in Clare, RAI Awards, Taste of Dublin!

So, the last few weeks have been insanely busy. I may have mentioned before that I’m an incoming tour operator so now we’re in the height of the season and things are crazy busy which is a good thing. In addition to work I have been doing blog related things so this one is going to be a big one – lots to catch up on, and lots in the pipeline so better to write about all these while they’re still somewhat fresh in the mind! Coming up today – Cooking lesson in Berry Lodge in Co. Clare, Restaurant Association of Ireland Awards and Taste of Dublin….

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Berry Lodge, Co Clare

Berry Lodge
In Ireland there are so many cooking schools- I would say probably more than average for a country of our size. Having been to many lessons in bigger more commercial schools, I was interested in trying something on a smaller scale. I’ve seen this a lot in Italy where I go on vacation all the time; people go and learn to cook from the Nonna’s and the Mamma’s there so to me this is like coming to learn with an Irish Mammy!
I came across Berry Lodge through work as it’s also a B&B which we use for our clients who are staying overnight in Clare on their self-drive tours. Located just about 1km from Spanish point with stunning views over the sea I would highly recommend it. Rita Meade is the proprietor here and made my friend and I very welcome. We were in total a group of six, us two, a couple from Cork and the lovely Jack and Lynette from California.
After arriving a little too early we sat outside in the sun while Rita and her assistant prepared for the lesson. This was mainly a seafood lesson but we also made brown bread, a carrageen mousse, a panna cotta style dessert with butterscotch sauce. The fish dishes were Carrigaholt Crab Cakes, Salted Sea Bass, Oysters & Mussels. The panna cotta style dish was really unusual; instead of using gelatine we used carrageen moss, a sea vegetable which has a setting agent in it. I will put the photo and recipe for this on my Facebook page.

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The lesson was totally hands on and great fun with the added advantage that we all got to eat everything that we ate at the end of the lesson.The rooms in Berry Lodge B&B were absolutely lovely, very tastefully designed and with great views. With a nice outdoor decking area I could easily imagine myself here for a few days relaxation, some cooking, some walking and trips to the gorgeous beach at Spanish Point. Do check them out for both the lessons and for accommodation.  Highly recommended.

Restaurant Association of Ireland Awards.
I was really honoured to be invited as a blogger to attend this year’s restaurant association of Ireland awards. This is the association’s annual celebration of all that is good in Irish restaurants. Commencing with regional finals with some 2000 restaurants, the number is whittled down to the best in each region. It’s a huge event with 800 guests in Dublin’s Burlington Hotel, 58 awards to give out, a five course dinner, and final awards for the best chef in Ireland and the best restaurant in Ireland.

At my table some of the nominees were – The Happy Pear, nominated for best Digital Marketing, Aldridge Lodge nominated for best restaurant, Global Village in Dingle also nominated for best restaurant and La Bodega nominated for best wine experience. All worthy nominees but the winners of the night are our table were The Happy Pear. The Happy Pear is a natural food market based in Greystones just outside of Dublin and run by twin brothers Stephen and David Flynn. They grow and supply healthy foods, have an online shop and a cafe. Take a look at their website here

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Stephen and David from The Happy Pear with their award.

We had an amazing dinner featuring dishes from some of the nominated chefs. Here’s the menu

Opening course
Carrot Textures with crozier blue cheese white chocolate and hemp Seed
From: The Boathouse

Soup course
Tomato Pear and Gin Soup
From Aldridge Lodge Wexford

Fish Course
Hand picked crab meat salad with raw mango chutney, crab and corn samosa
With squid ink and chilli mayo
From Ananda Restaurant, Dundrum, Dublin

Main Course
Braised Irish Hereford prime beef cheek, truffle flavoured potato puree
Ox tongue salad, mushroom and fois gras crust
From The Europe Hotel and Resort, Killarney, Co. Kerry

Dessert Course
Lemon tart and fresh raspberry, bergamot marshmallow
Mandarin and Grand Marnier puree
From Mount Falcon Hotel and Resort

Safe to say we were quite full after all of this! A feat for the kitchen to get out all these meals to 800 people, we were all wondering what it was like backstage in the kitchen!

For a full list of all the winners and nominations on the night click here – might give you an idea of some places to visit when you’re coming to Ireland.

Best restaurant in Ireland award went to The Tannery in Dungarvan, Co. Waterford – a definite must go to when you’re here. Paul Flynn is the head chef here and a real champion of Irish food. I still remember a risotto I had from Paul before with grapes in it, it was so unusual but really amazing and lingered in the memory. Check them out, there is also a cooking school here so maybe book in for a lesson too?!

Paul Flynn from The Tannery with his awards

Best chef in Ireland went to Sunil Ghai. Sunil heads up the chain of Jaipur restaurants and Ananda in Dundrum. He is the leading Indian chef in Ireland with a really impressive array of awards since his time in Ireland. Have to confess I haven’t been to Ananda so I have to rectify that very soon.

Since the crisis hit Ireland, various measures were put in place to try and help businesses one of which was reducing the VAT from 13.5% to 9%. This has helped the service industry hugely. Being a tour operator myself I know that this is very much on our minds as there is a possibility of it going back up next year. For Ireland, for tourism this would be a disaster and the hospitality industry is coming together to lobby the government to keep it at 9%. Adrian Cummins from that RAI is leading the restaurants on this front and they have released a video made with Irish celebrity chef Neven Maguire to emphasise why it should stay at 9%

Taste of Dublin
Taste of Dublin is an annual event held in Dublin city’s beautiful Iveagh Gardens. A four day event celebrating all that is good in the food scene in Ireland. Many of the best restaurants in Dublin have stands here and offer a sample of some of their signature dishes at the event. In addition to that there are celebrity chefs galore doing demonstrations such as Neven Maguire, Catherine Fulvio, Clodagh McKenna, Oliver Dunne and Ross Lewis to name but a few. Its an opportunity also to meet lots of  producers and taste samples of their produce. Its always a great day and if you’re blessed to be there on a sunny day its fantastic. There are many open areas to sit and relax, bands to listen to so you can just move around, taking a starter from one restaurant, your main course from another and dessert from another!

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Neven Maguire from Macnean House at his demonstration
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Clodagh’s demonstration included crab linguine and a beef tagliata.

On entering the park my friend and I took a Prosecco from the SO Prosecco stand; my friend a regular prosecco and for me the Raspberry Sparkle Prosecco which was lovely.

Our first stop was Clodagh’s kitchen who won the best front of house at the event and rightly so. It was really lovely and very tastefully designed! Having worked with Clodagh on a foodie tour of Ireland that we designed for Tour Ireland; Clodaghs Irish Food Trails I know that she has good taste!

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The display table at Clodagh’s kitchen complete with Crab cakes and Wild Nettle Gnocchi with Cashel Blue sauce.
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Crab cakes in the process of being eaten!!

At her stand I had a taste of the crab cakes which I actually know well as I’ve had them a few times in her restaurant in Arnotts! Then my Italian friend and I ate the Wild Nettle Gnocchi with Cashel Blue Cheese which was sublime. My friend is Italian and she thought the gnocchi dish was amazing too – high praise! I so can’t wait to have that again in her new restaurant when that opens at the end of June!

Here’s a sample – note I didn’t eat all of this!

Moving on from there was the stand for Wineport Lodge who were offering BBQ short rib of Irish Beef with braised gem, Kilmore Quay crab mayonnaise new season potato salad , asparagus and tomato chutney and white chocolate ice cream, summer berries and hazelnut praline.

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Wineport Lodge, Westmeath and their delicious tastes!

Next up Gordon Ramsay at Powerscourt with their offerings; Soy Glazed Chicken wings,curried cauliflower, coriander and spring onion, braised short rib of beef, onion, smoked bacon, mushroom and red wine jus followed by bread and butter pudding with caramelia chocolate sauce.

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Gordon Ramsay at Powerscourt

Michelin starred Bon Appétit from Malahide were tempting us with dry aged Hereford beef and foie gras boudin with roma tomato and chorizo cassoulet, oak smoked haddock risotto cakes, saffron mayonnaise and sweet red peppers and oriental chicken wings with black sesame seeds, soy and lime aioli.

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Bon Appetit Malahide

The Rock Lobster had a half split lobster, traditional mane lobster roll and fish and chips. I had the half split lobster from here and it was delicious, washed down with a glass of French Sancerre. Yum! Definitely going to have to take a trip to this restaurant and find out more!

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Rock Lobster

We then headed to the chefs tent to watch Sunil Ghai’s demonstration followed by Clodagh’s. Great afternoon had, can’t wait for next year! A definite one to put in the diary if you’re travelling to Dublin in June 2014. Keep an eye on for details of dates and chefs . You won’t regret it.

That’s all for now folks, lots more in the pipeline so stay tuned. Will start doing restaurant reviews soon, cookery schools and have a feature on the villages of Adare and Dalkey…


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