Most Delicious Things to Eat in Ireland Right Now

Prior to visiting Ireland this summer, I had very little knowledge about Irish cuisine. The handful of Irish restaurants in Atlanta are known for their pub style atmosphere serving burgers, fried foods, potatoes and lots of beer. Though that is an integral part of the Irish culture, modern Irish cuisine has evolved quite a bit in the past couple of decades.

Over tea at the Burren Perfumerie, my new friends Birgitta Curtin (proprietor of Burrren Smokehouse, Roadside Tavern and speaker on Irish cuisine) and Sadie Chowen Doyle (perfume maker and owner at Burren Perfumerie) informed me that they have witnessed the evolution of Irish cuisine during their life in the Burren. “Just 10 years ago, the only cheese they could buy was imported from other parts of Europe. Now, there are so many cheese makers in Ireland and our cheese is so good!” says Doyle.

Ballycotton hake with mussels at Ballymaloe House

Back when resources were scant, hearty stews and meat pies went a long way to fill the family. But now, Ireland has progressed a lot as a nation. Tourism sector has expanded, trade is thriving and many Irish people earn a decent living.

Couple that with artisanal producers, innovative chefs, and world-class ingredients, you have the perfect recipe to create amazing food.

Fresh and Organic Ingredients

Practically every restaurant I went to in Ireland featured only fresh ingredients, many of them sourced from their own farms. Homemade Irish soda bread, Jersey cow butter, raspberry jam, honeycomb ice cream, dexter beef, curried parsnips, fresh beet salad…the list goes on!

Curtin smokes salmon from the northwest part of Ireland, which is organic and sustainable. Each fish is spaced out in clean waters and fed natural foods, so the salmon has three times more Omega 3 Fatty Acids than any other salmon. Her hot and cold smoked salmon can be found at many restaurants across the country and shipped all over the world. Of course, I tasted it throughout my trip!

Smoked salmon for breakfast at Park Hotel Kenmare

Other local seafood includes oysters, mussels, hand-dived scallops and hake. Most of the fish is caught that morning and served to the guests on the same day.

Local But International 

A common theme across my three dozen meals was internationally inspired recipes cooked with local Irish ingredients. French and Italian cooking techniques were used the most, offering homemade pasta, risotto, terrines, puff pastry and decadent cakes and tarts.

Barley and mushroom risotto at No 1 Perry Square
Banana, pecan and date pudding with fig ice cream at The Mews in Kenmare
Saffron and smoked knockanore herb cheese risotto at The Ice House

Michelin Star Dining

Ireland has over a dozen Michelin star restaurants. I ate at two former winners – Ballymaloe House in Shanagarry and Dromoland castle near Shannon. At both places, I met people who had come from all over Ireland just to eat at the restaurants. Set in idyllic atmosphere, offering personal service and mouth watering dishes, these were a rare treat!

Flourless chocolate cake at Earl of Thomond
Carrageen seaweed pudding at Ballymaloe House

Cooking Schools

The Ballymaloe Cookery School located on a 100 acre organic farm in County Cork is one of the most recognized cooking schools in Europe offering 3-month long residential programs. One can stay in the charming countryside and learn to cook Irish and international cuisines using farm ingredients. Students go beyond the kitchen to help milk cows, make yogurt, gather eggs, and tend to herb and vegetable gardens. The Belle Isle Cookery School  at Belle Isle Estate complete with 17th century castle on the shores of Lough Erne in County Fermanagh is another popular cooking school.

Greenhouse of Ballymaloe Cookery School

Fine Spirits Too

The Irish love their drinks. From triple distilled smooth whiskey to craft beers and homemade liquors, there was no shortage of spirits at every meal. As a good tourist, I took tours of the Guinness Storehouse and Jameson factory. I discovered that many French wines such as Château Lynch-Bages and Château Léoville-Barton are made by Irish descendants.

House brews at the Burren Storehouse

Good Food Everywhere

You don’t have to go to fancy restaurant in Ireland to taste good quality food, which can be quite expensive. Even roadside fish shacks, food courts and all-day cafes serve excellent dishes made fresh daily. The English Market Cafe in Cork City and O’Connors bar in the Ring of Beara were couple of my favorites.

Fish & chips at Skinny’s Diner

Have a favorite Irish dish or restaurant to recommend? Leave your comments below…

Do You Picture Sydney as a Culinary Destination?

What comes to mind when you think of Australian cuisine? Steaks, meat pies, kangaroos and backyard barbies? Sure, Australians love grilled meats, but there’s a new trend emerging in the Australian dining scene that may surprise you.

According to The Australian, the local population is diverting their income from expensive housing to somewhat affordable dining. People are going out to eat more often, as popularity of celebrity chefs and cooking shows increase. From formal white tablecloth restaurants, to casual cafes, and hole-in-the-wall take-outs, Sydney offers a delicious range of choices to match any budget.

seafood1Sydney is home to many immigrants, which explains the heavy cultural influence on the local food scene. Chefs are well trained in international cuisines. Many have gone on to attain celebrity status. Within the city, you can find some of the best Japanese sushi, Chinese dim sum, homemade Italian pizza and pasta, French patisseries, Indian curry houses, and more. The food is as cosmopolitan as any big city in the world.

But Aussies are not just consumed with eating. The residents of Sydney are health conscious too. You can see people running, walking, biking, and playing sports throughout the day at neighborhood parks and beaches. They like to eat well, exercise, and look good. Recently, there’s been a strong emphasis on eating local and fresh. Most restaurants offer seasonal menus using ingredients sourced from New South Wales. Even the wines and beer are produced in the surrounding areas.

Sydney Fish MarketPhoto courtesy Sydney Fish Market

As prices of meat go up, seafood is becoming the preferred source of protein. Instead of importing fish, Australia has turned to farm raising barramundi, cod, trout, and Australian salmon. The Sydney Seafood School, established in 1989, is the largest market of its kind in the Southern Hemisphere and the third largest seafood market in terms of variety in the world. The curriculum includes classes in how to safely handle and prepare seafood. Over 12,000 students come through The Sydney Seafood School each year. Behind-the-scenes tours (held on Monday, Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday) offer a chance to witness seafood tradition on the auction floor and learn about the operations of fisheries.

From fisherman baskets to sushi, here are the top places to enjoy the best catch in Sydney:

seafood2Photo by Sucheta Rawal

• Freshly shucked Sydney rock oysters are sourced from the best growers on the New South Wales coast at Catalina Rose Bay
• Chilled in-the-shell succulent Moreton Bay Bug (slipper lobster) at Cafe Sydney in Circular Quay
• Crab Gazpacho with Bloody Mary vinaigrette and salmon caviar at The Morrison Bar & Oyster Room
• Cuttlefish cooked with garlic and chilies at The Fish Shop
• Cone Bay Barramundi with tamarind, coconut, and mint at Flying Fish
• Beer Battered Fish and Chips at North Bondi Fish
• Snapper Pie with Smoked Tomato and Mashed Potato at The Boathouse on Blackwattle Bay
• Maine or Connecticut Style Lobster Rolls at Waterman’s Lobster Co.
• Blue Swimmer Crab Lasagna at Manta Restaurant
• Sizzling Garlic Prawns at Sydney Cove Oyster Bar

Sydney Fish MarketPhoto courtesy Sydney Fish Market