I’m delighted to hear that the readers of Frommer’s have voted Ireland as the best travel destination for 2011! Let’s hope it brings a few people to this country, because the Irish tourist industry could use a boost.
I’m in London at the moment for a whistle stop coffee tour, armed with a coffee map and tips from the ever-helpful Colin Harmon. So far the highlight has been Monmouth Coffee Co (photo above), mostly for having such a good vibe in the shop, but a round up will have to wait until I’m done!
Tomorrow, I’m off to Stafford to visit Has Bean, and I’m really looking forward to that!
Before I left, I had one of the most interesting conversations on coffee in a long time, with both Colin and Stephen Morrisey, who is a World Barista Champion and currently Marketing Director of Intelligentsia in the US (photo right).
It’s so brilliant to spend time with two Irish people who are at the forefront of coffee and who are both so knowledgable and also interested in learning more. Their passion is infectious.
I feel very lucky, and my head feels very full.
Hopefully a lot of what I’m learning will make it into an article I’m writing, so please be patient and I’ll get it all down!
Camphill is a worldwide network of communities for people with special needs, and it’s an organisation that’s dear to my heart, since I have seen on many occasions the good work they do. Since Ireland has a very strong group of communities, we’ve always wanted to find a way to help them in some way (not just the odd fundraiser we have done in Dingle).
I spoke recently with Camphill Greenacres in Dublin, and they said they would love it if we could employ one of their special needs people a couple of mornings a week. Done! Above is Mary, and she is a very special person indeed. She’s personable and warm, and I’m delighted to say she’ll be with us in our Wicklow Street shop on Tuesdays and Friday mornings.
What was especially warming to my heart was that she arrived this Tuesday with a carrot cake she had baked herself in the Camphill kitchens (we’ll give them a donation for each cake). So, hopefully we’ll not only have Mary, but we’ll have Mary’s cake as well!
I hope if you come in that you’ll make her feel welcome, and also that you’ll try a piece of her cake. She’s very, very proud of it.
1. Queen of Tarts. I have heard so much about Queen of Tarts, and it was the first time I made it there. What a great, relaxed place for a sweet treat and a bit of tea on a drizzly afternoon.
2. Trinity Capitol Hotel. We stayed in this seriously funky hotel, and we enjoyed every minute. At a rate of €67, it seemed an utter bargain, with stellar service and comfortable rooms. The only downside is that the hotel is wrapped around a fire station. We didn’t hear any outside noise and slept quite well, but apparently one should ask for “courtyard view” to avoid any sirens.
3. Dublin Food Coop. If you’re looking for organic produce, interesting producers, or simply a nice, wholesome change of pace, it’s worth checking out this organic food market on Saturdays. It’s in an industrial estate in the Liberties, but it’s worth seeking it out! While there, pick up some of the excellent, award-winning organic milk and other products from Moon Shine Dairy.
I apologise about lack of photos, but somehow I managed to head to Dublin without a charged battery for my camera.
However, I did have two memorable food experiences I wished to pass on:
1. Third Floor Espresso – 54 Middle Abbey Street. First and most important – THEY ARE ON THE GROUND FLOOR, NOT ON THE THIRD FLOOR! Barista Colin Harmon is far more obsessive than we will ever be – in a good way. He really, really cares about coffee, and we give him top marks for care, attention, and delivery of great smooth coffees without the burnt and bitter taste unfortunately found at so many Irish cafes. There are no over-sized latte mugs here, just good coffee in traditional Italian sizes, and his prices are astonishing – €2 for a cappuccino, €1 for an espresso. Check him out!
2. The Wild Goose Grill – Ranelagh. Although its reviews have been mixed (see here), we had a very good meal at a very reasonable price (24.95 – special for three courses). Keep it in mind if you’re hungry in D6!
I keep hearing about an amazing ice cream shop in Damascus, Syria, most recently from Tommy (of the excellent photo blog Eyeblinks). He pointed me to the above video, and it really makes me want to jump on a plane. Friends of mine in Dingle went off to Syria a while back and loved the place. Ahh, the things we dream of in the cold, ice and snow!
But could they have done it with ice cream? Via Trust Tommy.