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. If you’re actually looking for authentic Irish cuisine, you could always visit Londonderry and have a taste of their foods, while enjoying Ireland’s natural beauty and many things to do in Derry to make your trip truly magical.

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.

If these mouth watering dishes have tempted you to come and visit the local cuisines of Ireland, then you could look into portrush accommodation to stay for a few days.

Fish & chips at Skinny’s Diner

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

Photo log from Dublin

Metro Rush Hour

Dublin Metro Rush Hour

The Dublin metro is a speedy and reliably way to zip around the city. Locally called the “Luas,” this light-rail tram can take you from the pedestrian friendly city center, past the medieval mummies of St. Michan’s Church at Four Courts stop, and all the way to the Guinness Storehouse at James’s on the other side of the River Liffey.

Rainy Afternoon puddles

Rainy afternoon puddles in Dublin, Ireland

One of the best spots in Dublin for quiet reflection is Trinity College. With its protective walls and tranquil courtyards, the 400 years of history at Trinity College are alive and tangible at this calm oasis within the city. Dublin is a beautiful city and a place where people really should visit. If you are considering flying over to Dublin at some point, then you might want to check the Dublin airport bus to help you plan your trip a bit better.

Walking the streets of Temple Bar

Temple Bar district in Dublin, Ireland

The Temple Bar district has a high concentration of colorful pubs and narrow streets. Exploring this area and drinking at the traditional pubs is one of the quintessential experiences for any visitor to Dublin. Temple bar is alive with music and people all throughout the night. The atmosphere is joyous with people singing and mingling. It’s the only place you can walk into a bar, start to sing a song, and the entire place joins in!

Early Morning Silence

Dublin's famous O’Connell Street

O’Connell Street is the main artery of the city north of the River Liffey. In the early mornings the stillness and quiet here can belie the fierce history that took place on this street. In 1916 the General Post Office building was taken over by Irish Rebels and led to intense fighting with the British. Many believe that this conflict helped build wider sympathy for the fight to gain independence from Great Britain. The bullet holes from this battle can still be seen in the pillars today.

Magnificent Dublin Library

Magnificent Dublin Library

Nestled within Trinity College is the Old Library, where the gorgeously illustrated Book of Kells is kept. In addition to this 1,000 year old manuscript the library also includes the Long Hall, which is a magnificent tribute to writing. It has a rich smell of old leather and oak and will give you that strong sense of wonder that traveling is all about.

~ By Joy Hmielewski. Joy is an ex office worker with a love for adventure. A few years ago she picked up a camera and learned everything she could. She never wanted to spend her days in a cubical so she started a photography business and traveled anywhere she could go for cheap. She now travels extensively with a backpack and a small budget.

Happy St Patrick’s!

Photo courtesy of Daniel Sklar

Saint Patrick’s day seems to be a big holiday here in the US. The grocery stores are stacked with green cupcakes, decorations of shamrocks hang everywhere and parades are held in downtown’s around the country. Children are told traditional Irish fairy tales while adults go out on beer drinking binges. But do we really know what this day is all about?

St. Patrick’s Day is celebrated on March 17, the saint’s religious feast day and the anniversary of his death. The Irish have observed this day as a religious holiday for over 1,000 years and it falls during the Christian season of Lent. St. Patrick was actually born in Roman Britain and brought to Ireland as a slave at the age of 16. He is credited with bringing Christianity to the people of Ireland. St. Patrick is said to have used the shamrock, a three-leaved plant, to explain the Holy Trinity and that’s how the shamrock came to become an integral symbol of St. Patrick’s and the Irish.

St. Patrick’s Day is the official feast day celebrated by the Irish. It’s interesting to know that the first parade held to honor St. Patrick’s Day took place not in Ireland, but in the US. On March 17, 1762, Irish soldiers serving in the English military marched through New York City. Along with their music, the parade helped the soldiers reconnect with their Irish roots, as well as with fellow Irishmen serving in the English army. Over the years, patriotism spread to other cities and now more than 100 St. Patrick’s Day parades are held across the United States every year.

So, the tradition continued and here we are today…

Experience Ireland in Atlanta

I had the fortunate opportunity to attend an event held by Tourism Ireland in Atlanta, Georgia on April 28, 2011.  The event was held specifically for travel agents who send clients to Ireland and the media who write about traveling and destinations.  Titled “Experience a Flavor of Ireland”, the evening was filled with Irish entertainment, information, and food.  Tourism Ireland partnered with fourteen other organizations, ranging from tour operators to hotels and B&Bs to Dublin Tourism, to sell Ireland as a wonderful destination and to share details about travel and accommodation offerings.

I had recently visited Ireland at the beginning of April and wrote a post about my key learnings there.  This event was a wonderful opportunity to relive my experiences and gain new insights about the country and the island.

What impressed me the most about this event was the professionalism and the creativity.  How do you share information so that it is meaningful, memorable, and exciting?  How do you keep an audience engaged for over three hours?  Tourism Ireland did it with structure and with the senses of sights, sounds, tastes, and smells.

They began with registration and cocktails.  In the cocktail area, stand-up tables were manned by each of the fourteen partners.  This gave the partners one-on-one speaking opportunities to introduce their products and services to the attendees.  Brochures and other literature were offered at this time.  Live Irish music was played in the background.

This was followed by the core program in the main room.  Three large screens, professional lighting, an audio/visual team, and a stage up front hinted at the entertainment that was to follow.  After brief introductions, the female duo violinists from Sephira delighted the audience with their brand of Irish music.  This duo debuted in 2007 and has performed with Celtic Thunder and other musical groups.  You can check them out at their website.
The information from the partners was delivered via a two hour “skit” led by two professional actors.  One actor played a U.S. based travel agent arriving in Ireland to check out the destination, the tour operators, accommodations, food, and other amenities.  The other actor played an Irishman to help the agent get the information he needs.  The partners played themselves.

This approach was creative and entertaining, and it kept the audience engaged.

– The use of professional actors made it work.  They were natural, delivered their lines well, and kept the flow moving at a nice pace.

– The script was perfect.  Humor was used throughout the skit.  The questions asked by the travel agent actor were the type a regular travel agent would ask.

– The large screens gave the right visual clues all along the way.  Maps of Ireland indicated where hotels and other properties were located.  Images flashed on cue with the script, showing pictures of the outside and inside of hotels, the transportation vehicles, the golf courses, and the scenery.

– The partners played themselves well.  They are salespeople and they know their material.  This skit format allowed them to share the information in an entertaining way rather than behind a lecturn.

Wade Murphy, billed as one of Ireland’s top chefs, represented one of the hotel partners (he is the head chef at that hotel).  At the end of the skit, the attendees were led to an Irish food tasting prepared by the chef.  Samples included:  cheeses of Ireland; fish and potatoes; beef and mashed potatoes; salmon; and desserts.  While the attendees ate, live Irish music continued until the end.

It was a marvelous evening.  I hope to go back to Ireland to visit the places mentioned that I did not see during my recent trip.

– By guest blogger Daniel Sklar