American in Ireland


Today, Mountaineering Man and I will board a plane for our one-way journey to America, capping off two weeks of leaving parties and farewell drinks and goodbye hugs and well wishes.

To say Ireland has been good to me would be an understatement. I came here six-and-a-half years ago from Los Angeles, where I had a close-knit group of friends, my family within driving distance to my condo and a job that had me interviewing celebrities on the red carpet. But there was a growing sense of loneliness that I just couldn’t shake, leaving me feeling disillusioned and weary.

Perhaps it was a long-ago heartbreak that never really healed, or one too many flaky “let’s have lunch” invitations that never materialized or the hours upon hours I – like most people in this traffic-clogged city – spent in my car. LA was wearing me down, and no matter how many dinner parties or new hairstyles or glasses of Pinot Grigio I had, nothing changed, not really. And I was desperate for change – something, anything.  I reasoned that moving to a new country would be such a massive shift in my reality that it would effectively force change in every other aspect of my life. It had to.



Last Saturday, Mountaineering Man and I had our usual almond croissants from Morgan, the French Baker, and flat whites from Revolution Bakery at St. Anne’s Park. Afterward, we stopped by the Organic Delights veg stall and got a few things – spinach, courgettes, onions and potatoes. Normally I would’ve gotten some flowers at the florist’s stand, but all of our vases were already packed.


This has been our routine every Saturday morning for at least the last few years now, and though I’m sure there are farmers’ markets where we’re going, Morgan (bread/croissants) and Denis (veg) won’t be there. It’s going to take some getting used to.

There are so many places that we frequent in Dublin and beyond that we will miss. So in the interest of passing on the scoop on some great places, here’s a list of our favourites. I hope you’ll check them out, if you haven’t already.

Clontarf Wines: Ronnie & Helena are passionate about wine and we love popping into their shop to talk about (and taste!) their most recent discoveries. There’s no snobbery here, so even if you know nothing about wine you’ll feel welcome. The shop sells nice nibbles too, like charcuterie and cheese, so you can pick up a lovely little spread of treats and vino for an evening when you’re too tired to cook. We often do.



I spent this afternoon at my friend Sinead Roche’s house out in Broomfield, Collon with the people who are my first Irish family.

You see, Sinead is the reason why I’m here. Way back when I was a university student in San Francisco, I rented a room in a big kip of a house, and Sinead and her then-boyfriend Keith rented the room down the hall. We became fast friends. Sinead and I spent many Saturday nights drinking white zinfandel from a box and chain-smoking Marlborough Lights, watching cheesy TV shows and being carefree early 20-somethings.


She taught me about good tea, Guinness and the beauty of the humble potato; I still laugh when I think about Sinead, sitting with her head over a plate of steaming spuds covered in butter and Bisto and eating them so fast she’d huff and puff just so she could avoid burning her mouth. “Nothing better than a good plate of spuds!” she’d say, with utter satisfaction, after eating the equivalent of probably 4-5 boiled potatoes.



The reason I first came to Ireland was the Art Tea at the Merrion Hotel. I was working as a food and travel journalist and I’d come to Dublin to spend a couple of days with the pastry chef and his kitchen staff to learn all about the fabulous afternoon tea they were doing. 

Yes, I realise how lucky I am. If everyone’s first Irish destination was the Merrion, they’d  never leave!

And though I did leave, I came back less than a year later and ended up calling Ireland my home for the next six-and-a-half years. It’s funny how many connections to this Art Tea I’ve developed in that time; it’s true what they say, Ireland is a small country! Paul Kelly, the Executive Pastry Chef at the Merrion, now co-hosts the Great Irish Bake-Off with my fellow blogger friend Lilly Higgins; it also turns out that Paul grew up in Wexford – where my husband’s family is from. My father-in-law has some funny memories of Paul as a kid, riding his bicycle in daredevil style down their old road.


So I thought it would be fun to revisit the Art Tea (something I’ve done a few times since moving here) with my sister-in-law Nessa and my niece Aoibheann. My mother-in-law, Elva, would have loved this as she was a huge fan of a fabulous afternoon tea; sadly she passed away nearly three years ago. Even more reason to go with the girls in the family for proper tea – the first for my little 4-year-old niece – and start a new tradition together. These rituals will be all the more important with an ocean between us, so I hope this will be a place we visit together whenever I am back in Dublin.


fish clare

After six-and-a-half years, dozens of new friends, two jobs, hundreds of kilometers of exploration around this island and one Irish husband, I am moving back to America.

In a few weeks, said husband (you used to know him as Mountaineering Man in the early days but his real name is Cormac) and I will be saying farewell to Ireland. I can’t even begin to express my gratitude for all that this little green island has done for me – I feel like a different person to who I was when I landed back in March 2010.

cor2And for that reason, the move will be bittersweet. It’s hard to believe how much has happened since my first blog post from Ireland, where I wrote about discovering a proper fry-up, the Irish obsession with tea and their penchant for tardiness. I remember writing about my first car (Peugot 206) and learning to drive on the opposite side of the road AND car; trying desperately to understand the Irish accent; my first real bout of insecurity about the move; introducing you, the readers, to Mountaineering Man; and marrying him. And a million things in between and since – there’s just too much to share in one post.

So for the next few weeks, I’m dedicating my blog to a special series of farewell posts that will highlight some of the best moments, people, places and things about my time in this beautiful country. I hope you’ll join me for this final farewell!

San Francisco, 1999.

I was in a major pickle.

I’d spent the night at a friend’s flat after too much wine. She had to go to work early, but told me I could sleep in and let myself out as the front door would lock behind me. That’s what good friends do.

I woke up a couple of hours after she’d gone, made sure I had my handbag and jacket and walked out of the flat. I heard the tell-tale “click” of the lock as I firmly pulled the door closed behind me. I walked about 10 steps and turned the handle of the front gate. It was locked, and the only way to open it was with a key – which was nowhere to be found.

Surely the key must be around here somewhere, I reasoned. I checked under the two potted plants, a discarded paper bag and some decorative rocks that lined the walkway. Nothing. I peered into the window of the neighbouring flat, but it was uninhabited; there was nothing but trash on the floor and it looked as if no one had lived there for months. To make things worse, my mobile phone battery was dead, since I hadn’t planned to spend the night and therefore didn’t have my charger with me.


I know what you’re thinking. A gate? Why not simply climb over it? Like many flats in San Francisco, this one had a gate about 15 feet high with spikes on top [similar to the one in this pic on the right]. It was made of wrought iron and had vertical bars, just like a jail cell door (cue irony). With no vertical bars to put my feet on, scaling it meant I’d have to pull my full body weight up by my arms. My upper body strength – or lack thereof – simply couldn’t cut it. The saddest (or most hilarious, depending on the POV) part was that people walking by could see me trying to wriggle my way up this thing. One guy even stopped and tried to help, but upon realising the severity of heroism required, shrugged his shoulders with a muffled “sorry” before strolling off.


Cake Pecorino Kleinedler

It’s funny how certain foods can transport me back to a very particular place in time, and how some of my fondest and strongest memories are tied to certain dish or flavour.

I remember a trip to Westport back in November 2010, which was my first-ever weekend getaway with my then-boyfriend Mountaineering Man. There are many special moments from that trip, including a failed trek up Croagh Patrick (we hit a storm about half-way up and had to turn around), but one that stands out is a tiny little meat pie called a pithivier – something I’d never heard of nor eaten before.


The little, enclosed pie was about the circumference of a 2-Euro coin, as it was part of a multi-course tasting menu created by Chef Seamus Commons at La Fougere Restaurant  in the Knockcranny House Hotel. The golden, flaky crust enveloped a bite-sized portion of tender, slow-cooked rabbit, and the flavoursome nugget sat atop a little swirl of fig reduction – another first for me. To this day, it’s the thought of that perfect bite that brings back all the other memories of that wonderous weekend.


Anne and Clare

When my sister and I were little kids, we loved to pretend like we were cooks – not always with great results.

I recall a couple of “cooking” disasters as kids that really should’ve put us off for life. In Japan, where we lived until the age of 5, we loved to rifle through the trash bins at the end of our road to see if there were any leftover ingredients we could throw together in an empty container – this, to us, was cooking! During one such occasion, my sister picked up a half-open tuna tin and ended up slicing her finger on the jagged edge of the lid.

On another, we took various half-filled bottles of soy sauce, vinegar and other condiments that’d been left in the trash and poured them into the small pond in our neighbour’s garden. I can still see the tadpoles turning on their bellies and floating up, dead, to the surface, and us thinking that we’d just made the best fish soup ever. My dad, who came out to see why we were stirring the pond with a stick, had a different take altogether.

Shrimp Kleinedler



Weezer 2

When I was still going to university, I wrote for an online music magazine called Addicted to Noise, covering the emerging Britpop beat. I was obsessed; I pored over the liner notes of CDs, recorded and replayed videos of the bands from MTV and devoured the UK music publications. Though I was on a very tight budget at the time, I shelled out a whopping $8.50 per week to keep an in-house, weekly subscription to Melody Maker and NME at Bookshop Santa Cruz. Basically this meant I paid in advance so that when those papers came in (the bookstore carried only three copies of each), they’d set aside one copy of MM and NME for me.

Every Wednesday I’d go into the store, collect my copies and then park it at one of the bookstore’s outdoor tables to read every word while sucking down a few coffees and about a thousand cigarettes. I remember being mesmerised by the disappearance of Richey Edwards of the Manic Street Preachers a few days before my 22nd birthday; the heated exchange of insults between Liam Gallagher and Damon Albarn at the height of the Blur vs. Oasis media blitz; and the endless inches dedicated flash-in-the-pan acts like Bis and Shampoo.

I longed to be Caitlin Moran, a young female journalist whose brilliant characterisation of Alex James’ swaggery sexuality left me wondering if she’d done a bit of recon work [insert *wink*]. In fact I actually wrote her a letter at Melody Maker to ask about writing for the publication; what I got back was a style guide and the business card for the editor – which I took as an invitation to submit proposals (something I did for the next several years…with no result!).




Unless you’ve been living in a Budweiser-induced stupor, you’ve probably heard the buzz around Irish craft beer and more recently about Sláinte, The Complete Guide to Irish Craft Beer and Cider. The book, written by Caroline Hennessy and Kristin Jensen, is being hailed by many in the food and drink industry as the source for those interested in learning about the craft beer/cider scene here in Ireland.

I couldn’t agree more; cookery books and food/drink guides are being cranked out by the truckloads these days it seems, and due to the tight deadlines and small budgets the quality of the content suffers. I’ve had a few disappointments with recipes that don’t turn out right or are missing key facts like the size of the baking tin you’re supposed to use for a cake, or where I can source an unusual ingredient a dish requires.

Sláinte is different. Everything you need to know about craft beer and cider in Ireland is in this book (well, anything that happened prior to the publishing of this book!). It has it all – the history of the drink, a glossary of the lingo, stories of the brewers, recipes and more. And as Caroline is a journalist and Kristin a book editor, the attention to detail is obvious. I get the feeling they’ve tested every recipe in a manner that would make Julia Child proud.


Next Page »