We are savoring our last few hours at Mount Juliet Estate in Kilkenny, before heading to our next destination, and what an experience it has been! The welcome we received from our arrival has been second to none with a few guests on my tour are telling me they are not leaving this Irish paradise. With it’s elegant Manor house, built in 1757 and the beautiful grounds, stables and gardens, this is a beautiful lady indeed. As is the Michelin star awarded Restaurant, ‘The Lady Helen‘. Our tour group had the chance to dine in the Lady Helen last night, located inside the historic Manor House, and what a lady she is! Each course was better than the last, and yet again I amazed at the sheer inventiveness of Irish cuisine and the flavor of Irish produce, mot of which is produced on this Irish country estate, nestled in 1,500 acres of woodlands and lush gardens.
A big thanks also to Des McGrath another Mount Juliet legend and local character who shared the history of the estate with gusto, graciousness and a sparkle of Irish wit and charm – my guests loved it! – The one bit of good news is that next week I am returning with a second group and I’m already hungry for more!
Words cannot fully describe how we were royally treated at the Lough Erne Resort in Co. Fermanagh last week when our Legendary Irish tour. We got to experience world class dining and accommodation staying at one of Northern Ireland’s most prestigious 5 Star resort. Executive head chef and friend Noel McMeel rolled out the red carpet for our guests. One of the most memorable meal experiences was the recreation of the menu served at the G8 summit. Our guests got to taste the menu experienced by our world leaders, the very best of Irish cuisine. Our guests were overwhelmed with the Lough Erne Hospitality and the way we were treated by the restaurant servers and chefs will be a food memory to last a life time. We feel so humbled and grateful to the team at the Lough Erne including Chef Noel McMeel and Chef Stephen and would like to send out a personal applause and thankfulness to them. This this Sunday I will embark on two back to back tours of Southern Ireland, but before we lunch our new venture I wanted to acknowledge our appreciation of the very best of Northern Irish hospitality!
Augh….We are in the foodie destination heaven here in the grounds of Ashford Castle and the Lodge at Ashford Castle! Our group got to steal Chef Jonathan Keane away on Father’s day on a foraging walk of the grounds and tour of the Polytunnels, vegetable and herbs garden. Lucky for us we also got to dine in the famous Wilde’s restaurant for two evenings and experience the delicious flavors we had tasted, smelt and seen on our walk in a stunning settling, over the waters of Lough Corrib. So, with full hearts and memories to last a lifetime we are departing Cong as we adventure further North on our Legendary Irish tour! Big thanks to Chef Jonathan and the team at the Lodge for such a brilliant stay yet again….
Summer tours are off and running and what a kick off! Starmakers Dance Academy from South Carolina took Ireland by storm! In Larne, a port city in County Antrim, the links between South Carolina and Northern Ireland were celebrated and highlighted – and with good cause, as the first immigrant ship left from this very port of Larne to the American colonies in 1718 carrying those pioneering first Scots-Irish settlers, and the influence of our rich Irish heritage was demonstrated right here with the art of clogging. An art from that traces it’s roots directly to those Scots-Irish settlers, but now is a distinctly southern American dance.
We were generously hosted by the Mid-Antrim Council and greeted by the Lord Mayor’ with our group performing with the Antrim Coast Dance Academy where again, the fusion and influence from the shores of Ireland to South Carolina became apparent.
Other high lights included the Titanic Center in Belfast, the Giants Causeway, Slieve League Cliffs, Devenish island and Trinity College Dublin. We ended the tour with dancing in Ireland’s highest point at Johnny Fox’s Pub to complete our week of adventure and fun.
Tomorrow I meet a greet my second tour in Dublin airport and looking forward to more stories to share from the road!
Less than a week to go before the Royal Wedding of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle at Windsor Castle and I wanted to share the story of this Belleek Irish Pottery heart shaped basket that was inspired for the Royal occasion, made by Belleek using the Irish craftsmanship famous across the world.
The basket itself is full of symbolism, and ties between Ireland, England and the United States. The Ribbon detail at the top of the basket signifies ‘tying the knot’ (an iron age Celtic wedding tradition). The Roses are both the national flower of England and the United States. The peony is thought to be Meghan’s favorite flower and the Lilly of the valley is associated with the month of May. Oh, and an Irish Belleek basket would not be complete without a hand crafted Shamrock to wish them a lucky and happy marriage, or course!
So from the Shamrock and Peach, may we wish the happy couple well and many years of happiness. Meanwhile the limited edition basket is for sale!
Kale Salad with Warm Bacon Dressing and Crispy Shallots
I don’t know about y’all but all the winter and holiday eating has caught up with me and it’s time for me to Go Green and eat some healthy and ‘in season’ Kale. I mean, the recipe does call for Apple Wood Smoked Bacon and Crispy Fried Shallots, but it sure beats the heck out of Fries and Butter Burgers? It’s also the month of March where we celebrate our beautiful Emerald Isle and our patron Saint Patrick. So, here’s a healthy Salad with the goal of going green…
…and finally, in keeping with the theme, here’s a verse from one of my favorite artists and songs, written by Johnny Cash and Forty Shades of Green...
“I close my eyes and picture the emerald of the sea
From the fishing boats at Dingle to the shores of Dunardee
I miss the river Shannon and the folks at Skibbereen
The moorlands and the midlands with their forty shades of green”
Hers the recipe…
Kale Salad with a Warm Bacon Dressing and Crispy Fried Shallots
2 ½ oz (5 cups) Kale (hard stalks removed and hand torn)
(for the dressing)
1 Tbsp vegetable oil
5 slices uncured apple smoked bacon (finely chop)
8 Tbsp (1/2 cup) olive oil
3 garlic cloves (finely chopped)
¼ cup white balsamic vinegar
1 tsp Dijon mustard
1 tsp sugar
freshly ground black pepper
(for the fried shallots)
2 shallots (finely sliced)
1 Tbsp flour
1 cup vegetable oil
Kosher salt and pepper
How to make it:
Heat oil in skillet and crisp bacon. Remove bacon from the pan and set on plate lined with a paper towel. Drain bacon fat from skillet leaving 1 Tbsp for a little flavor.
Add chopped garlic and cook for 1 minute to soften but not brown. Remove from heat and add vinegar, (being careful as pan may splutter some). Gently shake the saucepan to mix. Use as whisk to mix the mustard, sugar. Add ground black pepper. Finally whisk in the olive oil and gently heat on low.
To make the fried shallots toss in the flour. Heat the oil in a medium saucepan or fryer to 360 degrees F. Add the shallots in small batches so they do not stick together cooking for 10-12 minutes until they are really crispy. Remove with a slotted spoon and place on paper towels to drain. Season the shallots with a little salt and pepper.
To serve toss the kale in the warm vinaigrette with the bacon.
Serve right away and top each salad plate with a small handful of friend shallots and enjoy!
We all know Ireland is a special place, but did you know about Newgrange on December 21st? – Now this is really special….
New Grange is older than Stonehenge and the Egyptian Pyramids and on December 21st ( the Winter Solstice) it is a symbol of light to our dark world. The Winter Solstice is the shortest period of daylight and the longest night of the year. The mound that you see in the picture covers a single tomb that consists of a long passage and a cross-shaped chamber. The Megalithic chamber was build for the Winter Solstice and when the run rises a shaft of light illuminates the chamber through an opening in the roof box. The actual purpose of the chamber is unclear, although recent research suggests it could of had an astronomical function, but whatever it was built for…it is amazing! How could stone age people have built such an amazing thing?
This year I lead a tour of American guests to NewGrange and the response was that of complete awe and fascination! Just like the ancient Celts we look for light and the sun to break forth in the midst of the Bleak Mid Winter!
…just amazing. Please check it out and I do hope everyone is enjoying the run up to Christmas – excitement is building!
I am so proud of the deserved success of Chef Noel McMeel and his talented chef team at the Lough Erne Hotel. The Catalina restaurantwas awarded Best Hotel Restaurant of the year at Ireland’s Food and Wine awards. Miriam Atkins, editor of Food and Wine Magazine said “Ireland is celebrating a Food Revolution” – and how true that is!
This summer I was able to bring my wonderful American tour guests to dine at the Catalina restaurant and stay at the prestigious Lough Erne Hotel, which is always a particular treat. The welcome and treatment we receive is second to none and one guests even said that we are treated like royalty! We are so looking forward to returning to dine in 2018 and on behalf of Shamrock and Peach tours offer our heartfelt congratulations!
Chef Jonathan Keane and his team forage daily on the 350 acre Estate at Ashford Castle and were willing to share their experiences with Shamrock and Peach tours this summer. Eating Wild foods is growing in popularity in Ireland and so has the idea of working with what we have. Certainly, a value my parents taught me and I feel ingrained in the Irish psyche. There’ nothing like the flavor of fresh wild greens, flowers and berries just hand picked that day. Our guests got to taste this first hand when dining at Wilde’s restaurant. One of the culinary highlights of our meal at Wilde’s restaurant was the wood sorrel sorbet. The tangy acidic herb (also know as sourgrass) has a tart green apple flavor and it was the perfect palate cleanser with our feast.
May you enjoy the bounty of fields, forests, gardens and coast!
Sitting in a wee pub in Tobermory on the island of Mull, also know as the Western Isles of Scotland, I was transported back home to Ireland. With only 12 miles of water between Scotland and Ireland, the people of the narrow water are held together closely, not just by geography, but also by culture. Our red headed bar tender was from Donegal in the North of Ireland and we were later entertained by a musician (also from Donegal) singing modern and popular Irish songs to the early hours of the morning. The locals were only getting going around midnight when we left and we knew the craic (Gaelic word for a good time) was only getting going!
At the bar sat the fishermen, and we knew that the fish had to be good, – and it was. Our guests all said it was the best fish and chips they had ever tasted, with flaky meaty flesh and perfectly crispy batter as we enjoyed a farewell luncheon booked at Macgochans Pub , sitting, viewing the bay in Tobermory in idyllic surroundings.