Hey, Kilkenny. I thought I had you all figured out.
I’ve been visiting your namesake city for years. Two of my sisters-in-law live there. I’ve spent New Year’s Eve at Langtons and had a birthday lunch, once, at Campagne.
When my family visited last year, you were a highlight of their trip. They loved the cobbled streets and old world charm in the city. They found unique gifts to bring home to friends and loved ones. We had a nice lunch at Kyteler’s Inn.
While Patrick and I lived in Wateford, you bridged the gap between there and home, here in Tipperary. When we reached the city we knew we were at the halfway mark. We knew we could pick up a few things if we had to, or stop to nurse our fussy baby (so… thanks for being there for us).
The Bula Bus, in the back of Billy Byrnes pub
Kilkenny Street Food at The Bula Bus, in the back of Billy Byrnes pub
But it turns out I didn’t know you at all. Not until this past weekend and the Savour Kilkenny Festival of Food. Not until the Night of 1000 Feasts, an event that brought together the entire county in an effort to raise funds for the Town of Food project in Thomastown. You did good, there, Kilkenny. Over 2000 feasts were registered that night, showing the rest of us how you take care of your own. I am so excited to see how the Town of Food Centre progresses and how much was raised over the course of the weekend. I feel like I’m a part of it now. I’ve met you all and experienced your amazing hospitality, so I really want this goal to be achieved.
I ate a delectable three-course meal at Zuni last Sunday night for my part of the feast. It was sublime, Kilkenny. I hadn’t eaten there before and was so impressed by the stellar service and confident food, expertly crafted by Chef Maria Raftery. My main was a fillet of local short-horn beef. Kilkenny, every bite melted in my mouth. The accompanying béarnaise was subtle and didn’t overpower the meat. I don’t order beef very often, but this dish had me wowed.
I partied til the wee hours of the morning. Dearest Kilkenny, you should know that I have a one-year-old and don’t really party anymore. I mostly just want a glass of wine and my bed. You drew me out, though, with a slew of my in-laws and pints of deliciously smooth O’Hara Stout (not a Kilkenny beer but close enough, coming from Carlow). I visited Brewery Corner and had loud, slightly inebriated chats with the patrons.
I didn’t have a hangover the next day. Kilkenny, you have a plethora of fabulous bed and breakfasts in your county and I stayed in a good one that night. Fanad House B&B has very clean rooms, comfortable beds, and this may sound strange, but I’ve never stayed in a place with such excellent air temperature control. I slept like a rock and woke up refreshed; ready for my full Irish, skillfully prepared by the owner.
The next day we ventured out of the city.
Coffee and chats at Goatsbridge Trout Farm with the magnificent Mag & Ger Kirwan. How they’ve turned the family trout-raising business into something ecologically and financially viable is an inspiration to any aspiring entrepreneur. What’s more, their openness, inherent kindness and boundless energy is just so encouraging in an industry that is often less-than-kind. I’ll be back with my family to buy some of their smoked trout and show Maeve the fishies.
Kilkenny, you have so many talented artists and artisans in your midst.
We drove to visit the studios of Karen Morgan and Jerpoint Glass. I spent too much money. Such unique porcelain pieces are handcrafted by Karen. The lines are irregular and the colours are clean and natural – a food stylist’s dream. Aside from their beautiful glass creations, Jerpoint Studios have a gallery devoted to Kilkenny arts + crafts. Two must-visit locations if you, like me, are in love with dishes and linens and have a few gifts to buy for Christmas.
We stopped by Knockdrinna Cheese to visit with the lovely Helen and hear her story. Kilkenny, you have a pretty stellar terroir. All that lush, green grass eventually turns into fantastic meats and cheeses. Helen’s Knockdrinna Meadow sheepsmilk cheese is addictively mellow. Perfect at room temperature with a slice of apple and a bit of chutney.
Kilkenny, I didn’t realize Thomastown is so beautiful. I didn’t know it had so many fabulous food destinations. We had lunch at Sol Bistro and it didn’t disappoint. My Lavistown sausages were the perfect lunch for someone who was still consuming stout mere hours beforehand. My husband’s sizzling prawn salad was bursting with bright flavour, yet was stodgy enough to satisfy a 6’2 Irishman (how did they manage that?).
Your Thomastown residents are really inspiring, Kilkenny. They’re proud of their well-earned accolade “Town of Food”. The Town of Food Centre is going to be a hotbed of community involvement including school gardening sessions, a chef training program and a free-for-all prep kitchen for new food business owners to prepare their farmer’s market goods in a licensed environment. It’s going to enrich the lives of each member of the community.
And speaking of enriching lives, Kilkenny, I had no idea how beautiful and friendly Zwartbles sheep are until I visited Suzanna’s farm outside Thomastown. Most sheep shy away the minute they see you coming – Suzanna’s sheep bounded gleefully toward us. They were more like puppies. It was wonderful, and if you were a fly on the wall at that moment you would have seen half a dozen (adult) Irish bloggers acting like a bunch of giggling schoolkids. Lives enriched.
I need to thank Dee Sewell, Mag Kirwan and all of the folk we came to visit for organizing and executing such an amazing blog trip. Honestly, Kilkenny, I’ll never underestimate you again, but only because these guys worked so hard to get me and the other bloggers down for a visit.
Who were the other bloggers? They were a diverse crowd and all wonderful in their own way: Where Wishes Come From, The Art of Exploring, Foodborn and Bred, Cork Billy, Greenside Up, My Busy Farm Life. It was great meeting and getting into mischief with them.