Home and away great gourmet breaks
Got an appetite for a holiday?Ahead of the Irish Examiner Food Festival, Pól Ó Conghaile has the perfect menu — a selection of 10 great gourmet breaks at home and overseas
The bite-sized city break… San Sebastian, Spain
Spain’s San Sebastian has it all — a great city beach (La Concha), exuberant nightlife and a beautiful setting on the Bay of Biscay all make the perfect backdrop to a foodie frolic; below, NOMA in Copenhagen, Denmark, has been voted best restaurant on earth for three years on the trot.
It may have more Michelin Stars per capita than Paris, but food isn’t the only attraction in San Sebastian. A great city beach (La Concha), exuberant nightlife and a beautiful setting on the Bay of Biscay all make the perfect backdrop to a foodie frolic.
Don’t believe us? Ask John Warren. After wandering the pinxto bars here during a one-night stopover several years ago, John moved to the city with nothing more than a bike bag and a suitcase. Today, his San Sebastian Food runs everything from a Basque cooking class (4 hours, €145) to a three-day luxury gourmet escape (€545).
If you’re looking for somewhere to stay, check out nearby Hondarriba, where B&B at a prime parador, the restored castle of Carlos V, is available from €120pp in September.
Details: sansebastianfood.com; maptravel.ie (flights to Biarritz or Bilbao extra).
The write stuff… Brooklodge Hotel, Co Wicklow
So you’ve cooked enough to get an army through a Russian winter. You’ve eaten your bodyweight in balsamic reduction. You’ve watched every food show on TV. What next?
Why, writing about it, of course. Dianne Jacob is the author of Will Write for Food: The Complete Guide to Writing Cookbooks, Blogs, Reviews, Memoir and More, and she’s coming to Ireland for a writing workshop on September 21-22 at the Brooklodge Hotel in Macreddin village.
Organised by Dorcas Barry and sponsored by Bord Bia and Fáilte Ireland, events range from one-to-one workshops (€40pp) to a ‘Big Table Dinner Experience’ at The Strawberry Tree restaurant (€70pp). B&B at the Brooklodge Hotel is available from €62.50pps.
Details: 086-8061383 (workshop); 0402-36444; brooklodge.com (accommodation).
The floating wine fair… Irish Ferries, Oscar Wilde
We’ve heard of the wild geese. But the wine geese? They’re the Irish oenophiles who travel to France to stock up on rocking wines at rock-bottom prices (despite, or because of, the recession), and this September 14, Irish Ferries has a sailing tailormade for their tastes.
On that date, on the Rosslare-Roscoff route, a wine fair will be held on board the Oscar Wilde, with a number of French wine growers and producers giving expert advice and previewing some of the wines that can be bought ashore in a series of mid-cruise tastings.
The event is free to all passengers, with return sailings starting from €122pp, based on four sharing a cabin and car. Irish Ferries customers can quaff 12.5% savings onshore, too.
Details: 0818-300400; www.irishferries.com/winebreak.
The hunt and gather… Belle Isle, Co Fermanagh
Fed up gathering food from soulless supermarket shelves? Then perhaps it’s time to get back to basics with a ‘Shoot, Cook & Eat’ day at Belle Isle Cookery School.
The day begins with a morning pigeon shoot on the estate grounds, where guests are assisted in hunting and gathering game the old-fashioned way. After the shoot (it’s designed for less-experienced shots), there’s a hands-on cookery lesson with Corrie Cadden, who promises to use the morning game bag to create innovative dishes.
The day wraps with dinner at 8pm. Breakfast and a light lunch are included in a package priced at £230/€287 per gun. Non-shooting partners get a reduced rate of £190/€237.
Details: +44 (0)28 6638 7231; belle-isle.com; irishcookeryschool.com.
The Asian adventure… Thailand and Vietnam
If you want the best, you’ve got to go to the source. And when it comes to South East Asian cuisine, going to the source can make for a pretty spectacular holiday, too.
Trailfinders has four nights at the five-star Mandarin Oriental Hotel in Bangkok, where the Oriental Thai Cooking School runs hands-on classes from Monday to Saturday. Flights and accommodation are priced from €1,149pp, based on September 9-28 departures.
Meanwhile, Explore’s 14-day Vietnam & Angkor Odyssey promises a taste of some of the best sight-seeing and accommodation in Vietnam and Cambodia. The trip includes a dedicated cookery lesson in a Hoi An restaurant, and departures on October 17 and November 14 are coming in at around €1,900pp, including B&B, transport and guiding services, but not flights.
Details: 021-4648800; trailfinders.ie and 1890-747747; explore.co.uk.
The constitutional… Dublin
Food lovers will certainly remember this summer in Dublin. A Food Theatre is set for the Dublin Tall Ships Festival (August 23-26), with four days of demonstrations, displays, food courts, farmers’ markets and snack stations lined up along North Wall and Sir John Rogerson’s Quay.
The next Dine in Dublin Restaurant Week is due October 23-28, but you don’t have to wait that long for a gastro getaway at the Shelbourne Hotel, which has launched a Constitution Afternoon Tea to celebrate the 90th anniversary of the Irish Constitution drafted in the building.
A Sip & Savour package, bundling B&B with afternoon tea for two, costs €299.
Details: dublintallships.ie; theshelbourne.ie; dineindublin.com.
The culinary capital… Copenhagen
Paris and London have been caught napping by Copenhagen, the rising star of the global culinary scene. The Danish capital isn’t just home to NOMA, voted best restaurant on earth for three years on the trot, but an appetite-whetting total of 14 Michelin Stars.
The Copenhagen Cooking festival (August 24 — September 2) promises a celebration of the Nordic culinary heritage that has helped make the city one of the world’s most exciting gastro-destinations. Watch out for its ‘Taste of Copenhagen’ specials, which see the city’s Michelin Star restaurants offer gastronomic experiences for low prices (well, relatively low anyway).
As regards getting there, SAS has direct flights from Dublin from €75pp each way (the tickets include free seat selection and a 23kg baggage allowance). Ebookers.ie has three nights plus flights from €369pp in a four-star hotel during the Copenhagen Cooking dates.
Details: flysas.com/en/ie; ebookers.ie; copengahencooking.com.
The tasting trail… Kilkenny
Kilkenny folk don’t just turn up the heat in Croke Park. They’re pretty hot stuff in the kitchen too, if new foodie developments in the Marble City are anything to go by.
A new Blásta Trail inspired by Savour Kilkenny food festival (October 27-31) features taster plates and “grazing boards” designed to share at restaurants like Zuni, Café Sol, Kilkenny Design Centre and Lanigan’s Bar. Mary McEvoy, the former pastry chef at l’Ecrivain, has started cupcake and baking workshops for kids too, at her A Slice of Heaven patisserie on High Street.
The four-star Pembroke Hotel has an ‘Escape’ special that could tie in — two nights B&B with one dinner in Statham’s Restaurant and one in The Royal Spice Indian Restaurant, from €169pp.
Details: savourkilkenny.ie; kilkennypembrokehotel.com; asliceofheaven.ie.
The Alpha and Omega… Costa Navarino, Greece
You’ve heard of the Okinawa Way. Now get ready for the Omega Diet. Served up in the Mediterranean climes of Costa Navarino, dishes are based on a balance of Omega-3 and Omega-6 fatty acids, held to maintain healthy weight and boost the body’s defences against disease.
Costa Navarino itself is a luxury resort on Greece’s Peloponnese peninsula, and you can attend cookery lessons at the Omega Restaurant using ingredients like grass-fed lamb, extra virgin olive oil, fresh seafood (€75pp, including lunch), to help eat yourself thin. Packages including flights from London Gatwick, transfers and seven nights at the Westin Resort are available from Abercrombie & Kent in September from £1,125/€1,404pp.
Details: costanavarino.com; abercrombiekent.co.uk.
Dig up, and dig in… at Kilmaneen Farmhouse, Co Tipperary
You want hands-on? You’ll get it at Kilmaneen, a four-star farmhouse B&B in Newcastle, Co Tipperary. A ‘Dig-Demo-Dine’ package at Kevin and Bernadette O’Donnell’s farm offers guests the opportunity to gather vegetables, fruit and wild produce from their garden, see how they are transformed into tasty dishes, desserts and drinks for the table, and tuck in.
Members of the O’Donnell family have lived on the farm for six generations, which is sure to lend the whole experience an authentic air. Between mealtimes, you can walk off the pounds in the Knockmealdown, Comeragh and Galtee Mountains.
The package is based on a minimum of four participants, costs €120pp, and could be twinned with an overnight at the Old Convent in nearby Clogheen. Rooms start from €170 at Dermot and Christine Gannon’s beloved ‘OC’, with eight-course artisan tasting menus at €65pp.
Details: 052-6136231; kilmaneen.com; theoldconvent.ie.