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Leslie Williams enjoys the salmon skin with popping candy, the craft beers and the peck on the cheek.

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

The best thing about 2013 for me was the fact that craft beer went mainstream. Not only did we get introduced to fine new beers such as Sam Black's Kinsale Pale Ale and many others, but excellent regional beers became widely available such as Carrig Rowers Ale from Carrick-on-Shannon. www.kinsalecraftbrewery.com www.carrigcraftbrewing.com

Traditional Dublin pubs now feel obliged to serve the likes of Galway Hooker on draught or at the very least have a few bottles of O'Haras or Dungarvan behind the bar. This year also saw huge bursts of creativity in the sector and my favourite has to be the “Hop-Off “ pub tastings and facebook competition run by Eight Degrees Brewing between their Hurricane and Cyclone IPAs made respectively with Northern and Southern Hemisphere hops.
www.carlowbrewing.com http://dungarvanbrewingcompany.com www.eightdegrees.ie

My best meal of 2013 was a birthday lunch at Thorntons in August – smoked mackerel with poitín sorbet, wild salmon and tuna and strawberries for dessert. This meal also included my most intriguing flavour of 2013: crisp salmon skin lifted and charmed by the addition of a few specks of popping candy. www.thorntonsrestaurant.com

My best dessert was a flawless Passionfruit Soufflé with passionfruit sorbet and white chocolate sauce in Greenhouse; my strangest and most stimulating taste was my first taste of Lamprey (blood sucking eels) in Galicia, and my best food and wine experience was easily the stunning game menu with matching wines currently being served at Knockranny House in Westport. www.thegreenhouserestaurant.ie www.knockrannyhousehotel.ie

I had my best cocktails at VCC in Temple Bar (and good food to match) and my best foodie event was a kiss on the cheek from Claudia Roden. http://vintagecocktailclub.com

Read our Editors' Awards for the year http://www.guides.ie/megabites/2013-megabites-awards

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