Wise Reviews…Restaurants, Wine, Kitchen Gadgets, Books and more
Last weekend we stopped in to try a new little cafe in Salthill called ‘Salthill Social’.
The name alone lured me in as it sounded quirky and sure enough, as soon as we got in the door, the place screamed ‘hipster’ cafe.
Is Salthill ready for this?
Yes folks – it is.
With prices ranging from €7 – €14 the fare is light and lively at Salthill Social. Fresh salads, excellent strong coffee and pancakes the size of a big plate!
The kids were happy, the Chef is delighted he found a place that serves a delicious weekend breakfast and I am just glad I did not have to do the dishes.
Only thing negative I would have to say about this lovely new addition to the Galway food scene, is that the salad I had was a bit flavourless. It had a poached sweet potato that would have benefited from a roasting with some seasoning, and the Feta cheese was as bland as bland could be. So, if the chefs are reading this at Salthill Social, can we jazz up the salad please?
But hey – they are new and fresh and fabulous and the staff are great craic.
Go there – eat lots and tell me all about it.
Tomodachi Sushi in Galway …….Ah Galway. Look at yourself. All grown up and having a real Sushi bar dead set in the middle of our little city by the sea. Situated on the 2nd floor above Maxwells Bistro and directly across from Brown Thomas, Tomodachi Sushi Bar is in the high rent district;Slap bang in the middle of Galway.
2 Eglington Street
(091) 564 939
The Restaurant Association of Ireland (RAI) hosted its Annual Awards event (#FoodOscars) in Dublin last night (Monday 16th May, 2016). This event is of huge importance to Restaurant owners, Chefs and their crews, and Front of house teams, from all over the island of Ireland.
This is their NIGHT to get dolled up and sit down to a nice meal together, cooked by their peers aka the winners from last years awards, and receive recognition for their hard graft. All 950 of them. Dear god – I’d hate to be the dishbitch for that party!
When working and living in the world of Social Media, there is no need for TV’s or Newspapers in one’s life. All we need is a decent internet connection to keep us entertained for hours – which is what the team from the RAI did last night. You can jump on to Twitter (even if you are not a registered user) and see all the Tweets from last nights #FoodOscars right here.
The reason I am telling you about this, is because Summer is here (although it is raining heavily this morning at 6am!), and even if you are not planning any kind of big holiday this year, you could spend a few hours looking at some new places to visit around the island.
Fill your bellies in the best Restaurants and Cafés along the way! The #FoodOscars awards matters most to folks working in the Service Industry in Ireland because of the transparent judging process put in place by Adrian Cummins (CEO of the RAI) and his mighty team.
The #FoodOscars Award process runs from early January until mid May each year. It is a lengthy and thorough process designed to reveal the best in the industry in a fair and transparent manner which includes:
Mystery guest inspections
An expert and unbiased judging panel
This is all factored in when deciding the winners. The judging panel consist of professionals who are incredibly passionate about the Food Industry in Ireland. Their backgrounds are hugely diverse and cover a range of everything from:
- Newspaper Editors
- Marketing Executives
- Wine Shop owners
- Food & Wine Critics
- Lecturers & Teachers
- Graphic Designers
- Grocery Shop owners
The list goes on, but I am sure you get the picture.
Judging panels are assembled by region (Connacht, Munster, Leinster, Ulster) and they meet once to vote for the Regional winners and then meet again to vote for national winners. This is all done on a volunteer basis and each judge donates their time graciously to aid in ensuring the process is as fair as the RAI intend it to be.
The judges spend their time (and their own money!) eating and sleeping in Ireland’s best (and sometimes worst!) hotels and restaurants all year round; testing and tasting, sipping and savouring – always making notes of who is worthy of a win. And then they share the details of all the delicious places they have been to with other judges so that other regions are aware of the stiff competition, and also know where to go eat when they visit different parts of Ireland throughout the course of the year.
How to get involved:
Yes – I realise this is a ‘year in advance’ but based on the information I have shared with you above, as a restaurant owner or service industry worker, you now know that this summer, when the judges hit the road exploring the tastes and tipples the Island of Ireland has to offer, you need to bring your A game. Be the best that you can be all year round!
Oh yeah, and …
- Food Heroes
You do not need to be a member of the RAI to be nominated or to take part in the awards.
All you need to do is encourage your peeps to vote for you via www.irishtimes.com/irishrestaurantawards. Voting typically opens mid January and closes by the end of the month. This is important, because if you do not receive a public nomination then your name is not going into the hat for the Regional or National Awards. So mark your calendar NOW for late December 2016 to remind your customers to nominate you when then time comes!
A few of my personal favourites took home some massive WINS last night for Galway, Mayo and the Connacht region in general!
To all the nominees and winners .. especially in the Connacht Region … damn, you have made us proud.
Thank you for your hard work; We know how hard it is to keep your head above water. You are continuing to shine an incredibly bright light on the West of Ireland and for this – we thank you!
That is it for now folks, time to do the school run and get to work!
I was inspired to write this blog post late last night, as I sat responding to several text messages from local bar/restaurant/café/hotel owners and employees, all wondering why their place of business never gets recognised for their efforts at the #FoodOscars each year. I guided them all to the RAI website, because I think it is an excellent website, clearly explaining the nomination process and I hope, if you work in the service industry or know anyone working in the service industry, you will share this with them.
The Latin Quarter Wine Bar and Bistro1 High Street, Galway, Ireland
Nestled on the corner of High Street and Cross Street, directly opposite Tigh Neachtain, sits the intimate Latin Quarter Wine Bar and Bistro. Back in the day, this building was home to one of Galway’s most beautiful lingerie shops, still missed by many, and since their closure several years ago, nothing serious has grasped my attention in that location, until now.
Teeny and tinier are the two rooms they boast; one downstairs seating a handful (14) at deuces and four tops, and the slightly roomier upstairs, which can seat up to 28. An ideal spot for hosting a private party; Christmas is only a few weeks away after all!
We have eaten here several times over the last few months, mostly stolen quiet lunch breaks without the kids, as this place, perhaps because of its size, really lends itself to being one of Galway’s more romantic eateries.
Last Monday, the first evening of the Galway races, we had a siblings n’ spouses supper at the Latin Quarter Wine Bar and Bistro, and if this is something you all put on the long finger and rarely plan, then it is time to take the finger out and make a few reservations.
I have found, the more time we spend with our siblings, now that we are all adults, the more we can laugh and cry at just how much fun and hard work this parenting gig really is.
Our evening got off to a jovial start as glasses of Prosecco (€7.50 per glass), and a couple of Peronis for the lads, flooded the table before and during our first course , before we selected El Meson Rioja Crianza, 2010, Tempranillo, Spain €29.50, to lead us on to the main courses.
There were no complaints from all diners, with the exception of one. The salad of warm duck confit (€8), had too much duck and not enough greens. I know this sounds like beggars can’t be choosers, but in our constant effort to find places that serve excellent salads, it is all about finding the right balance, which this dish lacked.
As the water and wine flowed, and appetites waned, we moved on to bigger bites.
One of the lads had ordered sea scallops with a wedge of fried potato and pea puree. This dish looked the business, and certainly tasted excellent too with one exception. It was served with confit chicken wings too. The wings were placed in between each scallop. Now, even when reading the menu, I questioned the why of pairing fowl with fish, and whilst each item was cooked and seasoned and served perfectly, we all agreed that they had no business being on the same plate together.
Ron ordered the seafood pasta dish LINGUINI DE LA MER, €19, and enjoyed it. It was not out of this world and could have used a bit more heat, but the pasta was cooked perfectly and seafood was fresh, for a Monday!
All dishes came presented in the most beautiful manner, with smooth and seamless service from one more than competent server who seemed to be handling the upper and lower floors at the same time. The Latin Quarter Bistro showcases the finest of Irish food on a beautiful selection of Steelite (Alumina Vitrified, Performance) Craft line and if you have not swooned or salivated over these dishes as of yet, then take a minute to do so now right here … Dear Santa … sigh
Needless to say, as the evening wore on, and we all settled in for glasses of port and Sheridans Cheese boards, there was no need to wrap things up and move on to another venue. We were happily sated.
Overall, The Latin Quarter Wine Bar and Bistro ranks high on our lists of eateries in Galway. The intimate setting, the excellent service, the carefully thought out wine list, and affordable prices, makes this one we will return to again and again.
Let me know if you decide to try it out, or if you have already been there for a bite?
Thanks for reading,
Winner selected – please scroll to the bottom to see who won!
Ordinarily, I get invited to one or two events per week. Sometimes the events are food related; sometimes they are to an art showing, or a theatre production. I know….I know… I am a lucky gal.
MOST of the time, 80% of said events are in Dublin. Because, you know, everything cool happens in Dublin.
Living in Galway, it is clear that there is no end to the creativity displayed by the folks living in our beautiful little city by the sea. I am always tickled pink to get an invite to an evening of messy fun in my hometown and this one was just the best craic!
A few weeks ago, I got a quirky little invite from a lady named Laura over at The Gaiety Antique and Vintage Shop. She asked if we might be interested in popping in to their Galway shop on a Thursday evening for an Annie Sloan chalk paint workshop. Himself, who is the handiest of handymen when it comes to doing stuff around the house, was intrigued because he is a devout ‘strip it, sand it, paint it’ kinda guy and any paint that claims you don’t need to do all that work (in his humble opinion) is just a waste of money.
I on the other hand, am much more of a ‘it needs painting so just paint the fecking thing’ kinda gal. See, this is why they say opposites attract. I usually just wait for him to be at work, then go ahead and pretend I stripped the paint, sanded it and painted it … all while he was at work … only for my lies to be revealed a few weeks later when the new paint all starts a-peeling and a-chipping off.
The look of disdain, him glowering in my general direction, it’s, well, telling.
Yep – I was all over that.
We arrived a wee bit late, and Clodagh O’Conner (who co-owns The Gaiety with her husband), had already started the class! The traffic heading in to town on a Thursday night of a Bank holiday weekend – pure and utter mayhem and we only live 4 miles out the road!
On a side note, it is entirely worth your while signing up to their mailing list at firstname.lastname@example.org because they have the loveliest stuff in their shop and loads of fun workshops planned for this summer!
Aprons on and paintbrushes ready to go we sat around a table with a few other local Annie Sloan chalk paint artists-in-the-making and dove right in to an evening of creativity and craic.
Things were about to get messy.
Once we got the hang of it though, we caught on fast. The paint, which dries to the touch in 45 minutes, goes on thick; like mayonnaise.
What’s really important with this chalk paint, is texture.
So ‘stippling’ and ‘layering’ were two techniques we were taught how to do right off the bat.
All the attendees got to choose their own colours and little by little, ended up getting the paint all over the table (which was cool) and all over our hands, and our jeans. Yep, made a holy show of myself.
Once you get the hang of it, you realise that because of its chalky nature, this paint is unlike anything else you have ever worked with. First of all, it is like, eh, chalk. If you get it on your hands, it just feels like a nice dry powder. It kinda rubs away after a bit and you don’t have the urge to run and wash your hands or the need to use mineral spirits to get rid of it.
Once we had our colours on the boards, we had to help the drying process along, or there would not be any time for a tea break!
So we shared our hairdryers and got that done then tooled about the upper level of the shop for a while, and then downstairs for a slice of carrot cake and lashings and lashings of lovely tea. I’m going to stop back in there next week just for the tea!
I know you think I’m crazy, but really and truly guys n’ dolls, the art of serving tea and really excellent cakes is dying out in Ireland. It is symbolic of times gone by, like my grannies day, and I treasure the moments when someone goes the extra mile to present the table in a beautiful manner for a quick tea break.
Anyway, back to work! Clodagh cracked the whip and marched us right back up the stairs to educate us on finishing techniques like distressing (ha, all the tea was gone!), dark waxing, colour washing and high gloss wax finishing (my favourite).
Although I was ever the attentive student, my mind kept wandering back around the corner to another side of the shop where I had left a gorgeous kitchen sideboard behind. I am still pining for it and have not yet figured out where it would fit in my kitchen ….
Clodagh snapped me back to reality when she started to chat about staining fabric in this paint. She passed around a few pieces of material to show us, that yes indeed, the paint will stain fabric beautifully, just make sure to hang it outdoors to dry (and not in your tumble dryer!) and only do it during the summer months when we are
not really guaranteed a bit of fine weather. Curtains she did this with. Honestly, her talent knows no end.
It was this beautiful tin (above) of clear finishing wax I fell in love with. It was kind like coconut oil. So soft and beautiful to work with. I dabbed my rag in the tin and buffed my Duck Egg Blue painted patch to a brilliant shine. I’m a-gonna have a can of this on hand for all my Annie Sloan chalk paint projects henceforth.
As if she had not shown and shared enough of her talent, Clodagh wrapped up her workshop by showing us how to paint wrapping paper using a roller. She did this last year for all her Christmas presents using brown wrapping paper and tied gorgeous red ribbons on them. Now, I feel horribly inadequate ….. and I must prepare for next Christmas!
As we slipped away into the night, Clodagh said she hoped we had enjoyed the evening and that we would stop back in for a cup of tea soon.
Laura Lydon, her trusty side-kick, expert tea-maker and paint brush washer, insisted we do pop back in for a cuppa … well you don’t have to ask me twice!
So …. anyone want to go to the next Annie Sloan chalk paint workshop? If you do, then I wanna know the answers to two questions (in the comment section below)
1. What it is you need to paint? Is it a chair, a wardrobe, a wall?
2. Why you would like to be chosen for this worksop?
I’ll be picking a winner on Sunday evening May 10th, 2015. As is customary on my WiseWords blog, you must be a registered reader and you can sign up via email for that right here.
The dates of the next few workshops at The Gaiety in Galway are as follows:
Saturday, May 9th, 2015. 10:30am – Chalk paint essentials – €65 pp
(This is what every young couple should sign up for. It would make an excellent wedding gift, or be something fun to do with your bridesmaids. I have also asked them to consider doing a summer workshop for the kids. Watch this space).
Saturday, May 16th, 2015. 10:30am – Lampshade workshop – €45 pp
Saturday, May 16th, 2015 – 2:30pm- Annie Sloan chalk paint demo – FREE
This is open to the public and I cannot recommend it enough. And shur if nothing else, pop in for the tea!
So – what are you waiting for? Hop on over to their Facebook page and keep an eye on the events at their shop. I missed their Christmas Tea last December because I was having surgery at the time … and my friends are still raving on about it.
Comments are free but you gotta be a regular reader and all subscribed via email to WiseWords (right here) to be a winner!
Best of luck to you.
AND The Winner is:
Congrats Margaret! See you in Galway soon.
I don’t even know where to start.
We have just returned from a whirlwind tour of the midlands (mostly in Offaly and Tipperary) and my head is just spinning.
Several weeks ago my friend Margaret, over at OldFarm in Tipperary, sent out an email to a few Irish Bloggers to see if any of us were interested in seeing what the midlands had to offer a tourist by way of food, gardens, historic buildings and outdoor excursions etc.
Margaret and her partner Alfie (who have a guest house on their 7 acre farm in the midlands) had come up with this idea to help promote their region, with the help of Mid-Ireland Tourism, and assured us there are hundreds of reasons for tourists to stop and smell the roses in the midlands.
With her impeccable hosting and planning skills, Margaret managed to pull off one of the best bloggers ‘mini-breaks’ I have ever experienced.
Should you find a little time to tour these areas, then make sure you plan to spend a night with her and Alfie at their guest house; I can promise you the ‘best’ sleep ever.
Ok – so let’s get down to business then shall we?
We hit the road around 8:25am Saturday morning leaving Galway in our dust and headed east towards Tipperary. By 10:00am we were seated in the (purpose-built in 1889) theatre in Birr, Co. Offaly. Scones and tea were offered as we listened to the team speak with excited passion about the upcoming shows and how vital the theatre is to the community.
We poked our heads into the main hall, treading tenderly on the original Maple wood floors only to find the room full of school kids all piled in there learning how to make short animated films using Lego, their iPads, and an app called StopMotion. The class was taught by a crew from a company called Brick Flicks (out of Dublin). If you have kids, make a note of this website and keep an eye on their schedule because they are doing classes all over the island. Very – VERY – cool stuff.
Our next stop was a quick hop over the hill to the home of renowned landscape gardener Angela Jupe. While the pictures above and below display a glimpse of Angela’s passion and talent for salvaging and restoring an old home and derelict garden to its finest glory, it was she, Angela, who we wanted to while away the afternoon with. Such stories she could tell about her projects, I’m sure.
Angela greeted us at the gates to her gardens and charmed us with snippets of tales from her last ten years ‘work in progress’ at Bellefield House and Gardens.
The weather cooperated while we were touring the gardens, and we all took time to lose ourselves for a few minutes in the reflectiveness of her water feature, one of the newest additions to the gardens.
We then meandered back indoors and had a peek at her self-catering rental cottages. Such luxury. In off-peak season, you can rent one of these cottages for €250 per week (sleeps 4 adults and possibly a kid or two.
My only regret from this part of the tour is that we did not have enough time to sit and chat more with Angela, who had tea and cakes on offer. I am hoping she will take a rain-check on this offer because I can’t wait to go back.
Next on our tour of the mid-lands was the beautifully restored Fancroft Mill and Gardens, owned by Marcus and Irene Sweeney. This dynamic duo have spent the last ten years pouring passion and love into the restoration of the mill. Needless to say, this was Ron’s favourite part of the tour.
As we climbed higher and higher up to the top of the mill, originally built in 1780, you could feel the history of this building oozing out of each crack and crevice. Irene, sharp as a whistle, moved us through the paces without missing a beat and ensured we stuck to our schedule, even though we arrived a wee bit tardy.
As we wrapped up the tour we traipsed through the extensive gardens, created mostly in the 1990’s by previous owner Angela Jupe, we encountered the above tower, which is filled with teddy bears on the top floor to keep the younger visitors to Fancroft Mill and Gardens entertained.
It was easy to leave the stress of the week behind. Meeting people that have poured their time, money and passion into projects like these restores a gals faith in humanity.
Our next stop was at Leap Castle … one of Irelands most haunted homes.
A turbulent and bloody history, used as a fortress, home and tomb. Leap Castle is home to many fascinating and sometimes horrific spirits. Built in the early 1500′s under the supervision of the powerful and warring O’Carroll clan, Leap Castle has been the centre of much bloodshed and brutal atrocities. The castle is currently owned by Sean Ryan and his family. He is right out of a storybook is Mr. Ryan. Taking up a seat by the stove and his stories whirling around the room, we were all eager to experience everything the castle had to offer. Strangely enough, you can feel the depth of death that has occurred inside these walls.
While there was plenty of prettiness to peruse around the inside and outside of the castle, I would say the ‘spirits’ as Sean called them, have a lot of unfinished business and I can see why this place attracts a lot of ghost seekers on an annual basis.
Needless to say, I was still well able to find the prettiness and solace in the nooks and castle crannies …
Well – at this stage we had worked up a thirst and our batteries needed recharging …
For real …this is what a bloggers lunch really looks like. Phones and camera batteries all lined up waiting their turn for a boost while we were treated to a delicious Chicken Caesar salad at Lough Boora Park. Now if you have not been to the midlands in a while, this (especially with kids) NEEDS to be on your list of places to go – even on a day trip. Dotted with picnic tables and plenty of bikes-for-hire and over 50 km of trails, there is acres ad acres for you to explore. Although there is a brand new café onsite for you to enjoy a snack if hunger takes over, you can also pack a nice picnic basket and make a day of it.
Needless to say, after the batteries were all charged, we were raring to go and jumped back into the tourbus ready for the next slice of Mid-Ireland tourism pie.
We were not disappointed! While Birr Castle Gardens (and ah-mazing kids playground to boot) are open to the public, tours of the castle (interior) are not so easy to achieve. Thankfully, as it was the start of the season, the gates were open and we were given a tour of the castle. Dripping in artefacts and, eh, art, the interior of the castle was quite something to behold. But a warning was given at the gate … no photos please …. sigh.
And with respect to the family who calls this castle their home, they graciously opened their doors to us for a private viewing and allowed us to tour and traipse in and out of all the secret entrances and exits of their libraries and music rooms …. the memory of this little visit will suffice.
The end of the touring for our first day had arrived so we all headed back to our respective guesthouses to relax for a few hours before heading back into Birr for dinner where the food was delicious but it was the beer that stole our hearts.
Right before we retired for bed, I asked Margaret, our wonderful hostess, to leave out her French Press and box of coffee for me. Being an early riser, I wanted to make sure I could (quietly) make myself a cup of java and enjoy the sunrise in solace while the rest slept on.
I never saw the sunrise …
I was awoken by the enticing scent of coffee wafting under the bedroom door at 9:00am … yes. 9:00am. I don’t think I have slept past 9am in the morning since my honeymoon – almost 15 years ago.
What.A.Treat. If you just need to sleep … and for a steal at only €35 per night bed & delicious breakfast … book a night away for yourself. Trust me … you will not regret it.
A quick lesson in Bee keeping and honey making from our host Alfie before we loaded up on their fabulous Oldfarm classic breakfast of sausages, bacon, eggs and sourdough toast, we hit the road again for another day of touring around the magical midlands.
First stop of the day was at Memory Lane Antiques and let me tell you, this was the icing on both mine and Ron’s cakes. Holy wow.
First of all, the owner (Breda) had put on a breakfast tea that just outshines any ‘high or afternoon tea’ I have had in Ireland; And I have had some teas. The quality of the baking (all made by Breda and her team) was outstanding and I was only too delighted to hear that they might host a few more ‘Teas’ later in the year. I will be signing up for these and toting along my girls and Mum for sure.
The wonderful thing about this place, aside from the appropriately priced antiques on offer, is the fact that it has an auction house connected to it which is owned by Breda’s husband Conor.
Well, to say himself and myself were in heaven …. was an understatement. We had to be dragged outta there and both can’t wait to go back for their next auction which is scheduled for Saturday April 25th (10am) and you can even bid-online right here from anywhere in the world!
Our very last stop on the #MagicalMidlands tour was a perfect way to round out the weekend of fun and frolics for us bloggers.
While the weather did not necessarily make for a ‘sunning yourself on the deck’ kind of day, we had a lot of fun and plenty of time to just relax and soak it all in.
One of the bloggers, the lovely and talented Regula from Belgium and otherwise well known as MissFoodWise on her gorgeous blog, was celebrating her birthday. Unbeknown to her, Margaret-the-hostess-with-the-mostest who had planned everything to perfection, had asked Ron to bake a special cake to help celebrate her birthday in true mid-Ireland fashion.
Since that weekend, I have been buried alive in domestic chores around the homestead here at Chez Wise and have really enjoyed reading recaps from all the bloggers who attended the #MagicalMidlands weekend away.
You can find a list of all the bloggers who participated right here.
So, if you are wondering how to while a way a few hours, days or weeks during the summer months – there is no reason not to include a few of these places in your plans.
A huge thanks to Margaret and Alfie at OldFarm B&B for hosting us. We enjoyed our visit so much we went back over yesterday with the kids for a bit more relaxing and the kids can’t wait to go back for a week’s holiday later in the summer! Right Alfie?
Ok – now that you have made it this far … here are the details of the giveaway!
The County Arms Hotel has given us a 2-night (weekend or mid-week) giveaway for two including dinner for two on one of those evenings.
All you have to do is first, make sure you are a subscribed reader of this blog – do that right here, then leave a comment in the box below stating why you need a two-night getaway with your loved one!
I will pick a winner on Sunday April 19th, 2015, (in the evening) giving you lots of time to plan your weekend get-a-way!
If you have any other recommendations of places to go and see in the midlands … let me know!
Those are all the WiseWords I have for today.
Thanks for participating in the giveaway – all winners are chosen at random using the PlugIn ‘And the Winner is‘.
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!
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!!
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.
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.
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You might as well just come visit.
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SHE WRITES, HE COOKS, THE KIDS MAKE A HUGE MESS