Krakow Christmas Market

Our holiday visit didn’t stop in Vienna. The Krakow Christmas Market in Poland was equally as exciting with one of a kind food experiences!

                                     Krakow Christmas Market | Fake Food Free #travel #christmas #Poland 

As I stand in the town center of Krakow, I wonder why a visit to Poland had not been higher on my travel list. It was always there, but tucked beneath what I thought were more intriguing destinations.

I take my first steps into the market and I see a stand selling pierogi. No surprise there. I am in Poland after all.

… 

Read More »

Visiting Vienna Christmas Markets

If you have ever been tempted to visit Christmas markets in Europe, I hope this post will convince you to finally book the trip. We spent time in Vienna last December and the experience left me speechless. After a year to gather my thoughts, I’m sharing the highlights with what to drink and eat when visiting Vienna Christmas Markets.

Visiting the Vienna Christmas Markets | Fake Food Free

I haven’t fully decided how I feel about the term bucket list. I’m not a huge fan, but that might just be because it is so popular and overused. At the same time, I lack an appropriate name for my list of places to see in this world.

Must-go, must-see, travel list? They all feel rather boring. Especially with the places that I have on my list. I feel like the name needs to match the magnitude of the experiences.

So while I’m searching for a name, I’m slowly progressing through my list (whatever it is called).

A big, and I mean huge, destination for me, became a reality last December. We’ve been to Vienna a few times now and it remains one of my favorite places in the world, but I’ve always wanted to go in December to see the Christmas markets.

… 

Read More »

8 Best Cocktails for New Year’s Eve

 
After two weeks of travel to visit New York City, explore the Christmas markets in Vienna and Krakow, and spend time with family in Indiana and Kentucky, I’m back at my computer. 
2013 has been so amazing I can hardly put it into words. I’m sure I’ll miss some things, but here are a few highlights.
Aside from how wonderful it is to now be a California resident, I also live by the water with access to fresh seafood and salty air. Something I’ve always wanted to do.
I ran my first marathon. (And I ran it across this.)
My husband and I celebrated 10 years of marriage.
I landed my first magazine column. (You can find it at Hobby Farm Home.)
I’ve finally (successfully) transitioned into a full-time freelancer. Writing about food, developing recipes and taking food photos is now my job. 
I got to gaze in awe at Lake Tahoe for my 35thbirthday. 
I was able to show my family around the Bay Area on their first visit to California.
I saw New York City at Christmas time.
I explored the Christmas markets of Vienna and Krakow.
What a year! I have no idea how 2014 is going to top it, but I’m convinced that it will.
A great year deserves a special toast. So here are 8 of my favorite cocktails to help you close out 2013 and ring in the New Year. Some are here on Fake Food Free, and others are from the work I’ve done for the blog the Daily Squeeze. 
(Just click on the drink name to get to the recipe.)

What will you be toasting to on Tuesday night? Any favorite memories from 2013?
Happy New Year!!

Guinness Braised Kale with Roasted Potatoes and Poached Eggs Recipe

It’s that time of year. The time when food bloggers everywhere pull out the Guinness, Bailey’s, Jameson and potatoes to create an Irish-inspired recipe for St. Patrick’s Day.

I’m no exception.

If you’ve read my blog much at all you know that Ireland has a special place in my travel-loving heart. I’ve had the opportunity to visit three times, exploring gorgeous landscape, overdosing on amazing food and drink and even meeting bloggers.

So I can’t let March 17 pass without making something that uses a few flavors from Ireland. I’m always tempted by the incredible desserts that pop up on other blogs, but I decided to go savory.

This is a super simple meal, but the Guinness adds a deep flavor to the kale that tastes so good with the eggs and potatoes. Bonus, it’s perfectly suitable for breakfast, lunch or dinner.

Guinness Braised Kale with Roasted Potatoes and Poached Eggs

10-12 red or white new potatoes, quartered
2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil, divided
2 tsp dried dill
½ tsp sea salt
¼ tsp ground black pepper

1 lb. kale, stemmed and chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
¼ cup Guinness Extra Stout beer
¼ tsp sea salt

4 poached eggs

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F.

In a large bowl, combine the potatoes, 1 tablespoon of the olive oil, dill, sea salt and black pepper. Stir to coat the potatoes with the oil and spices. Transfer the potatoes in a single layer on a baking sheet.

Bake for 15 minutes. Remove from the oven and stir the potatoes. Return to the oven and bake 15 to 25 more minutes, or until the potatoes are tender with crispy edges.

While the potatoes are baking you can prepare the kale. Heat the remaining tablespoon of oil in a large skillet over medium-high. Add the kale and garlic. Cook for about 1 minute, stirring to coat the kale in the oil.

Add the beer. Cook 30 seconds more, or until the kale begins to wilt.  Remove from the heat and stir in the sea salt.

To assemble, divide the potatoes into 4 serving bowls, top with ¼ of the kale and finish it off with a poached egg. Serve warm. 


I leave you with two short PSAs for this Irish holiday that we all enjoy so much in the States. # 1 It’s St. Paddy’s Day, not St. Patty’s Day. I learned this just a few short years ago, but definitely click on that link. #2 Skip the green beer and order a Guinness (or a Kilkenny, or a Smithwicks, or a Bulmer’s Cider).

Sláinte!

Stuffed Cabbage Roll Recipe

I’m into my third month living in California, and aside from the typical missing of friends, family and horses, things are going wonderfully. Ok, a move across the country probably doesn’t include missing horses for most people, but it does when you move from Kentucky.
We’re fully unpacked, the house in Kentucky finally sold and I’m happy to say I actually feel kind of settled. As a result, we looked ahead to our travel schedule for the year. I feel a little like my entire life in California is one big travel adventure; there is so much to see here. But I’ve been aching for Europe. 
Christmas 2012 was a bit of a bust. There was no Christmas tree and very little baking due to all the packing. We squeezed in a quick trip to celebrate with family only to have it cut short by an impending snow storm. Three days later we were on a cross-country drive to California. 
I won’t lie; I’ve done my fair share of pouting ever since. I know many people are overwhelmed by the stress of the holidays, but I absolutely love that time of year. So when we talked about where we would travel this year, I insisted that Christmas be a big part of it. 
As a result, we are now scheduled for one of my ultimate, must-do, bucket list worthy experiences – the Christmas markets in Europe! Not to mention that this will be preceded by a few days in New York City to see the tree there. Then we will head over to Vienna, still one of my favorite cities in the world, and then off to Krakow, Poland. 
I don’t want to wish a year away, but I can’t hide my excitement for this trip!
In addition to all the Christmas action, my husband comes from Polish descent so we are very excited to finally travel there. And I have my mind on Polish recipes. I thought it was high time I try my hand at stuffed cabbage rolls.
Aside from the multiple steps, they are much easier to make than I expected, and this is coming from someone who is awful at rolling foods. Burritos, spring rolls, wraps – I might get one good looking roll out of 10. I’m happy to say that cabbage rolls are very forgiving when it comes to rolling them up.
This isn’t exactly a traditional recipe. It’s one I made by combining a quick look at recipes on the web with what I had on hand in the kitchen.

If you’ve never made stuffed cabbage, there are quite a few things going on at once, which I wasn’t expecting. You have to boil the head of cabbage, make the sauce, and then add some of that sauce to the filling. Just take your time and you won’t get overwhelmed. I suggest getting your cabbage leaves cooked and separated, and then concentrating on the rest of the recipe. 

Grass-fed Beef Stuffed Cabbage Rolls Recipe

1 small head green cabbage
Sauce
1 tbsp olive oil
1 green bell pepper, cored and diced
1 onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
14 ounces diced tomatoes (fresh will work, no-salt-added if you used canned)
¼ cup red wine
1 tbsp mascavo sugar (or brown sugar)
1 tsp dried basil
1 tsp salt
¼ tsp ground black pepper
Filling
½ of the sautéed vegetables from the sauce (see preparation below)
½ lb grass-fed ground beef
1 cup cooked rice
2 tbsp cabbage roll sauce (above)
1 tbsp hot sauce
½ tsp salt
¼ tsp pepper
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.
Cabbage
Fill a large soup pot ¾ full with water. Bring to a boil. Remove any dirty or bruised outer leaves of the cabbage. Place the whole head of cabbage in the boiling water. Let it boil about 2 minutes, or until the outer leaves begin pull away from the head. 
Remove the cabbage from the water (I used a ladle). Use kitchen shears to cut off the outer leaves at the stem. They should be partially cooked and flexible. Set them aside to dry and cool. Return the head of cabbage to the boiling water. Repeat this process until you have 10 to 12 cabbage leaves.
Reserve 1 to 2 cups of the cabbage cooking water.
Sauce
For the sauce, heat the olive oil over medium-high. Add the onion, garlic and bell pepper. Cook for about 3 minutes, or until the vegetables begin to brown and soften. Remove half of the vegetables from the pan and place in a glass mixing bowl. (This is for your filling.)
Back to the skillet, add the tomatoes and wine. Cook, stirring often, for 2 to 3 minutes. Add the sugar, salt, basil and pepper. Cook 1 more minute. Stir in the 1 cup of reserved cabbage water.  
Transfer the sauce to a blender and puree until smooth. Add more cabbage water if you want a thinner sauce. (I used only the 1 cup.) Pour the sauce back in the skillet to keep it warm.
Filling
Add the ground beef and rice to the bowl with the reserved vegetables. Add 2 tablespoons of the finished cabbage roll sauce, hot sauce, salt and pepper. Use a fork or your clean hands to mix the filling well. 
Assembly
First spoon about ¼ cup of the tomato sauce into a 5 quart Dutch oven and spread it over the bottom of the pan. 
Place a cabbage leaf on the counter top with the inside facing up (it should curve up like a cup), and put about ¼ cup of the filling towards the stem end of the leaf. You will have to judge how much filling to use based on the size of your leaves. I had a huge variation so I used anywhere from 2 tablespoons to a ½ cup. Just ensure that it isn’t so much that it squeezes out the side.
Fold in the both sides, and starting with the stem end, roll the leaf around the filling. Place seam-side down in the Dutch oven. Repeat the process with the remaining leaves.
Pour the sauce over the cabbage rolls, and cover the pot with the lid. Bake for 50 to 60 minutes, or until the cabbage has softened and the meat is cooked through and no longer pink. Serves 3 to 4.

Chocolate Covered Marzipan Cookies

I love marzipan. And I realize every time I say this that I am often alone. 
I know far more people who dislike it, than who are as crazy about it as I am. But I’m convinced there are others out there, or I wouldn’t be able to find it in chocolates and pastries every time we travel to Europe.
It all started during our first trip to Vienna, thanks to Mozart. Apparently it was his favorite thing too, so anything that contains marzipan there is often called Mozart.
My favorite is the Mozart croissant, and while it isn’t exactly the same, I’m happy that I can find almond croissants here that are filled with the same sweet, nutty stuff. 
My second favorite are Mozart chocolates, or Mozartkugeln. Chocolate covered marzipan, some a little more complex than others with different colors and even more chocolate inside. 
On our last trip to the international market, I finally picked up some marzipan, but it has sat around here a while. I thought croissants, and then chocolates. I finally ended up going a different direction – cookies.
These simple chocolate cookies have a marzipan tucked inside. Anyone who loves it will be pleasantly surprised!

Chocolate Covered Marzipan Cookies

1 stick unsalted butter, softened
1/3 cup mascavo/muscovado sugar
1/3 cup raw sugar, plus extra for rolling cookies
1 tsp vanilla
1 egg
2 tbsp cocoa powder
½ tsp baking soda
¼ tsp salt
1 cup + 2 tbsp white whole wheat flour
~3 oz marzipan 
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. 
Combine the butter, mascavo sugar and 1/3 cup of the Demerara sugar in the bowl of a mixer fit with the paddle attachment. Cream on medium-high for about 3 minutes. Mix in the vanilla and the egg.
Next, mix in the cocoa powder, baking soda, salt and flour. Refrigerate dough while you prepare the marzipan.
Divide the marzipan into 12 pieces and roll each into a small ball. Divide the cookie dough into 12 portions and surround each piece of marzipan with cookie dough. Roll the cookie in raw sugar. 
Place the cookies on an ungreased baking sheet and flatten slightly. Bake for 10 minutes, remove from the oven, cool for a couple minutes and transfer to a cooling rack. Makes 12 large cookies. 

Dublin: Food Bloggers and L. Mulligan Grocer

We were in Dublin for all of about 15 hours. A short stop, I know, but fortunately I’d been there a couple times before.

Enough times to realize just how international the city feels. Enough times to discover some of my favorite green spaces in the world. Enough time to feel the history of attractions such as Trinity College and the Book of Kells.

And finally, enough times to know that it’s difficult to find really good food in the city center. In saying that, I mean the kind of food that doesn’t have a sign out front beckoning tourists and promising to serve real Irish cuisine.

Now, I’ve had some great food and drink in Dublin from Butlers coffee and chocolates to Leo Burdock’s Fish n’ Chips to scones from Queen of Tart. I’m just saying it’s difficult to find a unique dinner in 15 hours.

Unless, of course, you know a food blogger.

And I just happen to know a food blogger.

It was my pleasure to spend one of my 15 hours in Dublin with Aoife of The Daily Spud. The Daily Spud is one of those blogs I’ve been reading since my own blog began. For me, one of the originals, and one of my favorites.

During our conversation, you might expect that one of my questions was – where should we eat dinner?

As we discussed different places Aoife kept coming back to one of her favorites – L. Mulligan Grocer. With such a glowing recommendation from someone who knows the area well (and good food), we didn’t feel it could pass it up.

The location ended up being about a 20 min walk from Temple Bar. At that point in the day, we welcomed it because everywhere from Grafton Street to Temple Bar was packed with people to the point where you could barely move. It was nice to get out of the crowd.

We got there for an early dinner so we were lucky to get a table. We later found out that almost all were reserved. We must have looked desperate for good Irish food.

And good Irish food it was. I encourage you to head over to their site and read a little about the restaurant to get the full effect. To simplify they use as many Irish ingredients as possible from rare-breed pork, to grass-fed beef, to seafood.

When we sat down and I found the menus were old books in type-writer print, I couldn’t wait to read through all the selections and decide which of these local foods I wanted most.

They also had a wonderful selection of craft beers, something we were exposed to for the first time this trip. Often we are so enamored by fresh Guinness (yes, it is completely different on draft in Ireland), that we’ve overlooked craft beers on previous trips.

So let’s start there.

I had the Friar Weiss because, well, I love wheat beers. As you would expect, this was perfect for me, sweet and crisp. My husband tried the Galway Hooker, an Irish Pale Ale that he really enjoyed.

We didn’t consider appetizers to be an option. We would risk leaving overly full in order to try all we could.

My husband had been daring me to eat a Scotch Egg the whole trip, something I had never had before. Mulligan’s version is a free range egg wrapped in delicious sausage and fried.

I now love Scotch Eggs.

My husband had the Potted Crab. If you are new to this dish like we were, the best way to describe it is delicious, tender crab with a layer of clarified butter on the top to create a bit of a seal or a lid on the crab. It is chilled and served with bread. It was a really unique dish for us.

It took me forever to decide on my meal, and I mean forever. There were just too many great options.

Despite the fact that I simply cannot make myself like beets, I went for the Lamb Burger which had a beet slaw. I refused to be the picky eater who asked for it to be removed so I sucked it up expecting to scrape it off once at the table.

First, I loved the slaw. It didn’t have that dirty taste I’m used to with beets and it added a gorgeous color. The burger itself was outstanding – juicy, tender, not to mention, wrapped in bacon and topped with goat cheese. The twice cooked chips were my favorite of the trip.

My husband went for the Pork Belly. The belly itself was beautifully plated, but what really interested me was the mash which had black pudding in it. It’s taken me a while to get over the idea of blood sausage, but I love black pudding. The dish was matched with a kraut or type of slaw which had a lot of caraway seeds. Unfortunately my husband doesn’t care for caraway seeds and it was even a little overpowering for me, but otherwise the meal was delicious.

I’m still so surprised we managed to find ourselves in such a great place considering our short stopover. When in Dublin, L. Mulligan Grocer is a must. I promise you won’t be disappointed.

L. Mulligan Grocer
18 Stoneybatter
Dublin 7

Food and Travel: Belfast and Bushmills

We really had no expectations upon our arrival in Belfast. Aside from articles, travel shows and a sampling of random options we didn’t know much about what we might encounter there.

For a travel researcher like me, this was actually a very refreshing feeling. While I’m flexible with my plan and expect it to change, I often over research and a little bit of the unexpected was a nice change.
In this case, it was a refreshing feeling that only got better. Needless to say, I loved the Belfast area!

The minute we stepped off the train it felt different – maybe a bit more reserved, more business-like and, after Kilkenny, a lot less touristy. In an odd way, there were parts of the city that resembled Washington, DC to me. The English influence could be seen in the architecture, but it still felt very much Irish.

The food experience was equally as pleasing and I really liked learning about the differences in foods and food names between the north and the south.
For example, there was no sign of a full Irish breakfast in Belfast, but the Ulster Fry could be found on multiple menus. According to the local guide magazine I picked up the Ulster Fry is a full Irish breakfast minus the pudding, plus some potato bread and soda bread. We also noticed there was no mention of brown bread, but there was always wheaten bread.
Our first night we randomly stumbled upon McCrackens which was tucked away on a narrow side street. It turned out to be one of our favorite finds of the trip. It was a modern bar with the feel of a pub, full of some interesting history. I also had one of the most unique meals of the trip here.
First, I apologize for the bad quality picture, but I simply have to share this with you.
Salmon sausage!
The entire menu here was loaded with creativity and this was no exception. It was sausage made from salmon and it was served over creamed leeks with smoked salmon with potato slices. I’m hungry for it now just writing about it! The flavors were simply perfect.

Early the next morning, we made a quick stop at St. George’s Market on our way to the train station and our day trip to Giant’s Causeway. On our walk there I thought it was so cool to see modern milk jugs that had arrived in the early morning on the doorsteps of both restaurants and what looked to be apartment buildings.
Things were just getting set up at the market, but there was plenty to see. We snagged a blueberry and raspberry yogurt scone for breakfast and ate at the station.

These were as good as they look. I noticed that the scones here were less of the mildly sweet variety like the fruit scones in the south and more of the sweet, pastry-like version we often see imitated in the States.
Next up was the gorgeous coast and Giant’s Causeway. I’m pretty sure these girls hanging out munching away redefine the term Happy Cows.

After the Causeway we squeezed in an unexpected visit to Bushmills Whiskey distillery. We hadn’t realized it would be so close and it turned out that it was even a bus stop on the route.

Our tour guide was not as informative as the one we had for the Smithwick’s brewery tour, but it was nice to see the grounds and gather what information we could. Of course, it’s never a bad thing when there is a sample at the end. Whiskey distillery tours are hard for us to fairly evaluate because we are exposed to some of the best available with our bourbon distilleries here in Kentucky.

For lunch we headed into the town of Bushmills to look around. We had spotted Hip Chip earlier in the day and lunch was enjoyed on a bench while splitting a take-out order of Fish n’ Chips. This is the way to go for fish n’ chips. It beats a sit-down restaurant order any day. After that we managed to find some whiskey flavored ice cream!

Once back in Belfast, a bit exhausted from our day of exploring, we set out to find The Kitchen Bar which I had read about. What caught my attention was the Paddy Pizza – pizza made with a soda bread crust! The place was packed with lots of people already out to celebrate their Friday night, but fortunately they were still serving food so we got a table.

I went with the Thai Fish cakes. These were tasty, but they had a lot more potato in them than fish. Not necessarily a bad thing, just not what I was expecting from the other fish cakes I’ve had.
My husband went for the pizza. This was an unexpected combo, but a good one. It had a white sauce, chicken, bell peppers, onion and cheese. The crust was brilliant and I plan to give it a shot in my own kitchen.
The next morning we squeezed in a quick walk to Queen’s University campus and the Botanic garden. I’m so glad we did because it ended up being my favorite part of the city. The gardens were beautiful and Botanic Avenue was lined with the cutest restaurants and cafes.

We ended up stopping at a French café for scones and coffee. Believe it or not this was the only place throughout the trip where I finally got my clotted cream. I had been on the lookout, but it just ended up that all the places I had scones only offered Irish butter.  The best butter in the world, but butter.

I went for the cherry scone which ended up being made with maraschino cherries instead of fresh or dried, but it was still a tasty scone. My husband went for blueberry. It was the perfect quick stop to break up our walk. There were so many more things on their menu I would have loved to try.

Belfast was the one place that felt the most rushed to me and I think that was because we planned the day trip out to Giant’s Causeway. I wouldn’t trade the day trip, but I would’ve loved to have spent more time exploring the city. The great places we found offered unique food and we were surprised to finally find some craft brews. We did a lot of quick eating, but every bit of it was delicious.

Last stop – Dublin!

Kilkenny, Ireland: Brewery Tours and Bakeries

First let me start out by telling you what we didn’t know. We didn’t know that Kilkenny was such a huge tourist attraction. Silly us, right?

What we did know was that we wanted to visit a smaller town in the middle of the country. Given this criteria Kilkenny was recommended to us so we were all for it.

When I say tourist attraction I mean that Irish residents flock there on the weekends and on bank holidays. During the week, buses line up outside the castle filled with international tourists.

Oh yeah, did I mention there is a castle?

Now, if you happen to be one that steers clear of touristy areas, do not, I repeat, do not, let this keep you from visiting Kilkenny. It is by far one the cutest, quaint, clean little towns I’ve encountered.

Yes, there are lots of people there, but the streets lined with hanging flower pots, the old churches, the architecture, and yes, the castle, is likely what most of us think of when we think of an Irish village.

Before I get to the food, let’s talk about this castle. Welcome to the location for my one and only run during our trip. My husband got in two, but mid-week jet lag hit hard and I caught an extra hour of sleep the second morning.

The grounds of the castle are gorgeous. Green space in Ireland is nothing short of perfect. It just makes you want to spend the day at the park with friends and family.

Our B&B, the Carriglea House was a two minute walk to the beautiful castle. I always say I need one Full Irish Breakfast each trip so I decided to have it here. Good choice because it was some of the best sausage and white pudding I’ve had. I managed to miss getting a photo of the pancakes which were more like crepes. This was our favorite breakfast of the trip. Well, if you take scones out of the equation.

Our first impression of dining in Kilkenny was that most of the menus were exactly the same. There were also a lot of Italian and Mexican restaurants. Likely very good, we were just in the mood for Irish cuisine. However, we did end up with some delicious meals, stumbled upon the cutest little bakery and drank our fair share of Kilkenny and Smithwicks, both brewed in the city.

We ended up deciding on Matt the Millers for dinner which is located right on the water. Since the selection seemed limited from restaurant to restaurant I decided to stick with an old favorite and one that I hadn’t had until this point in the trip – Fish n Chips. I have to admit that I like the greasy, take-out version better than the restaurant version, but this hit the spot.

My husband had the roast special which screamed comfort – leg of lamb with vegetables and mash. The lamb was tender and the gravy the ideal match.

We had our first Kilkenny Irish Cream Ale at the recommendation of the waitress. I’d had this before in Dublin, but never made the connection that it was brewed here. For dessert I decided to branch out from the Irish coffee and went for a Bailey’s coffee instead. It had been a cool day in the city and this was exactly what I’d been craving.

The next day on our walk to see some of the attractions we found a bakery and a very interesting bread caught my eye. It’s called a Turnover Bread. I asked the clerk about it, but she didn’t give me quite the history lesson I was hoping for so the picture will have to do.

They also had these gorgeous dinner plate-size meringues. We went back later in the day for a chocolate jam cake roll and a petite four.

I’ll also throw in here that any trip to Europe requires a doner kebab stop for us. We picked them up for an early dinner one evening. Lamb for me, my favorite. My husband always goes for chicken.

Next up is the Smithwick’s Brewery tour. This one was a lot of fun. We didn’t get to see any production, but St. Francis Abbey is on the site so the tour was full of beer history. The kind of history that draws my husband and I to it in the first place such as stories of monks brewing beer as a means of nourishment and hydration. The most interesting to me was that Smithwick was Catholic so the beer was brewed under the cover of a non-Catholic friend. The Smithwick name couldn’t go on the label for years.

We had a drink in the cellar bar, which is rumored to be haunted. Our tour guide, who was cute as could be, told us she works with guys who will never go in there at night.

She spent and exceptionally long time pouring our samples – the art of getting the head to rise above the glass without spilling over. Smithwick’s is good, but I have to say I prefer the nutty flavor of Kilkenny much better. I also love the picture of the Abbey on Kilkenny logo.

On our final morning, I got a great surprise. It just happened to be Thursday, the day the Farmer’s Market sets up outside the castle. I had an informative conversation with the owner of an organic farm. He had such a unique spread of produce including these Mirabelle Plums from France, cherries from Italy and my husband’s favorite, the Zespri Gold Kiwi.

He was so excited for me to try these after seeing them at a trade show and reading a case study on the company earlier in the year. I have to say, I like them even better than the green variety. They have such a sweet, mild flavor. We’ve heard they carry them at our Fresh Market here, but we haven’t come across them yet.

We snagged a bag of fruit for our train ride and balanced things out by getting some amazing fudge as well. This little truffle and fudge shop was amazing. We tried the Orange Chili Dark Chocolate Fudge, Cranberry Walnut Vanilla, Vanilla Cinnamon and the Ginger Lemon. I think these may be calling for a recreation in my kitchen.

So after our first impressions, I think we managed to find some great food (and drink) in Kilkenny.

I think we may have eaten a little too much this trip. Still not done sharing our finds – Belfast and Dublin to come!

Food and Travel: Cork and Kinsale

As I start this mini-series of posts about our trip to Ireland last week, I have to admit I typically don’t travel there with high expectations for food. That doesn’t mean that I don’t like Irish food, I do. There are also specific types of foods and drinks that I always look forward to having – scones with clotted cream, brown bread, Irish coffee, the perfectly poured pint of Guinness.

It’s just that we often find it difficult to get out of the touristy areas and find something truly outstanding. There have been exceptions such as mussels in Howth a few years ago. However, in general I don’t view my own foodie travel to Ireland as a mission to find new, creative foods, but rather to enjoy some expertly made favorites.


Campus of University College Cork

 I’m happy to say that my expectations were blown out of the water this trip. Among a growing number of restaurants using Irish ingredients we also stumbled upon food creativity that inspired me. This year we had some of the best food we’ve experienced during any of our trips to Ireland.

I have so much to tell you about that I thought it would be easiest to share our adventures separated by the different areas of the country we traveled to this time. We set out to explore a few new spots including Cork, Kilkenny and Belfast. In each place we found markets, delicious food and even new ales and stouts.

We arrived in Dublin on a Sunday and immediately hopped on the train to Cork. We stayed in a quaint little B&B there with the friendliest of hosts, the Fernroyd House. We don’t have much experience with B&Bs because we tend to enjoy the amenities of hotels, but we decided that, considering the places we would visit this trip, it was a good time to try out this type of accommodation.

We were greeted with freshly baked scones which we also had each of our two mornings there. These are 100% worthy of all the compliments they receive by previous guests. I later learned they use the recipe from Ballymaloe Cookery School, a place I really wanted to visit, but it was just too far out to fit it in this trip. They also source their jams locally. One variety we got to try was Blackberry Apple.

I might also mention that the rest of our breakfasts were equally delicious – Savory French Toast, Poached Free Range Egg over brown bread with Ballymaloe tomato relish, Porridge with Irish Honey and Full Irish Breakfast. Unfortunately a photo of the scones was all I got. One morning we had a minor malfunction with the camera card and the next day I forgot to bring it down.

We had some great dining and sight seeing suggestions from the B&B owner, Tony. One of them being Scotts on Caroline Street which we found to serve wonderful, locally sourced food. We both enjoyed the Seafood Chowder which included local seafood and Cork salmon.

My husband’s next course was the Crispy Duck Salad, which we both agreed they did a great job with the duck. Crispy duck is something we really enjoyed in Ubud, Bali a couple years ago.

I’m pretty sure my talking about my next course didn’t stop for two days. I ordered the Bruschetta, but this was unlike any other I’ve had before. This version included toasted baguette with red onion marmalade and a large, slightly warm slice of local goat cheese. It was outstanding and I can’t wait to recreate it.

Irish coffees were on special the day we were there so it was impossible to pass one up for dessert. Not only is this one of my favorite drinks, but I always love how neat they look in the glass.

I knew that the English Market had to be a stop on our list and we made it there the next morning. It was full of so many beautiful foods – cheeses, fresh seafood with a special emphasis on Irish salmon, breads, marinated olives and meat, meat and more meat.

We didn’t get to eat at the well known Farm Gate restaurant at the market, but we did grab a bite at the café next door – a cheese sandwich (surprisingly tasty) and cappuccinos. There is just something about a good cappuccino in Europe. I have yet to have one as delicious, creamy and expertly made in the States at any location. We ordered many throughout our week, while also enjoying tea with milk and sugar from time to time.

We hadn’t researched much on what to do while in Cork and were surprised to learn we had so many options. We headed out to the coastal town of Kinsale (about a 30 min bus ride) to see Fort Charles and eat at the well known Fishy Fishy.

The Fort was beautiful and historically intriguing. In addition, it was a long and hilly hike up so we felt we had burned quite a few calories for our meal at Fishy Fishy.
We ordered the seafood chowder to start. It was delicious and very different from our first version at Scott’s. This used a tomato stock and was flavored with tarragon and coriander.

We followed this up by sharing the Steamed Local Mussels with basil and lemon butter and the Warm Salad of Chili Seafood with monkfish, shellfish and salmon. The salad also had fried potatoes and homemade potato chips on top. The mussels were very good, but still didn’t beat the mussels we had in Howth on the east coast on a previous visit. I enjoyed the seafood salad, I just wish the chili dressing had more of a spicy kick to it.

After a great meal of seafood we just had to stop at a place advertising ice cream made with milk from an Irish dairy – Baldwin’s Farmhouse Ice Cream. We both settled on Caramel Fudge. As far as ice cream goes, it doesn’t get much more perfect than this.

Lastly, I can’t forget to tell you about the stout. We had never heard of Beamish until we arrived in Cork. Apparently it is the original Irish Stout for the area and it’s still brewed there. We both agreed that it doesn’t have the same distinct flavor as Guinness, but it was still a very good beer.

As our B&B owner pointed out, it was also 80 cents cheaper than Guinness which meant we would always find locals drinking it. We ended up finding a bar or two in Dublin City that carried it on tap, but there and Cork were the only places we saw it. It seemed to be very unique to that area of the country.

Next up Kilkenny – Greenspace, markets and brewery tours.