Category Archives: Word of Mouth

Food Trails, Seatrails and Mighty Craic – Experience What Sligo has to offer

It’s very easy to bypass or indeed forget about Sligo. The county that’s tucked just a bit too far up the touristy parts of the Wild Atlantic Way, can seem somewhat out of reach to those doing a whirlwind trip of Ireland.

But after experiencing the flavour of this great county, we’re dying to come back already.

With thanks to Sligo Food Trail, Sligo Tourism and Fáilte Ireland, Mom and I were invited as guests to experience the county like never before (this also coincidently coincided with our Wild Atlantic Way journey, which you can read about here).
Continue reading Food Trails, Seatrails and Mighty Craic – Experience What Sligo has to offer

Advertisements

Word of Mouth: Escape with a Day of Fabulous Food Trails

This week I was delighted to be invited on a Fabulous Food Trail (FFT) in Dublin city.

Our guide for the day was Eveleen Coyle, founder and lead guide at FFT and a Dublin-native herself.

Winner of the Irish Tourism Industry Awards 2015, I was excited to head on the food tour, despite the drizzling rain. As Alfred Wainwright once said, “there’s no such thing as bad weather, only unsuitable clothing!”

A small group of just four, with two more Irish people and a French woman (they can take up to 14 people on a tour), we set off on a looped walk, starting up and around Harcourt Street area.

Continue reading Word of Mouth: Escape with a Day of Fabulous Food Trails

Day Four: Farewell to #AFairLand

The spread was laid out in front of us. Soup, dips, sauces, salads, sweet treats and more, it was a feast for the eyes. Saddened that it was my last day but enthusiastic about the new recipes I’d come away with, I was amazed at how fast the day flew.

Today my fellow Food School students and I were to do most of the work in the kitchen. We were the assemblers, the choppers, and the servers, working with the A Fair Land team to get everything out on time. It sounds like a lot of hard work but really, thanks to a large amount of prep done the day before, it was more like a smooth transition.

Continue reading Day Four: Farewell to #AFairLand

Day Three #AFairLand: All is fair in love and courgettes

I dreamt about courgettes last night. They were marching, yes, marching, through the gates of IMMA and plonking themselves down on the courtyard with their bellies to the sky. It was so bizarre that I actually managed to wake myself up.

Ready for another day at Food School, this morning I headed in with courgettes firmly ingrained on the brain.

What’s lovely, though, is that despite this new obsession with courgettes, I feel like I’m connecting more with the team every day.

Continue reading Day Three #AFairLand: All is fair in love and courgettes

Day Two: #AFairLand Alive and Kicking at IMMA

Day two at A Fair Land began in earnest. The courtyard has yet to fully transform due to technicalities but it’s a definite work-in-progress.

But first, let me talk a bit about the project’s creators: Grizedale Arts.

Based on the historic site of Lawson Park farm in the Lake District in the UK, their site still runs as a productive farm house, with a multifaceted programme of events, projects, residencies and community activity taking place there.

freshly-harvested-courgettes

With an aim to develop contemporary art in new directions (especially with an emphasis on food, value for art and resourcefulness), they are trying to work beyond the Romantic and Individualist frameworks that have dominated art history.

What I loved hearing about was how they really wanted to involve the local community in their projects, something that I find some artists do not do or simply don’t think about.

crackers-with-pickle

For Grizedale Arts, it’s about bringing projects to a wider audience, concentrating on the process itself rather than the finished product. This to me is a brilliant approach to contemporary art.

The arts organisation worked with three main groups to make A Fair Land happen. The first group is from the Creative Villages of Leytron in Switzerland, that worked on the straw bale Glut Garden. Second, was Coniston that worked on the house building and signage and finally, Sweetwater Foundation from Chicago, a project that is building a new system for a new way of living.

So what was going on today? Well, it was all about serving up and creating food. Kitted out in rather fetching aprons we put together nibbles for mobile vendors who would be selling delightful crackers with courgette pickle and carrot drip.

a-fair-land-food-vendors

But why grow courgettes? Why choose them over other vegetables? As proven by their innovations for this particular project: they’re so versatile.

Three core questions lie at the heart of the project: is it useful? Is it desirable? Is it achievable? They also needed to show that this was a product that people could easily use with simple resources.

What Grizedale Arts needed was a food that would easily create a glut so that they had mountains to work with. The fact that they’re continuing to grow in bales of straw is further proof at how manageable they are to grow and maintain as a vegetable.

With all this in mind, I happily continued work as part of the A Fair Land Food School team, prepping dishes for the public who were coming in for lunch.

carrots-getting-read-for-roasting
Carrots and garlic ready for roasting!

Lunch is a three-course affair on communal tables to spark conversation between diners. Food is served at 1pm and there are 20 minutes between courses so whether you’re finished or not, after 20 minutes the food is going to go!

Diners use the same bowl for each course, spoons are made of clay or you can use chopsticks if you’re feeling particularly adventurous.

Booked online, people arrive at IMMA, head to reception and get a cushion for their seat – this is the official ticket for the lunch and people without a cushion will be politely asked to leave or if they simply forgot to collect it, they may do so then.

Also in the courtyard where the meal’s taking place are the mobile vendors and craft makers that the public could partake in. It’s very much a DIY day out.

serving-food-and-prep

Brenda, Francesca and Niamh of the A Fair Land kitchen team brought us through the recipes during the day and were very patient with us.

Even though I wasn’t doing any major cooking and more prep, it still brought back my fond memories of Ballymaloe [link]. I have such a love for food and seeing the courgettes growing reminds me both of the three-month course and my home in Kerry with our very own fruit and veg in the garden.

Day three is tomorrow. Will I tire of courgettes? Who knows? But I know that they’re on the dinner table tonight!

For those interested in A Fair Land, you can find out more on the IMMA website here.

I was invited to be a guest at the Food School. This is a sponsored post.

Day One: Courgettes aplenty at IMMA’s #AFairLand Food School

From Friday 12th – Sun 28th August, the Irish Museum of Modern Art (IMMA) is hosting a very intriguing collaboration with Grizedale Arts, with courgettes as their star.

That’s right: courgettes.

Titled A Fair Land, the project looks at how humans’ inherent creativity can be used to develop a system for living, using the simplest of resources.

At a brief glance, the project has eight parts to it ranging from fitness and cooking demos to arts and crafts and a courgette-based lunch.

When I was first briefed about this project, I have to admit I was both amused and sceptical. I mean, how could a three-week courgette-fuelled art installation work? Well today, I found out!

As part of A Fair Land, IMMA is also running a Food School. Working with the main team, people will learn more about the project itself, how the courgettes are grown, harvested and cooked for the special lunch that’s available each day.

Suitable for people of all ages, it’s free to attend, however, you must be available for a full week of sessions (four days). Next week they’re aiming specifically at teens. I was lucky enough to be given a spot on this week’s course!

Working with a 1916 brief and with an aim to rework the residency program at IMMA, Grizedale Arts has come up with this fascinating concept that has vegetables at its core and heart.

Outside-imma-courtyard

No, your eyes aren’t deceiving you, those are in fact courgettes growing in the centre of IMMA’s courtyard! Using bales of straw, the courgettes were grown and then transplanted into the bales to continue growing. First, the bales need to be fermented, a process that takes 10 days.

The bales need to be small and then are enhanced with a nitrogen-rich fertiliser. The temperature rises to about 130 degrees Fahrenheit, creating steam and the bales continue to ferment. Perfect growing material!

Adam-with-courgettes

Our coordinator for the day was Grizedale Art’s director, Adam Sutherland, who has worked with food since he was a young boy (he grew up on a farm, and was often assigned to the vegetable patch).

He showed us around and gave us a real feel for what A Fair Land was about. Ultimately, it really highlights how people have the ability to create from the most basic of amenities – even if you don’t think you have the skills for it.

gourd-shaped-bowls
Gourd-shaped bowls used for lunch
Coins-used-for-a-fair-land-currency
The button currency that will be used for A Fair Land

Today was to be a pilot day for IMMA and all the staff. Due to a few setbacks, three of us on the Food School course were acting as very willing guinea pigs for the day. The project is open to the public tomorrow.

IMMA’s courtyard will be transformed into a Village where visitors will be able to partake in making everything from bowls to aprons but will also see the harvesting and cooking of crops.

After walking through each aspect of the project, we harvested courgette flowers and brought them back to the kitchen for the team to cook.

Box of courgette flowers

Laying out the table for a communal feast, the smells were just astounding. As willing tasters, we had a magnificent lunch, utilising the magic ingredient: courgettes!

Courgette-and-coconut-soup-with-sri-lankan-spices
Courgette and coconut soup with Sri-Lankan spices
pearl-barley-with-roasted-beetroot
Pearl Barley with roasted beetroot and courgettes
stuffed-courgette-flowers
Stuffed courgette flowers with a courgette, yogurt dip

On Sunday, the two other Food School ladies, Ann and Rachel, and I will be cooking the food for the public.

I’m exhilarated to start day two of the Food School, and so far I’m loving every single moment.

Tickets for the lunch at IMMA cost €10 for three courses and it’s a really great, communal experience. You can book tickets for the lunch here. This is a family-friendly project.

This is a sponsored post.

Word of Mouth: Good value but nothing new at the Old Jameson Distillery

John Jameson first set up shop in the Bow Street distillery in Smithfield, back in 1780. These days, the old distillery offers guided tours and tasting experiences for those who grace its doorsteps.

Just 30 minutes down the road from us, yesterday on a whim, Mr POH and I decided to finally head along to the Jameson Distillery.

Both of us are a fan of the whiskey (in fact it’s my drink of choice on a night out) and we were excited about the prospect of seeing how it all came to be.

Kicking off at 4pm, we loved the modern look the building had, which kept the feeling of the distillery but still felt fresh.


Our tour guide Bill oozed enthusiasm as he greeted us and guided us through the making of whiskey, and how the Jameson blend was made from start to finish.


Did you know that 2% of Jameson produced gets evaporated for the angel’s share when it’s aging? This mightn’t sound like a lot but it’s actually 33,000 bottles a day!


It felt like we were whizzing through the whole thing (or that there wasn’t enough information to go around) and the fact that we could hear a tour bell going off every 15 minutes and a tour behind us, it was somewhat off-putting.


For the final stage of the tour, we were given the opportunity to taste three different drinks for comparison: scotch (Black Label Johnnie Walker), whiskey (Jameson) and American whiskey (Jack Daniels). This was a welcome break from simply following a guide around but you could tell that this was what most people were here for.


In the end, we actually felt quite sorry for Bill because his audience wasn’t as receptive as I’m sure he hoped.

We were smiling and nodding away at what he was saying but he had to pull reactions from many others and a lot of people kept whispering in the background – something we think isn’t really fair on the tour guide.

The nitty gritty:

If you know a bit about whiskey already then you mightn’t get too much out if this tour, however it is excellent value at €14.40 (normally €16, with a 10% discount when booked online). With that price you get to taste three whiskeys, as well as have a free drink at the end of the tour.

We also don’t believe that this tour is really suited for children. They allow children in (obviously they don’t get to taste), but there’s nothing really for them to do – they can’t taste, they can’t really get the tasting cert at the end, and they just get a soft drink after the tour. Hanging around for 45 minutes listening to guide might not be very appealing for them.

That being said, as I mentioned, if you’re someone who knows nothing about whiskey it’s good value with all the booze being added in. We also loved getting our whiskey tasting certificate. Our guide Bill was great but definitely had the enthusiasm to be in a tour experience that was longer and more interactive.

We did enjoy it, and were happy that we did it, but it’s definitely a once-off.

Tours run approximately every 15 minutes from April – October and every 25 minutes from November to March. You can book online and save 10% on adult admission.

Read my Guinness Storehouse review here and my Smithwicks Experience review here.

Pig Welfare in Ireland: Free-Range vs Factory-Farmed, Which is Better?

After watching Philip Boucher-Hayes’ documentary What Are You Eating? this evening, I struck up an interesting conversation with Shane McAuliffe of Truly Irish foods.

I was curious to know, given the clear pride Shane has in the products he promotes, if the Truly Irish brand was free-range.  I received a prompt response:

FFR1

FFR6

Curious at this answer and admittedly skeptical, I wanted to hear more and so invited two more people into the conversation Oldfarm and Inagh Freerange Farm.

Just for some background information from their websites:

Truly Irish

“Truly Irish Country Foods is a farm based business established by pig producers throughout the island of Ireland with shareholders who are based in every county in Ireland. We supply exceptionally high quality pork for sale in the local and international market place. The Shareholder has full control of his product from farm to market”

Oldfarm

“Our mission is to bring you the taste of ‘real’ Irish Pork and Bacon! To this end we produce tasty, succulent free-range pork and bacon which we deliver directly to your door. Our pigs are fed on a completely gmo-free and organic diet which ensures clean, healthy meat”

Inagh Freerange Farm

“Inagh free range pork comes from animals born, raised and allowed to mature at a natural pace on grass without hurrying the process. The pork retains all the old fashioned virtues of succulence, tenderness and full flavour, is sumptuous and delicious, and makes proper crackling. There is a little more fat than commercial pork – but that’s where the tenderness and succulence comes from. The pork from each breed has its own characteristic taste and texture”

As you can imagine, the conversation escalated quite quickly with evident passion and resulted in a heated discussion on pig welfare in Ireland.

Surely being out in their natural environment is a good thing? According to Shane, this isn’t the case:

FFR2

FFR5

FFR4

(Alfie McCaffrey is also from Oldfarm.ie)

FFR3

I asked Shane to provide me with a link to some of the articles he mentioned and he shared this one: Pig Crushing Mortality by Hut Type In Outdoor Farrowing.

FFR8

FFR9

FFR7

FFR10

Briefly touching on what organic and free range, actually mean and the types of feeds that animals get, it was an insight for me on what strong differences in opinion farmers and producers had on rearing animals.

FFR11

FFR13

FFR12

FFR14

FFR15

All three farms invited me to visit their premises to find out more about how they reared their pigs – an offer which I think I’ll definitely take up in the future.

What do you think? What’s the ideal way to rear pigs in your opinion? Are there real benefits to free-range?

Let me know in the comment section below.

(Lead Image courtesy of Inagh Freerange Farm.  Unfortunately for some reason my blog doesn’t allow me to properly embed tweets, so I’ve done my best to screengrab them and put them in the proper order. For information on Pigmeat Quality Assurance Scheme in Ireland from Bord Bia you can click here)

Word of Mouth: Inspiration aplenty at the Waterford Harvest Festival

A last minute notion struck my Mam and I to head down to Waterford for the weekend for their annual Harvest Festival, that was in conjunction with Grow it Yourself (GIY) International.

A celebration of food heritage and culture aimed to suit all tastes, the harvest festival has been around since pagan times acting as a way for the community to celebrate the fruits of their labours.

Pairing up with GIY to form GROWfest, the organic and gardening aspect of the festival, it was described as a weekend that would educate “people in the appreciation of good, clean, fair food, showcasing all the gastronomic delights the region has to offer”. A promising statement indeed!

Taking about two hours on the train, I arrived down to the city of Vikings to rain that poured from the heavens and soaked everything in sight. I was so glad to hitch a lift to the hotel off the Mammy!

For the weekend that was, we were booked into the Waterford Marina Hotel tucked away from the bustle of the centre overlooking the River Suir. Nestling into a twin-bedded room that was quiet and clean, we soon freshened up, off-loaded our bags and set sail in search of food.

On recommendation of the hotel receptionist and feeling a bit on the lazy side, we strolled down to the local Thai restaurant Pa Pa where we ordered the perfect comfort food: curry (more on that soon!)


Up early for breakfast and looking forward to the day ahead, we headed down to the hotel restaurant which had a mix of continental and hot food on offer.


Now I’m a sucker for the Irish fry so you can guess what I got.

Though overall a good filler for the morning, I definitely wished that a bit more care went into their eggs. The scrambled completely lacked flavour and were watery, and plastic comes to mind with the fried one. A real shame for such a great food.

Onto the festival itself, and we headed off to the GROWfest, which had a particular focus on growing your own food, cooking it, looking after it and general gardening advice.


Just €10 for the each event in the tent and €47.50 for a weekend pass, we opted to pay per event and headed into where Ella McSweeney was speaking to Joanna Blythman.

For those who don’t know, Joanna is an award-winning investigative food journalist from Scotland who has covered everything from intensive pineapple production to the causes of obesity.

She broadcasts and writes frequently on the “secret food industry” that we’re expected to trust, and it was such a pleasure to hear her share her findings.

Among all of the fascinating things she talked about, one of the biggest things that struck me was when she was talking about “clean” labels and what actually goes into commercial products.

Ella had brought in an unnamed carrot cake that she had bought from a shop, and well, let’s just say a basic carrot cake really only needs to contain six ingredients: sugar, oil, flour, egg, a raising agent and carrots.

Have a listen to this snippet (which by the way isn’t even the start of the list!):

Despite some minor sound issues, Ella McSweeney did a great job and kept the ball rolling!

With a bit of time on our hands to explore the festival in its entirety, Mam and I sauntered around and waded through the crowds.


From sheep shearing and food stalls, to a real outdoor flower bed and historic re-enactments – one of the things that really gets you at the Harvest Festival is actually how family-friendly it is. One honey producer Déise, actually brought in bees and explained the process to curious children and adults alike.

  



Popping into the tent again for a panel discussion on “hospital food: it’s enough to make you sick”, we got to hear a variety of opinions from experts in the field.

The biggest issue that came up in the discussion was procurement, with the emphasis that hospital food should be of a standard that would speed up and aid recovery, rather than making us feel worse.

Would you believe that a survey of hospital patients in Ireland found 80-85% satisfaction with the quality of food? I was stunned!

Topping off the night and what could possibly be described as my favourite event from the weekend, was the GIY dinner in Momo Restaurant. Treated to fantastic meal using local, fresh produce (with even a few bits and bobs grown in the GIY HQ), it was a dinner that sparked excitement and exhilarated the palate.


With things like cucumber beer, stuffed savoy cabbage, beetroot ice cream and a salad with fresh strawberries, it truly was a feast at €40 a head.


  
Kicking off our Sunday, while Mam zipped off to the GROWtent, I headed to see Johann and Tom Doorley cook up fresh food in the GROWHQ Kitchen.

With a splash of delightful humour we were shown how to make some great but simple dishes like braised lettuce and peas and fried courgettes in garlic and vinegar. You can definitely tell that they have fun when they’re cooking!


Seeing Holistic grower and horticulturist Fiann Ó Nualláin in action was to be our final event of the weekend, and he shared with us just a snippet of his wealth of knowledge with regards to healing potential of plants (unfortunately we couldn’t stay for the full talk).

Slipping out of the tent and nabbing a falafel roll from the Lebanese food stall, I dashed off to grab my train back to the Big Smoke.

I was surprisingly restrained with the bits and bobs I brought home, the only two things that I forked out on was an exquisite bottle of heather-infused vinegar (€10) from Wild Wood and a wedge of honey comb (€6) from Déise.


All in all, the festival is definitely something that’s worth heading to and I’ll be keeping a note of it in my diary for next year. Apart from a few hiccups, it really is a jam-packed food-fuelled weekend with people that inspire you to take up a shovel and grow it yourself.

Tips for those thinking of heading next year:

  • If it’s on, book a seat at the GIY dinner. It’s fabulous – no more words needed.
  • Bring some toilet tissue when you’re roaming the festival – though there are portaloos, the tissue disappears quite quickly.
  • Might sound obvious, but definitely carry a small umbrella around with you – the chance of rain is always very high.
  • For the producers’ sake, try and have small change if you can and small notes. It can be pretty tough to deal with €50 notes on a stand!
  • The Waterford Marina Hotel is a nice hotel to book into if you’re looking for somewhere that’s quiet – I was only able to hear the bare murmur of music from the bar from where our room was. As I said, the breakfast offerings aren’t perfect but I found their staff to very, very pleasant and accommodating when it came to leaving our car in the carpark (which is very secure) for a few hours after checkout.

Question of the Week: Do you think there is a difference between junk food and fast food?

Is pizza junk or fast food? Is convenient food, junk food?

To me the main difference between junk and fast food is that junk food tends to offer little nutritional value, whereas fast food though it also takes little time to prepare but may not necessarily be “bad” really.

These days however, fast food is definitely something most people will associate with McDonalds, to show the service they offer compared to a restaurant where meals take longer to prepare.

Junk food often refers to the food itself and its value rather than the model of production – it’s typically quite processed.

It also depends on your own definition of “fast food”, to some whizzing up a salad, stirfry or sandwich may be deemed as fast food but too often than not the words suggest “takeaway”.

Here’s what people thought about it on Twitter:

tw1 tw2 tw3 tw4 tw5 tw6

(Image via Wikimedia Commons/Ehsanislav)