Pub Etiquette: Why it’s ok not to get into buying rounds

“Drink anyone? I’ll buy this round”

When it comes to a night out with a big group of friends, there’s a big chance that you will all get stuck into making the long slog back from the bar with several drinks in hand.

Before you’ve even looked at your own wallet or thought about how the night will pan out, you’re already down €25 (at least). Too polite to say “I’m not going to do rounds tonight lads”, you’re already ordering at the bar.

It’s not generousity that ties people to rounds these days – it’s fear.

Why in Ireland are we so concerned about being seen as the black sheep of the group?  Is there really anything wrong with saying “I’m going to pay my own way”? Of course there isn’t.

Here are five valid reasons why it’s ok to not be guilt-tripped into engaging in this social minefield:

People drink at different paces

By buying into rounds you’re essentially forcing people to either drink more slowly or quickly than they want. Not only that, but there are also those who will change up their drinks during the night in favour of more expensive ones when it isn’t their round.

Some people don’t plan on staying out all night.

If your plan is to be home by 12 and you forked up the first round, then the chances are that you’re not going to get your money’s worth back by the end of the night. It’s perfectly ok to say that you’d rather buy your own.

You don’t have a lot of money

And that’s ok. You know how much you can afford and you shouldn’t have to justify to your friends why you can’t afford to buy them all a round. In 2014, the average amount that a person spent on a night out was €81, sometimes even more.

Some people wait until the very end before they offer a round

I’ve heard stories of people who hold back until the end of the night when people have whittled off before they start offering to pay for the next one. It’s a sneaky tactic and very unfair.

Some people don’t drink alcohol

At least one in five adults in Ireland don’t drink and why should they have to pay for other people’s booze? There’s a big price difference between a Coke and a Jameson and Coke.


Instead of judging people as being unsociable or unfair, consider how unfair you’re being by forcing them into a system that they don’t want to be a part of. You don’t know what their financial situation is.

Doing rounds essentially leaves you drinking and spending more than you intended. So don’t be miffed with the friend who doesn’t want to buy into the system.

(Lead image via Wikimedia Commons/Zenior)

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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:

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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:

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(Alfie McCaffrey is also from Oldfarm.ie)

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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.

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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.

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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)

200 Word Review: ETTO on Merrion Row

Etto. A restaurant that I had heard many whispers about, but never had the chance to visit.

Sitting at the bar, myself and my partner glanced over the menu and gave each other a knowing glance – this looked very promising.

It was the first time that both of us weren’t seated at a table, but that didn’t matter, we still felt right at home.

Continue reading 200 Word Review: ETTO on Merrion Row

The Best Irish Food and Drink Products I discovered in 2015

What a year! Ireland never ceases to amaze me.

Despite being quiet here on the blog I’ve had such a busy few months trying new things and delving into new products.

I’ve experienced other products from these producers before, but I was amazed and delighted to get to taste new things. Here are the ones that stood out for me the most this year:

Wildwood Heather Vinegar

Not only is the vinegar exquisite but the bottle its sold in is stunning and immediately makes it a glamorous product. The heather-flavoured vinegar is just mind-blowing.

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The vinegars are made in Mayo’s glorious landscape and really capture the flavours and scent of the natural world. I could buy bottles of the stuff!

Hazel Mountain Chocolates

From bean to bar: if you’re used to eating Dairymilk all your life then this chocolate is a revelation. This small-batch chocolate is just so different to anything I’ve tasted that initially it took me a while to get used to it.

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Using rare Trinitario cacao beans and raw cane sugar for their dark chocolate and Irish milk from grass-fed cows in their milk chocolate, what they create is such a mix of flavours that’s something more than just your regular block. Trust me, you’ll savour this stuff.

Dingle Gin

I was introduced to the Dingle Gin “Ginito” this year,  which uses basil instead of mint, and it is super.

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Distilled in pot stills with a range of botanicals including Rowan Berry, Fuschia, Bog Myrtle, Heather, Chervil and Hawthorn, Dingle Gin fast became one of my favourites.

Goatsbridge Rainbow Trout Caviar

I was delighted to meet the extraordinary Mags Kirwan while I was working at the National Crafts and Design Fair this year and that was when I was introduced to her magnificent caviar.

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Sitting on top of cracker, with a spread of cream cheese, these delightful, freshwater, salty balls of orange are dreamlike. Priced at €12.95 (plus shipping), they’re worth every cent and won’t disappoint.

Naturally Cordial’s Lemon and Lime Cordial

Clodagh Davis’ Naturally Cordial is made from organic citrus fruits and Wexford soft fruit giving it a really great taste. I was lucky to spend time and chat with Clodagh when I was working at the Bite Food Festival.

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Keeping it simple and pure, Clodagh uses minimum ingredients to maximise her cordials’ quality and at her recommendation I love combining the lemon and lime cordial with cloves and hot water. It’s like a hot whiskey! Priced at €5.99 from Ardkeen Quality Food Store, it’s something that will treat your tastebuds to a little bit of magic.

Bertha’s Revenge Irish Milk Gin

A year for gin in my books, this year I was invited to the launch of Bertha’s Revenge Irish Milk Gin – yes milk! The brainchild of proprietor Justin Green and Antony Jackson, this small batch gin is bursting with all sorts of flavours with a fragrant nose and spicy middle notes. The fruit-driven finish is perfect in making this gin a special one.

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Distilled from cow’s whey from local dairy farmers, Bertha the cow was the world’s oldest and native of Sneem in Kerry. She passed away in 1993, having given birth to 39 calves! Here’s a fantastic recipe for gravlax flavoured with this Irish gin.

Here’s to more great produce in 2016!

Reflections on the National Crafts and Design Fair and Bite Festival

I feel incredibly lucky to live in a country that creates such amazing, creative, innovative and magical things.

I say “things” loosely because often I find it difficult to categorize the vast array of “things” that continue to excite me. 

Let’s back track. What exactly am I talking about?

Well, over the past few weeks I’ve had the opportunity to work on stalls at Christmas fairs, and to get to meet some of my favourite food producers is just such a joy.
I don’t mean to sound like a fan girl but anyone who knows me, knows that I’m in LOVE with Irish produce and to even browse though some of the amazing stalls at markets and fairs can open your eyes to what we have to offer.

Not only that but since I’ve started working on stalls, like at the Bite Festival, I’ve gotten closer to some of my favourite food producers and connected to them on a different level. It’s a different relationship where you’re collective exhibitors not customers. It’s pretty cool really!

So in a way I guess this is just a small token of my appreciation to the food and drink producers who welcomed me with open arms this year. 

Go raibh maith agaibh.

If you ever get the chance to head to one of many markets, food festivals or events, take the time out to chat to the producers.

 So many of them have such fascinating stories to tell.

Goatsbridge Trout
Dingle “Ginito”
Cooleeney Cheese

    
 

The Sunday Round-Up: A well-needed catch-up and a cup of tea

My fellow Beanies, it’s been a while. Let’s sit down, relax and have a cup of tea. A lot has changed over the past few weeks.

Cooks Academy

After a long time to holding out and keeping an eye on the job front, I started with Cooks Academy the week before last as their Digital Content Manager!

Looks like my long awaited dream of combining my love of media and food has come true – life has so many different routes for us to take but right now, I’m grateful.

I guess that’s hence why there’s been a mini hiatus here on the bloggy, blog. I’ve had to settle into a new position and sort out what needs to be done. Don’t worry I’m still blogging!

Currently I’m working on the Cooks Academy Blog where I’m giving insights into what’s going on in the school as well as helping with redesigning the look and feel. Let me know what you think.

Irish Foodies

In other related food updates: I’ve created the Irish Foodies subbreddit on Reddit which is a great social network that’s constantly on the ball with news.

Irish Foodies is going to be a hub for all the latest goings on in Irish food where people can just submit links be it from their own blog, recipes, things they saw in the news etc. etc. Have a look at it over here. (Incidentally I’m also a moderator of Irish Food – got to keep juggling all of these pots!).

Instagram and Facebook

I update way more about my food goings on, on Instagram and Facebook, if you’d like to check them out. No pressure of course, but just in case you thought I had jumped off the face of the planet.

Savour.ie

Really delighted to have been featured by Paul McLoughlin on Savour.ie (really surprised too as I’ve been slightly neglectful of my blogging duties!). I particularly like that he was appreciative of my MegaBites section – I’ve got to keep the geek in me happy.

You can read the full article here.

savour feature

(Lead image is of a Vietnamese Crab Salad that I rustled up recently for a birthday)

Top Eight Movies for Wine Lovers

Picture the scene: the fire is lit and you’re tucked up in your warmest clothes; it’s raining outside, and all you have is a bottle of your favourite wine (be it red, white or even orange!). It’s perfect.

There’s nothing I love more than sitting back with a good film or documentary, and really easing into what it’s all about.

I’m by no means an expert when it comes to wine, but I do love it completely. Its complexity constantly leaves me in awe and its ability to make me keep wanting to learn more, excites me.

Here are some of my favourite movies about the beloved bottles of vino that I care about so much:

Red Obsession (2013)

Taking a look at China’s early 21st century frenzy over Bordeaux’s heavily sough premier cru, this documentary shows the impact of wine as a luxury product for the richest of the rich. Narrated by Russell Crowe, the film interviews industry experts, critics and wine lovers.

Sideways (2004)

A comedy-drama that revolves around wine, Sideways stars Paul Giamatti agus Thomas Haden Church as almost mismatched friends that head out on a trip for a last single-guy bonding experience before a wedding!

A Year in Burgundy (2013)

The film follows seven wine-making families in the, you guessed it, Burgundy region of France throughout the course of a full year. It takes a look at the creativity involved with making wine and its ties to the terroir.

SOMM (2013)

An emotional and illuminating look at the Court of Master Sommeliers and its incredibly difficult Master Sommelier Exam. Since the court’s inception there are less than 200 people who have claimed the title. If you think you know about wine – think again!

MondoVino (2004)

Focusing on the impact of globalization on the world’s different wine regions – It was nominated for the Palme d’Or at the 2004 Cannes Film Festival and a César Award.

Blood Into Wine (2010)

A transition from rock star to farmer! This film takes a look at the Northern Arizona wine industry, focusing in on multi-platinum recording artist Maynard James Keenan and Eric Glomski, and their Caduceus brand wine.

The Secret of Santa Vittoria (1969)

In an Italian town renowned for its vineyards, the residents discover that Nazi troops plan to take all their wine for themselves. Determined to keep as many bottles as they can, the townsfolk all team up in attempt to hide it away.

Barolo Boys: The Story of a Revolution (2014)

Ever heard of Barolo wine? This film tells the story of how it became a world phenomenon through the initiative of a group of small-scale wine producers, known as the Barolo Boys.

Barolo Boys.The Story of a Revolution (2014) International Trailer HD from Stuffilm on Vimeo.

(Lead image via WikimediaCommons/Bujar I Gashi)

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.

Eating, drinking and a good wallop of geekiness.

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