Wow. It’s been awhile. Apparently I took a bit of an unanticipated, unannounced sabatical from Holy Mackerel.
Things got busy you see. There was a big job for Zagat, who are launching their restaurant guide to Dublin very shortly, and for whom I’m one of the local editors. (Basically, that involves trawling through the good, the bad and the downright rude user-generated Zagat Survey comments written by thousands of Dubliners about hundreds of Dublin restaurants, and writing short pithy little 50 word reviews to reflect the word on the street about said restaurants.) If you haven’t heard of Zagat yet, you will. They’re huge in the States, and having being recently acquired by Google, are set to be huge here too. (They also recently acquired Frommers travel guides too.) You can read up about them here (click it) and I’ll let you know when the updated Dublin site goes live.
But one big job is surely no excuse for leaving my blog high and dry and lonesome?
Well no, but there was also the mammoth task of editing of The ICA Cookbook (that’s the Irish Countrywomen’s Association, for anyone who needs the introduction to this 100-year-old institution of rural Ireland), which features recipes from some 50+ ordinary Guild members as well as a couple of key ICA chefs too. My job was to keep some consistency and flow to such a broad collection of culinary styles. And when I say broad, I mean Cake in a Mug on the one hand (stir eggs, flour, cocoa etc in a mug, cook in a microwave, turn out on a plate: ta da! Cake in a Mug!!) and rabbit pie with homemade puff pastry on the other hand (first, catch your rabbit, à la ICA Bootcamp styley… well not quite, but nearly). The book hits the shelves later this month, and hopefully flies off it.
And there was the new weekly wine column with the Irish Mail on Sunday, which has landed me with the arduous task of tasting a whole bevvy load of wines every single week and writing up what I think of them and telling people where they can find them and what not. I know, tough post.
Then there was a flurry of trips around the country. One involved a two-day spin along Mayo’s Gourmet Greenway and back, kicking off in Castlebar so we could conveniently stock up on baguette, Carrowholly cheese and cake in the delightful Café Rua before hitting the road – and setting up camp 60km later in the stunning setting of Keel on Achill. The next morning, after a pre-brekkie swim on Keel strand, we found ourselves a Country Market where we picked up some potato farls & homemade chutney with which to finish off our Carrowholly (a gorgeous local Gouda-style cheese) before cycling the 60km back to Westport where creamy pints in McGings and a tasty dinner next door in Sage restaurant were the reward for our impressive exertions (if I say so myself). If you ever thought you fancied a cycling holiday I would thoroughly recommend the Greenway – stunning scenery and brilliantly maintained.
Then there was another trip off down to the Electric Picnic to host the ‘Guinea Pig’ readers’ wine tasting for Food&Wine Magazine (check out the November issue for the colourful results) and chair a debate in the Theatre of Food on What’s Hot in Food Right Now (hot potatoes, it seems, GM potatoes to be specific… being trial-grown in Carlow by Teagasc – but that’s another whole post in itself).
And then there was the small matter of hopping down to Gaillimh town to stay over in the inimitable Heron’s Rest boutique B&B on the Long Walk (the prettiest street in town, which overlooks Nimmo’s Pier and the Claddagh Basin) where the ever-charming bean-an-tí (who happens to be a trained nutritional therapist) Sorcha Molloy cooked up an unforgettable morning-after breakfast of scallops and crab risotto cakes for me and my family.
Morning after what you say? Just the best book launch I’ve ever been to, in that it involved delicious Ard Bia food and generous prosecco and the great company of John McKenna of Bridgestone Guides (who helped launch the book) dancing till the wee hours with Manchan Magan (who wrote the foreword), all to celebrate the book I co-wrote with restaurateur Aoibheann MacNamara and her brilliant right-hand-gal Siomha Nee and all the chefs from Ard Bia at Nimmos. That particular book is on the bookshop shelves already, and is packed full of gorgeous recipes typical of the Middle-East-Meets-Out-Whest culinary style that is uniquely Ard Bia. (I’d highly recommend you pick up a copy, but then I would say that wouldn’t I?)
And then the next thing it was back to school time, and I got busy preparing lectures in Feature Writing & Ethics in Journalism for the first year BA in Journalism students at Dublin’s Independent Colleges. And also got busy with a WSET wine course that I’m taking to formalise my wine knowledge and fill in any gaps. The course is run by Cooks Academy and my tutor is none other than the lovely Liam Campbell (who used to be described by his colleagues in The Dubliner Magazine as officially the loveliest man in Dublin, and who is a darn fine wine writer and tutor too). I’ll be blogging here about the course over the coming weeks, and sharing some of Liam’s gems with any readers interested in reading them.
So. Here’s the nub of it.
It all got busy. And I got sick. And something had to give.
Which is all a long way around saying, sorry I haven’t been around. For the longest time. But I have been thinking of you. And now I’m back. And I’ve loads to tell you. (All of the above is just the start of it.)
Such as, I’m off to Dingle Food Festival for the weekend and I’d love you to come too. Here’s a sneak preview of the For Food’s Sake event I’ll be hosting down there. Watch this space for a confirmed line-up and more. Or watch out on Twitter over the weekend for tweets from @holymackers and others (#ffs #foodmemories #dinglefoodfest). Or even better, come to Dingle!
Right, adieu for now. I’ll be back. Promise.