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Posts from the ‘Wining & Dining’ Category

Irish-Jamaican Patties… because it’s finally summer!

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Photo by Kirsten Ivors

*In regards to my previous post, for those of you who may not be living in Ireland, I just wanted to let you know the Irish population overwhelmingly voted in support of women’s bodily autonomy and I couldn’t be prouder to live here.

I want to thank those who commented on my Repeal Cookies post and especially those who told their own touching stories. I am so glad we repealed this thing! The day the results were out, my friend and I added a simple “ed” to each cookie of the last batch. We won’t have to bake them ever again.*

*This isn’t a sponsored post, but I was gifted some Kilkenny Rosé Veal which I ended up using in this recipe.

Now that the referendum is over, we can finally celebrate the great weather we’ve been having over the past several weeks. I love Ireland all the time, but especially in May and June, when the sun is out, silage is being cut (the entire county smells of freshly cut grass!) and we can enjoy the outdoors with our girls.

As soon as the weather started to turn, we devoted ourselves to tidying up our back yard and garden. My lovely husband made me a new raised bed which we were able to fill with bales of our very own compost! I’m very proud of that small achievement. That said, my greatest gardening achievement this year will be to keep the caterpillars off my cabbage – I have never been able to deter them, or keep on top of picking them off. I’ll let you know how that goes.

As you might know, I put on a (roughly) monthly restaurant pop-up in partnership with The Green Sheep in Thurles and White Gypsy Brewery in Templemore. We usually pick a theme, I create a menu to match and we gather with up to thirty guests for a night of food and frivolity.

This past weekend, with the weather being so delicious, we settled on a Caribbean theme. Curry Goat (made with John Lacey’s beef – not goat – but still very good!), Tres Leches Cake with vanilla-roasted rhubarb (taken from my garden and not exactly Caribbean, but the theme was still in mind!), White Gypsy Belgian Dubbel-brined Jerk Chicken and – for me – the one thing everyone needs at a Caribbean party: Jamaican Patties.

Now before we go any further I need to confess something: I may be from North America, but I’ve never been south of Detroit. I have never been to the Caribbean, in other words. I am hardly a scholar in Caribbean-style food, but I did live in Toronto for years, and there is a lot of Caribbean representation in that city.

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Photo by Kirsten Ivors

Every August there is a massive festival in Toronto called Caribana. It is a celebration of all things Caribbean – the people, the food, the music – and the party completely takes over the city. Actually, it’s the largest street festival in North America. For this pop-up, I took a lot of inspiration from that festival, and from my Caribbean-Torontonian friends who are some of the warmest, loveliest people I have ever known.

Their food is pretty epic, too.

Although I’ve never been to Jamaica, these Irish-Jamaican Patties are very representative of my time in Toronto. At every major subway stop, you’ll find a vendor selling these tasty morsels and – let me tell you – when you’re on the way home from work and absolutely starving, there is no better snack than a Jamaican Patty.

If you’re in Toronto, you must go to my friend Chef Craig Wong’s acclaimed restaurant Patois for his Jamaican Patty Double Downs. It’s basically a sandwich but, instead of bread, well… I’ll let you figure the rest out.

Made with a turmeric-infused pastry and a deeply spiced meat filling, these patties are like Cornish Pasties on flavour steroids. I’ve had them filled with chicken and ground beef, but for the pop-up I made them vegetarian with spicy stewed greens and diced mango. The recipe I’m sharing today is one with veal – and not just any veal – Kilkenny Rosé Veal, which comes from just down the road.

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Photo by Kirsten Ivors

The ground veal retains a lot of moisture but isn’t too greasy, like you’ll often find with ground beef. Because it is a rosé veal, the calves are ethically raised and freely roam the pastures, which imparts a beautiful flavour on the meat. Combined with a bit of Caribbean spice, it makes the perfect filling for an Irish-Jamaican Patty.

You can make the filling and pastry ahead of time and then just throw them in the oven right before you want to serve them. You can also bake them ahead of time and re-heat – because I’m using a high-fat local butter in the pastry, it’s very forgiving and stays flaky and tender for a long time. This pastry – if you’re using a beef or veal filling – would also be *amazing* made with Tipperary Dexter Beef Drippings.

Irish-Jamaican Patties

Ingredients:

For the Pastry

480-500g/4 cups plain flour

2 tsp salt

1 cup/250g cold Tipperary butter (or beef drippings)

2 tsp ground turmeric

1 cup/250ml ice water

For the filling

2 lbs/900g ground rose veal, or chicken or beef

2 Tbsp coconut oil

2 tsp freshly chopped thyme

1 tsp allspice

1 tsp fresh ground black pepper

1 cup/250g diced onion

1 bunch finely sliced green onion

1 scotch bonnet pepper, or 1 Tbsp Caribbean-style hot sauce if you can find the peppers

2 cloves garlic, finely chopped

1 Tbsp tomato paste

1 cup pale beer, like White Gypsy Belgian Dubbel

1 cup beef stock

Salt, to taste

Directions:

  • Make the pastry: in a large bowl, add the turmeric, flour and salt. Rub the butter in with your fingers until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs.
  • Add the ice-cold water and mix lightly with your fingers until a loose dough forms.
  • Turn out onto a lightly floured surface and knead the dough a few times, just to smooth it out. Do not over-work the dough.
  • Divide the dough into two portions, wrap in cling film and let rest in the fridge for 30 minutes.
  • Make the filling: in a large frying pan, heat 2 Tbsp of coconut oil over medium-high.
  • Add the onions to the pan and gently fry for 3-4 minutes. Then, add the garlic, scotch bonnet and green onion. Fry for another minute.
  • Add the ground veal and spices. Brown the veal, then add the tomato paste. Stir to combine.
  • Add the beer and gently cook on med-low for 20 minutes. Then, add the beef stock and continue to cook until the liquid has reduced to a sauce (about 30 minutes).
  • Season to taste with salt and let cool slightly.
  • Remove the pastry from the fridge and roll out into a rough rectangle. Using a pastry cutter or pizza cutter, divide each dough half into 6 squares.
  • Add 1-2 Tbsp of filling to each square.
  • Using egg wash as glue, fold each square over the filling and press the edges with a fork. Place the patties on a parchment-lined baking sheet.
  • Egg wash over the tops of the pastries and bake in a hot oven (about 200º C or 400F) for 15-20 minutes.
  • Allow to cool slightly before eating. I like to eat mine with more hot sauce. YUM.
  • This recipe makes about 12 patties. They’ll keep in the fridge for about three days.
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Photo by Kirsten Ivors

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Green Sheep Charity Tapas Pop-Up

On November 25th, The Siùcra Shack (my small business), Hedgehog Bakery and The Green Sheep got together for a pop-up tapas night in Thurles. Ìt came about because my friend Lucy, who owns The Green Sheep, was involved in a fundraiser for the Mill Road Riding Club. Members of the riding club were hosting “Come Dine with Me” style nights in efforts to raise money to purchase a special needs saddle for the club.

Lucy thought she would take it one step further and host a pop-up restaurant night with live music, tapas-style eats (meaning food you can eat while standing up!) and a few drinks.

Since I run my business out of Lucy’s cafe, it was natural for me to get involved. We invited our friend Mags to join the fun – she is a boulangiere extraordinare and, if you were at Savour Kilkenny this past October you may have seen her demo on the live stage. A lady of many talents.

Together, we developed a menu for the night: local cheeses (Knockdrinna, Cashel Blue, Derg Cheddar, Cooleeney) and charcuterie (from Irish Piedmontese Beef and The Wooded Pig) with our own pickles, Mags’ bread and chutney from Ayle Farm were the first course. For a starter, I made fresh haddock and cod fritters with warm lardons and preserved lemon salad with buttermilk herb dressing. Then, for the main course I made bulgur wheat salad, tahini-infused remoulade and slow cooked harissa lamb shoulder. We finished the evening with my chubby churros (they were extra eggy; therefore, extra chubby!) and hot fudge sauce.

We sold tickets for €30 per person or €50 per couple. A full house ensued, and we had such a fabulous night. Not without a few hiccups, but it being our first pop-up we were expecting the unexpected. Food producers around the community donated food for the night and everyone says they had a wonderful time.

Now that I’m headed off to Canada from Christmas, I will be sourcing some very special ingredients for our next pop-up. I’m not giving anything away, but I hope everyone who attends likes pork. That’s all I’m going to say about that.

For now, enjoy this mix of photos and video clips I put together from the night. Most of said photos and videos are from the lovely Sinead of Delalicious – I don’t think we would have had nearly as good as night if she hadn’t shown up! What a great human being she is.

‘Til next time, friends.

 

Maple Walnut Scones

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People often ask me if I miss living in Canada. I’ve been living in Ireland now for almost five years. I have three great kids, a house we’re fixing up, a big garden (and more gardens planned), a small business and lots of friends and family milling around.

So yeah, it’s safe to say I’m usually too busy to be feeling homesick for Canada. That said, I recently got my kids their Canadian citizenship and, this year being Canada’s 150th birthday (if you’re First Nations, though, I should add that Canada is thousands of years older), I started feeling a bit nostalgic with all the celebrations and activities posted all over my social media streams.

Canada Day is July 1st, so it’s already happened. I didn’t do anything on the day to celebrate. Sometimes I host barbecues, bake a cake and have my friends over for Canada Day, but this year – having just had a baby – I wasn’t really feeling it. Too much, too soon.

But I can’t say Canada hasn’t been on my mind lately. So while I don’t miss living in Canada, there are a few things about Canada (or just Cape Breton, really) I miss in general:

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  1. Lobster season: May to July in Cape Breton. Lobsters everywhere you look. Lobster boil dinners at every small community hall. Lobsters being sold right from the boat. I love lobster, and I really miss eating it when it’s at its best. That also goes for mussels, scallops, haddock, salmon, chowder… and the list goes on. I know Ireland is surrounded by ocean, but there isn’t great seafood in landlocked Tipperary!
  2. The beach: Cape Breton has so many gorgeous beaches. By July the water is warm enough to swim, the sand is golden and fine-textured and the beaches are relatively isolated. I love Irish beaches, but find the water is usually a bit too cold and most beaches a bit too crowded.
  3. The restaurants: I love lobster and seafood. I love the places that prepare these foods as well. The Rusty Anchor in Pleasant Bay (where I once had some decadent lobster poutine with a cold beer; one of my most favourite meals), The Dancing Goat in Margaree, The Herring Choker in Nyanza, Charlene’s Bayside in Whycocomagh, The Bite House in Big Baddeck – all of these places make amazing Cape Breton food and deserve all of the accolades. I miss these places.
  4. My friends and family: Obvs. I love and miss my *very large* extended family. Aunties, uncles, cousins, nieces, nephew, brothers – I miss them all.
  5. The weather: in summer, it’s warm enough to swim in the river and in the ocean almost every day. On the East Coast, though, it’s not as hot as it would be elsewhere in Canada. We have the ocean to keep the temperature moderate (like, 35°C and under). A great deal warmer and sunnier than an Irish summer, but still comfortable (I don’t miss black flies and mosquitos, though).10631983_387625851388458_1137852623_n
  6. Wild Blueberries and good Maple Syrup: I miss these things very much. The fruit in Ireland is lovely, but the blueberries here don’t compare to the blueberries in Cape Breton.
  7. Canadian beer and wine: in Nova Scotia there is a wine appellation called Tidal Bay. It’s located close to where I went to university. The wine is gorgeous. Once, a sparkling wine called (Benjamin Bridge) Nova 7 beat out actual, expensive champagne at a tasting I attented in Toronto. It’s that good. The beer in Ireland is great, so I don’t miss Canadian beer that much; just certain kinds.
  8. Homestyle baking: I know I do a lot of Cape Breton-style baking here in Ireland, but I miss other people’s baking. Namely from the cafes I mentioned previously, my aunties and older people from around my community.

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Speaking of homestyle baking, I especially love East Coast scones. Large, triangular, sweet with a crunchy sugar or glazed topping, scones in Cape Breton are indulgent – often made for sharing – and perfect with a cup of strong tea.

I whipped up these maple walnut scones with another nostalgic food in mind – ice cream! I love the ice cream at home. It’s not soft serve like a 99 here in Ireland, it’s hard and comes in a million and a half flavours; one of my favourites being maple walnut.

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No need for butter and jam on these scones. The glaze is thick enough to ensure the right amount of sweetness in each bite, and the walnuts are toasted in the oven and then soaked in maple syrup. Perhaps most importantly, the flavour is nostalgic enough to get me through to my next visit home.

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Maple Walnut Scones

Ingredients:

2 1/2 cups/375g Plain Flour

1 Tbsp baking powder

1 tsp sea salt

1/4 cup/60g light brown sugar

1/2 cup/125g cold butter, cubed

1 large egg

2 tsp vanilla extract

1 cup/250ml cold buttermilk

For the glaze:

2 cups/500g Icing Sugar

1 tsp vanilla or maple extract

3 Tbsp good quality maple syrup

Splash of heavy cream

Toasted walnuts, soaked in maple syrup

Directions:

  • Preheat your oven to 200°C (400°F). Line one or two baking sheets with parchment and set aside.
  • In a large bowl, combine the flour, baking powder, salt, brown sugar and cold, cubed butter.
  • Using a pastry cutter or your fingers, cut/rub the butter into the dry ingredients until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Make a well in the centre of the butter/dry ingredient mixture.
  • In a large measuring cup, measure out the buttermilk, then add the egg and vanilla. Mix to combine.
  • Add the wet ingredients to the well in the middle of the dry ingredients. Using a wooden spoon or just using your hands (your best pastry tool!) mix the wet into the dry until just combined (mixture should be on the wet side – if it’s dry and crumbly add more buttermilk!).
  • On a lightly floured surface, turn the dough out and knead lightly for one minute. Form into a ball and allow to rest for 10 minutes.
  • Using more flour for dusting and a rolling pin, roll the dough out into a thick rectangle (you want to get 8-10 scones out of this dough at most). At least 1.5 inches thick.
  • Cut the rectangle into 8-10 smaller rectangles or triangles. Transfer to the prepared baking sheets. Using a pastry brush, lightly brush the tops with milk and sprinkle a bit of sugar over each scone.
  • Bake the scones for 20-ish minutes. Let cool slightly on a rack.
  • Make the glaze: in a mixing bowl, combine the icing sugar, maple syrup, maple extract (or vanilla) and about a tablespoon of heavy cream. You want the glaze to be thick, but still be able to drizzle it over the scones. If the glaze is too thick for your liking, loosen it up with a bit more cream.
  • Dunk the tops of each scone in the glaze, or spoon the glaze over each scone allowing the excess to drip down the sides. Top with toasted maple walnuts. Allow glaze to set slightly before eating (if you can wait that long).
  • The scones will keep no longer than two days, so make sure you eat them right away!

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Visiting Templemore: White Gypsy Brewery

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*A while back, I wrote my first post in a series about my favourite restaurants, cafés, food producers and places to visit in Tipperary. I featured The Green Sheep café in Thurles, which is where I also happen to sell my donuts and cakes.

I don’t have any disclaimer to add to this post. Except, maybe, that my love of beer surpasses most things in life (*Disclaimer: I really, really enjoy a cold pint of quality beer). Now that I’ve (hopefully gracefully) made it into my 30’s, I like to think the days of drinking mediocre liquor and beer to get drunk and party with my friends are well behind me.

I can probably count on one hand the amount of evenings Pat and I went out for drinks in the past two years, but that’s life with small kids. I don’t miss the mediocre beer and I really, really don’t miss the hangovers.

In fact, now that I have kids, my taste in beer has gotten even better. I don’t go out every weekend (or any weekend!), which means I don’t mind spending a bit more per bottle to enjoy on the couch after the kids go to bed.

I also have to give credit to Cuilán and Sally Loughnane in Templemore for making it so very easy to spend a bit more on quality beer. This is because their beer, White Gypsy, brewed just down the road from me in Templemore, is amazing.

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The first time I tried White Gypsy beer was at Ballymaloe Litfest in 2014. I was finally *not pregnant* and while I couldn’t let loose and party with everyone else, I was determined to enjoy a cold pint on the lawn while little 8-month-old Maeve wriggled around in the grass.

I like wheat beers, and saw an interesting one on tap – White Gypsy Weissbier. I had no idea at the time (Pat and I were still in Waterford and had not yet moved to the farm) that this beer was being brewed in my soon-to-be neighbourhood. I took my pint to a grassy spot and literally savoured every last drop. I absolutely loved it. Mostly because there was something distinctly Canadian about the flavour that made me nostalgic (we have great beer in Canada; don’t let Molson Canadian fool you!).

When I moved to Tipperary and realized my new favourite beer was being brewed right down the road, I was so happy. I visited and introduced myself to Cuilán and Sally. I was writing a column for The Tipperary Star and wanted to feature them. They were so kind and interesting, full of great stories and obviously passionate about the beer making process; I couldn’t help but become a bit more passionate about it myself.

I found out that Cuilán got into beer making while he was living and working in Vancouver. The Canadian connection was explained!

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I love supporting local food producers, but it’s sometimes hard to find products that beat out the tried, tested and true brands. White Gypsy beers are not only better – they’re beers that larger brewers should aspire to. They’re unique; incorporating old technique and plenty of artisanal flare.

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Last evening, I strapped on my baby and ventured out to the brewery for their open day, celebrating Indie Beer Week. There was all kinds of delicious food, including stout brownies, stout sausages (made specially by the one and only Una O’Dwyer), local cheeses and condiments. There was also, obviously, a lot of beer on tap and in bottles. There was a great crowd and everyone was really enjoying themselves. The sun was shining and there was a warm breeze – the perfect evening for a community BBQ.

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Cuilán showed his visitors around the brewery and shared the White Gypsy story, proving to everyone that he truly is a mad scientist. He is constantly testing out new processes, flavours, vessels, methods. Whenever I visit the brewery he has something new and interesting on the go. He and Sally have big plans for the future and I can’t wait to see what’s in store for their awesome little brewery.

If you’re visiting Tipperary this summer, Cuilán and Sally are always happy to meet new people and show them around the brewery. Contact them through their website or Facebook page. You can also see a full list of their beers on Untappd.

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You can buy White Gypsy beer bottled in certain stockists, or on tap throughout the country (I most recently saw them on tap while brunching at Dela restaurant in Galway). My favourites are their Weissbier (found on tap), Dark Lady (bottled), Emerald Pale Ale (made with 100% Irish ingredients including home-grown hops; limited, seasonal supply; bottled) and the Sour Stout (pretty sure I enjoyed this stout from a bottle).

Galway City & Dog’s Bay

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This past weekend Patrick and I were treated to a child-free weekend away in County Galway. I say we were “treated” not because this trip was planned or paid for by anyone else, but because my amazing sister-in-law offered to take on our kids for the weekend. With baby #3 mere weeks away, how could we refuse?

We booked into the Westwood Hotel, which isn’t very central but the rooms are comfortable, clean and affordable and the hotel is conveniently located off Galway’s main ring road. I love Galway, but I admit – I don’t like driving in Galway.

The downtown is a tangle of pedestrian-only quays and alleyways. Many of the roads you can drive on are so small and congested I get panic attacks just thinking about them. It’s nice to drive to the hotel, park the car and just take a taxi into the downtown (no designated driver needed, either – not that I’m indulging these days).

We arrived on Friday evening. We needed a babysitter for the kids, of course, but we also needed someone to milk the cows for the weekend (farmers don’t really get days off!) so we were lucky to have people to cover both areas. Patrick helped with the evening milking before we set off – not a big deal, since Galway is just a little over two hour’s drive from the farm.

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Homemade Miso!

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When we arrived, we checked into the hotel and then took a taxi downtown. We had one thing on our minds: sushi. There are a few options for Japanese food in Galway, but I had been following Wa Café on Instagram for some time and wanted to give their fare a try. They recently made the Irish Times’ 100 Best Places to Eat so we knew we were in for something good.

We ordered nearly the whole menu (I’ve said before; we’re Japanese-food deprived here in Tipperary!), consuming several types of maki roll, a big bowl of Toyota-style ramen and a bento box featuring the most addictive, flavourful Karaage chicken and crisp vegetable tempura.

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The next day we were up early, so we did some shopping downtown before brunch at Dela. This cozy restaurant was buzzing with activity. I hate queues, but our meal was so worth the 20-minute wait. I ordered bacon + crab potato cake with poached eggs, hollandaise, toasted brown bread and salad. It hit every mark for me – flavourful, properly seasoned, well-priced and the portion size was perfect.

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After brunch we took a drive out to Connemara. Honestly, the day was so beautiful – sunny and warm – it would have been a crime to not find a beach. I had read about Dog’s Bay in the Irish Independent as it topped Ireland’s 30 Best Beaches, so we thought we’d check it out – even though it’s a full hour and a half from Galway city.

After driving through gorgeous, boggy, barren, mountainous, sheepey Connemara, we turned off the road about 20 km from Clifden. A winding road took us past Ballynahinch Castle and the cutesy village of Roundstone before we reached Dog’s Bay.

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To say this beach is beautiful is an understatement. The coral sand is pure white. The water is so turquoise it looks about 20 degrees warmer than it actually is. This beach could be in the Bahamas or Maldives – you would not expect to see it in the middle of County Galway’s rocky landscape. We’ll be returning here again and again – next time with the kids.

That evening, we indulged in a seven-course tasting menu at Loam. True to it’s moniker, Michelin-starred Loam specializes in the tastes and terroir of the Wild Atlantic Way. They use produce and meat from local farmers, make their own charcuterie and surprise/delight diners like me with interesting and beautifully balanced plates of food.

We loved the “pasta” made from very-delicately-sliced squid, served with a soft egg yolk and a deep roasted onion broth. The local sirloin was served tartare-style, but it wasn’t like any other tartare I’ve had. The earthy beef was paired with anchovy, crispy onion and fresh ramson & sorrel – it was actually refreshing. For one of our two dessert plates, we loved the Chanterelle mushroom ice cream with parsley sponge and chocolate-hazelnut crumb.

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Parting gift: a copy of the evening’s menu (comes in handy when you’re trying to remember each course!)

Those were our stand-outs from that night’s menu, but honestly – I loved the whole experience. We very rarely opt for tasting menus in restaurants because, more often than not, you leave feeling bloated and over-full. If you opt for wine pairings, you often end up with four unfinished glasses of wine you have to chug before dessert. Also? Sometimes. It. Just. Takes. Too. Long. I don’t want to be waiting 30 minutes between courses. We’re parents of young children and we WILL fall asleep at the table.

Loam has its guest experience down to a science. We were finished in roughly two hours, enjoyed the engaging, smart (but understated) service, LOVED the food and didn’t feel overstuffed (but also didn’t need to indulge in any late-night snacks). The one star from Michelin seems a bit stingy, actually.

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We went straight to bed after dinner and left early the next morning. I actually missed my kids; can you believe it? It was another beautiful day at the farm and I couldn’t wait to spend it with them.

Have you been to Galway recently? What were some of your favourite spots?

48 Hours in Brussels

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Ah, Bruxelles. I fell in love with that charming city over a dreary, cold weekend in November and I’m only now able to tell you about it! Happy new year, dear readers. 2016 was really great for me in lots of ways (like that time my second daughter was born) and really bad in other ways (like that time Donald Trump…).

I think 2017 is going to be really great. Especially for my family, because we’re expanding yet again! Ciara will be 18 months when our third child is born this coming Spring so our two latest babies will be just shy of official “Irish Twin” status, but that won’t make our lives any less hectic. I’m just gonna embrace the craziness and be as kind to myself as possible.

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With that said, why wouldn’t I jump at the chance of a weekend away in one of Europe’s coolest cities? A few girlfriends and I bought cheap Ryanair tickets (€40 return) and rented an apartment for the weekend (which also worked out to about €40 per person). We were as close to the downtown core as you can possibly get, so our accommodation was a steal (and very clean, and very charming – here’s the link to the Airbnb).

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Our group was split between girls who wanted to party and girls who wanted to sleep (aka the pregnant ladies with kids at home). We all wanted to shop and eat. The location suited everyone’s tastes – just steps away from the Grand Place, the pedestrian shopping streets and the bar district. Artisan chocolate shops, French patisseries, waffle kiosks and proper Belgian friteries were absolutely everywhere. A real food heaven.

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On Saturday morning we gathered with other poor backpackers for a free walking tour of the city. Our guide (Oriane from Viva Brussels Walking Tours) was absolutely brilliant. I don’t normally like guided tours – it’s difficult to escape if the tour is really boring – but Oriane was funny, knew her history and gave good tips on where and what to eat/drink in the city. It was a cold, clear day but we were dressed warmly and enjoyed the exercise.

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I spent a lot of time buying chocolate and eating waffles. I must have averaged three waffles per day. The best thing about a true Liège waffle (the term “Belgian” waffle is incorrect since there are two types of waffle in Belgium – the Brussels waffle and the Liège, which is the one we tend to associate with Belgium) is that you can eat it on the go. Most shops will offer all kinds of sweet toppings, but DON’T – it’s just overkill. A proper Liège waffle is already sweet. Wrap it in a napkin and eat while you take in the sights.

As mentioned, there is no shortage of great quality Belgian chocolate on offer in the pedestrian areas off Grand Place. Your biggest problem will be deciding what to buy and from which shop. I bought several types of chocolate from different places and even bought some generic Belgian chocolate at the supermarket – all delicious.

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Other food and drink options worth exploring in Brussels include the famed Speculoos biscuits (my faves came from Maison Dandoy), traditional double-fried frites and, of course, Belgian beer. I know I’m pregnant, but I still bought a small bottle of Gueuze – an old-style Lambic beer which is fermented by particles in the air found only around Brussels. It had a sour, cidery taste. Really nice.

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And the frites? Oh my GAWD the frites. Our apartment was just around the corner from one of Brussels’ best friteries – Friterie du Café Georgette. The frites are triple-fried in beef fat, giving them an addictive flavour and perfect texture. They put Irish chips to shame. With a bit of mayo on the side, these frites made a good, cheap meal for us on more than one occasion.

I wasn’t so crazy about our final meal. Our tour guide had mentioned that Chez Lèon – an old-school Belgian restaurant – served great moules frites. Since the restaurant wasn’t far from our apartment we thought it would be a good place to go for dinner. The ambiance was wonderful. We had an older waitor with flawless tableside service. He was also a shameless flirt and a born entertainer. Unfortunately, my mussels weren’t nearly as vibrant; both moules and frites were disappointingly bland.

Dessert was a different affair (probably since most of the cooking was done tableside). I had a Normandy-style pancake. It might be the best dessert I’ve ever had (a hefty claim, but it was just that good – done simply, served hot – delicious).

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I’d love to go back to Brussels, or explore some of Belguim’s other cities, with my husband someday – preferably when I can drink beer again. The flight is an easy 1.5 hours from Dublin and the city is breathtaking. Don’t get hung up on terrorist threats; just don’t. Life is too short, and Brussels is too beautiful and fun to miss.

And those frites…

*This is not a sponsored post; no freebies were had. Just good times with friends.

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A Gastro-Weekend in Cork

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I can’t believe it, but I’m officially on maternity leave. This pregnancy has completely flown by, and I’m feeling a bit unprepared, so it’s a good thing that I have a few weeks off work before Christmas to try and get my life – not to mention, this blog! – organized.

I spent a weekend in October in Toronto. It was my first time back since Patrick and I moved in 2013. I was so excited to see my friends, my brother, my sweet baby nephew. One of my dearest friends got married in a beautiful ceremony and I’m so glad I could be there.

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Hong Kong-style Fried Chicken & Waffles – Patois, Toronto

Another chef-friend had opened a gorgeous little restaurant specializing in Caribbean-Asian cuisine, so of course I ventured over for brunch and ate everything on the menu (I’M PREGNANT, OK?). Patois is a great spot – I still dream about the fried chicken and Hong Kong-style waffles and Kimchi “pieriogi-style” potstickers.

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Pieriogi-Style Kimchi Potstickers – Patois, Toronto

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Cookie Butter-Stuffed French Toast – Patois, Toronto

Despite getting to see everyone and eating delicious food, I was really happy to get home to Tipperary. Who knew how impatient I’d gotten with traffic? And cities in general!

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Wandering Kilkenny Castle’s grounds

We also went, once again, to the Savour Kilkenny Festival of Food over the October long weekend. It was great, as always. Maeve had a great time, Patrick & I went out to Zuni for a delicious dinner and we all enjoyed the sights and sounds.

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Enjoying the food at Savour Kilkenny!

More recently, Patrick and I took a weekend away to get some Christmas shopping done and some kid-free time to ourselves before #2 arrives in early Janurary. We spent the night in Cork and enjoyed some amazing food.

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My delicious masala dosa from Ayer’s Cafe – picture taken at Ballymaloe Litfest, May 2015

While we’re spoiled for fresh ingredients here in Tipperary, we are definitely Asian-food-deprived (unless you count the local Chinese & Indian takeaways… which we don’t).

For lunch, despite Storm Desmond wreaking havoc all over the country, we trudged through the wind and rain to get to Iyer’s Cafe on Pope’s Quay. I love Iyer’s! I first tried their dosas and samosas at Ballymaloe Litfest 2015 – they tasted so amazingly authentic; I couldn’t get them out of my mind. As soon as we had Cork booked, I knew I’d be taking Patrick there for lunch.

We had a samosa chaat bowl (samosas with fresh chickpea, veggie and popped rice salad in a big bowl), masala dosa (a type of Indian crepe made from a batter of soaked lentils, served filled with spiced potato, chutneys on the side and a bowl of soupy masala sauce to pour over) and fried chili gobi (spiced cauliflower fritters) to share and were not disappointed. Iyer’s specializes in Southern Indian cuisine, all vegetarian or vegan, all authentic.

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Chicken Gyoza – Miyazaki, Cork

And speaking of authentic… later that evening, on the tip of fellow food blogger and my buddy Cork Billy, we went to Miyazaki Takeaway on Evergreen St. for some Japanese food. This was one of the best meals I’ve had in Ireland, and some of the best Japanese food I’ve had… well… ever! That’s including what I’ve eaten in Japan (is that blasphemous?).

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My Tempura Prawn Roll – Miyazaki, Cork

This place is tiny with minimal seating (there’s a counter with a few stools if you want to eat in). BUT the kitchen is open-concept and you can watch the very-talented chef at work while you wait for your yaki-udon and katsu-don.

I need to make this clear: Miyazaki’s food is Michelin star quality. My tempura-prawn roll was filled with fresh veggies and microgreens (not just for garnish; where they can be annoyingly superfluous – they added SERIOUS FLAVOUR to the roll).

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Japanese-style Fried Chicken don buri (front), pork yaki-udon (back) – Miyazaki, Cork

We had one of the evening’s specials – Japanese style fried chicken don buri (in a rice bowl with fresh veggies, egg, broth), pork yaki-udon (stir-fried noodles), chicken gyoza (dumplings) and a hand-roll each. It was the best date we’ve had in years – sitting on a few stools at the counter. The only thing missing? Some ice cold Sapporo.

Our Cork weekend, despite the terrible weather, was a total success: we relaxed, ate amazing food and got a huge chunk of our Christmas shopping completed (with minimal arguing!). It’s a very easy 1.5 hour trip from the farm, so we’ll be back for more food really soon.

*Look, I don’t normally do gushing reviews like this as an entire blog post, but the places mentioned above do wonderful work. I will say that I wasn’t asked to write any of these reviews; I was just really impressed and wanted to share my opinion. I hope you get to check them out, too, and let me know what you think!

 

 

 

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