Posted in Events & Adventures in Food

Sugar & Spice

There’s a competition on the horizon called ‘Sugar and Spice and all things nice’ but unlike most competitions that you will find being trumpeted on food blogs this is not one whose ultimate goal is commercial / brand awareness / promotion of products etc. this one is for The Hope Foundation Charity.
The competition is being run in order to launch a project called eat4streetkids which is a really clever initiative.  The idea is that when you eat out in participating restaurants you can opt in to paying an additional .50c onto your drink or bill with that donation going to the eat4streetkids project.  Restaurants also have an option of choosing to donate .50c for each picture a customer puts onto facebook or twitter using #eat4street and mentioning the restaurant.  Clever? I think so.
For details on the Sugar & Spice competition please see the poster below and you can click on to visit the dedicated website:
Sugar & Spice Competition

‘HOPE is dedicated to promoting the protection of street & slum children primarily in Kolkata (Calcutta), and the most underprivileged in India, to promote immediate and lasting change in their lives.’
‘Til next time, Sheila.

Posted in Events & Adventures in Food

Irish Food Festivals – September 2012

My fantasy year would be to have nothing to do but to flit from one Irish Food Festival to the next but even then there is so much going on you may even miss one or two.  As you can see from the list below there’s plenty happening in this harvest month of September and I’ll be heading to Waterford Harvest Festival next week.

HARVEST FESTIVAL (photograph by Patrick Browne)

Hillsborough Oyster Festival6th to 9th September 2012
All Ireland Craft BeefFest, RDS Dublin, 7th to 9th  September 2012
Midleton Food Festival, 8th September 2012
Waterford Harvest Food Festival, 10th to 16th September 2012
Taste of West CorkSkibbereen, 10-16th September 2012
National Organic Week, 10th to 16th September 2012
GIY Gathering, Waterford 15th to 16th September 2012
Taste of Northern Ireland, Belfast Custom House, 15-16 September 2012
Clarenbridge Osyter FestivalClarenbridge, Galway, 14th -16th September 2012
Taste of West Fest, Newcastlewest, Co. Limerick 15th & 16th September 2012
Westport Food Festival, 21st  to 23rd Sept 2012
Galway International Oyster Festival, 28th to 30th September 2012
Leenane Autumnal Festival, Leenane, Co. Galway, 29th to 30th September 2012
Macroom Food Festival, 28th – 30th September 2012
Tipperary Harvest Food Festival, Clerihan, Clonmel, Co. Tipperary, 30th September 2012
OktoberBeerFest, Dublin Docklands, 20th Sept – 7th October 2012

Waterford Harvest Food Festival have kindly provided the following information which may entice you to attend:

Slow Food Tours at Waterford Harvest Festival

Ireland’s biggest food festival – ‘Harvest’ which takes place in Waterford from September 10 to 16 has announced a series of Slow Food Tours to take place throughout the festival week.
Over the course of the week, the Harvest Festival will be offering fantastic opportunities to join guided tours of Waterford’s finest food, drink and agricultural attractions.
The first Slow Food Tour of the Festival takes place on September 10 and will visit a prize winning dairy farm at milking time to view the process in action and will then meet John Flahavan at the sixth generation miller’s facility at Flahavan’s Porridge in Kilmacthomas. The final stop is an opportunity to meet Grace Kiersey and take a tour of her vegetable garden also near Kilmacthomas, County Waterford. It promises to be a real treat of a day out and somethingthat should not be passed up for any curious foodies who want to get a behind the look at some local food production.

Day two, September 11 is for seafood lovers.. Ahoy there me hearties! Take a nautical adventure where you can experience seaweed foraging on Boat Strand, a talk from Bord Iascaigh Mhara on local fisheries and a visit to Flanagan’s Fish Mongers where you will be able to taste scallops, mussels, oysters, crab, lobster and many more seafood delights.

Day three September 12 will see visitors taken on a journey north of the River Suir to south Kilkenny to visit High Bank Organic Orchards where you can view the production of their organic juices and syrup and also sample the finished products. From there the tour will travel to Goatsbridge Trout Farm where you will experience their eco friendly work environment and taste their premiumfish and smoked trout produce. You may even be lucky enough to get some tasty caviar samples! To round off the tour, it is then on to Knockdrinna Farmhouse Cheese to observe their cheese production and indulge in some of the finished products.

On September 14 a trip to Dunhill Ecopark & Community Garden is first on the cards for this Slow Food Tour. Visitors will be able to take in the fantastic scenery of the community garden and stretch their legs out in the fine County Waterford air. You will also be able to sample some very tasty treats from artisan food producers and see the recently installed apiary from the Beekeepers Federation along with the Crough Venison Farm.

For the final day of our Slow Food Tours on September 15, a trip to a traditional Waterford Craft Butcher is the first port of call. At the butchers, guests will get the chance to view and sample local meat specialties such as Crubeens, Chucks and Pig’s Tail. A visit to the uniquely Waterford Bilberry Goats Heritage Trust at Bilberry Rock, Gracedieu is a perfect way to finish up the Slow Food Tours. You will be able to experience the protected creatures in their beautiful and often periloussurroundings and sample their homemade goats cheese!

All Slow Food Tours depart the House of Waterford Crystal at their appointed date and time, tickets are €14 for a place on the bus and a car travelling is €10 per car. Guests will travel on a 15-seat bus and 8 persons are required to make trip viable. Tickets for the tours are available on

The city will be in festival mode from September 10 to 16 with a further programme of events on offer for all the family. For a full programme of events see 

Posted in Events & Adventures in Food

Asti, Rapallo & Portofino (Sacla Blogger Trip 2012)

 As a guest of Sacla I expected to see basil growing in the fields and to taste some really good food, what I didn’t expect was to feel like I was a VIP on holidays.
A group of 9 Irish based food writers, bloggers and journalists embarked on what – for me anyway – was a trip of a lifetime.  A whirlwind visit saw us arriving into Milan and journeying to the Sacla headquarters at Asti where lunch awaited us.  Naturally this was made based on a variety of Sacla products and it was made extra special being cooked for us by chefs from the Michelin awarded Ristorante Vittoria.

Chef Massimiliano of Ristorante Vittoria
Chef Massimiliano of Ristorante Vittoria
Orecchiette with Spicy Roasted Pepper Pesto and Ricotto by Vittoria restaurant
One of the several delicious courses cooked at Sacla by the chefs of Ristorante Vittoria

And what does one do on a trip like this after an indulgent lunch?  Well you rest of course!  Perhaps a brief siesta on your four poster bed at Villa Tiboldi or a swim in their magnificent private pool or then again you could go for a gentle stroll and capture images of fruit laden trees, pretty flowers and rolling fields of vines.

one of the residences at Villa Tiboldi
one of the residences at Villa Tiboldi
Residence at Villa Tiboldi
…& another

Pool at Villa Tiboldi

Flowers at Villa Tiboldi
fruit on the trees at villa tiboldi
fruit laden trees at villa tiboldi

With renewed stamina our next activity was to participate in a casual yet professional and informative wine tasting of 8 of Villa Tiboldi‘s Malvira wines. (While spittoons were provided I assure you I did not waste a delicious drop.)
View of rooftops from the rooftop of Villa Tiboldi
grapes at Villa Tiboldi
Wine Tasting Malvira at Villa Tiboldi
Malvira wines at Villa Tiboldi
A quick shower under one of those massive Victorian style shower-heads saw me refreshed and dressing for a delicious al fresco dinner with yet more opportunity to savour the magnificent Malvira wines.  Returning to bed at midnight I went to sleep with a smile of glee as I stretched out on my four poster bed luxuriating in 8 hours of undisturbed, blissful sleep.

My room at Villa Tiboldi
My room at Villa Tiboldi

Attempting to keep things light at breakfast I started off well with the ripest juciest fresh apricot smothered in yoghurt and dusted with granola but resistence was weak and two more visits to the buffet table were mentally justified with the knowledge that such an opportunity would not be presenting itself at home.  To quote a grandmother ’tis either a feast or a famine’ and this was one of those times to feast.
Our first departure of the new day saw us arrive at the farm of the Amateis family to witness the first cut of basil destined for Sacla pesto and to experience the heady high as that fragrance wafted on the barely moving warm air.

First cut of basil for Sacla 2012
First cut of basil for Sacla 2012 using the Amateis brothers’ customised machine

Harvesting basil at Amateis farm for Sacla 201
Returning to the pristine farmyard, a long table heaving with fresh focaccia, cheeses, meats and fruits awaited us for yet another al fresco dining experience, this time in the company of the Amateis brothers who were generous hosts indeed.
If this were your post and I was reading it I think at this stage I might be crying STOP, no more, but brace yourself and read on.
A bus journey saw us weaving coastward until we arrived at the gem that is Rapallo and to a view from a room  at the Excelsior Palace Hotel that yet again left me stuck for words.

Room with a view Palace Excelsior Hotel Rapallo
Room with a view Palace Excelsior Hotel Rapallo

A respite to the pool and a stroll around the town was enjoyed before dressing for dinner.
As if the splendour of Rapallo wasn’t enough we boarded speedboats and followed the coastline stopping off to admire and breathe wistfully at the site of Dolce & Gabanna’s Villa and maybe not so wisfully at Berlusconi’s! (If you want to completely torture yourself click on the D&G link above to view the interior).  Up on lofty heights the famous Hotel Splendio was spied as we made our way in to alight at Portofino.
Manipulating a cobbled street in wedge heels I managed to make my way the short distance from boat to bar still upright where delicious champagne bellinis set the tone for the evening.  Indulging a while in people spotting and nibbling morish bites which could have fortified us for the evening our journey was coming to a close but not yet over.
Bellini time at Portofino
Tasty Tomatoes
Nibbles at Portofino
Our last stop (well if you don’t count the hotel bar) was for a magnificent dinner of simple dishes at restaurant o Magazin.  Pesto pasta came before bream and potatoes with olives and oil followed by tiramisu.
Dinner is served Bream at o Magazin restaurant Portofino
The precious heads of our group of 9 arose early with an average of 3 hours sleep and journeyed very quietly back to the airport for our flight home.
The luxury of indulgence has been replaced with a slow slide back to what is my norm.  The moments that I linger now are to peruse growing cracks over slammed doorframes (teenagers – not me, honest) and I’ve settled once again into this bustling hive with bees that  sporadically sting.
I can dive in every so often though to revisit those stillframe mental images I’ve forever captured of how the other half live.  That lady emerging laden from the Missoni boutique in Portofino and those sharply dressed gentry looking folk strolling casually  or alighting from private yachts, to name a few .  And it may have only been for a few days but yeah baby I was part of that too. La dolce vita.
Til next time,

Posted in Events & Adventures in Food

Fabulous Food Trails Cork

There are no words to be searched for – Fabulous sums it up perfectly and the photographs here will hopefully speak for themselves.  Our relaxed and friendly guide Alice of Fabulous Food Trails, gathered her brood together at The English Market last Saturday morning and we set of on a casually meandering food trail of central Cork City looping back around via the English Market once more and finishing up on the doorstep of the too oft overlooked Saturday market at the Coal Quay.  Generous tastings were provided by the kind hosts who regaled and entertained us at our various stop off points.  I was delighted that new(ish) to me House Cafe at the Opera House was included as it has very quickly become my favourite Cork City lunch spot and it’s on my list of must trys for dinner before a show.
For further information re booking a spot on a Fabulous Food Trail click on this link –  Fabulous Food Trails
I hope you enjoy these snapshots & teasers from my 2 and a half hour food trail of Cork City last weekend.  Highly recommend.

Alice of Fabulous Food Trails Cork
Alice of Fabulous Food Trails in Cork

Gulpd at the Triskel
Hidden gem – Gulpd at the Triskel

Pastries at Gulpd
fab pastries at Gulpd

Beamish & Crawford
Lonely Planet describes the Beamish & Crawford ‘Counting House’ as ‘a building that takes first prize for eye-blinding, mock Tudor, architectural awfulness.’ The cheek!!! I love it.

Noodle Salad at The Quay Coop
Noodle Salad at The Quay Coop

Veg Pizza on Spelt Crust at the Quay Coop
Veg Pizza on Spelt Crust at the Quay Coop

Desserts board at The Quay Coop
Desserts board at The Quay Coop

Jack McCarthy Black Pudding at Nash 19
Jack McCarthy Black Pudding at Nash 19

Nash 19
tastings of treacle bread, Jack McCarthy black pudding, home-made pate, oils, sausage, tomato relish at Nash 19

Ivory Tower
…not on the trail but had to snap this especially after spotting chef Seamus O’Connell on the street

English Market
The English Market

Veg at the market
Veg at the market

Kay O'Connell fish
Kay O’Connell fish

Fabulous Food Trails Cork - Fish tasters at the market
Fabulous Food Trails Cork – Fish tasters at the market

Oysters at Kay O'Connells English Market
Oysters for the brave at Kay O’Connells English Market

Modern Cork Legend - Pat O'Connell at Kay O'Connells fishmongers
Modern Cork Legend – Pat O’Connell at Kay O’Connells fishmongers

Pheasant hanging at the English Market Cork
Pheasant hanging at the English Market Cork

Some Desserts (& those salted caramel truffles) at House Cafe
Some Desserts (& those salted caramel truffles) at House Cafe

Eoin of House Cafe at the Opera House
If you’ve never seen a happy chef at work call in to House Cafe! (Eoin of House Cafe at Cork Opera House)

Menu at House Cafe at the Opera House Cork
Menu at House Cafe at the Opera House Cork

Soup & Sandwiches at the House Cafe at Cork Opera House
Soup & Sandwiches at the House Cafe at Cork Opera House (highly recommend)

Opening Hours at House Cafe at the Cork Opera House
Opening Hours at House Cafe at the Cork Opera House

Cheese plate at The Cornstore
Cheese plate at The Cornstore

Lunch menu at The Cornstore Cork
Lunch menu at The Cornstore Cork

Irish Coffee Taster at The Roundy, Cork
Perfect ending – Irish Coffee Taster at The Roundy, Cork

Til next time, Sheila.

Posted in Events & Adventures in Food, What's for Dinner Mom?

Salad Days (….return of the butterhead)

Finalmente! A new post.  That word of Italian was one of the many gleaned from a beginner’s course that I’ve taken over the past year and it culminated in an exam last week so cramming was required hence the void in cyberspace that a blog post should have filled. (What do you mean you hadn’t noticed 🙂 ) And why Italian?  Well my youngest sister is marrying a Sicilian this summer and I’m hoping to communicate with a little bit more than pointing and smiling.
Butterhead Lettuce As well as being a beginner at Italian I’m also a beginner at gardening.  Up until very recently when conversation turned to gardens or gardening, mulching and cutting back etc. I would retreat quietly and blush inwardly.  It’s a low maintenance garden with grass, bordered with trees and a beech hedge .  Prize-winning begonias definitely do not feature.  Hardly surprising then that I approached the task of planting a raised bed in a somewhat cynical fashion.
Lettuce LeavesPlanting began indoors and seedlings were then planted out, in what most definitely was not my finest moment.  The inner wayward child emerged while I attempted to untangle flimsy roots and as the lettuce plants flopped over I turned my back on them and left them to fend for themselves.  Rain came, sun came and then really heavy rain came but somehow those weary looking lettuce leaves and flimsy carrots, parsnips, spring onions and strawberries, guzzled nutrients from the soil and began to bulk up.  The leaves are truly flourishing now and it is beyond satisfying to step outside in the morning to tear off a few leaves and stuff them into the children’s school sandwiches.  Again at lunch time I’ll nip off a few more and they’ll often make it to the dinner table too.  Growing stuff is BRILLIANT.
Ripe Tomato
First Tomato Picking
I’m in my second week of not buying or throwing away lettuce and there is no comparison between the  flavour of local and fresh VS chilled and well-travelled.
A true test I felt had to be that 80s classic salad plate, long since relegated in favour of more adventurous salads featuring sophisticated sounding leaves such as frissee, rocket and of course the baby variants of spinach and watercress.  Forks clashed  as we shredded leaves and mopped up salad dressing and the plate was cleaned with relish.
80s salad
Salad with Zingy Dressing
Butterhead lettuce is back people (you read it here first!).  Accompanied by my eldest son’s first harvest of tomato and good old hard boiled egg I dressed it up with a zingy salad dressing.
Zingy Salad Dressing
Zingy Salad Dressing
You will need:
3 tbsp mayonnaise
3 tbsp natural yoghurt
1 tbsp red wine vinegar
1 tsp mixed herbs (dried)
Simply mix all the ingredients together.
‘Til next time, Sheila.