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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
The rain poured down so hard that I almost slipped off the footpath – I needed something hot, and fast.
Hanoi Hanoi on Dublin’s Capel Street is one of the latest Vietnamese restaurants to crop up in the city and being one who’s obsessed with noodle soup, I had to give it a lash.
Unassuming on the outside, the establishment boasts a rather large interior with plenty of space to accommodate diners (though it may take you a few seconds to recover from its choice of décor).
First up was the nem rán (or spring rolls), and there’s not a single thing that I could find wrong with them.
With a crispiness that crumbled, and flavoursome filling that meshed so beautifully with the dipping sauce, it was the perfect start to my meal.
Onto the phở gà: Though the soup had the base for a perfect broth, I was left disappointed with the slightly overcooked chicken and fatty bits that I found. There were other places that definitely did it better.
That being said, the curiously extensive menu, excellent pricing (I spent just €11) and the polite, attentive service makes me want to give this place another bash.
(Thornhill duck, asparagus, pickled spring onion, fennel purée, pommes dauphine and morel jus) (Brandy Bay oysters with Bloody Mary and Vietnamese dressing)
My partner’s steak and sundried tomato mash was super (though definitely very rare and not medium rare as requested), and my duck was wonderfully juicy, though it wasn’t very warm. However, I actually was overall impressed.
My oysters were glorious with their accompanying sauces and the cheeseboard had perfectly ripe cheeses and snappy oatcakes. The service was also spot on.
It’s one of those places that’s bound to be a treat rather than a normal night out, because it is ultimately, very pricey and you do feel like you have to really dress up for the occasion.
That being said, I would come back because I really did enjoy the food despite its minor faults.