again the seasonal menus focus on locally sourced produce beautifully executed in a contemporary Euro/French style. Signature dishes including Boudin of duck and foie gras with celeriac purée and fresh peas or Fillet of John Dory with new season asparagus, pine nuts and salted grapes are bound to leave even the most avid foodies satisfied. Jean Baptiste, the in-house sommelier, manages an interesting and extensive wine list to complement all the delectable goodies on offer.

Photo Cred Bon Appetit

No. 9 James Terrace, Malahide, Co. Dublin

CLIFF HOUSE

House at The Cliff House Hotel, Co. Waterford is the most recent restaurant to receive a Michelin accolade and the only Michelin starred eatery based outside Dublin. Located in a beautiful cliff-side boutique hotel (which we have already featured on the Cellar Tours site), the restaurant offers a menu which is exciting, glamorous and slightly off-the-wall. Dutch head chef Martijn Kajuiter has worked under Marco Pierre White and Michel Roux and executes his dishes with passion and flair. He only uses produce sourced from within a forty kilometre radius of the hotel and has a nursery on site to ensure the freshest herbs and vegetables reach your plate. Dishes we recommend are Ardmore Bay Lobster with Broccoli juice and Black Angus Fillet steak with Murphy’s sauce.

Michelin starred dining Ireland

Sommelier Anke Hartmann has worked in many Michelin starred establishments over the years with the likes of Gerard Basset and takes her responsibility as sommelier at House very seriously. “I…use my knowledge and professionalism to open the horizon on a confusing wine world and hopefully an unforgettable experience to our guests. Food and wine belong together and add another dimension of pleasure when married to perfection”. Passion, professionalism and originality set off by a back-drop of stunning seascapes; enough said.

Middle Road- Ardmore, Co. Waterford

Why not visit these Michelin starred restaurants in Ireland on a private chauffeured gourmet tour?

Michelin starred dining Ireland

Kinsale, located in County Cork in the far south of Ireland, is without a doubt one of the most charming villages in the country. It´s got it all:  dramatic natural scenery, a thriving yacht scene, colorful cottages and art studios, a fascinating history complete with pirates and Spanish Armadas, terrific seafood restaurants and lively pubs.

Enjoy these photos of our favorite Irish hamlet:

Kinsale - Charming village in Ireland

Kinsale - Charming village in Ireland

Kinsale - Charming village in Ireland

Kinsale - Charming village in Ireland

Kinsale - Charming village in Ireland

Kinsale - Charming village in Ireland

Kinsale - Charming village in Ireland

Kinsale - Charming village in Ireland


Some highlights of Kinsale:

Fishy Fishy- unpretentious seafood restaurant with the freshest most delicious fish you can imagine. The owner chef is a real personality, and does TV shows in Kinsale on his program “Martin´s Mad about Fish”

Check out an episode here, featuring Kinsale.

Don Herlihy´s Historic Stroll of Kinsale- this local guide well versed in the history of Kinsale and Ireland, gives a passionate tour of the town. Terrific.

Sea Kayaking- up the road from Kinsale in Garretstown, H20 offer half day, full day and sunset kayak tours of the waterways around Kinsale.

Wine Museum- anyone with an interest in Ireland’s “Wine Geese” would enjoy a visit to the tiny wine museum, located in Desmond Castle. Provincial and small, yes,  but the history of the Irish emigres who set up wine businesses around the world is truly fascinating.

The Scilly Walk- pedestrianized path along the sea from the village of Kinsale to Summercove. From this beautiful walkway partially shaded in ferns, you have divine views over the bobbing boats and the harbor. When the walk finishes, carry on down the hill and stop in the Bulman pub for a drink and then continue on up the hill to the Charles Fort which offers the best panoramic view of Kinsale.

Ireland Gourmet Awards – Georgina Campbell 2010 Awards

Posted by gen On December - 29 - 2009

The annual Georgina Campbell Awards are here for 2010! Discover fabulous places to dine and stay in Ireland…

Awards Ireland

The 2010 Award Winners are:

Hotel of the Year - The BrookLodge & Wells Spa – Macreddin, Co Wicklow

Restaurant of the Year – Campagne – Kilkenny

Chef of the Year – Eamonn O’Reilly – One Pico, Dublin

Pub of the Year – The Ballymore Inn, Ballymore Eustace, Co Kildare

Just Ask Restaurant of the Year Award Sponsored by Bord Bia- Rathmullan House - Rathmullan County Donegal

Natural Food Award- Good Things Cafe – Durrus, County Cork

Casual Dining Award -The Sheelin Tea Shop – Bellanaleck County Fermanagh

Taste of the Waterways Award 2010 Sponsored by Waterways Ireland
Cafe Merlot at Blakes of the Hollow – Enniskillen County Fermanagh

Host of the Year -Kay McEvilly – Cashel House Hotel - County Galway

Wine Award of the Year -Ballymaloe House - County Cork

Atmospheric Restaurant of the Year-Sha Roe Bistro – County Carlow

Hideaway of the Year -The Old Convent Gourmet Hideaway - County Tipperary

Country House of the Year -Gregans Castle – County Clare

Newcomer of the Year -An Port Mor – Westport Co Mayo

Irish hospitality awards 2010

Most Beautiful Castles in Ireland

Posted by gen On November - 24 - 2009

ROMANTIC IRISH CASTLES-

Most beautiful castles in Ireland

The green, misty, and alluring island of Ireland boasts a treasure trove of castles and here is our selection of our favorite castles in the Emerald Isle, many of which you can visit inside and one of which which is even a luxury hotel!

1. Lismore Castle

This stunning fairy tale castle is surprisingly not on the main tourist path in Ireland, and thanks for that. Located in the southeast of the country close to both Cork and Waterford, Lismore is absolutely one of the prettiest castles and gardens in Ireland, if not greater Europe.

Most beautiful castles in Ireland

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2. Ashford Castle

One of the most striking castles and grounds in Europe- and you can sleep here! Located in the west of the country in the atmospheric county Mayo, not far from where the Quiet Man was filmed.

Most beautiful castles in Ireland

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3. Kilkenny Castle

One of our favorite towns in Ireland is also home to one of its loveliest castles.

Most beautiful Irish castles

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4. Cahir Castle

Off the beaten track, this little secret corner of county Tipperary is delightful. There are some wonderful sights, restaurants, adorable B&Bs and heritage centers like the castle of Cahir here. Even if driving from Cork to Dublin, it´s worth a quick look and coffee, very picturesque.

most beautiful castles in Ireland

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5. Ross Castle

Think “Excalibur” as this is the kind of epic setting where you can imagine the sword rising from the lake. The backdrop of the purple mountains, smattered with snow in winter is just gorgeous. You can take boats here at Ross castle out to the meeting of the waters, and this whole part of county Kerry has wonderful uplifting landscapes.

most beautiful castles in Ireland

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6. Blarney Castle

The ultimate castle visit in Ireland. Yes, very touristy and the legend about kissing the Blarney stone sounds embellished, but the visit here is genuinely fascinating, and climbing to the roof top overlooking the delightful wooded grounds is a major highlight. Love it and a “must do” while in Cork.

Blarney castle

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7. Classiebawn Castle

This striking castle is unfortunately privately owned (well, fortunate for the owners!) and not possible to visit, but if you happen to find yourself in the dreamy northwest of Ireland, this castle overlooking the village of Mullaghmore is worth seeking out to get a look at and a quick pic.

Most beautiful castles Ireland

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8. Johnstown Castle

This handsome castle in country Wexford in the southeast of Ireland dates back to the 1800´s and sits amid splendid gardens and woodland. The castle cannot be visited but you can visit the gardens, complete with peacocks!

Most beautiful castles in Ireland

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9. Trim Castle

Anglo Norman castle located in a “heritage town” in County Meath, lovely.

Most beautiful castles in Ireland

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10. Bunratty Castle

Your first impression is that it might be a tourist trap as it is listed in virtually every tour guide there is. What a nice surprise to discover that it is actually a tastefully restored medieval castle complete with a sympathetically replicated traditional Irish village. Recommended! And located within arms reach of the wonderful Adare Manor and Dromoland castle hotels. They do fun medieval banquets for dinner, too.

most beautiful castles Ireland

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Do you have any tips for our readers on your favorite castle in Ireland?

Keeping things light:

Here are some of our suggestions for the weirdest and wackiest museums in Europe.

Enjoy this silly list, and feel free to send us your tips for weird museums or tourist attractions you have encountered while travelling in Europe-

1. Museum of Sewers, Paris

Weirdest Museums in Europe

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2. Stockfish museum, Norway

Weirdest museums in Europe

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3. Phallus Museum in Iceland- seriously…

Weirdest museums in Europe

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4. Medieval Torture and Crime museum in San Gimignano, Italy

Weird museums Europe

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5. The Fan Museum, England

Fan Museum, England

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6. Moscow Cat Museum

Weird museums Europe

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7. The German Leather Museum

Weird museums Europe

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8. Bandit Museum, Ronda, Spain

Fun museums Europe

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9. Witchcraft Museum, England

Weird museums Europe

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10. Erotic Museum Amsterdam

Weird museums Europe

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Unique Marriage Proposal Ideas

Are you thinking of popping the question and just can’t think of where to do it or how to make it special?

Do you want to organize the time of her life and cherish the memories of your proposal day forever?

Are you looking for a unique, incomparable, ultra romantic and creative wedding proposal idea?

Well, you have come to the right place! We are incorrigible romantics and have a few ideas that are sure to make her so impressed, she will say “yes”:

1). VERONA, ITALY- ROMEO & JULIET

Verona wedding proposal

Spend a night in one of the most romantic historic hotels in Italy- in the courtyard of Juliet’s house in Verona, booking the room “Il Cuore” at the magical “Il Sogno di Giulietta”, overlooking Juliet’s courtyard and balcony. In the morning, go out to your private terrace for a champagne breakfast where she will see a medieval style banner hanging from Juliet’s balcony, saying “Will you marry me?”. Below, a private serenade with local musicians will be the final coup de grace!

Verona wedding proposal

2). BARCELONA , SPAIN- JEEP RIDE THROUGH THE VINES & PICNIC

Wedding proposal ideas

Your Mercedes will pick you up at your hotel in Barcelona and sweep you away to the Penedès wine country, about an hour south. Upon arrival to the wine estate, meet your charming hosts and hop into the jeep to tour the beautiful vineyards. Stop at a the 13th century hermitage on the property, at the hill´s summit and a romantic picnic will be set up for you. When the Cava bottle is popped, you can pop the question while looking out at the vast vineyards and Mediterranean sea in the distance. Follow with a private tour of the estate and celebrate with a glass of their excellent “Honeymoon”, an interesting single varietal wine, made with 100% Parellada, an aromatic Catalan grape.

3). DOURO VALLEY, PORTUGAL- WINE CRUISE

Wedding proposal ideas

If you or your partner are port wine lovers, there is no better place to spend this special day than in the breathtaking Douro Valley. Stay at the luxury spa hotel Aquapura and about an hour before sunset take a private Rabelo cruise on the Douro River. These are replica Vintage boats traditionally used to carry the wine down the river from Douro to the lodges in Oporto. Sip chilled white port while taking in the views of the vineyards and colonial style Quintas. On one of them, a banner with “WILL YOU MARRY ME?” will be displayed when the boat passes by. When you get back to the hotel, rose petals will have been spread around your hotel room, and a bottle of bubbly awaits…

Wedding proposal ideas

4). MADRID, SPAIN- WINE, ART AND ROMANCE

Marriage Proposal Wine and Art

For art and wine lovers, Madrid is an interesting destination. Begin the morning with a private guided tour of the outstanding Prado museum with a focus on wine throughout the ages and in art.  To follow, enjoy a supremely entertaining private wine tasting masterclass in a 19th century refined building with exceptionally friendly and knowledgeable hosts. Among the bottles lined on the table, one will have a custom made label saying  “Will you marry me?” Your celebratory toast will be with the stunning Krpta cava.

Marriage Proposal Wine and Art

5). VENICE, ITALY-PRIVATE COOK´S TOUR AND SUNSET GONDOLA

Marriage Proposals in Europe

No woman can resist a man who cooks. So, why not organize a market tour and a private cooking class for the two of you as part of your vacation in Italy. Venice is the ultimate romantic destination and you can spend a day taking in a Rialto market tour with gourmet tastings and learn how to cook the perfect Italian meal!  After the lunch with your private and charming chef, tasting your own creations, you will get a diploma. On your girlfriend’s one, it will read “Will you marry me?. Finish this unforgettable day with a gondola ride at sunset with bubbles on board!

Marriage Proposals in Europe

6). TUSCANY, ITALY- HOT AIR BALLOON AT SUNRISE

Marriage Proposals in Europe

As a day excursion from Florence to Siena, head to the Chianti wine country at dawn and watch the spectacular colors of the early morning over the olive groves and medieval villages as you float over this fairy tale land on your own private hot air balloon. When your champagne toast is served on board,  a note will accompany the tray saying “Say yes and let´s have a reason to celebrate, marry me!” When you land, your driver will be waiting and you´ll spend a day in the wine country including an incredible Michelin starred lunch in a 14th century hamlet.

Marriage Proposals in Europe

7). BORDEAUX, FRANCE- SUNSET PROPOSAL AT TOP CHATEAU

Unique marriage proposal ideas

Spend a night at a gorgeous Chateau in Bordeaux´s left bank on the “Chateaux Route”, taking in a private dinner in the historic dining room. At sunset, go for a walk on the manicured grounds, and as you are served your aperitif by elegant waiter, the box for the ring will be presented with the wine along with a single rose. Voilà, the perfect moment to propose.

8). CHAMPAGNE, FRANCE-TOAST IN THE BIRTHPLACE OF THE WORLD´S BEST BUBBLY

Unique marriage proposal ideas

Take a day tour to Champagne from Paris. After a morning of wine tasting, enjoy a gourmet aphrodisiac´s lunch on a private terrace facing the vineyards. Your waiter will be working with you on this, now when you select the wine, he will come back with a magnum bottle of champagne. On it your fiancée´s name will be painted on it, along with the message of your choice. A variation of the champagne theme can be a private “sabrage” in a champagne cave like at the beautiful Pommery cellar, where you will have the perfect private moment to propose.

Marriage Proposals in Europe

9). PRIORAT, SPAIN- HELICOPTER WEDDING PROPOSAL AND WINE TASTING

Unique marriage proposal ideas

If money is no object and you want to have the experience of a lifetime, spend a day visiting a top Priorat vineyard Costers del Siurana by private helicopter from Barcelona. When you arrive to the wine estate the owner himself will board the helicopter with you and you´ll get expert commentary on this gorgeous region with its terraced vineyards from the air. Land again and cruise the vineyards by landrover before carrying on to a vertical tasting of top vintages at the winery. An 8 course gourmet feast is next, each course paired with estate wines. When things can´t get any better, the dessert will be presented, with the ring inside the tart. Absolutely fantastic way to propose.

10). ROSS CASTLE, IRELAND- PRIVATE BOAT AND PROPOSAL IN MYSTICAL LAKE

Unique marriage proposal ideas

Your driver and vintage Rolls Royce will collect you at your hotel in Ireland´s Kerry or Cork regions and you´ll travel through idyllic landscapes to the ethereal Killarney lakes. Board a private boat at Ross Castle, and once you have sailed tot he middle of the lake, your gourmet picnic basket will be presented. Smoked organic salmon, artisan Irish cheeses, homemade Gubbeen oatcakes and of course a chilled bottle of champagne will be included. Present your lover with an Irish Claddagh ring as the engagement ring…

Ireland wedding proposals

More great ideas of how to pop the question:

* Treasure Hunt in a Castle

* Horsedrawn Carriage Proposal

* Horseback riding at sunset through the vineyards

* Private dinner in a vineyard

* Venetian Carnival and Masquerade Dance Proposal

More info: Cellar Tours offer fabulous custom designed marriage proposal tours

Marriage Proposals in Europe

Seafood Festivals and Culinary Events in Ireland 2009-2010

Posted by gen On February - 1 - 2009

Ireland Seafood Festivals

Galway Oyster Festival, September 24-27, 2009- The mythical Galway Oyster Festival takes place on the west coast of Ireland in the atmospheric and “wild” region of Connemara. This festival has been taking place annually in Galway  for over 50 years and features plenty of oysters, Guinness (the classic pairing) and Irish “craic” (fun and warm spirit). The city comes alive with the influx of visitors (the event attracts over 10,000 local and international guests on average, who consume over 100, 000 oysters over the course of the festival!).  This festival also features jazz bands, gala dinners and champagne & oysters VIP events.

ireland-oysters-guinness

Where to stay: We love the G Hotel with its contemporary design and FABULOUS spa (a “must” on a grey day).

Where to eat: Oyster lovers head out of Galway to the quaint 300 year old Moran’s Oyster Cottage (which attracts locals and celebrities alike, from Woody Allen to Pierce Brosnan). In Galway itself, our top choice is Oscar´s.

VIP Touring: Cellar Tours offer gourmet private tours in Galway with private chauffeured Mercedes, visits to artisan smoke houses in Connemara, private cooking classes and unique luxurious experiences.

Ireland Seafood Festivals

Connemara Mussels Festival, May 1-4, 2009- also in Connemara, the Killary Mussels are celebrated in Letterfrack (County Galway), in this new seafood festival. This year´s activities include mussels cooking competitions, children´s treasure hunts, Irish music and of course plenty of great local stouts.

ireland-mussels

Baltimore Seafood Festival, May 22-24, 2009- This absolutely darling little coastal village in West Cork holds an annual seafood festival called “A taste of Baltimore”, in association with the Baltimore Wooden Boat festival (a vintage sailing fest). This year there will be dozens of local food artisans serving up stunningly fresh seafood from West Cork- crab, oysters, mussels, prawns and more; handmade local cheeses (West Cork is famous for its artisan cheese producers); and smoked salmon. There will be fun events to accompany the great food and live Irish music, like a harbor race, vintage regatta and kids crab fishing competition.

ireland-seafood-fest

Where to stay: In West Cork, one of our favorite “hotels” is the elegant Bantry House in the lovely seaside village of Bantry (on extensive grounds with historic gardens and sea views).

Where to eat: The possibilities are endless in West Cork, but if pushed to make a few recommendations they would include: Good Things Cafe in Durrus, Island Cottage on the Heir Island, and  Casino House in Kilbrittain. For charming pub ambiance, don´t miss “The Algiers” in Baltimore itself.

VIP Touring: Cellar Tours offer spectacular gourmet private tours throughout Baltimore and West Cork.

Baltimore, West Cork

Taste of Dublin, June 11-14, 2009- The “Taste” festivals are relatively new and have been a roaring success. The Taste of Dublin festival is set in the romantic Iveagh gardens, with four days of cooking demos (by Michelin starred chefs, tv chefs and emerging culinary stars) and various seafood tasting opportunities.

Taste of Dublin

Taste of Dublin Taste of Dublin

Where to stay: Our top choices are the Dylan for design and style and the Merrion for old world charm.

Where to eat: Don´t miss Chapter One and L´Ecrivain!!

Taste of Ireland

Taste of Cork, June 25-27, 2010- the Cork version of this fabulous food festival, Taste of Cork, will be held next year. This is the gourmet epicenter of Ireland and you can expect fresh seafood, artisan cheeses and tantalizing smoked and cured meats and fish. Check out a video from last year´s Taste of Cork:

Where to stay: Hayfield Manor is a relaxing and elegant place to stay in Cork city, our preferred choice when you want to be near the center of Cork.

Where to eat: “Must do” restaurants include the mythical Cafe Paradiso, the much loved “Les Gourmandises” and of course in nearby Kinsale, the Fishy Fishy cafe.

Taste of Cork

A Taste of West Cork, Skibbereen, September 16-21- the 2009 calendar is not live yet, so keep your eyes peeled on their web. This festival is a must for local foodies and features the creme de la creme of Irish culinary personalities, emerging chefs and boutique producers. Skibbereen is located in West Cork, see travel tips above under the Baltimore Seafood festival.

ireland-taste-of-west-cork

Hillsborough International Oyster Festival, September 4-6- Northern Ireland is embracing “foodie-ism”, with a culinary renaissance taking place. The north is home to many food festivals including the Hillsborough International Oyster Festival (founded 15 years ago). The nice thing about this event is apart from all of the entertainment (from gala balls, Canadian boat racing, and oyster eating competitions), the purpose is for charity (last year´s proceeds went to Action Cancer). The historic town where this festival takes place is located in County Down, travel info here.

Hillsborough International Oyster Festival

Artisan Food Producers in Ireland & Gourmet Foodie Trends

Posted by gen On September - 21 - 2008

Gourmet Tours Ireland Gourmet Tours Ireland

We had high expectations for the Irish artisan suppliers we had researched for our new tours, based on what we have been hearing over the last year in the gastro press and word of mouth and after the inspection visits we are delighted to say this summer has been a roaring success in terms of finding enthusiastic suppliers and entrepreneurial food producers. Our new tours will be online as soon as we create the new itineraries with our new cheese producers, chefs, smokehouses, luxury hotels, limo drivers and entertaining guides! Why are we so excited? Some info on what’s happening in the foodie scene in Ireland:

Map Ireland

GOOD FOOD IRELAND

We were put in touch with this fantastic non profit organization, Good Food Ireland, through the managing director of the superb Merrion Hotel in Dublin (also included in our new tours) and met the director Margaret Jeffares in her beautiful home near Wexford to talk about the association. Over fresh scones and coffee Margaret passionately told us talked about some of the producers in her association and their dedication to preserve and promote Irish small scale and high quality food production.  GFI says ” The Good Food Ireland ethos is to prioritize the core indigenous ingredients of Irish cuisine and promote local and artisan food producers. ” Members include famous Michelin starred chefs like Derry Clarke (L’ Ecrivain, Dublin); the organic Apple Farm in Cahir; superb Irish farmhouse cheese producers like GubbeenKnockanore and Ardrahan; Smokehouses like the Burren Smokehouse in a gorgeous part of County Clare and the Connemara Smokehouse in the wild west; artisan butchers like McGeough´s in pretty Oughterard and Jack McCarthy in Kanturk (Cork).

We visited one of GFI´s most dedicated members, the Arlington Lodge, run by the very charming owner Maurice Keller and had our first fantastic lunch of the gourmet inspection- homemade game paté, St Tola Goat’s Cheese Bruschetta with red onion marmalade, local Atlantic crab claws (in photo above), corn fed Irish chicken…. delicious. Maurice passionately explained his belief about about using all local ultra high quality produce to try and fight the wave of cheap food imports to Ireland (tough and inferior chicken and tasteless frozen fish- mainly from around Asia). The Arlington is a pretty little historic Georgian house with period style furniture, and fabulous food indeed, highly recommended. We are putting together a ten day gourmet itinerary in Ireland for our foodie clients featuring Good Food Ireland members (many luxury hotels, high end restaurants and charming Irish country hotels are also members!), so keep an eye out on our website for this.

good-food-ireland

SLOW FOOD IN IRELAND

You might be surprised to discover that Ireland has one of the most active and exciting Slow Food chapters in Europe, much more so even than France or Spain. Celebrity foodie Clodagh McKenna (whose Irish Farmers Market Cook Book is highly recommended!) writes this in the Slow Food Ireland guide´s foreword, “For anyone with even a passing interest in food, Ireland has become an extremely interesting place to live or visit. Of all the many developments, two are particularly thrilling. The first is the emergence of the producer as hero. Suddenly farmers, fisherman, growers and artisans are being recognized and rewarded for the skill and care they devote to their chosen work. The second is the rapid expansion of farmer´s markets and specialist food shops. Crucially, the sense of connection between producer and consumer, which was under threat, is growing stronger”.

Slow Food Ireland

Slow Food Ireland´s members include many small producers like the Biddy Early Brewery (Ireland´s first microbrewery), excellent bakers like Arbutus Bread, air dried hams such as Krawczyk´s West Cork Salamis (West Cork, by the way is gourmet paradise with the highest concentration of gourmet producers, also stunning scenery) and then of course the gourmet goddesses Giana Ferguson of Gubbeen and Darina Allen of Ballymaloe (who head the local Slow Food chapters of West Cork and East Cork respectively).  This month, Slow Food organized the first Terra Madre gourmet extravaganza event in Ireland, in the Norman town of Waterford. It brought together foodies, journalists, consumers, and showcased the creme de la creme of Irish food producers. Various conferences were held on sustainability of food production, ethics questions, genetic modification, etc. From all accounts, the event was a roaring success and definitely was a chance to discuss the trends, controversies and predictions for the future of Ireland´s food scene.

ARTISAN CHEESE PRODUCERS

We visited some fantastic dedicated cheese producers, hardworking and exceptionally charming people who are very open to the idea of gourmet tourism. Highlights included Gubbeen and Durrus and there are still many, many more producers to visit!

Gubbeen- The Ferguson family are culinary pioneers in Ireland and over the last decade have gained international fame for their cheeses and more recently for their smokehouse products, but the history of the farm goes back much longer, for five generations! Husband Tom is proud of of their “cheesemaker´s herd” of British Friesan, Simmenthal, Jersey and Shorthorn, as well as the indigenous Kerry Cow.  Wife Giana began making cheese at this gorgeous West Cork farm back in the late ´70´s, and has cultivated the Gubbeen brand over the decades. The estate makes the flagship Gubbeen cheese (semi soft with creamy and nutty flavors), and a smoked Gubbeen which son Fingal smokes in the onsite smokehouse. Fingal also makes a range of exquisite smoked salamis, hams, bacon and sausages (no ordinary sausages!), many flavored with herbs that daughter Clovisse grows in her onsite herb garden(photo below). A large portion of the Gubbeen products are sold at local farmers markets around West Cork and Cork city, such as the fantastic market in their own village of Schull (a pretty fishing hamlet on the coast).

Gubbeen Gourmet Cheese Tours in Ireland Gubbeen Gourmet Cheese Tours in Ireland

Durrus- Located in the same-named pretty hamlet in a breathtakingly beautiful corner of West Cork, we visited Jeffa Gill´s small, pretty estate. This award winning cheese (now sold at the famed Murrays Cheese Shop in New York) is made from a local herd which grazes on the Sheep´s Head Peninsula, and is made using all traditional methods.  Durrus is so famous on the international foodie scene that they have had French students come to doing a “stage”  and annually host a group from Slow Food in Italy who come to picnic in their peaceful garden (in photo below) on their delicious cheese. Jeffa, along with Giana of Gubbeen, is keenly involved with Slow Food activities and is a member of the Irish Farmhouse Cheese Association. Just a few minutes down the road is the fabulous Good Things Cafe, one of this areas gastro gems. The drive here from Gubbeen (in Schull) has to be one of the loveliest drives in Ireland!

Durrus Gourmet Cheese Tours in Ireland Durrus Gourmet Cheese Tours in Ireland

ARTISAN SMOKEHOUSES

Ireland is home to a small select group of master smokers and it seems that the gourmet press is catching on fast.  Smoked Salmon has long been a prized commodity in Ireland and these days, top producers are branching out into smoked cheese, smoked chicken, even smoked eels!  We had the pleasure to visit some of the best Irish smokehouses and some top picks in county Cork include:

Frank Hederman Smokehouse Cork Ireland

Belvelly – Located near Cobh (the Titanic’s last stop), this tiny smokehouse is run by the effervescent Frank Hederman and his lovely wife Caroline (who co-wrote the “Good Food in Cork” guide along with Ireland´s cherished culinary granny Myrtle Allen. We visited on a gusty morning right before the salmon had been delivered and saw the cheeses being smoked. Frank is a real character, well known in all the local markets and the Irish and British gourmet press. He told us all about the history of the business and showed us around.  Belvelly is Ireland´s oldest traditional smokehouse and the salmon, mackerel, and (mythical) mussels that he smokes are cured with organic English salt and hang-smoked using beech wood. Caroline is starting up a gourmet shop on their property to showcase their own products, naturally, but also ancillary products like home smokers, sea salt, and gourmet goods from Ireland. We had some great ideas with Caroline for our tours, keep your eyes peeled.

Ummera- Owned and run by the softspoken and very charming Anthony Creswell, Ummera makes one of the most tantalizing delicacies I have ever tasted- smoked chicken. Sounds simple, right? You could almost mistake it for “roast chicken”, but no- smoked chicken is out of this world. Words cannot describe the chicken bliss….. Luckily Anthony sells and ships abroad, so try it for yourself! Not many smokers are actually licensed for both meat and fish, and as Ireland is ultra (some say even overly) cautious about food hygiene, Anthony had a tough time getting all the papers in order to be able to smoke his famous chickens on this beautiful estate in Timoleague (known for its dramatic 13th century Abbey in the photo below, and for another local foodie producer, “Mella´s Fudge”). The smokehouse is tiny, as they all are, and after a short tour of the production facility we went for a walk (me in high heels!) along the river on his sprawling estate. Anthony worked in the wine business for years, and only in his later life decided to go into his father´s line of work- master smoker. The quality of their products is top class. The dry cured bacon, organic farmed salmon from county Clare and of course that smoked crown of chicken- simple and mouth watering! Ummera also looks after a very interesting blog with plenty of news on their own business as well as other foodie news in Ireland.

Ummera Smokehouse Gourmet IrelandTimoleague near Ummera Smokehouse Anthony Creswell owner of Ummera Smokehouse Ireland