Articles by " WiseMóna"
Jun 17 2014

Recipe for success at Kai Café in Galway

 Couples who cook

By Móna Wise

*Originally published in the Connacht Tribune on  Thursday June 5th 2014, where I am undertaking my work placement (newsroom) experience for the MA in Journalism at NUIG.

Jess and David at Kai

These days, with the rates of divorce skyrocketing even in Ireland, it seems that the act of getting married is easy and staying married is posing to be a sometimes impossible challenge.

Why then, do some couples seem to make life even harder by foraying into the same line of work as their spouse? When looking up and down the coast of Galway and Mayo, it is easy to find several couples who have decided that wedded bliss is just not enough for them and they feel the need to flex their masochistic muscles by entering into a business contract with their bedfellows.

IMG_5354
David Murphy and his wife Jess Margurte-Murphy are a perfect example of this. A little over 14 years ago, David, a Carlow native, headed down under to backpack his way around Australia for three or four months. He just wanted to have a bit of fun.

“Those plans all came to a crashing halt because I met Jess almost straight away” he laughed.

A clear cut case of love at first sight, he and his new love, Jess Margurte-Murphy a chef by trade from New Zealand, knew they were soul mates and moved in together within a few weeks of their first kiss.

An engineer by trade, David took a break from his career and showed interest in a job he saw advertised in a restaurant on an island off the west coast of Perth. “They were looking for couples to come out and work on the island for the summer months so Jess and I, along with an Irish couple from Mullingar, spent the summer working alongside each other in the kitchen, Jess as a chef and me as a kitchen porter.”

IMG_5552

As with all summer jobs, the fun was short lived and David returned to his career as soon as summer break came to an end.
Although it was love at first sight for the duo now sharing a home together, David was still focused on his career in engineering and pursued that route having no problem finding employment but it did put a strain on their schedules. So how did this work out for the lovebirds?

“It was different I suppose. We were working entirely different schedules and only occasionally saw each other on a Sunday” said David. “All was not lost though, because you see I had time to focus on my love for Rugby and I invested in a paid subscription to Sky Sports.”

Jess chimed in with a loud laugh adding “Yes, it was like Sky saved our marriage really. We were like two ships passing in the night I mean, we still chatted a lot in the early days about me having a little café, but it was all pie in the sky kind of ideas at that stage. I wanted one of those tiny 40 seat cafés, where I could serve up gorgeous cakes, lovely fresh-from-the-farm salads, and in my mind it would be like having a load of friends around for supper every day.”

IMG_5550

But this never happened in Australia or in even in Jess’s native New Zealand.

“The timing was not right for either of us. The idea of owning and operating our own business was too scary at the time and I suppose we just were not ready. I felt like I had a lot more to learn and David was focused on working as an engineer. In 2003 we decided to up sticks and move to Ireland. I had always wanted to get work experience in a Michelin Star restaurant. Back then (and still now) Kevin Thornton was doing amazing things with food in his kitchen and so we found ourselves one day dumped onto St. Stephens Green in Dublin, me with my knife kit and David with his toolbox.”

Although David carried on with his career in engineering, while Jess worked her one-year stint with Kevin Thornton in Dublin, the West was calling.

“It was an easy decision to move West really,” said David. “Although Jess had never been, I had spent several summer holidays in the west as a young boy and I knew it would be a great place to call home. The Bord Fáilte ads on the telly had us plagued. ‘Come to the West’ they’d scream at us each night on the telly, with images of the white sandy Connemara beaches beckoning. It was like being brainwashed really. I think even if it had been pictures of lashing rain and people drinking pints by the fire, we would have ended up in Galway.”

Jess took a job immediately in the Ard Bia kitchen and David with an engineering firm in Abbeyknockmoy.

Although the idea of still opening her own place was in the back of her mind, Jess knew she had to learn to walk before she ran and she kept her nose to the grindstone learning as much as she could while working for Ard Bia, then on to Sheridans Cheesemongers and eventually on to Bar 8 on the docks.

It might have been then, when working at Bar 8, when they both felt the tides turning so to speak. Jess was finding it more and more frustrating to not having control over the day-to-day operations and one day just packed it in knowing they were about to make another big change again.

Still, and before making the massive financial commitment a raging entrepreneurial spirit requires, with a bit of wanderlust lingering they toyed with the notion of moving to Denmark for a few years, but that notion dissolved pretty quickly when she heard that The Budding Cafe (Heenahans florist) was relocating and they were looking for a new tenant for that space on Sea Road, now known as Kai Café.

 

IMG_5556
Citing the invaluable experience she had received working for Sheridan’s Cheesemongers alongside Galway’s first Michelin star chef Enda McEvoy (now getting ready to open his own restaurant called LOAM), Jess knew she was ready.

But was David? Would he not miss the world of engineering and a steady pay check?
“No. I love coming to work every day. I never thought I’d enjoy it so much to be honest. Jess had been rambling on about having her own place for so long that it just felt right for both of us. She was ready to go back to her roots and cook in the same style her grandmother taught her, pickling and preserving. Her time working alongside Enda McEvoy at Sheridans Cheesemongers gave her something I never thought she needed – confidence.”

“I’ve always been bossy I suppose; I’ve always been the boss” said Jess smirking, “I knew the time was right to move forward and do my own thing. Something was unleashed in me and it was time to put it to work. I always thought Dave and I would end up investing our own money in Bar 8 and when that did not happen, I just knew it was time for us to join forces and do our own thing. I could not believe I had first dibs on that little cafe. The good vibes from the whole deal made it a no-brainer for us.”

 

IMG_5358

So, how does a couple go from leading polar opposite career paths to beautiful business bliss overnight?

“I stay out of the kitchen” chuckles Dave. “No, what I meant to say is I know the best times to go in to the kitchen. It’s a very small space and you need to have a purpose to be in there as there is just no room for standing around – it’s too easy to get in the way. I have my job and Jess has hers. We can manage to work a twelve or fourteen hour shift together but rarely speak to each other because I’m out front and she’s in the back doing her thing.”

“And we still chat about our day after service. Sometimes reviewing how dinner service ran or who was in for lunch that day” Jess chimes in. “and sometimes we work on different days just so we have a bit of ‘alone time’ at home by ourselves. Every couple needs breathing space, don’t they?”

 

IMG_5560
But what happens when things go belly up and harsh words are spoken? How can you keep this from affecting the attitude and mood at your workplace?

“We keep it out of the kitchen” said Dave. “We know each others strengths and weaknesses all to well at this point and we just steer clear of each other. Neither of us hold grudges (Jess injects her infectious guffaw of laughter here) and we have mastered the art of keeping our dirty laundry out of the public eye.”

“We are fortunate to work with a few excellent people at Kai Café and they know our moods and understand it is normal. They keep out of our way and we just get on with the business at hand. Now that we have been open for three years it is easier. Home life is bliss, and we have all the right team players in place at Kai so it leaves little room for ructions these days. Now we are at the point where we set aside a little more time to pursue other dreams.”

Perhaps a second place maybe a bit of a gastro pub with restaurant style grub and lots more fermentation and loads of local beers on tap?

“Perhaps, perhaps,” said David. It is all possible isn’t it? Right now we are just going to continue to take care of our customers and employees and enjoy doing what we do. Taking care of people is a great honour and privilege and now we have found a way to build and maintain a solid footing in Galway, we are really just starting to enjoy the ride.

IMG_5562

 

………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………….

Thanks for reading …. I have a lot more pieces that will be popping up in this local newspaper over the course of the summer.

Those are all the WiseWords I have for today.

WiseMóna

Jun 5 2014

Connemara Mountain Lamb

Posted by     14 Comments    in Reviews

They all say that theirs is the best lamb you’ll ever taste. Every sheep farmer I’ve ever met will look you square in the eye and spin you the same sceál .. “Certified organic, free range over several hundred acres of mountains, by the sea, fed on a healthy diet of bog heather and organic meal” this is the best Lamb you are ever going to taste.

20140605-222442-80682542.jpg

And most of the time, it appears, they are right.

A few weeks ago we sampled a few lamb chops from the Calvey family farm in Achill, County Mayo, which was pretty spectacular. That spurred another farming man from Leenane, named Bernard King, to track me down at work the other day asking if I’d consider trying a bite of his late season hogget; A beautiful leg of lamb indeed.

When I stole a few minutes to chat with Bernard about his sheep rearing and lamb selling business, I could tell from the look on his face that he was not overly excited about the way things were going. That same afternoon I read this article about Beef farmers getting into Sheep farming because they can command a higher price but it kind of left me feeling like we are dangerously close to heading back to ‘rip off Ireland’ and we need to make smart choices now more than every with the limited amount of weekly income we have, not to mention show our support for the existing Sheep farmers who are not ripping us off.

“I’ve nearly 900 ewes roaming around 500+ hectares of IOFGA certified organic mountain land out near Leenane. I can tell you now, you are going to love this Lamb, because it is a beautiful animal.”

Bernard stressed his frustration at trying to sell to restaurants as all they want is the rack of lamb or leg of lamb. Well, the chefs are ordering those cuts just to cater to what the public are demanding, right?

When was the last time you saw and ordered a piece of lamb on a menu at a restaurant? Other than the standard three chops on the plate or Sunday roast, you’d be hard pressed to find a lamb shank, or even a stew with a succulent hunk of lamb simmering. I’ve seen lamb meatballs once on a menu in Mayo and Kai Cafe in Galway here just recently started serving a Lamb Burger (it’s a beautiful thing) but for the most part … we seem to be leaving the rest of the lamb out in the cold, so to speak.

And the butchers are no better. I remember, when living in the US, we could purchase rolled lamb neck (very inexpensively) on a daily basis, no special order needed and lamb shanks were available all year round too, and also quite cheap. A shout out here to John Tormey’s Butcher shop in Galway as he does carry Lamb shanks almost all year round.

But again, if there is no demand, and we are not using the cheaper (and obviously less popular) cuts of lamb at home then there is no point in the butchers stocking up on items they will have to creatively cast aside later due to lack of interest.

Offering up this beautiful protein source at €9 per kilo (cheaper than any and all the grocery stores) Bernard works with a local butcher, Tommy Lydon from Maam, and can fit a whole lamb into ‘the three drawers of your freezer’. They operate on a kill-to-order basis so its not like you need to save your pennies for any specific time of the year, you can call him up and place your order whenever you want. Bernard has not yet started using a courier service so I told him to connect with the folks over at OldFarm Pork in Tipperary because they have been using a courier for the last year with great success. Incidentally, if you are looking to buy yourself a bit of free range pork then look no further. They even offer pig rearing courses and have a few extra beds at their farmhouse so you can make a little mini-break out of it.

“I know this is the best tasting Lamb in the country. I know that once people taste it, they will love it. I hope that people will recognise the value for money in what they are getting when they order this meat.”

We wholeheartedly agree with Bernard. At €9.00 per kilo for certified organic lamb raised outdoors in a completely free range mountain environment .. well its a no brainer. Product labelling, transparency of food origins, knowing and trusting that the food you are eating has not been injected with growth hormones or fed a diet of crap ….. all of this matters.

We decided to throw our leg of lamb on the big green egg. A quick rub down with very coarse salt and black pepper, a bit of smoky Spanish Paprika, some citric acid (available at all pharmacies) and raw cane sugar, we left it sitting out for about two hours (to come to room temperature) before throwing it on the glowing coals.

At 2 kilos in weight it took just under one hour to cook. The citric acid and sugar (both small amounts and equal parts) gave the char that extra special zip. It was the kind of stick-to-your-teeth yum …. and with a piece of meat like this, you really do not want to overcook it. The outer pieces work well for those who like everything well done and by the time you get a third of the way in … well, it’s just gorgeous.

From the above referenced article in the Irish Independent earlier this week “…. Last week, a leg of Irish lamb in Tesco cost €12.99 per kg and Irish lamb loin chops cost €18.99 a kilo. In Dunnes Stores, a leg of Irish lamb was priced at €9.29 per kg and Irish lamb loin chops per kg were €15.99. In Lidl, a New Zealand-sourced leg of lamb cost €8.99 per kg and its Irish Lamb loin chops were priced at €16.19 a kilo … “

So what are you waiting for … clear out your freezer guys and dolls.

Screen Shot 2014-06-06 at 08.17.40

Bernard can be reached at (087) 236 – 3445 or you can visit their website at ConnemaraMountainLamb or email them at info@connemaramountainlamb.ie or pop over to their Facebook page for a look.

That’s all for now folks.

WiseMóna

PS – I have a few other ‘cooked’ photos but due to the fact that the internet is an absolute nightmare here at the house – they will have to wait unlit later to upload. Hard to imagine that we live only 4 miles from Galway city – it is 2014 – and we have a non-existent broadband service. First world problems, I know.

Jun 4 2014

Life as a part-time intern

Posted by     7 Comments    in The Snug

It’s no picnic at the top guys and dolls.

I’m just finished with the first work placement with Education Matters and am delighted to report that they have offered to pay me and my colleague Caroline Duggan to continue on blogging and interviewing people for their blog and their annual publication which is due out in December. Part-time paid work for a journalist is waaaaaaaay better than no work, right?

In addition to that, I had my first day at the Connacht Tribune yesterday. This is also a part-time placement with me only doing three days a week for the next month. I wanted the in-house newspaper experience and after my first day in their office yesterday … I am struggling to find the courage to make it in to work today and its only day 2.

It feels like I am back in junior infants/1st grade and I am the only one in the class that knows absolutely nothing. A lovely bunch of people work at the Connacht Tribune … but they are all well seasoned hacks and I’m sure are growing weary of the students who show up looking for experience … when all we really do is kinda get in the way and annoy the crap out of everyone with all the questions.

I suppose its like this on anyone’s first day in a new ‘job’. The sick-to-your-guts feeling that you are going to make a complete eejit of yourself … and then everyone will know what a total eejit you are.

Yep – that’s exactly how I feel.

But … I have not spent the last five years in college learning how to write .. to give up now. I will plod on, I will have fun and I will finish my unwritten Thesis of 15,000 words, before August 15th.

Then the …. honest-to-god-sick-to-my-stomach-at-the-thoughts-of-it… real hard work begins … the search for somewhat gainful employment.

CT FB - almost 17 K

For now though … why not pop over the the Connacht Tribune website and download their GalwayApp (free). Also pay a visit to their Facebook page because they are at almost 17,000 fans on their page and have a great audience ……… and if you are on Twitter … please connect over there too.

CT Twitter

I have no idea which of my stories will even make the cut … but if any of them do, I’d hate you not to be able to have a read.

aNd if you have any exciting stories you think Ae newsworthy …then by all means send me an email at Mona.Wise@CTribune.ie

Thanks for all the blog love lads … and if you are still looking for a breakaway to the West this summer .. next blog post in the drafts folder (coming later this week) is for a 2-night getaway at the G Hotel ….. oh me .. oh my … you’ll have to try … just make sure you are a registered reader right here.

That’s all I got for now,

WiseMóna

May 23 2014

Dare to dream

Posted by     10 Comments    in Kitchen

A couple of things popped up on my radar this week worth sharing.

The first was the details of an informal chat I had with someone at our local (Galway) enterprise office. They are tossing about the idea of building a shared kitchen facility for small producers. So I have a couple of questions for you and hope you will take a minute or two to respond as this feedback can really help drive this project.

You can copy/paste these questions and leave your answers in the comment section below or you can email the answers to me directly at MonaZWise@gmail.com.

1. Would you be interested in having access to a HSE approved, energy efficient, commercial kitchen on an hourly basis?

2. How much would you be willing to pay, per hour, for the use of such a facility (all inclusive electric, gas, etc.)

3.  How many hours per week would you need to use a facility like this in order to get your product prepped, cooked, packaged?

If you are a small producer and need a space like this (or if you know anyone that is in this boat) please take a minute to answer these three questions and I’ll add you to the list of those interested in this exciting idea. I know we would love to have access to a commerical kitchen from time to time and it can be the way to get a product idea out of the concept phase and into the production phase. So ..what are you waiting for?

And on that note…..and this pertains to Irish readers only … did you see the latest Food lovers competition launched on RTÉ?

image

 Wowza….this one, seems to be open to just about anyone, novices to professional chefs alike, and it is one of those opportunities, if in the food biz, you’d have a hard time letting it slip by without due consideration.

Even if you are not working in the industry, but might have a knack with recipe and a desire to develop a product…this is your chance to take that dream of seeing your product on the shelves of your local supermarket!

Ideas are smoking hot here at Chez Wise …. and, as long as we are eligible, I’m pretty sure we will be throwing our names in the hat with a tasty and tempting treat produced right here in Galway with mostly all Irish ingredients.

image

You can download the application form right here!

May 15 2014

{Giveaway} Mulranny Park Hotel and the Magic of Mayo

Posted by     122 Comments    in Reviews

Mulranny Park Hotel

Mulranny, County Mayo

(093) 36 00 0

A few weeks ago we were invited to attend the annual launch of the season for the #GourmetGreenway in Mulranny, County Mayo. Having a grá for my birth county made this an easy decision for the Chef and I, so with a bag packed, we headed north-west for the night, thankful that my Mum was on hand to take care of the rug rats.

Gourmet Greenway - Main Image from 2014

The Gourmet Greenway Food Trail, created by Mulranny Park Hotel in 2011 to showcase artisan food producers along the route of the Great Western Greenway, (bike trail on old railway lines – super safe) has become an international success for Mayo.

The community-based collective of 18 producers and hospitality providers has put a spotlight on great ingredients and hosts in the areas of Newport, Westport and Achill and which, last year alone, contributed €1.5 million to the local economy

The Gourmet Greenway initative has proved really successful for all involved over the last 3 years.

 

IMG_5204

Arriving at the small town of Mulranny, even in the rain, takes your breath away. The beaches have a wild windswept look to them from the harsh storms the western coast took earlier in the year, but the sandy white beaches were calling out to us.

Car parked, we dropped our bags up to our room and headed off down the (150 steps) to the shore for a good stretch of the legs. Much needed after the all-but-2-hour drive from Galway.

 

IMG_5262

That is not to say we weren’t tempted to stay indoors and enjoy the view from our room – but the coast was calling. Some of us remembered to grab a raincoat to stave off the shower … and some of us chanced our arm and wore a heavy sweater – which is still drying out from the drenching it got.

IMG_5268

Standing on the edge of this small island with the offerings of a free facial from the soft sea spray, transports your mind to another place. The whipping wind, the waves rumbling in and out – heaving and groaning, and the clouds taunting us. Quiet, cool, calm, noisy, damp, wild, fervent fury ….all the senses kicked into full gear. We were ready for the evening that laid in store for us. Or so we thought.

IMG_5270

 A race back up the 1,500 steps .. ok, it was only 150 on the way down, but trust me, if felt like 1,500 on the way up!, we popped into the dining room to see if the room was being readied and to steal a peek at the menu. We chatted with a few of the employees about the scenery, the setting, the food etc. and all of them appeared well up to speed on the #GourmetGreenway and the #WildAtlanticWay.

Many restaurants/hotels do not spend enough time sharing pertinent details with their team. So many times we have been invited to an event, to help promote an evening or food product etc. and once we start quizzing the crew – we are met with blank stares – they sometimes have no idea how to answer the questions.

Someone at Mulranny has spent time talking to their team. Hats off to you guys.

IMG_5264

The menu looked ambitious. To me, that always means there is a huge chance it might not be as good as we want it to be but there were a few things on there that peaked my interest and certainly whetted the appetite. First up was a butterscotch Sunset Ale from Clew Bay. Not a bad way to start ones supper!

IMG_5266

As the gourmets gathered in the lounge, we were all a bit mesmerised by the way the clouds had started to dissipate and in typical Irish fashion we all became fast (new) friends with having the hot topic of ‘the weather’ to break the ice.

IMG_5274

Little tufts of bog heather dotted on crisp linens and candles glowing led us to our table where the fun was just about to get underway. We were warmly greeted by Dermot Madigan, hotel GM, who you’d befriend immediately. Polite, professional and well rounded in the hospitality industry – we had loads to chat about with him.

IMG_5277

 I am not going to go into a course-by-course blow on this blog post, because I think the images tell enough of a story. I would not have shared them on Instagram or Twitter were they not plate-licakble. There were one or two small things I would have done differently and I have already sent an email to their chef (Chamila Mananwatta) sharing those details with him.

One wonders how a man from Sri Lanka ends up running the show at a gorgeous hotel in County Mayo.

” … Yes I am very far from home but I fly home at the end of the year to see my family when the hotel closes for a few weeks over winter. I found Mulranny when I was still working in Dubai at the Sheraton and had seen a newspaper advertisement looking for chefs in Ireland. So I applied and was selected. Now I have been in Ireland for seven years and am also an Irish citizen too …” 

 

IMG_5279

I was killed wondering what he topped the very lightly baked and beautiful bay oyster with. Every bite of it tasted like more please .. the textures married so well together I, and my dining mates, were all sad there was only one.

When I asked him to tell me his secret ingredient he was so generous to share the details …

” … The crust on the Oysters was called Celtic crust, which was invented by myself using Kelly’s black pudding, which I dried ……. and I mixed it with soft fresh garden herbs and a Japanese bread crumb. The basic appearance on the oyster you ate was to remind you of our sandy beaches all messed up with seaweed during low tide on the shore… “

Someone, please, give this guy a book deal. I want his words, describing my bites of food that he has prepared, to whisk me away.

There was also a quenelle of fresh bbq salmon on that same plate and it was meshed together with shaved marinated crunchy raw fennel. Sweet mother … it was just gorgeous.

I wondered was it all his former jobs that had given him an eye for detail and passion for plating his food in beautiful ways …

” … I was influenced by my Mum. She has incredible, hands on, Sri Lankan spicy curries and home cooking skills. I was compelled to join the Ceylon Hotel school in a professional cookery course and started my carrier as a Culinary student in Sri Lanka …”

 

IMG_5281

Plate after plate and even a bottle of beautiful fresh mint and melon slushy (mint picked from outside the lobby entrance) graced our tables and I assumed he had a food stylist back there in the kitchen helping him set the scene for each cleverly presented course.

” … No. All plate presentation is done by me. I want every single plate (there were 80 of them!) to look identical. The first plate must look exactly the same as the last plate…” 

Hey – I live with a control-freak-chef … I hear ya. The littlest detail can throw you off sometime.

 

IMG_5284

All but tantric moments were had at the table when the sea trout came to be tasted. Murmurings of pleasurable food noises rambled in waves around the tables and everyone wanting to know where the trout came from and how it was so so fresh and fabulous. Alongside it came, for me, the Pièce de résistance. …a pickled (raw) potato linguine. It can only be described as bloody genius .. here’s an Irish-passport-carrying chef from from Sril Lanka showing us all a new and delicious way to eat our spuds.

” …Yes, the raw potato dish was created by me. Normally I make something similar using carrots instead of raw potato but this time I decided to try the potato and it worked out well. You can try it with apple… “

IMG_5287

As the courses came to an end, the lights dimmed, the sun set and the candles burned brighter, we sat back in our chairs and reflected on the experience we had just had.

Chamilla and his team came to the dining room and received a massive bula bus from the sated crowd.

” … Yeah. I love to cook and make people happy. I listen to their comments especially on my creations. The feedback is important. Every single dish I prepare in the kitchen, gets my full attention on presentation, flavours, textures, consistency, colour combination, seasonal and nutritional balance all the while trying to  use local products from the surrounds. This area of  Mulranny, Newport, Westport and Achill is brimming with a beautiful bounty, and with the application of modern cooking techniques, well, it is all beautiful food…”

IMG_5289

Tanya Whyte and John McGee from the local enterprise office from County Mayo, both gave beautiful (short n’ sweet) speeches on the importance of small businesses supporting each other.

” … The authenticity of flavours was reflected beautifully from the selection of the regional food chosen for the evening and served as a true testament of what happens when people work together on a project such as the #GourmetGreenway…which has highlighted the magic of Mayo – unlocking the beautiful hidden potential that we all know this county has…”

“…The ability people have to work together, providing value and support, to nurture and encourage growth is evident here tonight. A little bit of leadership leading to world class excellence in a very small small part of the world on the west coast of Ireland. Everybody wants a #Greenway…”

Ain’t that the truth! The good news is there are plans for extending the Greenway. Stay tuned!

 

IMG_5291

On the way back home to Galway, we stopped off for a caffeine hit – because we totally overslept (until 9am!) in the amazingly comfortable massive bed they had forced us to slumber in for the night … and were delighted to see our friend Aran McMahon (of Rua Café) hustling and bustling around his shop readying himself for a very busy Friday lunch. They offer a tiny little nugget of traditional shortbread with all their teas and coffees. Something you never see at Starbucks lads. Pure class – right there in Castlebar.

IMG_5296

When we got home, we unearthed a small care package the GM of Mulranny Hotel had sent us home with. A loaf of bread and pot of jam. The children, just in from school, have not stopped licking their chops since. Truly a delicious little break-away from work and school.

How lucky are we.

Now – down to business. You too can also get away for TWO nights (you lucky ducks) Bed & Breakfast plus dinner and a bottle of wine for one of those nights – all courtesy of the folks at Mulranny Park Hotel.

All you have to do is leave a comment in the box below letting me know the following:

A.   Where is the Mulranny Park Hotel?

B.   Where is their Chef from?

C.   What is the #GourmetGreenway?

As per all the giveaways we do here on our WiseWords blog … make sure you are a registered subscriber to our blog and you can sign up right here for that. You can also pay them a visit on Facebook – to stay informed on other giveaways they will be offering … or on Twitter … they are great fun over there too!

(The get-a-way is restricted to mid-week as they are crazy busy at the weekends with weddings etc.).

Best of luck! I will be using the ‘And the Winner is’ app to randomly select a winner … and I will let you know by early June (just check back here on the blog in two weeks) who gets the prize.

My recommendation to y’all is this. If you win the prize, then pay for a few extra nights and make it a family (or lovers) getaway for the summer.

I hope my WiseWords have conveyed how special this place really is. It should totally should be on your bucket list.

That’s all for now … I am just finished my first work placement stint and am getting ready to move on to the next one … so stay tuned! AND – there are a few more fabulous hotel givea-a-ways lined up for the next few weeks …. so sharing is caring guys n’ dolls xx

Those are all the WiseWords I have for today,

WiseMóna

AND – the winner is: Sarah Curtis. Huge congrats Sarah. Start planning now!

Sarah Curtis

May 5 2014

{Event} Blue Teapot Theatre Company

Posted by     12 Comments    in The Snug

imageThe Blue Teapot  Theatre Company

Silkes, Munster Avenue

Galway

(091) 520 – 977

Admin@BlueTeapot.ie

 

Girls smiling

 

Just around the corner from Kai café sits the Blue Teapot Theatre Company. The two lassies in the above photos are not only neighbours, they are friends and have joined forces to raise some money for the next drama production the Blue Teapot Theatre will produce for the Galway Arts Festival – it’s called ‘ID’.

From July 16, 2014 to July 26, 2014
Blue Teapot Theatre, Munster Avenue, Galway city

iD: identity                 iD: intellectual Disability

‘Who do you think I am’.

iD experiences the world as seen through the eyes of people with intellectual disability and also questions our perceptions of identity along the way.

The world premiere of iD will be unveiled in the Galway Arts Festival this year. This innovative and entertaining new work is conceived & presented by the actors in collaboration with Director, Scott Williams and Dramaturg, Gavin Kostick.

 

 

 

Jess Murphy, always wearing her generous heart on her sleeve, heard that Petal (the director of the Blue Teapot Theatre) had just launched a Fundit campaign to raise the necessary funds for their new show and she jumped in with both feet. How about a pop-up dinner at the theatre?

The folks at the theatre were only too delighted to get a bit of help, and even a bit shocked, because no one has ever proposed such a thing before and the Blue Teapot Theatre has been around since 1996.

Photo: by Reg Gordon

Photo: by Reg Gordon

So first things first folks …  ask yourself ‘do you have a few extra pennies, dimes, dollars, euros or pounds to spare?’ If so then please help support this FundIt campaign – especially those of you living so far away you can’t make it to the pop-up supper on Friday May 16th 2014.

LOGO BTP

If you want to be part of the fun and attend the pop-up dinner on Friday May 16th, 2014 then have a look at the long list of people who are only too happy to donate their time and their food and wine. We are most fortunate to live in a city (and country) that is bursting with generosity. If this does not whet the appetite I am not sure what will.

All goods – save but a few tiny items like plates and linens – will be donated for the evening and Jess hopes to raise close to €6,000 for the Blue Teapot Theatre company.

Helping Jess out in the kitchen for the evening is Enda McEvoy – Galway’s first and only Michelin star chef. Enda was kind enough to jump in (also with both feet) even though he is in the throes of gearing up to open his own place slap bang in the heart of the city – LOAM. Stay tuned on this one, it is sure to be delicious.

You can watch a little video chat with him and Jess right here.

Also lending Jess a hand is Louise Bannon of NOMA (listed again recently as the best restaurant in the world) .. she is in town for the Ballymaloe Literary fest and is making a little time to dish up a few tasty plates with her mates. These chefs are quite the force guys. They get.shit.done.

louise bannon

Louise Bannon – NOMA restaurant

Aran McMahon from Café Rua will start of the evening by serving Rhubarb Belinis to the crowd and  Kevin Powell – noisemaker at Gruel Guerrilla and famous for his pop ups in Dublin with News of the Curd – too is donating a helping hand with service for the evening.

Although killing himself on the campaign trail, Seámus Sheridan also took a few minutes to join in the fun and is lining up the wines for the night with Enrico Fantasia from Grape Circus. This is always the fun part!

Eric Morton

There will, of course be bread – which Morton’s of Galway are only too happy to donate …

Ron Wise - Morton's of Galway

Cuinneog are donating important ingredients like cream, butter and sour cream …… Tony Garraha from Lough Boora Farm is donating all the fabulous greens and floral edibles needed for the menu – which is going to resemble a midsummers night meal .. There is talk of a beautiful beetroot salad, a fresh fish ceviche and of course Brady’s butcher in Athenry has donated all the meat.

I can only imagine ….. it all sounds …… delectable.

Urban Grind - header café sign exterior (1 of 1)

Padraig from Urban Grind (also in the neighbourhood and eager to meet y’all) is donating the exquisite (3fe) coffee …. I could use a cup right now … and incase that does not sound like enough … didn’t Seámus Sheridan come back and offer to donate the cheese to wrap up the evening …

The evening will be captured by one of my favourite photographers Reg Gordon and if you are able to attend this event, make sure you find him and say hi – aside from being incredibly talented, he is one heck of a nice guy to donate his time and talent to this event.

So there you have it … a list of people all offering to donate their time, money and food in the hopes that you will come and fill your bellies with a fabulous five-course (with wine) dinner on Friday May 16th, 2014.

Click here to donate or pick up the phone and call (091) 520-977 to book your place for the pop-up kitchen at Blue Teapot Theatre.

Thanks folks … t’is not often I ask for your help and as usual we have something to sweeten the pot … Ron and I cannot attend this event as we are tied up with a work thing already that evening but we are happy to donate our two tickets (worth €150) to a lucky reader.

Here is the kicker … you have to be subscribed to our WiseWords blog (sign up here) and because this is a time sensitive event and fundraiser, we are asking that you donate at least a few euros to the FundIT campaign. We will pick a winner on Tuesday evening (May 13th) giving you plenty of time to organise a babysitter or a taxi .. because I am sure this is going to be a fabulous night out in Galway.

Just leave me a comment down below letting me know you have already made a small donation and I will throw your name in the hat and we will join you for the cheese course!

That’s all for now folks … thanks for tuning in.

WiseMóna

 

 

May 2 2014

Does Galway have what it takes to claim the title as Ireland’s Best Food Destination?

Posted by     5 Comments    in The Snug

WIseMona Foodie Town

You bet your sweet ass we do.

Watch this video first … it serves as a nice reminder of how passionate the locals are about the thriving food scene in Galway. We are also very passionate about the thriving Beer scene in Galway but will have to leave that for another day.

Screen Shot 2013-12-19 at 11.22.31

The Restaurants Association of Ireland, in association with AdMailer.ie from An Post, are on the search for Ireland’s premier foodie destination.

I  need your help.  Click on the image below and vote for Galway – please.

Foodie Towns graphic

AND … because you helped me out – this is a little reminder to stay tuned. Just like last summer, we will be hosting a few FABULOUS summer giveaways right here on the blog so you can pack up, get away for a few days – and head WEST!

Maybe a couple of nights right here in Galway at The G Hotel or a few nights at Mulranny Park Hotel in Westport? Just as long as you are a registered reader of our blog – you will be in with a chance to win. There are a few other places lined up for later in the summer too … I can’t wait to blog-all-about-them.

Now- back to the voting ….. anyone can vote so share the link with your friends and family

PLEASE help us put Galway on the map!

THANK YOU!!

Have a lovely weekend … we have a nice long one here on the island with it being a May Bank Holiday weekend. No plans really … just the usual chasing after four kids to keep us busy.

WiseMóna

 

PS – if you have any trouble with the voting page .. please let me know via the comments section down below or via twitter or email me at MonaZWise@gmail.com.

 

Apr 18 2014

Creative Cheese Works {Giveaway}

Posted by     22 Comments    in Kitchen


You are not going to believe me when I tell you that ‘Cheese making’ is incredibly easy.

cheese kit

A little milk boiled to the right temperature is the key ingredient and that is pretty much all you need. Well, that and a bit of vinegar (or rennet once you get serious about this) and away you go; The world of cheesemaking is yours.

Another item crossed of the bucket list so-to-speak, because I know many of you daydream about making your own cheese all the time. I’ve made my own butter - that was just as easy. I even made flavoured butters. One with Nettles, and even a bacon butter. Yep – a piece of cake.

A couple of months ago we received a message via Facebook  from Yvonne Hollidge at Creative Cheese Works asking if we would like to try a cheese making kit. Kit? Are ya kidding me? We do not need a kit!

But I had a look at her website and I really liked what I saw. I’ll be the first to admit I love nice packaging and this kit comes in a dark hunter green corrugated cardboard box. Everything was wrapped and presented beautifully and this would make an excellent gift for Father’s day, I’m sure and for anyone who might just love cheese.

Yvonne is doing her best to educate people as to how easy this cheesemaking really is. She is on the road doing demonstrations around the country at festivals etc. and also in schools. She is passionate about teaching, and wants to encourage everyone to try their hand. So much so that she has give us a free kit to offer one of our readers.

You really want this … you need to prove it to yourself that you can make cheese – for once and for all.

Once you get your kit you can whip up a batch of soft cheese in a few hours.

This kit uses full fat milk and makes up to 10 batches.

The first time we used the kit we made a delicious black pepper crusted soft cheese which the kids inhaled in seconds.

Homemade cheese

Since we are officially on the cheesemaking bandwagon – we have made several different soft cheese’s and are now graduating onto the blue cheese – more of a challege but really looking forward to trying this.

The one thing we are loving is the shelf life – if you can keep it hidden from the kids that is. The cheese is mild and will ripen and strengthen in firmness and flavour if you leave it (wrapped in greasproof paper) in the fridge for a week or two. When you tuck into it after a few weeks maturing … it is begging for a glass of wine, a few olives stuffed with anchovies and a long weekend lying ahead of you. It’s that kinda distracting cheese.

Now – if you are ready to get your cheese making hat on, I suggest you leave a comment down below (we will ship worldwide) and let me know why you have finally taken the plunge and are ready to make your own cheese!

Herbed cream cheese en croúte 3

Maybe you want to make this gorgeous (baked) Rhubarb Cheesecake and you just know it will tase better if you use your own creamy cheese?

Rhubarb Cheesecake slice and whole

 

Or maybe, you are ready to finally learn how to make n’ bake a kick ass macaroni and cheese dish but know that there is no point in even attempting this unless you have all the right ingredients … such as homemeade cheese?

Rasher Mac' n' cheese 1 small

I’ll pick a winner on April 26th, 2014 ….

Comments in the box below. Tell me your cheese woes.

That’s all for now folks,

WiseMóna

 

and the winner is….Peggy Falbo! Congrats to you now send me on your details and I will get that cheese making kit out to you in the post.

image

Apr 16 2014

Achill Mountain Lamb

Posted by     No Comments    in Kitchen

Achill Lambs 3

A few weeks ago I got an email from an old friend of mine. She put me in touch with Helen Calvey of the Calvey Family Farm on Achill Island, who is helping out on the marketing and social media end of things for the family business whilst she is on maternity leave.

I’ll be the first to admit it – there is no rhyme or reason to figuring out what motivates me to write a blog post. Ordinally, and most writers would agree, one would love to have the luxury of waiting for the inspiration to waft in willingly – then I could drop everything and allow the words to spill endlessly onto the keyboard; Sadly that almost never happens.

But when it does … it’s a great feeling. For me sometimes all it takes is a Tweet from a Mum suffering from #babybrain. As a mum of four – you have my total attention and empathy; Rock on Mama – this too shall pass.

 

Achill Lambs 2

 

I was immedialtey interested in having a chat with Helen because she bounced across the social media pages and landed in-person at our front door to drop off a small sample of their lamb so we could taste for ourselves. The proof is in the pudding as they say and and the taste has lingered with me since.

Incase you are wondering – we did very little cooking to the gorgeous piece of meat they shared with us. The rack was small and butchered beautifully into two (3-bone) chops. A quick season and sear on both sides to brown them for less than 5 minutes, a spoonful of mustard topped with fresh breadcrumbs and finished in a very hot oven for 12 minutes.

There was fingerlicking at the table. I am not ashamed.

Lamb delivery box

So, nosey me, I set about drafting a few questions for Helen to see if I could get a bit more information on what makes Achill Lamb so different to other Irish Lamb. Here’s what Helen Calvey had to say:

Helen, how are you involved with this whole operation?
My parents own the business so it is fair to say I help out when required. I am concentrating on Achill Mountain Lamb at the moment as we are undergoing a process of expansion. I guess I have been roped in as I have skills from my MBA which complement those of my siblings and father. (It is also handy that I am on maternity leave from my “real” job!).
 
There has been a tremendous amount of interest in our unique artisan product of late so I have assisted with social media, press releases and photo calls as well as taking some shots myself (she took the ones of the lambs and her Dad).

   When it looks good raw .. you know you are in for a treat.

How is business? Fifty years is a long time to stay afloat – what’s your secret?

The key thing is my father’s passion for what he does. When he started in 1962 there were 23 other butchers/abattoirs on the island. Today he is the only licenced abattoir within a radius of 30 miles.  Back in the 60s he saw an opportunity to sell his Achill Lamb to the growing number of tourists on the island and butchered and handcrafted it so it would fit in the boot of their car. Today we see the grandchildren of the original customers returning for their own carcase so that they can savour the true taste and flavour of Achill.
 
Our farm is central to all other family business.
 
From this trade my parents opened a Restaurant in the 1960s which specialises in Achill Lamb. I guess rearing a family of 10 children was also a motivating factor to remain in business and be a successful businessman. Through the years he believed in his product and perfected it. He constantly re-invested, continually upgrading and complying with tougher and more stringent  EU regulations.
 
His flock is also central to the success of Achill Mountain Lamb. It is a pure Mayo Blackface Breed. It has been our tradition for many generations and we have never crossed it with any other breed. This type of sheep and lamb thrive on the unique Achill terrain.

Lamb Instagram

How does the taste differ from sea-spray lamb to say, a piece of lamb from the mid-lands?
We can thank Mother Nature for this. Achill is blessed with purity in its water, air and mountain. The prevailing wind on the Island  has travelled thousands of kilometers across the Atlantic and with it, it brings the sea mist and salt which is deposited on the mountains and sandy banks of Achill. This salt runs through the veins of each sheep and lamb. To produce a unique quality lamb product the flock must be treated with respect. The environment will influence this. Our Achill Lamb roam freely on the wild atlantic way and are just a short distance from our Abattoir. If a lamb is bred well and treated well on Achill, mother nature will take care of the rest.
 
Achill Mountain Lamb is raised solely on a natural diet of Mothers milk together with wild herbs, heathers, grasses, mosses and lichens. We breed our lambs to give high quality lean carcases, healthy pinky red in colour, firm deep texture, with light skim of yellowish fat ensuring a unique specific delicate succulent flavour when cooked.
 
Farm fresh and free from any additives,colourants or preservatives.

(I’m actually getting hungry just reading Helen’s response)

 

Wine (Shiraz) Instagram

 

Do you sell the lambs whole or do all the butchering yourself?
We sell the product bespoke as per customer requirements. We can handcraft the whole carcase or leave it whole or halved depending on the customers preference.
 
If someone wants to buy a whole lamb – can you give me wholesale prices  – we know a lot of restaurant owners/chefs who are always on the look out for a nice bit of (whole or) butchered meat. 
This would depend on time of year. Really our season begins mid-July . The lambs we have now are trade lambs due to their size ( All 2013 lambs not quiet a year yet). These lambs are over 20kg.T rade lambs need to be above 15kg. For this reason prices may vary.
Minimum prices for a carcase would be 150 euro. Obviously wholesale prices would depend on volume etc. We would be delighted to engage with any chef/restaurant that was interested.
Hopefully you will be recommending us :)

Oh – this was not a difficult one to feature on the blog Helen. What an excellent product.

Are you using a courier service? How much is a typical shipment cost for the island of Ireland?
We use a courier for Achill Mountain Lamb. We include this in the price of the carcase. Once the season begins a carcase delivered should be approx 99.00 euro. This will arrive packaged and ready for your freezer. The whole carcase will fit easily into a common 3 door freezer. Lambs for the household market are usually lighter than trade ones and weigh approx 12-15kg.
…………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………….
……………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………

Achill Lambs 1

It’s not difficult to see why I was interested in sharing this with you all. There is so much more to the story than just a few ‘lambs for sale’. We live in a very ‘get-rich-quick’ kind of world and I think sometimes people need a little reminder that slow and steady wins the race. For quality of product and quality of life. Thanks to Helen Calvey for taking the time out of her busy schedule to have a chat with me.

It seems like Achill Island is a place we should all aim to visit this summer. With Failte Ireland’s recent launch of the Wild Atlantic Way (watch the video!) I see no reason to travel abroad this year . . . staycationing all the way for us.

Have you been to Achill Island recently?

WiseMóna

Apr 10 2014

Education Matters

Posted by     No Comments    in The Snug

Quad

Hi there …

Just a quick hello and brief update on where I am hanging out these days. College classes are over and I have completed three quarters of the MA in Journalism at NUIG. I have still to hand in a 15,000 word Thesis (not due until August) and I also have to complete a work placement experience – which I will be graded on too.

Education-Matters-logo

The first work placement I have undertaken as part of the course is in the national office for  Education Matters – their HQ is conveniently located on campus here at NUIG. If you have never heard of them, you can pop over and have a look at their website right here. They produce an annual publication (A professional handbook of Educators in Ireland) – this is  a useful tool for teachers and parents.

Say for example, if your little Johnny wanted to study medicine in college next year, then you could pick up a copy of this book and have a look at the who’s-who in Education … I am not encouraging helicopter parenting, but I’d be lying if I did not say I was  interested in finding out a little bit more about the teachers who are currently teaching my kids and the ones we have yet to meet.

Twitter - April 8th 2014

I, along with my college colleague Caroline Duggan, will be blogging and Tweeting and sharing links over on Facebook  regarding all things EDUCATION.

Facebook - April 8th 2014

If you have an interest in this topic – and I think most pepole do – then pop over and have a read. The first post we launched yesterday is all about how teachers can foster creativity in the classroom and how they have inspired their students to go forth and be fabulous.

We have hot topics lined up to review with all the readers – I’d love to hear your feedback on many or all of them.

Why? Because Education Matters …

WiseMona

About Móna
I am a native Galway girl that seems to be drawn to professions that rhyme with 'err'. Writer, Mother, Restauranteur, Wedding Planner, Dishwasher, Grass cutter, Cocktail maker. I suppose you could say I am a well rounded entrepreneur.
You can find me here
  • Contact Mona
Ron Wise About the Chef
You can't find the Chef here.
You might as well just come visit.
He prefers face to face communication.

From The Kitchen

Cauliflower duo
Starry Night Aidan Coughlan 2 Graveyard
IMG_6080
IMG_5455
IMG_6480
IMG_5785
eCar at Claregalway Castle - July 2014
Blackberry Bourbon Old Fashioneds
image
Nettles 1
Galway Film Fleadh
IMG_5365
20140523-083005-30605261.jpg
soft cheese mini image
Achill Lambs 1
Screen Shot 2014-03-25 at 11.36.04
mccambridges-galway
Asian crop
MWMUM
SONY DSC
Blackberries
Back to school Blues
untitled-1-2-1
Peach Pie Slice
WiseWords Logo Black:white

Buy the Book

The Chef and I

SHE WRITES, HE COOKS, THE KIDS MAKE A HUGE MESS

Click Here to Purchase

Best Food & Wine Blog (2012) Best Photo Blog (2012) Best Blog of a Journalist (2012) and Best OVERALL Blog (2012)

blog awards ireland

Top Food Blog

Top Food Blogs

Archives

Sound Cloud