Category Archives: Word of Mouth

Question of the Week: Taking photos of your restaurant food – yay or nay?

It’s not uncommon these days to see diners whipping out their phones and taking a quick snap of their dishes – but is this a good thing or an annoyance?

For some it has become one of their biggest pet peeves and for others it’s all natural.

I’m one of those people who takes photos of what’s going on in the dining room for blogging purposes, but I’m always somewhat aware of the people around me.

I make a careful note of not having my flash on and getting the deed done quickly but I still can’t help but feel a bit judged when I take out my phone!

What do you think? Is it rude to be snap happy at the dinner table or is it just something people should be allowed do to celebrate their love for food? Here’s what you had to say on Twitter:

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Question of the Week: Who produces the best Irish cheese?

A few days later than usual, this week I’m looking for your “cheesiest” answers!

The home of fantastic dairy, Ireland has a wealth of cheese that’s being produced in the country.

From Durrus, Toonsbridge, Kearney Blue and Clonmore, our cheeses capture the best of flavours – but which are your favourite?

I posed the question online to see what cheese tickles your fancy. Here’s what you had to say on Twitter: twit1 twit2 twit3 twit4 twit5 twit6 twit7 twit8 twit9 twit10 twit11 twit12

(Lead image via Wikimedia Commons/MigGroningen)

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Question of the Week: When you hear the words “Irish food”, what do you immediately think of?

When one mentions “Irish food”, what immediately jumps into your mind? Is it the stereotypical potato that reminds you of Ireland or is it something more modern like our fresh seafood or artisan breads?

Because I’m fascinated so much by what we produce here in our impressive but small island – my mind immediately wanders towards the supreme quality of our dairy and meat.

Perhaps I’m biased, but anytime I’m abroad I can’t help but compare our milk and how much I miss the rich and creamy flavour back home.

Here’s what you had to say about Irish food on Twitter (apologies for not embedding these Tweets, even when I embed without the parent tweet it still seems to appear!):

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Word of Mouth: Something amiss at the Guinness Storehouse

The home of the “black stuff” has always been a spot that I’ve meant to wander into and so on a whim with the rain drizzling down, Mr. POH and I headed to the iconic Guinness Storehouse.

Open seven days a week from 9.30am, we arrived late enough into the afternoon to a bustling entrance that was jam-packed with nattering people.

Forking out €18 each for adult tickets (because we didn’t book online and thus didn’t save 10%), we were told that our experience would include a self-guided tour and a free pint of Guinness.

We kickstarted our experience in the Atrium by standing at the bottom “of the world’s largest pint glass” and gazing up through its seven storeys.

Excited by the prospect of losing myself for a few hours, we weaved our way through the ingredients and the craft brewing, cooperage and transportation, advertising and sponsorship, before we ended up in the Gravity Bar on the top floor.

    



Now I don’t want to spoil the experience for those who are absolutely determined to head here, so I’ll be brief.

There were elements that I liked about the Storehouse and there were things that I didn’t. I really enjoyed watching the cooperage videos, learning about the ingredients and the fact that you’re able to take away Guinness recipes – but does it need all of its floors? Not really.

There were areas that I felt were just set in place and used as a crowd filtering device. While the building may seem impressive when you open your tour map; there’s actually just a lot of weaving, which is fine in the beginning when you have a lot to distract you but then everything begins to filter out.

I was also pretty surprised about the lack of staff that were available on each floor. It seemed that the tour was completely dependent on what was on the walls or in the videos rather than any hunman interaction (apart from the tasting experience and Guinness Academy).

My partner also pointed out that some of the descriptions about brewing would make more sense to those who actual knew about beer rather than someone, like me, who was more of a novice.

There was a personal touch that was missing that you get on other tours, where you can ask questions and feel more involved.

I’m not saying that I didn’t completely enjoy it, but when the most memorable thing about the Guinness Storehouse is actually the breath-taking 360 degree view on the top floor and not the drink itself, then something’s not right.

For the price of it, I don’t feel like I would go back again but also because I feel like if you’re really soaking it all in properly, you won’t need to.

 

The nitty gritty:

Pricing: Adult save 10% when booking online (€16.20), otherwise €18 on the door. Student over 18 €14.50, Family €42.50, Student under 18 €12.00, Senior Citizen €14.50, Children €6.50

At the moment the Storehouse has an offer for early bird adult tickets at €14.40 which ends on August 31st, 2015.

I don’t think it’s really something to bring the kids to because they’ll miss out on key elements like tasting. It’s one of those things that for me you’d head to once but then it’s done.

The venue is open 7 days a week from 9.30am – 5pm (last admission is at 5pm) with a late opening during July and August until 7pm (last admission is at 7pm).

The Storehouse is open all year apart from Good Friday, Christmas Eve Dec 24th, Christmas Day Dec 25th, and St Stephens Day. More details can be found on its website here.

For something a bit more interactive and that would suit the kids, see my review of the Smithwick’s Experience here.

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(Lead image via Guinness Storehouse on Facebook)

Question of the Week: Communal Bench Dining – Yay or Nay?

For those looking for a more casual experience eating out, it’s getting more common to see communal benches cropping up, where diners share the experience with strangers.

When I was travelling in Asia, it was quite common to see clusters of people to be huddled at one table but it wasn’t the norm in Ireland.

My first experience of dining like this in Ireland was in Wagamamas, where I remember really enjoying the communal aspect of dining because of the buzz surrounding the food and the speed at which it was served.

Since then, though still common in Asian food establishments like Neon and Yamamori, there’s definitely an influx of bench-lovers from Fumbally to Jo’Burger to Pitt Bros – Though some of these businesses do offer a few seats that have their own space, people are invited to eat with each other.

But does this take away from the experience of dining or enhance it? Here’s what you thought on Twitter:

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Word of Mouth: Smithwick’s, stories and superb food, all in the heart of Kilkenny

This week I, a Smithwick’s virgin, was invited to tag along on a tour by the company for a bit of craic in the marble city of Kilkenny.

We arrived at the Rivercourt Hotel on the banks of the River Nore at about 3pm, and got a bite to eat before dropping things off to our rooms.

With a jam-packed schedule at our fingertips, our first port of call was a stroll with an expert guide.

One for the history buffs: Pat Tynan’s Walking Tours 

Pat Tynan of Tynan Tours has been on the go since 1983, and takes people on a one-hour history walk through Kilkenny’s winding laneways and compact streets.

By the way, did you know that there was a Kilkenny Mayor who fathered 25 children? Prolific!

For someone who does so many tours, it’s a wonder that he isn’t exhausted by the end of it, but ever-the-professional, he delivered us a tour with a smile and good laughs, touching on the more humorous aspects of Kilkenny and information that would make you “that’s mad!” rather than yawn.

I don’t want to spoil it for you but one of the most interesting stories I heard from Pat was about a certain “witch” in the city who came under intense scrutiny back in the 1200s.

The tour itself is great value for €8 for an adult and €6 for seniors/children or family deal of two adults and two children (12-16yrs) for €20.

One for the beer lovers and surprisingly kids: The Smithwick’s Experience

Smithwick’s Experience Kilkenny’s latest claim to fame is that it has been listed as “one of the top 26 hottest new attractions in the world to visit in 2015” by The Lonely Planet, and being the only Irish attraction to make the global list.


Having never tasted the drink before in my life, but having a great appreciation for flavour, I was looking forward to trying something new.

Guided by our capable tour guide Simon, we experienced four different aspects of Smithwick’s from its inception by the monks (clever lads), how five generations of the family developed it into something more than just a beer, to the key ingredients in the brew and the actual taste.

I have to say it was definitely one of the better tours I’ve been in over the years – the length was just right and its modern approach to storytelling was highly enjoyable.


After sitting down with a glass of the traditional brew, as well as their Blonde and Pale Ale, we were very lucky to meet Paul Smithwick himself, the ninth generation of the family and a true character indeed.

A showman at heart, he gave us a brief run-through of his memories of working in the brewery as a young man, as well as showcasing the many historic photographs, articles and ledgers that pieces together the finished product.

Adult tickets are €12, over 18 students and senior citizens €9.50 and students under 18s paying €7. Children between 7 – 14yo get in for €4 with children under 6 getting to go in free. It’s recommended that you book online for a 10% discount. This includes a free pint (in the end I decided that I more of a fan of the Pale Ale!).

Surprisingly, though I never thought I’d say this about a tour with alcohol at its core, this is actually something that would work with the children, simply because it’s so interactive and fresh, that it’s not boring. Oh and don’t worry, the kids don’t get a free pint at the end – they get a soft drink!

One for the hungry: Anocht Restaurant 

With our tummies full of booze, we sauntered over to Anocht Restaurant, situated in the Kilkenny Design Centre. The building itself was built in the 1760s as grain stores for the Earl of Ormonde’s horses but now houses all things design as well as a restaurant in its loft.

With a three-course meal that had a, you guessed it, Smithwick’s theme, my eyes immediately jumped to the 12 hour slow-cooked shoulder of lamb with champ mash, smoky bacon peas and jus.

Impressed that the menu featured so many local ingredients like Knockdrinna Goats Cheese, Kilmore Quay Potted Prawn and Crabmeat and Millevan Glazed Pork Belly, I was delighted to get tucked in.


Though not overly fond of the herb, garlic and Irish cheddar yeast bread, I was blown away by their beer-infused treacle soda bread – especially when it was toasted. Combined with all the flavours of the tasting platter starter, it was a wonderful little introduction to what the rest of the meal was going to be like.


Now I really love my lamb (I usually only have it once a year for Christmas), but I have to say that the lamb was cooked perfectly and when I poured the jus over it, it just made for a song in my mouth.


A trio of desserts to finish which included a brew infused chocolate mousse, honeycomb cheesecake and raspberry sorbet, you can imagine that we were suitably stuffed. My only small qualm was that we had to keep asking for water rather than getting a top-up but I’d definitely head back there.

Anocht is open Thursday, Friday, Saturday, Bank Holidays and Sunday from 6pm until late. Early bird prices are two courses for €24.50 or three courses for €28.50.

One for the craic: Irish Beats with Damien Walsh

To top off the night we headed back to Kyteler’s Inn for bodhrán lessons with Damien Walsh. A wee fact for you: the skin that’s stretched across the bodhrán is made from a goat.

Damien hosts free Irish bodhrán classes every Monday and Tuesday at 6.30pm in the Inn and has been playing the instrument for about 16 years. Under his expert humorous tutelage, we followed his lead as he went through the steps and tapped our feet to the music.


If you had as entertaining and as funny a music teacher as Damien, we’d all be master bodhrán players.

One for the kids and design lovers: Cathedral Church of St Canice’s and Round Tower

Up early to nab a quick breakfast, it was then time to head to the Cathedral Church of St. Canice’s and Round Tower. A black feline went streaking into the cathedral when we arrived and I mused to myself how fitting it was to be near a Kilkenny cat!

The Round Tower stood at 100ft tall, with seven narrow staircases and a looming appearance. Though I’m not one for heights, I thought “sure, look I’ll give a lash and at the very least I’ll only embarrass myself in front of a few people”. I’m happy to report that I didn’t throw up on anyone!


Even though it was a gloomy day across the city, you could get a real sense of the landscape and its surrounding green. Built sometime between AD 700 and 1000 on the site of an earlier Christian cemetery, the Round Tower is something that you should try to climb, but be warned: it’s a tight squeeze!


The cathedral itself is a sight to behold if you’re into your history or architecture (I was immediately drawn to the black cat lounging in a beanbag). It’s the second-largest medieval cathedral after St Patrick’s in Dublin and is decorated with highly polished ancient grave slabs on the walls and the floor. A feeling of the “old world” captures you when you head in, and it’s no wonder that they still hold ceremonies in such a beautiful and historical place.


Both the tower and cathedral are open Monday to Saturday 9am to 6pm and Sundays 1-6pm with shorter hours from September – May. Prices for the cathedral is €4, round tower €3 and if you combine the both, it’s a very reasonable €6.

One for the foodies: Fab Food Trails

With our trip almost coming to a close, we met up with Eveleen Coyle of Fab Food Trails who provides walking food tours of various cities. Keeping groups small with a maximum of 14, the Kilkenny branch of the tour heads along to some of the city’s culinary treasures.


Getting a glimpse at just some of the local produce and businesses in the city, I got a feeling that Kilkenny is quietly proud of what it has achieved over the years without having to shout it from the rooftops.

The Kilkenny Tasting Trail starts at 10.30am, and finishes around 1.00pm and costs €50.


Waving goodbye to Eveleen and the Rivercourt, it was time to jetback to the Big Smoke. Grabbing my things, I hopped onto the bus and shut my eyes for a well-needed nap.

Good company, good drink, good food. Make a trip to Kilkenny if you can – it’s worth it.

A few things worth mentioning:

  • If you’re booking a room in the Rivercourt, while the view of the River Nore is lovely, sound travels to the rooms from the local pubs (along with the ringing of church bells at bizarre hours!). This was problematic for me because I had to leave the window open because the room was a bit too stuffy and I couldn’t seem to find a switch for air-con and I was wrecked from the day’s events. Next time, I’d probably book a room more to the back of the hotel not facing the water. Also, it was a bit annoying that there were no plugs right next to the bed for my phone but I’ve noticed that seems to be commonplace in hotels.
  • I’d highly recommend having a bottle of water with you when you’re heading up St Canice’s Round Tower – though not exactly Everest, you become quite out of breath and if you’re someone like me who doesn’t do well with heights, you might get dizzy.
  • If you can, head to Kilkenny during the week, apart from getting hotels at better prices, you’ll also be avoiding the many, many Stag and Hen parties that descend on the city at the weekend (unless you decide to join in!)

Many thanks to Gillian Herlihy of Ogilvy/Wilson Hartnell, Mark McGovern of Smithwick’s for helping organise such a fun experience.

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(All images copyright of SpilltheBeans)

Question of the Week: Should menus have calorie counts on them?

When it comes to eating out, depending on where you’re heading you could see some other numbers on the menu apart from price.

It seems that we’re getting more health conscious when it comes to food and with even more restaurants and food chains cropping up, it’s no wonder that companies want to highlight who has the healthiest meals.

But does that put people off?

This week, I’m asking the question: should menus have calorie counts on them or does it depend on the business?

Here’s what you had to say on Twitter:

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(Lead image via Wikimedia Commons/”Sin mapa” by Connormah – Own work. Licensed under Public Domain )

Word of Mouth: Theatre of Food Programme at Electric Picnic

Heading to Electric Picnic this year? Don’t forget about the wonder that is the Theatre of Food!

Here’s a brief programme breakdown of what to expect (more in-depth details about the food area here):

FOOD DEMOS

  • Food for Life! with David and Stephen Flynn of the Happy Pear and Domini and Peaches Kemp.
  • Cooking with Seaweed with Kevin Thornton
  • Mexico Vs Spain with Jp McManus and Lily-Ramirez Foran
  • Sushi Skills with Kwanghi Chan
  • Food Truck Food with Diana Dodog
  • Street Food with Kevin O’Toole and Sham Hanifa
  • Hangover Food with Aine Maguire
  • Star Chefs: The Next Generation with Wade Murphy, Gearoid Lynch and the Eurotoques Young chefs
  • The Bear and the Butcher with Joe Macken
  • Ireland’s Food Treasures with Catherine Fulvio and Martin Shanahan
  • Beach Food with Atlantic Sea Kayaking
  • Wagyu Beef with Pat Whelan and Katy McGuinness
  • Vegan Feast with Louise Clarke Classic
  • Pub Grub with Richard and Duncan Blair

DRINKS DEMOS

Classic Cocktails with Shannen Butler-Keane Wine, beer and Chocolate tasting with Leslie Williams and John Wilson Bear and Beards with Colin Hession Mixology and Whiskey with Oisin Davis.

TASTES

The Theatre kitchen will run by award-winning chef Caitlin Ruth and Bridget Healy. Taste a Roast in a Roll from The Good Food Store, Goatsbridge Trout, and food from the Ardkeen Food Heroes.

WORKSHOPS

Forgotten skills re-awakened in the tent: Raw Milk Cheesemaking, Fermentation, Country Butter, Gourmet Gluten-free and a Taco Workshop. Also a record-breaking attempt at a length of nettle pasta (family event).

DESIGN IN FOOD

Celebrating Design in Food, this will highlight three elements of Food Design and transformation: beer ice cream with Judith and Susan Boyle, Foams with JP McMahon and food styling with Johan van de Merwe.

TALKS AND QUIZZES

Food Waste, the issues and solutions of this global problem. A Food Quiz – the celebs verses the starred chefs. BiaBeag, the Butcher, the Baker and the Brewer and a music session that gets everyone in the tent dancing, Let Music Be Your Food.

MANIFESTOS

Theatre of Food returns with the Megaphone – manifestos on food leftovers, food waste, labelling, real bread, GMO, raw food and revising the outdated food pyramid.

ELECTRIC PICNIC FOOD AWARDS

This year sees a new award added to the traditional Judges Award and Picnicker’s Award, when a Design Award will also be given to the best-dressed food stall.

ELECTRIC PICNIC INFORMATION

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(Lead image via Theatre of Food on Facebook)

Word of Mouth: Don’t miss the Irish Gin and Cheese tasting and distiller talk this week

As part of the Dublin Gin & Tonic Fest, Slow Food Dublin will be hosting a special night dedicated to tasting gin and eating cheese.

Hosted on June 24th, the tasting will include three Irish gins with cheese pairings selected specially by Sheridans Cheesemongers.

Not only that but the gin producers (see below) will be there to talk about their product and the botanicals that make their drink unique:

Members of Slow Food can get their tickets for €10, with non-members paying €12. Buy your tickets for the event here via Eventbrite.

(Lead image via Slow Food Ireland)

Word of Mouth: Foraging with Darach Ó Murchú

“This place is in my blood” ~ Darach Ó Murchú

The wind blew the smells in my direction as I feverishly sautéed the pot of chopped almonds and eyed the seaweed like a hawk. This was an Easter Sunday like no other.

Based in Kerry, for the past few years Darach Ó Murchú has been running foraging days out, celebrating the vast variety of wild food we have to offer in the country. An experienced mountaineer and outdoor guide, I was delighted to hear that he planned to run a seaweed-specific course during the Easter weekend.

For many, seaweed instantly harks back to childhood when wary toes made sure that they were nowhere near its gooey strands.

Up early to make it out to our meeting point in Baile an Fheirtéaraigh (or Back West, as we Kerry folk affectionately call it), despite the fact that the sun was beating down I was glad to be wearing warm gear.

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A keen forager myself, I was impressed with the length of time he planned to give us for the day, which was six hours including foraging, an insight into what to do with seaweed and a short cooking session.

A group of 10 women, we headed down to Wine Strand armed with our rucksacks, scissors, notepads and bags.

He started out by asking what we wanted from the course and with our queries under his belt, he launched into educating us about the basics of foraging and reading tide tables.

Darach, a former Silicon Valley engineer, moved back to Kerry to Ceann Bhaile Dháith outside Dingle, where his mother had grown up many years ago.

As we combed the rocks like hunter-gatherers, we came across some wonderful seaweeds and his passion for wild food continued to shine through.

There are about 10,000 varieties of seaweed in the world and over 600 of them lie on Irish shores, so naturally there was no way that we would be able to identify them all!

Among the ones we met along the way however were pepper dulse (deliciously addictive), dilisk, sea spaghetti, sea lettuce and a personal favourite of mine, nori which is also known as sléabhac.

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(The delightful Carrageen that resembles a “tree of life”)

The real Carrageen Moss also made an appearance which I tend to have a love/hate relationship with (I had to have it as a drink to knock back a cold recently and had a sour puss on me all day).

Stressing the importance of sustainable harvesting, we were taught the value that this exceptional algae had, fresh, dried or even frozen.

Taking a break from harvesting, we spent 10 minutes in silence admiring the scenery and listening to the gentle swell and slosh of the waves moving against the rocks. They don’t call this county “The Kingdom” for nothing.

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Eventually it was time to head back to land where we set up camp to cook our freshly foraged goods. Invited to work in pairs and with recipes at our disposal, we got to work on five dishes with seaweed as the star.

Under Darach’s watchful eye we produced – in my humble opinion – creative food that any chef could be proud of, including a main dish of sea spaghetti with wild pesto, seaweed oat burgers, a Thai soup, channelled wrack salad with carrot and orange and a highly unusual seaweed chocolate fondant cake! It was a feast.

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Sitting down on the rocks to enjoy our meal, much to the amusement of onlookers, we had the bright blue sky and water surround us with Mount Brandon in the distance and the Three Sisters keeping watch. This was something very special.

For those who have an interest in foraging and the outdoors but don’t know where to start, this is the perfect introductory course and it’s exceptional value.

Darach was willing to share everything with enthusiasm and passion that was palpable.

You really get the feeling that he loves the subject he talks about and the foraged food that he eats.

I highly recommend heading on one of his foraging adventures because you won’t be disappointed.

The nitty gritty

  • Do bring either a pair of decent wellies or climbing boots – even if you’re a good walker, the rocks can be pretty slippy.
  • Don’t be afraid to get wet and touch everything. You’ll miss out if you’re not willing to feel things and take note of the texture.
  • If you’re not using your phone for photos or note-taking, switch it off or at least on silent.
  • Do wear warm clothes regardless of weather. You could easily get a chill if you’re not careful.

Price: €50pp for six hours’ worth of knowledge and foraging including a cooking session with all of the ingredients.

Email: darach@inmyelement.ie

Phone: 087 2153758