Tag Archives: Ireland

LITFEST Lessons Learned

Highlights: we got in a great conversation with David Lebovitz whose recipe aided in my first successful batch of french macarons.

A photo posted by Vania Ling (@lovemesaysfood) on May 18, 2015 at 8:36am PDT


Lit fest has something for everyone, from the casual partygoer who goes for the live music and craft beer in the big shed to the serious food journalist.  The cooking demos, cocktail talks and coffee cupping keep it interactive- what’s not to love.  By far the most important thing for me was to set an intention for going prior to making the journey down.  I didn’t want it just to be a feeling of ‘i’m here because everyone’s here’, rather, I wanted to really get something out of it.  I was captivated by the story of three generations of cookery writers in the Allen family.  At the heart of it, the Litfest is ultimately a food literature and writing event.  SO, how did i do in reaching these intentions? — only alright.


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After missing last year’s Ballymaloe Lit fest, I decided that I wouldn’t miss another opportunity to see what seems to be the largest gathering of food community, enthusiast, writers, and drinks specialists.  The festival brings international names like Tim Wendelboe, Ottolenghi, Noma’s René Redzepi to Ireland.  This year inspirational food pioneer Alice Waters from Chez Panisse, and another, David Lebovitz pastry chef and writer, who i have been following since i knew what blogs were, came to speak.  There were a few challenges that stood in the way of me going to the festival, but they were sorted with a bit of compromise.


The talks and wonderful food stalls were great, but many of the ideas I came away from this weekend were through conversations with like-minded ‘food-crazy’ people at the event.  It’s hard to capture the mood and magic of the weekend.  It must be a combination of pure craic, the only kind you can get in Ireland (yes, i said it), strong literary culture, and some of the highest quality of food/ producers in the world.     Oh yes, and it helps that the whole event takes place in a working farm, not the usual convention centres where these events are often held.


Met some people who, like me, were also fascinated with ‘curated’ meals with a multi sensory component.  I.e.) using meals to create conversation about a specific topic, or reframing food  through thought-provoking experiences.
I can’t get over how food is able to bring people together!

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Ballymaloe Lessons learned:
1) hustle for the talks so you don’t miss them, no time of socialising if your talk is coming up!
2) whatever you do, book accommodation early!
3) volunteer, give your time it’s a rewarding way to meet other people
For more reading: see The Family Behind Ireland’s Artisanal-Food Renaissance The Wall Street Journal. 30 March 2015
Photos featuring: Mrs.Marta @loaf_story
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Sophie’s for Brunch!

[SHORT, Quick Lovin’ ]

Service:  Prompt & friendly

Likelihood to return: I’d be keen to have a late drink!

Food/Coffee: Food 2.5/5, Coffee 3/5.

Chillness: 4.5 chill chairs!

Highlights: the view



It’s quite the place the Dean Hotel, I’m sure most Dubliners would agree you’re transported to a different place when you walk through the doors. It’s a boutique hotel located in Georgian Dublin on Harcourt St.  The interior feels as if you’re in a trendy New York hotel and Sophie’s is on the  top floor.


Sophie’s is so aesthetic, you’re surrounded by windows and it boasts, likely, one of the best views in Dublin aside from the Guinness storehouse and the Marker Hotel’s Rooftop bar. It has stark black and white tiles and you can see into the kitchen which adds to the atmosphere.   The bar in the middle of the restaurant is one of my favourite elements. They have not spared any expense.



As far as food goes, we were optimistic.  After all it was a brilliant place. We had lots of brunch! But, as one of our friends put it “Well they could have done a little bit with the presentation?” If you’re looking for hard poached eggs that took a tan sesh under the heat lamp, then sure, here you are.  The staff were accommodating and friendly.


Despite all this our experience was great the drinks were fabulous and overall it’s one of the most enjoyable views.  This place is stunning. It has a lot going for it so we hope it only gets better.

What have your experiences been like I’d love to hear that give us a shout!

Check back on Sunday for our next Feature in the Women’s Day Series!


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Happy Pancake Tuesday avec Donal Skehan & Happy Pear!

Here in Ireland, pancake Tuesday (aka Shrove tuesday) is done very BIG!

BIG and Festive; by festive, I mean we have crepe-like pancakes topped with lemon juice and dusted in icing sugar. I’ve never seen a place go so crazy over pancakes, but I won’t deny you the pancake-pleasure, I love them so much! You must, must, must top them with CANADIAN maple syrup 😉

So if you haven’t prepared your sourdough sponge overnight like I mentioned last week for sourdough pancakes don’t be frettin’.  Here is plan B, follow this alternative recipe by Donal Skehan & the guys at Happy Pear for Dairy-free, gluten-free, banana buckwheat pancakes! secret recipe: tahini.  These guys are so entertaining – yea, it’s Irish charm they’re all charming.

-Final note: notice the fancy wok used to make the pancakes

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Where to go for ‘cultural’ food in Dublin

So many complain (or give out) about the quality and authenticity of ethnic food here in Dublin.  Fridays for the following month are going to be devoted to ethnic foods I love, because variety is the spice of life!


I won’t say we have the best offering of multicultural food, but what I can do is hopefully get you excited to try something new.  I think there is a certain curiosity because so many of us travel abroad and explore different cultures. We start off at Zaika, one of my faves!


Zaika’s actually an Indian take away.  Yes, I know, please judge me.  My best Indian friend swears by their lamb biryani – Spiced and hot with cardamom, clove, star anise, and coriander it’s also served with yoghurt.
As I sit here waiting for my order, my ears are ‘massaged’ with the top 40 pop countdown, Justin Bieber (the biebz himself). I smell the spices wafting towards me and have counted the number of Indian people that walk into the shop – because that’s always a good measure, we are 3/4, not bad right?


Lamb biryani and chickpea curry (chana masala) with naan. The other day I saw someone order a spinach dish (palak/ paal paneer), something I’m going back for! The Naan is fresh made in the tandoori when you order and yes, they also do delivery.
It isn’t highlighting Irish food per se, but what it is doing is bringing diversity to the market. A little fact here, that 58% of Irish shoppers in a 2013 survey said they looked at the origin label when shopping for food. – ok bit of a tangent, just saying, not all food we buy is local.


Source: Bord Bia

Source: Bord Bia


Youseff, the cook generously agreed to share a bit of his skill with me. So look back to some additional posts on our cook session! (yea, kind of nerdy and really love Indian food)

I’d love to hear what gets you excited about food in Dublin. Don’t forget to comment below.
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V-day’s MY DAY

This is for those lucky enough to believe in Valentine’s day and celebrate it too!
Also for those who also forgot until today that it’s two days from now.
Here are a few things you can pull out and still impress…
with increasing difficulty, starting with the least time/effort required
BOY ARE YOU LUCKY, I made it reallll easy  (click photos for links to buy)


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No. 1
Cake Cafe does room service, in your own room! 
This is absolutely genius, for those like me, who do not want to brave the weekend crowds for brunch, there is just something sane about having brunch at home.  They cater to both veggies & non veggies but this does take the planning of one-day’s foresight and the click of a button.
No. 2
Get a thoughtful card.
There are a few places in town like Fallon & Byrne and Irish Design shop that sell Irish made cards.  However, if you want to be very creative someone in our family takes pictures of great cards and sends them to us on the day via iMessage!  well lucky me, or lucky YOU, i’ve adopted this practice. (But honestly, support the independent creatives that are making these cool Irish cards!)
Photo: Bean and Goose Facebook

Photo: Bean and Goose Facebook

No. 3 
This Irish chocolatier is creating quite the movement.  S & I particularly love the milk chocolate bar with sea salt.  But just the other day I tasted the champagne truffle and my oh my, I will gladly receive a whole box of these.
They will be at the Temple Bar Market on the day, Saturday the 14th!
No. 4
There are two easy stops to pick up these french macarons, Laudurée in Brown Thomas or Cocoa Atelier on Drury street.  Why’s this romantic?  I’m not sure if it’s because they are a labour of love, they originate from France (of course Paris is romantic), or the fact that they are pastel and lovely that these little sweets will make you GOLDEN!
No. 5 
Succulents from |the garden|
Why not get something a bit longer lasting?  These are so easy to tend to and they live forever. These little guys are known for storing water in their leaves, so as long as you don’t over water they are the perfect alternative. However, the garden bouquets are also absolutely stunning!
While i’m aware that this has been almost an entirely sexist post geared towards guys, getting things for girls, i’m pretty sure that you guys can appreciate almost every one of these things on the list.  


my wish list is this pineapple macaron box & these cute heart cookies that’ll be coming in my breakfast in bed from cake cafe!

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NEW Year, What’s NEW?

“happy new year!” … are we still saying that?

I heard somebody at the airport ask the same question when I was traveling. He asked the the guy on the other line, is it too late to still be saying this? – it’s only…. 13th of January. Well I think it’s never too late since I haven’t seen any of you yet this year but, I have been meaning to say lots and lots of things. 

You know, New Years is a season of expectation and anticipation, sometimes almost too much anticipation.  Like I get it, it’s a reset where we can evaluate how we’ve done in the past year and set new goals, but it seems as though there’s this looming expectation for us all to do everything that we haven’t done in the last year or years of our lives ALL at once and achieve it, ALL!

We decide to kick every bad habit that we have, lock the liquor cabinet (or have ‘dry January’), hit the gym, eat better, be better people, be more successful, hope for better things, start the things that we have always said we would but haven’t, and pretty much everything else that we can think of – or maybe that’s just me. If you’re thinking what I’m thinking, that sounds hugely daunting!

Downfall of a New Year

No, forget all the S.M. a R.T. goals but even the smartest goals won’t help me feel positive about that.

nobody talks about about (OH my goodness), what if you wake up on the other side of the new year, and it’s JANUARY. it’s grim and grey. and it’s the coldest time of the year in most places (not Australia). You don’t feel like setting any goals or tackling the mountain of things that you haven’t done.

I was really encouraged after coffee with food-friend, Vincci. (cecinestpasunfoodblog.com). It made the new year seem more achievable!

It’s more difficult to break bad habits, than it is to form new healthy ones.  Recently, we’ve been talking about culture and society in food at school, and this involves knowledge, attitudes, and behaviours.  What this means is just because we know something is good for us doesn’t mean it changes how we think about it or behave. For instance we know that eating healthy & drinking less, and getting active is better for us, but so many other things in our environment or daily lives get in the way of that happening.

Before you know it, you’re at the till in tesco/superstore after work, and you’re crumbling to the temptation of one little bit of mars bar ;P Is it not easier to form new habits? You don’t have to go cold turkey and never touch a drink again! Just focus on moving towards a new little thing, like eating one more serving of veg a day, or maybe just ONE beer this week 😉

Get a buddy for motivation!

My point: new years resolutions are frustrating when we don’t stick to them. December doesn’t have to be the month to live it up and detox later.  Maybe a constant dose of sanity and fun along the way and we don’t have to put so much pressure on in January.

Tell me,  what you have all signed on for and committed to this January?  

this is what I did on new years!

this is what I did on new years!

…. P.S. I should also show you how we (ATE) rang in the new year, right??

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How to improve your cocktail game with a Poitin shot – Recipe here

Yes, Poitin!

A quick drink experiment 🙂  – I probably shouldn’t admit this to you, but I kind of like mess around with cocktails at home.  I really don’t have a huge problem drinking alone, it allows me to perfect it for when there IS company. – so i tell myself.

As you do, because we are in Ireland, I’ve opted to swap everything for Poitin! A clear distilled irish liquor (spirits from grains of whiskey) without the ageing in oak



Adapted from Martini & Rossi Factory Martini

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Sunsets in Ireland

a single photo from this past weekend, because that’s all I have so far!

I can’t tell you how excited I am to finally be seeing this surreal scenic country we have been living in for about two years now.

This last weekend I travelled 4 hours to Connemara to visit the very special Dillisk Project.  I have been wanting to get out for way too long.

this is just the beginning…




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Grow HQ- A project that’s creating waves

Today I want to share a video and tell you about the really exciting project in Ireland called GrowHQ.

They are having a golden ticket raffle, for a prized spot at the Ballymaloe 12-week cookery course. I almost don’t want to tell you about this because that will dilute my chances of winning the prize, but out of selflessnes…. ok I’ll tell you.

Why is this exciting you ask?

GrowHQ takes into account a lot of the problems with our food system, like long, sometimes misleading food supply chains; lack of understanding of our food and where it comes from; and limited access to good, fresh, healthy food; and addresses them in a creative and innovative way.

In uni, one of our profs had said that Obesity will be a problem that our generation is tasked to solve, and from a purely dietetics approach I couldn’t systematically see how that problem could be solved.  This is the way forward, through better policies, industry and government support, and fostering skills and access to better food,

The goal of GrowHQ resonate so close to my own; which are, to create a culture of food empathy and broader understanding, teaching children about food.

Encouraging awareness & conversations about food and giving people skills to prepare their own food is the core of creating a food-centric culture.  (& also the best way to forge a happy healthy relationship with food to chip away at this obesity problem).  I hope you’ll join me in supporting this.

They have a fund-it campaign (http://fundit.ie/project/giys-grow-hq) and if you’d like to try your luck at the Golden ticket, click the link!


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Create & Synthesise –

Cooking is a moral process, transferring raw material from ‘nature’ to the state of ‘culture’, and thereby taming and domesticating it… Food is therefore ‘civilised’ by cooking, not simply at the level of practice but at the level of imagination
(Lupton 1996, 2)

In my masters studies they’re looking for analysis & synthesis.

One thing I can do is analyse, but synthesis seems somewhat of an intangible art form!  I find it challenging to do so or maybe I ‘m not totally comfortable sharing. How does one define ‘synthesise’ – it means to form new ideas and create.

After a bit of critical analysis, I realised, Hey! I do really like building things and creating projects. So as a result i think I might just start sharing more; more recipes, more ideas…  I didn’t feel equipped to share my cooking, because I’m not trained in culinary nor do I work in a professional kitchen. I just spend a lot of time in our home kitchen.  Your tv time is like my hang-out time in the kitchen. We don’t even own a tv anymore.

One thing a friend, and life coach& psychologist told me has stuck with me, she said ‘you identify the moments when you’re creative by knowing when you’re working away and time just passes – without you noticing.’ These are times when you are at your creative best, what’s your creative best? – I wasn’t sure of the answer, but well I think it’s food.  It’s cooking, discussing, reading about, photographing, and analysing food!

So this is a very lengthy introduction to the recipes that will start appearing on the site periodically.

well, go’wwan what’s yours?

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