Listowel Food Fair

 I am ashamed to admit that I’ve never been to the Listowel Food Fair, since something has always seemed to come up with the business during it, but I am going this year (it’s on from the 5th  – 8th of November), no matter what. I have heard so much great feedback over the years, and I’ve just been looking through the website. The lineup is most impressive. From the farmhouse cheese awards to Organics with Attitude to a children’s food art workshop, I’d say there would be something for everyone.

There’s even a seminar for artisan producers!

Check it out if you can.

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My Venice, Italy Top Ten

Venice3 I’ve been back a few days now, but it’s hard to get Venice out of my mind. Next time, I’m definitely going to stay more than a week! Anyway, for anyone who might be heading that way, and I do suggest it, you have a treat in store. There were so many highlights of the trip, but here are my top ten reasons to go back soon (in no particular order):

Venice61. Al Fontego dei Pescaori. Sottoportego dei Tagiapiera, Cannaregio. Two years ago, this was our favourite restaurant in Venice, and this visit we liked it even more. It’s traditional enough to satisfy Manuela, who is from Venice, and exciting enough to delight me. This time, they had a starter of pesce crudo, or raw fish, and they paired four fish with four fresh fruits. It was astonishingly good. They don’t serve food with a lot of fuss – they just choose the very best ingredients and serve things simply. Culinary heaven, great atmosphere, great wine list, great desserts, and they were extremely welcoming toward our little baby. In fact, the owner said, “There is nothing more important than children, and I’m always happy to cook up whatever a child would like.” Róisín will be weaned by the next trip…

2. Child-friendliness. It’s a bit of a shock just how welcoming the Venetians were toward our baby. From shops to museums to restaurants, they were friendly and accommodating. I don’t know if the same would hold in high season, when people are more under pressure, but we found it a great place to visit with a child. The only caveat is that Venice has a lot of bridges, so there’s lots of carrying the pram over them! We also had a sling, but we did use the pram quite a bit.

3. Traghettos. These are gondola ferries that take you across the Grand Canal in several places. At 50 cent for a gondola ride, what’s not to like?

Venice24. Fish market. The fish market in Rialto is not as big as the one in Tokyo, but it has a great buzz and can be the perfect place to pick up a tasty lunch. We rented an apartment, so we could do a bit of cooking, and fish is a natural ingredient in a sea-fareing city. It’s wise to get there early, before the best bits are gone. It’s also a great place for a wander.

5. Venice Biennale. Take an already beautiful city, and then pack it with art, mustic, dance, theatre, and architecture shows – brilliant! If you’re in Venice during the Biennale, there is so much to see. While they have the main expositions in the Giardini and in Arsenale, it’s the shows scattered throughout the town that we found most exciting – on any walk, you can come across the distinctive red sign and dip in to a mansion or monastery for a free culture hit.

Venice16. Fresh fruit and vegetables. Coming from Ireland, the quality of the fruits and vegetables amaze. There’s a huge vegetable and fruit section at the fish market (above) but there’s also stands throughout town. You really can’t go wrong if you stick to the seasonal and local, and there’s lots of it… You will also find the prices extremely reasonable.

7. Osteria Boccadoro. Campo Widman, Cannaregio. We had our last meal here, and it really did impress. When we asked what the chef suggested, he ran into the kitchen and returned with a branzino (kind of sea bass) flopping on a tray. He told us his siesta had been disturbed by the fisherman’s call tipping him off to a good catch, and that we wouldn’t taste a fresher wild fish on our visit. This is a restaurant that has no freezers – everything is fresh and local. They also have a 5 chocolate mousse that is to die for. Just be prepared for the bill, though. It ain’t cheap!

Venice48. Beautiful churches. The architecture in Venice is beautiful and some of the churches are just stunning. You can even catch reasonably-priced classical music concerts in some of them in the evenings (most often Vivaldi, who lived in Venice).

9. No cars. It’s hard to get used to the serene quiet of no car engines. There are boats, but it’s not the same at all. It also means you walk and walk, getting lost in the lanes and alleys, finding hidden treasures, and that really is one of the best parts to a visit to Venice.

Venice510. Prosecco. Stopping into a bar for a pre-dinner snack and glass of prosecco (or a spritz, which came in with the Austrians but has become very traditional) is a true joy and feels very decadent indeed.

Note: Venice is packed with tourists, and like many places the temptation to take advantage is high. However, if you do a bit of advance planning for where you’re going to eat, avoid places with tourist menus, make sure you understand the cost of anything before you buy, don’t have a coffee in St. Mark’s square without expecting to pay through the nose, use cash machines when you need cash, and avoid the summer, you should avoid any unpleasant experiences and have a great time…

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Baptism in Venice

Apologies on the silence here, but we’re in Venice for the baptism of baby Róisín (photo above), and I’ve found getting on-line a little difficult.

Venice7It’s been a wonderful trip, and it’s been great to meet more of Manuela’s relatives and soak in the wonderful ambience of this incredible city.

I’ve also been lucky to have two of my very best friends join me. What a week!

I’ll post more when I get a chance!

O Brother, Where Art Thou?

MysticIceCream-sm Some time ago, I asked you, dear readers, for the best ice cream shops in the US. I have never received so many comments and suggestions, and I thank you for them!

My brother Sean has headed over now, your suggestions in hand, and he is doing an ice cream dash. Above is a photo he just sent, taken on his way to Boston from New York. 

I’m hoping that he will write a guest post (or three) summing up his US ice cream experience.


A Job Well Done

09 I am back in the Kingdom of Kerry where there is a deep satisfaction as a sense of order has returned with Kerry once again winning the All Ireland Senior Football Championship. There are a lot of tired people around, but their eyes are lively and there’s not much interaction needed beyond a knowing smile.

This will not go down as one of the best years in Gaelic football, but neither will it be forgotten in these parts as our two Dingle men played extremely well and the mighty Ó Sé family collected another trio of All Ireland medals. I can only imagine the disappointment in Cork.

The weekend was a good one – our seats were great, the result was right, and we had a fabulous meal in Pearl Brasserie. It’s a restaurant that has shot to the top of Dublin’s culinary scene, and the accolades are well deserved. If you don’t know it, seek it out!

There was, however, an event that marred the weekend – a couple who were to join our party for dinner lost their eldest son, a 16 year old boy with a bright future. Our thoughts and condolences go out to the entire Ashe family.

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What are the Best US Ice Cream Shops?

SeanCone2 My brother Sean wants to head over the the US to visit ice cream shops, and he would love your suggestions as to which ice cream shops he should visit.

(Could he manage 100 shops in 7 days?)

He will definitely be going to New York, so suggestions in the New York area especially welcome, but where else should he go?

What are the unmissable US ice cream shops at the moment?

Please leave comments with your suggestions!

A Foodie Gem in the Kingdom

kingdomfs Today, we had to go to Tralee to pick up a few bits and pieces for the baby, and we stopped in for lunch at the Kingdom Food & Wine Store in Oakpark. Anyone in Tralee feeling peckish or looking for some interesting food products should check it out. They have a great range of gourmet foods, an impressive selection of wines, and delicious sandwiches and other goodies.

It’s on the Listowel Road and within easy walking distance to the bus/train station, so stop in if you’re heading on a trip!

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