Inside information & tips on what to see, do, eat, & special places to stay; Ireland, London & beyond!
Vibrant Ireland

All posts in Eat & Sleep: Ireland

Cavan Burren; old walls & megalith The Calf House

The moss reclaims the wall of a farm abandoned in the 1950s, while in the left corner the prehistoric megalith ‘The Calf House’ or ‘Druid’s Chair’ stands tall

The thrill of discovering an amazing place little-known to the wider world is priceless.

I think I speak for many folk, Irish and International, when I say I had no idea that there is a Cavan Burren, nor that the surrounding areas are so charming!

cavan burren megalith Lady's Grave

The Lady’s Grave. There is possible rock art on some of the stones, tho’ experts are divided.

The Cavan Burren Forest is a place where you can see millions of years of history; geological formations so old you can barely comprehend the timespan, prehistoric megaliths that echo with tales of the Tuatha de Dannan and fairy-magic, and the remains of farms from ancient times up right up until the 1950s.

This spring a visitor centre and 5 walking trails are opening there, and an app will also be launched. I got a sneak-peek when This Is Cavan arranged for project manager Grainne to give me a tour.

Grainne was brilliant– she really is on fire for the Cavan Burren Forest Park and the whole team are dedicated to having the park & sights accessible for all whilst also being eco-friendly and sustainable. The afternoon I visited, the skies tipped out the rain, so our walk round was cut short– but that’s okay, it just means I’ve a fab excuse to go back for the Summer Solstice grand opening celebrations on 21 June!

 Going to this is a great idea for a daytrip or as part of a longer holiday!

Celebrate the Summer Solstice at Cavan Burren Park

Date: 21st June Time: 1pm – 6pm

Celebrate the Summer Solstice at Cavan Burren Park, Blacklion, co Cavan!  Inspiring and intriguing human history of West Cavan is on display– monuments, megalithic tombs, hut sites and pre-bog walls survive from prehistoric times and some are older than the pyramids. The festival on the 21st will see an exciting and packed programme of celebratory activities for all the family at Cavan Burren Park, with historic re-enactments, music, guided tours of the park and the new visitor centre, children’s activities, food stalls and lots more.

An exciting new visitor centre opens in Spring 2014 and will interpret the inspiring and intriguing human history of Cavan Burren Park. Visitors will have the opportunity on the 21st June to explore the new visitor centre and the new walking trails around the park. Burren is a very special place located in a breathtakingly beautiful part of Cavan. Visitors will be very pleasantly surprised as to what they will find there. Cavan Burren Park is in the heart of the Marble Arch Caves Global Geopark.

For more info, phone  049 4378 614 or email : fun@thisiscavan.ie

West Cavan Charm

 

West Cavan is beautiful countryside full of lakes, hills, & the Breffni/Breifne mountains, and charming small villages. I stayed in one of them; Bawnboy (An Bábhún Buí) at the foot of Slieve Rushen. At The Keeper’s Arms you get the real Irish village experience- a welcoming guesthouse with pub where you’ll also find locals having a chat & a pint, as well as the warm hospitality of owners Sheila & Bryan. As I was still recovering from flu, I had a hot whiskey in their pub & then slept like a log in my country-cozy bedroom that night.

photo montage of The Keepers Arms, Cavan Ireland

Irish country charm & hospitality in spades at The Keeper’s Arms!

The morning dawned with birdsong, and I took advantage of the free wifi in my room to Tweet, too 🙂 I was the last one down to the big Irish breakfast because of my dawdling, and because it was the low-season, owner Sheila was doing all the food duties- cooking and serving. This meant, though, that we could have a good chat, and I’m glad we did.

 

Teddy Bears & more!

Sheila is a passionate advocate for the area, and you’ll learn lots about  the local gems from her. Plus, she has very engaging stories of village life 🙂 Sheila brought me for a spin while she did catering deliveries, pointing out the teddy bear heaven that is Bear Essentials as well as a lovely & unusual local church– it has by-gone era ‘parking spaces’ under the building for the carriages of wealthy folk! Shelia also shared about the local Workhouse and the hopes & plans of the village in restoring it. I totally see why folk who’ve been to The Keepers Arms rave about her when I mention that’s where I stayed!

Recommended for a slice of Irish village life!

I think that whether you’re visiting Ireland from abroad, or are living here & want a holiday that’s a nice slice of village life, Keepers Arms will fit the bill. There’s also loads to see in the wider area, and that’s exactly what I did. (Posts on that later.) Still, I’ll have to go back, as there is much I didn’t have time to see. I’ve really fallen for the Cavan & Fermanagh area and I highly recommend spending some of your Irish vacation time there!

 

Families! You may be interested in the Teddy Bear Adventure Walk

The Bear Essentials & Cavan Walking festival are doing a Teddy Bear Adventure Walk in Bawnboy on Sunday 5 May. You’ll ”Discover the History of Teddy Bears while walking through the beautiful surroundings of Bawnboy forest. This is a family event. If you bring small kids, this walk is suitable for off road buggies.” How fun is that!

The Cavan Walking Festival has over 30 guided walks & runs from 2-11 May, 2014. Be sure to go to the Cavan Burren Forest Park then, too! For in-depth information & the stories associated with the Cavan Burren, do have a look at http://www.cavanburren.ie/

Note:  ThisIsCavan arranged my Cavan Burren tour and sponsored my overnight at The Keepers Arms. Being sponsored does not affect the truthfulness of what I write, and when there are problems somewhere I tell you, like I did in this post.

These photos are Instagram photos! Each Thursday, the hashtags #IGtravelthursday (& #IGTT on Twitter) show photos from peoples’ travels all around the world- local travels and far flung. Use the hashtag & join in! If you are a blogger, you can also join in with a blog featuring one of your trips/visits and your Instagram photos from it, or how you use Instagram to plan travels, like in Reeta’s post this week. Read the ins & outs of that here on SkimbacoLifestyle.

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Bia Beag's Meet The Makers food series; Real Bread at Highbank Orchard

Bia Beag’s Meet The Makers series; Real Bread was the 1st talk

Even a vegan loves these Irish cheeses!

Irish artisan cheeses are next up in the Bia Beag series.

Yes, even though he’s a passionate vegan, Keith Bohanna is a champion of these lovingly made artisan food products. He’s organized one of the most interesting & best value evenings around; Bia Beag’s ‘Meet the Makers‘ food talks, and Irish artisan cheeses feature on Saturday 5 April, with 3 award winning producers:

Siobhan Ni Ghairbhith – St Tola: Irish Organic Goat Cheese, Co Clare

Helen Finnegan – Knockdrinna Cheese, Co Kilkenny

Tom Burgess – Coolattin Cheddar: Mature Raw Milk Cheddar, Co Carlow

For just €5 you’ll get to enjoy the makers sharing their stories, their tips, and their cheeses! Yes, there will be samples :-DI know that Keith will be salivating from the smells, but he’s a very committed as a vegan & I don’t think he’ll crack. But seeing if he gives in to the temptation could be part of the fun. (Tee hee… sorry, Keith!)

 

 Highbank Irish Medieval Cider

Yummy Highbank cider! There’s a non-alchoholic one for Drivers, too

Terry & I attended the first in this Bia Beag ‘Meet the Makers’ series, which was on real bread— it was a fantastic 2 hours; the speakers & breads were wonderful. Terry was so inspired he went home & baked that very night! While I’m not sure you’ll go home on the 5th of April and milk your goat/cow to make your own cheese, I’m pretty sure you will at least be inspired to try new cheeses. As well as the samples, the cheesemakers will bring some cheeses you can buy, and as the event is held at Highbank Orchard, you’ll also be able to sample & buy Apple cider & syrup products before the talks if you’d like. We had the Irish Medieval Cider– mmmm!

 

Some details on Meet the Cheese Makers:

Date: Saturday 5th April 2014
Time: 6pm, for about 2 hours

Location: Highbank Orchard  and you can Click here for a map showing the entrance to Highbank.

Click here to purchase tickets – €5 each – NOTE They sell out quickly, so don’t wait

Also, I know Helen at Knockdrinna cheese does cheese making courses, so if you are inspired to try making for yourself, do check them out.

Read more on the cheesemakers and the Bia Beag talks series on Bia Beag


Kinsale Start of Wild Atlantic Way IrelandKinsale is hailed as a brilliant food town, and now also as the start of the Wild Atlantic Way.

I asked Twitter for tips on where to eat & what to see in Kinsale, and in nearby Bandon. Below is a selection:

@VibrantIreland Fishy Fishy, and Jim Edwards for a nice steak! Enjoy. Love #kinsale Pier House is fab accommodation in Kinsale also!

There were many other tweets recommending Fishy Fishy, but the feeling wasn’t unanimous.

@VibrantIreland @Hushabye_Farm jim Edwards pub is good. Ate in fab place called zuul’s last yr. was disappointed in fishy fishy

She wasn’t the only tweeter feeling a bit let down- the Fishy Fishy hype is huge & prices not small either; Siobhan had another Fishy Fishy tip: try Fishy Fishy’s own Chippie if you’re on a budget. Great idea!

Driving the Wild Atlantic Way is high on the agenda:

@VibrantIreland out at the old head of Kinsale if you take a drive out there. #kinsale Enjoy your Cork trip!

As well as scenic drives, in-town walking tours in Kinsale also got mentioned; there are 2 top ones: Historic Strolls  and Kinsale Heritage Walks.

@VibrantIreland total waste so! I love the Bulman & apparently the Black Pig (?) is really great. Don’t miss Charles Fort – fascinating!

I got private messaged praises for Finn’s Table, Bruno’s, Lemon Leaf Cafe cakes, and the Black Pig Wine Bar, too.

@VibrantIreland – Kinsale recommendations: a Guinness in The Bulman; seafood chowder in the Blue Haven; coffee & cake in the Lemon Leaf Cafe

If you want to check out what’s on gig-wise & more, here’s a tip:

@VibrantIreland Check out our Advertiser & Guide to What’s On in#Kinsale  http://www.kinsaleadvertiser.com/home  We also print Map with lovely walks. Enjoy!

For Bandon, there were good words for Chapel Steps,

URRU, the Farmers Market Bandon on Sat a.m, and Duchess Tea Rooms for a cuppa and cakes.

@VibrantIreland in Bandon @poachersInn great foodie pub.@urrubandon for deli needs. You can walk it off on Graham Norton walk @grahnort

Heading east for a drive, Fort Camden got a shout:

@VibrantIreland Fort Camden in Crosshaven near Kinsale is pretty new. My bro’s & Gfather tell me its well worth trip http://www.irelandtravelkit.com/fort-camden-crosshaven-county-cork/ …

And a bit west of Kinsale, Diva’s in Ballinspittle was given a Twitter thumbs up.

The Coach House, Bandon, Ireland. from Sykes Cottages

The Coach House, Bandon, Ireland. photos via Sykes Cottages

Now, here’s the sad (for me!) part. We had a weekend lined up at this charming former Coach House in Bandon, but a serious car breakdown made us miss out! Still, I want to give you the scoop on this little gem. It’s situated behind the owner’s Georgian home, and is just a five minute walk to the centre of Bandon town. Perfect for couples as a cozy getaway…*sigh*…

I’d had a look through Sykes Cottages large UK & Ireland selection (which is really good! Irish cottages, specifically, here) and chosen the Coach House because it was so cute for just the 2 of us, and was a handy base for exploring the first part of the Wild Atlantic Way, or even Cork City. But it was not to be- THIS time. We will try again- how could we not with all the great tips we got whetting our appetite!

Have YOU got any tips for the area? Fill us in!  The comment section is below this post. Thanks!

 

New Year 2014 clock Top tips from 2013! Give some a try in 2014 – an enjoyable type of resolution.

2013 was a busy year, and I experienced many wonderful places, foods, and events in Ireland and abroad. Here are some that really stood out, and you may like to try for yourself.

 

Ireland

Restaurants

This year Campagne in Kilkenny City nosed out The Tannery in Dungarvan, Waterford as my favorite restaurant for a special occasion. The Michelin Star folk loved it as well, awarding it a Star. This is only one of the awards Campagne has garnered this year. Whatever about all that, your taste buds will be the best judge, and I think they’ll be very pleased. Do NOT skip dessert here. And if you’re on more of a budget (like us,) lunch & the early bird dinner are great value. http://www.campagne.ie

Dear people, there are SO many good places to eat in Ireland, across all price points. Another wonderful restaurant I ate at in 2013 was Bang in Dublin. These are just 2 of the best that I ate at for the first time in 2013, and that I’ve now eaten in more than once.

 

Fab Food Trails Dublin Ireland ; Sheridans Cheese

Sheridan’s was a delicious stop on the Fab Food Trail tour.

Food Experience

Fab Food Trails of Ireland are lead in Cork and in Dublin, where I did mine. A tour with them is a wonderful way to graze on top grub whilst exploring the city & its history as well as its food. Yep, they are fabulous- and for visitors and locals alike.

 

Food Products

This year we discovered several lip-smacking new-to-us Irish food items. One that I can’t stop craving is the treacle scone from Gleeson’s in Roscommon. As well as their Townhouse accomodation, they’ve a restaurant, cafe, and a deli in Roscommon Town. We booked their ‘Taste of the West’ package and it was on this holiday that I discovered the scones. (Note: their dinner was delicious too, and we choose to eat at Gleesons both nights!) In fact, Roscommon is the proverbial hidden gem in regards to a foodie mini-holiday, with the fantastic craft beer( & cool live music) pub JJ Harlow’s there on The Square as well. Now when anyone I know is near Roscommon I tell them they need to go get a treacle scone &/or a craft beer!

 

craft-beer JJ Harlow's pub, Roscommon, Ireland

Terry loved chatting to the craft-beer loving people at JJ Harlow’s pub, Roscommon

 A Tasty Tip for 2014

Starting Saturday, 25 January 2014, Biabeag (Irish for small food) will be holding events around artisan food products and producers. The first delicious & interesting offering is on real bread, with 3 dedicated breadmakers from around Ireland sharing their stories and their wares. Come to Kilkenny and enjoy!

 

Venice

Venice is full of delicious food, but has mediocre yet expensive food as well. When you’re a food lover on a budget, this can be frustrating. One of the best things we did to remedy it was to get the local insider information on a Walks of Italy food tour.

 

Red wine & good times on the Venice Food Tour, with Kristina from Walks of italy

Red wine & good times on the Venice Food Tour, with Kristina from Walks of Italy

Venice: Eating out in the Castello area

We stayed in the residential area of Castello (wonderful!) and one of our local bars, El Refolo, was very welcoming, with nice cicchetti to snack on. Located on the wide Via Garibaldi, El Refolo is an ace spot for pretending to be Venetian, people watching and chatting while sipping a drink. Terry greatly enjoyed the Menabrea dark Italian beer they had at El Refolo, and it became his favorite spot of an evening 🙂

On the more westerly side of Castello, we had a lovely, reasonably priced meal with very good service at Trattoria da Jonny. My seafood pasta was heaped with different varieties.

 

Eating with Art

If you are enjoying a bit of culture in the Peggy Guggenheim Museum, I also recommend the cafe. Lunch here overlooking the sculpture garden was delicious– the seasonal pumpkin ravioli and pancetta & chicory mini- gnocchi were as beautiful as the garden 🙂

If you love food and love to cook, another food tip for Venice is to look into renting an apartment so you can take advantage of being able to cook the wonderful produce available in the markets. We certainly drooled every time we passed them!

 

Here’s to a fantastic 2014 for us all– may it be full of wonderful food, friends and fun!

Have a Happy and colorful 2014

Have a Happy & Vibrant 2014!

 

 

 

 

 


Is the way to find Dublin’s heart through your stomach? Try a Fab Food tour and see!

Fab Food trails Dublin Ireland

Corleggy Irish Cheese. Free samples are great! You can get a taster box for a fiver.

Going on a food tour is a fantastic way to get to know a place.

Not only will the eats & drinks satisfy your taste buds, a good tour will cater to your craving to experience an area’s history, culture, and local gems. This could be a tall order for something that lasts around 2.5 hours, but it can be done. I’ve experienced 2 food tours that fit the bill perfectly; one with Walks of Italy in Venice, and this one in Dublin with Fab Food Trails.

 

Visitors and Locals

Hometown crowds are often the toughest. As well as visitors, the Fab Food tour participants included Dublin locals exploring more of their city. By the end of the tour they’d discovered several new places, had seen their city in a different way and were quite happy; great result! If even locals love it, I think you’re bound to, too.

 

The elusive Cake Cafe!

The Cake Cafe was one of the places several of us familiar with Dublin were chuffed to finally find. Tales of their delectable treats had been wafting around the internet like a delicious smell on a breeze, but many of us just couldn’t find the physical source! It was Fab Food Trails to the rescue, and our excellent guide Eveleen showed us the simplest way to get there–  by going through Daintree Paper shop!

The Cake Cafe Dublin ireland

You know the Cake Cafe is cool: tasty treats, local & green ethos, and beardy hipster waiter 🙂

(Oh, the browsing & buying that could be done at the shop! Unfortunately Daintree Paper will close 31 Jan 2014 unless they get a buyer. They are having a closing sale & say there will still be Cake Cafe access. You can also get into the Cake Cafe by going around the block.)

 

Some Tour Highlights

History

Two other highlights stood out for me on the Dublin food tour. One is the compact 5 minute history of Ireland through food Eveleen tells before you begin the walk. Tis fascinating how so much history can be summed up through the lens of food, farming, and eating. You’ll get nuggets of Dublin history throughout the tour as well, and a favorite was The Swan.

 

The Swan, Victorian Pub

The Swan Victorian pub hasn’t been destroyed remodeled like many Dublin pubs; it is still home to beautiful original period features. You’ll sip a sample of  Powers Dublin whiskey whilst you listen to the exciting history of the Swan during the Easter Rising. You also get a glimpse into social history as well. Here’s a wee video clip about their snug:

                                                                                                                                Tastings & Tips

swans victorian pub dublin ireland

Swan’s Victorian pub, Dublin Ireland. Gorgeous & full of history from the Rising and more.

There are plenty of  tastings and tips on the tour. You’ll discover where to eat from breakfast to dinner as well as ideas for a fun evening out afterwards. Helpfully, you’ll get a printed leaflet listing what you’ve seen, with & other recommendations too.

The tour is a Fab Food Trail; the only thing I declined to enjoy was the oyster at the end of our tour. I enjoyed the rest of Saturday’s the Temple Bar Food Market, but though the oyster looked fantastic … well, I’m not an oyster person; perhaps you are. You can have mine 🙂

Fab Food Trails (2.5 hrs, €55) give tours in both Dublin and Cork. They are now offering Fashion and Evening tours as well. Here’s the link to the Dublin food tour.

Transparency: when I noticed on Twitter that Fab Food Trails had a place open due to a cancellation, I arranged to join in as a guest. Being a guest does not make me hide the flaws of something when I write about it, but I have no qualms about recommending the Dublin Fab Food Trail tour to you; I found it tasty for both body & mind 🙂

Fab Food Trails Dublin Ireland ; Sheridans Cheese

Sheridan’s is another delicious stop on the Fab Food Trail tour. You’ll sample cheeses & discover some fantastic Irish cheeses too

Fab Food trails Dublin tour

Mmmm fresh bread!

Oyster. Fab Food Trails Dublin Ireland

Even with a lovely salsa on it, I can’t be tempted by a raw oyster. Does it tempt you?

 


Bang restaurant Dublin

Bang restaurant Dublin. From the greeting & seating, and the fresh nutty brown bread onwards, Bang was a delight.

Great Bang for your buck!

I hope you’re not on a diet, because this photo post is going to tempt your tastebuds. I also hope you live in or will be in Dublin soon & would like to splurge a bit on a fantastic dinner, because I think you are going to want to go! Bang Restaurant, Dublin on 11 Merrion Row is a Michelin recommended restaurant where you will enjoy every bite of your food if our experience is anything to go by.

Also good to note; Bang can make the majority of their dishes gluten-free upon request. 

Good value is important to me, and as well as always having a great Early Bird menu (23.95 two course, & 28.95 3 course,) Bang also can have lovely special offers on. For example for Dine in Dublin week, 22-27 October 2013, Bang had:

”Dine in Dublin  5 course Tasting Menu-  €39.95 pp 

Special Event – (Monday – Wednesday)

Experience 5 stunning wines to accompany our 5 course Tasting Menu for only – €19” 

This special pricing is also what they offered to us travel bloggers during the TBEX Dublin conference, so I rounded up travel blogging Twitter foodies @PhilaTravelGirl, @2foodtrippers and @theroamingbean & booked us in.

Our verdict was: Nom! Except, that is, for Jen. She (AKA theroamingbean,) got stuck in a US airport for days, finally arrived in Dublin at 5am, and fell asleep jetlagged at 4pm & missed the fabulous Bang dinner. (Jen, don’t look at the photos, you’ll only torture yourself!)

Here’s what I had( note; no wine as I wasn’t  feeling well that day.) And do you know, tasting portions at Bang are not just a bite or two- they’re filling! This also meant I was unable to finish my dessert. I know! I now torture myself looking at the photo of that chocolate-y bliss.

Bang Restaurant: ‘The Gathering’ 5 Course Tasting Menu’

Proudly showcasing the very best of local, seasonal Irish food.

(My note: All the staff know the food & its origin inside out, and tell you. Love that.)

 Tasting Menu €69 – Suggested Matching Wines €29.95

My note: this is also the Dine In Dublin special offer menu, at the value prices described farther up above.

Géarú Goile (Amuse Bouche)

Bang restaurant, Dublin, Amuse Bouche

This was just heaven! Sweet & salty goat’s cheese with golden beetroot and praline.

Clare Island Salmon, Avocado, Local Radish, Compressed Cucumber, Light Ponzu Gel

I know many of  ye are are thinking WTF, ‘compressed’ cucumber?? So here is the what/why, from starchefs.com:

Why “compress”? Color, texture, and (sometimes) flavor: these three essential attributes are intensified by a quick trip in the vacuum sealer.

Ingredients with looser cell structures and high water content (like fruits) are compacted under pressure – air is pushed out of the space between cells, and the resulting slice of apricot, for example, emerges with a softer, denser, “cooked” texture that usually only results from exposure to heat. Flavor comes into play when a liquid is vacuum-sealed with the fruit. The liquid is pushed into the space once occupied by air, and voilà – the fruit is instantly infused with flavor. In this case, apricots get a gentle flavor boost from simple syrup; but that syrup could be infused with chilies or herbs, or replaced with Brandy…the possibilities are endless. 

 Anyway- this dish was all good! And ponzu is a Japanese citrus sauce or gel. Now we all know 🙂

Clare Island salmon, Bang restaurant, Dublin

This was just exquisite. Clare island salmon, Bang restaurant, Dublin

Hereford Beef, Local Celeriac, Crispy Onion, Watercress, Horseradish potato

 

Herford beef, Bang restaurant Dublin

Total melt in the mouth goodness! Bang!

Cheese of The Day, Grapes, Truffled Honey, House Made Crackers

I’ve no photo of this, though there were lovely cheeses, and the in-house made crackers were crispy & lightly nutty. I was starting to fade by this point as I wasn’t feeling well–NOT from the food! As mentioned, I had arrived not feeling the best.

Chocolate Bar, Mango Gel, Mango Sorbet

Bang, Dublin

Oh so lovely! I’ve kindly not shown you the whole chocolate slice so you won’t crave it too much 🙂

Additionally, Bang’s pre-theatre/early bird 2 and 3 course menu is good value too: 23.95 & 28.95 respectively.

This next photo is of the Dark chocolate mousse, passion fruit sorbet, and salted caramel from that menu. Drool.

Chocolate mousse, Bang Dublin

The last bit of evil temptation in my Bang post: chocolate mousse.

Have a look round Bang’s website; menus are listed– but don’t say I didn’t warn you when you find you are suddenly starving & need to make a booking straight away. Enjoy!

In case you hadn’t noticed, these are all Instagram photos. I love Instagram, and take part in #IGtravelthursday, and you can, too. Just instagram some of your travel photos (can be local travel!) & hashtag them #IGtravelthursday. Check out the other cool photos on that hashtag stream, as well.


Furnace Fitness demo

DO try this at home!

Food lovers, health lovers & coffee lovers all got loads of great tips and tasty eats at my hubby Terry’s Furnace Fitness’ Healthy Eating & Meal Planning demo. The demo was filmed and will be up online in a few weeks, but until then, here are 2 of  the recipes and we tested out a new way to treat yourself to coffee. (Yes, coffee can be good & good for you for you- just don’t go overboard!) 

 

Irish Chili Sauce?

This recipe is made extra delicious by any spicy ingredients you might add. Terry loves Irish- made Mic’s Chilli, but you can add whatever you fancy. Mic’s has all different grades of hotness, so there may be one perfect for you.

 

Frittata Oven Baked Vegetable Omelette

Broccoli, bell pepper, other left-over veg you may want to use up
You can also add half a sweet potato (pre-cooked) 
Olive oil
1 small red onion  & 2 large cloves of crushed garlic
Spices – Asian/taco/curry. Hot sauce, Worcester sauce. Salt & black pepper

1/2 cup milk

6-8 Eggs, free range preferable

food_crowd

Round one of food samples at the demo

Heat up the veg in a wok with a few glugs of olive oil, add crushed garlic and pepper, your chosen spices ( for Taco seasoning about half packet, or for curry or Asian spice apprx 2 tablespoons) black pepper to taste, pinch salt, stir-fry for 2 minutes.
In a blender whizz eggs, dash Worchester sauce & chilli sauce and the 1/2 cup milk.
Place veg in deep oven dish, pour egg mix over it, add some feta cheese on top and bake 20-30 mins in the oven at 180c or gas mark 5/6; til the centre doesn’t wiggle.

Allow to cool, cut into generous squares and serve with a salad or you can even eat it cold the next day.

I have to add here a big thank-you to Bosch, who make the fantastic red whizzer you see in the photo. I was given it when I attended the Tassimo hot drinks machine launch a few days before Terry’s demo. Don’t you know he loved it & robbed it for the demo straight away! Seriously, it is good. When Terry whizzed up the eggs in it I heard more than a few appreciative comments in the audience.

 

Irish Pork is Top Notch

The second recipe is for pork. Ireland has some of the best pork products I’ve ever tasted, so it is no wonder we love our pork. This quick & easy recipe was a big hit and takes only minutes to make. Additionally, food that you can pick up and eat with your hands can be extra satisfying, especially when it is crunchy &  savory. Kids really enjoy it, which is fantastic.

 

Crunchy Pork

Pan sear minced streaky pork

Add Thai 7 spice, continue browning pork until golden

Add 1-2 crushed garlic cloves, and a few dashes each of Soya sauce & Worcestershire sauce.

Stir them in, browning off pork to semi-caramelise the outside

Scoop up pork & serve on  Baby Gem, Cos, or other large leaf lettuce

Drizzle with Honey Mustard dressing (2 tbsp sherry vinegar, 2 tbsp olive oil, 1  tbsp of Dijon mustard & wholegrain mustard, pinch herbs Provence, 1 tsp  manuka honey, pinch black pepper, salt, dash of Worcestershire sauce. Shake.) This is a good recipe to play with adding/subtracting ingredients/amounts to find your/your family’s favorite taste combination.

Crunchy pork

Eating with your hands is fun! Scoop up a leaf!

 

 Time for Coffee!

Now for testing the new way to make coffee— and hot chocolate! Ok, hot chocolate is not officially ‘healthy’ but a little of what you fancy does you good 🙂 As I had been invited to the Tassimo coffee machine launch, I was given of those beauties to have & test out and share my thoughts. What better place than the Furnace’s demo to see was the machine & the taste of the coffees up to scratch.

 

Was it any good?

Loads of thirsty attendees put the machine through its paces. The way it works is you put a ”T-Disc” in the machine, the machine reads a barcode on the disc pack and knows how to adjust the brewing time, pressure and water temperature for the hot drink you want. There are T-Discs for lattes, espressos, cappuccinos, teas, and so on.

The Tassimo did well even though there were several different newbies all giving it a go. All enjoyed their drinks, and what is brilliant is that even though you may be making, say, a hot chocolate immediately after a latte, there is no taste mixing because the machine steam cleans itself between each cup. The only hitch came when a few people removed their cups too soon and there was an overflow. The Tassimo is easy to use, but as all the use by newbies showed, it can take a time or two before some of us get completely used to it. (Some of us- I was guilty too- don’t look at the lit-up buttons telling us what stage the machine is in!)

 

Tassimo, Kenco Caffe Crema, mmm

Tassimo, Kenco Caffe Crema, mmm my fav one

Less Than A Minute

Where the Tassimo really shines is for that quick cup of something hot. From switching the machine on, to drinking a perfect hot beverage is only about a minute. This is something non-morning people really appreciate! Also, although coffee in moderation can be good for you, too much is not, and I’ve found just making a single cup when I want it has saved me drinking that extra cup left in the French coffee press because I didn’t want it to waste! I have to say that even though I’m normally a grind-fresh-coffee-beans-for-coffee kind of gal, I have realized I’m also quite lazy! Sometimes I don’t want all the fuss. 

 

Taste, and a Big Winner

So, how does the taste compare? Well, the coffees in the Tassimo range are the High Street names and tastes you know and probably love- Costa, for example. The Tassimo Costa coffees are just like the ones in the shop, but cost only around 37 cent vs 3-ish euros; good savings on your daily fix. Of the ones we’ve tried so far, the Kenco Caffe Crema is Terry’s & my favourite. It obviously is not an artisan coffee like our Irish favorites Badger & Dodo, but maybe they’ll start a Tassimo sideline 🙂 A BIG winner at the Healthy Eating demo was the Cadbury’s Hot Chocolate. LOL. Several people said it was the best hot chocolate they’d ever had! Hey, that’s great- and if they keep coming to the exercise classes they can have a cup everyday 😉 Win-Win!

You can buy the Tassimo machine &  8 varieties of T-Discs at Tesco, and there are additional T-Disc varieties available to purchase online at  www.tassimo.com

The Bosch Tassimo range is available both in store and online RRP €119.95*. Irish consumers can get €20 discount* off T-DISCs  when they spend €25 +P&P at www.tassimo.com

*18 years only, see www.tassimo.com for further details

Many thanks to all who came to the demo, to Event Media for filming & photos, Eoin for all his assistance & to Tassimo and Bosch for providing their products mentioned in this post.


Graiguenamanagh – A sparkling treasure waiting to be discovered

Evening along the river, Graiguenamanagh, Kilkenny, Ireland

Evening along the river, Graiguenamanagh, Kilkenny, Ireland

Dee Sewell of Greensideup.ie enjoyed a short break off the beaten track in the medieval village of Graiguenamanagh. She’s been kind enough to share her photos and unvarnished opinion. Do have a read: 

I’ve visited Graiguenamanagh on several occasions over the years given it’s not too far from home. The enchanting Town of Books Festival is held there every September and the place comes alive with book sellers and buyers ambling along the narrow pathways, clutching new and old books to their chests as they pop in and out of quirky old shops and marquees.

Graig’s a pretty riverside town, one of many dotted along the River Barrow in County Kilkenny, a waterway that runs through six Irish counties making it the second longest in Ireland. The deep channel that flows southwards along the end of the town, makes it perfect for high and spring board river diving on balmy summer evenings (lifeguard on duty at set times) and boats and barges of all shapes and sizes moor up along the tow path and weir, their occupants conveying the relaxed lifestyle they lead in their unhurried mannerisms.

Graiguenamanagh buildings collage

Some Graiguenamanagh buildings & the river Duiske running through town

I love the way places change the instant you ditch the car and travel by foot (or boat) and it happened once again the day we checked into The Waterside, a colourful B&B located on the riverfront in Graiguenamanagh (pronounced grey-g-na-man-ah).

We were hot and flustered having left our house and children in the capable hands of granny for the evening but we threw our bags into the clean and bright room of the converted mill and immediately headed out to explore our surroundings.

Our initial impressions of Graig were mixed… So many empty shops and closed up businesses poignantly highlighting the many casualties of a struggling country. We were especially saddened by the boarded up Anchor pub/restaurant/B&B, established in 1810 that would once have stood proudly at the bridge end of the High Street, but now empty with sycamore trees growing out of its guttering. How the building must have looked in all its glory! Now its a home for jackdaws and swallows and wildflowers that are nesting in its crumbling facade.

We continued our walk on the warm summers afternoon, looking for craft or bric a brac shops to entice us in, but sadly there were none, just more boarded up frontages. [Ed’s note: Duiske Glass is just a minute’s walk up High Street, but obviously needs good signage to it!] We wandered along, taking in the architecture of the old houses and the Duiske Abbey, then headed up the hill to the traditional Cushendale Woolen. Mill The mill still makes and stocks a colourful array of pure wools and yarns, including the newly launched Zwartbles range, but we were disappointed to find it was closed on Saturday afternoon and Sundays. That does mean however, that I’ll be returning again soon to buy a ball for my winter glove making project and perhaps stop for a cup of tea and cake at the Coffee On High Cafe,  but that didn’t help us part with any money on that particular Saturday.

Riverside; Graiguenamanagh, Kilkenny, Ireland

Riverside; Graiguenamanagh, Kilkenny, Ireland

In the absence of craft centres, we headed back to the river to look at the boats and found ourselves walking along the tow path towards St Mullins ‘Carlow side’. Within minutes the stresses of life left our shoulders. We slowed down and began to relax as the gently flowing river wove her magic.

We noticed the varied and colourful wildflowers that made us stop every few minutes to capture them, listened and watched the fish that splashed in their shoals alongside us. We felt the breeze as a large Heron majestically flapped its wings as it flew along the length of the river before flying high across the treetops. A fleeting highlight of our walk happened when the flash of a kingfisher whizzed past us, it’s vibrant blue catching the light of the sunshine before disappearing out of sight.

We didn’t walk to the next village on this occasion as we weren’t suitably prepared for the 2 hour round trip, but now we’re aware of these beautiful towpath walks we will return to do so. For keen walkers there’s a portage service that will carry your bags from one village to the next, allowing you to stroll unencumbered.

Food at the Waterside Guesthouse, Graiguenamanagh

Lots of locally sourced food at the Waterside Guesthouse, Graiguenamanagh

You’ll also find many well priced, clean and friendly B&Bs along the route, as we did in The Waterside which also provided us with a delicious three course locally sourced meal, with a menu that included Knockdrrina cheese, Goatsbridge trout and Lavistown sausages as well as a carefully chosen wine list and the nicest porridge I’ve ever tasted for breakfast!

Whether you’re just exploring a small portion of the South Leinster Way as we did, the full journey on foot, or the Waterways of Ireland, this is really what these villages are about – the alluring river. You can walk, cycle, row or canoe along any part of it, sleep in a tent or a b&b, stop for tea or a pint, soup or three course meal and sing with the friendly locals in a bar or quietly read a book shaded by a tree.

If only more people were to stop their cars and take a little stroll in the fresh air, perhaps some of the riverside villages might begin to regain their splendour. The boards may start to come down and they’ll no longer be hidden gems but sparkling treasures.

Thanks to Dee for this wonderful post, tis so true; these ‘hidden’ special villages like Graiguenamanagh are charming, but need people to come to them & spend a little if the villages are to survive, thrive, & then have new businesses.  

Here’s a little more about Dee, and check out her blog for things green & growing– in fact here’s her post on the wildflowers she found in Graiguenamanagh 🙂

 Dee Sewell runs an owner managed business that teaches growth, teaches green in Old Leighlin, Co Carlow. She blogs over at Greensideup.ie  about growing your own, recipe ideas, community gardening, the natural world and anything that might cause environmental concerns. She also loves all things purple. 


January in Ireland is rather relaxed- many places are closed the first week due to the extended Christmas holidays we have here. (I certainly don’t miss having a 1 day holiday like I did in the States.) To extend that holiday feeling, we went to the award winning Campagne Kilkenny restaurant, which extensively uses products from local Kilkenny producers.
Campagne, Kilkenny, Ireland. Stone archway nearby, our menu, & DESSERTS TO DIE FOR!

You can see at the top of our menu the local food producers used on the day. (We went for the early bird – menu shown- just do be aware the menu does change.)

For years I’d been hearing praises being sung about Campagne, chef Garrett Byrne, and the wine selection, but had never gone myself.

Well– all the good things I heard are true! 

My photos of the meal are not great, so I’ll spare you the rest of them, but here is the wine we choose- Tinpot Hut Malborough Sav Blanc. Mmmm gorgeous! If you enjoy full and flavorsome white wines you may want to try it.

The desserts you see in my photos are the Pear with vanilla ice cream, & Chocolate with peanut butter ice cream. Both were heaven.
 If I could only give you 1 tip– other than to go eat at Campagne– it would be: leave room for dessert! 

If I could give you two tips the 2nd would be: don’t follow Campagne on twitter unless you want to be tempted– they tweet their food porn pics 🙂


Is Ireland’s coffee cup half full or half empty?