irish food bloggers


Slainte

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.

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I’ve said it once and I’ll say it again: Ireland has been good to me. Not only in the love-life department (see last post, lol) but in many other regards as well. My job at a digital creative agency here in Dublin is going very well, and thanks in part to my food blogging I’m working with some significant food and beverage clients.

And it’s not just me. I look around at my fellow food blogger friends in Ireland and am amazed at how far everyone has come since we first came together at the inaugural meeting of Irish food bloggers about two-and-a-half years ago. Though there were a few bloggers who’d been doing it for a while, many were just starting out – including moi.

In a country that’s still trying to claw its way out of a recession, these food bloggers have created opportunities with a lot of hard work, determination and a belief that Irish food is important…and has a story that needs to be told.

GalsGroup

Donal, who was one of the first food bloggers in Ireland, is an incredible success story with multiple cookbooks to his name and two successful television series. He recently announced he’ll be a judge on the BAFTA-nominated Junior Masterchef, making the leap from Irish television to being on telly sets all over the UK and much of Western Europe. I have no doubt that he’ll conquer America next!

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Night 1

It’s been a little over a week-and-a-half since our wedding, but the planning for the big day and surrounding events have been in the works since our engagement in February. Looking back, 7 months isn’t really that long to plan a wedding in Italy. But when it comes to organising, Mountaineering Man and I are both total planning nerds!

We also chose to have a much smaller wedding than the norm, with only 28 guests, which helped. And on Thursday, the 27th of September, we all arrived to the Villa Vistarenni in Tuscany (via a private coach from Bologna airport; we didn’t realise under after booking our venue that there are no direct flights from Dublin to Florence, the closest airport to Tuscany!). The villa has enough rooms to accommodate all our guests, and so we booked it for four days for a nice, long weekend. Considering some were travelling from the United States, we wanted to give people a real holiday – not just a wedding vacation!

Night 6

Villa Vistarenni is a truly magical place with a rich history and beautifully preserved features. Built in the 17th century, it was owned by the family of Prince Feridnando Strozzi originally, and then by the family of Baron Giorgio Sonnino. It is now owned by a woman named Elisabetta, who rents it out for weddings and other events, and runs it as a B&B when the Villa is not being rented out by one party. The Villa sits atop a hill, from which you can see the tiny village of Radda. Villa Vistarenni produces its own wine, a beautiful and very drinkable Chianti – appropriate, considering it sits in the middle of the Chianti region.

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Clare and Cormac Wedding

It’s hard to believe, but just two-and-a-half years after moving to Ireland as a single girl, I got married in a dream wedding in Tuscany to my Mountaineering Man. For those of you who started reading this blog from the early days, you’ve shared the journey with me and for that I am very grateful. It’s been such a fun, crazy, sometimes scary trip and having you along for the ride has been a wonderful source of support.

And because this is a blog about my transition to life in Ireland, I promise to post more details and photos on all our wedding festivities, which started with a welcome dinner at our rented Tuscan villa and finished with a fantastic honeymoon on the Amalfi coast.

But for now I will leave you with a photo from our special day and a reading that was chosen by MM himself and read at our ceremony by one of his best mates, Kieran. It is part of a longer reading written by the late great David Foster Wallace, and for us sums up the true meaning of marriage and partnership.

This is Water

There are these two young fish swimming along, and they happen to meet an older fish swimming the other way, who nods at them and says, "Morning, boys, how’s the water?" And the two young fish swim on for a bit, and then eventually one of them looks over at the other and goes, "What the hell is water?"

If you’re worried that I plan to present myself here as the wise old fish explaining what water is, please don’t be. I am not the wise old fish. The immediate point of the fish story is that the most obvious, ubiquitous, important realities are often the ones that are the hardest to see and talk about [...]

Our own present culture has [...] yielded extraordinary wealth and comfort and personal freedom. The freedom to be lords of our own tiny skull-sized kingdoms, alone at the centre of all creation. This kind of freedom has much to recommend it. But there are all different kinds of freedom, and the kind that is most precious you will not hear much talked about in the great outside world of winning and achieving and displaying.

The really important kind of freedom involves attention, and awareness, and discipline, and effort, and being able truly to care about other people and to sacrifice for them, over and over, in myriad petty little unsexy ways, every day. That is real freedom.

The alternative is unconsciousness, the default setting, the "rat race" – the constant gnawing sense of having had and lost some infinite thing.

None of this is about morality, or religion, or dogma, or big fancy questions of life after death. The capital-T Truth is about life before death [...] It is about simple awareness – awareness of what is so real and essential, so hidden in plain sight all around us, that we have to keep reminding ourselves, over and over: "This is water, this is water."

Il Valentino 2

Food can be healing in many ways. The joy of eating something that tastes wonderful can make you feel great; the experience of feeling the various textures in your mouth and inhaling the beautiful aromas of something delicious can give you an out-of-body experience. And when you have all of the above, and you’re eating something pure, natural and prepared with love, you’re in heaven.

Il Valentino Al FresoIl Valentino 3

For me, the food at Il Valentino Bakery and Cafe encompasses all of the above. Whenever I eat lunch there (I’m lucky to have it so close to my office!), I leave feeling happy and satisfied, not stodged-up and tired. From the focaccia pizza and fresh rocket and mozzarella salad to the polenta cake and financiers, everything is made fresh on the premises by people who are passionate about what they do. At the risk of sounding corny, you can see and taste the care that goes into the food at Il Valentino.

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Friends Old and New

Though I’ve never had an enormous group of friends, I’m lucky to count a good dozen who I can describe as my closest. There are a few of us who’ve known each other since childhood, a few more who met in high school and a handful with whom I connected in college and during my early working career.

Sadly, they’re all back in the U.S. and lately I’ve been missing them something fierce, as an American might say. I miss our spontaneous happy hour meet-ups after work and our weekend trips away and our long, slow dinners washed down with far too many bottles of wine. Skype is a great tool but with the time difference and our hectic lives requires some scheduling, and it pales in comparison to an actual meeting or a night out.

I do take heart knowing that some of my best friends will be here in less than six months for our wedding; it will be so, so good to see them again and to celebrate with those closest to me. The thought of being together again gets me through the more difficult days. But I’m also bolstered by the fact that I’m forming friendships with Mountaineering Man’s circle of tight-knit mates, who over the last year-and-a-half I’ve gotten to know quite well.

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Clare Fish_edited-1

When I was a kid, I loved to fish. For a short time we lived in rural Arkansas and like most kids in the area we’d go fishing in the lake or in the creek (or “crick” if you’re saying it like a true Arkansan). At first my dad got my sister and me plain bamboo poles with a string and a hook tied to the end, but eventually we graduated onto real fishing poles complete with a reel (for real!).

He taught us how to scale and even gut the fish we caught, and sometimes we’d wrap them in foil with some lemon slices and a squeeze of mayonnaise (weird I know, but so good) and throw them over a campfire to cook. Other times we’d cook them up at home on the stovetop – but either way, the fact that we’d caught it ourselves made the fish that much more delicious.

Boats Boat 2

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beach 1

It seems appropriate on this St. Patrick’s Day weekend to pay homage to Ireland, my current home and land of rolling green hills, shepherd’s pie and Guinness. Aren’t these the things that come to mind when most foreigners think of the Emerald Isle?

Thing is, Ireland is so much more. And the longer I live here, the more I realize just how much this country has to offer – especially when it comes to breathtaking views and FOOD. I’ll admit that when I first moved here I thought Irish food was terrible: overcooked meat, over-boiled veg and breaded & fried everything. I was wrong.

Fireplace Menu

Last weekend, I sampled the best of Irish food in a place that is quite possibly one of the most beautiful I’ve ever seen. Along with a few other food bloggers, I was invited to spend a weekend at Inchydoney Island Lodge & Spa in West Cork. Though I’d been to Cork, I’d never visited this picturesque coastal area before. With its pristine beaches and lush green pastures, West Cork is an absolute stunner of a place.

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Brown Hound

Before Mountaineering Man, before The Coombe and before Raheny, there was Drogheda. As many of you know, that’s where I first landed after leaving Los Angeles for a new life in Ireland.

Though I eventually moved south to the Big Smoke, I left a part of my heart in Drogheda. In part it’s because my friends live in nearby Collon, but it’s also due to a few places I fell in love with during my year-long stay there. Thankfully for me MM also took a liking to these places during his many visits to me during our early dating days, so he’s always up for taking a quick drive up north to Co. Louth.

Mos Fish

We recently spent a weekend visiting all of our favourite places and even added a new eatery to our must-go Drogheda stops. After arriving around mid-day on a Saturday, we visited Brown Hound Bakery, the gorgeous, glass-encased bakery owned by Jeni Glasgow & Reuven Diaz, the duo behind the Eastern Seaboard Bar & Grill next door. As you’ve read many times on this blog, we are HUGE fans of Eastern Seaboard. Jeni & Reuven just get food – it’s as simple as that.

After picking up some chocolate banana bread at the bakery, we ventured next door to the latest Glasgow/Diaz venture, Mo’s takeaway. Named after Jeni’s mum, this takeaway isn’t like any you’ve experienced in Ireland. It’s freshly made, locally-produced food that’s as good as what’s served in the Eastern Seaboard. Scanning the menu, we had a tough time narrowing down our choices so we over-ordered: Two corn dogs, one order of onion rings, a side of carrot salad and an order of popcorn shrimp.

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plate_edited-1

There are so many things to be thankful for this year, I hardly know where to start. I’m grateful for my health (despite a few hiccups of late, I’m perfectly fine), I’m grateful for Mountaineering Man and our lovely place in Raheny that we now call home and I’m incredibly thankful that – in a country where the unemployment rate is 14% – I’m gainfully employed.

I’m appreciative of my friends here, from my long-time mates in Collon to my relatively new circle of buddies in Dublin. I feel lucky to have my fellow food blogging friends, who I can always rely on for a weekend brunch in or a trek out to try some fabulous restaurant. I can’t ask for better friends than my life-long besties back home in San Francisco and LA. – though there’s an ocean between us we’re still as close as ever. And of course I’m thankful for my amazing family, who I got to see last month and who showed MM a wonderful time in Los Angeles during our visit. There’s MM’s family as well, who have always been so kind and warm to me and with whom I look forward to spending the holidays with this year.

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