Summer is in full swing here in Galway. Our little city is heaving and groaning under the weight of holidaymakers as they fill and fuel our city for the annual Galway International Arts festival.
This week, we were the lucky recipients of an electric vehicle! It’s only for a three-month test drive period and there is a small competition attached to it. Renault Ireland has teamed up with GIY Ireland and they are working together to help promote the notion of cleaner greener living. Renault has provided electric vehicles to four recipients dotted about the island and GIY Ireland has handed out several growing projects to us drivers and we have all agreed to share our experiences to the best of our ability online and in person.
At the end of the 90 days, one lucky driver will get to keep their car. Can you say ‘in it to win it’?
Needless to say the competition is fierce.
If you want to keep track of it, so you can enter for next year, then link up with them here on their Facebook pages – GIY Ireland and Renault Ireland – and follow them on Twitter @RenaultIreland and @GIYIreland
It is not everyday you get the chance to win a shiny new car!
The first thing we noticed when slinking off into the sunset on day one, and it as just myself and himself, is how deliciously quiet this car is.
No sound at all from the ignition when it starts up…just a little green light indicating it is time to click into drive and ‘Go’.
The range is 80km – 110km depending on:
a. how fast you are going,
b. how much weight you have in the car,
c. if the windows are rolled down,
d. whether or not you are charging your iToys…sheesh…
I was starting to panic after the first 5km thinking we would not make it home across town on a busy mid-week afternoon.
But we did, and then some.
ESB came out to the house a few weeks ago and installed a charging point for us, and we have already seen a massive savings to our weekly spend on diesel as the Renault Fluence costs only €2 per full charge/80km and if you are charging it away from your home…it is free. Yes. No charge at all public access points.
Our first real jaunt in the car the next day took us from Galway to Rossaveal (80k round trip) as we headed to the Aran Islands (Inismór) for the day on an EcoTour.
The day was lovely and the desire for a cleaner-greener lifestyle is slowly being churned out on the Islands. I’m looking forward to following their progress over the next few months…but that story will have to be a separate blog post.
As we headed back home we decided to stop at The Twelve Hotel in Barna and met up with a friend of ours for a drink and a chat while the car charged.
Two points to note here:
1. It takes ages for the car to charge. This is not like pouring petrol at the pump guys and dolls. At least an hour for a 1/2 charge. Don’t be in any hurry.
2. The charging points were very easy to find (and easy to use) but guess what? There was another non-electric vehicle parked in one of the charging spots. I did not take a photo of the car/licence plate this time …but I reckon if I come across another one of these I’ll be naming and shaming…..
Once we made our way back to the house, and to be fair we trucked along at speeds of no more than 100k as that is the speed limit on the road, we both felt that this first little jaunt was a ‘safe’ one and we will be a little more adventurous next time….there are several apps to guide us to all the charging stations around the country and I’m on the look out for ‘fast charge’ charging points in Galway. Do you know of any?
We spent the evening grinding up a bit of Turkey meat now stored in the freezer and I’ll be posting a recipe for Turkey Jambalaya in the coming weeks. With all the birds we raise for the table around here (Chickens, Ducks, Geese, Guinea Fowl) I have to say Turkey has the best flavour and the volume of meat produced from one bird makes raising them very worthwhile.
Righto….that’s all the news I have for now. We are headed out for the evening to see our friend over at Bía Oisin … He has a few seeds and seedlings to give us for a few of our growing projects. Wish us luck….The kids are already complaining about all the weeding they will have to do!
Fun for the whole family and all for free – right here in Galway.
With school holidays in full swing I am guessing that ‘Mom, I’m bored’ is a commonly used phrase in many homes around the island. Keeping a brood of children occupied for eight weeks of school holidays can be a constant challenge. While we are all too familiar with all the activity camps kids can avail of during the summer, coming up with the money can pose as a challenge for many families.
Keeping the budget-conscious family in mind, I met up with Jill Holtz, co-owner of www.MyKidsTime.ie, to get her advice on ‘things to do for free in Galway’ and she was more than happy to recommend a few of her favourite places. Many of them are perfect day-trip locations so get the picnic basket out of the attic and enjoy the summer holidays right here in Galway.
A fairy walk at Knockma in between Claregalway and Tuam is a great way to start the summer holidays. The enchanted circular walk through Knockma Woods is magical. It is rumoured that Queen Maeve is buried at the top of Knockma Hill and Finnbheara, the Fairy King of Connacht, is also said to have built his fortress among the moss-covered rocks and trees. There are several fairy forts at the top of Knockma and, on a fine day, the view from the top is gorgeous. Make a stop at the Fairy stall at the Saturday Market in Galway first and bring along a few fairies to surprise and delight the little ones.
Coole Park, now a nature reserve, is one of those densely wooded walks you can take even in the rain. The paths are well maintained for buggies and there are even (very basic) toilets along the way. Once the home of Lady Gregory, dramatist, folklorist and founder of the Abbey Theatre with William Butler Yeats and Edward Martyn, Coole Park is one of those places that reminds us of our heritage. Stop down to the lake for a few photos of the swans before finishing up at the Coole Park Museum, and if time allows pop in to their cafe for a bit of Blackberry crumble. Make a creative day out of it with the kids and encourage them to write little poems about their ‘day at Coole’.
A walk in foggy woodlands, leads to the swan-filled Lough of Coole.
A pause in hectic living, a break from work or school.
Nourishing the Mind, the Body and the Soul,
A glimpse of Irish living, the park in which we stroll.(by Móna Wise)
Have you taken the bikes (or buggies) to Portumna Forest Park yet? Covering almost 450 hectares of land, this is an excellent day out. The forest offers many habitats from lakeshore to turlough and the kids will be able to spot a large population of fallow deer. Other species, pine marten, fox and badger, might be a little more difficult to find but they will have no trouble spotting the red squirrels that also call the forest home. There are four looped trails in the park and one of them (1.4km) is a multi-access boardwalk trail suitable for all. There is also several little bird watching areas so bring the binoculars.
How about a day at NUI Galway? Start by taking a few minutes to burn off a bit of excitable energy over at millennium park – suitable for all ages with the skateboard area in the back – then make your way, via the new suspension bridge, to the Dead Zoo, located on the ground floor of the Ryan Institute. The animal specimens showcased here can be traced back 160 years.
Next stop should be a visit to the Computer and Communications Museum of Ireland on the first floor of the Insight Centre for Data Analytics at NUI Galway. This museum is open to the public from 10:00am – 5:00pm (on weekdays only) during the June – September period. If you want a guided tour you should book in advance otherwise you can just walk in and have a look around. Website: www.ComputerMuseumIreland.com
While still on campus why not take a walk afterwards (or bike ride if you have the bikes with you) all the way up along the river to Dangan sports grounds. There are picnic tables at your disposal or if it is a rainy day you could always pop in to the Dangan Tea rooms for shelter.
Geocaching has been around in Ireland since late 2003 and the older kids will love this modern day technology-guided treasure hunt. Geocaching is just like a traditional treasure hunt, but instead of using a paper map with an X marking the spot, ‘cachers’ use a GPS to locate the position of the treasure on the earths surface. First, to find out what Geocaching is all about, click on their website at www.GeocachingIreland.com and get familiar with where all the treasures are hidden, then download the Geocaching App, create an account and then get out there and have fun. This is something you can get hooked on very quickly and, as it is a global game, you can even go geocaching on your next holiday. The really cool thing about this activity is that you can connect with your friends too!
If planning a drive out Connemara way, why not slot in a trip to Coral beach in Carraroe? Also known as Trá an Dóilin, this is an area of great natural beauty. The beach is lifeguarded and has public toilets open during the summer months. There are a lot of rock pools to explore along with good snorkelling and is usually less busy than the city beaches. Even on a rainy day, a walk on the coral sea shore is a real treat. The kids can gather a few interesting pieces to use as a decoration in their room – a lovely souvenir of summer.
Let’s go fly a kite, up to the highest height! That is entirely possible if you take the kids to Renville Park this summer, or anytime of the year. Whether you decide to walk out along the point or decide to do the inner loop through the woods, making the mandatory stop in the walled in playground, it is highly recommended you spend the day at this park. With built in BBQ’s and on site toilets (port-o-lets right now as they upgrade the loos), Renville is one of those places every family loves to visit and it affords kids of all ages the freedom to ride their bikes, rollerblade, and fly their kites.
Salthill is still a favourite of many families, be they tourists or natives. Aside from the fact that there are immaculate blue flag beaches safe for swimmers of all ages, you can also find three Fáilte Salthill Family Activity Trails available to download (for free) at www.MyKidsTime.com/3-family-trails-to-enjoy-in-salthill-galway. The three trails are designed to make it easier for parents to plan a family day out in Salthill, with each trail being a loop featuring family-friendly activities, restaurants and cafés, shops, nappy-changing facilities and playgrounds. So, find your bucket and spade and head to the shore.
Free ‘First Wednesdays’ – The Office of Public Works continue to offer free admission to Heritage Sites managed by the OPW. A list of all sites you can slot in to your exploration calendar can be found at www.HeritageIreland.ie. The Galway locations are well worth a visit and include Athenry Castle, Aughnanure Castle, (Oughterard), Dún Aonghasa, (Inishmore, Aran Islands), Portumna Castle and Gardens and Patrick Pearse’s cottage (Inbhear, near Rosmuc).
While it is virtually impossible to take advantage of an entirely ‘free’ day, a little bit of organisation can go a very long way when planning day-excursions with the family. Packing a picnic and having plenty of bottled water and a bag of apples or fresh raw veggies on hand helps avoid impulse buys to placate a hungry or thirsty child.
You will most likely experience some form of travel costs, whether you have to pay for petrol or use public transportation, so factor this in to your budget too.
Spending more time with the kids, outdoors allowing them limited access to their communication toys, as many of these areas are dead-zones, can give you all a break from the depths of the doldrums most kids sink into by their second day of school holidays. No sense in bailing on your plans if it rains either, just get the wellies and raincoats out and make the most of it.
We have our health insurance coverage through Aviva and I gotta tell you, I have never had better health insurance; not in the US nor in Switzerland. This summer, Aviva are running a competition to give a lucky family a €2,000.00 vacation voucher and they asked me to share a link to their FB page. Have a peek and throw your name in the hat. You can follow them on Twitter using this hashtag #AvivaSummerFocus and @AvivaIreland and the link to their FB page is right here .
‘For the chance to have family fun this summer, check out this great competition by Aviva Health: You can enter to be in with a chance to win a €2,000 family holiday voucher to celebrate our great offer: Children aged 5-17 cost only €150 on Hospital Focus from 1st August-30th September 2014 – that’s a saving of 58 %!’
And remember … Sometimes we plan and plan and plan and a lot of times, especially with kids in the mix, things don’t go according to plan. I have found that the less the kids are scheduled during the summer months, the happier they are. Spend time with the kids this summer….focus on them first and the fun will follow.
AND as I am still trucking along on work placement at the Connacht Tribune they have offered to advertise (for FREE) any events you might have popping up over the summer that cater to the whole family. Drop me an email if you have something exciting happening in your neighbourhood at MonaZWise@gmail.com
Thanks for reading along.
I am not even going to try to hide the fact that this is a press release down below.
If you are wondering which movie you should go see during the Galway Film Fleadh .. this one is right up your alley if you are working in the service industry or just happen to enjoy your wine. Read all about it … then as long as you abide by the rules down below you can enter a drawing to win TWO TICKETS to see the movie AND thanks to our good friend Peter Boland at Cases Wine Warehouse over on the Tuam Road in Galway, you also will get to drink the wines. Perfect way to spend a Wednesday evening methinks!
I know … I know … I know …. another giveaway … Galway peeps … we love ya …
‘Somm Night': Wine tasting with Master Sommeliers at Galway Film Fleadh
The 26th Galway Film Fleadh, in association with wine merchants Cases Wine Warehouse, are delighted to present an innovative sensory screening of Somm, a unique documentary which takes the viewer on a humorous, emotional and illuminating look into a mysterious world—the Court of Master Sommeliers and the massively intimidating Master Sommelier Exam. This will be the first festival screening of Somm in Ireland.
On Wednesday 9th July at 8pm, ticket-holders will sample wines as they are discussed on the screen, in the Veranda Lounge of the Radisson Blu Hotel. The screening will be preceded by a brief introduction to the wines from Peter Boland of Cases. Somm has won multiple film festival awards and all the wines set for tasting are top-end examples of their style so the night should prove a thrilling experience for wine lovers and film buffs alike.
Somm is the story of four friends attempting to conquer an exam with a failure rate of 90% – the prestigious Master Sommelier Exam. This is a test that can cover literally anything to do with the entire world of wine and that’s only the beginning of the challenge! In over fifty years, fewer than two hundred people have ever earned the title of Master and the ones who succeed have risked their personal lives, their wellbeing, and often their sanity to achieve this feat. Known for its secrecy, access to the Court Of Master Sommeliers has always been strictly regulated and cameras have never been allowed anywhere near the exam until now.
Tickets are €30 including wines. Spaces are limited so early booking is recommended. Further information and ticket booking is available at www.galwayfilmfleadh.com.
AND – the very (very) generous Peter Boland from Cases Wine Warehouse has just given me TWO TICKETS to offer our readers for this event next Wednesday, July 9th, 2014.
Throw your name in the hat by leaving a comment below … the usual rules apply:
1. You must be a registered reader of our blog – signup here for that and
2. Tell me why you want to come see this movie
3. AND also tell me … where is Cases Wine Warehouse?
I will pick the winner at random on Sunday evening (July 6th) … and that will give you enough time to get your ducks in a row.
Thats it for now folks … may the 4th be with you … sorry … could not resist …’tis the 4th of July after all!
Spanish Arch, Galway
(091) 567 865
Earlier this year – the folks from Thai Garden participated in the Galway Food Fest.
Watch their little video here. It is just gorgeous.
If Trip Advisor is anything to go by, and let’s face it, they do have some serious clout when researching restaurants and hotels online, then there is no reason not to put Thai Garden on your list of places to eat next time you are feeling peckish in Galway.
A few weeks ago, after having spent the afternoon Geocaching with the kids, we ended up at Thai Garden for supper. Taking the kids to supper in town is not something we like to do often and there are many reasons for this.
The first being that they are still at a fairly rambunctious age with all four of them ranging in age from 8 – 13. The second reason, already cited in the first, is that there are FOUR of them, and the third reason … possibly the ‘real’ reason we leave them at home, is that they are little savages.
I’m not kidding. That whole ‘encourage your kids to eat everything from a young age’ – what a bad bad idea. You end up having kids sit at a table in a restaurant ordering anything and everything – then eating it all and never given the kids menu a look. This gets expensive. Fast. Multiply it by four and you’ll feel my pain.
They must have felt sorry for us when we arrived as I was trying to hold on to one of the friskier ones by the ear, in order to prevent him from knocking over one of the tables as he tore through the main entrance way of the restaurant right off the Spanish arch, kind of opposite the fast food Mexican joint, Boojum.
As soon as we were seated outdoors – right on the Spanish Arch, they brought us an ice cold bottle of French white wine. Normally I look at the wine label and even glance at the price before sampling … but the sun was shining and the wine, which Tariquet Classic at six euros a glass, was fabulous.
The menu was a little overwhelming to be honest. They first gave us a menu that was like called ‘Gup Glaam’ which just means Thai Tapas and every single one of the items on that sounded delicious. Ron and the kids were getting antsy so he ordered a bunch of items – most of which I never got to try because (a) they were starving and (b) they were all delicious.
I did manage to try the BBQ Shrimp which had a massive amount of white pepper in the sauce and that was interesting, unlike any BBQ sauce I have ever tried actually, and I’m determined to make it at home myself. Ha ha .. no, just kidding. I am determined to get my husband to make it. I will come back to you with a recipe for it though – it was that good.
Chicken wings, Calamari, Summer spring rolls ……….. excellent flavours, fresh and cooked perfectly. Each portion all five euros. Well worth it and I’d even venture to say that this would be plenty for any of the smallies in your family. They were overly cautious on asking us about the spiciness of everything – but we assured them we could all handle the heat. Every bite was seasoned perfectly.
While we were all enjoying our appetizers, the (very attentive) waiter kept coming back asking us for our order. We were intent on just chilling for the evening but I got the impression he could feel the tidal wave of business they were about to get slammed with and he just wanted to get our order in to the kitchen.
We were hemming and hawing quite a bit over what to order and in the end, a little exasperated and I’m sure he would have loved to Reverse Yelp us!, he just asked simply if he should place the order for us. He made a few quick suggestions which included beef, fish, chicken, prawns and the rest of the evening was just glorious.
The above dish, was a family favourite and we will be going back to have this again and again. Fried sea bass with a spicy chili oil. WOW…still licking the fingers here. The only dish we did not care for was the Prawn Pad Thai.
I was sad about this because I love a decent Pad Thai and as far as I am concerned the best on in the city is from Asian Tea house. I think Thai Garden could benefit from popping in to have a bite of theirs and try to improve their own. The noodles were too soggy and the there was no fresh slivers of onions or other fresh veggies and the sauce was just very bland.
But don’t let this stop you from going because everything else was worth going back for.
The service staff were zipping all around the place in fervent fashion by the time we were ready to go, and we fully intending to skip dessert and head home, but the kids were tempted by the fried Banana … yes – it was good, and the frozen orange sorbet – which we are making at home this weekend – because it was just incredible.
So in a nutshell … this is a grand place to go for supper with your loved ones. The folks there are so nice, and have given me a gift certificate to share with our readers. Dinner for two plus wine.
I’m going to ask you to sing for your supper.
A little rhyme please letting me know why you need a little treat. I’m going to pick the winner so make it good!
Thanks for reading along and brace yourself … Schools out for summer!!
Dunmore residents give us the dish on an old delicacy
by Móna Wise
15 June 2014
(Originally published in the Connacht Tribune on Thursday 19th June 2014)
Dunmore Demesne golf club looked fabulous in all its summer glory as I wheeled my way through the Galway countryside last weekend.
Larry McGuire and Anne Reddington, owners of Galway Goat Farm based just outside Dunmore, had made a recent discovery of Bog Butter and curiosity got the better of me. It was easy tempt me to make the hour long journey out from Galway city to see it, and even taste it.
Butter, it seems, is quite a common thing to find in the bogs of Ireland. Over 274 instances of bog butter has been recorded between 1817 to 1997, and several more since then. A recent find in 2011 of over 45 kg of bog butter found in Tullamore, County Offaly, thought to be 5,000 years old.
A few weeks ago, when taking a walk down in the bog, Anne’s brother, Michael, happened upon this small wheel of butter and phoned his brother-in-law Larry, straight away. Larry, being familiar with all things dairy, due to the fact that he milks his goats daily, raced down the bog after them to check it out.
“They were gone ahead of me so I tore off in the van down the road after them. I had heard of other people finding butter in the bog, but was curious myself to see this. It looks like it had been wrapped in some kind of leaves, maybe cabbage, and there was lots of moss and maybe a bit of straw wrapped around it too.”
The tradition of burying butter in the bog dates back centuries with their even being a poem by London poet, William Moffet, written (in 1755) to describe how much a part of every day life this was:
“But let his faith be good or bad,
He in his house great plenty had,
Of burnt oat-bread, and butter found,
With Garlic mixt, in boggy ground,
So strong, a dog, with help of wind,
By scenting out, with ease might find;
And this they count the bravest meat,
That hungry mortals e’er did eat.”
The reference to garlic comes from the fact that a lot of the butter might have been wrapped in wild garlic, it certainly grows a plenty in this part of the world, but this particular stash had a very mild scent and certainly no trace of garlic essence to be found.
“Gurteen, the area where we are now” said Larry, was predominantly poor land years ago, with not much around here except a massive oak forest. The area was hard hit by the famine, and due to there being so much bog land around here, there would have been very poor grazing land for cattle around here, so it is hard to tell why the butter ended up being stored right out here in the middle of the bog.”
After Larry unearthed the butter, weighing more than a kilo, it was surprising to see how intact the butter still was. The texture crumbled easily enough like a dry waxy cheese, and although quite odourless, it had a mildly rancid flavour, something that can only be described best as ‘really old waxy unsalted cheese’.
While some forms of bog butter found are meat based made from tallow, it seems more plausible that this one is dairy based as the colour still leans more towards yellow.
Larry and Anne have a call in to the curator of the Galway Museum in the hopes that they might come out and have a look at it and help them identify a timeline for their find.
In days gone by butter was considered a luxury item, and it is really no different today as it is one of those items that carries an ever fluctuating price. In the past, because it was always deemed valuable, that reason alone made it worth hiding. As none of the butter found in recent times in Irish bogs have been known to have salt in them, the best conclusion we can come to is that this was buried, wrapped in leaves, moss and grass, in the bog as the only way of preserving it, pre-refrigeration days.
The mystery as to why it was buried so far removed from any form of dwellings even ancient ruins, remains a mystery we hope the curator of the Galway museum can answer.
One thing is certain though, preserving a fabulous food-find right here in Galway is vital to us finding and revealing a lot more of the gastronomic details of our ancestors daily diet.
Who needs a fridge for butter with the bog nearby?
Our cultural landscape
There are many theories behind the burying of butter. A common tactic in war was destroying the enemies foodstuffs, ensuring a famine, so butter might have been buried for reasons of security and defence, so this find might indicate a sudden attack or flight of the people who stored it.
Another theory is just a practical farming one, in that the cattle were released to graze in greener pastures during the warmer months and the butter was made and stored nearby.
Why the bog?
Peat bogs provide a cold and wet environment with virtually no oxygen circulating in its muddy depths.
The build up of plant materials over thousands of years creates highly acidic conditions making it perfect to preserve many items including food and even bodies. Whilst we have butter in our bogs, many other countries have buried and re-discovered other food products such as eggs in China, ghee (clarified butter) in India, cheese in Italy and even milk in Norway.
A piece of bog butter found in Rosmoylan, County Roscommon, was discovered in wooden barrel with a selection of plants like ‘sedge’, ‘wheat grass’ and ‘hypnum’ a type of moss. All three of these types of plan materials were commonly used by people to stuff their mattresses for bedding, with the Latin word ‘hypnos’ even translating to the mean ‘sleep’. It is lovely to think of the Irish milking maids of days gone by wrapping up their wheels of butter and laying them down in the bogs for a nice long sleep in the bog.
Thanks for reading – if you are in or around Galway this week, then keep an eye out for this weeks Connacht Tribune on Thursday 26th, 2014. I have a two-page spread on fun activities ALL FOR FREE ….. a cut out and stick on the fridge piece to help keep the kids occupied (and not break the bank) this summer!
T: +353 91 865200
“Welcome to the g hotel Ron & Móna – we hope you enjoy your stay” – That is what the note said when we checked into the g hotel a few weeks ago for a night of deliciousness.
Over the last five years, we have dined at the g hotel a few times, and to be honest, the food has never wowed us. We usually left feeling underwhelmed and certainly not feeling like we had just had a five-star dining experience. I had heard from several of my food-loving friends around town that the food was alright – but nothing to write home about. The national food critics come and go annually it seems and give it great kudos – nice hotel, decent menu, a bit pricey but worth it. So I have carefully avoided writing about it – until now.
The g hotel is the only 5 star hotel in our city and I think they have done an excellent job of selling their brand; everyone knows what it is, and where it is but it has developed a reputation with the locals as ‘pricey’ and even ‘a special occassion’ place.
There is no question that this place is pricey at €120 per person (a special rate on their website for an overnight accommodation with a three-course dinner & a leisurely full Irish breakfast the following morning) and I am happy to report, if you are saving your pennies for a nice night or two in the West this summer, then look no further. It is worth every penny.
The capabale crew at the G Hotel checked us in and guided us to our room in a flash, in the middle of what appeared to be a chaotic Friday afternoon of hotel check-ins.
After having a mooch around our room, we took the halls and meandered around the hotel trying to get a feel for what Philip Treacy was thinking when he put pen to paper, or brush to easel, when he began designing the look and feel to this funky hotel.
Bright colours – neon lights and carefully chosen pieces of art decking the halls, walls, and windows throughout the hotel led us to believe that the main objective for anyone staying at the G Hotel should be, quite simply, having FUN.
Whilst meandering around the lobby, through the grand salon and on past the bar, we stumbled upon the restaurant service crew in the middle of a staff meeting. They were enjoying a sampling of several new menu items …………..
and as luck would have it, I had my camera
surgically attached with me so was able to grab a couple of quick shots of the food and the dining room before the hustle and bustle of the evening took hold.
The crew were all quite relaxed and were eager to tear into the meals they were drooling over. In typical food blogger fashion I asked them to all hold a plate closer to the window so I could shed natural light on a few of these delectable dishes .. before the sun began to slink away for the evening. They were only too happy to oblige.
Shortly after that, we traipsed back up to our room to take a long hot bath in the gorgeous soaking tub then bolted downstairs for cocktails and dinner. We met up with another couple
also impossible to please and we all deliberated on menu options for much longer than was necessary. The drinks whetted the appetite … a delicious selection of top shelf Bourbons, flights of whiskeys and the piece de resistence … Galway Hooker – on tap.
Our waiter Stephen, who looked like the guy who chose the short straw and got stuck with the worst customers ever, informed us that he was not being punished … he assured us were were randomly seated in his section. One rocky table got us of to a dodgy start (a big pet peeve of mine) but he fixed it in a flash, giving me no reason to start griping. Attention to detail and the ability to understand customer’s body langauge is a skill many restaurants managers, and customers, wish to see in the service crew.
One of our dinner guests eats an entirely Gluten free diet and we were all delighted to see that a GF beer featured on the drinks list. It would be nice to see more GF beers on restaurant/bar menus, especially in Galway where there is a higher rate of people afflicted with Celiacs disease. The menu at the G Hotel offers several (I mean way more than any other restaurant I have ever seen) GF items. They even have ‘AGF’ written beside a few items – which means just ‘ask’ your waiter to see if the chef can make it GF. I gotta tell you guys n’dolls … I’m seeing a #hastag already circulating in my head – #GlutenFreeAtTheG
Their willingness to cater to customers who cannot tolerate gluten in their diet, is commendable.
The food (with or without gluten) was excellent, and a few of the dishes even exquisite. A starter of scallops with pea puree and small pieces of fried black pudding, could only have been improved had their been one more scallop – and no black pudding.
I think now is a perfect opportunity for this to be stated .. the’ black-pudding-on-everything’ days, needs to come to an end. I am not sure which Irish chef thought this was a brilliant idea, as it has been going on for at least 8 years now … but it is time to let it go. Were it to catch on on a global scale, it would have happened by now; It hasn’t. Black pudding’s place is best left at the breakfast table. It otherwise just ruins a perfectly delicious dish. And this is coming from someone who likes black pudding. Imagine how the folks who hate it feel?
The Kinvara smoked Salmon plate was not only a beautifully presented plate, it had ample (tasty n’ tangy) dressing to go along with it and the Beef Carpaccio (below) whilst looked ah-mazing, fell a little short on flavour but nothing that could not be tweaked in a flash for the next time. I don’t know about you, but when eating raw beef, the holy trinity of raw garlic, olive oil and parmesano reggiano are essential to the success of this beautiful appetiser.
Moving on to the main event, we had toyed with the idea of ordering the châteaubriand of beef but at €99.00 for two people, we decided to table it for another time. I’m happy to say, that there is no need to splurge … the rest of the choices were fabulous.
A trio of lamb all teased and tender, tempting my dining mates all to steal a bite from my plate served with buttered and grated cumin carrot and (almost) baby-food like mashed potatoes, could not have made a girl happier. I can’t tell you the number of times I have had Lamb or beef presented ‘3-ways’ on a plate only for it all to taste the same. This was like eating three very different pieces of meat and every bite so memorable I am dying to go back for the exact same dish again.
The Fish was no slouch either. Nestled atop a bed of oxtail stew and dressed with small bites of baby potatoes and carrots, the only complaint I heard was a pining for more of the oxtail. Plate licking might have occurred here were it not for our uber efficient waiter Stephen, who reminded me what it was like to experience a high level of 5-star service for the evening. We didn’t need a thing; carefully present but never annoying kind of service.
The Rib eye (sadly not on the bone) was also a huge hit as was the gluten free fish and chips. It is safe to say at this juncture that all portion sizes were perfect too. Nothing to big or small, enough side dishes/salads to sate us all.
By the time the tea arrived, in solid sterling silver service pots with fresh Assam tea leaves steeping, we were entering into a food coma. A few sugar addicts jumped on the dessert train and this is something you should save room for too. A GF hazlenut parfait, eaten so fast there is no photographic evidence of it, went down a treat, as did the above Rhubarb dessert. The pastry chef at the g hotel really does know how to make the end of a meal sing.
The next morning … whilst some laid on in bed for an extra snooze, I stole away to the eSpa for a bit of reflective time – just for me. I am so rarely left alone these days (with four kids, it is nigh impossible to have ‘me time’) so I treasured every second and might make this a regular stop on my ‘places to relax’ in Galway from now on.
The upstairs relaxation lounge is lovely, to be sure, but the hot stone loungers in the Thermal Spa suite, is where I was able to totally drift back into a second state of slumber … trust me y’all … don’t be waiting for a special occassion. Life is too short. This was a real treat.
By the time I meandered back downstairs for a lazy weekend brunch, I was delighted to see such a fabulous breakfast menu available to those of us that turn their noses up at the breakast buffets.
I mulled over my options, but as himself had already ordered off the menu I decided to chance my arm at the buffet and have to tell you, it might be the nicest breakfast buffet I have seen in an Irish hotel (save for the one at Gregans Castle). The only complaint I had here was that they were not bragging about the locality of their food. I already knew the Salmon was from Kinvara … but would have loved to see a little sign stating that.
Over the last two or three years I have declined so many invites to attend events at The G Hotel because it is difficult for me to stand (or sit) around pretending that the food is great when it is not. But these guys were persistent in their efforts and kept coming back to me inviting me in for this and that. Timing is sometimes very important. We were delighted to have had a very possitive experience and although there were a few things that we could call ‘a bump in the road’ we shared our thoughts (a long letter detailing all that was good and all that needed tweaking) with the management, who were delighted to get the feedback, we are confident that their new menu will attract a whole new line of local customers. The G Hotel is so much more than a special occassion place; It is a vibrant part of the dining scene in Galway.
Pauline Reilly, who has headed up their kitchens for the last few years has moved on to greener pastures, so now the g hotel have a new chef running the show. Paul McDonald, hailing from Glasgow, Scotland, has recently taken on the role as head chef at the g hotel. Paul has worked at many fine establishments, including his former role as Head Chef at ‘Wilde’ restaurant in the 5 star Westbury Hotel Dublin, where he worked alongside the hotels Executive Chef, Thomas Haughton.
At just 21 years of age, Paul received his first Michelin recognition, a Bib Gourmand, and that same year was appointed Head chef of Dublin based restaurant, ‘Bleu’. He then went onto work with some world renowned chefs including the UK based Aidan Byrne, the youngest chef in the world to receive a Michelin star.
As a highly motivated, ambitious and passionate chef, Paul’s philosophy is “I like to think outside the box with my food”. He is focused on continuing to build on the success of the g hotel while engaging with artisanal suppliers in order to source the freshest and best of locally produced foods. In the creative chef’s own words; “I want the g and Restaurant gigi’s to be at the very fore front from every perspective. Essentially, we aspire to design cutting edge dishes that will challenge peoples taste’s and culinary horizons. In addition, we are dedicated to building a reputation for presentation that will mark us as the standard bearer for everything 5 star not only provincially but nationally.”
And the winner is ……
Now, down to business and probably the part you have all been waiting for.
How would you fancy a two-night stay at the g hotel for yourself and your bedfellow? As they are slammed busy this season, the giveaway is restricted to mid-week nights but as with a lot of our other giveaways, I always suggest you add on a paid night or two and make a real holiday out of it. Staycation all the way guys n’ dolls. This is just a great way to breakaway to the West for a few days.
First, make sure you are a registered reader of our WiseWords blog … sign up right here and then answer these questions in the comment secion below:
1. Where is the G Hotel?
2. What is my husbands name?
3. Why do you want to come to Galway and stay at the G?
Play nicely guys n’ dolls … the winner will be chosen at random on July 4th, 2014.
Those are all the WiseWords I have for today.
Couples who cook
By Móna Wise
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.
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.”
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.”
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.
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.”
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?”
“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.
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.
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.
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.
That’s all for now folks.
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.
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.
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.
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,
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?
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.
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
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- The Gaiety Antique and Vintage Store in Galway – showcasing Annie Sloan Chalk Paint on
- The Gaiety Antique and Vintage Store in Galway – showcasing Annie Sloan Chalk Paint on
- The Gaiety Antique and Vintage Store in Galway – showcasing Annie Sloan Chalk Paint on
- The Gaiety Antique and Vintage Store in Galway – showcasing Annie Sloan Chalk Paint on
- The Gaiety Antique and Vintage Store in Galway – showcasing Annie Sloan Chalk Paint on