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Sally's blog

All the best places to eat, shop and stay in Ireland. A local guide to local places.

10 Great Christmas Hampers

Arcadia Delicatessen
Laura and Mark Brown have achieved the unimaginable in offering an artisan cheese selection box (pictured here) composed entirely of artisan cheeses from Northern Ireland. This would have been unthinkable even a couple of years ago, so it's a really special gift. The cheeses, Kearney Blue, Young Buck, Fivemiletown Cheddar and Dart Mountain Dusk come with biscuits and Northern Ireland chutney. The absolute cutting edge gift of the season.

10 New Year Getaways

Stella Maris
We love the quiet, understated charm of this family-run, seaside hotel, especially in winter when the glorious ruggedness of Loop Head is at its most austere and beautiful. Really nice country cooking, too. Basically Stella Maris never closes, so always a good option off season. (Kilkee, Co Clare More Information)

John McKenna is blown away by the discipline of Barry Liscombe and his team in Harte’s of Kildare

Barry Liscombe is one hell of a cook, and he heads up one hell of a kitchen in Harte’s of Kildare.
It’s the kind of kitchen that never lets up. If you are in Harte’s on a cold November Thursday lunchtime, you might suspect that the kitchen will take it easy. After all: the weekend is coming, and they are going to get hammered on both Friday and Saturday evening.

John McKenna finds happy cooking in Galway’s iconic King’s Head.

Here the kind of dude Paul Grealish is.
When he gets a moment to himself – which can’t be too often when you are running a Galway city landmark like The King’s Head – Mr Grealish likes to head northwards and run an Arctic marathon.
A marathon. In the Arctic. Don’t even think about how many degrees below zero the temperature is. Just say those words to yourself one more time: Arctic. Marathon.

Connie McKenna says Cork city’s Orso is nothing less than a classy little kitchen that knows how to bring it all home.

This is a classy little kitchen. A classy kitchen with a truly excellent attitude towards Middle Eastern and Mediterranean cuisine. Orso has brought an Ottolenghi influence to leafy Pembroke Street, in the centre of Cork, along with the perfect place for an escape and a little time for reflection.

A perfect t-bone from McLoughlin’s butchers shows how The Green Hen plays to its bistro strengths, says Sally McKenna.

There was a time when we would look mistily into the distance, and conjure up images of a typical French bistro where you could order and get a good steak, proper chips, something to dip them in, and a good bitter salad.
In The Green Hen, on Dublin’s Exchequer Street, they’ve brought that dream to Dublin and made it real. In fact, they’ve made it better, because they source their steak from the wonderful McLoughlin’s butchers in Ballyfermot.

Op Food - John McKenna

Alan Kelly’s Intoxicating Liquor (Breweries and Distilleries) Bill 2016 is the most important piece of legislation yet mooted for our tourism industry.
Hang on, you say. Don’t you mean for our craft brewing and distilling sector? What’s it got to do with tourism?
The answer is: Everything.
The type of tourist we should be focusing on attracting to Ireland is The Experientialist Tourist. This gal doesn’t just want to drink Dingle Single Malt in the pub, or try an 8 Degrees Barefoot Brahmin in the restaurant.

A tasting tour of the Dingle Distillery is yet another highlight of the town’s incredible food and drink culture

Maybe it was because our visit to the Dingle Distillery – an old converted sawmills at The Wood, just on the Ventry Road out of the town – took place on the day after the launch of Dingle’s Single Malt whiskey, but there was certainly something giddy and unrestrained about the spirit of the place as Joe Joyce led a group of us through a talk and tasting of the malt itself and of the young Dingle clear spirit.

Galway’s Loam restaurant is the sensual world, says John McKenna

In Galway’s Loam restaurant, Enda McEvoy and Conor Cockram make the illogical seem entirely logical.
Mr McEvoy serves up a wee taster of beef tenderloin to start dinner in Loam. It looks like a prawn cracker, and eats like a prawn cracker.
But it isn’t a prawn cracker.
Mr Cockram, meantime, puts peat in your pudding, alongside some black currant.
Except, it isn’t peat. It isn’t the stuff that gets stuck to your boots in the bog.
Welcome to Loam, where nothing is as it seems.

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