A taste of tea and history

You can tell by now that I am pretty crazy about history! So combing tea and history has me working in my element.  I was asked to host an Irish afternoon tea event at Barrington Hall, an 1839 Greek Revival style mansion in downtown Roswell, Georgia earlier this month.  The building is ranked as one of the 50 most beautiful homes in Metro Atlanta and it’s been fully restored and furnished with many period and family pieces. The original owner, Roswell King’s daughter (Eva and her husband Rev. William Baker) moved into Barrington Hall in 1883 and owned a tea and coffee importing company. The Bakers have entertained some rather famous people for tea including President Theodore Roosevelt and Margaret Mitchell, so, naturally I wanted to know about the tea they imported and served and ferociously began researching.

The tea that they imported was Orange Peoke!  The ‘orange’ in Peoke is sometimes mistaken to mean the tea has been flavored with actual orange.  However, the word “orange” is unrelated and refers to the Dutch house of orange black tea leaves of a specific size and quality.  These grading are typically used from teas from Sri Lanka, India other than China.  After research I found that the closest tea I could serve was an Irish Breakfast tea (I served Punjana).  Irish Breakfast has a higher proportion of Assam blended with a little Ceylon.  The Assam is copper colored and what we call in Ireland ‘a hearty brew’ and it’s good with a wee spot of milk.  We like to say it’s full of Malty gusto and it’s great any time of the day (if your Irish or Irish at heart).

So, I hope this inspires you to fill a kettle and enjoy a spot of Irish tea that’s been enjoyed from Victorian times and a historic pleasure we can all afford to enjoy every day!

Hope you make time for a cuppa today!

Judith the Irish foodie

Welcome first day of Spring! (St. Bridget Feast Day in Ireland)

The first day of Spring (Feb 1st) has been important in Ireland from the Neolithic period.  In Ireland the lighting of fires and candles invited the power of the sun in the period between the cold Winter months and Spring!  Can you believe it folks….? We’re almost there and I am ready for the warmth of the sun and the buds of Spring to appear.

The relics of St. Bridget and Columcille are said to be enclosed in Downpatrick in the same grave as our National St. Patrick.  I loved this photography shared on the Friends of Saint Patrick’s website today of a group of students from John Brown University in Missouri placing a St. Bridget’s cross on the grave.  The hanging of the St. Bridget cross on the front door is symbolically asking Gods protection on livestock and homes in many homes in rural Ireland.

Those of  you who have been on Shamrock and Peach tours are familiar with Dr. Tim Campbell and this quote he often shares around the grave side.

“In Downpatrick, three saints one grave do fill, Patrick, Bridget and Columcille”

Welcome Spring and and let the feasting of St. Bridget begin!

Judith the Irish foodie

 

Christmas Scones are Gingerbread Heaven

Ginger Scone Recipe

Gingerbread Scones for Christmas Brunch

Certain smells and flavors conjure up the essence of Christmas!  Just like the aromas of the spices baking in the oven of my favorite Gingerbread Scones.  Gingerbread is an Old World recipe that has somehow become synonymous with the Christmas Season around the world including both Ireland and America.  These Gingerbread Scones are perfect for holiday brunch are always a hit especially when served with Lemon Curd and Fresh Whipped Cream.  Enjoy the season and the spices of Christmas..  It’s the time!

Gingerbread Scones with Clotted Lemon Cream

Gingerbread scone ingredients (makes ½ dozen):

  • 1 lb. (4 cups) self-rising flour
  • 1 tsp. baking powder
  • 2 oz. (¼ cup) dark brown sugar
  • ¼ tsp. salt
  • 1 tsp. ground powdered ginger
  • ½ tsp. nutmeg
  • ¾ tsp. cinnamon
  • 6 oz. (¾ cup) butter (cold and cut into small pieces)
  • 1 egg (beaten)
  • 4 fl. oz. (½ cup) buttermilk
  • 2 fl. oz. (¼ cup) molasses
  • egg wash (1 egg beaten with a little water or milk)

 

How to make them:

  1. Preheat your oven to 425° F.
  2. Sift the flour with the baking powder then combine the remaining dry ingredients together in a food processor or a large mixing bowl.
  3. Cut the cold butter into the mixed dry ingredients then rub the mixture together with your fingertips or add them slowly to a food processor to form a breadcrumb-like texture.
  4. Beat the buttermilk, egg, and molasses together in a small bowl and combine with the dry ingredients, mixing well.
  5. Turn the resulting dough out onto a lightly floured surface.
  6. Knead the dough a few times and then roll it out with a lightly floured rolling pin until it’s about ¾” thick.
  7. Cut the scones out of the flattened dough using a 1” biscuit cutter.
  8. Brush dough scones with egg wash and place onto a lightly greased baking sheet.
  9. Bake 12–15 minutes until well risen and golden brown on top, turning the baking tray halfway through baking time to ensure even baking.
  10. Best served warm. Serve sliced in half and slathered with clotted cream.

Happy Holiday Baking!

Judith the Irish Foodie

 

Ox retains Michelin Star in Belfast

Congratulations to Ox for retaining a Michelin star in Belfast.   It’s pretty amazing that Belfast has two restaurants achieving awards for the world’s greatest dining.  Both Chef Michael Deane’s restaruant Epic and Ox with Chef Stephen Toman and Alan Kerloc’h deserve the highest applause for retaining their 2017 Michelin stars. Ox is one of the incredible fine dining experiences I schedule on my Shamrock and Peach Tours each summer, and am always so proud to showcase just how good the food is in Ireland!

Being a Game of Thrones fan I was also excited when Chef Stephen Toman showed me his set of three Valyrian Steel kitchen knives on display inside the restaurant.  The knives were delivered by Tourism Ireland in partnership with HBO to celebrate Northern Ireland as Game of Thrones Territory.  Chef Stephen told me he has cooked with the knives and they are remarkably sharp.

The photos were taken when I was in Ireland to lead Shamrock and Peach tours. My sisters treated me to lunch and meeting Chef Stephen was a surprise bonus – and I am very excited to be bringing my USA guests to dine there next summer!….please plan to join us!

www.shamrockandpeach.com

Judith the Irish foodie

Titanic Belfast crowned as Europe’s leading attraction!

Titanic Belfast - Shamrock and Peach Photography

Titanic Belfast – Shamrock and Peach Photography

When I bring Shamrock and Peach guests to see the Belfast Titanic Center the response is always one of unexpected emotion and reverence. The center tells the story of the great and famous Titanic liner that sank in 1912 on her maiden voyage, and in so doing literally became a world icon. So, when I heard the news that the center has just won the 2016 Travel Award as Europe’s leading visitor attraction I was amazed, pleased and naturally wanted to blog about it…yes, Belfast Titanic beat the Acropolis, Athens, Buckingham Palace, England, Guinness Storehouse, Dublin, La Sagrada Familia, Spain, Ribeira do Porto, Portugal, The Eiffel Tower, France and The Roman Colosseum, Italy – to name a few!….wow!.

The Titanic Center just opened four years ago on the actual slipway in the titanic Quarter where the mighty ship was built and set sail in 1912. The building itself reflects the exact dimensions of the bow of the ship, and has won many awards itself for it’s outstanding design. Another addition is the exhibit of the last white Star liner, the Nomadic, that was used to ferry passengers back and forth to the Titanic, and is docked peacefully in Belfast again after 100 years of service.

titanic-nomadic

titanic_belfast_atrium

The center is all very nostalgic for Belfast and an award like this is to mean feat for Ireland’s shores.

Shamrock and Peach tours have just also added the 2017 schedules that includes visiting the Titanic Center in Belfast. So, way to go Northern Ireland!

Sending my love from an unusually rainy Atlanta evening,

Judie the Irish foodie

How Brexit is good news

euro-pound-dollar

During the climax of the summer travel season, Britain has chosen to leave the European Union through a popular vote known as Brexit. While markets are scrambled abroad, many immediate effects of Brexit are taking effect, namely the exchange rate between the American dollar and the British pound. With the pound being recorded at its lowest point in 30 years, the dollar is triumphing, providing American travelers noticeable discount on prices paid throughout Britain.

In simple terms, Americans visiting Northern Ireland and Scotland can truly gain a lot more bang for their buck, literally. The most noticeable ‘bang’ we are seeing is one that holds most Americans back from their dream vacations, air fare. Flight tickets from the US to Northern Ireland and Scotland are currently around the price range of $400-500 for a round-trip. This is understandably unheard of, due to the fact that just two or three years ago summer flights to Northern Ireland and Scotland were floating around the $1,800 range. So go on, the age-old burden of the expense of air travel has been relieved for you to live your dream, check off another item on the bucket list, and seek adventure, nothings holding you back now!

Please check out our website for more details on tours to Northern Ireland and Scotland

www.shamrockandpeach.com

Enjoy your summer!

-Judie the Irish foodie

Irish tours begin – sun and fun for all!

Summer is here at last, and my tours of Ireland have begun! After months of careful preparation, phone calls, emails, events and more the time has finally arrived, and I could not be more excited to share the beauty of Ireland with another group of my wonderful guests.

My first tour this year was particularly blessed with majestic weather, which made the beauty of the land shine all the more and I really believe some of my guests were deeply impacted by the landscape and history. Few places are so beautiful when the sun shines, believe me! -I just love to see the smiles on the faces of people when we turn a corner and a mountain vista opens up, or a castle comes into view. This is why I do what i do…

more to come…hope everyone is enjoying their summer!

Judith…somewhere of Paddy’s green Irish shore!

Best thing I ever ate in Ireland (part 2)

Congratulations to Chef Noel McMeel and the Lough Erne for continued Success!  This month Chef Noel dined as a guest at the White House and is featured in a double page spread in Bon appetit magazne.  Chef Noel McMeel says “What we eat has to delight the taste buds, and nourish body and soul”.  The bountiful feast is influenced by heritage, inspired by the season and focused on local.  So, my series two in the best thing I ever ate in Ireland goes to Noel McMeel.  “Fillet of Kettyle Irish Beef, Parsley and Potato Puree, Spinach, Celeriac Remoulade, Roast Beef Sauce”

Shamrock and Peach tours will be visiting the table of Noel McMeel and his masterful chef team at the Lough Erne this June.  Looking forward to enjoying the bounty with many of you and for those who have been on one of my tours enjoy the memory and pick up your own copy of “Bon appeetit” today!

Jump in to Ireland and Joy in the Journey!

Judith the Irish foodie

A strong Dollar stretches further

Strong Dollar Benefits

Dream of Ireland and Go

This year is a great time to go to Ireland because of the benefits of the strong dollar.  The slogan for my tour business is “Dream of Ireland and Go” because for many of us there is always something stopping us from hitting the “Go” button.  The changes in the global economy means the US dollar is strong – not so good for some things, but a great time for Americans to travel this summer.  All good things come to an end so we know that the historic strength of the dollar will not last.

The great news is that your money will go further! So, you can have a cup of coffee a dollar cheaper on Grafton street in Dublin than you could in your local Starbucks!

An Irish coffee

Enjoying a cup of coffee in Grafton Street

 

If you plan to take advantage of a great time to visit Ireland or Scotland, please consider coming with Shamrock and Peach tours.  We have some wonderful new tours and would love to welcome you to Ireland or Scotland to enjoy a trip of a lifetime

My dates are May 29th to June 4th Legendary Ireland, June 12th to June 18th Elegant Ireland, June 27th to July 3rd Castles tour of Ireland and  July 24th to 30th Historic Scotland tour!  Prices starting at $2195, our highly competitive costs include luxury hospitality, transportation, food, entertainment, fees and more…

Check out for more information

http://www.shamrockandpeach.com

 

Judith the Irish foodie

 

The joy of the Irish dance

Irish Dancing

Irish Craic with music and dance

The Shamrock and Peach ventured West to Dallas last weekend to attend the 2015 Southern Region Irish dancing Championship.   Even after all these years I am still in awe of the Irish dance and believe there is no other dance quite like it in the world.  The winners will be heading to the World Championship that will be held next year in Glasgow, Scotland.  So, loads of excitement and adventures ahead and wishing success to all the dancers to keep on preserving our wonderful Irish culture.

My drive West from Atlanta to Dallas included driving through four states Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana and Texas and I am amazed by the vastness of this great country.  Next summer I will be leading four fun filled tours including three to Ireland and one to Scotland!  I do hope some of you will be joining me on next years adventures?  My talented husband has been been producing framed artwork using old barn wood of images from Ireland and Scotland that I have been selling at my events.  Hope you enjoy a couple of my personal favorite images from places we visit on my tours next summer.  Dream of Ireland and go!

Wishing you the Joy of the Irish dance in the busy holiday season!

Judith the Irish foodie