My Food Writing Workshops in Ireland and London

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Lunch at BrookLodge in County Wicklow, where we feasted on roast pig and dined in an apple orchard.

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.

Dorcas Barry and me. (Photo by Owen Rubin.)

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.

Chef Evan Doyle describing his Birch Bark Booze during our multi-course wild and organic dinner. He spontaneously offered this drink, one of many made from foraged foods in the area. (Photo courtesy of Trevor Hart.)

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.

Darina Allen of Ballymaloe Cookery School displays a raspberry tart made by her students (Photo by Owen Rubin.)

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.

Fresh scones made by the owner of our Dingle B&B.

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.

Students hard at work on a writing exercise during Food Blogger Connect in London.

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:

I stocked up on teas, sweets, jams, salts and herbs. The Ras El Hanout came from an excelllent FBC swag bag.



  1. says

    Welcome back Dianne,

    Thank you for sharing a few snippets of your trip. Ireland and England are on our bucket list. Your head must be percolating and buzzing with the excitement. I can feel it in your words. What an incredible experience.

    I wish the food at the conferences in the US were as tantalizing as you suggest-although with the advent of food trucks, it’s getting better.

    I can’t wait to see what Australia is like for you. Life is good, huh?

    Also, I can’t believe I’m the first to respond to this post. Ha! I guess I’m rarely online at this time.

    Again, welcome back,

    • diannejacob says

      Hi Maureen, thank you. Yes, my head is spinning, but I think right now it is jet lag. Really, I had an amazing time and I hope that came through in my post. I hope you get to Ireland and England. The food scene there is so vibrant.

      It’s true that few food conferences in the US are this exciting, but they are working on it. IACP in New York had some pretty fantastic trips earlier this year. I went on a deli tour with Ruth Reichl as the moderator. Can’t beat that.

      Life is very good.I can’t believe how lucky I am.

  2. says

    Welcome back, Diane! Looks like quite the fabulous time – and your hosts sound amazing, all of them. And this sounds like the ONLY way to do porridge: “porridge with a big splash of Bailey’s Irish Cream…” :)

    • diannejacob says

      Thanks Averie. Yes it was quite the fabulous time. I still can’t believe it. Re the porridge, another B&B did the same, so it must be the standard thing for tourist breakfasts. I’m not sure the locals start their day that way!

  3. says

    Dear Diane,
    I just wanted to say thank you very much for coming to Ireland and giving us such a wonderful writing workshop. I found it fascinating and inspiring and it gave me the confidence I needed to start my own food blog.
    Come and see us all again soon, we loved having you.
    Kindest regards,

    • diannejacob says

      Thanks for this lovely message. Congratulations on starting your food blog. I hope you enjoy it. Writing this blog has been a huge source of pleasure for me, so I hope the same will be true for you.

      I’d love to come back. There’s so much more of Ireland I didn’t get to enjoy.

  4. says

    Thank you so much for your workshop at FBC12; it was so great to meet you and you gave us all plenty to think about. I’m still trying to process it all but I know that it has definitely changed the way that I think about food writing. Thank you so much for the inspiration!

    It’s also lovely to see your pictures from Ireland – it looks like you had a wonderful trip.

    • diannejacob says

      Thanks so much Kathryn, and great to meet you in London. You seem to have a very successful blog, with gorgeous photos. I hope you enjoy producing it. And I’m glad you’re still thinking about the sessions. These things take time to process.

    • diannejacob says

      Great post on London, Jacqueline, and I enjoyed your book review post below too. I wish US bloggers would be so discerning — they seem more prone to gushing.

      I’m still swooning over your lifestyle of living in London and Hong Kong. I haven’t been to Hong Kong for years, but I bet you know a few good spots for dim sum. I’ll definitely let you know.

  5. says

    The food just looks amazing, especially the roasted pig. Funny you should mention how proud they are of their food. One of the UK bloggers that share his recipes with us wrote this yesterday “..this business of the French being better Chefs and us being all “Roast Beef” is nonsense. We’ve always been the better cooks.” :-) Makes me want to visit that area even more!

    • diannejacob says

      The roasted pig came with cracklings and an elderflower drink. It was definitely the most elaborate and romantic lunch I’ve ever had during one of my workshops.

      I agree with the UK blogger. London has been a gourmet food destination for at least 10 years. And wait ’til you get to Ireland! There are so many food festivals there as well. BrookLodge is having a wild foods festival in November.

    • diannejacob says

      Thanks. I love the response that you are hungry. But jealous, okay maybe a little bit. I’ve never wanted to be one of those people who writes about what a fabulous time she had, just so readers can envy her.

  6. says

    Thank you Dianne for a wonderful workshop at FBC London – I have to say reading aloud was not as hard as I thought neither was writing as creatively – I surprised myself and thank you for being so appreciative. You tips have been extremely beneficial and I can not wait to incorporate them into my food writing.

    • diannejacob says

      Great to meet you in London, Sumayya. I love that you surprised yourself by your ability to write and read aloud. I wrote a whole post on reading aloud recently, and the comments are very revealing.

      I hope you found lots of new techniques to incorporate into your blog.

  7. says

    Thank you so much for the fantastic workshop at the Brooklodge. Dorcas did a fab job organising the weekend. I live the fact that you brought Barry’s Tea & Smarties home with you!
    I’ve been inspired to keep on striving with my writing and have already put some of what I learned into action. 😉

    • diannejacob says

      Really, Dorcas gets all the credit for organizing the event there and for inspiring Evan Doyle to go to such lengths for us.

      I found Barry’s tea at the Ballymaloe shop, and the Smarties in London. I grew up on Smarties in Canada, and they are not sold in the US. M&Ms seems to have a stranglehold.

      I’m pleased you’re already incorporating the new skills you learned. I enjoyed the honesty in your cookbook review and the gorgeous photo of the pretzels.

  8. says

    Thank you for a great workshop. The mind map is a fantastic way to plan a story and the nuances for different publications. Writing to order was tough, but so good for me. I’d been looking forward to your workshop and it was worth the wait. GG

    • diannejacob says

      Dear GG, it was a pleasure to have you in the class. Your blog looks like you get a lot of enjoyment from it. That really comes through for readers.

      Writing to order is hard. Sometimes I can’t do it, so I’m always impressed when others can.

  9. says

    What a tremendous post Dianne! It sounds like a wonderful trip and wish I could have been a fly on the wall :) Someday, maybe….glad you had such a wonderful time and from the comments here from the attendees, it sure seemed successful.

    • diannejacob says

      Thanks Wendy, it was so much fun to meet local food writers and get to know their food culture. There’s so much to be proud of in Ireland beyond meat and potatoes, that’s for sure. But speaking of meat, all their beef is pastured. How cool is that?

  10. says

    What a lovely trip that must have been. Ireland is a favorite place of mine and Dingle is absolutely beautiful! Thank you for sharing a bit from your trip even though jet-lagged!

    • diannejacob says

      My pleasure, Joanie. So you’ve been to Dingle! We only spent a day there, but loved driving around to see the gorgeous landscape and beehive huts, the famine villages, and then listened to music in the pub. I was sorry to not have more time.

  11. says

    I was one of the lucky people to take part in your workshop in London. Your words are still ringing in my ears especially about ‘leaving things out’, so I shan’t say any more! Merci!

    • diannejacob says

      HI Angela, thanks for coming to my class. I just read your post about last year’s FBC and enjoyed your lead very much.

    • diannejacob says

      Oh thanks Howard. Changing careers has been a fascinating ride. Sometimes I’m on the top of the ferris wheel, enjoying it all. This trip was one of those times.

  12. Pat Haley says

    Thank you, Diane for the fascinating account of your travels to Ireland and London and all the food people and food people you met. .

  13. says

    Welcome home! It sounds as if you had the same reaction we did to Irish food and cooking, as well as the friendliness of the Irish people. Thanks for sharing so many lovely photos –

    • diannejacob says

      Well I’m not David Lebovitz, but I gave it a shot, so to speak. Those photos are from my and Owen’s iPhones. I guess they turned out well enough, although the one of me and Dorcas is rather dark.

      Thanks Liz. We’ll have to compare stories about visiting Ireland.

    • diannejacob says

      I did! And so will you if you visit. I don’t know about food conferences but there are lots of food festivals there.

  14. says

    It was a pleasure to meet you and learn from you in Ireland. It sounds like the rest of your time here was filled with plenty of good food and lively characters. Thank you for making the journey over!

    • diannejacob says

      Hi Kristin, it was great to meet you. Life sounds pretty good on your blog, and I love the photos. Thanks for coming. I hope we’ll stay in touch.

  15. says

    Dianne, I am rather disappointed that I didn’t see in time that you were crossing the Atlantic to London or I would have flown in from Dubai! We were traveling quite a bit over the summer so we were late catching up on the conference. From all indications, it was a stellar event and you were met with the respect and enthusiasm that you so justly deserve! I bought your book some time ago from Amazon along with a second copy for another friend who lives here. It’s so good, it has to be shared! I am a working columnist but I think one can never stop honing one’s craft. I am adding your blog to our carefully selected “Food Blogs We Like” section of the blog I work on with my chef hubby.

    • diannejacob says

      Hi there, yes I was treated like royalty and it’s hard not to enjoy that. I’m not sure about deserving it. Most of the time it’s just me, sitting in front of the computer in my house, so it was such a joy to get to other countries and meet people.

      just read your About page. What a fascinating life you are having in Dubai. I’m sorry you couldn’t make it, but I would love to come to Dubai to teach. We started talking about that at FBC and maybe it will happen. I’m excited about the possibility.

      Thanks also for buying two copies of my book.

      • says


        Thanks for visiting our blog. As you may have seen on our About page, I also handle marketing for the largest kitchen and table retailer in the Middle East. Therefore I would love to be part of any discussion about you coming to Dubai!

        Let’s keep in touch and keep the dialogue open.

  16. Martha Hopkins says


    If you picked up a scone recipe over there, would you post it for us? I’m always making scones, but mine taste just like a biscuit. Should they? Tell us, now that you’re the expert, what’s the difference?


      • Martha Hopkins says

        Thanks, DJ’97I’d love that recipe. Here’s how I’ve always differentiated between the two: If it’s cut in a wedge, that’s a scone. If it’s in a circle, that’s a biscuit. How’s that for Southern girl logic? (Ridiculous, I know!)

        I’ve wanted to make an oat scone, too. Wondering if it’s got a similar flavor (if not texture) to those oat crackers.

        And hey to the Dubai person’97I may be stopping there en route to South Africa this spring. Let me know if you have an unexplainable urge to take a stranger and her friends out to dinner. Our treat. : )

        • diannejacob says

          Okay, will send it to you in an email. Sorry, that logic doesn’t work. Re oat scones, they sound good. According to what I read on the links I sent you, the Irish used to make them that way.

          You’re going to South Africa? Lucky you.

          • Martha Hopkins says

            I know, right? Perfect logic. I’m such a goober. However you cut them, though, my scones are awesome. Especially with my homemade, full-fat buttermilk.

  17. says

    It was nice to briefly meet you in London! I didn’t get to make it to your workshop but I’m going to work my way through your book and Fleur passed on some of your tips from the session :)

    • diannejacob says

      Great to meet you too. The book is so much longer than the class, so don’t worry about missing anything. That was nice of Fleur to pass on tips.

  18. says

    Sounds like such a wonderful experience, Dianne! I have always wondered what Darina Allen’s cookery school was like; and to be able to go to both Ireland and London in one trip must have been so memorable for you. I’m just amazed at how you were able to summarize it so well in one post!

    • diannejacob says

      It was! Ballymaloe is an incredible place. When you park, the first thing you see is all the chickens. Then there’s a shop, and through the other side, the school. The students live on the property, surrounded by miles of gardens. Then there’s Darina Allen herself, a real dynamo. She never stopped moving the whole time we were there.

      I had trouble summarizing this trip. I left so much out!

  19. says

    Really enjoyed your workshop at Brooklodge, Dianne. Dorcas did a fantastic job of pulling it all together and that truly was a memorable Friday night feast.

    Maybe we should be making it an annual event?!

    • diannejacob says

      Caroline, it was a treat to meet you after only knowing your online presence. Dorcas did an unbelievable job and I am so grateful to her. I am still thinking about that dinner and our lunch in the orchard. My workshops never have feasts like that!

      I’m game for an annual event. Or maybe you all should come up with a food blogger annual conference at BrookLodge. Then you can invite me back as a guest.

  20. says

    Lovely snaps of your trip and as you already know, I’m envious of your trip to Ballymaloe. Darina Allen is such an inspiration and visiting would be a dream come true. It was a pleasure having you in London and I’m so happy to see everyone who took part in the workshop voicing their positive feedback. Many thanks for sharing your knowledge x

    • diannejacob says

      Hi Bethany, thank you, and thanks for all that you did for me as the organizer of Food Blogger Connect. I had very smart successful writers in my class, which made teaching the workshop that much more enjoyable.

      Darina was a generous host and took so much time out for us, despite the fact that she was still working while we were there. You won’t believe what a beautiful place she and Tim have. And it’s only a short flight or ferry ride for you. What are you waiting for, young lady?

  21. says

    Hi Dianne,
    It was a pleasure to meet you. Thanks for teaching us so much about food writing and blogging at Brooklodge. Hopefully we’ll meet again soon!

    • diannejacob says

      Hi Fiona, I hope so. You all were a wonderful group. I particularly loved the stories people told when they read.

    • diannejacob says

      Yes we did, including me! Thanks Chantelle. I am thrilled about coming to Adelaide to teach and I have a little time to poke around in the city too. Look forward to meeting you at the workshop.


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