I’m just back from a fabulous trip to Ireland and England, where I taught two food writing workshops. They were in the planning stages for a long time, and I can’t say enough about my hosts.
I’m pushing through jet lag to tell you how it went and show you a few photos. The main part of the trip was to Ireland. Like me, you probably knew about the rolling green farmland, the charming towns and pubs, and the narrow country roads. But did you know about the how friendly the locals are, and how proud they are of their excellent Irish food? That’s what I discovered.
Chef and blogger Dorcas Barry was a generous host. She arranged for sponsorship by Bord Bia, the Irish Food Board; and Failte Ireland, which promotes Irish tourism. She also hosted my husband and me for dinner, making a traditional Irish meal of ham, cabbage, potatoes and parsley sauce.
My class took place in County Wicklow at BrookLodge, a hotel complex built around an organic restaurant, The Strawberry Tree. The night before, a group of us attended a private farm-to-table wild and organic dinner that included wild pigeon, a bright green wild garlic butter, and a trip to the cellar to pick out Irish cheeses.
About 45 food bloggers, food writers, and chefs, many of them members of the Irish Food Bloggers Association. The focus was on writing craftsmanship, followed by talks on blogging, cookbooks and recipe writing. You can read the tips here.
BrookLodge is a foodie paradise, with a fine restaurant, an herb garden, and hens running around the grounds. Under the leadership of chef Evan Doyle, there’s also a food shop, a casual place for sandwiches, a pub, and an Italian restaurant.
A few days later I visited chef Darina Allen, author of 18 cookbooks and a former television cooking teacher, who runs Ballymaloe Cookery School. I met her years ago at an IACP conference, and she said to visit if I’m ever in Ireland. So I took her up on it, and she couldn’t have been more gracious.
During my husband’s and my visit, the energetic Ms. Allen took us on a tour, introduced us to her famous daughter-in-law Rachel Allen, her son who handles the IT, and her husband Tim. Tim gave us a tour of the extensive gardens and greenhouses, student residences, free-range chickens, and the dairy, which included a fridge full of gorgeous cheeses he made. Darina also fed us dinner and dessert, inviting us to sit in the dining room with visiting American students who had just made the evening meal.
The next day we stayed at Coill An Rois, a Dingle bed and breakfast owned by pastry chef Jimmy Bruic, who served us porridge with a big splash of Bailey’s Irish Cream, freshly-made scones, and eggs from his chickens.
From there we flew to London, where I taught another food writing workshop at Food Blogger Connect, an annual conference in its fourth year, run by Bethany Kehdy of the food blog Dirty Kitchen Secrets. Students in my workshop came from as far away as Dubai, France and Italy. The food at this event was among the best I’ve had at these sorts of conferences, with vendors serving a diverse selection including Mexican tacos, Portuguese desserts, and Old English brisket sandwiches.
One of my favorite parts of these workshops is when students read their work. It’s my little peek into another food culture, and the stories in both Ireland and London were delightful. Plus, I always love the opportunity to meet the people I’ve corresponded with online, whether through comments on this blog, or through Twitter or Facebook.
And now, I’ve got to get ready for my next big trip in November, to Australia’s food blogging event, Eat Drink Blog. To close, here are some of the goodies I lugged home in my suitcase: