Christmas in Dublin


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.


I’m guessing there’s quite a few of you who haven’t yet finished your Christmas shopping, so I’m offering the gift of recommendations – none of which requires you to go to a busy shopping centre (that’s a gift in and of itself, no?). It’s also a round-up of some of my favourite places and things of 2012, so here’s hoping this will inspire some of you and also help out with your last-minute gift search!

The Gift of Eating Out: Asador Restaurant Voucher

This new Southside restaurant has everything: A beautiful, elegant but not-too-formal atmosphere, a stunning bar with fantastic cocktails and a great wine & beer selection, incredible food and hard-to-beat service. I recently had the opportunity do have a nice, long dinner there with a friend and I have to say it was one of the most enjoyable meals I’ve had in Dublin all year.




Lobster Bisque

This Christmas will be my first here in Ireland, since last year I went home to Los Angeles to spend the holidays in my hometown. Though it will be a bit weird being away from home (come to think of it, this will be the first Christmas spent without my own family), I’m looking forward to spending it here with Mountaineering Man and his family.

I suppose in some ways it’s appropriate; ever since I landed here in March 2010, life has been all about embracing change. From adjusting to the cold wet weather to learning loads of Irish slang, I’ve come to realise the best approach is to just roll with it.

It’s been fascinating hearing about all the traditional Christmas foods my Irish friends are looking forward to this weekend – some of which are familiar, some not. Similar to Americans, the Irish love their ham and turkey as the centerpiece of their Christmas dinner table. But here dessert is all about Christmas Pudding, which isn’t what we Yanks know as pudding at all. It’s more like fruitcake, except instead of those hideous candied green cherries popular in the American fruitcake the Irish use raisins and sultanas and nuts. Most make their “puds” – as they call ‘em – about 2-3 months ahead of time because like American fruitcake, they’ll last practically forever.