Nov
30
2012

Vegetarian Tourism in Ireland

THE BEEF STEW DOESN'T ENTER INTO IT, LASSIE

Vegetarian Tourism in Ireland

In a country known for carnivorous delights such as beef stew, tripe, and drisheen, one might assume that vegetarian tourism in Ireland would be an after-thought at best. There could be nothing further from the truth. Not only is vegetarianism an option for tourists heading to Ireland, it is transforming into a reason to go there!

From the streets of her major cities, to the n​ooks and crannies of her small towns and lush country-side, vegetarian destinations in Ireland are on the rise. As the global economy has soured over the past decade, Ireland has turned a lot of her focus inwards. Store owners, food chains and government alike are all pushing "Buy local, buy Irish!" This in turn has brought a renewed movement towards fresh produce and healthy lifestyles. Both which only add to the ground swell of vegetarian options for tourists.

In Dublin, one of the most popular tourist stops, the Guinness Storehouse, has signed on in full force. While many visit to learn how to pour the perfect pint of stout, Guinness, along with Good Food Ireland, have made a strong push in recent years to ensure that all produce is sourced locally. Other than their trademark stout and a tour of their historic storehouse, vegetarians should be sure to drop in and try the Guinness dark brown Irish bread with vegetable soup at Brewers dining hall, one of five restaurants serving hungry guests. 

 

Nearby, in the heart of Dublin on Wicklow Street near Grafton, well known for its shopping, Cornocopia is a casual vegetarian and wholefood restaurant. Diners line up at the counter to browse the daily offering of mains, salads, soups, and desserts. Comfort foods such as stews and curries are always main-stays, while Cornocopia strives not to simply fill their menu with lentil dishes. Look for delicious offerings such as spiced seitan sausage, with pepper, aubergne, and kidney bean ragout. The menu choices are all about using fresh, local ingredients & the concept stresses knowledge of everything you put into your body. Every dish is marked with dietary symbols such as allergens, or raw vs living produce. The place is generally busy and it can be hard to find a free table, but the staff are friendly and are happy to take time to explain the menu to new visitors. Served cafeteria style it means you can get in and out quickly and continue your day in Dublin. Prices for mains with 2 salads and rice is about 12 euros. The Cornocopia cookbook is available for 39 euro.

 

Another worthwhile stop while in town is Listons Food Store, packed with locally sourced Irish produce and artisan foods. While serving vegetarian and non-vegetarian, everything is made fresh onsite including wonderful salads, bulgar, pastas, and the like. Perfect if you are looking to pick something up to eat and take away for later on. A definite must-try: their grated potato pancakes with corsettes and ementhal.

 

Lastly, no tour of Dublin should be complete without a stop at Café Joly at the National Library of Ireland. This bright, modern cafe is an excellent spot to pull up and rest your weary feet. Owners Bronwyn Bailey and Michael O'Malley are always looking how best to show off local Irish foods. They make their own soups (a brilliant beetroot, ginger and chive soup on this day) and have an absolutely divine offering of cheeses and fresh scones. Definitely worth a visit for: The Gurney Sandwich—fresh baked rye bread with field goats cheese, cherry tomato, apricot and honey. 

 
 

While Dublin certainly has much to offer the vegetarian tourist, one must venture further south to Cork City and County Cork to be truly dazzled. It seems nearly everyone in Ireland has heard of Cafe Paradiso, the vegetarian restaurant located along the river in the heart of Cork City—and rightfully so. Having won a slew of awards over the past decade including 2010 Best Chef in Cork, and just about every Bridgestone award since 2004, there is much to brag about. Offering a seasonal menu in a candle-lit fine dining setting, the place is always packed. You'll definitely want to call ahead to make a reservation. The menu is incredibly sophisticated, and you'll be tempted to order just about everything on the menu. The wonderful thing about Cafe Paradiso is that it makes no apologies for being vegetarian and can stand toe-to-toe with any non-vegetarian restaurant in the city. They also have a large selection of their vegetarian cookbooks for sale.  A three-course dinner costs 40 euros. There are also a few quaint and comfortable apartments upstairs available for those looking for B&B accommodations. Rooms come with a custom prepared breakfast at the cafe which will not disappoint the hungriest of travellers. 

 

Interestingly, Cafe Paradiso has an arrangement to source most of their produce from a nearby farm called Gort Na Nain (Field of the Birds). While they stock one of the finest vegetarian restaurants, farm owners Lucy Stewart and Ultan Walsh know a thing or two themselves about serving delicious food up to hungry visitors. A visit and stay at the Gort Na Nain vegetarian farm and guesthouse should absolutely not be passed up! While running a full-service farm, Lucy and Ultan also run a wonderful B&B. You feel great knowing meals are prepared with food entirely grown on site. While you may have trouble finding it, that is certainly part of the charm of this wonderful hidden gem in the southern Irish countryside. With three very charming and well-furnished guest rooms, the guesthouse is clean and homey and Lucy and Ulton will charm you with their homemade beer and hilarious conversation. The food is always fresh and delicious and is up to par with anything you'd find in a top class restaurant.

 

Also hidden away in the picturesque country-side of County Cork is Ballymaloe House which has been in operation since the 1960s as a country hotel with a focus on food and farms. In 1983, the family opened up Darina Allen's Ballymaloe Cookery School just down the road. While the focus of the school is an intensive 12-week course that they offer multiple times a year, they also have half-day dynamic vegetarian cooking course offered three times a year. For six euros it is also worth a visit for a stroll through their impressive gardens—filled with fields and glasshouses full of herbs, vegetables, and flowers, including some rather foreign to Ireland, the lush and well-kept ten acres is quite a sight to be seen.

In a country that has refocused itself to highlight and promote its agricultural bounty, it is no surprise that there are many options for the vegetarian tourist in Ireland. The pleasant surprise is how these food destinations make no excuse for being vegetarian, and rather focus solely on serving delicious cuisine, taking pride in Ireland's traditional roots and also serving up cutting-edge cuisine. 

For additional information visit Tourism Ireland.

 

Nov
16
2012

Thanksgiving Dinner On The Grill

And They Said It Couldn't Be Done

Thanksgiving Dinner On The Grill

Let me start by proudly telling all the nay-sayers: you CAN grill an entire Thanksgiving dinner on the BBQ. I've got a lot of friends south of the border who combine two great U.S. traditionsThanksgiving and football. For a lot of people this means kicking back in their armchair and putting on the television to watch a full day of NFL games, while taking a break just long enough to gobble down some turkey with all the fixings. However, in Detroit and Dallas they have hosted the Thanksgiving Classics since the league's inception in 1920. A lot of fans in these towns are torn. As an avid fan, do I go to the game, tailgate and forgo the traditional holiday meal, or do I stay home for the food and watch the game on tv? Surely, the two cannot be combined.

Cooking a Thanksgiving dinner on the grill was put to me recently as a challenge, and as someone too stubborn or too dumb to say no, I set out to prove it could be done. Now, while you can use a frying pan on a grill or side-burner, I'd actually recommend doing some of the prep work at home beforeespecially if you are headed to the football game. Save yourself the hassle! In any case, here it is:

My Take On Thanksgiving On The Grill

 Turkey burgers, topped with caramelized cranberry onions on a bed of bread stuffing

 Grilled corn bread

 Green peas

 Sweet potato, served with chili butter

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Grilled Thanksgiving Dinner:

Serves: 6-8

Turkey burgers 

Ingredients:

2 lbs ground turkey
3 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
Salt & pepper, to taste

Preparation:

 Mix ingredients and form into 8 evenly shaped patties.

 Preheat a grill to medium-high heat. Brush the grates with olive oil. Grill the patties, undisturbed, 6 to 7 minutes. Flip the patties and grill until cooked through, 6 to 7 more minutes.

Caramelized Cranberry Onions

Ingredients:

4 small yellow onions, sliced
1/2 cup jellied cranberry sauce
3 tablespoons vegetable oil
Salt & pepper, to taste

Preparation:

 Using a thick-bottomed sauté pan, coat the bottom of the pan with oil. Heat the pan on medium-high heat until the oil is hot. Add the onion slices and stir to coat the onions with the oil. Spread the onions out evenly over the pan and let cook, stirring occasionally. 
 After 10 minutes, add cranberry sauce and stir until melted.
 Let cook for 20 minutes more, stirring every few minutes. Season to taste.
 

Bread Stuffing 

Ingredients:

2 onions, chopped
2 stalks celery, chopped
3/4 cup butter or vegetable oil
8 cups bread cubes
1/4 teaspoon pepper
4 eggs, beaten
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground sage
1/2 teaspoon poultry seasoning
Chicken broth

Preparation:
 
 Sauté onion and celery in the butter/oil until softened. 
 Combine onion mixture with bread, pepper, eggs, salt, sage, and poultry seasoning in a large mixing bowl. Stir in broth until well moistened. 
 Preheat grill to medium-high heat. Lightly grease a large tin coffee or apple juice can (lid and labels removed). Pour mixture into can, cover with foil, and place away from heat source to cook indirectly until set, about 30 to 45 minutes. 
 Remove from grill, allow to cool slightly, and stuffing should easily be removed from can. Slice into pieces to form a bed for turkey burgers.
 

Grilled Corn Bread

Ingredients:

3 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup yellow cornmeal
1/4 cup sugar
2 tablespoons baking powder
2 teaspoons salt
2 cups milk
3 large eggs, lightly beaten
2 sticks unsalted butter, melted
Cooking spray
 
Preparation:
 
 Combine the flour, cornmeal, sugar, baking powder, and salt in a large bowl.
 In a separate bowl, combine the milk, eggs, and butter.
 With a wooden spoon, stir the wet ingredients into the dry until most of the clumps are dissolved. Don’t over-mix!
 Preheat the grill to medium-high and grease a cast iron griddle pan with cooking spray.
 Pour the batter into the pan, and smooth the top.
 Cook on grill until toothpick comes out clean, about 20 to 30 minutes.
 
Green Peas

Ingredients:

2 cans green peas

Preparation:

 Open peas and pour liquid out, replacing with fresh water. Cover peas and place on top rack of grill until heated through.

Sweet Potatoes with Chili Butter

Ingredients:

8 small sweet potatoes, pierced with a fork
1 stick of butter, softened
1 tablespoon of chili powder
1 clove of garlic, minced
1/8 teaspoon sea salt

Preparation:

 Preheat grill over medium-high heat. Cover sweet potatoes in foil and place directly on grill. Cook for 45 minutes, until fork tender.

 Mix butter ingredients together with a spoon until combined. Serve with sweet potatoes.

Ready for winter grilling? Click here to make sure that you're fully prepared to keep grilling as the weather starts chilling!

Nov
07
2012

Winter Grilling

AS THE WEATHER'S CHILLING, DON'T STOP GRILLING!

Winter Grilling

As a people Canadians pride themselves on their ability to bundle up against the winter elements and head out into the wildest of weather to brave whatever Mother Nature throws our way. I can't recall ever cancelling plans or changing my agenda because it was too cold, or the snow was falling too hard to head out. Hockey in a winter storm: off I go. Shoveling in minus 40: sign me up. Sunday morning run in sleet and ice: giddy up. So you won't be surprised to hear that I grill year-round. It does require some planning and a few changes to the way you deal with food on the grill.

  1. PREPARE: Do as much prep ahead of time indoors where it's nice and warm. There's no glory in standing outside for the entire time your food is cooking. With winter grilling the goal is to keep yourself indoors for as much time as possible. So, do any of your cutting, separating, tossing, seasoning, etc. ahead of time indoors.
  2. SAFETY: Obviously, safety is the first concern here. Any time you are dealing with a hot cooking surface and sharp utensils, you need to make sure there is absolutely no chance of you slipping or losing your balance. Keep a clear path to your grill at all times and salt when needed much as you would on any walkway or driveway. You will not win any awards for sending a plate of BBQ chicken across the yard as you lose your feet from under you.
  3. HEAT: Grilling food is one of the more complex cooking techniques. There are just so many variables at work when you are grilling. One of the most important things to keep in mind is that some of your cooking comes from radiant heat (the gas or charcoal searing the food), but a large amount of your cooking comes from the air around the food heating it up as an oven does. This means you need to keep the number of times you open your lid during winter grilling to an absolute minimum! Keep that BBQ hot!
  4. CHOOSE WISELY: Look, you need to be realistic. If it's fairly mild out and you want to stand battling flare-ups and finicky foods, go for it. But when it's -40 out, you really don't want to be hanging around outside at the grill for 30 minutes. Choose foods that can cook at Medium or Low temperatures for extended periods of time. Low fat proteins will also help keep the babysitting to a minimum. 
  5. MAINTENANCE: Make sure you cover your grill when not in use. This will make it easier the next time you go out there to grill and will also help extend the lifetime of your grill.