Oh. What a can of worms we open when we pose this question whether here at home in Ireland or abroad.
Are there too many chefs in the kitchen to allow our national food identity to develop into what could be a wonderful Food Island culture? And before you get too excited .. we are just talking about Irish Food here … not Irish cuisine …. that is a whole other can of worms.
Every menu we peruse these days we are confronted with global influences sneaking on to our plates. Coconut milk replaced with rich Irish cream or olive oil on the table for dipping your bread in instead of a knob of Kerrygold.
Three years ago I attended a food bloggers workshop hosted by Bord Bia at their HQ in Dublin. They were asking Irish Food Bloggers to work on our SEO and food photo ‘tagging’ to help improve the over all image of Irish food to the world. A fair request one might say, because lets face it, the image the world has of Irish food is still all cabbage and Guinness. With the exception of one of my fellow food bloggers Zack Gallagher and a couple of American lassies (who are living/working/blogging/eating in Ireland and really know their SEO) the image of Irish food (on Google) is controlled online by Bord Bia, and a few other large corporations. I can’t say this excites me ..
When we asked the kids last night what they would like to have for dinner on Paddy’s Day (March 17th every year and it is this Sunday) we were bombarded with requests. We tried to reject several of their requests because they were not ‘Irish’, or at least what we feel ‘Irish food’ should be.
They think, and I believe they are right, that Irish food is what they eat every day because they are living in Ireland. Be it bacon and cabbage with boiled and buttered spuds or chicken curry with coconut milk. If it is (mostly) produced and made here on the island … then to them, it is all Irish. Ya gotta love kids for keeping it simple.
So I picked out a few photos of whats been gracing the table here at Chez Wise recently and whilst the Chef and I try to keep it interesting … we never consider it to be very ‘Irish’.
What do you think?
Christmas 2012 … not very Irish. Gingerbread ice cream sandwiches .. Pumpkin muffins … Peppermint macarons and a Gingerbread house ….
Ok – all Irish here. Arctic Char fished right out of a tank at a local fish farm a few miles from our home in Galway.
Sushi … all fished right off the coast of Galway Bay … can’t get more Irish than that. Ok – the origin of the cucumbers and lettuce is unknown.
Carrot cake …. with cream cheese – Our own carrots from the poly tunnel and cream cheese frosting from Kilbeg Dairy (best ever Mascarpone cheese). Irish enough for me ….
Irish carrots, Irish butter and Irish honey … all local. all delicious.
Irish butter … Irish egg whites for the icing … no such thing as irish sugar or Irish food colouring so I guess these are just wishful thinking … and incase you missed it – the decorating on these beauties was done by a local food artist (Gail Porter) and I blogged about our recent rendezvous with her right here and now, if you are in Galway, you can buy her cookies right here! Go buy some for your family. They look as good as they taste and she can customise the be-jessus out of them for you.
Ah yes … Barley blinis with smoked Mackerel … the fish is Irish, so is the sour cream but the Barley flour is from the UK.
Bold beautiful Beetroot (and apple) soup … all Irish. Why are we not seeing this soup in Irish restaurants?
More Barley … with Irish broccoli, Irish carrots, Irish onions, Irish salad greens.
Ha ha .. so we know the rice and bean sprouts and chilli paste are not Irish … but the egg, chicken, spinach, broccoli and peas are!
Again … if I had my way with the setting of the Irish Food menu … this would be the national salad of Ireland. Not only does it look very inviting … it tastes fabulous all year round. All Irish.
Again .. with our fish supplies on the island we are blessed … and onions grow like weeds they are so easy to cultivate and care for.
Mostly air and egg whites … the kids call this white cake.
Irish scallops, Irish bacon … some kind of Asian sticky sauce with onions and sesame seeds.
Custardy egg quiche … all Irish except for the flour for the pastry. Can’t believe there is no Irish flour to be had.
Spuds and eggs. Otherwise known as a Spanish omelette … but really just a potato and egg supper.
A family favourite .. grow them almost all year round … twice baked sweet potatoes. With Irish onions, Irish bacon, Irish sour cream … Irish cheese.
(French) Onion soup … not very French at all…
Our New Years Eve party snack … left over spuds (potato cakes) with left over ham …
Brisket … one of the most beautiful pieces of Irish beef … yet no one really asks for it at the butcher shop or knows how to cook it.
We can, quite easily, grow all of these onions. No basle .. virtually disease resistant. And they have huge cancer fighting qualities. Eat.more.onions.
Ok … no question its Irish right … eh, no .. wrong actually. Not even brewed here (for now) and the ingredients are not all Irish either.
My whole point to this picture blog is this …
Irish food is everywhere. If your mantra is, like ours, to buy local, you will see that it is not impossible to make a good 65% (if not more) of your diet .. all Irish and all delicious.
Irish cuisine is in its infancy however. We do not have a long and rich gastronomic history like the French and we do not have the familial food fanfare that the Italians celebrate daily. We had a poor and strange affiliation with ‘thick milk‘ before the potato arrived and once we started to eat and depend on the auld spud .. well we know how that ended.
If we are ever to change the image of how the rest of the world perceives Irish food … we need to love it for what it is and make sure the generations to come are growing, cooking and eating real food … and not looking for a green McShake on Paddy’s Day.
Support your local community by buying and eating local (organic when possible) foods.
Happy St. Patrick’s Day to you all xx
PS – if you want your pretty Irish food photos to show up on Google you need to place the word “Irish” in the main title of the blog post. All I ask is that you please make sure it looks good!
Galway’s City Centre Boutique Hotel
Lower Merchants Road
The Latin Quarter
+353 91 538900
This is a doozy folks. I know y’all are probably getting sick and tired of all these fabulous hotel giveaways but you know when we get the opportunity to share something fabulous with our readers … I can’t help myself. I could of course just use this myself … check in for a night or two with the Chef – take a break from the kids. .. enjoy the peace and quite of the hotel and then write up a quirky blog post about what a gorgeous place it is and how much fun I have had there … and what would you get out of that? Nothing really … maybe a bit annoyed that I got the nice experience and you got your nose rubbed in it?
Nope – not me. I like to share. I like it when people come to visit my home town and more than anything I love making sure that they have a great time. This hotel, and their carefully appointed crew, will make sure that you have that kind of experience when you come.
So now you have the chance to stay at The House Hotel in Galway. Up for grabs (details at the end of the post) is two nights bed & breakfast (for two people) and dinner on one of those nights. Arriving on (holy) Thursday March 28th and enjoying gorgeous Galway and the Galway Food festival for two days and two nights … .
A wee blurb on the hotel :
The House Hotel is Galway’s leading city centre boutique hotel is home to the most popular of Cocktail Bars and trendiest Relax Lounge. With only 40 bedrooms this boutique hotel is warm, chic and prides itself on excellent customer service and a warm ‘Galway’ welcome. The rooms are chic, quiet, intimate and oozing in comfort, perfect for any visitor whether it be to enjoy Galway’s Festivals, for business meetings, or simply to relax in the City of the tribes.
Perfect for those romantic weekends away, or a fun filled break with the girls, The House Hotel offers it’s guests the ultimate in relaxing surroundings midweek and is now renowned as the place to be seen on a Saturday night! If it’s cocktails is you’re looking for then there is no need to go any further. The House Hotel mixologists are among the best in Ireland – many representing their country last year in destinations such as New York and Paris.
Sip on one of their fabulous Pink Champagne Mojitos, sit back and relaxing in the stunning lobby bounded by pieces of art that will take your breath away.
Located in the heart of Galway’s Latin Quarter everything is quite literally on your doorstep.
All that promotional jargon above is true. But the real reason you should WANT to stay here is simple and will come as no surprise to you. It is the people. From the minute you set foot inside the hotel you will be taken care of. The hotel is tiny so this affords the employees to remember who you are and what room you are staying in.
Over the last four years, whilst I have been toiling away at NUIG trying to get myself an education, I have sought refuge on their cosy couches and they know I like bottomless pots of black tea and free wifi. They also know how I like my dirty martinis when the Chef and I step out for a night on the town and they know that we like to sit by the window in the summer to people watch and by the radiator in the winter with glasses of hot port.
They don’t take notes and keep journals of all their guests likes and dislikes – they just do their job and offer the warmest of Irish hospitalities … the way it should be.
Ok – the nitty gritty.
Visit their page on FB please and say hi. This will double your chances of a win.
Leave me a comment finishing this sentence ….
I want to stay at The House Hotel in Galway over Easter because ……..
Please note that many of you (already registered as avid readers and commenters here on WiseWords) are automatically entered to win as soon as you comment down below – but those of you that are not registered to receive updates via email are not … so make sure you register right here. It is free and relatively painless.
AND … it also ensures that you will be kept informed about all the cool stuff happening in the West .. and I know you do not want to be the last to know.
The lucky winner will be chosen randomly on Tuesday March 12th 2013, giving you plenty of time to plan your get-a-way to Galway!
OK – get cracking!
Those are all the WiseWords I have for today,
AND THE WINNER IS :
I like to test the theory ‘you can’t teach an old dog new tricks’ from time to time .. especially as ‘the old dog’ aka my handsome Chef, knows
everything quite a bit about cooking and baking. A few weeks ago I noticed a few images flitting about on Facebook and I clicked my way back through the myriad of friends that had been ‘liking’ the images to a very cool landing page of LizzieMay’s Cakes, Cookies and Cupcakes.
There was a few images on her page that made me think of my dear friend Paula over at VanillaBeanBaker blog . And I thought ‘bummer . . another highly skilled cookie decorator that – probably – lives on the other side of the world’.
Except this highly skilled cookie decorator lives right here in Galway and only a stones throw from us really. I sent her a message tout sweet (ha ha) and asked her if she could come out to the house and give us a lesson on ‘how to decorate cookies’.
Gail Porter, owner of LizzieMay’s Cakes, Cupcakes and Cookies got back to me straight away and was only too delighted to oblige.
At the very tender age of 30, Gail decided to take advantage of being made redundant at her ‘proper job’ with Nortel and followed her passion for food. She enrolled in a twelve week course at Ballymaloe but had no interest in working with sugar or making cakes. I think that is the cool thing about food; whether you like it or not, when you are good at something it weaves its way in to your world and you sometimes end up going down a road you had not planned to travel. After she graduated from her course (and needing to find a way to pay for her education loan) she launched her new business and called it LizzieMay’s after both her Grannies.
Gail arrived out to our house with her, eh, guns loaded and icing whipped and sorted in small little cling film pouches. This made clean up a snap later and I would encourage all of you to do the same should you attempt to decorate a few cookies any time soon.
Explaining as she worked, that the secret to becoming a pro at icing cookies, is first patience, followed by fabulous icing, followed by a steady hand. We had a few (duck) egg whites left sitting at room temperature and whipped up a small batch of royal icing (90 g egg whites/480 g icing sugar) and stood to attention waiting for her tutelage.
The peanut gallery looked on with eagerness. For future reference, this is an excellent way to keep the kids entertained for a while and keeps the kitchen that wee bit cleaner too!
When you want to learn ‘how to’ do something new, it is first best to admit that you know nothing and start fresh.
When icing cookies, start by piping a border using a heavy consistency of icing. By the time you have ten cookies iced, the border icing has set up enough for you to start filling in the rest of the cookie with the flood icing.
Once you have that part done, place the cookies in a fan oven on (almost) zero heat for twenty minutes. This hardens up the royal icing greatly and you can carry on and finish your cookies with a bit more bling.
While Gail worked away on her cookies, teaching and talking away, we gave an icing bag to the Chef to see if he could match her skill.
His cheerleading squad looked on with interest and were delighted that he did not screw it up!
When you remove the cookies from the oven you will have a fabulous hard icing with a beautiful matte finish on your cookie. The No. 1 icing tip is best for piping the border and writing.
But be forewarned folks. This.Takes.Time, and an incredible amount of patience, skill and creativity.
And it gets messy. Learning how to decorate cookies means you are working with sugar and food colouring, meaning you end up having a sweet sticky colourful mess on your hands for the afternoon.
And you know … someone has to clean it all up …
As we were mixing and matching colours I was getting a little confused over which ones were border/piping icing and which ones were flooded – because once wrapped up in little cling film packages it was hard to tell the consistency of the icing. Of course, and because I am so slow to catch on, the answer is easy … the little ones are the border icing (which you use less of) and the bigger ones are the flood icing, which you use lots more of.
A steady hand and the ability to not laugh or sneeze while working is vital .. because one false move can screw up a cookie. In Gail’s line of business you can’t just throw one out if you mess it up half way through the process. She likes to use a damp paintbrush to clean up her messes – but we did not see her put that into action once!
Supporting local business’s is something we strive to do more and more of each day.
Discovering a new local business woman making and baking her product from scratch only reinforces our way of thinking, buying and eating.
We will think of her now when we have a special occasion looming but are strapped for time and still want something real and delicious.
We are going to continue to buy local and support local business’s because we like to – and NEED to – know where our food is coming from. We like to see where it starts and how much work has to be done to the raw ingredients before they end up ready to go on our plate or cupcake stand.
Maybe you are wondering what to buy your Mum for Mother’s day next weekend? (March 10th here in Ireland and UK).
Gail can whip up a dozen cookies with a few days notice and can ship them to you!
Or maybe you want to get something for a client for a special Paddy’s Day party or for an Easter celebration?
Or maybe you will break down and give it a whirl yourself and even let the kids try their hand at decorating a few cookies.
No matter what you decide … there will come a time when you want to buy someone a beautiful gift from Galway and in our opinion this is one of the best places to start – so make a note of Gail’s contact details.
When you are popping in and out to our website (and we are ever so glad that you do) please note we have added a new tab called ‘When in Galway’ and this will make it easier to find all local business’s that we blog about. There are only a few on there right now but that will change over the next few months once I am finished with college …………..
and have a bit more time to tell you about all the Galway Food heroes we have in this tiny fabulous city by the sea.
Those are all the WiseWords I have for today,
Tel : +353 (0) 91564041
Sitting at the bottom of Eyre square, Hotel Meyrick has graced us with her stately presence since 1852. Her doors flung open wide inviting guests to eat, sleep and play, in (what we consider) one of Galway’s most welcoming hotels.
Originally constructed with Galway’s train station, Hotel Meyrick is built using Ashlar Limestone, exactly the same as the Galway Cathedral. Statuesque and filled with more than a century of stories, it is one of Galway’s gorgeous gems.
A quiet spot in town to study, where the wifi and tea flows freely, is not always easy to find. Although the library on campus at NUIG and in town offer quiet places of respite for students, sometimes it is the white noise and clatter of forks and spoons that aid in my choices of where to spend a few hours writing, reading or dreaming.
Taking a small step back in time and treating your Mum to brunch or afternoon tea at Hotel Meyrick would be considered a lovely gift for Mother’s Day (March 10th 2013 in Ireland).
But the greatest gift of all would be a few nights stay here in Galway over the Easter break (March 29th-30th 2013) and that is what Hotel Meyrick has (most) generously given us to share with our readers!
Two nights bed & breakfast plus dinner in their award wining Oyster Grill on one of those evenings. All this … for Easter weekend which falls on the same weekend as the second annual Galway Food Food festival.
So jump in … enter the giveaway and start planning your Easter break in Galway!
When in Galway – if you are looking for a place to eat supper on the second night of your stay I would put this place on your list for dinner and go here for brunch on Sunday. I would also make sure you stop in here to and donate a few shillings to their cause because they are doing tremendous work here in Galway helping people in need and are dependant on private donations to keep food in their bellies of those that are hungry.
All you have to do is leave a comment here on the blog letting us know why you want to come to Galway?
The winner will be chosen at random on my birthday (Saturday 23rd February) so you will have PLENTY of time to plan your Easter break. I can’t wait to see who wins this one and hope it is someone I know!! My last class (of four long years of college) is March 27th … so I expect to be in a deliriously happy mood that particular weekend!
Special thanks to Hotel Meyrick for this excellent giveaway! Pop over to their Facebook page to keep up to date on all their special deals – especially during the food festival and race week in Galway. Special thanks also to my blogging buddy Anne Marie Carroll of Warm, Snug & Fat food blog for the food festival photos and of her gorgeous children.
Those are all the WiseWords I have for today,
And the WINNER is …….
Get a little dirty … and throw a little clay.
Make for a fun filled afternoon … right here, near Galway Bay.
This is not to be missed if you (a) live in Galway or (b) are planning a visit to Galway.
Tight spaces are not my thing. Tight spaces in rooms with no windows are definitely not my thing.
This has got to be one of the smallest spaces in Galway and, in our opinion, one of the best ways to immerse yourself in the City of the Tribes and what our beautiful city has to offer.
Kevin: 086 1620755
Laurence: 086 1020308
Laurence O’Kelly has taught pottery here in Galway for over 35 years and now, with the help of his talented son Kevin, they are launching a few more classes. We feel that this is one of the best ways to spend your hard earned cash, be it for you, or for the kids – or – something to do with the kids.
Here is a wee blurb from their website …
Laurence O’ Kelly
Kevin O’ Kelly
Don’t worry about making everything so perfect in life …. it is in the whimsy and the flaws that we find all the fun.
At €15 (kids) for 1 1/2 hours, or €18 (adults) for 2 hours, you will surprise yourself at what you might accomplish.
New class for kids at 11:30am on Saturday mornings.
Totally mucky, totally worth it.
Sign up. Go play with the clay.
Those are all the WiseWords I have for today.
And always … sublime
I remember my first taste of honey; sticky, sweet and sensational. We had parents that fled the city and bought a small plot of land on the outskirts of Galway, wanting to give their children freedom to play in a field, get lost in a wooded lot or be at one with the sense of calm that can only be found when footing turf at the bog. A word forbidden from our line of daily chat was ‘bored’. Summer holidays were spent careening down the country byroads on our bikes, never knowing where we were going, and yet never feeling lost.
Late one summers evening, one of my brothers and I pushed our bikes past an old cottage down a dead end lane. We knew it led to nowhere but still rambled onwards, wondering if the landowner might chase us out of there if discovered trespassing on his land. As we looped back around, disappointed that we had made no discovery, we came face to face with not one, but two farmers, wondering why we had taken liberties on their stretch of road. In their hands they held a bucket loaded with honeycombs of crackling gold. They encouraged us to eat a chunk of it, right there and then, stating it was ‘the finest’ and we would never be able to buy anything as gorgeous as this Irish gold they held so dear. We rambled far from our homes and took ‘sweets’ from old men that accosted us in their driveway; a shame the world has changed so much that even now, living in the countryside of Galway, we cannot allow our children the same freedom.
That taste of honey is still with me and I must have been only eight or nine years of age. The crunch of the honeycomb exterior, the way the honey clung to my lips and fingertips as I rode my bike home and the crystal clear clarity of the honey as it sat puddling on a plate on the kitchen countertop later that evening; beautiful Irish gold.
Honey is one of the handiest sweeteners to use in the kitchen. We have a rule around here that when a dish does not taste ‘finished’ right before we serve dinner, it usually needs a squeeze of lemon, a knob of butter or a spoonful of honey. When the kids are coughing the winter away we send them to bed with a glass of honeyed water and cinnamon to soothe their chesty colds, and then make sure to double the dose the next morning before they go to school. When it comes to sharing recipes for honey, we did not have to look far at all.
The first recipe is for a breakfast smoothie. This time of year, it is hard to get excited about eating our greens. The garden is still dormant and the salad greens have not started to sprout just yet. We like to blitz up a yoghurt shake for breakfast and a spoonful of honey lends the perfect sweetness to the glass giving a much needed protein boost for the start of the day.
The second recipe is just gorgeous. Cheese and honey are great partners and there is no shortage of recipes out there for you to choose from. Halloumi is an excellent firm piece of cheese to cook with. Honey drizzled upon it makes for a sweet and salty match made in heaven for your plate and palate.
Honey-mustard is something we have easy access to in Ireland. There are several different varieties available to consumers, but making your own is as easy as adding a spoonful of honey to your favourite mustard. Fish and mustard might seem like an odd combination; but it always works. Our third recipe, for a beautiful piece of Salmon is sure to be a massive hit at your next dinner party. When it cooks, the exterior will crunch up caramel-like when using honey and I am certain your guests will be asking for the recipe. Enjoy.
Honey, sweet and steeped in historic fact, should be the natural sweetener we reach for on a daily basis. Up until recently, and maybe a final fallaway from the remnants of the celtic tiger days, manuka honey was all the rage in home and restaurant kitchens. While there is not anything wrong with this honey, (well, the price can be exorbitant), health benefits are mostly obtained when you introduce and keep local honey in your daily diet. Recently, friends of ours in Tipperary (Oldfarm pigs, pork and more), purchased a few hives and they are getting ready to set up their dormant bees for a season of sweet success.
We started to look into how local honey needs to be in order for us to reap the benefits of adding honey to our diet, and that of the children’s, and it turns out that ‘local’ means the radius in which the bee flies. An average hard working bee can fly three to four miles away from the hive covering 30,000 + acres. This is best honey for you to choose; from your neighborhood. It might seem a little strange, but bee keeping is growing in popularity, and now, even the rooftop gardens in large metropolitan cities like New York have hives dotted along the skyline.
Honeyed breakfast shake – 2 pp
This time of year we are itching for the days to get longer and the dreary dark mornings to show a glimpse of dawn before 8:00am. The desire to let our bodies to wake with morning light instead of the alarm clock consumes us and we count the days for the clocks to change so we can spring forward into a newer and lighter season. This breakfast shake will help you shake off the remnants of the winter blues and help get you ready for your day at work or school. It will also help the kids get their day off to a nutritious and delicious start.
What you will need
1 ripe avocado (peeled and stone removed)
2 medium apples (cored and diced)
480 ml yoghurt (Glenisk Greek plain)
80 ml of honey (more if you like it sweeter)
How to prepare it
Cut the avocado into chunks then place all ingredients in a blender and puree until smooth. You can substitute bananas or mangos for avocado if so desired, and a handful of spinach works well in this one too. Pour into a tall glass and garnish with a slice of kiwi fruit or pour over granola for breakfast. This is an excellent way to get your ‘five a day’ of fruits and vegetables and the kids will never know what is in it.
Honeyed Halloumi – 2 pp
Pronounced: Ha-loo-me … one of those bland looking cheeses at the grocery store, and I am sure you have seen it because it is widely available in Ireland. Cut up and eaten ‘raw’ it can taste a bit rubbery (best to grate it) but sliced and sautéed this beautiful salty cheese turns into a right meal maker when placed atop a bed of greens. We find a drizzle of pomegranate molasses or local honey helps this cheese become the showstopper at lunch time.
What you will need
240 g mixed salad greens
1/2 lemon, juice only
2 tsp olive oil
6 slices of Halloumi cheese (1/2” thick)
1 Tbsp honey
1/2 tsp Aniseed, toasted
How to prepare it
Place salad greens in a bowl and toss with lemon juice and olive oil. Arrange the greens on a plate and set aside. Using a non-stick pan, sauté the cheese 3 – 4 minutes on each side in a medium hot pan. Place cooked cheese on top of salad greens. Drizzle with honey and sprinkle toasted aniseed on top. Best enjoyed immediately while cheese is still hot.
Honey-mustard glazed Salmon – serves 2
Mustard and honey …. it would be difficult to go wrong with any recipe that calls for those two ingredients. A few months ago, we received a jar of honey-mustard from a local chef here in Galway (Jess Murphy – Kai Café). At first, this mustard (Moutarde de Montjoie) seemed a little too sweet and syrupy for us to use liberally, so we negotiated it with caution. At first, we drizzled a little over breakfast sausages as they sizzled and were delighted with the succulent results. Since then, we have dabbled and drizzled this sweet sticky stuff on many products and have to say this one of our favourite ways to use it.
What you will need
400 g fresh salmon (200 g per person)
30 g butter, melted to brush on salmon
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp black pepper
1 lemon, (1/2 for juice only, other half sliced into circles for garnish)
60 ml honey
60 ml whole grain mustard
1 Tbsp olive oil
1 red onion (peeled and sliced)
How to prepare it
Brush the (uncooked) salmon with melted butter and sprinkle salt and pepper on both sides. Sauté in a medium hot pan for 4 – 5 minutes on each side, starting with skin side up. Finish in the oven at 200ºF for 10 minutes depending on the thickness of the fish. Do not overcook. Sauté the sliced onion in the olive oil and arrange it on your dinner plate. Remove fish from oven and deglaze the pan (with the salmon in it) with the lemon juice. Add the honey and mustard and lemon slices. If the sauce is too thick then add a spoon or two of water to thin it down. Serve immediately, atop the sautéed onions with the pan sauce spooned over the top of it. A side serving of brown basmati rice would be a delicious accompaniment to this dish.
Do you use honey more than sugar? Do you keep bees?
Thanks for popping in for a visit and I hope you enjoy the recipes.
Those are all the WiseWords I have for today,
These recipes were published in The Sunday Times. (February 3rd, 2013)
Commenting on blogs takes up a lot of my time and not for one second do I feel it is a waste of time. I feel like if someone goes to the effort of writing a thoughtful (or thought provoking) piece and I have taken the time to read it because it interests me …. then it usually deserves a head-nod of some sort.
Another thing that takes up a lot of my time is drafting and writing a blog post of course, because (him) cooking and (me) shooting the food, editing the recipes, re-writitng the first draft because I ‘got it wrong’ (according to my more knowledgeable partner in crime) all takes quite a bit of time. So, I will be the first one to sit around and hope and pray that I get a few of those comments floating about. I have put the work in and I like the feedback.
Now – since my big win late last year and seeing as I hold the title(s) for these blog awards I felt it was time to throw a few answers at all the ‘Frequently asked questions’ I get; and there are many.
Some questions come in the form of comments themselves, which I believe I have already answered. FYI – WordPress tells me I have responded to over 1500 comments on just my blog since 2010. Time well spent, in my opinion.
Other FAQ come in the form of emails and the ones I like the best are from the anonymous faceless trolls that troll the internet looking to start a fight. Needless to say, these are hardly worth a mention, because we cannot highlight from where they have originated, but maybe I will throw a few out there for good measure and to give y’all a giggle.
Incidentally – RIGHT after publishing this blog post … I did get an anonymous comment (I never publish ‘anon’ comments) so I am sharing this with you just so you see that sometimes getting ‘comments’ is not all that exciting.
But moving on from all that, er, drivel??
The most Frequently Asked Question is invariably ‘How do I get more people to comment on my blog’ …
One of my favourite sites (Write-on-Track) gets asked this question all the time too.
So, how do you get readers engaged, keep them coming back to read your blog and (eventually) drop you a minute of their time in the form of a comment?
1. Write engaging (and relevant) stories for your blog. This might seem easy or simple but if you look at the blogs from your peers right now there is a lot of complaining and suffering going on (Ok – we all get the January blues!) and it is just not what I want to read. I am hip to current affairs and what is happening in the global and local news. I watch the news on TV (morning and evening) and read the newspapers online. If you are a news blogger – then I will come to you for the news. If you are a food blogger I will stop reading you if you keep reiterating the doomsday news and blues.
2. Run the occasional give-away. This draws (quiet) readers out of the woodwork and it is one of my biggest delights to see how many readers never miss a blog post. (MailChimp (a free service) tells me I have a higher than average ‘open-rate’ for all our updates received by email. This makes my heart sing! The reports (at first) can be a little daunting because you see how many readers are ‘not’ opening your emails – but hey – only makes a gal work harder! )
On a side note regarding giveaways … I get A LOT of crap from readers about the giveaways. ‘Why are you always doing giveaways‘, ‘you would never have any commenters on your blog if it weren’t for the giveaways‘ … Sigh. yes. I get all this free stuff like Mauviel Copper Pots, Oxo kitchen gadgets, Le Creuset cast iron cookware, and even a few hotel city breaks (including dinner!) and you are right – faceless troll – I should be greedy, and keep it all for myself and just blog about the fact that I have all these goodies and you don’t.
Double sigh. Giving and receiving …. pure joy.
3. Stop trying to copy your peers. There is no ‘real’ formula for successful (food) blogging. It is all in your voice. If you come across as open, humorous, loving, intelligent, caring and have tried and tested your recipes … then readers will find you. One of the ways I knew our blog was becoming popular was people started emailing me questions about the recipes. Sometimes they find an error with a recipe (I totally hang the Chef for these) and others were asking of they could substitute one ingredient for another. They might not have been ‘commenting’ but the readers are there and already eating the food we have shared. On the flip side, if you are a bit cranky or fly off the handle on every trendy topic trying to garner more traffic for your site (because it is relevant in the media ‘right now’) then you need to quit blogging and become a newscaster.
4. Be the expert on only one or two things. David Leite does this so well; He is the expert on Love. I love David’s Bhlag because his stories are filled-to-the-brim about the food he cooks for those that he loves. Do not strive to be the expert on everything. You only dilute yourself.
5. Ask questions. Best to finish the blog post with a weighty question if you want a flurry of comments . . Dianne Jacob is the queen of this. As a matter of fact, if you want to be a better blogger, then just take a few weeks of work, read back over her blog posts (and buy her book) and emerge knowing how to ‘do it right’.
Now that you have a few tips and tricks up your sleeve to garner more comments on your blog – which seems to be what A LOT of bloggers want, I have two questions for you, and this is something you should have already asked yourself.
1. WHY do you want more people commenting on your blog?
2. Once they do actually comment, are you going to respond?
Again, from David Leite …. ‘No comment left behind‘ … RESPOND to every comment please, and for the life of me, do not tell me you do not have time. Turn off your TV and take care of your readers. Engage with them if you want them to do the same.
Those are all the WiseWords I have for today …
PS – and because there was chat of a giveaway … if you are thinking ahead and planning to come to Galway for the Annual Galway Food Festival (you should be!) on Easter weekend (March 28th – April 1st) then please make sure you check back here next week or sign up for email updates.
Hotel Meyrick has VERY generously given us a two-night break (including dinner for two on one night, and breakfast both mornings) for our readers. This is a gorgeous hotel and even those of you living in our beautiful city could take advantage of this one and invite some friends down for the festivities over the Easter holidays. Sign up for email updates right here (and send the link to your friends and family if you do not want them staying with you – ha ha!)
Ah … January. You are cruel and cold to most of us.
Bills piling in from Christmas overspending, and the dank, dark, dull dreariness of winter doldrums lingering too long.
With all the low lying clouds about us here in Galway, you can imagine how fast we jumped at the opportunity to steal away for a night (or two) to the beautiful Fitzwilliam Hotel in Dublin’s fair city. Wow. What a treat we were in for.
St. Stephen’s Green,
Dublin 2, Ireland
+ 353 (0) 1 478 7000
To start with, they have very large beds and bathtubs big enough for two. I know. We are easily pleased, right?
We are too persnickety for our own good to be honest. Upon arrival, we checked in are were faced with the dilemma of where to dine. The Fitzwilliam Hotel boasts two award winning restaurants. Thornton’s being an institution in our capital already, and Citron having just been awarded Best Hotel Restaurant in 2012. In a bout of eagerness and anticipation, we settled on Citron.
Met at the door on the mezzanine level of the hotel by a smiling waitress named Lucie who allowed us to sit wherever our hearts desired. We choose to sit along the right wall, fitted with plush leather banquette seating. We sat side-by-side, enjoying the lack of fussing and fidgeting that comes naturally to a brood of four kids under the age of 11, who were home with their Granny in Galway. God bless Granny.
Lucie came back to review the details of the menu and tried to sway us in the direction of chancing our arm with sampling of rabbit. Now, the Chef & I are not opposed to eating rabbit at all, as a matter of fact, we enjoy the meat quite a bit. But he had spied a trio of beef, and I a langoustine and poussin dish, with a pea risotto to share. All that food seemed like ‘enough’.
We declined her wishes and carried on.
But first a little ‘chips n’ dip’.
Irish readers…think Tayto and garlic mayo and all other readers who might not know what Tayto is . . think potato chips and dip. And …. think delicious. Clever, crafy and cute. Almost a bit too much whimsy for me – but I am a fan of doing laundry, what with four kids and all, so it got me good.
Once the food started to arrive … all small, tidy amounts of food on a plate and nothing looking too large or overly fussed with, we lost track of time. The mushroom capped ceiling of lowlights, the beautiful French Rosé by the glass, the seamless service from the entire team at Citron. Not a beat was skipped and although they took entirely way too much care of us, we never once felt like they were there. For us, a sure sign of exemplary training. Sadly, not something we see much of, so we relished every second.
And every bite.
Until we threw in the towel and begged for our bill so we could retreat back to our room. We could eat no more …
Lucie was having none of it. She had convinced the Chef in the kitchen to plate us up a tiny portion of the rabbit dish she was insisting we try, which we did. It was indeed fabulous and came with a side of pickled pear that we will have to replicate here soon on the blog.
Hands over our ears when she returned to sway the Chef to enter into dessert discussions, we declined and bid them all a good night.
As we had a meeting scheduled for later in the evening, we enjoyed a walk around St. Stephen’s Green before heading back to the hotel. As soon as we got back to our room, we received a call from our trusty friend Lucie, who felt that enough time must have passed for us to have surely changed our minds regarding dessert.
And, shur why not have it sent up to our room.
This (above) dessert is called ‘Strawberry-basil’ soup. If you only go to the Fitzwilliam for a cup of tea … order this one and let me know how it is. The Chef ate every bite greedily and swears it is one of the most refreshing and exciting desserts he has ever had. And he – is a chocoholic!
The following morning, on our way out to go for a walk, we noticed a tray full of gorgeous ‘special and significant’ messages waiting to be delivered to rooms on our floor. It is all these extra little touches that makes this hotel stand out from the others.
Strolling around Grafton street, and enjoying the frosty day for what it was, we ambled along like tourists (which, technically we were as we do not know the city all that well) we found ourselves wishing the kids were with us. Silly, isn’t it. We had only been away for 12 hours.
Dinner at Citron was special. The level of style and service in the restaurant and throughout the hotel is what earns it a five-star rating. The passion the culinary team have on display does not go un-noticed. Lucie’s persistence might have down right annoyed a person on any given day if it weren’t for the fact that she had a cracking smile the entire time, and she believed strongly that these dishes were as good as ‘all that and a bag of chips’.
Lucie – you are a gem of a girl. Well done.
Now – down to the fun part.
The Fitzwilliam Hotel have kindly given us an overnight at their gorgeous hotel, in one of those fabulous big beds, to include dinner for two at Citron with a bottle of wine and also breakfast-in-bed the next day.
We noticed that Valentines Day falls on a Thursday this year and have decided to offer this to our readers as a little token of our love for y’all here at WiseWords.
How to enter:
Leave a saucy comment finishing the sentence:
‘ I want to stay at The Fitzwilliam Hotel in Dublin because …… ‘
AND a small song and dance I know :
you must be a subscribed reader of our WiseWords Blog and also need to pay a visit to the Fitzwilliam Hotel Facebook page to ‘like’ them or follow them on Twitter. If you neither Tweet or use Facebook then let me know and I will come up with a crafty song and dance for you to get your name in the hat,
Trust me, these guys are first class all the way. This give-a-way is open to anyone living anywhere in the world – assuming you are going to be here in Ireland to take advantage of it for Valentines Day weekend 2013.
Best of luck to you – the winner will be chosen at Random by ‘And the Winner is‘ on Sunday February 3rd 2013 and will be posted right here. Please remember that you are entering a competition for a get-a-way for two and you might actually win. If you find that you cannot steal away for the night then please have a deserving person in mind that you can gift this to as a token of your love and generosity. Be nice. Share the love.
Ok – those are all the WiseWords I have for today,
Disclaimer : We were ‘on-location’ in Dublin filming a reality show that will air on RTE in March 2013. The production company we are working with paid for our lovely stay at The Fitzwilliam Hotel. We feel very fortunate to have had the opportunity to stay here are are delighted to give you the same chance. Best of luck and stay tuned over the next few weeks for more goody giveaways.
AND THE WINNER IS – well done Steve!!
3 Daly’s Place, (near McSwiggans)
Woodquay, Galway, Ireland
Phone + 353 (0) 91 44 56 18 / + 353 (0) 91 44 57 34
eMail : LunaresRestaurant@Hotmail.com
Facebook : Lunares
It is no secret that the world of (food) blogging can be downright competitive. I would even go as far as to say that there have been plenty of occasions where bloggers, despite many insisting it is a ‘supportive’ community, get down right nasty.
I manage to steer clear of a lot of it because I live in a small city and to my knowledge there is only one other food blogger in my hometown … she can kick my ass with her words any day of the week.
As a matter of fact, I am sharing this restaurant review with you today because she beat me to the finish-line with her review of Lunares Spanish Restaurant and Tapas Bar in yesterday’s weekly issue of the Galway Advertiser.
Lunares is what I like to call a ‘mom & pop’ shop. It is run by two sisters, Amaya & Virginia Fernandez (both chefs) with the help of Amaya’s husband, Lucho, and their son Alvaro, who handle the front of the house. The exterior is painted in a happy splash of yellow and red, livening up this nook of Galway. They have been open for over a year now and seem to be trucking along just nicely. Open daily from noon (or 1pm) onwards they have quite a decent range of menu items to choose from. With all we have eaten at Lunares I cannot imagine that anyone is complaining about their food, or their service, or their prices. There have only been a few reviews on Trip Advisor and so far – all looking good methinks.
As much as the Chef & I enjoy dining alone when we get the chance, we very rarely actually eat a meal without our kids in tow. This restaurant is unique in the sense that it is a great date night place or equally suitable to bring the whole family. And so we did.
Here are a few photos from our last few visits. If you are not already hungry for your next meal then you will be when you get through looking at these.
One of their house specialities … Patatas Lunares …. lightly fried potatoes with serrano ham, topped with a perfectly poached egg. Note there are two eggs on this plate above because the Chef reckons they do the ‘best eggs’ in town.
This is one of my favourites … Sopa Castellana … think egg drop soup with a chicken and tomato broth. I could dive in right now for another bowl for my supper and be very content for the evening. Note there are four small spoons sharing this massive bowl. No one complained about sharing and they are looking forward to their next Tapas adventure already.
There may have been a few other little snacks for the kids …. like ham and cod croquettes. I have it on good authority that these were cooked perfectly but no-one offered to ‘share’ a bite of these nibblers.
Prawns in a spicy tomato sauce … there is a secret ingredient in this one; you MUST try it.
A bit of whimsy on the wall …
Window seats and soft cushions inviting us to linger longer at the table ….
A bit of kitsch to remind us not to take everything so seriously and just kick back and have a bit of fun ..
A reminder that it is two women running the kitchen … love this one.
but my personal favourite bit of décor from Lunares Spanish Restaurant and Tapas Bar is this ….there is love in their kitchen … and it is certainly evident in their food.
Oh …. and the fact that lunch for seven starving people cost €53.00 … that was with two glasses of wine … hic!
Go to Lunares. Mark it on your calendar … make an evening out of it. I hear they have traditional Spanish music at the weekends too.
Those are all the WiseWords I have for today,
The blogging authorities have stated, and rightly so, that bloggers must declare if they were, in any way, compensated for reviewing restaurants, products, books etc. In this particular instance, like 99% of my reviews, this was paid for in its entirety by us here at WiseWords; and worth every penny. If you have a restaurant or café or food product you would like us to review then please send us a link via email to MonaZWise@GMail.com or just share the link in the comments section down below.
Wow. What an amazing year.
I cannot wait to see where 2013 brings us.
The kids are all happy and healthy, thank goodness. My Mum, who is like a 3rd parent to our kids here at ChezWise, is also happy and healthy and keeps a close watch over us. For this, her health and her love, we are truly blessed.
The Chef & I are just like all other couples out there trying to work and raise a family at the same time. We abide by the rule of loving each other 80% of the time and wanting to kill each other the other 20%.
I thought it best to start where I left off last year in late December where I reviewed our year of salads.
But any salad worth its salt needs a decent loaf of bread …
February got off to an excellent start as I was asked to give a talk on food blogging at The Foodie Forum which was held at GMIT last year (and is only around the corner so save the date for Tuesday February 5th 2013). I was a bag of nerves at first, as I would not consider myself to have great orating skills, but the crowd at this event were my kind of people. Farmers, fishermen, butchers, bakers, chefs, cooks, bloggers and of course, teachers – every single one of them. I can’t even begin to fathom how the organisers will improve this years event but have it on great authority that it will, of course, be a delicious and educational experience for all.
Then Annie Atkins came to visit and took some amazing shots of our family – kicking the book writing and designing project into serious high gear. The rest of the year is a blur but I am going to force myself to carry on because there are a few more pretty pictures to look at!
In March we were delighted to sample a few jars of Goatsbridge Trout Caviar. Oh-M-Geeeeee was this ever a highlight of our foodie year. What a delicious product.
April brought many treats to the table and all homegrown. We have not had to buy eggs for two and a half years now and have cut back to eating most of our own chickens, ducks and turkeys. If you have been thinking about doing this – then the time is now; don’t be shy about rearing your own turkeys – the meat is by far the tastiest of the bunch.
I had to include an extra ‘bird’ shot here. Because they are just too darn cute!
Now, moving on to the madness that was the month of May.
To start with, The Sunday Times offered us a weekly column in their new and fabulous Sunday section. We started May 13th 2012 and have been sharing three recipes weekly since then. This has been, thus far, one of the coolest experiences a blogging gal like myself could ever have with one of the highlights being the Christmas party at the Odessa Club. So.much.fun.
And as May was one of our busiest months …. we had a special day for our Rory Belle.
Jeepers. How much could a gal cram into a month? I will never forget that evening. So so so many friends, family members, teachers, employers and people I had never met in my life, all there to celebrate the birth of a new book. Thank you, each and every one of you. Yes, this was pretty fabulous experience and I feel very fortunate to have achieved the starting and finishing of my first book all in due time and I even earned a distinction for my efforts at college. Job.Well.Done.
On a side note, and kudos to my dear blogging buddy and comrade in arms here in Galway, Anne Marie Carroll was also hired to write a food column for the Galway Advertiser. Blogging, especially food blogging, is starting to pay off for many of us in the Irish Food Blogging scene; So play nice boys and girls.
We spent some time at Lisloughrey Lodge these past few months and our most memorable stay had to be in June. Right after the book launch, they invited us down for a quiet night away from it all. We have never had such a good nights sleep and cannot recommend this place highly enough for a mini-break.
July brought a massive amount of mayhem to our house with all the cousins visiting for three long glorious weeks. All but one of my siblings home for summer holidays. We took time to smell all the roses.
August saw a flying visit from my friend Simone (who has an excellent blog called Jungle Frog blog). She took a smattering of food and kid photos that we have on file now for our second book ‘The Chef & I …. with kids’. We will get cracking on that in the new year and I will keep y’all updated on how it is going. Truth be told – I miss the book writing. These last few months in college are killing my creativity and stifling me with dense dreary texts and essay writing. But I have started so I will finish. Only 12 weeks of class left to go.
So September rolled in and back to final year of my undergrad in college I went, after having had a year off of regular classes to live the life of a writer and write my book. The easiest way to describe that transition is to look at the photos below.
This is life before I went back to college …. gorgeous, vibrant, happy, tasty, exciting.
And this is what life is like ‘in college’ …. and just as an FYI – this is real canteen food.
Ok – I might be over dramatising it a wee bit … but my goodness I am so ready to be done with college.
12 more weeks. 12 more weeks. 12 more weeks.
October how I loved you because you gave me the best gift of all ….
A night out with my Mum AND the Chef …. and a few gorgeous prizes to take home with me. The whole experience of winning the Blog Awards in Ireland is still very surreal to me. I will admit, that my reaction to cower and hide and feel like I had not earned it has now passed and I am working even harder on a new blogging plan for 2013. Stay tuned!
November brought rain … study and exam stress into our WiseWorld. But there were a few days where we caught glimpses of sun and I always managed to capture it with the camera. This (above) is a scallop star. Puff pastry with a scalloped inside and a mustard dressing on a bed of rocket. Every home should have one.
A chef that is.
December brought colour back into my life … lots of foodie family fun. I have let go of the study stress for now and will face it on January 7th when I get back in to college for final semester. I.love.saying.that.
Aside from the Foodie Forum (February 5th at GMIT) I will also be participating in the Waterford Writers festival (March 21st to 24th 2013) and have also been invited to present a paper at a Gastronomy Symposium at GMIT 9th May 2013. You have no idea how much this terrifies me …. I am writing and presenting my paper on ‘Food & Social Media’.
So … there you have it. A well balanced wrap up of the year. The next few months are going to be INSANELY busy for the Chef & I, but hey, nothing we can’t handle.
I cannot thank y’all enough for all the love and support you have shown me here at WiseWords throughout the year. Blogtopia can be a lonely place and sometimes filled with a lot of crazies….so it is hard to stand your ground and just march to the beat of your own drum.
So, thank YOU … for reading WiseWords.
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
About the Chef
You can't find the Chef here.
You might as well just come visit.
He prefers face to face communication.
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SHE WRITES, HE COOKS, THE KIDS MAKE A HUGE MESS