Wild Foods Walk in the grounds of Ashford Castle

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!

Joy in the Journey

Celtic Culture on the isle of Mull

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.

The joys of Scotland – the other Gaelic land!

Take me back to Tobermory!

Judie the Irish foodie

Congratulations to Rory McIlroy and Erica

Built in 1228

800 years of history

Shamrock and Peach would like to congratulate Northern Irish Golfer Rory McIlroy and Erica Stoll on their recent marriage and wedding at Ashford Castle, in Co. Mayo.  It’s just lovely to see a fellow countryman enjoy so much success and still maintain the Irish values of humility and generosity. I loved reading how the couple met in 2012 and did not date until 2015 and Rory appreciated the fact they were friends first before going out together.  The fairy tale wedding was this past weekend at the 800 year old Ashford Castle built by the Anglo-Norman de -Burgos.  The castle has had several owners since including the famous Guinness family.  The Castle is nestled in 350 acres of gardens and woodlands and the perfect setting for this grand affair.

Shamrock and Peach tours are gearing up to visiting the Castle staying at the Lodge at Ashford this June.  Here a few pictures from our stay last year!

Keep up the great work Rory and we will be raising a toast to you this June!

Joy in the Journey!

Judie the Irish foodie

Newgrange winter solstice-a 5000 year old puzzle

new-grange2012-29

In Ireland, December brings many things – frost that coats the ground, cold foggy mornings, hot whiskeys, and all things Advent and Christmas, of course – but an even older tradition happens each December 21st…

5000 years ago, an ancient people in Ireland built a temple dedicated to the sun – or so we think. That temple today stands at Newgrange in County Meath, Ireland, and is a most incredible place. Especially tomorrow, December 21st, which happens to be the Winter Solstice. The shortest day of the year, and the point at which the earth is farthest from the sun.

Amazingly, these ancient people knew all this, and they built a temple with a light projector to celebrate!

5000 year old solar alignment

Above the entrance to Newgrange there is a opening called a roof-box. On mornings around the winter solstice a beam of light penetrates the roof-box and travels up the 19 meter passage and into the chamber. As the sun rises higher, the beam widens so that the whole chamber is dramatically illuminated. -The opening to this light passage is pictured below.

newgrange-stone-1

Access to the chamber on the Solstice mornings is decided by a lottery that takes place at the end of September each year. So, a handful of lucky people get to witness this beam of light as it travels perfectly down this 5000 year old passage and illuminates the triple spiral in the chamber at the center of the temple…must be a sight to see!!

new-grange2012-13

But how did they know to do this? How did stone age people align this temple so perfectly to catch sunbeams at 9 in the morning on December 21st.Truth is we really don’t know….but sometimes, mystery can be a good thing! right?

Join me in Ireland, and we can check out Newgrange together- you will be absolutely puzzled and amazed by this incredible place…

www.shamrockandpeach.com

Merry christmas everyone!

Judith xx

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

Shamrock and Peach Cobbler

Summer Peach Cobbler

Shamrock and Peach Cobbler

In celebration of my return to Georgia after spending 5 weeks in Ireland leading 3 very fun filled tours, it’s time to make dessert!  Summer has arrived here in Georgia with the harvest of fragrant juicy peaches, so, its time to make one of the South’s most beloved desserts, namely Peach Cobbler.  When fruits are in season, no frills desserts that accentuate the flavor and texture are the way to go!  Our ‘go to’ fruit dessert growing up in Ireland is always a crumble topping made with oats, and in this case, a transition to a cobbler from a crumble makes perfect sense and achieves the same delicious goal of warm luscious fruit textures with a perfect crumbly paring, and oh, don’t forget the ice cream.

I hope you enjoy this recipe and savor each summer day before it’s gone!

Peach Cobbler

(serves 6)

  • (for the peach filling)
  • 8-10 medium size peaches
  • 1 vanilla pod (scraped)
  • ¼ cup sugar
  • 1 tsp cornstarch
  • 1 Tbsp lemon juice
  • 1 Tbsp honey
  • 2 Tbsp unsalted Kerrygold Irish butter
  • (for the topping)
  • 1 ½ cups of all purpose flour
  • ¾ cup sugar
  • 1 ½ tsp baking powder
  • ½ tsp salt
  • 4 ½ oz unsalted Kerrygold Irish butter (cold)
  • ¼ cup boiling water
  • 2 Tbsp milk

How to make it

  1. To make the peach filling toss the peaches with the sugar, cornstarch and vanilla seeds. Melt 1 Tbsp of unsalted butter in the pan and add the peach mixture and cook for 6-7 minutes until the peaches begin to break down but are still firm.  Add the lemon juice and honey and chill.
  2. Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F.
  3. To make the cobbler sift the flour, baking powder, sugar and salt. Using your finger tips or food processor blend in the chilled butter until the mixture resembles breadcrumbs.  Stir in the boiling water and milk.
  4. To assemble the cobblers grease 6 small dishes or one 8’ pan with butter. Spoon in the peach filling and then add the topping by dropping spoonfuls of the batter on top of the peaches.
  5. Bake for 25 minutes until the topping is golden brown and serve with ice-cream.

Joy in the Journey, and enjoy the summer!

Judith the Irish foodie

 

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

Best thing I ever ate in Ireland (part 3)

Locally caught Seafood

Chef Danny Miller pulls out the stops…

No visit to County Down would be complete without stopping by Balloo House to eat some delicious locally caught seafood. This most memorable Roast Cod with Strangford Lough Shellfish and Comber Potatoes was one of the best dishes I ate in Ireland last year with my tour groups.  When you taste each perfectly prepared morsel it’s no surprise Chef Danny Miller won best Chef in Ireland back in 2010.

My American guests are always enchanted to eat in the fine dining restaurant of Balloo House, a coaching house with a 400 year old history.  Other prestigious endorsements also include the Michelin Guide, Georgina Campbell Guide, McKenna Guide and the AA Restaurant Guide.  Many thanks to Chef Danny Miller and I cannot wait to return this summer.

Only weeks away until March 17 it’s appropriate to play tribute to Co. Down where our Irish saint is buried and Strangford Lough – Shellfish is the best.

Judith the Irish foodie

The Best thing I ever ate in Ireland (part 2)

Showstopping dessert

Warm Dark Chocolate Tart with Raspberry Sorbet

This week we are celebrating Valentines Day so my mind is twirling with Dark Chocolate and Raspberries and I was brought back to an Irish food memory.  In fact, one of our favorites was a showstopping Warm Dark Chocolate Tart with Raspberry Sorbet….super delicious!!

We always end our tours with dinner in the Saddle Room Restaurant at the Shelbourne Hotel and the results are always sweet.  Each dessert at the Shelbourne is presented like a piece of prized art work,  the chocolate tart is served warm topped with lightly toasted meringue and pairs beautifully with fresh raspberry coulis, raspberry sorbet and a fabulous sugar spun accent.  A little taste of heaven on a plate….

The Shelbourne Hotel itself has been an iconic landmark for over 100 years and it’s historic elegance lives up to it’s name, earning 5 Stars for good reason.  The dining room is described as having dark oak walls with rich splashes of gold and it is very elegant indeed.

Head Chef Garry Huges uses the finest Irish ingredients and he is my pick for this weeks best thing I ever ate in Ireland series.  Part 2 of a 5 part series, look out for part 3 next week.

Group Selfie on tour

Guests on the Shamrock and Peach Tours

Our Guests taking a group selfie (I am at the back of the coach causing trouble)

http://www.shamrockandpeach.com/

Our new website has lots of fun new pictures so please check it out…

Hope to see you in Ireland…

Judith the Irish foodie