While studying at the Cordon Bleu in Paris a number of years ago, I met a delightful Irish woman, Tara, who has become my dear friend. As such, I have taken every possible opportunity to head up to her native land to spend time with her and her family. Having just returned from a 10-day sojourn, I am reminded once again just how special this island is.
Because Tara is a chef and runs her own cookery school—East Coast Cookery School—I have been lucky to have experiences in Ireland most would not. People always ask, “how’s the food?”. I can say without hesitation—fantastic! Unfortunately most tourist experiences involve only trips to the pub and the Guinness Museum. This would not be a shining example and would leave one thinking food is not the reason to travel to Ireland. But they would be sadly mistaken.
What most don’t know about the Emerald Isle is that it is full of small farmers, artisan bakers, cheese makers, freshest-of-fresh seafood and brilliantly talented chefs. This is the Ireland I want people to know and love.
Given Tara and I enjoy cooking when we are together, we’ve had many opportunities to use local Irish products to create delicious meals. This is one of the best ways I’ve found to discover hidden gems in a new place. So in an effort to initiate the uninformed, here are just a few tips, spots and highlights of my delectable foodie endeavours in Ireland.
Fish and seafood: There is nothing finer than picking up your fish straight from the pier freshly caught. I’ve enjoyed gorgeous Dublin Bay prawns and a variety of fish from Fisherman's Catch in Clogherhead, Co. Louth
Dunany Flour: There is nothing I love more than good Irish brown bread toasted with piles of butter and some sharp cheddar. This is my breakfast every day I am in Ireland. I’ve tried to reproduce this bread at home with little success. This time I brought some of the local flour home, et voilà! It finally tastes right.
Cheese: What can I say; good dairy makes great cheese. Try as many local varieties as you can get your hands on, including some Bellingham Blue Cheese. A lovely shop to visit while in Dublin is Sheridan’s Cheesemongers.
Honey: The bees are surely working hard at Lannliére in Co. Louth where they produce honey of complex and rich flavours.
Fresh produce: Being a temperate clime means almost anything grows. The strawberries were in season as were some brilliant local garlic scapes from Drummond House farms in Co. Louth
Meat: I’ve had some of the best lamb and beef of my life here! Small farms where animals can graze on rich, healthy green grasses produce delicious results.
Restaurants: So much goodness, here are a few I’ve enjoyed: Chapter One (Dublin), Coppi (Belfast), James Street South (Belfast), Harry’s Shack (Portstewart, Co. Antrim), Tannery Restaurant (Dungarven, Co. Waterford)
Accommodations: I am lucky enough to have a home-away-from-home to go to when in Ireland, but I have also stayed in some fabulous spots throughout: Cliff House Hotel (Cork/Waterford), Ballymaloe House (Cork), Tannery Townhouse (Waterford), Strandeen B & B (Portstewart, Co. Antrim)